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´╗┐Title: Hospital Sketches
Author: Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hospital Sketches" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



HOSPITAL SKETCHES


By

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT



  THESE SKETCHES
  ARE RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED
  TO HER FRIEND
  MISS HANNAH STEVENSON
  BY
  L.M.A.



CONTENTS

   I.  Obtaining Supplies
  II.  A Forward Movement
 III.  A Day
  IV.  A Night
   V.  Off Duty
  VI.  A Postscript



CHAPTER I

OBTAINING SUPPLIES.

"I want something to do."

This remark being addressed to the world in general, no one in
particular felt it their duty to reply; so I repeated it to the smaller
world about me, received the following suggestions, and settled the
matter by answering my own inquiry, as people are apt to do when very
much in earnest.

"Write a book," quoth the author of my being.

"Don't know enough, sir. First live, then write."

"Try teaching again," suggested my mother.

"No thank you, ma'am, ten years of that is enough."

"Take a husband like my Darby, and fulfill your mission," said sister
Joan, home on a visit.

"Can't afford expensive luxuries, Mrs. Coobiddy."

"Turn actress, and immortalize your name," said sister Vashti, striking
an attitude.

"I won't."

"Go nurse the soldiers," said my young brother, Tom, panting for "the
tented field."

"I will!"

So far, very good. Here was the will--now for the way. At first sight
not a foot of it appeared, but that didn't matter, for the Periwinkles
are a hopeful race; their crest is an anchor, with three cock-a-doodles
crowing atop. They all wear rose-colored spectacles, and are lineal
descendants of the inventor of aerial architecture. An hour's
conversation on the subject set the whole family in a blaze of
enthusiasm. A model hospital was erected, and each member had accepted
an honorable post therein. The paternal P. was chaplain, the maternal
P. was matron, and all the youthful P.s filled the pod of futurity with
achievements whose brilliancy eclipsed the glories of the present and
the past. Arriving at this satisfactory conclusion, the meeting
adjourned, and the fact that Miss Tribulation was available as army
nurse went abroad on the wings of the wind.

In a few days a townswoman heard of my desire, approved of it, and
brought about an interview with one of the sisterhood which I wished to
join, who was at home on a furlough, and able and willing to satisfy
all inquiries. A morning chat with Miss General S.--we hear no end of
Mrs. Generals, why not a Miss?--produced three results: I felt that I
could do the work, was offered a place, and accepted it, promising not
to desert, but stand ready to march on Washington at an hour's notice.

A few days were necessary for the letter containing my request and
recommendation to reach headquarters, and another, containing my
commission, to return; therefore no time was to be lost; and heartily
thanking my pair of friends, I tore home through the December slush as
if the rebels were after me, and like many another recruit, burst in
upon my family with the announcement--

"I've enlisted!"

An impressive silence followed. Tom, the irrepressible, broke it with a
slap on the shoulder and the graceful compliment--

"Old Trib, you're a trump!"

"Thank you; then I'll take something:" which I did, in the shape of
dinner, reeling off my news at the rate of three dozen words to a
mouthful; and as every one else talked equally fast, and all together,
the scene was most inspiring.

As boys going to sea immediately become nautical in speech, walk as if
they already had their "sea legs" on, and shiver their timbers on all
possible occasions, so I turned military at once, called my dinner my
rations, saluted all new comers, and ordered a dress parade that very
afternoon. Having reviewed every rag I possessed, I detailed some for
picket duty while airing over the fence; some to the sanitary
influences of the wash-tub; others to mount guard in the trunk; while
the weak and wounded went to the Work-basket Hospital, to be made ready
for active service again. To this squad I devoted myself for a week;
but all was done, and I had time to get powerfully impatient before the
letter came. It did arrive however, and brought a disappointment along
with its good will and friendliness, for it told me that the place in
the Armory Hospital that I supposed I was to take, was already filled,
and a much less desirable one at Hurly-burly House was offered instead.

"That's just your luck, Trib. I'll tote your trunk up garret for you
again; for of course you won't go," Tom remarked, with the disdainful
pity which small boys affect when they get into their teens. I was
wavering in my secret soul, but that settled the matter, and I crushed
him on the spot with martial brevity--

"It is now one; I shall march at six."

I have a confused recollection of spending the afternoon in pervading
the house like an executive whirlwind, with my family swarming after
me, all working, talking, prophesying and lamenting, while I packed my
"go-abroady" possessions, tumbled the rest into two big boxes, danced
on the lids till they shut, and gave them in charge, with the
direction,--

"If I never come back, make a bonfire of them."

