« PreviousContinue »
departed to the churchyard, nor were quite so belonged to the comely order of the sanctuary, motionless as they looked, but led a secret, half- the secrets of its white linen, and holy vessels, fugitive life in their old homes, quite free by and fonts of pure water; and its hieratic purity night, though sometimes visible in the day, and simplicity became the type of something dodging from room to room, with no great he desired always to have about him in actual goodwill towards those who shared the place life. He pored over the pictures in religious with them. All night the figure sat beside him books, and knew by heart the exact mode in in the reveries of his broken sleep, and was not which the wrestling angel grasped Jacob, how quite gone in the morning-an odd, irreconci- Jacob looked in his mysterious sleep, how the lable new member of the household, making the bells and pomegranates were attached to the sweet familiar chambers unfriendly and suspect hem of Aaron's vestment, sounding sweetly as by its uncertain presence. He could have hated he glided over the turf of the holy place. His the dead he had pitied so, for being thus. way of conceiving religion came then to be in Afterwards he came to think of those poor, effect what it ever afterwards remained-a home-returning ghosts, which all men have fan- sacred history indeed, but still more a sacred cied to themselves—the revenants-pathetically, ideal, a transcendent version or representation, as crying, or beating with vain hands at the under intenser and more expressive light and doors, as the wind came, their cries distinguish- shade, of human life and its familiar or excepable in it as a wilder inner note. But, always tional incidents, birth, death, marriage, youth, making death more unfamiliar still, that old age, tears, joy, rest, sleep, waking—a mirror, experience would ever, from time to time, re- towards which men might turn away their eyes turn to him; even in the living he sometimes from vanity and dullness, and see themselves caught its likeness; at any time or place, in a therein as angels, with their daily meat and moment, the faint atmosphere of the chamber drink, even, become a kind of sacred transacof death would be breathed around him, and tion-a complementary strain or burden, apthe image with the bound chin, the quaint smile, plied to our every-day existence, whereby the the straight, stiff feet, shed itself across the stray snatches of music in it re-set themselves, air upon the bright carpet, amid the gayest and fall into the scheme of some higher and company, or happiest communing with himself. more consistent harmony. A place adumbrated
To most children the sombre questionings to itself in his thoughts, wherein those sacred perwhich impressions like these attach themselves, sonalities, which are at once the reflex and the if they come at all, are actually suggested by pattern of our nobler phases of life, housed religious books, which therefore they often re- themselves; and this region in his intellectual gard with much secret distaste, and dismiss, scheme all subsequent experience did but tend as far as possible, from their habitual thoughts still further to realise and define. Some ideal, as a too depressing element in life. To Florian hieratic persons he would always need to occupy such impressions, these misgivings as to the it and keep a warmth there. And he could ultimate tendency of the years, of the relation. hardly understand those who felt no such need ship between life and death, had been sug- at all, finding themselves quite happy without gested spontaneously in the natural course of such heavenly companionship, and sacred double his mental growth by a strong innate sense for of their life, beside them. the soberer tones in things, further strength- Thus a constant substitution of the typical ened by actual circumstances; and religious for the actual took place in his thoughts. sentiment, that system of biblical ideas in Angels might be met by the way, under English which he had been brought up, presented itself elm or beech-tree; mere messengers seemed like to him as a thing that might soften and dig- angels, bound on celestial errands; a deep nify, and light up as with a “lively hope,''3 mysticity brooded over real meetings and parta melancholy already deeply settled in him. So ings; marriages were made in heaven; and he yielded himself easily to religious impres-deaths also, with hands of angels thereupon, sions, and with a kind of mystical appetite to bear soul and body quietly asunder, each to for sacred things; the more as they came to its appointed rest. All the acts and accidents him through a saintly person who loved him of daily life borrowed a sacred colour and sig. tenderly, and believed that this early pre nificance; the very colours of things became occupation with them already marked the child themselves weighty with meanings like the out for a saint. He began to love, for their sacred stuffs of Moses' tabernacle,5 full of own sakes, church lights, holy days, all that
4 Genesis, xxxil, 24 ; xxviii, 11; Erodu8, xxvlli,
33-35. 3 1 Peter, i, 3.
