Commentary

Disciples

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Thursday, December 13, 1888.

     7.45 A. M. At W.'s on my way to the city. All well there. W. and Ed sleeping. Ed had not gone to bed till one. Kept the fire going hot. W. complains that at midnight he suffers from cold. In at Oldach's and McKay's. Oldach gave me a bill for a hundred copies complete W. W. at fifteen cents—ninety-two in box last evening, eight delivered to me. Dropped in on Ferguson. Told him of W.'s new setback. F. greatly interested.

     7.40 P. M. Letter from Bucke. Harned and Gilchrist in the parlor. W. better. Rejoiced. Upstairs at once. W. on bed: not sleeping. "Ah! there is Horace!" Knew me low as was the light. Ed had started for the post office. W. just gone to bed. He had said to Ed: "You are going out a minute: I guess you had better put me to bed before you do so." Talked with astonishing freedom considering what he had gone through. "Yes—yes: I have been up: was up about ten minutes just at sunset: took a little tea: felt faint, dizzy: came to bed again." But: "Later I tried myself once more: was then in my chair I guess for full half an hour: wrote to Doctor Bucke: not much—something. You sent the books off? I told him I supposed you had—that you had taken them with that end in view." Then added: "You should take your books too: you will find a couple over there—over towards the corner of the room: I think Eddy left a couple of them there: I was looking at them myself: am altogether pleased, more than pleased: how well the fellow hit upon what I wanted!" Spoke of the inscription. Would he write it on some sheet of paper to put into the volume? He said: "No: I would rather put it in the book itself. I went over my mail—the mail for several days:

 
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there was a letter from the Doctor—probably one that came a day or two ago: he tells nothing new." Suddenly he remarked: "It is unaccountable—this deep, deep, deep, sense of weakness, giving away, collapse: Dr. Walsh was here to-day but I did not ask him what was his theory." I repeated what Walsh had told me. W. said: "Well—that is something: I have no doubt that is there: but that is not all. How does he account for these sinking sensations—for the deathliness, the awful deathliness, that comes upon me now and then? I may say, the feeling of death itself? Think of Tuesday: dreadful! dreadful! I felt in the very presence of death—the final call!" Now he was better. "The back-lying forces heave up again—recouping me. But what is it all for?" Perhaps "the old experience.""I saw much of these things at Washington—the boys in the hospitals, getting better only to get worse again: I seem to be submitting to a succession of whacks and knocks—going through one sickness after another." He dwelt upon "uncertainties.""I am glad you got the books off to the Doctor: he should have them: nothing seemed more certain Monday than that you fellows would have your books the next day: the next day I was lying at the point of death!"

     On my entrance he had taken my hand, I resisting a little, and objecting: "It is cold: I have just come in from the street." But he has fever still—retained his hold: "No—don't take it away: it feels good—better for being cold. Ed has heated the room—do you feel it? —and is it not stale—stale?"—as indeed it was not. A little the odor of wood: the light flickering upon the wall, the bed white and clean. "My personal cleanliness—the washedness—so bad has been my state, has for the present to be post-poned." Said again, when I spoke for Oldach and said that he had confined himself stricktly to the estimate, fifteen cents: "Well, after all, that man has a surprising good conscience!" Then he added: "You keep those affairs well in hand—we will consult about 'em"—laughingly: "To-morrow I expect to be up awhile for the transaction of

 
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business." I spoke of THe Literary World. W.: "Yes, I must take an opportunity to see that: bring it down: then, when the mood is on, I can read it. You say you had one sent to the Doctor? from Boston direct? Well—that is good: it is more important that he should see it than that I should." Laughed. He said: "No letter from O'Connor. How uneasy I feel about him!"

     Harned wrote to Bucke—had been in at W.'s about 11—W. then in bad shape: had gone home sat down and dispatched a letter to B. "Then think of my surprise: I came down in the evening—there W. was sitting, writing to Bucke! Don't it beat the devil!" Even Ed had been dubious in the forenoon.

