THE WORKS OF
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
Of this SWANSTON EDITION in Twenty-five Volumes of the Works of ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON Two Thousand and Sixty Copies have been printed, of which only Two Thousand Copies are for sale.
This is No. .......
THE WORKS OF
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
LONDON: PUBLISHED BY CHATTO AND WINDUS: IN ASSOCIATION WITH CASSELL AND COMPANY LIMITED: WILLIAM HEINEMANN: AND LONGMANS GREEN AND COMPANY MDCCCCXII
For permission to use the LETTERS in the SWANSTON EDITION OF STEVENSON'S WORKS the Publishers are indebted to the kindness of MESSRS. METHUEN & CO., LTD.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
THE LETTERS OF ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
EDITED BY SIDNEY COLVIN
XI. LIFE IN SAMOA
FIRST YEAR AT VAILIMA
PAGE INTRODUCTORY 3
LETTERS— To Sidney Colvin 9 To E. L. Burlingame 24 To Sidney Colvin 25 To E. L. Burlingame 32 To Sidney Colvin 34 To Henry James 43 To Rudyard Kipling 46 To Sidney Colvin 48 To Marcel Schwob 51 To Charles Baxter 53 To Sidney Colvin 54 To H. B. Baildon 56 To Sidney Colvin 58 To the Same 66 To W. Craibe Angus 69 To Edmund Gosse 71 To Miss Rawlinson 74 To Sidney Colvin 76 To Miss Adelaide Boodle 80 To Charles Baxter 82 To Sidney Colvin 83 To E. L. Burlingame 86 To W. Craibe Angus 87 To H. C. Ide 88 To Sidney Colvin 90 To the Same 94 To the Same 102 To Henry James 108 To E. L. Burlingame 110 To the Same 111 To Sidney Colvin 112 To W. Craibe Angus 118 To Miss Annie H. Ide 118 To Charles Baxter 120 To Sidney Colvin 121 To Fred Orr 127 To E. L. Burlingame 128 To Henry James 130 To Sidney Colvin 132
XII. LIFE IN SAMOA—continued
SECOND YEAR AT VAILIMA
LETTERS— To E. L. Burlingame 146 To Miss Adelaide Boodle 147 To Sidney Colvin 152 To J. M. Barrie 154 To Sidney Colvin 156 To William Morris 162 To Mrs. Charles Fairchild 163 To Sidney Colvin 166 To E. L. Burlingame 174 To the Rev. S. J. Whitmee 174 To Charles Baxter 177 To Sidney Colvin 178 To the Same 193 To T. W. Dover 209 To E. L. Burlingame 210 To Sidney Colvin 211 To Charles Baxter 213 To W. E. Henley 214 To E. L. Burlingame 215 To Andrew Lang 216 To Miss Adelaide Boodle 217 To Sidney Colvin 221 To the Countess of Jersey 228 To the Same 229 To Sidney Colvin 230 To Mrs. Charles Fairchild 240 To the Children in the Cellar 243 To Sidney Colvin 249 To Gordon Browne 252 To Miss Morse 253 To Miss Taylor 254 To E. L. Burlingame 257 To Sidney Colvin 258 To J. M. Barrie 264 To E. L. Burlingame 266 To Lieutenant Eeles 267 To Charles Baxter 270 To Sidney Colvin 271 To Mrs. Fleeming Jenkin 273 To Henry James 274 To J. M. Barrie 276 To Charles Baxter 278
XIII. LIFE IN SAMOA—continued
THIRD YEAR AT VAILIMA
LETTERS— To Sidney Colvin 282 To Charles Baxter 288 To Sidney Colvin 289 To the Same 291 To Charles Baxter 292 To Sidney Colvin 294 To A. Conan Doyle 299 To Sidney Colvin 299 To S. R. Crockett 305 To Augustus St. Gaudens 308 To Sidney Colvin 310 To Edmund Gosse 317 To Henry James 320 To Sidney Colvin 324 To James S. Stevenson 334 To Henry James 335 To A. Conan Doyle 336 To Charles Baxter 337 To Sidney Colvin 338 To A. Conan Doyle 339 To Augustus St. Gaudens 341 To James S. Stevenson 342 To George Meredith 343 To Charles Baxter 345 To Sidney Colvin 347 To the Same 352 To J. Horne Stevenson 357 To John P——n 358 To Russell P——n 359 To Alison Cunningham 359 To Charles Baxter 360 To J. M. Barrie 362 To R. Le Gallienne 364 To Mrs. A. Baker 366 To Henry James 367 To Sidney Colvin 367
FOURTH YEAR AT VAILIMA—THE END
