Vailima Letters

Page 08

But gaiety is what these children want; to sit in a crowd, tell stories and pass jests, to hear one another laugh and scamper with the girls. It's good fun, too, I believe, but not for R. L. S., AETAT. 40. Which I am now past forty, Custodian, and not one penny the worse that I can see; as amusable as ever; to be on board ship is reward enough for me; give me the wages of going on - in a schooner! Only, if ever I were gay, which I misremember, I am gay no more. And here is poor Henry passing his evenings on my intellectual husks, which the professors masticated; keeping the accounts of the estate - all wrong I have no doubt - I keep no check, beyond a very rough one; marching in with a cloudy brow, and the day-book under his arm; tackling decimals, coming with cases of conscience - how would an English chief behave in such a case? etc.; and, I am bound to say, on any glimmer of a jest, lapsing into native hilarity as a tree straightens itself after the wind is by. The other night I remembered my old friend - I believe yours also - Scholastikos, and administered the crow and the anchor - they were quite fresh to Samoan ears (this implies a very early severance) - and I thought the anchor would have made away with my Simele altogether.

Fanny's time, in this interval, has been largely occupied in contending publicly with wild swine. We have a black sow; we call her Jack Sheppard; impossible to confine her - impossible also for her to be confined! To my sure knowledge she has been in an interesting condition for longer than any other sow in story; else she had long died the death; as soon as she is brought to bed, she shall count her days. I suppose that sow has cost us in days' labour from thirty to fifty dollars; as many as eight boys (at a dollar a day) have been twelve hours in chase of her. Now it is supposed that Fanny has outwitted her; she grins behind broad planks in what was once the cook-house. She is a wild pig; far handsomer than any tame; and when she found the cook-house was too much for her methods of evasion, she lay down on the floor and refused food and drink for a whole Sunday. On Monday morning she relapsed, and now eats and drinks like a little man. I am reminded of an incident. Two Sundays ago, the sad word was brought that the sow was out again; this time she had carried another in her flight. Moors and I and Fanny were strolling up to the garden, and there by the waterside we saw the black sow, looking guilty. It seemed to me beyond words; but Fanny's CRI DU COEUR was delicious: 'G- r-r!' she cried; 'nobody loves you!'

I would I could tell you the moving story of our cart and cart-horses; the latter are dapple-grey, about sixteen hands, and of enormous substance; the former was a kind of red and green shandry-dan with a driving bench; plainly unfit to carry lumber or to face our road. (Remember that the last third of my road, about a mile, is all made out of a bridle- track by my boys - and my dollars.) It was supposed a white man had been found - an ex-German artilleryman - to drive this last; he proved incapable and drunken; the gallant Henry, who had never driven before, and knew nothing about horses - except the rats and weeds that flourish on the islands - volunteered; Moors accepted, proposing to follow and supervise: despatched his work and started after. No cart! he hurried on up the road - no cart. Transfer the scene to Vailima, where on a sudden to Fanny and me, the cart appears, apparently at a hard gallop, some two hours before it was expected; Henry radiantly ruling chaos from the bench. It stopped: it was long before we had time to remark that the axle was twisted like the letter L. Our first care was the horses. There they stood, black with sweat, the sweat raining from them - literally raining - their heads down, their feet apart - and blood running thick from the nostrils of the mare. We got out Fanny's under-clothes - couldn't find anything else but our blankets - to rub them down, and in about half an hour we had the blessed satisfaction to see one after the other take a bite or two of grass.

Vailima Letters Page 09

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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