1.09. THE HURON AND THE FRENCHMAN. Custom has a mighty effect upon mankind, and more differences arise in character from custom than from natural causes. Perhaps all men are in the state they should be in they should therefore live contented.
An airy Frenchman happened to meet a Huron upon the Mississippi as he went with his bow and shafts to seek provision for his family. Says Monsieur to the savage, "You have a very toilsome life of it who, when other people sit by the fireside enjoying the benefit of good food and good company, are obliged to traverse the woods in the midst of snow and storms to preserve a wretched existence."
"How come you by your food?" replies the Huron. "Does it rain from the clouds to you?"
"No," says the Frenchman, "we work in summer and make provision for winter and during the cold months sit by the fire and enjoy ourselves."
"For the same reason," says the Huron, "do we lay up provisions in winter that we may rest in summer when the days are hot. Your enjoyments are confined within the walls of a house and by the side of a fire, but ours are more extensive; we assemble upon the mountains and in the woods in summer for pleasure, and our delights are to observe the works of nature; the sun serves us instead of fire to warm us, and we are never at a loss for houses while the woods remain. This is the season when we lay up our store, and it serves us in summer till winter return. We are accustomed to endure the cold, and our exercise keeps us from feeling it to excess. At night the skins of wild beasts keep us from the cold till the morning dawn, and then we pursue the same employments. Were we not to live in this manner, the wild beasts would so increase that they would become our masters, but our necessity of having food and clothing prevents them from increasing to very great numbers. What you account pleasure would be none to us, and your manner of life appears as ridiculous to the Hurons as ours appears to you. You reckon us idolaters because we pay adoration to the rising sun, but you misunderstand us; we consider that light to be a symbol of the great Author of Nature and only worship him through this luminary We do not understand your manner of worship which to us appears abundantly absurd, for the Deity is no more like images of gold and silver than he is like the sun. The sun is a more glorious effect of his power and goodness for he serves many excellent purposes, and we could not live without him, but your symbols appear to have no use."
The Frenchman could make no reply and the Huron proceeded on his hunting. [more info]