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TO NELLY VAN DE GRIFT
(MRS. ADULFO SANCHEZ, OF MONTEREY)
At last, after so many years, I have the pleasure of re-introducing
you to 'Prince Otto,' whom you will remember a very little fellow,
no bigger in fact than a few sheets of memoranda written for me by
your kind hand. The sight of his name will carry you back to an old
wooden house embowered in creepers; a house that was far gone in the
respectable stages of antiquity and seemed indissoluble from the
green garden in which it stood, and that yet was a sea-traveller in
its younger days, and had come round the Horn piecemeal in the belly
of a ship, and might have heard the seamen stamping and shouting and
the note of the boatswain's whistle. It will recall to you the
nondescript inhabitants now so widely scattered:-the two horses,
the dog, and the four cats, some of them still looking in your face
as you read these lines;--the poor lady, so unfortunately married
to an author;--the China boy, by this time, perhaps, baiting his
line by the banks of a river in the Flowery Land;--and in
particular the Scot who was then sick apparently unto death, and
whom you did so much to cheer and keep in good behaviour.
You may remember that he was full of ambitions and designs: so soon
as he had his health again completely, you may remember the fortune
he was to earn, the journeys he was to go upon, the delights he was
to enjoy and confer, and (among other matters) the masterpiece he
was to make of 'Prince Otto'!
Well, we will not give in that we are finally beaten. We read
together in those days the story of Braddock, and how, as he was
carried dying from the scene of his defeat, he promised himself to
do better another time: a story that will always touch a brave
heart, and a dying speech worthy of a more fortunate commander. I
try to be of Braddock's mind. I still mean to get my health again;
I still purpose, by hook or crook, this book or the next, to launch
a masterpiece; and I still intend--somehow, some time or other--to
see your face and to hold your hand.
Meanwhile, this little paper traveller goes forth instead, crosses
the great seas and the long plains and the dark mountains, and comes
at last to your door in Monterey, charged with tender greetings.
Pray you, take him in. He comes from a house where (even as in your
own) there are gathered together some of the waifs of our company at
Oakland: a house--for all its outlandish Gaelic name and distant
station--where you are well-beloved.
R. L. S.
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