“Hunger my driver, I go where I must”

Evidently a continuation of the previous letter.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2122]

To Charles Baxter

[Baxter Letters, p. 239-40, http://www.hathitrust.org]

Tautira [8 or 9 November 1888]

My dear Charles,

I forgot:

Mrs. Mary Ann Watts and her credit on Willis and Trantum, the same, please, as last year;

The Stevensons settled in Bournemouth from July 1884 to August 1887. Mary Ann Watts was RLS’s housekeeper there at Skerryvore Cottage, at that time rent out [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

if you haven’t Mary Ann’s address, Miss Boodle will manage it.

Miss Adelaide Ann Boodle (1858-1934) had been neighbour of RLS at Bournemouth. She had become devoted friend of the Stevensons: her book “RLS and his Sine Qua Non” (1926) will give an affectionate account of Bournemouth times [https://babel.hathitrust.org]

Our mainmast is dry-rotten, and we are all to the devil.

The schooner Casco. Captain Otis had found that the mainmast of the yacht had dry rot so had to go back to Papeete to be refitted [www.robert-louis-stevenson.org]

I shall lie in a debtors’ jail.


Never mind: Tautira is first chop.

Traditional village at Tautira, Tahiti, 1885-89 [http://manuelcohen.photoshelter.com]

I am so besotted that I shall put on the back of this my attempt at words to “Wandering Willie”.

The standard lyrics to the tune of “Wandering Willie” , more properly known as “Here awa’ there awa’”, are by Burns [https://edrls.files.wordpress.com]

If you can conceive at all the difficulty, you will also conceive the vanity with which I regard any kind of result; and whatever mine is like, it has some sense, and Burns’s has none.


Home no more home to me, whither must I wander?

Hunger my driver, I go where I must.

Cold blows the winter wind over hill and heather;


Thick drives the rain, and my roof is in the dust.


Loved of wise men was the shade of my roof-tree;

The true word of welcome was spoken in the door.

Dear days of old, with the faces in the firelight,

Kind folks of old, you come again no more.

Home was home then, my dear, full of kindly faces,

Home was home then, my dear, happy for the child.

Fire and the windows bright glittered on the moorland;

Song, tuneful song, built a palace in the wild.


Now, when day dawns on the brow of the moorland,

Lone stands the house, and the chimney-stone is cold.

Lone let it stand, now the friends are all departed,

The kind hearts, the true hearts, that loved the place of old.



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“The exile threatens to be eternal”

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2121]

To Charles Baxter

[Baxter Letters, pp. 237-8, at http://www.hathitrust.org]

Tautira (The Garden of the World), otherwise called

Hans-Christian-Andersen-ville [8 or 9 November 1888]

My dear Charles,

Whether I have a penny left in the wide world, I know not, nor shall know – till I get to Honolulu, where I anticipate a devil of an awakening. It will be from a mighty pleasant dream at least, Tautira being mere Heaven.

John La Farge, Study of Afterglow from Nature, Tahiti, Entrance to Tautira, Valley), 1891 [https://puam-loris.aws.princeton.edu]
John La Farge, The Entrance to the Tautira River, Tahiti, Fisherman Spearing a Fish, c. 1895 [https://media.nga.gov]
The beach of Tautira, Tahiti [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

John La Farge, Looking East in Tautira Village, Tahiti, 1891 [https://i.pinimg.com]
John La Farge, Study On The Reef At Tautira, Tahiti, 1891 [www.beverlyamitchell.com]
Tautira Bay, Tahiti [https://maurobort48.files.wordpress.com]

But suppose, for the sake of argument, any money to be left in the hands of my painful doer, what is to be done with it? Save us from exile would be the wise man’s choice, I suppose; for the exile threatens to be eternal. But yet, I am of opinion – in case there should be some dibs in the hand of the P.D., i.e.painful doer; because if there be none, I shall take to my flageolet on the high-road, and work home the best way I can, having previously made away with my family – I am of opinion that my aunt, Mrs. Alan Stevenson, should have her money from my mother: £20 – twenty pounds.

