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Title: Vailima Letters
Author: Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Vailima Letters" ***

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Transcribed from the 1908 Methuen edition by David Price, email

              [Picture: Portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson]

                             VAILIMA LETTERS

                           BEING CORRESPONDENCE

                               ADDRESSED BY

                               ROBERT LOUIS



                              SIDNEY COLVIN

                       NOVEMBER 1890 — OCTOBER 1894

                                * * * * *


                             METHUEN AND CO.

                             36 ESSEX STREET

                            _Seventh Edition_

                                * * * * *

_First Published_     _November_     1895
_Second Edition_      _December_     1895
_Third Edition_       _February_     1901
_Fourth Edition_      _October_      1904
_Fifth Edition_       _March_        1906
_Sixth Edition_       _October_      1907
_Seventh Edition_     _December_     1908


EDITORIAL NOTE                                          xi
           I.  November 1890                             1
          II.  November 25—December 2, 1890             22
         III.  December 1890                            33
          IV.  January 17, 1891                         46
           V.  February 1891                            51
          VI.  March 1891                               54
         VII.  April 1891                               65
        VIII.  April 29—May 19, 1891                    70
          IX.  June 1891                                77
           X.  September 1891                           82
          XI.  September 28—October 13, 1891            94
         XII.  October 1891                            102
        XIII.  November 25—December 7, 1891            110
         XIV.  December 1891—January 3, 1892           119
          XV.  January 31—February 1892                135
         XVI.  February—March 2, 1892                  139
        XVII.  March 9—March 30, 1892                  147
       XVIII.  May 1—May 27, 1892                      158
         XIX.  May 29—June 1892                        180
          XX.  July 2—July 12, 1892                    202
         XXI.  August—September 13, 1892               205
        XXII.  September 15—October 8, 1892            221
       XXIII.  October 28—November 8, 1892             227
        XXIV.  December 1—December 5, 1892             236
         XXV.  January—January 30, 1893                239
        XXVI.  February 19—February 23, 1893           247
       XXVII.  February 1893                           250
      XXVIII.  April—April 22, 1893                    252
        XXIX.  April 25—May 23, 1893                   260
         XXX.  May 29—June 15, 1893                    270
        XXXI.  June 24—July 18, 1893                   280
       XXXII.  August 1893                             296
      XXXIII.  August 23—September 12, 1893            298
       XXXIV.  October 23—December 4, 1893             306
        XXXV.  December 1893                           313
       XXXVI.  January 29, 1894                        320
      XXXVII.  February 1894                           322
     XXXVIII.  March 1894                              324
       XXXIX.  May 18, 1894                            330
          XL.  June 18, 1894                           333
         XLI.  July 1894                               336
        XLII.  August 7—August 13, 1894                340
       XLIII.  September 1894                          343
        XLIV.  October 6, 1894                         348
Epilogue                                               355
Appendix                                               360


Portrait of R. L. Stevenson; etched by W. Strang        _Frontispiece_
after a photograph by Falk of Sydney
Portrait of R. L. Stevenson on his Horse ‘Jack’                    119
Portrait of R. L. Stevenson with the Native Chief                  320
Tui Malealiifano


SO much of preface seems necessary to this volume as may justify its
publication and explain its origin.  The writer was for many years my
closest friend.  It was in the summer of 1873 that a lady, whose gracious
influence has helped to shape and encourage more than one distinguished
career, first awakened my interest in him and drew us together.  He was
at that time a lad of twenty-two, with his powers not yet set nor his way
of life determined.  But to know him was to recognise at once that here
was a young genius of whom great things might be expected.  A slender,
boyish presence, with a graceful, somewhat fantastic bearing, and a
singular power and attraction in the eyes and smile, were the signs that
first impressed you; and the impression was quickly confirmed and
deepened by the charm of his talk, which was irresistibly sympathetic and
inspiring, and not less full of matter than of mirth.  I have known no
man in whom the poet’s heart and imagination were combined with such a
brilliant strain of humour and such an unsleeping alertness and
adroitness of the critical intelligence.  But it was only in conversation
that he could as yet do himself justice.  His earliest efforts in
literature were of a very uneven and tentative quality.  The reason
partly was that in mode of expression and choice of language, no less
than in the formation of opinion and the conduct of life, he was
impatient, even to excess, of the conventional, the accepted, and the
trite.  His perceptions and emotions were acute and vivid in the extreme;
his judgments, whether founded on experience, reading, discussion, or
caprice (and a surprising amount of all these things had been crowded
into his youthful existence) were not less fresh and personal; while to
his ardent fancy the world was a theatre glowing with the lights and
bustling with the incidents of romance.  To find for all he had to say
words of vital aptness and animation—to communicate as much as possible
of what he has somewhere called ‘the incommunicable thrill of things’—was
from the first his endeavour in literature, nay more, it was the main
passion of his life.  The instrument that should serve his purpose could
not be forged in haste, still less could it be adopted at second hand or
ready-made; and he has himself narrated how long and toilsome was the
apprenticeship he served.

In those days, then, of Stevenson’s youth it was my good fortune to be of
use to him, partly by helping to soften parental opposition to his inborn
vocation for letters, partly by recommending him to editors (Mr.
Hamerton, Sir George Grove, and Mr. Leslie Stephen in succession), and a
little even by such technical hints as a classical training and five
years’ seniority enabled me to give.  It belonged to the richness of his
nature to repay in all things much for little, _ἑκατομβοἶ ἐννεαβοιών_,
and from these early relations sprang both the affection, to me
inestimable, of which the following correspondence bears evidence, and
the habit, which it pleased him to maintain after he had become one of
the acknowledged masters of English letters, of confiding in and
consulting me about his work in progress.  It was my business to find
fault; to ‘damn’ what I did not like; a duty which, as will be inferred
from the following pages, I was accustomed to discharge somewhat
unsparingly.  But he was too manly a spirit to desire or to relish
flattery, and too true an artist to be content with doing less than his
best: he knew, moreover, in what rank of English writers I put him, and
for what audience, not of to-day, I would have him labour.  _Tibi
Palinure_—so, in the last weeks of his life, he proposed to inscribe to
me a set of his collected works.  Not Palinurus so much as Polonius may
perhaps—or so I sometimes suspect—have been really the character; but his
own amiable view of the matter has to be mentioned in order to account
for part of the tenor of the following correspondence.

As a letter-writer, Mr. Stevenson was punctilious in business matters
(herein putting some violence on his nature), indefatigable where there
was a service to be requited or a kindness done, and to strangers and
slight acquaintances ever courteous and attentive.  I am not sure,
indeed, but that in this capacity it was the outer rather than the inner
circle of his correspondents who, speaking generally, had the best of
him.  To his intimate friends he wrote charmingly indeed by fits, but
often, at least in early days, in a manner not a little trying and
tantalising.  With these, his correspondence was apt to be a thing wholly
of moods.  ‘Sordid facts,’ as he called them, were almost never
mentioned: date and place one could never infer except from the postmark.
He would exclaim over some predicament to the nature of which he gave no
clue whatever, or appeal for sympathy in circumstances impossible to
conjecture; or, starting in a key of vague poetry and sentiment, would
wind up (in a manner characteristic also of his talk) with a rhapsody of
hyperbolical slang.  Or he would dilate on some new phase of his many
maladies with burlesque humour—with complaint never—but what had been the
nature of the attack you were left to wonder and guess in vain.  During
the period of his Odyssey in the South Seas, from August 1888 until the
spring of 1890, the remoteness and inaccessibility of the scenes he
visited inevitably interrupted all correspondence for months together;
and when at long intervals a packet reached us, the facts and
circumstances of his wanderings were to be gathered from the admirable
letters of Mrs. Stevenson (who has this feminine accomplishment in
perfection) rather than from his own.  But when later in the
last-mentioned year, 1890, he and his family were settled on their newly
bought property on the mountain behind Apia, to which he gave the name of
Vailima (five rivers), he for the first time, to my infinite
gratification, took to writing me long and regular monthly budgets as
full and particular as heart could wish; and this practice he maintained
until within a few weeks of his death.

It is these journal-letters from Samoa, covering with a few intervals the
period from November 1890 to October 1894, that are printed by themselves
in the present volume.  They occupy a place, as has been indicated, quite
apart in his correspondence, and in any general selection from his
letters would fill a quite disproportionate space.  Begun without a
thought of publicity, and simply to maintain our intimacy undiminished,
so far as might be, by separation, they assumed in the course of two or
three years a bulk so considerable, and contained so much of the matter
of his daily life and thoughts, that it by-and-by occurred to him, as may
be read on page 200, that ‘some kind of a book’ might be extracted out of
them after his death.  It is this passage which has given me my warrant
for their publication, and at the same time has imposed on me no very
easy editorial task.  In a correspondence so unreserved, the duty of
suppression and selection must needs be delicate.  Belonging to the race
of Scott and Dumas, of the romantic narrators and creators, Stevenson
belonged no less to that of Montaigne and the literary egotists.  The
word seems out of place, since of egotism in the sense of vanity or
selfishness he was of all men the most devoid; but he was nevertheless a
watchful and ever interested observer of the motions of his own mind.  He
saw himself, as he saw everything else, (to borrow the words of Mr.
Andrew Lang) with the lucidity of genius, and loved to put himself on
terms of confidence with his readers; but of confidence kept always
within fit limits, and permitting no undue intrusion into his private
affairs and feelings.  To maintain the same limits in the editing of an
intimate correspondence after his death would have been impossible.  I
have tried to do my best under the circumstances; to suffer no feelings
to be hurt that could be spared, and only to lift the veil of family life
so far as under the conditions was unavoidable.  Neither would it have
been possible from such a correspondence to expunge the record of those
trivialities which make up the chief part of life, even in surroundings
so romantic and unusual as Stevenson in these years had chosen for
himself.  It belonged to the personal charm of the man that nothing ever
seemed commonplace or insignificant in his company; but in correspondence
this charm must needs to some extent evaporate.

Such as they remain, then, these letters will be found a varied record,
perfectly frank and familiar, of the writer’s every-day moods, thoughts,
and doings during his Samoan exile.  They tell, with the zest and often
in the language of a man who remained to the last a boy in spirit, of the
pleasures and troubles of a planter founding his home in the virgin soil
of a tropical island; the pleasures of an invalid beginning after many
years to resume habits of outdoor life and exercise; the toils and
satisfactions, failures and successes, of a creative artist whose
invention was as fertile as his standards were high and his industry
unflinching.  These divers characters have probably never been so united
in any man before.  Something also they tell of the inward movements and
affections of one of the bravest and tenderest of human hearts.  One part
of his life, it should be said, which his other letters will fully
reveal, finds little expression in these, namely the relations of cordial
and ungrudging kindness in which he stood towards the younger generation
of writers at home, including many personally unknown to him.  Neither do
ordinary impressions of travel—impressions of the beauties of the tropics
and the captivating strangeness of the island people and their ways—fill
much space in them.  These things were no longer new to the writer when
the correspondence began; they had been part of the element of his life
since the day, near two years before, when his yacht first anchored in
the Bay of Nukahiva, and his soul, to quote his own words, ‘went down
with these moorings whence no windlass may extract nor any diver fish it
up; and I, and some part of my ship’s company, were from that hour the
bondslaves of the isles of Vivien.’  In their stead we find, what to some
readers may be hardly so welcome, the observations of a close student of
native life, history, and manners, and some of the perplexities and
pre-occupations of an island politician.

The political allusions are seldom in the form of direct statement or
narrative.  To understand them, the reader must bear in mind a few main
facts, which I shall state as briefly and plainly as possible.  At the
date when Stevenson settled in Samoa, the government of the island had
lately been settled between the three powers interested, namely Germany,
England, and the United States, at the convention of Berlin.  Under this
convention, Malietoa Laupepa, who had previously been deposed and
deported by the Germans in favour of a nominee of their own, was
reinstated as king, to the exclusion of his kinsman, the powerful and
popular Mataafa, whose titles might be held equally good and whose
abilities were certainly greater, but who was specially obnoxious to the
Germans owing to his resistance to them during the troubles of the
previous years.  For a time the two kinsmen, Laupepa and Mataafa, lived
on amicable terms, but presently differences arose between them.  Mataafa
had expected to occupy a position of influence in the government: finding
himself ignored, he withdrew to a camp a few miles outside the town of
Apia, where he lived in semi-royal state as a kind of passive rebel or
rival to the recognised king.  In the meantime, in the course of the year
1891, the two white officials appointed under the Berlin Convention,
namely the Chief Justice, a Swedish gentleman named Cedarkrantz, and the
President of the Council, Baron Senfft von Pilsach, had come out to the
islands and entered on their duties.  In Stevenson’s judgment these
gentlemen proved quite unequal to their task, an opinion which before
long came to be shared and acted on by the foreign offices of the three
powers under whom they were appointed.  Stevenson was no abstracted
student or dreamer; the human interests and the human duties lying
immediately about him were ever the first in his eyes: and petty and
remote as these island concerns may appear to us, they were for him near
and urgent.  A man of his eager nature and persuasive powers must
naturally acquire influence in any community in which he may be thrown,
and among the natives in especial, by kindness, justice, and a
sympathetic understanding of their ways and character, he soon came to
enjoy a singular degree of authority.  His unauthorised intervention in
public matters may have been of a nature disconcerting to the official
mind, but his purposes were at all times those of a peacemaker.  The
steady aim of his efforts was to bring about the withdrawal of the two
discredited white officials (against whom, it will be seen, he had no
personal animus whatever) and to procure a reconciliation between Laupepa
and Mataafa, so that the latter might exercise the share in the
government due to his character, titles, and following.  The first part
of this policy commended itself after a time to the three powers and
their agents, and was carried out; the second not; and his friend Mataafa
was by-and-by attacked by the forces of Laupepa, beaten, and sent into

In reading the following pages it must be borne in mind that Mulinuu and
Malie, the places respectively of Laupepa’s and Mataafa’s residence, are
also used to signify their respective parties and followings.  The reader
will have no difficulty in identifying the various personages composing
the family group whose names occur constantly in the correspondence,
namely the writer’s mother, his wife (‘Fanny’), his stepson, Mr. Lloyd
Osbourne (‘Lloyd’), his step-daughter and amanuensis, Mrs. Strong
(‘Belle’), and her young son (‘Austin’).  Explanation of any other
matters seeming to require it is added in the footnotes.

                                                                     S. C.

_August_ 1895.


                                       _In the Mountain_, _Apia_, _Samoa_,
                                          _Monday_, _November_ 2_nd_, 1890

MY DEAR COLVIN,—This is a hard and interesting and beautiful life that we
lead now.  Our place is in a deep cleft of Vaea Mountain, some six
hundred feet above the sea, embowered in forest, which is our strangling
enemy, and which we combat with axes and dollars.  I went crazy over
outdoor work, and had at last to confine myself to the house, or
literature must have gone by the board.  _Nothing_ is so interesting as
weeding, clearing, and path-making; the oversight of labourers becomes a
disease; it is quite an effort not to drop into the farmer; and it does
make you feel so well.  To come down covered with mud and drenched with
sweat and rain after some hours in the bush, change, rub down, and take a
chair in the verandah, is to taste a quiet conscience.  And the strange
thing that I mark is this: If I go out and make sixpence, bossing my
labourers and plying the cutlass or the spade, idiot conscience applauds
me; if I sit in the house and make twenty pounds, idiot conscience wails
over my neglect and the day wasted.  For near a fortnight I did not go
beyond the verandah; then I found my rush of work run out, and went down
for the night to Apia; put in Sunday afternoon with our consul, ‘a nice
young man,’ dined with my friend H. J. Moors in the evening, went to
church—no less—at the white and half-white church—I had never been
before, and was much interested; the woman I sat next _looked_ a
full-blood native, and it was in the prettiest and readiest English that
she sang the hymns; back to Moors’, where we yarned of the islands, being
both wide wanderers, till bed-time; bed, sleep, breakfast, horse saddled;
round to the mission, to get Mr. Clarke to be my interpreter; over with
him to the King’s, whom I have not called on since my return; received by
that mild old gentleman; have some interesting talk with him about Samoan
superstitions and my land—the scene of a great battle in his (Malietoa
Laupepa’s) youth—the place which we have cleared the platform of his
fort—the gulley of the stream full of dead bodies—the fight rolled off up
Vaea mountain-side; back with Clarke to the Mission; had a bit of lunch
and consulted over a queer point of missionary policy just arisen, about
our new Town Hall and the balls there—too long to go into, but a quaint
example of the intricate questions which spring up daily in the
missionary path.

Then off up the hill; Jack very fresh, the sun (close on noon) staring
hot, the breeze very strong and pleasant; the ineffable green country all
round—gorgeous little birds (I think they are humming birds, but they say
not) skirmishing in the wayside flowers.  About a quarter way up I met a
native coming down with the trunk of a cocoa palm across his shoulder;
his brown breast glittering with sweat and oil: ‘Talofa’—‘Talofa,
alii—You see that white man?  He speak for you.’  ‘White man he gone up
here?’—‘Ioe (Yes)’—‘Tofa, alii’—‘Tofa, soifua!’  I put on Jack up the
steep path, till he is all as white as shaving stick—Brown’s euxesis,
wish I had some—past Tanugamanono, a bush village—see into the houses as
I pass—they are open sheds scattered on a green—see the brown folk
sitting there, suckling kids, sleeping on their stiff wooden pillows—then
on through the wood path—and here I find the mysterious white man (poor
devil!) with his twenty years’ certificate of good behaviour as a
book-keeper, frozen out by the strikes in the colonies, come up here on a
chance, no work to be found, big hotel bill, no ship to leave in—and come
up to beg twenty dollars because he heard I was a Scotchman, offering to
leave his portmanteau in pledge.  Settle this, and on again; and here my
house comes in view, and a war whoop fetches my wife and Henry (or
Simelé), our Samoan boy, on the front balcony; and I am home again, and
only sorry that I shall have to go down again to Apia this day week.  I
could, and would, dwell here unmoved, but there are things to be attended

Never say I don’t give you details and news.  That is a picture of a

I have been hard at work since I came; three chapters of _The Wrecker_,
and since that, eight of the South Sea book, and, along and about and in
between, a hatful of verses.  Some day I’ll send the verse to you, and
you’ll say if any of it is any good.  I have got in a better vein with
the South Sea book, as I think you will see; I think these chapters will
do for the volume without much change.  Those that I did in the _Janet
Nicoll_, under the most ungodly circumstances, I fear will want a lot of
suppling and lightening, but I hope to have your remarks in a month or
two upon that point.  It seems a long while since I have heard from you.
I do hope you are well.  I am wonderful, but tired from so much work;
’tis really immense what I have done; in the South Sea book I have fifty
pages copied fair, some of which has been four times, and all twice
written, certainly fifty pages of solid scriving inside a fortnight, but
I was at it by seven a.m. till lunch, and from two till four or five
every day; between whiles, verse and blowing on the flageolet; never
outside.  If you could see this place! but I don’t want any one to see it
till my clearing is done, and my house built.  It will be a home for

So far I wrote after my bit of dinner, some cold meat and bananas, on
arrival.  Then out to see where Henry and some of the men were clearing
the garden; for it was plain there was to be no work to-day indoors, and
I must set in consequence to farmering.  I stuck a good while on the way
up, for the path there is largely my own handiwork, and there were a lot
of sprouts and saplings and stones to be removed.  Then I reached our
clearing just where the streams join in one; it had a fine autumn smell
of burning, the smoke blew in the woods, and the boys were pretty merry
and busy.  Now I had a private design:—

                              [Picture: Map]

The Vaita’e I had explored pretty far up; not yet the other stream, the
Vaituliga (g=nasal n, as ng in sing); and up that, with my wood knife, I
set off alone.  It is here quite dry; it went through endless woods;
about as broad as a Devonshire lane, here and there crossed by fallen
trees; huge trees overhead in the sun, dripping lianas and tufted with
orchids, tree ferns, ferns depending with air roots from the steep banks,
great arums—I had not skill enough to say if any of them were the edible
kind, one of our staples here!—hundreds of bananas—another staple—and
alas!  I had skill enough to know all of these for the bad kind that
bears no fruit.  My Henry moralised over this the other day; how hard it
was that the bad banana flourished wild, and the good must be weeded and
tended; and I had not the heart to tell him how fortunate they were here,
and how hungry were other lands by comparison.  The ascent of this lovely
lane of my dry stream filled me with delight.  I could not but be
reminded of old Mayne Reid, as I have been more than once since I came to
the tropics; and I thought, if Reid had been still living, I would have
written to tell him that, for, me, _it had come true_; and I thought,
forbye, that, if the great powers go on as they are going, and the Chief
Justice delays, it would come truer still; and the war-conch will sound
in the hills, and my home will be inclosed in camps, before the year is
ended.  And all at once—mark you, how Mayne Reid is on the spot—a strange
thing happened.  I saw a liana stretch across the bed of the brook about
breast-high, swung up my knife to sever it, and—behold, it was a wire!
On either hand it plunged into thick bush; to-morrow I shall see where it
goes and get a guess perhaps of what it means.  To-day I know no more
than—there it is.  A little higher the brook began to trickle, then to
fill.  At last, as I meant to do some work upon the homeward trail, it
was time to turn.  I did not return by the stream; knife in hand, as long
as my endurance lasted, I was to cut a path in the congested bush.

At first it went ill with me; I got badly stung as high as the elbows by
the stinging plant; I was nearly hung in a tough liana—a rotten trunk
giving way under my feet; it was deplorable bad business.  And an axe—if
I dared swing one—would have been more to the purpose than my cutlass.
Of a sudden things began to go strangely easier; I found stumps, bushing
out again; my body began to wonder, then my mind; I raised my eyes and
looked ahead; and, by George, I was no longer pioneering, I had struck an
old track overgrown, and was restoring an old path.  So I laboured till I
was in such a state that Carolina Wilhelmina Skeggs could scarce have
found a name for it.  Thereon desisted; returned to the stream; made my
way down that stony track to the garden, where the smoke was still
hanging and the sun was still in the high tree-tops, and so home.  Here,
fondly supposing my long day was over, I rubbed down; exquisite agony;
water spreads the poison of these weeds; I got it all over my hands, on
my chest, in my eyes, and presently, while eating an orange, _à la_
Raratonga, burned my lip and eye with orange juice.  Now, all day, our
three small pigs had been adrift, to the mortal peril of our corn,
lettuce, onions, etc., and as I stood smarting on the back verandah,
behold the three piglings issuing from the wood just opposite.  Instantly
I got together as many boys as I could—three, and got the pigs penned
against the rampart of the sty, till the others joined; whereupon we
formed a cordon, closed, captured the deserters, and dropped them,
squeaking amain, into their strengthened barracks where, please God, they
may now stay!

Perhaps you may suppose the day now over; you are not the head of a
plantation, my juvenile friend.  Politics succeeded: Henry got adrift in
his English, Bene was too cowardly to tell me what he was after: result,
I have lost seven good labourers, and had to sit down and write to you to
keep my temper.  Let me sketch my lads.—Henry—Henry has gone down to town
or I could not be writing to you—this were the hour of his English lesson
else, when he learns what he calls ‘long expessions’ or ‘your chief’s
language’ for the matter of an hour and a half—Henry is a chiefling from
Savaii; I once loathed, I now like and—pending fresh discoveries—have a
kind of respect for Henry.  He does good work for us; goes among the
labourers, bossing and watching; helps Fanny; is civil, kindly,
thoughtful; _O si sic semper_!  But will he be ‘his sometime self
throughout the year’?  Anyway, he has deserved of us, and he must
disappoint me sharply ere I give him up.—Bene—or Peni-Ben, in plain
English—is supposed to be my ganger; the Lord love him!  God made a
truckling coward, there is his full history.  He cannot tell me what he
wants; he dares not tell me what is wrong; he dares not transmit my
orders or translate my censures.  And with all this, honest, sober,
industrious, miserably smiling over the miserable issue of his own
unmanliness.—Paul—a German—cook and steward—a glutton of work—a splendid
fellow; drawbacks, three: (1) no cook; (2) an inveterate bungler; a man
with twenty thumbs, continually falling in the dishes, throwing out the
dinner, preserving the garbage; (3) a dr—, well, don’t let us say
that—but we daren’t let him go to town, and he—poor, good soul—is afraid
to be let go.—Lafaele (Raphael), a strong, dull, deprecatory man;
splendid with an axe, if watched; the better for a rowing, when he calls
me ‘Papa’ in the most wheedling tones; desperately afraid of ghosts, so
that he dare not walk alone up in the banana patch—see map.  The rest are
changing labourers; and to-night, owing to the miserable cowardice of
Peni, who did not venture to tell me what the men wanted—and which was no
more than fair—all are gone—and my weeding in the article of being
finished!  Pity the sorrows of a planter.

I am, Sir, yours, and be jowned to you, The Planter,

                                                                  R. L. S.

                                * * * * *

                                                           _Tuesday_ 3_rd_

I begin to see the whole scheme of letter-writing; you sit down every day
and pour out an equable stream of twaddle.

This morning all my fears were fled, and all the trouble had fallen to
the lot of Peni himself, who deserved it; my field was full of weeders;
and I am again able to justify the ways of God.  All morning I worked at
the South Seas, and finished the chapter I had stuck upon on Saturday.
Fanny, awfully hove-to with rheumatics and injuries received upon the
field of sport and glory, chasing pigs, was unable to go up and down
stairs, so she sat upon the back verandah, and my work was chequered by
her cries.  ‘Paul, you take a spade to do that—dig a hole first.  If you
do that, you’ll cut your foot off!  Here, you boy, what you do there?
You no get work?  You go find Simelé; he give you work.  Peni, you tell
this boy he go find Simelé; suppose Simelé no give him work, you tell him
go ’way.  I no want him here.  That boy no good.’—_Peni_ (from the
distance in reassuring tones), ‘All right, sir!’—_Fanny_ (after a long
pause), ‘Peni, you tell that boy go find Simelé!  I no want him stand
here all day.  I no pay that boy.  I see him all day.  He no do
nothing.’—Luncheon, beef, soda-scones, fried bananas, pine-apple in
claret, coffee.  Try to write a poem; no go.  Play the flageolet.  Then
sneakingly off to farmering and pioneering.  Four gangs at work on our
place; a lively scene; axes crashing and smoke blowing; all the knives
are out.  But I rob the garden party of one without a stock, and you
should see my hand—cut to ribbons.  Now I want to do my path up the
Vaituliga single-handed, and I want it to burst on the public complete.
Hence, with devilish ingenuity, I begin it at different places; so that
if you stumble on one section, you may not even then suspect the fulness
of my labours.  Accordingly, I started in a new place, below the wire,
and hoping to work up to it.  It was perhaps lucky I had so bad a
cutlass, and my smarting hand bid me stay before I had got up to the
wire, but just in season, so that I was only the better of my activity,
not dead beat as yesterday.

A strange business it was, and infinitely solitary; away above, the sun
was in the high tree-tops; the lianas noosed and sought to hang me; the
saplings struggled, and came up with that sob of death that one gets to
know so well; great, soft, sappy trees fell at a lick of the cutlass,
little tough switches laughed at and dared my best endeavour.  Soon,
toiling down in that pit of verdure, I heard blows on the far side, and
then laughter.  I confess a chill settled on my heart.

Being so dead alone, in a place where by rights none should be beyond me,
I was aware, upon interrogation, if those blows had drawn nearer, I
should (of course quite unaffectedly) have executed a strategic movement
to the rear; and only the other day I was lamenting my insensibility to
superstition!  Am I beginning to be sucked in?  Shall I become a midnight
twitterer like my neighbours?  At times I thought the blows were echoes;
at times I thought the laughter was from birds.  For our birds are
strangely human in their calls.  Vaea mountain about sundown sometimes
rings with shrill cries, like the hails of merry, scattered children.  As
a matter of fact, I believe stealthy wood-cutters from Tanugamanono were
above me in the wood and answerable for the blows; as for the laughter, a
woman and two children had come and asked Fanny’s leave to go up
shrimp-fishing in the burn; beyond doubt, it was these I heard.  Just at
the right time I returned; to wash down, change, and begin this snatch of
letter before dinner was ready, and to finish it afterwards, before Henry
has yet put in an appearance for his lesson in ‘long explessions.’

Dinner: stewed beef and potatoes, baked bananas, new loaf-bread hot from
the oven, pine-apple in claret.  These are great days; we have been low
in the past; but now are we as belly-gods, enjoying all things.

                                * * * * *

                                  _Wednesday_.  (_Hist. Vailima resumed_.)

A gorgeous evening of after-glow in the great tree-tops and behind the
mountain, and full moon over the lowlands and the sea, inaugurated a
night of horrid cold.  To you effete denizens of the so-called temperate
zone, it had seemed nothing; neither of us could sleep; we were up
seeking extra coverings, I know not at what hour—it was as bright as day.
The moon right over Vaea—near due west, the birds strangely silent, and
the wood of the house tingling with cold; I believe it must have been
60°!  Consequence; Fanny has a headache and is wretched, and I could do
no work.  (I am trying all round for a place to hold my pen; you will
hear why later on; this to explain penmanship.)  I wrote two pages, very
bad, no movement, no life or interest; then I wrote a business letter;
then took to tootling on the flageolet, till glory should call me

I took up at the fit time Lafaele and Mauga—Mauga, accent on the first,
is a mountain, I don’t know what Maugà means—mind what I told you of the
value of g—to the garden, and set them digging, then turned my attention
to the path.  I could not go into my bush path for two reasons: 1st, sore
hands; 2nd, had on my trousers and good shoes.  Lucky it was.  Right in
the wild lime hedge which cuts athwart us just homeward of the garden, I
found a great bed of kuikui—sensitive plant—our deadliest enemy.  A fool
brought it to this island in a pot, and used to lecture and
sentimentalise over the tender thing.  The tender thing has now taken
charge of this island, and men fight it, with torn hands, for bread and
life.  A singular, insidious thing, shrinking and biting like a weasel;
clutching by its roots as a limpet clutches to a rock.  As I fought him,
I bettered some verses in my poem, the _Woodman_; the only thought I gave
to letters.  Though the kuikui was thick, there was but a small patch of
it, and when I was done I attacked the wild lime, and had a hand-to-hand
skirmish with its spines and elastic suckers.  All this time, close by,
in the cleared space of the garden, Lafaele and Maugà were digging.
Suddenly quoth Lafaele, ‘Somebody he sing out.’—‘Somebody he sing out?
All right.  I go.’  And I went and found they had been whistling and
‘singing out’ for long, but the fold of the hill and the uncleared bush
shuts in the garden so that no one heard, and I was late for dinner, and
Fanny’s headache was cross; and when the meal was over, we had to cut up
a pineapple which was going bad, to make jelly of; and the next time you
have a handful of broken blood-blisters, apply pine-apple juice, and you
will give me news of it, and I request a specimen of your hand of write
five minutes after—the historic moment when I tackled this history.  My
day so far.

Fanny was to have rested.  Blessed Paul began making a duck-house; she
let him be; the duck-house fell down, and she had to set her hand to it.
He was then to make a drinking-place for the pigs; she let him be
again—he made a stair by which the pigs will probably escape this
evening, and she was near weeping.  Impossible to blame the indefatigable
fellow; energy is too rare and goodwill too noble a thing to discourage;
but it’s trying when she wants a rest.  Then she had to cook the dinner;
then, of course—like a fool and a woman—must wait dinner for me, and make
a flurry of herself.  Her day so far.  _Cetera adhuc desunt_.

                                * * * * *

                                                         _Friday—I think_.

I have been too tired to add to this chronicle, which will at any rate
give you some guess of our employment.  All goes well; the kuikui—(think
of this mispronunciation having actually infected me to the extent of
misspelling! tuitui is the word by rights)—the tuitui is all out of the
paddock—a fenced park between the house and boundary; Peni’s men start
to-day on the road; the garden is part burned, part dug; and Henry, at
the head of a troop of underpaid assistants, is hard at work clearing.
The part clearing you will see from the map; from the house run down to
the stream side, up the stream nearly as high as the garden; then back to
the star which I have just added to the map.

My long, silent contests in the forest have had a strange effect on me.
The unconcealed vitality of these vegetables, their exuberant number and
strength, the attempts—I can use no other word—of lianas to enwrap and
capture the intruder, the awful silence, the knowledge that all my
efforts are only like the performance of an actor, the thing of a moment,
and the wood will silently and swiftly heal them up with fresh
effervescence; the cunning sense of the tuitui, suffering itself to be
touched with wind-swayed grasses and not minding—but let the grass be
moved by a man, and it shuts up; the whole silent battle, murder, and
slow death of the contending forest; weigh upon the imagination.  My poem
the _Woodman_ stands; but I have taken refuge in a new story, which just
shot through me like a bullet in one of my moments of awe, alone in that
tragic jungle:—

    _The High Woods of Ulufanua_.
     1.  A South Sea Bridal.
     2.  Under the Ban.
     3.  Savao and Faavao.
     4.  Cries in the High Wood.
     5.  Rumour full of Tongues.
     6.  The Hour of Peril.
     7.  The Day of Vengeance.

It is very strange, very extravagant, I daresay; but it’s varied, and
picturesque, and has a pretty love affair, and ends well.  Ulufanua is a
lovely Samoan word, ulu=grove; fanua=land; grove-land—‘the tops of the
high trees.’  Savao, ‘sacred to the wood,’ and Faavao, ‘wood-ways,’ are
the names of two of the characters, Ulufanua the name of the supposed

I am very tired, and rest off to-day from all but letters.  Fanny is
quite done up; she could not sleep last night, something it seemed like
asthma—I trust not.  I suppose Lloyd will be about, so you can give him
the benefit of this long scrawl.  Never say that I _can’t_ write a
letter, say that I don’t.—Yours ever, my dearest fellow,

                                                                  R. L. S.

                                * * * * *

                                                        _Later on Friday_.

The guid wife had bread to bake, and she baked it in a pan, O!  But
between whiles she was down with me weeding sensitive in the paddock.
The men have but now passed over it; I was round in that very place to
see the weeding was done thoroughly, and already the reptile springs
behind our heels.  Tuitui is a truly strange beast, and gives food for
thought.  I am nearly sure—I cannot yet be quite, I mean to experiment,
when I am less on the hot chase of the beast—that, even at the instant he
shrivels up his leaves, he strikes his prickles downward so as to catch
the uprooting finger; instinctive, say the gabies; but so is man’s
impulse to strike out.  One thing that takes and holds me is to see the
strange variation in the propagation of alarm among these rooted beasts;
at times it spreads to a radius (I speak by the guess of the eye) of five
or six inches; at times only one individual plant appears frightened at a
time.  We tried how long it took one to recover; ’tis a sanguine
creature; it is all abroad again before (I guess again) two minutes.  It
is odd how difficult in this world it is to be armed.  The double armour
of this plant betrays it.  In a thick tuft, where the leaves disappear, I
thrust in my hand, and the bite of the thorns betrays the topmost stem.
In the open again, and when I hesitate if it be clover, a touch on the
leaves, and its fine sense and retractile action betrays its identity at
once.  Yet it has one gift incomparable.  Rome had virtue and knowledge;
Rome perished.  The sensitive plant has indigestible seeds—so they
say—and it will flourish for ever.  I give my advice thus to a young
plant—have a strong root, a weak stem, and an indigestible seed; so you
will outlast the eternal city, and your progeny will clothe mountains,
and the irascible planter will blaspheme in vain.  The weak point of
tuitui is that its stem is strong.

                                * * * * *

                          _Supplementary Page_.

Here beginneth the third lesson, which is not from the planter but from a
less estimable character, the writer of books.

I want you to understand about this South Sea Book.  The job is immense;
I stagger under material.  I have seen the first big _tache_.  It was
necessary to see the smaller ones; the letters were at my hand for the
purpose, but I was not going to lose this experience; and, instead of
writing mere letters, have poured out a lot of stuff for the book.  How
this works and fits, time is to show.  But I believe, in time, I shall
get the whole thing in form.  Now, up to date, that is all my design, and
I beg to warn you till we have the whole (or much) of the stuff together,
you can hardly judge—and I can hardly judge.  Such a mass of stuff is to
be handled, if possible without repetition—so much foreign matter to be
introduced—if possible with perspicuity—and, as much as can be, a spirit
of narrative to be preserved.  You will find that come stronger as I
proceed, and get the explanations worked through.  Problems of style are
(as yet) dirt under my feet; my problem is architectural, creative—to get
this stuff jointed and moving.  If I can do that, I will trouble you for
style; anybody might write it, and it would be splendid; well-engineered,
the masses right, the blooming thing travelling—twig?

This I wanted you to understand, for lots of the stuff sent home is, I
imagine, rot—and slovenly rot—and some of it pompous rot; and I want you
to understand it’s a _lay-in_.

Soon, if the tide of poeshie continues, I’ll send you a whole lot to
damn.  You never said thank-you for the handsome tribute addressed to you
from Apemama; such is the gratitude of the world to the God-sent poick.
Well, well:—‘Vex not thou the poick’s mind, With thy coriaceous
ingratitude, The P. will be to your faults more than a little blind, And
yours is a far from handsome attitude.’  Having thus dropped into poetry
in a spirit of friendship, I have the honour to subscribe myself, Sir,

                      Your obedient humble servant,

                                                               SILAS WEGG.

I suppose by this you will have seen the lad—and his feet will have been
in the Monument—and his eyes beheld the face of George.  Well!

There is much eloquence in a well!
      I am, Sir

                            The Epigrammatist

 [Picture: Robert Louis Stevenson written three times to form a triangle]



                            _Vailima_, _Tuesday_, _November_ 25_th_, 1890.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—I wanted to go out bright and early to go on with my
survey.  You never heard of that.  The world has turned, and much water
run under bridges, since I stopped my diary.  I have written six more
chapters of the book, all good I potently believe, and given up, as a
deception of the devil’s, the High Woods.  I have been once down to Apia,
to a huge native feast at Seumanutafa’s, the chief of Apia.  There was a
vast mass of food, crowds of people, the police charging among them with
whips, the whole in high good humour on both sides; infinite noise; and a
historic event—Mr. Clarke, the missionary, and his wife, assisted at a
native dance.  On my return from this function, I found work had stopped;
no more South Seas in my belly.  Well, Henry had cleared a great deal of
our bush on a contract, and it ought to be measured.  I set myself to the
task with a tape-line; it seemed a dreary business; then I borrowed a
prismatic compass, and tackled the task afresh.  I have no books; I had
not touched an instrument nor given a thought to the business since the
year of grace 1871; you can imagine with what interest I sat down
yesterday afternoon to reduce my observations; five triangles I had
taken; all five came right, to my ineffable joy.  Our dinner—the lowest
we have ever been—consisted of _one avocado pear_ between Fanny and me, a
ship’s biscuit for the guidman, white bread for the Missis, and red wine
for the twa.  No salt horse, even, in all Vailima!  After dinner Henry
came, and I began to teach him decimals; you wouldn’t think I knew them
myself after so long desuetude!

I could not but wonder how Henry stands his evenings here; the Polynesian
loves gaiety—I feed him with decimals, the mariner’s compass,
derivations, grammar, and the like; delecting myself, after the manner of
my race, _moult tristement_.  I suck my paws; I live for my dexterities
and by my accomplishments; even my clumsinesses are my joy—my woodcuts,
my stumbling on the pipe, this surveying even—and even weeding sensitive;
anything to do with the mind, with the eye, with the hand—with a part of
_me_; diversion flows in these ways for the dreary man.  But gaiety is
what these children want; to sit in a crowd, tell stories and pass jests,
to hear one another laugh and scamper with the girls.  It’s good fun,
too, I believe, but not for R. L. S., _ætat._ 40.  Which I am now past
forty, Custodian, and not one penny the worse that I can see; as amusable
as ever; to be on board ship is reward enough for me; give me the wages
of going on—in a schooner!  Only, if ever I were gay, which I
misremember, I am gay no more.  And here is poor Henry passing his
evenings on my intellectual husks, which the professors masticated;
keeping the accounts of the estate—all wrong I have no doubt—I keep no
check, beyond a very rough one; marching in with a cloudy brow, and the
day-book under his arm; tackling decimals, coming with cases of
conscience—how would an English chief behave in such a case? etc.; and, I
am bound to say, on any glimmer of a jest, lapsing into native hilarity
as a tree straightens itself after the wind is by.  The other night I
remembered my old friend—I believe yours also—Scholastikos, and
administered the crow and the anchor—they were quite fresh to Samoan ears
(this implies a very early severance)—and I thought the anchor would have
made away with my Simelè altogether.

Fanny’s time, in this interval, has been largely occupied in contending
publicly with wild swine.  We have a black sow; we call her Jack
Sheppard; impossible to confine her—impossible also for her to be
confined!  To my sure knowledge she has been in an interesting condition
for longer than any other sow in story; else she had long died the death;
as soon as she is brought to bed, she shall count her days.  I suppose
that sow has cost us in days’ labour from thirty to fifty dollars; as
many as eight boys (at a dollar a day) have been twelve hours in chase of
her.  Now it is supposed that Fanny has outwitted her; she grins behind
broad planks in what was once the cook-house.  She is a wild pig; far
handsomer than any tame; and when she found the cook-house was too much
for her methods of evasion, she lay down on the floor and refused food
and drink for a whole Sunday.  On Monday morning she relapsed, and now
eats and drinks like a little man.  I am reminded of an incident.  Two
Sundays ago, the sad word was brought that the sow was out again; this
time she had carried another in her flight.  Moors and I and Fanny were
strolling up to the garden, and there by the waterside we saw the black
sow, looking guilty.  It seemed to me beyond words; but Fanny’s _cri du
cœur_ was delicious: ‘G-r-r!’ she cried; ‘nobody loves you!’

I would I could tell you the moving story of our cart and cart-horses;
the latter are dapple-grey, about sixteen hands, and of enormous
substance; the former was a kind of red and green shandry-dan with a
driving bench; plainly unfit to carry lumber or to face our road.
(Remember that the last third of my road, about a mile, is all made out
of a bridle-track by my boys—and my dollars.)  It was supposed a white
man had been found—an ex-German artilleryman—to drive this last; he
proved incapable and drunken; the gallant Henry, who had never driven
before, and knew nothing about horses—except the rats and weeds that
flourish on the islands—volunteered; Moors accepted, proposing to follow
and supervise: despatched his work and started after.  No cart! he
hurried on up the road—no cart.  Transfer the scene to Vailima, where on
a sudden to Fanny and me, the cart appears, apparently at a hard gallop,
some two hours before it was expected; Henry radiantly ruling chaos from
the bench.  It stopped: it was long before we had time to remark that the
axle was twisted like the letter L. Our first care was the horses.  There
they stood, black with sweat, the sweat raining from them—literally
raining—their heads down, their feet apart—and blood running thick from
the nostrils of the mare.  We got out Fanny’s under-clothes—couldn’t find
anything else but our blankets—to rub them down, and in about half an
hour we had the blessed satisfaction to see one after the other take a
bite or two of grass.  But it was a toucher; a little more and these
steeds would have been foundered.

                                * * * * *

                                             _Monday_, 31_st_? _November_.

Near a week elapsed, and no journal.  On Monday afternoon, Moors rode up
and I rode down with him, dined, and went over in the evening to the
American Consulate; present, Consul-General Sewall, Lieut. Parker and
Mrs. Parker, Lafarge the American decorator, Adams an American historian;
we talked late, and it was arranged I was to write up for Fanny, and we
should both dine on the morrow.

On the Friday, I was all forenoon in the Mission House, lunched at the
German Consulate, went on board the _Sperber_ (German war ship) in the
afternoon, called on my lawyer on my way out to American Consulate, and
talked till dinner time with Adams, whom I am supplying with
introductions and information for Tahiti and the Marquesas.  Fanny
arrived a wreck, and had to lie down.  The moon rose, one day past full,
and we dined in the verandah, a good dinner on the whole; talk with
Lafarge about art and the lovely dreams of art students.  Remark by
Adams, which took me briskly home to the Monument—‘I only liked one
_young_ woman—and that was Mrs. Procter.’  Henry James would like that.
Back by moonlight in the consulate boat—Fanny being too tired to walk—to
Moors’s.  Saturday, I left Fanny to rest, and was off early to the
Mission, where the politics are thrilling just now.  The native pastors
(to every one’s surprise) have moved of themselves in the matter of the
native dances, desiring the restrictions to be removed, or rather to be
made dependent on the character of the dance.  Clarke, who had feared
censure and all kinds of trouble, is, of course, rejoicing greatly.  A
characteristic feature: the argument of the pastors was handed in in the
form of a fictitious narrative of the voyage of one Mr. Pye, an English
traveller, and his conversation with a chief; there are touches of satire
in this educational romance.  Mr. Pye, for instance, admits that he knows
nothing about the Bible.  At the Mission I was sought out by Henry in a
devil of an agitation; he has been made the victim of a forgery—a crime
hitherto unknown in Samoa.  I had to go to Folau, the chief judge here,
in the matter.  Folau had never heard of the offence, and begged to know
what was the punishment; there may be lively times in forgery ahead.  It
seems the sort of crime to tickle a Polynesian.  After lunch—you can see
what a busy three days I am describing—we set off to ride home.  My Jack
was full of the devil of corn and too much grass, and no work.  I had to
ride ahead and leave Fanny behind.  He is a most gallant little rascal is
my Jack, and takes the whole way as hard as the rider pleases.  Single
incident: half-way up, I find my boys upon the road and stop and talk
with Henry in his character of ganger, as long as Jack will suffer me.
Fanny drones in after; we make a show of eating—or I do—she goes to bed
about half-past six!  I write some verses, read Irving’s _Washington_,
and follow about half-past eight.  O, one thing more I did, in a
prophetic spirit.  I had made sure Fanny was not fit to be left alone,
and wrote before turning in a letter to Chalmers, telling him I could not
meet him in Auckland at this time.  By eleven at night, Fanny got me
wakened—she had tried twice in vain—and I found her very bad.  Thence
till three, we laboured with mustard poultices, laudanum, soda and
ginger—Heavens! wasn’t it cold; the land breeze was as cold as a river;
the moon was glorious in the paddock, and the great boughs and the black
shadows of our trees were inconceivable.  But it was a poor time.

Sunday morning found Fanny, of course, a complete wreck, and myself not
very brilliant.  Paul had to go to Vailele _re_ cocoa-nuts; it was
doubtful if he could be back by dinner; never mind, said I, I’ll take
dinner when you return.  Off set Paul.  I did an hour’s work, and then
tackled the house work.  I did it beautiful: the house was a picture, it
resplended of propriety.  Presently Mr. Moors’ Andrew rode up; I heard
the doctor was at the Forest House and sent a note to him; and when he
came, I heard my wife telling him she had been in bed all day, and that
was why the house was so dirty!  Was it grateful?  Was it politic?  Was
it TRUE?—Enough!  In the interval, up marched little L. S., one of my
neighbours, all in his Sunday white linens; made a fine salute, and
demanded the key of the kitchen in German and English.  And he cooked
dinner for us, like a little man, and had it on the table and the coffee
ready by the hour.  Paul had arranged me this surprise.  Some time later,
Paul returned himself with a fresh surprise on hand; he was almost sober;
nothing but a hazy eye distinguished him from Paul of the week days:

On the evening I cannot dwell.  All the horses got out of the paddock,
went across, and smashed my neighbour’s garden into a big hole.  How
little the amateur conceives a farmer’s troubles.  I went out at once
with a lantern, staked up a gap in the hedge, was kicked at by a chestnut
mare, who straightway took to the bush; and came back.  A little after,
they had found another gap, and the crowd were all abroad again.  What
has happened to our own garden nobody yet knows.

Fanny had a fair night, and we are both tolerable this morning, only the
yoke of correspondence lies on me heavy.  I beg you will let this go on
to my mother.  I got such a good start in your letter, that I kept on at
it, and I have neither time nor energy for more.

                               Yours ever,

                                                                  R. L. S.

                                * * * * *

                                                          _Something new_.

I was called from my letters by the voice of Mr. —, who had just come up
with a load of wood, roaring, ‘Henry!  Henry!  Bring six boys!’  I saw
there was something wrong, and ran out.  The cart, half unloaded, had
upset with the mare in the shafts; she was all cramped together and all
tangled up in harness and cargo, the off shaft pushing her over, Mr. —
holding her up by main strength, and right along-side of her—where she
must fall if she went down—a deadly stick of a tree like a lance.  I
could not but admire the wisdom and faith of this great brute; I never
saw the riding-horse that would not have lost its life in such a
situation; but the cart-elephant patiently waited and was saved.  It was
a stirring three minutes, I can tell you.

I forgot in talking of Saturday to tell of one incident which will
particularly interest my mother.  I met Dr. D. from Savaii, and had an
age-long talk about Edinburgh folk; it was very pleasant.  He has been
studying in Edinburgh, along with his son; a pretty relation.  He told me
he knew nobody but college people: ‘I was altogether a student,’ he said
with glee.  He seems full of cheerfulness and thick-set energy.  I feel
as if I could put him in a novel with effect; and ten to one, if I know
more of him, the image will be only blurred.

                                * * * * *

                                                  _Tuesday_, _Dec._ 2_nd_.

I should have told you yesterday that all my boys were got up for their
work in moustaches and side-whiskers of some sort of blacking—I suppose
wood-ash.  It was a sight of joy to see them return at night, axe on
shoulder, feigning to march like soldiers, a choragus with a loud voice
singing out, ‘March-step!  March-step!’ in imperfect recollection of some

Fanny seems much revived.

                                                                  R. L. S.


                                         _Monday_, _twenty-somethingth of_
                                                         _December_, 1890.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—I do not say my Jack is anything extraordinary; he is
only an island horse; and the profane might call him a Punch; and his
face is like a donkey’s; and natives have ridden him, and he has no mouth
in consequence, and occasionally shies.  But his merits are equally
surprising; and I don’t think I should ever have known Jack’s merits if I
had not been riding up of late on moonless nights. Jack is a bit of a
dandy; he loves to misbehave in a gallant manner, above all on Apia
Street, and when I stop to speak to people, they say (Dr. Stuebel the
German consul said about three days ago), ‘O what a wild horse! it cannot
be safe to ride him.’  Such a remark is Jack’s reward, and represents his
ideal of fame.  Now when I start out of Apia on a dark night, you should
see my changed horse; at a fast steady walk, with his head down, and
sometimes his nose to the ground—when he wants to do that, he asks for
his head with a little eloquent polite movement indescribable—he climbs
the long ascent and threads the darkest of the wood.  The first night I
came it was starry; and it was singular to see the starlight drip down
into the crypt of the wood, and shine in the open end of the road, as
bright as moonlight at home; but the crypt itself was proof, blackness
lived in it.  The next night it was raining.  We left the lights of Apia
and passed into limbo.  Jack finds a way for himself, but he does not
calculate for my height above the saddle; and I am directed forward, all
braced up for a crouch and holding my switch upright in front of me.  It
is curiously interesting.  In the forest, the dead wood is
phosphorescent; some nights the whole ground is strewn with it, so that
it seems like a grating over a pale hell; doubtless this is one of the
things that feed the night fears of the natives; and I am free to confess
that in a night of trackless darkness where all else is void, these
pallid _ignes suppositi_ have a fantastic appearance, rather bogey even.
One night, when it was very dark, a man had put out a little lantern by
the wayside to show the entrance to his ground.  I saw the light, as I
thought, far ahead, and supposed it was a pedestrian coming to meet me; I
was quite taken by surprise when it struck in my face and passed behind
me.  Jack saw it, and he was appalled; do you think he thought of shying?
No, sir, not in the dark; in the dark Jack knows he is on duty; and he
went past that lantern steady and swift; only, as he went, he groaned and
shuddered.  For about 2500 of Jack’s steps we only pass one house—that
where the lantern was; and about 1500 of these are in the darkness of the
pit.  But now the moon is on tap again, and the roads lighted.