LETTERS— To Charles Baxter 376 To H. B. Baildon 377 To W. H. Low 378 To Sidney Colvin 380 To H. B. Baildon 381 To Sidney Colvin 382 To J. H. Bates 384 To William Archer 384 To Sidney Colvin 386 To W. B. Yeats 390 To George Meredith 390 To Charles Baxter 392 To Mrs. Sitwell 393 To Charles Baxter 394 To Sidney Colvin 396 To R. A. M. Stevenson 398 To Sidney Colvin 404 To Henry James 406 To Marcel Schwob 409 To A. St. Gaudens 410 To Miss Adelaide Boodle 410 To Mrs. A. Baker 413 To Sidney Colvin 414 To J. M. Barrie 416 To Sidney Colvin 422 To Dr. Bakewell 424 To James Payn 425 To Miss Middleton 428 To A. Conan Doyle 429 To Sidney Colvin 430 To Charles Baxter 433 To R. A. M. Stevenson 434 To Sir Herbert Maxwell 440 To Sidney Colvin 441 To Alison Cunningham 445 To James Payn 446 To Sidney Colvin 448 To Professor Meiklejohn 450 To Lieutenant Eeles 451 To Sir Herbert Maxwell 453 To Andrew Lang 453 To Edmund Gosse 454
APPENDIX I—Account of the Death and Burial of R. L. Stevenson, by Lloyd Osbourne 457
APPENDIX II—Address of R. L. Stevenson to the Chiefs on the Opening of the Road of Gratitude, October 1894 462
INDEX TO THE LETTERS: VOLUMES XXIII-XXV 469
INDEX TO VOLUMES I-XXII 509
THE LETTERS OF ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
THE LETTERS OF ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
LIFE IN SAMOA
FIRST YEAR AT VAILIMA
NOVEMBER 1890-DECEMBER 1891
Returning from Sydney at the end of October 1890, Stevenson and his wife at once took up their abode in the wooden four-roomed cottage, or "rough barrack," as he calls it, which had been built for them in the clearing at Vailima during the months of their absence at Sydney and on their cruise in the Equator. Mr. Lloyd Osbourne in the meantime had started for England to wind up the family affairs at Bournemouth. During the first few months, as will be seen by the following letters, the conditions of life at Vailima were rough to the point of hardship. But matters soon mended; the work of clearing and planting went on under the eye of the master and mistress diligently and in the main successfully, though not of course without complications and misadventures. Ways and means of catering were found, and abundance began to reign in place of the makeshifts and privations of the first days. By April a better house, fit to receive the elder Mrs. Stevenson, had been built; and later in the year plans for further extension were considered, but for the present held over. The attempt made at first to work the establishment by means of white servants and head-men indoors and out proved unsatisfactory, and was gradually superseded by the formation of an efficient native staff, which in course of time developed itself into something like a small, devoted feudal clan.
During the earlier months of 1891 Stevenson was not in continuous residence on his new property, but went away on two excursions, the first to Sydney to meet his mother; the second, in company of the American Consul Mr. Sewall, to Tutuila, a neighbouring island of the Samoan group. Of the latter, to him very interesting, trip, the correspondence contains only the beginning of an account abruptly broken off: more, will be found in the extracts from his diary given in Mr. Graham Balfour's Life (ed. 1906, pp. 312 f.). During part of the spring he was fortunate in having the company of two distinguished Americans, the painter Lafarge and the historian Henry Adams, in addition to that of the local planters, traders, and officials, a singular and singularly mixed community. After some half-year's residence he began to realise that the arrangements made for the government of Samoa by treaty between the three powers England, Germany, and America were not working nor promising to work well. Stevenson was no abstracted student or dreamer; the human interests and human duties lying immediately about him were ever the first in his eyes; and he found himself drawn deeply into the complications of local politics, as so active a spirit could not fail to be drawn, however little taste he might have for the work.
