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.