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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

PORTRAIT OF ROBERT HUNTER   67

duties like a chief part of his existence; and I remember
it as the only occasion on which he ever soiled his lips
with slang—a thing he loathed. We were both Roberts;
and as we took our places at table, he addressed me with
a twinkle : ' We are just what you would call two bob/
He offered me port, I remember, as the proper milk of
youth; spoke of' twenty-shilling notesJ; and throughout
the meal was full of old-world pleasantry and quaintness,
like an ancient boy on a holiday, But what I recall
chiefly was his confession that he had never read Othello
to an end. Shakespeare was his continual study. He
loved nothing better than to display his knowledge and
memory by adducing parallel passages from Shakespeare,
passages where the same word was employed, or the same
idea differently treated. But Othello had beaten him.
'That noble gentleman and that noble lady—h'm—too
painful for me/ The same night the hoardings were
covered with posters, 'Burlesque of Othello' and the
contrast blazed up in my mind like a bonfire. An unfor-
gettable look it gave me into that kind man's soul His
acquaintance was indeed a liberal and pious education.
All the humanities were taught in that bare dining-room
beside his gouty footstool. He was a piece of good advice;
he was himself the instance that pointed and adorned his
various talk. Nor could a young man have found else-
where a place so set apart from envy, fear, discontent,
or any of the passions that debase; a life so honest and
composed; a soul like an ancient violin, so subdued to
harmony, responding to a touch in music—as in that
dining-room, with Mr. Hunter chatting at the eleventh
hour, under the shadow of eternity, fearless and gentle.