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The Home Monthly

by unsigned. [Willa Cather]

From The Home Monthly, 6 (September 1896):  3.

Stevenson's Monument.

The single shaft of marble which marks the resting place of Robert Louis Stevenson, has been set in its place on the top of Pala mountain in Samoa. So high it stands above all the surrounding hills that Mrs. Stevenson can watch it from her windows, and travellers can see it far out at sea. It was certainly one of "life's little ironies" that the last descendant of so long a line of sturdy Scots should be compelled to live and die in a semi-savage island in the tropics. Now, anomalous enough, after Abbotsford and Ayrshire, where men go to do honor to the genius of Scotland, will come this island mountain, where one of the greatest of Scottish romancers sleeps, guarded by seas of lasting summer, under the Southern cross.

Mrs. Stevenson has returned to Valima, their Samoan home, and writes that she will probably never leave it again. There with her son and daughter and grandson she has taken up the old routine of life in the tropics. Her son, Lloyd Osbourne, in several instances collaborated with Stevenson, but whether he will take up literature on his own account is doubtful. Indeed it is impossible to say how much talent the young man possesses, for certainly in the books which purport to have been collaborations there are very slight traces of any second individuality, save a few instances of American slang in "The Wreckers." As Mr. Osbourne has never ventured to write anything alone, it is safe to say that the aid he rendered Stevenson was chiefly incidental, and that he owes his slight literary reputation to the genial good nature of the Scotchman, who would have collaborated with almost any one out of pure good will, and doubtless would have written a romance with a dusky Samoan chief if it would have given the savage any pleasure.

In the last days of his exile Stevenson's heart grew very hungry for his own land. In his letters to Sidney Colvin he said how he would like to lie in Scottish earth at last, under a grayer sky than that of the South Pacific. Yet death came kindly enough to Louis Stevenson. He died in the high tide of a great novel, producing magnificently, with his spurs on, as such a man should die. He had always dreaded the death of an invalid and feared he would die a sick man in his bed. He did not. He dropped at his study table in the midst of his task, doing his greatest work. For "Wier of Hermiston," that last uncompleted tale of the Scottish moorlands, is the richest and ripest of all his works, the beginning of what would have been his era of mastership in fiction. Never was his style so enchanting, his fancy so rich, his sympathies so acute. The work was growing into perfection when a blood vessel snapped in that great brain, and the sleeper was awakened from his dream, and the dream was left to us uncompleted, undreamed for ever.

Stevenson selected the spot for his grave and used often to watch that mountain peak from his study. On the very day he died he had stood looking gravely up at it. His body was born up to it by the natives, through a pathway cut in the underbrush. It is there the shaft of marble stands, and passengers on the mail steamer from Sidney crowd forward on the deck to see that faint line on the blue mountain, for that line in one of the "landmarks "of literature.

The epitaph upon the stone is one that he wrote for himself, and has the meaning and essence of his manly life in it. "Under the wide and starry sky Dig the grave and let me lie; Gladly did I live and gladly die, And I lay me down with a will. This little verse you grave for me, "Here he lies where he longed to be, Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter is home from the hill."