I know, but I'm going to take the other one. L. Indeed that won't do--you'll be ever so much too late for your lesson. CL. No, the lesson-time has been put an hour later. L. (satisfied, then suddenly). But, Clara, that train and the late lesson together will make you late to Mrs. Hapgood's luncheon. CL. No, the train leaves fifteen minutes earlier than it used to. L. (satisfied). Tell Mrs. Hapgood, etc., etc., etc. (which Clara promises to do). Clara, dear, after the luncheon--I hate to put this on you--but could you do two or three little shopping-errands for me? CL. Oh, it won't trouble me a bit-I can do it. (Takes a list of the things she is to buy-a list which she will presently hand to another.)
At 3 or 4 P.M. Clara takes the things brought from New York, studies over her part a little, then goes to her mother's room.
LIVY. It's very good of you, dear. Of course, if I had known it was going to be so snowy and drizzly and sloppy I wouldn't have asked you to buy them. Did you get wet? CL. Oh, nothing to hurt. L. You took a cab both ways? CL. Not from the station to the lesson-the weather was good enough till that was over. L. Well, now, tell me everything Mrs. Hapgood said.
Clara tells her a long yarn-avoiding novelties and surprises and anything likely to inspire questions difficult to answer; and of course detailing the menu, for if it had been the feeding of the 5,000 Livy would have insisted on knowing what kind of bread it was and how the fishes were served. By and by, while talking of something else:
LIVY. Clams!--in the end of December. Are you sure it was clams? CL. I didn't say cl---I meant Blue Points. L. (tranquilized). It seemed odd. What is Jean doing? CL. She said she was going to do a little typewriting. L. Has she been out to-day? CL. Only a moment, right after luncheon. She was determined to go out again, but----
L. How did you know she was out? CL. (saving herself in time). Katie told me. She was determined to go out again in the rain and snow, but I persuaded her to stay in. L. (with moving and grateful admiration). Clara, you are wonderful! the wise watch you keep over Jean, and the influence you have over her; it's so lovely of you, and I tied here and can't take care of her myself. (And she goes on with these undeserved praises till Clara is expiring with shame.)
I am to see Livy a moment every afternoon until she has another bad night; and I stand in dread, for with all my practice I realize that in a sudden emergency I am but a poor, clumsy liar, whereas a fine alert and capable emergency liar is the only sort that is worth anything in a sick-chamber.
Now, Joe, just see what reputation can do. All Clara's life she has told Livy the truth and now the reward comes; Clara lies to her three and a half hours every day, and Livy takes it all at par, whereas even when I tell her a truth it isn't worth much without corroboration . . . .
Soon my brief visit is due. I've just been up listening at Livy's door.
5 P.M. A great disappointment. I was sitting outside Livy's door waiting. Clara came out a minute ago and said L ivy is not so well, and the nurse can't let me see her to-day.
That pathetic drama was to continue in some degree for many a long month. All that winter and spring Mrs. Clemens kept but a frail hold on life. Clemens wrote little, and refused invitations everywhere he could. He spent his time largely in waiting for the two-minute period each day when he could stand at the bed-foot and say a few words to the invalid, and he confined his writing mainly to the comforting, affectionate messages which he was allowed to push under her door. He was always waiting there long before the moment he was permitted to enter.