5 Erodu8, xxvi.
penitence or peace. Sentiment, congruous in ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON the first instance only with those divine trans
(1850-1894) actions, the deep, effusive unction of the House of Bethany, was assumed as the due attitude
EL DORADO* for the reception of our every-day existence; It seems as if a great deal were attainable and for a time he walked through the world in a world where there are so many marriages in a sustained, not unpleasurable awe, gener- and decisive battles, and where we all, at cerated by the habitual recognition, beside every tain hours of the day, and with great gusto circumstance and event of life, of its celestial and despatch, stow a portion of victuals finally correspondent.
and irretrievably into the bag which contains Sensibility—the desire of physical beauty-us. And it would seem also, on a hasty view, a strange biblical awe, which made any refer that the attainment of as much as possible was ence to the unseen act on him like solemn the one goal of man's contentious life. And music—these qualities the child took away with yet, as regards the spirit, this is but a semhim, when, at about the age of twelve years, blance. We live in an ascending scale when he left the old house, and was taken to live in we live happily, one thing leading to another another place. He had never left home before, in an endless series. There is always a new and, anticipating much from this change, had horizon for onward-looking men,1 and although long dreamed over it, jealously counting the we dwell on a small planet, immersed in petty days till the time fixed for departure should business and not enduring beyond a brief come; had been a little careless about others period of years, we are so constituted that our even, in his strong desire for it-when Lewis hopes are inaccessible, like stars, and the term fell sick, for instance, and they must wait still of hoping is prolonged until the term of life. two days longer. At last the morning came, To be truly happy is a question of how we very fine; and all things—the very pavement begin and not of how we end, of what we want with its dust, at the roadside-seemed to have and not of what we have. An aspiration is a a white, pearl-like lustre in them. They were joy forever,2 a possession as solid as a landed to travel by a favourite road on which he had estate, a fortune which we can never exhaust often walked a certain distance, and on one and which gives us year by year a revenue of of those two prisoner days, when Lewis was pleasurable activity. To have many of these sick, had walked farther than ever before, in is to be spiritually rich. Life is only a very his great desire to reach the new place. They dull and ill-directed theatre unless we have had started and gone a little way when a pet some interests in the piece; and to those who bird was found to have been left behind, and have neither art nor science, the world is a must even now—so it presented itself to him mere arrangement of colours, or a rough foot. ---have already all the appealing fierceness and way where they may very well break their shins. wild self-pity at heart of one left by others to It is in virtue of his own desires and curiosities perish of hunger in a closed house; and he that any man continues to exist with even returned to fetch it, himself in hardly less patience, that he is charmed by the look of stormy distress. But as he passed in search of things and people, and that he wakens every it from room to room, lying so pale, with a morning with a renewed appetite for work and look of meekness in their denudation, and at pleasure. Desire and curiosity are the two eyes last through that little, stripped white room, through which he sees the world in the most the aspect of the place touched him like the enchanted colours: it is they that make women face of one dead; and a clinging back towards beautiful or fossils interesting: and the man it came over him, so intense that he knew it may squander his estate and come to beggary, would last long, and spoiling all his pleasure but if he keeps these two amulets he is still rich in the realisation of a thing so eagerly antici- in the possibilities of pleasure. Suppose he pated. And so, with the bird found, but him
1 Cp. Tennyson's famous figure, Uly88e8, 19-21. self in an agony of home-sickness, thus capri- 2 Echoed from Keats's Endymion, 1. ciously sprung up within him, he was driven * Spanish: The Gilded, or Golden. The name was
originally given to a fabulous king of a quickly away, far into the rural distance, so
wealthy city supposed to exist somewhere in fondly speculated on, of that favourite country. South America, the object of much search in
the 16th century. road.
It was later applied to the city, and has now become a name for the
object of any visionary quest. The essay is 6 The house of Simon the leper, where the woman from Virginibus Puerisque, 1881, and is re.
poured the box of ointment on Jesus' bead-- printed, along with the selections that follow, a "deep, effusive unction." See Matthew, by permission of Messrs. Charles Scribner's xxvi, 7.