                              [Picture: Map]

I have been exploring up the Vaituliga; see your map.  It comes down a
wonderful fine glen; at least 200 feet of cliffs on either hand, winding
like a corkscrew, great forest trees filling it.  At the top there ought
to be a fine double fall; but the stream evades it by a fault and passes
underground.  Above the fall it runs (at this season) full and very gaily
in a shallow valley, some hundred yards before the head of the glen.  Its
course is seen full of grasses, like a flooded meadow; that is the sink!
beyond the grave of the grasses, the bed lies dry.  Near this upper part
there is a great show of ruinous pig-walls; a village must have stood
near by.

To walk from our house to Wreck Hill (when the path is buried in fallen
trees) takes one about half an hour, I think; to return, not more than
twenty minutes; I daresay fifteen.  Hence I should guess it was
three-quarters of a mile.  I had meant to join on my explorations passing
eastward by the sink; but, Lord! how it rains.

                                * * * * *


I went out this morning with a pocket compass and walked in a varying
direction, perhaps on an average S. by W., 1754 paces.  Then I struck
into the bush, N.W. by N., hoping to strike the Vaituliga above the
falls.  Now I have it plotted out I see I should have gone W. or even W.
by S.; but it is not easy to guess.  For 600 weary paces I struggled
through the bush, and then came on the stream below the gorge, where it
was comparatively easy to get down to it.  In the place where I struck
it, it made cascades about a little isle, and was running about N.E., 20
to 30 feet wide, as deep as to my knee, and piercing cold.  I tried to
follow it down, and keep the run of its direction and my paces; but when
I was wading to the knees and the waist in mud, poison brush, and rotted
wood, bound hand and foot in lianas, shovelled unceremoniously off the
one shore and driven to try my luck upon the other—I saw I should have
hard enough work to get my body down, if my mind rested.  It was a
damnable walk; certainly not half a mile as the crow flies, but a real
bucketer for hardship.  Once I had to pass the stream where it flowed
between banks about three feet high.  To get the easier down, I swung
myself by a wild-cocoanut—(so called, it bears bunches of scarlet
nutlets)—which grew upon the brink.  As I so swung, I received a crack on
the head that knocked me all abroad.  Impossible to guess what tree had
taken a shy at me.  So many towered above, one over the other, and the
missile, whatever it was, dropped in the stream and was gone before I had
recovered my wits.  (I scarce know what I write, so hideous a Niagara of
rain roars, shouts, and demonizes on the iron roof—it is pitch dark
too—the lamp lit at 5!)  It was a blessed thing when I struck my own
road; and I got home, neat for lunch time, one of the most wonderful mud
statues ever witnessed.  In the afternoon I tried again, going up the
other path by the garden, but was early drowned out; came home, plotted
out what I had done, and then wrote this truck to you.

Fanny has been quite ill with ear-ache.  She won’t go, hating the sea at
this wild season; I don’t like to leave her; so it drones on, steamer
after steamer, and I guess it’ll end by no one going at all.  She is in a
dreadful misfortune at this hour; a case of kerosene having burst in the
kitchen.  A little while ago it was the carpenter’s horse that trod in a
nest of fourteen eggs, and made an omelette of our hopes.  The farmer’s
lot is not a happy one.  And it looks like some real uncompromising bad
weather too.  I wish Fanny’s ear were well.  Think of parties in
Monuments! think of me in Skerryvore, and now of this.  It don’t look
like a part of the same universe to me.  Work is quite laid aside; I have
worked myself right out.

                                * * * * *

                             _Christmas Eve_.

Yesterday, who could write?  My wife near crazy with ear-ache; the rain
descending in white crystal rods and playing hell’s tattoo, like a
_tutti_ of battering rams, on our sheet-iron roof; the wind passing high
overhead with a strange dumb mutter, or striking us full, so that all the
huge trees in the paddock cried aloud, and wrung their hands, and
brandished their vast arms.  The horses stood in the shed like things
stupid.  The sea and the flagship lying on the jaws of the bay vanished
in sheer rain.  All day it lasted; I locked up my papers in the iron box,
in case it was a hurricane, and the house might go.  We went to bed with
mighty uncertain feelings; far more than on shipboard, where you have
only drowning ahead—whereas here you have a smash of beams, a shower of
sheet-iron, and a blind race in the dark and through a whirlwind for the
shelter of an unfinished stable—and my wife with ear-ache!  Well, well,
this morning, we had word from Apia; a hurricane was looked for, the
ships were to leave the bay by 10 A.M.; it is now 3.30, and the flagship
is still a fixture, and the wind round in the blessed east, so I suppose
the danger is over.  But heaven is still laden; the day dim, with
frequent rattling bucketfuls of rain; and just this moment (as I write) a
squall went overhead, scarce striking us, with that singular, solemn
noise of its passage, which is to me dreadful.  I have always feared the
sound of wind beyond everything.  In my hell it would always blow a gale.

I have been all day correcting proofs, and making out a new plan for our
house.  The other was too dear to be built now, and it was a hard task to
make a smaller house that would suffice for the present, and not be a
mere waste of money in the future.  I believe I have succeeded; I have
taken care of my study anyway.

Two favours I want to ask of you.  First, I wish you to get ‘Pioneering
in New Guinea,’ by J. Chalmers.  It’s a missionary book, and has less
pretensions to be literature than Spurgeon’s sermons.  Yet I think even
through that, you will see some of the traits of the hero that wrote it;
a man that took me fairly by storm for the most attractive, simple,
brave, and interesting man in the whole Pacific.  He is away now to go up
the Fly River; a desperate venture, it is thought; he is quite a
Livingstone card.

Second, try and keep yourself free next winter; and if my means can be
stretched so far, I’ll come to Egypt and we’ll meet at Shepheard’s Hotel,
and you’ll put me in my place, which I stand in need of badly by this
time.  Lord, what bully times!  I suppose I’ll come per British Asia, or
whatever you call it, and avoid all cold, and might be in Egypt about
November as ever was—eleven months from now or rather less.  But do not
let us count our chickens.

Last night three piglings were stolen from one of our pig-pens.  The
great Lafaele appeared to my wife uneasy, so she engaged him in
conversation on the subject, and played upon him the following engaging
trick.  You advance your two forefingers towards the sitter’s eyes; he
closes them, whereupon you substitute (on his eyelids) the fore and
middle fingers of the left hand; and with your right (which he supposes
engaged) you tap him on the head and back.  When you let him open his
eyes, he sees you withdrawing the two forefingers.  ‘What that?’ asked
Lafaele.  ‘My devil,’ says Fanny.  ‘I wake um, my devil.  All right now.
He go catch the man that catch my pig.’  About an hour afterwards,
Lafaele came for further particulars.  ‘O, all right,’ my wife says.  ‘By
and by, that man he sleep, devil go sleep same place.  By and by, that
man plenty sick.  I no care.  What for he take my pig?’  Lafaele cares
plenty; I don’t think he is the man, though he may be; but he knows him,
and most likely will eat some of that pig to-night.  He will not eat with

                                * * * * *

                                                        _Saturday_ 27_th_.

It cleared up suddenly after dinner, and my wife and I saddled up and off
to Apia, whence we did not return till yesterday morning.  Christmas Day
I wish you could have seen our party at table.  H. J. Moors at one end
with my wife, I at the other with Mrs. M., between us two native women,
Carruthers the lawyer, Moors’s two shop-boys—Walters and A. M. the
quadroon—and the guests of the evening, Shirley Baker, the defamed and
much-accused man of Tonga, and his son, with the artificial joint to his
arm—where the assassins shot him in shooting at his father.  Baker’s
appearance is not unlike John Bull on a cartoon; he is highly interesting
to speak to, as I had expected; I found he and I had many common
interests, and were engaged in puzzling over many of the same
difficulties.  After dinner it was quite pretty to see our Christmas
party, it was so easily pleased and prettily behaved.  In the morning I
should say I had been to lunch at the German consulate, where I had as
usual a very pleasant time.  I shall miss Dr. Stuebel much when he
leaves, and when Adams and Lafarge go also, it will be a great blow.  I
am getting spoiled with all this good society.

On Friday morning, I had to be at my house affairs before seven; and they
kept me in Apia till past ten, disputing, and consulting about brick and
stone and native and hydraulic lime, and cement and sand, and all sorts
of otiose details about the chimney—just what I fled from in my father’s
office twenty years ago; I should have made a languid engineer.  Rode up
with the carpenter.  Ah, my wicked Jack! on Christmas Eve, as I was
taking the saddle bag off, he kicked at me, and fetched me too, right on
the shin.  On Friday, being annoyed at the carpenter’s horse having a
longer trot, he uttered a shrill cry and tried to bite him!  Alas, alas,
these are like old days; my dear Jack is a Bogue, but I cannot strangle
Jack into submission.

I have given up the big house for just now; we go ahead right away with a
small one, which should be ready in two months, and I suppose will
suffice for just now.

O I know I haven’t told you about our _aitu_, have I?  It is a lady,
_Aitu fafine_: she lives on the mountain-side; her presence is heralded
by the sound of a gust of wind; a sound very common in the high woods;
when she catches you, I do not know what happens; but in practice she is
avoided, so I suppose she does more than pass the time of day.  The great
_aitu Saumai-afe_ was once a living woman; and became an _aitu_, no one
understands how; she lives in a stream at the well-head, her hair is red,
she appears as a lovely young lady, her bust particularly admired, to
handsome young men; these die, her love being fatal;—as a handsome youth
she has been known to court damsels with the like result, but this is
very rare; as an old crone she goes about and asks for water, and woe to
them who are uncivil!  _Saumai-afe_ means literally, ‘Come here a
thousand!’  A good name for a lady of her manners.  My _aitu fafine_ does
not seem to be in the same line of business.  It is unsafe to be a
handsome youth in Samoa; a young man died from her favours last month—so
we said on this side of the island; on the other, where he died, it was
not so certain.  I, for one, blame it on Madam _Saumai-afe_ without

Example of the farmer’s sorrows.  I slipped out on the balcony a moment
ago.  It is a lovely morning, cloudless, smoking hot, the breeze not yet
arisen.  Looking west, in front of our new house, I saw, two heads of
Indian corn wagging, and the rest and all nature stock still.  As I
looked, one of the stalks subsided and disappeared.  I dashed out to the
rescue; two small pigs were deep in the grass—quite hid till within a few
yards—gently but swiftly demolishing my harvest.  Never be a farmer.

                                * * * * *

                                                              12.30 _p.m._

I while away the moments of digestion by drawing you a faithful picture
of my morning.  When I had done writing as above it was time to clean our
house.  When I am working, it falls on my wife alone, but to-day we had
it between us; she did the bedroom, I the sitting-room, in fifty-seven
minutes of really most unpalatable labour.  Then I changed every stitch,
for I was wet through, and sat down and played on my pipe till dinner was
ready, mighty pleased to be in a mildly habitable spot once more.  The
house had been neglected for near a week, and was a hideous spot; my
wife’s ear and our visit to Apia being the causes: our Paul we prefer not
to see upon that theatre, and God knows he has plenty to do elsewhere.

I am glad to look out of my back door and see the boys smoothing the
foundations of the new house; this is all very jolly, but six months of
it has satisfied me; we have too many things for such close quarters; to
work in the midst of all the myriad misfortunes of the planter’s life,
seated in a Dyonisius’ (can’t spell him) ear, whence I catch every
complaint, mishap and contention, is besides the devil; and the hope of a
cave of my own inspires me with lust.  O to be able to shut my own door
and make my own confusion!  O to have the brown paper and the matches and
‘make a hell of my own’ once more!

I do not bother you with all my troubles in these outpourings; the
troubles of the farmer are inspiriting—they are like difficulties out
hunting—a fellow rages at the time and rejoices to recall and to
commemorate them.  My troubles have been financial.  It is hard to
arrange wisely interests so distributed.  America, England, Samoa,
Sydney, everywhere I have an end of liability hanging out and some shelf
of credit hard by; and to juggle all these and build a dwelling-place
here, and check expense—a thing I am ill fitted for—you can conceive what
a nightmare it is at times.  Then God knows I have not been idle.  But
since _The Master_ nothing has come to raise any coins.  I believe the
springs are dry at home, and now I am worked out, and can no more at all.
A holiday is required.

_Dec._ 28_th_.  I have got unexpectedly to work again, and feel quite
dandy.  Good-bye.

                                                                  R. L. S.


                                _S. S. Lübeck_, _between Apia and Sydney_,
                                                      _Jan._ 17_th_, 1891.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—The Faamasino Sili, or Chief Justice, to speak your low
language, has arrived.  I had ridden down with Henry and Lafaele; the sun
was down, the night was close at hand, so we rode fast; just as I came to
the corner of the road before Apia, I heard a gun fire; and lo, there was
a great crowd at the end of the pier, and the troops out, and a chief or
two in the height of Samoa finery, and Seumanu coming in his boat (the
oarsmen all in uniform), bringing the Faamasino Sili sure enough.  It was
lucky he was no longer; the natives would not have waited many weeks.
But think of it, as I sat in the saddle at the outside of the crowd
(looking, the English consul said, as if I were commanding the
manœuvres), I was nearly knocked down by a stampede of the three consuls;
they had been waiting their guest at the Matafele end, and some wretched
intrigue among the whites had brought him to Apia, and the consuls had to
run all the length of the town and come too late.

The next day was a long one; I was at a marriage of G. the banker to
Fanua, the virgin of Apia.  Bride and bridesmaids were all in the old
high dress; the ladies were all native; the men, with the exception of
Seumanu, all white.

It was quite a pleasant party, and while we were writing, we had a
bird’s-eye view of the public reception of the Chief Justice.  The best
part of it were some natives in war array; with blacked faces, turbans,
tapa kilts, and guns, they looked very manly and purposelike.  No, the
best part was poor old drunken Joe, the Portuguese boatman, who seemed to
think himself specially charged with the reception, and ended by falling
on his knees before the Chief Justice on the end of the pier and in full
view of the whole town and bay.  The natives pelted him with rotten
bananas; how the Chief Justice took it I was too far off to see; but it
was highly absurd.

I have commemorated my genial hopes for the regimen of the Faamasino Sili
in the following canine verses, which, if you at all guess how to read
them, are very pretty in movement, and (unless he be a mighty good man)
too true in sense.

   We’re quarrelling, the villages, we’ve beaten the wooden drum’s,
   Sa femisai o nu’u, sa taia o pate,
   Is expounded there by the justice,
   Ua Atuatuvale a le faamasino e,
   The chief justice, the terrified justice,
   Le faamasino sili, le faamasino se,
   Is on the point of running away the justice,
   O le a solasola le faamasino e,
   The justice denied any influence, the terrified justice,
   O le faamasino le ai a, le faamasino se,
   O le a solasola le faamasino e.

Well, after this excursion into tongues that have never been alive—though
I assure you we have one capital book in the language, a book of fables
by an old missionary of the unpromising name of Pratt, which is simply
the best and the most literary version of the fables known to me.  I
suppose I should except La Fontaine, but L. F. takes a long time; these
are brief as the books of our childhood, and full of wit and literary
colour; and O, Colvin, what a tongue it would be to write, if one only
knew it—and there were only readers.  Its curse in common use is an
incredible left-handed wordiness; but in the hands of a man like Pratt it
is succinct as Latin, compact of long rolling polysyllables and little
and often pithy particles, and for beauty of sound a dream.  Listen, I
quote from Pratt—this is good Samoan, not canine—

     ...                     ...                      ...             ...              ...
                1        2             3                      4  1
O le afa,       ua       taalili       ai       le ulu vao,      ua pa mai       le faititili.

1 almost _wa_, 2 the two _a’s_ just distinguished, 3 the _ai_ is
practically suffixed to the verb, 4 almost _vow_.  The excursion has
prolonged itself.

I started by the _Lübeck_ to meet Lloyd and my mother; there were many
reasons for and against; the main reason against was the leaving of Fanny
alone in her blessed cabin, which has been somewhat remedied by my
carter, Mr. —, putting up in the stable and messing with her; but perhaps
desire of change decided me not well, though I do think I ought to see an
oculist, being very blind indeed, and sometimes unable to read.  Anyway I
left, the only cabin passenger, four and a kid in the second cabin, and a
dear voyage it had like to have proved.  Close to Fiji (choose a worse
place on the map) we broke our shaft early one morning; and when or where
we might expect to fetch land or meet with any ship, I would like you to
tell me.  The Pacific is absolutely desert.  I have sailed there now some
years; and scarce ever seen a ship except in port or close by; I think
twice.  It was the hurricane season besides, and hurricane waters.  Well,
our chief engineer got the shaft—it was the middle crank shaft—mended;
thrice it was mended, and twice broke down; but now keeps up—only we dare
not stop, for it is almost impossible to start again.  The captain in the
meanwhile crowded her with sail; fifteen sails in all, every stay being
gratified with a stay-sail, a boat-boom sent aloft for a maintop-gallant
yard, and the derrick of a crane brought in service as bowsprit.  All the
time we have had a fine, fair wind and a smooth sea; to-day at noon our
run was 203 miles (if you please!), and we are within some 360 miles of
Sydney.  Probably there has never been a more gallant success; and I can
say honestly it was well worked for.  No flurry, no high words, no long
faces; only hard work and honest thought; a pleasant, manly business to
be present at.  All the chances were we might have been six weeks—ay, or
three months at sea—or never turned up at all, and now it looks as though
we should reach our destination some five days too late.


                                 [_On Board Ship between Sydney and Apia_,
                                                             _Feb._ 1891.]

MY DEAR COLVIN,—The _Janet Nicoll_ stuff was rather worse than I had
looked for; you have picked out all that is fit to stand, bar two others
(which I don’t dislike)—the Port of Entry and the House of Temoana; that
is for a present opinion; I may condemn these also ere I have done.  By
this time you should have another Marquesan letter, the worst of the lot,
I think; and seven Paumotu letters, which are not far out of the vein, as
I wish it; I am in hopes the Hawaiian stuff is better yet: time will
show, and time will make perfect.  Is something of this sort practicable
for the dedication?

                              TERRA MARIQUE

                          PER PERICULA PER ARDUA

                              AMICAE COMITI


                               AMANS VIATOR

’Tis a first shot concocted this morning in my berth: I had always before
been trying it in English, which insisted on being either insignificant
or fulsome: I cannot think of a better word than _comes_, there being not
the shadow of a Latin book on board; yet sure there is some other.  Then
_viator_ (though it _sounds_ all right) is doubtful; it has too much,
perhaps, the sense of wayfarer?  Last, will it mark sufficiently that I
mean my wife?  And first, how about blunders?  I scarce wish it longer.

Have had a swingeing sharp attack in Sydney; beating the fields for two
nights, Saturday and Sunday.  Wednesday was brought on board, _tel quel_,
a wonderful wreck; and now, Wednesday week, am a good deal picked up, but
yet not quite a Samson, being still groggy afoot and vague in the head.
My chess, for instance, which is usually a pretty strong game, and defies
all rivalry aboard, is vacillating, devoid of resource and observation,
and hitherto not covered with customary laurels.  As for work, it is
impossible.  We shall be in the saddle before long, no doubt, and the pen
once more couched.  You must not expect a letter under these
circumstances, but be very thankful for a note.  Once at Samoa, I shall
try to resume my late excellent habits, and delight you with journals,
you unaccustomed, I unaccustomed; but it is never too late to mend.

It is vastly annoying that I cannot go even to Sydney without an attack;
and heaven knows my life was anodyne.  I only once dined with anybody; at
the club with Wise; worked all morning—a terrible dead pull; a month only
produced the imperfect embryos of two chapters; lunched in the
boarding-house, played on my pipe; went out and did some of my messages;
dined at a French restaurant, and returned to play draughts, whist, or
Van John with my family.  This makes a cheery life after Samoa; but it
isn’t what you call burning the candle at both ends, is it?  (It appears
to me not one word of this letter will be legible by the time I am done
with it, this dreadful ink rubs off.)  I have a strange kind of novel
under construction; it begins about 1660 and ends 1830, or perhaps I may
continue it to 1875 or so, with another life.  One, two, three, four,
five, six generations, perhaps seven, figure therein; two of my old
stories, ‘Delafield’ and ‘Shovel,’ are incorporated; it is to be told in
the third person, with some of the brevity of history, some of the detail
of romance.  _The Shovels of Newton French_ will be the name.  The idea
is an old one; it was brought to birth by an accident; a friend in the
islands who picked up F. Jenkin, read a part, and said: ‘Do you know,
that’s a strange book?  I like it; I don’t believe the public will; but I
like it.’  He thought it was a novel!  ‘Very well,’ said I, ‘we’ll see
whether the public will like it or not; they shall have the chance.’

                               Yours ever,

                                                                  R. L. S.


                                                 _Friday_, _March_ 19_th_.

MY DEAR S. C.,—You probably expect that now I am back at Vailima I shall
resume the practice of the diary letter.  A good deal is changed.  We are
more; solitude does not attend me as before; the night is passed playing
Van John for shells; and, what is not less important, I have just
recovered from a severe illness, and am easily tired.

I will give you to-day.  I sleep now in one of the lower rooms of the new
house, where my wife has recently joined me.  We have two beds, an empty
case for a table, a chair, a tin basin, a bucket and a jug; next door in
the dining-room, the carpenters camp on the floor, which is covered with
their mosquito nets.  Before the sun rises, at 5.45 or 5.50, Paul brings
me tea, bread, and a couple of eggs; and by about six I am at work.  I
work in bed—my bed is of mats, no mattress, sheets, or filth—mats, a
pillow, and a blanket—and put in some three hours.  It was 9.5 this
morning when I set off to the stream-side to my weeding; where I toiled,
manuring the ground with the best enricher, human sweat, till the
conch-shell was blown from our verandah at 10.30.  At eleven we dine;
about half-past twelve I tried (by exception) to work again, could make
nothing on’t, and by one was on my way to the weeding, where I wrought
till three.  Half-past five is our next meal, and I read Flaubert’s
Letters till the hour came round; dined, and then, Fanny having a cold,
and I being tired, came over to my den in the unfinished house, where I
now write to you, to the tune of the carpenters’ voices, and by the
light—I crave your pardon—by the twilight of three vile candles filtered
through the medium of my mosquito bar.  Bad ink being of the party, I
write quite blindfold, and can only hope you may be granted to read that
which I am unable to see while writing.

I said I was tired; it is a mild phrase; my back aches like toothache;
when I shut my eyes to sleep, I know I shall see before them—a phenomenon
to which both Fanny and I are quite accustomed—endless vivid deeps of
grass and weed, each plant particular and distinct, so that I shall lie
inert in body, and transact for hours the mental part of my day business,
choosing the noxious from the useful.  And in my dreams I shall be
hauling on recalcitrants, and suffering stings from nettles, stabs from
citron thorns, fiery bites from ants, sickening resistances of mud and
slime, evasions of slimy roots, dead weight of heat, sudden puffs of air,
sudden starts from bird-calls in the contiguous forest—some mimicking my
name, some laughter, some the signal of a whistle, and living over again
at large the business of my day.

Though I write so little, I pass all my hours of field-work in continual
converse and imaginary correspondence.  I scarce pull up a weed, but I
invent a sentence on the matter to yourself; it does not get written;
_autant en emportent les vents_; but the intent is there, and for me (in
some sort) the companionship.  To-day, for instance, we had a great talk.
I was toiling, the sweat dripping from my nose, in the hot fit after a
squall of rain: methought you asked me—frankly, was I happy.  Happy (said
I); I was only happy once; that was at Hyères; it came to an end from a
variety of reasons, decline of health, change of place, increase of
money, age with his stealing steps; since then, as before then, I know
not what it means.  But I know pleasure still; pleasure with a thousand
faces, and none perfect, a thousand tongues all broken, a thousand hands,
and all of them with scratching nails.  High among these I place this
delight of weeding out here alone by the garrulous water, under the
silence of the high wood, broken by incongruous sounds of birds.  And
take my life all through, look at it fore and back, and upside
down,—though I would very fain change myself—I would not change my
circumstances, unless it were to bring you here.  And yet God knows
perhaps this intercourse of writing serves as well; and I wonder, were
you here indeed, would I commune so continually with the thought of you.
I say ‘I wonder’ for a form; I know, and I know I should not.

So far, and much further, the conversation went, while I groped in slime
after viscous roots, nursing and sparing little spears of grass, and
retreating (even with outcry) from the prod of the wild lime.  I wonder
if any one had ever the same attitude to Nature as I hold, and have held
for so long?  This business fascinates me like a tune or a passion; yet
all the while I thrill with a strong distaste.  The horror of the thing,
objective and subjective, is always present to my mind; the horror of
creeping things, a superstitious horror of the void and the powers about
me, the horror of my own devastation and continual murders.  The life of
the plants comes through my fingertips, their struggles go to my heart
like supplications.  I feel myself blood-boltered; then I look back on my
cleared grass, and count myself an ally in a fair quarrel, and make stout
my heart.

It is but a little while since I lay sick in Sydney, beating the fields
about the navy and Dean Swift and Dryden’s Latin hymns; judge if I love
this reinvigorating climate, where I can already toil till my head swims
and every string in the poor jumping Jack (as he now lies in bed) aches
with a kind of yearning strain, difficult to suffer in quiescence.

As for my damned literature, God knows what a business it is, grinding
along without a scrap of inspiration or a note of style.  But it has to
be ground, and the mill grinds exceeding slowly though not particularly
small.  The last two chapters have taken me considerably over a month,
and they are still beneath pity.  This I cannot continue, time not
sufficing; and the next will just have to be worse.  All the good I can
express is just this; some day, when style revisits me, they will be
excellent matter to rewrite.  Of course, my old cure of a change of work
would probably answer, but I cannot take it now.  The treadmill turns;
and, with a kind of desperate cheerfulness, I mount the idle stair.  I
haven’t the least anxiety about the book; unless I die, I shall find the
time to make it good; but the Lord deliver me from the thought of the
Letters!  However, the Lord has other things on hand; and about six
to-morrow, I shall resume the consideration practically, and face (as
best I may) the fact of my incompetence and disaffection to the task.
Toil I do not spare; but fortune refuses me success.  We can do more,
Whatever-his-name-was, we can deserve it.  But my misdesert began long
since, by the acceptation of a bargain quite unsuitable to all my

To-day I have had a queer experience.  My carter has from the first been
using my horses for his own ends; when I left for Sydney, I put him on
his honour to cease, and my back was scarce turned ere he was forfeit.  I
have only been waiting to discharge him; and to-day an occasion arose.  I
am so much _the old man virulent_, so readily stumble into anger, that I
gave a deal of consideration to my bearing, and decided at last to
imitate that of the late —.  Whatever he might have to say, this
eminently effective controversialist maintained a frozen demeanour and a
jeering smile.  The frozen demeanour is beyond my reach; but I could try
the jeering smile; did so, perceived its efficacy, kept in consequence my
temper, and got rid of my friend, myself composed and smiling still, he
white and shaking like an aspen.  He could explain everything; I said it
did not interest me.  He said he had enemies; I said nothing was more
likely.  He said he was calumniated; with all my heart, said I, but there
are so many liars, that I find it safer to believe them.  He said, in
justice to himself, he must explain: God forbid I should interfere with
you, said I, with the same factitious grin, but it can change nothing.
So I kept my temper, rid myself of an unfaithful servant, found a method
of conducting similar interviews in the future, and fell in my own
liking.  One thing more: I learned a fresh tolerance for the dead —; he
too had learned—perhaps had invented—the trick of this manner; God knows
what weakness, what instability of feeling, lay beneath.  _Ce que c’est
que de nous_! poor human nature; that at past forty I must adjust this
hateful mask for the first time, and rejoice to find it effective; that
the effort of maintaining an external smile should confuse and embitter a
man’s soul.

To-day I have not weeded; I have written instead from six till eleven,
from twelve till two; with the interruption of the interview aforesaid; a
damned letter is written for the third time; I dread to read it, for I
dare not give it a fourth chance—unless it be very bad indeed.  Now I
write you from my mosquito curtain, to the song of saws and planes and
hammers, and wood clumping on the floor above; in a day of heavenly
brightness; a bird twittering near by; my eye, through the open door,
commanding green meads, two or three forest trees casting their boughs
against the sky, a forest-clad mountain-side beyond, and close in by the
door-jamb a nick of the blue Pacific.  It is March in England, bleak
March, and I lie here with the great sliding doors wide open in an
undershirt and p’jama trousers, and melt in the closure of mosquito bars,
and burn to be out in the breeze.  A few torn clouds—not white, the sun
has tinged them a warm pink—swim in heaven.  In which blessed and fair
day, I have to make faces and speak bitter words to a man—who has
deceived me, it is true—but who is poor, and older than I, and a kind of
a gentleman too.  On the whole, I prefer the massacre of weeds.

                                * * * * *


When I had done talking to you yesterday, I played on my pipe till the
conch sounded, then went over to the old house for dinner, and had scarce
risen from table ere I was submerged with visitors.  The first of these
despatched, I spent the rest of the evening going over the Samoan
translation of my _Bottle Imp_ with Claxton the missionary; then to bed,
but being upset, I suppose, by these interruptions, and having gone all
day without my weeding, not to sleep.  For hours I lay awake and heard
the rain fall, and saw faint, far-away lightning over the sea, and wrote
you long letters which I scorn to reproduce.  This morning Paul was
unusually early; the dawn had scarce begun when he appeared with the tray
and lit my candle; and I had breakfasted and read (with indescribable
sinkings) the whole of yesterday’s work before the sun had risen.  Then I
sat and thought, and sat and better thought.  It was not good enough, nor
good; it was as slack as journalism, but not so inspired; it was
excellent stuff misused, and the defects stood gross on it like humps
upon a camel.  But could I, in my present disposition, do much more with
it? in my present pressure for time, were I not better employed doing
another one about as ill, than making this some thousandth fraction
better?  Yes, I thought; and tried the new one, and behold, I could do
nothing: my head swims, words do not come to me, nor phrases, and I
accepted defeat, packed up my traps, and turned to communicate the
failure to my esteemed correspondent.  I think it possible I overworked
yesterday.  Well, we’ll see to-morrow—perhaps try again later.  It is
indeed the hope of trying later that keeps me writing to you.  If I take
to my pipe, I know myself—all is over for the morning.  Hurray, I’ll
correct proofs!

                                * * * * *

                                                 _Pago-Pago_, _Wednesday_.

After I finished on Sunday I passed a miserable day; went out weeding,
but could not find peace.  I do not like to steal my dinner, unless I
have given myself a holiday in a canonical manner; and weeding after all
is only fun, the amount of its utility small, and the thing capable of
being done faster and nearly as well by a hired boy.  In the evening
Sewall came up (American consul) and proposed to take me on a malaga,
which I accepted.  Monday I rode down to Apia, was nearly all day
fighting about drafts and money; the silver problem does not touch you,
but it is (in a strange and I hope passing phase) making my situation
difficult in Apia.  About eleven, the flags were all half-masted; it was
old Captain Hamilton (Samesoni the natives called him) who had passed
away.  In the evening I walked round to the U.S. Consulate; it was a
lovely night with a full moon; and as I got round to the hot corner of
Matautu I heard hymns in front.  The balcony of the dead man’s house was
full of women singing; Mary (the widow, a native) sat on a chair by the
doorstep, and I was set beside her on a bench, and next to Paul the
carpenter; as I sat down I had a glimpse of the old captain, who lay in a
sheet on his own table.  After the hymn was over, a native pastor made a
speech which lasted a long while; the light poured out of the door and
windows; the girls were sitting clustered at my feet; it was choking hot.
After the speech was ended, Mary carried me within; the captain’s hands
were folded on his bosom, his face and head were composed; he looked as
if he might speak at any moment; I have never seen this kind of waxwork
so express or more venerable; and when I went away, I was conscious of a
certain envy for the man who was out of the battle.  All night it ran in
my head, and the next day when we sighted Tutuila, and ran into this
beautiful land-locked loch of Pago Pago (whence I write), Captain
Hamilton’s folded hands and quiet face said a great deal more to me than
the scenery.

I am living here in a trader’s house; we have a good table, Sewall doing
things in style; and I hope to benefit by the change, and possibly get
more stuff for Letters.  In the meanwhile, I am seized quite
_mal-à-propos_ with desire to write a story, _The Bloody Wedding_,
founded on fact—very possibly true, being an attempt to read a murder
case—not yet months old, in this very place and house where I now write.
The indiscretion is what stops me; but if I keep on feeling as I feel
just now it will have to be written.  Three Star Nettison, Kit Nettison,
Field the Sailor, these are the main characters: old Nettison, and the
captain of the man of war, the secondary.  Possible scenario.  Chapter I.
. . .


                                               _Saturday_, _April_ 18_th_.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—I got back on Monday night, after twenty-three hours in
an open boat; the keys were lost; the Consul (who had promised us a
bottle of Burgundy) nobly broke open his store-room, and we got to bed
about midnight.  Next morning the blessed Consul promised us horses for
the daybreak; forgot all about it, worthy man; set us off at last in the
heat of the day, and by a short cut which caused infinite trouble, and we
were not home till dinner.  I was extenuated, and have had a high fever
since, or should have been writing before.  To-day for the first time, I
risk it.  Tuesday I was pretty bad; Wednesday had a fever to kill a
horse; Thursday I was better, but still out of ability to do aught but
read awful trash.  This is the time one misses civilisation; I wished to
send out for some police novels; Montépin would have about suited my
frozen brain.  It is a bother when all one’s thought turns on one’s work
in some sense or other; could not even think yesterday; I took to
inventing dishes by way of entertainment.  Yesterday, while I lay asleep
in the afternoon, a very lucky thing happened; the Chief Justice came to
call; met one of our employés on the road; and was shown what I had done
to the road.

‘Is this the road across the island?’ he asked.

‘The only one,’ said Innes.

‘And has one man done all this?’

‘Three times,’ said the trusty Innes.  ‘It has had to be made three
times, and when Mr. Stevenson came, it was a track like what you see

‘This must be put right,’ said the Chief Justice.

                                * * * * *


The truth is, I broke down yesterday almost as soon as I began, and have
been surreptitiously finishing the entry to-day.  For all that I was much
better, ate all the time, and had no fever.  The day was otherwise
uneventful.  I am reminded; I had another visitor on Friday; and Fanny
and Lloyd, as they returned from a forest raid, met in our desert,
untrodden road, first Father Didier, Keeper of the conscience of Mataafa,
the rising star; and next the Chief justice, sole stay of Laupepa, the
present and unsteady star, and remember, a few days before we were close
to the sick bed and entertained by the amateur physician of Tamasese, the
late and sunken star.  ‘That is the fun of this place,’ observed Lloyd;
‘everybody you meet is so important.’  Everybody is also so gloomy.  It
will come to war again, is the opinion of all the well informed—and
before that to many bankruptcies; and after that, as usual, to famine.
Here, under the microscope, we can see history at work.

                                * * * * *


I have been very neglectful.  A return to work, perhaps premature, but
necessary, has used up all my possible energies and made me acquainted
with the living headache.  I just jot down some of the past notabilia.
Yesterday B., a carpenter, and K., my (unsuccessful) white man, were
absent all morning from their work; I was working myself, where I hear
every sound with morbid certainty, and I can testify that not a hammer
fell.  Upon inquiry I found they had passed the morning making ice with
our ice machine and taking the horizon with a spirit level!  I had no
sooner heard this than—a violent headache set in; I am a real employer of
labour now, and have much of the ship captain when aroused; and if I had
a headache, I believe both these gentlemen had aching hearts.  I promise
you, the late—was to the front; and K., who was the most guilty, yet (in
a sense) the least blameable, having the brains and character of a
canary-bird, fared none the better for B.’s repartees.  I hear them hard
at work this morning, so the menace may be blessed.  It was just after my
dinner, just before theirs, that I administered my redoubtable tongue—it
is really redoubtable—to these skulkers (Paul used to triumph over Mr. J.
for weeks.  ‘I am very sorry for you,’ he would say; ‘you’re going to
have a talk with Mr. Stevenson when he comes home: you don’t know what
that is!’)  In fact, none of them do, till they get it.  I have known K.,
for instance, for months; he has never heard me complain, or take notice,
unless it were to praise; I have used him always as my guest, and there
seems to be something in my appearance which suggests endless, ovine
long-suffering!  We sat in the upper verandah all evening, and discussed
the price of iron roofing, and the state of the draught-horses, with
Innes, a new man we have taken, and who seems to promise well.

One thing embarrasses me.  No one ever seems to understand my attitude
about that book; the stuff sent was never meant for other than a first
state; I never meant it to appear as a book.  Knowing well that I have
never had one hour of inspiration since it was begun, and have only
beaten out my metal by brute force and patient repetition, I hoped some
day to get a ‘spate of style’ and burnish it—fine mixed metaphor.  I am
now so sick that I intend, when the Letters are done and some more
written that will be wanted, simply to make a book of it by the

I cannot fight longer; I am sensible of having done worse than I hoped,
worse than I feared; all I can do now is to do the best I can for the
future, and clear the book, like a piece of bush, with axe and cutlass.
Even to produce the MS. of this will occupy me, at the most favourable
opinion, till the middle of next year; really five years were wanting,
when I could have made a book; but I have a family, and—perhaps I could
not make the book after all.


                                                      _April_ 29_th_, ’91.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—I begin again.  I was awake this morning about half-past
four.  It was still night, but I made my fire, which is always a
delightful employment, and read Lockhart’s ‘Scott’ until the day began to
peep.  It was a beautiful and sober dawn, a dove-coloured dawn,
insensibly brightening to gold.  I was looking at it some while over the
down-hill profile of our eastern road, when I chanced to glance
northward, and saw with extraordinary pleasure the sea lying outspread.
It seemed as smooth as glass, and yet I knew the surf was roaring all
along the reef, and indeed, if I had listened, I could have heard it—and
saw the white sweep of it outside Matautu.

I am out of condition still, and can do nothing, and toil to be at my
pen, and see some ink behind me.  I have taken up again _The High Woods
of Ulufanua_.  I still think the fable too fantastic and far-fetched.
But, on a re-reading, fell in love with my first chapter, and for good or
evil I must finish it.  It is really good, well fed with facts, true to
the manners, and (for once in my works) rendered pleasing by the presence
of a heroine who is pretty.  Miss Uma is pretty; a fact.  All my other
women have been as ugly as sin, and like Falconet’s horse (I have just
been reading the anecdote in Lockhart), _mortes_ forbye.

News: Our old house is now half demolished; it is to be rebuilt on a new
site; now we look down upon and through the open posts of it like a
bird-cage, to the woods beyond.  My poor Paulo has lost his father and
succeeded to thirty thousand thalers (I think); he had to go down to the
Consulate yesterday to send a legal paper; got drunk, of course, and is
still this morning in so bemused a condition that our breakfasts all went
wrong.  Lafaele is absent at the deathbed of his fair spouse; fair she
was, but not in deed, acting as harlot to the wreckers at work on the
warships, to which society she probably owes her end, having fallen off a
cliff, or been thrust off it—_inter pocula_.  Henry is the same, our
stand-by.  In this transition stage he has been living in Apia; but the
other night he stayed up, and sat with us about the chimney in my room.
It was the first time he had seen a fire in a hearth; he could not look
at it without smiles, and was always anxious to put on another stick.  We
entertained him with the fairy tales of civilisation—theatres, London,
blocks in the street, Universities, the Underground, newspapers, etc.,
and projected once more his visit to Sydney.  If we can manage, it will
be next Christmas.  (I see it will be impossible for me to afford a
further journey _this_ winter.)  We have spent since we have been here
about £2500, which is not much if you consider we have built on that
three houses, one of them of some size, and a considerable stable, made
two miles of road some three times, cleared many acres of bush, made some
miles of path, planted quantities of food, and enclosed a horse paddock
and some acres of pig run; but ’tis a good deal of money regarded simply
as money.  K. is bosh; I have no use for him; but we must do what we can
with the fellow meanwhile; he is good-humoured and honest, but
inefficient, idle himself, the cause of idleness in others, grumbling, a
self-excuser—all the faults in a bundle.  He owes us thirty weeks’
service—the wretched Paul about half as much.  Henry is almost the only
one of our employés who has a credit.

                                * * * * *

                                                             _May_ 17_th_.

Well, am I ashamed of myself?  I do not think so.  I have been hammering
Letters ever since, and got three ready and a fourth about half through;
all four will go by the mail, which is what I wish, for so I keep at
least my start.  Days and days of unprofitable stubbing and digging, and
the result still poor as literature, left-handed, heavy, unillumined, but
I believe readable and interesting as matter.  It has been no joke of a
hard time, and when my task was done, I had little taste for anything but
blowing on the pipe.  A few necessary letters filled the bowl to

My mother has arrived, young, well, and in good spirits.  By desperate
exertions, which have wholly floored Fanny, her room was ready for her,
and the dining-room fit to eat in.  It was a famous victory.  Lloyd never
told me of your portrait till a few days ago; fortunately, I had no
pictures hung yet; and the space over my chimney waits your counterfeit
presentment.  I have not often heard anything that pleased me more; your
severe head shall frown upon me and keep me to the mark.  But why has it
not come?  Have you been as forgetful as Lloyd?

                                * * * * *


Miserable comforters are ye all!  I read your esteemed pages this morning
by lamplight and the glimmer of the dawn, and as soon as breakfast was
over, I must turn to and tackle these despised labours!  Some courage was
necessary, but not wanting.  There is one thing at least by which I can
avenge myself for my drubbing, for on one point you seem impenetrably
stupid.  Can I find no form of words which will at last convey to your
intelligence the fact that _these letters were never meant_, _and are not
now meant_, _to be other than a quarry of materials from which the book
may be drawn_?  There seems something incommunicable in this (to me)
simple idea; I know Lloyd failed to comprehend it, I doubt if he has
grasped it now; and I despair, after all these efforts, that you should
ever be enlightened.  Still, oblige me by reading that form of words once
more, and see if a light does not break.  You may be sure, after the
friendly freedoms of your criticism (necessary I am sure, and wholesome I
know, but untimely to the poor labourer in his landslip) that mighty
little of it will stand.

Our Paul has come into a fortune, and wishes to go home to the Hie
Germanie.  This is a tile on our head, and if a shower, which is now
falling, lets up, I must go down to Apia, and see if I can find a
substitute of any kind.  This is, from any point of view, disgusting;
above all, from that of work; for, whatever the result, the mill has to
be kept turning; apparently dust, and not flour, is the proceed.  Well,
there is gold in the dust, which is a fine consolation, since—well, I
can’t help it; night or morning, I do my darndest, and if I cannot charge
for merit, I must e’en charge for toil, of which I have plenty and plenty
more ahead before this cup is drained; sweat and hyssop are the

We are clearing from Carruthers’ Road to the pig fence, twenty-eight
powerful natives with Catholic medals about their necks, all swiping in
like Trojans; long may the sport continue!

The invoice to hand.  Ere this goes out, I hope to see your expressive,
but surely not benignant countenance!  Adieu, O culler of offensive
expressions—‘and a’ to be a posy to your ain dear May!’—Fanny seems a
little revived again after her spasm of work.  Our books and furniture
keep slowly draining up the road, in a sad state of scatterment and
disrepair; I wish the devil had had K. by his red beard before he had
packed my library.  Odd leaves and sheets and boards—a thing to make a
bibliomaniac shed tears—are fished out of odd corners.  But I am no
bibliomaniac, praise Heaven, and I bear up, and rejoice when I find
anything safe.

                                * * * * *


However, I worked five hours on the brute, and finished my Letter all the
same, and couldn’t sleep last night by consequence.  Haven’t had a bad
night since I don’t know when; dreamed a large, handsome man (a New
Orleans planter) had insulted my wife, and, do what I pleased, I could
not make him fight me; and woke to find it was the eleventh anniversary
of my marriage.  A letter usually takes me from a week to three days; but
I’m sometimes two days on a page—I was once three—and then my friends
kick me.  _C’est-y-bête_!  I wish letters of that charming quality could
be so timed as to arrive when a fellow wasn’t working at the truck in
question; but, of course, that can’t be.  Did not go down last night.  It
showered all afternoon, and poured heavy and loud all night.

You should have seen our twenty-five popes (the Samoan phrase for a
Catholic, lay or cleric) squatting when the day’s work was done on the
ground outside the verandah, and pouring in the rays of forty-eight eyes
through the back and the front door of the dining-room, while Henry and I
and the boss pope signed the contract.  The second boss (an old man) wore
a kilt (as usual) and a Balmoral bonnet with a little tartan edging and
the tails pulled off.  I told him that hat belong to my country—Sekotia;
and he said, yes, that was the place that he belonged to right enough.
And then all the Papists laughed till the woods rang; he was slashing
away with a cutlass as he spoke.

The pictures have decidedly not come; they may probably arrive Sunday.


                                                             _June_, 1891.

SIR,—To you, under your portrait, which is, in expression, your true,
breathing self, and up to now saddens me; in time, and soon, I shall be
glad to have it there; it is still only a reminder of your absence.
Fanny wept when we unpacked it, and you know how little she is given to
that mood; I was scarce Roman myself, but that does not count—I lift up
my voice so readily.  These are good compliments to the artist.  I write
in the midst of a wreck of books, which have just come up, and have for
once defied my labours to get straight.  The whole floor is filled with
them, and (what’s worse) most of the shelves forbye; and where they are
to go to, and what is to become of the librarian, God knows.  It is hot
to-night, and has been airless all day, and I am out of sorts, and my
work sticks, the devil fly away with it and me.  We had an alarm of war
since last I wrote my screeds to you, and it blew over, and is to blow on
again, and the rumour goes they are to begin by killing all the whites.
I have no belief in this, and should be infinitely sorry if it came to
pass—I do not mean for _us_, that were otiose—but for the poor, deluded
schoolboys, who should hope to gain by such a step.

                                * * * * *

[_Letter resumed_.]

                                                            _June_ 20_th_.

No diary this time.  Why? you ask.  I have only sent out four Letters,
and two chapters of the _Wrecker_.  Yes, but to get these I have written
132 pp., 66,000 words in thirty days; 2200 words a day; the labours of an
elephant.  God knows what it’s like, and don’t ask me, but nobody shall
say I have spared pains.  I thought for some time it wouldn’t come at
all.  I was days and days over the first letter of the lot—days and days
writing and deleting and making no headway whatever, till I thought I
should have gone bust; but it came at last after a fashion, and the rest
went a thought more easily, though I am not so fond as to fancy any

Your opinion as to the letters as a whole is so damnatory that I put them
by.  But there is a ‘hell of a want of’ money this year.  And these
Gilbert Island papers, being the most interesting in matter, and forming
a compact whole, and being well illustrated, I did think of as a possible

It would be called

  _Six Months in Melanesia_,

  _Two Island Kings_,


  _Gilbert Island Kings_,


and I daresay I’ll think of a better yet—and would divide thus:—

        I.  A Town asleep.
       II.  The Three Brothers.
      III.  Around our House.
       IV.  A Tale of a Tapu.
        V.  The Five Day’s Festival.
       VI.  Domestic Life—(which might be omitted, but not well,
            better be recast).
                        _The King of Apemama_.
      VII.  The Royal Traders.
     VIII.  Foundation of Equator Town.
       IX.  The Palace of Mary Warren.
        X.  Equator Town and the Palace.
       XI.  King and Commons.
      XII.  The Devil Work Box.
     XIII.  The Three Corslets.
      XIV.  Tail piece; the Court upon a Journey.

I wish you to watch these closely, judging them as a whole, and treating
them as I have asked you, and favour me with your damnatory advice.  I
look up at your portrait, and it frowns upon me.  You seem to view me
with reproach.  The expression is excellent; Fanny wept when she saw it,
and you know she is not given to the melting mood.  She seems really
better; I have a touch of fever again, I fancy overwork, and to-day, when
I have overtaken my letters, I shall blow on my pipe.  Tell Mrs. S. I
have been playing _Le Chant d’Amour_ lately, and have arranged it, after
awful trouble, rather prettily for two pipes; and it brought her before
me with an effect scarce short of hallucination.  I could hear her voice
in every note; yet I had forgot the air entirely, and began to pipe it
from notes as something new, when I was brought up with a round turn by
this reminiscence.  We are now very much installed; the dining-room is
done, and looks lovely.  Soon we shall begin to photograph and send you
our circumstances.  My room is still a howling wilderness.  I sleep on a
platform in a window, and strike my mosquito bar and roll up my
bedclothes every morning, so that the bed becomes by day a divan.  A
great part of the floor is knee-deep in books, yet nearly all the shelves
are filled, alas!  It is a place to make a pig recoil, yet here are my
interminable labours begun daily by lamp-light, and sometimes not yet
done when the lamp has once more to be lighted.  The effect of pictures
in this place is surprising.  They give great pleasure.

                                * * * * *

                                                            _June_ 21_st_.

A word more.  I had my breakfast this morning at 4.30!  My new cook has
beaten me and (as Lloyd says) revenged all the cooks in the world.  I
have been hunting them to give me breakfast early since I was twenty; and
now here comes Mr. Ratke, and I have to plead for mercy.  I cannot stand
4.30; I am a mere fevered wreck; it is now half-past eight, and I can no
more, and four hours divide me from lunch, the devil take the man!
Yesterday it was about 5.30, which I can stand; day before 5, which is
bad enough; to-day, I give out.  It is like a London season, and as I do
not take a siesta once in a month, and then only five minutes, I am being
worn to the bones, and look aged and anxious.

We have Rider Haggard’s brother here as a Land Commissioner; a nice kind
of a fellow; indeed, all the three Land Commissioners are very agreeable.


                                            _Sunday_, _Sept._ 5 (?), 1891.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—Yours from Lochinver has just come.  You ask me if I am
ever homesick for the Highlands and the Isles.  Conceive that for the
last month I have been living there between 1786 and 1850, in my
grandfather’s diaries and letters.  I _had_ to take a rest; no use
talking; so I put in a month over my _Lives of the Stevensons_ with great
pleasure and profit and some advance; one chapter and a part drafted.
The whole promises well Chapter I. Domestic Annals.  Chapter II.  The
Northern Lights.  Chapter III. The Bell Rock.  Chapter IV. A Family of
Boys.  Chap. V. The Grandfather.  VI. Alan Stevenson.  VII. Thomas
Stevenson.  My materials for my great-grandfather are almost null; for my
grandfather copious and excellent.  Name, a puzzle.  _A Scottish Family_,
_A Family of Engineers_, _Northern Lights_, _The Engineers of the
Northern Lights_: _A Family History_.  Advise; but it will take long.
Now, imagine if I have been homesick for Barrahead and Island Glass, and
Kirkwall, and Cape Wrath, and the Wells of the Pentland Firth; I could
have wept.

Now for politics.  I am much less alarmed; I believe the _malo_ (=_raj_,
government) will collapse and cease like an overlain infant, without a
shot fired.  They have now been months here on their big salaries—and
Cedarcrantz, whom I specially like as a man, has done nearly nothing, and
the Baron, who is well-meaning, has done worse.  They have these large
salaries, and they have all the taxes; they have made scarce a foot of
road; they have not given a single native a position—all to white men;
they have scarce laid out a penny on Apia, and scarce a penny on the
King; they have forgot they were in Samoa, or that such a thing as
Samoans existed, and had eyes and some intelligence.  The Chief Justice
has refused to pay his customs!  The President proposed to have an
expensive house built for himself, while the King, his master, has none!
I had stood aside, and been a loyal, and, above all, a silent subject, up
to then; but now I snap my fingers at their _malo_.  It is damned, and
I’m damned glad of it.  And this is not all.  Last ‘_Wainiu_,’ when I
sent Fanny off to Fiji, I hear the wonderful news that the Chief Justice
is going to Fiji and the Colonies to improve his mind.  I showed my way
of thought to his guest, Count Wachtmeister, whom I have sent to you with
a letter—he will tell you all the news.  Well, the Chief Justice stayed,
but they said he was to leave yesterday.  I had intended to go down, and
see and warn him!  But the President’s house had come up in the
meanwhile, and I let them go to their doom, which I am only anxious to
see swiftly and (if it may be) bloodlessly fall.