Margaret Scott Jones Stevenson (aka ‘Gatchie’ or ‘Aunt Alan’, 1812-95), was RLS’s aunt and Bob and Katherine’s mother. They are all buried in the New Calton Cemetery, Edinburgh [https://images.findagrave.com]

I am of opinion Miss Adelaide Boodle should have her box, like last year, at the same figure,

Miss Adelaide Ann Boodle (1858-1934) had been neighbour of RLS at Bournemouth. She had become devoted friend of the Stevensons: her book “RLS and his Sine Qua Non” (1926) will give an affectionate account of Bournemouth times [https://babel.hathitrust.org]

and I am of opinion that if W[illiam] E[rnest] H[enley] and his are in the customary state, and you are thinking of an offering, and there should be still some funds over, you would be a real good P[ainful] D[oer] to put some in with yours and tak’ the credit o’t, like a wee man!

William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)[www.engrailed.co.uk/]

I know it’s a beastly thing to ask; but it, after all, does no earthly harm, only that much good. And besides, like enough there’s nothing in the till, and there is an end. Yet I live here in the full lustre of millions; it is thought I am the richest son of man that has yet been to Tautira: I! – and I am secretly eaten with the fear of lying in pawn, perhaps for the remainder of my days, in San Francisco. As usual, my colds have much hashed my finances.

Do tell Henley I write this just after having dismissed Oli the sub-chief, in whose house I live,

Chief who fought during Samoan tribal wars 1886-1894. We have no picture of ‘Oli’, the sub-chief Teriitera, usually called Ori a Ori (1838-1916), deacon of the Protestant church with whom RLShe became great friend [https://welcome-tahiti.com]

Mrs. Oli, and Pairai, their adopted child, from the evening hour of music, during which I Publickly (with a k) Blow on the Flageolet.

RLS playing his flageolet while visiting Hawaii, 1889 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

These are words of truth. Yesterday I told Oli about W.E.H., counterfeited his walk, counterfeited him playing on the piano and the pipe, and succeeded in sending the six feet four there is of that sub-chief somewhat sadly to his bed, feeling that his was not the genuine article after all. Oli is exactly like a Colonel in the Guards.

I am, dear Charles, ever yours afftly,


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“The children beat their parents here; it does not make their parents any better”

RLS addressed a part of this letter to William Archer’s son, ‘Tomarcher’, then aged three.

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2119]

To William and Thomas Archer [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 85-6]

Taiti, October 17th, 1888

Dear Archer,

Though quite unable to write letters, I nobly send you a line signifying nothing.

William Archer (1856-1924) Scottish dramatic critic, journalist, translator and editor of Ibsen.

The voyage has agreed well with all; it has had its pains, and its extraordinary pleasures; nothing in the world can equal the excitement of the first time you cast anchor in some bay of a tropical island,

and the boats begin to surround you, and the tattooed people swarm aboard.

Three double canoes visiting Capt. James Cook on his third Pacific expedition, 1776-1780 [http://1.bp.blogspot.com]

Tell Tomarcher, with my respex, that hide-and-seek is not equal to it;

German School, Hide-and-seek, 19th century [www.christies.com]

no, nor hidee-in-the-dark; which, for the matter of that, is a game for the unskilful:


the artist prefers daylight, a good-sized garden, some shrubbery, an open paddock, and come on, Macduff.

James Charles (1851-1906), Hide-and-Seek [https://i.pinimg.com]
Thomas Archer (Tomarcher) (1885-1918), the only son of William, aged 3 at the time of this letter, died in Belgium during WW I [https://dulwichcollege1914-18.co.uk]

Tomarcher, I am now a distinguished litterytour, but that was not the real bent of my genius. I was the best player of hide-and-seek going; not a good runner, I was up to every shift and dodge, I could jink very well, I could crawl without any noise through leaves, I could hide under a carrot plant, it used to be my favourite boast that I always walked into the den.

You may care to hear, Tomarcher, about the children in these parts; their parents obey them, they do not obey their parents; and I am sorry to tell you (for I dare say you are already thinking the idea a good one) that it does not pay one halfpenny.

