[Transcriber's note: Obvious printer's errors have been corrected, all other inconsistencies are as in the original. Author's spelling has been maintained.]
THE LIFE OF
MRS. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
NELLIE VAN DE GRIFT SANCHEZ
LONDON CHATTO & WINDUS 1920
Copyright, 1920, by Charles Scribner's Sons, for the United States of America
Printed by the Scribner Press New York, U. S. A.
TO ISOBEL FIELD
IN TOKEN OF OUR COMMON LOVE FOR HER WHOSE LIFE STORY IS TOLD IN ITS PAGES THIS BOOK IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.
When I first set out to tell the life story of Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson, I received the following letter from her old friend Mr. Bruce Porter:
"Once when I urged your sister to set down the incidents of her life she listened, pondered, and then dismissed the suggestion as impossible, as her life had been like a dazed rush on a railroad express, and she despaired of recovering the incidental memories. The years with Stevenson have of course been adequately told, but the earlier period—Indianapolis and California—had a romance as stirring, even if sharpened by the American glare. This sharpness has already, for all of us, begun to fade, to take on the glamour of time and distance, and I cannot think of a better literary service than to make the fullest possible record now, before it utterly fades away."
It was not only the difficulty of recalling events that caused her to resist all urgings to undertake this task, but a certain shy reluctance in speaking of herself that was characteristic of her. It has, therefore, fallen to me to collect the widely scattered material from various parts of the world and weave it into a coherent whole as best I may, but my regret will never cease that she did not herself tell her own story.
It would take a more competent pen than mine to do her justice; but whoever reads this book from cover to cover will surely agree that no woman ever had a life of more varied experiences nor went through them all with a stauncher courage.
It is right that I should acknowledge here my profound obligation to the kind friends who have generously placed their personal recollections at my disposal. These are more definitely referred to in the body of the book. Aside from these personal contributions, the main sources of material have been as follows:
Ancestral genealogies, including The Descendants of Joeran Kyn, by Doctor Gregory B. Keen, secretary of the Pennsylvania Historical Society.
Data concerning the genealogy of the Keen and Van de Grift families collected by Frederic Thomas, of New York, nephew of Mrs. Stevenson.
Notes covering the life of Mrs. Stevenson up to the age of sixteen years, as dictated by herself.
A collection of her own letters to friends and relatives.
Letters to Mrs. Stevenson from friends.
Extracts from various books and magazines, including The Letters of Mrs. M. I. Stevenson (Methuen and Company, London); The Life of Robert Louis Stevenson, by Graham Balfour; The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, edited by Sidney Colvin; Vailima Memories, by Lloyd Osbourne and Isobel Osbourne Strong, now Mrs. Salisbury Field; The Cruise of the Janet Nichol, by Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson; McClure's, Scribner's, and the Century magazines. Acknowledgment is due the publishers of the above books and periodicals for their courteous permissions.
A diary kept by Mrs. Stevenson of her life in Samoa, for which I am indebted to the considerate kindness of Miss Gladys Peacock, an English lady, into whose hands the diary fell by accident.
My own personal recollections.
Above all, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to Mrs. Stevenson's daughter, Isobel Field, without whose unflagging zeal in forwarding the work it could scarcely have been carried to a successful conclusion, and to my son, Louis A. Sanchez, for valuable assistance in the actual writing of the book.
N. V. S.
Berkeley, California, January, 1919.
I. Ancestors 1
II. Early Days in Indiana 9
III. On the Pacific Slope 26
IV. France, and the Meeting at Grez 42
V. In California with Robert Louis Stevenson 55
VI. Europe and the British Isles 82
VII. Away to Sunnier Lands 124
VIII. The Happy Years in Samoa 167
IX. The Lonely Days of Widowhood 226
X. Back To California 260
XI. Travels in Mexico and Europe 279
XII. The Last Days at Santa Barbara 297
Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson during the English period. Frontispiece
John Keen, about 83 years of age, maternal great-grandfather of Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson. 2
Jacob Van de Grift, about 56 years of age, father of Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson. 6
The Van de Grift residence at the corner of Illinois and Washington Streets, Indianapolis. 22
The bridge at Grez. 46
Fanny Osbourne at about the time of her first meeting with Robert Louis Stevenson. 48
Robert Louis Stevenson in the French days. 50
Fanny Osbourne at the time of her marriage to Robert Louis Stevenson. 78
The house at Vailima with the additions made to the first structure. 194
Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson. 262
The house at Hyde and Lombard Streets, San Francisco, with some alterations in the way of bay windows, etc., which have been made since Mrs. Stevenson sold it. 266
The house at Vanumanutagi ranch. 274
Stonehedge at Santa Barbara. 298
The last portrait of Mrs. Stevenson. 306
The funeral procession as it wound up the hill. 332
The tomb, showing the bronze tablet with the verse from Stevenson's poem to his wife. 336
THE LIFE OF MRS. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
To arrive at a full understanding of the complex and unusual character of Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson, which perhaps played as large a part as her beauty and intellectual charm in drawing to her the affections of one of the greatest romance writers of our day, one must go back and seek out all the uncommon influences that combined to produce it—a long line of sturdy ancestors, running back to the first adventurers who left their sheltered European homes and sailed across the sea to try their fortunes in a wild, unknown land; her childhood days spent among the hardy surroundings of pioneer Indiana, with its hints of a past tropical age and its faint breath of Indian reminiscence; the early breaking of her own family ties and her fearless adventuring by way of the Isthmus of Panama to the distant land of gold, and her brave struggle against adverse circumstances in the mining camps of Nevada. All these prenatal influences and personal experiences, so foreign to the protected lives of the women of Stevenson's own race, threw about her an atmosphere of thrilling New World romance that appealed with irresistible force to the man who was himself Romance personified.
Fanny Stevenson was a lineal descendant of two of the oldest families in the United States, her first ancestors landing in this country in the early part of the seventeenth century. In 1642 Joeran Kyn, called "The Snow White," reached America in the ship Fama as a member of the life-guard of John Printz, governor of the Swedish colony established in the New World by King Gustavus Adolphus. He took up a large tract of land and was living in peace and comfort on the Delaware River when William Penn landed in America. He was the progenitor of eleven generations of descendants born on American soil. His memory is embalmed in an old document still extant as "a man who never irritated even a child."
In the list of his descendants one Matthias stands out as "a tall handsome man, with a very melodious voice which could be intelligibly heard at times across the Delaware."
A later descendant, John Keen, born in 1747, fought and shed his blood in the war of American Independence, having been wounded in the battle of Princeton while in the act of delivering a message to General Washington. It was he who married Mildred Cook, daughter of James Cook, an English sea-captain who commanded the London Packet, plying between London and New York. Family tradition has it that he was a near relative of Captain Cook of South Sea fame. When Fanny Stevenson went a-sailing in the South Seas, following in the track of the great explorer, she boldly claimed this kinship, and, much to her delight, was immediately christened Tappeni Too-too, which was as near as the natives could come to Captain Cook's name.
We have a charming old-fashioned silhouette portrait in our family of a lovely young creature with a dainty profile and curls gathered in a knot. It is "sweet Kitty Weaver," who married John Cook Keen, son of the Revolutionary hero, and became the grandmother of Fanny Stevenson. Little Fanny, when on a visit to Philadelphia in her childhood days, was shown a pair of red satin slippers worn by this lady, and was no doubt given a lecture on the folly of vanity, for it was by walking over the snow to her carriage in the little red slippers that sweet Kitty Weaver caught the cold which caused her death.
Our mother, Esther Thomas Keen, one of John and Kitty Keen's six children, was born in Philadelphia, December 3, 1811. She was described by one who knew her in her youth as "a little beauty of the dark vivid type, with perfectly regular features, black startled eyes, and quantities of red-brown curls just the color of a cherry wood sideboard that stood in her house." She was a tiny creature, under five feet in height, and never in her life weighed more than ninety pounds; but in spite of that she was exceedingly strong, swift in her movements, straight as an arrow to the end of her days, and always went leaping up the stairs, even when she was over eighty. Fear was absolutely unknown to her. She once caught a mad dog and held its mouth shut with her hands, protecting her children till help came. She was resourceful in emergency, whether it was sickness or accident, and never lost her presence of mind. She had a tender sympathy for animals and all weak, suffering, and young creatures, and it could be truthfully said of her, as of Joeran Kyn, her ancestor, that she "never irritated even a child." Her daughter Fanny said of her: "I never heard my mother speak an angry word, no matter what the provocation, and she was the mother of seven children. No matter what the offense might be she always found an excuse." In this she was like the old Scotch woman who, when told she would find something to praise even in the devil, said: "Weel, there's nae denyin' he's a verra indoostrious body."
It was from our little mother that my sister Fanny inherited her vivid dark beauty, her reticence, her fortitude in suffering, her fearlessness in the presence of danger, and her unfailing resourcefulness.
Jacob Leendertsen Van de Grift, the first paternal ancestor of whom we have any record, settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, towards the close of the seventeenth century. The graves of several of his descendants are still to be seen in the fine old cemetery at Andalusia, and upon the tombstone of one of them is this epitaph:
"Farewell my friends and wife so dear, I am not dead but sleeping here. My debts are paid, my grave you see."
This name has descended in an unbroken line from Jacob Leendertsen Van de Grift, of New Amsterdam, through eleven generations, to the brother of Fanny Stevenson, Jacob Van de Grift, of Riverside, California.
John Miller, a paternal great-grandfather of ours, was also Dutch. The family account of him is that he fought at Brandywine, crossed the Delaware with Washington, was wounded at the battle of Trenton, and that when he died, at the age of eighty-four years, the city of Philadelphia paid him the tribute of burial with military honours.
Miller married twice, and it was Elizabeth, a daughter by his second wife, who married a Jacob Van de Grift.
