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 living. 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 being misunderstood."
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 unheeded.
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.