Page:Household Words - Volume 12.djvu/155

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"Familiar in their Mouths as HOUSEHOLD WORDS"- Shakespeare.


HOUSEHOLD WORDS.

 

A WEEKLY JOURNAL.

CONDUCTED BY CHARLES DICKENS.

 


No. 286.] SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 1855. Price 2d.
Stamped 3d.


 

A VERY TIGHT LITTLE ISLAND. SIZE is not the only element of value, even in the case of landed estates, wherein men have a special hankering after elbow-room. Bulk does. not constitute brilliancy, nor does immensity necessarily imply importance. Dry deserts that may be measured by geo- graphical degrees, sterile steppes overstriding halt' an empire's surface, Patagonian plains (lumps of the world's original paste, or dough, rolled out with an endless rolling- pin) are but cyphers compared with tiny patches of earth whose area, if cut out of them would be no more missed than a kernel of wheat from a sack of corn. ^Etna and Vesuvius outweigh in the moral, if not in the material balance, whole chains of ordinary mountains. Runnymede was not a common- place mead, nor Vaucluse a vulgar fountain. The spot shines, like phosphorescent adamant, with its own proper light, as well as with every ray it catches from every luminous object near it. No trifling sprinkling of this bright territorial diamond-dust glitters on the British diadem. Besides the great central sun at home, she has distant outposts fixed stars, twinkling merrily here and there throughout the dark vastness of terrestrial space which cheer the British wanderer, and help him wonderfully to steer his way. There are Gibraltar, Malta, St. Helena, arid Ascension : the beloved of aldermen, the tomb of turtle. There are Ceylon, Newfoundland, Cape Town, and Corfu, none of which would be estimated in the market by the number of acres of land they contain. Last, and least, there exists another little jewel a clear chip of rock crystal, a pure cairngorum to the translucent brilliancy of whose native water recent circumstances have acted as the foil. At the foot of Denmark, out in the North Sea, in front of the mouths of the rivers Elbe and Weser, facing Cuxhaven in Hano- ver and also commanding the island of Neuwerk, is another little island called by us Heligoland (Helgoland by the Ger- mans), which will help us to smile with un- affected pleasure and grin the grin of glad- ness, at the moment when we are receiving the sincere sympathy, the amiable assistance, the frank friendship, and the candid coad- ! jutorvship, of our dear, dear allies the Ger- ! mans in general, and the Austrians and Prussians in very particular particularity. We find it convenient to enroll a few foreign soldiers ; and King Hiccup and his friends are so pleased at our doings, that they testify a disposition to provide board and lodging at their own expense, both for English agents and the recruits they may raise. It is a long way, too, and the road is not quite straight from the Torn Thumb German duke- doms to the shores of Albion. Britannia, therefore, steps forward a great deal more than half way to receive her young pupils in her ample lap. She has stuck her trident on the isle of Heligoland, and hoisted the Union Jack on the top, to give notice to all whom it may concern that here is a depot for the foreign legion which the English government is raising in Germany, to help us and our real allies in the Crimea. Look at the map of Europe : there is a spice of humour in the choice of the spot. The advantages which it oifers for the purpose are quite out of the common way. In time of peace, Heligoland is an advanced sentinel, who can constantly keep her eye open on what is passing in the north of Germany. In war, she is a little Gibraltar, from which, as a centre, Britannia can send her cruisers to wander about, her scouts to spy, and even her smug- glers to trade. At all times, therefore, in spite of its tightness and exiguity, Heligoland is by no means to be sneered at, as a posses- sion of importance to the United Kingdom ; being a sort of outstretched snail's - eye, which allows us to watch whatever is in the wind on the North-German coast, at the mouths of its two main commercial arteries, Holsteiu and Holland. At the present mo- ment, Heligoland, in reference to Great Bri- tain, is in a position analogous to that of the mouse in the fable and the lion caught in the net. Tedescan art has woven round us meshes and snares composed of four points, conferences, propositions, and mediations j but this little bit of pet-land enables us to laugh in our sleeve at the cunning of diplo- matic huntsmen. According to the reports of the government agents from all quarters, recruiting for the foreign legion goes on most satisfactorily, notwithstanding the covert repugnance of some governments, and the open hostility of others. Great numbers of VOL. XIL 286