Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, December 12, 1888.

     Went in to see Walsh in the early morning. He admitted that W, was "much worse" than he had been: that he was "in a very precarious condition." Promised he would inform me on the first appearance of fatal symptoms, when I

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am to summon Bucke. Paid insurance bill to Wagner & Taylor—one dollar, running to January 8th. Wrote Bucke at length. Back to Camden at five in the afternoon—at once to W.'s. He had had an improved day: slept most of the time: very drowsy: perfectly sane but not bright: rarely noticed anyone's entrance to the room except when spoken to. Voice stronger. Stomach not improved in great if any measure. Did not look at mail or take any interest in things about him. Talcott Williams over. Did not see W. Gilchrist came later: was in bedroom a few minutes. Ed much happier. W. cannot stand up. The folks took occasion to-day to clear up things a bit in the room: Mrs. Mapes doing it: W. not observing her presence, they told me. His catarrhal condition prevented him from noticing the closeness of the room. When Ed reminded him of this he said: "Open two of the windows: let the air in"—though he is very sensitive to the cold. I stayed but a brief while—then home to supper: after which out and to Walsh's (Walsh had been in during the day). I asked Walsh: "What is the nature of his trouble? What do you call it? do you give it a name?" He answered: "It is gastric disturbance, with fever." "Will you bring him out of it?" That was asking too much. "That I can't tell you: he is better to-night." Encouraging, anyhow. Off then to Harned's, who had just packed up some pillow cases, sheets and blankets to take down. On the way discussed W.'s will. W. had often promised: "When I am done with it, it must go into Tom's safe." Here he was helpless again and the will God knows where. The folks were cleaning about the room: no one could know what was in the wind: it had all along through the summer and fall lain on a packing box, close to the store, along with a fearful mixup of other papers. Would it not be best for Harned to try to find and pigeonhole it? Harned said he had just been debating that very thing with himself. When W. was up and about again—if he was—we could return it.


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     So we went on—to 328: upstairs: talked ten minutes with W. Harned then left taking the will (found where I supposed it was) home and putting it in a safe place. W. very much brighter than last evening but still very wornout looking. Ed turned the light up. W. spoke of his improvement. He knew me easily enough: was a little doubtful about Tom: evidently his eyes trouble him. "Is it Tom? Tom, is that you?" Asked Tom: "How about Mrs. Harned and the baby?" Asked me: "What day is this, Horace?" and when told, "Wednesday," he repeated it with a query: "Wednesday? only Wednesday? I thought it was Saturday at the least." "What? last Saturday or next Saturday?" I asked. He chuckled over this; "I guess I was meaning next Saturday." Then: "Horace, I 'm going to ask you to take one package of the books (there are four in a package, say?" and send it to the Doctor—express: address it in this way"—giving most specific details— "put on it, 'valued at twenty dollars': then when you write the Doctor (you will to-morrow?) tell him I did n't want to delay him: tell him I will write the dedication for his personal copy on a sheet of paper and he can paste it in the book." Did he want it prepaid? No.

     While we talked the three big boxes of books came from Oldach. W. called for his vest from which to pay the expressman. So keenly, immediately, alive to events. Said: "I'll be up in two or three days: then I can attend to many of those things—this for Dr. Bucke, other things." I asked if he knew anything about Canadian duties. But he did not— "except," indistincly, "that there is a duty—damn it!" Addressed me: "See that the books are put into the front room: the parlor." Then: "See Oldach: get his bill: then we will pay him." I said: "Oldach would give us thirty days." "Well—never mind that: we 'll pay him in ten days—we don't want thirty days." I could see by the tone of his voice that he was a little suspicious that I had appealed (as I had not) for the thirty on account of his uncertain footing. Speaking of his illness—Tom calling it "gas-

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tric"
—W. said: "I have always been more or less troubled that way—at least for years past."

     How much like Lear—the waking Lear—W. seemed: shaken, on the boundary of reason, to-night: his gray hair long and confused: W. opening his eyes wide trying to see Harned—the pillow as a background—the splendid strong hand lying out on the coverlet—the light of the room half down: W.'s voice. I stayed a little while after Harned left. Twenty minutes or so. W. said: " I 'm glad you stayed: you 're good to look at to-night." "How's that?" "Oh! you look more than ever cheery: you look like hope and expectation: I 've been looking death in the face for a couple of days: now, looking at you, I feel as if I was looking life in the face." I asked him about the Burroughs and O'Connor letters. He talked of them freely: "John is not the wonderful letter writer that William is—he don't hit things so quick and so hard: he is rather reflective—yes, of the reflective turn: takes things in but not so promptly, so decisively, with such a hurrah, as William does. But then, where is there anybody like William? I don't see where: I see a lot of people but I see no duplicates of William—no one exactly on his plane: he is in a sense isolated—enjoys a glory all by himself: is almost lonely up there in his high place." I quoted John's phrase: "Try life my own master." W. said: "Yes, that 's good: John was not fitted for the earlier work of his life: he did a good many things before he got to the thing." I had the letter in my pocket. I said: "I want to read a line or two from O'Connor's letter." W. asked: "Why not read the whole letter? I can stand it again: can't you?" I could, sure. So I read. And as I read W. cried out and bravoed and hear-hear'd like a man in an audience listening to a speech. When I was through he said: "William had it in for a few of those fellows: Higginson, Chadwick, Winter—men of that stripe: they tried their literary tricks on him: he went at them like an avalanche: when he was through there was the avalanche taking a rest but where were the quibblers? William made

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short work of the hair splitters. Chadwick got on the wrong field when he called William a liar and crossed blades with him: William gave no quarter—asked for no surrenderers: he just slew them—slaughtered them: drove at them like a tempest: irresistibly assailed, scattered, destroyed them. That Boston New York crowd always felt the sting of William's lash: always: to the end."
All of a sudden W. said: "By the way, Horace, I got a card from William: and he says I should show it to you: I wonder where it is?" I found the postal on the top of some newspapers on the table. " That 's it," said W., "and I want you to take it along." O'Connor wrote:


Washington, Dec. 9, 1888.

Dear Walt:

I was very glad to hear from you this morning, and hope to be able to write you soon in extenso. I have been very sick and feeble for a month past, but am a little better. My eye got open at last but is still bleary and bad. My present trial is a festered penfinger, sore as death, and preventing me writing. Altogether, I am pretty used up. Tell Traubel. I feel dejected at your illness but am comforted to know you are better. The bladder trouble is worst to think of. It is one of my afflictions, though without pain. —I will try to write soon.

I deeply enjoyed your reminiscence of the elder Booth in November Boughs, and wish you had made it longer. He and Rachel were the only vast actors I ever saw.

Always affectionately,

W. D. O'C.


     I said: "Walt, that don't sound like a nearly dead man." W. said: "Indeed it does not: we may say William is not a nearly dead man: he 'll never be nearly dead until he 's dead: he will dash out of the grave even on resurrection day triumphantly: that 's William. Some men are invested with a bouyancy that no problems or disappointments can discourage. We talked of Wiliam's hypochondria the other

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day: well—this is the other side of the story: he goes way down: way, way down: but he comes back—comes perhaps with a more than ever air of confident power and faith. Yes: that 's William—the undaunted William: the fiery friend and lover."


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