Otherwise, between sick children and discontented old folk, we might be put out of all conceit of life.

*

When I was going, up got my old stroller, and off with his hat. 'I am afraid,' said he, 'that monsieur will think me altogether a beggar; but I have another demand to make upon him.' I began to hate him on the spot. 'We play again to-night,' he went on. 'Of course I shall refuse to accept any more money from monsieur and his friends, who have been already so liberal. But our programme of to-night is something truly creditable; and I cling to the idea that monsieur will honour us with his presence. And then, with a shrug and a smile: 'Monsieur understands--the vanity of an artist!' Save the mark! The vanity of an artist! That is the kind of thing that reconciles me to life: a ragged, tippling, incompetent old rogue, with the manners of a gentleman and the vanity of an artist, to keep up his self-respect!

*

Time went on, and the boy's health still slowly declined. The Doctor blamed the weather, which was cold and boisterous. He called in his CONFRERE from Burron, took a fancy for him, magnified his capacity, and was pretty soon under treatment himself--it scarcely appeared for what complaint. He and Jean-Marie had each medicine to take at different periods of the day. The Doctor used to lie in wait for the exact moment, watch in hand. 'There is nothing like regularity,' he would say, fill out the doses, and dilate on the virtues of the draught; and if the boy seemed none the better, the Doctor was not at all the worse.

*

'I lead you,' he would say, 'by the green pastures. My system, my beliefs, my medicines, are resumed in one phrase--to avoid excess. Blessed nature, healthy, temperate nature, abhors and exterminates excess. Human law in this matter imitates at a great distance her provisions; and we must strive to supplement the efforts of the law. Yes, boy, we must be a law to ourselves and for our neighbours--LEX ARMATA--armed, emphatic, tyrannous law. If you see a crapulous human ruin snuffing, dash from him his box! The judge, though in a way an admission of disease, is less offensive to me than either the doctor or the priest. Above all, the doctor--the doctor and the purulent trash and garbage of his pharmacopoeia! Pure air--from the neighbourhood of a pinetum for the sake of the turpentine--unadulterated wine, and the reflections of an unsophisticated spirit in the presence of the works of nature--these, my boy, are the best medical appliances and the best religious comforts. Devote yourself to these. Hark! there are the bells of Bourron (the wind is in the North, it will be fair). How clear and airy is the sound! The nerves are harmonised and quieted; the mind attuned to silence; and observe how easily and regularly beats the heart! Your unenlightened doctor would see nothing in these sensations; and yet you yourself perceive they are a part of health. Did you remember your cinchona this morning? Good. Cinchona also is a work of nature; it is, after all, only the bark of a tree which we might gather for, ourselves if we lived in the locality.'

*

The accepted novelist may take his novel up and put it down, spend days upon it in vain, and write not any more than he makes haste to blot. Not so the Beginner. Human nature has certain rights ; instinct--the instinct of self-preservation--forbids that any man (cheered and supported by the consciousness of no previous victory) should endure the miseries of unsuccessful literary toil beyond a period to be measured in weeks. There must be something for hope to feed upon. The beginner must have a slant of wind, a lucky vein must be running, he must be in one of those hours when the words come and the phrases balance themselves--EVEN TO BEGIN. And having begun, what a dread looking forward is that until the book shall he accomplished! For so long a time the slant is to continue unchanged, the vein to keep running, for so long a time you must keep at command the same quality of style: for so long a time your puppets are to be always vital, always consistent, always vigorous!

*

What is this fortunate circumstance, my friend? inquired Anastasie, not heeding his protest, which was of daily recurrence.

The Pocket R. L. S. Page 22

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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