Sons, who hold the copyright.
could take one meal so compact and comprehen- ! “Of making books there is no end,” comsive that he should never hunger any more; plained the Preacher;4 and did not perceive suppose him, at a glance, to take in all the how highly he was praising letters as an occufeatures of the world and allay the desire for pation. There is no end, indeed, to making knowledge; suppose him to do the like in any books or experiments, or to travel, or to gatherprovince of experience-would not that man ing wealth. Problem gives rise to problem. We be in a poor way for amusement ever after! may study for ever, and we are never as learned
One who goes touring on foot with a single as we would. We have never made a statue volume in his knapsack reads with circumspec. worthy of our dreams. And when we have dis. tion, pausing often to reflect, and often lay covered a continent, or crossed a chain of ing the book down to contemplate the landscape mountains, it is only to find another ocean or or the prints in the inn parlour; for he fears another plain upon the further side. In the to come to an end of his entertainment, and be infinite universe there is room for our swiftest left companionless on the last stages of his diligence and to spare. It is not like the works journey. A young fellow recently finished the of Carlyle, which can be read to an end. Even works of Thomas Carlyle, winding up, if we in a corner of it, in a private park, or in the remember aright, with the ten note-books upon neighbourhood of a single hamlet, the weather Frederick the Great. “What!” cried the and the seasons keep so deftly changing that young fellow, in consternation, “is there no although we walk there for a lifetime there will more Carlyle? Am I left to the daily papers?'' be always something new to startle and deA more celebrated instance is that of Alex- light us. ander, who wept bitterly because he had no There is only one wish realisable on the more worlds to subdue. And when Gibbon had earth; only one thing that can be perfectly finished the Decline and Fall,3 he had only a attained: Death. And from a variety of cirfew moments of joy; and it was with a “sober cumstances we have no one to tell us whether melancholy" that he parted from his labours. it be worth attaining.
Happily we all shoot at the moon with in- A strange picture we make on our way to our effectual arrows; our hopes are set on inac-chimæras, ceaselessly marching, grudging ourcessible El Dorado; we come to an end of selves the time for rest; indefatigable, advennothing here below. Interests are only plucked turous pioneers. It is true that we shall never up to sow themselves again, like mustard. You reach the goal; it is even more than probable would think, when the child was born, there that there is no such place; and if we lived for would be an end to trouble; and yet it is only centuries and were endowed with the powers of the beginning of fresh anxieties; and when you a god, we should find ourselves not much nearer have seen it through its teething and its educa. what we wanted at the end. O toiling hands tion, and at last its marriage, alas! it is only of mortals! O unwearied feet, travelling ye to have new fears, new quivering sensibilities, i know not whither! Soon, soon, it seems to you, with every day; and the health of your chil. you must come forth on some conspicuous hilldren's children grows as touching concern as top, and but a little way fu against the that of your own. Again, when you have mar- setting sun, descry the spires of El Dorado. ried your wife, you would think you were got Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to upon a hilltop, and might begin to go down travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, ward by an easy slope. But you have only and the true success is to labour. ended courting to begin marriage. Falling in love and winning love are often difficult tasks
THE MAROON* to overbearing and rebellious spirits; but to keep in love is also a business of some im- written. I remember waking about three, to
Of the beauties of Anaho books might be portance, to which both man and wife must find the air temperate and scented. The long bring kindness and goodwill. The true love swell brimmed into the bay, and seemed to fill story commences at the altar, when there lies before the married pair a most beautiful con
4 Ecclesiastes, xii, 12.
*A maroon is one who has been_"marooned," or test of wisdom and generosity, and a life-long abandoned an island. This chapter is struggle towards an unattainable ideal. Unat- taken from In the South Seas, 1891. Steven
son made a cruise among the South Sea Islands tainable? Ay, surely unattainable, from the in the yacht Casco, which he chartered at very fact that they are two instead of one.
San Francisco in 1888. Anaho is a native village of Nuka-hiva, the chief island of the
Marquesas. Kanaka. properly a Sandwich3 A twenty-four years' labor. See Eng. Lit., p. Islander, is a general name for a South Sea 213.
