Part 26 out of 29
mother with difficult questionings.--[Under Appendix w, at the end of
this volume, the reader will find one of the "Bessie" dialogues.]--He
read these aloud as he finished them, and it is certain that they lacked
neither logic nor humor.
Sometimes he went to a big drawer in his dresser, where he kept his
finished manuscripts, and took them out and looked over them, and read
parts of them aloud, and talked of the plans he had had for them, and how
one idea after another had been followed for a time and had failed to
satisfy him in the end.
Two fiction schemes that had always possessed him he had been unable to
bring to any conclusion. Both of these have been mentioned in former
chapters; one being the notion of a long period of dream-existence during
a brief moment of sleep, and the other being the story of a mysterious
visitant from another realm. He had experimented with each of these
ideas in no less than three forms, and there was fine writing and
dramatic narrative in all; but his literary architecture had somehow
fallen short of his conception. "The Mysterious Stranger" in one of its
forms I thought might be satisfactorily concluded, and he admitted that
he could probably end it without much labor. He discussed something of
his plans, and later I found the notes for its conclusion. But I suppose
he was beyond the place where he could take up those old threads, though
he contemplated, fondly enough, the possibility, and recalled how he had
read at least one form of the dream tale to Howells, who had urged him to
ASTRONOMY AND DREAMS
August 5, 1909. This morning I noticed on a chair a copy of Flaubert's
Salammbo which I recently lent him. I asked if he liked it.
"No," he said, "I didn't like any of it."
"But you read it?"
"Yes, I read every line of it."
"You admitted its literary art?"
"Well, it's like this: If I should go to the Chicago stockyards and they
should kill a beef and cut it up and the blood should splash all over
everything, and then they should take me to another pen and kill another
beef and the blood should splash over everything again, and so on to pen
after pen, I should care for it about as much as I do for that book."
"But those were bloody days, and you care very much for that period in
"Yes, that is so. But when I read Tacitus and know that I am reading
history I can accept it as such and supply the imaginary details and
enjoy it, but this thing is such a continuous procession of blood and
slaughter and stench it worries me. It has great art--I can see that.
That scene of the crucified lions and the death canon and the tent scene
are marvelous, but I wouldn't read that book again without a salary."
August 16. He is reading Suetonius, which he already knows by heart--so
full of the cruelties and licentiousness of imperial Rome.
This afternoon he began talking about Claudius.
"They called Claudius a lunatic," he said, "but just see what nice
fancies he had. He would go to the arena between times and have captives
and wild beasts brought out and turned in together for his special
enjoyment. Sometimes when there were no captives on hand he would say,
'Well, never mind; bring out a carpenter.' Carpentering around the arena
wasn't a popular job in those days. He went visiting once to a province
and thought it would be pleasant to see how they disposed of criminals
and captives in their crude, old-fashioned way, but there was no
executioner on hand. No matter; the Emperor of Rome was in no hurry--he
would wait. So he sat down and stayed there until an executioner came."
I said, "How do you account for the changed attitude toward these things?
We are filled with pity to-day at the thought of torture and suffering."
"Ah! but that is because we have drifted that way and exercised the
quality of compassion. Relax a muscle and it soon loses its vigor; relax
that quality and in two generations--in one generation--we should be
gloating over the spectacle of blood and torture just the same. Why, I
read somewhere a letter written just before the Lisbon catastrophe in
1755 about a scene on the public square of Lisbon: A lot of stakes with
the fagots piled for burning and heretics chained for burning. The
square was crowded with men and women and children, and when those fires
were lighted, and the heretics began to shriek and writhe, those men and
women and children laughed so they were fairly beside themselves with the
enjoyment of the scene. The Greeks don't seem to have done these things.
I suppose that indicates earlier advancement in compassion."
Colonel Harvey and Mr. Duneka came up to spend the night. Mr. Clemens
had one of his seizures during the evening. They come oftener and last
longer. One last night continued for an hour and a half. I slept there.
September 7. To-day news of the North Pole discovered by Peary. Five
days ago the same discovery was reported by Cook. Clemens's comment:
"It's the greatest joke of the ages." But a moment later he referred to
the stupendous fact of Arcturus being fifty thousand times as big as the
September 21. This morning he told me, with great glee, the dream he had
had just before wakening. He said:
"I was in an automobile going slowly, with 'a little girl beside me,
and some uniformed person walking along by us. I said, 'I'll get
out and walk, too'; but the officer replied, 'This is only one of
the smallest of our fleet.'
"Then I noticed that the automobile had no front, and there were two
cannons mounted where the front should be. I noticed, too, that we
were traveling very low, almost down on the ground. Presently we
got to the bottom of a hill and started up another, and I found
myself walking ahead of the 'mobile. I turned around to look for
the little girl, and instead of her I found a kitten capering beside
me, and when we reached the top of the hill we were looking out over
a most barren and desolate waste of sand-heaps without a speck of
vegetation anywhere, and the kitten said, 'This view beggars all
admiration.' Then all at once we were in a great group of people
and I undertook to repeat to them the kitten's remark, but when I
tried to do it the words were so touching that I broke down and
cried, and all the group cried, too, over the kitten's moving
The joy with which he told this absurd sleep fancy made it supremely
ridiculous and we laughed until tears really came.
One morning he said: "I was awake a good deal in the night, and I tried
to think of interesting things. I got to working out geological periods,
trying to think of some way to comprehend them, and then astronomical
periods. Of course it's impossible, but I thought of a plan that seemed
to mean something to me. I remembered that Neptune is two billion eight
hundred million miles away. That, of course, is incomprehensible, but
then there is the nearest fixed star with its twenty-five trillion miles-
-twenty-five trillion--or nearly a thousand times as far, and then I took
this book and counted the lines on a page and I found that there was an
average of thirty-two lines to the page and two hundred and forty pages,
and I figured out that, counting the distance to Neptune as one line,
there were still not enough lines in the book by nearly two thousand to
reach the nearest fixed star, and somehow that gave me a sort of dim idea
of the vastness of the distance and kind of a journey into space."
Later I figured out another method of comprehending a little of that
great distance by estimating the existence of the human race at thirty
thousand years (Lord Kelvin's figures) and the average generation to have
been thirty-three years with a world population of 1,500,000,000 souls.
I assumed the nearest fixed star to be the first station in Paradise and
the first soul to have started thirty thousand years ago. Traveling at
the rate of about thirty miles a second, it would just now be arriving in
Alpha Centauri with all the rest of that buried multitude stringing out
behind at an average distance of twenty miles apart.
Few things gave him more pleasure than the contemplation of such figures
as these. We made occasional business trips to New York, and during one
of them visited the Museum of Natural History to look at the brontosaur
and the meteorites and the astronomical model in the entrance hall. To
him these were the most fascinating things in the world. He contemplated
the meteorites and the brontosaur, and lost himself in strange and
marvelous imaginings concerning the far reaches of time and space whence
they had come down to us.
Mark Twain lived curiously apart from the actualities of life. Dwelling
mainly among his philosophies and speculations, he observed vaguely, or
minutely, what went on about him; but in either case the fact took a
place, not in the actual world, but in a world within his consciousness,
or subconsciousness, a place where facts were likely to assume new and
altogether different relations from those they had borne in the physical
occurrence. It not infrequently happened, therefore, when he recounted
some incident, even the most recent, that history took on fresh and
startling forms. More than once I have known him to relate an occurrence
of the day before with a reality of circumstance that carried absolute
conviction, when the details themselves were precisely reversed. If his
attention were called to the discrepancy, his face would take on a blank
look, as of one suddenly aroused from dreamland, to be followed by an
almost childish interest in your revelation and ready acknowledgment of
his mistake. I do not think such mistakes humiliated him; but they often
surprised and, I think, amused him.
Insubstantial and deceptive as was this inner world of his, to him it
must have been much more real than the world of flitting physical.
shapes about him. He would fix you keenly with his attention, but you
realized, at last, that he was placing you and seeing you not as a part
of the material landscape, but as an item of his own inner world--a world
in which philosophies and morals stood upright--a very good world indeed,
but certainly a topsy-turvy world when viewed with the eye of mere
literal scrutiny. And this was, mainly, of course, because the routine
of life did not appeal to him. Even members of his household did not
always stir his consciousness.
He knew they were there; he could call them by name; he relied upon them;
but his knowledge of them always suggested the knowledge that Mount
Everest might have of the forests and caves and boulders upon its slopes,
useful, perhaps, but hardly necessary to the giant's existence, and in no
important matter a part of its greater life.
A LIBRARY CONCERT
In a letter which Clemens wrote to Miss Wallace at this time, he tells of
a concert given at Stormfield on September 21st for the benefit of the
new Redding Library. Gabrilowitsch had so far recovered that he was up
and about and able to play. David Bispham, the great barytone, always
genial and generous, agreed to take part, and Clara Clemens, already
accustomed to public singing, was to join in the program. The letter to
Miss Wallace supplies the rest of the history.
We had a grand time here yesterday. Concert in aid of the little
David Bispham, vocalist.
Clara Clemens, ditto.
Mark Twain, introduces of team.
Detachments and squads and groups and singles came from everywhere-
Danbury, New Haven, Norwalk, Redding, Redding Ridge, Ridgefield, and
even from New York: some in 60-h.p. motor-cars, some in buggies and
carriages, and a swarm of farmer-young-folk on foot from miles
If we hadn't stopped the sale of tickets a day and a half before the
performance we should have been swamped. We jammed 160 into the
library (not quite all had seats), we filled the loggia, the dining-
room, the hall, clear into the billiard-room, the stairs, and the
brick-paved square outside the dining-room door.
The artists were received with a great welcome, and it woke them up,
and I tell you they performed to the Queen's taste! The program was
an hour and three-quarters long and the encores added a half-hour to
it. The enthusiasm of the house was hair-lifting. They all stayed
an hour after the close to shake hands and congratulate.
