As long as I remember anything I shall remember the forty-eight hours of that homeward voyage. He was comfortable at first, and then we ran into the humid, oppressive air of the Gulf Stream, and he could not breathe. It seemed to me that the end might come at any moment, and this thought was in his own mind, but he had no dread, and his sense of humor did not fail. 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.”
I had been instructed in the use of the hypodermic needle, and from time to time gave him the “hypnotic injunction,” as he still called it. But it did not afford him entire relief. He could remain in no position for any length of time. Yet he never complained and thought only of the trouble he might be making. Once he said:
“I am sorry for you, Paine,
but I can’t help it—I can’t
And a little later:
“Oh, it is such a mystery, and it takes so long!”
Relatives, physicians, and news-gatherers were at the dock to welcome him. Revived by the cool, fresh air of the North, he had slept for several hours and was seemingly much better. A special compartment on the same train that had taken us first to Redding took us there now, his physicians in attendance. He did not seem to mind the trip or the drive home.
As we turned into the lane that led to Stormfield he said:
“Can we see where you have built your billiard-room?”
The gable of the new study showed among the trees, and I pointed it out to him.
“It looks quite imposing,” he said.
Arriving at Stormfield, he stepped, unassisted, from the carriage to greet the members of the household, and with all his old courtliness offered each his hand. Then in a canvas chair we had brought we carried him up-stairs to his room—the big, beautiful room that looked out to the sunset hills. This was Thursday evening, April 14, 1910.
THE CLOSE OF A GREAT LIFE
Mark Twain lived just a week from that day and hour. For a time he seemed full of life, talking freely, and suffering little. Clara and Ossip Gabrilowitsch arrived on Saturday and found him cheerful, quite like himself. At intervals he read. “Suetonius” and “Carlyle” lay on the bed beside him, and he would pick them up and read a page or a paragraph. Sometimes when I saw him thus—the high color still in his face, the clear light in his eyes’—I said: “It is not reality. He is not going to die.”
But by Wednesday of the following week it was evident that the end was near. We did not know it then, but the mysterious messenger of his birth year, Halley’s comet, became visible that night in the sky.