Vailima Letters

Page 50

I doubt if you will be able to read this scrawl, but I have managed to scramble somehow up to date; and to-morrow, one way or another, should be interesting. But as for me, I am a wreck, as I have no doubt style and handwriting both testify.

8 P.M.

Wonderfully rested; feel almost fit for to-morrow's dreary excursion - not that it will be dreary if the weather favour, but otherwise it will be death; and a native feast, and I fear I am in for a big one, is a thing I loathe. I wonder if you can really conceive me as a politician in this extra- mundane sphere - presiding at public meetings, drafting proclamations, receiving mis-addressed letters that have been carried all night through tropical forests? It seems strange indeed, and to you, who know me really, must seem stranger. I do not say I am free from the itch of meddling, but God knows this is no tempting job to meddle in; I smile at picturesque circumstances like the Misi Mea (MONSIEUR CHOSE is the exact equivalent) correspondence, but the business as a whole bores and revolts me. I do nothing and say nothing; and then a day comes, and I say 'this can go on no longer.'

9.30 P. M.

The wretched native dilatoriness finds me out. News has just come that we must embark at six to-morrow; I have divided the night in watches, and hope to be called to-morrow at four and get under way by five. It is a great chance if it be managed; but I have given directions and lent my own clock to the boys, and hope the best. If I get called at four we shall do it nicely. Good-night; I must turn in.


Well, we did get off by about 5.30, or, by'r lady! quarter of six: myself on Donald, the huge grey cart-horse, with a ship- bag across my saddle bow, Fanny on Musu and Belle on Jack. We were all feeling pretty tired and sick, and I looked like heaven knows what on the cart horse: 'death on the pale horse,' I suggested - and young Hunt the missionary, who met me to-day on the same charger, squinted up at my perch and remarked, 'There's a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft.' The boat was ready and we set off down the lagoon about seven, four oars, and Talolo, my cook, steering.


And see what good resolutions came to! Here is all this time past, and no speed made. Well, we got to Malie and were received with the most friendly consideration by the rebel chief. Belle and Fanny were obviously thought to be my two wives; they were served their kava together, as were Mataafa and myself. Talolo utterly broke down as interpreter; long speeches were made to me by Mataafa and his orators, of which he could make nothing but they were 'very much surprised' - his way of pronouncing obliged - and as he could understand nothing that fell from me except the same form of words, the dialogue languished and all business had to be laid aside. We had kava, and then a dish of arrowroot; one end of the house was screened off for us with a fine tapa, and we lay and slept, the three of us heads and tails, upon the mats till dinner. After dinner his illegitimate majesty and myself had a walk, and talked as well as my twopenny Samoan would admit. Then there was a dance to amuse the ladies before the house, and we came back by moonlight, the sky piled full of high faint clouds that long preserved some of the radiance of the sunset. The lagoon was very shallow; we continually struck, for the moon was young and the light baffling; and for a long time we were accompanied by, and passed and re-passed, a huge whale-boat from Savaii, pulling perhaps twelve oars, and containing perhaps forty people who sang in time as they went So to the hotel, where we slept, and returned the next Tuesday morning on the three same steeds.

Meanwhile my business was still untransacted. And on Saturday morning, I sent down and arranged with Charlie Taylor to go down that afternoon. I had scarce got the saddle bags fixed and had not yet mounted, when the rain began. But it was no use delaying n

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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