Author Tags: Early B.C., Essentials 2010, Fiction, Forestry
"Men wander to and fro like damned souls or migratory salmon or caribou." - Morley Roberts
QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:
Morley Roberts wrote the first B.C. novel of outstanding literary merit, The Prey of the Strongest (1906), as well as the first B.C., a potboiler called The Mate of the Vancouver (1892). Despite having written more than 80 books, Roberts is only rarely cited in B.C. literary history for his travelogue of his ramblings in western North America during 1884–1885, The Western Avernus: Toil and Travel in Further North America (1887). About half of this highly readable account concerns B.C. It kindled the imagination of a young banking apprentice in Glasgow, Scotland, named Robert Service, who, after reading The Western Avernus, quit his job and came to Vancouver Island.
Roberts was attracted to B.C. as “almost the farthest place from anywhere in the world,” but he subsequently observed, “Men wander to and fro like damned souls or migratory salmon or caribou.” Having arrived in New Westminster with 25 cents in his pocket, he took a job in the Dominion sawmill, working from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for thirty dollars a month, plus board. He was discharged from the mill in April of 1885 following a fist fight at dinner with a Chinese waiter. He set off for Kamloops, taking with him Virgil, Horace, Coleridge and Keats as companions. A second altercation with a different “Mongolian” in New Westminster forced a hasty exit via Victoria.
Back in England, Roberts conducted an affair with a married woman, Alice Selous, whom he eventually married in 1893. A year later he visited Robert Louis Stevenson in the South Pacific. He also published a fictionalized biography of his lifelong friend, George Gissing, The Private Life of Henry Maitland (1912), and a study of another literary friend, W.H. Hudson: A Portrait (1924). Morley Roberts returned to B.C. for a second visit in 1926, described in On the Old Trail (1927), in which he looks askance at B.C.’s attempts at social progress. In his later years, Roberts turned increasingly towards pathology and sociology, enquiring into the nature and causes of cancer.
Charles Lillard once described The Prey of the Strongest (1906) as “our first accurate portrayal of life in the mills, in the woods and gambling halls; as well it is our first novel to honestly place the Indian and Oriental within B.C.’s labouring-class society.” Certainly it provides a rare, authentic account of working class life in late 19th-century B.C. based on Roberts’ sophisticated perceptions and his “school-of-hard-knocks” experiences.
Almost two-thirds of Roberts’ melodramatic earlier novel, The Mate of the Vancouver (1892), is set in B.C. Thomas Ticehurst, a semi-reluctant sailor, sails from England on the Vancouver in 1881 to accompany his brother to the West Coast. He falls in love with a passenger named Elsie, is rejected by her and is stabbed in San Francisco by a villain named Matthias. Matthias goes to jail but vows revenge. Ticehurst recovers and follows Elsie northward. Ticehurst vanquishes Matthias and marries Elsie in Thomson Forks (ie. Kamloops).
Here is Roberts’ description of the Dominion sawmill in 1885, likened to an orchestra: “The whole Mill was a tuned instrument, a huge sounding board. There was no discord, for any discord played its part, it was one organic harmony, pleasing, fatiguing, satisfying; any dropped note was missed: if the Lath Mill stayed in silence, something was wanting, when the Shingler said nothing, the last fine addition to the music fell away. And yet the one harmony of the Mill was a background for the soloes of the Saws, for the great diapason of the Hoes, for the swifter speech of the Pony, for the sharp cross notes of the Trimmers. The saws sang according to the log, to its nature, to its growth: either for the butt or the cleaner wood.” Born in London in 1857, Morley Roberts died there in 1942. He published almost 100 books, some of which are available via the internet, including The Western Avernus.
Morley Roberts is the author of the first notably British Columbian novel, The Mate of the Vancouver (1892), a story in which the protagonist leaves his ship in Victoria and heads to the Interior hoping to make his fortune and find true love. Almost two-thirds of this adventure romance is set in British Columbia.
