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Sunday, May 19, 1889

Sunday, May 19, 1889

10.30 A.M. Mrs. Davis was in the room, talking to Walt. He was trying to find her a certain newspaper. I took him Tribune from Harned, whom I had met on the street. I said to W.: "I just left Tom down at the corner with his high hat on." W. queried: "Going to church, I suppose?" I nodded assent. "I thought so," he proceeded, "One belongs with the other, high hat and church—each equally detestable." Then after a moment's pause, as if to confess a doubt of his own position: "That is from a severe point of view. I remember when I was a young man one of my placards for remembrance—for every-day contemplation—was this: to not take a severe view of things—to guard lest I settle into the mood of the book-bookies, scholars, critics—growling at the universe in general and all its particulars. I think I have mainly succeeded in holding myself in check, if check were needed." Gave me copy of Hobby Horse guild periodical, picking it from floor and saying: "Take it along with you. I think it is edited by Horne, who is friendly to me—thoughtful of me and sends it on every issue." And he now referred again, as so often before, to its "superb ink and press-work and paper."

Mrs. Davis came in again, holding a couple of tiny chickens extended in her hand. He smoothed and fondled them—talked pleasantly and low—"oh! What mites! And black ones, too! O you dearies! Are you glad you have come?" And so on. Suddenly he turned and scanned the table, then back again to the chickens, still there in Mrs. Davis' hand. "I have nothing here for you, darlings—nothing at all—nothing but Leaves of Grass—and Leaves of Grass. When you come to want them at all you will want the genuine, which , unfortunately, we have not about us here." And as still handled them: "How serene! just as if they had a right to be here!—which is the most beautiful feature about it all."

I called W.'s attention to the card printed after Hannah Stevenson's death, embodying her noble life—vista, &c.—reading thus:

Hannah Elizabeth Stevenson's Expense-book Motto. 
  To postpone my own pleasure to others' convenience, My own convenience to others' comfort, 
  My own comfort to others' want, 
  And my own want to others' extreme need. 

At the first mention of her name he repeated it: "Hannah Stevenson? Surely I know her. It seems to me she must have sent me money during the war." And as he read the rules: "Grand! Noble! Sublime! Supreme! Oh! What a personality, to have projected that! That is projected right out of her rich and saving inwardness." In his usual vein he kept on soliciting details. I told him all I had heard and remembered of her from Clifford, who had known her friendship years ago and intimately—a mother-help and more. Then W. resumed: "Ah yes! now the name assumes a positiveness. Miss, wasn't she? I am certain of it. I must have it in memoranda there in my note books"—pointing to the table. "There was another woman in Boston, too—have you heard of her too? She sent money from time to time—Miss Wigglesworth or Rigglesworth. It all comes back to me. You know, much money was sent to me in those years of hospital experience. Many rich ladies in the land devoted time and money to the cause—bled themselves copiously, bravely. Hannah Stevenson was one of them, I'm sure."

The day has been clouded but it does not yet storm (noon-time). I advised that, as the day looked ominous, he ought to have a ride without waiting for the afternoon. He assented: "That is true, and I'll get Ed to rig up before long. I rather like a day such as this—half-clouded, quiet, subdued. Take note of my predication, too—that the weather will remain just as it is the rest of the day, unchanging." [And it did: I was off in the woods most of the rest of the day, and barring a few slight showers, it did not rain at all.] W. looked very well this morning, his color splendid. But he continues the complaint of head trouble.

"There are the autographs," he said, pointing to a bundle on the table, "103 of them. If you want more I can set to work and get them ready for you today." But there was no occasion. I put the package in the hallway, so I could get it in calling before he arises tomorrow. Had not yet sent a set of sheets of the pocket-edition to Bucke—was afraid they would make a bad impression—thought the parts would "best hang together" when in the handsome cover. His circumspection is remarkable. I wrote letters to Howells, Sanborn, Aldrich, this forenoon. I asked W. quizzically about Holmes. He shook his head. "No—I should not write to Holmes—he is not one of our men—we all must realize that. I have met him—he was pleasant enough then. Holmes is not without decided, splendid, sparks of high talent—he has great smartness, brilliancy. But Holmes is most famous as an epigrammatist, rather than poet, though he has written fine things, I know—a number of fine things. But Holmes belongs to another world than ours—comes by right into another heritage—an important agency, too, as I always realize and acknowledge."

He pointed out the fine roses on the table. "They are from Grace Johnson—she was on here the other day—came to see some school friend, I think—there in Philadelphia. I don't suppose she went right back home, for a day or two after she saw me, these roses came—so she must have still been about." Then he went on: "I have many serious, delicious experiences—none more touching, exquisite, than with the flowers! Oh! the transcendent flowers!—see these, how they hold up their proud sweet heads!" He pointed to the bunch of daisies I had remarked on the step last night: he had just clipped the stems, and now the flowers stood in front of him on the table. "A youngster—I suppose about ten—came up to me last night—it was already quite dark—in front of the house. He was a chubby, big, I should judge ruddy-faced boy of his years. He came up to me—never said a word—held the flowers straight out this way—and I took them. 'Are they for me? Thank you! Thank you, boy!'" I said, and so off he went." "And not even then a word?" I asked. W. responded: "No— not a word—not a whisper!" And then he exclaimed fervently: "The wonderful, inexplicable children!"

On the chair was the Transcript containing the O'Connor notice of which he had spoken to me. "It is very good indeed," he said, "considering it for itself, as an unpretentious newspaper notice." He had written on the margin of the paper, plainly with ink—"Kennedy thinks this was written by Hurd." Was he sure about Hurd—I had known the name Heard. But he persisted: "H-U-R-D is right—I am sure of it." But he looked in vain for Kennedy's postal. "I was sure I had laid it carefully for you here—but, as usual, my best care would not save it."

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