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Friday, December 18, 1891

Friday, December 18, 1891

Reached W.'s towards six in evening and found he had not been able to get up at all through the day. I was surprised to hear that Longaker had not been over. Upstairs a few minutes to see W. "Here I am—fast in bed—driven at bay." At my suggestion that Longaker should have been over, he declared, "We do not need him. What I need is rest and composure." "But you had rest and composure and still got sick." "That's true enough. Anyway, pursue your own pleasure." And again, "What I need is some sleep—some few hours of unbroken sleep." And still further, "Things seem badly given out. I do not know what it promises, but whatever, let it come." Had had no curiosity to examine papers or mail today. I referred to "good digestion" and "good sleep" as "the best guarantees of good health." W. fervently then, "True to the bone! Yes, I always insist on that!" W. lay in bed, the light far down, a cheery fire in the stove. Looked very pale, feeble, worn out. Too weak to hold his head above the counterpane.

I looked about the old room, had some rapid solemn thoughts (sitting on side of the bed), then left. Instructed Warrie to go over and get Longaker without delay. Several reporters over but not as many as flying rumors generally bring. Day fair—even beautiful.

The Press note might have been worse—or better! But it observed my warning: "Don't become alarmist." And so did Ledger. The Camden Post man had been equally careful, as witness this in this afternoon's paper:

WALT WHITMAN'S ILLNESS. The Aged Poet Unconcerned as to its Outcome.  
  Walt Whitman is a very sick man. For two months he has not left his bedroom. Now the dreadful grip claims the poet as a victim. Mickle street, on the south side below Fourth, looked cold and bleak this afternoon when a Post reporter walked up the steps of the venerable bard's frame home, but within, how warm and cosy. The welcome by the lady at the door was hearty and hospitable. Presently Mr. Whitman's faithful and courteous attendant pattered down the stairway with this message from his charge: "I am holding the fort 'sorter.' I may get over it and I may not. It doesn't make any difference which."  
I have written Bucke briefly about the turn in W.'s condition. Harned came in while I was talking with Mrs. Davis and Warrie. Is a good deal worried, knowing the several important matters hanging in suspense today. Warrie tells me W. eats little, yet took a mutton chop today and beef tea. He said of the former, "It is the best I have ever eaten." He seems to get a good deal of sleep in small doses. Woke Warrie up in the night, wishing to get up to relieve his bladder, but nothing seemed to develop. No sign of break-up digestively as yet.

After the meeting in Unity Church was over I went round to W.'s with Anne. Longaker had been over. Warrie only had an indefinite notion what was the matter—called it bronchial pneumonia! But said Longaker had left word he wished to see me tomorrow morning if possible. W. had protested to Warrie against his going over for L., but of course overruled. Milk punches and medicine! That is W.'s immediate regimen. Longaker had said to Warrie, "Mr. Whitman is a very sick man." A remarkable admission for L. to make, having the cheer and reserves he has. Will of course be over tomorrow again.

W. not yet asleep (eleven o'clock), says, "I hate to go under the harrow." Saying, too, "My mind is too active: I wish it would rest. It is as active as 40 years ago." Warren thinks he has something on his mind. He has—more than Warren knows! The future dubious enough. W. is coughing up an ugly green mucus, but Longaker says it is good to have it out. Cough easy.

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