We had no dollar seats except in the library, but we accumulated
$372 for the Building Fund. We had tea at half past six for a
dozen--the Hawthornes, Jeannette Gilder, and her niece, etc.; and
after 8-o'clock dinner we had a private concert and a ball in the
bare-stripped library until 10; nobody present but the team and Mr.
and Mrs. Paine and Jean and her dog. And me. Bispham did "Danny
Deever" and the "Erlkonig" in his majestic, great organ-tones and
artillery, and Gabrilowitsch played the accompaniments as they were
never played before, I do suppose.
There is not much to add to that account. Clemens, introducing the
performers, was the gay feature of the occasion. He spoke of the great
reputation of Bispham and Gabrilowitsch; then he said:
"My daughter is not as famous as these gentlemen, but she is ever so much
The music of the evening that followed, with Gabrilowitsch at the piano
and David Bispham to sing, was something not likely ever to be repeated.
Bispham sang the "Erlkonig" and "Killiecrankie" and the "Grenadiers" and
several other songs. He spoke of having sung Wagner's arrangement of the
"Grenadiers" at the composer's home following his death, and how none of
the family had heard it before.
There followed dancing, and Jean Clemens, fine and handsome, apparently
full of life and health, danced down that great living-room as care-free
as if there was no shadow upon her life. And the evening was
distinguished in another way, for before it ended Clara Clemens had
promised Ossip Gabrilowitsch to become his wife.
A WEDDING AT STORMFIELD
The wedding of Ossip Gabrilowitsch and Clara Clemens was not delayed.
Gabrilowitsch had signed for a concert tour in Europe, and unless the
marriage took place forthwith it must be postponed many months. It
followed, therefore, fifteen days after the engagement. They were busy
days. Clemens, enormously excited and pleased over the prospect of the
first wedding in his family, personally attended to the selection of
those who were to have announcement-cards, employing a stenographer to
make the list.
October 6th was a perfect wedding-day. It was one of those quiet, lovely
fall days when the whole world seems at peace. Claude, the butler, with
his usual skill in such matters, had decorated the great living-room with
gay autumn foliage and flowers, brought in mainly from the woods and
fields. They blended perfectly with the warm tones of the walls and
furnishings, and I do not remember ever having seen a more beautiful
room. Only relatives and a few of the nearest friends were invited to
the ceremony. The Twichells came over a day ahead, for Twichell, who had
assisted in the marriage rites between Samuel Clemens and Olivia Langdon,
was to perform that ceremony for their daughter now. A fellow-student of
the bride and groom when they had been pupils of Leschetizky, in Vienna--
Miss Ethel Newcomb--was at the piano and played softly the Wedding March
from" Taunhauser." Jean Clemens was the only bridesmaid, and she was
stately and classically beautiful, with a proud dignity in her office.
Jervis Langdon, the bride's cousin and childhood playmate, acted as best
man, and Clemens, of course, gave the bride away. By request he wore his
scarlet Oxford gown over his snowy flannels, and was splendid beyond
words. I do not write of the appearance of the bride and groom, for
brides and grooms are always handsome and always happy, and certainly
these were no exception. It was all so soon over, the feasting ended,
and the principals whirling away into the future. I have a picture in my
mind of them seated together in the automobile, with Richard Watson
Gilder standing on the step for a last good-by, and before them a wide
expanse of autumn foliage and distant hills. I remember Gilder's voice
saying, when the car was on the turn, and they were waving back to us:
"Over the hills and far away,
Beyond the utmost purple rim,
Beyond the night, beyond the day,
Through all the world she followed him."
The matter of the wedding had been kept from the newspapers until the eve
of the wedding, when the Associated Press had been notified. A
representative was there; but Clemens had characteristically interviewed
himself on the subject, and it was only necessary to hand the reporter a
typewritten copy. Replying to the question (put to himself), "Are you
pleased with the marriage?" he answered:
Yes, fully as much as any marriage could please me or any other
father. There are two or three solemn things in life and a happy
marriage is one of them, for the terrors of life are all to come.
I am glad of this marriage, and Mrs. Clemens would be glad, for she
always had a warm affection for Gabrilowitsch.
There was another wedding at Stormfield on the following afternoon--an
imitation wedding. Little Joy came up with me, and wished she could
stand in just the spot where she had seen the bride stand, and she
expressed a wish that she could get married like that. Clemens said:
"Frankness is a jewel; only the young can afford it."
Then he happened to remember a ridiculous boy-doll--a white-haired
creature with red coat and green trousers, a souvenir imitation of
himself from one of the Rogerses' Christmas trees. He knew where it was,
and he got it out. Then he said:
"Now, Joy, we will have another wedding. This is Mr. Colonel Williams,
and you are to become his wedded wife."
So Joy stood up very gravely and Clemens performed the ceremony, and I
gave the bride away, and Joy to him became Mrs. Colonel Williams
thereafter, and entered happily into her new estate.
A harvest of letters followed the wedding: a general congratulatory
expression, mingled with admiration, affection, and good-will. In his
interview Clemens had referred to the pain in his breast; and many begged
him to deny that there was anything serious the matter with him, urging
him to try this relief or that, pathetically eager for his continued life
and health. They cited the comfort he had brought to world-weary
humanity and his unfailing stand for human justice as reasons why he
should live. Such letters could not fail to cheer him.
A letter of this period, from John Bigelow, gave him a pleasure of its
own. Clemens had written Bigelow, apropos of some adverse expression on
Thank you for any hard word you can say about the tariff. I guess
the government that robs its own people earns the future it is
preparing for itself.
Bigelow was just then declining an invitation to the annual dinner of the
Chamber of Commerce. In sending his regrets he said:
The sentiment I would propose if I dared to be present would be the
words of Mark Twain, the statesman:
"The government that robs its own people earns the future it is
preparing for itself."
Now to Clemens himself he wrote:
Rochefoucault never said a cleverer thing, nor Dr. Franklin a wiser
one . . . . Be careful, or the Demos will be running you for
President when you are not on your guard.
Yours more than ever,
Among the tributes that came, was a sermon by the Rev. Fred Window Adams,
of Schenectady, New York, with Mark Twain as its subject. Mr. Adams
chose for his text, "Take Mark and bring him with thee; for he is
profitable for the ministry," and he placed the two Marks, St. Mark and
Mark Twain, side by side as ministers to humanity, and characterized him
as "a fearless knight of righteousness." A few weeks later Mr. Adams
himself came to Stormfield, and, like all open-minded ministers of the
Gospel, he found that he could get on very well indeed with Mark Twain.
In spite of the good-will and the good wishes Clemens's malady did not
improve. As the days grew chillier he found that he must remain closer
indoors. The cold air seemed to bring on the pains, and they were
gradually becoming more severe; then, too, he did not follow the doctor's
orders in the matter of smoking, nor altogether as to exercise.
To Miss Wallace he wrote:
I can't walk, I can't drive, I'm not down-stairs much, and I don't see
company, but I drink barrels of water to keep the pain quiet; I read, and
read, and read, and smoke, and smoke, and smoke all the time (as
formerly), and it's a contented and comfortable life.
But this was not altogether accurate as to details. He did come down-
stairs many times daily, and he persisted in billiards regardless of the
paroxysms. We found, too, that the seizures were induced by mental
agitation. One night he read aloud to Jean and myself the first chapter
of an article, "The Turning-Point in My Life," which he was preparing for
Harper's Bazar. He had begun it with one of his impossible burlesque
fancies, and he felt our attitude of disappointment even before any word
had been said. Suddenly he rose, and laying his hand on his breast said,
"I must lie down," and started toward the stair. I supported him to his
room and hurriedly poured out the hot water. He drank it and dropped
back on the bed.
"Don't speak to me," he said; "don't make me talk."
Jean came in, and we sat there several moments in silence. I think we
both wondered if this might not be the end; but presently he spoke of his
own accord, declaring he was better, and ready for billiards.
We played for at least an hour afterward, and he seemed no worse for the
attack. It is a curious malady--that angina; even the doctors are
acquainted with its manifestations, rather than its cause. Clemens's
general habits of body and mind were probably not such as to delay its
progress; furthermore, there had befallen him that year one of those
misfortunes which his confiding nature peculiarly invited--a betrayal of
trust by those in whom it had been boundlessly placed--and it seems
likely that the resulting humiliation aggravated his complaint. The
writing of a detailed history of this episode afforded him occupation and
a certain amusement, but probably did not contribute to his health. One
day he sent for his attorney, Mr. Charles T. Lark, and made some final
revisions in his will.--[Mark Twain's estate, later appraised at
something more than $600,000 was left in the hands of trustees for his
daughters. The trustees were Edward E. Loomis, Jervis Langdon, and
Zoheth S. Freeman. The direction of his literary affairs was left to his
daughter Clara and the writer of this history.]
To see him you would never have suspected that he was ill. He was in
good flesh, and his movement was as airy and his eye as bright and his
face as full of bloom as at any time during the period I had known him;
also, he was as light-hearted and full of ideas and plans, and he was
even gentler--having grown mellow with age and retirement, like good
And of course he would find amusement in his condition. He said:
"I have always pretended to be sick to escape visitors; now, for the
first time, I have got a genuine excuse. It makes me feel so honest."
And once, when Jean reported a caller in the livingroom, he said:
"Jean, I can't see her. Tell her I am likely to drop dead any minute and
it would be most embarrassing."
But he did see her, for it was a poet--Angela Morgan--and he read her
poem, "God's Man," aloud with great feeling, and later he sold it for her
to Collier's Weekly.
He still had violent rages now and then, remembering some of the most
notable of his mistakes; and once, after denouncing himself, rather
inclusively, as an idiot, he said:
"I wish to God the lightning would strike me; but I've wished that fifty
thousand times and never got anything out of it yet. I have missed
several good chances. Mrs. Clemens was afraid of lightning, and would
never let me bare my head to the storm."
The element of humor was never lacking, and the rages became less violent
and less frequent.