Her son, Jacob Van de Grift, was born in Philadelphia in 1816. Upon the early death of her first husband she married again, presenting to her children the cruel stepfather of fiction. Indeed, the story of our father's childhood and youth and the adventures of his brothers and sisters reads more like melodrama than sober fact. One brother, Harry, wandering disconsolate in the market-place, was carried off by a kind and wealthy Kentuckian, who took a fancy to the handsome boy and brought him up as his own son. Matilda, the beauty of the family, seeing a peaceful Quaker couple sitting by a window, was so struck by the contrast between their gentle lives and her own that she went into the house and asked to be allowed to stay with them. The kind-hearted people were so touched by her distress and beauty that they adopted her as their own. Little Jacob, encouraged by the success of his brother and sister, ran away on his own account, but fell into evil hands, and was beaten and ill-used until rescued by his beautiful sister Matilda. Fortunately for Jacob, he found favour in the sight of Grandfather Miller, who educated him, dressed him well, and gave him a good allowance. At this time there was an outbreak of small riots in Philadelphia, caused by roughs attacking the Quakers. The "shadbellies," as they were derisively called, did not fight back, which made the sport all the more alluring to the cowardly rioters. Young Van de Grift, who was an excellent amateur boxer, joined in these frays with enthusiasm in defense of the Quakers. It was not only his fine American spirit of fair play that urged him into these fights, but he felt a deep gratitude to the Quakers all his life on account of his sister Matilda. Strangely enough, Grandfather Miller disapproved of young Van de Grift's conduct. He scolded and fumed, and when, early one morning, his grandson was found on his door-step beaten black and blue, the unreasonable old man, utterly losing sight of the chivalric cause, sent the troublesome lad away—to the farthest place, in fact, that he could reach. This place turned out to be the frontier backwoods town of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Here Jacob's attention was soon attracted by a pretty young woman, a tiny, dainty creature named Esther Keen (our mother, whom I have already described), who was on a visit to her sister. The records show that they were married in Philadelphia in 1837.
Like many another irresponsible young man, Jacob Van de Grift married became quite a different person. Returning to Indianapolis, he built a house for himself with the aid of friends, and, launching out into the lumber business, soon became one of the prosperous and solid citizens of the place. His house was on the "Circle," next door to Henry Ward Beecher's church. This was Mr. Beecher's first pastorate, and between him and his neighbour a warm friendship sprang up. In after years, when Beecher had become a national figure and scandal attacked his name, the friend of his youth, Jacob Van de Grift, clung loyally to his faith in his old pastor and firmly refused to believe any of the charges against him.
The little house on the Circle was made into a pleasant home partly by furniture sent by Jacob's mother from Philadelphia, partly by articles made by himself, for he had served a short apprenticeship at cabinet-making while living in his grandfather's house. Among other pieces of furniture made by him was the cradle in which Fanny Van de Grift was rocked. As long as she lived she never forgot just how this cradle looked.
Jacob Van de Grift, father of Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson, was a fine-looking man, broad-shouldered and deep-chested, slightly above medium height, blue-eyed, black-haired, and with the regular features and rosy complexion of his Dutch ancestors. One particularly noticed the extraordinarily keen expression of his eyes, which seemed to pin you to the wall when he looked at you. This penetrating glance was inherited by his daughter Fanny, and was often remarked upon by those who met her. He made money easily but spent it royally, and, in consequence, died comparatively poor. He had a hasty temper but a generous heart, and while his hand was always open to the poor and unhappy, it was a closed fist ready to strike straight from the shoulder to resent an insult or defend the oppressed. Like his ancestor of the Andalusia cemetery, he could not endure to owe any man a debt. It was from our father that my sister Fanny inherited her broad and tolerant outlook on life, her hatred of injustice and cruelty, her punctiliousness in money matters, and her steadfast loyalty to friends.
EARLY DAYS IN INDIANA.
When Jacob Van de Grift arrived in Indianapolis in 1836 the first rawness of frontier life had passed away, and many of the comforts of civilization had made their way out from the East or up from New Orleans. When he married Esther Keen he took her to live in the little red house, which, as I have already said, he had built next door to Henry Ward Beecher's church, opposite the Governor's Circle. Seven children in all were granted to them, of whom the eldest, a daughter, was born on March 10, 1840, in this same little red house on the Circle. When the infant was two years old she and her mother were taken into the Second Presbyterian Church, and were baptized by Henry Ward Beecher in the White River, in the presence of a concourse of several thousand spectators. The record of this noteworthy occasion is still preserved in the church at Indianapolis.
The little girl was named Frances Matilda, but when she grew older the second name was finally dropped. To her family and friends she was known as "Fanny."
The main source, in fact almost the only one, from which I have been able to draw a description of the childhood of Fanny Stevenson is an article on early reminiscences written by my sister herself, which was found among her papers after her death. As she was always her own worst critic, she has dwelt on mischievous childish escapades and has said little of the sweetness and charm and warm generosity that even then drew all hearts to her. From this article, called A Backwoods Childhood, I quote the following extracts for the sake of the vivid picture they give of those Indiana days:
"Our life in the backwoods was simple and natural; we had few luxuries, but we had few cares. In our kitchen gardens potatoes, cabbages, onions, tomatoes, Indian corn, and numerous other vegetables grew most luxuriantly; and of fruits we had great abundance. We lived a natural life and were content. The loom and the spinning-wheel, though they had by this time largely disappeared from the towns, still had a place in every farmhouse. We raised our own food and made our own clothing, often of the linsey-woolsey woven by the women on their home-made looms. We breakfasted by the light of a tin lamp fed with lard, four o'clock being a not unusual hour, dined at noon, supped at five, and went to bed with the chickens. Our carpets were made of our old cast-off garments torn into strips, the strips then sewn together at the ends and woven into carpet breadths by a neighbor, who took her pay in kind. Wheat broken and steeped in water gave a fine white starch fit for cooking as well as laundry work. We tapped the maple tree for sugar, and drank our sassafras tea with relish. The virgin forest furnished us with a variety of nuts and berries and wild fruits, to say nothing of more beautiful wild flowers than I have seen in any other part of the world, and, laid up in the trunks of hollow trees, were rich stores of wild honey.
"Except for ague we had little sickness, and for ordinary ailments healing herbs waited everywhere for seeing eyes. These were calamus, bloodroot, snakeroot, slippery elm, tansy, and scores that I do not remember the names of. There was sumach for tanning and butternut for dyeing; hickory wood for our fires and hard black walnut for our house-building and fences. Everything that we needed for comfort or health was within reach of our hands. Nor in this wholesome simple life were the arts forgotten. Among us lived a poetess who is quoted wherever English is spoken. Theatricals were cultivated, and my father belonged to a Thespian society. We had good painters, too, and at this moment there hangs before me my father's portrait at the age of twenty, done by Cox of Indianapolis, which has been praised and admired by both French and English artists of reputation.
[Footnote 1: Sarah Tittle Bolton, known for her patriotic and war songs, among them "Paddle Your Own Canoe" and "Left on the Battlefield."]
"When we made maple sugar there were the great fires built out-of-doors with logs that needed the strength of two men to carry; the bubbling cauldrons, and the gay company of neighbors come to help; the camp where the work went on all night to the sound of laughter and song.
"And the woods, traversed by cool streams, where wild vines clambering from tree to tree made bowers fit for any fairy queen—what a place of enchantment for a child! There were may apples to be gathered and buried to ripen, and as you turned up the earth there was always the chance that you might find a flint arrowhead.
"Then, too, there were shell barks, hickory nuts, walnuts, and butternuts to be gathered, husked and dried, an operation which produced every fall a sudden eruption of the society of the 'Black Hand' among the boys and girls. Haw apples, elderberries, wild gooseberries, blackberries, and raspberries provided variety of refreshment. Or you might, as I often did, gather the wild grapes from over your head, press them in your hands, catch the juice in the neck of a dried calabash, and toss off the blood-red wine. With my romantic notions, imbibed from my reading, I always called it the blood-red wine, though it was in reality a rather muddy looking gray-colored liquid with the musky flavor peculiar to wild grapes. This wild dissipation I felt compelled to abandon after I joined a temperance society and wore a tinsel star on my breast.
"Through the little hamlet where I was born ran, like a great artery, the National Road. Starting in the far East, it crossed the continent, looked in on us rustics, and finally lost itself in the wilds of Illinois. Though we lay on the banks of a romantic river, and a canal, a branch of the Erie, languidly crawled beside us, breathing fever and ague as it passed, the Road was our only real means of communication with the outside world. The river, though of a good breadth, had too many shoals and rapids to be navigable; and though now and then boats crept along by the towpath of the canal, I never heard that they landed or received any produce. The streets of Indianapolis had no names then; it was too lost a place for that, and we just said the 'main street.' This was afterwards called Washington Street, and was really a part of the National Road. Oh but that was romantic to me, leading as it did straight out into the wide, wide world! At certain intervals, about once in two weeks, the weather and the state of the road allowing, a lumbering vehicle called a 'mud wagon' left for regions unknown to me with passengers and freight. I don't know where it came from, but on its return it brought letters to my father from his mother, who lived in Philadelphia.
"Sometimes bands of Indians, wrapped in blankets, came through the town. They seemed friendly enough and no one showed any fear of them.
"We little girls wore pantalettes, to our ankles, and our dresses were whale-boned down the front, with very long bodices. We had wide flat hats trimmed with wreaths of roses and tied under our chins. We wore low necks and short sleeves summer and winter. I was thin but very tough. My Aunt Knodle made long mittens for me out of nankeen beautifully embroidered; they came up to my shoulders, and were sewn on every day to keep me from spoiling my hands. My hair was braided in front and my everyday gingham sunbonnet sewn to my hair. This was done in the vain hope of keeping off sunburn, for I was dark, like my mother, and my complexion was the despair of her life. Beauty of the fair blonde type was in vogue then, so that I was quite out of fashion. It was thought that if one was dark one had a wicked temper."
