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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

MY FIRST BOOK                       125

ship '—the Walrus—was given at Ms particular request.
And now who should come dropping in, ex macJiind, but
Dr. Japp, like the disguised prince who is to bring down
the curtain upon peace and happiness in the last act; for
he carried in his pocket, not a horn or a talisman, but a
publisher—had, in fact, been charged by my old friend
Mr. Henderson, to unearth new writers for Young Folks.
Even the ruthlessness of a united family recoiled before
the extreme measure of inflicting on our guest the muti-
lated members of The Sea Cook; at the same time, we
would by no means stop our readings ; and accordingly
the tale was begun again at the beginning, and solemnly
re-delivered for the benefit of Dr. Japp. From that moment
on, I have thought highly of his critical faculty; for when he
left us, he carried away the manuscript in his portmanteau.
Here, then, was everything to keep me up, sympathy,
help, and now a positive engagement. I had chosen
besides a very easy style. Compare it with the almost
contemporary Merry Men ; one reader may prefer the
one style, one the other—'tis an affair of character, per-
haps of mood ; but no expert can fail to see that the one
is much more difficult, and the other much easier to
maintain. It seems as though a full-grown experienced
man of letters might engage to turn out Treasure Island
at so many pages a day, and keep Ms pipe alight. But
alas ! this was not my case. Fifteen days I stuck to it,
and turned out fifteen chapters ; and then, in the early
paragraphs of the sixteenth ignominiously lost hold. My
mouth was empty; there was not one word of Treasure
Island in my bosom ; and here were the proofs of the
beginning already waiting me at the % Hand and Spear ' !
Then I corrected them, living for the most part alone,
walking on the heath at Weybridge in dewy autumn
mornings, a good deal pleased with what I had done, and
more appalled than I can depict to you in words at what
remained for me to do. I was thirty-one ; I was the head
of a family ; I had lost my health ; I had never yet paid
my way, never yet made £200 a year ; my father had
quite recently bought back and cancelled a book that
was judged a failure : was this to be another and last