Commentary

Disciples


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Monday, October 19, 1891

     5:40 P.M. W. on his bed—room pretty dark—but he called my name instantly on entrance. "Sit down, Horace—sit down! I have only been dozing." And talked thenceforth a perfect flood. Expects McKay tomorrow. Would he defend our one-dollar edition? "Yes indeed—I will sound Dave." Morris suggests a supper together Saturday, approving my plan of saying nothing in an anticipatory way to Wallace. W. declares, "I like your scheme a good deal." And when I added, "We will take him to the Penn Club reception after," W. exclaimed, "Good! Good! And he might find some of the fellows there! Perhaps Brinton, Horace Howard Furness. And by the way, Horace, is Brinton back? I seem to feel myself as if I ought to see him." But I had

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written Brinton at Media to let me know instantly of his return, thinking I might hear before Wallace goes home, that he may meet B. Longaker writes for us to dine with him Tuesday or Wednesday or any other day we may set. W. remarked, "Wallace was here again—came along with Ralph Moore. Yes, he went out—walked—your instructions quite clear to him. Seems to have had a good time—to have seen his see, then dined with Moore, then come in town (Moore with him)." I supposed they had driven in? "No, I think not—they walked." But I found after that they had driven. And then, "Wallace seems to have enjoyment large among his possibilities—aches with it, so to speak. And now, Horace, while we are on this topic let me say something to you. I would dare say it to you, if not to him. Wallace seems almost agonistically possessed with the notion of doing something for me—of giving actual concrete service—all that. I want you to talk with him about it—tell him your idea—which will no doubt be mine. I have everything I want, everything—he can do nothing for me. I have friends, enough money, comfort—as good things as my age, my condition, will permit. There is nothing he could add to that to assuage." I put in, "So I tell him—I say, do not worry about the thing at all. Whitman is glad to have you—read 'Leaves of Grass' and bring yourself. That is gift enough!" W.: "Fine! Fine! And just the point—insist on that, Horace, till he understands it. Let him come in the spirit of 'Leaves of Grass,' which spares a man all worrisome mental questionings. What would a few dollars more do for me? I cannot see that it would add a cubit to my stature, do you? I could easily spend a hundred dollars, or fifty, but I cannot see that it would leave me in any better condition than I now enjoy and might leave me in worse." I remarked, "Walt, you know—or should know—and he should know, that if you were wiped out of every penny you have today, I know just where to go to make you secure for all the future." "God bless you, boy! Yes, I know. And what you have just told me, Horace—oh! it is the rock of my old age. I am built upon it—I rest myself upon its strong foundation. But I say, in

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face of that—do not urge the call. Almost the main sweetness of the fact you impart me is this—that it may be a reserve, may not, must not, be called up—that it stands there, my guard, my promise, yet past all possibility of demand. I almost think if I had to ask fulfillment, the rock, now my saviour, my peace, would be my wreck, my ruin, my night! But you cannot know how these days of my waiting, this night-coming time of my life, are confident, happy, secure, in you, in your right arm, in these friends you seem to have clustered, sworn. Good to me—necessary to me. Oh! the pathetic pathos of it! the deep of feeling below the deep! Wallace will know this, will comprehend—will see it all, plain, clear, lustrous—for it is lustrous to me. And tell him, Horace, the days ahead of me are few—there cannot be many—the most that can be done for me would be, must be, little. I do not want, I would not take, anything from him. He is here—we enjoy him, his good heart—that is enough. And tell all the fellows, tell yourself chiefly—Walt Whitman, saying little, few in words, is all heart, love for them, for you, for what has been done—is being daily, hourly, done—to alleviate the passage. I don't know why, Horace, but as we sit here now—or I on the bed, you there—I feel full of this thing, and to say much of the much I feel within—to make confession. We have travelled a long distance together—long, long—and soon the night—the sweet night, too, if we go forth in the true spirit."
Had I ever such a talk as this—such voice-heart, such melody of private speech? The shadow had gathered closer—the room was quite darkened. I said to W., "I have beaten Wallace down on his desire to go home Wednesday. I have made preparations for another week, anyway. I would like for one thing to take him to one of our great political meetings." "Yes, that would be a good experience! A representative meeting. The old meetings, common when I was a boy, have all gone out. Oh yes! The man meetings, out of doors—farmers—the whole country, what-not, holidaying. They were great events those days." But the campaign in Ohio this fall must be the same—the two candidates debating, as Lincoln and Douglas. "True, and true Western