He kept in the meantime at a fair level of health, and among the multitude of new interests was faithful in the main business of his life—that is, to literature. He did not cease to toil uphill at the heavy task of preparing for serial publication the letters, or more properly chapters, on the South Seas. He planned and began delightedly his happiest tale of South Sea life, The High Woods of Ulufanua, afterwards changed to The Beach of Falesa; conceived the scheme, which was never carried out, of working two of his old conceptions into one long genealogical novel or fictitious family history to be called The Shovels of Newton French; and in the latter part of the year worked hard in continuation of The Wrecker. Having completed this during November, he turned at once, from a sense of duty rather than from any literary inspiration, to the Footnote to History, a laboriously prepared and minutely conscientious account of recent events in Samoa.
From his earliest days at Vailima, determined that our intimacy should suffer no diminution by absence, Stevenson began, to my great pleasure, the practice of writing me a monthly budget containing a full account of his doings and interests. At first the pursuits of the enthusiastic farmer, planter, and overseer filled these letters delightfully, to the exclusion of almost everything else except references to his books projected or in hand. Later these interests began to give place in his letters to those of the local politician, immersed in affairs which seemed to me exasperatingly petty and obscure, however grave the potential European complications which lay behind them. At any rate, they were hard to follow intelligently from the other side of the globe; and it was a relief whenever his correspondence turned to matters literary or domestic, or humours of his own mind and character. These letters, or so much of them as seemed suitable for publication, were originally printed separately, in the year following the writer's death, under the title Vailima Letters. They are here placed, with some additions, in chronological order among those addressed to other friends or acquaintances. During this first year at Vailima his general correspondence was not nearly so large as it afterwards became; Mr. Burlingame, as representative of the house of Scribner, receiving the lion's share next to myself.
For the love of Stevenson I will ask readers to take the small amount of pains necessary to grasp and remember the main facts of Samoan politics in the ten years 1889-99. At the date when he settled in Vailima the government of the islands had lately been re-ordered between the three powers interested—namely, Germany, England, and the United States—at the Convention of Berlin (July 14, 1889). The rivalries and jealousies of these three powers, complicated with the conflicting claims of various native kings or chiefs, had for some time kept the affairs of the islands dangerously embroiled. Under the Berlin 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 were equally good and abilities certainly greater, but who was especially obnoxious to the Germans owing to his resistance to them during the troubles of the preceding years. In the course of that resistance a small German force had been worsted in a petty skirmish at Fagalii, and resentment at this affront to the national pride was for several years one of the chief obstacles to the reconciliation of contending interests. 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 (Malie) a few miles outside the town of Apia, where he lived in semi-royal state as a sort 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 Cedercrantz, and the President of the Council, Baron Senfft von Pilsach—had come out to the islands and entered on their duties. These gentlemen soon proved themselves unfitted for their task to a degree both disastrous and grotesque. Almost the entire white community were soon against them; with the native population they had no influence or credit; affairs both political and municipal went from bad to worse; and the consuls of the three powers, acting as an official board of advisers to the king, could do very little to mend them.
