Commentary

Disciples


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Friday, January 1, 1892

     To W.'s as before, first thing, before going to Philadelphia. Night not bad but hiccoughs persistent. Saw W. without speaking to him. Then to Philadelphia, and Bank, till about eleven—after which back to Camden, and again to 328. W. still silent, speaking little or nothing beyond the staples of request when he needed help. Nurse speaks of his extreme and growing weakness. "I can notice a change in two days." Otherwise no indication. Just as clear, and certainly as calm, as any time in the past. Faces the worst with cheer—even gladness. While I sat in the little back room writing Mrs. Davis came up to tell me John Johnston was here from New York. Went down to greet him. Friendliest talk and inquiries. I went up and talked with the nurse and she advised me to bring J. up immediately—which I did. We went into W.'s room unannounced and quietly. J. greatly disturbed—stood at the foot of the bed—saw W.'s condition—heard him moan—shook his head sadly again and again. Turning to me after about two minutes and inquiring whether we had better go. I noticed a quiver in W.'s eyes—the lids several times opened and shut—he looked our way—then suddenly he seemed to recognize Johnston. I could see the hand struggle to get out from under the bedclothes, and heard W. cry out, "Oh! John! Here you are!" J. rushed forward, took W.'s hand—kissed him, kissed him several times, meanwhile saying, "O Walt! Walt! I am glad for even this glimpse of you—even this—if it's only for a minute!" And W. returning (the hiccoughs interfering with talk), "And I am glad to see you John—glad, glad. And how have you been, John? Tell me how?" And J. replied quickly—his voice thick—and turned to me inquiringly, and then back to W., "I ought to go, Walt—yes, I ought." But W. protested, "Not yet, John—don't go yet—stay, stay a

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minute—sit down,"
and as John moved to the other side and sat on the edge of the bed, "A minute, anyhow, John"—and pausing and closing his eyes and opening them again. "How is Alma, John? Well? Ah! Good! And Albert? And the girls, John—all of them: and the boys? All well? Give them all my love—all my love!" And almost as J. held his hand feebly dropped into a doze. There was only a word or two further as I rose to go. (He passed again to right of bed—leaned down and kissed W.—who responded.) J. said, "They will all be happy to know you remembered them as you lay here." And W., "I remember many things, John. My love to the wife, to all the children—bless 'em all—bless—bless!" And again J. kissed him, turned, then looked back, took another step, another look over the shoulder—a murmured "good-bye"—with W.'s "good-bye" interplayed—and out of the room. I went up to W.—kissed him. "What's the news, Horace? Is there anything to tell?" I mentioned Ingersoll's letter. Could he hear it read? "I would like to hear it, but can't, boy." "It is rarely beautiful." "Is it so? I am sure—sure." Closed his eyes. I felt his warm grasp of my hand. I had got just outside the door when I heard him call Mrs. Keller—she hurrying in. "You know Mr. Johnston has just left." I passed into the room to hear him continue, "I want to give him a couple of books before he is gone—'Leaves of Grass'—you get them." At that instant he saw me, "Or you, Horace: two copies—one for him, one for Albert—with my best love. I only wish I could write in 'em." I took the books out of the package, then W. called me, "Horace, Horace: one word!" I going over to the bed. "When they have gone, Horace, come up again a minute or two: I want to ask you something." From something J. had dropped W. supposed Albert was with him but was of course mistaken. I went downstairs—gave J. his books—which delighted him and moved him profoundly. After which upstairs again to W.'s bedside. "You said you wished to see me a minute, Walt."

     W.: "Yes I do. Tell me honestly, Horace: are the doctors paid anything for this?"


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     H.L.T.: "You must not worry about that, Walt. That is being attended to. We have set all that straight."

     W.: "Probably. But I ought to set it straight, too."

     H.L.T.: "No, it is rightly adjusted: they are quite easy about it."

     W.: "They have worked hard for me: hard, hard. Longaker has worked long: and Morse, too, has done well."

     H.L.T.: "You mean McAlister, not Morse?"

     W.: "Yes, the other doctor—that's McAlister. But it appears to me, Horace, my will is not yet right: it does too much in some directions, too little or nothing in some others."

