And, above all, where, instead of simply spending, he makes a profitable investment for some of his money when it will be out of risk of loss. So every bit of brisk living, and, above all, when it is healthful, is just so much gained upon the wholesale filcher, death. We shall have the less in our pockets, the more in our stomachs, when he cries, 'Stand and deliver.'

*

It is better to lose health like a spendthrift than to waste it like a miser. It is better to live and be done with it, than to die daily in the sickroom. By all means begin your folio; even if the doctor does not give you a year, even if he hesitates about a month, make one brave push and see what can be accomplished in a week. It is not only in finished undertakings that we ought to honour useful labour. A spirit goes out of the man who means execution, which outlives the most untimely ending. All who have meant good work with their whole hearts, have done good work, although they may die before they have the time to sign it. Every heart that has beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind.

*

Now the man who has his heart on his sleeve, and a good whirling weathercock of a brain, who reckons his life as a thing to be dashingly used and cheerfully hazarded, makes a very different acquaintance of the world, keeps all his pulses going true and fast, and gathers impetus as he runs, until, if he be running towards anything better than wildfire, he may shoot up and become a constellation in the end.

*

When the time comes that he should go, there need be few illusions left about himself. Here lies one who meant well, tried a little, failed much:-surely that may be his epitaph, of which he need not be ashamed, nor will he complain at the summons which calls a defeated soldier from the field; defeated, ay, if he were Paul or Marcus Aurelius!--but if there is still one inch of fight in his old spirit, undishonoured. The faith which sustained him in his lifelong blindness and lifelong disappointment will scarce even be required in this last formality of laying down his arms. Give him a march with his old bones; there, out of the glorious sun-coloured earth, out of the day and the dust and the ecstasy-there goes another Faithful Failure.

*

We are apt to make so much of the tragedy of the tragedyof death, and think so little of the enduring tragedy of some men's lives, that we see more to lament for in a life cut off in the midst of usefulness and love, than in one that miserably survives all love and usefulness, and goes about the world the phantom of itself, without hope, or joy, or any consolation.

*

'You are a strange physician,' said Will, looking steadfastly upon his guest. 'I am a natural law,' he replied, 'and people call me Death.' 'Why did you not tell me so at first?' cried Will. 'I have been waiting for you these many years. Give me your hand, and welcome.'

*

Under the wide and starry sky Dig the grave and let me lie. Glad did I live, and gladly die, And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me: Here he lies where he longed to be; Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter home from the hill.

*

But the girls picked up their skirts, as if they were sure they had good ankles, and followed until their breath was out. The last to weary were the three graces and a couple of companions; and just as they, too, had had enough, the foremost of the three leaped upon a tree-stump and kissed her hand to the canoeists. Not Diana herself, although this was more of a Venus, after all, could have done a graceful thing more gracefully. 'Come back again!' she cried; and all the others echoed her; and the hills about Origny repeated the words, 'Come back.' But the river had us round an angle in a twinkling, and we were alone with the green trees and running water.

Come back? There is no coming back, young ladies, on the impetuous stream of life.

The Pocket R. L. S. Page 61

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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