Thus I have in a way withdrawn my unrewarded loyalty.  Lloyd is down
to-day with Moors to call on Mataafa; the news of the excursion made a
considerable row in Apia, and both the German and the English consuls
besought Lloyd not to go.  But he stuck to his purpose, and with my
approval.  It’s a poor thing if people are to give up a pleasure party
for a _malo_ that has never done anything for us but draw taxes, and is
going to go pop, and leave us at the mercy of the identical Mataafa, whom
I have not visited for more than a year, and who is probably furious.

The sense of my helplessness here has been rather bitter; I feel it
wretched to see this dance of folly and injustice and unconscious
rapacity go forward from day to day, and to be impotent.  I was not
consulted—or only by one man, and that on particular points; I did not
choose to volunteer advice till some pressing occasion; I have not even a
vote, for I am not a member of the municipality.

What ails you, miserable man, to talk of saving material?  I have a whole
world in my head, a whole new society to work, but I am in no hurry; you
will shortly make the acquaintance of the Island of Ulufanua, on which I
mean to lay several stories; the _Bloody Wedding_, possibly the _High
Woods_—(O, it’s so good, the High Woods, but the story is craziness;
that’s the trouble,)—a political story, the _Labour Slave_, etc.
Ulufanua is an imaginary island; the name is a beautiful Samoan word for
the _top_ of a forest; ulu—leaves or hair, fanua=land.  The ground or
country of the leaves.  ‘Ulufanua the isle of the sea,’ read that verse
dactylically and you get the beat; the u’s are like our double oo; did
ever you hear a prettier word?

I do not feel inclined to make a volume of Essays, but if I did, and
perhaps the idea is good—and any idea is better than South Seas—here
would be my choice of the Scribner articles: _Dreams_, _Beggars_,
_Lantern-Bearers_, _Random Memories_.  There was a paper called the _Old
Pacific Capital_ in Fraser, in Tulloch’s time, which had merit; there
were two on Fontainebleau in the _Magazine of Art_ in Henley’s time.  I
have no idea if they’re any good; then there’s the _Emigrant Train_.
_Pulvis et Umbra_ is in a different key, and wouldn’t hang on with the

I have just interrupted my letter and read through the chapter of the
_High Woods_ that is written, a chapter and a bit, some sixteen pages,
really very fetching, but what do you wish? the story is so wilful, so
steep, so silly—it’s a hallucination I have outlived, and yet I never did
a better piece of work, horrid, and pleasing, and extraordinarily _true_;
it’s sixteen pages of the South Seas; their essence.  What am I to do?
Lose this little gem—for I’ll be bold, and that’s what I think it—or go
on with the rest, which I don’t believe in, and don’t like, and which can
never make aught but a silly yarn?  Make another end to it?  Ah, yes, but
that’s not the way I write; the whole tale is implied; I never use an
effect, when I can help it, unless it prepares the effects that are to
follow; that’s what a story consists in.  To make another end, that is to
make the beginning all wrong.  The dénouement of a long story is nothing;
it is just a ‘full close,’ which you may approach and accompany as you
please—it is a coda, not an essential member in the rhythm; but the body
and end of a short story is bone of the bone and blood of the blood of
the beginning.  Well, I shall end by finishing it against my judgment;
that fragment is my Delilah.  Golly, it’s good.  I am not shining by
modesty; but I do just love the colour and movement of that piece so far
as it goes.

I was surprised to hear of your fishing.  And you saw the ‘Pharos,’
thrice fortunate man; I wish I dared go home, I would ask the
Commissioners to take me round for old sake’s sake, and see all my family
pictures once more from the Mull of Galloway to Unst.  However, all is
arranged for our meeting in Ceylon, except the date and the blooming
pounds.  I have heard of an exquisite hotel in the country, airy, large
rooms, good cookery, not dear; we shall have a couple of months there, if
we can make it out, and converse or—as my grandfather always
said—‘commune.’  ‘Communings with Mr. Kennedy as to Lighthouse Repairs.’
He was a fine old fellow, but a droll.

                                * * * * *


Lloyd has returned.  Peace and war were played before his eyes at heads
or tails.  A German was stopped with levelled guns; he raised his whip;
had it fallen, we might have been now in war.  Excuses were made by
Mataafa himself.  Doubtless the thing was done—I mean the stopping of the
German—a little to show off before Lloyd.  Meanwhile—was up here, telling
how the Chief Justice was really gone for five or eight weeks, and
begging me to write to the _Times_ and denounce the state of affairs;
many strong reasons he advanced; and Lloyd and I have been since his
arrival and —’s departure, near half an hour, debating what should be
done.  Cedarcrantz is gone; it is not my fault; he knows my views on that
point—alone of all points;—he leaves me with my mouth sealed.  Yet this
is a nice thing that because he is guilty of a fresh offence—his
flight—the mouth of the only possible influential witness should be
closed?  I do not like this argument.  I look like a cad, if I do in the
man’s absence what I could have done in a more manly manner in his
presence.  True; but why did he go?  It is his last sin.  And I, who like
the man extremely—that is the word—I love his society—he is intelligent,
pleasant, even witty, a gentleman—and you know how that attaches—I loathe
to seem to play a base part; but the poor natives—who are like other
folk, false enough, lazy enough, not heroes, not saints—ordinary men
damnably misused—are they to suffer because I like Cedarcrantz, and
Cedarcrantz has cut his lucky?  This is a little tragedy, observe well—a
tragedy!  I may be right, I may be wrong in my judgment, but I am in
treaty with my honour.  I know not how it will seem to-morrow.  Lloyd
thought the barrier of honour insurmountable, and it is an ugly obstacle.
He (Cedarcrantz) will likely meet my wife three days from now, may travel
back with her, will be charming if he does; suppose this, and suppose him
to arrive and find that I have sprung a mine—or the nearest approach to
it I could find—behind his back?  My position is pretty.  Yes, I am an
aristocrat.  I have the old petty, personal view of honour?  I should
blush till I die if I do this; yet it is on the cards that I may do it.
So much I have written you in bed, as a man writes, or talks, in a
_bittre Wahl_.  Now I shall sleep, and see if I am more clear.  I will
consult the missionaries at least—I place some reliance in M. also—or I
should if he were not a partisan; but a partisan he is.  There’s the
pity.  To sleep!  A fund of wisdom in the prostrate body and the fed
brain.  Kindly observe R. L. S. in the talons of politics!  ’Tis
funny—’tis sad.  Nobody but these cursed idiots could have so driven me;
I cannot bear idiots.

My dear Colvin, I must go to sleep; it is long past ten—a dreadful hour
for me.  And here am I lingering (so I feel) in the dining-room at the
Monument, talking to you across the table, both on our feet, and only the
two stairs to mount, and get to bed, and sleep, and be waked by dear old
George—to whom I wish my kindest remembrances—next morning.  I look
round, and there is my blue room, and my long lines of shelves, and the
door gaping on a moonless night, and no word of S. C. but his twa
portraits on the wall.  Good-bye, my dear fellow, and goodnight.  Queer
place the world!

                                * * * * *


No clearness of mind with the morning; I have no guess what I should do.
’Tis easy to say that the public duty should brush aside these little
considerations of personal dignity; so it is that politicians begin, and
in a month you find them rat and flatter and intrigue with brows of
brass.  I am rather of the old view, that a man’s first duty is to these
little laws; the big he does not, he never will, understand; I may be
wrong about the Chief Justice and the Baron and the state of Samoa; I
cannot be wrong about the vile attitude I put myself in if I blow the
gaff on Cedarcrantz behind his back.

                                * * * * *


One more word about the South Seas, in answer to a question I observe I
have forgotten to answer.  The Tahiti part has never turned up, because
it has never been written.  As for telling you where I went or when, or
anything about Honolulu, I would rather die; that is fair and plain.  How
can anybody care when or how I left Honolulu?  A man of upwards of forty
cannot waste his time in communicating matter of that indifference.  The
letters, it appears, are tedious; they would be more tedious still if I
wasted my time upon such infantile and sucking-bottle details.  If ever I
put in any such detail, it is because it leads into something or serves
as a transition.  To tell it for its own sake, never!  The mistake is all
through that I have told too much; I had not sufficient confidence in the
reader, and have overfed him; and here are you anxious to learn how I—O
Colvin!  Suppose it had made a book, all such information is given to one
glance of an eye by a map with a little dotted line upon it.  But let us
forget this unfortunate affair.

                                * * * * *


Yesterday I went down to consult Clarke, who took the view of delay.  Has
he changed his mind already?  I wonder: here at least is the news.  Some
little while back some men of Manono—what is Manono?—a Samoan rotten
borough, a small isle of huge political importance, heaven knows why,
where a handful of chiefs make half the trouble in the country.  Some men
of Manono (which is strong Mataafa) burned down the houses and destroyed
the crops of some Malietoa neighbours.  The President went there the
other day and landed alone on the island, which (to give him his due) was
plucky.  Moreover, he succeeded in persuading the folks to come up and be
judged on a particular day in Apia.  That day they did not come; but did
come the next, and, to their vast surprise, were given six months’
imprisonment and clapped in gaol.  Those who had accompanied them cried
to them on the streets as they were marched to prison, ‘Shall we rescue
you?’  The condemned, marching in the hands of thirty men with loaded
rifles, cried out ‘No’!  And the trick was done.  But it was ardently
believed a rescue would be attempted; the gaol was laid about with armed
men day and night; but there was some question of their loyalty, and the
commandant of the forces, a very nice young beardless Swede, became
nervous, and conceived a plan.  How if he should put dynamite under the
gaol, and in case of an attempted rescue blow up prison and all?  He went
to the President, who agreed; he went to the American man-of-war for the
dynamite and machine, was refused, and got it at last from the Wreckers.
The thing began to leak out, and there arose a muttering in town.  People
had no fancy for amateur explosions, for one thing.  For another, it did
not clearly appear that it was legal; the men had been condemned to six
months’ prison, which they were peaceably undergoing; they had not been
condemned to death.  And lastly, it seemed a somewhat advanced example of
civilisation to set before barbarians.  The mutter in short became a
storm, and yesterday, while I was down, a cutter was chartered, and the
prisoners were suddenly banished to the Tokelaus.  Who has changed the
sentence?  We are going to stir in the dynamite matter; we do not want
the natives to fancy us consenting to such an outrage.

Fanny has returned from her trip, and on the whole looks better.  The
_High Woods_ are under way, and their name is now the _Beach of Falesá_,
and the yarn is cured.  I have about thirty pages of it done; it will be
fifty to seventy I suppose.  No supernatural trick at all; and escaped
out of it quite easily; can’t think why I was so stupid for so long.
Mighty glad to have Fanny back to this ‘Hell of the South Seas,’ as the
German Captain called it.  What will Cedarcrantz think when he comes
back?  To do him justice, had he been here, this Manono hash would not
have been.

Here is a pretty thing.  When Fanny was in Fiji all the Samoa and Tokelau
folks were agog about our ‘flash’ house; but the whites had never heard
of it.

                                                   ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON,
                                          Author of _The Beach of Falesá_.


                                                               _Sept._ 28.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—Since I last laid down my pen, I have written and
rewritten _The Beach of Falesá_; something like sixty thousand words of
sterling domestic fiction (the story, you will understand, is only half
that length); and now I don’t want to write any more again for ever, or
feel so; and I’ve got to overhaul it once again to my sorrow.  I was all
yesterday revising, and found a lot of slacknesses and (what is worse in
this kind of thing) some literaryisms.  One of the puzzles is this: It is
a first person story—a trader telling his own adventure in an island.
When I began I allowed myself a few liberties, because I was afraid of
the end; now the end proved quite easy, and could be done in the pace; so
the beginning remains about a quarter tone out (in places); but I have
rather decided to let it stay so.  The problem is always delicate; it is
the only thing that worries me in first person tales, which otherwise
(quo’ Alan) ‘set better wi’ my genius.’  There is a vast deal of fact in
the story, and some pretty good comedy.  It is the first realistic South
Sea story; I mean with real South Sea character and details of life.
Everybody else who has tried, that I have seen, got carried away by the
romance, and ended in a kind of sugar-candy sham epic, and the whole
effect was lost—there was no etching, no human grin, consequently no
conviction.  Now I have got the smell and look of the thing a good deal.
You will know more about the South Seas after you have read my little
tale than if you had read a library.  As to whether any one else will
read it, I have no guess.  I am in an off time, but there is just the
possibility it might make a hit; for the yarn is good and melodramatic,
and there is quite a love affair—for me; and Mr. Wiltshire (the narrator)
is a huge lark, though I say it.  But there is always the exotic
question, and everything, the life, the place, the dialects—trader’s
talk, which is a strange conglomerate of literary expressions and English
and American slang, and Beach de Mar, or native English,—the very trades
and hopes and fears of the characters, are all novel, and may be found
unwelcome to that great, hulking, bullering whale, the public.

Since I wrote, I have been likewise drawing up a document to send it to
the President; it has been dreadfully delayed, not by me, but to-day they
swear it will be sent in.  A list of questions about the dynamite report
are herein laid before him, and considerations suggested why he should

                                * * * * *

                                                          _October_ 5_th_.

Ever since my last snatch I have been much chivied about over the
President business; his answer has come, and is an evasion accompanied
with schoolboy insolence, and we are going to try to answer it.  I drew
my answer and took it down yesterday; but one of the signatories wants
another paragraph added, which I have not yet been able to draw, and as
to the wisdom of which I am not yet convinced.

                                * * * * *

                                _Next day_, _Oct._ 7_th_, _the right day_.

We are all in rather a muddled state with our President affair.  I do
loathe politics, but at the same time, I cannot stand by and have the
natives blown in the air treacherously with dynamite.  They are still
quiet; how long this may continue I do not know, though of course by mere
prescription the Government is strengthened, and is probably insured till
the next taxes fall due.  But the unpopularity of the whites is growing.
My native overseer, the great Henry Simelé, announced to-day that he was
‘weary of whites upon the beach.  All too proud,’ said this veracious
witness.  One of the proud ones had threatened yesterday to cut off his
head with a bush knife!  These are ‘native outrages’; honour bright, and
setting theft aside, in which the natives are active, this is the main
stream of irritation.  The natives are generally courtly, far from always
civil, but really gentle, and with a strong sense of honour of their own,
and certainly quite as much civilised as our dynamiting President.

We shall be delighted to see Kipling.  I go to bed usually about
half-past eight, and my lamp is out before ten; I breakfast at six.  We
may say roughly we have no soda water on the island, and just now
truthfully no whisky.  I _have_ heard the chimes at midnight; now no
more, I guess.  _But_—Fanny and I, as soon as we can get coins for it,
are coming to Europe, not to England: I am thinking of Royat.  Bar wars.
If not, perhaps the Apennines might give us a mountain refuge for two
months or three in summer.  How is that for high?  But the money must be
all in hand first.

                                * * * * *

                                                         _October_ 13_th_.

How am I to describe my life these last few days?  I have been wholly
swallowed up in politics, a wretched business, with fine elements of
farce in it too, which repay a man in passing, involving many dark and
many moonlight rides, secret counsels which are at once divulged, sealed
letters which are read aloud in confidence to the neighbours, and a mass
of fudge and fun, which would have driven me crazy ten years ago, and now
makes me smile.

On Friday, Henry came and told us he must leave and go to ‘my poor old
family in Savaii’; why?  I do not quite know—but, I suspect, to be
tattooed—if so, then probably to be married, and we shall see him no
more.  I told him he must do what he thought his duty; we had him to
lunch, drank his health, and he and I rode down about twelve.  When I got
down, I sent my horse back to help bring down the family later.  My own
afternoon was cut out for me; my last draft for the President had been
objected to by some of the signatories.  I stood out, and one of our
small number accordingly refused to sign.  Him I had to go and persuade,
which went off very well after the first hottish moments; you have no
idea how stolid my temper is now.  By about five the thing was done; and
we sat down to dinner at the Chinaman’s—the Verrey or Doyen’s of Apia—G.
and I at each end as hosts; G.’s wife—Fanua, late maid of the village;
her (adopted) father and mother, Seumanu and Faatulia, Fanny, Belle,
Lloyd, Austin, and Henry Simelé, his last appearance.  Henry was in a
kilt of gray shawl, with a blue jacket, white shirt and black necktie,
and looked like a dark genteel guest in a Highland shooting-box.  Seumanu
(opposite Fanny, next G.) is chief of Apia, a rather big gun in this
place, looking like a large, fatted, military Englishman, bar the colour.
Faatulia, next me, is a bigger chief than her husband.  Henry is a chief
too—his chief name, Iiga (Ee-eeng-a), he has not yet ‘taken’ because of
his youth.  We were in fine society, and had a pleasant meal-time, with
lots of fun.  Then to the Opera—I beg your pardon, I mean the Circus.  We
occupied the first row in the reserved seats, and there in the row behind
were all our friends—Captain Foss and his Captain-Lieutenant, three of
the American officers, very nice fellows, the Dr., etc., so we made a
fine show of what an embittered correspondent of the local paper called
‘the shoddy aristocracy of Apia’; and you should have seen how we carried
on, and how I clapped, and Captain Foss hollered ‘_wunderschön_!’ and
threw himself forward in his seat, and how we all in fact enjoyed
ourselves like school-children, Austin not a shade more than his
neighbours.  Then the Circus broke up, and the party went home, but I
stayed down, having business on the morrow.

Yesterday, October 12th, great news reaches me, and Lloyd and I, with the
mail just coming in, must leave all, saddle, and ride down.  True enough,
the President had resigned!  Sought to resign his presidency of the
council, and keep his advisership to the King; given way to the Consul’s
objections and resigned all—then fell out with them about the disposition
of the funds, and was now trying to resign from his resignation!  Sad
little President, so trim to look at, and I believe so kind to his little
wife!  Not only so, but I meet D. on the beach.  D. calls me in
consultation, and we make with infinite difficulty a draft of a petition
to the King. . . . Then to dinner at M.’s, a very merry meal, interrupted
before it was over by the arrival of the committee.  Slight sketch of
procedure agreed upon, self appointed spokesman, and the deputation sets
off.  Walk all through Matafele, all along Mulinuu, come to the King’s
house; he has verbally refused to see us in answer to our letter,
swearing he is gase-gase (chief-sickness, not common man’s), and indeed
we see him inside in bed.  It is a miserable low house, better houses by
the dozen in the little hamlet (Tanugamanono) of bushmen on our way to
Vailima; and the President’s house in process of erection just opposite!
We are told to return to-morrow; I refuse; and at last we are very sourly
received, sit on the mats, and I open out, through a very poor
interpreter, and sometimes hampered by unacceptable counsels from my
backers.  I can speak fairly well in a plain way now.  C. asked me to
write out my harangue for him this morning; I have done so, and couldn’t
get it near as good.  I suppose (talking and interpreting) I was twenty
minutes or half-an-hour on the deck; then his majesty replied in the
dying whisper of a big chief; a few words of rejoinder (approving), and
the deputation withdrew, rather well satisfied.

A few days ago this intervention would have been a deportable offence;
not now, I bet; I would like them to try.  A little way back along
Mulinuu, Mrs. G. met us with her husband’s horse; and he and she and
Lloyd and I rode back in a heavenly moonlight.  Here ends a chapter in
the life of an island politician!  Catch me at it again; ’tis easy to go
in, but it is not a pleasant trade.  I have had a good team, as good as I
could get on the beach; but what trouble even so, and what fresh troubles
shaping.  But I have on the whole carried all my points; I believe all
but one, and on that (which did not concern me) I had no right to
interfere.  I am sure you would be amazed if you knew what a good hand I
am at keeping my temper, talking people over, and giving reasons which
are not my reasons, but calculated for the meridian of the particular
objection; so soon does falsehood await the politician in his whirling


                                                  _May_, _October_ 24_th_.

MY DEAR CARTHEW,—See what I have written, but it’s Colvin I’m after—I
have written two chapters, about thirty pages of _Wrecker_ since the mail
left, which must be my excuse, and the bother I’ve had with it is not to
be imagined, you might have seen me the day before yesterday weighing
British sov.’s and Chili dollars to arrange my treasure chest.  And there
was such a calculation, not for that only, but for the ship’s position
and distances when—but I am not going to tell you the yarn—and then, as
my arithmetic is particularly lax, Lloyd had to go over all my
calculations; and then, as I had changed the amount of money, he had to
go over all _his_ as to the amount of the lay; and altogether, a bank
could be run with less effusion of figures than it took to shore up a
single chapter of a measly yarn.  However, it’s done, and I have but one
more, or at the outside two, to do, and I am Free! and can do any damn
thing I like.

Before falling on politics, I shall give you my day.  Awoke somewhere
about the first peep of day, came gradually to, and had a turn on the
verandah before 5.55, when ‘the child’ (an enormous Wallis Islander)
brings me an orange; at 6, breakfast; 6.10, to work; which lasts till, at
10.30, Austin comes for his history lecture; this is rather dispiriting,
but education must be gone about in faith—and charity, both of which
pretty nigh failed me to-day about (of all things) Carthage; 11,
luncheon; after luncheon in my mother’s room, I read Chapter XXIII. of
_The Wrecker_, then Belle, Lloyd, and I go up and make music furiously
till about 2 (I suppose), when I turn into work again till 4; fool from 4
to half-past, tired out and waiting for the bath hour; 4.30, bath; 4.40,
eat two heavenly mangoes on the verandah, and see the boys arrive with
the pack-horses; 5, dinner; smoke, chat on verandah, then hand of cards,
and at last at 8 come up to my room with a pint of beer and a hard
biscuit, which I am now consuming, and as soon as they are consumed I
shall turn in.

Such are the innocent days of this ancient and outworn sportsman; to-day
there was no weeding, usually there is however, edge in somewhere.  My
books for the moment are a crib to Phædo, and the second book of
Montaigne; and a little while back I was reading Frederic Harrison,
‘Choice of Books,’ etc.—very good indeed, a great deal of sense and
knowledge in the volume, and some very true stuff, _contra_ Carlyle,
about the eighteenth century.  A hideous idea came over me that perhaps
Harrison is now getting _old_.  Perhaps you are.  Perhaps I am.  Oh, this
infidelity must be stared firmly down.  I am about twenty-three—say
twenty-eight; you about thirty, or, by’r lady, thirty-four; and as
Harrison belongs to the same generation, there is no good bothering about

Here has just been a fine alert; I gave my wife a dose of chlorodyne.
‘Something wrong,’ says she.  ‘Nonsense,’ said I.  ‘Embrocation,’ said
she.  I smelt it, and—it smelt very funny.  ‘I think it’s just gone bad,
and to-morrow will tell.’  Proved to be so.

                                * * * * *


_History of Tuesday_.—Woke at usual time, very little work, for I was
tired, and had a job for the evening—to write parts for a new instrument,
a violin.  Lunch, chat, and up to my place to practise; but there was no
practising for me—my flageolet was gone wrong, and I had to take it all
to pieces, clean it, and put it up again.  As this is a most intricate
job—the thing dissolves into seventeen separate members, most of these
have to be fitted on their individual springs as fine as needles, and
sometimes two at once with the springs shoving different ways—it took me
till two.  Then Lloyd and I rode forth on our errands; first to Motootua,
where we had a really instructive conversation on weeds and grasses.
Thence down to Apia, where we bought a fresh bottle of chlorodyne and
conversed on politics.

My visit to the King, which I thought at the time a particularly nugatory
and even schoolboy step, and only consented to because I had held the
reins so tight over my little band before, has raised a deuce of a
row—new proclamation, no one is to interview the sacred puppet without
consuls’ permission, two days’ notice, and an approved interpreter—read
(I suppose) spy.  Then back; I should have said I was trying the new
horse; a tallish piebald, bought from the circus; he proved steady and
safe, but in very bad condition, and not so much the wild Arab steed of
the desert as had been supposed.  The height of his back, after
commodious Jack, astonished me, and I had a great consciousness of
exercise and florid action, as I posted to his long, emphatic trot.  We
had to ride back easy; even so he was hot and blown; and when we set a
boy to lead him to and fro, our last character for sanity perished.  We
returned just neat for dinner; and in the evening our violinist arrived,
a young lady, no great virtuoso truly, but plucky, industrious, and a
good reader; and we played five pieces with huge amusement, and broke up
at nine.  This morning I have read a splendid piece of Montaigne, written
this page of letter, and now turn to the _Wrecker_.

_Wednesday_—November 16th or 17th—and I am ashamed to say mail day.  The
_Wrecker_ is finished, that is the best of my news; it goes by this mail
to Scribner’s; and I honestly think it a good yarn on the whole and of
its measly kind.  The part that is genuinely good is Nares, the American
sailor; that is a genuine figure; had there been more Nares it would have
been a better book; but of course it didn’t set up to be a book, only a
long tough yarn with some pictures of the manners of to-day in the
greater world—not the shoddy sham world of cities, clubs, and colleges,
but the world where men still live a man’s life.  The worst of my news is
the influenza; Apia is devastate; the shops closed, a ball put off, etc.
As yet we have not had it at Vailima, and, who knows? we may escape.
None of us go down, but of course the boys come and go.

Your letter had the most wonderful ‘I told you so’ I ever heard in the
course of my life.  Why, you madman, I wouldn’t change my present
installation for any post, dignity, honour, or advantage conceivable to
me.  It fills the bill; I have the loveliest time.  And as for wars and
rumours of wars, you surely know enough of me to be aware that I like
that also a thousand times better than decrepit peace in Middlesex?  I do
not quite like politics; I am too aristocratic, I fear, for that.  God
knows I don’t care who I chum with; perhaps like sailors best; but to go
round and sue and sneak to keep a crowd together—never.  My imagination,
which is not the least damped by the idea of having my head cut off in
the bush, recoils aghast from the idea of a life like Gladstone’s, and
the shadow of the newspaper chills me to the bone.  Hence my late
eruption was interesting, but not what I like.  All else suits me in this
(killed a mosquito) A1 abode.

About politics.  A determination was come to by the President that he had
been an idiot; emissaries came to G. and me to kiss and be friends.  My
man proposed I should have a personal interview; I said it was quite
useless, I had nothing to say; I had offered him the chance to inform me,
had pressed it on him, and had been very unpleasantly received, and now
‘Time was.’  Then it was decided that I was to be made a culprit against
Germany; the German Captain—a delightful fellow and our constant
visitor—wrote to say that as ‘a German officer’ he could not come even to
say farewell.  We all wrote back in the most friendly spirit, telling him
(politely) that some of these days he would be sorry, and we should be
delighted to see our friend again.  Since then I have seen no German

Mataafa has been proclaimed a rebel; the President did this act, and then
resigned.  By singular good fortune, Mataafa has not yet moved; no thanks
to our idiot governors.  They have shot their bolt; they have made a
rebel of the only man (_to their own knowledge_, _on the report of their
own spy_) who held the rebel party in check; and having thus called on
war to fall, they can do no more, sit equally ‘expertes’ of _vis_ and
counsel, regarding their handiwork.  It is always a cry with these folk
that he (Mataafa) had no ammunition.  I always said it would be found;
and we know of five boat-loads that have found their way to Malie
already.  Where there are traders, there will be ammunition; aphorism by
R. L. S.

Now what am I to do next?

Lives of the Stevensons?  _Historia Samoae_?  A History for Children?
Fiction?  I have had two hard months at fiction; I want a change.
Stevensons?  I am expecting some more material; perhaps better wait.
Samoa; rather tempting; might be useful to the islands—and to me; for it
will be written in admirable temper; I have never agreed with any party,
and see merits and excuses in all; should do it (if I did) very slackly
and easily, as if half in conversation.  History for Children?  This
flows from my lessons to Austin; no book is any good.  The best I have
seen is Freeman’s _Old English History_; but his style is so rasping, and
a child can learn more, if he’s clever.  I found my sketch of general
Aryan History, given in conversation, to have been practically correct—at
least what I mean is, Freeman had very much the same stuff in his early
chapters, only not so much, and I thought not so well placed; and the
child remembered some of it.  Now the difficulty is to give this general
idea of main place, growth, and movement; it is needful to tack it on a
yarn.  Now Scotch is the only History I know; it is the only history
reasonably represented in my library; it is a very good one for my
purpose, owing to two civilisations having been face to face
throughout—or rather Roman civilisation face to face with our ancient
barbaric life and government, down to yesterday, to 1750 anyway.  But the
_Tales of a Grandfather_ stand in my way; I am teaching them to Austin
now, and they have all Scott’s defects and all Scott’s hopeless merit.  I
cannot compete with that; and yet, so far as regards teaching History,
how he has missed his chances!  I think I’ll try; I really have some
historic sense, I feel that in my bones.  Then there’s another thing.
Scott never knew the Highlands; he was always a Borderer.  He has missed
that whole, long, strange, pathetic story of our savages, and, besides,
his style is not very perspicuous to childhood.  Gad, I think I’ll have a
flutter.  Buridan’s Ass!  Whether to go, what to attack.  Must go to
other letters; shall add to this, if I have time.


                                                      _Nov._ 25_th_, 1891.

MY DEAR COLVIN, MY DEAR COLVIN,—I wonder how often I’m going to write it.
In spite of the loss of three days, as I have to tell, and a lot of
weeding and cacao planting, I have finished since the mail left four
chapters, forty-eight pages of my Samoa history.  It is true that the
first three had been a good deal drafted two years ago, but they had all
to be written and re-written, and the fourth chapter is all new.  Chapter
I. Elements of Discord-Native.  II. Elements of Discord-Foreign.  III.
The Success of Laupepa.  IV. Brandeis.  V. Will probably be called ‘The
Rise of Mataafa.’  VI. _Furor Consularis_—a devil of a long chapter.
VII. Stuebel the Pacificator.  VIII. Government under the Treaty of
Berlin.  IX. Practical Suggestions.  Say three-sixths of it are done,
maybe more; by this mail five chapters should go, and that should be a
good half of it; say sixty pages.  And if you consider that I sent by
last mail the end of the _Wrecker_, coming on for seventy or eighty
pages, and the mail before that the entire Tale of the _Beach of Falesá_,
I do not think I can be accused of idleness.  This is my season; I often
work six and seven, and sometimes eight hours; and the same day I am
perhaps weeding or planting for an hour or two more—and I daresay you
know what hard work weeding is—and it all agrees with me at this time of
the year—like—like idleness, if a man of my years could be idle.

My first visit to Apia was a shock to me; every second person the ghost
of himself, and the place reeking with infection.  But I have not got the
thing yet, and hope to escape.  This shows how much stronger I am; think
of me flitting through a town of influenza patients seemingly unscathed.
We are all on the cacao planting.

The next day my wife and I rode over to the German plantation, Vailele,
whose manager is almost the only German left to speak to us.  Seventy
labourers down with influenza!  It is a lovely ride, half-way down our
mountain towards Apia, then turn to the right, ford the river, and three
miles of solitary grass and cocoa palms, to where the sea beats and the
wild wind blows unceasingly about the plantation house.  On the way down
Fanny said, ‘Now what would you do if you saw Colvin coming up?’

Next day we rode down to Apia to make calls.

Yesterday the mail came, and the fat was in the fire.

                                * * * * *

                                                            _Nov._ 29_th_?

_Book_.  All right.  I must say I like your order.  And the papers are
some of them up to dick, and no mistake.  I agree with you the lights
seem a little turned down.  The truth is, I was far through (if you
understand Scots), and came none too soon to the South Seas, where I was
to recover peace of body and mind.  No man but myself knew all my
bitterness in those days.  Remember that, the next time you think I
regret my exile.  And however low the lights are, the stuff is true, and
I believe the more effective; after all, what I wish to fight is the best
fought by a rather cheerless presentation of the truth.  The world must
return some day to the word duty, and be done with the word reward.
There are no rewards, and plenty duties.  And the sooner a man sees that
and acts upon it like a gentleman or a fine old barbarian, the better for

There is my usual puzzle about publishers.  Chatto ought to have it, as
he has all the other essays; these all belong to me, and Chatto publishes
on terms.  Longman has forgotten the terms we are on; let him look up our
first correspondence, and he will see I reserved explicitly, as was my
habit, the right to republish as I choose.  Had the same arrangement with
Henley, Magazine of Art, and with Tulloch Fraser’s.—For any necessary
note or preface, it would be a real service if you would undertake the
duty yourself.  I should love a preface by you, as short or as long as
you choose, three sentences, thirty pages, the thing I should like is
your name.  And the excuse of my great distance seems sufficient.  I
shall return with this the sheets corrected as far as I have them; the
rest I will leave, if you will, to you entirely; let it be your book, and
disclaim what you dislike in the preface.  You can say it was at my eager
prayer.  I should say I am the less willing to pass Chatto over, because
he behaved the other day in a very handsome manner.  He asked leave to
reprint _Damien_; I gave it to him as a present, explaining I could
receive no emolument for a personal attack.  And he took out my share of
profits, and sent them in my name to the Leper Fund.  I could not bear
after that to take from him any of that class of books which I have
always given him.  Tell him the same terms will do.  Clark to print,
uniform with the others.

I have lost all the days since this letter began re-handling Chapter IV.
of the Samoa racket.  I do not go in for literature; address myself to
sensible people rather than to sensitive.  And, indeed, it is a kind of
journalism, I have no right to dally; if it is to help, it must come
soon.  In two months from now it shall be done, and should be published
in the course of March.  I propose Cassell gets it.  I am going to call
it ‘A Footnote to History: Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa,’ I believe.
I recoil from serious names; they seem so much too pretentious for a
pamphlet.  It will be about the size of _Treasure Island_, I believe.  Of
course, as you now know, my case of conscience cleared itself off, and I
began my intervention directly to one of the parties.  The other, the
Chief Justice, I am to inform of my book the first occasion.  God knows
if the book will do any good—or harm; but I judge it right to try.  There
is one man’s life certainly involved; and it may be all our lives.  I
must not stand and slouch, but do my best as best I can.  But you may
conceive the difficulty of a history extending to the present week, at
least, and where almost all the actors upon all sides are of my personal
acquaintance.  The only way is to judge slowly, and write boldly, and
leave the issue to fate. . . . I am far indeed from wishing to confine
myself to creative work; that is a loss, the other repairs; the one
chance for a man, and, above all, for one who grows elderly, ahem, is to
vary drainage and repair.  That is the one thing I understand—the
cultivation of the shallow _solum_ of my brain.  But I would rather, from
soon on, be released from the obligation to write.  In five or six years
this plantation—suppose it and us still to exist—should pretty well
support us and pay wages; not before, and already the six years seem long
to me.  If literature were but a pastime!

I have interrupted myself to write the necessary notification to the
Chief Justice.

I see in looking up Longman’s letter that it was as usual the letter of
an obliging gentleman; so do not trouble him with my reminder.  I wish
all my publishers were not so nice.  And I have a fourth and a fifth
baying at my heels; but for these, of course, they must go wanting.

                                * * * * *

                                                             _Dec._ 2_nd_.

No answer from the Chief Justice, which is like him, but surely very
wrong in such a case.  The lunch bell!  I have been off work, playing
patience and weeding all morning.  Yesterday and the day before I drafted
eleven and revised nine pages of Chapter V., and the truth is, I was
extinct by lunch-time, and played patience sourly the rest of the day.
To-morrow or next day I hope to go in again and win.  Lunch 2nd Bell.

                                * * * * *

                                                _Dec._ 2_nd_, _afternoon_.

I have kept up the idleness; blew on the pipe to Belle’s piano; then had
a ride in the forest all by my nainsel; back and piped again, and now
dinner nearing.  Take up this sheet with nothing to say.  The weird
figure of Faauma is in the room washing my windows, in a black lavalava
(kilt) with a red handkerchief hanging from round her neck between her
breasts; not another stitch; her hair close cropped and oiled; when she
first came here she was an angelic little stripling, but she is now in
full flower—or half-flower—and grows buxom.  As I write, I hear her wet
cloth moving and grunting with some industry; for I had a word this day
with her husband on the matter of work and meal-time, when she is always
late.  And she has a vague reverence for Papa, as she and her enormous
husband address me when anything is wrong.  Her husband is Lafaele,
sometimes called the archangel, of whom I have writ you often.  Rest of
our household, Talolo, cook; Pulu, kitchen boy, good, steady, industrious
lads; Henry, back again from Savaii, where his love affair seems not to
have prospered, with what looks like a spear-wound in the back of his
head, of which Mr. Reticence says nothing; Simi, Manuele, and two other
labourers out-doors.  Lafaele is provost of the live-stock, whereof now,
three milk-cows, one bull-calf, one heifer, Jack, Macfarlane, the mare,
Harold, Tifaga Jack, Donald and Edinburgh—seven horses—O, and the
stallion—eight horses; five cattle; total, if my arithmetic be correct,
thirteen head of beasts; I don’t know how the pigs stand, or the ducks,
or the chickens; but we get a good many eggs, and now and again a
duckling or a chickling for the table; the pigs are more solemn, and
appear only on birthdays and sich.

                                * * * * *

                                                       _Monday_, _Dec._ 7.

On Friday morning about eleven 1500 cacao seeds arrived, and we set to
and toiled from twelve that day to six, and went to bed pretty tired.
Next day I got about an hour and a half at my History, and was at it
again by 8.10, and except an hour for lunch kept at it till four P.M.
Yesterday, I did some History in the morning, and slept most of the
afternoon; and to-day, being still averse from physical labour, and the
mail drawing nigh, drew out of the squad, and finished for press the
fifth chapter of my History; fifty-nine pages in one month; which (you
will allow me to say) is a devil of a large order; it means at least 177
pages of writing; 89,000 words! and hours going to and fro among my
notes.  However, this is the way it has to be done; the job must be done
fast, or it is of no use.  And it is a curious yarn.  Honestly, I think
people should be amused and convinced, if they could be at the pains to
look at such a damned outlandish piece of machinery, which of course they
won’t.  And much I care.

When I was filling baskets all Saturday, in my dull mulish way, perhaps
the slowest worker there, surely the most particular, and the only one
that never looked up or knocked off, I could not but think I should have
been sent on exhibition as an example to young literary men.  Here is how
to learn to write, might be the motto.  You should have seen us; the
verandah was like an Irish bog; our hands and faces were bedaubed with
soil; and Faauma was supposed to have struck the right note when she
remarked (_à propos_ of nothing), ‘Too much _eleele_ (soil) for me!’  The
cacao (you must understand) has to be planted at first in baskets of
plaited cocoa-leaf.  From four to ten natives were plaiting these in the
wood-shed.  Four boys were digging up soil and bringing it by the boxful
to the verandah.  Lloyd and I and Belle, and sometimes S. (who came to
bear a hand), were filling the baskets, removing stones and lumps of
clay; Austin and Faauma carried them when full to Fanny, who planted a
seed in each, and then set them, packed close, in the corners of the
verandah.  From twelve on Friday till five P.M. on Saturday we planted
the first 1500, and more than 700 of a second lot.  You cannot dream how
filthy we were, and we were all properly tired.  They are all at it again
to-day, bar Belle and me, not required, and glad to be out of it.  The
Chief Justice has not yet replied, and I have news that he received my
letter.  What a man!

I have gone crazy over Bourget’s _Sensations d’Italie_; hence the
enclosed dedications, a mere cry of gratitude for the best fun I’ve had
over a new book this ever so!

   [Picture: Photograph of Robert Louis Stevenson on his horse ‘Jack’]


                                                   _Tuesday_, _Dec._ 1891.

SIR,—I have the honour to report further explorations of the course of
the river Vaea, with accompanying sketch plan.  The party under my
command consisted of one horse, and was extremely insubordinate and
mutinous, owing to not being used to go into the bush, and being
half-broken anyway—and that the wrong half.  The route indicated for my
party was up the bed of the so-called river Vaea, which I accordingly
followed to a distance of perhaps two or three furlongs eastward from the
house of Vailima, where the stream being quite dry, the bush thick, and
the ground very difficult, I decided to leave the main body of the force
under my command tied to a tree, and push on myself with the point of the
advance guard, consisting of one man.  The valley had become very narrow
and airless; foliage close shut above; dry bed of the stream much
excavated, so that I passed under fallen trees without stooping.
Suddenly it turned sharply to the north, at right angles to its former
direction; I heard living water, and came in view of a tall face of rock
and the stream spraying down it; it might have been climbed, but it would
have been dangerous, and I had to make my way up the steep earth banks,
where there is nowhere any footing for man, only fallen trees, which made
the rounds of my ladder.  I was near the top of this climb, which was
very hot and steep, and the pulses were buzzing all over my body, when I
made sure there was one external sound in my ears, and paused to listen.
No mistake; a sound of a mill-wheel thundering, I thought, close by, yet
below me, a huge mill-wheel, yet not going steadily, but with a
_schottische_ movement, and at each fresh impetus shaking the mountain.
There, where I was, I just put down the sound to the mystery of the bush;
where no sound now surprises me—and any sound alarms; I only thought it
would give Jack a fine fright, down where he stood tied to a tree by
himself, and he was badly enough scared when I left him.  The good folks
at home identified it; it was a sharp earthquake.

                              [Picture: Map]

At the top of the climb I made my way again to the water-course; it is
here running steady and pretty full; strange these intermittencies—and
just a little below the main stream is quite dry, and all the original
brook has gone down some lava gallery of the mountain—and just a little
further below, it begins picking up from the left hand in little boggy
tributaries, and in the inside of a hundred yards has grown a brook
again.  The general course of the brook was, I guess, S.E.; the valley
still very deep and whelmed in wood.  It seemed a swindle to have made so
sheer a climb and still find yourself at the bottom of a well.  But
gradually the thing seemed to shallow, the trees to seem poorer and
smaller; I could see more and more of the silver sprinkles of sky among
the foliage, instead of the sombre piling up of tree behind tree.  And
here I had two scares—first, away up on my right hand I heard a bull low;
I think it was a bull from the quality of the low, which was singularly
songful and beautiful; the bulls belong to me, but how did I know that
the bull was aware of that? and my advance guard not being at all
properly armed, we advanced with great precaution until I was satisfied
that I was passing eastward of the enemy.  It was during this period that
a pool of the river suddenly boiled up in my face in a little fountain.
It was in a very dreary, marshy part among dilapidated trees that you see
through holes in the trunks of; and if any kind of beast or elf or devil
had come out of that sudden silver ebullition, I declare I do not think I
should have been surprised.  It was perhaps a thing as curious—a fish,
with which these head waters of the stream are alive.  They are some of
them as long as my finger, should be easily caught in these shallows, and
some day I’ll have a dish of them.

Very soon after I came to where the stream collects in another banana
swamp, with the bananas bearing well.  Beyond, the course is again quite
dry; it mounts with a sharp turn a very steep face of the mountain, and
then stops abruptly at the lip of a plateau, I suppose the top of Vaea
mountain: plainly no more springs here—there was no smallest furrow of a
watercourse beyond—and my task might be said to be accomplished.  But
such is the animated spirit in the service that the whole advance guard
expressed a sentiment of disappointment that an exploration, so far
successfully conducted, should come to a stop in the most promising view
of fresh successes.  And though unprovided either with compass or
cutlass, it was determined to push some way along the plateau, marking
our direction by the laborious process of bending down, sitting upon, and
thus breaking the wild cocoanut trees.  This was the less regretted by
all from a delightful discovery made of a huge banyan growing here in the
bush, with flying-buttressed flying buttresses, and huge arcs of trunk
hanging high overhead and trailing down new complications of root.  I
climbed some way up what seemed the original beginning; it was easier to
climb than a ship’s rigging, even rattled; everywhere there was foot-hold
and hand-hold.  It was judged wise to return and rally the main body, who
had now been left alone for perhaps forty minutes in the bush.

The return was effected in good order, but unhappily I only arrived (like
so many other explorers) to find my main body or rear-guard in a
condition of mutiny; the work, it is to be supposed, of terror.  It is
right I should tell you the Vaea has a bad name, an _aitu fafine_—female
devil of the woods—succubus—haunting it, and doubtless Jack had heard of
her; perhaps, during my absence, saw her; lucky Jack!  Anyway, he was
neither to hold nor to bind, and finally, after nearly smashing me by
accident, and from mere scare and insubordination several times,
deliberately set in to kill me; but poor Jack! the tree he selected for
that purpose was a banana!  I jumped off and gave him the heavy end of my
whip over the buttocks!  Then I took and talked in his ear in various
voices; you should have heard my alto—it was a dreadful, devilish note—I
_knew_ Jack _knew_ it was an _aitu_.  Then I mounted him again, and he
carried me fairly steadily.  He’ll learn yet.  He has to learn to trust
absolutely to his rider; till he does, the risk is always great in thick
bush, where a fellow must try different passages, and put back and
forward, and pick his way by hair’s-breadths.

The expedition returned to Vailima in time to receive the visit of the R.
C. Bishop.  He is a superior man, much above the average of priests.

                                * * * * *


Yesterday the same expedition set forth to the southward by what is known
as Carruthers’ Road.  At a fallen tree which completely blocks the way,
the main body was as before left behind, and the advance guard of one now
proceeded with the exploration.  At the great tree known as _Mepi Tree_,
after Maben the surveyor, the expedition struck forty yards due west till
it struck the top of a steep bank which it descended.  The whole bottom
of the ravine is filled with sharp lava blocks quite unrolled and very
difficult and dangerous to walk among; no water in the course, scarce any
sign of water.  And yet surely water must have made this bold cutting in
the plateau.  And if so, why is the lava sharp?  My science gave out; but
I could not but think it ominous and volcanic.  The course of the stream
was tortuous, but with a resultant direction a little by west of north;
the sides the whole way exceeding steep, the expedition buried under
fathoms of foliage.  Presently water appeared in the bottom, a good
quantity; perhaps thirty or forty cubic feet, with pools and waterfalls.
A tree that stands all along the banks here must be very fond of water;
its roots lie close-packed down the stream, like hanks of guts, so as to
make often a corrugated walk, each root ending in a blunt tuft of
filaments, plainly to drink water.  Twice there came in small tributaries
from the left or western side—the whole plateau having a smartish
inclination to the east; one of the tributaries in a handsome little web
of silver hanging in the forest.  Twice I was startled by birds; one that
barked like a dog; another that whistled loud ploughman’s signals, so
that I vow I was thrilled, and thought I had fallen among runaway blacks,
and regretted my cutlass which I had lost and left behind while taking
bearings.  A good many fishes in the brook, and many cray-fish; one of
the last with a queer glow-worm head.  Like all our brooks, the water is
pure as air, and runs over red stones like rubies.  The foliage along
both banks very thick and high, the place close, the walking exceedingly
laborious.  By the time the expedition reached the fork, it was felt
exceedingly questionable whether the _moral_ of the force were
sufficiently good to undertake more extended operations.  A halt was
called, the men refreshed with water and a bath, and it was decided at a
drumhead council of war to continue the descent of the Embassy Water
straight for Vailima, whither the expedition returned, in rather poor
condition, and wet to the waist, about 4. P.M.

Thus in two days the two main watercourses of this country have been
pretty thoroughly explored, and I conceive my instructions fully carried
out.  The main body of the second expedition was brought back by another
officer despatched for that purpose from Vailima.  Casualties: one horse
wounded; one man bruised; no deaths—as yet, but the bruised man feels
to-day as if his case was mighty serious.

                                * * * * *

                                                           _Dec._ 25, ’91.

Your note with a very despicable bulletin of health arrived only
yesterday, the mail being a day behind.  It contained also the excellent
_Times_ article, which was a sight for sore eyes.  I am still _taboo_;
the blessed Germans will have none of me; and I only hope they may enjoy
the _Times_ article.  ’Tis my revenge!  I wish you had sent the letter
too, as I have no copy, and do not even know what I wrote the last day,
with a bad headache, and the mail going out.  However, it must have been
about right, for the _Times_ article was in the spirit I wished to
arouse.  I hope we can get rid of the man before it is too late.  He has
set the natives to war; but the natives, by God’s blessing, do not want
to fight, and I think it will fizzle out—no thanks to the man who tried
to start it.  But I did not mean to drift into these politics; rather to
tell you what I have done since I last wrote.

Well, I worked away at my History for a while, and only got one chapter
done; no doubt this spate of work is pretty low now, and will be soon
dry; but, God bless you, what a lot I have accomplished; _Wrecker_ done,
_Beach of Falesá_ done, half the _History_: _c’est étonnant_.  (I hear
from Burlingame, by the way, that he likes the end of the _Wrecker_; ’tis
certainly a violent, dark yarn with interesting, plain turns of human
nature), then Lloyd and I went down to live in Haggard’s rooms, where
Fanny presently joined us.  Haggard’s rooms are in a strange old
building—old for Samoa, and has the effect of the antique like some
strange monastery; I would tell you more of it, but I think I’m going to
use it in a tale.  The annexe close by had its door sealed; poor Dowdney
lost at sea in a schooner.  The place is haunted.  The vast empty sheds,
the empty store, the airless, hot, long, low rooms, the claps of wind
that set everything flying—a strange uncanny house to spend Christmas in.

                                * * * * *

                                                        _Jan._ 1_st_, ’92.

For a day or two I have sat close and wrought hard at the _History_, and
two more chapters are all but done.  About thirty pages should go by this
mail, which is not what should be, but all I could overtake.  Will any
one ever read it?  I fancy not; people don’t read history for reading,
but for education and display—and who desires education in the history of
Samoa, with no population, no past, no future, or the exploits of
Mataafa, Malietoa, and Consul Knappe?  Colkitto and Galasp are a trifle
to it.  Well, it can’t be helped, and it must be done, and, better or
worse, it’s capital fun.  There are two to whom I have not been
kind—German Consul Becker and English Captain Hand, R.N.

On Dec. 30th I rode down with Belle to go to (if you please) the Fancy
Ball.  When I got to the beach, I found the barometer was below 29°, the
wind still in the east and steady, but a huge offensive continent of
clouds and vapours forming to leeward.  It might be a hurricane; I dared
not risk getting caught away from my work, and, leaving Belle, returned
at once to Vailima.  Next day—yesterday—it was a tearer; we had storm
shutters up; I sat in my room and wrote by lamplight—ten pages, if you
please, seven of them draft, and some of these compiled from as many as
seven different and conflicting authorities, so that was a brave day’s
work.  About two a huge tree fell within sixty paces of our house; a
little after, a second went; and we sent out boys with axes and cut down
a third, which was too near the house, and buckling like a fishing rod.
At dinner we had the front door closed and shuttered, the back door open,
the lamp lit.  The boys in the cook-house were all out at the cook-house
door, where we could see them looking in and smiling.  Lauilo and Faauma
waited on us with smiles.  The excitement was delightful.  Some very
violent squalls came as we sat there, and every one rejoiced; it was
impossible to help it; a soul of putty had to sing.  All night it blew;
the roof was continually sounding under missiles; in the morning the
verandahs were half full of branches torn from the forest.  There was a
last very wild squall about six; the rain, like a thick white smoke,
flying past the house in volleys, and as swift, it seemed, as rifle
balls; all with a strange, strident hiss, such as I have only heard
before at sea, and, indeed, thought to be a marine phenomenon.  Since
then the wind has been falling with a few squalls, mostly rain.  But our
road is impassable for horses; we hear a schooner has been wrecked and
some native houses blown down in Apia, where Belle is still and must
remain a prisoner.  Lucky I returned while I could!  But the great good
is this; much bread-fruit and bananas have been destroyed; if this be
general through the islands, famine will be imminent; and _whoever blows
the coals_, _there can be no war_.  Do I then prefer a famine to a war?
you ask.  Not always, but just now.  I am sure the natives do not want a
war; I am sure a war would benefit no one but the white officials, and I
believe we can easily meet the famine—or at least that it can be met.
That would give our officials a legitimate opportunity to cover their
past errors.

                                * * * * *

                                                             _Jan._ 2_nd_.

I woke this morning to find the blow quite ended.  The heaven was all a
mottled gray; even the east quite colourless; the downward slope of the
island veiled in wafts of vapour, blue like smoke; not a leaf stirred on
the tallest tree; only, three miles away below me on the barrier reef, I
could see the individual breakers curl and fall, and hear their conjunct
roaring rise, as it still rises at 1 P.M., like the roar of a
thoroughfare close by.  I did a good morning’s work, correcting and
clarifying my draft, and have now finished for press eight chapters,
ninety-one pages, of this piece of journalism.  Four more chapters, say
fifty pages, remain to be done; I should gain my wager and finish this
volume in three months, that is to say, the end should leave me per
February mail; I cannot receive it back till the mail of April.  Yes, it
can be out in time; pray God that it be in time to help.

