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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

                  THE   LANTERN-BEARERS

nature, these were so fiery and so innocent, they were
so richly silly, so romantically young. But the talk, at
any rate, was but a condiment; and these gatherings
themselves * only accidents in the career of the lantern-
bearer. The essence of this bliss was to walk by yourself
in the black night; the slide shut, the top-coat buttoned ;
not a ray escaping, whether to conduct your footsteps
or to make your glory public : a mere pillar of darkness
in the dark; and all the while, deep down in the privacy
of your fool's heart, to know you had a bull's-eye at your
belt, and to exult and sing over the knowledge.

It is said that a poet has died young in the breast of
the most stolid. It may be contended, rather, that this
(somewhat minor) bard in almost every case survives,
and is the spice of life to the possessor. Justice is not
done to the versatility and the unplumbed childishness
of man's imagination. His life from without may seem
but a rude mound of mud ; there will be some golden
chamber at the heart of it, in which he dwells delighted;
and for as dark as his pathway seems to the observer,
he will have some kind of a bull's-eye at his belt.

It would be hard to pick out a career more cheerless
than that of Dancer, the miser, as he figures in the ( Old
Bailey Reports,' a prey to the most sordid persecutions,
the butt of his neighbourhood, betrayed by his hired man,
his house beleaguered by the impish schoolboy, and he
himself grinding and fuming and impotently fleeing to
the law against these pin-pricks. You marvel at first
that any one should willingly prolong a life so destitute
of charm and dignity; and then you call to memory
that had he chosen, had he ceased to be a miser, he could
have been freed at once from these trials, and might have
built himself a castle and gone escorted by a squadron.
For the love of more recondite joys, which we cannot
estimate, which, it may be, we should envy, the man had
willingly forgone both comfort and consideration. ' His
mind to him a kingdom was } ; and sure enough, digging