i have been very neglectful. a return to work, perhaps premature, but necessary, has used up all my possible energies and made me acquainted with the living headache. i just jot down some of the past notabilia. yesterday b., a carpenter, and k., my (unsuccessful) white man, were absent all morning from their work; i was working myself, where i hear every sound with morbid certainty, and i can testify that not a hammer fell. upon inquiry i found they had passed the morning making ice with our ice machine and taking the horizon with a spirit level! i had no sooner heard this than - a violent headache set in; i am a real employer of labour now, and have much of the ship captain when aroused; and if i had a headache, i believe both these gentlemen had aching hearts. i promise you, the late - was to the front; and k., who was the most guilty, yet (in a sense) the least blameable, having the brains and character of a canary-bird, fared none the better for b.'s repartees. i hear them hard at work this morning, so the menace may be blessed. it was just after my dinner, just before theirs, that i administered my redoubtable tongue - it is really redoubtable - to these skulkers (paul used to triumph over mr. j. for weeks. 'i am very sorry for you,' he would say; 'you're going to have a talk with mr. stevenson when he comes home: you don't know what that is!') in fact, none of them do, till they get it. i have known k., for instance, for months; he has never heard me complain, or take notice, unless it were to praise; i have used him always as my guest, and there seems to be something in my appearance which suggests endless, ovine long-suffering! we sat in the upper verandah all evening, and discussed the price of iron roofing, and the state of the draught-horses, with innes, a new man we have taken, and who seems to promise well.
one thing embarrasses me. no one ever seems to understand my attitude about that book; the stuff sent was never meant for other than a first state; i never meant it to appear as a book. knowing well that i have never had one hour of inspiration since it was begun, and have only beaten out my metal by brute force and patient repetition, i hoped some day to get a 'spate of style' and burnish it - fine mixed metaphor. i am now so sick that i intend, when the letters are done and some more written that will be wanted, simply to make a book of it by the pruning-knife.
i cannot fight longer; i am sensible of having done worse than i hoped, worse than i feared; all i can do now is to do the best i can for the future, and clear the book, like a piece of bush, with axe and cutlass. even to produce the ms. of this will occupy me, at the most favourable opinion, till the middle of next year; really five years were wanting, when i could have made a book; but i have a family, and - perhaps i could not make the book after all.