Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/557

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543
ENTERTAINING VARIETIES.

original story. M. de Gubernatis does not see them in this light, but regards them as something highly mythical, and as signifying that the white cat was the moon, and became the dawn. So in Æsop's fable of the cat-woman, that the bride went to bed must mean that "the evening aurora sinks into night." "The Italians describe an empty house by saying, 'There was not even a cat there.' But do they mean that the house is deserted, even by the home-loving, domestic puss? Nothing so commonplace. The proverb is derived from the sun entering the night, where he finds nothing, or 'only the cat moon.' Black cats are not black cats, but they are the moonless night. 'The cat in the bag of the proverb has probably a diabolical allusion!' When a German invalid sees two cats fight, he thinks it a bad omen. Why? Because, in M. de Gubernatis's opinion, the cats 'represent, perhaps, night and twilight.' It seems to be held that men take no interest in anything except so far as it may be considered a symbol of night or light. When montes parturiunt, and nascitur ridiculus mus (the mountains labor and a ridiculous mouse is born), the reference is not to the immensity of the labor and the minute results. Oh, no; 'from the mountain came forth the mice of night, the shadows of the night, to which the cat moon and cat twilight give chase.' . . . 'When the cat's away the mice will play.' What does this mean? It means that 'the shadows of night dance when the moon is absent,' which is precisely what they do not do. No moon, no shadows, still less any shadow-dance. The most ordinary truths of experience are not only set aside, but reversed, by the method of M. de Gubernatis, a method from which not even poor puss has escaped."

—— Baron von Nordenskiöld, in his "Voyage of the Vega," gives a pleasant account of the domestic life of the Chukches, the tribe that inhabits the northeasternmost part of Asia. "Within the family," he says, "the most remarkable unanimity prevails, so that we never heard a hard word exchanged, either between man and wife, parents and children, or between the married pair who own the tent and the unmarried who occasionally live in it. The power of the woman appears to be very great. In making the more important bargains, even about weapons and hunting implements, she is as a rule consulted, and her advice is taken. A number of things which form women's tools she can barter away on her own responsibility, or in any other way employ as she pleases. When the man has by barter procured a piece of cloth, tobacco, sugar, or such like, he generally hands it over to his wife to keep. The children are neither chastised nor scolded; they are, however, the best behaved I have ever seen. Their behavior in the tent is equal to that of the best brought-up European in the parlor. They are not, perhaps, so wild as ours, but are addicted to games which closely resemble those common among us in the country. Playthings are also in use, for instance dolls, bows, windmills with two sails, etc. If the parents get any delicacy they always give each of their children a bit, and there is never any quarrel as to the size of each child's portion. If a piece of sugar is given to one of the children in a crowd, it goes from mouth to mouth round the whole company. In the same way the child offers its father and mother a taste of the bit of sugar or piece of bread it has got. Even in childhood the Chukches are exceedingly patient. A girl who fell down from the ship's stair, head foremost, and thus got so violent a blow that she was almost deprived of hearing, scarcely uttered a cry. A boy, three or four years of age, much rolled up in furs, who fell down into a ditch cut in the ice on the ship's deck, and in consequence of his inconvenient dress could not get up, lay quietly still until he was observed and helped by one of the crew."