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Tuesday, February 16, 1892

Tuesday, February 16, 1892

8:20 A.M. My morning's round took me to W.'s. Found several letters of my mail there, and had received several at Post Office. Among them this short note from Burroughs: West Park, Feb 15 Dear H. I dreamed last night I rec'd your fatal despatch. I hope it will be long delayed. I do not see my way to come down yet. I am quite out of sorts. I suppose I should only weary W. Give him my love. J.B. Stead has received his book and seems to appreciate its peculiar tribute. Two letters from Bolton—Johnston writing on 6th and Wallace on 5th. I hear also from Kennedy. A good fillip out of one mail. W. himself few letters—one from Wallace, that is about all, and a paper. Beyond above was a letter for me from Arthur Stedman enclosing contract and check for $100 with note.

W. had asked me for more brandy, but in going to Reisser's I discovered they could not deliver any such goods on election day! Could then only leave my order. Wrote Creelman. I would have to submit project of introduction of flowers to W.'s room to W. and would write him result of conference (no talk on the subject having been so far possible). Submitted draft of finished contract to McKay, who was entirely satisfied with it. W. has been asking for copies of green book—promises one tomorrow and stock on Thursday or Friday.

5:35 P.M. Into W.'s room without delay, being in a great hurry. Found him taking dinner, Mrs. Keller feeding him, he helping somewhat. As soon as he saw me he cried out, "Come in, Horace, come in." He was drinking some coffee—laying on his back—Mrs. Keller sitting on edge of bed with a tray on her lap. He talked between bites and I went on readily answering his many questions. Quoted him Stedman's letter and he said, "I am quite happy in it. I guess you have watched all the edges and corners of the thing and we will come out all right. Then I almost think I see the friendly hand of Mark Twain in it all: perhaps that is a mistake, but it is my feeling. And to add Arthur to that is of course to secure us—to make us feel ourselves in hands of friends. Yes, I will sign, but don't let us sign tonight—I hardly feel up to it. I can see they mean to treat us right, and as you and Dave have clinched everything, I have no questions to ask. What have you got there?"—seeing an open paper in my hands. "It is a copy of the Post with an extract from today's New York Herald." "What about?" "You." "About me? Is it long?" "No." "Read it then." Which I did, not hesitating or dropping a word:

A POET'S SICK CHAMBER. The Telegram is paying a very graceful tribute to the genius of Walt Whitman. Whitman is an out-of-doors poet, a man in love with Nature in all her varying moods. He has, however, sung his last song, and the old man's life is slowly ebbing like the tide. The Telegram is in receipt of certain contributions the object of which is twofold. First, to furnish flowers with which to adorn the poet's sick chamber, that during these last few days of his life he may be surrounded by the fragrant blossoms which have been his inspiration during many years of hardship and struggle. Second, if a surplus remains, as is very probable, to build some memorial as a souvenir of departed worth. These are kindly things to do, and the response shows a general and generous interest in the matter. Walt Whitman has never made money. He has always been poor. The reward of his labors has not been a fortune but a rare fame. It is pleasant, therefore, to think that the people who have read his verses are surrounding him with the tokens of their love and admiration. 
He never winced at the mention of death. Only he shook his head and said, "I am not in favor of either—not in favor of the flowers or the memorial." At which I quickly sketched him Creelman's proposition. "I could not have the flowers here, their efflorescence afflicts my nasal apparatus. I can suffer from it. Yet I do love the precious flowers, their beauty, perfume—it is always precious to me. But a favorite? I have no favorite flower—they all attract, inflame me—the darling flowers! The commonest not commoner than the rest." Imparted substance of my correspondence with Creelman. "You have done unexceptionally—you are right—don't let them make any appeals for me. I am followed by the service of kings, yes, more than kings. Nothing is wanted, nothing—every wish is more than gratified. Write them kindly—tell them we understand it all—let them understand our good feeling, then see what they appear inclined to do. I would say that below everything else, I desire it to go, if anywhere, if they must give it, into your fund, to help that along—for the fund must nowadays be subject to heavy drafts. My needs are simple enough—plenty of brandy, oysters two or three times a week, mutton here and there, and so on—that is the nature of my desires. Beyond that I see nothing. Make that clear, Horace—the rest will take care of itself."

Now W. asked, "You say the Telegram has made a big splurge?" I had Saturday's copy in my pocket. As to the editorial, which I mentioned, he asking, "Is it long? If it isn't, read me that, too." He then went on with his meal and I leaned over the foot of the bed and read. At the line "we will fool these doctors," etc., he exclaimed, "Which he never said, of course." At the mention of Horace he called out, "Read that again—I want to get it straight," and at the comparison of W. with Halleck and naming of him as H.'s successor he laughed and exclaimed, "That is very ridiculous: I don't accept the swing of that at all!" And at several points further down he took the cup from his lips and said, "Read it again, Horace!" After I was all done remarking, "That is all in the best of feeling—full of good heart, good will—bless them for it, bless them! Well, Horace, you can hardly do more than you have done: they will grasp the situation. Tell them about the flowers—if I could I would but as I can't I mustn't." Mrs. Keller at this juncture asked him, "Enough, Mr. Whitman?" And he replied, "Yes, I am satisfied." Then turning to me, "How about the brandy, Horace?" "Oh! I was to tell you: it is election day, and they can't treat with us at Reisser's." W. laughed, "Damn election! Another sample of our obfusticated laws." But when I added, "We will have it tomorrow, sure," he assented, "We'll live in the prospect of it then." Asked me to leave him the Telegram. "Put it on the box there, then I can take it up with the other papers in the morning."

I inquired after his day and he said it had been "miserable." Warrie says sometimes he almost suspects the old man has gained some strength—enough for him to help them turn him on the bed—but W. tells me when I tell him, "It may appear so: at times my legs seem better than other times, but as for strength, I entirely doubt it." Then adding, "We must not delude ourselves." I did not pass documents from Webster over to him. Must wait till he can sign.

Ingersoll wired W. from Cleveland as follows: "Glad to hear that you are holding your own. Mrs. Ingersoll and I send love." Telegraphed Ingersoll from Philadelphia at 10:30 tonight: "Life still at the wheel and the craft lubbers along. That is all. Love for telegram." Sent to Dennison House, Indianapolis.

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