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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

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32                            UHIJLU'S  PLAY

formed and seen through theories and associations as
through coloured windows. We make to ourselves day by
day, out of history, and gossip, and economical speculations,
and God knows what, a medium in which we walk and
through which we look abroad. We study shop windows
with other eyes than in our childhood, never to wonder,
not always to admire, but to make and modify our little
incongruous theories about life. It is no longer the uniform
of a soldier that arrests our attention ; but perhaps the
flowing carriage of a woman, or perhaps a countenance
that has been vividly stamped with passion and carries an
adventurous story written in its lines. The pleasure of
surprise is passed away; sugar-loaves and water-carts
seem mighty tame to encounter ; and we walk the streets
to make romances and to sociologize. Nor must we deny
that a good many of us walk them solely for the purposes
of transit or in the interest of a livelier digestion. These,
indeed, may look back with mingled thoughts upon their
childhood, but the rest are in a better case ; they know
more than when they were children, they understand
better, their desires and sympathies answer more nimbly
to the provocation of the senses, and their minds are
brimming with interest as they go about the world.

According to my contention, this is a flight to which
children cannot rise. They are wheeled in perambulators
or dragged about by nurses in a pleasing stupor. A vague,
faint, abiding wonderment possesses them. Here and
there some specially remarkable circumstance, such as a
water-cart or a guardsman, fairly penetrates into the seat
of thought and calls them, for half a moment, out of
themselves ; and you may see them, still towed forward
sideways by the inexorable nurse as by a sort of destiny,
but still staring at the bright object in their wake. It may
be some minutes before another such moving spectacle
reawakens them to the world in which they dwell. For
other children, they almost invariably show some intelli-
gent sympathy. ' There is a fine fellow making mud pies/
they seem to say; ' that I can understand, there is some
sense in mud pies.' But the doings of their elders, unless
where they are speakingly picturesque or recommend