Robert Louis Stevenson’s, Treasure Island, is without any doubt the book I most associate with my son, Harry’s boyhood. Not only did we read it together, we lived and re-lived it through tracing the map that Jim Hawkins and his mother found in the old sea chest that belonged to Billy Bones who died at their Admiral Benbow Inn.
What made Treasure Island all the more special were the fireside conversations which I overheard between Harry and my father on dark winter evenings. Such was the excitement in their voices, I used to think that Long John Silver, Israel Hands, Dr. Livesey, Captain Smollett … and, young Jim Hawkins, of course, were all sitting on apple barrels taking turns at stoking up the coals.
These conversations were always punctuated with a bawdy rendition from the my two pirates of:Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for the rest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Robert Louis Stevenson died, on this day in 1894, aged only 44. It seems fitting that the great Scotsman, who brought such a sense of adventure to our lives, died in a small village, Vailima, in Samoa.
While I’d known for the last few days that today was Robert Louis Stevenson’s anniversary, it was by sheer coincidence that one of Father’s books of wit and wisdom which lives in my ‘study,’ fell open this morning on a page about the meaning of life and this quote from Robert Louis Stevenson was at the very top:
Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, until nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down. And this is all life really means. (Robert Louis Stevenson)
In a weird kind of way, I’m not sure whether I’m hearing these words directly from Robert Louis Stevenson or through the crack in the sitting-room door where Father and Harry had so many of their long, animated chats.