I was at Stormfield steadily now, and there was a regular routine of
afternoon sessions of billiards or reading, in which we were generally
alone; for Jean, occupied with her farming and her secretary labors,
seldom appeared except at meal-times. Occasionally she joined in the
billiard games; but it was difficult learning and her interest was not
great. She would have made a fine player, for she had a natural talent
for games, as she had for languages, and she could have mastered the
science of angles as she had mastered tennis and French and German and
Italian. She had naturally a fine intellect, with many of her father's
characteristics, and a tender heart that made every dumb creature her
Katie Leary, who had been Jean's nurse, once told how, as a little child,
Jean had not been particularly interested in a picture of the Lisbon
earthquake, where the people were being swallowed up; but on looking at
the next page, which showed a number of animals being overwhelmed, she
"Why, you didn't say that about the people!"
But Jean answered:
"Oh, they could speak."
One night at the dinner-table her father was saying how difficult it must
be for a man who had led a busy life to give up the habit of work.
"That is why the Rogerses kill themselves," he said. "They would rather
kill themselves in the old treadmill than stop and try to kill time.
They have forgotten how to rest. They know nothing but to keep on till
I told of something I had read not long before. It was about an aged
lion that had broken loose from his cage at Coney Island. He had not
offered to hurt any one; but after wandering about a little, rather
aimlessly, he had come to a picket-fence, and a moment later began pacing
up and down in front of it, just the length of his cage. They had come
and led him back to his prison without trouble, and he had rushed eagerly
into it. I noticed that Jean was listening anxiously, and when I
finished she said:
"Is that a true story?"
She had forgotten altogether the point in illustration. She was
concerned only with the poor old beast that had found no joy in his
Among the letters that Clemens wrote just then was one to Miss Wallace,
in which he described the glory of the fall colors as seen from his
The autumn splendors passed you by? What a pity! I wish you had
been here. It was beyond words! It was heaven & hell & sunset &
rainbows & the aurora all fused into one divine harmony, & you
couldn't look at it and keep the tears back.
Such a singing together, & such a whispering together, & such a
snuggling together of cozy, soft colors, & such kissing & caressing,
& such pretty blushing when the sun breaks out & catches those
dainty weeds at it--you remember that weed-garden of mine?--& then--
then the far hills sleeping in a dim blue trance--oh, hearing about
it is nothing, you should be here to see it!
In the same letter he refers to some work that he was writing for his own
satisfaction--'Letters from the Earth'; said letters supposed to have
been written by an immortal visitant and addressed to other immortals in
some remote sphere.
I'll read passages to you. This book will never be published--
in fact it couldn't be, because it would be felony . . . Paine
enjoys it, but Paine is going to be damned one of these days, I
I very well remember his writing those 'Letters from the Earth'. He read
them to me from time to time as he wrote them, and they were fairly
overflowing with humor and philosophy and satire concerning the human
race. The immortal visitor pointed out, one after another, the
absurdities of mankind, his ridiculous conception of heaven, and his
special conceit in believing that he was the Creator's pet--the
particular form of life for which all the universe was created. Clemens
allowed his exuberant fancy free rein, being under no restrictions as to
the possibility of print or public offense. He enjoyed them himself,
too, as he read them aloud, and we laughed ourselves weak over his bold
One admissible extract will carry something of the flavor of these
chapters. It is where the celestial correspondent describes man's
His heaven is like himself: strange, interesting, astonishing,
grotesque. I give you my word it has not a single feature in it
that he actually values. It consists--utterly and entirely--of
diversions which he cares next to nothing about here in the earth,
yet he is quite sure he will like in heaven. Isn't it curious?
Isn't it interesting? You must not think I am exaggerating, for it
is not so. I will give you the details.
Most, men do not sing, most men cannot sing, most men will not stay
where others are singing if it be continued more than two hours.
Only about two men in a hundred can play upon a musical instrument,
and not four in a hundred have any wish to learn how. Set that
Many men pray, not many of them like to do it. A few pray long, the
others make a short-cut.
More men go to church than want to.
To forty-nine men in fifty the Sabbath day is a dreary, dreary bore.
Further, all sane people detest noise.
All people, sane or insane, like to have variety in their lives.
Monotony quickly wearies them.
Now then, you have the facts. You know what men don't enjoy. Well,
they have invented a heaven, out of their own heads, all by
themselves; guess what it is like? In fifteen hundred years you
couldn't do it. They have left out the very things they care for
most their dearest pleasures--and replaced them with prayer!
In man's heaven everybody sings. There are no exceptions. The man
who did not sing on earth sings there; the man who could not sing on
earth sings there. Thus universal singing is not casual, not
occasional, not relieved by intervals of quiet; it goes on all day
long and every day during a stretch of twelve hours. And everybody
stays where on earth the place would be empty in two hours. The
singing is of hymns alone. Nay, it is one hymn alone. The words
are always the same in number--they are only about a dozen--there is
no rhyme--there is no poetry. "Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna unto the
highest!" and a few such phrases constitute the whole service.
Meantime, every person is playing on a harp! Consider the deafening
hurricane of sound. Consider, further, it is a praise service--a
service of compliment, flattery, adulation. Do you ask who it is
that is willing to endure this strange compliment, this insane
compliment, and who not only endures it but likes it, enjoys it,
requires it, commands it? Hold your breath: It is God! This race's
God I mean--their own pet invention.
Most of the ideas presented in this his last commentary on human
absurdities were new only as to phrasing. He had exhausted the topic
long ago, in one way or another; but it was one of the themes in which he
never lost interest. Many subjects became stale to him at last; but the
curious invention called man remained a novelty to him to the end.
From my note-book:
October 25. I am constantly amazed at his knowledge of history--all
history--religious, political, military. He seems to have read
everything in the world concerning Rome, France, and England
Last night we stopped playing billiards while he reviewed, in the
most vivid and picturesque phrasing, the reasons of Rome's decline.
Such a presentation would have enthralled any audience--I could not
help feeling a great pity that he had not devoted some of his public
effort to work of that sort. No one could have equaled him at it.
He concluded with some comments on the possibility of America
following Rome's example, though he thought the vote of the people
would always, or at least for a long period, prevent imperialism.
November 1. To-day he has been absorbed in his old interest in
shorthand. "It is the only rational alphabet," he declared. "All
this spelling reform is nonsense. What we need is alphabet reform,
and shorthand is the thing. Take the letter M, for instance; it is
made with one stroke in shorthand, while in longhand it requires at
least three. The word Mephistopheles can be written in shorthand
with one-sixth the number of strokes that is required in longhand.
I tell you shorthand should be adopted as the alphabet."
I said: "There is this objection: the characters are so slightly
different that each writer soon forms a system of his own and it is
seldom that two can read each other's notes."
"You are talking of stenographic reporting," he said, rather warmly.
"Nothing of the kind is true in the case of the regular alphabet.
It is perfectly clear and legible."
"Would you have it in the schools, then?"
"Yes, it should be taught in the schools, not for stenographic
purposes, but only for use in writing to save time."
He was very much in earnest, and said he had undertaken an article
on the subject.
November 3. He said he could not sleep last night, for thinking
what a fool he had been in his various investments.
"I have always been the victim of somebody," he said, "and always an
idiot myself, doing things that even a child would not do. Never
asking anybody's advice--never taking it when it was offered. I
can't see how anybody could do the things I have done and have kept
right on doing."
I could see that the thought agitated him, and I suggested that we
go to his room and read, which we did, and had a riotous time over
the most recent chapters of the 'Letters from the Earth', and some
notes he had made for future chapters on infant damnation and other
distinctive features of orthodox creeds. He told an anecdote of an
old minister who declared that Presbyterianism without infant
damnation would be like the dog on the train that couldn't be
identified because it had lost its tag.
Somewhat on the defensive I said, "But we must admit that the so-
called Christian nations are the most enlightened and progressive."
He answered, "Yes, but in spite of their religion, not because of
it. The Church has opposed every innovation and discovery from the
day of Galileo down to our own time, when the use of anesthetics in
child-birth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the biblical
curse pronounced against Eve. And every step in astronomy and
geology ever taken has been opposed by bigotry and superstition.
The Greeks surpassed us in artistic culture and in architecture five
hundred years before the Christian religion was born.
"I have been reading Gibbon's celebrated Fifteenth Chapter," he said
later, "and I don't see what Christians found against it. It is so
mild--so gentle in its sarcasm." He added that he had been reading
also a little book of brief biographies and had found in it the
saying of Darwin's father, "Unitarianism is a featherbed to catch
"I was glad to find and identify that saying," he said; "it is so
He finished the evening by reading a chapter from Carlyle's French
Revolution--a fine pyrotechnic passage--the gathering at Versailles.
I said that Carlyle somehow reminded me of a fervid stump-speaker
who pounded his fists and went at his audience fiercely, determined
to convince them.
"Yes," he said, "but he is the best one that ever lived."
November 10. This morning early he heard me stirring and called. I
went in and found him propped up with a book, as usual. He said:
"I seldom read Christmas stories, but this is very beautiful. It
has made me cry. I want you to read it." (It was Booth
Tarkington's 'Beasley's Christmas Party'.) "Tarkington has the true
touch," he said; "his work always satisfies me." Another book he
has been reading with great enjoyment is James Branch Cabell's
Chivalry. He cannot say enough of the subtle poetic art with which
Cabell has flung the light of romance about dark and sordid chapters
MARK TWAIN'S READING
Perhaps here one may speak of Mark Twain's reading in general. On the
table by him, and on his bed, and in the billiard-room shelves he kept
the books he read most. They were not many--not more than a dozen--but
they were manifestly of familiar and frequent usage. All, or nearly all,
had annotations--spontaneously uttered marginal notes, title prefatories,
or concluding comments. They were the books he had read again and again,
and it was seldom that he had not had something to say with each fresh
There were the three big volumes by Saint-Simon--'The Memoirs'--which he
once told me he had read no less than twenty times. On the fly-leaf of
the first volume he wrote
This, & Casanova & Pepys, set in parallel columns, could afford a good
coup d'oeil of French & English high life of that epoch.
