Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, December 30, 1891

     Stopped in at W.'s at 8:20 and spent 20 minutes there, the most part in his bedroom. But I did not approach or speak to him, and he gave no indication that he knew anybody was in the room. Though the ease with which he awakes when spoken to and catches the thread of what is said convinces us that his sleep is mainly very light. He had not spent a good night, yet was about as I left him at ten. Breathed more easily, if anything—murmuring constantly.

     I had received a letter at Post Office from Stedman—tender and loyal:
137 West 78th Street.
Dec. 29th. 1891

Dear Mr. Traubel,

Of course I am greatly indebted to you for remembering me at this time, and for judging so rightly that I & mine would be profoundly interested in direct news of our old bard's condition. I see from the newspapers that he is making a characteristically strenuous and heroic fight of it. The whole country is with him at this moment, & somehow I feel as if you will enable him to beat off the "grim conqueror" yet once more. I want him to live through the Columbian year—yes, & to write the Columbian ode. He will leave none behind him, if he departs,

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who can so justly claim that song as his own. At the worst, or best, give him the assurance of my warmest love, comradeship, honor. He will live in his book, from generation to generation. I have been counting more upon visiting him, & upon reading to him some of my lecture-work, than upon any other feature of my trip to Phila. next month. If I don't find him there, it will be winter indeed. But, if he must go, there will be a new force added to some other world. Thinking of your group at Camden to-night, and depressed by illness myself, Tennyson's refrain rings in my brain— "Tred softly, & speak low,/For the Old Year lies a-dying!"


Sincerely yours,

Edmund C. Stedman


Found with W.'s mail a letter from Ingersoll, which I opened and meant to read him, but seeing him at rest I postponed it. Then to Philadelphia. No word through the day. I am in momentary fear of a call over the telephone from Harned, day after day. At 6:10 I was back at 328 again, just in time to meet McAlister, with whom I went upstairs. In the room McAlister said to W., "Well, here I am again," W. murmuring, "How are you, Doctor?" McAlister at that adding, "And Horace is here with me." "Ah! Horace—so, you are here?"—and lifted his hand, which I pushed forward and took. McAlister sat down and held W.'s pulse. "You are in a different position again," he remarked. W. responding, "Yes, yes, any change is comfort—any change. This dreadful bedriddenness—the helpless, weary hours." And when McAlister asked him how he was, "Not for much, Doctor—all gone, weak—the old hulk with its 160 feet (pounds?) up high and dry—useless, helpless, weary, sick, sore—its voyages done, done"—and appeared to stop from sheer feebleness. Suddenly he lighted up a brief instant—opened his eyes—turned to me, "Well, Horace, what is the news? Is there news?" I went up to the bed, took his hand, sat down. "No great news, Walt, but letters today from Ingersoll and Stedman." I put my disengaged hand in my pocket and drew them forth. "Could you hear them?" He half shook his head, "No, you keep the letters. Tell

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me the amount of 'em."
"The amount of them, Walt, is sympathy and love!" He murmured, eyes closed again, "How good that sounds! God bless 'em both—both." Still holding his hand I asked, "They told you the Doctor got off safe the other night?" He feebly responded, "Yes, glad." And I briefly told him of Ingram's thoughtfulness, at which he slowly said, "Good—old—man." I made no further motion to say anything, nor did he. The doctor meanwhile had gone out. I found he was inclined to think some change in W. imminent or already come. At any rate he pronounced him "weaker" and with the sinus condition more marked and moisture bad. Mrs. Keller gave me some notes, as follows: Wednesday Dec. 30th 1891


8 am Light sleep with occasional cough & hiccough

9 Quiet

10 Sponged face and washed out eyes. Gave the hands a good warm bath which Mr. W. enjoyed. Made no objections to having his nails cleaned and trimmed. Told me with his eyes closed where to find pocket knife and scissors.

10.15 Ate very little canned peach. Took a drink of water from Warren. Asked Warren for it.

11.30 Drs. came. Was bright during the call. Consented to take medicine again. To take it once every three hours. After Drs. left said, "I am to take medicine every three hours. I will take the first dose at 12 o'clock." Took it at 12. Said it was disagreeable. That the next dose was to be given at 3 o'clock.

1.45 Has drank more water today. Has just eaten a little toast & small quantity of egg. Has drank a half cup—3 oz. milk & water hot. Said, "The peach was a little too sweet this morning." Very quiet. A little hiccough at times. Had it louder while Drs. were here.

3 Took medicine. Has drank water frequently.

4 Juice of orange. Said it was good. Pulse 84. Resp. 30.

5.30 Dr. McAlister and Horace came in. Had just been turned on left side. Said, "You have a way of beating up the pillow that makes it very comfortable." Asked, "Shall I beat it up now?" "Yes, please." Hiccough came on at dark.

6 Hiccough bad—constant and in quick succession.


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7 Asked, "Don't I hear the 6 o'clock whistles?" Mrs. D. said yes. "Then it is time for my medicine." Took it. Hiccough continues.

7.45 Turned on right side. Took the juice of two oranges.

8 Awoke. Slight cough. Very little raising from lungs today. Has had his back and hips rubbed and bathed. Skin moist. Has talked very little all day.

Returning to the house at 7:30, I found Warrie on watch and W.'s hiccoughings and general agitations positive and painful. Harned just there—had been up in room but not addressed W. Depressed. Paid Warrie his month's salary. Watched W. a while again, then to Philadelphia with Harned. Met Anne at Ethical [Society] room and returned with her.

     Again at W.'s, towards twelve. Anne went into the room and saw W.—the first time since the new sickness. Much affected by the change. Mrs. Keller asleep. Home. Harry Fritzinger's boy, born December 25, has been named Walt Whitman Fritzinger. W. says, "It quite sets me up." Started to take medicine noon today again. I doubt if he will continue it. A stranger came today—an English Doctor—and made a scene. Strenuous in determination to see W. and not brooking the denial. Have written Bucke twice today. Longaker writes me that he thought W. a "little" better yesterday. Among other greetings, today one from William Winter as follows: "Kindness, sympathy, hope and every other good word and wish. William Winter." Unlike Stoddard, he seems, today, to hold old enmities at bay.


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