To the impropriety of some of the official proceedings Stevenson felt compelled to call attention in a series of letters to the Times, the first of which appeared in 1891, the remainder in 1892. He had formed the conviction that for the cure of Samoan troubles two things were necessary: first and above all, the reconciliation of Laupepa and Mataafa; secondly, the supersession of the unlucky Chief Justice and President by men better qualified for their tasks. To effect the former purpose, he made his only practical intromission in local politics, and made it unsuccessfully. The motive of his letters to the Times was the hope to effect the second. In this matter, after undergoing the risk, which was at one moment serious, of deportation, he in the end saw his wishes fulfilled. The first Chief Justice and President were replaced by better qualified persons in the course of 1893. But meantime the muddle had grown to a head. In the autumn of that year war broke out between the partisans of Laupepa and Mataafa: the latter were defeated, and Mataafa exiled to a distant island. At the close of the following year Stevenson died. Three years later followed the death of Laupepa: then came more confused rivalries between various claimants to the kingly title. The Germans, having by this time come round to Stevenson's opinion, backed the claims of Mataafa, which they had before stubbornly disallowed, while the English and Americans stood for another candidate. In 1899 these differences resulted in a calamitous and unjustifiable action, the bombardment of native villages for several successive days by English and American war-ships. As a matter of urgent necessity, to avert worse things, new negotiations were set on foot between the three powers, with the result that England withdrew her claims in Samoa altogether, America was satisfied with the small island of Tutuila with its fine harbour of Pago-pago, while the two larger islands of Upolu and Savaii were ceded to Germany. German officials have governed them well and peacefully ever since, having allowed the restored Mataafa, as long as he lived, a recognised position of headship among the native chiefs. Stevenson during his lifetime was obnoxious to the German official world. But his name and memory are now held in honour by them, his policy to a large extent practically followed, and he would have been the first to acknowledge the merits of the new order had he lived to witness it.
These remarks, following the subject down to what remains for the present its historic conclusion, will, I hope, be enough to clear it for the present purpose out of the reader's way and enable him to understand as much as is necessary of the political allusions in this and the following sections of the correspondence.
It need only be added that 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.
TO SIDNEY COLVIN
During the absence of the Stevensons at Sydney some eight acres of the Vailima property had been cleared of jungle, a cottage roughly built on the clearing, and something done towards making the track up the hill from Apia into a practicable road. They occupied the cottage at once, and the following letters narrate of the sequel.
In the Mountain, Apia, Samoa, Monday, November 2nd, 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 bedtime; 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 Simele), 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 to.
Never say I don't give you details and news. That is a picture of a letter.
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 angels.
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:—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, a la Rarotonga, 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 explessions" 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, 3rd.—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 Simele; he give you work. Peni, you tell this boy he go find Simele; suppose Simele 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 Simele! 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 deg.! 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 farmering.
I took up at the fit time Lafaele and Mauga—Mauga, accent on the first, is a mountain, I don't know what Mauga 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 Mauga 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 dare say; 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 island.
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 guidwife 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 top-most 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,
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, Yours The Epigrammatist
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON R N O O B S E N R E T V E L T O S U I S S I U S O T L E V T E R N E S B O O N R FINIS—EXPLICIT
TO E. L. BURLINGAME
The opening sentences of the following refer of course to The Wrecker, and particularly to a suggestion of mine concerning the relation of the main narrative to the prologue:—
Vailima, Apia, Samoa, Nov. 7, 1890.
I wish you to add to the words at the end of the prologue; they run, I think, thus, "And this is the yarn of Loudon Dodd"; add, "not as he told, but as he wrote it afterwards for his diversion." This becomes the more needful, because, when all is done, I shall probably revert to Tai-o-hae, and give final details about the characters in the way of a conversation between Dodd and Havers. These little snippets of information and faits-divers have always a disjointed, broken-backed appearance; yet, readers like them. In this book we have introduced so many characters, that this kind of epilogue will be looked for; and I rather hope, looking far ahead, that I can lighten it in dialogue.
We are well past the middle now. How does it strike you? and can you guess my mystery? It will make a fattish volume!
I say, have you ever read the Highland Widow? I never had till yesterday: I am half inclined, bar a trip or two, to think it Scott's masterpiece; and it has the name of a failure! Strange things are readers.
I expect proofs and revises in duplicate.
We have now got into a small barrack at our place. We see the sea six hundred feet below filling the end of two vales of forest. On one hand the mountain runs above us some thousand feet higher; great trees stand round us in our clearing; there is an endless voice of birds; I have never lived in such a heaven; just now, I have fever, which mitigates but not destroys my gusto in my circumstances.—You may envy
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
... O, I don't know if I mentioned that having seen your new tail to the magazine, I cried off interference, at least for this trip. Did I ask you to send me my books and papers, and all the bound volumes of the mag.? quorum pars. I might add that were there a good book or so—new—I don't believe there is—such would be welcome.