Tahitian children, 19th century [https://i.pinimg.com]
P. Gauguin, Polynesian woman with children, 1901 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

There are three sorts of civilisation, Tomarcher: the real old-fashioned one, in which children either had to find out how to please their dear papas or their dear papas cut their heads off. This style did very well, but is now out of fashion.

N. Poussin, Massacre des Innocents, 1627-1629 [www.tgtourism.tv]

Then the modern European style: in which children have to behave reasonably well, and go to school and say their prayers, or their dear papas will know the reason why.


This does fairly well. Then there is the South Sea Island plan, which does not do one bit. The children beat their parents here; it does not make their parents any better; so do not try it.

Carte de visite portrait of a Maori woman and child from Hawkes Bay, taken probably between 1880 and 1900 by S. Carnell of Napier [https://i.pinimg.com]

Dear Tomarcher, I have forgotten the address of your new house, but will send this to one of your papa’s publishers. Remember us all to all of you, and believe me, yours respectably,

Robert Louis Stevenson

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“I could bear to go down myself, but not to have much MS go down with me”

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2118.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 82-4]

Taiti, October 16th, 1888

My dear Colvin,

The cruiser for San Francisco departs to-morrow morning bearing you some kind of a scratch.

Royal Mail Steam Ship, 19th century [https://assets.catawiki.nl]

This much more important packet will travel by way of Auckland.


It contains a ballant;

The ballad referred to is ‘The Feast of Famine’, composed on board of the Casco and published with others in the collection of 1890 Ballads.

and I think a better ballant than I expected ever to do. I can imagine how you will wag your pow over it; and how ragged you will find it, etc.,

Sidney Colvin (1845-1927), Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge 1873-1895, photographed by F. Hollyer, ca. 1890 [http://media.vam.ac.uk]

but has it not spirit all the same? and though the verse is not all your fancy painted it, has it not some life? And surely, as narrative, the thing has considerable merit! Read it, get a typewritten copy taken, and send me that and your opinion to the Sandwiches.


I know I am only courting the most excruciating mortification; but the real cause of my sending the thing is that I could bear to go down myself, but not to have much MS go down with me. To say truth, we are through the most dangerous; but it has left in all minds a strong sense of insecurity, and we are all for putting eggs in various baskets.

We leave here soon, bound for Uahiva, Raiatea, Bora-Bora,

The Leeward Islands. The plan to visit these islands en route for Hawaii was later abandoned [https://upload.wikimedia.org]
Raiatea [http://1.bp.blogspot.com]
H.M.S. Collingwood, off Bora Bora, 19th century [https://media.mutualart.com]

and the Sandwiches.

Sandwich Islands, 1825.
Hawaiian Group or Sandwich Islands, 1841 [https://img.raremaps.com]
Sandwiches Men with a mask.
Royal palace, Honolulu, late 19th century [https://imgc.artprintimages.com]

O, how my spirit languishes

To step ashore on the Sanguishes;

For there my letters wait,

There shall I know my fate.

O, how my spirit languidges

To step ashore on the Sanguidges.

Formerly the group of Hawaii was known to Europeans and Americans as the Sandwich Islands, a name chosen by James Cook in honor of the then First Lord of the Admiralty John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. The contemporary name is derived from the name of the largest island [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

18th. – I think we shall leave here if all is well on Monday. I am quite recovered, astonishingly recovered. It must be owned these climates and this voyage have given me more strength than I could have thought possible. And yet the sea is a terrible place, stupefying to the mind and poisonous to the temper,

the sea, the motion, the lack of space, the cruel publicity, the villainous tinned foods, the sailors, the captain, the passengers –

RLS on board of the Casco.

but you are amply repaid when you sight an island, and drop anchor in a new world.

Much trouble has attended this trip,


but I must confess more pleasure.

Tahiti [www.agoranews.it]
Tahiti [https://static2-viaggi.corriereobjects.it]

Nor should I ever complain, as in the last few weeks, with the curing of my illness indeed, as if that were the bursting of an abscess, the cloud has risen from my spirits and to some degree from my temper.

