Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, March 14, 1892

     8:15 A.M. W. awake and so I went into the room and shook hands with him. Very weak. "What kind of a night have you had?" "Middling." He had not lifted his hand from the pillow—only opened it, to receive mine when it fell. He was very cordial

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but I did not think it wise to remain and attempt any talks. He did not. He speaks of feeling "pretty sore all over." He bravely faces the issues day by day. I said to him now, "I hope you may shake off some of this pain," and he responded significantly, "It is pretty well over now, Horace, pretty well over now." Had not yet looked at Telegram. No desire to have west window opened.

     6:20 P.M. The day bad altogether. W. had a few minutes of brightness—or lessened discomfort. He called for the papers, they propped him up in bed by an extra pillow. But a little bit of this was enough. He soon collapsed, sank down on the pillow, seemed to gasp for breath. They feared he was about to die. Shortly after that Longaker came in. McAlister did not meet Longaker as L. had requested. No visitors the whole day. Longaker spoke seriously to Mrs. Davis of the situation. The notes of attendance during the day tell but bare facts—enumerate the constant turnings. He had hardly spoken the whole day. Dreads more and more the being lifted. Ate well enough—wished a soft-boiled egg and chocolate. Declined oysters this afternoon. No relief in right lung. I went into the room. He was left and asleep. I stayed there, softly, hardly breathing, and could catch his hard quick breath. The fire burned cheerily. The sunset beamed a cold gold into the room, reflectedly. On the bed, W.'s face lighted by the declining day—pale, tired, worn—a touch of death already there—the hands both under cover. Today he had said as Mrs. Davis was washing him, "Be quick, Mary—cover me over." Legs up to the knee cold now nigh prevailingly.

     10:05 P.M. After Ethical Society Board meeting Longaker and I went to Boothby's and had a good talk, as much for comparison of notes as anything. He told me he discovered Saturday that W.'s right lung was doing him little service. He describes the failure of these recent days, but will not set out for prophecy to say how long this decline may go on before death. "I don't think it will last long." But what was "long"? He shook his head and laughed, "I have made some pretty full notes for Bucke, which I will send to you to forward." I could however see that he

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had no faith in the future. "Collapse total and complete may come any day—any hour." Longaker feels that McAlister has not fairly understood his position as second on the transaction, which is true. L. will arrange really to take charge hereafter till the end. Read him Symonds' letters and he was much struck, "I am growing more and more interested in and drawn to Whitman—not only as a person but for his books." We came to a pretty clear understanding about the future and prepared to communicate with each other and by cable abroad with others immediately upon W.'s severer sickness or death. "I think this whole thing will close up before long." Longaker expressed his pleasure in Bucke's note.

     11:20 P.M. Back from Philadelphia. Mrs. Davis on watch still. Warrie asleep. W. restless enough—but quiet—saying nothing and seeming to court silence and retirement. He once came to the right—only kept it three minutes—rang and was turned left again. As Mrs. Davis turned him he cried, "Oh—oh—oh—oh," as if hurt—but neither made remark. Often when turned he contracts his brow, as if in pain, but again makes no remark. Now and then he will say, "Thanks—thanks." Mrs. Davis asked him, "Do you wish for anything, Mr. Whitman?" and he shook his head and simply answered, "No." He once simply motioned with his hand when wishing to be turned. His voice very weak and choked, especially when lying right—in fact, on this tack he can hardly speak at all and seems to struggle to get breath. Again, on one turn, the breath seemed to stop—he hung as if dead (Mrs. Davis in dread)—then resumed life with a long breath, almost a sigh. (Could he have felt a defeated hope?) Displayed no curiosity, no inquiry, no disposition to volunteer any word or act. I lingered about till after twelve. His room very hot—the night very cold and windy.


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