Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/779

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CURIOSITIES OF SUPERSTITION.

sacraments, seven gates of the New Zion, and seven golden candlesticks, correspond to the seven days of the week. Lars Porsenna swears by the nine gods, and Ovid by the nine Muses. All, perhaps, for the negative reason (though oddity may have its positive attractions) that a deliberative junta of even numbers can not get the benefit of a casting vote. Gamblers rarely bet on even numbers; it is one of their corporation maxims, besides which every individual player has a by-law code of his own. The Spaniard Garcia, who broke every gambling-hell on the Rhine, operated upon the theory that luck, like history, repeats itself in a certain succession, and kept a list of successive hits, in order to back the same series after the turning up of the first number. Count Esterhazy, whose portentous luck made him the bugbear of the Swiss watering-places, believed in the inspiration of a first attempt, and relied on the instinct of a pointer—any novice who in consideration of a percentage would consent to locate his stakes. That the tiger-wardens themselves are not above such superstitions seems proved by the fact that the managers of the little Bath Pfeffers once offered him ten thousand francs to dig his gold from a wealthier mine.

"Fortis Fortuna adjuvat" ("Fortune favors the strong") was a Latin proverb, and Napoleon, like Suvaroff and Bismarck, asserted that she is always on the side of the big battalions, though, like their fellow-men, they probably inclined to the private opinion that "luckiness" is a special faculty, and that, irrespective of their energy, prudence, and perseverance, some people manage to score success after success. In the California bonanza period every camp had its "lucky man," not always the best mineralogist, but a fellow who somehow had a knack of stumbling upon "pay-dirt," and thus became the chosen pioneer of his comrades. It sometimes really seems as if the race were neither to the swift nor the cunning. We have merchants, speculators, and politicians, whom Fortune declines to forsake, in spite of all their blunders—Sontags-kinder, "Sunday-children," as the Germans call them—fellows who have six points ahead in every game and beat the best players. Where others have wasted their time in mining and counter-mining, they take every fort at the first assault, and for no apparent reason, unless good luck begets self-confidence, for pluck is perhaps, after all, the secret of every real success.

The Chinese divide all auspices into yan and yuen, male and female, positive-lucky and negative-unlucky streams of tendency. The sun is a yan, the moon a yuen, luminary; daylight blesses and vivifies; moonlight blights. For cognate reasons, perhaps, Friday (the day of Friya, dies Veneris) is an unlucky day: among the Romans, as well as among the ancient Saxons, it was' sacred to a female deity. M. Quetelet estimates that the Friday superstition costs the French railway companies an average aggregate of five million francs a year, by which sum the expenses of Friday passenger-trains exceed the receipts!