Tahiti [https://d36tnp772eyphs.cloudfront.net]

Do you know what they called the Casco at Fakarava? The Silver Ship.

The yacht Casco [https://search-bcarchives.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca]

Is that not pretty? Pray tell Mrs. Jenkin, die silberne Frau, as I only learned it since I wrote her.

Mrs Jenkin was the widow of RLS’s friend, Henry Charles Fleeming (1833-1885), Professor of Engineering at Edinburgh University [http://robert-louis-stevenson.org/]

I think of calling the book by that name: The Cruise of the Silver Ship – so there will be one poetic page at least – the title.

At the Sandwiches we shall say farewell to the S.S. with mingled feelings. She is a lovely creature: the most beautiful thing at this moment in Taiti.

The wharf, Papeete, Tahiti, late 19th century [https://2.bp.blogspot.com]

Well, I will take another sheet, though I know I have nothing to say. You would think I was bursting; but the voyage is all stored up for the book, which is to pay for it, we fondly hope;

The volume was published as ‘In the South Seas’, edited by Sidney Colvin and published in 1896, after RLS’s death.

and the troubles of the time are not worth telling; and our news is little. […]


Here I conclude (Oct. 24th, I think), for we are now stored, and the Blue Peter metaphorically flies.

The Blue Peter, a nautical blue flag with a white square in the center, flown to signal that a ship is ready to sail [www.sailonboard.com]


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“I am sorry I ever left England, for here there are no books to be had”

When the Stevensons left Bournemouth, Miss Boodle gave RLS a paper-cutter. He promised her gift should go to sea with him. That piece is probably the one now kept at Vailima Museum, Samoa. RLS wrote this letter in the character of the paper-cutter.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2111.]

To Adelaide Boodle [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 81-2]

Taiti, October 10th, 1888

Dear Giver,

I am at a loss to conceive your object in giving me to a person so locomotory as my proprietor. The number of thousand miles that I have travelled,

RLS’s globe, Stevenson Museum, St. Helena, CA [http://stevensonmuseum.org]

the strange bed-fellows with which I have been made acquainted, I lack the requisite literary talent to make clear to your imagination. I speak of bed-fellows; pocket-fellows would be a more exact expression, for the place of my abode is in my master’s right-hand trouser-pocket; and there, as he waded on the resounding beaches of Nukahiva,

Beach of Nuku Hiva [https://etahititravel.com]

or in the shallow tepid water on the reef of Fakarava,

Fakarava atoll [www.unusualtraveler.com]

I have been overwhelmed by and buried among all manner of abominable South Sea shells,

Fakarava Atoll, Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia.

beautiful enough in their way, I make no doubt, but singular company for any self-respecting paper-cutter. He, my master – or as I more justly call him, my bearer; for although I occasionally serve him, does not he serve me daily and all day long, carrying me like an African potentate on my subject’s legs? – he is delighted with these isles, and this climate,

Garuae, Fakarava’s northern pass, is the largest in French Polynesia. ©Benthouard.com [https://welcome-tahiti.com]

and these savages,

“People from Oceania,” Bibliographisches Institut 1885-1890, Meyers Konversationslexikon [www.sea.edu]
P. Gauguin, Rupe rupe, 1899 [www.arte.it]

and a variety of other things. He now blows a flageolet with singular effects:

RLS playing his flageolet in bed when visiting Hawaii, 1889 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

sometimes the poor thing appears stifled with shame, sometimes it screams with agony; he pursues his career with truculent insensibility. Health appears to reign in the party.

Group portrait of RLS and his women, Sidney 1893 [https://i.pinimg.com]

It was very nearly sunk in a squall.

Shipwreck Off New Jersey Coast, 19th century [https://img.huffingtonpost.com]

I am sorry I ever left England, for here there are no books to be had, and without books there is no stable situation for, dear Giver, your affectionate

Wooden Paper-Cutter

When the Stevensons left Bournemouth, Miss Boodle gave RLS a paper-knife. He promised her gift should go to sea with him. It’s probably the piece now kept at Vailima Museum, Samoa.