More significantly, Morley Roberts was the first highly skilled writer to provide descriptions of working class life in B.C. Having worked as a labourer in a New Westminster sawmill during the winter of 1884-85 and as a CPR labourer in the Rockies, he made good use of those experiences in his novel, The Prey of the Strongest (1906), the first novel about British Columbia with undeniable literary merit.
But it is more likely Roberts' first book about British Columbia, The Western Avernus (1887), that will endure as a footnote in international literary history. Roberts writes that he was attracted to British Columbia as "almost the farthest place from anywhere in the world." His non-fictional descriptions of his experiences on a CPR railway and survey crew and his walk through the Selkirk Mountains and the Fraser Canyon to the coast kindled the imagination of a young banking apprentice in Glasgow, Scotland named Robert Service. Upon reading The Western Avernus: Toil and Travel in Further North America, Robert Service visited the Canadian immigration office and acquired pamphlets about the West. "Cattle ranching; that was the romantic side of farming," Service once recalled, "and it was romance that was luring me." Inspired by Morley Roberts, Robert Service quit his banking job after seven years of service. "I knew a joy that bordered on ecstasy as I thought: 'I too, will be a cowboy,," wrote Service.
Born in London, England on December 29, 1857, Morley Roberts was educated in Manchester where he began his long friendship with the Victorian novelist George Gissing. After a serious disagreement with his father, who was a tax collector, he set sail for Australia in 1867 and worked in the Australian hinterlands for three years. “I had gone out as a boy and came back a man, for I had had a man’s experiences; work, adventure, travel, hunger and thirst.” He was a clerk for several years in the War Office and the India Office but left London in 1884 for a job herding sheep in Texas. He took a cattle train to Chicago, worked as a labourer in Iowa and Minnesota, and joined a railway camp in the B.C. interior. He hiked to the coast in the fall of 1884.
In New Westminster, after journeying nearly 8,000 miles in seven months, Roberts had twenty-five cents in his pocket. Extremely well-read and articulate, he took a job as a labourer at the Dominion Sawmill, working from 6 am to 6 pm for thirty dollars a month plus board. Roberts learned some Chinook, completed an autobiography (lost in the mail and never recovered) but was discharged from the mill in March following a fist fight at dinner with a Chinese waiter. He left for Yale on the Adelaide steamer, taking with him Virgil, Horace, Coleridge and Keats as his companions. He worked for a former boss in Kamloops and returned briefly to New Westminster where an altercation with a different "Mongolian" forced a hasty exit. “I thought it best to leave British Columbia, especially as I was told the Chinaman was going to take me to court and I should have been heavily fined if he had.” Roberts was to transform these two incidents of uncharacteristic violence into material for fiction.
In the Western Avernus, about half of which described his wanderings in British Columbia, Morley Roberts described the Dominion sawmill in 1885 as an orchestra: “The whole Mill was a tuned instrument, a huge sounding board. There was no discord, for any discord played its part, it was one organic harmony, pleasing, fatiguing, satisfying; any dropped note was missed: if the Lath Mill stayed in silence, something was wanting, when the Shingler said nothing, the last fine addition to the music fell away. And yet the one harmony of the Mill was a background for the soloes of the Saws, for the great diapason of the Hoes, for the swifter speech of the Pony, for the sharp cross notes of the Trimmers. The saws sang according to the log, to its nature, to its growth: either for the butt or the cleaner wood.”
Roberts left B.C. via Victoria, worked his way south by doing a variety of unskilled jobs, lived in San Francisco for three months, and returned to London in 1887. He was determined to make his living as a writer. He shared the poverty that George Gissing made famous in his novel New Grub Street. He quickly published six novels, six volumes of short stories and two travel memoirs, The Western Avernus (1887) and Land Travel and Sea Faring (1891). He also impulsively conducted an affair with a married woman, Alice Selous, whom he eventually married in 1893. During the 15 happy years of his marriage, Roberts wrote 20 more novels (he later dismissed 15 of these as potboilers), 16 more volumes of short stories, a volume of essays, The Wingless Psyche (1904) and another travel book, A Tramp’s Notebook (1904).
