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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

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observe him5 in what stage of society, in what depth of
ignorance, burthened with what erroneous morality; by
camp-lires in Assiniboia, the snow powdering his shoulders,

the wind plucking his blanket, as he sits, passing the
ceremonial calumet and uttering his grave opinions like
a Roman senator ; in ships at sea, a man inured to hard-
ship and vile pleasures, his brightest hope a fiddle in a

tavern and a bedizened trull who sells herself to rob Mm,
and he for all that simple, innocent, cheerful, kindly like
a child, constant to toil, brave to drown, for others ; in

the slums of cities, moving among indifferent millions
to mechanical employments, without hope of change in the
future, with scarce a pleasure in the present, and yet true
to his virtues, honest up to his lights, kind to Ms neigh-
bours, tempted perhaps in vain by the bright gin-palace,
perhaps long-suffering with the drunken wife that ruins
him ; in India (a woman this time) kneeling with broken
cries and streaming tears, as she drowns her child in the
sacred river ; in the brothel, the discard of society, living
mainly on strong drink, fed with affronts, a fool, a thief,
the comrade of thieves, and even here keeping the point
of honour and the touch of pity, often repaying the world's
scorn with service, often standing firm upon a scruple,
and at a certain cost, rejecting riches :—everywhere some
virtue cherished or affected, everywhere some decency of
thought and carriage, everywhere the ensign of man's
ineffectual goodness :—ah ! if I could show you this ! if
I could show you these men and women, all the world
over, in every stage of history, under every abuse of error,
under every circumstance of failure, "without hope, without
help, without thanks, still obscurely fighting the lost fight
of virtue, still clinging, in the brothel or on the scaffold,
to some rag of honour, the poor jewel of their souls !
They may seek to escape, and yet they cannot; it is not-
alone their privilege and glory, but their doom; they are
condemned to some nobility ; and their lives long, the
desire of good is at their heels, the implacable hunter.

Of all earth's meteors, here at least is the most strange
and consoling : that this ennobled lemur, this hair-crowned
bubble of the dust, this inheritor of a few years and sorrows.