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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

survive yet a year or two longer in the person of their

But our ancestral  adventures  are  beyond  even the
arithmetic of fancy;   and it is the chief recommendation
of long pedigrees that we can follow backward the careers
of our Jiomunculos and be reminded of our ante-natal lives.
Our conscious years are but a moment in the history of
the elements that build us.   Are you a bank-clerk, and
do you live at Peckham ?    It was not always so.   And
though to-day I am only a man of letters, either tradition
errs or I was present when there landed at St. Andrews a
French barber-surgeon, to tend the health and the beard
of the great Cardinal Beaton;   I have shaken a spear in
the Debateable Land and shouted the slogan of the Elliots;
I was  present  when  a  skipper,  plying  from  Dundee,
smuggled Jacobites to France after the ?15 ; I was in a
West India merchant's office, perhaps next door to Bailie
Nicol Jarvie's, and managed the business of a plantation
in St. Kitt's;   I was with my engineer-grandfather (the
son-in-law of the lamp and oil man) when he sailed north
about Scotland on the famous cruise that gave us the
Pirate and the Lord of the Isles ; I was with him, too, on
the Bell Rock, in the fog, when the Smeaton had drifted
from her moorings, and the Aberdeen men, pick in hand,
had seized upon the only boats, and he must stoop and
lap sea-water before his tongue could utter audible words ;
and once more with him when the Bell Rock beacon took
a ' thrawe/ and his workmen fled into the tower, then "
nearly finished, and he sat unmoved reading in his Bible
—or affecting to read—till one after another slunk back
with confusion of countenance to their engineer.   Yes,
parts of me have seen life, and met adventures, and some-
times met them well.   And away in the still cloudier
past, the threads that make me up can be traced by fancy
into the bosoms of thousands and millions of ascendants :
Picts who rallied round Macbeth and the old (and highly
preferable) system of descent by females, fleers from before
the legions of Agricola, marchers in Pa.nnonian morasses,
star-gazers on Chaldaean plateaus;  and, furthest of all,
what face is this that fancy can see peering through the