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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

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RANDOM MEMORIES                     79

That two men should handle a stone so heavy, even
swinging in the scissors, may appear strange to the
inexpert. These must bear in mind the great density of
the water of the sea, and the surprising results of trans-
plantation to that medium. To understand a little what
these are, and how a man's weight, so far from being an
encumbrance, is the very ground of his agility, was the
chief lesson of my submarine experience. The knowledge
came upon me by degrees. As I began to go forward
with the hand of my estranged companion, a world of
tumbled stones was visible, pillared with the weedy
uprights of the staging : overhead, a flat roof of green : a
little in front, the sea-waU, like an unfinished rampart.
And presently in our upward progress, Bob motioned me
to leap upon a stone ; I looked to see if he were possibly
in earnest, and he only signed to me the more imperiously.
Now the block stood six feet high ; it would have been
quite a leap to me unencumbered ; with the breast and
back weights, and the twenty pounds upon each foot, and
the staggering load of the helmet, the thing was out of
reason. I laughed aloud in my tomb ; and to prove to
Bob how far he was astray, I gave a little impulse from my
toes. Up I soared like a bird, my companion soaring at
my side. As high as to the stone, and then higher, I
pursued my impotent and empty flight. Even when the
strong arm of Bob had checked my shoulders, my heels
continued their ascent; so that I blew out sideways like
an autumn leaf, and must be hauled In, hand over hand,
as sailors haul in the slack of a sail, and propped upon
my feet again like an intoxicated sparrow. Yet a little
higher on the foundation, and we began to be affected by
the bottom of the swell, running there like a strong breeze
of wind. Or so I must suppose ; for, safe in my cushion
of air, I was conscious of no impact; only swayed idly
like a weed, and was now borne helplessly abroad, and now
swiftly—and yet with dream-like gentleness—impelled
against my guide. So does a child's balloon divagate upon
the currents of the air, and touch and slide off again from
every obstacle. So must have ineffectually swung, so
•resented their inefficiency, those light crowds that followed