Vailima Letters, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Chapter XLI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

R. L. Stevenson.

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