Vailima Letters

Page 55

But I have a damned good dose of the devil in my pipe-stem atomy; I have had my little holiday outing in my kick at THE YOUNG CHEVALIER, and I guess I can settle to DAVID BALFOUR to-morrow or Friday like a little man. I wonder if any one had ever more energy upon so little strength? - I know there is a frost, the Samoa book can only increase that - I can't help it, that book is not written for me but for Miss Manners; but I mean to break that frost inside two years, and pull off a big success, and Vanity whispers in my ear that I have the strength. If I haven't, whistle ower the lave o't! I can do without glory and perhaps the time is not far off when I can do without corn. It is a time coming soon enough, anyway; and I have endured some two and forty years without public shame, and had a good time as I did it. If only I could secure a violent death, what a fine success! I wish to die in my boots; no more Land of Counterpane for me. To be drowned, to be shot, to be thrown from a horse - ay, to be hanged, rather than pass again through that slow dissolution.

I fancy this gloomy ramble is caused by a twinge of age; I put on an under-shirt yesterday (it was the only one I could find) that barely came under my trousers; and just below it, a fine healthy rheumatism has now settled like a fire in my hip. From such small causes do these valuable considerations flow!

I shall now say adieu, dear Sir, having ten rugged miles before me and the horrors of a native feast and parliament without an interpreter, for to-day I go alone.

Yours ever, R. L S.

CHAPTER XIX

SUNDAY, 29TH MAY.

HOW am I to overtake events? On Wednesday, as soon as my mail was finished, I had a wild whirl to look forward to. Immediately after dinner, Belle, Lloyd and I, set out on horseback, they to the club, I to Haggard's, thence to the hotel where I had supper ready for them. All next day we hung round Apia with our whole house-crowd in Sunday array, hoping for the mail steamer with a menagerie on board. No such luck; the ship delayed; and at last, about three, I had to send them home again, a failure of a day's pleasuring that does not bear to be discussed. Lloyd was so sickened that he returned the same night to Vailima, Belle and I held on, sat most of the evening on the hotel verandah stricken silly with fatigue and disappointment, and genuine sorrow for our poor boys and girls, and got to bed with rather dismal appreciations of the morrow.

These were more than justified, and yet I never had a jollier day than Friday 27th. By 7.30 Belle and I had breakfast; we had scarce done before my mother was at the door on horseback, and a boy at her heels to take her not very dashing charger home again. By 8.10 we were all on the landing pier, and it was 9.20 before we had got away in a boat with two inches of green wood on the keel of her, no rudder, no mast, no sail, no boat flag, two defective rowlocks, two wretched apologies for oars, and two boys - one a Tongan half-caste, one a white lad, son of the Tonga schoolmaster, and a sailor lad - to pull us. All this was our first taste of the tender mercies of Taylor (the sesquipidalian half-caste introduced two letters back, I believe). We had scarce got round Mulinuu when Sale Taylor's heart misgave him; he thought we had missed the tide; called a halt, and set off ashore to find canoes. Two were found; in one my mother and I were embarked with the two biscuit tins (my present to the feast), and the bag with our dry clothes, on which my mother was perched - and her cap was on the top of it - feminine hearts please sympathise; all under the guidance of Sale. In the other Belle and our guest; Tauilo, a chief-woman, the mother of my cook, were to have followed. And the boys were to have been left with the boat. But Tauilo refused. And the four, Belle, Tauilo, Frank the sailor-boy, and Jimmie the Tongan half-caste, set off in the boat across that rapidly shoaling bay of the lagoon.

How long the next scene lasted, I could never tell.

Vailima Letters Page 56

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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