How do journalists fetch up their drivel?  I aim only at clearness and
the most obvious finish, positively at no higher degree of merit, not
even at brevity—I am sure it could have been all done, with double the
time, in two-thirds of the space.  And yet it has taken me two months to
write 45,500 words; and, be damned to my wicked prowess, I am proud of
the exploit!  The real journalist must be a man not of brass only, but
bronze.  Chapter IX. gapes for me, but I shrink on the margin, and go on
chattering to you.  This last part will be much less offensive (strange
to say) to the Germans.  It is Becker they will never forgive me for;
Knappe I pity and do not dislike; Becker I scorn and abominate.  Here is
the tableau.  I. Elements of Discord: Native.  II. Elements of Discord:
Foreign.   III. The Sorrows of Laupepa.  IV. Brandeis.  V. The Battle of
Matautu.  VI. Last Exploits of Becker.  VII. The Samoan Camps.  VIII.
Affairs of Lautii and Fangalii.  IX. ‘_Furor Consularis_.’  X. The
Hurricane.  XI. Stuebel Recluse.  XII. The Present Government.  I
estimate the whole roughly at 70,000 words.  Should anybody ever dream of
reading it, it would be found amusing. 70000/300=233 printed pages; a
respectable little five-bob volume, to bloom unread in shop windows.
After that, I’ll have a spank at fiction.  And rest?  I shall rest in the
grave, or when I come to Italy.  If only the public will continue to
support me!  I lost my chance not dying; there seems blooming little fear
of it now.  I worked close on five hours this morning; the day before,
close on nine; and unless I finish myself off with this letter, I’ll have
another hour and a half, or _aiblins twa_, before dinner.  Poor man, how
you must envy me, as you hear of these orgies of work, and you scarce
able for a letter.  But Lord, Colvin, how lucky the situations are not
reversed, for I have no situation, nor am fit for any.  Life is a steigh
brae.  Here, have at Knappe, and no more clavers!

                                * * * * *


There was never any man had so many irons in the fire, except Jim
Pinkerton.  I forgot to mention I have the most gallant suggestion from
Lang, with an offer of MS. authorities, which turns my brain.  It’s all
about the throne of Poland and buried treasure in the Mackay country, and
Alan Breck can figure there in glory.

Yesterday, J. and I set off to Blacklock’s (American Consul) who lives
not far from that little village I have so often mentioned as lying
between us and Apia.  I had some questions to ask him for my History;
thence we must proceed to Vailele, where I had also to cross-examine the
plantation manager about the battle there.  We went by a track I had
never before followed down the hill to Vaisigano, which flows here in a
deep valley, and was unusually full, so that the horses trembled in the
ford.  The whole bottom of the valley is full of various streams posting
between strips of forest with a brave sound of waters.  In one place we
had a glimpse of a fall some way higher up, and then sparkling in
sunlight in the midst of the green valley.  Then up by a winding path
scarce accessible to a horse for steepness, to the other side, and the
open cocoanut glades of the plantation.  Here we rode fast, did a mighty
satisfactory afternoon’s work at the plantation house, and still faster
back.  On the return Jack fell with me, but got up again; when I felt him
recovering I gave him his head, and he shoved his foot through the rein;
I got him by the bit however, and all was well; he had mud over all his
face, but his knees were not broken.  We were scarce home when the rain
began again; that was luck.  It is pouring now in torrents; we are in the
height of the bad season.  Lloyd leaves along with this letter on a
change to San Francisco; he had much need of it, but I think this will
brace him up.  I am, as you see, a tower of strength.  I can remember
riding not so far and not near so fast when I first came to Samoa, and
being shattered next day with fatigue; now I could not tell I have done
anything; have re-handled my battle of Fangalii according to yesterday’s
information—four pages rewritten; and written already some half-dozen
pages of letters.

I observe with disgust that while of yore, when I own I was guilty, you
never spared me abuse, but now, when I am so virtuous, where is the
praise?  Do admit that I have become an excellent letter-writer—at least
to you, and that your ingratitude is imbecile.—Yours ever,

                                                                  R. L. S.


                                                       _Jan._ 31_st_, ’92.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—No letter at all from you, and this scratch from me!
Here is a year that opens ill.  Lloyd is off to ‘the coast’ sick—_the
coast_ means California over most of the Pacific—I have been down all
month with influenza, and am just recovering—I am overlaid with proofs,
which I am just about half fit to attend to.  One of my horses died this
morning, and another is now dying on the front lawn—Lloyd’s horse and
Fanny’s.  Such is my quarrel with destiny.  But I am mending famously,
come and go on the balcony, have perfectly good nights, and though I
still cough, have no oppression and no hemorrhage and no fever.  So if I
can find time and courage to add no more, you will know my news is not
altogether of the worst; a year or two ago, and what a state I should
have been in now!  Your silence, I own, rather alarms me.  But I tell
myself you have just miscarried; had you been too ill to write, some one
would have written me.  Understand, I send this brief scratch not because
I am unfit to write more, but because I have 58 galleys of the _Wrecker_
and 102 of the _Beach of Falesá_ to get overhauled somehow or other in
time for the mail, and for three weeks I have not touched a pen with my

                                * * * * *

                                                             _Feb._ 1_st_.

The second horse is still alive, but I still think dying.  The first was
buried this morning.  My proofs are done; it was a rough two days of it,
but done.  _Consummatum est_; _na uma_.  I believe the _Wrecker_ ends
well; if I know what a good yarn is, the last four chapters make a good
yarn—but pretty horrible.  _The Beach of Falesá_ I still think well of,
but it seems it’s immoral and there’s a to-do, and financially it may
prove a heavy disappointment.  The plaintive request sent to me, to make
the young folks married properly before ‘that night,’ I refused; you will
see what would be left of the yarn, had I consented.  This is a poison
bad world for the romancer, this Anglo-Saxon world; I usually get out of
it by not having any women in it at all; but when I remember I had the
_Treasure of Franchard_ refused as unfit for a family magazine, I feel
despair weigh upon my wrists.

As I know you are always interested in novels, I must tell you that a new
one is now entirely planned.  It is to be called _Sophia Scarlet_, and is
in two parts.  Part I. The Vanilla Planter.  Part II. The Overseers.  No
chapters, I think; just two dense blocks of narrative, the first of which
is purely sentimental, but the second has some rows and quarrels, and
winds up with an explosion, if you please!  I am just burning to get at
Sophia, but I _must_ do this Samoan journalism—that’s a cursed duty.  The
first part of Sophia, bar the first twenty or thirty pages, writes
itself; the second is more difficult, involving a good many
characters—about ten, I think—who have to be kept all moving, and give
the effect of a society.  I have three women to handle, out and
well-away! but only Sophia is in full tone.  Sophia and two men,
Windermere, the Vanilla Planter, who dies at the end of Part I., and
Rainsforth, who only appears in the beginning of Part II.  The fact is, I
blush to own it, but Sophia is a _regular novel_; heroine and hero, and
false accusation, and love, and marriage, and all the rest of it—all
planted in a big South Sea plantation run by ex-English officers—_à la_
Stewart’s plantation in Tahiti.  There is a strong undercurrent of labour
trade, which gives it a kind of Uncle Tom flavour, _absit omen_!  The
first start is hard; it is hard to avoid a little tedium here, but I
think by beginning with the arrival of the three Miss Scarlets hot from
school and society in England, I may manage to slide in the information.
The problem is exactly a Balzac one, and I wish I had his fist—for I have
already a better method—the kinetic, whereas he continually allowed
himself to be led into the static.  But then he had the fist, and the
most I can hope is to get out of it with a modicum of grace and energy,
but for sure without the strong impression, the full, dark brush.  Three
people have had it, the real creator’s brush: Scott, see much of _The
Antiquary_ and _The Heart of Midlothian_ (especially all round the trial,
before, during, and after)—Balzac—and Thackeray in _Vanity Fair_.
Everybody else either paints _thin_, or has to stop to paint, or paints
excitedly, so that you see the author skipping before his canvas.  Here
is a long way from poor Sophia Scarlet!

                          This day is published

                             _Sophia Scarlet_


                         ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.


                                                              _Feb._ 1892.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—This has been a busyish month for a sick man.  First,
Faauma—the bronze candlestick, whom otherwise I called my butler—bolted
from the bed and bosom of Lafaele, the Archangel Hercules, prefect of the
cattle.  There was the deuce to pay, and Hercules was inconsolable, and
immediately started out after a new wife, and has had one up on a visit,
but says she has ‘no conversation’; and I think he will take back the
erring and possibly repentant candlestick; whom we all devoutly prefer,
as she is not only highly decorative, but good-natured, and if she does
little work makes no rows.  I tell this lightly, but it really was a
heavy business; many were accused of complicity, and Rafael was really
very sorry.  I had to hold beds of justice—literally—seated in my bed and
surrounded by lying Samoans seated on the floor; and there were many
picturesque and still inexplicable passages.  It is hard to reach the
truth in these islands.

The next incident overlapped with this.  S. and Fanny found three strange
horses in the paddock: for long now the boys have been forbidden to leave
their horses here one hour because our grass is over-grazed.  S. came up
with the news, and I saw I must now strike a blow.  ‘To the pound with
the lot,’ said I.  He proposed taking the three himself, but I thought
that too dangerous an experiment, said I should go too, and hurried into
my boots so as to show decision taken, in the necessary interviews.  They
came of course—the interviews—and I explained what I was going to do at
huge length, and stuck to my guns.  I am glad to say the natives, with
their usual (purely speculative) sense of justice highly approved the
step after reflection.  Meanwhile off went S. and I with the three
_corpora delicti_; and a good job I went!  Once, when our circus began to
kick, we thought all was up; but we got them down all sound in wind and
limb.  I judged I was much fallen off from my Elliott forefathers, who
managed this class of business with neatness and despatch.  Half-way down
it came on to rain tropic style, and I came back from my outing drenched
liked a drowned man—I was literally blinded as I came back among these
sheets of water; and the consequence was I was laid down with diarrhoea
and threatenings of Samoa colic for the inside of another week.

I have a confession to make.  When I was sick I tried to get to work to
finish that Samoa thing, wouldn’t go; and at last, in the colic time, I
slid off into _David Balfour_, some 50 pages of which are drafted, and
like me well.  Really I think it is spirited; and there’s a heroine that
(up to now) seems to have attractions: _absit omen_!  David, on the
whole, seems excellent.  Alan does not come in till the tenth chapter,
and I am only at the eighth, so I don’t know if I can find him again; but
David is on his feet, and doing well, and very much in love, and mixed up
with the Lord Advocate and the (untitled) Lord Lovat, and all manner of
great folk.  And the tale interferes with my eating and sleeping.  The
join is bad; I have not thought to strain too much for continuity; so
this part be alive, I shall be content.  But there’s no doubt David seems
to have changed his style, de’il ha’e him!  And much I care, if the tale

                                * * * * *

                                               _Friday_, _Feb._ ?? 19_th_?

Two incidents to-day which I must narrate.  After lunch, it was raining
pitilessly; we were sitting in my mother’s bedroom, and I was reading
aloud Kinglake’s Charge of the Light Brigade, and we had just been all
seized by the horses aligning with Lord George Paget, when a figure
appeared on the verandah; a little, slim, small figure of a lad, with
blond (_i.e._ limed) hair, a propitiatory smile, and a nose that alone of
all his features grew pale with anxiety.  ‘I come here stop,’ was about
the outside of his English; and I began at once to guess that he was a
runaway labourer, and that the bush-knife in his hand was stolen.  It
proved he had a mate, who had lacked his courage, and was hidden down the
road; they had both made up their minds to run away, and had ‘come here
stop.’  I could not turn out the poor rogues, one of whom showed me marks
on his back, into the drenching forest; I could not reason with them, for
they had not enough English, and not one of our boys spoke their tongue;
so I bade them feed and sleep here to-night, and to-morrow I must do what
the Lord shall bid me.

Near dinner time, I was told that a friend of Lafaele’s had found human
remains in my bush.  After dinner, a figure was seen skulking across
towards the waterfall, which produced from the verandah a shout, in my
most stentorian tones: ‘_O ai le ingoa_?’ literally ‘Who the name?’ which
serves here for ‘What’s your business?’ as well.  It proved to be
Lafaele’s friend; I bade a kitchen boy, Lauilo, go with him to see the
spot, for though it had ceased raining, the whole island ran and dripped.
Lauilo was willing enough, but the friend of the archangel demurred; he
had too much business; he had no time.  ‘All right,’ I said, ‘you too
much frightened, I go along,’ which of course produced the usual shout of
delight from all those who did not require to go.  I got into my Saranac
snow boots.  Lauilo got a cutlass; Mary Carter, our Sydney maid, joined
the party for a lark, and off we set.  I tell you our guide kept us
moving; for the dusk fell swift.  Our woods have an infamous reputation
at the best, and our errand (to say the least of it) was grisly.  At last
they found the remains; they were old, which was all I cared to be sure
of; it seemed a strangely small ‘pickle-banes’ to stand for a big,
flourishing, buck-islander, and their situation in the darkening and
dripping bush was melancholy.  All at once, I found there was a second
skull, with a bullet-hole I could have stuck my two thumbs in—say anybody
else’s one thumb.  My Samoans said it could not be, there were not enough
bones; I put the two pieces of skull together, and at last convinced
them.  Whereupon, in a flash, they found the not unromantic explanation.
This poor brave had succeeded in the height of a Samoan warriors
ambition; he had taken a head, which he was never destined to show to his
applauding camp.  Wounded himself, he had crept here into the bush to die
with his useless trophy by his side.  His date would be about fifteen
years ago, in the great battle between Laupepa and Talavou, which took
place on My Land, Sir.  To-morrow we shall bury the bones and fire a
salute in honour of unfortunate courage.

Do you think I have an empty life? or that a man jogging to his club has
so much to interest and amuse him?—touch and try him too, but that goes
along with the others: no pain, no pleasure, is the iron law.  So here I
stop again, and leave, as I left yesterday, my political business
untouched.  And lo! here comes my pupil, I believe, so I stop in time.

                                * * * * *

                                                            _March_ 2_nd_.

Since I last wrote, fifteen chapters of _David Balfour_ have been
drafted, and five _tirés au clair_.  I think it pretty good; there’s a
blooming maiden that costs anxiety—she is as virginal as billy; but David
seems there and alive, and the Lord Advocate is good, and so I think is
an episodic appearance of the Master of Lovat.  In Chapter XVII. I shall
get David abroad—Alan went already in Chapter XII.  The book should be
about the length of _Kidnapped_; this early part of it, about D.’s
evidence in the Appin case, is more of a story than anything in
_Kidnapped_, but there is no doubt there comes a break in the middle, and
the tale is practically in two divisions.  In the first James More and
the M’Gregors, and Catriona, only show; in the second, the Appin case
being disposed of, and James Stewart hung, they rule the roast and usurp
the interest—should there be any left.  Why did I take up _David
Balfour_?  I don’t know.  A sudden passion.

Monday, I went down in the rain with a colic to take the chair at a
public meeting; dined with Haggard; sailed off to my meeting, and fought
with wild beasts for three anxious hours.  All was lost that any sensible
man cared for, but the meeting did not break up—thanks a good deal to R.
L. S.—and the man who opposed my election, and with whom I was all the
time wrangling, proposed the vote of thanks to me with a certain
handsomeness; I assure you I had earned it . . .  Haggard and the great
Abdul, his high-caste Indian servant, imported by my wife, were sitting
up for me with supper, and I suppose it was twelve before I got to bed.
Tuesday raining, my mother rode down, and we went to the Consulate to
sign a Factory and Commission.  Thence, I to the lawyers, to the printing
office, and to the Mission.  It was dinner time when I returned home.

This morning, our cook-boy having suddenly left—injured feelings—the
archangel was to cook breakfast.  I found him lighting the fire before
dawn; his eyes blazed, he had no word of any language left to use, and I
saw in him (to my wonder) the strongest workings of gratified ambition.
Napoleon was no more pleased to sign his first treaty with Austria than
was Lafaele to cook that breakfast.  All morning, when I had hoped to be
at this letter, I slept like one drugged and you must take this (which is
all I can give you) for what it is worth—


  _Memoirs of his Adventures at Home and Abroad_.  _The Second Part_;
  _wherein are set forth the misfortunes in which he was involved upon
  the Appin Murder_; _his troubles with Lord Advocate Prestongrange_;
  _captivity on the Bass Rock_; _journey into France and Holland_; _and
  singular relations with James More Drummond or Macgregor_, _a son of
  the notorious Rob Roy_.

Chapters.—I. A Beggar on Horseback.  II. The Highland Writer.  III. I go
to Pilrig.  IV. Lord Advocate Prestongrange.  V. Butter and Thunder.  VI.
I make a fault in honour.  VII. The Bravo.  VIII. The Heather on Fire.
IX. I begin to be haunted with a red-headed man.  X. The Wood by
Silvermills.  XI. On the march again with Alan.  XII. Gillane Sands.
XIII. The Bass Rock.  XIV. Black Andie’s Tale of Tod Lapraik.  XV. I go
to Inveraray.

That is it, as far as drafted.  Chapters IV. V. VII. IX. and XIV. I am
specially pleased with; the last being an episodical bogie story about
the Bass Rock told there by the Keeper.


                                                            _March_ 9_th_.

MY DEAR S. C.,—Take it not amiss if this is a wretched letter.  I am
eaten up with business.  Every day this week I have had some business
impediment—I am even now waiting a deputation of chiefs about the
road—and my precious morning was shattered by a polite old scourge of a
_faipule_—parliament man—come begging.  All the time _David Balfour_ is
skelping along.  I began it the 13th of last month; I have now 12
chapters, 79 pages ready for press, or within an ace, and, by the time
the month is out, one-half should be completed, and I’ll be back at
drafting the second half.  What makes me sick is to think of Scott
turning out _Guy Mannering_ in three weeks!  What a pull of work:
heavens, what thews and sinews!  And here am I, my head spinning from
having only re-written seven not very difficult pages—and not very good
when done.  Weakling generation.  It makes me sick of myself, to make
such a fash and bobbery over a rotten end of an old nursery yarn, not
worth spitting on when done.  Still, there is no doubt I turn out my work
more easily than of yore, and I suppose I should be singly glad of that.
And if I got my book done in six weeks, seeing it will be about half as
long as a Scott, and I have to write everything twice, it would be about
the same rate of industry.  It is my fair intention to be done with it in
three months, which would make me about one-half the man Sir Walter was
for application and driving the dull pen.  Of the merit we shall not
talk; but I don’t think Davie is _without_ merit.

                                * * * * *

                                                           _March_ 12_th_.

And I have this day triumphantly finished 15 chapters, 100 pages—being
exactly one-half (as near as anybody can guess) of _David Balfour_; the
book to be about a fifth as long again (altogether) as _Treasure Island_:
could I but do the second half in another month!  But I can’t, I fear; I
shall have some belated material arriving by next mail, and must go again
at the History.  Is it not characteristic of my broken tenacity of mind,
that I should have left Davie Balfour some five years in the British
Linen Company’s Office, and then follow him at last with such vivacity?
But I leave you again; the last (15th) chapter ought to be re-wrote, or
part of it, and I want the half completed in the month, and the month is
out by midnight; though, to be sure, last month was February, and I might
take grace.  These notes are only to show I hold you in mind, though I
know they can have no interest for man or God or animal.

I should have told you about the Club.  We have been asked to try and
start a sort of weekly ball for the half-castes and natives, ourselves to
be the only whites; and we consented, from a very heavy sense of duty,
and with not much hope.  Two nights ago we had twenty people up, received
them in the front verandah, entertained them on cake and lemonade, and I
made a speech—embodying our proposals, or conditions, if you like—for I
suppose thirty minutes.  No joke to speak to such an audience, but it is
believed I was thoroughly intelligible.  I took the plan of saying
everything at least twice in a different form of words, so that if the
one escaped my hearers, the other might be seized.  One white man came
with his wife, and was kept rigorously on the front verandah below!  You
see what a sea of troubles this is like to prove; but it is the only
chance—and when it blows up, it must blow up!  I have no more hope in
anything than a dead frog; I go into everything with a composed despair,
and don’t mind—just as I always go to sea with the conviction I am to be
drowned, and like it before all other pleasures.  But you should have
seen the return voyage, when nineteen horses had to be found in the dark,
and nineteen bridles, all in a drench of rain, and the club, just
constituted as such, sailed away in the wet, under a cloudy moon like a
bad shilling, and to descend a road through the forest that was at that
moment the image of a respectable mountain brook.  My wife, who is
president _with power to expel_, had to begin her functions. . . .

                                * * * * *

                                                           25_th_ _March_.

Heaven knows what day it is, but I am ashamed, all the more as your
letter from Bournemouth of all places—poor old Bournemouth!—is to hand,
and contains a statement of pleasure in my letters which I wish I could
have rewarded with a long one.  What has gone on?  A vast of affairs, of
a mingled, strenuous, inconclusive, desultory character; much waste of
time, much riding to and fro, and little transacted or at least peracted.

Let me give you a review of the present state of our live stock.—Six boys
in the bush; six souls about the house.  Talolo, the cook, returns again
to-day, after an absence which has cost me about twelve hours of riding,
and I suppose eight hours’ solemn sitting in council.  ‘I am sorry indeed
for the Chief Justice of Samoa,’ I said; ‘it is more than I am fit for to
be Chief Justice of Vailima.’—Lauilo is steward.  Both these are
excellent servants; we gave a luncheon party when we buried the Samoan
bones, and I assure you all was in good style, yet we never interfered.
The food was good, the wine and dishes went round as by
mechanism.—Steward’s assistant and washman Arrick, a New Hebridee black
boy, hired from the German firm; not so ugly as most, but not pretty
neither; not so dull as his sort are, but not quite a Crichton.  When he
came first, he ate so much of our good food that he got a prominent
belly.  Kitchen assistant, Tomas (Thomas in English), a Fiji man, very
tall and handsome, moving like a marionette with sudden bounds, and
rolling his eyes with sudden effort.—Washerwoman and precentor, Helen,
Tomas’s wife.  This is our weak point; we are ashamed of Helen; the
cook-house blushes for her; they murmur there at her presence.  She seems
all right; she is not a bad-looking, strapping wench, seems chaste, is
industrious, has an excellent taste in hymns—you should have heard her
read one aloud the other day, she marked the rhythm with so much
gloating, dissenter sentiment.  What is wrong, then? says you.  Low in
your ear—and don’t let the papers get hold of it—she is of no family.
None, they say; literally a common woman.  Of course, we have
out-islanders, who _may_ be villeins; but we give them the benefit of the
doubt, which is impossible with Helen of Vailima; our blot, our pitted
speck.  The pitted speck I have said is our precentor.  It is always a
woman who starts Samoan song; the men who sing second do not enter for a
bar or two.  Poor, dear Faauma, the unchaste, the extruded Eve of our
Paradise, knew only two hymns; but Helen seems to know the whole
repertory, and the morning prayers go far more lively in
consequence.—Lafaele, provost of the cattle.  The cattle are Jack, my
horse, quite converted, my wife rides him now, and he is as steady as a
doctor’s cob; Tifaga Jack, a circus horse, my mother’s piebald, bought
from a passing circus; Belle’s mare, now in childbed or next door,
confound the slut!  Musu—amusingly translated the other day ‘don’t want
to,’ literally cross, but always in the sense of stubbornness and
resistance—my wife’s little dark-brown mare, with a white star on her
forehead, whom I have been riding of late to steady her—she has no vices,
but is unused, skittish and uneasy, and wants a lot of attention and
humouring; lastly (of saddle horses) Luna—not the Latin _moon_, the
Hawaiian _overseer_, but it’s pronounced the same—a pretty little mare
too, but scarce at all broken, a bad bucker, and has to be ridden with a
stock-whip and be brought back with her rump criss-crossed like a clan
tartan; the two cart horses, now only used with pack-saddles; two cows,
one in the straw (I trust) to-morrow, a third cow, the Jersey—whose milk
and temper are alike subjects of admiration—she gives good exercise to
the farming saunterer, and refreshes him on his return with cream; two
calves, a bull, and a cow; God knows how many ducks and chickens, and for
a wager not even God knows how many cats; twelve horses, seven horses,
five kine: is not this Babylon the Great which I have builded?  Call it

Two nights ago the club had its first meeting; only twelve were present,
but it went very well.  I was not there, I had ridden down the night
before after dinner on my endless business, took a cup of tea in the
Mission like an ass, then took a cup of coffee like a fool at Haggard’s,
then fell into a discussion with the American Consul . . . I went to bed
at Haggard’s, came suddenly broad awake, and lay sleepless the live
night.  It fell chill, I had only a sheet, and had to make a light and
range the house for a cover—I found one in the hall, a macintosh.  So
back to my sleepless bed, and to lie there till dawn.  In the morning I
had a longish ride to take in a day of a blinding, staggering sun, and
got home by eleven, our luncheon hour, with my head rather swimmy; the
only time I have _feared_ the sun since I was in Samoa.  However, I got
no harm, but did not go to the club, lay off, lazied, played the pipe,
and read—a novel by James Payn—sometimes quite interesting, and in one
place really very funny with the quaint humour of the man.  Much
interested the other day.  As I rode past a house, I saw where a Samoan
had written a word on a board, and there was an A, perfectly formed, but
upside down.  You never saw such a thing in Europe; but it is as common
as dirt in Polynesia.  Men’s names are tattooed on the forearm; it is
common to find a subverted letter tattooed there.  Here is a tempting
problem for psychologists.

I am now on terms again with the German Consulate, I know not for how
long; not, of course, with the President, which I find a relief; still,
with the Chief Justice and the English Consul.  For Haggard, I have a
genuine affection; he is a loveable man.

Wearyful man!  ‘Here is the yarn of Loudon Dodd, _not as he told it_,
_but as it was afterwards written_.’  These words were left out by some
carelessness, and I think I have been thrice tackled about them.  Grave
them in your mind and wear them on your forehead.

The Lang story will have very little about the treasure; _The Master_
will appear; and it is to a great extent a tale of Prince Charlie _after_
the ’45, and a love story forbye: the hero is a melancholy exile, and
marries a young woman who interests the prince, and there is the devil to
pay.  I think the Master kills him in a duel, but don’t know yet, not
having yet seen my second heroine.  No—the Master doesn’t kill him, they
fight, he is wounded, and the Master plays _deus ex machina_.  I _think_
just now of calling it _The Tail of the Race_; no—heavens!  I never saw
till this moment—but of course nobody but myself would ever understand
Mill-Race, they would think of a quarter-mile.  So—I am nameless again.
My melancholy young man is to be quite a Romeo.  Yes, I’ll name the book
from him: _Dyce of Ythan_—pronounce Eethan.

Dyce of Ythan

by R. L. S.

O, Shovel—Shovel waits his turn, he and his ancestors.  I would have
tackled him before, but my _State Trials_ have never come.  So that I
have now quite planned:—

Dyce of Ythan. (Historical, 1750.)

Sophia Scarlet. (To-day.)

The Shovels of Newton French. (Historical, 1650 to 1830.)

And quite planned and part written:—

The Pearl Fisher. (To-day.) (With Lloyd a machine.)

David Balfour. (Historical, 1751.)

And, by a strange exception for R. L. S., all in the third person except
D. B.

I don’t know what day this is now (the 29th), but I have finished my two
chapters, ninth and tenth, of _Samoa_ in time for the mail, and feel
almost at peace.  The tenth was the hurricane, a difficult problem; it so
tempted one to be literary; and I feel sure the less of that there is in
my little handbook, the more chance it has of some utility.  Then the
events are complicated, seven ships to tell of, and sometimes three of
them together; O, it was quite a job.  But I think I have my facts pretty
correct, and for once, in my sickening yarn, they are handsome facts:
creditable to all concerned; not to be written of—and I should think,
scarce to be read—without a thrill.  I doubt I have got no hurricane into
it, the intricacies of the yarn absorbing me too much.  But there—it’s
done somehow, and time presses hard on my heels.  The book, with my best
expedition, may come just too late to be of use.  In which case I shall
have made a handsome present of some months of my life for nothing and to
nobody.  Well, through Her the most ancient heavens are fresh and strong.

                                * * * * *


After I had written you, I re-read my hurricane, which is very poor; the
life of the journalist is hard, another couple of writings and I could
make a good thing, I believe, and it must go as it is!  But, of course,
this book is not written for honour and glory, and the few who will read
it may not know the difference.  Very little time.  I go down with the
mail shortly, dine at the Chinese restaurant, and go to the club to dance
with islandresses.  Think of my going out once a week to dance.

Politics are on the full job again, and we don’t know what is to come
next.  I think the whole treaty _raj_ seems quite played out!  They have
taken to bribing the _faipule_ men (parliament men) to stay in Mulinuu,
we hear; but I have not yet sifted the rumour.  I must say I shall be
scarce surprised if it prove true; these rumours have the knack of being
right.—Our weather this last month has been tremendously hot, not by the
thermometer, which sticks at 86°, but to the sensation: no rain, no wind,
and this the storm month.  It looks ominous, and is certainly

No time to finish,

                               Yours ever,

                                                                  R. L. S.


                                                        _May_ 1_st_. 1892.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—As I rode down last night about six, I saw a sight I must
try to tell you of.  In front of me, right over the top of the forest
into which I was descending was a vast cloud.  The front of it accurately
represented the somewhat rugged, long-nosed, and beetle-browed profile of
a man, crowned by a huge Kalmuck cap; the flesh part was of a heavenly
pink, the cap, the moustache, the eyebrows were of a bluish gray; to see
this with its childish exactitude of design and colour, and hugeness of
scale—it covered at least 25°—held me spellbound.  As I continued to
gaze, the expression began to change; he had the exact air of closing one
eye, dropping his jaw, and drawing down his nose; had the thing not been
so imposing, I could have smiled; and then almost in a moment, a shoulder
of leaden-coloured bank drove in front and blotted it.  My attention
spread to the rest of the cloud, and it was a thing to worship.  It rose
from the horizon, and its top was within thirty degrees of the zenith;
the lower parts were like a glacier in shadow, varying from dark indigo
to a clouded white in exquisite gradations.  The sky behind, so far as I
could see, was all of a blue already enriched and darkened by the night,
for the hill had what lingered of the sunset.  But the top of my Titanic
cloud flamed in broad sunlight, with the most excellent softness and
brightness of fire and jewels, enlightening all the world.  It must have
been far higher than Mount Everest, and its glory, as I gazed up at it
out of the night, was beyond wonder.  Close by rode the little crescent
moon; and right over its western horn, a great planet of about equal
lustre with itself.  The dark woods below were shrill with that noisy
business of the birds’ evening worship.  When I returned, after eight,
the moon was near down; she seemed little brighter than before, but now
that the cloud no longer played its part of a nocturnal sun, we could see
that sight, so rare with us at home that it was counted a portent, so
customary in the tropics, of the dark sphere with its little gilt band
upon the belly.  The planet had been setting faster, and was now below
the crescent.  They were still of an equal brightness.

I could not resist trying to reproduce this in words, as a specimen of
these incredibly beautiful and imposing meteors of the tropic sky that
make so much of my pleasure here; though a ship’s deck is the place to
enjoy them.  O what _awful_ scenery, from a ship’s deck, in the tropics!
People talk about the Alps, but the clouds of the trade wind are alone
for sublimity.

Now to try and tell you what has been happening.  The state of these
islands, and of Mataafa and Laupepa (Malietoa’s _ambo_) had been much on
my mind.  I went to the priests and sent a message to Mataafa, at a time
when it was supposed he was about to act.  He did not act, delaying in
true native style, and I determined I should go to visit him.  I have
been very good not to go sooner; to live within a few miles of a rebel
camp, to be a novelist, to have all my family forcing me to go, and to
refrain all these months, counts for virtue.  But hearing that several
people had gone and the government done nothing to punish them, and
having an errand there which was enough to justify myself in my own eyes,
I half determined to go, and spoke of it with the half-caste priest.  And
here (confound it) up came Laupepa and his guards to call on me; we kept
him to lunch, and the old gentleman was very good and amiable.  He asked
me why I had not been to see him?  I reminded him a law had been made,
and told him I was not a small boy to go and ask leave of the consuls,
and perhaps be refused.  He told me to pay no attention to the law but
come when I would, and begged me to name a day to lunch.  The next day (I
think it was) early in the morning, a man appeared; he had metal buttons
like a policeman—but he was none of our Apia force; he was a rebel
policeman, and had been all night coming round inland through the forest
from Malie.  He brought a letter addressed

_I laua susuga_                To his Excellency

_Misi Mea_.                    Mr. Thingumbob.

(So as not to compromise me).  I can read Samoan now, though not speak
it.  It was to ask me for last Wednesday.  My difficulty was great; I had
no man here who was fit, or who would have cared to write for me; and I
had to postpone the visit.  So I gave up half-a-day with a groan, went
down to the priests, arranged for Monday week to go to Malie, and named
Thursday as my day to lunch with Laupepa.  I was sharply ill on
Wednesday, mail day.  But on Thursday I had to trail down and go through
the dreary business of a feast, in the King’s wretched shanty, full in
view of the President’s fine new house; it made my heart burn.

This gave me my chance to arrange a private interview with the King, and
I decided to ask Mr. Whitmee, one of our missionaries, to be my
interpreter.  On Friday, being too much exhausted to go down, I begged
him to come up.  He did, I told him the heads of what I meant to say; and
he not only consented, but said, if we got on well with the King, he
would even proceed with me to Malie.  Yesterday, in consequence, I rode
down to W.’s house by eight in the morning; waited till ten; received a
message that the King was stopped by a meeting with the President and
_faipule_; made another engagement for seven at night; came up; went
down; waited till eight, and came away again, _bredouille_, and a dead
body.  The poor, weak, enslaved King had not dared to come to me even in
secret.  Now I have to-day for a rest, and to-morrow to Malie.  Shall I
be suffered to embark?  It is very doubtful; they are on the trail.  On
Thursday, a policeman came up to me and began that a boy had been to see
him, and said I was going to see Mataafa.—‘And what did you say?’ said
I.—‘I told him I did not know about where you were going,’ said he.—‘A
very good answer,’ said I, and turned away.  It is lashing rain to-day,
but to-morrow, rain or shine, I must at least make the attempt; and I am
so weary, and the weather looks so bad.  I could half wish they would
arrest me on the beach.  All this bother and pother to try and bring a
little chance of peace; all this opposition and obstinacy in people who
remain here by the mere forbearance of Mataafa, who has a great force
within six miles of their government buildings, which are indeed only the
residences of white officials.  To understand how I have been occupied,
you must know that ‘Misi Mea’ has had another letter, and this time had
to answer himself; think of doing so in a language so obscure to me, with
the aid of a Bible, concordance and dictionary!  What a wonderful Baboo
compilation it must have been!  I positively expected to hear news of its
arrival in Malie by the sound of laughter.  I doubt if you will be able
to read this scrawl, but I have managed to scramble somehow up to date;
and to-morrow, one way or another, should be interesting.  But as for me,
I am a wreck, as I have no doubt style and handwriting both testify.

                                * * * * *

                                                                    8 P.M.

Wonderfully rested; feel almost fit for to-morrow’s dreary excursion—not
that it will be dreary if the weather favour, but otherwise it will be
death; and a native feast, and I fear I am in for a big one, is a thing I
loathe.  I wonder if you can really conceive me as a politician in this
extra-mundane sphere—presiding at public meetings, drafting
proclamations, receiving mis-addressed letters that have been carried all
night through tropical forests?  It seems strange indeed, and to you, who
know me really, must seem stranger.  I do not say I am free from the itch
of meddling, but God knows this is no tempting job to meddle in; I smile
at picturesque circumstances like the Misi Mea (_Monsieur Chose_ is the
exact equivalent) correspondence, but the business as a whole bores and
revolts me.  I do nothing and say nothing; and then a day comes, and I
say ‘this can go on no longer.’

                                * * * * *

                                                                 9.30 P.M.

The wretched native dilatoriness finds me out.  News has just come that
we must embark at six to-morrow; I have divided the night in watches, and
hope to be called to-morrow at four and get under way by five.  It is a
great chance if it be managed; but I have given directions and lent my
own clock to the boys, and hope the best.  If I get called at four we
shall do it nicely.  Good-night; I must turn in.

                                * * * * *

                                                              _May_ 3_rd_.

Well, we did get off by about 5.30, or, by’r lady! quarter of six: myself
on Donald, the huge grey cart-horse, with a ship-bag across my saddle
bow, Fanny on Musu and Belle on Jack.  We were all feeling pretty tired
and sick, and I looked like heaven knows what on the cart horse: ‘death
on the pale horse,’ I suggested—and young Hunt the missionary, who met me
to-day on the same charger, squinted up at my perch and remarked,
‘There’s a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft.’  The boat was ready
and we set off down the lagoon about seven, four oars, and Talolo, my
cook, steering.

                                * * * * *

                                            _May_ 9_th_ (_Monday anyway_).

And see what good resolutions came to!  Here is all this time past, and
no speed made.  Well, we got to Malie and were received with the most
friendly consideration by the rebel chief.  Belle and Fanny were
obviously thought to be my two wives; they were served their kava
together, as were Mataafa and myself.  Talolo utterly broke down as
interpreter; long speeches were made to me by Mataafa and his orators, of
which he could make nothing but they were ‘very much surprised’—his way
of pronouncing obliged—and as he could understand nothing that fell from
me except the same form of words, the dialogue languished and all
business had to be laid aside.  We had kava, and then a dish of
arrowroot; one end of the house was screened off for us with a fine tapa,
and we lay and slept, the three of us heads and tails, upon the mats till
dinner.  After dinner his illegitimate majesty and myself had a walk, and
talked as well as my twopenny Samoan would admit.  Then there was a dance
to amuse the ladies before the house, and we came back by moonlight, the
sky piled full of high faint clouds that long preserved some of the
radiance of the sunset.  The lagoon was very shallow; we continually
struck, for the moon was young and the light baffling; and for a long
time we were accompanied by, and passed and re-passed, a huge whale-boat
from Savaii, pulling perhaps twelve oars, and containing perhaps forty
people who sang in time as they went So to the hotel, where we slept, and
returned the next Tuesday morning on the three same steeds.

Meanwhile my business was still untransacted.  And on Saturday morning, I
sent down and arranged with Charlie Taylor to go down that afternoon.  I
had scarce got the saddle bags fixed and had not yet mounted, when the
rain began.  But it was no use delaying now; off I went in a wild
waterspout to Apia; found Charlie (Salé) Taylor—a sesquipedalian young
half-caste—not yet ready, had a snack of bread and cheese at the hotel
while waiting him, and then off to Malie.  It rained all the way, seven
miles; the road, which begins in triumph, dwindles down to a nasty,
boggy, rocky footpath with weeds up to a horseman’s knees; and there are
eight pig fences to jump, nasty beastly jumps—the next morning we found
one all messed with blood where a horse had come to grief—but my Jack is
a clever fencer; and altogether we made good time, and got to Malie about
dark.  It is a village of very fine native houses, high, domed, oval
buildings, open at the sides, or only closed with slatted Venetians.  To
be sure, Mataafa’s is not the worst.  It was already quite dark within,
only a little fire of cocoa-shell blazed in the midst and showed us four
servants; the chief was in his chapel, whence we heard the sound of
chaunting.  Presently he returned; Taylor and I had our soaking clothes
changed, family worship was held, kava brewed, I was exhibited to the
chiefs as a man who had ridden through all that rain and risked
deportation to serve their master; they were bidden learn my face, and
remember upon all occasions to help and serve me.  Then dinner, and
politics, and fine speeches until twelve at night—O, and some more
kava—when I could sit up no longer; my usual bed-time is eight, you must
remember.  Then one end of the house was screened off for me alone, and a
bed made—you never saw such a couch—I believe of nearly fifty (half at
least) fine mats, by Mataafa’s daughter, Kalala.  Here I reposed alone;
and on the other side of the tafa, Majesty and his household.  Armed
guards and a drummer patrolled about the house all night; they had no
shift, poor devils; but stood to arms from sun-down to sun-up.

About four in the morning, I was awakened by the sound of a whistle pipe
blown outside on the dark, very softly and to a pleasing simple air; I
really think I have hit the first phrase:

                    [Picture: Fragment of music score]

It sounded very peaceful, sweet and strange in the dark; and I found this
was a part of the routine of my rebel’s night, and it was done (he said)
to give good dreams.  By a little before six, Taylor and I were in the
saddle again fasting.  My riding boots were so wet I could not get them
on, so I must ride barefoot.  The morning was fair but the roads very
muddy, the weeds soaked us nearly to the waist, Salé was twice spilt at
the fences, and we got to Apia a bedraggled enough pair.  All the way
along the coast, the paté (small wooden drum) was beating in the villages
and the people crowding to the churches in their fine clothes.  Thence
through the mangrove swamp, among the black mud and the green mangroves,
and the black and scarlet crabs, to Mulinuu, to the doctor’s, where I had
an errand, and so to the inn to breakfast about nine.  After breakfast I
rode home.  Conceive such an outing, remember the pallid brute that lived
in Skerryvore like a weevil in a biscuit, and receive the intelligence
that I was rather the better for my journey.  Twenty miles ride, sixteen
fences taken, ten of the miles in a drenching rain, seven of them fasting
and in the morning chill, and six stricken hours’ political discussions
by an interpreter; to say nothing of sleeping in a native house, at which
many of our excellent literati would look askance of itself.

You are to understand: if I take all this bother, it is not only from a
sense of duty, or a love of meddling—damn the phrase, take your
choice—but from a great affection for Mataafa.  He is a beautiful, sweet
old fellow, and he and I grew quite fulsome on Saturday night about our
sentiments.  I had a messenger from him to-day with a flannel undershirt
which I had left behind like a gibbering idiot; and perpetrated in reply
another baboo letter.  It rains again to-day without mercy; blessed,
welcome rains, making up for the paucity of the late wet season; and when
the showers slacken, I can hear my stream roaring in the hollow, and tell
myself that the cacaos are drinking deep.  I am desperately hunted to
finish my Samoa book before the mail goes; this last chapter is equally
delicate and necessary.  The prayers of the congregation are requested.
Eheu! and it will be ended before this letter leaves and printed in the
States ere you can read this scribble.  The first dinner gong has
sounded; _je vous salue_, _monsieur et cher confrère_.  _Tofa_, _soifua_!
Sleep! long life! as our Samoan salutation of farewell runs.

                                * * * * *

                                                   _Friday_, _May_ 13_th_.

Well, the last chapter, by far the most difficult and ungrateful, is well
under way, I have been from six to seven hours upon it daily since I last
wrote; and that is all I have done forbye working at Samoan rather hard,
and going down on Wednesday evening to the club.  I make some progress
now at the language; I am teaching Belle, which clears and exercises
myself.  I am particularly taken with the _finesse_ of the pronouns.  The
pronouns are all dual and plural and the first person, both in the dual
and plural, has a special exclusive and inclusive form.  You can conceive
what fine effects of precision and distinction can be reached in certain
cases.  Take Ruth, i. _vv._ 8 to 13, and imagine how those pronouns come
in; it is exquisitely elegant, and makes the mouth of the _littérateur_
to water.  I am going to exercitate my pupil over those verses to-day for
pronoun practice.

                                * * * * *


Yesterday came yours.  Well, well, if the dears prefer a week, why, I’ll
give them ten days, but the real document, from which I have scarcely
varied, ran for one night.  I think you seem scarcely fair to Wiltshire,
who had surely, under his beast-ignorant ways, right noble qualities.
And I think perhaps you scarce do justice to the fact that this is a
place of realism _à outrance_; nothing extenuated or coloured.  Looked at
so, is it not, with all its tragic features, wonderfully idyllic, with
great beauty of scene and circumstance?  And will you please to observe
that almost all that is ugly is in the whites?  I’ll apologise for Papa
Randal if you like; but if I told you the whole truth—for I did extenuate
there!—and he seemed to me essential as a figure, and essential as a pawn
in the game, Wiltshire’s disgust for him being one of the small,
efficient motives in the story.  Now it would have taken a fairish dose
to disgust Wiltshire.—Again, the idea of publishing the Beach
substantively is dropped—at once, both on account of expostulation, and
because it measured shorter than I had expected.  And it was only taken
up, when the proposed volume, _Beach de Mar_, petered out.  It petered
out thus: the chief of the short stories got sucked into _Sophia
Scarlet_—and Sophia is a book I am much taken with, and mean to get to,
as soon as—but not before—I have done _David Balfour_ and _The Young
Chevalier_.  So you see you are like to hear no more of the Pacific or
the nineteenth century for a while.  _The Young Chevalier_ is a story of
sentiment and passion, which I mean to write a little differently from
what I have been doing—if I can hit the key; rather more of a sentimental
tremolo to it.  It may thus help to prepare me for _Sophia_, which is to
contain three ladies, and a kind of a love affair between the heroine and
a dying planter who is a poet! large orders for R. L. S.

O the German taboo is quite over; no soul attempts to support the C. J.
or the President, they are past hope; the whites have just refused their
taxes—I mean the council has refused to call for them, and if the council
consented, nobody would pay; ’tis a farce, and the curtain is going to
fall briefly.  Consequently in my History, I say as little as may be of
the two dwindling stars.  Poor devils!  I liked the one, and the other
has a little wife, now lying in!  There was no man born with so little
animosity as I. When I heard the C. J. was in low spirits and never left
his house, I could scarce refrain from going to him.

It was a fine feeling to have finished the History; there ought to be a
future state to reward that grind!  It’s not literature, you know; only
journalism, and pedantic journalism.  I had but the one desire, to get
the thing as right as might be, and avoid false concords—even if that!
And it was more than there was time for.  However, there it is: done.
And if Samoa turns up again my book has to be counted with, being the
only narrative extant.  Milton and I—if you kindly excuse the
juxtaposition—harnessed ourselves to strange waggons, and I at least will
be found to have plodded very soberly with my load.  There is not even a
good sentence in it, but perhaps—I don’t know—it may be found an honest,
clear volume.

                                * * * * *


Never got a word set down, and continues on Thursday 19th May, his own
marriage day as ever was.  News; yes.  The C. J. came up to call on us!
After five months’ cessation on my side, and a decidedly painful
interchange of letters, I could not go down—could not—to see him.  My
three ladies received him, however; he was very agreeable as usual, but
refused wine, beer, water, lemonade, chocolate and at last a cigarette.
Then my wife asked him, ‘So you refuse to break bread?’ and he waved his
hands amiably in answer.  All my three ladies received the same
impression that he had serious matters in his mind: now we hear he is
quite cock-a-hoop since the mail came, and going about as before his
troubles darkened.  But what did he want with me?  ’Tis thought he had
received a despatch—and that he misreads it (so we fully believe) to the
effect that they are to have war ships at command and can make their
little war after all.  If it be so, and they do it, it will be the
meanest wanton slaughter of poor men for the salaries of two white
failures.  But what was his errand with me? Perhaps to warn me that
unless I behave he now hopes to be able to pack me off in the _Curaçoa_
when she comes.

I have celebrated my holiday from _Samoa_ by a plunge at the beginning of
_The Young Chevalier_.  I am afraid my touch is a little broad in a love
story; I can’t mean one thing and write another.  As for women, I am no
more in any fear of them; I can do a sort all right; age makes me less
afraid of a petticoat, but I am a little in fear of grossness.  However,
this David Balfour’s love affair, that’s all right—might be read out to a
mothers’ meeting—or a daughters’ meeting.  The difficulty in a love yarn,
which dwells at all on love, is the dwelling on one string; it is
manifold, I grant, but the root fact is there unchanged, and the
sentiment being very intense, and already very much handled in letters,
positively calls for a little pawing and gracing.  With a writer of my
prosaic literalness and pertinency of point of view, this all shoves
toward grossness—positively even towards the far more damnable
_closeness_.  This has kept me off the sentiment hitherto, and now I am
to try: Lord!  Of course Meredith can do it, and so could Shakespeare;
but with all my romance, I am a realist and a prosaist, and a most
fanatical lover of plain physical sensations plainly and expressly
rendered; hence my perils.  To do love in the same spirit as I did (for
instance) D. Balfour’s fatigue in the heather; my dear sir, there were
grossness—ready made!  And hence, how to sugar?  However, I have nearly
done with Marie-Madeleine, and am in good hopes of Marie-Salomé, the real
heroine; the other is only a prologuial heroine to introduce the hero.

                                * * * * *


Anyway, the first prologuial episode is done, and Fanny likes it.  There
are only four characters; Francis Blair of Balmile (Jacobite Lord
Gladsmuir) my hero; the Master of Ballantrae; Paradon, a wine-seller of
Avignon; Marie-Madeleine his wife.  These two last I am now done with,
and I think they are successful, and I hope I have Balmile on his feet;
and the style seems to be found.  It is a little charged and violent;
sins on the side of violence; but I think will carry the tale.  I think
it is a good idea so to introduce my hero, being made love to by an
episodic woman.  This queer tale—I mean queer for me—has taken a great
hold upon me.  Where the devil shall I go next?  This is simply the tale
of a _coup de tête_ of a young man and a young woman; with a nearly,
perhaps a wholly, tragic sequel, which I desire to make thinkable right
through, and sensible; to make the reader, as far as I shall be able, eat
and drink and breathe it.  Marie-Salomé des Saintes-Maries is, I think,
the heroine’s name; she has got to _be_ yet: _sursum corda_!  So has the
young Chevalier, whom I have not yet touched, and who comes next in
order.  Characters: Balmile, or Lord Gladsmuir, _comme vous voulez_;
Prince Charlie; Earl Marischal; Master of Ballantrae; and a spy, and Dr.
Archie Campbell, and a few nondescripts; then, of women, Marie-Salomé and
Flora Blair; seven at the outside; really four full lengths, and I
suppose a half-dozen episodic profiles.  How I must bore you with these
ineptitudes!  Have patience.  I am going to bed; it is (of all hours)
eleven.  I have been forced in (since I began to write to you) to blatter
to Fanny on the subject of my heroine, there being two _cruces_ as to her
life and history: how came she alone? and how far did she go with the
Chevalier?  The second must answer itself when I get near enough to see.
The first is a back-breaker.  Yet I know there are many reasons why a
_fille de famine_, romantic, adventurous, ambitious, innocent of the
world, might run from her home in these days; might she not have been
threatened with a convent? might there not be some Huguenot business
mixed in?  Here am I, far from books; if you can help me with a
suggestion, I shall say God bless you.  She has to be new run away from a
strict family, well-justified in her own wild but honest eyes, and
meeting these three men, Charles Edward, Marischal, and Balmile, through
the accident of a fire at an inn.  She must not run from a marriage, I
think; it would bring her in the wrong frame of mind.  Once I can get
her, _sola_, on the highway, all were well with my narrative.  Perpend.
And help if you can.

Lafaele, long (I hope) familiar to you, has this day received the visit
of his _son_ from Tonga; and the _son_ proves to be a very pretty,
attractive young daughter!  I gave all the boys kava in honour of her
arrival; along with a lean, side-whiskered Tongan, dimly supposed to be
Lafaele’s step-father; and they have been having a good time; in the end
of my verandah, I hear Simi, my present incapable steward, talking Tongan
with the nondescript papa.  Simi, our out-door boy, burst a succession of
blood-vessels over our work, and I had to make a position for the wreck
of one of the noblest figures of a man I ever saw.  I believe I may have
mentioned the other day how I had to put my horse to the trot, the canter
and (at last) the gallop to run him down.  In a photograph I hope to send
you (perhaps with this) you will see Simi standing in the verandah in
profile.  As a steward, one of his chief points is to break crystal; he
is great on fracture—what do I say?—explosion!  He cleans a glass, and
the shards scatter like a comet’s bowels.

