Vailima Letters

Page 26

The sense of my helplessness here has been rather bitter; I feel it wretched to see this dance of folly and injustice and unconscious rapacity go forward from day to day, and to be impotent. I was not consulted - or only by one man, and that on particular points; I did not choose to volunteer advice till some pressing occasion; I have not even a vote, for I am not a member of the municipality.

What ails you, miserable man, to talk of saving material? I have a whole world in my head, a whole new society to work, but I am in no hurry; you will shortly make the acquaintance of the Island of Ulufanua, on which I mean to lay several stories; the BLOODY WEDDING, possibly the HIGH WOODS - (O, it's so good, the High Woods, but the story is craziness; that's the trouble,) - a political story, the LABOUR SLAVE, etc. Ulufanua is an imaginary island; the name is a beautiful Samoan word for the TOP of a forest; ulu - leaves or hair, fanua=land. The ground or country of the leaves. 'Ulufanua the isle of the sea,' read that verse dactylically and you get the beat; the u's are like our double oo; did ever you hear a prettier word?

I do not feel inclined to make a volume of Essays, but if I did, and perhaps the idea is good - and any idea is better than South Seas - here would be my choice of the Scribner articles: DREAMS, BEGGARS, LANTERN-BEARERS, RANDOM MEMORIES. There was a paper called the OLD PACIFIC CAPITAL in Fraser, in Tulloch's time, which had merit; there were two on Fontainebleau in the MAGAZINE OF ART in Henley's time. I have no idea if they're any good; then there's the EMIGRANT TRAIN. PULVIS ET UMBRA is in a different key, and wouldn't hang on with the rest.

I have just interrupted my letter and read through the chapter of the HIGH WOODS that is written, a chapter and a bit, some sixteen pages, really very fetching, but what do you wish? the story is so wilful, so steep, so silly - it's a hallucination I have outlived, and yet I never did a better piece of work, horrid, and pleasing, and extraordinarily TRUE; it's sixteen pages of the South Seas; their essence. What am I to do? Lose this little gem - for I'll be bold, and that's what I think it - or go on with the rest, which I don't believe in, and don't like, and which can never make aught but a silly yarn? Make another end to it? Ah, yes, but that's not the way I write; the whole tale is implied; I never use an effect, when I can help it, unless it prepares the effects that are to follow; that's what a story consists in. To make another end, that is to make the beginning all wrong. The denouement of a long story is nothing; it is just a 'full close,' which you may approach and accompany as you please - it is a coda, not an essential member in the rhythm; but the body and end of a short story is bone of the bone and blood of the blood of the beginning. Well, I shall end by finishing it against my judgment; that fragment is my Delilah. Golly, it's good. I am not shining by modesty; but I do just love the colour and movement of that piece so far as it goes.

I was surprised to hear of your fishing. And you saw the 'Pharos,' thrice fortunate man; I wish I dared go home, I would ask the Commissioners to take me round for old sake's sake, and see all my family pictures once more from the Mull of Galloway to Unst. However, all is arranged for our meeting in Ceylon, except the date and the blooming pounds. I have heard of an exquisite hotel in the country, airy, large rooms, good cookery, not dear; we shall have a couple of months there, if we can make it out, and converse or - as my grandfather always said - 'commune.' 'Communings with Mr. Kennedy as to Lighthouse Repairs.' He was a fine old fellow, but a droll.


Lloyd has returned. Peace and war were played before his eyes at heads or tails. A German was stopped with levelled guns; he raised his whip; had it fallen, we might have been now in war. Excuses were made by Mataafa himself. Doubtless the thing was done - I mean the stopping of the German - a little to show off before Lloyd.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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