All through those finely printed volumes are his commentaries, sometimes
no more than a word, sometimes a filled, closely written margin. He
found little to admire in the human nature of Saint-Simon's period--
little to approve in Saint-Simon himself beyond his unrestrained
frankness, which he admired without stint, and in one paragraph where the
details of that early period are set down with startling fidelity he
wrote: "Oh, incomparable Saint-Simon!"
Saint-Simon is always frank, and Mark Twain was equally so. Where the
former tells one of the unspeakable compulsions of Louis XIV., the latter
We have to grant that God made this royal hog; we may also be permitted
to believe that it was a crime to do so.
And on another page:
In her memories of this period the Duchesse de St. Clair makes this
striking remark: "Sometimes one could tell a gentleman, but it was only
by his manner of using his fork."
His comments on the orthodox religion of Saint-Simon's period are not
marked by gentleness. Of the author's reference to the Edict of Nantes,
which he says depopulated half of the realm, ruined its commerce, and
"authorized torments and punishments by which so many innocent people of
both sexes were killed by thousands," Clemens writes:
So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the
Gospel: "Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is."
Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed
for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to
add that new law to its code.
In the place where Saint-Simon describes the death of Monseigneur, son of
the king, and the court hypocrites are wailing their extravagantly
pretended sorrow, Clemens wrote:
It is all so true, all so human. God made these animals. He must have
noticed this scene; I wish I knew how it struck Him.
There were not many notes in the Suetonius, nor in the Carlyle
Revolution, though these were among the volumes he read oftenest.
Perhaps they expressed for him too completely and too richly their
subject-matter to require anything at his hand. Here and there are
marked passages and occasional cross-references to related history and
There was not much room for comment on the narrow margins of the old copy
of Pepys, which he had read steadily since the early seventies; but here
and there a few crisp words, and the underscoring and marked passages are
plentiful enough to convey his devotion to that quaint record which,
perhaps next to Suetonius, was the book he read and quoted most.
Francis Parkman's Canadian Histories he had read periodically, especially
the story of the Old Regime and of the Jesuits in North America. As late
as January, 1908, he wrote on the title-page of the Old Regime:
Very interesting. It tells how people religiously and otherwise insane
came over from France and colonized Canada.
He was not always complimentary to those who undertook to Christianize
the Indians; but he did not fail to write his admiration of their
courage--their very willingness to endure privation and even the fiendish
savage tortures for the sake of their faith. "What manner of men are
these?" he wrote, apropos of the account of Bressani, who had undergone
the most devilish inflictions which savage ingenuity could devise, and
yet returned maimed and disfigured the following spring to "dare again
the knives and fiery brand of the Iroquois." Clemens was likely to be on
the side of the Indians, but hardly in their barbarism. In one place he
That men should be willing to leave their happy homes and endure
what the missionaries endured in order to teach these Indians the
road to hell would be rational, understandable, but why they should
want to teach them a way to heaven is a thing which the mind somehow
Other histories, mainly English and French, showed how he had read them--
read and digested every word and line. There were two volumes of Lecky,
much worn; Andrew D. White's 'Science and Theology'--a chief interest for
at least one summer--and among the collection a well-worn copy of 'Modern
English Literature--Its Blemishes and Defects', by Henry H. Breen. On
the title-page of this book Clemens had written:
HARTFORD, 1876. Use with care, for it is a scarce book. England
had to be ransacked in order to get it--or the bookseller speaketh
He once wrote a paper for the Saturday Morning Club, using for his text
examples of slipshod English which Breen had noted.
Clemens had a passion for biography, and especially for autobiography,
diaries, letters, and such intimate human history. Greville's 'Journal
of the Reigns of George IV. and William IV.' he had read much and
annotated freely. Greville, while he admired Byron's talents, abhorred
the poet's personality, and in one place condemns him as a vicious person
and a debauchee. He adds:
Then he despises pretenders and charlatans of all sorts, while he is
himself a pretender, as all men are who assume a character which does not
belong to them and affect to be something which they are all the time
conscious they are not in reality.
Clemens wrote on the margin:
But, dear sir, you are forgetting that what a man sees in the human
race is merely himself in the deep and honest privacy of his own
heart. Byron despised the race because he despised himself. I feel
as Byron did, and for the same reason. Do you admire the race (&
A little further along--where Greville laments that Byron can take no
profit to himself from the sinful characters he depicts so faithfully,
If Byron--if any man--draws 50 characters, they are all himself--50
shades, 50 moods, of his own character. And when the man draws them
well why do they stir my admiration? Because they are me--I
A volume of Plutarch was among the biographies that showed usage, and the
Life of P. T. Barnum, Written by Himself. Two Years Before the Mast he
loved, and never tired of. The more recent Memoirs of Andrew D. White
and Moncure D. Conway both, I remember, gave him enjoyment, as did the
Letters of Lowell. A volume of the Letters of Madame de Sevigne had some
annotated margins which were not complimentary to the translator, or for
that matter to Sevigne herself, whom he once designates as a "nauseating"
person, many of whose letters had been uselessly translated, as well as
poorly arranged for reading. But he would read any volume of letters or
personal memoirs; none were too poor that had the throb of life in them,
Of such sort were the books that Mark Twain had loved best, and such were
a few of his words concerning them. Some of them belong to his earlier
reading, and among these is Darwin's 'Descent of Man', a book whose
influence was always present, though I believe he did not read it any
more in later years. In the days I knew him he read steadily not much
besides Suetonius and Pepys and Carlyle. These and his simple
astronomies and geologies and the Morte Arthure and the poems of Kipling
were seldom far from his hand.
A BERMUDA BIRTHDAY
It was the middle of November, 1909, when Clemens decided to take another
Bermuda vacation, and it was the 19th that we sailed. I went to New York
a day ahead and arranged matters, and on the evening of the 18th received
the news that Richard Watson Gilder had suddenly died.
Next morning there was other news. Clemens's old friend, William M.
Laffan, of the Sun, had died while undergoing a surgical operation. I
met Clemens at the train. He had already heard about Gilder; but he had
not yet learned of Laffan's death. He said:
"That's just it. Gilder and Laffan get all the good things that come
along and I never get anything."
Then, suddenly remembering, he added:
"How curious it is! I have been thinking of Laffan coming down on the
train, and mentally writing a letter to him on this Stetson-Eddy affair."
I asked when he had begun thinking of Laffan.
He said: "Within the hour."
It was within the hour that I had received the news, and naturally in my
mind had carried it instantly to him. Perhaps there was something
telepathic in it.
He was not at all ill going down to Bermuda, which was a fortunate thing,
for the water was rough and I was quite disqualified. We did not even
discuss astronomy, though there was what seemed most important news--the
reported discovery of a new planet.
But there was plenty of talk on the subject as soon as we got settled in
the Hamilton Hotel. It was windy and rainy out-of-doors, and we looked
out on the drenched semi-tropical foliage with a great bamboo swaying and
bending in the foreground, while he speculated on the vast distance that
the new planet must lie from our sun, to which it was still a satellite.
The report had said that it was probably four hundred billions of miles
distant, and that on this far frontier of the solar system the sun could
not appear to it larger than the blaze of a tallow candle. To us it was
wholly incredible how, in that dim remoteness, it could still hold true
to the central force and follow at a snail-pace, yet with unvarying
exactitude, its stupendous orbit. Clemens said that heretofore Neptune,
the planetary outpost of our system, had been called the tortoise of the
skies, but that comparatively it was rapid in its motion, and had become
a near neighbor. He was a good deal excited at first, having somehow the
impression that this new planet traveled out beyond the nearest fixed
star; but then he remembered that the distance to that first solar
neighbor was estimated in trillions, not billions, and that our little
system, even with its new additions, was a child's handbreadth on the
plane of the sky. He had brought along a small book called The Pith of
Astronomy--a fascinating little volume--and he read from it about the
great tempest of fire in the sun, where the waves of flame roll up two
thousand miles high, though the sun itself is such a tiny star in the
deeps of the universe.
If I dwell unwarrantably on this phase of Mark Twain's character, it is
because it was always so fascinating to me, and the contemplation of the
drama of the skies always meant so much to him, and somehow always seemed
akin to him in its proportions. He had been born under a flaming star, a
wanderer of the skies. He was himself, to me, always a comet rushing
through space, from mystery to mystery, regardless of sun and systems. It
is not likely to rain long in Bermuda, and when the sun comes back it
brings summer, whatever the season. Within a day after our arrival we
were driving about those coral roads along the beaches, and by that
marvelously variegated water. We went often to the south shore,
especially to Devonshire Bay, where the reefs and the sea coloring seem
more beautiful than elsewhere. Usually, when we reached the bay, we got
out to walk along the indurated shore, stopping here and there to look
out over the jeweled water liquid turquoise, emerald lapis-lazuli, jade,
the imperial garment of the Lord.
At first we went alone with only the colored driver, Clifford Trott,
whose name Clemens could not recollect, though he was always attempting
resemblances with ludicrous results. A little later Helen Allen, an
early angel-fish member already mentioned, was with us and directed the
drives, for she had been born on the island and knew every attractive
locality, though, for that matter, it would be hard to find there a place
that was not attractive.
Clemens, in fact, remained not many days regularly at the hotel. He kept
a room and his wardrobe there; but he paid a visit to Bay House--the
lovely and quiet home of Helen's parents--and prolonged it from day to
day, and from week to week, because it was a quiet and peaceful place
with affectionate attention and limitless welcome. Clifford Trott had
orders to come with the carriage each afternoon, and we drove down to Bay
House for Mark Twain and his playmate, and then went wandering at will
among the labyrinth of blossom-bordered, perfectly kept roadways of a
dainty paradise, that never, I believe, becomes quite a reality even to
those who know it best.
