Vailima Letters, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Chapter XXIV

My Dear Colvin, — Another grimy little odd and end of paper, for which you shall be this month repaid in kind, and serve you jolly well right . . . The new house is roofed; it will be a braw house, and what is better, I have my yearly bill in, and I find I can pay for it. For all which mercies, etc. I must have made close on 4,000 pounds this year all told; but, what is not so pleasant, I seem to have come near to spending them. I have been in great alarm, with this new house on the cards, all summer, and came very near to taking in sail, but I live here so entirely on credit, that I determined to hang on.

Dec. 1st.

I was saying yesterday that my life was strange and did not think how well I spoke. Yesterday evening I was briefed to defend a political prisoner before the Deputy Commissioner. What do you think of that for a vicissitude?

Dec. 3rd.

Now for a confession. When I heard you and Cassells had decided to print The Bottle Imp along with Falesa, I was too much disappointed to answer. The Bottle Imp was the Piece de Resistance for my volume, Island Nights’ Entertainments. However, that volume might have never got done; and I send you two others in case they should be in time.

First have the Beach of Falesa.

Then a fresh false title: Island Nights’ Entertainments; and then

The Bottle Imp: a cue from an old melodrama.

The Isle of Voices.

The Waif Woman; a cue from a Saga.

Of course these two others are not up to the mark of The Bottle Imp; but they each have a certain merit, and they fit in style. By saying ‘a cue from an old melodrama’ after the B. I., you can get rid of my note. If this is in time, it will be splendid, and will make quite a volume.

Should you and Cassells prefer, you can call the whole volume I. N. E. — though the Beach of Falesa is the child of a quite different inspiration. They all have a queer realism, even the most extravagant, even the Isle of Voices; the manners are exact.

Should they come too late, have them type-written, and return to me here the type-written copies.

Sunday, Dec. 4th.

3rd start, — But now more humbly and with the aid of an Amanuensis. First one word about page 2. My wife protests against the Waif-woman and I am instructed to report the same to you . . . .

Dec. 5th.

A horrid alarm rises that our October mail was burned crossing the Plains. If so, you lost a beautiful long letter — I am sure it was beautiful though I remember nothing about it — and I must say I think it serves you properly well. That I should continue writing to you at such length is simply a vicious habit for which I blush. At the same time, please communicate at once with Charles Baxter whether you have or have not received a letter posted here Oct 12th, as he is going to cable me the fate of my mail.

Now to conclude my news. The German Firm have taken my book like angels, and the result is that Lloyd and I were down there at dinner on Saturday, where we partook of fifteen several dishes and eight distinct forms of intoxicating drink. To the credit of Germany, I must say there was not a shadow of a headache the next morning. I seem to have done as well as my neighbours, for I hear one of the clerks expressed the next morning a gratified surprise that Mr. Stevenson stood his drink so well. It is a strange thing that any race can still find joy in such athletic exercises. I may remark in passing that the mail is due and you have had far more than you deserve.

R. L. S.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00