A Trout in the Milk

Everyone knew that Henry was dying. The little cane bed he had used in his cabin beside Walden Pond was now installed in the downstairs parlor, and he’d lain there for months, propped up by pillows, receiving friends and neighbors. There’d been much talk among them lately of the battle recently fought at Pittsburgh Landing, near Shiloh Church. Immense losses, more than twenty thousand, it was said, of Confederate and Union troops together. Three were from Concord alone, including the Davis boy from nearby Boston Road.

But Henry had little interest in war news. His eyes glittered brilliantly now, and his cheeks were flushed. In the presence of visitors, he’d been able to control the spasmodic coughing that sometimes led to hemorrhaging. Only his sister, Sophia, knew how advanced the tuberculosis, complicated by pleurisy, had become. She and the housemaid, Elsie, tended to the endless washing of the bloody linen, it being too much for either of them alone.

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