going around to the different churches and then marching back to their own. I went round in that procession to all the different churches. I’d walked for miles that day, and I was dead beat, but when I got back to the house I went right up to the nurse and said, “How is Mrs. Clemens?” She said: “She is not so well, she’s having a bad spell. I am going to give her some oxygen.” I hurried to her room on the ground floor, to get it ready, and when she saw me she whispered: “Oh! I’ve been awfully sick all the afternoon, Katy.”
“Well,” I says, “you’ll be all right now.” And I held her up, held her in my arms, and I was fanning her and then—then she fell right over on my shoulder. She died right then in my arms. She drew a little short breath, you know, just once, and was gone! She died so peacefully and a smile was on her face. I looked at her—and I knew that was the end. I knew she’d gone. I couldn’t hear her breathe any more. I lay her back on the pillow and ran out to get the family. They had all been right around her only a few minutes before, and had left because the nurse thought it best for her to be alone.
Miss Clara was in the parlor and Mr. Clemens was in the dining-room, waiting. Oh! I don’t know how I told them. I guess I didn’t have to—they knew. They really felt that she was dying all that day. Clara told me afterward that she felt her mother was going to die that very day. She did not rouse up like she did some days.
They came into the room and oh, God! it was pitiful. Mr. Clemens ran right up to the bed and took her in his arms like he always did and held her for the longest time, and then he laid her back and he said, “How beautiful she is—how young and sweet—and look, she’s smiling!”
It was a pitiful thing to see her there dead, and him looking at her. Oh, he cried all that time, and Clara and Jean, they put their arms around their father’s neck and they cried, the three of them as thought their hearts would break. And then Clara and Jean, they took their father by the hand, one on each side, and led him away. Then the doctor came and we got her ready. I kept my promise, and put on her the dress she wanted, the beautiful lavender silk dress and the stockings and the little slippers that matched. … Mrs. Clemens looked so lovely lying there, so calm and fair after all her suffering. We laid her in the parlor [Lawton 227-9].
Isabel Lyon recorded the event in three cryptic lines: “June 5—Mrs. Clemens died at nine in the evening. / Clara is prostrate— / Life is Too desolated—” [MTOW 40]. Note: Lyon remembered at the first anniversary of Livy’s death:
“…after a sweet chat with Santissima [Clara], Mrs. Clemens’s light went out—Now I can see Mr. Clemens’s face when I flew to the room & told him to go to Mrs. Clemens’s room—‘Is it an alarm?’ he said—but I didn’t know—they only told me to run & get him” . Note: Jean took pictures of her dead mother; one
may be seen in the source, and also in AMT 1: photos following p. 204.
“Later that night Katy found Clara curled up in a little heap under the casket. Sam stayed awake but paced like a sleepwalker between his bedroom and his wife’s room all night. Jean had her first grand mal seizure in thirteen months soon after” .
Hill points out discrepancies between Sam’s and the other accounts and summarizes newspaper accounts:
What makes these accounts important is that Clemens’ own version differs, not substantially but emotionally, from the other two [Lyon’s, Katy’s]. By his own report to Howells, “Last night at 9.20 I entered Mrs. Clemens’s room to say the usual good-night—& she was dead! tho’ no one knew it.” Indeed, he claimed it was he who held her in his arms and discovered that she had died.
The variations would be unimportant except that the survivors all participated in peculiarly ritualistic and macabre behavior during the first few days after Olivia’s death. According to the newspaper accounts preserved in the Mark Twain Papers, Clemens spent the night kneeling beside Olivia’s coffin. And before the sheets on the deathbed were cold—if Katy Leary’s grisly account is correct—Clara climbed into the bed in her mother’s place. Then Clara went to her room and lay “motionless and wordless” for at least four days, not emerging until June 19. Jean “had an attack—the first in 13 months,” and never again was
SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.