[Footnote 2: The "k" is silent in this name. Elizabeth Knodle was the elder sister of Esther Van de Grift.]
In reality, Fanny, with her clear olive skin, her bright black eyes, her perfectly regular features, and mass of half-curling dark hair, was the prettiest in the family; but the dictates of fashion are imperious, so her mother put lotions on her face and her grandmother washed it with strong soap, saying: "She is that color by nature—God made her ugly." The little girl asked rather pathetically if they would not change her name to Lily, to which her mother replied: "You are a little tiger lily!" In after years in her many gardens in different parts of the world there were always tiger lilies growing. She was a high-spirited, daring creature, a little flashing firefly of a child, eagerly seeking for adventure, that might have brought upon her frequent punishment were it not that her parents held exceedingly liberal views in such matters. About this she says:
"Henry Ward Beecher and my father were great friends, and used to discuss very earnestly the proper method of bringing up children. At that time it was the custom to be extremely severe with youth, and such axioms as 'spare the rod and spoil the child,' 'to be seen and not heard,' were popular; so that the views held by Mr. Beecher and my father were decidedly modern. They argued that if a child was bad by nature it would grow up bad, and that if it was good it would grow up good, and that it was best not to interfere with the development of children's characters, but to allow them to have their own way."
As Esther Van de Grift limited her corrections of her children to an occasional mild remonstrance, they worked out their own individualities with little interference. Fanny was what the children called a "tomboy," and always preferred the boys' sports, the more daring the better. She roamed the woods with her cousin Tom Van de Grift, and the two kindred wild spirits climbed trees, forded streams up to their necks, did everything, in fact, that the most adventurous boy could think of. School was a secondary affair then, and, except for drawing and painting, in which she was thought to have a remarkable talent, Fanny paid little attention to her studies.
When she was a little girl she was caught in the wave of a great temperance revival which was sweeping over the country, and, in her enthusiasm to aid in the work, she produced two drawings that caused a sensation. One, representing a rickety house with broken windows, a crooked weed-grown path leading up to a gate fallen off the hinges, and a fence with half the pickets off, she labelled "The Drunkard's Home." Then she drew a companion picture of a neat farmhouse with a straight path, and fence and gate all in apple-pie order, which she called "The Reformed Drunkard's Home." These two drawings she presented at a public meeting to Doctor Thompson, the leader of the movement. Fifty years afterwards she met Mrs. Thompson, who said she still had the pictures and thought them "very beautiful."
In spite of her indifference to study she was very precocious, and learned to read at what was considered by her parents' friends as an objectionably early age. Her father was very proud of the accomplishments of his little daughter, and liked to show her off before his friends, who, to speak the truth, looked with extreme disfavour upon the performance. Once Mr. Page Chapman, editor of a newspaper, put her through an examination on some subjects about which she had been reading in Familiar Science, a work arranged in the form of questions and answers. He asked: "What is the shape of the world?" "Round," she replied. "Then why don't we fall off?" he asked, and she answered: "Because of the attraction of gravitation." "This is awful," he said, in horror at such precocity.
Her father had a taste for verse, and often when walking with his children would recite a favourite poem, more, evidently, for his own amusement than theirs. Of this Fanny writes: "He used to declaim so often, in a loud, solemn voice, 'My name is Norval—on the Grampian Hills my father feeds his flocks,' that I naturally received the impression that these flocks and hills were part of my paternal grandfather's estate. Years afterwards when I was travelling in Scotland and asked the name of some hills I saw in the distance, I felt a mental shock when told they were the Grampian Hills."
As I have said before, there was no discipline in the Van de Grift household, and though the neighbours predicted dire results from such a method of bringing up a family, one result, at least, was that every one of Jacob Van de Grift's children adored him, and none more whole-heartedly than his eldest born. She writes of him:
"My father was a splendid horseman and excelled in all athletic things. He had such immense shoulders and such a deep chest, though his hands and feet were remarkably small. I can remember when he and I would go out to a vacant lot that he owned near Indianapolis and I would sit on the fence and watch him ride and perform circus tricks on horseback, riding around in a circle. Though his hands were so small and fair, with rosy palms and delicately pointed fingers, they were strong hands and capable, for they fashioned the cradle my mother rocked me in, and the chest of drawers made of maple-wood stained to imitate mahogany, where she stored my baby linen with those old-fashioned herbs, ambrosia and sweet basil. Years ago the cradle was passed on to a neighbor who needed it more than we, but the chest of drawers is still in use, a sound and very serviceable piece of furniture, good for several generations more. It was an eventful day in my childhood when, perched on a high chair, I was allowed to explore the mysteries of the top drawer and hold in my own hands the trinkets, ear-rings, brooches, and fine laces worn by my mother in her youth, but now laid aside as useless in this new, strange, and busy life of the backwoods. There, too, were pieces of my maternal grandmother's (Kitty Weaver's) gowns, satin that shimmered and changed from purple to gold, 'stiff enough,' as my mother said, 'to stand alone,' and my great-grandfather Miller's tortoise-shell snuff-box containing a tonquin bean that had not yet lost its peculiar fragrance.
"While I gazed reverently on these treasures, the tale of Kitty Weaver's death, which I already knew by heart, was told me once again. She was a beauty and loved gaiety, and got her death by going to a ball in thin slippers. I supposed, in my childish ignorance, that this radiant creature went about all day long in shining silks that stood alone, and never by any chance wore other than red satin slippers. My paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Miller, sniffed a little at my enthusiasm, and averred that she, too, in her time, had worn silks that stood alone and slippers of a much smaller size than those of Kitty Weaver. But when I looked at my grandmother, with her high hooked nose, her large black-browed blue eyes, as keen as swords, the haughty outline of her curved lips, her massive shoulders and deep chest, her domineering expression, and listened to her imperious voice, doubts assailed me. I could believe that she had led an army of amazons in cuirass and buckler, but my imagination refused to picture her in a silken train smiling at gallants from behind her fan; and surely, I thought, no one in the whole world ever went tripping to a ball in such strange and monstrous headgear as she wore. Yet she had been a notable beauty in her day, and even in her old age was still something of a coquette.
"It was sometimes my privilege to sleep with my grandmother, and I felt it to be a great one, for she was the best teller of stories I ever heard. Her religion was of the most terrible kind—the old-fashioned Presbyterianism which taught that hell was paved with infants' souls, and such horrors. She always said, when she heard of the death of a young child, that the chances were it would become a little angel, which it would not have done if it had lived to be a little older. I was shocked to hear my mother say she preferred having her children little living devils rather than dead angels. After prayers, all about hell and damnation, which she said aloud, I was put to bed against the wall. The bedstead, a big mahogany four-poster, had to be mounted like an omnibus. That, and the feather bed, and the mattress stuffed with the 'best curled hair,' were presents sent to my father from Philadelphia, and were a great source of pride to me, especially the mattress, which I believed to be stuffed with beautiful human curls.
"From my nest in the feather bed I watched my grandmother disrobe with growing terror. First she unpinned and folded away a white kerchief she always wore primly crossed over her bosom. Then she removed a white lace cap that was tied under her chin with ribbons; then she took off what I supposed to be a portion of her scalp, but now know was a 'false front.' This was bad enough, but there was worse to come; there still remained a black silk skull cap that covered the thick white hair worn cropped closely to her head. When she took off this cap she seemed to stand before me as some strange and terrible man, so at this point I always covered my head with the bedclothes until the light was extinguished.
"After getting into bed, my grandmother, who told every incident as dramatically as though she had participated in it herself, related appalling stories about witches, death, apparitions, and the Inquisition. These stories made such a powerful impression on me that it is no wonder that I remember them after sixty years. Though my terror of my grandmother in this guise was excessive, I do not think I should have liked the stories, generally grim and tragic, so well in a different setting.
"Aunt Knodle was very neat and orderly, high-tempered and somewhat domineering, but possessing a singular charm. Children liked to go to her house even though they were made to be on their best behavior while they were there. Everything in her house was in what we would call good taste to-day. She had beautiful old china, fine silver, and good furniture, everything rich and dark. The house was a long rambling cottage, with a turn in it to match the irregular shape of the lot. It had many gables and dormer windows, and the whole was covered with creeping roses, and there was a faint sweet smell about it that I think I would know now. The master of this delightful house, Adam Knodle, was as near a saint on earth as a man can be; he was kind to everybody and everything. He was extremely absent-minded, and his wife liked to tell how he once killed a chicken for the family dinner and threw away the chicken and brought in the head.
"My aunt was an ardent lover of animals, and abhorred cruelty to them in any form. She had a dog named Ponto, an ugly ill-tempered little black dog of no pedigree whatever, who ruled as king in that house. He was accustomed to lie on a silk cushion in the window commanding the best view. My aunt used to sit at one of the windows—not Ponto's, I can tell you—ready, like Dickens's heroine, Betsy Trotwood, to pounce out upon passing travellers. Sometimes, when she thought a horse was being driven too fast, she rushed out and seized it by the bridle while she read its driver a severe lecture."
As the years passed the young girl's restless energies found other outlets. At school she was a brilliant but not an industrious pupil. It was in composition that she shone especially, and one of her schoolmates says of her: "She always wrote her compositions in such an attractive way, weaving them into a story, so that the children were eager to hear them."
While attending high school she became fired with the idea of writing a book in conjunction with a friend, a beautiful Southern girl named Lucy McCrae. The writing was done secretly, after school hours, on the steps of the schoolhouse, while a third friend, Ella Hale, kept guard, for the whole thing was to be a profound secret until the world should receive it as the wonder of the age. This great work was brought to a sudden end by the illness of Lucy McCrae.
