“I believe if I had stayed in Tennessee I might have been worth twenty thousand dollars to-day.”
On the morning of the 24th of March, 1847, it was evident that he could not live many hours. He was very weak. When he spoke, now and then, it was of the land. He said it would soon make them all rich and happy.
“Cling to the land,” he whispered. “Cling to the land, and wait. Let nothing beguile it away from you.”
A little later he beckoned to Pamela, now a lovely girl of nineteen, and, putting his arm about her neck, kissed her for the first time in years.
“Let me die,” he said.
He never spoke after that. A little more, and the sad, weary life that had lasted less than forty-nine years was ended: A dreamer and a moralist, an upright man honored by all, he had never been a financier. He ended life with less than he had begun.
A YOUNG BEN FRANKLIN
For a third time death had entered the Clemens home: not only had it brought grief now, but it had banished the light of new fortune from the very threshold. The disaster seemed complete.
The children were dazed. Judge Clemens had been a distant, reserved man, but they had loved him, each in his own way, and they had honored his uprightness and nobility of purpose. Mrs. Clemens confided to a neighbor that, in spite of his manner, her husband had been always warm-hearted, with a deep affection for his family. They remembered that he had never returned from a journey without bringing each one some present, however trifling. Orion, looking out of his window next morning, saw old Abram Kurtz, and heard him laugh. He wondered how anybody could still laugh.
The boy Sam was fairly broken down. Remorse, which always dealt with him unsparingly, laid a heavy hand on him now. Wildness, disobedience, indifference to his father’s wishes, all were remembered; a hundred things, in themselves trifling, became ghastly and heart-wringing in the knowledge that they could never be undone. Seeing his grief, his mother took him by the hand and led him into the room where his father lay.
“It is all right, Sammy,” she said. “What’s done is done, and it does not matter to him any more; but here by the side of him now I want you to promise me——”
He turned, his eyes streaming with tears, and flung himself into her arms.
“I will promise anything,” he sobbed, “if you won’t make me go to school! Anything!”
His mother held him for a moment, thinking, then she said:
“No, Sammy; you need not go to school any more. Only promise me to be a better boy. Promise not to break my heart.”
So he promised her to be a faithful and industrious man, and upright, like his father. His mother was satisfied with that. The sense of honor and justice was already strong within him. To him a promise was a serious matter at any time; made under conditions like these it would be held sacred.