Mark Twain: A Biography, by Albert Bigelow Paine

Appendix a

Letter from Orion Clemens to Miss Wood Concerning Henry Clemens

(See Chapter xxvi)

KEOKUK, Iowa, October 3, 1858.

MISS WOOD — My mother having sent me your kind letter, with a request that myself and wife should write to you, I hasten to do so.

In my memory I can go away back to Henry’s infancy; I see his large, blue eyes intently regarding my father when he rebuked him for his credulity in giving full faith to the boyish idea of planting his marbles, expecting a crop therefrom; then comes back the recollection of the time when, standing we three alone by our father’s grave, I told them always to remember that brothers should be kind to each other; afterward I see Henry returning from school with his books for the last time. He must go into my printing-office. He learned rapidly. A word of encouragement or a word of discouragement told upon his organization electrically. I could see the effects in his day’s work. Sometimes I would say, “Henry!” He would stand full front with his eyes upon mine — all attention. If I commanded him to do something, without a word he was off instantly, probably in a run. If a cat was to be drowned or shot Sam (though unwilling yet firm) was selected for the work. If a stray kitten was to be fed and taken care of Henry was expected to attend to it, and he would faithfully do so. So they grew up, and many was the grave lecture commenced by ma, to the effect that Sam was misleading and spoiling Henry. But the lectures were never concluded, for Sam would reply with a witticism, or dry, unexpected humor, that would drive the lecture clean out of my mother’s mind, and change it to a laugh. Those were happier days. My mother was as lively as any girl of sixteen. She is not so now. And sister Pamela I have described in describing Henry; for she was his counterpart. The blow falls crushingly on her. But the boys grew up — Sam a rugged, brave, quick-tempered, generous-hearted fellow, Henry quiet, observing, thoughtful, leaning on Sam for protection; Sam and I too leaning on him for knowledge picked up from conversation or books, for Henry seemed never to forget anything, and devoted much of his leisure hours to reading.

Henry is gone! His death was horrible! How I could have sat by him, hung over him, watched day and night every change of expression, and ministered to every want in my power that I could discover. This was denied to me, but Sam, whose organization is such as to feel the utmost extreme of every feeling, was there. Both his capacity of enjoyment and his capacity of suffering are greater than mine; and knowing how it would have affected me to see so sad a scene, I can somewhat appreciate Sam’s sufferings. In this time of great trouble, when my two brothers, whose heartstrings have always been a part of my own, were suffering the utmost stretch of mortal endurance, you were there, like a good angel, to aid and console, and I bless and thank you for it with my whole heart. I thank all who helped them then; I thank them for the flowers they sent to Henry, for the tears that fell for their sufferings, and when he died, and all of them for all the kind attentions they bestowed upon the poor boys. We thank the physicians, and we shall always gratefully remember the kindness of the gentleman who at so much expense to himself enabled us to deposit Henry’s remains by our father.

With many kind wishes for your future welfare, I remain your earnest friend,

Respectfully, ORION CLEMENS.

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:05