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Sunday, April 14, 1889

Sunday, April 14, 1889

7.45 P.M. The room dark. I feared something wrong. Not positively wrong, however, though W. had spent a bad day again. He lay on bed—cried—"Oh! is that you, Ed?" When finding it was me he held out his hand in the dark and cordially invited me to take a seat, which I fumbled for and secured. Asked of the weather, of the great night. "It has been a very bad day with me, all through—a very bad day." Said he had been able to do little—had read some, "wrote a note to O'Connor—one to Doctor"—but that was "about all." "Yet," he said, "it seems to have been a marvelous day out in the sun. What have you been doing with yourself?" This evening I seem to have done most of the talking, as is apt to be the case when something I have seen arouses his hunger for detail, of which he is always a sharp questioner. Among other sights on the way was the photographic exhibition at the Academy. He asked of it: "So you think we have won the sceptre back?"—reference herein to his rather shattered faith that Americans in photography led the world. Most of all was he attracted by the sea-pieces of which I spoke. "You say, active—the very movement of the water itself? Oh! it must be fine, fine—it must utter for one, new great thoughts!" Greatly interested by the fact of Sunday freedom of Academy. "It is one of the best things I hear." Would know of those who went—how they seemed to regard time, place, pictures. "The advance great" in liberty.

"No more," he said regretfully—"no more about the Danmark. What the deep anxiety of it!" But of the recent Samoan disaster, the papers were full. "Today I read the Press—the great detail there. And the more you learn of it, the worse the disaster seems." How the elements had scattered the schemes of the nations! Remarked having read poems "more of them"—from Swinburne in The Press to-day: "A Word with the Wind," "The Witch Mother," "Neap-tide"—but made no criticism or comment.

I told him I had come for proof and manuscript, and proposed getting it for myself from the table, but after a little hesitation he said, "I will get it for you—I should get up anyhow"—going then first to the chair with my assistance. He leaned very heavily on me—more heavily than I have ever known before—rather by his manner emphasizing my fear that the last month has been pulling hard upon his strength. But of his own trembling self he closed the blinds of the windows and lighted the gas. He had added a goodly paragraph starting with "To-day completing three-score and ten years"—and ending "Probably that is about all,"—and directed on margin "make the above the first paragraph" etc. It is three-quarters in one sentence, yet accurately counted, demonstrating how clear after all are his mental processes, beyond strain as they are. He said to me: "There it is done. Let Myrick put them into pages before sending proof again." On a sheet accompanying he had diagrammed the two pages to precede the Backward Glance preface—the first with title only, the second with copyright announcement. These together he had carefully folded and enclosed in an envelope addressed to Ferguson. "No we should be able to proceed—all but with the pictures." He had again today not felt well enough to attempt with Mrs. Davis a search for these.

Said he had had no visitors. "Harned—Tom—was here—at least at the door: left me the Tribune." Tom and "little Tommy" here last evening. W. so glad again to see "little Tommy""the children always welcome—cheery." I said I thought Tom and Mrs. Harned had the baby with them on an outing today. W. said quickly: "Is that so? and did not bring him in? I feel slighted—I take that as a slight!" But I explained laughing—"The baby was asleep—they thought he might be out of temper if disturbed." W. thereupon: "True—true: I take it back—I am myself again! We must wait for another time!" His references to this child have been singularly frequent, as if its coming bore reference even to his departing and "soon-to-be-utterly-departed" powers, as he puts it. We talked of prohibition excitement in Philadelphia—a special election now approaching. But W. not swerving at all from his usual views.

I examined the Scott portrait downstairs. It seemed to be a photographic reproduction of a steel engraving, but nobly and softly done. But on reverse of little gilt frame was an English imprint. W. said: "I don't remember that—I must look at it again." Really an exquisite print. But no date or name of maker thereon. Nor could W. "guess" at what age it represented Sir Walter. Said he had seen by the papers that Burroughs had been writing something for Wide Awake—"some account of his early life""but from John himself, it is now getting a long while again since I have heard. And you hear nothing?" W.'s continued bad condition raises some fears in me. A palpably growing weakness, too. But this may all right itself with the continued fine spring days.

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