_N.B._—If I should by any chance be deported, the first of the rules hung
up for that occasion is to communicate with you by telegraph.—Mind, I do
not fear it, but it _is_ possible.

                                * * * * *

                                                          _Monday_ 25_th_.

We have had a devil of a morning of upset and bustle; the bronze
candlestick Faauma has returned to the family, in time to take her
position of stepmamma, and it is pretty to see how the child is at once
at home, and all her terrors ended.

                                * * * * *

                                                      27_th_.  _Mail day_.

And I don’t know that I have much to report.  I may have to leave for
Malie as soon as these mail packets are made up.  ’Tis a necessity (if it
be one) I rather deplore.  I think I should have liked to lazy; but I
daresay all it means is the delay of a day or so in harking back to David
Balfour; that respectable youth chides at being left (where he is now) in
Glasgow with the Lord Advocate, and after five years in the British
Linen, who shall blame him?  I was all forenoon yesterday down in Apia,’
dictating, and Lloyd type-writing, the conclusion of _Samoa_; and then at
home correcting till the dinner bell; and in the evening again till
eleven of the clock.  This morning I have made up most of my packets, and
I think my mail is all ready but two more, and the tag of this.  I would
never deny (as D. B might say) that I was rather tired of it.  But I have
a damned good dose of the devil in my pipe-stem atomy; I have had my
little holiday outing in my kick at _The Young Chevalier_, and I guess I
can settle to _David Balfour_ to-morrow or Friday like a little man.  I
wonder if any one had ever more energy upon so little strength?—I know
there is a frost, the Samoa book can only increase that—I can’t help it,
that book is not written for me but for Miss Manners; but I mean to break
that frost inside two years, and pull off a big success, and Vanity
whispers in my ear that I have the strength.  If I haven’t, whistle ower
the lave o’t!  I can do without glory and perhaps the time is not far off
when I can do without corn.  It is a time coming soon enough, anyway; and
I have endured some two and forty years without public shame, and had a
good time as I did it.  If only I could secure a violent death, what a
fine success!  I wish to die in my boots; no more Land of Counterpane for
me.  To be drowned, to be shot, to be thrown from a horse—ay, to be
hanged, rather than pass again through that slow dissolution.

I fancy this gloomy ramble is caused by a twinge of age; I put on an
under-shirt yesterday (it was the only one I could find) that barely came
under my trousers; and just below it, a fine healthy rheumatism has now
settled like a fire in my hip.  From such small causes do these valuable
considerations flow!

I shall now say adieu, dear Sir, having ten rugged miles before me and
the horrors of a native feast and parliament without an interpreter, for
to-day I go alone.

                               Yours ever,

                                                                   R. L S.


                                                   _Sunday_, 29_th_ _May_.

HOW am I to overtake events?  On Wednesday, as soon as my mail was
finished, I had a wild whirl to look forward to.  Immediately after
dinner, Belle, Lloyd and I, set out on horseback, they to the club, I to
Haggard’s, thence to the hotel where I had supper ready for them.  All
next day we hung round Apia with our whole house-crowd in Sunday array,
hoping for the mail steamer with a menagerie on board.  No such luck; the
ship delayed; and at last, about three, I had to send them home again, a
failure of a day’s pleasuring that does not bear to be discussed.  Lloyd
was so sickened that he returned the same night to Vailima, Belle and I
held on, sat most of the evening on the hotel verandah stricken silly
with fatigue and disappointment, and genuine sorrow for our poor boys and
girls, and got to bed with rather dismal appreciations of the morrow.

These were more than justified, and yet I never had a jollier day than
Friday 27th.  By 7.30 Belle and I had breakfast; we had scarce done
before my mother was at the door on horseback, and a boy at her heels to
take her not very dashing charger home again.  By 8.10 we were all on the
landing pier, and it was 9.20 before we had got away in a boat with two
inches of green wood on the keel of her, no rudder, no mast, no sail, no
boat flag, two defective rowlocks, two wretched apologies for oars, and
two boys—one a Tongan half-caste, one a white lad, son of the Tonga
schoolmaster, and a sailor lad—to pull us.  All this was our first taste
of the tender mercies of Taylor (the sesquipidalian half-caste introduced
two letters back, I believe).  We had scarce got round Mulinuu when Salé
Taylor’s heart misgave him; he thought we had missed the tide; called a
halt, and set off ashore to find canoes.  Two were found; in one my
mother and I were embarked with the two biscuit tins (my present to the
feast), and the bag with our dry clothes, on which my mother was
perched—and her cap was on the top of it—feminine hearts please
sympathise; all under the guidance of Salé.  In the other Belle and our
guest; Tauilo, a chief-woman, the mother of my cook, were to have
followed.  And the boys were to have been left with the boat.  But Tauilo
refused.  And the four, Belle, Tauilo, Frank the sailor-boy, and Jimmie
the Tongan half-caste, set off in the boat across that rapidly shoaling
bay of the lagoon.

How long the next scene lasted, I could never tell.  Salé was always
trying to steal away with our canoe and leave the other four, probably
for six hours, in an empty, leaky boat, without so much as an orange or a
cocoanut on board, and under the direct rays of the sun.  I had at last
to stop him by taking the spare paddle off the out-rigger and sticking it
in the ground—depth, perhaps two feet—width of the bay, say three miles.
At last I bid him land me and my mother and go back for the other ladies.
‘The coast is so rugged,’ said Salé.—‘What?’ I said, ‘all these villages
and no landing place?’—‘Such is the nature of Samoans,’ said he.  Well,
I’ll find a landing-place, I thought; and presently I said, ‘Now we are
going to land there.’—‘We can but try,’ said the bland Salé, with
resignation.  Never saw a better landing-place in my life.  Here the boat
joined us.  My mother and Salé continued in the canoe alone, and Belle
and I and Tauilo set off on foot for Malie.  Tauilo was about the size of
both of us put together and a piece over; she used us like a mouse with
children.  I had started barefoot; Belle had soon to pull off her gala
shoes and stockings; the mud was as deep as to our knees, and so slippery
that (moving, as we did, in Indian file, between dense scratching tufts
of sensitive) Belle and I had to take hands to support each other, and
Tauilo was steadying Belle from the rear.  You can conceive we were got
up to kill, Belle in an embroidered white dress and white hat, I in a
suit of Bedford cords hot from the Sydney tailors; and conceive us,
below, ink-black to the knees with adhesive clay, and above, streaming
with heat.  I suppose it was better than three miles, but at last we made
the end of Malie.  I asked if we could find no water to wash our feet;
and our nursemaid guided us to a pool.  We sat down on the pool side, and
our nursemaid washed our feet and legs for us—ladies first, I suppose out
of a sudden respect to the insane European fancies: such a luxury as you
can scarce imagine.  I felt a new man after it.  But before we got to the
King’s house we were sadly muddied once more.  It was 1 P.M. when we
arrived, the canoe having beaten us by about five minutes, so we made
fair time over our bog-holes.

But the war dances were over, and we came in time to see only the tail
end (some two hours) of the food presentation.  In Mataafa’s house three
chairs were set for us covered with fine mats.  Of course, a native house
without the blinds down is like a verandah.  All the green in front was
surrounded with sheds, some of flapping canvas, some of green palm
boughs, where (in three sides of a huge oblong) the natives sat by
villages in a fine glow of many-hued array.  There were folks in tapa,
and folks in patchwork; there was every colour of the rainbow in a spot
or a cluster; there were men with their heads gilded with powdered
sandal-wood, others with heads all purple, stuck full of the petals of a
flower.  In the midst there was a growing field of outspread food,
gradually covering acres; the gifts were brought in, now by chanting
deputations, now by carriers in a file; they were brandished aloft and
declaimed over, with polite sacramental exaggerations, by the official
receiver.  He, a stalwart, well-oiled quadragenarian, shone with sweat
from his exertions, brandishing cooked pigs.  At intervals, from one of
the squatted villages, an orator would arise.  The field was almost
beyond the reach of any human speaking voice; the proceedings besides
continued in the midst; yet it was possible to catch snatches of this
elaborate and cut-and-dry oratory—it was possible for me, for instance,
to catch the description of my gift and myself as the _alii Tusitala_, _O
le alii O malo tetele_—the chief White Information, the chief of the
great Governments.  Gay designation?  In the house, in our three curule
chairs, we sat and looked on.  On our left a little group of the family.
In front of us, at our feet, an ancient Talking-man, crowned with green
leaves, his profile almost exactly Dante’s; Popo his name.  He had
worshipped idols in his youth; he had been full grown before the first
missionary came hither from Tahiti; this makes him over eighty.  Near by
him sat his son and colleague.  In the group on our left, his little
grandchild sat with her legs crossed and her hands turned, the model
already (at some three years old) of Samoan etiquette.  Still further off
to our right, Mataafa sat on the ground through all the business; and
still I saw his lips moving, and the beads of his rosary slip stealthily
through his hand.  We had kava, and the King’s drinking was hailed by the
Popos (father and son) with a singular ululation, perfectly new to my
ears; it means, to the expert, ‘Long live Tuiatua’; to the inexpert, is a
mere voice of barbarous wolves.  We had dinner, retired a bit behind the
central pillar of the house; and, when the King was done eating, the
ululation was repeated.  I had my eyes on Mataafa’s face, and I saw pride
and gratified ambition spring to life there and be instantly sucked in
again.  It was the first time, since the difference with Laupepa, that
Popo and his son had openly joined him, and given him the due cry as
Tuiatua—one of the eight royal names of the islands, as I hope you will
know before this reaches you.

Not long after we had dined, the food-bringing was over.  The gifts
(carefully noted and tallied as they came in) were now announced by a
humorous orator, who convulsed the audience, introducing singing notes,
now on the name of the article, now on the number; six thousand odd heads
of taro, three hundred and nineteen cooked pigs; and one thing that
particularly caught me (by good luck), a single turtle ‘for the King’—_le
tasi mo le tupu_.  Then came one of the strangest sights I have yet
witnessed.  The two most important persons there (bar Mataafa) were Popo
and his son.  They rose, holding their long shod rods of talking men,
passed forth from the house, broke into a strange dance, the father
capering with outstretched arms and rod, the son crouching and gambolling
beside him in a manner indescribable, and presently began to extend the
circle of this dance among the acres of cooked food.  _Whatever they
leaped over_, _whatever they called for_, _became theirs_.  To see
mediæval Dante thus demean himself struck a kind of a chill of
incongruity into our Philistine souls; but even in a great part of the
Samoan concourse, these antique and (I understand) quite local manners
awoke laughter.  One of my biscuit tins and a live calf were among the
spoils he claimed, but the large majority of the cooked food (having once
proved his dignity) he re-presented to the King.

Then came the turn of _le alii Tusitala_.  He would not dance, but he was
given—five live hens, four gourds of oil, four fine tapas, a hundred
heads of taro, two cooked pigs, a cooked shark, two or three cocoanut
branches strung with kava, and the turtle, who soon after breathed his
last, I believe, from sunstroke.  It was a royal present for ‘the chief
of the great powers.’  I should say the gifts were, on the proper signal,
dragged out of the field of food by a troop of young men, all with their
lava-lavas kilted almost into a loin-cloth.  The art is to swoop on the
food-field, pick up with unerring swiftness the right things and
quantities, swoop forth again on the open, and separate, leaving the
gifts in a new pile: so you may see a covey of birds in a corn-field.
This reminds me of a very inhumane but beautiful passage I had forgotten
in its place.  The gift-giving was still in full swing, when there came a
troop of some ninety men all in tafa lava-lavas of a purplish colour;
they paused, and of a sudden there went up from them high into the air a
flight of live chickens, which, as they came down again, were sent again
into the air, for perhaps a minute, from the midst of a singular turmoil
of flying arms and shouting voices; I assure you, it was very beautiful
to see, but how many chickens were killed?

No sooner was my food set out than I was to be going.  I had a little
serious talk with Mataafa on the floor, and we went down to the boat,
where we got our food aboard, such a cargo—like the Swiss Family
Robinson, we said.  However, a squall began, Tauilo refused to let us go,
and we came back to the house for half-an-hour or so, when my ladies
distinguished themselves by walking through a Fono (council), my mother
actually taking up a position between Mataafa and Popo!  It was about
five when we started—turtle, pigs, taro, etc., my mother, Belle, myself,
Tauilo, a portly friend of hers with the voice of an angel, and a
pronunciation so delicate and true that you could follow Samoan as she
sang, and the two tired boys Frank and Jimmie, with the two bad oars and
the two slippery rowlocks to impel the whole.  Salé Taylor took the canoe
and a strong Samoan to paddle him.  Presently after he went inshore, and
passed us a little after, with his arms folded, and _two_ strong Samoans
impelling him Apia-ward.  This was too much for Belle, who hailed,
taunted him, and made him return to the boat with one of the Samoans,
setting Jimmie instead in the canoe.  Then began our torment, Salé and
the Samoan took the oars, sat on the same thwart (where they could get no
swing on the boat had they tried), and deliberately ladled at the lagoon.
We lay enchanted.  Night fell; there was a light visible on shore; it did
not move.  The two women sang, Belle joining them in the hymns she has
learned at family worship.  Then a squall came up; we sat a while in
roaring midnight under rivers of rain, and, when it blew by, there was
the light again, immovable.  A second squall followed, one of the worst I
was ever out in; we could scarce catch our breath in the cold, dashing
deluge.  When it went, we were so cold that the water in the bottom of
the boat (which I was then baling) seemed like a warm footbath in
comparison, and Belle and I, who were still barefoot, were quite restored
by laving in it.

All this time I had kept my temper, and refrained as far as might be from
any interference, for I saw (in our friend’s mulish humour) he always
contrived to twist it to our disadvantage.  But now came the acute point.
Young Frank now took an oar.  He was a little fellow, near as frail as
myself, and very short; if he weighed nine stone, it was the outside; but
his blood was up.  He took stroke, moved the big Samoan forward to bow,
and set to work to pull him round in fine style.  Instantly a kind of
race competition—almost race hatred—sprang up.  We jeered the Samoan.
Salé declared it was the trim of the boat: ‘if this lady was aft’
(Tauilo’s portly friend) ‘he would row round Frank.’  We insisted on her
coming aft, and Frank still rowed round the Samoan.  When the Samoan
caught a crab (the thing was continual with these wretched oars and
rowlocks), we shouted and jeered; when Frank caught one, Salé and the
Samoan jeered and yelled.  But anyway the boat moved, and presently we
got up with Mulinuu, where I finally lost my temper, when I found that
Salé proposed to go ashore and make a visit—in fact, we all three did.
It is not worth while going into, but I must give you one snatch of the
subsequent conversation as we pulled round Apia bay.  ‘This Samoan,’ said
Salé, ‘received seven German bullets in the field of Fangalii.’  ‘I am
delighted to hear it,’ said Belle.  ‘His brother was killed there,’
pursued Salé; and Belle, prompt as an echo, ‘Then there are no more of
the family? how delightful!’  Salé was sufficiently surprised to change
the subject; he began to praise Frank’s rowing with insufferable
condescension: ‘But it is after all not to be wondered at,’ said he,
‘because he has been for some time a sailor.  My good man, is it three or
five years that you have been to sea?’  And Frank, in a defiant shout:
‘Two!’  Whereupon, so high did the ill-feeling run, that we three clapped
and applauded and shouted, so that the President (whose house we were
then passing) doubtless started at the sounds.  It was nine when we got
to the hotel; at first no food was to be found, but we skirmished up some
bread and cheese and beer and brandy; and (having changed our wet clothes
for the rather less wet in our bags) supped on the verandah.

_Saturday_ 28_th_.  I was wakened about 6.30, long past my usual hour, by
a benevolent passer-by.  My turtle lay on the verandah at my door, and
the man woke me to tell me it was dead, as it had been when we put it on
board the day before.  All morning I ran the gauntlet of men and women
coming up to me: ‘Mr. Stevenson, your turtle is dead.’  I gave half of it
to the hotel keeper, so that his cook should cut it up; and we got a
damaged shell, and two splendid meals, beefsteak one day and soup the
next.  The horses came for us about 9.30.  It was waterspouting; we were
drenched before we got out of the town; the road was a fine going
Highland trout stream; it thundered deep and frequent, and my mother’s
horse would not better on a walk.  At last she took pity on us, and very
nobly proposed that Belle and I should ride ahead.  We were mighty glad
to do so, for we were cold.  Presently, I said I should ride back for my
mother, but it thundered again, Belle is afraid of thunder, and I decided
to see her through the forest before I returned for my other hen—I may
say, my other wet hen.  About the middle of the wood, where it is
roughest and steepest, we met three pack-horses with barrels of
lime-juice.  I piloted Belle past these—it is not very easy in such a
road—and then passed them again myself, to pilot my mother.  This
effected, it began to thunder again, so I rode on hard after Belle.  When
I caught up with her, she was singing Samoan hymns to support her
terrors!  We were all back, changed, and at table by lunch time, 11 A.M.
Nor have any of us been the worse for it sinsyne.  That is pretty good
for a woman of my mother’s age and an invalid of my standing; above all,
as Tauilo was laid up with a bad cold, probably increased by rage.

                                * * * * *

                                                   _Friday_, 3_rd_ _June_.

On Wednesday the club could not be held, and I must ride down town and to
and fro all afternoon delivering messages, then dined and rode up by the
young moon.  I had plenty news when I got back; there is great talk in
town of my deportation: it is thought they have written home to Downing
Street requesting my removal, which leaves me not much alarmed; what I do
rather expect is that H. J. Moors and I may be haled up before the C. J.
to stand a trial for _lèse_-Majesty.  Well, we’ll try and live it

The rest of my history since Monday has been unadulterated _David
Balfour_.  In season and out of season, night and day, David and his
innocent harem—let me be just, he never has more than the two—are on my
mind.  Think of David Balfour with a pair of fair ladies—very nice ones
too—hanging round him.  I really believe David is as a good character as
anybody has a right to ask for in a novel.  I have finished drafting
Chapter XX. to-day, and feel it all ready to froth when the spigot is

O I forgot—and do forget.  What did I mean?  A waft of cloud has fallen
on my mind, and I will write no more.

                                * * * * *

                                   _Wednesday_, _I believe_, 8_th_ _June_.

Lots of David, and lots of David, and the devil any other news.
Yesterday we were startled by great guns firing a salute, and to-day
Whitmee (missionary) rode up to lunch, and we learned it was the
_Curaçoa_ come in, the ship (according to rumour) in which I was to be
deported.  I went down to meet my fate, and the captain is to dine with
me Saturday, so I guess I am not going this voyage.  Even with the
particularity with which I write to you, how much of my life goes
unexpressed; my troubles with a madman by the name of —, a genuine living
lunatic, I believe, and jolly dangerous; my troubles about poor —, all
these have dropped out; yet for moments they were very instant, and one
of them is always present with me.

I have finished copying Chapter XXI. of David—‘_solus cum sola_; we
travel together.’  Chapter XXII., ‘_Solus cum sola_; we keep house
together,’ is already drafted.  To the end of XXI. makes more than 150
pages of my manuscript—damn this hair—and I only designed the book to run
to about 200; but when you introduce the female sect, a book does run
away with you.  I am very curious to see what you will think of my two
girls.  My own opinion is quite clear; I am in love with both.  I foresee
a few pleasant years of spiritual flirtations.  The creator (if I may
name myself, for the sake of argument, by such a name) is essentially
unfaithful.  For the duration of the two chapters in which I dealt with
Miss Grant, I totally forgot my heroine, and even—but this is a flat
secret—tried to win away David.  I think I must try some day to marry
Miss Grant.  I’m blest if I don’t think I’ve got that hair out! which
seems triumph enough; so I conclude.

                                * * * * *


Your infinitesimal correspondence has reached me, and I have the honour
to refer to it with scorn.  It contains only one statement of conceivable
interest, that your health is better; the rest is null, and so far as
disquisitory unsound.  I am all right, but David Balfour is ailing; this
came from my visit to the man-of-war, where I had a cup of tea, and the
most of that night walked the verandah with extraordinary convictions of
guilt and ruin, many of which (but not all) proved to have fled with the
day, taking David along with them; he R.I.P. in Chapter XXII.

On Saturday I went down to the town, and fetched up Captain Gibson to
dinner; Sunday I was all day at Samoa, and had a pile of visitors.
Yesterday got my mail, including your despicable sheet; was fooled with a
visit from the high chief Asi, went down at 4 P.M. to my Samoan lesson
from Whitmee—I think I shall learn from him, he does not fool me with
cockshot rules that are demolished next day, but professes ignorance like
a man; the truth is, the grammar has still to be expiscated—dined with
Haggard, and got home about nine.

                                * * * * *


The excellent Clarke up here almost all day yesterday, a man I esteem and
like to the soles of his boots; I prefer him to anyone in Samoa, and to
most people in the world; a real good missionary, with the inestimable
advantage of having grown up a layman.  Pity they all can’t get that!  It
recalls my old proposal, which delighted Lady Taylor so much, that every
divinity student should be thirty years old at least before he was
admitted.  Boys switched out of college into a pulpit, what chance have
they?  That any should do well amazes me, and the most are just what was
to be expected.

                                * * * * *


I must tell you of our feast.  It was long promised to the boys, and came
off yesterday in one of their new houses.  My good Simelé arrived from
Savaii that morning asking for political advice; then we had Tauilo;
Elena’s father, a talking man of Tauilo’s family; Talolo’s cousin; and a
boy of Simelé’s family, who attended on his dignity; then Metu, the
meat-man—you have never heard of him, but he is a great person in our
household—brought a lady and a boy—and there was another infant—eight
guests in all.  And we sat down thirty strong.  You should have seen our
procession, going (about two o’clock), all in our best clothes, to the
hall of feasting!  All in our Sunday’s best.  The new house had been
hurriedly finished; the rafters decorated with flowers; the floor spread,
native style, with green leaves; we had given a big porker, twenty-five
pounds of fresh beef, a tin of biscuit, cocoanuts, etc.  Our places were
all arranged with much care; the native ladies of the house facing our
party; the sides filled up by the men; the guests, please observe: the
two chief people, male and female, were placed with our family, the rest
between S. and the native ladies.  After the feast was over, we had kava,
and the calling of the kava was a very elaborate affair, and I thought
had like to have made Simelé very angry; he is really a considerable
chief, but he and Tauilo were not called till after all our family, _and
the guests_, I suppose the principle being that he was still regarded as
one of the household.  I forgot to say that our black boy did not turn up
when the feast was ready.  Off went the two cooks, found him, decorated
him with huge red hibiscus flowers—he was in a very dirty under
shirt—brought him back between them like a reluctant maid, and, thrust
him into a place between Faauma and Elena, where he was petted and
ministered to.  When his turn came in the kava drinking—and you may be
sure, in their contemptuous, affectionate kindness for him, as for a good
dog, it came rather earlier than it ought—he was cried under a new name.
_Aleki_ is what they make of his own name Arrick; but instead of [the cup
of / ‘le ipu o] Aleki!’ it was called ‘le ipu o _Vailima_’ and it was
explained that he had ‘taken his chief-name’! a jest at which the
plantation still laughs.  Kava done, I made a little speech, Henry
translating.  If I had been well, I should have alluded to all, but I was
scarce able to sit up; so only alluded to my guest of all this month, the
Tongan, Tomas, and to Simelé, partly for the jest of making him translate
compliments to himself.  The talking man replied with many handsome
compliments to me, in the usual flood of Samoan fluent neatness; and we
left them to an afternoon of singing and dancing.  Must stop now, as my
right hand is very bad again.  I am trying to write with my left.

                                * * * * *


About half-past eight last night, I had gone to my own room, Fanny and
Lloyd were in Fanny’s, every one else in bed, only two boys on the
premises—the two little brown boys Mitaiele (Michael), age I suppose 11
or 12, and the new steward, a Wallis islander, speaking no English and
about fifty words of Samoan, recently promoted from the bush work, and a
most good, anxious, timid lad of 15 or 16—looks like 17 or 18, of
course—they grow fast here.  In comes Mitaiele to Lloyd, and told some
rigmarole about Paatalise (the steward’s name) wanting to go and see his
family in the bush.—‘But he has no family in the bush,’ said Lloyd.
‘No,’ said Mitaiele.  They went to the boy’s bed (they sleep in the
walled-in compartment of the verandah, once my dressing-room) and called
at once for me.  He lay like one asleep, talking in drowsy tones but
without excitement, and at times ‘cheeping’ like a frightened mouse; he
was quite cool to the touch, and his pulse not fast; his breathing seemed
wholly ventral; the bust still, the belly moving strongly.  Presently he
got from his bed, and ran for the door, with his head down not three feet
from the floor and his body all on a stretch forward, like a striking
snake: I say ‘ran,’ but this strange movement was not swift.  Lloyd and I
mastered him and got him back in bed.  Soon there was another and more
desperate attempt to escape, in which Lloyd had his ring broken.  Then we
bound him to the bed humanely with sheets, ropes, boards and pillows.  He
lay there and sometimes talked, sometimes whispered, sometimes wept like
an angry child; his principal word was ‘Faamolemole’—‘Please’—and he kept
telling us at intervals that his family were calling him.  During this
interval, by the special grace of God, my boys came home; we had already
called in Arrick, the black boy; now we had that Hercules, Lafaele, and a
man Savea, who comes from Paatalise’s own island and can alone
communicate with him freely.  Lloyd went to bed, I took the first watch,
and sat in my room reading, while Lafaele and Arrick watched the madman.
Suddenly Arrick called me; I ran into the verandah; there was Paatalise
free of all his bonds and Lafaele holding him.  To tell what followed is
impossible.  We were five people at him—Lafaele and Savea, very strong
men, Lloyd, I and Arrick, and the struggle lasted until 1 A.M. before we
had him bound.  One detail for a specimen: Lloyd and I had charge of one
leg, we were both sitting on it, and lo! we were both tossed into the
air—I, I daresay, a couple of feet.  At last we had him spread-eagled to
the iron bedstead, by his wrists and ankles, with matted rope; a most
inhumane business, but what could we do? it was all we could do to manage
it even so.  The strength of the paroxysms had been steadily increasing,
and we trembled for the next.  And now I come to pure Rider Haggard.
Lafaele announced that the boy was very bad, and he would get ‘some
medicine’ which was a family secret of his own.  Some leaves were brought
mysteriously in; chewed, placed on the boy’s eyes, dropped in his ears
(see Hamlet) and stuck up his nostrils; as he did this, the weird doctor
partly smothered the patient with his hand; and by about 2 A.M. he was in
a deep sleep, and from that time he showed no symptom of dementia
whatever.  The medicine (says Lafaele) is principally used for the
wholesale slaughter of families; he himself feared last night that his
dose was fatal; only one other person, on this island, knows the secret;
and she, Lafaele darkly whispers, has abused it.  This remarkable tree we
must try to identify.

The man-of-war doctor came up to-day, gave us a strait-waistcoat, taught
us to bandage, examined the boy and saw he was apparently well—he
insisted on doing his work all morning, poor lad, and when he first came
down kissed all the family at breakfast!  The Doctor was greatly excited,
as may be supposed, about Lafaele’s medicine.

                                * * * * *


All yesterday writing my mail by the hand of Belle, to save my wrist.
This is a great invention, to which I shall stick, if it can be managed.
We had some alarm about Paatalise, but he slept well all night for a
benediction.  This lunatic asylum exercise has no attractions for any of

I don’t know if I remembered to say how much pleased I was with _Across
the Plains_ in every way, inside and out, and you and me.  The critics
seem to taste it, too, as well as could be hoped, and I believe it will
continue to bring me in a few shillings a year for a while.  But such
books pay only indirectly.

To understand the full horror of the mad scene, and how well my boys
behaved, remember that _they believed P.’s ravings_, they _knew_ that his
dead family, thirty strong, crowded the front verandah and called on him
to come to the other world.  They _knew_ that his dead brother had met
him that afternoon in the bush and struck him on both temples.  And
remember! we are fighting the dead, and they had to go out again in the
black night, which is the dead man’s empire.  Yet last evening, when I
thought P. was going to repeat the performance, I sent down for Lafaele,
who had leave of absence, and he and his wife came up about eight o’clock
with a lighted brand.  These are the things for which I have to forgive
my old cattle-man his manifold shortcomings; they are heroic—so are the
shortcomings, to be sure.

It came over me the other day suddenly that this diary of mine to you
would make good pickings after I am dead, and a man could make some kind
of a book out of it without much trouble.  So, for God’s sake, don’t lose
them, and they will prove a piece of provision for my ‘poor old family,’
as Simelé calls it.

About my coming to Europe, I get more and more doubtful, and rather
incline to Ceylon again as place of meeting.  I am so absurdly well here
in the tropics, that it seems like affectation.  Yet remember I have
never once stood Sydney.  Anyway, I shall have the money for it all
ahead, before I think of such a thing.

We had a bowl of Punch on your birthday, which my incredible mother
somehow knew and remembered.

I sometimes sit and yearn for anything in the nature of an income that
would come in—mine has all got to be gone and fished for with the
immortal mind of man.  What I want is the income that really comes in of
itself while all you have to do is just to blossom and exist and sit on
chairs.  Think how beautiful it would be not to have to mind the critics,
and not even the darkest of the crowd—Sidney Colvin.  I should probably
amuse myself with works that would make your hair curl, if you had any

                                                                   R. L S.


                                            _Saturday_, 2_nd_ _July_ 1892.

THE character of my handwriting is explained, alas! by scrivener’s cramp.
This also explains how long I have let the paper lie plain.

                                * * * * *

                                                                    1 P.M.

I was busy copying David Balfour with my left hand—a most laborious
task—Fanny was down at the native house superintending the floor, Lloyd
down in Apia, and Belle in her own house cleaning, when I heard the
latter calling on my name.  I ran out on the verandah; and there on the
lawn beheld my crazy boy with an axe in his hand and dressed out in green
ferns, dancing.  I ran downstairs and found all my house boys on the back
verandah, watching him through the dining-room.  I asked what it
meant?—‘Dance belong his place,’ they said.—‘I think this no time to
dance,’ said I.  ‘Has he done his work?’—‘No,’ they told me, ‘away bush
all morning.’  But there they all stayed on the back verandah.  I went on
alone through the dining-room, and bade him stop.  He did so, shouldered
the axe, and began to walk away; but I called him back, walked up to him,
and took the axe out of his unresisting hands.  The boy is in all things
so good, that I can scarce say I was afraid; only I felt it had to be
stopped ere he could work himself up by dancing to some craziness.  Our
house boys protested they were not afraid; all I know is they were all
watching him round the back door and did not follow me till I had the
axe.  As for the out boys, who were working with Fanny in the native
house, they thought it a very bad business, and made no secret of their

                                * * * * *

                                                       _Wednesday_, 6_th_.

I have no account to give of my stewardship these days, and there’s a day
more to account for than mere arithmetic would tell you.  For we have had
two Monday Fourths, to bring us at last on the right side of the
meridian, having hitherto been an exception in the world and kept our
private date.  Business has filled my hours sans intermission.

                                * * * * *

                                                        _Tuesday_, 12_th._

I am doing no work and my mind is in abeyance.  Fanny and Belle are
sewing-machining in the next room; I have been pulling down their hair,
and Fanny has been kicking me, and now I am driven out.  Austin I have
been chasing about the verandah; now he has gone to his lessons, and I
make believe to write to you in despair.  But there is nothing in my
mind; I swim in mere vacancy, my head is like a rotten nut; I shall soon
have to begin to work again or I shall carry away some part of the
machinery.  I have got your insufficient letter, for which I scorn to
thank you.  I have had no review by Gosse, none by Birrell; another time
if I have a letter in the _Times_, you might send me the text as well;
also please send me a cricket bat and a cake, and when I come home for
the holidays, I should like to have a pony.

                    I am, sir, your obedient servant,

                                                             JACOB TONSON.

_P.S._  I am quite well; I hope you are quite well.  The world is too
much with us, and my mother bids me bind my hair and lace my bodice blue.


MY DEAR COLVIN,—This is Friday night, the (I believe) 18th or 20th August
or September.  I shall probably regret to-morrow having written you with
my own hand like the Apostle Paul.  But I am alone over here in the
workman’s house, where I and Belle and Lloyd and Austin are pigging; the
rest are at cards in the main residence.  I have not joined them because
‘belly belong me’ has been kicking up, and I have just taken 15 drops of

On Tuesday, the party set out—self in white cap, velvet coat, cords and
yellow half boots, Belle in a white kind of suit and white cap to match
mine, Lloyd in white clothes and long yellow boots and a straw hat,
Graham in khakis and gaiters, Henry (my old overseer) in blue coat and
black kilt, and the great Lafaele with a big ship-bag on his saddle-bow.
We left the mail at the P. O., had lunch at the hotel, and about 1.50 set
out westward to the place of tryst.  This was by a little shrunken brook
in a deep channel of mud on the far side of which, in a thicket of low
trees, all full of moths of shadow and butterflies of sun, we lay down to
await her ladyship.  Whiskey and water, then a sketch of the encampment
for which we all posed to Belle, passed off the time until 3.30.  Then I
could hold on no longer.  30 minutes late.  Had the secret oozed out?
Were they arrested?  I got my horse, crossed the brook again, and rode
hard back to the Vaea cross roads, whence I was aware of white clothes
glancing in the other long straight radius of the quadrant.  I turned at
once to return to the place of tryst; but D. overtook me, and almost bore
me down, shouting ‘Ride, ride!’ like a hero in a ballad.  Lady Margaret
and he were only come to shew the place; they returned, and the rest of
our party, reinforced by Captain Leigh and Lady Jersey, set on for Malie.
The delay was due to D.’s infinite precautions, leading them up lanes, by
back ways, and then down again to the beach road a hundred yards further

It was agreed that Lady Jersey existed no more; she was now my cousin
Amelia Balfour.  That relative and I headed the march; she is a charming
woman, all of us like her extremely after trial on this somewhat rude and
absurd excursion.  And we Amelia’d or Miss Balfour’d her with great but
intermittent fidelity.  When we came to the last village, I sent Henry on
ahead to warn the King of our approach and amend his discretion, if that
might be.  As he left I heard the villagers asking _which was the great
lady_?  And a little further, at the borders of Malie itself, we found
the guard making a music of bugles and conches.  Then I knew the game was
up and the secret out.  A considerable guard of honour, mostly children,
accompanied us; but, for our good fortune, we had been looked for
earlier, and the crowd was gone.

Dinner at the King’s; he asked me to say grace, I could think of
none—never could; Graham suggested _Benedictus Benedicat_, at which I
leaped.  We were nearly done, when old Popo inflicted the Atua howl (of
which you have heard already) right at Lady Jersey’s shoulder.  She
started in fine style.—‘There,’ I said, ‘we have been giving you a
chapter of Scott, but this goes beyond the Waverley Novels.’  After
dinner, kava.  Lady J. was served before me, and the King _drank last_;
it was the least formal kava I ever saw in that house,—no names called,
no show of ceremony.  All my ladies are well trained, and when Belle
drained her bowl, the King was pleased to clap his hands.  Then he and I
must retire for our private interview, to another house.  He gave me his
own staff and made me pass before him; and in the interview, which was
long and delicate, he twice called me _afioga_.  Ah, that leaves you
cold, but I am Samoan enough to have been moved.  _Susuga_ is my accepted
rank; to be called _afioga_—Heavens! what an advance—and it leaves Europe
cold.  But it staggered my Henry.  The first time it was complicated
‘lana susuga _ma_ lana afioga—his excellency _and_ his majesty’—the next
time plain Majesty.  Henry then begged to interrupt the interview and
tell who he was—he is a small family chief in Sawaii, not very small—‘I
do not wish the King,’ says he, ‘to think me a boy from Apia.’  On our
return to the palace, we separated.  I had asked for the ladies to sleep
alone—that was understood; but that Tusitala—his afioga Tusitala—should
go out with the other young men, and not sleep with the highborn females
of his family—was a doctrine received with difficulty.  Lloyd and I had
one screen, Graham and Leigh another, and we slept well.

In the morning I was first abroad before dawn; not very long, already
there was a stir of birds.  A little after, I heard singing from the
King’s chapel—exceeding good—and went across in the hour when the east is
yellow and the morning bank is breaking up, to hear it nearer.  All about
the chapel, the guards were posted, and all saluted Tusitala.  I could
not refrain from smiling: ‘So there is a place too,’ I thought, ‘where
sentinels salute me.’  Mine has been a queer life.

                            [Picture: Drawing]

Breakfast was rather a protracted business.  And that was scarce over
when we were called to the great house (now finished—recall your earlier
letters) to see a royal kava.  This function is of rare use; I know grown
Samoans who have never witnessed it.  It is, besides, as you are to hear,
a piece of prehistoric history, crystallised in figures, and the facts
largely forgotten; an acted hieroglyph.  The house is really splendid; in
the rafters in the midst, two carved and coloured model birds are posted;
the only thing of the sort I have ever remarked in Samoa, the Samoans
being literal observers of the second commandment.  At one side of the
egg our party sat. a=Mataafa, b=Lady J., c=Belle, d=Tusitala, e=Graham,
f=Lloyd, g=Captain Leigh, h=Henry, i=Popo.  The x’s round are the high
chiefs, each man in his historical position.  One side of the house is
set apart for the King alone; we were allowed there as his guests and
Henry as our interpreter.  It was a huge trial to the lad, when a speech
was made to me which he must translate, and I made a speech in answer
which he had to orate, full-breathed, to that big circle; he blushed
through his dark skin, but looked and acted like a gentleman and a young
fellow of sense; then the kava came to the King; he poured one drop in
libation, drank another, and flung the remainder outside the house behind
him.  Next came the turn of the old shapeless stone marked T.  It stands
for one of the King’s titles, Tamasoalii; Mataafa is Tamasoalii this day,
but cannot drink for it; and the stone must first be washed with water,
and then have the bowl emptied on it.  Then—the order I cannot
recall—came the turn of y and z, two orators of the name of Malietoa; the
first took his kava down plain, like an ordinary man; the second must be
packed to bed under a big sheet of tapa, and be massaged by anxious
assistants and rise on his elbow groaning to drink his cup.  W., a great
hereditary war man, came next; five times the cup-bearers marched up and
down the house and passed the cup on, five times it was filled and the
General’s name and titles heralded at the bowl, and five times he refused
it (after examination) as too small.  It is said this commemorates a time
when Malietoa at the head of his army suffered much for want of supplies.
Then this same military gentleman must _drink_ five cups, one from each
of the great names: all which took a precious long time.  He acted very
well, haughtily and in a society tone _outlining_ the part.  The
difference was marked when he subsequently made a speech in his own
character as a plain God-fearing chief.  A few more high chiefs, then
Tusitala; one more, and then Lady Jersey; one more, and then Captain
Leigh, and so on with the rest of our party—Henry of course excepted.
You see in public, Lady Jersey followed me—just so far was the secret

Then we came home; Belle, Graham and Lloyd to the Chinaman’s, I with Lady
Jersey, to lunch; so severally home.  Thursday I have forgotten:
Saturday, I began again on Davie; on Sunday, the Jersey party came up to
call and carried me to dinner.  As I came out, to ride home, the
search-lights of the _Curaçoa_ were lightening on the horizon from many
miles away, and next morning she came in.  Tuesday was huge fun: a
reception at Haggard’s.  All our party dined there; Lloyd and I, in the
absence of Haggard and Leigh, had to play aide-de-camp and host for about
twenty minutes, and I presented the population of Apia at random but
(luck helping) without one mistake.  Wednesday we had two middies to
lunch.  Thursday we had Eeles and Hoskyn (lieutenant and doctor—very,
very nice fellows—simple, good and not the least dull) to dinner.
Saturday, Graham and I lunched on board; Graham, Belle, Lloyd dined at
the G.’s; and Austin and the _whole_ of our servants went with them to an
evening entertainment; the more bold returning by lantern-light.
Yesterday, Sunday, Belle and I were off by about half past eight, left
our horses at a public house, and went on board the _Curaçoa_ in the
wardroom skiff; were entertained in the wardroom; thence on deck to the
service, which was a great treat; three fiddles and a harmonium and
excellent choir, and the great ship’s company joining: on shore in
Haggard’s big boat to lunch with the party.  Thence all together to
Vailima, where we read aloud a Ouida Romance we have been secretly
writing; in which Haggard was the hero, and each one of the authors had
to draw a portrait of him or herself in a Ouida light.  Leigh, Lady J.,
Fanny, R.L.S., Belle and Graham were the authors.

In the midst of this gay life, I have finally recopied two chapters, and
drafted for the first time three of Davie Balfour.  But it is not a life
that would continue to suit me, and if I have not continued to write to
you, you will scarce wonder.  And to-day we all go down again to dinner,
and to-morrow they all come up to lunch!  The world is too much with us.
But it now nears an end, to-day already the _Curaçoa_ has sailed; and on
Saturday or Sunday Lady Jersey will follow them in the mail steamer.  I
am sending you a wire by her hands as far as Sydney, that is to say
either you or Cassell, about _Falesá_: I will not allow it to be called
_Uma_ in book form, that is not the logical name of the story.  Nor can I
have the marriage contract omitted; and the thing is full of misprints
abominable.  In the picture, Uma is rot; so is the old man and the negro;
but Wiltshire is splendid, and Case will do.  It seems badly illuminated,
but this may be printing.  How have I seen this first number?  Not
through your attention, guilty one!  Lady Jersey had it, and only
mentioned it yesterday.

I ought to say how much we all like the Jersey party.  My boy Henry was
enraptured with the manners of the _Tawaitai Sili_ (chief lady).  Among
our other occupations, I did a bit of a supposed epic describing our
tryst at the ford of the Gasegase; and Belle and I made a little book of
caricatures and verses about incidents on the visit.

                                * * * * *


The wild round of gaiety continues.  After I had written to you
yesterday, the brain being wholly extinct, I played piquet all morning
with Graham.  After lunch down to call on the U.S. Consul, hurt in a
steeple-chase; thence back to the new girls’ school which Lady J. was to
open, and where my ladies met me.  Lady J. is really an orator, with a
voice of gold; the rest of us played our unremarked parts; missionaries,
Haggard, myself, a Samoan chief, holding forth in turn; myself with (at
least) a golden brevity.  Thence, Fanny, Belle, and I to town, to our
billiard room in Haggard’s back garden, where we found Lloyd and where
Graham joined us.  The three men first dressed, with the ladies in a
corner; and then, to leave them a free field, we went off to Haggard and
Leigh’s quarters, where—after all to dinner, where our two parties, a
brother of Colonel Kitchener’s, a passing globe-trotter, and Clarke the
missionary.  A very gay evening, with all sorts of chaff and mirth, and a
moonlit ride home, and to bed before 12.30.  And now to-day, we have the
Jersey-Haggard troupe to lunch, and I must pass the morning dressing

                                * * * * *

                                                _Thursday_, _Sept._ 1_st_.

I sit to write to you now, 7.15, all the world in bed except myself,
accounted for, and Belle and Graham, down at Haggard’s at dinner.  Not a
leaf is stirring here; but the moon overhead (now of a good bigness) is
obscured and partly revealed in a whirling covey of thin storm-clouds.
By Jove, it blows above.

From 8 till 11.15 on Tuesday, I dressed ship, and in particular cleaned
crystal, my specially.  About 11.30 the guests began to arrive before I
was dressed, and between while I had written a parody for Lloyd to sing.
Yesterday, Wednesday, I had to start out about 3 for town, had a long
interview with the head of the German Firm about some work in my new
house, got over to Lloyd’s billiard-room about six, on the way whither I
met Fanny and Belle coming down with one Kitchener, a brother of the
Colonel’s.  Dined in the billiard-room, discovered we had forgot to order
oatmeal; whereupon, in the moonlit evening, I set forth in my tropical
array, mess jacket and such, to get the oatmeal, and meet a young fellow
C.—and not a bad young fellow either, only an idiot—as drunk as Croesus.
He wept with me, he wept for me; he talked like a bad character in an
impudently bad farce; I could have laughed aloud to hear, and could make
you laugh by repeating, but laughter was not uppermost.

This morning at about seven, I set off after the lost sheep.  I could
have no horse; all that could be mounted—we have one girth-sore and one
dead-lame in the establishment—were due at a picnic about 10.30.  The
morning was very wet, and I set off barefoot, with my trousers over my
knees, and a macintosh.  Presently I had to take a side path in the bush;
missed it; came forth in a great oblong patch of taro solemnly surrounded
by forest—no soul, no sign, no sound—and as I stood there at a loss,
suddenly between the showers out broke the note of a harmonium and a
woman’s voice singing an air that I know very well, but have (as usual)
forgot the name of.  ’Twas from a great way off, but seemed to fill the
world.  It was strongly romantic, and gave me a point which brought me,
by all sorts of forest wading, to an open space of palms.  These were of
all ages, but mostly at that age when the branches arch from the ground
level, range themselves, with leaves exquisitely green.  The whole
interspace was overgrown with convolvulus, purple, yellow and white,
often as deep as to my waist, in which I floundered aimlessly.  The very
mountain was invisible from here.  The rain came and went; now in sunlit
April showers, now with the proper tramp and rattle of the tropics.  All
this while I met no sight or sound of man, except the voice which was now
silent, and a damned pig-fence that headed me off at every corner.  Do
you know barbed wire?  Think of a fence of it on rotten posts, and you
barefoot.  But I crossed it at last with my heart in my mouth and no harm
done.  Thence at last to C’s.: no C.  Next place I came to was in the
zone of woods.  They offered me a buggy and set a black boy to wash my
legs and feet.  ‘Washum legs belong that fellow white-man’ was the
command.  So at last I ran down my son of a gun in the hotel, sober, and
with no story to tell; penitent, I think.  Home, by buggy and my poor
feet, up three miles of root, boulder, gravel and liquid mud, slipping
back at every step.

                                * * * * *

                                                  _Sunday_, _Sept._ 4_th_.

Hope you will be able to read a word of the last, no joke writing by a
bad lantern with a groggy hand and your glasses mislaid.  Not that the
hand is not better, as you see by the absence of the amanuensis hitherto.
Mail came Friday, and a communication from yourself much more decent than
usual, for which I thank you.  Glad the _Wrecker_ should so hum; but
Lord, what fools these mortals be!

So far yesterday, the citation being wrung from me by remembrance of many
reviews.  I have now received all _Falesá_, and my admiration for that
tale rises; I believe it is in some ways my best work; I am pretty sure,
at least, I have never done anything better than Wiltshire.

                                * * * * *

                                        _Monday_, 13_th_ _September_ 1892.

On Wednesday the Spinsters of Apia gave a ball to a select crowd.  Fanny,
Belle, Lloyd and I rode down, met Haggard by the way and joined company
with him.  Dinner with Haggard, and thence to the ball.  The Chief
Justice appeared; it was immediately remarked, and whispered from one to
another, that he and I had the only red sashes in the room,—and they were
both of the hue of blood, sir, blood.  He shook hands with myself and all
the members of my family.  Then the cream came, and I found myself in the
same set of a quadrille with his honour.  We dance here in Apia a most
fearful and wonderful quadrille, I don’t know where the devil they fished
it from; but it is rackety and prancing and embraceatory beyond words;
perhaps it is best defined in Haggard’s expression of a gambado.  When I
and my great enemy found ourselves involved in this gambol, and crossing
hands, and kicking up, and being embraced almost in common by large and
quite respectable females, we—or I—tried to preserve some rags of
dignity, but not for long.  The deuce of it is that, personally, I love
this man; his eye speaks to me, I am pleased in his society.  We
exchanged a glance, and then a grin; the man took me in his confidence;
and through the remainder of that prance we pranced for each other.  Hard
to imagine any position more ridiculous; a week before he had been trying
to rake up evidence against me by brow-beating and threatening a
half-white interpreter; that very morning I had been writing most
villainous attacks upon him for the _Times_; and we meet and smile,
and—damn it!—like each other.  I do my best to damn the man and drive him
from these islands; but the weakness endures—I love him.  This is a thing
I would despise in anybody else; but he is so jolly insidious and
ingratiating!  No, sir, I can’t dislike him; but if I don’t make hay of
him, it shall not be for want of trying.

Yesterday, we had two Germans and a young American boy to lunch; and in
the afternoon, Vailima was in a state of siege; ten white people on the
front verandah, at least as many brown in the cook house, and countless
blacks to see the black boy Arrick.

Which reminds me, Arrick was sent Friday was a week to the German Firm
with a note, and was not home on time.  Lloyd and I were going bedward,
it was late with a bright moon—ah, poor dog, you know no such moons as
these!—when home came Arrick with his head in a white bandage and his
eyes shining.  He had had a fight with other blacks, Malaita boys; many
against one, and one with a knife: ‘I KNICKED ’EM DOWN, three four!’ he
cried; and had himself to be taken to the doctor’s and bandaged.  Next
day, he could not work, glory of battle swelled too high in his
threadpaper breast; he had made a one-stringed harp for Austin, borrowed
it, came to Fanny’s room, and sang war-songs and danced a war dance in
honour of his victory.  And it appears, by subsequent advices, that it
was a serious victory enough; four of his assailants went to hospital,
and one is thought in danger.  All Vailima rejoiced at this news.

Five more chapters of David, 22 to 27, go to Baxter.  All love affair;
seems pretty good to me.  Will it do for the young person?  I don’t know:
since the Beach, I know nothing, except that men are fools and
hypocrites, and I know less of them than I was fond enough to fancy.


                                           _Thursday_, 15_th_ _September_.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—On Tuesday, we had our young adventurer ready, and Fanny,
Belle, he and I set out about three of a dark, deadly hot, and deeply
unwholesome afternoon.  Belle had the lad behind her; I had a pint of
champagne in either pocket, a parcel in my hands, and as Jack had a girth
sore and I rode without a girth, I might be said to occupy a very
unstrategic position.  On the way down, a little dreary, beastly drizzle
beginning to come out of the darkness, Fanny put up an umbrella, her
horse bounded, reared, cannoned into me, cannoned into Belle and the lad,
and bolted for home.  It really might and ought to have been an A1
catastrophe; but nothing happened beyond Fanny’s nerves being a good deal
shattered; of course, she could not tell what had happened to us until
she got her horse mastered.

Next day, Haggard went off to the Commission and left us in charge of his
house; all our people came down in wreaths of flowers; we had a boat for
them; Haggard had a flag in the Commission boat for us; and when at last
the steamer turned up, the young adventurer was carried on board in great
style, with a new watch and chain, and about three pound ten of tips, and
five big baskets of fruit as free-will offerings to the captain.  Captain
Morse had us all to lunch; champagne flowed, so did compliments; and I
did the affable celebrity life-sized.  It made a great send-off for the
young adventurer.  As the boat drew off, he was standing at the head of
the gangway, supported by three handsome ladies—one of them a real
full-blown beauty, Madame Green, the singer—and looking very engaging
himself, between smiles and tears.  Not that he cried in public.

My, but we were a tired crowd!  However, it is always a blessing to get
home, and this time it was a sort of wonder to ourselves that we got back
alive.  Casualties: Fanny’s back jarred, horse incident; Belle, bad
headache, tears and champagne; self, idiocy, champagne, fatigue; Lloyd,
ditto, ditto.  As for the adventurer, I believe he will have a delightful
voyage for his little start in life.  But there is always something
touching in a mite’s first launch.

                                * * * * *

                                                           _Date unknown_.

I am now well on with the third part of the _Débâcle_.  The two first I
liked much; the second completely knocking me; so far as it has gone,
this third part appears the ramblings of a dull man who has forgotten
what he has to say—he reminds me of an M.P.  But Sedan was really great,
and I will pick no holes.  The batteries under fire, the red-cross folk,
the county charge—perhaps, above all, Major Bouroche and the operations,
all beyond discussion; and every word about the Emperor splendid.

                                * * * * *

                                                       _September_ 30_th_.

