Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Vailima Letters by Robert Louis Stevenson

Part 1 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Vailima Letters Robert Louis Stevenson
Scanned and proofed by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk

Vailima Letters



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 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:-

[Map which cannot be reproduced]

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 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 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

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

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.


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 degrees! 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.


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:-


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 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.


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.


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

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

The Epigrammatist





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

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 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


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.


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.


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.



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.

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.


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.


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

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.


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 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
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 -

O le afa,

1 2 3
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 LUBECK 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.



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


'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

Yours ever,
R. L. S.



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

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
Hyeres; 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 methods.

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!


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-A-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....



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;
Montepin 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 employes 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 beyond.'

'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 pruning-knife.

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 29TH, '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 pounds, 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 employes who has a credit.


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 overflowing.

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
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

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-BETE!
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


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 better.

Your opinion as to the letters as a whole is so damnatory

Book of the day: