The Boys’ Life of Mark Twain
by Paine

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Public Domain Books

LVII. The Close of a Beautiful Life

Life which had begun very cheerfully at Riverdale ended sadly enough. In August, at York Harbor, Maine, Mrs. Clemens’s health failed and she was brought home an invalid, confined almost entirely to her room. She had been always the life, the center, the mainspring of the household. Now she must not even be consulted–hardly visited. On her bad days–and they were many–Clemens, sad and anxious, spent most of his time lingering about her door, waiting for news, or until he was permitted to see her for a brief moment. In his memorandum-book of that period he wrote:

“Our dear prisoner is where she is through overwork–day and night devotion to the children and me. We did not know how to value it. We know now.”

And on the margin of a letter praising him for what he had done for the world’s enjoyment, and for his triumph over debt, he wrote:

“Livy never gets her share of those applauses, but it is because the people do not know. Yet she is entitled to the lion’s share.”

She improved during the winter, but very slowly. Her husband wrote in his diary:

“Feb. 2, 1903–Thirty-third wedding anniversary. I was allowed to see Livy five minutes this morning, in honor of the day.”

Mrs. Clemens had always remembered affectionately their winter in Florence of ten years before, and she now expressed the feeling that if she were in Florence again she would be better. The doctors approved, and it was decided that she should be taken there as soon as she was strong enough to travel. She had so far improved by June that they journeyed to Elmira, where in the quiet rest of Quarry Farm her strength returned somewhat and the hope of her recovery was strong.

Mark Twain wrote a story that summer in Elmira, in the little octagonal study, shut in now by trees and overgrown with vines. “A Dog’s Tale,” a pathetic plea against vivisection, was the last story written in the little retreat that had seen the beginning of “Tom Sawyer” twenty-nine years before.

There was a feeling that the stay in Europe was this time to be permanent. On one of the first days of October Clemens wrote in his note-book:

“To-day I place flowers on Susy’s grave–for the last time, probably –and read the words, ’Good night, dear heart, good night, good night.’”

They sailed on the 24th, by way of Naples and Genoa, and were presently installed in the Villa Reale di Quarto, a fine old Italian palace, in an ancient garden looking out over Florence toward Vallombrosa and the Chianti hills. It was a beautiful spot, though its aging walls and cypresses and matted vines gave it a rather mournful look. Mrs. Clemens’s health improved there for a time, in spite of dull, rainy, depressing weather; so much so that in May, when the warmth and sun came back, Clemens was driving about the country, seeking a villa that he might buy for a home.

On one of these days–it was a Sunday in early June, the 5th–when he had been out with Jean, and had found a villa which he believed would fill all their requirements, he came home full of enthusiasm and hope, eager to tell the patient about the discovery. Certainly she seemed better. A day or two before she had been wheeled out on the terrace to enjoy the wonder of early Italian summer.

He found her bright and cheerful, anxious to hear all their plans for the new home. He stayed with her alone through the dinner hour, and their talk was as in the old days. Summoned to go at last, he chided himself for staying so long; but she said there was no harm and kissed him, saying, “you will come back?” and he answered “Yes, to say good night," meaning at half-past nine, as was the permitted custom. He stood a moment at the door, throwing kisses to her, and she returned them, her face bright with smiles.

He was so full of hope–they were going to be happy again. Long ago he had been in the habit of singing jubilee songs to the children. He went upstairs now to the piano and played the chorus and sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and “My Lord He Calls Me.” He stopped then, but Jean, who had come in, asked him to go on. Mrs. Clemens, from her room, heard the music and said to Katy Leary:

“He is singing a good-night carol to me.”

The music ceased presently. A moment later she asked to be lifted up. Almost in that instant life slipped away without a sound.

Clemens, just then coming to say good-night, saw a little group gathered about her bed, and heard Clara ask:

“Katy, is it true? Oh, Katy, is it true?”

In his note-book that night he wrote:

“At a quarter-past nine this evening she that was the life of my life passed to the relief and the peace of death, after twenty-two months of unjust and unearned suffering. I first saw her thirty-seven years ago, and now I have looked upon her face for the last time.... I was full of remorse for things done and said in these thirty- four years of married life that have hurt Livy’s heart.”

And to Howells a few days later:

“To-day, treasured in her worn, old testament, I found a dear and gentle letter from you dated Far Rockaway, September 12, 1896, about our poor Susy’s death. I am tired and old; I wish I were with Livy.”

They brought her to America; and from the house, and the rooms, where she had been made a bride bore her to a grave beside Susy and little Langdon.


Preface  •  I. The Family of John Clemens  •  II. The New Home, and Uncle John Quarles’s Farm  •  IV. Education Out of School  •  V. Tom Sawyer and His Band  •  VI. Closing School-Days  •  VII. The Apprentice  •  VIII. Orion’s Paper  •  IX. The Open Road  •  X. A Wind of Chance  •  XI. The Long Way to the Amazon  •  XII. Renewing an Old Ambition  •  XIII. Learning the River  •  XIV. River Days  •  XV. The Wreck of the “Pennsylvania”  •  XVI. The Pilot  •  XVII. The End of Piloting  •  XVIII. The Soldier  •  XIX. The Pioneer  •  XX. The Miner  •  XXI. The Territorial Enterprise  •  XXII. “Mark Twain”  •  XXIII. Artemus Ward and Literary San Francisco  •  XXIV. The Discovery of “The Jumping Frog”  •  XXV. Hawaii and Anson Burlingame  •  XXVI. Mark Twain, Lecturer  •  XXVII. An Innocent Abroad, and Home Again  •  XXVIII. Olivia Langdon. Work on the “Innocents”  •  XXIX. The Visit to Elmira and Its Consequences  •  XXX. The New Book and a Wedding  •  XXXI. Mark Twain in Buffalo  •  XXXII. At Work on “Roughing It”  •  XXXIII. In England  •  XXXIV. A New Book and New English Triumphs  •  XXXV. Beginning “Tom Sawyer”  •  XXXVI. The New Home  •  XXXVII. “Old Times,” “Sketches,” And “Tom Sawyer”  •  XXXVIII. Home Pictures  •  XXXIX. Tramping Abroad  •  XL. “The Prince and the Pauper”  •  XLI. General Grant at Hartford  •  XLII. Many Investments  •  XLIII. Back to the River, With Bixby  •  XLIV. A Reading-Tour With Cable  •  XLV. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”  •  XLVI. Publisher to General Grant  •  XLVII. The High-Tide of Fortune  •  XLVIII. Business Difficulties. Pleasanter Things  •  XLIX. Kipling at Elmira. Elsie Leslie. The “Yankee”  •  L. The Machine. Good-By to Hartford. “Joan” Is Begun  •  LI. The Failure of Webster & Co. Around the World. Sorrow  •  LII. European Economies  •  LIII. Mark Twain Pays His Debts  •  LIV. Return After Exile  •  LV. A Prophet At Home  •  LVI. Honored by Missouri  •  LVII. The Close of a Beautiful Life  •  LVIII. Mark Twain at Seventy  •  LIX. Mark Twain Arranges for His Biography  •  LX. Working With Mark Twain  •  LXI. Dictations at Dublin, N. H.  •  LXII. A New Era of Billiards  •  LXIII. Living With Mark Twain  •  LXIV. A Degree From Oxford  •  LXV. The Removal to Redding  •  LXVI. Life at Stormfield  •  LXVII. The Death of Jean  •  LXVIII. Days in Bermuda  •  LXIX. The Return to Redding  •  LXX. The Close of a Great Life

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The boys' life of Mark Twain: The story of a man who made the world laugh and love him
By Albert Bigelow Paine
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