Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/163

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PHYSICAL EDUCATION.

them with woolen trappings at a time when even a linen robe becomes a Nessus-shirt. There is a story of a glutton being cured by a friend who persuaded him to eat and drink nothing for twenty-four hours without putting an equivalent in quantity and quality into an earthen crock, and the next day made him inspect the collectanea; and on the same principle a person of common-sense might perhaps be redeemed from the slavery of the dress-mania, by making him wrap up his complete suit of traps and weigh the bundle: he would find that the summer dress of a fashionable gentleman outweighs the winter coat of the most hirsute brute of the wilderness. A grizzly bear, shorn to the skin, would yield about ten pounds of hair and wool; but a dandy's accoutrements—flannel undershirt, drawers, shoes, stockings, starched overshirt, waistcoat, cravat, black dress-coat, and pantaloons—would weigh at least fourteen pounds. Habit mitigates the evil, though there are times when the martyrs of fashion suffer more in a single hour than a ragged Comanche in the coldest winter week; but, for boys and young girls, calorific food and woolen clothes certainly make the sunniest days the saddest in the year.

The vicissitudes of the weather? It is worth a journey to Trieste to see the youngsters of the suburbs enjoy their evenings on the Capo Liddo, the sandy headland between the Pola pike-road and the harbor fortifications: four or five hundred half-wild boys, splashing in the surf, throwing stones, wrestling, or chasing each other along the shore, all shouting and cheering, merry as carnivallers, though there is not a pair of shoes or a dozen hats in the crowd. Swift-footed, lithe, and indefatigable, they are the very picture of careless health; you can see them at play almost every evening, even in winter, when the Tramontane raises the snow-drifts of the Karst. They laugh at summer showers; their linen jackets will dry before they get home. Sunshine makes them a holiday; but let your well-dressed New York or Paris schoolboy join in their sports, and examine his clothes after an hour or two, and see if perspiration has not made his undershirts as wet as any rain could make his jacket.

Decency? Are the gambols of a barefoot boy more unseemly than the contortions of a sunstruck alderman in his holiday dress? Can ethics or æsthetics be promoted by the imprecations of a sleepless victim of flannel night-shirts and closed bedroom windows? If daily misery can spoil the temper of a saint, the ladies of the American Dress-Reform are working in the interest of charity and good-humor by removing a chief incentive to the opposite sentiments, for the aggravations of Tantalus must have been trifling compared with those of an American schoolgirl à la mode, at the thought of a mountain meadow to run on with naked feet or a shady brook to pick pebbles from with bared arms. Pocahontas, indeed, had no need to envy the "fair maids in the land of her lover," if the fair ones had to wear the twenty-three distinct pieces of dry-goods which, according to a cor-