Long after Robert Service had achieved his fame and fortune for his fanciful poems about the Klondike, Morley Roberts returned to B.C. for a second visit in 1926. In his second non-fictional book on British Columbia, On the Old Trail (1927), Roberts looks askance at the progress made by British Columbia during his 40-year absence. When Roberts’ made his return visit to Vancouver, “this magic city of El Dorado,” in 1926, he was keenly disappointed. “I laughed with sheer incredulity. It could not be! It was impossible and an absurd dream. I found Vancouver something like a Joke of the Gods… I recognized nothing that I knew… A preference for the Renaissance and a passion for thirteenth century ruins cannot predispose the mind to receive kindly the achievements of steel and stone in American-born towers of commercial Babal… The Canadians are not yet wholly Canadians. Sometimes they view the world through spectacles of which one glass is English and one American… Wake up, you dreamer and unnatural Kanuck, and reflect that as a northern nation you may some day annex the United States!… I own I have never met any Canadian with this notion of the future of his country… To me it seems so historically simple and so natural that I was surprised when some laughed… Here is the possibility of a great city.”
Illness plagued Roberts and his family. His stepdaughter died in 1909 and his wife died of cancer in 1911. “For a year and longer I practically spoke to no one. I was mad if ever man was. I used to go places where they played chess and would play from noon to midnight and never speak a word. Or I wandered about the streets and in and out of cinemas, being all the time in a nightmare.” He began to study the nature and causes of cancer. Simultaneously, he published his important fictionalized biography of George Gissing, The Private Life of Henry Maitland (1912), his most highly valued novel, Time and Thomas Waring (1914), about a man on an operating table coming to terms with physical pain and illness, three more novels, ten more volumes of short stories, three more memoirs, two volumes of verse and another literary study of a friend, W.H. Hudson, A Portrait (1924).
In later years Roberts turned increasingly towards his layman’s research in pathology and sociology. Warfare in the Human Body (1920) and Malignancy and Evolution: A Biological Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of Cancer (1926, 1934) essentially theorized that cancer was a response to stress and that tumour formation played a useful evolutionary role in the upkeep of an organism. He turned toward political philosophy with Bio-Politics (1938) and The Behaviour of Nations (1941). “I never sell,” he said. “Oddly enough, if I’m remembered fifty years hence it will be perhaps in the history of cancer research.” Morley Roberts died in London on June 8, 1942.
Morley Robert’s novel, The Mate of the Vancouver (1982) is a romance initially set aboard a ship called the Vancouver. Thomas Ticehurst, a semi-reluctant sailor, sails from England in 1881 to accompany his brother to the West Coast of North America. He falls in love with a passenger named Elsie, is rejected by her and is stabbed in San Francisco by a villain named Matthias. Matthias goes to jail but vows revenge. Ticehurst recovers and follow Elsie to Victoria. Matthias, who has since killed Ticehurst’s brother, finds Ticehurst but loses a final fight with him. Ticehurst finally marries Elsie in a town called Thomson Forks.
Roberts’ novel The Prey of the Strongest (1906) is a much less melodramatic. Critic Charles Lillard has noted that before the story succumbs to Roberts’ Grub Street mentality, “it is our first accurate portrayal of life in the mills, in the woods and gambling halls; as well it is our first novel to honestly place the Indian and Oriental within B.C.’s labouring-class society.” Certainly it provides a rare, authentic account of working class life in late 19th century B.C.