Clemens had an occasional paroxysm during these weeks, but they were not
likely to be severe or protracted; and I have no doubt the peace of his
surroundings, the remoteness from disturbing events, as well as the balmy
temperature, all contributed to his improved condition.
He talked pretty continuously during these drives, and he by no means
restricted his subjects to juvenile matters. He discussed history and
his favorite sciences and philosophies, and I am sure that his drift was
rarely beyond the understanding of his young companion, for it was Mark
Twain's gift to phrase his thought so that it commanded not only the
respect of age, but the comprehension and the interest of youth.
I remember that once he talked, during an afternoon's drive, on the
French Revolution and the ridiculous episode of Anacharsis Cloots,
"orator and advocate of the human race," collecting the vast populace of
France to swear allegiance to a king even then doomed to the block. The
very name of Cloots suggested humor, and nothing could have been more
delightful and graphic than the whole episode as he related it.
Helen asked if he thought such a thing as that could ever happen in
"No," he said, "the American sense of humor would have laughed it out of
court in a week; and the Frenchman dreads ridicule, too, though he never
seems to realize how ridiculous he is--the most ridiculous creature in
On the morning of his seventy-fourth birthday he was looking wonderfully
well after a night of sound sleep, his face full of color and freshness,
his eyes bright and keen and full of good-humor. I presented him with a
pair of cuff-buttons silver-enameled with the Bermuda lily, and I thought
he seemed pleased with them.
It was rather gloomy outside, so we remained indoors by the fire and
played cards, game after game of hearts, at which he excelled, and he was
usually kept happy by winning. There were no visitors, and after dinner
Helen asked him to read some of her favorite episodes from Tom Sawyer, so
he read the whitewashing scene, Peter and the Pain-killer, and such
chapters until tea-time. Then there was a birthday cake, and afterward
cigars and talk and a quiet fireside evening.
Once, in the course of his talk, he forgot a word and denounced his poor
"I'll forget the Lord's middle name some time," he declared, "right in
the midst of a storm, when I need all the help I can get."
Later he said:
"Nobody dreamed, seventy-four years ago to-day, that I would be in
Bermuda now." And I thought he meant a good deal more than the words
It was during this Bermuda visit that Mark Twain added the finishing
paragraph to his article, "The Turning-Point in My Life," which, at
Howells's suggestion, he had been preparing for Harper's Bazar. It was a
characteristic touch, and, as the last summary of his philosophy of human
life, may be repeated here.
Necessarily the scene of the real turning-point of my life (and of
yours) was the Garden of Eden. It was there that the first link was
forged of the chain that was ultimately to lead to the emptying of
me into the literary guild. Adam's temperament was the first
command the Deity ever issued to a human being on this planet. And
it was the only command Adam would never be able to disobey. It
said, "Be weak, be water, be characterless, be cheaply persuadable."
The later command, to let the fruit alone, was certain to be
disobeyed. Not by Adam himself, but by his temperament--which he
did not create and had no authority over. For the temperament is
the man; the thing tricked out with clothes and named Man is merely
its Shadow, nothing more. The law of the tiger's temperament is,
Thou shaft kill; the law of the sheep's temperament is, Thou shalt
not kill. To issue later commands requiring the tiger to let the
fat stranger alone, and requiring the sheep to imbrue its hands in
the blood of the lion is not worth while, for those commands can't
be obeyed. They would invite to violations of the law of
temperament, which is supreme, and takes precedence of all other
authorities. I cannot help feeling disappointed in Adam and Eve.
That is, in their temperaments. Not in them, poor helpless young
creatures--afflicted with temperaments made out of butter, which
butter was commanded to get into contact with fire and be melted.
What I cannot help wishing is, that Adam and Eve had been postponed,
and Martin Luther and Joan of Arc put in their place--that splendid
pair equipped with temperaments not made of butter, but of asbestos.
By neither sugary persuasions nor by hell-fire could Satan have
beguiled them to eat the apple.
There would have been results! Indeed yes. The apple would be
intact to-day; there would be no human race; there would be no you;
there would be no me. And the old, old creation-dawn scheme of
ultimately launching me into the literary guild would have been
THE DEATH OF JEAN
He decided to go home for the holidays, and how fortunate it seems now
that he did so! We sailed for America on the 18th of December, arriving
the 21st. Jean was at the wharf to meet us, blue and shivering with the
cold, for it was wretchedly bleak there, and I had the feeling that she
should not have come.
She went directly, I think, to Stormfield, he following a day or two
later. On the 23d I was lunching with Jean alone. She was full of
interest in her Christmas preparations. She had a handsome tree set up
in the loggia, and the packages were piled about it, with new ones
constantly arriving. With her farm management, her housekeeping, her
secretary work, and her Christmas preparations, it seemed to me that she
had her hands overfull. Such a mental pressure could not be good for
her. I suggested that for a time at least I might assume a part of her
I was to remain at my own home that night, and I think it was as I left
Stormfield that I passed jean on the stair. She said, cheerfully, that
she felt a little tired and was going up to lie down, so that she would
be fresh for the evening. I did not go back, and I never saw her alive
I was at breakfast next morning when word was brought in that one of the
men from Stormfield was outside and wished to see me immediately. When I
went out he said: "Miss Jean is dead. They have just found her in her
bath-room. Mr. Clemens sent me to bring you."
It was as incomprehensible as such things always are. I could not
realize at all that Jean, so full of plans and industries and action less
than a day before, had passed into that voiceless mystery which we call
Harry Iles drove me rapidly up the hill. As I entered Clemens's room he
looked at me helplessly and said:
"Well, I suppose you have heard of this final disaster."
He was not violent or broken down with grief. He had come to that place
where, whatever the shock or the ill-turn of fortune, he could accept it,
and even in that first moment of loss he realized that, for Jean at
least, the fortune was not ill. Her malady had never been cured, and it
had been one of his deepest dreads that he would leave her behind him.
It was believed, at first; that Jean had drowned, and Dr. Smith tried
methods of resuscitation; but then he found that it was simply a case of
heart cessation caused by the cold shock of her bath.
The Gabrilowitsches were by this time in Europe, and Clemens cabled them
not to come. Later in the day he asked me if we would be willing to
close our home for the winter and come to Stormfield. He said that he
should probably go back to Bermuda before long; but that he wished to
keep the house open so that it would be there for him to come to at any
time that he might need it.
We came, of course, for there was no thought among any of his friends but
for his comfort and peace of mind. Jervis Langdon was summoned from
Elmira, for Jean would lie there with the others.
In the loggia stood the half-trimmed Christmas tree, and all about lay
the packages of gifts, and in Jean's room, on the chairs and upon her
desk, were piled other packages. Nobody had been forgotten. For her
father she had bought a handsome globe; he had always wanted one. Once
when I went into his room he said:
"I have been looking in at Jean and envying her. I have never greatly
envied any one but the dead. I always envy the dead."
He told me how the night before they had dined together alone; how he had
urged her to turn over a part of her work to me; how she had clung to
every duty as if now, after all the years, she was determined to make up
for lost time.
While they were at dinner a telephone inquiry had come concerning his
health, for the papers had reported him as returning from Bermuda in a
critical condition. He had written this playful answer:
MANAGER ASSOCIATED PRESS,
I hear the newspapers say I am dying. The charge is not true. I
would not do such a thing at my time of life. I am behaving as good
as I can.
Merry Christmas to everybody! MARK TWAIN.
Jean telephoned it for him to the press. It had been the last secretary
service she had ever rendered.
She had kissed his hand, he said, when they parted, for she had a severe
cold and would not wish to impart it to him; then happily she had said
good night, and he had not seen her again. The reciting of this was good
to him, for it brought the comfort of tears.
Later, when I went in again, he was writing:
"I am setting it down," he said--"everything. It is a relief to me to
write it. It furnishes me an excuse for thinking."
He continued writing most of the day, and at intervals during the next
day, and the next.
It was on Christmas Day that they went with Jean on her last journey.
Katie Leary, her baby nurse, had dressed her in the dainty gown which she
had worn for Clara's wedding, and they had pinned on it a pretty buckle
which her father had brought her from Bermuda, and which she had not
seen. No Greek statue was ever more classically beautiful than she was,
lying there in the great living-room, which in its brief history had seen
so much of the round of life.
They were to start with jean at about six o'clock, and a little before
that time Clemens (he was unable to make the journey) asked me what had
been her favorite music. I said that she seemed always to care most for
the Schubert Impromptu.--[Op. 142, No. 2.]--Then he said:
"Play it when they get ready to leave with her, and add the Intermezzo
for Susy and the Largo for Mrs. Clemens. When I hear the music I shall
know that they are starting. Tell them to set lanterns at the door, so I
can look down and see them go."
So I sat at the organ and began playing as they lifted and bore her away.
A soft, heavy snow was falling, and the gloom of those shortest days was
closing in. There was not the least wind or noise, the whole world was
muffled. The lanterns at the door threw their light out on the thickly
falling flakes. I remained at the organ; but the little group at the
door saw him come to the window above--the light on his white hair as he
stood mournfully gazing down, watching Jean going away from him for the
last time. I played steadily on as he had instructed, the Impromptu, the
Intermezzo from "Cavalleria," and Handel's Largo. When I had finished I
went up and found him.
"Poor little Jean," he said; "but for her it is so good to go."
In his own story of it he wrote:
From my windows I saw the hearse and the carriages wind along the
road and gradually grow vague and spectral in the falling snow, and
presently disappear. Jean was gone out of my life, and would not
come back any more. The cousin she had played with when they were
babies together--he and her beloved old Katie--Were conducting her
to her distant childhood home, where she will lie by her mother's
side once more, in the company of Susy and Langdon.
He did not come down to dinner, and when I went up afterward I found him
curiously agitated. He said:
"For one who does not believe in spirits I have had a most peculiar
experience. I went into the bath-room just now and closed the door.
You know how warm it always is in there, and there are no draughts. All
at once I felt a cold current of air about me. I thought the door must
be open; but it was closed. I said, 'Jean, is this you trying to let me
know you have found the others?' Then the cold air was gone."