I desire—I positively begin to awake—to be remembered to Scribner, Low, St. Gaudens, Russell Sullivan. Well, well, you fellows have the feast of reason and the flow of soul; I have a better-looking place and climate: you should hear the birds on the hill now! The day has just wound up with a shower; it is still light without, though I write within here at the cheek of a lamp; my wife and an invaluable German are wrestling about bread on the back verandah; and how the birds and the frogs are rattling, and piping, and hailing from the woods! Here and there a throaty chuckle; here and there, cries like those of jolly children who have lost their way; here and there, the ringing sleigh-bell of the tree frog. Out and away down below me on the sea it is still raining; it will be wet under foot on schooners, and the house will leak; how well I know that! Here the showers only patter on the iron roof, and sometimes roar; and within, the lamp burns steady on the tafa-covered walls, with their dusky tartan patterns, and the book-shelves with their thin array of books; and no squall can rout my house or bring my heart into my mouth.—The well-pleased South Sea Islander,
R. L. S.
TO SIDNEY COLVIN
Vailima, Tuesday, November 25th,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., aetat. 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 Simele 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 coeur 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 shandrydan 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, 31st(?) 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: vivat!
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, the carter 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. Davis 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. 2nd.—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 drill.
R. L. S.
TO E. L. BURLINGAME
The intention here announced was only carried out to the extent of finishing one paper, My First Book, and beginning a few others—Genesis of the Master of Ballantrae, Rosa Quo Locorum, etc.; see Edinburgh edition, Miscellanies, vol. iv. The "long experience of gambling places" is a phrase which must not be misunderstood. Stevenson loved risk to life and limb, but hated gambling for money, and had known the tables only as a looker-on during holiday or invalid travels as a boy and young man. "Tamate" is the native (Rarotongan) word for trader, used especially as a name for the famous missionary pioneer, the Rev. James Chalmers, for whom Stevenson had an unbounded respect.
[Vailima, December 1890.]
MY DEAR BURLINGAME,—By some diabolical accident, I have mislaid your last. What was in it? I know not, and here I am caught unexpectedly by the American mail, a week earlier than by computation. The computation, not the mail, is supposed to be in error. The vols. of Scribner's have arrived, and present a noble appearance in my house, which is not a noble structure at present. But by autumn we hope to be sprawling in our verandah, twelve feet, sir, by eighty-eight in front, and seventy-two on the flank; view of the sea and mountains, sunrise, moonrise, and the German fleet at anchor three miles away in Apia harbour. I hope some day to offer you a bowl of kava there, or a slice of a pine-apple, or some lemonade from my own hedge. "I know a hedge where the lemons grow"—Shakespeare. My house at this moment smells of them strong; and the rain, which a while ago roared there, now rings in minute drops upon the iron roof. I have no Wrecker for you this mail, other things having engaged me. I was on the whole rather relieved you did not vote for regular papers, as I feared the traces. It is my design from time to time to write a paper of a reminiscential (beastly word) description; some of them I could scarce publish from different considerations; but some of them—for instance, my long experience of gambling places—Homburg, Wiesbaden, Baden-Baden, old Monaco, and new Monte Carlo—would make good magazine padding, if I got the stuff handled the right way. I never could fathom why verse was put in magazines; it has something to do with the making-up, has it not? I am scribbling a lot just now; if you are taken badly that way, apply to the South Seas. I could send you some, I believe, anyway, only none of it is thoroughly ripe. If you have kept back the volume of ballads, I'll soon make it of a respectable size if this fit continue. By the next mail you may expect some more Wrecker, or I shall be displeased. Probably no more than a chapter, however, for it is a hard one, and I am denuded of my proofs, my collaborator having walked away with them to England; hence some trouble in catching the just note.
I am a mere farmer: my talk, which would scarce interest you on Broadway, is all of fuafua and tuitui and black boys, and planting and weeding, and axes and cutlasses; my hands are covered with blisters and full of thorns; letters are, doubtless, a fine thing, so are beer and skittles, but give me farmering in the tropics for real interest. Life goes in enchantment; I come home to find I am late for dinner; and when I go to bed at night, I could cry for the weariness of my loins and thighs. Do not speak to me of vexation, the life brims with it, but with living interest fairly.
