The victim of ridiculous possessions

Phil Robinson, Noah’s ark, or, « Mornings in the Zoo », Londres, Sampson Low, Marston, Seazrle & Rivington, 1882, p. 369-371.

What parents, for instance, have not had experience of the intense activity with which a child amasses its miscellaneous and worthless treasures? If the little pockets be turned out, the secret drawer or box be overhauled, what a wonderful hoard is discovered ! As Wendel Homes says, « Philosophy is puzzled and conjecture and hypothesis alike confounded » in the attempt to explain the law of selection that presided over the child’s labour; « for when a formal register comes to be taken of the results of the little creature’s busy summer’s days out of dors, the prevailing articles in the proces-verbal are found to be stones remarkable only for weigt-rusty nails and broken crockery. Doubtless, the splendid treasure was not secured without incurring some sense of danger and much labour; » yet the instinct of possession is ne of such immense strength that childhood forgets its intimidity when acquisition is in prospect. To take another illustration from nature, what could be more intense than « the acquisitive faculty » of the caddis worm ? At first it chooses its bits of stalk with care and exercise judgment in their arrangment ; but, its own armament finished, the mania for adding to its store seems to become uncontrolable, and the caddis begins to pile on things at random, reckless of the fact that the more it collects the greater the weight it has to carry, until at last the victim of ridiculous possessions can hardly creepp under the burden of the rubbish which it has cemented upon its own back. Half the quantity would have sufficed for its protection against its ennemies, but the worm’s instinct to collect « property, » once indulged, carries it on from exces to exces, until the preposterous object, stuck all over with bits of shell and stick, and stone, lumbering along the rough bottom of the pebbly stream, defeats the original intention of security, while adding nothing, we would think, to the pleasure of possession. Yet it does apparently find enjoyment in the proces, or why about it do it?
By some analogy of taste, perhaps the ostrich derives in the same way satisfaction from possessions placed beyond its reach, and as it ranges the wilderness the consciousness of having that within it which can never be stolen cheers its solitary reflections. The knowledge of a secret always engenders pride in the possessor. The child is never so proud as when it has hidden something from its nurse and it pressed to disclose the place of concealment. It then affects a lofty assumption of sagacity and reserve. The possession of a secret first gives the infant a glimmering of that sense of responsability which dignifies adult manhood.