     I had to go through with all the tariff rigamarole to-day to get the books expressed to BUcke. But got them off by B. & O. route: followed W.'s directions as to estimate of value and address. George Whitman and wife in to-day, but stayed only a short time. So far no word about W. has crept into the newspapers. W. held my hand a long time to-night as I said my "good-bye" and was about to start off. I reached over and kissed him. "Good-bye! Good-bye!—and bless you!" he cried.

     W. has read nothing yet—nothing in print. Papers from Kennedy have come—the dailies have accumulated. Even as I left he said doubtingly: "I don't know what to make of this weakness: it baffles me: what it starts from, what it means, what it will lead to." Then again: "I wonder what will come next! Sometime something will come that will make an end of it all!" I protested: "Well—that is n't here yet—we won't encourage it." He exclaiming: "No—we won't: it was only a thought—a fleeting thought." I said to W. as I lingered: "That Rossetti correspondence is tremendously valuable—gives a great look in on you and on him as you worked over that English edition together." W.: "Yes—that 's so: have you read it carefully—let it soak in? I want you to digest it before you put it away—want you to ask any questions it may suggest: you see, you must

 
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ask me such questions while I am here to answer them: while I am here, don't you see? for I 'm only here by a slender thread—oh! who knows how slender, doubtful? who knows? who knows?" W. gave me few days ago the letters that passed between himself and Captain Cook about George. To-day he gave me a letter from himself to his mother treating also of George's imprisonment:

Washington, Feb. 1, 1865.


Dear Mother:

     I sent Jeff a letter three or four days ago, which I suppose he received. There is nothing very new with me. I see in the U. S. Senate yesterday they passed a resolution that it was the sense of the Senate that there ought to be an exchange of prisoners. I feel as if there was a fair chance of the box you sent getting to George. I wrote to Jeff how I was so much surer that a box from City Point would go through that I had sent a letter to Julius Mason asking him to have a box made up there, and sent, giving him the address, and I or Jeff would pay the bill—if he writes to me that he has done so. I asked him to write if he got mine. I will send him the money myself—Well mother how are you getting along—we had a cold week, but the past three days has been much moderated—I am satisfied in the main with my room. I have such a good bed,—and my stove does very well—it is a little bit out of the way in location—My work as clerk in the Indian office is quite easy—I am through by 4—I find plenty who know me—I received a week's pay on Monday, came very acceptable—My appetite is not very good but I feel very well upon the whole—I wish you would ask Mr. Fosdick in the corner house for The Times, and also sketch of 51st I lent him, and put them away—I am very glad I have employment (& pay)—I must try to keep it—I send you an envelope so that you can write me a letter soon as convenient. I send $1 for Nancy, the other for you. I may not write you again till about the 12th, or perhaps 10th—Tell Hattie and sis Uncle Walt sent them his love. I see Gen. Butler

 
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says the fault of not exchanging prisoners is not his but Grant's.


Walt.

     My room is 468 M street, 2d door west of 12th—from 10 till 4, I am in the Indian Bureau, north-east corner Patent Office, basement.

     W. said: "We were all at sea about George there for a while: we did n't know whether he was exchanged or was n't—weounded or sick: whether he got our messages or did n't. O God! that whole damned war business is about nine hundred and ninety nine parts diarrhæa to one part glory: the people who like the wars should be compelled to fight the wars: they are hellish business, wars—all wars: Sherman said, War is hell: so it is: any honest man says so—hates war, fighting, bloodletting: I was in the midst of it all—saw war where war is worst—not on the battlefields, no—in the hospitals: there war is worst: there I mixed with it: and now I say, God damn the wars—all wars: God damn every war: God damn 'em! God damn 'em!" I never saw W. looking finer: his voice suddenly got strong, rang out. Then he sank back in his pillow. I wondered if he would add anything. He did. Only a few words. "I should n't let myself go—no, I should n't—but I say God damn 'em anyway!" Ed had heard W. from the hallway but not what was being said. When I left he asked: "What was the old man going on so about?" Ed is fine. W. said to-night of him: "He 's a gem: just the right man."

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