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The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson - Swanston Edition, Vol. 20
written by "Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894"
...ughing, jostling, apologising to all and sundry with spacious incoherence, I plunged my way through the sightseers, and they gave me passage with all the good-humour in life. I believe that I descended upon that crowd as a godsend, a dancing rivulet of laughter. They needed entertainment. A damper, less enthusiastic company never gathered to a public show. Though the rain had ceased, and the sun shone, those who possessed umbrellas were not to be coaxed, but held them aloft with a settled air of gloom which defied the lenitives of nature and the spasmodic cajolery of the worst band in Edinburgh. “It’ll be near full, Jock?” “It wull.” “He’ll be startin’ in a meenit?” “Aiblins he wull.” “Wull this be the sixt time ye’ve seen him?” “I shudna wonder.” It occurred to me that, had we come to bury Byfield, not to praise him, we might have displayed a blither interest. Byfield himself, bending from the car beneath his gently 337 swaying canopy of liver-colour and pale blue, directed the proceedings with a mien of saturnine preoccupation. He may have been calculating the receipts. As I squeezed to the front, his underlings were shifting the pipe which conveyed the hydrogen gas, and the Lunardi strained gently at its ropes. Somebody with a playful thrust sent me staggering into the clear space beneath. And here a voice hailed and fetched me up with a round turn. “Ducie, by all that’s friendly! Playmate of my youth and prop of my declining years, how goes it?” It was the egregious Dalmahoy. He clung and steadied himself by one of the dozen ropes binding the car to earth; and with an air of doing it all by his unaided cleverness—an air so indescribably, so majestically drunken, that I could have blushed for the poor expedients which had carried me through the throng. “You’ll excuse me if I don’t...

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