Islander or his speech.
it full and then subside. Gently, deeply, and | Que le jour me dure repeated endlessly. silently the Casco rolled; only at times a blocki at times, across a corner of the bay, two natives piped like a bird. Oceanward, the heaven was might communicate in the Marquesan manner bright with stars and the sea with their reflec- with conventional whistlings. All else tions. If I looked to that side, I might have sleep and silence. The surf broke and shone sung with the Hawaiian poet:
around the shores; a species of black crane
fished in the broken water; the black pigs were Ua maomao ka lani, ua kahaea luna, Va pipi ka maka o ka hoku.
continually galloping by on some affair; but (The heavens were fair, they stretched above, the people might never have awaked, or they Many were the eyes of the stars.)
might all be dead. And then I turned shoreward, and high squalls My favourite haunt was opposite the hamlet, were overhead; the mountains loomed up black; where was a landing in a cove under a lianaed3 and I could have fancied I had slipped ten cliff. The beach was lined with palms and a thousand miles away and was anchored in a tree called the purao, something between the Highland loch; that when the day came, it fig and mulberry in growth, and bearing a would show pine, and heather, and green fern, flower like a great yellow poppy with a maroon and roofs of turf sending up the smoke of heart. In places rocks encroached upon the peats; and the alien speech that should next sand; the beach would be all submerged; and greet my ears must be Gaelic, not Kanaka. the surf would bubble warmly as high as to
And day, when it came, brought other sights my knees, and play with cocoa-nut husks as our and thoughts. I have watched the morning more homely ocean plays with wreck and wrack break in many quarters of the world; it has and bottles. As the reflux drew down, marvels been certainly one of the chief joys of my of colour and design streamed between my existence, and the dawn that I saw with most feet; which I would grasp at, miss, or seize: emotion shone upon the bay of Anaho. The now to find them what they promised, shells to mountains abruptly overhang the port with grace a cabinet or be set in gold upon a every variety of surface and of inclination, lady's finger; now to catch only mayat of col. lawn, and cliff, and forest. Not one of these oured sand, pounded fragments and pebbles, but wore its proper tint of saffron, of sulphur, that, as soon as they were dry, became as dull of the clove, and of the rose. The lustre was and homely as the flints upon a garden path. like that of satin; on the lighter hues there I have toiled at this childish pleasure for hours seemed to float an efflorescence; a solemn bloom in the strong sun, conscious of my incurable appeared on the more dark. The light itself ignorance; but too keenly pleased to be was the ordinary light of morning, colourless ashamed. Meanwhile, the blackbird (or his and clean; and on this ground of jewels, pen- tropical understudy) would be fluting in the cilled out the least detail of drawing. Mean. thickets overhead. while, around the hamlet, under the palms,
A little further, in the turn of the bay, a where the blue shadow lingered, the red coals streamlet trickled in the bottom of a den,5 of cocoa-husk and the light trails of smoke thence spilling down a stair of rock into the betrayed the awakening business of the day; sea. The draught of air drew down under the along the beach men and women, lads and foliage in the very bottom of the den, which lasses, were returning from the bath in bright was a perfect arbour for coolness. In front it raiment, red and blue and green, such as we stood open on the blue bay and the Casco lying delighted to see in the coloured little pictures there under her awning and her cheerful colof our childhood; and presently the sun had ours. Overhead was a thatch of puraos, and cleared the eastern hill, and the glow of the over these again palms brandished their bright day was over all.
fans, as I have seen a conjurer make himself a The glow continued and increased, the busi- halo out of naked swords. For in this spot, ness, from the main part, ceased before it had over a neck of low land at the foot of the begun. Twice in the day there was a certain mountains, the trade-wind streams into Anaho stir of shepherding along the seaward hills. Bay in a flood of almost constant volume and At times a canoe went out to fish. At times velocity, and of a heavenly coolness. a woman or two languidly filled a basket in
It chanced one day that I was ashore in the the cotton patch. At times a pipe would sound cove with Mrs. Stevenson and the ship's cook. out of the shadow of a house, ringing the changes on its three notes, with an effect like 3 Covered with lianas, or tropical vines.
2 "How heavy hangs the day on me !"