[Footnote 3: Now Mrs. Thaddeus Up de Graff, of Elmira, New York.]
At this time the Van de Grift family were living in a house on Illinois Street. This house had a cellar door at the back. To quote the words of her schoolmate, Ella Hale: "At this cellar door the children used to gather to hear fairy and ghost stories. Fanny was always the central figure, because she was the only one who could tell really interesting stories. These gatherings always took place after supper, and as the shadows grew darker and darker during the recital of a particularly thrilling ghost story, I clearly remember the fearful glances toward the dark corners and the crowding closer together of the little ones, till it sometimes resulted in a landslide, and we would find ourselves in a heap on the ground at the foot of the slanting door, our laughter quickly dispelling all our fears."
Among Fanny's playmates there was a dark, handsome boy, with large, melancholy eyes, named George Marshall, who was not only exceedingly attractive in looks but had many other graces. He was a born artist, and could dance, and act, and sing like an angel; and, best of all, he was as good as he was charming. These two were close companions in all sorts of strenuous sports, and nothing annoyed them more than to have little teasing Josephine, Fanny's younger sister, trailing after them and breaking up their games. George finally announced that he would play no more unless Josephine could be kept away. But boys change, and when he grew up he married Josephine.
All too soon came the time when these days of careless childish joys were brought to a close. A new era opened, and romance, which budded early in that time and place, began to unfold its first tender leaves. Various youths of the town, attracted by the piquant prettiness and sparkling vivacity of the eldest daughter, began to haunt the Van de Grift house. In the sentimental fashion of the day, these sighing swains carved her name on the trees, and so wide was the circle of her fascination that there was scarcely a tree in the place that did not bear somewhere on its long-suffering trunk the name or initials of Fanny Van de Grift. None of these suitors, however, made any impression on the object of their attentions, who was so much of a child that she was walking on stilts in the garden when Samuel Osbourne first called at the house. He was an engaging youth, a Kentuckian by birth, with all the suavity and charm of the Southerner. Behind him lay a truly romantic ancestry, for, through John Stewart, who was stolen and brought up by the Indians, and never knew his parentage, he was a collateral descendant of Daniel Boone.
[Footnote 4: Stewart, who acquired by his life among the Indians a thorough knowledge of the trails of the country, became a guide, and it was he that led Boone on the expedition to explore Kentucky. The connection between them became even closer when he married Boone's youngest sister, Hannah. At the State capitol there is a picture of him in the striking costume of the hunter and trapper, pointing out to Boone the lovely land of Kentucky.]
On December 4, 1857, in a house on Michigan Street, which had already been prepared and furnished for their occupancy, Samuel Osbourne, aged twenty, and Fanny Van de Grift, aged seventeen, were united in marriage. All the notables of the town, including Governor Willard, to whom young Osbourne was private secretary, and the entire staff of State officers, attended. The young bride looked charming in a handsome gown of heavy white satin, of the kind that "could stand alone," of the "block" pattern then in vogue, and made in the fashion of the day, with full long-trained skirt and tight low-necked bodice trimmed with a rich lace bertha. Her hair was worn in curls, fastened back from the face on each side. The groom, who is seldom mentioned in these affairs, deserves a word or two, for he made a gallant figure in a blue coat with brass buttons, flowered waistcoat, fawn-coloured trousers, strapped under varnished boots, and carrying a bell-topped white beaver hat. One who was a guest at the wedding says, "They looked like two children," as indeed they were. It was a boy-and-girl marriage of the kind people entered into then with pioneer fearlessness, to turn out well or ill, as fate decreed.
The young couple took up their residence in the same house in which they were married, and before the young husband was twenty-one years old their first child, Isobel, was born. The little mother was so small and young-looking that once when she was on a railroad-train with her infant an old gentleman, looking at her with some concern, asked: "Sissy, where is the baby's mother?"
It was now that the great black storm-cloud which had been hovering over the nation for years broke in all its fury upon this border State. The Osbournes, together with nearly all their friends and relatives, cast in their lot with the North, and young Osbourne left his family and went to the war as captain in the army.
We must now return to the dark, handsome boy, George Marshall, once the favourite playmate and now the brother-in-law of Fanny Van de Grift. He, too, joined the colours, in command of a company of Zouaves whom he had himself gathered and trained. After a time spent in active service on some of the hardest fought battle-fields of the Civil War, the hardships and exposure of the life told upon a constitution never at any time robust, and he returned to his young wife a victim of tuberculosis. The doctors said his only chance was to get to the milder climate of California, and at the close of the war Samuel Osbourne, who was his devoted friend, gave up position and prospects to accompany him thither. The two young men, leaving their families behind them, took ship at New York for Panama; but the Angel of Death sailed with them, and Captain Marshall breathed his last while crossing the Isthmus.
Osbourne decided to go on to California, and on his arrival there was so pleased with the country that he wrote to his wife to sell her property at once and follow him. Bidding a long farewell to the loving parents who had up to that time stood between her and every trouble, Fanny Osbourne, at an age when most young women are enjoying the care-free life of irresponsible girlhood, took her small daughter Isobel and set forth into a new and strange world.
Crossing the Isthmus by the crookedest railroad ever seen, she stopped at Panama to visit the burial-place of the young soldier, George Marshall, her childhood playmate, beloved friend, and brother-in-law, and over that lonely grave the child for the first time saw her girlish mother shed tears.
ON THE PACIFIC SLOPE.
When at last the long voyage up the Western coast came to an end and the ship sailed into the broad bay of San Francisco, which lay serene and beautiful under the shadow of its towering guardian, Mount Tamalpais, Fanny Osbourne hung over the rail and surveyed the scene with eager interest. Yet it is altogether unlikely that any realization came to her then that the lively seaport town that lay before her was to become to her that magic thing we call "home," for men still regarded California as a place to "make their pile" in and then shake its dust from their feet. Her stay here was very brief, for her husband had gone at once to Nevada in the hope of getting a foothold in the silver-mines, which were then "booming," and she immediately followed him.
From the level green corn-fields of Indiana, the land of her birth, to the grey sage-brush of the desert and the naked mountains of Nevada was a long step, but regrets were lost in the absorbing interest of the new life.
In a canyon high up in the Toyabee Range, about six miles from Reese River, lay the new mining camp of Austin, then only about a year old. Reese River, though in summer it dries up in places so that its bed is only a series of shallow pools, is nevertheless a most picturesque stream, and Austin is surrounded by mountain scenery of the stupendous, awe-inspiring sort.
In a little cabin on a mountainside Fanny Osbourne took up her new life amidst these strange surroundings, which she found most interesting and exciting. The men, who were generally away from the camp during the day, working in the mines, were all adventurers—young, bold men—and though they wore rough clothes, were nearly all college bred. In Austin and its vicinity there were but six women, and when it was decided to give a party at another camp miles away, a thorough scouring of the whole surrounding country produced just seven of the fair sex. These ladies came in a sleigh, made of a large packing-box put on runners, to beg the newcomer, Mrs. Osbourne, to join them in this festivity. Having some pretty clothes she had brought with her, she hastily dressed by the aid of a shining tin pan which one of the women held up for her, there being no such thing as a mirror in the entire camp. Years afterwards, when Mrs. Osbourne was in Paris, she read in the papers of this woman as having taken the whole first floor of the Splendide Hotel, which led her to remark: "I wonder if she remembers when she held the tin pan for me to do my hair!" At the party there were fifty men and seven women, and no woman danced twice with the same man. Among the men was a clergyman, who made himself very agreeable to Mrs. Osbourne. She asked why she had never heard of him before, and he replied: "You have heard of me, I am sure, but not by my real name. They call me 'Squinting Jesus'!"
Her pioneer blood now began to show itself in all kinds of inventions with which she mitigated the discomforts of the raw mining camp. As vegetables were exceedingly scarce, the diet of the miners consisted almost exclusively of meat, and Mrs. Osbourne made a great hit by her ingenuity in devising variations of this monotonous fare. She learned how to cook beef in fifteen different ways. Her great achievement, however, was in making imitation honey, to eat with griddle-cakes, out of boiled sugar with a lump of alum in it.
All about in the mountains there were Indians, belonging to the Paiute tribe, and between 1849 and 1882 there was constant trouble with them. They were a better-looking and more spirited race than the "Diggers" of California, and consequently more disposed to resent the frequent outrages put upon them by irresponsible men among the whites. As an instance, in 1861 some white men stole horses from the Indians, who then rose up in retaliation, and all the whites, the innocent as well as the guilty, were compelled to unite for defense, a large number losing their lives in the subsequent fight.
In the mornings, while Mrs. Osbourne was doing her housework in the little cabin on the hillside, Indians would gather outside and press their faces against the window-panes, their eyes following her about the room. There were blinds, but she was afraid to give offense by pulling them down. The absence of the Indians was sometimes even more alarming than their presence, and once when it was noticed that none of them had been seen about the camp for several days, the residents knew that trouble threatened. One night signal fires blazed on the distant mountain tops, and a thrill of fear ran through the little community. The women and children were gathered in one cabin and made to lie on the floor and keep quiet. Even the smallest ones must have felt the danger, for not a whimper escaped them. One of them was a baby called Aurora. Little Isobel Osbourne thought she was called "Roarer" because she bawled all the time, but even "Roarer" was quiet that night.
Among the Austin Indians there was a little boy who named his pony "Fanny." "Did you name it for me?" my sister asked. He nodded his head. "Why?" she asked, and he said it was because the pony had such little feet.
Near the Osbourne cabin lived a miner named Johnny Crakroft. Mrs. Osbourne never saw him, for he was too shy to speak to a woman, but he left offerings on her door-step or tied to the knob. Johnny had killed a man in Virginia City, not an unusual occurrence in those days, but the circumstances seem to have been such that he did not dare go back there. Yet, with one of those strange contrasts so common in the life of the mines, he was a kind-hearted, domestic soul, and on baking days he made little dogs and cats and elephants out of sweetened dough, with currants for eyes, for his little pal, Isobel Osbourne. One day he bestowed upon the child the rather incongruous present of a bottle of quicksilver and a bowie-knife, which she proudly carried home.