Then I choked down a cup of tea, generously salted instead of sugared,
by some agitated relative, shouldered my knapsack--it was only a
traveling bag, but do let me preserve the unities--hugged my family
three times all round without a vestige of unmanly emotion, till a
certain dear old lady broke down upon my neck, with a despairing sort
of wail--

"Oh, my dear, my dear, how can I let you go?"

"I'll stay if you say so, mother."

"But I don't; go, and the Lord will take care of you."

Much of the Roman matron's courage had gone into the Yankee matron's
composition, and, in spite of her tears, she would have sent ten sons
to the war, had she possessed them, as freely as she sent one daughter,
smiling and flapping on the door-step till I vanished, though the eyes
that followed me were very dim, and the handkerchief she waved was very
wet.

My transit from The Gables to the village depot was a funny mixture of
good wishes and good byes, mud-puddles and shopping. A December
twilight is not the most cheering time to enter upon a somewhat
perilous enterprise, and, but for the presence of Vashti and neighbor
Thorn, I fear that I might have added a drop of the briny to the native
moisture of--

    "The town I left behind me;"

though I'd no thought of giving out: oh, bless you, no! When the engine
screeched "Here we are," I clutched my escort in a fervent embrace, and
skipped into the car with as blithe a farewell as if going on a bridal
tour--though I believe brides don't usually wear cavernous black
bonnets and fuzzy brown coats, with a hair-brush, a pair of rubbers,
two books, and a bag of ginger-bread distorting the pockets of the
same. If I thought that any one would believe it, I'd boldly state that
I slept from C. to B., which would simplify matters immensely; but as I
know they wouldn't, I'll confess that the head under the funereal
coal-hod fermented with all manner of high thoughts and heroic purposes
"to do or die,"--perhaps both; and the heart under the fuzzy brown coat
felt very tender with the memory of the dear old lady, probably sobbing
over her army socks and the loss of her topsy-turvy Trib. At this
juncture I took the veil, and what I did behind it is nobody's
business; but I maintain that the soldier who cries when his mother
says "Good bye," is the boy to fight best, and die bravest, when the
time comes, or go back to her better than he went.

Till nine o'clock I trotted about the city streets, doing those last
errands which no woman would even go to heaven without attempting, if
she could. Then I went to my usual refuge, and, fully intending to keep
awake, as a sort of vigil appropriate to the occasion, fell fast asleep
and dreamed propitious dreams till my rosy-faced cousin waked me with a
kiss.

A bright day smiled upon my enterprise, and at ten I reported myself to
my General, received last instructions and no end of the sympathetic
encouragement which women give, in look, touch, and tone more
effectually than in words. The next step was to get a free pass to
Washington, for I'd no desire to waste my substance on railroad
companies when "the boys" needed even a spinster's mite. A friend of
mine had procured such a pass, and I was bent on doing likewise, though
I had to face the president of the railroad to accomplish it. I'm a
bashful individual, though I can't get any one to believe it; so it
cost me a great effort to poke about the Worcester depot till the right
door appeared, then walk into a room containing several gentlemen, and
blunder out my request in a high state of stammer and blush. Nothing
could have been more courteous than this dreaded President, but it was
evident that I had made as absurd a demand as if I had asked for the
nose off his respectable face. He referred me to the Governor at the
State House, and I backed out, leaving him no doubt to regret that such
mild maniacs were left at large. Here was a Scylla and Charybdis
business: as if a President wasn't trying enough, without the Governor
of Massachusetts and the hub of the hub piled on top of that. "I never
can do it," thought I. "Tom will hoot at you if you don't," whispered
the inconvenient little voice that is always goading people to the
performance of disagreeable duties, and always appeals to the most
effective agent to produce the proper result. The idea of allowing any
boy that ever wore a felt basin and a shoddy jacket with a microscopic
tail, to crow over me, was preposterous, so giving myself a mental slap
for such faint-heartedness, I streamed away across the Common,
wondering if I ought to say "your Honor," or simply "Sir," and decided
upon the latter, fortifying myself with recollections of an evening in
a charming green library, where I beheld the Governor placidly
consuming oysters, and laughing as if Massachusetts was a myth, and he
had no heavier burden on his shoulders than his host's handsome hands.

Like an energetic fly in a very large cobweb, I struggled through the
State House, getting into all the wrong rooms and none of the right,
till I turned desperate, and went into one, resolving not to come out
till I'd made somebody hear and answer me. I suspect that of all the
wrong places I had blundered into, this was the most so. But I didn't
care; and, though the apartment was full of soldiers, surgeons,
starers, and spittoons, I cornered a perfectly incapable person, and
proceeded to pump for information with the following result:

"Was the Governor anywhere about?"