The Western Avernus: Toil and Travel in Further North America (1887)
The Mate of the Vancouver (1892)
The Prey of the Strongest (1906)
On the Old Trail: Through British Columbia After Forty Years (1927)
Morley Roberts (Born Dec. 29. 1857; died June 8. 1942)
* The Western Avernus: Toil and Travel in Further North America (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1887; also 1896; London: S.C. Brown, Langham & Co. Ltd., 1904, retitled The Western Avernus: Three Years' Autobiography in Western America; also 1904/1924)
In Low Relief [1890
Land-Travel And Sea-Faring [n|1891
Songs Of Energy [p|1891
King Billy Of Ballarat.. [s|1891
* The Mate Of The Vancouver (London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1892; New York: Street & Smith, 1900)
The Purification Of Dolores Silva.. [s|1894
The Reputation Of George Saxon.. [s|1892
Red Earth [s|1894
The Adventures Of A Ship's Doctor [f|1895
A Question Of Instinct [f|1895
The Master Of The Silver Sea [1895
The Degradation Of Geoffrey Alwith.. [1895
The Earth-Mother [1896
The Great Jester (Being Some Jests Of Fate) [1896
The Courage Of Pauline [1896
The Circassian (w Max MONTESOLE) [1896
Maurice Quain [f|1897
The Adventure Of The Broad Arrow [f|1897
Strong Men And True [1897
The Keeper Of The Waters.. [s|1898
A Sea Comedy [1899
A Son Of Empire [1899
The Colossus [f|1899
The Plunderers [1900
The Fugitives [1900
The Descent Of The Duchess [1900
Lord Linlithgow [f|1900
The Shadow Of Allah.. (w Max MONTESOLE) [1900
Taken By Assault [f|1901
David Bran [1901
The Way Of A Man [1902
Immortal Youth [f|1902
Rachel Marr [f|1903
The Promotion Of The Admiral, And Other Sea Comedies [f|1903
The Wingless Psyche [1904
Bianca's Caprice.. [s|1904
A Tramp's Note-Book [e|1904
Lady Penelope [f|1905
Captain Balaam/Baldare Of The 'Cormorant'.. [s|1905
The Idlers [f|1905
* The Prey Of The Strongest (1906, also London: Hurst and Blackett n.d.)
The Red Burgee [f|1906
The Blue Peter [1906
Tales And Narratives Of Painted Rock, South Panhandle, Texas [1907
The Flying Cloud [f|1907
Lady Anne [1907
Painted Rock [s|1907
The Flying Cloud [f|1907
The Grinder's Wheel [s|1907-1922
David Bran [f|1908
(Adventures Of) Captain Spink.. [f|1908
Midsummer Madness [1909
Sea Dogs [s|1910
The Wonderful Bishop, And Other London Adventures [s|1910
Thorpe's Way [f|1911
Thorpe's Way [1911
Four Plays [d|1911
The Man who Stroked Cats, and Other Stories [s|1912
The Private Life Of Henry Maitland [f|1912/1923
Gloomy Fanny.. [s|1913
Salt Of The Sea [f|1913
Time And Thomas Waring [f|1914
Sweet Herbs And Bitter [1915
The Lords Of The Fo'c'sle, And Other Sea Comedies [f|1915
The Madonna Of The Beech Wood.. [s|1918
War Lyrics [p|1918
Ancient Mariners [1919
Hearts Of Women [1919
Warfare In The Human Body [e|1920
Lyra Mutabilis [p|1921
The Mirthful Nine [s|1921
Followers Of The Sea [f|1923
W H Hudson [b|1924
On The Earthquake Line [n|1924
Malignancy And Evolution [n|1926
*On The Old Trail: Through British Columbia After Forty Years [n|(London: Everleigh, Nash & Grayson, 1927.
Tales Of Changing Seas [s|1927
The White Mamoloi and Other Stories [s|1929
The Serpent's Fang [e|1930
A Humble Fisherman [e|1932
The Behaviour Of Nations [n|1941
Morley Roberts in British Columbia
by Charles Lillard
TALL, LEAN AND Tired, MORLEY ROBERTS limped into New Westminster and "so to the Farmers' Home, Saturday night, and November 2." The year was 1884 and Roberts, two months short of his 28th birthday, was one Brit who knew something of British Columbia's geography. He'd ridden shanks' mare across most of the province, having thrown up his job in a C.P.R. construction camp before he had a stake. This was some 50 km. east of Kicking Horse Pass, where the men sang:
For some of us are bums, for whom work has no charms, And some of us are farmers, a-working for our farms, But all are jolly fellows, who come from near and far, To work up in the Rockies on the C.P.R.
