Vailima Letters

Page 05

To you effete denizens of the so-called temperate zone, it had seemed nothing; neither of us could sleep; we were up seeking extra coverings, I know not at what hour - it was as bright as day. The moon right over Vaea - near due west, the birds strangely silent, and the wood of the house tingling with cold; I believe it must have been 60 degrees! Consequence; Fanny has a headache and is wretched, and I could do no work. (I am trying all round for a place to hold my pen; you will hear why later on; this to explain penmanship.) I wrote two pages, very bad, no movement, no life or interest; then I wrote a business letter; then took to tootling on the flageolet, till glory should call me farmering.

I took up at the fit time Lafaele and Mauga - Mauga, accent on the first, is a mountain, I don't know what Mauga means - mind what I told you of the value of g - to the garden, and set them digging, then turned my attention to the path. I could not go into my bush path for two reasons: 1st, sore hands; 2nd, had on my trousers and good shoes. Lucky it was. Right in the wild lime hedge which cuts athwart us just homeward of the garden, I found a great bed of kuikui - sensitive plant - our deadliest enemy. A fool brought it to this island in a pot, and used to lecture and sentimentalise over the tender thing. The tender thing has now taken charge of this island, and men fight it, with torn hands, for bread and life. A singular, insidious thing, shrinking and biting like a weasel; clutching by its roots as a limpet clutches to a rock. As I fought him, I bettered some verses in my poem, the WOODMAN; the only thought I gave to letters. Though the kuikui was thick, there was but a small patch of it, and when I was done I attacked the wild lime, and had a hand-to-hand skirmish with its spines and elastic suckers. All this time, close by, in the cleared space of the garden, Lafaele and Mauga were digging. Suddenly quoth Lafaele, 'Somebody he sing out.' - 'Somebody he sing out? All right. I go.' And I went and found they had been whistling and 'singing out' for long, but the fold of the hill and the uncleared bush shuts in the garden so that no one heard, and I was late for dinner, and Fanny's headache was cross; and when the meal was over, we had to cut up a pineapple which was going bad, to make jelly of; and the next time you have a handful of broken blood-blisters, apply pine-apple juice, and you will give me news of it, and I request a specimen of your hand of write five minutes after - the historic moment when I tackled this history. My day so far.

Fanny was to have rested. Blessed Paul began making a duck- house; she let him be; the duck-house fell down, and she had to set her hand to it. He was then to make a drinking-place for the pigs; she let him be again - he made a stair by which the pigs will probably escape this evening, and she was near weeping. Impossible to blame the indefatigable fellow; energy is too rare and goodwill too noble a thing to discourage; but it's trying when she wants a rest. Then she had to cook the dinner; then, of course - like a fool and a woman - must wait dinner for me, and make a flurry of herself. Her day so far. CETERA ADHUC DESUNT.


I have been too tired to add to this chronicle, which will at any rate give you some guess of our employment. All goes well; the kuikui - (think of this mispronunciation having actually infected me to the extent of misspelling! tuitui is the word by rights) - the tuitui is all out of the paddock - a fenced park between the house and boundary; Peni's men start to-day on the road; the garden is part burned, part dug; and Henry, at the head of a troop of underpaid assistants, is hard at work clearing. The part clearing you will see from the map; from the house run down to the stream side, up the stream nearly as high as the garden; then back to the star which I have just added to the map.

My long, silent contests in the forest have had a strange effect on me.

Vailima Letters Page 06

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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