David Balfour done, and its author along with it, or nearly so.  Strange
to think of even our doctor here repeating his nonsense about
debilitating climate.  Why, the work I have been doing the last twelve
months, in one continuous spate, mostly with annoying interruptions and
without any collapse to mention, would be incredible in Norway.  But I
_have_ broken down now, and will do nothing as long as I possibly can.
With David Balfour I am very well pleased; in fact these labours of the
last year—I mean _Falesá_ and _D. B._, not Samoa, of course—seem to me to
be nearer what I mean than anything I have ever done; nearer what I mean
by fiction; the nearest thing before was _Kidnapped_.  I am not
forgetting the _Master of Ballantrae_, but that lacked all
pleasurableness, and hence was imperfect in essence.  So you see, if I am
a little tired, I do not repent.

The third part of the _Débâcle_ may be all very fine; but I cannot read
it.  It suffers from _impaired vitality_, and _uncertain aim_; two deadly
sicknesses.  Vital—that’s what I am at, first: wholly vital, with a
buoyancy of life.  Then lyrical, if it may be, and picturesque, always
with an epic value of scenes, so that the figures remain in the mind’s
eye for ever.

                                * * * * *

                                                          _October_ 8_th_.

Suppose you sent us some of the catalogues of the parties what vends
statutes?  I don’t want colossal Herculeses, but about quarter size and
less.  If the catalogues were illustrated it would probably be found a
help to weak memories.  These may be found to alleviate spare moments,
when we sometimes amuse ourselves by thinking how fine we shall make the
palace if we do not go pop.  Perhaps in the same way it might amuse you
to send us any pattern of wall paper that might strike you as cheap,
pretty and suitable for a room in a hot and extremely bright climate.  It
should be borne in mind that our climate can be extremely dark too.  Our
sitting-room is to be in varnished wood.  The room I have particularly in
mind is a sort of bed and sitting-room, pretty large, lit on three sides,
and the colour in favour of its proprietor at present is a topazy yellow.
But then with what colour to relieve it?  For a little work-room of my
own at the back.  I should rather like to see some patterns of
unglossy—well, I’ll be hanged if I can describe this red—it’s not Turkish
and it’s not Roman and it’s not Indian, but it seems to partake of the
two last, and yet it can’t be either of them, because it ought to be able
to go with vermilion.  Ah, what a tangled web we weave—anyway, with what
brains you have left choose me and send me some—many—patterns of this
exact shade.

A few days ago it was Haggard’s birthday and we had him and his cousin to
dinner—bless me if I ever told you of his cousin!—he is here anyway, and
a fine, pleasing specimen, so that we have concluded (after our own happy
experience) that the climate of Samoa must be favourable to cousins.
Then we went out on the verandah in a lovely moonlight, drinking port,
hearing the cousin play and sing, till presently we were informed that
our boys had got up a siva in Lafaele’s house to which we were invited.
It was entirely their own idea.  The house, you must understand, is
one-half floored, and one-half bare earth, and the dais stands a little
over knee high above the level of the soil.  The dais was the stage, with
three footlights.  We audience sat on mats on the floor, and the cook and
three of our work-boys, sometimes assisted by our two ladies, took their
places behind the footlights and began a topical Vailima song.  The
burden was of course that of a Samoan popular song about a white man who
objects to all that he sees in Samoa.  And there was of course a special
verse for each one of the party—Lloyd was called the dancing man
(practically the Chief’s handsome son) of Vailima; he was also, in his
character I suppose of overseer, compared to a policeman—Belle had that
day been the almoner in a semi-comic distribution of wedding rings and
thimbles (bought cheap at an auction) to the whole plantation company,
fitting a ring on every man’s finger, and a ring and a thimble on both
the women’s.  This was very much in character with her native name
_Teuila_, the adorner of the ugly—so of course this was the point of her
verse and at a given moment all the performers displayed the rings upon
their fingers.  Pelema (the cousin—_our_ cousin) was described as
watching from the house and whenever he saw any boy not doing anything,
running and doing it himself.  Fanny’s verse was less intelligible, but
it was accompanied in the dance with a pantomime of terror well-fitted to
call up her haunting, indefatigable and diminutive presence in a blue


                                        _Vailima_, _October_ 28_th_, 1892.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—This is very late to begin the monthly budget, but I have
a good excuse this time, for I have had a very annoying fever with
symptoms of sore arm, and in the midst of it a very annoying piece of
business which suffered no delay or idleness. . . . The consequence of
all this was that my fever got very much worse and your letter has not
been hitherto written.  But, my dear fellow, do compare these little
larky fevers with the fine, healthy, prostrating colds of the dear old
dead days at home.  Here was I, in the middle of a pretty bad one, and I
was able to put it in my pocket, and go down day after day, and attend to
and put my strength into this beastly business.  Do you see me doing that
with a catarrh?  And if I had done so, what would have been the result?

Last night, about four o’clock, Belle and I set off to Apia, whither my
mother had preceded us.  She was at the Mission; we went to Haggard’s.
There we had to wait the most unconscionable time for dinner.  I do not
wish to speak lightly of the Amanuensis, who is unavoidably present, but
I may at least say for myself that I was as cross as two sticks.  Dinner
came at last, we had the tinned soup which is usually the _pièce de
résistance_ in the halls of Haggard, and we pitched into it.  Followed an
excellent salad of tomatoes and cray-fish, a good Indian curry, a tender
joint of beef, a dish of pigeons, a pudding, cheese and coffee.  I was so
over-eaten after this ‘hunger and burst’ that I could scarcely move; and
it was my sad fate that night in the character of the local author to
eloquute before the public—‘Mr. Stevenson will read a selection from his
own works’—a degrading picture.  I had determined to read them the
account of the hurricane; I do not know if I told you that my book has
never turned up here, or rather only one copy has, and that in the
unfriendly hands of —.  It has therefore only been seen by enemies; and
this combination of mystery and evil report has been greatly envenomed by
some ill-judged newspaper articles from the States.  Altogether this
specimen was listened to with a good deal of uncomfortable expectation on
the part of the Germans, and when it was over was applauded with
unmistakable relief.  The public hall where these revels came off seems
to be unlucky for me; I never go there but to some stone-breaking job.
Last time it was the public meeting of which I must have written you;
this time it was this uneasy but not on the whole unsuccessful
experiment.  Belle, my mother, and I rode home about midnight in a fine
display of lightning and witch-fires.  My mother is absent, so that I may
dare to say that she struck me as voluble.  The Amanuensis did not strike
me the same way; she was probably thinking, but it was really rather a
weird business, and I saw what I have never seen before, the witch-fires
gathered into little bright blue points almost as bright as a

                                * * * * *


This is the day that should bring your letter; it is gray and cloudy and
windless; thunder rolls in the mountain; it is a quarter past six, and I
am alone, sir, alone in this workman’s house, Belle and Lloyd having been
down all yesterday to meet the steamer; they were scarce gone with most
of the horses and all the saddles, than there began a perfect picnic of
the sick and maim; Iopu with a bad foot, Faauma with a bad shoulder,
Fanny with yellow spots.  It was at first proposed to carry all these to
the doctor, particularly Faauma, whose shoulder bore an appearance of
erysipelas, that sent the amateur below.  No horses, no saddle.  Now I
had my horse and I could borrow Lafaele’s saddle; and if I went alone I
could do a job that had long been waiting; and that was to interview the
doctor on another matter.  Off I set in a hazy moonlight night; windless,
like to-day; the thunder rolling in the mountain, as to-day; in the still
groves, these little mushroom lamps glowing blue and steady, singly or in
pairs.  Well, I had my interview, said everything as I had meant, and
with just the result I hoped for.  The doctor and I drank beer together
and discussed German literature until nine, and we parted the best of
friends.  I got home to a silent house of sleepers, only Fanny awaiting
me; we talked awhile, in whispers, on the interview; then, I got a
lantern and went across to the workman’s house, now empty and silent,
myself sole occupant.  So to bed, prodigious tired but mighty content
with my night’s work, and to-day, with a headache and a chill, have
written you this page, while my new novel waits.  Of this I will tell you
nothing, except the various names under consideration.  First, it ought
to be called—but of course that is impossible—


Then it _is_ to be called either

                           _Weir of Hermiston_,

                        _The Lord-Justice Clerk_,

                _The Two Kirsties of the Cauldstaneslap_,


                          _Four Black Brothers_.


  Adam Weir, Lord-Justice Clerk, called Lord Hermiston.

  Archie, his son.

  Aunt Kirstie Elliott, his housekeeper at Hermiston.

  Elliott of the Cauldstaneslap, her brother.

  Kirstie Elliott, his daughter.

  Jim, Gib, Hob & Dandie—his sons.

  Patrick Innes, a young advocate.

  The Lord-Justice General.

Scene, about Hermiston in the Lammermuirs and in Edinburgh.  Temp. 1812.
So you see you are to have another holiday from copra!  The rain begins
softly on the iron roof, and I will do the reverse and—dry up.

                                * * * * *


Yours with the diplomatic private opinion received.  It is just what I
should have supposed.  _Ça m’est bien égal_.—The name is to be

                        _The Lord-Justice Clerk_.

None others are genuine.  Unless it be

                     _Lord-Justice Clerk Hermiston_.

                                * * * * *

                                                             _Nov._ 2_nd_.

On Saturday we expected Captain Morse of the Alameda to come up to lunch,
and on Friday with genuine South Sea hospitality had a pig killed.  On
the Saturday morning no pig.  Some of the boys seemed to give a doubtful
account of themselves; our next neighbour below in the wood is a bad
fellow and very intimate with some of our boys, for whom his confounded
house is like a fly-paper for flies.  To add to all this, there was on
the Saturday a great public presentation of food to the King and
Parliament men, an occasion on which it is almost dignified for a Samoan
to steal anything, and entirely dignified for him to steal a pig.

(The Amanuensis went to the _talolo_, as it is called, and saw something
so very pleasing she begs to interrupt the letter to tell it.  The
different villagers came in in bands—led by the maid of the village,
followed by the young warriors.  It was a very fine sight, for some three
thousand people are said to have assembled.  The men wore nothing but
magnificent head-dresses and a bunch of leaves, and were oiled and
glistening in the sunlight.  One band had no maid but was led by a tiny
child of about five—a serious little creature clad in a ribbon of grass
and a fine head-dress, who skipped with elaborate leaps in front of the
warriors, like a little kid leading a band of lions.  A.M.)

The A.M. being done, I go on again.  All this made it very possible that
even if none of our boys had stolen the pig, some of them might know the
thief.  Besides, the theft, as it was a theft of meat prepared for a
guest, had something of the nature of an insult, and ‘my face,’ in native
phrase, ‘was ashamed.’  Accordingly, we determined to hold a bed of
justice.  It was done last night after dinner.  I sat at the head of the
table, Graham on my right hand, Henry Simelé at my left, Lloyd behind
him.  The house company sat on the floor around the walls—twelve all
told.  I am described as looking as like Braxfield as I could manage with
my appearance; Graham, who is of a severe countenance, looked like
Rhadamanthus; Lloyd was hideous to the view; and Simelé had all the fine
solemnity of a Samoan chief.  The proceedings opened by my delivering a
Samoan prayer, which may be translated thus—‘Our God, look down upon us
and shine into our hearts.  Help us to be far from falsehood so that each
one of us may stand before Thy Face in his integrity.’—Then, beginning
with Simelé, every one came up to the table, laid his hand on the Bible,
and repeated clause by clause after me the following oath—I fear it may
sound even comic in English, but it is a very pretty piece of Samoan, and
struck direct at the most lively superstitions of the race.  ‘This is the
Holy Bible here that I am touching.  Behold me, O God!  If I know who it
was that took away the pig, or the place to which it was taken, or have
heard anything relating to it, and shall not declare the same—be made an
end of by God this life of mine!’  They all took it with so much
seriousness and firmness that (as Graham said) if they were not innocent
they would make invaluable witnesses.  I was so far impressed by their
bearing that I went no further, and the funny and yet strangely solemn
scene came to an end.

                                * * * * *

                                                      _Sunday_, _No._ 6th.

Here is a long story to go back upon, and I wonder if I have either time
or patience for the task?

Wednesday I had a great idea of match-making, and proposed to Henry that
Faalé would make a good wife for him.  I wish I had put this down when it
was fresher in my mind, it was so interesting an interview.  My gentleman
would not tell if I were on or not.  ‘I do not know yet; I will tell you
next week.  May I tell the sister of my father?  No, better not, tell her
when it is done.’—‘But will not your family be angry if you marry without
asking them?’—‘My village?  What does my village want?  Mats!’  I said I
thought the girl would grow up to have a great deal of sense, and my
gentleman flew out upon me; she had sense now, he said.

Thursday, we were startled by the note of guns, and presently after heard
it was an English war ship.  Graham and I set off at once, and as soon as
we met any townsfolk they began crying to me that I was to be arrested.
It was the _Vossische Zeitung_ article which had been quoted in a paper.
Went on board and saw Captain Bourke; he did not even know—not even
guess—why he was here; having been sent off by cablegram from Auckland.
It is hoped the same ship that takes this off Europewards may bring his
orders and our news.  But which is it to be?  Heads or tails?  If it is
to be German, I hope they will deport me; I should prefer it so; I do not
think that I could bear a German officialdom, and should probably have to
leave _sponte mea_, which is only less picturesque and more expensive.

                                * * * * *


Mail day.  All well, not yet put in prison, whatever may be in store for
me.  No time even to sign this lame letter.


                                                             _Dec._ 1_st_.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—Another grimy little odd and end of paper, for which you
shall be this month repaid in kind, and serve you jolly well right. . . .
The new house is roofed; it will be a braw house, and what is better, I
have my yearly bill in, and I find I can pay for it.  For all which
mercies, etc.  I must have made close on £4,000 this year all told; but,
what is not so pleasant, I seem to have come near to spending them.  I
have been in great alarm, with this new house on the cards, all summer,
and came very near to taking in sail, but I live here so entirely on
credit, that I determined to hang on.

                                * * * * *

                                                             _Dec._ 1_st_.

I was saying yesterday that my life was strange and did not think how
well I spoke.  Yesterday evening I was briefed to defend a political
prisoner before the Deputy Commissioner.  What do you think of that for a

                                * * * * *

                                                             _Dec._ 3_rd_.

Now for a confession.  When I heard you and Cassells had decided to print
_The Bottle Imp_ along with _Falesá_, I was too much disappointed to
answer.  _The Bottle Imp_ was the _pièce de résistance_ for my volume,
_Island Nights’ Entertainments_.  However, that volume might have never
got done; and I send you two others in case they should be in time.

First have the _Beach of Falesá_.

Then a fresh false title: ISLAND NIGHTS’ ENTERTAINMENTS; and then

_The Bottle Imp_: a cue from an old melodrama.

_The Isle of Voices_.

_The Waif Woman_; a cue from a _saga_.

Of course these two others are not up to the mark of _The Bottle Imp_;
but they each have a certain merit, and they fit in style.  By saying ‘a
cue from an old melodrama’ after the B. I., you can get rid of my note.
If this is in time, it will be splendid, and will make quite a volume.

Should you and Cassells prefer, you can call the whole volume _I. N.
E._—though the _Beach of Falesá_ is the child of a quite different
inspiration.  They all have a queer realism, even the most extravagant,
even the _Isle of Voices_; the manners are exact.

Should they come too late, have them type-written, and return to me here
the type-written copies.

                                * * * * *

                                                   _Sunday_, _Dec._ 4_th_.

3rd start,—But now more humbly and with the aid of an Amanuensis.  First
one word about page 2.  My wife protests against the Waif-woman and I am
instructed to report the same to you. . . .

                                * * * * *

                                                             _Dec._ 5_th_.

A horrid alarm rises that our October mail was burned crossing the
Plains.  If so, you lost a beautiful long letter—I am sure it was
beautiful though I remember nothing about it—and I must say I think it
serves you properly well.  That I should continue writing to you at such
length is simply a vicious habit for which I blush.  At the same time,
please communicate at once with Charles Baxter whether you have or have
not received a letter posted here Oct. 12th, as he is going to cable me
the fate of my mail.

Now to conclude my news.  The German Firm have taken my book like angels,
and the result is that Lloyd and I were down there at dinner on Saturday,
where we partook of fifteen several dishes and eight distinct forms of
intoxicating drink.  To the credit of Germany, I must say there was not a
shadow of a headache the next morning.  I seem to have done as well as my
neighbours, for I hear one of the clerks expressed the next morning a
gratified surprise that Mr. Stevenson stood his drink so well.  It is a
strange thing that any race can still find joy in such athletic
exercises.  I may remark in passing that the mail is due and you have had
far more than you deserve.

                                                                  R. L. S.


                                                           _January_ 1893.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—You are properly paid at last, and it is like you will
have but a shadow of a letter.  I have been pretty thoroughly out of
kilter; first a fever that would neither come on nor go off, then acute
dyspepsia, in the weakening grasp of which I get wandering between the
waking state and one of nightmare.  Why the devil does no one send me
_Atalanta_?  And why are there no proofs of D. Balfour?  Sure I should
have had the whole, at least the half, of them by now; and it would be
all for the advantage of the Atalantans.  I have written to Cassell & Co.
(matter of _Falesá_) ‘you will please arrange with him’ (meaning you).
‘What he may decide I shall abide.’  So consider your hand free, and act
for me without fear or favour.  I am greatly pleased with the
illustrations.  It is very strange to a South-Seayer to see Hawaiian
women dressed like Samoans, but I guess that’s all one to you in
Middlesex.  It’s about the same as if London city men were shown going to
the Stock Exchange as _pifferari_; but no matter, none will sleep worse
for it.  I have accepted Cassell’s proposal as an amendment to one of
mine; that _D. B._ is to be brought out first under the title _Catriona_
without pictures; and, when the hour strikes, _Kidnapped_ and _Catriona_
are to form vols. I. and II. of the heavily illustrated ‘Adventures of
David Balfour’ at 7s. 6d. each, sold separately.

—’s letter was vastly sly and dry and shy.  I am not afraid now.  Two
attempts have been made, both have failed, and I imagine these failures
strengthen me.  Above all this is true of the last, where my weak point
was attempted.  On every other, I am strong.  Only force can dislodge me,
for public opinion is wholly on my side.  All races and degrees are
united in heartfelt opposition to the Men of Mulinuu.  The news of the
fighting was of no concern to mortal man; it was made much of because men
love talk of battles, and because the Government pray God daily for some
scandal not their own; but it was only a brisk episode in a clan fight
which has grown apparently endemic in the west of Tutuila.  At the best
it was a twopenny affair, and never occupied my mind five minutes.

I am so weary of reports that are without foundation and threats that go
without fulfilment, and so much occupied besides by the raging troubles
of my own wame, that I have been very slack on politics, as I have been
in literature.  With incredible labour, I have rewritten the First
Chapter of the Justice Clerk; it took me about ten days, and requires
another athletic dressing after all.  And that is my story for the month.
The rest is grunting and grutching.

Consideranda for _The Beach_:—

I.  Whether to add one or both the tales I sent you?

II.  Whether to call the whole volume ‘Island Nights Entertainments’?

III.  Whether, having waited so long, it would not be better to give me
another mail, in case I could add another member to the volume and a
little better justify the name?

If I possibly can draw up another story, I will.  What annoyed me about
the use of _The Bottle Imp_ was that I had always meant it for the
centre-piece of a volume of _Märchen_ which I was slowly to elaborate.
You always had an idea that I depreciated the B. I; I can’t think
wherefore; I always particularly liked it—one of my best works, and ill
to equal; and that was why I loved to keep it in portfolio till I had
time to grow up to some other fruit of the same _venue_.  However, that
is disposed of now, and we must just do the best we can.

I am not aware that there is anything to add; the weather is hellish,
waterspouts, mists, chills, the foul fiend’s own weather, following on a
week of expurgated heaven; so it goes at this bewildering season.  I
write in the upper floor of my new house, of which I will send you some
day a plan to measure.  ’Tis an elegant structure, surely, and the proid
of me oi.  Was asked to pay for it just now, and genteelly refused, and
then agreed, in view of general good-will, to pay a half of what is still

                                * * * * *

                                                    24_th_ _January_ 1893.

This ought to have gone last mail and was forgotten.  My best excuse is
that I was engaged in starting an influenza, to which class of exploit
our household has been since then entirely dedicated.  We had eight
cases, one of them very bad, and one—mine—complicated with my old friend
Bluidy Jack.  Luckily neither Fanny, Lloyd or Belle took the confounded
thing, and they were able to run the household and nurse the sick to

Some of our boys behaved like real trumps.  Perhaps the prettiest
performance was that of our excellent Henry Simelé, or, as we sometimes
call him, Davy Balfour.  Henry, I maun premeese, is a chief; the humblest
Samoan recoils from emptying slops as you would from cheating at cards;
now the last nights of our bad time when we had seven down together, it
was enough to have made anybody laugh or cry to see Henry going the
rounds with a slop-bucket and going inside the mosquito net of each of
the sick, Protestant and Catholic alike, to pray with them.

I must tell you that in my sickness I had a huge alleviation and began a
new story.  This I am writing by dictation, and really think it is an art
I can manage to acquire.  The relief is beyond description; it is just
like a school-treat to me and the amanuensis bears up extraordinar’.  The
story is to be called _St. Ives_; I give you your choice whether or not
it should bear the subtitle, ‘Experiences of a French prisoner in
England.’  We were just getting on splendidly with it, when this cursed
mail arrived and requires to be attended to.  It looks to me very like as
if St. Ives would be ready before any of the others, but you know me and
how impossible it is I should predict.  The Amanuensis has her head quite
turned and believes herself to be the author of this novel (and is to
some extent)—and as the creature (!) has not been wholly useless in the
matter (I told you so!  A.M.) I propose to foster her vanity by a little
commemoration gift!  The name of the hero is Anne de St. Yves—he
Englishes his name to St. Ives during his escape.  It is my idea to get a
ring made which shall either represent _Anne_ or A. S. Y. A., of course,
would be Amethyst and S. Sapphire, which is my favourite stone anyway and
was my father’s before me.  But what would the ex-Slade professor do
about the letter Y?  Or suppose he took the other version, how would he
meet the case, the two N.’s?  These things are beyond my knowledge, which
it would perhaps be more descriptive to call ignorance.  But I place the
matter in the meanwhile under your consideration and beg to hear your
views.  I shall tell you on some other occasion and when the A.M. is out
of hearing how _very_ much I propose to invest in this testimonial; but I
may as well inform you at once that I intend it to be cheap, sir, damned
cheap!  My idea of running amanuenses is by praise, not pudding, flattery
and not coins!  I shall send you when the time is ripe a ring to measure

To resume our sad tale.  After the other seven were almost wholly
recovered Henry lay down to influenza on his own account.  He is but just
better and it looks as though Fanny were about to bring up the rear.  As
for me, I am all right, though I _was_ reduced to dictating _Anne_ in the
deaf and dumb alphabet, which I think you will admit is a _comble_.

Politics leave me extraordinary cold.  It seems that so much of my
purpose has come off, and Cedarcrantz and Pilsach are sacked.  The rest
of it has all gone to water.  The triple-headed ass at home, in his
plenitude of ignorance, prefers to collect the taxes and scatter the
Mataafas by force or the threat of force.  It may succeed, and I suppose
it will.  It is none the less for that expensive, harsh, unpopular and
unsettling.  I am young enough to have been annoyed, and altogether eject
and renegate the whole idea of political affairs.  Success in that field
appears to be the organisation of failure enlivened with defamation of
character; and, much as I love pickles and hot water (in your true
phrase) I shall take my pickles in future from Crosse and Blackwell and
my hot water with a dose of good Glenlivat.

Do not bother at all about the wall-papers.  We have had the whole of our
new house varnished, and it looks beautiful.  I wish you could see the
hall; poor room, it had to begin life as an infirmary during our recent
visitation; but it is really a handsome comely place, and when we get the
furniture, and the pictures, and what is so very much more decorative,
the picture frames, will look sublime.

                                * * * * *

                                                            _Jan._ 30_th_.

I have written to Charles asking for Rowlandson’s Syntax and Dance of
Death out of our house, and begging for anything about fashions and
manners (fashions particularly) for 1814.  Can you help?  Both the
Justice Clerk and St. Ives fall in that fated year.  Indeed I got into
St. Ives while going over the Annual Register for the other.  There is a
kind of fancy list of Chaps. of St. Ives.  (It begins in Edinburgh
Castle.) I. Story of a lion rampant (that was a toy he had made, and
given to a girl visitor).  II.  Story of a pair of scissors.  III. St.
Ives receives a bundle of money.  IV. St. Ives is shown a house.  V. The
Escape.  VI. The Cottage (Swanston College).  VII. The Hen-house.  VIII.
Three is company and four none.  IX. The Drovers.  X. The Great North
Road.  XI. Burchell Fenn.  XII. The covered cart.  XIII. The doctor.
XIV. The Luddites.  V. Set a thief to catch a thief.  XXVI. M. le Comte
de Kéroualle (his uncle, the rich _émigré_, whom he finds murdered).
XVII. The cousins.  XVIII. Mr. Sergeant Garrow.  XIX. A meeting at the
Ship, Dover.  XX. Diane.  XXI. The Duke’s Prejudices.  XXII. The False
Messenger.  XXIII. The gardener’s ladder.  XXIV. The officers.  XXV.
Trouble with the Duke.  XXVI. Fouquet again.  XXVII. The Aeronaut.
XXVIII. The True-Blooded Yankee.  XXIX. In France.  I don’t know where to
stop.  Apropos, I want a book about Paris, and the _first return_ of the
_émigrés_ and all up to the _Cent Jours_: d’ye ken anything in my way?  I
want in particular to know about them and the Napoleonic functionaries
and officers, and to get the colour and some vital details of the
business of exchange of departments from one side to the other.  Ten
chapters are drafted, and VIII. re-copied by me, but will want another
dressing for luck.  It is merely a story of adventure, rambling along;
but that is perhaps the guard that ‘sets my genius best,’ as Alan might
have said.  I wish I could feel as easy about the other!  But there, all
novels are a heavy burthen while they are doing, and a sensible
disappointment when they are done.

For God’s sake, let me have a copy of the new German Samoa White book.

                                                                  R. L. S.


                                              _At Sea_, _S.S. & Mariposa_,
                                                         _Feb._ 19th, ’93.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—You will see from this heading that I am not dead yet nor
likely to be.  I was pretty considerably out of sorts, and that is indeed
one reason why Fanny, Belle, and I have started out for a month’s lark.
To be quite exact, I think it will be about five weeks before we get
home.  We shall stay between two and three in Sydney.  Already, though we
only sailed yesterday, I am feeling as fit as a fiddle.  Fanny ate a
whole fowl for breakfast, to say nothing of a tower of hot cakes.  Belle
and I floored another hen betwixt the pair of us, and I shall be no
sooner done with the present amanuensing racket than I shall put myself
outside a pint of Guinness.  If you think this looks like dying of
consumption in Apia I can only say I differ from you.  In the matter of
David, I have never yet received my proofs at all, but shall certainly
wait for your suggestions.  Certainly, Chaps. 17 to 20 are the hitch, and
I confess I hurried over them with both wings spread.  This is doubtless
what you complain of.  Indeed, I placed my single reliance on Miss Grant.
If she couldn’t ferry me over, I felt I had to stay there.

About _Island Nights’ Entertainments_ all you say is highly satisfactory.
Go in and win.

The extracts from the _Times_ I really cannot trust myself to comment
upon.  They were infernally satisfactory; so, and perhaps still more so,
was a letter I had at the same time from Lord Pembroke.  If I have time
as I go through Auckland, I am going to see Sir George Grey.

Now I really think that’s all the business.  I have been rather sick and
have had two small hemorrhages, but the second I believe to have been
accidental.  No good denying that this annoys, because it do.  However,
you must expect influenza to leave some harm, and my spirits, appetite,
peace on earth and goodwill to men are all on a rising market.  During
the last week the amanuensis was otherwise engaged, whereupon I took up,
pitched into, and about one half demolished another tale, once intended
to be called _The Pearl Fisher_, but now razeed and called _The Schooner
Farralone_.  We had a capital start, the steamer coming in at sunrise,
and just giving us time to get our letters ere she sailed again.  The
manager of the German firm (O strange, changed days!) danced attendance
upon us all morning; his boat conveyed us to and from the steamer.

                                * * * * *

                                                            _Feb._ 21_st_.

All continues well.  Amanuensis bowled over for a day, but afoot again
and jolly; Fanny enormously bettered by the voyage; I have been as jolly
as a sand-boy as usual at sea.  The Amanuensis sits opposite to me
writing to her offspring.  Fanny is on deck.  I have just supplied her
with the Canadian Pacific Agent, and so left her in good hands.  You
should hear me at table with the Ulster purser and a little punning
microscopist called Davis.  Belle does some kind of abstruse
Boswellising; after the first meal, having gauged the kind of jests that
would pay here, I observed, ‘Boswell is Barred during this cruise.’

                                * * * * *


We approach Auckland and I must close my mail.  All goes well with the
trio.  Both the ladies are hanging round a beau—the same—that I unearthed
for them: I am general provider, and especially great in the beaux
business.  I corrected some proofs for Fanny yesterday afternoon, fell
asleep over them in the saloon—and the whole ship seems to have been down
beholding me.  After I woke up, had a hot bath, a whiskey punch and a
cigarette, and went to bed, and to sleep too, at 8.30; a recrudescence of
Vailima hours.  Awoke to-day, and had to go to the saloon clock for the
hour—no sign of dawn—all heaven grey rainy fog.  Have just had breakfast,
written up one letter, register and close this.


Bad pen, bad ink,
bad light, bad

                                               _S. S. Mariposa_, _at Sea_.
                                 _Apia due by daybreak to-morrow_ 9 _p.m._

MY DEAR COLVIN,—Have had an amusing but tragic holiday, from which we
return in disarray.  Fanny quite sick, but I think slowly and steadily
mending; Belle in a terrific state of dentistry troubles which now seem
calmed; and myself with a succession of gentle colds out of which I at
last succeeded in cooking up a fine pleurisy.  By stopping and stewing in
a perfectly airless state-room I seem to have got rid of the pleurisy.
Poor Fanny had very little fun of her visit, having been most of the time
on a diet of maltine and slops—and this while the rest of us were rioting
on oysters and mushrooms.  Belle’s only devil in the hedge was the
dentist.  As for me, I was entertained at the General Assembly of the
Presbyterian Church, likewise at a sort of artistic club; made speeches
at both, and may therefore be said to have been, like Saint Paul, all
things to all men.  I have an account of the latter racket which I meant
to have enclosed in this. . . . Had some splendid photos taken, likewise
a medallion by a French sculptor; met Graham, who returned with us as far
as Auckland.  Have seen a good deal too of Sir George Grey; what a
wonderful old historic figure to be walking on your arm and recalling
ancient events and instances!  It makes a man small, and yet the extent
to which he approved what I had done—or rather have tried to
do—encouraged me.  Sir George is an expert at least, he knows these
races: he is not a small employé with an ink-pot and a Whittaker.

Take it for all in all, it was huge fun: even Fanny had some lively sport
at the beginning; Belle and I all through.  We got Fanny a dress on the
sly, gaudy black velvet and Duchesse lace.  And alas! she was only able
to wear it once.  But we’ll hope to see more of it at Samoa; it really is
lovely.  Both dames are royally outfitted in silk stockings, etc.  We
return, as from a raid, with our spoils and our wounded.  I am now very
dandy: I announced two years ago that I should change.  Slovenly youth,
all right—not slovenly age.  So really now I am pretty spruce; always a
white shirt, white necktie, fresh shave, silk, socks, O a great sight!—No
more possible,

                                                                  R. L. S.


                                                            _April_, 1893.

1.  _Slip_ 3.  Davie would be _attracted_ into a similar dialect, as he
is later—e.g., with Doig, chapter XIX.  This is truly Scottish.

4, _to lightly_; correct; ‘to lightly’ is a good regular Scots verb.

15.  See Allan Ramsay’s works.

15, 16.  Ay, and that is one of the pigments with which I am trying to
draw the character of Prestongrange.  ’Tis a most curious thing to render
that kind, insignificant mask.  To make anything precise is to risk my
effect.  And till the day he died, _Davie_ was never sure of what P. was
after.  Not only so; very often P. didn’t know himself.  There was an
element of mere liking for Davie; there was an element of being
determined, in case of accidents, to keep well with him.  He hoped his
Barbara would bring him to her feet, besides, and make him manageable.
That was why he sent him to Hope Park with them.  But Davie cannot
_know_; I give you the inside of Davie, and my method condemns me to give
only the outside both of Prestongrange and his policy.

—I’ll give my mind to the technicalities.  Yet to me they seem a part of
the story, which is historical, after all.

—I think they wanted Alan to escape.  But when or where to say so?  I
will try.

—20, _Dean_.  I’ll try and make that plainer.

_Chap._ XIII., I fear it has to go without blows.  If I could get the
pair—No, can’t be.

—XIV.  All right, will abridge.

—XV.  I’d have to put a note to every word; and he who can’t read Scots
can _never_ enjoy Tod Lapraik.

—XVII.  Quite right.  I _can_ make this plainer, and will.

—XVIII.  I know, but I have to hurry here; this is the broken back of my
story; some business briefly transacted, I am leaping for Barbara’s

_Slip_ 57.  Quite right again; I shall make it plain.

_Chap._ XX.  I shall make all these points clear.  About Lady
Prestongrange (not _Lady_ Grant, only _Miss_ Grant, my dear, though
_Lady_ Prestongrange, quoth the dominie) I am taken with your idea of her
death, and have a good mind to substitute a featureless aunt.

_Slip_ 78.  I don’t see how to lessen this effect.  There is really not
much said of it; and I know Catriona did it.  But I’ll try.

—89.  I know.  This is an old puzzle of mine.  You see C.’s dialect is
not wholly a bed of roses.  If only I knew the Gaelic.  Well, I’ll try
for another expression.

                                * * * * *

_The end_.  I shall try to work it over.  James was at Dunkirk ordering
post-horses for his own retreat.  Catriona did have her suspicions
aroused by the letter, and, careless gentleman, I told you so—or she did
at least.—Yes, the blood money, I am bothered about the portmanteau; it
is the presence of Catriona that bothers me; the rape of the pockmantie
is historic. . . .

To me, I own, it seems in the proof a very pretty piece of workmanship.
David himself I refuse to discuss; he _is_.  The Lord Advocate I think a
strong sketch of a very difficult character, James More, sufficient; and
the two girls very pleasing creatures.  But O dear me, I came near losing
my heart to Barbara!  I am not quite so constant as David, and even
he—well, he didn’t know it, anyway!  _Tod Lapraik_ is a piece of living
Scots: if I had never writ anything but that and _Thrawn Janet_, still
I’d have been a writer.  The defects of _D.B._ are inherent, I fear.  But
on the whole, I am far indeed from being displeased with the tailie.
They want more Alan?  Well, they can’t get it.

I found my fame much grown on this return to civilisation.  _Digito
monstrari_ is a new experience; people all looked at me in the streets in
Sydney; and it was very queer.  Here, of course, I am only the white
chief in the Great House to the natives; and to the whites, either an
ally or a foe.  It is a much healthier state of matters.  If I lived in
an atmosphere of adulation, I should end by kicking against the pricks.
O my beautiful forest, O my beautiful shining, windy house, what a joy it
was to behold them again!  No chance to take myself too seriously here.

The difficulty of the end is the mass of matter to be attended to, and
the small time left to transact it in.  I mean from Alan’s danger of
arrest.  But I have just seen my way out, I do believe.

                                * * * * *

                                                          _Easter Sunday_.

I have now got as far as slip 28, and finished the chapter of the law
technicalities.  Well, these seemed to me always of the essence of the
story, which is the story of a _cause célébre_; moreover, they are the
justification of my inventions; if these men went so far (granting Davie
sprung on them) would they not have gone so much further?  But of course
I knew they were a difficulty; determined to carry them through in a
conversation; approached this (it seems) with cowardly anxiety; and
filled it with gabble, sir, gabble.  I have left all my facts, but have
removed 42 lines.  I should not wonder but what I’ll end by re-writing
it.  It is not the technicalities that shocked you, it was my bad art.
It is very strange that X. should be so good a chapter and IX. and XI. so
uncompromisingly bad.  It looks as if XI. also would have to be
re-formed.  If X. had not cheered me up, I should be in doleful dumps,
but X. is alive anyway, and life is all in all.

                                * * * * *

                                                _Thursday_, _April_ 5_th_.

Well, there’s no disguise possible; Fanny is not well, and we are
miserably anxious. . . .

                                * * * * *

                                                          _Friday_, 7_th_.

I am thankful to say the new medicine relieved her at once.  A crape has
been removed from the day for all of us.  To make things better, the
morning is ah! such a morning as you have never seen; heaven upon earth
for sweetness, freshness, depth upon depth of unimaginable colour, and a
huge silence broken at this moment only by the far-away murmur of the
Pacific and the rich piping of a single bird.  You can’t conceive what a
relief this is; it seems a new world.  She has such extraordinary
recuperative power that I do hope for the best.  I am as tired as man can
be.  This is a great trial to a family, and I thank God it seems as if
ours was going to bear it well.  And O! if it only lets up, it will be
but a pleasant memory.  We are all seedy, bar Lloyd: Fanny, as per above;
self nearly extinct; Belle, utterly overworked and bad toothache; Cook,
down with a bad foot; Butler, prostrate with a bad leg.  Eh, what a

                                * * * * *


Grey heaven, raining torrents of rain; occasional thunder and lightning.
Everything to dispirit; but my invalids are really on the mend.  The rain
roars like the sea; in the sound of it there is a strange and ominous
suggestion of an approaching tramp; something nameless and measureless
seems to draw near, and strikes me cold, and yet is welcome.  I lie quiet
in bed to-day, and think of the universe with a good deal of equanimity.
I have, at this moment, but the one objection to it; the _fracas_ with
which it proceeds.  I do not love noise; I am like my grandfather in
that; and so many years in these still islands has ingrained the
sentiment perhaps.  Here are no trains, only men pacing barefoot.  No
carts or carriages; at worst the rattle of a horse’s shoes among the
rocks.  Beautiful silence; and so soon as this robustious rain takes off,
I am to drink of it again by oceanfuls.

                                * * * * *

                                                           _April_ 16_th_.

Several pages of this letter destroyed as beneath scorn; the wailings of
a crushed worm; matter in which neither you nor I can take stock.  Fanny
is distinctly better, I believe all right now; I too am mending, though I
have suffered from crushed wormery, which is not good for the body, and
damnation to the soul.  I feel to-night a baseless anxiety to write a
lovely poem _à propos des bottes de ma grandmère_.  I see I am idiotic.
I’ll try the poem.

                                * * * * *


The poem did not get beyond plovers and lovers.  I am still, however,
harassed by the unauthentic Muse; if I cared to encourage her—but I have
not the time, and anyway we are at the vernal equinox.  It is funny
enough, but my pottering verses are usually made (like the God-gifted
organ voice’s) at the autumnal; and this seems to hold at the Antipodes.
There is here some odd secret of Nature.  I cannot speak of politics; we
wait and wonder.  It seems (this is partly a guess) Ide won’t take the C.
J. ship, unless the islands are disarmed; and that England hesitates and
holds off.  By my own idea, strongly corroborated by Sir George, I am
writing no more letters.  But I have put as many irons in against this
folly of the disarming as I could manage.  It did not reach my ears till
nearly too late.  What a risk to take!  What an expense to incur!  And
for how poor a gain!  Apart from the treachery of it.  My dear fellow,
politics is a vile and a bungling business.  I used to think meanly of
the plumber; but how he shines beside the politician!

                                * * * * *


A general, steady advance; Fanny really quite chipper and jolly—self on
the rapid mend, and with my eye on _forests_ that are to fall—and my
finger on the axe, which wants stoning.

                                * * * * *

                                                           _Saturday_, 22.

Still all for the best; but I am having a heart-breaking time over
_David_.  I have nearly all corrected.  But have to consider _The Heather
on Fire_, _The Wood by Silvermills_, and the last chapter.  They all seem
to me off colour; and I am not fit to better them yet.  No proof has been
sent of the title, contents, or dedication.


                                                           25_th_ _April_.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—To-day early I sent down to Maben (Secretary of State) an
offer to bring up people from Malie, keep them in my house, and bring
them down day by day for so long as the negotiation should last.  I have
a favourable answer so far.  This I would not have tried, had not old Sir
George Grey put me on my mettle; ‘Never despair,’ was his word; and ‘I am
one of the few people who have lived long enough to see how true that
is.’  Well, thereupon I plunged in; and the thing may do me great harm,
but yet I do not think so—for I think jealousy will prevent the trial
being made.  And at any rate it is another chance for this distracted
archipelago of children, sat upon by a clique of fools.  If, by the gift
of God, I can do—I am allowed to try to do—and succeed: but no, the
prospect is too bright to be entertained.

To-day we had a ride down to Tanugamanono, and then by the new wood
paths.  One led us to a beautiful clearing, with four native houses;
taro, yams, and the like, excellently planted, and old Folau—‘the Samoan
Jew’—sitting and whistling there in his new-found and well-deserved
well-being.  It was a good sight to see a Samoan thus before the world.
Further up, on our way home, we saw the world clear, and the wide die of
the shadow lying broad; we came but a little further, and found in the
borders of the bush a Banyan.  It must have been 150 feet in height; the
trunk, and its acolytes, occupied a great space; above that, in the peaks
of the branches, quite a forest of ferns and orchids were set; and over
all again the huge spread of the boughs rose against the bright west, and
sent their shadow miles to the eastward.  I have not often seen anything
more satisfying than this vast vegetable.

                                * * * * *


A heavenly day again! the world all dead silence, save when, from far
down below us in the woods, comes up the crepitation of the little wooden
drum that beats to church.  Scarce a leaf stirs; only now and again a
great, cool gush of air that makes my papers fly, and is gone.—The King
of Samoa has refused my intercession between him and Mataafa; and I do
not deny this is a good riddance to me of a difficult business, in which
I might very well have failed.  What else is to be done for these silly

                                * * * * *

                                                             _May_ 12_th_.

And this is where I had got to, before the mail arrives with, I must say,
a real gentlemanly letter from yourself.  Sir, that is the sort of letter
I want!  Now, I’ll make my little proposal.  I will accept _Child’s Play_
and _Pan’s Pipes_. Then I want _Pastoral_, _The Manse_, _The Islet_,
leaving out if you like all the prefacial matter and beginning at I. Then
the portrait of Robert Hunter, beginning ‘Whether he was originally big
or little,’ and ending ‘fearless and gentle.’  So much for _Mem. and
Portraits_.  _Beggars_, sections I. and II., _Random Memories_ II., and
_Lantern Bearers_; I’m agreeable.  These are my selections.  I don’t know
about _Pulvis et Umbra_ either, but must leave that to you.  But just
what you please.

About _Davie_ I elaborately wrote last time, but still _Davie_ is not
done; I am grinding singly at _The Ebb Tide_, as we now call the
_Farallone_; the most of it will go this mail.  About the following, let
there be no mistake: I will not write the abstract of _Kidnapped_; write
it who will, I will not.  Boccaccio must have been a clever fellow to
write both argument and story; I am not, _et je me recuse_.

We call it _The Ebb Tide_: _a Trio and Quartette_; but that secondary
name you may strike out if it seems dull to you.  The book, however,
falls in two halves, when the fourth character appears.  I am on p. 82 if
you want to know, and expect to finish on I suppose 110 or so; but it
goes slowly, as you may judge from the fact that this three weeks past, I
have only struggled from p. 58 to p. 82: twenty-four pages, _et encore_
sure to be rewritten, in twenty-one days.  This is no prize-taker; not
much Waverley Novels about this!

                                * * * * *

                                                             _May_ 16_th_.

I believe it will be ten chapters of _The Ebb Tide_ that go to you; the
whole thing should be completed in I fancy twelve; and the end will
follow punctually next mail.  It is my great wish that this might get
into _The Illustrated London News_ for Gordon Browne to illustrate.  For
whom, in case he should get the job, I give you a few notes.  A purao is
a tree giving something like a fig with flowers.  He will find some
photographs of an old marine curiosity shop in my collection, which may
help him.  Attwater’s settlement is to be entirely overshadowed
everywhere by tall palms; see photographs of Fakarava: the verandahs of
the house are 12 ft. wide.  Don’t let him forget the Figure Head, for
which I have a great use in the last chapter.  It stands just clear of
the palms on the crest of the beach at the head of the pier; the
flag-staff not far off; the pier he will understand is perhaps three feet
above high water, not more at any price.  The sailors of the _Farallone_
are to be dressed like white sailors of course.  For other things, I
remit this excellent artist to my photographs.

I can’t think what to say about the tale, but it seems to me to go off
with a considerable bang; in fact, to be an extraordinary work: but
whether popular!  Attwater is a no end of a courageous attempt, I think
you will admit; how far successful is another affair.  If my island ain’t
a thing of beauty, I’ll be damned.  Please observe Wiseman and Wishart;
for incidental grimness, they strike me as in it.  Also, kindly observe
the Captain and _Adar_; I think that knocks spots.  In short, as you see,
I’m a trifle vainglorious.  But O, it has been such a grind!  The devil
himself would allow a man to brag a little after such a crucifixion!  And
indeed I’m only bragging for a change before I return to the darned thing
lying waiting for me on p. 88, where I last broke down.  I break down at
every paragraph, I may observe; and lie here and sweat, till I can get
one sentence wrung out after another.  Strange doom; after having worked
so easily for so long!  Did ever anybody see such a story of four

                                * * * * *

                                                            _Later_, 2.30.

It may interest you to know that I am entirely _tapu_, and live apart in
my chambers like a caged beast.  Lloyd has a bad cold, and Graham and
Belle are getting it.  Accordingly, I dwell here without the light of any
human countenance or voice, and strap away at _The Ebb Tide_ until (as
now) I can no more.  Fanny can still come, but is gone to glory now, or
to her garden.  Page 88 is done, and must be done over again to-morrow,
and I confess myself exhausted.  Pity a man who can’t work on along when
he has nothing else on earth to do!  But I have ordered Jack, and am
going for a ride in the bush presently to refresh the machine; then back
to a lonely dinner and durance vile.  I acquiesce in this hand of fate;
for I think another cold just now would just about do for me.  I have
scarce yet recovered the two last.

                                * * * * *

                                                             _May_ 18_th_.

My progress is crabwise, and I fear only IX. chapters will be ready for
the mail.  I am on p. 88 again, and with half an idea of going back again
to 85.  We shall see when we come to read: I used to regard reading as a
pleasure in my old light days.  All the house are down with the influenza
in a body, except Fanny and me. The influenza appears to become endemic
here, but it has always been a scourge in the islands.  Witness the
beginning of _The Ebb Tide_, which was observed long before the Iffle had
distinguished himself at home by such Napoleonic conquests.  I am now of
course ‘quite a recluse,’ and it is very stale, and there is no
amanuensis to carry me over my mail, to which I shall have to devote many
hours that would have been more usefully devoted to _The Ebb Tide_.  For
you know you can dictate at all hours of the day and at any odd moment;
but to sit down and write with your red right hand is a very different

                                * * * * *

                                                             _May_ 20_th_.

Well, I believe I’ve about finished the thing, I mean as far as the mail
is to take it.  Chapter X. is now in Lloyd’s hands for remarks, and
extends in its present form to p. 93 incl.  On the 12th of May, I see by
looking back, I was on p. 82, not for the first time; so that I have made
11 pages in nine livelong days.  Well! up a high hill he heaved a huge
round stone.  But this Flaubert business must be resisted in the
premises.  Or is it the result of influenza?  God forbid.  Fanny is down
now, and the last link that bound me to my fellow men is severed.  I sit
up here, and write, and read Renan’s _Origines_, which is certainly
devilish interesting; I read his Nero yesterday, it is very good, O, very
good!  But he is quite a Michelet; the general views, and such a piece of
character painting, excellent; but his method sheer lunacy.  You can see
him take up the block which he had just rejected, and make of it the
corner-stone: a maddening way to deal with authorities; and the result so
little like history that one almost blames oneself for wasting time.  But
the time is not wasted; the conspectus is always good, and the blur that
remains on the mind is probably just enough.  I have been enchanted with
the unveiling of Revelations.  And how picturesque that return of the
false Nero!  The Apostle John is rather discredited.  And to think how
one had read the thing so often, and never understood the attacks upon
St. Paul!  I remember when I was a child, and we came to the Four Beasts
that were all over eyes, the sickening terror with which I was filled.
If that was Heaven, what, in the name of Davy Jones and the aboriginal
night-mare, could Hell be?  Take it for all in all, _L’Antéchrist_ is
worth reading.  The _Histoire d’Israël_ did not surprise me much; I had
read those Hebrew sources with more intelligence than the New Testament,
and was quite prepared to admire Ahab and Jezebel, etc.  Indeed, Ahab has
always been rather a hero of mine; I mean since the years of discretion.

                                * * * * *

                                                             _May_ 21_st_.

And here I am back again on p. 85! the last chapter demanding an entire
revision, which accordingly it is to get.  And where my mail is to come
in, God knows!  This forced, violent, alembicated style is most abhorrent
to me; it can’t be helped; the note was struck years ago on the _Janet
Nicoll_, and has to be maintained somehow; and I can only hope the
intrinsic horror and pathos, and a kind of fierce glow of colour there is
to it, and the surely remarkable wealth of striking incident, may guide
our little shallop into port.  If Gordon Browne is to get it, he should
see the Brassey photographs of Papeete.  But mind, the three waifs were
never in the town; only on the beach and in the calaboose.  By George,
but it’s a good thing to illustrate for a man like that!  Fanny is all
right again.  False alarm!  I was down yesterday afternoon at Paupata,
and heard much growling of war, and the delightful news that the C. J.
and the President are going to run away from Mulinuu and take refuge in
the Tivoli hotel.

                                * * * * *

                                                      23_rd_.  _Mail day_.

And lots of pleasures before me, no doubt!  Among others the attempt to
extract an answer from—before mail time, which may succeed or may not.

_The Ebb Tide_, all but (I take it) fifteen pages, is now in your
hands—possibly only about eleven pp.  It is hard to say.  But there it
is, and you can do your best with it.  Personally, I believe I would in
this case make even a sacrifice to get Gordon Browne and copious
illustration.  I guess in ten days I shall have finished with it; then I
go next to _D. Balfour_, and get the proofs ready: a nasty job for me, as
you know.  And then?  Well, perhaps I’ll take a go at the family history.
I think that will be wise, as I am so much off work.  And then, I
suppose, _Weir of Hermiston_, but it may be anything.  I am discontented
with _The Ebb Tide_, naturally; there seems such a veil of words over it;
and I like more and more naked writing; and yet sometimes one has a
longing for full colour and there comes the veil again.  _The Young
Chevalier_ is in very full colour, and I fear it for that reason.—Ever,

                                                                   R. L S.


                                                             29_th_ _May_.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—Still grinding at Chap. XI.  I began many days ago on p.
93, and am still on p. 93, which is exhilarating, but the thing takes
shape all the same and should make a pretty lively chapter for an end of
it.  For XII. is only a footnote _ad explicandum_.

                                * * * * *

                                                         _June the_ 1_st_.

Back on p. 93.  I was on 100 yesterday, but read it over and condemned

                                * * * * *

                                                                 10 _a.m._

I have worked up again to 97, but how?  The deuce fly away with
literature, for the basest sport in creation.  But it’s got to come
straight! and if possible, so that I may finish _D. Balfour_ in time for
the same mail.  What a getting upstairs!  This is Flaubert outdone.
Belle, Graham, and Lloyd leave to-day on a malaga down the coast; to be
absent a week or so: this leaves Fanny, me, and —, who seems a nice,
kindly fellow.

                                * * * * *

                                                             _June_ 2_nd_.

I am nearly dead with dyspepsia, over-smoking, and unremunerative
overwork.  Last night, I went to bed by seven; woke up again about ten
for a minute to find myself light-headed and altogether off my legs; went
to sleep again, and woke this morning fairly fit.  I have crippled on to
p. 101, but I haven’t read it yet, so do not boast.  What kills me is the
frame of mind of one of the characters; I cannot get it through.  Of
course that does not interfere with my total inability to write; so that
yesterday I was a living half-hour upon a single clause and have a
gallery of variants that would surprise you.  And this sort of trouble
(which I cannot avoid) unfortunately produces nothing when done but
alembication and the far-fetched.  Well, read it with mercy!