     H.L.T.: "Which means that you want Tom and the will down here?"

     W.: "Yes, that's the point—as soon as Tom can, too—this afternoon, now—or if too busy, then tomorrow towards twelve."

     H.L.T.: "I shall go up to see him at once."

     W.: "Yes, tell him there are some changes to make—that I am determined upon them."

     Kissing him I left—going downstairs and to Johnston and taking J. to lunch with me. Much good talk. Happy that J. came over and J. happy to see W. Fears end any time. J. tells me of a dinner the other day with Lyman Abbott, who wishes J. interviewed for the purposes of some obituary of W. for the Christian Union. Showed him the Emerson letters, with which he was much engaged. After lunch to Harned's, and after some talk at Harned's, to 328 (the three of us)—Johnston only staying a few minutes, having an engagement in Philadelphia at five. W. asleep when I first went upstairs but shortly awake and Harned and I went into the room. Harned opened talk by referring to my message from W. and W. said, "Yes, that was right. I want to make some changes in the will. It fails to satisfy me as it is. How can the changes be made? Will you have to rewrite the whole document?" "No, only add a codicil, which you will have to sign. Do you think you can sign it?" "Oh yes, I can—I must." I passed into the next room and got H. a writing pad. He sat on edge of bed, pencil in hand. W. dictated several items, starting

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always, "I wish to leave"—$200 to Mrs. Van Nostrand instead of $1000, $200 to Walt Whitman Fritzinger, "to be invested for him," he added, even stopping to spell this name, "a new baby—a dear little one—born a week ago, and named after me—yes, Harry's boy." Further changed the gold watch from Harry Stafford to H.L.T. and the silver watch from Pete Doyle to Harry Stafford and reduced Mrs. Stafford to $200, from $250 (though he contended it was $450), and then he asked, "And Mrs. George Whitman my executrix—eh? That is all fastened?" And after Harned's "Yes," "And Dr. Bucke, you Tom, and Horace, to have my papers—literary belongings of whatever character." "That, too, is all down already, Walt." "Well then you have the substance of my changes."

     Several times H. had to say to W., "No hurry, Walt, take your time." W. remarked, "I have such a poor memory—I seem to forget things, but that is certainly all I remember now." H. rose to go but W. said, "Don't go, Tom—stay a few minutes." Tom however, "We had better go, Walt, and we will be right back. In the meantime you will husband all the strength you can; you will need it." Once he asked H. , "You have the will with you?" (time: 4:50). Immediately to T.B.H.'s office and after brief tea back again by a little after six. W. awake. Warrie said, "He is expecting you!" and Mrs. Keller remarked, "He is determined to do something for that baby: he even says he wants to see it—wants to hold it here, on his breast." He had spoken with them about it. Gussie with us as witness. Harned and I going into the room, W. said, "I am ready—yes." I explained to him that Gussie had come to sign and he looked about, "Oh! is she here?" Mrs. K. was called in and Warrie came. We lighted a candle (the gas shed no such light as we needed on the bed); brought the pen and inkstand. Warrie started to fix W. so he could sit on the edge of the bed, but W. protested, "No, Warrie, I will sit up right here and sign it." Harned stood near and read the codicil aloud. Twice W. said, "Read that again"—in regard to special items. Finally, when the last word was out, W. exclaimed, "It is all right, Tom."


