Vailima Letters

Page 43

It is hard to reach the truth in these islands.

The next incident overlapped with this. S. and Fanny found three strange horses in the paddock: for long now the boys have been forbidden to leave their horses here one hour because our grass is over-grazed. S. came up with the news, and I saw I must now strike a blow. 'To the pound with the lot,' said I. He proposed taking the three himself, but I thought that too dangerous an experiment, said I should go too, and hurried into my boots so as to show decision taken, in the necessary interviews. They came of course - the interviews - and I explained what I was going to do at huge length, and stuck to my guns. I am glad to say the natives, with their usual (purely speculative) sense of justice highly approved the step after reflection. Meanwhile off went S. and I with the three CORPORA DELICTI; and a good job I went! Once, when our circus began to kick, we thought all was up; but we got them down all sound in wind and limb. I judged I was much fallen off from my Elliott forefathers, who managed this class of business with neatness and despatch. Half-way down it came on to rain tropic style, and I came back from my outing drenched liked a drowned man - I was literally blinded as I came back among these sheets of water; and the consequence was I was laid down with diarrhoea and threatenings of Samoa colic for the inside of another week.

I have a confession to make. When I was sick I tried to get to work to finish that Samoa thing, wouldn't go; and at last, in the colic time, I slid off into DAVID BALFOUR, some 50 pages of which are drafted, and like me well. Really I think it is spirited; and there's a heroine that (up to now) seems to have attractions: ABSIT OMEN! David, on the whole, seems excellent. Alan does not come in till the tenth chapter, and I am only at the eighth, so I don't know if I can find him again; but David is on his feet, and doing well, and very much in love, and mixed up with the Lord Advocate and the (untitled) Lord Lovat, and all manner of great folk. And the tale interferes with my eating and sleeping. The join is bad; I have not thought to strain too much for continuity; so this part be alive, I shall be content. But there's no doubt David seems to have changed his style, de'il ha'e him! And much I care, if the tale travel!


Two incidents to-day which I must narrate. After lunch, it was raining pitilessly; we were sitting in my mother's bedroom, and I was reading aloud Kinglake's Charge of the Light Brigade, and we had just been all seized by the horses aligning with Lord George Paget, when a figure appeared on the verandah; a little, slim, small figure of a lad, with blond (I.E. limed) hair, a propitiatory smile, and a nose that alone of all his features grew pale with anxiety. 'I come here stop,' was about the outside of his English; and I began at once to guess that he was a runaway labourer, and that the bush-knife in his hand was stolen. It proved he had a mate, who had lacked his courage, and was hidden down the road; they had both made up their minds to run away, and had 'come here stop.' I could not turn out the poor rogues, one of whom showed me marks on his back, into the drenching forest; I could not reason with them, for they had not enough English, and not one of our boys spoke their tongue; so I bade them feed and sleep here to-night, and to-morrow I must do what the Lord shall bid me.

Near dinner time, I was told that a friend of Lafaele's had found human remains in my bush. After dinner, a figure was seen skulking across towards the waterfall, which produced from the verandah a shout, in my most stentorian tones: 'O AI LE INGOA?' literally 'Who the name?' which serves here for 'What's your business?' as well. It proved to be Lafaele's friend; I bade a kitchen boy, Lauilo, go with him to see the spot, for though it had ceased raining, the whole island ran and dripped. Lauilo was willing enough, but the friend of the archangel demurred; he had too much business; he had no time.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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