No, he wasn't.

"Could he tell me where to look?"

No, he couldn't.

"Did he know anything about free passes?"

No, he didn't.

"Was there any one there of whom I could inquire?"

Not a person.

"Did he know of any place where information could be obtained?"

Not a place.

"Could he throw the smallest gleam of light upon the matter, in any
way?"

Not a ray.

I am naturally irascible, and if I could have shaken this negative
gentleman vigorously, the relief would have been immense. The
prejudices of society forbidding this mode of redress, I merely
glowered at him; and, before my wrath found vent in words, my General
appeared, having seen me from an opposite window, and come to know what
I was about. At her command the languid gentleman woke up, and troubled
himself to remember that Major or Sergeant or something Mc K. knew all
about the tickets, and his office was in Milk Street. I perked up
instanter, and then, as if the exertion was too much for him, what did
this animated wet blanket do but add--

"I think Mc K. may have left Milk Street, now, and I don't know where
he has gone."

"Never mind; the new comers will know where he has moved to, my dear,
so don't be discouraged; and if you don't succeed, come to me, and we
will see what to do next," said my General.

I blessed her in a fervent manner and a cool hall, fluttered round the
corner, and bore down upon Milk Street, bent on discovering Mc K. if
such a being was to be found. He wasn't, and the ignorance of the
neighborhood was really pitiable. Nobody knew anything, and after
tumbling over bundles of leather, bumping against big boxes, being
nearly annihilated by descending bales, and sworn at by aggravated
truckmen, I finally elicited the advice to look for Mc K. in Haymarket
Square. Who my informant was I've really forgotten; for, having hailed
several busy gentlemen, some one of them fabricated this delusive
quietus for the perturbed spirit, who instantly departed to the
sequestered locality he named. If I had been in search of the
Koh-i-noor diamond I should have been as likely to find it there as any
vestige of Mc K. I stared at signs, inquired in shops, invaded an
eating house, visited the recruiting tent in the middle of the Square,
made myself a nuisance generally, and accumulated mud enough to retard
another Nile. All in vain: and I mournfully turned my face toward the
General's, feeling that I should be forced to enrich the railroad
company after all; when, suddenly, I beheld that admirable young man,
brother-in-law Darby Coobiddy, Esq. I arrested him with a burst of
news, and wants, and woes, which caused his manly countenance to lose
its usual repose.

"Oh, my dear boy, I'm going to Washington at five, and I can't find the
free ticket man, and there won't be time to see Joan, and I'm so tired
and cross I don't know what to do; and will you help me, like a cherub
as you are?"

"Oh, yes, of course. I know a fellow who will set us right," responded
Darby, mildly excited, and darting into some kind of an office, held
counsel with an invisible angel, who sent him out radiant. "All serene.
I've got him. I'll see you through the business, and then get Joan from
the Dove Cote in time to see you off."

I'm a woman's rights woman, and if any man had offered help in the
morning, I should have condescendingly refused it, sure that I could do
everything as well, if not better, myself. My strong-mindedness had
rather abated since then, and I was now quite ready to be a "timid
trembler," if necessary.

Dear me! how easily Darby did it all: he just asked one question,
received an answer, tucked me under his arm, and in ten minutes I stood
in the presence of Mc K., the Desired.

"Now my troubles are over," thought I, and as usual was direfully
mistaken.

"You will have to get a pass from Dr. H., in Temple Place, before I can
give you a pass, madam," answered Mc K., as blandly as if he wasn't
carrying desolation to my soul. Oh, indeed! why didn't he send me to
Dorchester Heights, India Wharf, or Bunker Hill Monument, and done with
it? Here I was, after a morning's tramp, down in some place about Dock
Square, and was told to step to Temple Place. Nor was that all; he
might as well have asked me to catch a hummingbird, toast a salamander,
or call on the man in the moon, as find a Doctor at home at the busiest
hour of the day. It was a blow; but weariness had extinguished
enthusiasm, and resignation clothed me as a garment. I sent Darby for
Joan, and doggedly paddled off, feeling that mud was my native element,
and quite sure that the evening papers would announce the appearance of
the Wandering Jew, in feminine habiliments.

"Is Dr. H. in?"

"No, mum, he aint."

Of course he wasn't; I knew that before I asked: and, considering it
all in the light of a hollow mockery, added:

"When will he probably return?"

If the damsel had said, "ten to-night," I should have felt a grim
satisfaction, in the fulfillment of my own dark prophecy; but she said,
"At two, mum;" and I felt it a personal insult.

