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Monday, December 28, 1891

Monday, December 28, 1891

To W.'s at eight—the first thing after starting. Found he has passed a pretty good night. Upstairs and into the room, though not waking him up. He seemed comparatively easy. Afterwards Warrie came in and said, "How are things now, Mr. Whitman?" "Pretty bad, Warrie, pretty bad." "Do you wish any water now, Mr. Whitman?" "No, I guess not. It is as well as it is." "Do you feel any stronger?" "None at all." Voice rather weak and bad. Troubled all night with hiccoughs. Still, too, no nourishment.

Left, and to Philadelphia. Letter from Brinton. His mother worse. Bucke in about ten. How did he find W.? "About the same. Almost bright, cheerful. He spoke readily to me. I went into the room and asked him what kind of a night he had spent, and he said poor, poor! I told him he ought to give McAlister a copy of the book, and he immediately replied, 'Certainly, I will. Warrie, go over there and get him a copy. Yes, get him two.'" Bucke still determined to go tonight. Now in search of a professional nurse (wants a woman).

The Johnston-Wallace cable yesterday was simply "Love." I sent them "Pioneers," translated: "a little better." My yesterday's telegram to Ingersoll was: "Slightly favorable change. Will write." And did write this morning and sent off special. After consulting (Bucke and I) I gave Ingersoll's telegram away to the papers last evening.

Met Bucke at 328 at 5:10. We immediately went off to Harned's. Bucke quite determined to go. Says of W., "He is not better nor worse than yesterday. But I can't wait—it would not be right: would not be right to the government, nor right to the Asylum, nor right to my family. I will simply have to go, and come back on your call." What were W.'s prospects? "He may die any day, or may go on this way for two or three weeks. It is all confusion and mystery. I can't possibly see how he can live through January. My opinion now is that January will put an end to all this business." He thought W. was "rather talky" today: his heart keeping to a uniform figure—about 80. He ate a couple of fingers of mutton-chop and drank a cup of mixed milk and hot water. He was rather disappointed that the nurse was a woman, but told Doctor after introduction, "I feel I shall like her. But the main question is, will she say the same thing for me? But I guess doctors and nurses learn to bear with the poor sick human critter." The woman's name is Keller. Bucke believed she was eager to come. Would start this evening. We are to pay her $20 per week. Bucke explained the situation and she seemed instantly to take it in, viz., that she was first under the direction of the doctors, then of Harned and me, and to no way turn to those in the house—though to live amicably with them. As to W.'s room: "You are mistress of it," Bucke said. We may put in some new furniture if it may seem required—certainly some bedding. W. gave Bucke a couple of copies of the Johnson etching and insisted on sitting up in bed (Warrie assisting) and autographing them. Keeps constantly in mind Bucke's departure. Harned will attempt to raise money for the new nurse in Camden—as Camden's gift—not to touch on my fund.

At 509 Arch my mother handed me a couple of telegrams that had just shortly before arrived. Both from Ingersoll, to this effect: "How is the brave pioneer today. Give him the love of the whole family. R. G. Ingersoll." "Of course I will keep my promise and speak at the funeral. If Whitman asks you can give him the assurance. R. G. Ingersoll."

Later in evening I replied to Ingersoll, by wire. Also sent to Bolton cable, "Average," translated, that W. is neither worse nor better. Took supper at home then hurried down to 328 again to meet Bucke, with whom I was to go to station. Mrs. Keller had arrived and I was introduced to her. Bucke writing a letter down in parlor (it was 7:10). Had not yet been up. I went to see Warrie, who said W. had spoken to him to effect that he had rather the new nurse had been a man, but no further criticism. Nurse was to start this evening to relieve Warrie.

