Robert Louis Stevenson: A Memorial HTML version

A Samoan Memorial Of R. L. Stevenson
A FEW weeks after his death, the mail from Samoa, brought to Stevenson's friends,
myself among the number, a precious, if pathetic, memorial of the master. It is in the
form of "A Letter to Mr Stevenson's Friends," by his stepson, Mr Lloyd Osbourne, and
bears the motto from Walt Whitman, "I have been waiting for you these many years.
Give me your hand and welcome." Mr Osbourne gives a full account of the last hours.
"He wrote hard all that morning of the last day; his half-finished book, HERMISTON, he
judged the best he had ever written, and the sense of successful effort made him buoyant
and happy as nothing else could. In the afternoon the mail fell to be answered - not
business correspondence, for this was left till later - but replies to the long, kindly letters
of distant friends received but two days since, and still bright in memory. At sunset he
came downstairs; rallied his wife about the forebodings she could not shake off; talked of
a lecturing tour to America that he was eager to make, 'as he was now so well'; and
played a game of cards with her to drive away her melancholy. He said he was hungry;
begged her assistance to help him make a salad for the evening meal; and, to enhance the
little feast he brought up a bottle of old Burgundy from the cellar. He was helping his
wife on the verandah, and gaily talking, when suddenly he put both hands to his head and
cried out, 'What's that?' Then he asked quickly, 'Do I look strange?' Even as he did so he
fell on his knees beside her. He was helped into the great hall, between his wife and his
body- servant, Sosimo, losing consciousness instantly as he lay back in the armchair that
had once been his grandfather's. Little time was lost in bringing the doctors - Anderson of
the man-of-war, and his friend, Dr Funk. They looked at him and shook their heads; they
laboured strenuously, and left nothing undone. But he had passed the bounds of human
skill. He had grown so well and strong, that his wasted lungs were unable to bear the
stress of returning health."
Then 'tis told how the Rev. Mr Clarke came and prayed by him; and how, soon after, the
chiefs were summoned, and came, bringing their fine mats, which, laid on the body,
almost hid the Union jack in which it had been wrapped. One of the old Mataafa chiefs,
who had been in prison, and who had been one of those who worked on the making of the
"Road of the Loving Heart" (the road of gratitude which the chiefs had made up to Mr
Stevenson's house as a mark of their appreciation of his efforts on their behalf), came and
crouched beside the body and said:
"I am only a poor Samoan, and ignorant. Others are rich, and can give Tusitala (6) the
parting presents of rich, fine mats; I am poor, and can give nothing this last day he
receives his friends. Yet I am not afraid to come and look the last time in my friend's
face, never to see him more till we meet with God. Behold! Tusitala is dead; Mataafa is
also dead. These two great friends have been taken by God. When Mataafa was taken,
who was our support but Tusitala? We were in prison, and he cared for us. We were sick,
and he made us well. We were hungry, and he fed us. The day was no longer than his
kindness. You are great people, and full of love. Yet who among you is so great as