I have written pages, many and long, about Tahiti; in them there are endless details, even as to the appearance of the tiniest plants — the physiognomy of its mosses.
You may read it all with the best will in the world, well, and then do you understand? No not in the least. Has this helped you to hear, at night, on the Polynesian shores white with coral to hear, at night, the plaintive sound of the vivo (the reed pipe), from the very depth of the woods? or the distant bellowing of conch-shell trumpets?
I was to cross many years of hesitations, of errors, of struggles; to mount many calvaries; to pay cruelly for having been brought up as an isolated sensitive plant; by force of will, to recast and to harden my physical constitution, as well as my moral one up to that day when, towards my twenty-seven years, a manager of a circus, after having seen how my muscles unbent now like springs of steel, let fall in his admiration these words, the most profound that I may have heard in my life: `What a pity, sir, that your education may have been begun so late!’