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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

26                            AES  TRIPLEX

and again when they draw in their chairs to dinner. In-
deed, a good meal and a bottle of wine is an answer to
most standard works upon the question. When a man's
heart warms to his viands, he forgets a great deal of
sophistry, and soars into a rosy zone of contemplation.
Death may be knocking at the door, like the Commander's
statue ; we have something else in hand, thank God, and
let him knock. Passing bells are ringing all the world
over. All the world over, and every hour, some one is
parting company with all his aches and ecstasies. For us
also the trap is laid. But we are so fond of life that we
have no leisure to entertain the terror of death. It is a
honeymoon with us all through, and none of the longest.
Small blame to us if we give our whole hearts to this
glowing bride of ours, to the appetites, to honour, to the
hungry curiosity of the mind, to the pleasure of the eyes
in nature, and the pride of our own nimble bodies.

We all of us appreciate the sensations; but, as for
caring about the Permanence of the Possibihty, a man's
head is generally very bald, and his senses very dull, before
he comes to that. Whether we regard life as a lane leading
to a dead wall—a mere bag's end, as the French say—or
whether we think of it as a vestibule or gymnasium, where
we wait our turn and prepare our faculties for some more
noble destiny ; whether we thunder in a pulpit, or pule"
in little atheistic poetry-books, about its vanity and
brevity : whether we look justly for years of health an«^
vigour, or are about to mount into a bath-chair, as a step
towards the hearse ; in each and all of these views and
situations there is but one conclusion possible : that a
man should stop his ears against paralysing terror, and
run the race that is set before him with a single mind.
No one surely could have recoiled with more heartache
and terror from the thought of death than our respected
lexicographer ; and yet we know how little it affected
his conduct, how wisely and boldly he walked, and in
what a fresh and lively vein he spoke of life. Already an
old man, he ventured on his Highland tour ; and his heart,
bound with triple brass, did not recoil before twenty-seven
individual cups of tea. As courage and intelligent ^r^