Roberts was not so much a bum as a man on the bum. After a fight with his father in 1876, he'd decamped for Australia "and remained there, working mostly in the bush, for the best part of three years." In 1879 he "shipped before the mast in a Blackwall barque and came back to England as a seaman." Five years later, five dreary years spent, “clerking at tenpence an hour in the War Office, and later in the India Office," he took off for Texas. At this point Roberts describes himself as "tall restless brown haired, brown-eyed, red-bearded, powerful yet neurotic" and he considered himself "a confirmed pessimist and rationalist, whose aesthetic sensibilities were abnormally developed." In other words he was the typical romantic young man almost.
Like his friends and contemporaries: Robert Louis Stevenson whom he'd visit in the South Pacific, George Gissing and W.H. Hudson, both longtime friends, and Frederick Niven, who'd have his own hobo career in British Columbia, Morley Roberts possessed backbone. He might dream of Vergil and Ruskin; still he had no trouble hoofing it from Kamloops to the Farmers' Home in New Westminster.
It was there, while working for the Dominion Sawmill, that, according to his only biographer, he caught the paratyphoid fever that would trouble him later in life. More immediate and more troublesome Was his ruckus with a fellow labourer, a Chinese worker with friends. Thrashing him forced Roberts back upriver. A year later, again in New Westminster and again due to a Chinese labourer, another fight forced him out of the province.
Back in London, Roberts published his first book about British Columbia in 1887. The Western Avernus is the record of his time in Texas and western Canada; most recently republished by the Everyman's Library in the 1920's with an Introduction by the author's old friend R.B. Cummingham Graham, this book may be the finest of all 19th century travel books to be largely set in B.C.
Common as this book is it is surprising how few know of it. Even fewer have encountered Roberts' account of his second trip across British Columbia. On the Old Trail was published in 1927 following a trip in 1926 40 years after his first trip.
Between these two trips, Roberts published sometimes as many as two or three books a year; he continued to write and publish until 1942, the year of his death. As no one admits to reading the complete oeuvre, much less to having seen all the books, it is perhaps premature to agree with the critic who claimed Roberts' work "made no permanent mark." Such a statement is as wayward as the 'authority' who, writing in the Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, placed Jack London and Roberts side by side at the head of our novel-writing tradition.
Although Prey of the Strongest (1906) may be the first novel Roberts set in British Columbia,* there is no way of knowing until someone reads his several dozen books published prior to this one. For instance, A Tramp's Note-Book (1904) contains three B.C. pieces; collections still unavailable may reveal other short fictions and sketches.
In Red Earth (1894) one story, 'The Wedger-Off', is the immediate ancestor of The Prey of the Strongest. Like the novel it is set in a sawmill on the B.C. coast. There is even a hint of the powerful prose that would appear in the novel.
"Now when things are running quick, and the double saws are spurting sawdust and the long strips of tom wood in the big cut that the great saws make... When things run fast and the mill goes full time, and they are turning out all they can turn out, when business is booming…the wedger-off has got to jump like a kangaroo. He is here and there, he is down, he is on top. He helps this man, he helps the other; he shoves the big slabs along, he uses the pickareen, and drags the cants along the rollers..."
And so it goes; several pages of colourful and hard prose that should by itself make Morley Roberts the patron saint of every labour poet in this province. Imagine the docu-poems that will appear when someone opens The Prey of the Strongest to: "The whole Mill was a tuned instrument, a huge sounding board.
"There was no discord, for any discord played its part, it was one organic harmony, pleasing, fatiguing, satisfying; any dropped note was missed: if the Lath Mill stayed in silence, something was wanting, when the Shingler said nothing, the last fine addition to the music fell away.