                                * * * * *

                                                                  8 _a.m._

Going to bed.  Have read it, and believe the chapter practically done at
last.  But lord! it has been a business.

                                * * * * *

                                                       _July_ 3_rd_, 8.15.

The draft is finished, the end of Chapter II. and the tale, and I have
only eight pages _wiederzuarbeiten_.  This is just a cry of joy in

                                * * * * *


Knocked out of time.  Did 101 and 102.  Alas, no more to-day, as I have
to go down town to a meeting.  Just as well though, as my thumb is about
done up.

                                * * * * *

                                                   _Sunday_, _June_ 4_th_.

Now for a little snippet of my life.  Yesterday, 12.30, in a heavenly day
of sun and trade, I mounted my horse and set off.  A boy opens my gate
for me.  ‘Sleep and long life!  A blessing on your journey,’ says he.
And I reply ‘Sleep, long life!  A blessing on the house!’  Then on, down
the lime lane, a rugged, narrow, winding way, that seems almost as if it
was leading you into Lyonesse, and you might see the head and shoulders
of a giant looking in.  At the corner of the road I meet the inspector of
taxes, and hold a diplomatic interview with him; he wants me to pay taxes
on the new house; I am informed I should not till next year; and we part,
_re infecta_, he promising to bring me decisions, I assuring him that, if
I find any favouritism, he will find me the most recalcitrant tax-payer
on the island.  Then I have a talk with an old servant by the wayside.  A
little further I pass two children coming up.  ‘Love!’ say I; ‘are you
two chiefly-proceeding inland?’ and they say, ‘Love! yes!’ and the
interesting ceremony is finished.  Down to the post office, where I find
Vitrolles and (Heaven reward you!) the White Book, just arrived per
_Upolu_, having gone the wrong way round, by Australia; also six copies
of _Island Nights’ Entertainments_.  Some of Weatherall’s illustrations
are very clever; but O Lord! the lagoon!  I did say it was ‘shallow,’
but, O dear, not so shallow as that a man could stand up in it!  I had
still an hour to wait for my meeting, so Postmaster Davis let me sit down
in his room and I had a bottle of beer in, and read _A Gentleman of
France_.  Have you seen it coming out in _Longman’s_?  My dear Colvin!
’tis the most exquisite pleasure; a real chivalrous yarn, like the Dumas’
and yet unlike.  Thereafter to the meeting of the five newspaper
proprietors.  Business transacted, I have to gallop home and find the
boys waiting to be paid at the doorstep.

                                * * * * *

                                                          _Monday_, 5_th_.

Yesterday, Sunday, the Rev. Dr. Browne, secretary to the Wesleyan
Mission, and the man who made the war in the Western Islands and was
tried for his life in Fiji, came up, and we had a long, important talk
about Samoa.  O, if I could only talk to the home men!  But what would it
matter? none of them know, none of them care.  If we could only have
Macgregor here with his schooner, you would hear of no more troubles in
Samoa.  That is what we want; a man that knows and likes the natives,
_qui paye de sa personne_, and is not afraid of hanging when necessary.
We don’t want bland Swedish humbugs, and fussy, fostering German barons.
That way the maelstrom lies, and we shall soon be in it.

I have to-day written 103 and 104, all perfectly wrong, and shall have to
rewrite them.  This tale is devilish, and Chapter XI. the worst of the
lot.  The truth is of course that I am wholly worked out; but it’s nearly
done, and shall go somehow according to promise.  I go against all my
gods, and say it is _not worth while_ to massacre yourself over the last
few pages of a rancid yarn, that the reviewers will quite justly tear to
bits.  As for D.B., no hope, I fear, this mail, but we’ll see what the
afternoon does for me.

                                * * * * *


Well, it’s done.  Those tragic 16 pp. are at last finished, and I have
put away thirty-two pages of chips, and have spent thirteen days about as
nearly in Hell as a man could expect to live through.  It’s done, and of
course it ain’t worth while, and who cares?  There it is, and about as
grim a tale as was ever written, and as grimy, and as hateful.

                              TO THE MEMORY


                               J. L. HUISH,

                          BORN 1856, AT HACKNEY,


                      Accidentally killed upon this


                          10th September, 1889.

                                * * * * *

                                                             _Tuesday_, 6.

I am exulting to do nothing.  It pours with rain from the westward, very
unusual kind of weather; I was standing out on the little verandah in
front of my room this morning, and there went through me or over me a
wave of extraordinary and apparently baseless emotion.  I literally
staggered.  And then the explanation came, and I knew I had found a frame
of mind and body that belonged to Scotland, and particularly to the
neighbourhood of Callander.  Very odd these identities of sensation, and
the world of connotations implied; highland huts, and peat smoke, and the
brown, swirling rivers, and wet clothes, and whiskey, and the romance of
the past, and that indescribable bite of the whole thing at a man’s
heart, which is—or rather lies at the bottom of—a story.

I don’t know if you are a Barbey d’Aurévilly-an.  I am.  I have a great
delight in his Norman stories.  Do you know the _Chevalier des Touches_
and _L’Ensorcelée_?  They are admirable, they reek of the soil and the
past.  But I was rather thinking just now of _Le Rideau Cramoisi_, and
its adorable setting of the stopped coach, the dark street, the
home-going in the inn yard, and the red blind illuminated.  Without
doubt, _there_ was an identity of sensation; one of those conjunctions in
life that had filled Barbey full to the brim, and permanently bent his

I wonder exceedingly if I have done anything at all good; and who can
tell me? and why should I wish to know?  In so little a while, I, and the
English language, and the bones of my descendants, will have ceased to be
a memory!  And yet—and yet—one would like to leave an image for a few
years upon men’s minds—for fun.  This is a very dark frame of mind,
consequent on overwork and the conclusion of the excruciating _Ebb Tide_.

What do you suppose should be done with _The Ebb Tide_?  It would make a
volume of 200 pp.; on the other hand, I might likely have some more
stories soon: _The Owl_, _Death in the Pot_, _The Sleeper Awakened_; all
these are possible.  _The Owl_ might be half as long; _The Sleeper
Awakened_, ditto; _Death in the Pot_ a deal shorter, I believe.  Then
there’s the _Go-Between_, which is not impossible altogether.  _The Owl_,
_The Sleeper Awakened_, and the _Go-Between_ end reasonably well; _Death
in the Pot_ is an ungodly massacre.  O, well, _The Owl_ only ends well in
so far as some lovers come together, and nobody is killed at the moment,
but you know they are all doomed, they are Chouan fellows.

                                * * * * *

                                                          _Friday_, 9_th_.

Well, the mail is in; no Blue-book, depressing letter from C.; a long,
amusing ramble from my mother; vast masses of Romeike; they _are_ going
to war now; and what will that lead to? and what has driven, them to it
but the persistent misconduct of these two officials?  I know I ought to
rewrite the end of this bluidy _Ebb Tide_: well, I can’t.  _Cest plus
fort que moi_; it has to go the way it is, and be jowned to it!  From
what I make out of the reviews, I think it would be better not to
republish _The Ebb Tide_: but keep it for other tales, if they should
turn up.  Very amusing how the reviews pick out one story and damn the
rest I and it is always a different one.  Be sure you send me the article
from _Le Temps_.

                                * * * * *

                                                       _Saturday_, 17_th_.

Since I wrote this last, I have written a whole chapter of my
grandfather, and read it to-night; it was on the whole much appreciated,
and I kind of hope it ain’t bad myself.  ’Tis a third writing, but it
wants a fourth.  By next mail, I believe I might send you 3 chapters.
That is to say _Family Annals_, _The Service of the Northern Lights_, and
_The Building of the Bell Rock_.  Possibly even 4—_A Houseful of Boys_.
I could finish my grandfather very easy now; my father and Uncle Alan
stop the way.  I propose to call the book: _Northern Lights_: _Memoirs of
a Family of Engineers_.  I tell you, it is going to be a good book.  My
idea in sending Ms. would be to get it set up; two proofs to me, one to
Professor Swan, Ardchapel, Helensburgh—mark it private and
confidential—one to yourself; and come on with criticisms!  But I’ll have
to see.  The total plan of the book is this—

        I.  Domestic Annals.
       II.  The Service of the Northern Lights.
      III.  The Building of the Bell Rock.
       IV.  A Houseful of Boys (or, the Family in Baxter’s Place).
        V.  Education of an Engineer.
       VI.  The Grandfather.
      VII.  Alan Stevenson.
     VIII.  Thomas Stevenson.

There will be an Introduction ‘The Surname of Stevenson’ which has proved
a mighty queer subject of inquiry.  But, Lord! if I were among libraries.

                                * * * * *

                                                         _Sunday_, 18_th_.

I shall put in this envelope the end of the ever-to-be-execrated _Ebb
Tide_, or Stevenson’s Blooming Error.  Also, a paper apart for _David
Balfour_.  The slips must go in another enclosure, I suspect, owing to
their beastly bulk.  Anyway, there are two pieces of work off my mind,
and though I could wish I had rewritten a little more of _David_, yet it
was plainly to be seen it was impossible.  All the points indicated by
you have been brought out; but to rewrite the end, in my present state of
over-exhaustion and fiction—phobia, would have been madness; and I let it
go as it stood.  My grandfather is good enough for me, these days. I do
not work any less; on the whole, if anything, a little more.  But it is

The slips go to you in four packets; I hope they are what they should be,
but do not think so.  I am at a pitch of discontent with fiction in all
its form—or my forms—that prevents me being able to be even interested.
I have had to stop all drink; smoking I am trying to stop also.  It
annoys me dreadfully: and yet if I take a glass of claret,—I have a
headache the next day!  O, and a good headache too; none of your trifles.

Well, sir, here’s to you, and farewell.—Yours ever.

                                                                  R. L. S.


                                            _Saturday_, 24_th_ (?) _June_.

MY DEAR COLVIN—Yesterday morning, after a day of absolute temperance, I
awoke to the worst headache I had had yet.  Accordingly, temperance was
said farewell to, quinine instituted, and I believe my pains are soon to
be over.  We wait, with a kind of sighing impatience, for war to be
declared, or to blow finally off, living in the meanwhile in a kind of
children’s hour of firelight and shadow and preposterous tales; the king
seen at night galloping up our road upon unknown errands and covering his
face as he passes our cook; Mataafa daily surrounded (when he awakes)
with fresh ‘white man’s boxes’ (query, ammunition?) and professing to be
quite ignorant of where they come from; marches of bodies of men across
the island; concealment of ditto in the bush; the coming on and off of
different chiefs; and such a mass of ravelment and rag-tag as the devil
himself could not unwind.

                                * * * * *

                                               _Wednesday_, 28_th_ _June_.

Yesterday it rained with but little intermission, but I was jealous of
news.  Graham and I got into the saddle about 1 o’clock and off down to
town.  In town, there was nothing but rumours going; in the night drums
had been beat, the men had run to arms on Mulinuu from as far as Vaiala,
and the alarm proved false.  There were no signs of any gathering in Apia
proper, and the Secretary of State had no news to give.  I believed him,
too, for we are brither Scots.  Then the temptation came upon me strong
to go on to the ford and see the Mataafa villages, where we heard there
was more afoot.  Off we rode.  When we came to Vaimusu, the houses were
very full of men, but all seemingly unarmed.  Immediately beyond is that
river over which we passed in our scamper with Lady Jersey; it was all
solitary.  Three hundred yards beyond is a second ford; and there—I came
face to face with war.  Under the trees on the further bank sat a picket
of seven men with Winchesters; their faces bright, their eyes ardent.  As
we came up, they did not speak or move; only their eyes followed us.  The
horses drank, and we passed the ford.  ‘Talofa!’ I said, and the
commandant of the picket said ‘Talofa’; and then, when we were almost by,
remembered himself and asked where we were going.  ‘To Faamuina,’ I said,
and we rode on.  Every house by the wayside was crowded with armed men.
There was the European house of a Chinaman on the right-hand side: a flag
of truce flying over the gate—indeed we saw three of these in what little
way we penetrated into Mataafa’s lines—all the foreigners trying to
protect their goods; and the Chinaman’s verandah overflowed with men and
girls and Winchesters.  By the way we met a party of about ten or a dozen
marching with their guns and cartridge-belts, and the cheerful alacrity
and brightness of their looks set my head turning with envy and sympathy.
Arrived at Vaiusu, the houses about the _malae_ (village green) were
thronged with men, all armed.  On the outside of the council-house (which
was all full within) there stood an orator; he had his back turned to his
audience, and seemed to address the world at large; all the time we were
there his strong voice continued unabated, and I heard snatches of
political wisdom rising and falling.

The house of Faamuina stands on a knoll in the _malae_.  Thither we
mounted, a boy ran out and took our horses, and we went in.  Faamuina was
there himself, his wife Pelepa, three other chiefs, and some attendants;
and here again was this exulting spectacle as of people on their marriage
day.  Faamuina (when I last saw him) was an elderly, limping gentleman,
with much of the debility of age; it was a bright-eyed boy that greeted
me; the lady was no less excited; all had cartridge-belts.  We stayed but
a little while to smoke a sului; I would not have kava made, as I thought
my escapade was already dangerous (perhaps even blameworthy) enough.  On
the way back, we were much greeted, and on coming to the ford, the
commandant came and asked me if there were many on the other side.  ‘Very
many,’ said I; not that I knew, but I would not lead them on the ice.
‘That is well!’ said he, and the little picket laughed aloud as we
splashed into the river.  We returned to Apia, through Apia, and out to
windward as far as Vaiala, where the word went that the men of the
Vaimauga had assembled.  We met two boys carrying pigs, and saw six young
men busy cooking in a cook-house; but no sign of an assembly; no arms, no
blackened faces.  I forgot!  As we turned to leave Faamuina’s, there ran
forward a man with his face blackened, and the back of his lava-lava
girded up so as to show his tattooed hips naked; he leaped before us, cut
a wonderful caper, and flung his knife high in the air, and caught it.
It was strangely savage and fantastic and high-spirited.  I have seen a
child doing the same antics long before in a dance, so that it is plainly
an _accepted solemnity_.  I should say that for weeks the children have
been playing with spears.  Up by the plantation I took a short cut, which
shall never be repeated, through grass and weeds over the horses’ heads
and among rolling stones; I thought we should have left a horse there,
but fortune favoured us.  So home, a little before six, in a dashing
squall of rain, to a bowl of kava and dinner.  But the impression on our
minds was extraordinary; the sight of that picket at the ford, and those
ardent, happy faces whirls in my head; the old aboriginal awoke in both
of us and knickered like a stallion.

It is dreadful to think that I must sit apart here and do nothing; I do
not know if I can stand it out.  But you see, I may be of use to these
poor people, if I keep quiet, and if I threw myself in, I should have a
bad job of it to save myself.  There; I have written this to you; and it
is still but 7.30 in the day, and the sun only about one hour up; can I
go back to my old grandpapa, and men sitting with Winchesters in my
mind’s eye?  No; war is a huge _entraînement_; there is no other
temptation to be compared to it, not one.  We were all wet, we had been
about five hours in the saddle, mostly riding hard; and we came home like
schoolboys, with such a lightness of spirits, and I am sure such a
brightness of eye, as you could have lit a candle at!

                                * * * * *

                                                        _Thursday_ 29_th_.

I had two priests to luncheon yesterday: the Bishop and Père Rémy.  They
were very pleasant, and quite clean too, which has been known sometimes
not to be—even with bishops.  Monseigneur is not unimposing; with his
white beard and his violet girdle he looks splendidly episcopal, and when
our three waiting lads came up one after another and kneeled before him
in the big hall, and kissed his ring, it did me good for a piece of
pageantry.  Rémy is very engaging; he is a little, nervous, eager man,
like a governess, and brimful of laughter and small jokes.  So is the
bishop indeed, and our luncheon party went off merrily—far more merrily
than many a German spread, though with so much less liquor.  One trait
was delicious.  With a complete ignorance of the Protestant that I would
scarce have imagined, he related to us (as news) little stories from the
gospels, and got the names all wrong!  His comments were delicious, and
to our ears a thought irreverent.  ‘_Ah_! _il connaissait son monde_,
_allez_!’  ‘_Il était fin_, _notre Seigneur_!’ etc.

                                * * * * *


Down with Fanny and Belle, to lunch at the International.  Heard there
about the huge folly of the hour, all the Mulinuu ammunition having been
yesterday marched openly to vaults in Matafele; and this morning, on a
cry of protest from the whites, openly and humiliatingly disinterred and
marched back again.  People spoke of it with a kind of shrill note that
did not quite satisfy me.  They seemed not quite well at ease.  Luncheon
over, we rode out on the Malie road.  All was quiet in Vaiusu, and when
we got to the second ford, alas! there was no picket—which was just what
Belle had come to sketch.  On through quite empty roads; the houses
deserted, never a gun to be seen; and at last a drum and a penny whistle
playing in Vaiusu, and a cricket match on the _malae_!  Went up to
Faamuina’s; he is a trifle uneasy, though he gives us kava.  I cannot see
what ails him, then it appears that he has an engagement with the Chief
Justice at half-past two to sell a piece of land.  Is this the reason why
war has disappeared?  We ride back, stopping to sketch here and there the
fords, a flag of truce, etc.  I ride on to Public Hall Committee and pass
an hour with my committees very heavily.  To the hotel to dinner, then to
the ball, and home by eleven, very tired.  At the ball I heard some news,
of how the chief of Letonu said that I was the source of all this
trouble, and should be punished, and my family as well.  This, and the
rudeness of the man at the ford of the Gase-gase, looks but ill; I should
have said that Faamuina, as he approached the first ford, was spoken to
by a girl, and immediately said goodbye and plunged into the bush; the
girl had told him there was a war party out from Mulinuu; and a little
further on, as we stopped to sketch a flag of truce, the beating of drums
and the sound of a bugle from that direction startled us.  But we saw
nothing, and I believe Mulinuu is (at least at present) incapable of any
act of offence.  One good job, these threats to my home and family take
away all my childish temptation to go out and fight.  Our force must be
here, to protect ourselves.  I see panic rising among the whites; I hear
the shrill note of it in their voices, and they talk already about a
refuge on the war ships.  There are two here, both German; and the
_Orlando_ is expected presently.

                                * * * * *

                                                    _Sunday_ 9_th_ _July_.

Well, the war has at last begun.  For four or five days, Apia has been
filled by these poor children with their faces blacked, and the red
handkerchief about their brows, that makes the Malietoa uniform, and the
boats have been coming in from the windward, some of them 50 strong, with
a drum and a bugle on board—the bugle always ill-played—and a sort of
jester leaping and capering on the sparred nose of the boat, and the
whole crew uttering from time to time a kind of menacing ululation.
Friday they marched out to the bush; and yesterday morning we heard that
some had returned to their houses for the night, as they found it ‘so
uncomfortable.’  After dinner a messenger came up to me with a note, that
the wounded were arriving at the Mission House.  Fanny, Lloyd and I
saddled and rode off with a lantern; it was a fine starry night, though
pretty cold.  We left the lantern at Tanuga-manono, and then down in the
starlight.  I found Apia, and myself, in a strange state of flusteration;
my own excitement was gloomy and (I may say) truculent; others appeared
imbecile; some sullen.  The best place in the whole town was the
hospital.  A longish frame-house it was, with a big table in the middle
for operations, and ten Samoans, each with an average of four
sympathisers, stretched along the walls.  Clarke was there, steady as a
die; Miss Large, little spectacled angel, showed herself a real trump;
the nice, clean, German orderlies in their white uniforms looked and
meant business.  (I hear a fine story of Miss Large—a cast-iron
teetotaller—going to the public-house for a bottle of brandy.)

The doctors were not there when I arrived; but presently it was observed
that one of the men was going cold.  He was a magnificent Samoan, very
dark, with a noble aquiline countenance, like an Arab, I suppose, and was
surrounded by seven people, fondling his limbs as he lay: he was shot
through both lungs.  And an orderly was sent to the town for the (German
naval) doctors, who were dining there.  Meantime I found an errand of my
own.  Both Clarke and Miss Large expressed a wish to have the public
hall, of which I am chairman, and I set off down town, and woke people
out of their beds, and got a committee together, and (with a great deal
of difficulty from one man, whom we finally overwhelmed) got the public
hall for them.  Bar the one man, the committee was splendid, and agreed
in a moment to share the expense if the shareholders object.  Back to the
hospital about 11.30; found the German doctors there.  Two men were going
now, one that was shot in the bowels—he was dying rather hard, in a
gloomy stupor of pain and laudanum, silent, with contorted face.  The
chief, shot through the lungs, was lying on one side, awaiting the last
angel; his family held his hands and legs; they were all speechless, only
one woman suddenly clasped his knee, and ‘keened’ for the inside of five
seconds, and fell silent again.  Went home, and to bed about two A.M.
What actually passed seems undiscoverable; but the Mataafas were surely
driven back out of Vaitele; that is a blow to them, and the resistance
was far greater than had been anticipated—which is a blow to the
Laupepas.  All seems to indicate a long and bloody war.

Frank’s house in Mulinuu was likewise filled with wounded; many dead
bodies were brought in; I hear with certainty of five, wrapped in mats;
and a pastor goes to-morrow to the field to bring others.  The Laupepas
brought in eleven heads to Mulinuu, and to the great horror and
consternation of the native mind, one proved to be a girl, and was
identified as that of a Taupou—or Maid of the Village—from Savaii.  I
hear this morning, with great relief, that it has been returned to Malie,
wrapped in the most costly silk handkerchiefs, and with an apologetic
embassy.  This could easily happen.  The girl was of course attending on
her father with ammunition, and got shot; her hair was cut short to make
her father’s war head-dress—even as our own Sina’s is at this moment; and
the decollator was probably, in his red flurry of fight, wholly
unconscious of her sex.  I am sorry for him in the future; he must make
up his mind to many bitter jests—perhaps to vengeance.  But what an end
to one chosen for her beauty and, in the time of peace, watched over by
trusty crones and hunchbacks!

                                * * * * *


Can I write or not?  I played lawn tennis in the morning, and after lunch
down with Graham to Apia.  Ulu, he that was shot in the lungs, still
lives; he that was shot in the bowels is gone to his fathers, poor,
fierce child!  I was able to be of some very small help, and in the way
of helping myself to information, to prove myself a mere gazer at
meteors.  But there seems no doubt the Mataafas for the time are
scattered; the most of our friends are involved in this disaster, and
Mataafa himself—who might have swept the islands a few months ago—for him
to fall so poorly, doubles my regret.  They say the Taupou had a gun and
fired; probably an excuse manufactured _ex post facto_.  I go down
to-morrow at 12, to stay the afternoon, and help Miss Large.  In the
hospital to-day, when I first entered it, there were no attendants; only
the wounded and their friends, all equally sleeping and their heads
poised upon the wooden pillows.  There is a pretty enough boy there,
slightly wounded, whose fate is to be envied: two girls, and one of the
most beautiful, with beaming eyes, tend him and sleep upon his pillow.
In the other corner, another young man, very patient and brave, lies
wholly deserted.  Yet he seems to me far the better of the two; but not
so pretty!  Heavens, what a difference that makes; in our not very well
proportioned bodies and our finely hideous faces, the 1-32nd—rather the
1-64th—this way or that!  Sixteen heads in all at Mulinuu.  I am so stiff
I can scarce move without a howl.

                                * * * * *

                                                         _Monday_, 10_th_.

Some news that Mataafa is gone to Savaii by way of Manono; this may mean
a great deal more warfaring, and no great issue.  (When Sosimo came in
this morning with my breakfast he had to lift me up.  It is no joke to
play lawn tennis after carrying your right arm in a sling so many years.)
What a hard, unjust business this is!  On the 28th, if Mataafa had moved,
he could have still swept Mulinuu.  He waited, and I fear he is now only
the stick of a rocket.

                                * * * * *

                                                      _Wednesday_, 12_th_.

No more political news; but many rumours.  The government troops are off
to Manono; no word of Mataafa.  O, there is a passage in my mother’s
letter which puzzles me as to a date.  Is it next Christmas you are
coming? or the Christmas after?  This is most important, and must be
understood at once.  If it is next Christmas, I could not go to Ceylon,
for lack of gold, and you would have to adopt one of the following
alternatives: 1st, either come straight on here and pass a month with us;
’tis the rainy season, but we have often lovely weather.  Or (2nd) come
to Hawaii and I will meet you there.  Hawaii is only a week’s sail from
S. Francisco, making only about sixteen days on the heaving ocean; and
the steamers run once a fortnight, so that you could turn round; and you
could thus pass a day or two in the States—a fortnight even—and still see
me.  But I have sworn to take no further excursions till I have money
saved to pay for them; and to go to Ceylon and back would be torture
unless I had a lot.  You must answer this at once, please; so that I may
know what to do.  We would dearly like you to come on here.  I’ll tell
you how it can be done; I can come up and meet you at Hawaii, and if you
had at all got over your sea-sickness, I could just come on board and we
could return together to Samoa, and you could have a month of our life
here, which I believe you could not help liking.  Our horses are the
devil, of course, miserable screws, and some of them a little vicious.  I
had a dreadful fright—the passage in my mother’s letter is recrossed and
I see it says the end of /94: so much the better, then; but I would like
to submit to you my alternative plan.  I could meet you at Hawaii, and
reconduct you to Hawaii, so that we could have a full six weeks together
and I believe a little over, and you would see this place of mine, and
have a sniff of native life, native foods, native houses—and perhaps be
in time to see the German flag raised, who knows?—and we could generally
yarn for all we were worth.  I should like you to see Vailima; and I
should be curious to know how the climate affected you.  It is quite hit
or miss; it suits me, it suits Graham, it suits all our family; others it
does not suit at all.  It is either gold or poison.  I rise at six, the
rest at seven; lunch is at 12; at five we go to lawn tennis till dinner
at six; and to roost early.

A man brought in a head to Mulinuu in great glory; they washed the black
paint off, and behold! it was his brother.  When I last heard he was
sitting in his house, with the head upon his lap, and weeping.  Barbarous
war is an ugly business; but I believe the civilised is fully uglier; but
Lord! what fun!

I should say we now have definite news that there are _three_ women’s
heads; it was difficult to get it out of the natives, who are all
ashamed, and the women all in terror of reprisals.  Nothing has been done
to punish or disgrace these hateful innovators.  It was a false report
that the head had been returned.

                                * * * * *

                                                       _Thursday_, 13_th_.

Mataafa driven away from Savaii.  I cannot write about this, and do not
know what should be the end of it.

                                * * * * *

                                                         _Monday_, 17_th_.

Haggard and Ahrens (a German clerk) to lunch yesterday.  There is no real
certain news yet: I must say, no man could _swear_ to any result; but the
sky looks horribly black for Mataafa and so many of our friends along
with him.  The thing has an abominable, a beastly, nightmare interest.
But it’s wonderful generally how little one cares about the wounded;
hospital sights, etc.; things that used to murder me.  I was far more
struck with the excellent way in which things were managed; as if it had
been a peep-show; I held some of the things at an operation, and did not
care a dump.

                                * * * * *

                                                        _Tuesday_, 18_th_.

Sunday came the _Katoomba_, Captain Bickford, C.M.G.  Yesterday, Graham
and I went down to call, and find he has orders to suppress Mataafa at
once, and has to go down to-day before daybreak to Manono.  He is a very
capable, energetic man; if he had only come ten days ago, all this would
have gone by; but now the questions are thick and difficult.  (1) Will
Mataafa surrender?  (2) Will his people allow themselves to be disarmed?
(3) What will happen to them if they do?  (4) What will any of them
believe after former deceptions?  The three consuls were scampering on
horseback to Leulumoega to the King; no Cusack-Smith, without whose
accession I could not send a letter to Mataafa.  I rode up here, wrote my
letter in the sweat of the concordance and with the able-bodied help of
Lloyd—and dined.  Then down in continual showers and pitchy darkness, and
to Cusack-Smith’s; not re-returned.  Back to the inn for my horse, and to
C.-S.’s, when I find him just returned and he accepts my letter.  Thence
home, by 12.30, jolly tired and wet.  And to-day have been in a
crispation of energy and ill-temper, raking my wretched mail together.
It is a hateful business, waiting for the news; it may come to a fearful
massacre yet.—Yours ever,

                                                                  R. L. S.


                                                           _August_, 1893.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—Quite impossible to write.  Your letter is due to-day; a
nasty, rainy-like morning with huge blue clouds, and a huge indigo shadow
on the sea, and my lamp still burning at near 7.  Let me humbly give you
news.  Fanny seems on the whole the most, or the only, powerful member of
the family; for some days she has been the Flower of the Flock.  Belle is
begging for quinine.  Lloyd and Graham have both been down with ‘belly
belong him’ (Black Boy speech).  As for me, I have to lay aside my lawn
tennis, having (as was to be expected) had a smart but eminently brief
hemorrhage.  I am also on the quinine flask.  I have been re-casting the
beginning of the _Hanging Judge_ or _Weir of Hermiston_; then I have been
cobbling on my grandfather, whose last chapter (there are only to be
four) is in the form of pieces of paper, a huge welter of inconsequence,
and that glimmer of faith (or hope) which one learns at this trade, that
somehow and some time, by perpetual staring and glowering and rewriting,
order will emerge.  It is indeed a queer hope; there is one piece for
instance that I want in—I cannot put it one place for a good reason—I
cannot put it another for a better—and every time I look at it, I turn
sick and put the MS. away.

Well, your letter hasn’t come, and a number of others are missing.  It
looks as if a mail-bag had gone on, so I’ll blame nobody, and proceed to

It looks as if I was going to send you the first three chapters of my
Grandfather. . . .  If they were set up, it would be that much anxiety
off my mind.  I have a strange feeling of responsibility, as if I had my
ancestors’ _souls_ in my charge, and might miscarry with them.

There’s a lot of work gone into it, and a lot more is needed.  Still
Chapter I. seems about right to me, and much of Chapter II.  Chapter III.
I know nothing of, as I told you.  And Chapter IV. is at present all ends
and beginnings; but it can be pulled together.

This is all I have been able to screw up to you for this month, and I may
add that it is not only more than you deserve, but just about more than I
was equal to.  I have been and am entirely useless; just able to tinker
at my Grandfather.  The three chapters—perhaps also a little of the
fourth—will come home to you next mail by the hand of my cousin Graham
Balfour, a very nice fellow whom I recommend to you warmly—and whom I
think you will like.  This will give you time to consider my various and
distracted schemes.

All our wars are over in the meantime, to begin again as soon as the
war-ships leave.  Adieu.

                                                                  R. L. S.


                                                          23_rd_ _August_.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—Your pleasing letter _re The Ebb Tide_, to hand.  I
propose, if it be not too late, to delete Lloyd’s name.  He has nothing
to do with the last half.  The first we wrote together, as the beginning
of a long yarn.  The second is entirely mine; and I think it rather
unfair on the young man to couple his name with so infamous a work.
Above all, as you had not read the two last chapters, which seem to me
the most ugly and cynical of all.

You will see that I am not in a good humour; and I am not.  It is not
because of your letter, but because of the complicated miseries that
surround me and that I choose to say nothing of.  Life is not all Beer
and Skittles.  The inherent tragedy of things works itself out from white
to black and blacker, and the poor things of a day look ruefully on.
Does it shake my cast-iron faith?  I cannot say it does.  I believe in an
ultimate decency of things; ay, and if I woke in hell, should still
believe it!  But it is hard walking, and I can see my own share in the
missteps, and can bow my head to the result, like an old, stern, unhappy
devil of a Norseman, as my ultimate character is. . . .

Well, _il faut cultiver son jardin_.  That last expression of poor,
unhappy human wisdom I take to my heart and go to _St. Ives_.

                                * * * * *

                                                               24th _Aug._

And did, and worked about 2 hours and got to sleep ultimately and ‘a’ the
clouds has blawn away.’  ‘Be sure we’ll have some pleisand weather, When
a’ the clouds (storms?) has blawn (gone?) away.’  Verses that have a
quite inexplicable attraction for me, and I believe had for Burns.  They
have no merit, but are somehow good.  I am now in a most excellent

I am deep in _St. Ives_ which, I believe, will be the next novel done.
But it is to be clearly understood that I promise nothing, and may throw
in your face the very last thing you expect—or I expect.  _St. Ives_ will
(to my mind) not be wholly bad.  It is written in rather a funny style; a
little stilted and left-handed; the style of St. Ives; also, to some
extent, the style of R. L. S. dictating.  _St. Ives_ is unintellectual
and except as an adventure novel, dull.  But the adventures seem to me
sound and pretty probable; and it is a love story.  Speed his wings!

                                * * * * *

                                                           _Sunday night_.

_De cœur un peu plus dispos_, _monsieur et cher confrère_, _je me remets
à vous écrire_.  _St. Ives_ is now in the 5th chapter copying; in the
14th chapter of the dictated draft.  I do not believe I shall end by
disliking it.

                                * * * * *


Well, here goes again for the news.  Fanny is _very well_ indeed, and in
good spirits; I am in good spirits but not _very_ well; Lloyd is in good
spirits and very well; Belle has a real good fever which has put her pipe
out wholly.  Graham goes back this mail.  He takes with him three
chapters of _The Family_, and is to go to you as soon as he can.  He
cannot be much the master of his movements, but you grip him when you can
and get all you can from him, as he has lived about six months with us
and he can tell you just what is true and what is not—and not the dreams
of dear old Ross.  He is a good fellow, is he not?

Since you rather revise your views of _The Ebb Tide_, I think Lloyd’s
name might stick, but I’ll leave it to you.  I’ll tell you just how it
stands.  Up to the discovery of the champagne, the tale was all planned
between us and drafted by Lloyd; from that moment he has had nothing to
do with it except talking it over.  For we changed our plan, gave up the
projected Monte Cristo, and cut it down for a short story.  My
jmpression—(I beg your pardon—this is a local joke—a firm here had on its
beer labels, ‘sole jmporters’)—is that it will never be popular, but
might make a little _succès de scandale_.  However, I’m done with it now,
and not sorry, and the crowd may rave and mumble its bones for what I

Hole essential.  I am sorry about the maps; but I want ’em for next
edition, so see and have proofs sent.  You are quite right about the
bottle and the great Huish, I must try to make it clear.  No, I will not
write a play for Irving nor for the devil.  Can you not see that the work
of _falsification_ which a play demands is of all tasks the most
ungrateful?  And I have done it a long while—and nothing ever came of it.

Consider my new proposal, I mean Honolulu.  You would get the Atlantic
and the Rocky Mountains, would you not? for bracing.  And so much less
sea!  And then you could actually see Vailima, which I _would_ like you
to, for it’s beautiful and my home and tomb that is to be; though it’s a
wrench not to be planted in Scotland—that I can never deny—if I could
only be buried in the hills, under the heather and a table tombstone like
the martyrs, where the whaups and plovers are crying!  Did you see a man
who wrote the _Stickit Minister_, and dedicated it to me, in words that
brought the tears to my eyes every time I looked at them, ‘Where about
the graves of the martyrs the whaups are crying.  _His_ heart remembers
how.’  Ah, by God, it does!  Singular that I should fulfil the Scots
destiny throughout, and live a voluntary exile, and have my head filled
with the blessed, beastly place all the time!

And now a word as regards the delusions of the dear Ross, who remembers,
I believe, my letters and Fanny’s when we were first installed, and were
really hoeing a hard row.  We have salad, beans, cabbages, tomatoes,
asparagus, kohl-rabi, oranges, limes, barbadines, pine-apples, Cape
gooseberries—galore; pints of milk and cream; fresh meat five days a
week.  It is the rarest thing for any of us to touch a tin; and the
gnashing of teeth when it has to be done is dreadful—for no one who has
not lived on them for six months knows what the Hatred of the Tin is.  As
for exposure, my weakness is certainly the reverse; I am sometimes a
month without leaving the verandah—for my sins, be it said!  Doubtless,
when I go about and, as the Doctor says, ‘expose myself to malaria,’ I am
in far better health; and I would do so more too—for I do not mean to be
silly—but the difficulties are great.  However, you see how much the dear
Doctor knows of my diet and habits!  Malaria practically does not exist
in these islands; it is a negligeable quantity.  What really bothers us a
little is the mosquito affair—the so-called elephantiasis—ask Ross about
it.  A real romance of natural history, _quoi_!

Hi! stop! you say _The Ebb Tide_ is the ‘working out of an artistic
problem of a kind.’  Well, I should just bet it was!  You don’t like
Attwater.  But look at my three rogues; they’re all there, I’ll go bail.
Three types of the bad man, the weak man, and the strong man with a
weakness, that are gone through and lived out.

Yes, of course I was sorry for Mataafa, but a good deal sorrier and
angrier about the mismanagement of all the white officials.  I cannot
bear to write about that.  Manono all destroyed, one house standing in
Apolima, the women stripped, the prisoners beaten with whips—and the
women’s heads taken—all under white auspices.  And for upshot and result
of so much shame to the white powers—Tamasese already conspiring! as I
knew and preached in vain must be the case!  Well, well, it is no fun to
meddle in politics!

I suppose you’re right about Simon.  But it is Symon throughout in that
blessed little volume my father bought for me in Inverness in the year of
grace ’81, I believe—the trial of James Stewart, with the Jacobite
pamphlet and the dying speech appended—out of which the whole of Davie
has already been begotten, and which I felt it a kind of loyalty to
follow.  I really ought to have it bound in velvet and gold, if I had any
gratitude! and the best of the lark is, that the name of David Balfour is
not anywhere within the bounds of it.

A pretty curious instance of the genesis of a book.  I am delighted at
your good word for _David_; I believe the two together make up much the
best of my work and perhaps of what is in me.  I am not ashamed of them,
at least.  There is one hitch; instead of three hours between the two
parts, I fear there have passed three years over Davie’s character; but
do not tell anybody; see if they can find it out for themselves; and no
doubt his experiences in _Kidnapped_ would go far to form him.  I would
like a copy to go to G. Meredith.

                                * * * * *


Well, here is a new move.  It is likely I may start with Graham next week
and go to Honolulu to meet the other steamer and return: I do believe a
fortnight at sea would do me good; yet I am not yet certain.  The crowded
_up_-steamer sticks in my throat.

                                * * * * *

                                                 _Tuesday_, 12_th_ _Sept._

Yesterday was perhaps the brightest in the annals of Vailima.  I got
leave from Captain Bickford to have the band of the _Katoomba_ come up,
and they came, fourteen of ’em, with drum, fife, cymbals and bugles, blue
jackets, white caps, and smiling faces.  The house was all decorated with
scented greenery above and below.  We had not only our own nine out-door
workers, but a contract party that we took on in charity to pay their
war-fine; the band besides, as it came up the mountain, had collected a
following of children by the way, and we had a picking of Samoan ladies
to receive them.  Chicken, ham, cake, and fruits were served out with
coffee and lemonade, and all the afternoon we had rounds of claret negus
flavoured with rum and limes.  They played to us, they danced, they sang,
they tumbled.  Our boys came in the end of the verandah and gave _them_ a
dance for a while.  It was anxious work getting this stopped once it had
begun, but I knew the band was going on a programme.  Finally they gave
three cheers for Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, shook hands, formed up and marched
off playing—till a kicking horse in the paddock put their pipes out
something of the suddenest—we thought the big drum was gone, but Simelé
flew to the rescue.  And so they wound away down the hill with ever
another call of the bugle, leaving us extinct with fatigue, but perhaps
the most contented hosts that ever watched the departure of successful
guests.  Simply impossible to tell how well these blue-jackets behaved; a
most interesting lot of men; this education of boys for the navy is
making a class, wholly apart—how shall I call them?—a kind of lower-class
public school boy, well-mannered, fairly intelligent, sentimental as a
sailor.  What is more shall be writ on board ship if anywhere.

Please send _Catriona_ to G. Meredith.

                                * * * * *

                                                         _S. S. Mariposa_.

To-morrow I reach Honolulu.  Good-morning to your honour.  R. L. S.


                                            _Waikiki_, _Honolulu_, _H. 1._
                                                        _Oct._ 23rd, 1893.

DEAR COLVIN,—My wife came up on the steamer and we go home together in 2
days.  I am practically all right, only sleepy and tired easily, slept
yesterday from 11 to 11.45, from 1 to 2.50, went to bed at 8 P.M., and
with an hour’s interval slept till 6 A.M., close upon 14 hours out of the
24.  We sail to-morrow.  I am anxious to get home, though this has been
an interesting visit, and politics have been curious indeed to study.  We
go to P.P.C. on the ‘Queen’ this morning; poor, recluse lady, _abreuvée
d’injures qu’elle est_.  Had a rather annoying lunch on board the
American man-of-war, with a member of the P.G. (provincial government);
and a good deal of anti-royalist talk, which I had to sit out—not only
for my host’s sake, but my fellow guests.  At last, I took the lead and
changed the conversation.

                                                                  R. L. S.

I am being busted here by party named Hutchinson.  Seems good.

                                * * * * *


Home again, and found all well, thank God.  I am perfectly well again and
ruddier than the cherry.  Please note that 8000 is not bad for a volume
of short stories; the _Merry Men_ did a good deal worse; the short story
never sells.  I hope _Catriona_ will do; that is the important.  The
reviews seem mixed and perplexed, and one had the peculiar virtue to make
me angry.  I am in a fair way to expiscate my family history.  Fanny and
I had a lovely voyage down, with our new C. J. and the American Land
Commissioner, and on the whole, and for these disgusting steamers, a
pleasant ship’s company.  I cannot understand why you don’t take to the
Hawaii scheme.  Do you understand?  You cross the Atlantic in six days,
and go from ’Frisco to Honolulu in seven.  Thirteen days at sea _in
all_.—I have no wish to publish _The Ebb Tide_ as a book, let it wait.
It will look well in the portfolio.  I would like a copy, of course, for
that end; and to ‘look upon’t again’—which I scarce dare.

                                * * * * *


This is disgraceful.  I have done nothing; neither work nor letters.  On
the Me (May) day, we had a great triumph; our Protestant boys, instead of
going with their own villages and families, went of their own accord in
the Vailima uniform; Belle made coats for them on purpose to complete the
uniform, they having bought the stuff; and they were hailed as they
marched in as the Tama-ona—the rich man’s children.  This is really a
score; it means that Vailima is publicly taken as a family.  Then we had
my birthday feast a week late, owing to diarrhoea on the proper occasion.
The feast was laid in the Hall, and was a singular mass of food: 15 pigs,
100 lbs. beef, 100 lbs. pork, and the fruit and filigree in a proportion.
We had sixty horse-posts driven in the gate paddock; how many guests I
cannot guess, perhaps 150.  They came between three and four and left
about seven.  Seumanu gave me one of his names; and when my name was
called at the ava drinking, behold, it was _Au mai taua ma manu-vao_!
You would scarce recognise me, if you heard me thus referred to!

Two days after, we hired a carriage in Apia, Fanny, Belle, Lloyd and I,
and drove in great style, with a native outrider, to the prison; a huge
gift of ava and tobacco under the seats.  The prison is now under the
_pule_ of an Austrian, Captain Wurmbrand, a soldier of fortune in Servia
and Turkey, a charming, clever, kindly creature, who is adored by ‘_his_
chiefs’ (as he calls them) meaning _our_ political prisoners.  And we
came into the yard, walled about with tinned iron, and drank ava with the
prisoners and the captain.  It may amuse you to hear how it is proper to
drink ava.  When the cup is handed you, you reach your arm out somewhat
behind you, and slowly pour a libation, saying with somewhat the manner
of prayer, ‘_Ia taumafa e le atua_.  _Ua matagofie le fésilafaiga nei_.’
‘Be it (high-chief) partaken of by the God.  How (high chief) beautiful
to view is this (high chief) gathering.’  This pagan practice is very
queer.  I should say that the prison ava was of that not very welcome
form that we elegantly call spit-ava, but of course there was no escape,
and it had to be drunk.  Fanny and I rode home, and I moralised by the
way.  Could we ever stand Europe again? did she appreciate that if we
were in London, we should be _actually jostled_ in the street? and there
was nobody in the whole of Britain who knew how to take ava like a
gentleman?  ’Tis funny to be thus of two civilisations—or, if you like,
of one civilisation and one barbarism.  And, as usual, the barbarism is
the more engaging.

Colvin, you have to come here and see us in our [native / mortal] spot.
I just don’t seem to be able to make up my mind to your not coming.  By
this time, you will have seen Graham, I hope, and he will be able to tell
you something about us, and something reliable, I shall feel for the
first time as if you knew a little about Samoa after that.  Fanny seems
to be in the right way now.  I must say she is very, very well for her,
and complains scarce at all.  Yesterday, she went down _sola_ (at least
accompanied by a groom) to pay a visit; Belle, Lloyd and I went a walk up
the mountain road—the great public highway of the island, where you have
to go single file.  The object was to show Belle that gaudy valley of the
Vaisigano which the road follows.  If the road is to be made and opened,
as our new Chief Justice promises, it will be one of the most beautiful
roads in the world.  But the point is this: I forgot I had been three
months in civilisation, wearing shoes and stockings, and I tell you I
suffered on my soft feet; coming home, down hill, on that stairway of
loose stones, I could have cried.  O yes, another story, I knew I had.
The house boys had not been behaving well, so the other night I announced
a _fono_, and Lloyd and I went into the boys’ quarters, and I talked to
them I suppose for half an hour, and Talolo translated; Lloyd was there
principally to keep another ear on the interpreter; else there may be
dreadful misconceptions.  I rubbed all their ears, except two whom I
particularly praised; and one man’s wages I announced I had cut down by
one half.  Imagine his taking this smiling!  Ever since, he has been
specially attentive and greets me with a face of really heavenly
brightness.  This is another good sign of their really and fairly
accepting me as a chief.  When I first came here, if I had fined a man a
sixpence, he would have quit work that hour, and now I remove half his
income, and he is glad to stay on—nay, does not seem to entertain the
possibility of leaving.  And this in the face of one particular
difficulty—I mean our house in the bush, and no society, and no women
society within decent reach.

I think I must give you our staff in a tabular form.

        HOUSE.                 KITCHEN                 OUTSIDE.
+ o _Sosimo_, provost   + o _Talolo_, provost   + o _Henry Simelé_,
and butler, and my      and chief cook.         provost and overseas
valet.                                          of outside boys.
                        + o _Iopu_, second
o _Misifolo_, who is    cook.                   _Lü_.
Fanny and Belle’s
chamberlain.            _Tali_, his wife, no    _Tasi Sele_.
                        _Ti’a_, Samoan cook.
                                                _Pulu_, who is also
                        _Feiloa’i_, his         our talking man and
                        child, no wages,        cries the ava.
                        likewise no
                        work—Belle’s pet.

                        + o _Leuelu_, Fanny’s
                        boy, gardener, odd

                               IN APIA.

                        + _Eliga_, washman
                        and daily errand man.

The crosses mark out the really excellent boys.  Ti’a is the man who has
just been fined half his wages; he is a beautiful old man, the living
image of ‘Fighting Gladiator,’ my favourite statue—but a dreadful humbug.
I think we keep him on a little on account of his looks.  This sign o
marks those who have been two years or upwards in the family.  I note all
my old boys have the cross of honour, except Misifolo; well, poor dog, he
does his best, I suppose.  You should see him scour.  It is a remark that
has often been made by visitors: you never see a Samoan run, except at
Vailima.  Do you not suppose that makes me proud?

I am pleased to see what a success _The Wrecker_ was, having already in
little more than a year outstripped _The Master of Ballantrae_.

About _David Balfour_ in two volumes, do see that they make it a
decent-looking book, and tell me, do you think a little historical
appendix would be of service?  Lang bleats for one, and I thought I might
address it to him as a kind of open letter.

                                * * * * *

                                                             _Dec._ 4_th_.

No time after all.  Good-bye.

                                                                   R. L S.


MY DEAR COLVIN,—One page out of my picture book I must give you.  Fine
burning day; half past two P.M.  We four begin to rouse up from
reparatory slumbers, yawn, and groan, get a cup of tea, and miserably
dress: we have had a party the day before, X’mas Day, with all the boys
absent but one, and latterly two; we had cooked all day long, a cold
dinner, and lo! at two our guests began to arrive, though dinner was not
till six; they were sixteen, and fifteen slept the night and breakfasted.
Conceive, then, how unwillingly we climb on our horses and start off in
the hottest part of the afternoon to ride 4½ miles, attend a native feast
in the gaol, and ride four and a half miles back.  But there is no help
for it.  I am a sort of father of the political prisoners, and have
_charge d’âmes_ in that riotously absurd establishment, Apia Gaol.  The
twenty-three (I think it is) chiefs act as under gaolers.  The other day
they told the Captain of an attempt to escape.  One of the lesser
political prisoners the other day effected a swift capture, while the
Captain was trailing about with the warrant; the man came to see what was
wanted; came, too, flanked by the former gaoler; my prisoner offers to
show him the dark cell, shoves him in, and locks the door.  ‘Why do you
do that?’ cries the former gaoler.  ‘A warrant,’ says he.  Finally, the
chiefs actually feed the soldiery who watch them!