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style. There is a freedom got that way and in no other. In New York City? Oh! Of course meetings there had mainly to be indoors. There was the old tabernacle—I suppose the greatest American arena, those times—certainly giantesque! Great figures, every way, contending for reforms—the anti-slavery men greatest, more momentous—temperance, too—and the woman rightsers. Real giant fights. Those temperance fellows who thought rum was accountable for all the woes of man—who even dignified this by thinking it a principle. Think of the great fellows I heard off in Long Island: Daniel Webster, Silas Wright, N. P. Banks. Banks has spoken in Wall Street, I think—was just the fellow for Wall Street, anyhow. A deft handler of figures—full, overflowing—proving everything by fives and eights, for fellows who like that kind of thing, as brokers do. I suppose my early life would be considered very rich in such experiences: somehow, I seemed to see everything—to hear everybody—all singers, actors, speakers. But on the whole the anti-slavery men took off the honors. They were so deadly in earnest—so many of them such grand speakers!"

     I had a couple of peaches with me—fine samples—which I told W. I wished to leave. He advised me, "Put them right at the foot of the bed. I will be getting up shortly, then will put them in a safe place—eat them, it may be, which would provide safe place enough!" I doing it. Then W. said, "I had a curious experience yesterday: suffered all day from a bad belly-ache (which made my head ache also). It was bad, bad! But when evening came, feeling no better, I took a mix of Tom's whiskey—just a nip, a couple of spoonfuls. And then something unaccountable happened, namely, that the headache stopped instantly, just as if I had cut a string—just that sharp. And from that time to this I have been exempt. I don't know whether the time had come for it to stop, or the whiskey was charmed, or what—but the immediate cessation of all pain, all discomfort whatever, was curious, undoubted. And the reason I tell you this, Horace, is that the whiskey is well right out—gone. No, no! Bucke need have no fear—I am cautious. Besides, you

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must remember I really take little. I am surrounded by sick neighbors—to the right, to the left. And often Mary downstairs, with her awful damnable neuralgic torture. And then I remember—all of them—mix them a drink now and then just to ease the pressure. Oh! Perhaps you have no idea, Horace, how such a privilege—how the privilege, too, to send a two-dollar bill, a five-dollar bill, here, there, to poor devils I know who need it worse than I do, means for me—how my heart leaps, is glad, to do it—how it enriches the interests of my old years! And this whiskey has helped a-many a time. No, no: Doctor is wrong and Tom is right. Is it so? Is he glad to have me send? The noble fellow! And do you know, Horace, this again raises a feeling in my heart which perhaps I am to be blamed for not long ago having expressed: no one can fully realize, measure, my gratitude for all they have done for me. It is one of the brightest of my memories as I lie here, now at last far up on the strand—how much the meals there at Tom's, at your sister's, contributed to the sunniness of my life. The eat, the drink! Oh! The good drink! The champagne itself superb—the whiskey, well, the best, if not divine!"
With a laugh, "But I want you to tell them for me, sometime (not to lug it in), what I feel for it all—as I look back—as I survey that sweet past! oh! so sweet! For I know I should have said this many, many times—while the time was on. But we depend on one's knowing—yes, perhaps too much on that! Tom is a too-generous man—generous to excess—plain, blunt, often mistaken, but thoroughly hearty, manly—one of our 'Leaves of Grassers.' The dinners there, the teas, the talk, the friends, the face of Lincoln over against the wall. Then the dear children—oh! the darling children—and after the warm evenings, in wintertime, in the fireplace, as we talked! These are visions, memories, to last forever. I want to thank them both: Tom, your sister—yes, perhaps her more than him, if that is possible. Want you to do it for me. Doctor is wrong to think Tom bent on anything but the best for me. And I can see Tom is sensitive, with all his hard-hitting. Yes, Horace, all the friends—the noble comrades about me, determined that my old years

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should be made glad—they are in my heart—I live in their good—yes, grand—good will."
I had said of the peaches, "They are good to look at, if you don't care to eat them." He thereupon, "How wonderful that in the great fruit, anyway: the eye feeds on it—sucks it of its exquisite life."

