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In the Wrong Paradise eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about In the Wrong Paradise.

In addressing scholars it is needless to refute the Euhemeristic hypothesis, worthy of the Abbe Banier, that the cow is a real cow, offered by a real historical Gladstone, or by his companion, Jo, to the ignorant populace of the rural districts.  We have already shown that Jo is a mythological name.  The tendency to identify Gladstone with the cow (as the dawn with the sun) is a natural and edifying tendency, but the position must not be accepted without further inquiry.  The Sun-god, in Egyptian myth, is a Bull, but there is a difference, which we must not overlook, between a bull and a cow.  Caution, prudence, a tranquil balancing of all available evidence, and an absence of preconceived opinions,—­these are the guiding stars of comparative mythology.

MY FRIEND THE BEACH-COMBER.

“Been in some near things in the islands?” said my friend the beach-comber; “I fancy I have.”

The beach-comber then produced a piece of luggage like a small Gladstone bag, which he habitually carried, and thence he extracted a cigar about the size of the butt of a light trout-rod.  He took a vesuvian out of a curious brown hollowed nut-shell, mounted in gold (the beach-comber, like Mycenae in Homer, was polychrysos, rich in gold in all his equipments), and occupied himself with the task of setting fire to his weed.  The process was a long one, and reminded me of the arts by which the beach-comber’s native friends fire the root of a tree before they attack it with their stone tomahawks.  However, there was no use in trying to hurry the ancient mariner.  He was bound to talk while his cigar lasted, thereby providing his hearer with plenty of what is called “copy” in the profession of letters.

The beach-comber was a big man, loose (in physique only of course), broad, and black-bearded, his face about the colour of a gun-stock.  We called him by the nickname he bore {304} (he bore it very good-naturedly), because he had spent the years of his youth among the countless little islands of the South Seas, especially among those which lie at “the back of beyond,” that is, on the far side of the broad shoulder of Queensland.  In these regions the white man takes his life and whatever native property he can annex in his hand, caring no more for the Aborigines’ Protection Society than for the Kyrle Company for diffusing stamped-leather hangings and Moorish lustre plates among the poor of the East-End.  The common beach-comber is usually an outcast from that civilization of which, in the islands, he is the only pioneer.  Sometimes he deals in rum, sometimes in land, most frequently in “black-birds”—­that is, in coolies, as it is now usual to call slaves.  Not, of course, that all coolies are slaves.  My friend the beach-comber treated his dusky labourers with distinguished consideration, fed them well, housed them well, taught them the game of cricket, and dismissed them, when the term of their engagement was up, to their island homes.  He was, in fact, a planter, with a taste for observing wild life in out-of-the-way places.

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