Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, March 25, 1892

     The history of last night after I left will bear a note or two. Though turned almost as much, he was less uncomfortable, appeared to be under less pressure. At 1:10, when turned right, Warrie remarked, "You turn better," and he responded, "Ah! Lighter!" At 1:15 turned to left, at 2:15 to right, at 2:30 left again. At this juncture Warrie remarked, "The bed does not seem to make much difference on your right side," but he protested, "Oh, I feel good," and he laughed gently when Warrie likened the splashing of the water when he was moved to the splashing up the side of a ship. At 3:25 he took bread and milk and thought it "good." Adding some water at eight Warrie told W. he was "afloat," W. responding, "Like a ship or duck, eh?" And later he told Mrs. Davis that the water-bed had been a great help. "Whose work is it?" he asked. And she replied, "Doctor Bucke proposed it and your doctors here and friends approved of it and got it at once." Certainly the first signs have been favorable. If he is not better, he is at least in greater comfort. I was in at 8:20 and in his room a bit, shaking hands with him but having no remarks either to make or listen to. Asks now rather to be changed in position than to be turned. Resumes the milk punch. Asked at 9:27 what he would have for breakfast he said, "I don't know," and consented to have them make a choice for him. Letter had come from Ingersoll and Warrie read it to him, but he did not make the least remark.

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Mch 24 92

My dear Friend

I was pained to hear that you are suffering more and more, but was glad to know that your brave spirit has never been bowed—and that in all your agony your heart keeps sweet and strong.

I think of you a thousand times a day, and of the great good you have done the world. You have uttered such brave, free and winged words—words that have thundered and ennobled the hearts and lives of millions—that my admiration has deepened to obligation.

Again I thank you for your courage, and again I lovingly say farewell. And yet I hope to see you soon.

Yours always

R G Ingersoll


Is weak to dullness. "I am sapped," he told me yesterday. "Nothing is left: only a last flickering spark, somewhere." Attempts to engage him in talk all failures. Mrs. Davis went on duty about noon and he told her then, "Mary, I am feeling very poorly." At 5:30 when urged to take some mutton broth (he had had others earlier in the day), he rejected the idea, "No, I cannot eat." Is shifted almost as much as before but is not turned nearly so often. Rests longer in one position. Longaker counselled Warrie today, "Encourage him to eat." The day altogether worse than yesterday but better in particulars, which the water may soften. No words, no messages, no interest in anything or anybody. The benefit of the water-bed seems to be to ease him. The processes of decay go on. The failing appetite is noticeable. Wrote John Hay today and had from McKay an order for one copy complete works.

     At 6:10 I was there and went in the room, standing by the side of the bed full ten minutes, during which time he slept. Breathing regular, quick and labored, with the thick rattling in the throat and a painful moan struggling out now and then. He will moan quite positively and continuously at times. I touched his head. He did not stir. (Mrs. Davis had said, "This has been a stupid day. He says nothing—takes no interest in anything.")

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Head quite warm and moist. The water in the bed very mild. Heat of room intense—almost enough to suffocate one who comes right out of the open air—but of pure odor—no tendency towards impurity. Solemn moments, crowded with memories. I passed out of the room and sat and talked with Mrs. Davis and wrote short notes to Ingersoll, Symonds, Johnston (England) and others. Suddenly he called—did not ring—Mrs. Davis going in quickly, I following. He said briefly "over" and no more, and she asked no questions but went to work. After she had got him over and covered he called her again, "Mary, lift me a little higher." She seemed in despair. "You are very high now, Mr. Whitman." "Well, just a little higher." She then attempting, he finally saying, "That will do—yes, that will do," though he was not really higher. "Any change is so good!" he exclaimed. As she fixed the bed, she mentioned my name, "Mr. Traubel is here." W., who had had his eyes shut, opened them an instant and looked at me. "Oh! Horace!" then seemed to lapse again. I did not go forward then nor feel to urge him out of his torpor. Bucke's letter must go another day! Perhaps (I fear surely) forever unanswered.

     12:20 At W.'s and just as he called to be turned. In two minutes he called again. "Put me up a little higher still," he said. Is more restful. Looks very weak—worse and worse. Again he said, "I don't rest any way I am put, but a change now and then relieves the terrible pressure." Asks for no food but pulls again at the brandy punches. Mrs. Davis retired and Warrie on duty. Resists bedclothes—pushes or has them pushed back. "They are so heavy," he says. I remarked to Mrs. Davis, "He is so weak, he seems to have no power any more to clear his throat." And she said, "I have noticed it: it grows worse and worse."

     Letter from Johnston (N.Y.) about a new and the old Paine picture. Also Bucke—24th—calling my attention to "Death's Valley," not knowing I know too that it was not unchangedly like the version in type for the book.


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