The gaol is a wretched little building, containing a little room, and
three cells, on each side of a central passage; it is surrounded by a
fence of corrugated iron, and shows, over the top of that, only a gable
end with the inscription _O le Fale Puipui_.  It is on the edge of the
mangrove swamp, and is reached by a sort of causeway of turf.  When we
drew near, we saw the gates standing open and a prodigious crowd
outside—I mean prodigious for Apia, perhaps a hundred and fifty people.
The two sentries at the gate stood to arms passively, and there seemed to
be a continuous circulation inside and out.  The captain came to meet us;
our boy, who had been sent ahead was there to take the horses; and we
passed inside the court which was full of food, and rang continuously to
the voice of the caller of gifts; I had to blush a little later when my
own present came, and I heard my one pig and eight miserable pine-apples
being counted out like guineas.  In the four corners of the yard and
along one wall, there are make-shift, dwarfish, Samoan houses or huts,
which have been run up since Captain Wurmbrand came to accommodate the
chiefs.  Before that they were all crammed into the six cells, and locked
in for the night, some of them with dysentery.  They are wretched
constructions enough, but sanctified by the presence of chiefs.  We heard
a man corrected loudly to-day for saying ‘_Fale_’ of one of them;
‘_Maota_,’ roared the highest chief present—‘palace.’  About eighteen
chiefs, gorgeously arrayed, stood up to greet us, and led us into one of
these _maotas_, where you may be sure we had to crouch, almost to kneel,
to enter, and where a row of pretty girls occupied one side to make the
ava (kava).  The highest chief present was a magnificent man, as high
chiefs usually are; I find I cannot describe him; his face is full of
shrewdness and authority; his figure like Ajax; his name Auilua.  He took
the head of the building and put Belle on his right hand.  Fanny was
called first for the ava (kava).  Our names were called in English style,
the high-chief wife of Mr. St— (an unpronounceable something); Mrs.
Straw, and the like.  And when we went into the other house to eat, we
found we were seated alternately with chiefs about the—table, I was about
to say, but rather floor.  Everything was to be done European style with
a vengeance!  We were the only whites present, except Wurmbrand, and
still I had no suspicion of the truth.  They began to take off their ulas
(necklaces of scarlet seeds) and hang them about our necks; we politely
resisted, and were told that the King (who had stopped off their _siva_)
had sent down to the prison a message to the effect that he was to give a
dinner to-morrow, and wished their second-hand ulas for it.  Some of them
were content; others not.  There was a ring of anger in the boy’s voice,
as he told us we were to wear them past the King’s house.  Dinner over, I
must say they are moderate eaters at a feast, we returned to the ava
house; and then the curtain drew suddenly up upon the set scene.  We took
our seats, and Auilua began to give me a present, recapitulating each
article as he gave it out, with some appropriate comment.  He called me
several times ‘their only friend,’ said they were all in slavery, had no
money, and these things were all made by the hands of their
families—nothing bought; he had one phrase, in which I heard his voice
rise up to a note of triumph: ‘This is a present from the poor prisoners
to the rich man.’  Thirteen pieces of tapa, some of them surprisingly
fine, one I think unique; thirty fans of every shape and colour; a kava
cup, etc., etc.  At first Auilua conducted the business with weighty
gravity; but before the end of the thirty fans, his comments began to be
humorous.  When it came to a little basket, he said: ‘Here was a little
basket for Tusitala to put sixpence in, when he could get hold of
one’—with a delicious grimace.  I answered as best as I was able through
a miserable interpreter; and all the while, as I went on, I heard the
crier outside in the court calling my gift of food, which I perceived was
to be Gargantuan.  I had brought but three boys with me.  It was plain
that they were wholly overpowered.  We proposed to send for our gifts on
the morrow; but no, said the interpreter, that would never do; they must
go away to-day, Mulinuu must see my porters taking away the gifts,—‘make
’em jella,’ quoth the interpreter.  And I began to see the reason of this
really splendid gift; one half, gratitude to me—one half, a wipe at the

And now, to introduce darker colours, you must know this visit of mine to
the gaol was just a little bit risky; we had several causes for anxiety;
it _might_ have been put up, to connect with a Tamasese rising.  Tusitala
and his family would be good hostages.  On the other hand, there were the
Mulinuu people all about.  We could see the anxiety of Captain Wurmbrand,
no less anxious to have us go, than he had been to see us come; he was
deadly white and plainly had a bad headache, in the noisy scene.
Presently, the noise grew uproarious; there was a rush at the gate—a rush
in, not a rush out—where the two sentries still stood passive; Auilua
leaped from his place (it was then that I got the name of Ajax for him)
and the next moment we heard his voice roaring and saw his mighty figure
swaying to and fro in the hurly-burly.  As the deuce would have it, we
could not understand a word of what was going on.  It might be nothing
more than the ordinary ‘grab racket’ with which a feast commonly
concludes; it might be something worse.  We made what arrangements we
could for my tapa, fans, etc., as well as for my five pigs, my masses of
fish, taro, etc., and with great dignity, and ourselves laden with ulas
and other decorations, passed between the sentries among the howling mob
to our horses.  All’s well that ends well.  Owing to Fanny and Belle, we
had to walk; and, as Lloyd said, ‘he had at last ridden in a circus.’
The whole length of Apia we paced our triumphal progress, past the King’s
palace, past the German firm at Sogi—you can follow it on the map—amidst
admiring exclamations of ‘_Mawaia_’—beautiful—it may be rendered ‘O my!
ain’t they dandy’—until we turned up at last into our road as the dusk
deepened into night.  It was really exciting.  And there is one thing
sure: no such feast was ever made for a single family, and no such
present ever given to a single white man.  It is something to have been
the hero of it.  And whatever other ingredients there were, undoubtedly
gratitude was present.  As money value I have actually gained on the

Your note arrived; little profit, I must say.  Scott has already put his
nose in, in _St. Ives_, sir; but his appearance is not yet complete;
nothing is in that romance, except the story.  I have to announce that I
am off work, probably for six months.  I must own that I have overworked
bitterly—overworked—there, that’s legible.  My hand is a thing that was,
and in the meanwhile so are my brains.  And here, in the very midst,
comes a plausible scheme to make Vailima pay, which will perhaps let me
into considerable expense just when I don’t want it.  You know the vast
cynicism of my view of affairs, and how readily and (as some people say)
with how much gusto I take the darker view?

Why do you not send me Jerome K. Jerome’s paper, and let me see _The Ebb
Tide_ as a serial?  It is always very important to see a thing in
different presentments.  I want every number.  Politically we begin the
new year with every expectation of a bust in 2 or 3 days, a bust which
may spell destruction to Samoa.  I have written to Baxter about his


                                                      _Jan._ 29_th_, 1894.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—I had fully intended for your education and moral health
to fob you off with the meanest possible letter this month, and
unfortunately I find I will have to treat you to a good long account of
matters here.  I believe I have told you before about Tui-ma-le-alii-fano
and my taking him down to introduce him to the Chief Justice.  Well, Tui
came back to Vailima one day in the blackest sort of spirits, saying the
war was decided, that he also must join in the fight, and that there was
no hope whatever of success.  He must fight as a point of honour for his
family and country; and in his case, even if he escaped on the field of
battle, deportation was the least to be looked for.  He said he had a
letter of complaint from the Great Council of A’ana which he wished to
lay before the Chief Justice; and he asked me to accompany him as if I
were his nurse.  We went down about dinner time; and by the way received
from a lurking native the famous letter in an official blue envelope
gummed up to the edges.  It proved to be a declaration of war, quite
formal, but with some variations that really made you bounce.  White
residents were directly threatened, bidden to have nothing to do with the
King’s party, not to receive their goods in their houses, etc., under
pain of an accident.  However, the Chief Justice took it very wisely and
mildly, and between us, he and I and Tui made up a plan which has proved
successful—so far.  The war is over—fifteen chiefs are this morning
undergoing a curious double process of law, comparable to a court
martial; in which their complaints are to be considered, and if possible
righted, while their conduct is to be criticised, perhaps punished.  Up
to now, therefore, it has been a most successful policy; but the danger
is before us.  My own feeling would decidedly be that all would be
spoiled by a single execution.  The great hope after all lies in the
knotless, rather flaccid character of the people.  These are no Maoris.
All the powers that Cedarcrantz let go by disuse the new C. J. is
stealthily and boldly taking back again; perhaps some others also.  He
has shamed the chiefs in Mulinuu into a law against taking heads, with a
punishment of six years’ imprisonment and, for a chief, degradation.  To
him has been left the sole conduct of this anxious and decisive inquiry.
If the natives stand it, why, well!  But I am nervous.


                                                              _Feb._ 1894.

DEAR COLVIN,—By a reaction, when your letter is a little decent, mine is
to be naked and unashamed.  We have been much exercised.  No one can
prophesy here, of course, and the balance still hangs trembling, but I
_think_ it will go for peace.

The mail was very late this time; hence the paltryness of this note.
When it came and I had read it, I retired with _The Ebb Tide_ and read it
all before I slept.  I did not dream it was near as good; I am afraid I
think it excellent.  A little indecision about Attwater, not much.  It
gives me great hope, as I see I _can_ work in that constipated, mosaic
manner, which is what I have to do just now with _Weir of Hermiston_.

We have given a ball; I send you a paper describing the event.  We have
two guests in the house, Captain-Count Wurmbrand and Monsieur Albert de
Lautreppe.  Lautreppe is awfully nice—a quiet, gentlemanly fellow,
_gonflé de rêves_, as he describes himself—once a sculptor in the atelier
of Henry Crosse, he knows something of art, and is really a resource to

Letter from Meredith very kind.  Have you seen no more of Graham?

What about my grandfather?  The family history will grow to be quite a

I suppose I am growing sensitive; perhaps, by living among barbarians, I
expect more civility.  Look at this from the author of a very interesting
and laudatory critique.  He gives quite a false description of something
of mine, and talks about my ‘insolence.’  Frankly, I supposed ‘insolence’
to be a tapua word.  I do not use it to a gentleman, I would not write it
of a gentleman: I may be wrong, but I believe we did not write it of a
gentleman in old days, and in my view he (clever fellow as he is) wants
to be kicked for applying it to me.  By writing a novel—even a bad one—I
do not make myself a criminal for anybody to insult.  This may amuse you.
But either there is a change in journalism, too gradual for you to remark
it on the spot, or there is a change in me.  I cannot bear these phrases;
I long to resent them.  My forbears, the tenant farmers of the Mains,
would not have suffered such expressions unless it had been from
Cauldwell, or Rowallan, or maybe Auchendrane.  My Family Pride bristles.
I am like the negro, ‘I just heard last night’ who my great, great,
great, great grandfather was.—Ever yours,

                                                                  R. L. S.


                                                             _March_ 1894.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—This is the very day the mail goes, and I have as yet
written you nothing.  But it was just as well—as it was all about my
‘blacks and chocolates,’ and what of it had relation to whites you will
read some of in the _Times_.  It means, as you will see, that I have at
one blow quarrelled with all the officials of Samoa, the Foreign Office,
and I suppose her Majesty the Queen with milk and honey blest.  But
you’ll see in the _Times_.  I am very well indeed, but just about dead
and mighty glad the mail is near here, and I can just give up all hope of
contending with my letters, and lie down for the rest of the day.  These
_Times_ letters are not easy to write.  And I dare say the Consuls say,
‘Why, then, does he write them?’

I had miserable luck with _St. Ives_; being already half-way through it,
a book I had ordered six months ago arrives at last, and I have to change
the first half of it from top to bottom!  How could I have dreamed the
French prisoners were watched over like a female charity school, kept in
a grotesque livery, and shaved twice a week?  And I had made all my
points on the idea that they were unshaved and clothed anyhow.  However,
this last is better business; if only the book had come when I ordered
it!  _A propos_, many of the books you announce don’t come as a matter of
fact.  When they are of any value, it is best to register them.  Your
letter, alas! is not here; I sent it down to the cottage, with all my
mail, for Fanny; on Sunday night a boy comes up with a lantern and a note
from Fanny, to say the woods are full of Atuas and I must bring a horse
down that instant, as the posts are established beyond her on the road,
and she does not want to have the fight going on between us.  Impossible
to get a horse; so I started in the dark on foot, with a revolver, and my
spurs on my bare feet, leaving directions that the boy should mount after
me with the horse.  Try such an experience on Our Road once, and do it,
if you please, after you have been down town from nine o’clock till six,
on board the ship-of-war lunching, teaching Sunday School (I actually do)
and making necessary visits; and the Saturday before, having sat all day
from half past six to half-past four, scriving at my _Times_ letter.
About half-way up, just in fact at ‘point’ of the outposts, I met Fanny
coming up.  Then all night long I was being wakened with scares that
really should be looked into, though I _knew_ there was nothing in them
and no bottom to the whole story; and the drums and shouts and cries from
Tanugamanono and the town keeping up an all night corybantic chorus in
the moonlight—the moon rose late—and the search-light of the war-ship in
the harbour making a jewel of brightness as it lit up the bay of Apia in
the distance.  And then next morning, about eight o’clock, a drum coming
out of the woods and a party of patrols who had been in the woods on our
left front (which is our true rear) coming up to the house, and meeting
there another party who had been in the woods on our right [front / rear]
which is Vaea Mountain, and 43 of them being entertained to ava and
biscuits on the verandah, and marching off at last in single file for
Apia.  Briefly, it is not much wonder if your letter and my whole mail
was left at the cottage, and I have no means of seeing or answering

The whole thing was nothing but a bottomless scare; it was _obviously_
so; you couldn’t make a child believe it was anything else, but it has
made the Consuls sit up.  My own private scares were really abominably
annoying; as for instance after I had got to sleep for the ninth time
perhaps—and that was no easy matter either, for I had a crick in my neck
so agonising that I had to sleep sitting up—I heard noises as of a man
being murdered in the boys’ house.  To be sure, said I, this is nothing
again, but if a man’s head was being taken, the noises would be the same!
So I had to get up, stifle my cries of agony from the crick, get my
revolver, and creep out stealthily to the boys’ house.  And there were
two of them sitting up, keeping watch of their own accord like good boys,
and whiling the time over a game of Sweepi (Cascino—the whist of our
islanders)—and one of them was our champion idiot, Misifolo, and I
suppose he was holding bad cards, and losing all the time—and these
noises were his humorous protests against Fortune!

Well, excuse this excursion into my ‘blacks and chocolates.’  It is the
last.  You will have heard from Lysaght how I failed to write last mail.
The said Lysaght seems to me a very nice fellow.  We were only sorry he
could not stay with us longer.  Austin came back from school last week,
which made a great time for the Amanuensis, you may be sure.  Then on
Saturday, the _Curaçoa_ came in—same commission, with all our old
friends; and on Sunday, as already mentioned, Austin and I went down to
service and had lunch afterwards in the wardroom.  The officers were
awfully nice to Austin; they are the most amiable ship in the world; and
after lunch we had a paper handed round on which we were to guess, and
sign our guess, of the number of leaves on the pine-apple; I never saw
this game before, but it seems it is much practised in the Queen’s Navee.
When all have betted, one of the party begins to strip the pine-apple
head, and the person whose guess is furthest out has to pay for the
sherry.  My equanimity was disturbed by shouts of _The American
Commodore_, and I found that Austin had entered and lost about a bottle
of sherry!  He turned with great composure and addressed me.  ‘I am
afraid I must look to you, Uncle Louis.’  The Sunday School racket is
only an experiment which I took up at the request of the late American
Land Commissioner; I am trying it for a month, and if I do as ill as I
believe, and the boys find it only half as tedious as I do, I think it
will end in a month.  I have _carte blanche_, and say what I like; but
does any single soul understand me?

Fanny is on the whole very much better.  Lloyd has been under the
weather, and goes for a month to the South Island of New Zealand for some
skating, save the mark!  I get all the skating I want among officials.

Dear Colvin, please remember that my life passes among my ‘blacks or
chocolates.’  If I were to do as you propose, in a bit of a tiff, it
would cut you off entirely from my life.  You must try to exercise a
trifle of imagination, and put yourself, perhaps with an effort, into
some sort of sympathy with these people, or how am I to write to you?  I
think you are truly a little too Cockney with me.—Ever yours,

                                                   ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.


                                            _Vailima_, _May_ 18_th_, 1894.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—Your proposals for the Edinburgh edition are entirely to
my mind.  About the _Amateur Emigrant_, it shall go to you by this mail
well slashed.  If you like to slash some more on your own account, I give
you permission.  ’Tis not a great work; but since it goes to make up the
two first volumes as proposed, I presume it has not been written in
vain.—_Miscellanies_.  I see with some alarm the proposal to print
_Juvenilia_; does it not seem to you taking myself a little too much as
Grandfather William?  I am certainly not so young as I once was—a lady
took occasion to remind me of the fact no later agone than last night.
‘Why don’t you leave that to the young men, Mr. Stevenson?’ said she—but
when I remember that I felt indignant at even John Ruskin when he did
something of the kind I really feel myself blush from head to heel.  If
you want to make up the first volume, there are a good many works which I
took the trouble to prepare for publication and which have never been
republished.  In addition to _Roads_ and _Dancing Children_, referred to
by you, there is an Autumn effect in the _Portfolio_, and a paper on
_Fontainebleau—Forest Notes_ is the name of it—in _Cornhill_.  I have no
objection to any of these being edited, say with a scythe, and
reproduced.  But I heartily abominate and reject the idea of reprinting
the _Pentland Rising_.  For God’s sake let me get buried first.

_Tales and Fantasies_.  Vols. I. and II. have my hearty approval.  But I
think III. and IV. had better be crammed into one as you suggest.  I will
reprint none of the stories mentioned.  They are below the mark.  Well, I
dare say the beastly _Body-Snatcher_ has merit, and I am unjust to it
from my recollections of the _Pall Mall_.  But the other two won’t do.
For vols. V. and VI., now changed into IV. and V., I propose the common
title of _South Sea Yarns_.  There!  These are all my differences of
opinion.  I agree with every detail of your arrangement, and, as you see,
my objections have turned principally on the question of hawking unripe
fruit.  I daresay it is all pretty green, but that is no reason for us to
fill the barrow with trash.  Think of having a new set of type cast,
paper especially made, etc., in order to set up rubbish that is not fit
for the _Saturday Scotsman_.  It would be the climax of shame.

I am sending you a lot of verses, which had best, I think, be called
_Underwoods_ Book III., but in what order are they to go?  Also, I am
going on every day a little, till I get sick of it, with the attempt to
get the _Emigrant_ compressed into life; I know I can—or you can after
me—do it.  It is only a question of time and prayer and ink, and should
leave something, no, not good, but not all bad—a very genuine
appreciation of these folks.  You are to remember besides there is that
paper of mine on Bunyan in _The Magazine of Art_.  O, and then there’s
another thing in _Seeley_ called some spewsome name, I cannot recall it.

Well—come, here goes for _Juvenilia_.  _Dancing Infants_, _Roads_, _An
Autumn Effect_, _Forest Notes_ (but this should come at the end of them,
as it’s really rather riper), the t’other thing from _Seeley_, and I’ll
tell you, you may put in my letter to the Church of Scotland—it’s not
written amiss, and I daresay the _Philosophy of Umbrellas_ might go in,
but there I stick—and remember _that_ was a collaboration with James
Walter Ferrier.  O, and there was a little skit called the _Charity
Bazaar_, which you might see; I don’t think it would do.  Now, I do not
think there are two other words that should be printed.—By the way, there
is an article of mine called _The Day after To-morrow_ in the
_Contemporary_ which you might find room for somewhere; it is no’ bad.

Very busy with all these affairs and some native ones also.


                                                 _Vailima_, June 18th, 94.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—You are to please understand that my last letter is
withdrawn unconditionally.  You and Baxter are having all the trouble of
this Edition, and I simply put myself in your hands for you to do what
you like with me, and I am sure that will be the best, at any rate.
Hence you are to conceive me withdrawing all objections to your printing
anything you please.  After all it is a sort of family affair.  About the
Miscellany Section, both plans seem to me quite good.  Toss up.  I think
the _Old Gardener_ has to stay where I put him last.  It would not do to
separate John and Robert.

In short, I am only sorry I ever uttered a word about the edition, and
leave you to be the judge.  I have had a vile cold which has prostrated
me for more than a fortnight, and even now tears me nightly with
spasmodic coughs; but it has been a great victory.  I have never borne a
cold with so little hurt; wait till the clouds blow by, before you begin
to boast!  I have had no fever; and though I’ve been very unhappy, it is
nigh over, I think.  Of course, _St. Ives_ has paid the penalty.  I must
not let you be disappointed in _St. I._  It is a mere tissue of
adventures; the central figure not very well or very sharply drawn; no
philosophy, no destiny, to it; some of the happenings very good in
themselves, I believe, but none of them _bildende_, none of them
constructive, except in so far perhaps as they make up a kind of sham
picture of the time, all in italics and all out of drawing.  Here and
there, I think, it is well written; and here and there it’s not.  Some of
the episodic characters are amusing, I do believe; others not, I suppose.
However, they are the best of the thing such as it is.  If it has a merit
to it, I should say it was a sort of deliberation and swing to the style,
which seems to me to suit the mail-coaches and post-chaises with which it
sounds all through.  ’Tis my most prosaic book.

I called on the two German ships now in port, and we are quite friendly
with them, and intensely friendly of course with our own _Curaçoas_.  But
it is other guess work on the beach.  Some one has employed, or
subsidised, one of the local editors to attack me once a week.  He is
pretty scurrilous and pretty false.  The first effect of the perusal of
the weekly Beast is to make me angry; the second is a kind of deep,
golden content and glory, when I seem to say to people: ‘See! this is my
position—I am a plain man dwelling in the bush in a house, and behold
they have to get up this kind of truck against me—and I have so much
influence that they are obliged to write a weekly article to say I have

By this time you must have seen Lysaght and forgiven me the letter that
came not at all.  He was really so nice a fellow—he had so much to tell
me of Meredith—and the time was so short—that I gave up the intervening
days between mails entirely to entertain him.

We go on pretty nicely.  Fanny, Belle, and I have had two months alone,
and it has been very pleasant.  But by to-morrow or next day noon, we
shall see the whole clan assembled again about Vailima table, which will
be pleasant too; seven persons in all, and the Babel of voices will be
heard again in the big hall so long empty and silent.  Good-bye.  Love to
all.  Time to close.—Yours ever,

                                                                  R. L. S.


                                                             _July_, 1894.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—I have to thank you this time for a very good letter, and
will announce for the future, though I cannot now begin to put in
practice, good intentions for our correspondence.  I will try to return
to the old system and write from time to time during the month; but truly
you did not much encourage me to continue!  However, that is all by-past.
I do not know that there is much in your letter that calls for answer.
Your questions about _St. Ives_ were practically answered in my last; so
were your wails about the edition, _Amateur Emigrant_, etc.  By the end
of the year _St. I._ will be practically finished, whatever it be worth,
and that I know not.  When shall I receive proofs of the _Magnum Opus_?
or shall I receive them at all?

The return of the Amanuensis feebly lightens my heart.  You can see the
heavy weather I was making of it with my unaided pen.  The last month has
been particularly cheery largely owing to the presence of our good
friends the _Curaçoas_.  She is really a model ship, charming officers
and charming seamen.  They gave a ball last month, which was very rackety
and joyous and naval. . . .

On the following day, about one o’clock, three horsemen might have been
observed approaching Vailima, who gradually resolved themselves into two
petty officers and a native guide.  Drawing himself up and saluting, the
spokesman (a corporal of Marines) addressed me thus.  ‘Me and my
shipmates inwites Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, Mrs. Strong, Mr. Austin, and Mr.
Balfour to a ball to be given to-night in the self-same ‘all.’  It was of
course impossible to refuse, though I contented myself with putting in a
very brief appearance.  One glance was sufficient; the ball went off like
a rocket from the start.  I had only time to watch Belle careering around
with a gallant bluejacket of exactly her own height—the standard of the
British navy—an excellent dancer and conspicuously full of small-talk—and
to hear a remark from a beach-comber, ‘It’s a nice sight this some way,
to see the officers dancing like this with the men, but I tell you, sir,
these are the men that’ll fight together!’

I tell you, Colvin, the acquaintance of the men—and boys—makes me feel
patriotic.  Eeles in particular is a man whom I respect.  I am half in a
mind to give him a letter of introduction to you when he goes home.  In
case you feel inclined to make a little of him, give him a dinner, ask
Henry James to come to meet him, etc.—you might let me know.  I don’t
know that he would show his best, but he is a remarkably fine fellow, in
every department of life.

We have other visitors in port.  A Count Festetics de Solna, an Austrian
officer, a very pleasant, simple, boyish creature, with his young wife,
daughter of an American millionaire; he is a friend of our own Captain
Wurmbrand, and it is a great pity Wurmbrand is away.

Glad you saw and liked Lysaght.  He has left in our house a most cheerful
and pleasing memory, as a good, pleasant, brisk fellow with good health
and brains, and who enjoys himself and makes other people happy.  I am
glad he gave you a good report of our surroundings and way of life; but I
knew he would, for I believe he had a glorious time—and gave one.

I am on fair terms with the two Treaty officials, though all such
intimacies are precarious; with the consuls, I need not say, my position
is deplorable.  The President (Herr Emil Schmidt) is a rather dreamy man,
whom I like.  Lloyd, Graham and I go to breakfast with him to-morrow; the
next day the whole party of us lunch on the _Curaçoa_ and go in the
evening to a _Bierabend_ at Dr. Funk’s.  We are getting up a paper-chase
for the following week with some of the young German clerks, and have in
view a sort of child’s party for grown-up persons with kissing games,
etc., here at Vailima.  Such is the gay scene in which we move.  Now I
have done something, though not as much as I wanted, to give you an idea
of how we are getting on, and I am keenly conscious that there are other
letters to do before the mail goes.—Yours ever,

                                                          R. L. STEVENSON.


                                                             _Aug._ 7_th_.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—This is to inform you, sir, that on Sunday last (and this
is Tuesday) I attained my ideal here, and we had a paper chase in Vailele
Plantation, about 15 miles, I take it, from us; and it was all that could
be wished.  It is really better fun than following the hounds, since you
have to be your own hound, and a precious bad hound I was, following
every false scent on the whole course to the bitter end; but I came in
3rd at the last on my little Jack, who stuck to it gallantly, and awoke
the praises of some discriminating persons.  (5 + 7 + 2.5 = 14.5 miles;
yes, that is the count.)  We had quite the old sensations of
exhilaration, discovery, an appeal to a savage instinct; and I felt
myself about 17 again, a pleasant experience.  However, it was on the
Sabbath Day, and I am now a pariah among the English, as if I needed any
increment of unpopularity.  I must not go again; it gives so much
unnecessary tribulation to poor people, and, sure, we don’t want to make
tribulation.  I have been forbidden to work, and have been instead doing
my two or three hours in the plantation every morning.  I only wish
somebody would pay me £10 a day for taking care of cacao, and I could
leave literature to others.  Certainly, if I have plenty of exercise, and
no work, I feel much better; but there is Biles the butcher! him we have
always with us.

I do not much like novels, I begin to think, but I am enjoying
exceedingly Orme’s _History of Hindostan_, a lovely book in its way, in
large quarto, with a quantity of maps, and written in a very lively and
solid eighteenth century way, never picturesque except by accident and
from a kind of conviction, and a fine sense of order.  No historian I
have ever read is so minute; yet he never gives you a word about the
people; his interest is entirely limited in the concatenation of events,
into which he goes with a lucid, almost superhuman, and wholly ghostly
gusto.  ‘By the ghost of a mathematician’ the book might be announced.  A
very brave, honest book.

Your letter to hand.

Fact is, I don’t like the picter.  O, it’s a good picture, but if you
_ask_ me, you know, I believe, stoutly believe, that mankind, including
you, are going mad, I am not in the midst with the other frenzy dancers,
so I don’t catch it wholly; and when you show me a thing—and ask me,
don’t you know—Well, well!  Glad to get so good an account of the
_Amateur Emigrant_.  Talking of which, I am strong for making a volume
out of selections from the South Sea letters; I read over again the King
of Apemama, and it is good in spite of your teeth, and a real curiosity,
a thing that can never be seen again, and the group is annexed and
Tembinoka dead.  I wonder, couldn’t you send out to me the _first_ five
Butaritari letters and the Low Archipelago ones (both of which I have
lost or mislaid) and I can chop out a perfectly fair volume of what I
wish to be preserved.  It can keep for the last of the series.

_Travels and Excursions_, vol. II.  Should it not include a paper on S.
F. from the _Mag. of Art_?  The A. E., the New Pacific capital, the Old
ditto.  _Silver. Squat._  This would give all my works on the States; and
though it ain’t very good, it’s not so very bad.  _Travels and
Excursions_, vol. III., to be these resuscitated letters—_Miscellanies_,
vol. II.—_comme vous voudrez_, _cher monsieur_!

                                * * * * *

                                                    _Monday_, Aug. 13_th_.

I have a sudden call to go up the coast and must hurry up with my
information.  There has suddenly come to our naval commanders the need of
action, they’re away up the coast bombarding the Atua rebels.  All
morning on Saturday the sound of the bombardment of Lotuanu’u kept us
uneasy.  To-day again the big guns have been sounding further along the

To-morrow morning early I am off up the coast myself.  Therefore you must
allow me to break off here without further ceremony.—Yours ever,

                                                   ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.


                                                          _Vailima_, 1894.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—This must be a very measly letter.  I have been trying
hard to get along with _St. Ives_.  I should now lay it aside for a year
and I daresay I should make something of it after all.  Instead of that,
I have to kick against the pricks, and break myself, and spoil the book,
if there were anything to spoil, which I am far from saying.  I’m as sick
of the thing as ever any one can be; it’s a rudderless hulk; it’s a
pagoda, and you can just feel—or I can feel—that it might have been a
pleasant story, if it had been only blessed at baptism.

Our politics have gone on fairly well, but the result is still doubtful.

                                * * * * *

                                                           _Sept._ 10_th_.

I know I have something else to say to you, but unfortunately I awoke
this morning with collywobbles, and had to take a small dose of laudanum
with the usual consequences of dry throat, intoxicated legs, partial
madness and total imbecility; and for the life of me I cannot remember
what it is.  I have likewise mislaid your letter amongst the
accumulations on my table, not that there was anything in it.  Altogether
I am in a poor state.  I forgot to tell Baxter that the dummy had turned
up and is a fine, personable-looking volume and very good reading.
Please communicate this to him.

I have just remembered an incident that I really must not let pass.  You
have heard a great deal more than you wanted about our political
prisoners.  Well, one day, about a fortnight ago, the last of them was
set free—Old Poè, whom I think I must have mentioned to you, the
father-in-law of my cook, was one that I had had a great deal of trouble
with.  I had taken the doctor to see him, got him out on sick leave, and
when he was put back again gave bail for him.  I must not forget that my
wife ran away with him out of the prison on the doctor’s orders and with
the complicity of our friend the gaoler, who really and truly got the
sack for the exploit.  As soon as he was finally liberated, Poè called a
meeting of his fellow-prisoners.  All Sunday they were debating what they
were to do, and on Monday morning I got an obscure hint from Talolo that
I must expect visitors during the day who were coming to consult me.
These consultations I am now very well used to, and seeing first, that I
generally don’t know what to advise, and second that they sometimes don’t
take my advice—though in some notable cases they have taken it, generally
to my own wonder with pretty good results—I am not very fond of these
calls.  They minister to a sense of dignity, but not peace of mind, and
consume interminable time always in the morning too, when I can’t afford
it.  However, this was to be a new sort of consultation.  Up came Poè and
some eight other chiefs, squatted in a big circle around the old
dining-room floor, now the smoking-room.  And the family, being
represented by Lloyd, Graham, Belle, Austin and myself, proceeded to
exchange the necessary courtesies.  Then their talking man began.  He
said that they had been in prison, that I had always taken an interest in
them, that they had now been set at liberty without condition, whereas
some of the other chiefs who had been liberated before them were still
under bond to work upon the roads, and that this had set them considering
what they might do to testify their gratitude.  They had therefore agreed
to work upon my road as a free gift.  They went on to explain that it was
only to be on my road, on the branch that joins my house with the public

Now I was very much gratified at this compliment, although (to one used
to natives) it seemed rather a hollow one.  It meant only that I should
have to lay out a good deal of money on tools and food and to give wages
under the guise of presents to some workmen who were most of them old and
in ill-health.  Conceive how much I was surprised and touched when I
heard the whole scheme explained to me.  They were to return to their
provinces, and collect their families; some of the young men were to live
in Apia with a boat, and ply up and down the coast to A’ana and A’tua
(our own Tuamasaga being quite drained of resources) in order to supply
the working squad with food.  Tools they did ask for, but it was
especially mentioned that I was to make no presents.  In short, the whole
of this little ‘presentation’ to me had been planned with a good deal
more consideration than goes usually with a native campaign.

(I sat on the opposite side of the circle to the talking man.  His face
was quite calm and high-bred as he went through the usual Samoan
expressions of politeness and compliment, but when he came on to the
object of their visit, on their love and gratitude to Tusitala, how his
name was always in their prayers, and his goodness to them when they had
no other friend, was their most cherished memory, he warmed up to real,
burning, genuine feeling.  I had never seen the Samoan mask of reserve
laid aside before, and it touched me more than anything else.  A.M.)

This morning as ever was, bright and early up came the whole gang of
them, a lot of sturdy, common-looking lads they seemed to be for the most
part, and fell to on my new road.  Old Poè was in the highest of good
spirits, and looked better in health than he has done any time in two
years, being positively rejuvenated by the success of his scheme.  He
jested as he served out the new tools, and I am sorry to say damned the
Government up hill and down dale, probably with a view to show off his
position as a friend of the family before his work-boys.  Now, whether or
not their impulse will last them through the road does not matter to me
one hair.  It is the fact that they have attempted it, that they have
volunteered and are now really trying to execute a thing that was never
before heard of in Samoa.  Think of it!  It is road-making—the most
fruitful cause (after taxes) of all rebellions in Samoa, a thing to which
they could not be wiled with money nor driven by punishment.  It does
give me a sense of having done something in Samoa after all.

Now there’s one long story for you about ‘my blacks.’—Yours ever,

                                                   ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.


                                                       _Vailima_, _Samoa_,
                                                       _Oct._ 6_th_, 1894.

MY DEAR COLVIN,—We have had quite an interesting month and mostly in
consideration of that road which I think I told you was about to be made.
It was made without a hitch, though I confess I was considerably
surprised.  When they got through, I wrote a speech to them, sent it down
to a Missionary to be translated, and invited the lot to a feast.  I
thought a good deal of this feast.  The occasion was really interesting.
I wanted to pitch it in hot.  And I wished to have as many influential
witnesses present as possible.  Well, as it drew towards the day I had
nothing but refusals.  Everybody supposed it was to be a political
occasion, that I had made a hive of rebels up here, and was going to push
for new hostilities.

The Amanuensis has been ill, and after the above trial petered out.  I
must return to my own, lone Waverley.  The captain refused, telling me
why; and at last I had to beat up for people almost with prayers.
However, I got a good lot, as you will see by the accompanying newspaper
report.  The road contained this inscription, drawn up by the chiefs

                           ‘THE ROAD OF GRATITUDE.’

‘Considering the great love of Tusitala in his loving care of us in our
distress in the prison, we have therefore prepared a splendid gift.  It
shall never be muddy, it shall endure for ever, this road that we have
dug.’  This the newspaper reporter could not give, not knowing any
Samoan.  The same reason explains his references to Seumanutafa’s speech,
which was not long and _was_ important, for it was a speech of courtesy
and forgiveness to his former enemies.  It was very much applauded.
Secondly, it was not Poè, it was Mataafã (don’t confuse with Mataafa) who
spoke for the prisoners.  Otherwise it is extremely correct.

I beg your pardon for so much upon my aboriginals.  Even you must
sympathise with me in this unheard-of compliment, and my having been able
to deliver so severe a sermon with acceptance.  It remains a nice point
of conscience what I should wish done in the matter.  I think this
meeting, its immediate results, and the terms of what I said to them,
desirable to be known.  It will do a little justice to me, who have not
had too much justice done me.  At the same time, to send this report to
the papers is truly an act of self-advertisement, and I dislike the
thought.  Query, in a man who has been so much calumniated, is that not
justifiable?  I do not know; be my judge.  Mankind is too complicated for
me; even myself.  Do I wish to advertise?  I think I do, God help me!  I
have had hard times here, as every man must have who mixes up with public
business; and I bemoan myself, knowing that all I have done has been in
the interest of peace and good government; and having once delivered my
mind, I would like it, I think, to be made public.  But the other part of
me _regimbs_.

I know I am at a climacteric for all men who live by their wits, so I do
not despair.  But the truth is I am pretty nearly useless at literature,
and I will ask you to spare _St. Ives_ when it goes to you; it is a sort
of _Count Robert of Paris_.  But I hope rather a _Dombey and Son_, to be
succeeded by _Our Mutual Friend_ and _Great Expectations_ and _A Tale of
Two Cities_.  No toil has been spared over the ungrateful canvas; and it
_will not_ come together, and I must live, and my family.  Were it not
for my health, which made it impossible, I could not find it in my heart
to forgive myself that I did not stick to an honest, common-place trade
when I was young, which might have now supported me during these ill
years.  But do not suppose me to be down in anything else; only, for the
nonce, my skill deserts me, such as it is, or was.  It was a very little
dose of inspiration, and a pretty little trick of style, long lost,
improved by the most heroic industry.  So far, I have managed to please
the journalists.  But I am a fictitious article and have long known it.
I am read by journalists, by my fellow-novelists, and by boys; with
these, _incipit et explicit_ my vogue.  Good thing anyway! for it seems
to have sold the Edition.  And I look forward confidently to an
aftermath; I do not think my health can be so hugely improved, without
some subsequent improvement in my brains.  Though, of course, there is
the possibility that literature is a morbid secretion, and abhors health!
I do not think it is possible to have fewer illusions than I.  I
sometimes wish I had more.  They are amusing.  But I cannot take myself
seriously as an artist; the limitations are so obvious.  I did take
myself seriously as a workman of old, but my practice has fallen off.  I
am now an idler and cumberer of the ground; it may be excused to me
perhaps by twenty years of industry and ill-health, which have taken the
cream off the milk.

As I was writing this last sentence, I heard the strident rain drawing
near across the forest, and by the time I was come to the word ‘cream’ it
burst upon my roof, and has since redoubled, and roared upon it.  A very
welcome change.  All smells of the good wet earth, sweetly, with a kind
of Highland touch; the crystal rods of the shower, as I look up, have
drawn their criss-cross over everything; and a gentle and very welcome
coolness comes up around me in little draughts, blessed draughts, not
chilling, only equalising the temperature.  Now the rain is off in this
spot, but I hear it roaring still in the nigh neighbourhood—and that
moment, I was driven from the verandah by random rain drops, spitting at
me through the Japanese blinds.  These are not tears with which the page
is spotted!  Now the windows stream, the roof reverberates.  It is good;
it answers something which is in my heart; I know not what; old memories
of the wet moorland belike.

Well, it has blown by again, and I am in my place once more, with an
accompaniment of perpetual dripping on the verandah—and very much
inclined for a chat.  The exact subject I do not know!  It will be bitter
at least, and that is strange, for my attitude is essentially _not_
bitter, but I have come into these days when a man sees above all the
seamy side, and I have dwelt some time in a small place where he has an
opportunity of reading little motives that he would miss in the great
world, and indeed, to-day, I am almost ready to call the world an error.
Because?  Because I have not drugged myself with successful work, and
there are all kinds of trifles buzzing in my ear, unfriendly trifles,
from the least to the—well, to the pretty big.  All these that touch me
are Pretty Big; and yet none touch me in the least, if rightly looked at,
except the one eternal burthen to go on making an income.  If I could
find a place where I could lie down and give up for (say) two years, and
allow the sainted public to support me, if it were a lunatic asylum,
wouldn’t I go, just!  But we can’t have both extremes at once, worse
luck!  I should like to put my savings into a proprietarian investment,
and retire in the meanwhile into a communistic retreat, which is
double-dealing.  But you men with salaries don’t know how a family weighs
on a fellow’s mind.

I hear the article in next week’s _Herald_ is to be a great affair, and
all the officials who came to me the other day are to be attacked!  This
is the unpleasant side of being (without a salary) in public life; I will
leave anyone to judge if my speech was well intended, and calculated to
do good.  It was even daring—I assure you one of the chiefs looked like a
fiend at my description of Samoan warfare.  Your warning was not needed;
we are all determined to _keep the peace_ and to _hold our peace_.  I
know, my dear fellow, how remote all this sounds!  Kindly pardon your
friend.  I have my life to live here; these interests are for me
immediate; and if I do not write of them, I might as soon not write at
all.  There is the difficulty in a distant correspondence.  It is perhaps
easy for me to enter into and understand your interests; I own it is
difficult for you; but you must just wade through them for friendship’s
sake, and try to find tolerable what is vital for your friend.  I cannot
forbear challenging you to it, as to intellectual lists.  It is the proof
of intelligence, the proof of not being a barbarian, to be able to enter
into something outside of oneself, something that does not touch one’s
next neighbour in the city omnibus.

Good-bye, my lord.  May your race continue and you flourish—Yours ever,



THE tenor of these last letters of Stevenson’s to me, and of others
written to several of his friends at the same time, seemed to give just
cause for anxiety.  Indeed, as the reader will have perceived, a gradual
change had during the past months been coming over the tone of his
correspondence.  It was not like him to be sensitive to a rough word in a
friendly review, nor to recur with so much feeling to my unlucky
complaint, quickly regretted and withdrawn, as to his absorption in
native affairs and local interests.  To judge by these letters, his old
invincible spirit of inward cheerfulness was beginning to give way to
moods of depression and overstrained feeling; although to those about
him, it seems, his charming habitual sweetness and gaiety of temper were
undiminished.  Again, it was a new thing in his life that he should thus
painfully feel the strain of literary work, at almost all other times his
chief delight and pastime, and should express the longing to lay it down.
His friend Mr. Charles Baxter and I at once telegraphed to him, as the
success of the Edinburgh Edition enabled us to do, in terms intended to
ease his mind and to induce him to take the rest of which he seemed so
urgently in need.  It seems doubtful if our words were fully understood:
it is more doubtful still if that ever-shaping mind had retained any
capacity for rest, except, as he had himself foretold, the rest of the
grave.  At any rate he took none, but on receipt of our message only
turned to his old expedient, a change of labour.  He gave up for a while
the attempt to finish _St. Ives_; a task as to which I may say that he
had no occasion to write so despondingly, for as a tale of adventure,
manners, and the road, which is all it was meant to be, it will be found
a very spirited and entertaining piece, lacking, indeed, the dénouement,
and containing a chapter or two which the author would doubtless have
cancelled or recast, but others which are in almost his happiest manner
of invention and narrative.  He gave this up, and turned to a more
arduous theme, the tragic story of the Scottish moorlands, in which the
varieties and the strength of border character were to be illustrated in
the Four Brothers of Cauldstaneslap, and the Hanging Judge was to be
called upon, like Brutus, to condemn his son, and the two Kirsties,
younger and elder, were to embody one the wavering and the other the
heroic soul of woman.

On this theme, which had already been working in his mind for some years,
he felt his inspiration return, and laboured during the month of November
and the first days of December at the full pitch of his powers and in the
conscious happiness of their exercise.  About the same time various
external circumstances occurred to give him pleasure.  The incident of
the road-making, as the reader has seen, had brought home to him as
nothing else could have done the sense of the love and gratitude he had
won from the island people and their chiefs, and of the power he was able
to exercise on them for their good.  Soon afterwards, the anniversaries
of his own birthday and of the American thanksgiving feast brought
evidences hardly less welcome, after so much contention and annoyance as
the island affairs and politics had involved him in, of the honour and
affection in which he was held by all that was best in the white
community.  By each succeeding mail came stronger proofs from home of the
manner in which men of letters of the younger generation had come to
regard him as their master, their literary conscience and example, and
above all their friend.  Deepest, perhaps, of all lay that pleasure of
feeling himself to be working once more at his best.  Of the many and
various gifts of this brilliant spirit—adventurer, observer, humorist,
moralist, essayist, poet, critic, and romancer—of all his many and
various gifts, the master gift was assuredly the creative, the gift of
human and historical imagination.  It was not in vain that his islanders
called him Tusitala.  Teller of tales he had been, first and foremost,
from his childhood; seer into the hearts and fates of men and women he
was growing to be more and more.  The time was now ripe—had only the
strength sufficed—for his career as a creative writer to enter upon a new
and ampler phase.  The fragment on which he wrought during the last month
of his life gives to my mind (as it did to his own) for the first time
the full measure of his powers; and if in the literature of romance there
is to be found work more masterly, of more piercing human insight or more
concentrated imaginative vision and beauty, I do not know it.

But to enter on such a task under such conditions was of all his
adventures the most adventurous.  The Pacific climate had brought him, as
we have seen, a renewal for some years of nervous energy and joy in
living, but it may be doubted if that climate is ever truly and in the
long run restorative to men of northern blood.  At any rate it demands as
a condition of health some measure of repose, and to repose he had, here
as elsewhere, been a stranger.  He entered upon his new labour, taxing
alike to heart and mind, with all the fibres of his brain long strained
by unremitting toil in the tropic heats he loved.  Readers will remember
the gallant doctrine of his early essay.  ‘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 end.’  In a temper truly accordant with this doctrine
he applied himself to his new task, and before it was fully half
accomplished the doom so long foreshadowed and so little feared had
overtaken him; he had died as he would have desired to die, and fallen
smiling in the midst of the battle.  That he was more or less distinctly
aware of the imminence of the blow we may gather from the tenor of some
of his letters written in these weeks.  On the last day of his life,
after a morning of happy work and pleasant correspondence, he was seen
gazing long and wistfully at the mountain summit which he had chosen to
be his burial-place.  Towards the evening of the same day, he was talking
gaily with his wife, and trying to reassure her under the sense of coming
calamity which oppressed her, when the sudden rupture of a blood-vessel
in the brain laid him, almost in a moment, unconscious at her feet; and
before two hours were over he had passed away.  To the English-speaking
world he has left behind a treasure which it would be vain as yet to
attempt to estimate; to the profession of letters one of the most
ennobling and inspiring of examples; and to his friends an image of the
memory more vivid and more dear than are the presences of almost any of
the living.


  _Address to the Chiefs on the opening of the Road of Gratitude_, Oct.

MR. STEVENSON said: ‘We are met together to-day to celebrate an event and
to do honour to certain chiefs, my friends,—Lelei, Mataafa, Salevao, Poè,
Teleso, Tupuola Lotofaga, Tupuola Amaile, Muliaiga, Ifopo, and Fatialofa.
You are all aware in some degree of what has happened.  You know these
chiefs to have been prisoners; you perhaps know that during the term of
their confinement, I had it in my power to do them certain favours.  One
thing some of you cannot know, that they were immediately repaid by
answering attentions.  They were liberated by the new administration; by
the King, and the Chief Justice, and the Ta’its’ifono, who are here
amongst us to-day, and to whom we all desire to tender our renewed and
perpetual gratitude for that favour.  As soon as they were free men—owing
no man anything—instead of going home to their own places and families,
they came to me; they offered to do this work for me as a free gift,
without hire, without supplies, and I was tempted at first to refuse
their offer.  I knew the country to be poor, I knew famine threatening; I
knew their families long disorganised for want of supervision.  Yet I
accepted, because I thought the lesson of that road might be more useful
to Samoa than a thousand breadfruit trees; and because to myself it was
an exquisite pleasure to receive that which was so handsomely offered.
It is now done; you have trod it to-day in coming hither.  It has been
made for me by chiefs; some of them old, some sick, all newly delivered
from a harassing confinement, and in spite of weather unusually hot and
insalubrious.  I have seen these chiefs labour valiantly with their own
hands upon the work, and I have set up over it, now that it is finished,
the name of ‘The Road of Gratitude’ (the road of loving hearts) and the
names of those that built it.  ‘In perpetuam memoriam,’ we say and speak
idly.  At least so long as my own life shall be spared, it shall be here
perpetuated; partly for my pleasure and in my gratitude; partly for
others; to continually publish the lesson of this road.’

Addressing himself to the chiefs, Mr. Stevenson then said:—

‘I will tell you, Chiefs, that, when I saw you working on that road, my
heart grew warm; not with gratitude only, but with hope.  It seemed to me
that I read the promise of something good for Samoa; it seemed to me, as
I looked at you, that you were a company of warriors in a battle,
fighting for the defence of our common country against all aggression.
For there is a time to fight, and a time to dig.  You Samoans may fight,
you may conquer twenty times, and thirty times, and all will be in vain.
There is but one way to defend Samoa.  Hear it before it is too late.  It
is to make roads, and gardens, and care for your trees, and sell their
produce wisely, and, in one word, to occupy and use your country.  If you
do not others will.’

The speaker then referred to the parable of the ‘Talents,’ Matt. xxv.
14–30, and continuing, impressively asked: ‘What are you doing with your
talent, Samoa?  Your three talents, Savaii, Upolu, and Tutuila?  Have you
buried it in a napkin?  Not Upolu at least.  You have rather given it out
to be trodden under feet of swine: and the swine cut down food trees and
burn houses, according to the nature of swine, or of that much worse
animal, foolish man, acting according to his folly.  “Thou knewest that I
reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed.”  But God
has both sown and strawed for you here in Samoa; He has given you a rich
soil, a splendid sur copious rain; all is ready to your hand, half done.
And I repeat to you that thing which is sure: if you do not occupy and
use your country, others will.  It will not continue to be yours or your
childrens, if you occupy it for nothing.  You and your children will in
that case be cast out into outer darkness, where shall be weeping and
gnashing of teeth; for that is the law of God which passeth not away.  I
who speak to you have seen these things.  I have seen them with my
eyes—these judgments of God.  I have seen them in Ireland, and I have
seen them in the mountains of my own country—Scotland—and my heart was
sad.  These were a fine people in the past—brave, gay, faithful, and very
much like Samoans, except in one particular, that they were much wiser
and better at that business of fighting of which you think so much.  But
the time came to them as it now comes to you, and it did not find them
ready.  The messenger came into their villages and they did not know him;
they were told, as you are told, to use and occupy their country, and
they would not hear.  And now you may go through great tracts of the land
and scarce meet a man or a smoking house, and see nothing but sheep
feeding.  The other people that I tell you of have come upon them like a
foe in the night, and these are the other people’s sheep who browse upon
the foundation of their houses.  To come nearer; and I have seen this
judgment in Oahu also.  I have ridden there the whole day along the coast
of an island.  Hour after hour went by and I saw the face of no living
man except that of the guide who rode with me.  All along that desolate
coast, in one bay after another, we saw, still standing, the churches
that have been built by the Hawaiians of old.  There must have been many
hundreds, many thousands, dwelling there in old times, and worshipping
God in these now empty churches.  For to-day they were empty; the doors
were closed, the villages had disappeared, the people were dead and gone;
only the church stood on like a tombstone over a grave, in the midst of
the white men’s sugar fields.  The other people had come and used that
country, and the Hawaiians who occupied it for nothing had been swept
away, “where is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

‘I do not speak of this lightly, because I love Samoa and her people.  I
love the land, I have chosen it to be my home while I live, and my grave
after I am dead; and I love the people, and have chosen them to be my
people to live and die with.  And I see that the day is come now of the
great battle; of the great and the last opportunity by which it shall be
decided, whether you are to pass away like these other races of which I
have been speaking, or to stand fast and have your children living on and
honouring your memory in the land you received of your fathers.

‘The Land Commission and the Chief Justice will soon have ended their
labours.  Much of your land will be restored to you, to do what you can
with.  Now is the time the messenger is come into your villages to summon
you; the man is come with the measuring rod; the fire is lighted in which
you shall be tried; whether you are gold or dross.  Now is the time for
the true champions of Samoa to stand forth.  And who is the true champion
of Samoa?  It is not the man who blackens his face, and cuts down trees,
and kills pigs and wounded men.  It is the man who makes roads, who
plants food trees, who gathers harvests, and is a profitable servant
before the Lord, using and improving that great talent that has been
given him in trust.  That is the brave soldier; that is the true
champion; because all things in a country hang together like the links of
the anchor cable, one by another: but the anchor itself is industry.

‘There is a friend of most of us, who is far away; not to be forgotten
where I am, where Tupuola is, where Poè Lelei, Mataafa, Solevao, Poè
Teleso, Tupuola Lotofaga, Tupuolo Amaile, Muliaiga, Ifopo, Fatialofa,
Lemusu are.  He knew what I am telling you; no man better.  He saw the
day was come when Samoa had to walk in a new path, and to be defended,
not only with guns and blackened faces, and the noise of men shouting,
but by digging and planting, reaping and sowing.  When he was still here
amongst us, he busied himself planting cacao; he was anxious and eager
about agriculture and commerce, and spoke and wrote continually; so that
when we turn our minds to the same matters, we may tell ourselves that we
are still obeying Mataafa.  Ua tautala mai pea o ia ua mamao.

‘I know that I do not speak to idle or foolish hearers.  I speak to those
who are not too proud to work for gratitude.  Chiefs!  You have worked
for Tusitala, and he thanks you from his heart.  In this, I could wish
you could be an example to all Samoa—I wish every chief in these islands
would turn to, and work, and build roads, and sow fields, and plant food
trees, and educate his children and improve his talents—not for love of
Tusitala, but for the love of his brothers, and his children, and the
whole body of generations yet unborn.

‘Chiefs!  On this road that you have made many feet shall follow.  The
Romans were the bravest and greatest of people! mighty men of their
hands, glorious fighters and conquerors.  To this day in Europe you may
go through parts of the country where all is marsh and bush, and perhaps
after struggling through a thicket, you shall come forth upon an ancient
road, solid and useful as the day it was made.  You shall see men and
women bearing their burdens along that even way, and you may tell
yourself that it was built for them perhaps fifteen hundred years
before,—perhaps before the coming of Christ,—by the Romans.  And the
people still remember and bless them for that convenience, and say to one
another, that as the Romans were the bravest men to fight, so they were
the best at building roads.

‘Chiefs!  Our road is not built to last a thousand years, yet in a sense
it is.  When a road is once built, it is a strange thing how it collects
traffic, how every year as it goes on, more and more people are found to
walk thereon, and others are raised up to repair and perpetuate it, and
keep it alive; so that perhaps even this road of ours may, from
reparation to reparation, continue to exist and be useful hundreds and
hundreds of years after we are mingled in the dust.  And it is my hope
that our far-away descendants may remember and bless those who laboured
for them to-day.’

                                * * * * *

         Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty
                    at the Edinburgh University Press

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