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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

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into that mind, which seems at first a dust-heap, we
unearth some priceless jewels. For Dancer must have
had the love of power and the disdain of using it, a noble
character in itself ; disdain of many pleasures, a chief
part of what is commonly called wisdom ; disdain of the
inevitable end, that finest trait of mankind; scorn of
men's opinions, another element of virtue ; and at the
back of all, a conscience just like yours and mine, whining
like a cur, swindling like a thimble-rigger, but still pointing
(there or thereabout) to some conventional standard.
Here were a cabinet portrait to which Hawthorne perhaps
had done justice; and yet not Hawthorne either, for he
was mildly minded, and it lay not in him to create for
us that throb of the miser's pulse, his fretful energy of
gusto, his vast arms of ambition clutching in he knows
not what : insatiable, insane, a god with a muck-rake.
Thus, at least, looking in the bosom of the miser, con-
sideration detects the poet in the full tide of life, with
more, indeed, of the poetic fire than usually goes to epics ;
and tracing that mean man about his cold hearth, and to
and fro in his discomfortable house, spies within him a
blazing bonfire of delight. And so with others, who do
not live by bread alone, but by some cherished and per-
haps fantastic pleasure ; wrho are meat salesmen to the
external eye, and possibly to themselves are Shakespeares,
Napoleons, or Beethovens ; who have not one virtue to rub
against another in the field of active life, and yet perhaps,
in the Me of contemplation, sit with the saints. We see
them on the street, and we can count their buttons ; but
heaven knows in what they pride themselves 1 heaven
knows where they have set their treasure !

There is one fable that touches very near the quick
of life ; the fable of the monk who passed into the woods,
heard a bird break into song, hearkened for a trill or two,
and found himself on his return a stranger at his convent
gates ; for he had been absent fifty years, and of all his
comrades there survived but one to recognize Mm. It is
not only in the woods that this enchanter carols, though
perhaps he is native there. He sings in the most doleful
places. The miser hears him and chuckles, and the days