Bucke now came up, and he and I went into W.'s room together—Bucke first. W. caught us on the approach (was hiccoughing horribly and it interfered with and broke all his talk). "Ah! Maurice! It is you! And Horace, too! Welcome both." Bucke took a chair up to the bed, and I one out on the floor—both of us sitting down—he taking W.'s pulse. (We had shaken hands with him. ) Asking W. how he felt, he replied, "Poorly! Poorly!" And when Bucke asked, "Have you been eating anything this evening?" he responded, "O yes! some: part of a mutton chop and some milk and water." Warrie said, "But that was long ago, Mr. Whitman." "No, Warrie, not more than an hour," but it was, nevertheless. As Warrie glided about the room, W. asked Bucke, "Who's that—who's here?" seeming not to recognize him. The light burned decently high. When Bucke was done, I approached the bed again, took W.'s hand as before and gave him Ingersoll's message. He responded, "How good that is! God bless 'em all! How good! Good! It cheers a fellow up to get such things—to hear them. Give my love to all—my love to all—all," and seemed exhausted, adding after a slight cough, "The great fellow! The great fellow! Yes, it does us good!" I resumed my seat, and Bucke, removing his chair, sat on the edge of the box near the head of the bed, regarding W. intently. For a few minutes utter silence, except for W.'s hiccoughing. Then Bucke arose and took W.'s hands, bending over him with intent gaze and emotion, which for an instant checked any attempt at speech. Then he broke forth, "Well, good-bye Walt! I must go!" "I suppose! I suppose!" "Well, I ought to go, Walt. I don't want to go. But you know I am not my own master—that I have duties." "Yes, Maurice, I know." "But if I go now, I can no doubt get back soon to see you again." "No, Maurice, you will never see me again!" And after a pause, "I ought to be gone now—it were best all over now—I would be more than satisfied." The voice—the desire! Bucke could hardly speak—the tears sprang to my eyes. "This is an end of all, Maurice. This is the end—you will never see me again!" "Well, Walt, these things are not in our own hands. We have to submit. I hate to go." "Yes, and it tears me up to have you leave." Bucke stooped over and kissed him—and kissed him again—withdrew from the bed a minute, "Oh! so loth to depart!" then back and took W.'s hand again, and stooped over and once more kissed him. "Good-bye! Good-bye! You are in good hands, Walt!"—holding his hands, gazing at him (he, too, at Bucke), turning towards the door, then back for another look (oh! the pain—the solemn sad secret thought and heart-throb!)—finally to break away rapidly, stride from the room and downstairs—stirred, overwhelmed, speech lost in passion and feeling. I still kept my place in the chair—heard W. breathe heavily, cough some—not a word being spoken. Then I went over to W., leaned down and kissed him. He took my hand—squeezed and held it. I said, "Well, good night, Walt, good night!" And he replied faintly, "Don't go! Don't go!" at the same time increasing his grip on my hand (I was surprised at its strength). And I lingered for a minute or more so, saying nothing. But again I urged, "I must say good night, Walt. Doctor expects me to go to Philadelphia with him." I felt the hand tighten about mine again. Leaning over I kissed him. He responded—his lips closed with mine, "Good night, then, boy. God bless you—God bless you." He opened his eyes a brief instant. "This is the finish of the tale, Horace—this is the wind-up!" Overcome I rushed from the room. I stopped for an instant at the head of the stairs to recover myself—then joined Bucke in the parlor, where he sat with Mrs. Keller, Mrs. Davis and Warrie—silent, full of sacred unutterable thoughts, emotions. "By God! I don't want to go!" cried Bucke, and then to those around, "But when a fellow has an institution with 1200 people on his hands, what can he do?"

Soon the cab, farewells and departure. We crossed the river without event and to 9th and Green. Ingram there at station with a bottle of wine and lunch for Bucke. Had come out of his bed (he has been sick) to bring it. I arranged with Bucke to write twice a day—morning and evening, after seeing W.—and wiring instead of writing if any disasters threaten. Bucke has "no doubt but it'll be a very short time only" between today and the next call. Will reach London tomorrow evening.

To Camden again and to 328 by the way. McAlister there. W.'s pulse 84—respiration 32. No fears for the night, so we both went home. Mrs. Keller on watch and Warrie to sleep till midnight.

Bucke left these memoranda with me:

Notes for Horace  
  To write me each day. To have Dr. McA. keep notes of case for me—taking pulse, resp. etc. morning & evening. Mrs. Keller is to have $20. 00 a week—if not satisfactory may be sent away or changed. If wanted I will at any time send $25.00 toward pay of nurse. Circular for our book cannot be written till after W. dies. About notifying friends when W. dies? Will not notices in papers be best?

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