Other neighbours in a cabin on the mountainside were two young Englishmen, mere boys of twenty or thereabout, named John Lloyd and Tom Reid. Wishing to celebrate the Queen's birthday in true British fashion, they went to Mrs. Osbourne to learn how to concoct a plum pudding. They learned, only the string broke and the pudding had to be served in soup-plates.
Whatever else the life and the society may have been, they were never dull or tame. On one occasion, while crossing the desert in a stage-coach, Mrs. Osbourne met the man said to be the original of Bret Harte's Colonel Starbottle. When the coach stopped at a little station, this gentleman politely asked his pretty fellow passenger what he could bring her. He was so flowery and pompous that as a little joke she asked for strawberries, thinking them the most impossible thing to be found at the forlorn little place. To her amazement he actually brought her the berries.
On another desert trip she was allowed, as a special favour, to sit on the front seat, between the driver and the express messenger. There had been, not long before, a number of hold-ups by "road agents," and when the stage came to suspicious-looking turns in the road the messenger made her put her head down on her knees while he laid his gun across her back. She could have gone inside with the other women, of course, but it was like her to prefer the seat with the driver, with its risk and its adventure.
Later the Osbournes moved to Virginia City, where the life, while not quite so primitive as at Austin, was still highly flavoured with all the spice of a wild mining town. Gambling went on night and day, and the killing of men over the games still happened often enough. In the diary of a pioneer of that time, Samuel Orr, of Alameda, who later married one of Mrs. Osbourne's sisters, Cora Van de Grift, I find this entry: "This is the hardest place I ever struck. I saw two men killed to-day in a gambling fight." Men engaged at their work or passing along the streets were quite often compelled to duck and dodge to escape sudden fusillades of bullets. There was little regard for the law, and "killings" seldom received legal punishment.
Virginia City, despite its desolate environment of grey, naked mountains and deep, narrow ravines, had its own rugged charm. The air was so crystal-pure that at times one could see as far as one hundred and eighty miles from its lofty seat on the skirts of Mount Davidson. Far to the west and south stretched a wonderful panorama of multicoloured and snow-capped mountains, and in the gap between lay the desert and a fringe of green to mark the course of the Carson River. The town, which lay immediately over the famous Comstock Lode, was built on ground with such a pitch that what was the second story of a house in front became the first in the back. Every winter snow falls to a depth of several feet in the town, and on the summit of Mount Davidson it never melts. At that time Virginia City was described as "a lively place, wherein all kinds of industry as well as vice flourished."
After their arrival here Samuel Osbourne bought the Mills, Post, and White mine, and in the interval of waiting for results worked, like the resourceful American that he was, at various employments to earn a living for himself and his family. For a time he was clerk of the Justice's Court in Virginia City.
It was even so early as in these Nevada mining days that the grey cloud which was to darken some of the best years of her life first appeared above the young wife's horizon, for it was there that the first foreboding came to her that her marriage was to be a failure. The wild, free life of the West had carried her young and impressionable husband off his feet, and the painful suspicion now came to her that she did not reign alone in his heart. As time passed this trouble went from bad to worse, but no more need be said of it at this point except to make it clear that years before her meeting with the true love of her heart, Robert Louis Stevenson, the disagreements which finally resulted in the shattering of her first romance had already begun.
In 1866, lured by reports of rich strikes in Montana, Osbourne set off on a prospecting tour to the Coeur d'Alene Mountains, leaving his wife and child in Virginia City. While in Montana he met another prospector, Samuel Orr (who afterwards became his brother-in-law), and the two joined forces, becoming, in miners' phrase, "pardners."
Led on by the ever-fleeing hope of the great "strike" that might lie just ahead, the two men penetrated so far into the depths of this rugged mountain country that they were for some time out of the reach of mails, causing their friends to finally give them up as dead. Running out of funds, they were obliged to take work at what they could get, and Osbourne sold tickets in a theatre at Helena, Montana, and later took a job in a sawmill at Bear Gulch. At one place he and another man bought up all the coffee to be had, and, after grinding it up, sold it in small lots at an advanced price.
Failing in their quest for the elusive treasure, Osbourne and Orr, not being able to cash the cheques with which they were paid for their work, were at last compelled to borrow the money with which to make their way back to civilization and their families.
About this time the silver-mining boom in Nevada began to ebb, and there was an exodus of men and women, mostly discouraged and "broke," to San Francisco. As Mrs. Osbourne had arranged to meet her husband in that city, she decided to join some of her friends in their removal to the coast, and began to make preparations for the long, hard journey. In those days little girls wore very short dresses, with several white petticoats, like ballet dancers, and long white stockings. This dress seemed peculiarly unsuitable for the dusty stage trip across the desert, and Mrs. Osbourne, meeting the situation with her usual common sense, bought a boy's suit and dressed her little girl in it. The passengers called her "Billy," and a sensation was created among them when, after arrival at the Occidental Hotel in the bustling city of San Francisco, the child appeared in her own little ballet costume.
At this date, 1866, San Francisco was no longer a mere resting-place for the birds of passage on their way to the mines, but had become a settled town, with an air of permanency and solidity. It was then compactly built, for it was only the advent years later of the cable-cars that enabled it to spread out over its many hills. The glamour of the days of the first mad rush for gold, with their feverish alternations of mounting hope and black despair, was gone, but in its stead had come safety and comfort, and there were few places in the world where one could live more agreeably, or even more luxuriously, than in San Francisco in the '60's.
Here word was brought that Osbourne had been killed by the Indians, and life began to bear heavily upon the young wife and mother, stranded without means in a strange city. She put on widow's weeds and looked about for employment with which to eke out her fast diminishing store. When she was a little girl she had learned to do fine sewing on the ruffles for her father's shirts, and had always made her own and her child's dresses. This talent, which proved exceedingly useful at various times in her life, now served her in good stead. She secured a situation as fitter in a dressmaking establishment, where, on account of her foreign looks, she was thought to be French.
Friends were not lacking, for many looked with pity upon the supposed widow struggling to keep her head above water in a land so far from her own home and family. During her absence at work she left the child in the care of the kind-hearted landlady of the boarding-house and her young son, Michael, still gratefully remembered as "Mackerel" by Isobel. In the same boarding-house John Lloyd, the young Englishman of the Reese River days, had also established himself. On Sundays, no doubt to give the tired mother a long rest, he would take little Bel to the beach out by old Fort Point, where he made swords for her out of driftwood, played at Jack the Giant-Killer, and told stories about Mr. and Mrs. Sea-Gull and what they said to each other. He even borrowed fairy-tale books from the public library in order to learn stories to tell his little friend on these Sunday outings. There came a birthday, with very little to make it gay, but the kind-hearted young man bought a small jointed doll with his meagre earnings, and the mother made a set of beautiful clothes for it out of bits of bright-coloured silks she had saved from her sewing. This, with a little table whittled out of a cigar-box and a ten-cent set of dishes, made a glorious day for the happy child. This friendship was maintained in later years, and when the once poor clerk became a bank president, Fanny Stevenson put her money in his bank.
So life went on for the mother and child until one eventful day, when a tall, handsome man in high boots and a wide hat suddenly appeared at the door, and crying out, "Is this my little girl?" caught her up in his arms. As one risen from the dead, the husband and father had returned, and, to the child's amazement, they immediately moved into what seemed to her a very fine house, and she had a wax doll for Christmas.
For a few succeeding years happiness seemed to have returned to dwell with the little family. Osbourne soon made his way in the busy city and all went well. They lived in San Francisco for several years. There a son was born to them, and they named him Lloyd, after their good friend, John Lloyd, now a successful lawyer.
Those peaceful days were brought to an end when Mrs. Osbourne discovered that her husband had again betrayed her, and she returned to her father's house in Indiana. After nearly a year she yielded to entreaties and promises of reform, and again journeyed to California, taking Cora Van de Grift, one of her younger sisters, with her.
A little while after their return to San Francisco, in 1869, Osbourne bought a house and lot for his family in East Oakland, then known as Brooklyn, at the corner of Eleventh Avenue and East 18th Street. Settled under their own rooftree in the golden land of California, the family for a time were measurably happy. Mrs. Osbourne, who is described as being then "a young and slender woman, wearing her hair in two long braids down her back," was evidently making a strong effort to forget past differences and to make home a pleasant place for her children. Though she cared little for society in the general sense of the word, yet she contrived to gather about her in East Oakland a little intimate circle of clever, talented, and agreeable people. Among them were Judge Timothy Rearden, a well-known attorney and litterateur of San Francisco; Virgil Williams, director of the San Francisco School of Design, and his wife; Yelland, Bush, and other distinguished artists; the musician Oscar Weil, and many more whose names do not now come to mind.
She built a studio where she painted, had a dark room where she took photographs—and photography in those days of "wet plates" was a mysterious and unheard-of accomplishment for an amateur; then there was a rifle-range where she set up a target, and, occasionally, when it was the cook's day out, she would make wonderful dishes, while odd moments were filled in at a sewing-machine making pretty clothes. By this time she had become a famous cook, and often prepared dinners fit to set before a king. She little thought then that some day she would break bread with real kings, even though they were but Polynesian monarchs.
Of all her activities that from which she drew the purest joy was her gardening, for in this fortunate place, where sun and soil and balmy air all conspire to produce a paradise for flowers, "her Dutch blood began to come out," as she said, and she threw herself with ardour into the business of digging and pruning and planting. The little cottage was soon curtained with vines, and the whole place glowed with the many-coloured hues of gorgeous roses. There, too, the tawny golden bells of the tiger lily, her own particular flower, hung from their tall stalks. This was the first of the many wonderful gardens that were made to bloom under her skilful tending in various parts of the world.
