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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

CHILD'S PLAY                          37

sanction, and tell themselves some sort of story, to account
for, to colour, to render entertaining the simple processes
of eating and drinking.    What wonderful fancies I have
heard evolved out of the pattern upon tea-cups !—from
which there followed a code of rules and a whole world of
excitement, until tea-drinking began to take rank as a
game.    When  my  cousin and I took our porridge of a
morning, we had a device to enliven the course of the meal.
He ate his with sugar, and explained it to be a country
continually buried under snow.    I took mine with milk,
and explained it to be a country suffering gradual inunda-
tion.    You   can imagine us exchanging   bulletins;   how
here was an island still unsubmerged, here a valley not
yet  cohered with  snow;   what inventions  were made;
how his population lived in cabins on perches and travelled
011 stilts, and how mine was always in boats ;   how the
interest grew furious, as the last corner of safe ground was
cut off on all sides and grew smaller every moment;  and
how in fine, the food was of altogether secondary import-
ance, and might even have been nauseous so long as we
seasoned it with   these dreams.    But perhaps the most
exciting moments I ever had over a meal were in the case
of calves-feet jelly.    It was hardly possible not to believe
—and you may be sure, so far from trying, I did all I could
to favour the illusion—that some part of it was hollow,
and that sooner or later my spoon would lay open the
secret tabernacle of the golden rock.    There, might some
miniature Red  Beard  await his hour;   there, might one
find the treasures of the Forty Thieves, and bewildered
Cassiin beating about the walls.    And so I quarried on
slowly, with bated breath, savouring the interest.    Believe
me, I had little palate left for the jelly;   and though I
preferred the taste when I took cream with it, I used often
to go without, because the cream dimmed the transparent
fractures.

Even with games, this spirit is authoritative with right-
minded children. It is thus that hide-and-seek has so
pre-eminent a sovereignty, for it is the well-spring of
romance, and the actions and the excitement to which
it gives rise lend themselves to almost any sort of fable.