Vailima Letters, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Chapter XLII

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

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

Your letter to hand.

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

Travels and Excursions, vol. II. Should it not include a paper on S. F. from the Mag. of Art? The A. E., the New Pacific capital, the Old ditto. Silver. Squat. This would give all my works on the States; and though it ain’t very good, it’s not so very bad. Travels and Excursions, vol. III., to be these resuscitated letters — Miscellanies, vol. II. — Comme vous voudrez, cher monsieur!

Monday, Aug. 13TH

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

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

Robert Louis Stevenson.

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