Christmas I go to Auckland, to meet Tamate, the New Guinea missionary, a man I love. The rest of my life is a prospect of much rain, much weeding and making of paths, a little letters, and devilish little to eat.—I am, my dear Burlingame, with messages to all whom it may concern, very sincerely yours,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
TO SIDNEY COLVIN
[Vailima] 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 passed 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.
I have been exploring up the Vaituluiga; 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 dare say 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.
Later.—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 Vaituluiga 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 relish.
Saturday, 27th.—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 hesitation.
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. 28th.—I have got unexpectedly to work again, and feel quite dandy. Good-bye.
R. L. S.
TO HENRY JAMES
Mr. Lafarge the artist and Mr. Henry Adams the historian have been mentioned already. The pinch in the matter of eatables only lasted for a little while, until Mrs. Stevenson had taken her bearings and made her arrangements in the matter of marketing, etc.
Vailima, Apia, Samoa, December 29th, 1890.
MY DEAR HENRY JAMES,—It is terrible how little everybody writes, and how much of that little disappears in the capacious maw of the Post Office. Many letters, both from and to me, I now know to have been lost in transit: my eye is on the Sydney Post Office, a large ungainly structure with a tower, as being not a hundred miles from the scene of disappearance; but then I have no proof. The Tragic Muse you announced to me as coming; I had already ordered it from a Sydney bookseller: about two months ago he advised me that his copy was in the post; and I am still tragically museless.
News, news, news. What do we know of yours? What do you care for ours? We are in the midst of the rainy season, and dwell among alarms of hurricanes, in a very unsafe little two-storied wooden box 650 feet above and about three miles from the sea-beach. Behind us, till the other slope of the island, desert forest, peaks, and loud torrents; in front green slopes to the sea, some fifty miles of which we dominate. We see the ships as they go out and in to the dangerous roadstead of Apia; and if they lie far out, we can even see their topmasts while they are at anchor. Of sounds of men, beyond those of our own labourers, there reach us, at very long intervals, salutes from the warships in harbour, the bell of the cathedral church, and the low of the conch-shell calling the labour boys on the German plantations. Yesterday, which was Sunday—the quantieme is most likely erroneous; you can now correct it—we had a visitor—Baker of Tonga. Heard you ever of him? He is a great man here: he is accused of theft, rape, judicial murder, private poisoning, abortion, misappropriation of public moneys—oddly enough, not forgery, nor arson; you would be amused if you knew how thick the accusations fly in this South Sea world. I make no doubt my own character is something illustrious; or if not yet, there is a good time coming.
But all our resources have not of late been Pacific. We have had enlightened society: Lafarge the painter, and your friend Henry Adams: a great privilege—would it might endure. I would go oftener to see them, but the place is awkward to reach on horseback. I had to swim my horse the last time I went to dinner; and as I have not yet returned the clothes I had to borrow, I dare not return in the same plight: it seems inevitable—as soon as the wash comes in, I plump straight into the American consul's shirt or trousers! They, I believe, would come oftener to see me but for the horrid doubt that weighs upon our commissariat department; we have often almost nothing to eat; a guest would simply break the bank; my wife and I have dined on one avocado pear; I have several times dined on hard bread and onions. What would you do with a guest at such narrow seasons?—eat him? or serve up a labour boy fricasseed?
Work? work is now arrested, but I have written, I should think, about thirty chapters of the South Sea book; they will all want rehandling, I dare say. Gracious, what a strain is a long book! The time it took me to design this volume, before I could dream of putting pen to paper, was excessive; and then think of writing a book of travels on the spot, when I am continually extending my information, revising my opinions, and seeing the most finely finished portions of my work come part by part in pieces. Very soon I shall have no opinions left. And without an opinion, how to string artistically vast accumulations of fact? Darwin said no one could observe without a theory; I suppose he was right; 'tis a fine point of metaphysic; but I will take my oath, no man can write without one—at least the way he would like to, and my theories melt, melt, melt, and as they melt the thaw-waters wash down my writing, and leave unideal tracts—wastes instead of cultivated farms.
