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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

PORTRAIT OF EGBERT HUNTER

WHETHER he was originally big or little is more than I
3an guess. When I knew him he was all fallen away and
fallen in; crooked and shrunken; buckled into a stiff
waistcoat for support; troubled by ailments, which kept
him hobbling in and out of the room; one foot gouty; a
wig for decency, not for deception, on his head; close
shaved, except under his chin—and for that he never
failed to apologize, for it went sore against the traditions
of his life. You can, imagine how he would fare in a
novel by Miss Mather; yet this rag of a Chelsea veteran
lived to his last year in the plenitude of all that is best
in man, brimming with human kindness, and staunch as
a Roman soldier under his manifold infirmities. You
could not say that he had lost Ms memory, for he would
repeat Shakespeare and Webster and Jeremy Taylor and
Burke by the page together; but the parchment was filled
up, there was no room for fresh inscriptions, and he was
capable of repeating the same anecdote on many successive
visits. His voice survived in its full power, and he took
a pride in using it. On his last voyage as Commissioner
of Lighthouses, he hailed a ship at sea and made himself
clearly audible without a speaking trumpet, ruffling the
while with a proper vanity in his achievement He had
a habit of eking out his words with interrogative hems,
which was puzzling and a little wearisome, suited ill with
his appearance, and seemed a survival from some former
stage of bodily portliness. Of yore, when he was a great
pedestrian and no enemy to good claret, he may have
pointed with these minute guns his allocutions to the
bench. His humour was perfectly equable, set beyond

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