The charming domestic picture of her life in this period can be given in no better way than by quoting the words of her daughter:
"At that time our fashionable neighbors gave 'parties' for their children. One night a fire broke out in a house where I had gone to a party. My mother was at home, sitting at her work, when she suddenly cried 'Something is the matter with Bel!' and rushing out, ran across ploughed fields, her slippers falling off, leaving her to run in stockings all the way. It was not until she was half-way there that she saw the smoke and realized the meaning of her intuition. When she found that I was all right and had been sent home she fainted and had to be carried home herself. She made my clothes herself, and I can remember to this day how pretty they were. I was very dark and of course ashamed of it, but she told me it was very nice to be different from other people, and dressed me in crisp yellow linen or pale blue, which made me look still darker, on the principle that Sarah Bernhardt followed in exaggerating her thinness when it was the fashion to have a rounded form. My mother told me to consider my dark skin a beauty, for she believed that if children had a good opinion of themselves they would never be self-conscious.
"All the other girls in my school had given parties and I begged to be allowed to give one too. Our little house was not very suitable for the purpose, but my mother put her wits to work. She fitted up the stable with a stage and seats, and persuaded a neighbor who played the cornet to act as 'band.' Then she taught a small group of us to act 'Villikens and his Dinah,' which she read aloud behind the scenes, and 'Bluebeard,' made into a little play. My paternal grandmother, a straight-backed, severe looking old lady, was then visiting us. How my mother managed it I don't know, but Grandma, who abhorred theatricals, was soon reading 'Villikens' for us to practice, and she even consented to appear as one of Bluebeard's departed wives. A sheet was hung up to represent a wall; the wives stood behind it and put their heads through holes that had been cut for the purpose; their hair was pulled up and tacked to imaginary nails, and very realistic pieces of red flannel arranged to represent gore. My grandmother was a truly awful sight when my mother had painted her face and made her up for the show. The party was a great success, and only the other day I met a woman who had been one of the guests and she still remembered it as one of the striking events of her childhood.
"My mother influenced me in those days in many ways that I shall never forget, especially in her hatred of anything that savored of snobbery. When I gave the party I placed the invitations in little pink envelopes and put them on the desks of my schoolmates. A neighbor's son who was poor and had to carry newspapers and peddle milk, sat next to me in school. Children are snobs by nature, and this boy was never asked to any of our parties. I consulted my mother as to what I should do about Danny, for he had been nice to me and I hated to leave him out. 'Of course you must invite him,' she said. 'But none of the other girls invited him to their parties,' said I. 'There is nothing against him, is there, except being poor?' 'Nothing at all,' I replied, and so I was directed to include him in the invitations. I shall never forget poor slighted Danny's radiant face when he saw there was a note for him. He came to the party dressed in new clothes from head to foot, and made such a success that after that he was always asked in 'our set.'
"My mother also taught me to be considerate of other people's feelings. My teacher once kept me in for slamming a door; I told my mother about it and admitted that I had slammed it purposely because my teacher was so cross. In the guise of an entertaining story, she told me how the teacher, a pretty young woman named Miss Miller, had come to teach a big class, a stranger, alone, and that perhaps she had a headache from having cried the night before from homesickness. In this way she harrowed my feelings to such an extent that I went to Miss Miller of my own accord and begged her pardon, and the poor girl wept and loved me, and thenceforth made life miserable for me among my schoolmates by acts of 'favoritism.'"
In the little rose-covered cottage in Oakland a second son, Hervey, was born to the Osbournes. He was an extraordinarily beautiful child, with the rare combination of large dark eyes and yellow curls, but there was an ethereal look about him that boded no long stay on this earthly sphere.
It was perhaps partly to fill a great void that she began to feel in her life that Mrs. Osbourne took up the study of art in the School of Design conducted by Virgil Williams in San Francisco. Mother and daughter studied there side by side. While there Mrs. Osbourne won the prize, a silver medal, for the best drawing. She seemed not to value it at the time, but after her death her daughter found it in a little box laid away in her jewel-case.
When the little yellow-haired boy was about four years old, the cloud which had menaced the happiness of the family for so long again descended upon them. For years Mrs. Osbourne had made earnest and conscientious efforts to avoid the disruption of her marital ties, plighted with such high hopes in the springtime of her girlhood, but her husband's infidelities had now become so open and flagrant that the situation was no longer bearable. Divorce was at that time a far more serious step than it is now, and, for the sake of her family, she hesitated long before taking it, but there is no doubt that she was deeply wounded and humiliated by this painful episode in her life, and, in 1875, partly to remove herself as far as possible from distressing associations, partly to give her daughter the advantage of instruction in foreign schools of art, she took her three children and set out for Europe. When she left California for this journey it is no exaggeration to say that every bond of affection that held her to Samuel Osbourne had been broken.
FRANCE, AND THE MEETING AT GREZ.
When they arrived on the other side, the Osbournes went directly to Antwerp, having decided to make a trial of that place first for their art studies. They landed at night in that most picturesque old city and took quarters at the Hotel du Bien-etre, a quaint little old bourgeois inn where you walked in through the kitchen—full of copper pots and pans. It was in the days before "improvements"—broad avenues, street-cars, and the like—had robbed the old town of much of its distinctive charm, when at the corners of the narrow, stone-paved streets shrines of the Virgin and Child might still be seen. The passing crowds—peasant women in elaborate lace caps and long cloaks, groups of soldiers, milk carts drawn by dogs—all were intensely interesting to the newcomers from America, for whom this was the first foreign experience. The evening of their arrival they hung fascinated from their windows, listening to the glorious chimes from the cathedral near by, and watching the changing spectacle below. There were little tables in the street where soldiers sat drinking, while maids in huge caps filled their flagons. Isobel remarked: "It is like a scene in an opera; all we need is music." At that moment a band at the corner struck up "La Fille de Madame Angot," and the illusion was complete.
The Hotel du Bien-etre was kept by the Gerhardts, a delightful family of father, mother, and eleven children. It was a happy time in Antwerp for the Osbourne children, for this large family of young people provided them with pleasant companionship.
But if the Osbourne children had a happy time in Antwerp, it was far otherwise with their mother, for she was alone with her family in a foreign land and had little money, and the responsibility weighed heavily upon her, her anxiety being further increased by signs of ill-health in her youngest child, Hervey. In this state of mind she was deeply touched by the warm-hearted kindness of the Gerhardts, which they exhibited in a thousand ways. One day the newspapers published an account of the failure of a bank in San Francisco, and, knowing that his guests came from that city, Papa Gerhardt was troubled lest they might suffer some pecuniary distress from the failure. Out of the fulness of his good heart he said to Mrs. Osbourne: "Do not be anxious; it does not matter if you have lost your money; you can stay with Papa Gerhardt." Fortunately, the bank failure did not affect her in any way, but the generosity of these good people in her lonely situation went straight to her heart, and to the end of her days one only had to be a Belgian to call forth her help and sympathy.
Finding it necessary to economize, she took a house, a queer little stone building with a projecting roof, containing four small rooms, one on top of the other. The rooms were so tiny that when the big front door stood ajar it opened up almost all the little apartment dignified by the name of "salon." The entire Gerhardt family took a hand in getting them settled, bringing little gifts—crocheted mats, bouquets of artificial flowers, and two pictures, bright-coloured chromos of "Morning" and "Night," representing two little children, awake and asleep. Mrs. Osbourne loyally kept these pictures for years, hanging them upon her wall in tender and grateful memory of the Gerhardts.
After three months' stay in Antwerp, finding it to be a difficult place for women to study art, and having been told of a good and cheap school in Paris, she decided to go there. When they parted, with many tears, from their dear Belgian friends, Mrs. Osbourne, with a swelling heart, tried to thank Papa Gerhardt for his kindness to her and her children, but he said he had a large family who would some day have to go out into the world, and he had treated the Americans as he hoped his own would be treated.
From Antwerp they went to Paris, and Fanny and her daughter entered the Julien School of Art on the Passage des Panorama, where they spent a very busy time working at their drawings under the instruction of Monsieur Tony Fleury. The older of the two boys, Lloyd, was placed in a French school, and he still remembers that in any quarrel with the boys he was called "Prussian" as a dire insult. He did not know what it meant, but nevertheless resented it promptly.
The family lived very plainly, their meals often consisting of smoked herring and brown bread; yet these straitened circumstances did not prevent Mrs. Osbourne from taking pity on poor and homesick young students, fellow countrymen, whom she met at the school, and, when funds allowed, she invited them to eat Dutch-American dishes prepared by her own hands.
During these Paris days a heavy sorrow fell upon the family. The beautiful golden-haired boy, Hervey, then about five years old, fell ill, and after lingering for some time, passed away, and was buried in an exile's grave at St. Germain. Though the mother bore even this heart-crushing blow with outward fortitude, the memory of it dwelt always in an inner chamber of her heart. In a letter of sympathy written by her years afterwards to the Graham Balfours, on hearing of the death of one of their children, she says: "My Hervey would have been a man of forty now had he lived, and yet I am grieving and longing for my little child as though he had just gone. Time doesn't always heal wounds as we are told it does."
[Footnote 5: Now Sir Graham and Lady Balfour. Sir Graham is a cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson, and his biographer.]
After this sad event the bereaved mother was so listless and broken in health that the doctor advised a change to some quiet country place, where she could get the benefit of outdoor life and better air than in the stuffy little Paris apartment. A casual acquaintance, Mr. Pardessus, an American sculptor whom they had met at the art school, told them about Grez, a little village in Fontainebleau Forest on the River Loing, where there was a ruined castle, a picturesque old inn, and a lovely garden on the river-bank. Above all, it was modest in price and so retired that it was almost unknown to ordinary travellers. This alluring description was not to be resisted, and Mrs. Osbourne, with her little family, now sadly bereaved, left for the place which was to play so momentous a part in her future.
