Skip to main content

Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

See other formats

THE LANTERN-BEARERS                 85

tidal rocks, above all in the ebb of springs, when the very
roots of the hill were for the nonce discovered; following
my leader from one group to another, groping in slippery
tangle for the wreck of ships, wading in pools after the
abominable creatures of the sea, and ever with an eye
cast backward on the inarch of the tide and the menaced
line of your retreat. And then you might go Ousoeing,
a word that covers all extempore eating in the open air :
digging perhaps a house under the margin of the links,
kindling a fire of the sea-ware, and cooking apples there—
if they were truly apples, for I sometimes suppose the
merchant must have played us off with some inferior and
quite local fruit, capable of resolving, in the neighbour-
hood of fire, into mere sand and smoke and iodine ; or
perhaps pushing to Tantallon, you might lunch on sand-
wiches and visions in the grassy court, while the wind
hummed in the crumbling turrets ; or clambering along
the coast, eat geansl (the worst, I must suppose, in
Christendom) from an adventurous gean tree that had
taken root under a cliff, where it was shaken with an ague
of east wind, and silvered after gales with salt, and grew
so foreign among its bleak surroundings that to eat of its
produce was an adventure in itself.

There are mingled some dismal memories with so many
that were joyous. Of the fisher-wife, for instance, who
had cut her throat at Canty Bay ; and of how I ran with
the other children to the top of the Quadrant, and beheld
a posse of silent people escorting a cart, and on the cart,
bound in a chair, her throat bandaged, and the bandage
all bloody—horror !—the fisher-wife herself, who con-
tinued thenceforth to hag-ride my thoughts, and even
to-day (as I recall the scene) darkens daylight. She was
lodged in the little old jail in the chief street; but whether
or no she died there, with a wise terror of the worst, I never
inquired. She had been tippling ; it was but a dingy
tragedy; and it seems strange and hard that, after all
these years, the poor crazy sinner should be still pilloried
on her cart in the scrap-book of my memory. Nor shall
I readily forget a certain house in the Quadrant where a
1 Wild cherries.