Aldrich had died the year before. Howells and Clemens were the lingering "last leaves."
Clemens gave some further luncheon entertainments to his friends, and added the feature of "doe" luncheons--pretty affairs where, with Clara Clemens as hostess, were entertained a group of brilliant women, such as Mrs. Kate Douglas Riggs, Geraldine Farrax, Mrs. Robert Collier, Mrs. Frank Doubleday, and others. I cannot report those luncheons, for I was not present, and the drift of the proceedings came to me later in too fragmentary a form to be used as history; but I gathered from Clemens himself that he had done all of the talking, and I think they must have been very pleasant afternoons. Among the acknowledgments that followed one of these affairs is this characteristic word-play from Mrs. Riggs:
N. B.--A lady who is invited to and attends a doe luncheon is, of course, a doe. The question is, if she attends two doe luncheons in succession is she a doe-doe? If so is she extinct and can never attend a third?
Luncheons and billiards, however, failed to give sufficient brightness to the dull winter days, or to insure him against an impending bronchial attack, and toward the end of January he sailed away to Bermuda, where skies were bluer and roadsides gay with bloom. His sojourn was brief this time, but long enough to cure him, he said, and he came back full of happiness. He had been driving about over the island with a newly adopted granddaughter, little Margaret Blackmer, whom he had met one morning in the hotel dining-room. A part of his dictated story will convey here this pretty experience.
My first day in Bermuda paid a dividend--in fact a double dividend: it broke the back of my cold and it added a jewel to my collection. As I entered the breakfast-room the first object I saw in that spacious and far-reaching place was a little girl seated solitary at a table for two. I bent down over her and patted her cheek and said:
"I don't seem to remember your name; what is it?"
By the sparkle in her brown eyes it amused her. She said:
"Why, you've never known it, Mr. Clemens, because you've never seen me before."
"Why, that is true, now that I come to think; it certainly is true, and it must be one of the reasons why I have forgotten your name. But I remember it now perfectly--it's Mary."
She was amused again; amused beyond smiling; amused to a chuckle, and she said:
"Oh no, it isn't; it's Margaret."
I feigned to be ashamed of my mistake and said:
"Ah, well, I couldn't have made that mistake a few years ago; but I am old, and one of age's earliest infirmities is a damaged memory; but I am clearer now--clearer-headed--it all comes back to me just as if it were yesterday. It's Margaret Holcomb."
She was surprised into a laugh this time, the rippling laugh that a happy brook makes when it breaks out of the shade into the sunshine, and she said:
"Oh, you are wrong again; you don't get anything right. It isn't Holcomb, it's Blackmer."
I was ashamed again, and confessed it; then:
"How old are you, dear?"
"Twelve; New-Year's. Twelve and a month."
We were close comrades-inseparables, in fact-for eight days. Every day we made pedestrian excursions--called them that anyway, and honestly they were intended for that, and that is what they would have been but for the persistent intrusion of a gray and grave and rough-coated donkey by the name of Maud. Maud was four feet long; she was mounted on four slender little stilts, and had ears that doubled her altitude when she stood them up straight. Her tender was a little bit of a cart with seat room for two in it, and you could fall out of it without knowing it, it was so close to the ground. This battery was in command of a nice, grave, dignified, gentlefaced little black boy whose age was about twelve, and whose name, for some reason or other, was Reginald.