One stands aghast, marvelling how such a colossus of a man, in such a great commotion of spirit, can open his mouth so much and emit such a still small voice at the hinder end of it all. All this while he walks about the room, smokes cigarettes, occupies divers chairs for divers brief spaces, and casts his huge arms to the four winds like the sails of a mill. He is a most sportive Prince.
R. L. S.
Letter: TO MRS. SITWELL
[SWANSTON], MAY 1874, MONDAY.
WE are now at Swanston Cottage, Lothianburn, Edinburgh. The garden is but little clothed yet, for, you know, here we are six hundred feet above the sea. It is very cold, and has sleeted this morning. Everything wintry. I am very jolly, however, having finished Victor Hugo, and just looking round to see what I should next take up. I have been reading Roman Law and Calvin this morning.
EVENING. - I went up the hill a little this afternoon. The air was invigorating, but it was so cold that my scalp was sore. With this high wintry wind, and the grey sky, and faint northern daylight, it was quite wonderful to hear such a clamour of blackbirds coming up to me out of the woods, and the bleating of sheep being shorn in a field near the garden, and to see golden patches of blossom already on the furze, and delicate green shoots upright and beginning to frond out, among last year's russet bracken. Flights of crows were passing continually between the wintry leaden sky and the wintry cold-looking hills. It was the oddest conflict of seasons. A wee rabbit - this year's making, beyond question - ran out from under my feet, and was in a pretty perturbation, until he hit upon a lucky juniper and blotted himself there promptly. Evidently this gentleman had not had much experience of life.
I have made an arrangement with my people: I am to have 84 pounds a year - I only asked for 80 pounds on mature reflection - and as I should soon make a good bit by my pen, I shall be very comfortable. We are all as jolly as can be together, so that is a great thing gained.
WEDNESDAY. - Yesterday I received a letter that gave me much pleasure from a poor fellow-student of mine, who has been all winter very ill, and seems to be but little better even now. He seems very much pleased with ORDERED SOUTH. 'A month ago,' he says, 'I could scarcely have ventured to read it; to-day I felt on reading it as I did on the first day that I was able to sun myself a little in the open air.' And much more to the like effect. It is very gratifying. - Ever your faithful friend,
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
Letter: TO MRS. SITWELL
SWANSTON, WEDNESDAY, MAY 1874.
STRUGGLING away at FABLES IN SONG. I am much afraid I am going to make a real failure; the time is so short, and I am so out of the humour. Otherwise very calm and jolly: cold still IMPOSSIBLE.
THURSDAY. - I feel happier about the FABLES, and it is warmer a bit; but my body is most decrepit, and I can just manage to be cheery and tread down hypochondria under foot by work. I lead such a funny life, utterly without interest or pleasure outside of my work: nothing, indeed, but work all day long, except a short walk alone on the cold hills, and meals, and a couple of pipes with my father in the evening. It is surprising how it suits me, and how happy I keep.
SATURDAY. - I have received such a nice long letter (four sides) from Leslie Stephen to-day about my Victor Hugo. It is accepted. This ought to have made me gay, but it hasn't. I am not likely to be much of a tonic to-night. I have been very cynical over myself to-day, partly, perhaps, because I have just finished some of the deedest rubbish about Lord Lytton's fables that an intelligent editor ever shot into his wastepaper basket. If Morley prints it I shall be glad, but my respect for him will be shaken.
TUESDAY. - Another cold day; yet I have been along the hillside, wondering much at idiotic sheep, and raising partridges at every second step. One little plover is the object of my firm adherence. I pass his nest every day, and if you saw how he files by me, and almost into my face, crying and flapping his wings, to direct my attention from his little treasure, you would have as kind a heart to him as I.