When they reached Grez they found there only one visitor—Mr. Walter Palmer, then a young student, who was painting in the garden. It was a quiet, restful place, and Mrs. Osbourne began to recover the tone of her health and spirits in its peaceful atmosphere.
Previous to this time women artists had been practically unknown in the colonies about Fontainebleau, and the men who haunted these places were disposed to resent the coming of any of the other sex. The news that an American lady and her two children had arrived at Grez spread consternation among them, and they sent a scout, Mr. R. A. M. Stevenson, ahead to look over the situation and report. The choice of scout was scarcely a wise one, for "Bob" Stevenson, as he was known to his friends, instantly fell a victim to the attractions of the strangers—who, by the way, were utterly unconscious that they were regarded as intruders—and so he stayed on from day to day. After waiting some time for the return of the faithless emissary, another, Sir Walter Simpson, was sent, but he, too, failed to return. Then Robert Louis Stevenson set out to look into the mystery. His coming had been led up to like a stage entrance, for first his cousin had told wonderful stories of adventures in which Louis was always the hero—what Louis did, what Louis said—until the two Americans, mother and daughter, began to get interested in this fascinating person; and then came Sir Walter, with more stories of Louis—stories that are now well known through An Inland Voyage.
[Footnote 6: Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson, cousin of Robert Louis.]
One evening in the summer of 1876 the little party of guests at the old inn sat at dinner about the long table in the centre of the salle-a-manger with the painted panels—handiwork of artists who had stopped there at various times. It was a soft, sweet evening, and the doors and windows were open; dusk drew near, and the lamps had just been lit. Suddenly a young man approached from the outside. It was Robert Louis Stevenson, who afterwards admitted that he had fallen in love with his wife at first sight when he saw her in the lamplight through the open window.
The autumn months passed swiftly by after this meeting in an ideal existence of work and play. Mrs. Osbourne worked industriously at her painting, and as she sat at her easel the acquaintance between her and the young Scotchman rapidly flowered into a full and sympathetic understanding. Everything about this American family, speaking as it did of a land of new and strange customs and habits of thought, appealed strongly to the ardent young man. He was a devoted admirer of Walt Whitman, and thought he knew America. The daughter, Isobel, described by one of the members of the colony at Grez as "a bewitching young girl of seventeen, with eyes so large as to be out of drawing," amazed and delighted him by the piquancy of the contrast between her and the young women he had previously known. In a girlish description given in one of her letters home, written at the time, she says:
[Footnote 7: Mr. Birge Harrison, in the Century Magazine, December, 1916.]
"There is a young Scotchman here, a Mr. Stevenson, who looks at me as though I were a natural curiosity. He never saw a real American girl before, and he says I act and talk as though I came out of a book—I mean an American book. He says that when he first met Bloomer he came up to him and said in his western way: 'These parts don't seem much settled, hey?' He laughed for an hour at the idea of such an old place not being much settled. He is such a nice looking ugly man, and I would rather listen to him talk than read the most interesting book I ever saw. We sit in the little green arbor after dinner drinking coffee and talking till late at night. Mama is ever so much better and is getting prettier every day."
[Footnote 8: An American artist.]
Again she writes:
"Yesterday I canoed to Nemours in Louis Stevenson's Rob Roy. We generally congregate down in the garden by the big tree after dinner. Mama swings in the hammock, looking as pretty as possible, and we all form a group around her on the grass, Louis and Bob Stevenson babbling about boats, while Simpson, seated near by, fans himself with a large white fan."
The little party in the old inn, "entirely surrounded by peasants," as Bob Stevenson said, devised all sorts of sports, for which the river afforded many opportunities. There was a huge old boat, a double canoe, lying at the water's edge; this they put on rollers, and after the entire party had climbed into it, persuaded the passing peasants to come and push it off the bank, like a sort of "shoot the chutes." Another game was to divide the canoes into bands, each under a captain, and engage in a contest, each side trying to tip over the enemy canoes. In all this hilarious fun Louis Stevenson was the leader.
In the old hall they had great times, with dances, now and then a performance by strolling players, and once a masquerade given by the guests of the inn themselves, in which they dressed as gods and goddesses in sheets and wreaths. Once when a couple of wandering singers arrived after a disappointing season, the artists contributed a purse and invited them to spend a week and rest. These people told Stevenson the story he made into Providence and the Guitar, and the money which he received for it he sent to them afterwards to help pay for the education of their little girl in Paris.
But of all that went on at Grez the talks are remembered as the best, for, notwithstanding their merry fooling in their idle hours, there were brilliant minds among the company, and the conversation sparkled with rare conceits.
Three summers the Osbournes returned to spend at Grez, lingering on the last time until the snow came. A short visit was made to Barbizon, too, and once when there the whole party had their silhouettes drawn on the walls of the dining-room. This was done by placing a lamp so that it threw a shadow of the face in profile on the wall, then outlining the shadow and filling it in with black. Louis Stevenson wrote verses to them all. The place was repainted the next spring, which was to be regretted, for the walls were completely covered with the most interesting silhouettes and drawings by painters who later became famous, to say nothing of the verses made by Stevenson, which would now have been a priceless memorial of those youthful days.
Among the joyous coterie was the American painter Will H. Low, who writes thus of Fanny Osbourne in his Chronicle of Friendships:
"One evening at Grez we saw two new faces, mother and daughter, though in appearance more like sisters; the elder, slight, with delicately moulded features and vivid eyes gleaming from under a mass of dark hair; the younger of more robust type, in the first precocious bloom of womanhood."
Another of the company, Mr. Birge Harrison, writing in the Century Magazine of December, 1916, expresses his mature judgment of her as he knew her at the little French village:
"Among a few women who were doing serious work at this place was the lady, 'Trusty, dusky, vivid, and true,' to whom Robert Louis Stevenson inscribed the most beautiful love song of our time. Mrs. Osbourne could not have been at that time more than thirty-five years of age—a grave and remarkable type of womanhood, with eyes of a depth and sombre beauty that I have never seen equalled—eyes, nevertheless, that upon occasion could sparkle with humor and brim over with laughter. Yet upon the whole Mrs. Osbourne impressed me as first of all a woman of profound character and serious judgment, who could, if occasion called, have been the leader in some great movement. But she belonged to the quattrocento rather than to the nineteenth century. Had she been born a Medici, she would have held rank as one of the remarkable women of all time. That she was a woman of intellectual attainments is proved by the fact that she was already a magazine writer of recognized ability, and that at the moment when Stevenson first came into her life she was making a living for herself and her two children with her pen. But this, after all, is a more or less ordinary accomplishment, and Mrs. Osbourne was in no sense ordinary. Indeed, she was gifted with a mysterious sort of over-intelligence, which is almost impossible to describe, but which impressed itself upon every one who came within the radius of her influence. Napoleon had much of this; likewise his arch enemy, the great Duke of Wellington; and among women, Catherine of Russia and perhaps Elizabeth of England. She was therefore both physically and mentally the very antithesis of the gay, hilarious, open-minded and open-hearted Stevenson, and for that very reason perhaps the woman in all the world best fitted to be his life comrade and helpmate. At any rate we may well ask ourselves if anywhere else he would have found the kind of understanding and devotion which she gave him from the day of their first meeting at Grez until the day of his death in far-away Samoa; if anywhere else there was a woman of equal attainments who would willingly, nay gladly, throw aside all of the pleasures and comforts of civilization to live among savages, and the still rougher whites of the South Pacific, in order that her husband might have just a little more oxygen for his failing lungs, a little more chance for a respite and an extension of his shortening years? Probably no one ever better deserved than she the noble tribute of verse which her husband gave her, and from which I have quoted the opening line."
In 1878 the Osbournes returned to America, travelling by way of Queenstown, where, for the sake of stepping on Irish soil, they went ashore for a few hours and took a ride in a real jaunting-car, with a driver who was as Irish as possible, with a thick brogue, a hole in his hat, and a smiling, good-humoured countenance.
A short stop was made in Indiana to visit the old family home in Hendricks County, now saddened by the death of our father, and then Fanny Osbourne once more turned her steps towards the setting sun. At this time she added me, her youngest sister, to her party, and I remained with her until her marriage to Stevenson and their departure for Scotland. She was then in the full flower of her striking and unusual beauty, and so youthful in appearance that she, her daughter, and I passed everywhere as three sisters. To me, reared as I had been in the flat country of central Indiana, where mountains and the sea were wonders known only through books, the journey across the continent—with its glimpses of the mighty snow-capped crags of the Rockies outlined against the fiery sunset skies of that region, the weird castellated rocks of the "Bad Lands," the colonies of funny little prairie-dogs peeping out of their burrows, the blanket-wrapped Indians waiting at the stations, and finally the awesome vision of the stupendous canyons and precipices of the Sierras, was like some strange, impossible dream; and when at last we came out into the warm sun and flowery brightness of California, straight from the gloom and chill of an Indiana November, it was as though the gates of paradise had suddenly opened.
Not long after her return to California, finding a reconciliation with her husband to be quite out of the question, Mrs. Osbourne decided to bring suit for divorce, which was eventually granted without opposition.
In the meantime, being much run down in health as a result of these harassing anxieties, she wished to seek rest in some quiet place free from unpleasant associations. This she found in the charming little coast town of Monterey, which was then still unspoiled by tourist travel, and, taking her family with her, she went there for a stay of several months. In the soft air and peaceful atmosphere of this place her health and spirits soon revived. There she found an opportunity to indulge her skill as a horsewoman, and at any time she might have been seen galloping along the country roads on her little mustang, Clavel. She even joined a party of friends who accompanied a band of vaqueros in a great rodeo on the San Francisquito ranch near Monterey. We rode for days from station to station, through a delightful country, under the feathery, scented redwoods and beside clear mountain-streams in which the trout leaped. We slept in barns on the hay or on the far-from-downy rawhide cots in the ranch shanties, and subsisted on freshly killed beef hastily barbecued over the campfire, coming back to Monterey sunburned to a fine mahogany.
