I hold it as a fixed maxim that, when a man or a family put on a slovenly appearance in their houses, stairs, and lanterns, I always find their reflectors, burners, windows, and light in general, ill attended to; and, therefore, I must insist on cleanliness throughout.' 'I find you very deficient in the duty of the high tower. You thus place your appointment as Principal Keeper in jeopardy; and I think it necessary, as an old servant of the Board, to put you upon your guard once for all at this time. I call upon you to recollect what was formerly and is now said to you. The state of the backs of the reflectors at the high tower was disgraceful, as I pointed out to you on the spot. They were as if spitten upon, and greasy finger-marks upon the back straps. I demand an explanation of this state of things.' 'The cause of the Commissioners dismissing you is expressed in the minute; and it must be a matter of regret to you that you have been so much engaged in smuggling, and also that the Reports relative to the cleanliness of the Lighthouse, upon being referred to, rather added to their unfavourable opinion.' 'I do not go into the dwelling-house, but severely chide the lightkeepers for the disagreement that seems to subsist among them.' 'The families of the two lightkeepers here agree very ill. I have effected a reconciliation for the present.' 'Things are in a very HUMDRUM state here. There is no painting, and in and out of doors no taste or tidiness displayed. Robert's wife GREETS and M'Gregor's scolds; and Robert is so down-hearted that he says he is unfit for duty. I told him that if he was to mind wives' quarrels, and to take them up, the only way was for him and M'Gregor to go down to the point like Sir G. Grant and Lord Somerset.' 'I cannot say that I have experienced a more unpleasant meeting than that of the lighthouse folks this morning, or ever saw a stronger example of unfeeling barbarity than the conduct which the ---s exhibited. These two cold-hearted persons, not contented with having driven the daughter of the poor nervous woman from her father's house, BOTH kept POUNCING at her, lest she should forget her great misfortune. Write me of their conduct. Do not make any communication of the state of these families at Kinnaird Head, as this would be like TALE-BEARING.'

There is the great word out. Tales and Tale-bearing, always with the emphatic capitals, run continually in his correspondence. I will give but two instances:-

'Write to David [one of the lightkeepers] and caution him to be more prudent how he expresses himself. Let him attend his duty to the Lighthouse and his family concerns, and give less heed to Tale- bearers.' 'I have not your last letter at hand to quote its date; but, if I recollect, it contains some kind of tales, which nonsense I wish you would lay aside, and notice only the concerns of your family and the important charge committed to you.'

Apparently, however, my grandfather was not himself inaccessible to the Tale-bearer, as the following indicates:

'In walking along with Mr. --- , I explain to him that I should be under the necessity of looking more closely into the business here from his conduct at Buddonness, which had given an instance of weakness in the Moral principle which had staggered my opinion of him. His answer was, "That will be with regard to the lass?" I told him I was to enter no farther with him upon the subject.' 'Mr. Miller appears to be master and man. I am sorry about this foolish fellow. Had I known his train, I should not, as I did, have rather forced him into the service. Upon finding the windows in the state they were, I turned upon Mr. Watt, and especially upon Mr. Stewart. The latter did not appear for a length of time to have visited the light-room. On asking the cause--did Mr. Watt and him (sic) disagree; he said no; but he had got very bad usage from the assistant, "who was a very obstreperous man." I could not bring Mr. Watt to put in language his objections to Miller; all I could get was that, he being your friend, and saying he was unwell, he did not like to complain or to push the man; that the man seemed to have no liking to anything like work; that he was unruly; that, being an educated man, he despised them.

Records of a Family of Engineers Page 26

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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