p. 10-11: So, to The Man Who Could Not Go, I address this book —to the elderly, white-waistcoated city magnate, grave autocrat of his clerkly kingdom (never lie to me, sir what was your favourite reading in the sixties, and why were you a very fair pistol shot, right up to the time when you were made junior manager ?)—to the serious family solicitor, enjoying his father’s good old practice and house, and counting among the furnishings of the latter, a shelf of Marryats, Mayne Reids, and Michael Scotts, wonder fully free of dust—to the comfortable clergyman, immersed in parish cares, who has the oddest fancy at times for standing on dock-heads, and sniﬂing up odours of rope and tar—to all of you, the army of the brave, unwilling, more or less resigned Left Behinds, who have forgotten years ago, or who will never forget while spiring masts stand thick against blue skies, and keen salt winds wake madness in the brain—to all I say: Greeting l and may the tale of another’s happier chance send, from the ﬂuttering pages of a book, a breath of the far-off lands and the calling sea.
p. 156-57: At night the Southern Cross burned white in the velvet sky, and the coral rocks about the lagoons showed in shimmering pale blue underneath ﬁfty feet or more of clear, moonlit water. Lying on the poop, like seals on sand, the little knot of passengers, captain, and mate,
“yarned” for hour after hour—strange, wild tales of frontier life in new and more ﬁghts, and ﬁghts yet again:—literature in the rough, a very gallery of vivid pictures wasted unseen . . . and yet, what should any man who had the rich reality care about its pale shadow, Story?;’ Do you care much for reading?” “Well, no,” answers the bare-footed ofﬁcer lying with his head in a coil of rope; “books aren’t very interesting, are they?”
… I thought of the pile of untouched “shockers” in my cabin; of grey London and its pyramids of books and armies of writers; of the mirror that they hold up to life, and the “magic web of colours gay” they weave, always looking, like the Lady of Shalott, in the mirror, and seldom joining the merry rout outside, where no one cares a pin for coloured tapestries, and looking-glasses are left to half-grown girls. No, truly; “books are not interesting,” when you can have life instead.
p. 169-70: You spend a quiet evening, and go to bed. At twelve o’clock, just as you are in the very heart of your soundest sleep, a native boy comes running up to the house to say that the captain has sent for the passenger to come down at once, for the wind is getting up, and he will sail in a quarter of an hour! You scramble into your clothes, run down to the quay, get rowed out to the ship, and ﬁnish your sleep in your cabin to the accompaniment of stamping feet and the ﬂapping sails; and behold, at eight o’clock, the bo’sun thunders on your door, and tells you that breakfast is in, but the breeze is away again, and the ship still in harbour! After breakfast you sneak up the well-known avenue again, feeling very much as if you had run away from school, and were coming back in disgrace. This time, the verandah shrieks until the natives run to the avenue gate to see what is the matter with the man “papalangis,” and then console you with the prophecy that the schooner won’t get away for another week.
She does, though. In the middle of the afternoon tea, the captain himself arrives, declines to have a cup, and says it is really business this time, and he is away. You go down that eternal avenue again, followed by cheerful cries of “No goodbye! we’ll keep your place at dinner,” and in half an hour the green and purple hills of lovely Raratonga are separated from you by a widening plain of wind-rufﬂed blue waves, and the Duchess is fairly away to Savage Island.
“Miss G——, have you nearly done your book?”
“Pretty nearly—why?” I ask, looking up from the pages of “John Herring.”