Kipling is by far the most promising young man who has appeared since—ahem—I appeared. He amazes me by his precocity and various endowment. But he alarms me by his copiousness and haste. He should shield his fire with both hands "and draw up all his strength and sweetness in one ball." ("Draw all his strength and all His sweetness up into one ball"? I cannot remember Marvell's words.) So the critics have been saying to me: but I was never capable of—and surely never guilty of—such a debauch of production. At this rate his works will soon fill the habitable globe; and surely he was armed for better conflicts than these succinct sketches and flying leaves of verse? I look on, I admire, I rejoice for myself; but in a kind of ambition we all have for our tongue and literature I am wounded. If I had this man's fertility and courage, it seems to me I could heave a pyramid.
Well, we begin to be the old fogies now; and it was high time something rose to take our places. Certainly Kipling has the gifts; the fairy godmothers were all tipsy at his christening: what will he do with them?
Good-bye, my dear James; find an hour to write to us, and register your letter.—Yours affectionately,
R. L. S.
TO RUDYARD KIPLING
In 1890, on first becoming acquainted with Mr. Kipling's Soldiers Three, Stevenson had written off his congratulations red-hot. "Well and indeed, Mr. Mulvaney," so ran the first sentences of his note, "but it's as good as meat to meet in with you, sir. They tell me it was a man of the name of Kipling made ye; but indeed and they can't fool me; it was the Lord God Almighty that made you." Taking the cue thus offered, Mr. Kipling had written back in the character of his own Irishman, Thomas Mulvaney, addressing Stevenson's Highlander, Alan Breck Stewart. In the following letter, which belongs to an uncertain date in 1891, Alan Breck is made to reply. "The gentleman I now serve with" means, of course, R. L. S. himself.
SIR,—I cannot call to mind having written you, but I am so throng with occupation this may have fallen aside. I never heard tell I had any friends in Ireland, and I am led to understand you are come of no considerable family. The gentleman I now serve with assures me, however, you are a very pretty fellow and your letter deserves to be remarked. It's true he is himself a man of a very low descent upon the one side; though upon the other he counts cousinship with a gentleman, my very good friend, the late Mr. Balfour of the Shaws, in the Lothian; which I should be wanting in good fellowship to forget. He tells me besides you are a man of your hands; I am not informed of your weapon; but if all be true it sticks in my mind I would be ready to make exception in your favour, and meet you like one gentleman with another. I suppose this'll be your purpose in your favour, which I could very ill make out; it's one I would be sweir to baulk you of. It seems, Mr. McIlvaine, which I take to be your name, you are in the household of a gentleman of the name of Coupling: for whom my friend is very much engaged. The distances being very uncommodious, I think it will be maybe better if we leave it to these two to settle all that's necessary to honour. I would have you to take heed it's a very unusual condescension on my part, that bear a King's name; and for the matter of that I think shame to be mingled with a person of the name of Coupling, which is doubtless a very good house but one I never heard tell of, any more than Stevenson. But your purpose being laudable, I would be sorry (as the word goes) to cut off my nose to spite my face.—I am, Sir, your humble servant,
A. STEWART, Chevalier de St. Louis.
To Mr. M'Ilvaine, Gentleman Private in a foot regiment, under cover to Mr. Coupling.
He has read me some of your Barrack Room Ballants, which are not of so noble a strain as some of mine in the Gaelic, but I could set some of them to the pipes if this rencounter goes as it's to be desired. Let's first, as I understand you to move, do each other this rational courtesy; and if either will survive, we may grow better acquaint. For your tastes for what's martial and for poetry agree with mine.
TO SIDNEY COLVIN
This is the first appearance in Stevenson's letters of the Swedish Chief Justice of Samoa, Mr. Conrad Cedercrantz, of whom we shall hear enough and more than enough in the sequel.
S.S. Luebeck, between Apia and Sydney, Jan. 17th, 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 manoeuvres), 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 Gurr 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 drums, Sa femisai o nu'u, sa taia o pate, Is confounded thereby 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—