A neighbouring pair of scissors snips a kiss in your direction.

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“We cam’ so near gaun heels ower hurdies”

[As usual, for correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2111.]

To Charles Baxter

[Baxter Letters, 1956, pp. 236-7, at http://www.hathitrust.org]

[Envelope marked “Private”]

Taiti (as ever was) [? 9 October 1888]

But then, my dear Charles, I have seen nothing of it, having been in bed ever since Fakarava, in the Low Archipelago.

Fakarava is part of the Tuamotu (or Low) Archipelago, one of the five Archipelagos that make up the country French Polynesia in the South Pacific Ocean. The Tuamotus Archipelago home to less than 16 000 people which are living across 78 atolls (not all are inhabited) that form the most extensive chain Atolls in the entire world, over an area of 850 square km almost the same size as western Europe. Fakarava is roughly rectangular shaped and is 60 km long and 21 km wide. The widest part of the Atoll is around 300 m and the shortest part only around 30 m across [www.unusualtraveler.com]

This illiness, which has been pretty sharp and is now leaving me very slowly, has done one good thing. Since those miseries, I have never felt myself, and now I begin to recover. I thank God I shall soon have some news of all I love: in the first rank of whom I need not tell you my poor Henley is.

W.E. Henley (1849-1903) [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

You will receive a lot of mostly very bad proofs of photographs: the paper was so bad.

Forward deck of the Casco: RLS sitting on deck near the deckhouse (left).
Fanny and RLS at Farakava, September 1888, phot. by Lloyd.
Fanny and RLS round a stove, Farakava, September 1888, phot. by Lloyd.

Please keep them very private, as they are for the book. We send them, having learned so dread a fear of the sea, that we wish to put our eggs in different baskets. We have been thrice within an ace of being ashore: we were lost (!) for about twelve hours in the Low Archipelago,

Map of the Low Archipelago (Tuamotu), 1845 [https://psmaps.com]
The Low Archipelago (Tuamotu) [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

but by God’s blessing had quiet weather all the time; and once, in a squall, we cam’ so near gaun heels ower hurdies [= buttocks] that I really dinnae ken why we didnae athegether. Hence, as I say, a great desire to put our eggs in different baskets, particularly on the Pacific (aw-haw-haw) Pacific Ocean.


You can have no idea what a mean time we have had, owing to incidental beastlinesses, nor what a glorious, owing to the intrinsic interest of these isles. I hope the book will be a good one;

RLS’s journal was to be published after his death, in 1896.

nor do I really very much doubt that – the stuff is so curious; what I wonder is, if the public will rise to it. A copy of my journal, or as much of it as is made, shall go to you also;

Lloyd’s typewriter, now at Vailima, Samoa. RLS’s mother and stepson had made a typed copy of his journal [https://media-cdn.tripadvisor]

it is, of course, quite imperfect, much being to be added and corrected; but O, for the eggs in the different baskets.

All the rest are well enough, and all have enjoyed the cruise so far, in spite of its drawbacks. We have had an awfae time in some ways, Mr. Baxter; and if I wasnae sic a verra patient man (when I ken that I have to be) there wad hae been a braw row; and aince if I hadnae happened to be on deck aboot three in the mornin’, I think there would have been murder done. The American Mairchant Marine is a kent service;


ye’ll have heard its praise, I’m thinkin’; an’ if ye never did, ye can get Twa Years Before the Mast, by Dana,

‘Two Years Before the Mast’, by Richard Henry Dana Jr, 1840, was his journal as a common sailor from Boston round Cape Horn to California, and return.

whaur forbye a great deal o’ pleisure, ye’ll get a’ the needcessary information. Love to your father and all the family. – Ever your affectionate friend,

Robert Louis Stevenson

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“Get out your big atlas”

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For correct and critical edition of this letter see Mehew 6, 2109.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 3, pp. 78-80]

