The scene is the library in the Langdon homestead. Jean's coffin stands where her mother and I stood, forty years ago, and were married; and where Susy's coffin stood thirteen years ago; where her mother's stood five years and a half ago; and where mine will stand after a little time.

FIVE O'CLOCK.--It is all over.

When Clara went away two weeks ago to live in Europe, it was hard, but I could bear it, for I had Jean left. I said WE would be a family. We said we would be close comrades and happy--just we two. That fair dream was in my mind when Jean met me at the steamer last Monday; it was in my mind when she received me at the door last Tuesday evening. We were together; WE WERE A FAMILY! the dream had come true--oh, precisely true, contentedly, true, satisfyingly true! and remained true two whole days.

And now? Now Jean is in her grave!

In the grave--if I can believe it. God rest her sweet spirit!


1. Katy Leary, who had been in the service of the Clemens family for twenty-nine years.

2. Mr. Gabrilowitsch had been operated on for appendicitis.




If I understand the idea, the BAZAR invites several of us to write upon the above text. It means the change in my life's course which introduced what must be regarded by me as the most IMPORTANT condition of my career. But it also implies--without intention, perhaps--that that turning-point ITSELF was the creator of the new condition. This gives it too much distinction, too much prominence, too much credit. It is only the LAST link in a very long chain of turning-points commissioned to produce the cardinal result; it is not any more important than the humblest of its ten thousand predecessors. Each of the ten thousand did its appointed share, on its appointed date, in forwarding the scheme, and they were all necessary; to have left out any one of them would have defeated the scheme and brought about SOME OTHER result. It know we have a fashion of saying "such and such an event was the turning-point in my life," but we shouldn't say it. We should merely grant that its place as LAST link in the chain makes it the most CONSPICUOUS link; in real importance it has no advantage over any one of its predecessors.

Perhaps the most celebrated turning-point recorded in history was the crossing of the Rubicon. Suetonius says:

Coming up with his troops on the banks of the Rubicon, he halted for a while, and, revolving in his mind the importance of the step he was on the point of taking, he turned to those about him and said, "We may still retreat; but if we pass this little bridge, nothing is left for us but to fight it out in arms."

This was a stupendously important moment. And all the incidents, big and little, of Caesar's previous life had been leading up to it, stage by stage, link by link. This was the LAST link--merely the last one, and no bigger than the others; but as we gaze back at it through the inflating mists of our imagination, it looks as big as the orbit of Neptune.

You, the reader, have a PERSONAL interest in that link, and so have I; so has the rest of the human race. It was one of the links in your life-chain, and it was one of the links in mine. We may wait, now, with baited breath, while Caesar reflects. Your fate and mine are involved in his decision.

While he was thus hesitating, the following incident occurred. A person remarked for his noble mien and graceful aspect appeared close at hand, sitting and playing upon a pipe. When not only the shepherds, but a number of soldiers also, flocked to listen to him, and some trumpeters among them, he snatched a trumpet from one of them, ran to the river with it, and, sounding the advance with a piercing blast, crossed to the other side. Upon this, Caesar exclaimed: "Let us go whither the omens of the gods and the iniquity of our enemies call up. THE DIE IS CAST."

So he crossed--and changed the future of the whole human race, for all time.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book