Page:Household Words - Volume 12.djvu/515

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


HOUSEHOLD WORDS.

 

A WEEKLY JOURNAL.

CONDUCTED BY CHARLES DICKENS.

 


No. 301.] SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29, 1855. Price 2d.
Stamped 3d.


 

TEAVELLEES' CONTEIVANCES. THE art of travel, wherever gold and silver are current coin, consists chiefly in having plenty of both. With these, and the small change of a civil tongue, a skin indifferent to entomological attacks, a spare shirt, and a cube of soap, a man may travel comfortably for thousands of miles, buying his experience and his baggage as he goes along ; here laying in a cold fowl and bread for a Spanish expe- dition ; there purchasing a sheepskin cloak, or a thin pair of breeches, according to the climate ; but the moment that the traveller, more adventurous, turns his steps into those savage regions where towns, roads, banks, pumps, and butchers' shops are unknown, he must prepare to uucivilise himself, and relearn the arts of his ancestors before they were corrupted into living in houses, and spinning the wool of innocent sheep into broad-cloth. The difference between civilised and savage life is between dependence and independence. Civilisation grows and expands by wants. The savage wants nothing : he can find for himself ; and therefore cares nothing for nobody ; and, of course, does nothing beyond the wants of the hour. As he owns nothing he improves nothing ; he eats when he is hungry, or when he is not hungry, because he can't always make sure of a meal ; drinks when he is dry ; and goes to sleep when he has nothing else to do, without waiting for bed-time. The more civilised we become, the more we rely on society to help us to our wants. We do not study landmarks ; because roads and sign-posts save us the trouble of thinking. We do not know how to cook, or to make candles, or tun hides, or carve wooden bowls and horn spoons, because candles, shoes, crockery, and metal spoons can be bought cheaper than they can be made at home. When the savage walks out, there is one book he is always reading ; and therefore he reads it fluently, for his existence depends upon it : the book of Nature. His eyes are constantly upon the ground ; his nose sniffs the air, and detects the haunts of various animals ; his ears are erect to catch the faintest sound. " There went a deer," he says to himself, " but on the plain, is a sleeping fox." His living depends, not on his purse, but his personal acuteness of eye, and ear, and smell. Without the full use of these organs he may soon starve, as old people actually do among many savage tribes. The white man relies on the water company, or, at any rate, on a well with a bucket, for drink, if out of reach of beer, mead, quass, wine, or brandy. He goes to the butcher for his joint, to the tailor for his jacket ; and rather disdains the pot- hunter, who makes sure of hare with a cun- ning greyhound and a pointer, for the sake of a roast or a jug. But the white man's faculties are only dormant, not dead. White children brought up in the bush, or on the prairie, are quite as sharp as savages. Even full-grown men attain by practice the power of performing many of the feats that astonish us so much among Indian and negro tribes. London pickpockets, before horses were common in New South Wales, ran down cattle, and flung them with a dexterous twitch of the tail. American backwoodsmen and Austra- lian bushmen make their way through forests, and even deserts, trace cattle by their foot- prints, and find fire, and shelter, and game in a manner almost worthy of brown aborigines ; while in feats of strength, in fleetness of foot, and sureness of aim, white hunters, well trained, are usually superior to savages. Some critics and statesmen who ought to know better attribute the winter sufferings of our soldiers in the Crimea to the helpless character of the modern Englishman. It would seem that they had either never read, or have forgotten, the adventures and letters of our emigrants and travellers. The English soldier is taught disciplined to be helpless ; but the English emigrant has proved himself, in every climate, equal to the situation. In the backwoods of America, the bush of Australia, and among the Klots of South Africa, he has settled and housed himself, and found means to live and thrive in spite of climate frigid or tropical, savages and wild beasts, without shops or police. As for English travellers, for en- durance, patience, acuteness, resources under difficulties, and general ability to do the best under the most adverse circumstances, such a long time since. There went a bear ; and ' men as Pallisser, Mansfield Parkyns, Lieu- he's not long gone. That grey tuft, afar off j tenant Burton, the English Hadji, Francis VOL. XII. 301