I saw that the incident had made a very great impression upon him; but I
don't remember that he ever mentioned it afterward.
Next day the storm had turned into a fearful blizzard; the whole hilltop
was a raging, driving mass of white. He wrote most of the day, but
stopped now and then to read some of the telegrams or letters of
condolence which came flooding in. Sometimes he walked over to the
window to look out on the furious tempest. Once, during the afternoon,
"Jean always so loved to see a storm like this, and just now at Elmira
they are burying her."
Later he read aloud some lines by Alfred Austin, which Mrs. Crane had
sent him lines which he had remembered in the sorrow for Susy:
When last came sorrow, around barn and byre
Wind-careen snow, the year's white sepulchre, lay.
"Come in," I said, "and warm you by the fire";
And there she sits and never goes away.
It was that evening that he came into the room where Mrs. Paine and I sat
by the fire, bringing his manuscript.
"I have finished my story of Jean's death," he said. "It is the end of
my autobiography. I shall never write any more. I can't judge it myself
at all. One of you read it aloud to the other, and let me know what you
think of it. If it is worthy, perhaps some day it may be published."
It was, in fact, one of the most exquisite and tender pieces of writing
in the language. He had ended his literary labors with that perfect
thing which so marvelously speaks the loftiness and tenderness of his
soul. It was thoroughly in keeping with his entire career that he
should, with this rare dramatic touch, bring it to a close. A paragraph
which he omitted may be printed now:
December 27. Did I know jean's value? No, I only thought I did.
I knew a ten-thousandth fraction of it, that was all. It is always
so, with us, it has always been so. We are like the poor ignorant
private soldier-dead, now, four hundred years--who picked up the
great Sancy diamond on the field of the lost battle and sold it for
a franc. Later he knew what he had done.
Shall I ever be cheerful again, happy again? Yes. And soon. For
I know my temperament. And I know that the temperament is master of
the man, and that he is its fettered and helpless slave and must in
all things do as it commands. A man's temperament is born in him,
and no circumstances can ever change it.
My temperament has never allowed my spirits to remain depressed long
at a time.
That was a feature of Jean's temperament, too. She inherited it
from me. I think she got the rest of it from her mother.
Jean Clemens had two natural endowments: the gift of justice and a
genuine passion for all nature. In a little paper found in her desk she
I know a few people who love the country as I do, but not many.
Most of my acquaintances are enthusiastic over the spring and summer
months, but very few care much for it the year round. A few people
are interested in the spring foliage and the development of the wild
flowers--nearly all enjoy the autumn colors--while comparatively few
pay much attention to the coming and going of the birds, the changes
in their plumage and songs, the apparent springing into life on some
warm April day of the chipmunks and woodchucks, the skurrying of
baby rabbits, and again in the fall the equally sudden disappearance
of some of the animals and the growing shyness of others. To me it
is all as fascinating as a book--more so, since I have never lost
interest in it.
It is simple and frank, like Thoreau. Perhaps, had she exercised it,
there was a third gift--the gift of written thought.
Clemens remained at Stormfield ten days after Jean was gone. The weather
was fiercely cold, the landscape desolate, the house full of tragedy.
He kept pretty closely to his room, where he had me bring the heaps of
letters, a few of which he answered personally; for the others he
prepared a simple card of acknowledgment. He was for the most part in
gentle mood during these days, though he would break out now and then,
and rage at the hardness of a fate that had laid an unearned burden of
illness on Jean and shadowed her life.
They were days not wholly without humor--none of his days could be
altogether without that, though it was likely to be of a melancholy sort.
Many of the letters offered orthodox comfort, saying, in effect: "God
does not willingly punish us."
When he had read a number of these he said:
"Well, why does He do it then? We don't invite it. Why does He give
Himself the trouble?"
I suggested that it was a sentiment that probably gave comfort to the
writer of it.
"So it does," he said, "and I am glad of it--glad of anything that gives
comfort to anybody."
He spoke of the larger God--the God of the great unvarying laws, and by
and by dropped off to sleep, quite peacefully, and indeed peace came more
and more to him each day with the thought that Jean and Susy and their
mother could not be troubled any more. To Mrs. Gabrilowitsch he wrote:
REDDING, CONN, December 29, 1909.
O, Clara, Clara dear, I am so glad she is out of it & safe--safe!
I am not melancholy; I shall never be melancholy again, I think.
You see, I was in such distress when I came to realize that you were
gone far away & no one stood between her & danger but me--& I could
die at any moment, & then--oh then what would become of her! For
she was wilful, you know, & would not have been governable.
You can't imagine what a darling she was that last two or three
days; & how fine, & good, & sweet, & noble--& joyful, thank Heaven!
--& how intellectually brilliant. I had never been acquainted with
Jean before. I recognized that.
But I mustn't try to write about her--I can't. I have already
poured my heart out with the pen, recording that last day or two.
I will send you that--& you must let no one but Ossip read it.
Good-by. I love you so! And Ossip.
THE RETURN TO BERMUDA
I don't think he attempted any further writing for print. His mind was
busy with ideas, but he was willing to talk, rather than to write, rather
even than to play billiards, it seemed, although we had a few quiet
games--the last we should ever play together. Evenings he asked for
music, preferring the Scotch airs, such as "Bonnie Doon" and "The
Campbells are Coming." I remember that once, after playing the latter
for him, he told, with great feeling, how the Highlanders, led by Gen.
Colin Campbell, had charged at Lucknow, inspired by that stirring air.
When he had retired I usually sat with him, and he drifted into
literature, or theology, or science, or history--the story of the
universe and man.
One evening he spoke of those who had written but one immortal thing and
stopped there. He mentioned "Ben Bolt."
"I met that man once," he said. "In my childhood I sang 'Sweet Alice,
Ben Bolt,' and in my old age, fifteen years ago, I met the man who wrote
it. His name was Brown.--[Thomas Dunn English. Mr. Clemens apparently
remembered only the name satirically conferred upon him by Edgar Allan
Poe, "Thomas Dunn Brown."]--He was aged, forgotten, a mere memory. I
remember how it thrilled me to realize that this was the very author of
'Sweet Alice, Ben Bolt.' He was just an accident. He had a vision and
echoed it. A good many persons do that--the thing they do is to put in
compact form the thing which we have all vaguely felt. 'Twenty Years
Ago' is just like it 'I have wandered through the village, Tom, and sat
beneath the tree'--and Holmes's 'Last Leaf' is another: the memory of the
hallowed past, and the gravestones of those we love. It is all so
beautiful--the past is always beautiful."
He quoted, with great feeling and effect:
The massy marbles rest
On the lips that we have pressed
In their bloom,
And the names we love to hear
Have been carved for many a year
On the tomb.
He continued in this strain for an hour or more. He spoke of humor, and
thought it must be one of the chief attributes of God. He cited plants
and animals that were distinctly humorous in form and in their
characteristics. These he declared were God's jokes.
"Why," he said, "humor is mankind's greatest blessing."
"Your own case is an example," I answered. "Without it, whatever your
reputation as a philosopher, you could never have had the wide-spread
affection that is shown by the writers of that great heap of letters."
"Yes," he said, gently, "they have liked to be amused."
I tucked him in for the night, promising to send him to Bermuda, with
Claude to take care of him, if he felt he could undertake the journey in
two days more.
He was able, and he was eager to go, for he longed for that sunny island,
and for the quiet peace of the Allen home. His niece, Mrs. Loomis, came
up to spend the last evening in Stormfield, a happy evening full of quiet
talk, and next morning, in the old closed carriage that had been his
wedding-gift, he was driven to the railway station. This was on January
He was to sail next day, and that night, at Mr. Loomis's, Howells came
in, and for an hour or two they reviewed some of the questions they had
so long ago settled, or left forever unsettled, and laid away. I
remember that at dinner Clemens spoke of his old Hartford butler, George,
and how he had once brought George to New York and introduced him at the
various publishing houses as his friend, with curious and sometimes
rather embarrassing results.
The talk drifted to sociology and to the labor-unions, which Clemens
defended as being the only means by which the workman could obtain
recognition of his rights.
Howells in his book mentions this evening, which he says "was made
memorable to me by the kind, clear, judicial sense with which he
explained and justified the labor-unions as the sole present help of the
weak against the strong."
They discussed dreams, and then in a little while Howells rose to go. I
went also, and as we walked to his near-by apartment he spoke of Mark
Twain's supremacy. He said:
"I turn to his books for cheer when I am down-hearted. There was never
anybody like him; there never will be."
Clemens sailed next morning. They did not meet again.
LETTERS FROM BERMUDA
Stormfield was solemn and empty without Mark Twain; but he wrote by every
steamer, at first with his own hand, and during the last week by the hand
of one of his enlisted secretaries--some member of the Allen family
usually Helen. His letters were full of brightness and pleasantry--
always concerned more or less with business matters, though he was no
longer disturbed by them, for Bermuda was too peaceful and too far away,
and, besides, he had faith in the Mark Twain Company's ability to look
after his affairs. I cannot do better, I believe, than to offer some
portions of these letters here.
He reached Bermuda on the 7th of January, 1910, and on the 12th he wrote:
Again I am living the ideal life. There is nothing to mar it but
the bloody-minded bandit Arthur,--[A small playmate of Helen's of
whom Clemens pretended to be fiercely jealous. Once he wrote a
memorandum to Helen: "Let Arthur read this book. There is a page in
it that is poisoned."]--who still fetches and carries Helen.
Presently he will be found drowned. Claude comes to Bay House twice
a day to see if I need any service. He is invaluable. There was a
military lecture last night at the Officers' Mess Prospect; as the
lecturer honored me with a special urgent invitation, and said he
wanted to lecture to me particularly, I naturally took Helen and her
mother into the private carriage and went.
As soon as we landed at the door with the crowd the Governor came to
me& was very cordial. I "met up" with that charming Colonel Chapman
[we had known him on the previous visit] and other officers of the
regiment & had a good time.