4 illusion (Hindu philosophy) 1 pulley
u glen, dingle
Except for the Casco lying outside, and a crane carried there indeed, and see the modern town or two, and the ever-busy wind and sea, the of Honolulu brisk with traffic, and the palace face of the world was of a prehistoric empti- with its guards, and the great hotel, and Mr. ness; life appeared to stand stockstill, and the Berger's band with their uniforms and outsense of isolation was profound and refreshing. landish instruments; or what he would think On a sudden, the trade-wind, coming in a gust to see the brown faces grown so few and the over the isthmus, struck and scattered the fans white so many; and his father's land sold for of the palms above the den; and, behold! in planting sugar, and his father's house quite two of the tops there sat a native, motionless perished, or perhaps the last of them struck as an idol, and watching us, you would have leprous and immured between the surf and the said, without a wink. The next moment the tree cliffs on Molokai.1 So simply, even in South closed, and the glimpse was gone.
This dis. Sea Islands, and so sadly, the changes come. covery of human presences latent overhead in a Tari was poor, and poorly lodged. His house place where we had supposed ourselves alone, was a wooden frame, run up by Europeans; it the immobility of our tree-top spies, and the was indeed his official residence, for Tari was thought that perhaps at all hours we were the shepherd of the promontory sheep. I can similarly supervised, struck us with a chill. give a perfect inventory of its contents: three Talk languished on the beach. As for the cook kegs, a tin biscuit-box, an iron sauce-pan, sev. (whose conscience was not clear), he never eral cocoa-shell cups, a lantern, and three botafterwards set foot on shore, and twice, when tles, probably containing oil; while the clothes the Casco appeared to be driving on the rocks, of the family and a few mats were thrown it was amusing to observe that man's alacrity; across the open rafters. Upon my first meeting death, he was persuaded, awaiting him upon with this exile he had conceived for me one of the beach. It was more than a year later, in the baseless island friendships, had given me the Gilberts, that the explanation dawned upon nuts to drink, and carried me up the den “to myself. The natives were drawing palm-tree see my house'—the only entertainment that wine, a thing forbidden by law; and when the he had to offer. He liked the "Amelican,” wind thus suddenly revealed them, they were he said, and the “Inglisman,” but the “Flessdoubtless more troubled than ourselves. man” was his abhorrence; and he was careful
At the top of the den there dwelt an old, to explain that if he had thought us “Fless," melancholy, grizzled man of the name of Tari we should have had none of his nuts, and never (Charlie) Coffin. He was a native of Oahu, in a sight of his house. His distaste for the the Sandwich Islands; and had gone to sea in French I can partly understand, but not at his youth in the American whalers; a circum- all his toleration of the Anglo-Saxon. The stance to which he owed his name, his English, next day he brought me a pig, and some days his down-east twang, and the misfortune of his later one of our party going ashore found him innocent life. For one captain, sailing out of in act to bring a second. We were still New Bedford, carried him to Nuka-hiva and strange to the islands; we were pained by the marooned him there among the cannibals. The poor man's generosity, which he could ill motive for this act was inconceivably small; afford; and by a natural enough but quite poor Tari's wages, which were thus economised, unpardonable blunder, we refused the pig. Had would searce have shook the credit of the New Tari been a Marquesan we should have seen Bedford owners. And the act itself was sim- him no more; being what he was, the most mild, ply murder. Tari's life must have hung in the long-suffering, melancholy man, he took a rebeginning by a hair. In the grief and terror venge a hundred times more painful. Scarce of that time, it is not unlikely he went mad, an had the canoe with the nine villagers put off infirmity to which he was still liable; or per from their farewell2 before the Casco was haps a child may have taken a fancy to him boarded from the other side. It was Tari; and ordained him to be spared. He escaped at coming thus late because he had no canoe of least alive, married in the island, and when I his own, and had found it hard to borrow one; knew him was a widower with a married son coming thus solitary (as indeed we always saw and a granddaughter. But the thought of him), because he was a stranger in the land, Oahu haunted him; its praise was for ever on and the dreariest of company. The rest of my his lips; he beheld it, looking back, as a place family basely fled from the encounter. I must of ceaseless feasting, song and dance; and in
1 An island on which the lepers are isolated, a his dreams I dare say he revisits it with joy. I wonder what he would think if he could be 2 The farewell visit of the natives, mentioned in
a preceding chapter.
little to the southeast of Oahu.