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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

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themselves by the quality of being easily imitable, they
let them go over their heads (as we say) without the least
regard. If it were not for this perpetual imitation, we
should be tempted to fancy they despised us outright or
only considered us in the light of creatures brutally strong
and brutally silly; among whom they condescended
to dwell in obedience like a philosopher at a barbarous
court. At times, indeed, they display an arrogance of
disregard that is truly staggering. Once when I was
groaning aloud with physical pain, a young gentleman
came into the room and nonchalantly inquired if I had
seen his bow and arrow. He made no account of my groans,
which he accepted, as he had to accept so much else, as
a piece of the inexplicable conduct of his elders ; and like
a wise young gentleman, he would waste no wonder on the
subject. Those elders, who care so little for rational
enjoyment, and are even the enemies of rational enjoyment
for others, he had accepted without understanding and
without complaint, as the rest of us accept the scheme
of the universe.

We grown people can tell ourselves a story, give and
take strokes until the bucklers ring, ride far and fast,
marry, fall, and die ; all the while sitting quietly by the fire
or lying prone in bed. This is exactly what a child cannot
do, or does not do, at least, when he can find anything
else. He works all with lay figures and stage properties.
When his story comes to the fighting, he must rise, get
something by way of a sword, and have a set-to with a
piece of furniture, until he is out of breath. When he
comes to ride with the king's pardon, he must bestride a
chair, which he will so hurry and belabour, and on which
he will so furiously demean himself, that the messenger
will arrive, if not bloody with spurring, at least fiery red
with haste. If his romance involves an accident upon a
cliff, he must clamber in person about the chest of drawers
and fall bodily upon the carpet, before his imagination
is satisfied. Lead soldiers, dolls, all toys, in short, are
in the same category and answer the same end. Nothing
can stagger a child's faith; he accepts the clumsiest
substitutes and can swallow the most staring incongruities.