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     Now the scene. I dipped the pen in the ink and held it suspended. In my left hand the candle. Warrie leaned over and lifted W. into a sitting posture. Harned thrust the paper forward (it rested on a pad) and held it. Warrie slipped W.'s glasses on and W. adjusted them. I slipped the pen between his fingers. He had it upside down—I turned it to a proper angle. "Sign here, Walt," said Tom. "Yes, here, Tom," and his head and body trembling but his hand firm. W. after asking again, "In this space?" —signed. The hand stopped with "Whitm" and the "an" occurs after a separation. Immediately with signing fell back on the pillow. Warrie took away the glasses. Tom gave out the formula, "Do you declare," etc. and he repeated it three words at a time with a strong voice. And then further at Tom's dictation requested Gussie and Mrs. Keller to sign, curiously stopping at Mrs. Keller's name to ask how she spelled it—repeating the letters to himself. The two women went off to the table and signed. When they came back Gussie (she had not seen W. for weeks) went up to the bed to bid him good-bye. She leaned over and kissed him and gave him messages from the children. W. listened and said, "Bless the darlings! Give them all my love—Annie, Tom, Herbert. O the children—the children!" He had responded to Gussie's kiss warmly. Now, after a moment's faint and rest, he spoke out to Harned, "I am—I am a good deal of trouble to you." "Oh, none at all, Walt, don't think of that." "Thanks, oh! Thanks!" And murmured after a moment's pause, "Tom—I—promised—you—copies—of the big—book for the children—one—for—each: why not—take them—now?" And away from Tom, "You, Warren, or Horace maybe you—get the books for Tom." I went to the big box and did so. "There they are," he said, as he saw me hand them out, "One for each—and sorry me that I can't write in them." All of which was spoken with great difficulty, between painful hiccoughings and chokings and other signs of feebleness—but proof of good memory and faithful affection, through all the sorrows and sufferings.

     All then departed—his "God bless you!" following us—the light lowered—he left to solemn silence—we to our grief. A sacred

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impressive scene—as he sat in the bed—held and stayed—some red still in the cheeks—the hand fine though shrunken. I went off with them to Harned's. While we talked there McAlister came in. He had just come from W.'s, Warrie with him. I had spoken to Mrs. Keller in forenoon about champagne. She thought it might please if not benefit W. It seems W. had asked the Doctor, "Is there anything better than orange for me to eat?" "How would you like to have some champagne?" "Much—that is always good." "Would you like to have it now?" "Yes." For which reason Warrie had come to H.'s thinking he had some which he could furnish. But as H. had kept champagne in the past mainly for W.'s use, and W. had recently had no use for it, he was now out. We had to go to a drug store to get it.

     McA. said, "Mr. Whitman was quite talkative. He said he had added a codicil to his will today. There don't seem the least sign of change in him except for the weakness, which perceptibly grows." McA. thought this weakness would increase day by day and that heart failure might finally ensue. Mrs. K. had written me down one remark of W.'s to the doctor, "I thought a week ago the old brig would break up without much trouble. But it is gnarled, knotted, snarled—and I guess it will last—take some time yet." He had also asked McA., "Doctor, do you know Sheriff West?" "No." "He was at the dinner at Morgan's Hall." "Was he? Were you there?" "O yes! I sat about the middle of the table." And he was very frankly descriptive of the day to McA.

     While at Harned's before the will was executed I wrote to Bucke, Johnston and Wallace. At a later hour again (towards eight) I returned to 328 and stayed till after ten, lounging in room next W.'s. Mrs. K. again gave me her day's notes: 8 a.m. Constant hiccough.

9:30 Ate a trifle of mutton chop and one mouthful of brown bread. Drank a little coffee.

10 Asked to be left alone a while. Pulse 70. Hiccough harder.

11 Quiet—changed position.

11:20 Drs. came. Brightened up during their call.


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1 p.m. Mr. Johnston called. After he left the room, called to have a book given to him and his brother.

2 Had hands and face bathed—took a little canned pear.

2:30 Mrs. D. came into the room. Inquired for "Becky and the baby." Said, "When it can be taken out I want it brought here, and laid right here," patting his own breast, "for a moment. Dear little thing." Was pleased to hear the mother and child were doing well. Seems brighter this afternoon than he did this morning. Hiccoughs not as frequent as in forenoon.

3:15 Has just taken a small quantity of orange juice. Hiccoughs recommenced—quite severe.

4 Quiet with occasional cough.

5 Mr. Harned and Mr. Traubel came.

5:30 Had his position changed. Hiccough again.

6 Mr. Harned and his wife came with Mr. Traubel to add codicil to his will. Warren held him up in bed to fix his signature. Mrs. Harned and Mrs. Elizabeth Keller witnesses to same.

6:15 Dr. came. Was quite bright and talked.

8 Took some champagne.

W. took champagne. Said, "It is very good." The hiccoughings still constant—with moments of increased violence and frequency. Now and then he would be relieved, and we would hear him breathe easily and see him sleep as if undisturbed and serene.


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