She was more at home than the others. Her health did not permit her to go out so freely and her father had more of her companionship. They discussed many things—the problems of life and of those beyond life, philosophies of many kinds, and the subtleties of literary art. He recalled long after how once they lost themselves in trying to solve the mystery of the emotional effect of certain word-combinations—certain phrases and lines of verse—as, for instance, the wild, free breath of the open that one feels in “the days when we went gipsying a long time ago” and the tender, sunlit, grassy slope and mossy headstones suggested by the simple words, “departed this life.” Both Susy and her father cared more for Joan than any of the former books. To Mr. Rogers, Clemens wrote:
“Possibly the book may not sell, but that is nothing—it was written for love.” A memorandum which he made at the time, apparently for no one but himself, brings us very close to the personality behind it.
Do you know that shock? I mean when you come at your regular hour into the sick-room where you have watched for months and find the medicine-bottles all gone, the night-table removed, the bed stripped, the furniture set stiffly to rights, the windows up, the room cold, stark, vacant—& you catch your breath & realize what has happened.
Do you know that shock?
The man who has written a long book has that experience the morning after he has revised it for the last time & sent it away to the printer. He steps into his study at the hour established by the habit of months—& he gets that little shock. All the litter & confusion are gone. The piles of dusty reference-books are gone from the chairs, the maps from the floor; the chaos of letters, manuscripts, note-books, paper-knives, pipes, matches, photographs, tobacco-jars, & cigar-boxes is gone from the writing-table, the furniture is back where it used to be in the long-ago. The housemaid, forbidden the place for five months, has been there & tidied it up & scoured it clean & made it repellent & awful.
I stand here this morning contemplating this desolation, & I realize that if I would bring back the spirit that made this hospital home- like & pleasant to me I must restore the aids to lingering dissolution to their wonted places & nurse another patient through & send it forth for the last rites, With many or few to assist there, as may happen; & that I will do.
STARTING ON THE LONG TRAIL