I so far thought of my father, but I had forgotten my mother. And now! they are both ill, both silent, both as down in the mouth as if - I can find no simile. You may fancy how happy it is for me. If it were not too late, I think I could almost find it in my heart to retract, but it is too late; and again, am I to live my whole life as one falsehood? Of course, it is rougher than hell upon my father, but can I help it? They don't see either that my game is not the light-hearted scoffer; that I am not (as they call me) a careless infidel. I believe as much as they do, only generally in the inverse ratio: I am, I think, as honest as they can be in what I hold. I have not come hastily to my views. I reserve (as I told them) many points until I acquire fuller information, and do not think I am thus justly to be called 'horrible atheist.'

Now, what is to take place? What a curse I am to my parents! O Lord, what a pleasant thing it is to have just DAMNED the happiness of (probably) the only two people who care a damn about you in the world.

What is my life to be at this rate? What, you rascal? Answer - I have a pistol at your throat. If all that I hold true and most desire to spread is to be such death, and a worse than death, in the eyes of my father and mother, what the DEVIL am I to do?

Here is a good heavy cross with a vengeance, and all rough with rusty nails that tear your fingers, only it is not I that have to carry it alone; I hold the light end, but the heavy burden falls on these two.

Don't - I don't know what I was going to say. I am an abject idiot, which, all things considered, is not remarkable. - Ever your affectionate and horrible atheist,

R. L. STEVENSON.

CHAPTER II - STUDENT DAYS - ORDERED SOUTH, SEPTEMBER 1873-JULY 1875

Letter: TO MRS. THOMAS STEVENSON

COCKFIELD RECTORY, SUDBURY, SUFFOLK, TUESDAY, JULY 28, 1873.

MY DEAR MOTHER, - I am too happy to be much of a correspondent. Yesterday we were away to Melford and Lavenham, both exceptionally placid, beautiful old English towns. Melford scattered all round a big green, with an Elizabethan Hall and Park, great screens of trees that seem twice as high as trees should seem, and everything else like what ought to be in a novel, and what one never expects to see in reality, made me cry out how good we were to live in Scotland, for the many hundredth time. I cannot get over my astonishment - indeed, it increases every day - at the hopeless gulf that there is between England and Scotland, and English and Scotch. Nothing is the same; and I feel as strange and outlandish here as I do in France or Germany. Everything by the wayside, in the houses, or about the people, strikes me with an unexpected unfamiliarity: I walk among surprises, for just where you think you have them, something wrong turns up.

I got a little Law read yesterday, and some German this morning, but on the whole there are too many amusements going for much work; as for correspondence, I have neither heart nor time for it to-day.

R. L. S.

Letter: TO MRS. SITWELL

17 HERIOT ROW, EDINBURGH, SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 1873.

I HAVE been to-day a very long walk with my father through some of the most beautiful ways hereabouts; the day was cold with an iron, windy sky, and only glorified now and then with autumn sunlight. For it is fully autumn with us, with a blight already over the greens, and a keen wind in the morning that makes one rather timid of one's tub when it finds its way indoors.

I was out this evening to call on a friend, and, coming back through the wet, crowded, lamp-lit streets, was singing after my own fashion, DU HAST DIAMANTEN UND PERLEN, when I heard a poor cripple man in the gutter wailing over a pitiful Scotch air, his club-foot supported on the other knee, and his whole woebegone body propped sideways against a crutch. The nearest lamp threw a strong light on his worn, sordid face and the three boxes of lucifer matches that he held for sale. My own false notes stuck in my chest.

The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson - Volume 1 Page 13

Robert Louis Stevenson

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