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Mark Twain, A Biography Vol III, Part 1: 1900 - 1907|
CCXXXII. The Sad Journey Home
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|A tidal wave of sympathy poured in. Noble and commoner, friend and
stranger--humanity of every station--sent their messages of condolence to
the friend of mankind. The cablegrams came first--bundles of them from
every corner of the world--then the letters, a steady inflow. Howells,
Twichell, Aldrich--those oldest friends who had themselves learned the
meaning of grief--spoke such few and futile words as the language can
supply to allay a heart's mourning, each recalling the rarity and beauty
of the life that had slipped away. Twichell and his wife wrote:
DEAR, DEAR MARK,--There is nothing we can say. What is there to say?
But here we are--with you all every hour and every minute--filled with
unutterable thoughts; unutterable affection for the dead and for the
HARMONY AND JOE.
Howells in his letter said:
She hallowed what she touched far beyond priests . . . . What are you
going to do, you poor soul?
A hundred letters crowd in for expression here, but must be denied--not,
however, the beam of hope out of Helen Keller's illumined night:
Do try to reach through grief and feel the pressure of her hand, as
I reach through darkness and feel the smile on my friends' lips and
the light in their eyes though mine are closed.
They were adrift again without plans for the future. They would return
to America to lay Mrs. Clemens to rest by Susy and little Langdon, but
beyond that they could not see. Then they remembered a quiet spot in
Massachusetts, Tyringham, near Lee, where the Gilders lived, and so, on
June 7th, he wrote:
DEAR GILDER FAMILY,--I have been worrying and worrying to know what
to do; at last I went to the girls with an idea--to ask the Gilders
to get us shelter near their summer home. It was the first time
they have not shaken their heads. So to-morrow I will cable to you
and shall hope to be in time.
An hour ago the best heart that ever beat for me and mine was
carried silent out of this house, and I am as one who wanders and
has lost his way. She who is gone was our head, she was our hands.
We are now trying to make plans--we: we who have never made a plan
before, nor ever needed to. If she could speak to us she would make
it all simple and easy with a word, & our perplexities would vanish
away. If she had known she was near to death she would have told us
where to go and what to do, but she was not suspecting, neither were
we. She was all our riches and she is gone; she was our breath, she
was our life, and now we are nothing.
We send you our love-and with it the love of you that was in her
heart when she died.
S. L. CLEMENS.
They arranged to sail on the Prince Oscar on the 29th of June. There was
an earlier steamer, but it was the Princess Irene, which had brought
them, and they felt they would not make the return voyage on that vessel.
During the period of waiting a curious thing happened. Clemens one day
got up in a chair in his room on the second floor to pull down the high
window-sash. It did not move easily and his hand slipped. It was only
by the merest chance that he saved himself from falling to the ground far
below. He mentions this in his note-book, and once, speaking of it to
Frederick Duneka, he said:
"Had I fallen it would probably have killed me, and in my bereaved
circumstances the world would have been convinced that it was suicide.
It was one of those curious coincidences which are always happening and
The homeward voyage and its sorrowful conclusion are pathetically
conveyed in his notes:
June 29, 1904. Sailed last night at 10. The bugle-call to
breakfast. I recognized the notes and was distressed. When I heard
them last Livy heard them with me; now they fall upon her ear
In my life there have been 68 Junes--but how vague & colorless 67 of
them are contrasted with the deep blackness of this one!
July 1, 1904. I cannot reproduce Livy's face in my mind's eye--I
was never in my life able to reproduce a face. It is a curious
infirmity--& now at last I realize it is a calamity.
July 2, 1904. In these 34 years we have made many voyages together,
Livy dear--& now we are making our last; you down below & lonely; I
above with the crowd & lonely.
July 3, 1904. Ship-time, 8 A.M. In 13 hours & a quarter it will be
4 weeks since Livy died.
Thirty-one years ago we made our first voyage together--& this is
our last one in company. Susy was a year old then. She died at 24
& had been in her grave 8 years.
July 10, 1904. To-night it will be 5 weeks. But to me it remains
yesterday--as it has from the first. But this funeral march--how
sad & long it is!
Two days more will end the second stage of it.
July 14, 1904 (ELMIRA). Funeral private in the house of Livy's
young maidenhood. Where she stood as a bride 34 years ago there her
coffin rested; & over it the same voice that had made her a wife
then committed her departed spirit to God now.
It was Joseph Twichell who rendered that last service. Mr. Beecher was
long since dead. It was a simple, touching utterance, closing with this
tender word of farewell:
Robert Browning, when he was nearing the end of his earthly days,
said that death was the thing that we did not believe in. Nor do we
believe in it. We who journeyed through the bygone years in
companionship with the bright spirit now withdrawn are growing old.
The way behind is long; the way before is short. The end cannot be
far off. But what of that? Can we not say, each one:
"So long that power hath blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on;
O'er moor and fen; o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn, their angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!"
And so good-by. Good-by, dear heart! Strong, tender, and true.
Good-by until for us the morning break and these shadows fly away.
Dr. Eastman, who had succeeded Mr. Beecher, closed the service with a
prayer, and so the last office we can render in this life for those we
love was finished.
Clemens ordered that a simple marker should be placed at the grave,
bearing, besides the name, the record of birth and death, followed by the
'Gott sei dir gnadig, O meine Wonne'!