"And yet the one harmony of the Mill was a background for the soloes of the Saws, for the great diapason of the Hoes, for the swifter speech of the Pony, for the sharp cross notes of the Trimmers. The saws sang according to the log, to its nature, to its growth: either for the butt or the cleaner wood." No doubt this is some of the finest prose written about British Columbia life prior to World War I. Before the story told in The Prey of the Strongest succumbs to Roberts' GrubStreet mentality, it is our first accurate portrayal of life in the mills, in the woods and gambling halls; as well it is our first novel to honestly place the Indian and Oriental within B.C.'s labouring-class society.
[BCBW Spring 1988]
A Visit To R. L. Stevenson
from Morley Roberts's visit to the South Pacific (1894)
It was late in May or early in June, for I cannot now remember the exact date, that I landed in Apia, in the island of Upolu. Naturally enough that island was not to me so much the centre of Anglo-American and German rivalries as the home of Robert Louis Stevenson, then become the literary deity of the Pacific. In a dozen shops in Honolulu I had seen little plaster busts of him; here and there I came across his photograph. And I had a theory about him to put to the test. Though I was not, and am not, one of those who rage against over-great praise, when there is any true foundation for it, I had never been able to understand the laudation of which he was the subject. At that time, and until the fragment of Weir of Hermiston was given to the world, nothing but his one short story about the thief and poet, Villon, had seemed to me to be really great, really to command or even to be an excuse for his being in the position in which his critics had placed him. Yet I had read The Wrecker, The Ebb Tide, The Beach of Falesa, Kidnapped, Catriona, The Master of Ballantrae, and the New Arabian Nights. I came to the conclusion that, as most of the organic chorus of approval came from men who knew him, he must be (as all writers, I think, should be) immeasurably greater than his books. I was prepared then for a personality, and I found it. When his name is mentioned I no longer think of any of his works, but of a sweet-eyed, thin, brown ghost of a man whom I first saw upon horseback in a grove of cocoanut palms by the sounding surges of a tropic sea. There are writers, and not a few of them, whose work it is a pleasure to read, while it is a pain to know them, a disappointment, almost an unhappiness, to be in their disillusioning company. They have given the best to the world. Robert Louis Stevenson never gave his best, for his best was himself.
At any time of the year the Navigator Islands are truly tropical, and whether the sun inclines towards Cancer or Capricorn, Apia is a bath of warm heat. As soon as the Monowai dropped her anchor inside the opening of the reef that forms the only decent harbour in all the group, I went ashore in haste. Our time was short, but three or four hours, and I could afford neither the time nor the money to stay there till the next steamer. I had much to do in Australia, and was not a little exercised in mind as to how I should ever be able to get round the world at all unless I once more shipped before the mast. I was, in fact, so hard put to it in the matter of cash, that when the hotel-keeper asked three dollars for a pony on which to ride to Vailima, I refused to pay it, and went away believing that after all I should not see him whom I most desired to meet. Yet it was possible, if not likely, that he would come down to visit the one fortnightly link with the great world from which he was an exile. I had to trust to chance, and in the meantime walked the long street of Apia and viewed the Samoans, whom he so loved, with vivid interest. These people, riven and torn by internal dissensions between Mataafa and Malietoa, and honeycombed by Anglo-American and German intrigue, were the most interesting and the noblest that I had met since I foregathered for a time with a wandering band of Blackfeet Indians close to Calgary beneath the shadows of the Rocky Mountains. Their dress, their customs, and their free and noble carriage, yet unspoiled by civilisation, appealed to me greatly. I could understand as I saw them walk how Stevenson delighted in them. Man and woman alike looked me and the whole world in the face, and went by, proud, yet modest, and with the smile of a happy, unconquered race.
As I walked with half a dozen curious indifferents whom the hazards of travel had made my companions, we turned from the main road into the seclusion of a shaded group of palms, and as I went I saw coming towards me a mounted white man behind whom rode a native. As he came nearer I looked at him without curiosity, for, as the time passed, I was becoming reconciled by all there was to see to the fact that I might not meet this exiled Scot. And yet, as he neared and passed me, I knew that I knew him, that he was familiar; and very presently I was aware that this sense of familiarity was not, as so often happens to a traveller, the awakened memory of a type. This was an individual and a personality. I stopped and stared after him, and suddenly roused myself. Surely this was Robert Louis Stevenson, and this his man. So might the ghosts of Crusoe and Friday pass one on the shore of Juan Fernandez.
