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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

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known that it had worn a rut in the commerce of Great
Britain; and the grocers, about the due time, began to
garnish their windows with our particular brand of
luminary. We wore them buckled to the waist upon a
cricket belt, and over them, such was the rigour of the
game, a buttoned top-coat. They smelled noisomely of
blistered tin; they never burned aright, though they
would always burn our fingers ; their use was naught;
the pleasure of them merely fanciful; and yet a boy with
a bull's-eye under Ms top-coat asked for nothing more.
The fishermen used lanterns about their boats, and it was
from them, I suppose, that we had got the hint; but
theirs were not bull's-eyes, nor did we ever play at being
fishermen. The police carried them at their belts, and
we had plainly copied them in that; yet we did not
pretend to be policemen. Burglars, indeed, we may have
had some haunting thoughts of; and we had certainly
an eye to past ages when lanterns were more common,
and to certain story-books in which we had found them to
figure very largely. But take it for all in all, the pleasure
of the thing was substantive; and to be a boy with a
bull's-eye under his top-coat was good enough for us.

When two of these asses met, there would be an anxious
1 Have you got your lantern ? ' and a gratified l Yes ! '
That was the shibboleth, and very needful too ; for, as
it was the rule to keep our glory contained, none could
recognize a lantern-bearer, unless (like the polecat) by
the smell. Four or five would sometimes climb into the
belly of a ten-man lugger, with nothing but the thwarts
above them—for the cabin was usually locked, or choose
out some hollow of the links where the wind might whistle
overhead. There the coats would be unbuttoned and the
bull's-eyes discovered ; and in the chequering glimmer,
under the huge windy hall of the night, and cheered by
a rich steam of toasting tinware, these fortunate young
gentlemen would crouch together in the cold sand of the
links or on the scaly bilges of the fishing-boat, and delight
themselves with inappropriate talk. Woe is me that I
may not give some specimens—some of their foresights
of life, or deep inquiries into the rudiments of man and