     W. said, "I wonder if our park here is ever to come? Camden is in a sad hole, by her own insane stupidity. I see that Judge Garrison has appointed Park Commissioners." I said, "That is a good sign! It shows they are thinking about it!" But W., "Yes, but the danger is, that it may end in thought! I don't suppose there's a town in America in a worse plight than ours—ruled by a worse crew. This damned Mayor Pratt! What could be lower—meaner. All our mayors have been low, but this one beats every previous chapter in the story. A temperance man, so-called—that is, a bigot. And one out of the low end of the temperance procession. A man who knows nothing of life, nothing of experience, nothing (of real account) of decency, even, yet hobnobs with churches and prudes—sets down all our evil, horror, to the charge of the corner saloon." We need to rescue Camden from such a dominion. "We will never get our park—well, till we get, I suppose they'll potter, potter, potter—then in the end pay twice as much for their whistle as they would be called on to pay now."

     Had W. yet examined the Emerson letters? "No, I have forgot, sure enough. But you shall have them, Horace—they will be yours." I asked, "You often speak of your own, O'Connor's and Gurowski's immediate espousal of Lincoln—but how about Burroughs?" W.: "John was not there immediately. When he came he was in a miserable sickly condition. And he debated with himself what he should do: it seemed a life or death. And he stood between two temptations: should he go into the army or take a clerkship?—his friends telling him at once—if you go to the front, that surely will mean death. So he stayed, and we came to have our association with him. But then John never was as warm as the rest of us—never as hot for Abe, never—the grand Abe! I suppose, partly because he was sickly, partly for

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other reasons, though he was friendly and determined enough, too. As for opposition to Lincoln—no! we would not allow that—it was not to be tolerated. We simply drove the enemy without compunction to the wall—Gurowski, O'Connor, I—enough to parry, defend, assault—especially those two."
Then further, "But the world—Washington world—of that time, moment, was full of rumors—clouds hung everywhere—enemies, oh! malignant!—many of them typified in Chase. I call Chase the witch of that awful tragedy—the three witches of Macbeth, yes, packed in one: handsome, intellectual—head, face, complexion—well-dressed—not gaudily, but richly—malignant—a bad, bad egg." And further as to Burroughs, "John has had some runs of bad luck—bad health—even lately, with that infernal insomnia, for one thing." But the atmosphere now much cleared, "happily for him—for our love for him."

     H.L.T.: "Wallace protests that he has no sense of humor, yet tells a splendid story." "Is that so? Isn't it queer to hear the fellows with the best humor spoken of as having none at all! William O'Connor ought to be here to hear that! Wouldn't he storm, rage! To think of the great times we have had together—the almost boundless fun, wit, humor, by-play, what-not!"

     I left him Saturday a large Gutekunst photo for autograph. Brought me by Falkenan, from his mother. One of F.'s brothers dramatic and musical critic on Chicago Herald. His Cornell graduating thesis on Walt Whitman. W. now asks, "He must be close to George Horton. It would appear we have good friends there on that paper."

     I find Morris takes W.'s regret for the errors in book kindly. Came in Bank yesterday, jubilant, to show me W.'s post card—not knowing I had already seen it.

     As I was leaving and after W. had shaken hands and said "good-bye" to me, he counselled, "You will go right home? And Anne and Wallace will be there? Well, give them my love—tell them you left me here on the bed, in as good condition as the law will allow. Tell them they are remembered and must remember!"


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     I leaned over the bed—kissed him good-bye. "God be with you, boy! Yes, God is with you!"


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