A few days later he wrote:
Thanks for your letter & for its contenting news of the situation in
that foreign & far-off & vaguely remembered country where you &
Loomis & Lark and other beloved friends are.
I had a letter from Clara this morning. She is solicitous & wants
me well & watchfully taken care of. My, my, she ought to see Helen
& her parents & Claude administer that trust. Also she says, "I
hope to hear from you or Mr. Paine very soon."
I am writing her & I know you will respond to your part of her
prayer. She is pretty desolate now after Jean's emancipation--the
only kindness that God ever did that poor, unoffending child in all
her hard life.
Send Clara a copy of Howells's gorgeous letter.
The "gorgeous letter" mentioned was an appreciation of his recent Bazar
article, "The Turning-Point in My Life," and here follows:
January 18, 1910.
DEAR CLEMENS,--While your wonderful words are warm in my mind yet I
want to tell you what you know already: that you never wrote
anything greater, finer, than that turning-point paper of yours.
I shall feel it honor enough if they put on my tombstone "He was
born in the same century and general section of Middle Western
country with Dr. S. L. Clemens, Oxon., and had his degree three
years before him through a mistake of the University."
I hope you are worse. You will never be riper for a purely
intellectual life, and it is a pity to have you lagging along with a
worn-out material body on top of your soul.
W. D. HOWELLS.
On the margin of this letter Clemens had written:
I reckon this spontaneous outburst from the first critic of the day
is good to keep, ain't it, Paine?
January 24th he wrote again of his contentment:
Life continues here the same as usual. There isn't a fault in it-
good times, good home, tranquil contentment all day & every day
without a break. I know familiarly several very satisfactory people
& meet them frequently: Mr. Hamilton, the Sloanes, Mr. & Mrs. Fells,
Miss Waterman, & so on. I shouldn't know how to go about bettering
On February 5th he wrote that the climate and condition of his health
might require him to stay in Bermuda pretty continuously, but that he
wished Stormfield kept open so that he might come to it at any time. And
Yesterday Mr. Allen took us on an excursion in Mr. Hamilton's big
motor-boat. Present: Mrs. Allen, Mr. & Mrs. & Miss Sloane, Helen,
Mildred Howells, Claude, & me. Several hours' swift skimming over
ravishing blue seas, a brilliant sun; also a couple of hours of
picnicking & lazying under the cedars in a secluded place.
The Orotava is arriving with a6o passengers-I shall get letters by
her, no doubt.
P. S.-Please send me the Standard Unabridged that is on the table in
my bedroom. I have no dictionary here.
There is no mention in any of these letters of his trouble; but he was
having occasional spasms of pain, though in that soft climate they would
seem to have come with less frequency, and there was so little to disturb
him, and much that contributed to his peace. Among the callers at the
Bay House to see him was Woodrow Wilson, and the two put in some pleasant
hours at miniature golf, "putting" on the Allen lawn. Of course a
catastrophe would come along now and then--such things could not always
be guarded against. In a letter toward the end of February he wrote:
It is 2.30 in the morning & I am writing because I can't sleep.
I can't sleep because a professional pianist is coming to-morrow
afternoon to play for me. My God! I wouldn't allow Paderewski or
Gabrilowitsch to do that. I would rather have a leg amputated.
I knew he was coming, but I never dreamed it was to play for me.
When I heard the horrible news 4 hours ago, be d---d if I didn't
come near screaming. I meant to slip out and be absent, but now I
can't. Don't pray for me. The thing is just as d---d bad as it can
Clemens's love for music did not include the piano, except for very
gentle melodies, and he probably did not anticipate these from a
professional player. He did not report the sequel of the matter; but it
is likely that his imagination had discounted its tortures. Sometimes
his letters were pure nonsense. Once he sent a sheet, on one side of
which was written:
March s, 1910.
Received of S. L. C.
Two Dollars and Forty Cents
in return for my promise to believe everything he says
HELEN S. ALLEN.
and on the reverse:
The proprietor of the hereinbefore mentioned Promise desires to part
with it on account of ill health and obliged to go away somewheres
so as to let it recipricate, and will take any reasonable amount for
it above 2 percent of its face because experienced parties think it
will not keep but only a little while in this kind of weather & is a
kind of proppity that don't give a cuss for cold storage nohow.
Clearly, however serious Mark Twain regarded his physical condition, he
did not allow it to make him gloomy. He wrote that matters were going
everywhere to his satisfaction; that Clara was happy; that his household
and business affairs no longer troubled him; that his personal
surroundings were of the pleasantest sort. Sometimes he wrote of what he
was reading, and once spoke particularly of Prof. William Lyon Phelps's
Literary Essays, which he said he had been unable to lay down until he
had finished the book.--[To Phelps himself he wrote: "I thank you ever
so much for the book, which I find charming--so charming, indeed, that I
read it through in a single night, & did not regret the lost night's
sleep. I am glad if I deserve what you have said about me; & even if I
don't I am proud & well contented, since you think I deserve it."]
So his days seemed full of comfort. But in March I noticed that he
generally dictated his letters, and once when he sent some small
photographs I thought he looked thinner and older. Still he kept up his
merriment. In one letter he said:
While the matter is in my mind I will remark that if you ever send
me another letter which is not paged at the top I will write you
with my own hand, so that I may use with utter freedom & without
embarrassment the kind of words which alone can describe such a
criminal, to wit, - - - -; you will have to put into words those
dashes because propriety will not allow me to do it myself in my
secretary's hearing. You are forgiven, but don't let it occur
He had still made no mention of his illness; but on the 25th of March he
wrote something of his plans for coming home. He had engaged passage on
the Bermudian for April 23d, he said; and he added:
But don't tell anybody. I don't want it known. I may have to go
sooner if the pain in my breast does not mend its ways pretty
considerable. I don't want to die here, for this is an unkind place
for a person in that condition. I should have to lie in the
undertaker's cellar until the ship would remove me & it is dark down
there & unpleasant.
The Colliers will meet me on the pier, & I may stay with them a week
or two before going home. It all depends on the breast pain. I
don't want to die there. I am growing more and more particular
about the place.
But in the same letter he spoke of plans for the summer, suggesting that
we must look into the magic-lantern possibilities, so that library
entertainments could be given at Stormfield. I confess that this letter,
in spite of its light tone, made me uneasy, and I was tempted to sail for
Bermuda to bring him home. Three days later he wrote again:
I have been having a most uncomfortable time for the past four days
with that breast pain, which turns out to be an affection of the
heart, just as I originally suspected. The news from New York is to
the effect that non-bronchial weather has arrived there at last;
therefore, if I can get my breast trouble in traveling condition I
may sail for home a week or two earlier than has been proposed.
The same mail that brought this brought a letter from Mr. Allen, who
frankly stated that matters had become very serious indeed. Mr. Clemens
had had some dangerous attacks, and the physicians considered his
These letters arrived April 1st. I went to New York at once and sailed
next morning. Before sailing I consulted with Dr. Quintard, who provided
me with some opiates and instructed me in the use of the hypodermic
needle. He also joined me in a cablegram to the Gabrilowitsches, then in
Italy, advising them to sail without delay.
THE VOYAGE HOME
I sent no word to Bermuda that I was coming, and when on the second
morning I arrived at Hamilton, I stepped quickly ashore from the tender
and hurried to Bay House. The doors were all open, as they usually are
in that summer island, and no one was visible. I was familiar with the
place, and, without knocking, I went through to the room occupied by Mark
Twain. As I entered I saw that he was alone, sitting in a large chair,
clad in the familiar dressing-gown.
Bay House stands upon the water, and the morning light, reflected in at
the window, had an unusual quality. He was not yet shaven, and he seemed
unnaturally pale and gray; certainly he was much thinner. I was too
startled, for the moment, to say anything. When he turned and saw me he
seemed a little dazed.
"Why," he said, holding out his hand, "you didn't tell us you were
"No," I said, "it is rather sudden. I didn't quite like the sound of
your last letters."
"But those were not serious," he protested. "You shouldn't have come on
I said then that I had come on my own account; that I had felt the need
of recreation, and had decided to run down and come home with him.
"That's--very--good," he said, in his slow, gentle fashion. "Now I'm
glad to see you."
His breakfast came in and he ate with an appetite.
When he had been shaved and freshly propped tip in his pillows it seemed
to me, after all, that I must have been mistaken in thinking him so
changed. Certainly he was thinner, but his color was fine, his eyes were
bright; he had no appearance of a man whose life was believed to be in
danger. He told me then of the fierce attacks he had gone through, how
the pains had torn at him, and how it had been necessary for him to have
hypodermic injections, which he amusingly termed "hypnotic injunctions"
and "subcutaneous applications," and he had his humor out of it, as of
course he must have, even though Death should stand there in person.
From Mr. and Mrs. Allen and from the physician I learned how slender had
been his chances and how uncertain were the days ahead. Mr. Allen had
already engaged passage on the Oceana for the 12th, and the one purpose
now was to get him physically in condition for the trip.
How devoted those kind friends had been to him! They had devised every
imaginable thing for his comfort. Mr. Allen had rigged an electric bell
which connected with his own room, so that he could be aroused instantly
at any hour of the night. Clemens had refused to have a nurse, for it
was only during the period of his extreme suffering that he needed any
one, and he did not wish to have a nurse always around. When the pains
were gone he was as bright and cheerful, and, seemingly, as well as ever.
On the afternoon of my arrival we drove out, as formerly, and he
discussed some of the old subjects in quite the old way. He had been
rereading Macaulay, he said, and spoke at considerable length of the
hypocrisy and intrigue of the English court under James II. He spoke,
too, of the Redding Library. I had sold for him that portion of the land
where Jean's farm-house had stood, and it was in his mind to use the
money for some sort of a memorial to Jean. I had written, suggesting
that perhaps he would like to put up a small library building, as the
Adams lot faced the corner where Jean had passed every day when she rode
to the station for the mail. He had been thinking this over, he said,
and wished the idea carried out. He asked me to write at once to his
lawyer, Mr. Lark, and have a paper prepared appointing trustees for a
memorial library fund.
