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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

84                 THE  LANTERN-BEARERS

edge brisk and clean and pungent of the sea—in front of
all, the Bass Rock, tilted seaward like a doubtful bather,
the surf ringing it with white, the solan-geese hanging
round its summit like a great and glittering smoke. This
choice piece of seaboard was sacred, besides, to the wrecker:
and the Bass, in the eye of fancy, still flew the colours of
King James ; and in the ear of fancy the arches of Tan-
tallon still rang with horseshoe iron, and echoed to the
commands of Bell-the-Cat.

There was nothing to mar your days, if you were a boy
summering in that part, but the embarrassment of pleasure.
You might golf if you wanted ;  but I seem to have been
better   employed.   You   might   secrete   yourself  in  the
Lady's Walk, a certain sunless dingle of elders, all mossed
over by the damp as green as grass, and dotted here and
there by the stream-side with roofless walls, the cold homes
of  anchorites.    To  fit  themselves  for  life,   and with a
special eye to acquire the art of smoking, it was even
common for the boys to harbour there ;   and you might
have seen a single penny pickwick, honestly shared in
lengths with a blunt knife, bestrew the glen with these
apprentices.    Again, you might join our fishing parties,
where we sat perched as thick as solan-geese, a covey of
little  anglers,   boy  and  girl,  angling  over  each  other's
heads, to the much entanglement of lines and loss of podleys
and consequent shrill recrimination—shrill as the geese
themselves.    Indeed, had that been all, you might have
done this often ;  but though fishing be a fine pastime, the
podley is scarce to be regarded as a dainty for the table ;
and it was a point of honour that a boy should eat all that
he had taken.    Or again, you might climb the Law, where
the whale's jawbone stood landmark in the buzzing wind,
and  behold  the face of many counties, and the smoke
and spires of many towns, and the sails of distant ships.
You might bathe, now in the flaws of fine weather, that
we pathetically call our summer, now in a gale of wind,
with the  sand scourging your bare  hide,  your clothes
thrashing abroad from underneath their guardian stone,
the froth of the great breakers casting you headlong ere
it had drowned your knees.    Or you might explore the