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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

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these lonely hours wrapped him in the greater gloom for
our imaginations. But the study had a redeeming grace
in many Indian pictures, gaudily coloured and dear to
young eyes. I cannot depict (for I have no such passions
now) the greed with which I beheld them ; and wiien I
was once sent in to say a psalm to my grandfather, I went,
quaking indeed with fear, but at the same time glowing
with hope that, if I said it well, he might reward me with
an Indian picture.

" Thy foot He'll not let slide, nor will
He slumber that thee keeps,"

it ran : a strange conglomerate of the unpronounceable, a
sad model to set in childhood before one who was himself
to be a versifier, and a task in recitation that really merited
reward. And I must suppose the old man thought so too,
and was either touched or amused by the performance ;
for he took me in his arms with most unwonted tenderness,
and kissed me, and gave me a little kindly sermon for my
psalm ; so that, for that day, we were clerk and parson.
I was struck by this reception into so tender a surprise that
I forgot my disappointment. And indeed the hope was
one of those that childhood forges for a pastime, and with
no design upon reality. Nothing was more unlikely than
that my grandfather should strip himself of one of those
pictures, love-gifts and reminders of his absent sons;
nothing more unlikely than that he should bestow it upon
"me. He had no idea of spoiling children, leaving all that
to my aunt; he had fared hard himself, and blubbered
under the rod in the last century; and his ways were still
Spartan for the young. The last word I heard upon his
lips was in this Spartan key. He had overwalked in the
teeth of an east wind, and was now near the end of his
many days. He sat by the dining-room fire, with his
white hair, pale face, and bloodshot eyes, a somewhat
awful figure ; and my aunt had given him a dose of our
good old Scotch medicine, Dr. Gregory's powder. Now
that remedy, as the work of a near kinsman of Rob Hoy
himself, may have a savour of romance for the imagina-
tion; but it comes uncouthly to the palate. The old