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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

CHILD'S PLAY

THE regret we have for our childhood is not wholly
justifiable ; so much a man may lay down without fear of
public ribaldry; for although we shake our heads over the
change, we are not unconscious of the manifold advantages
of our new state. What we lose in generous impulse, we
more than gain in the habit of generously watching others ;
and the capacity to enjoy Shakespeare may balance a lost
aptitude for playing at soldiers. Terror is gone out of
our lives, moreover; we no longer see the devil in the
bed-curtains nor lie awake to listen to the wind. We go
to school no more; and if we have only exchanged one
drudgery for another (which is by no means sure), we are
set free for ever from the daily fear of chastisement.
And yet a great change has overtaken us; and although
we do not enjoy ourselves less, at least we take our pleasure
differently. We need pickles nowadays to make Wed-
nesday's cold mutton please our Friday's appetite; and
I can remember the time when to call it red venison, and
tell myself a hunter's story, would have made it more
palatable than the best of sauces. To the grown person
cold mutton is cold mutton all the world over ; not all the
mythology ever invented by man will make it better or
worse to him; the broad fact, the clamant reality, of the
mutton carries away before it such seductive figments.
But for the child it is still possible to weave an enchantment
over eatables; and if he has but read of a dish in a story-
book, it will be heavenly manna to him for a week.

If a grown man does not like eating and drinking and
exercise, if he is not something positive in his tastes, it
means he has a feeble body, and should have some medi-