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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

VIII
THE MANSE

I HAVE named, among many rivers that make music
in my memory, that dirty Water of Leith. Often and
often I desire to look upon it again; and the choice of a
point of view is easy to me. It should be at a certain
water-door, embowered in shrubbery. The river is there
dammed back for the service of the flour-mill just below,
so that it lies deep and darkling, and the sand slopes into
brown obscurity with a glint of gold; and it has but
newly been recruited by the borrowings of the snuff-mill
just above, and these, tumbling merrily in, shake the pool
to its black heart, fill it with drowsy eddies, and set the
curded froth of many other mills solemnly steering to and
fro upon the surface, Or so it was when I was young;
for change, and the masons, and the priming-knife, have
been busy; and if I could hope to repeat a cherished
experience, it must be on many and impossible conditions.
I must choose, as well as the point of view, a certain
moment in my growth, so that the scale may be exaggerated
and the trees on the steep opposite side may seem to
climb to heaven, and the sand by the water-door, where
I am standing, seem as low as Styx. And I must choose
the season also, so that the valley may be brimmed like a
cup with sunshine and the songs of birds;—and the year
of grace, so that when I turn to leave the riverside I may
find the old manse and its inhabitants unchanged.

It was a place in that time like no other: the garden
cut into provinces by a great hedge of beech, and over-
looked by the church and the terrace of the churchyard,
where the tombstones were thick, and after nightfall
6 spunkies' might be seen to dance, at least by children ;

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