Fakarava, Low Archipelago, September 21st, 1888

My dear Colvin,

Only a word. Get out your big atlas,

Since 1828 The British Library, London, has been the home to one of the world’s largest atlases, the Klencke Atlas, until 2012 the largest atlas in the world. This large and ornate atlas can normally be found on display in the entrance lobby to the Maps reading room at The British Library [http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk]

and imagine a straight line from San Francisco

The cruise of the schooner Casco []

to Anaho, the N.E. corner of Nukahiva, one of the Marquesas Islands;

Map of the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia, 1843 [www.picclickimg.com]

Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands, drawing by Maximilien-Rene’ Radiguet (1816-1899), 1843 [https://previews.agefotostock.com]

imagine three weeks there: imagine a day’s sail on August 12th round the eastern end of the island to Tai-o-hae, the capital;

View of the Bay of Taiohae on Nuku Hiva island, Marquesas islands, engraving from Le Tour du Monde magazine, 1875 [https://previews.agefotostock.com]

imagine us there till August 22nd: imagine us skirt the east side of Ua-pu – perhaps Rona-Poa on your altas –

and through the Bordelais straits to Taahauku in Hiva-Oa, where we arrive on the 23rd;


imagine us there until September 4th, when we sailed for Fakarava, which we reached on the 9th, after a very difficult and dangerous passage among these isles.

Tuesday, we shall leave for Taiti, where I shall knock off and do some necessary work ashore. It looks pretty bald in the atlas; not in fact; nor I trust in the 130 odd pages of diary which I have just been looking up for these dates: the interest, indeed, has been incredible: I did not dream there were such places or such races. My health has stood me splendidly; I am in for hours wading over the knees for shells;

French Polynesia shells [https://static1.squarespace.com]

I have been five hours on horseback:

P. Gauguin, The white horse, 1898 [https://previews.magnoliabox.com]
RLS will describe his journey with Brother Michel at Hiva-oa (27 August 1888) in ‘In the South Seas’, Pt. I, ch. XIV, ‘In a Cannibal Valley’.

I have been up pretty near all night waiting to see where the Casco would go ashore, and with my diary all ready – simply the most entertaining night of my life.

RLS will describe his landing at Fakarava (8 September 1888) in ‘In the South Seas’, Pt. II, ch. II, ‘Fakarava: an atoll at hand’.

Withal I still have colds; I have one now, and feel pretty sick too; but not as at home: instead of being in bed, for instance, I am at this moment sitting snuffling and writing in an undershirt and trousers; and as for colour, hands, arms, feet, legs, and face, I am browner than the berry: only my trunk and the aristocratic spot on which I sit retain the vile whiteness of the north.

RLS (right) on the schooner Casco [http://s3.amazonaws.com]

Please give my news and kind love to Henley,

William Ernest Henley (1849–1903) [http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk]

Henry James,

Henry James, 1889 [www.literaryhistory.com]

and any whom you see of well-wishers. Accept from me the very best of my affection: and believe me ever yours,

The Old Man Virulent

RLS in 1888, by W. Eaton. According to Colvin, the signature used at foot of this letter and occasionally elsewhere, ‘The Old Man Virulent’, ‘alludes to the fits of uncontrollable anger to which he was often in youth, but by this time hardly ever, subject: fits occasioned sometimes by instances of official stolidity or impertinence or what he took for such, more often by acts savouring of cruelty, meanness, or injustice’ [www.hmdb.org]

Papeete, Taiti, October 7th, 1888

Never having found a chance to send this off, I may add more of my news. My cold took a very bad turn, and I am pretty much out of sorts at this particular, living in a little bare one-twentieth-furnished house, surrounded by mangoes, etc. All the rest are well, and I mean to be soon. But these Taiti colds are very severe and, to children, often fatal;

The Queen’s Palace, Papeete, Tahiti, c. 1885.

so they were not the thing for me. Yesterday the brigantine came in from San Francisco, so we can get our letters off soon. […] There are in Papeete at this moment, in a little wooden house with grated verandahs,

P. Gauguin, Road in Tahiti, 1891 [www.copia-di-arte.com]
Papeete, Tahiti, late 19th century [www.thetahititraveler.com]

two people who love you very much, and one of them is

Robert Louis Stevens

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