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If ever there existed an inhuman superstition, surely this is the one; for to see a fellow mortal fighting for life, and to refuse to render him assistance, is the height of cruelty. But, the reader will ask, does such a superstition really exist? Tylor speaks of "a recent account (1864)" where fishermen in Bohemia did not venture to snatch a drowning man from the waters, the notion being that some ill luck would follow. Sir Walter Scott in the Pirate speaks of Bryce, the pedlar, refusing to save the shipwrecked sailor from drowning, and even remonstrating with him on the rashness of such a deed. "Are you mad?" said the pedlar, "you that have lived sae lang in Zetland to risk the saving of a drowning man? Wot ye not, if you bring him to life again he will be sure to do you some capital injury?" The same superstition can be found among the St. Kilda islanders, the boatmen of the Danube, French and English sailors, and even out of Europe, and among less civilised races. If these statements be correct, and Professor Tylor's name is behind them, what is at the back of this determination to let a drowning man drown? The idea seems to be this: that when a man is drowning it is the intention of the gods that he should be drowned; and that the rescuer, if successful in rescuing him, must be the substitute and be drowned himself later on. You cannot cheat Fate out of a life; that appears to be the argument. Even an accidental falling into the water is explained by the savage as the action of the spirit throwing the man into the stream with the object of taking his life. The indisposition of many people to try to rescue such may in part be explained by Tylor's theory of Survival, a theory suggesting that the thoughts and actions of the past are repeated by us unconsciously. It cannot be that the paragraph in the Press about the callous conduct of observers is always due to cowardice--the fear to plunge in and effect a rescue. Nor can it be the conscious inability to do anything, or the paralysis of mind due to the sight of a fellow-man on the point of sinking for the last time. It must be some small remainder of a once prevalent and all prevailing notion that to attempt to save a drowning man was unlucky.

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