Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, December 2, 1891

     5:30 P.M. Warrie admitted me—I thought seemed a little disturbed. When I asked him how W. had been, he replied, "Just about so-so. But say," with a note of annoyance, "he fell down today. His left leg gave way. But it did not hurt him. I was out for a while this afternoon. I had to go uptown. Walt said to me, Why don't you go to see the launch while you are out. It was the New York, at Cramp's. So I went. While I was out he got up to go across the room. He did not call Mom [Mary Davis]. That was the time he fell." Warrie rather disturbed to have it happen. I went up—found W. in his chair. Seemed to be none the worse for his shaking up, or down, of which he remarked, "Yes, I tumbled: at least, my left leg gave way. It was rather that than a fall. I went down quite easily—in fact, let myself go—and when down, rested there till Mary Davis came up and helped me to my feet. It is extraordinary, what good luck we have. My legs are hardly able to hold me up anymore: the steel is given out—all out." Did he feel any shock from it? "Not the least, now—no, nothing. Oh! I went down quite easily—merely in a heap."

     Gave him Law's letter to read. He put on his glasses. Never looked up till the reading was done, then saying, "I don't see what good my Burns would do them. It is a cheap edition, only three or four years old, with few marks, very few. Nothing, in fact, that would in any way associate the book with me. Sheets of my Burns might be sent, if I could fish them out. But even that is doubtful."

     Century on floor. I picked it up, commenting on its Christmas cover. It had been laid open at Stockton's story. W. remarked, "It's a dull, stupid number—full of virgins, angels, cherubs—

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all infernal rot! I can't think of anything so alien to our time—so past, so overdone! The whole stuff, that issue, is cheap enough. Even the cover is horrible: I don't like the ordinary cover—this is worse! No, I do not pay for it—they deadhead me."
Returned me Wallace's manuscript, or the copy of it Bucke had sent me. "It is a curious document, to be read as such."

     H. L. T.: "I think Bucke regards it as conclusive."

     W.: "Conclusive of what?"

     H. L. T.: "Of immortality."

     W.: "It is conclusive of nothing: conclusive only of Wallace himself. It passes us some things about Wallace—then is silent. I didn't see it the way Doctor seems to. Nature keeps the secret well-enveloped—hides every glimpse. Wallace undoes his own envelope—lets himself out. As for Nature, immortality—not a word! And somehow it is a silence we must respect."

     H. L. T.: "Do you think much searching after it will avail?"

     W.: "Not a bit: there is background and background."

     H. L. T.: "And what is hid there—well, what is it?"

     W.: "True—what is it? Can Dr. Bucke tell? Can anyone tell?"

     H. L. T.: "Nature seems to keep her palm closed."

     W.: "She does. As I have said, her envelope is sealed—no soul, no human (no divine) can open it."

     H. L. T.: "Then Wallace is only conclusive for himself?"

     W.: "Only conclusive in so far as he is conclusive—that is, in self-revelation—in telling us what his eyes see—in personal experience. But after that, as to general conclusions—this, yes; that, no—he, like all the rest of us, leaves everything in mystery, silence, cipher!"

     H. L. T.: "I have not yet read the piece. I have only heard of it, from Bucke, enthusiastically, and from Wallace, deprecatingly."

     W.: "Well, read it. It is worth while. It is well-written, clear, decipherable (being written by a machine), and more than interesting to know, for Wallace's sake. But if you look in it for proof of anything—no, no: I would say, you will find it a blank page!"


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     H. L. T. : "I shall read it, of course; and probably find it marrowed. But I say, Walt, in spite of what you say about evidences and uncertainties, you believe in immortality?"

     W.: "Do I? Anyway, that is another thing."

     H. L. T.: "And do you hold to it that worry about it either way is a disease? As introspecting for a fellow's sins is disease?"

     W.: "The two are parallel. I rest in this: Nature holds her secret well-enveloped—as you put it, her palm is closed—probability, belief, guess, is not evidence. So far, the Colonel is right—I go with him—he has made a brave fight for that. Now, is there something more? After all, let us keep close to this: affairs are right, and if immortality is right, we will have it—indeed, have it not alone but along with many other things undreamed of in our fighting philosophies; if not right, then no immortality."

     H. L. T.: "A sort of agnosticism, in spite."

     W.: "I don't know about that. But, whatever, to go named or unnamed, there's the nut."

     H. L. T.: "Not so hard to crack, either."

     W. (laughing): "We won't debate that; but there it is!"

     W. reminds me as I leave, "Get me a couple of stitched copies of the 'Leaves' from Oldach. Get them without the cover if you can't get them with." Almost worries to see them.

     Harned has not yet got from W. the statement regarding his children. When I broached it the other day, W. returned, "I am not in good condition today. Let it go for another time. It is a nasty story anyway."


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