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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"


I know there are people in the world who cannot feel
grateful unless the favour has been done them at the cost
of pain and difficulty.    But this is a churlish disposition.
A man may send you six sheets of letterpaper covered
with the most entertaining gossip, or you may pass half-
an-hour   pleasantly, perhaps   profitably, over   an   article
of his ;   do you think the service would be greater if he
had made the  manuscript in his heart's  blood,  like a
compact   with  the  devil ?      Do  you  really  fancy  you
should be more beholden to your correspondent, if he had
been damning you all the while for  your  importunity ?
Pleasures are more beneficial than duties because, like
the quality of mercy, they are not strained, and they are
twice blest.    There must always be two to a kiss, and
there may be a score in a jest;   but wherever there is an
element of sacrifice, the favour is conferred with pain,
and,   among  generous  people,   received  with  confusion.
There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of
being   happy.      By  being  happy  we   sow   anonymous
benefits upon the w^orld, which remain unknown even to
ourselves, or when they are disclosed, surprise nobody so
much as the benefactor.    The other day, a ragged, bare-
foot boy ran down the street after a marble, with so jolly
an air that he set every one he passed into a good humour ;
one of these persons, who had been delivered from more
than usually black thoughts, stopped the little fellow and
gave him some money with this remark :   ' You see what
sometimes comes of looking pleased.'    If he had looked
pleased before,  he had now to look both pleased and
mystified.    Eor my part, I justify this encouragement of
smiling rather than tearful children ;   I do not wish to
pay for tears anywhere but upon the stage ;   but I am
prepared to deal largely in the opposite commodity.    A
happy man or woman is a better thing to find than a
five-pound jaote.    He or she is a radiating focus of good-
will ;  and their entrance into a room is as though another
candle had been lighted.    We need not care whether they
could  prove the  forty-seventh  proposition;   they  do  a
better thing than that, they practically demonstrate the
great Theorem of the Liveableness of Life.    Consequently,