Commentary

Disciples


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Tuesday, December 22, 1891

     Early to W.'s—at eight—after a slight breakfast. The morning clear but still soggy and warm. Mrs. Davis admitted me and Warrie soon came downstairs. W. had been asking him, "What day is it, Warrie? Is it the 23rd?"—which shows that he keeps a

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pretty close account. Warrie had said to him, "Dr. Bucke will be here pretty shortly, I guess." W. opened his eyes wide, "What?"—crying as if in astonishment. Looking and continuing to look at Warrie and keeping eyes open full ten minutes. I wonder if the thought did not flash on him then: "They give me up! Why should Bucke come but for that?" I have no doubt of it. I went up with Warrie and lingered about the room for five to ten minutes. Warrie gave him some medicine, which he took unquestioningly and without opening his eyes. Then asked for water. Did not like taste of water in mug, saying, "It is bitter—bring some fresh," which, when brought, he took without criticism—instantly relapsing to his wonted sleep without word or sign. His voice seems changed since midnight—fuller. Yet the breathing is still wonderfully steady.

     Warrie reports head warm, hands cold, feet clammy. In complexion W. not frightfully pale, though there are dark spots in face, on the left side, Longaker ascribing it to "deficient aeration of the blood." Opened a letter from New York—marked immediate—written by some stranger to tell W. of his own recovery from a like trouble. Bucke not arrived yet. Will stay at Harned's. I have anxious letters from Gilder and Rome.

     Morris and Williams again anxiously in Bank this forenoon. Law in later. At the least sign of an end in W. I am to be telephoned for. Answered Gilder and Rome by special letters. Also wrote at some length to Johnston and Wallace.

     To Camden a bit after five. Mrs. Davis almost encouraged about W. He said to her this morning once, "Mary, I am here yet!" And again, when she suggested to sit on the lounge near the bed and rest, "Yes, do so—sit a long while—take a good rest!" At the same time hearing Warrie shake the medicine to his right, looking about archly, "I hear you, Warrie—yes, I hear you!" But Longaker gives no encouragement. "I see no reason to change my Sunday's opinion." Bucke not arrived yet. Harned expects him towards six.

     W. keeps up his cheer. The Bulletin appears this afternoon with a long biography, as if fearing he might slip them in the

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night. W. unquestioningly lighted up mentally for a brief space, or in flashes, today. I sat down to write further to Bolton and Warrie happening to go upstairs told W. Had he word to send? "No, I guess not. Three or four days will tell the story." They started to clean the bed and he urged them to "hurry," saying at one moment, "Look out, Warrie, you'll knock over my mug of water" on the commode nearby, and when Mrs. Davis added, "And the medicine, too," W. said facetiously, "We won't mind that." Again and again says, "We'll beat the doctors yet." Warrie came down to remark, "He is certainly weaker. I noticed it this time. He has become a dead weight—don't help the moving anyway." W. knocked on the floor with the cane at one time and Warrie hurried up, I with him, to find W. complaining of sudden pain which Warrie proceeded to relieve by the catheter.

     I wrote to Stedman briefly, too. Frank Williams heard from Stedman briefly today but with no mention of W., from which Williams concludes S. had not observed the papers. Letters from Bucke today, to both of us (W. and me). I opened W.'s. Both to same effect. Johnston (N.Y.) telegraphed yesterday. Today Neidlinger. Here is N.'s telegram: Dear Walt, Your great loving teaching has lightened many burdens & thousands so helped by you send now their grateful love hoping that it may make the burden of your illness lighter. Whitman can "never die yet," we need your personal presence, God spare you. W. H. Neidlinger.


George Whitman's wife here wishing to see W. today, but W. said, "Tell her if she has nothing particular to say, I ought not to see her now." Doctors here between four and five, Longaker leaving word he could not revise Sunday's judgment. Once while Warrie was holding W. up in bed, he remarked, "Hold on to me, Mr. Whitman." W. feebly laughed and said, "Why Warrie—ain't I pinching you like the devil?" When Warrie said, "You must be better today, Mr. Whitman," W. assented, "I suppose I am—I guess it's with thinking of Dr. Bucke."


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     I sent cable to Johnston, "Time," translated, "a little worse." Found cables for me from Johnston and Wallace separately: "Love to Walt and to you all. Wallace." "Thanks sympathy Love. Johnston." Harned had also left Bucke's yesterday's cable for me.

     To W.'s, arriving 9:10. Found Bucke there. He had not been up to Harned's—came direct to 328—sent a note up for McAlister, who came over for a consultation. They are up in W.'s room together as I write. When Bucke entered room, W. exclaimed, "Maurice Bucke—welcome—welcome—welcome—wel—" as long as his feeble body would allow and asked, "How came you here?" Bucke saying, "Slack work—slack work." But wasn't he "busy"? Bucke insisting, "Didn't I write that I delivered my last lecture Saturday and was likely to drop down here any day?" Bucke suggests an additional nurse to relieve Warrie but Warrie resists. I think several of us might relieve Warrie. Soon Doctor downstairs and greetings. I readily found that Bucke had no more hope than his confreres. "Nothing but a miracle can save him." Yet Bucke was in doubt whether W. could not live days yet. He had examined and sounded him every way. His version of W.'s exclamation on seeing him was, "Maurice Bucke—Maurice Bucke—Maurice Bucke—welcome—welcome—welcome"—extending a feeble hand at the same time. Bucke had sent McAlister up to say he was here, and should he come up? W. had instantly and urgently sent word down, "Come up right away!" Bucke says, "He talked quite a good deal—enough to surprise me, I can tell you that. No, he did not allude directly to his condition, but he seems to know its gravity and indirectly touched it pretty sharply. For instance, he talked of Emerson and Lowell, referring to Lowell as 'poor old man' and telling me the story of his last moments when he pleaded to know if the doctors could not let an old man die in peace!" W. talked freely enough further about his general state and finally admitted he had better rest and let Bucke go.

     Bucke and I went up to Harned's together, McAlister going to his own home. At Harned's some conference till nearly

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midnight, deciding several things, among them: to let the tomb matter rest—that fight can't be continued; to have no funeral ceremonies but a few words from three or four of W.'s friends—deciding upon Ingersoll, Brinton, Bucke and Harned—with Frank Williams to read from old scriptures and "Leaves of Grass." I sat down at once to write Brinton to call in to see me in the morning. We will have plaster casts of W.'s face and hands taken. Deeply moved—all of us—the saddest hour of life so far for me. As to disposition of W.'s literary effects we urge caution, which is about all that can be done now.

     After leaving Harned's I hurried to 328 again, where I remained till nearly one—seeing W. several times—finding him much exercised in general ways and specially by his bladder, on which he kept Warrie busy for a long time. I had gone up one moment to see how he was, and there I found him sitting on the edge of the bed. I rushed downstairs and called Warrie, who was asleep, and who was up the stairs like a deer. Once when Warrie gave him some water he smacked his lips and said, "How good it is! I could drink a barrel of it." Warrie replying, "You have drunk that much, Mr. Whitman," at which W. very feebly laughed, "I suppose! It is very good!" And he heard Warrie working at the fire. "Hadn't you better let the fire go out, Warrie?" Has practically taken nothing but water all day. The greater number of Warrie's remarks he passed by unnoticed. His temperature seems to have been up. His desire for water constant. Good night! Home at 1:15—confident he would breast the night.


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