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> I can work around this by calling lua_type instead of lua_isnumber, but
> doesn't seem right that lua_isnumber should modify the variable it is
> testing - is this behaviour correct?

Yes, it is "correct" and it is documented.

The idea is that most functions which are looking for a number would like
to use the Lua coercion protocol, so lua_isnumber implements that. Calling
lua_type is the indicated solution.