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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/167

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PHYSICAL EDUCATION.

can see no reason why my pupil should always have a piece of ox-hide under his foot," says the author of "Emile.". . . "Let him run barefoot wherever he pleases. . . . Far from growling about it, I shall imitate his example."[1]

Refusing to buy tight shoes might bring easy ones into fashion; but boys are better off without them, especially in the years of rapid growth, when their measure changes from month to month, for too wide shoes are as uncomfortable as tight ones. Out-doors, children's stockings are almost sure to get wet, and keep the feet clammy and cold; while a young gypsy or a Scotchman, inured to wind and weather, treads with his bare feet the swampiest valleys and the roughest hill-roads without the least discomfort. Nature produces a better sole-leather than any shoemaker; the tegument of a raccoon's foot or a monkey's hind-hand can give us an idea of the marvels of her workmanship. The sole of a plantigrade animal is not hard; on the contrary, quite pliable and soft to the touch, but withal tougher than any caoutchouc, impervious alike to water, sand, and thorns. A camel, too, has a foot of that sort—pads that resist the burning gravel of the desert for years, where a horse's hoof would wear out in a few weeks; for the same reason that a "sand-blast" destroys tanned sole-leather and horn, but hardly affects the elastic skin of the human hand. Millions of unshod Hindoos, negroes, and South American savages, brave the jungles of the tropical virgin woods; and in Nicaragua I saw two Indian mail carriers trot barefoot over the lava-beds of Amilpas, over fields of obsidian and scoria, where a dandy in patent-leather gaiters would have feared to tread. Three or four seasons of barefoot rambles over the fields and hills will develop such soles—natural shoe-leather that improves from year to year, till it can be warranted to protect the wearer against the roughest roads, and, as the experience of our half wild frontiersmen attests, also against colds and rheumatism. A mere moccasin secures such hardy feet against frost-bites; for here, too, the rule holds good that those who keep themselves too warm in the summer season deprive themselves of the advantage to be derived from additional clothing in cold weather and in old age.

Herr Teufelsdröckh devoted a voluminous work to the "Philosophy of Clothing," but the practical part of the science may be summed up in a few words. Our dress ought to be adapted to the changes of the seasons, and should be in quality durable, cleanly, and, above all, easy; in quantity, the least amount compatible with decency and comfort.

  1. "Pourquoi faut-il que mon élève soit forcé d'avoir toujours sous les pieds une peau de bœuf? Quel mal y aurait-il que la sienne propre pût au besoin lui servir de semelle? Il est clair qu'en cette partie la delicatesse de la peau ne peut jamais être utile à rien et peut souvent beaucoup nuire. Que Émile coure les matins à pieds nus, en toute saison, par le chambre, par l'escalier, par le jardin; loin de l'en grondir je l'imitirai."—(Rousseau: "Émile, ou de L'éducation," p. 143.)