The other pleasant evening referred to was a little company given in honor of Helen Keller. It was fascinating to watch her, and to realize with what a store of knowledge she had lighted the black silence of her physical life. To see Mark Twain and Helen Keller together was something not easily to be forgotten. When Mrs. Macy (who, as Miss Sullivan, had led her so marvelously out of the shadows) communicated his words to her with what seemed a lightning touch of the fingers her face radiated every shade of his meaning-humorous, serious, pathetic. Helen visited the various objects in the room, and seemed to enjoy them more than the usual observer of these things, and certainly in greater detail. Her sensitive fingers spread over articles of bric-a-brac, and the exclamations she uttered were always fitting, showing that she somehow visualized each thing in all its particulars. There was a bronze cat of handsome workmanship and happy expression, and when she had run those all—seeing fingers of hers over it she said: “It is smiling.”
The billiard games went along pretty steadily that winter. My play improved, and Clemens found it necessary to eliminate my odds altogether, and to change the game frequently in order to keep me in subjection. Frequently there were long and apparently violent arguments over the legitimacy of some particular shot or play—arguments to us quite as enjoyable as the rest of the game. Sometimes he would count a shot which was clearly out of the legal limits, and then it was always a delight to him to have a mock-serious discussion over the matter of conscience, and whether or not his conscience was in its usual state of repair. It would always end by him saying: “I don’t wish even to seem to do anything which can invite suspicion. I refuse to count that shot,” or something of like nature. Sometimes when I had let a questionable play pass without comment, he would watch anxiously until I had made a similar one and then insist on my scoring it to square accounts. His conscience was always repairing itself.
He had experimented, a great many years before, with what was in the nature of a trick on some unsuspecting player. It consisted in turning out twelve pool-balls on the table with one cue ball, and asking his guest how many caroms he thought he could make with all those twelve balls to play on. He had learned that the average player would seldom make more than thirty-one counts, and usually, before this number was reached, he would miss through some careless play or get himself into a position where he couldn’t play at all. The thing looked absurdly easy. It looked as if one could go on playing all day long, and the victim was usually eager to bet that he could make fifty or perhaps a hundred; but for more than an hour I tried it patiently, and seldom succeeded in scoring more than fifteen or twenty without missing. Long after the play itself ceased to be amusing to me, he insisted on my going on and trying it some more, and he would throw himself back and roar with laughter, the tears streaming down his cheeks, to see me work and fume and fail.