Vailima Letters, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Chapter XXVIII

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

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

15. See Allan Ramsay’s works.

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

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

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

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

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

— XIV. All right, will abridge.

— XV. I’d have to put a note to every word; and he who can’t read Scots can never enjoy Tod Lapraik.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easter Sunday.

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

Thursday, April 5th.

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

Friday, 7th.

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

Sunday.

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

April 16th.

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

17TH.

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

Thursday.

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

Saturday, 22.

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

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30