I called the "boy" and gave him my card, and asked him to overtake his master. In another moment my literary apparition, this chief among the Samoans, was shaking hands with me. He alighted from his horse, and we walked together towards the town. I fell a victim to him, and forgot that he wrote. His writings were what packed dates might be to one who sat for the first time under a palm in some far oasis; they were but ice in a tumbler compared with seracs. He was first a man, and then a writer. The pitiful opposite is too common.
I think, indeed I am sure, for I know he could not lie, that he was pleased to see me. What I represented to him then I hardly reckoned at the time, but I was a messenger from the great world of men; I moved close to the heart of things; I was fresh from San Francisco, from New York, from London. He spoke like an exile, but one not discouraged. Though his physique was of the frailest (I had noted with astonishment that his thigh as he sat on horseback was hardly thicker than my forearm), he was alert and gently eager. That soft, brown eye which held me was full of humour, of pathos, of tenderness, yet I could imagine it capable of indignation and of power. It might be that his body was dying, but his mind was young, elastic, and unspoiled by selfishness or affectation. He had his regrets; they concerned the Samoans greatly.
"Had I come here fifteen years ago I might have ruled these islands."
He imagined it possible that international intrigue might not have flourished under him. Never had I seen so fragile a man who would be king. He owned, with a shyly comic glance, that he had leanings towards buccaneering. The man of action, were he but some shaggy-bearded shellback, appealed to him. His own physique was his apology for being merely a writer of novels.
We went on board the steamer, and at his request I bade a steward show his faithful henchman over her. In the meantime we sat in the saloon and drank "soft" drinks. It pleased him to talk, and he spoke fluently in a voice that was musical. He touched a hundred subjects; he developed a theory of matriarchy. Men loved to steal; women were naturally receivers. They adored property; their minds ran on possession; they were domestic materialists. We talked of socialism, of Bully Hayes, of Royat, of Rudyard Kipling. He regretted greatly not having seen the author of Plain Tales from the Hills.
"He was once coming here. Even now I believe there is mail-matter of his rotting at the post-office."
I asked him to accept a book I had brought from England, hoping to be able to give it to him. It was the only book of mine that I thought worthy of his acceptance. That he knew it pleased me. But he always desired to please, and pleased without any effort. When the boy came back from viewing the internal arrangements of the Monowai, he sat down with us as a free warrior. He was more a friend than a servant; Stevenson treated him as the head of a clan in his old home might treat a worthy follower. As there was yet an hour before the vessel sailed I went on shore with him again. We were rowed there by a Samoan in a waistcloth. His head was whitened by the lime which many of the natives use to bleach their dark locks to a fashionable red.
The air was hot and the sea glittered under an intense sun. The rollers from the roadstead broke upon the reef. The outer ocean was a very wonderful tropic blue; inside the reefs the water was calmer, greener, more unlike anything that can be seen in northern latitudes. A little island inside the lagoon glared with red rock in the sunlight; cocoanut palms adorned it gracefully; beyond again was the deeper blue of ocean; the island itself, a mass of foliage, melted beautifully into the lucid atmosphere. Yonder, said Stevenson, lay Vailima that I was not to see. But I had seen the island and the man, and the natural colour and glory of both.
As we went ashore he handed the book which I had given him to his follower. He thought it necessary to explain to me that etiquette demanded that no chief should carry anything. And etiquette was rigid there.
"Mrs Grundy," he remarked, "is essentially a savage institution."
We went together to the post-office. And in the street outside, while many passed and greeted "Tusitala" in the soft, native speech, we parted. I saw him ride away, and saw him wave his hand to me as he turned once more into the dark grove wherein I had met him in the year of his death.