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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

XI

BEGGARS

i

IN a pleasant, airy, up-hill country, it was my fortune
when I was young to make the acquaintance of a certain
beggar. I call him beggar, though he usually allowed
his coat and his shoes (which were open-mouthed, indeed)
to beg for him. He was the wreck of an athletic man,
tall, gaunt, and bronzed; far gone in consumption, with
that disquieting smile of the mortally stricken on his
face; but still active afoot, still with the brisk military
carriage, the ready military salute, Three ways led
through this piece of country; and as I was inconstant
in my choice, I believe he must often have awaited me
in vain. But often enough, he caught me ; often enough,
from some place of ambush by the roadside, he would
spring suddenly forth in the regulation attitude, and
launching at once into his inconsequential talk, fall into
step with me upon my farther course. * A fine morning,
sir, though perhaps a trifle inclining to rain. I hope
I see you well, sir. Why, no, sir, I don't feel as hearty
myself as I could wish, but I am keeping about my
ordinary, I am pleased to meet you on the road, sir.
I assure you I quite look forward to one of our little
conversations.' He loved the sound of his own voice
inordinately, and though (with something too off-hand to
call servility) he would always hasten to agree with any-
thing you said, yet he could never suffer you to say it to
an end. By what transition he slid to his favourite
subject I have no memory; but we had never been long
together on the way before he was dealing, in a very
military manner, with the English poets. ' Shelley was
a fine poet, sir, though a trifle atheistical in his opinion.

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