[Footnote 9: A Spanish word, pronounced clahvel, and meaning a pink.]
[Footnote 10: Cowboys.]
[Footnote 11: Cattle round-up.]
IN CALIFORNIA WITH ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
As the months passed, Stevenson, drawn by an irresistible desire to see the one who had become dearest in all the world to him, and having heard that she was soon to be freed from the bonds that held her to another, decided to take ship for America. After the long ocean voyage and the fatiguing journey from sea to sea, which he has himself so graphically described, he went straight to meet the family at Monterey.
In the year 1879 there remained one spot in practical America where the Spirit of Romance still lingered, though even there she stood a-tiptoe, ready to take wing into the mists of the Pacific. It seems fitting that it should have been at that place that I first knew Robert Louis Stevenson. Although the passing of the years has dimmed the memory of those days to a certain degree, yet here and there a high light gleams out in the shadowy haze of the picture and brings back the impression of his face and personality and of the surroundings and little events of our daily life in his company as though they had happened but yesterday. The little town of Monterey, being out of the beaten track of travel, and having no mines or large agricultural tracts in its vicinity to stimulate trade, had dreamed away the years since American occupation, and still retained much of the flavour of the pastoral days of Spanish California. It is true that at the cascarone balls—at which the entire population, irrespective of age or worldly position, dressed in silks or in flannel shirts, as the case might be, still gathered almost weekly in truly democratic comradeship—the egg-shells were no longer filled with gold-dust, as sometimes happened in the prodigal Spanish days; yet time was still regarded as a thing of so little value that no one thought of abandoning the pleasures of the dance until broad daylight. Along the narrow, crooked streets of the little town, with its precarious wooden sidewalks, the language of old Castile, spoken with surprising purity, was heard more often than English. In fact, as Mr. Stevenson himself says in his essay on The Old Pacific Capital: "It was difficult to get along without a word or two of that language for an occasion."
[Footnote 12: These entertainments were so called in allusion to the custom of breaking cascarones (egg-shells), previously filled with finely cut coloured or tinsel paper, upon the heads of the dancers. By the time the midnight hour rolled around, every head glittered with the confetti, and the floor was piled several inches deep with it.]
High adobe walls, topped with tiles, concealed pleasant secluded gardens, from which the heavy perfume of the floribundia and other semitropical flowers poured out on the evening air. Behind such a wall and in the midst of such a garden stood the two-story adobe dwelling of the Senorita Maria Ygnacia Bonifacio, known to her intimates as Dona Nachita. In the "clean empty rooms" of this house, furnished with Spanish abstemiousness and kept in shining whiteness, "where the roar of the water dwelt as in a shell upon the chimney," we had our temporary residence, and here Louis Stevenson came often to visit us and share our simple meals, each of which became a little fete in the thrill of his presence and conversation. Something he had in him that made life seem a more exciting thing, better worth living, to every one associated with him, and it seemed impossible to be dull or bored in his company. It is true that he loved to talk, and one of his friends complained that he was too "deuced explanatory," but it seemed to me that the flood of talk he sometimes poured out was the overflow of a full mind, a mind so rich in ideas that he could well afford to bestow some of it upon his friends without hope of return. His was no narrow vein to be jealously hoarded for use in his writings, but his difficulty lay rather in choosing from the wealth of his store. He once remarked that he could not understand a man's having to struggle to "find something to write about," and perhaps it is true that one who has to do that has no real vocation as a writer.
When he came to us at Monterey he was newly arrived in this country, and seemed to be in a rather peculiar state of mind concerning it, complaining that it was too much like England to have the piquancy of a foreign land, and yet not enough like it to have the restfulness of home, therefore it left him with a strange, unsatisfied feeling. One of the things in the new land that pleased him much was its food, for he believed in enjoying the good things of this life, and he was like a second Christopher Columbus, just discovering green corn and sweet potatoes. In a letter to his friend Sidney Colvin he says: "In America you eat better than anywhere else; fact. The food is heavenly!" During his first days at Monterey he kept singing the praises of certain delectable "little cakes," which he had found much to his liking in the railroad eating-houses while crossing the continent. These were a great mystery to us until one day Ah Sing, the Chinese cook, placed upon the table a plate of smoking-hot baking-powder biscuits. Behold the famous "little cakes"!
The unexpected discovery in the town of Jules Simoneau, to whom he refers in his letters as "a most pleasant old boy, with whom I discuss the universe and play chess," a man of varied talents, who was able to furnish him with an excellent dinner, as well as the intelligent companionship that he valued more than food, was a great satisfaction to him. Often we all repaired together to Simoneau's little restaurant, where we were served meals that were a rare combination of French and Spanish cookery, for our host's wife, Dona Martina, was a native of Miraflores, in Lower California, and was skilled in the preparation of the tamales and carne con chile of the Southwest. It has always seemed to me that in the oft-told story of the friendship between Jules Simoneau and Robert Louis Stevenson but scant justice has been done to that uncommonly fine woman Dona Martina, who, no doubt, had her part in caring for the writer when he lay so ill in Monterey. Perhaps more often than not it was her kind and skilful hand that prepared the broth and smoothed the pillow for Don Roberto Luis, as she called him; and though she had but little book knowledge, she was, in her native good sense, her well-chosen language, and the dignity and courtesy of her manners, what people call a "born lady." Mrs. Stevenson was profoundly grateful to Jules Simoneau for his early kindness to her husband, and had a sincere admiration for his wife as well. When he fell into straitened circumstances in his old age, she went to his rescue and provided him with a comfortable living during his last years. When he died she followed him to his last resting-place, and afterwards erected a suitable monument to mark it, only stipulating that the name of Dona Martina should also be placed upon it, she having died some time before him.
[Footnote 13: Tamales, perhaps the most famous culinary product of the Southwest, were probably of Indian origin. Their construction is too complicated to explain here, further than to say that they are made of corn-meal and chopped meat rolled in corn-husks and boiled.]
[Footnote 14: Carne con chile (meat with chile) is what its name indicates, a stew of meat and red peppers.]
In the Senorita Bonifacio's garden, where we spent much of our time, there was a riot of flowers—rich yellow masses of enormous cloth-of-gold roses, delicate pink old-fashioned Castilian roses, which the Senorita carefully gathered each year to make rose-pillows, besides fuchsias as large as young trees, and a thousand other blooms of incredible size and beauty. Loving them all, their little Spanish mistress flitted about among them like a bird, alert, active, bright-eyed, straight as an arrow, and as springy of step as a girl of sixteen, although even then she was past her first youth.
As to flowers, it seemed to me that they made no particular appeal to Mr. Stevenson except for their scent, in which he was very like the rest of his sex the world over. He cared rather for nature's larger effects—a noble cloud in the sky, the thunder of the surf on the beach, or the fresh resinous smell of the pine forest.
To this house he came often of an afternoon to read the results of his morning's work to the assembled family. While we sat in a circle, listening in appreciative silence, he nervously paced the room, reading aloud in his full sonorous voice—a voice that always seemed remarkable in so frail a man—his face flushed and his manner embarrassed, for, far from being overconfident about his work, he always seemed to feel a sort of shy anxiety lest it should not be up to the mark. He invariably gave respectful attention and careful consideration to the criticism of the humblest of his hearers, but in the end clung with Scotch pertinacity to his own opinion if he was sure of its justice. In this way we heard The Pavilion on the Links, which he wrote at Monterey, and read to us chapter by chapter as they came from his pen. While there he also began another story which was to have been called Arizona Breckinridge, or A Vendetta in the West. This story, with its rather lurid title, was to have been based upon some of his impressions of western America, but his heart could not have been in it, for it was never finished. The name of Arizona came out of his intense delight in the "songful, tuneful" nomenclature of the United States, in which terms he refers to it in Across the Plains. The name Susquehanna was a special joy to him, and he took pleasure in rolling it on his tongue, adding to its music with the rich tones of his voice, as he repeated it: "Susquehanna! Oh, beautiful!" While on the train passing through Pennsylvania he wrote some verses in a letter to Sidney Colvin about the beautiful river with the "tuneful" name, of which one stanza runs thus:
"I think, I hope, I dream no more The dreams of otherwhere; The cherished thoughts of yore; I have been changed from what I was before; And drunk too deep perchance the lotus of the air Beside the Susquehanna and along the Delaware."
Again, in writing the poem entitled Ticonderoga, it was the name that first drew his attention, and
"It sang in his sleeping ears, It hummed in his waking head; The name—Ticonderoga."
Some story that we told him about a man who named his numerous family of daughters after the States—Indiana, Nebraska, California, etc.—took his fancy and suggested the name of Arizona Breckinridge to him.
Out of the mist arise memories of walks along the beach—the long beach of clean white sand that stretches unbroken for many miles around the great sweeping curve of Monterey Bay, where we "watched the tiny sandy-pipers, and the huge Pacific seas." Sometimes we walked there at night, when the blood-red harvest-moon sprang suddenly like a great ball of fire above the rim of horizon on the opposite side of the circling bay, sending a glittering track across the water to our very feet. To walk with Stevenson on such a night, and watch "the waves come in slowly, vast and green, curve their translucent necks and burst with a surprising uproar"—to walk with him on such a night and listen to his inimitable talk is the sort of memory that cannot fade. On other nights when the waters of the bay were all alight with the glow of phosphorescence, we walked on the old wooden pier and marvelled at the billows of fire sent rolling in beneath us by the splashing porpoises.