The pain did not trouble him that afternoon, nor during several
succeeding days. He was gay and quite himself, and he often went out on
the lawn; but we did not drive out again. For the most part, he sat
propped up in his bed, reading or smoking, or talking in the old way; and
as I looked at him he seemed so full of vigor and the joy of life that I
could not convince myself that he would not outlive us all. I found that
he had been really very much alive during those three months--too much
for his own good, sometimes--for he had not been careful of his hours or
his diet, and had suffered in consequence.
He had not been writing, though he had scribbled some playful valentines
and he had amused himself one day by preparing a chapter of advice--for
me it appeared--which, after reading it aloud to the Allens and receiving
their approval, he declared he intended to have printed for my benefit.
As it would seem to have been the last bit of continued writing he ever
did, and because it is characteristic and amusing, a few paragraphs may
be admitted. The "advice" is concerning deportment on reaching the Gate
which St. Peter is supposed to guard--
Upon arrival do not speak to St. Peter until spoken to. It is not
your place to begin.
Do not begin any remark with "Say."
When applying for a ticket avoid trying to make conversation. If
you must talk let the weather alone. St. Peter cares not a damn for
the weather. And don't ask him what time the 4.30 train goes; there
aren't any trains in heaven, except through trains, and the less
information you get about them the better for you.
You can ask him for his autograph--there is no harm in that--but be
careful and don't remark that it is one of the penalties of
greatness. He has heard that before.
Don't try to kodak him. Hell is full of people who have made that
Leave your dog outside. Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit
you would stay out and the dog would go in.
You will be wanting to slip down at night and smuggle water to those
poor little chaps (the infant damned), but don't you try it. You
would be caught, and nobody in heaven would respect you after that.
Explain to Helen why I don't come. If you can.
There were several pages of this counsel. One paragraph was written in
shorthand. I meant to ask him to translate it; but there were many other
things to think of, and I did not remember.
I spent most of each day with him, merely sitting by the bed and reading
while he himself read or dozed. His nights were wakeful--he found it
easier to sleep by day--and he liked to think that some one was there.
He became interested in Hardy's Jude, and spoke of it with high approval,
urging me to read it. He dwelt a good deal on the morals of it, or
rather on the lack of them. He followed the tale to the end, finishing
it the afternoon before we sailed. It was his last continuous reading.
I noticed, when he slept, that his breathing was difficult, and I could
see from day to day that he did not improve; but each evening he would be
gay and lively, and he liked the entire family to gather around, while he
became really hilarious over the various happenings of the day.
It was only a few days before we sailed that the very severe attacks
returned. The night of the 8th was a hard one. The doctors were
summoned, and it was only after repeated injections of morphine that the
pain had been eased. When I returned in the early morning he was sitting
in his chair trying to sing, after his old morning habit. He took my
hand and said:
"Well, I had a picturesque night. Every pain I had was on exhibition."
He looked out the window at the sunlight on the bay and green dotted
islands. "'Sparkling and bright in the liquid light,'" he quoted.
"That's Hoffman. Anything left of Hoffman?"
"No," I said.
"I must watch for the Bermudian and see if she salutes," he said,
presently. "The captain knows I am here sick, and he blows two short
whistles just as they come up behind that little island. Those are for
He said he could breathe easier if he could lean forward, and I placed a
card-table in front of him. His breakfast came in, and a little later he
became quite gay. He drifted to Macaulay again, and spoke of King
James's plot to assassinate William II., and how the clergy had brought
themselves to see that there was no difference between killing a king in
battle and by assassination. He had taken his seat by the window to
watch for the Bermudian. She came down the bay presently, her bright red
stacks towering vividly above the green island. It was a brilliant
morning, the sky and the water a marvelous blue. He watched her
anxiously and without speaking. Suddenly there were two white puffs of
steam, and two short, hoarse notes went up from her.
"Those are for me," he said, his face full of contentment. "Captain
Fraser does not forget me."
There followed another bad night. My room was only a little distance
away, and Claude came for me. I do not think any of us thought he would
survive it; but he slept at last, or at least dozed. In the morning he
"That breast pain stands watch all night and the short breath all day.
I am losing enough sleep to supply a worn-out army. I want a jugful of
that hypnotic injunction every night and every morning."
We began to fear now that he would not be able to sail on the 12th; but
by great good-fortune he had wonderfully improved by the 12th, so much so
that I began to believe, if once he could be in Stormfield, where the air
was more vigorous, he might easily survive the summer. The humid
atmosphere of the season increased the difficulty of his breathing.
That evening he was unusually merry. Mr. and Mrs. Allen and Helen and
myself went in to wish him good night. He was loath to let us leave, but
was reminded that he would sail in the morning, and that the doctor had
insisted that he must be quiet and lie still in bed and rest. He was
never one to be very obedient. A little later Mrs. Allen and I, in the
sitting-room, heard some one walking softly outside on the veranda. We
went out there, and he was marching up and down in his dressing-gown as
unconcerned as if he were not an invalid at all. He hadn't felt sleepy,
he said, and thought a little exercise would do him good. Perhaps it
did, for he slept soundly that night--a great blessing.
Mr. Allen had chartered a special tug to come to Bay House landing in the
morning and take him to the ship. He was carried in a little hand-chair
to the tug, and all the way out he seemed light-spirited, anything but an
invalid: The sailors carried him again in the chair to his state-room,
and he bade those dear Bermuda friends good-by, and we sailed away.
As long as I remember anything I shall remember the forty-eight hours of
that homeward voyage. It was a brief two days as time is measured; but
as time is lived it has taken its place among those unmeasured periods by
the side of which even years do not count.
At first he seemed quite his natural self, and asked for a catalogue of
the ship's library, and selected some memoirs of the Countess of Cardigan
for his reading. He asked also for the second volume of Carlyle's French
Revolution, which he had with him. But we ran immediately into the more
humid, more oppressive air of the Gulf Stream, and his breathing became
at first difficult, then next to impossible. There were two large port-
holes, which I opened; but presently he suggested that it would be better
outside. It was only a step to the main-deck, and no passengers were
there. I had a steamer-chair brought, and with Claude supported him to
it and bundled him with rugs; but it had grown damp and chilly, and his
breathing did not improve. It seemed to me that the end might come at
any moment, and this thought was in his mind, too, for once in the effort
for breath he managed to say:
"I am going--I shall be gone in a moment."
Breath came; but I realized then that even his cabin was better than
this. I steadied him back to his berth and shut out most of that deadly
dampness. He asked for the "hypnotic 'injunction" (for his humor never
left him), and though it was not yet the hour prescribed I could not deny
it. It was impossible for him to lie down, even to recline, without
great distress. The opiate made him drowsy, and he longed for the relief
of sleep; but when it seemed about to possess him the struggle for air
would bring him upright.
During the more comfortable moments he spoke quite in the old way, and
time and again made an effort to read, and reached for his pipe or a
cigar which lay in the little berth hammock at his side. I held the
match, and he would take a puff or two with satisfaction. Then the peace
of it would bring drowsiness, and while I supported him there would come
a few moments, perhaps, of precious sleep. Only a few moments, for the
devil of suffocation was always lying in wait to bring him back for fresh
tortures. Over and over again this was repeated, varied by him being
steadied on his feet or sitting on the couch opposite the berth. In
spite of his suffering, two dominant characteristics remained--the sense
of humor, and tender consideration for another.
Once when the ship rolled and his hat fell from the hook, and made the
circuit of the cabin floor, he said:
"The ship is passing the hat."
Again he said:
"I am sorry for you, Paine, but I can't help it--I can't hurry this dying
business. Can't you give me enough of the hypnotic injunction to put an
end to me?"
He thought if I could arrange the pillows so he could sit straight up it
would not be necessary to support him, and then I could sit on the couch
and read while he tried to doze. He wanted me to read Jude, he said, so
we could talk about it. I got all the pillows I could and built them up
around him, and sat down with the book, and this seemed to give him
contentment. He would doze off a little and then come up with a start,
his piercing, agate eyes searching me out to see if I was still there.
Over and over--twenty times in an hour--this was repeated. When I could
deny him no longer I administered the opiate, but it never completely
possessed him or gave him entire relief.
As I looked at him there, so reduced in his estate, I could not but
remember all the labor of his years, and all the splendid honor which the
world had paid to him. Something of this may have entered his mind, too,
for once, when I offered him some of the milder remedies which we had
brought, he said:
"After forty years of public effort I have become just a target for
The program of change from berth to the floor, from floor to the couch,
from the couch back to the berth among the pillows, was repeated again
and again, he always thinking of the trouble he might be making, rarely
uttering any complaint; but once he said:
"I never guessed that I was not going to outlive John Bigelow." And
"This is such a mysterious disease. If we only had a bill of particulars
we'd have something to swear at."
Time and again he picked up Carlyle or the Cardigan Memoirs, and read, or
seemed to read, a few lines; but then the drowsiness would come and the
book would fall. Time and again he attempted to smoke, or in his drowse
simulated the motion of placing a cigar to his lips and puffing in the
Two dreams beset him in his momentary slumber--one of a play in which the
title-role of the general manager was always unfilled. He spoke of this
now and then when it had passed, and it seemed to amuse him. The other
was a discomfort: a college assembly was attempting to confer upon him
some degree which he did not want. Once, half roused, he looked at me
searchingly and asked:
"Isn't there something I can resign and be out of all this? They keep
trying to confer that degree upon me and I don't want it." Then
realizing, he said: "I am like a bird in a cage: always expecting to get
out, and always beaten back by the wires." And, somewhat later: "Oh, it
is such a mystery, and it takes so long."
Toward the evening of the first day, when it grew dark outside, he asked:
"How long have we been on this voyage?"
I answered that this was the end of the first day.
"How many more are there?" he asked.