"I'll call, then. Tell him my business is important:" with which
mysteriously delivered message I departed, hoping that I left her
consumed with curiosity; for mud rendered me an object of interest.

By way of resting myself, I crossed the Common, for the third time,
bespoke the carriage, got some lunch, packed my purchases, smoothed my
plumage, and was back again, as the clock struck two. The Doctor hadn't
come yet; and I was morally certain that he would not, till, having
waited till the last minute, I was driven to buy a ticket, and, five
minutes after the irrevocable deed was done, he would be at my service,
with all manner of helpful documents and directions. Everything goes by
contraries with me; so, having made up my mind to be disappointed, of
course I wasn't; for, presently, in walked Dr. H., and no sooner had he
heard my errand, and glanced at my credentials, than he said, with the
most engaging readiness:

"I will give you the order, with pleasure, madam."

Words cannot express how soothing and delightful it was to find, at
last, somebody who could do what I wanted, without sending me from Dan
to Beersheba, for a dozen other to do something else first. Peace
descended, like oil, upon the ruffled waters of my being, as I sat
listening to the busy scratch of his pen; and, when he turned about,
giving me not only the order, but a paper of directions wherewith to
smooth away all difficulties between Boston and Washington, I felt as
did poor Christian when the Evangelist gave him the scroll, on the safe
side of the Slough of Despond. I've no doubt many dismal nurses have
inflicted themselves upon the worthy gentleman since then; but I am
sure none have been more kindly helped, or are more grateful, than T.
P.; for that short interview added another to the many pleasant
associations that already surround his name.

Feeling myself no longer a "Martha Struggles," but a comfortable young
woman, with plain sailing before her, and the worst of the voyage well
over, I once more presented myself to the valuable Mc K. The order was
read, and certain printed papers, necessary to be filled out, were
given a young gentleman--no, I prefer to say Boy, with a scornful
emphasis upon the word, as the only means of revenge now left me. This
Boy, instead of doing his duty with the diligence so charming in the
young, loitered and lounged, in a manner which proved his education to
have been sadly neglected in the--

    "How doth the little busy bee,"

direction. He stared at me, gaped out of the window, ate peanuts, and
gossiped with his neighbors--Boys, like himself, and all penned in a
row, like colts at a Cattle Show. I don't imagine he knew the anguish
he was inflicting; for it was nearly three, the train left at five, and
I had my ticket to get, my dinner to eat, my blessed sister to see, and
the depot to reach, if I didn't die of apoplexy. Meanwhile, Patience
certainly had her perfect work that day, and I hope she enjoyed the job
more than I did.

Having waited some twenty minutes, it pleased this reprehensible Boy to
make various marks and blots on my documents, toss them to a venerable
creature of sixteen, who delivered them to me with such paternal
directions, that it only needed a pat on the head and an
encouraging--"Now run home to your Ma, little girl, and mind the
crossings, my dear," to make the illusion quite perfect.

Why I was sent to a steamboat office for car tickets, is not for me to
say, though I went as meekly as I should have gone to the Probate
Court, if sent. A fat, easy gentleman gave me several bits of paper,
with coupons attached, with a warning not to separate them, which
instantly inspired me with a yearning to pluck them apart, and see what
came of it. But, remembering through what fear and tribulation I had
obtained them, I curbed Satan's promptings, and, clutching my prize, as
if it were my pass to the Elysian Fields, I hurried home. Dinner was
rapidly consumed; Joan enlightened, comforted, and kissed; the dearest
of apple-faced cousins hugged; the kindest of apple-faced cousins'
fathers subjected to the same process; and I mounted the ambulance,
baggage-wagon, or anything you please but hack, and drove away, too
tired to feel excited, sorry, or glad.



CHAPTER II

A FORWARD MOVEMENT.

As travellers like to give their own impressions of a journey, though
every inch of the way may have been described a half a dozen times
before, I add some of the notes made by the way, hoping that they will
amuse the reader, and convince the skeptical that such a being as Nurse
Periwinkle does exist, that she really did go to Washington, and that
these Sketches are not romance.

New York Train--Seven P.M.--Spinning along to take the boat at New
London. Very comfortable; much gingerbread, and Mrs. C.'s fine pear,
which deserves honorable mention, because my first loneliness was
comforted by it, and pleasant recollections of both kindly sender and
bearer. Look much at Dr. H.'s paper of directions--put my tickets in
every conceivable place, that they may be get-at-able, and finish by
losing them entirely. Suffer agonies till a compassionate neighbor
pokes them out of a crack with his pen-knife. Put them in the inmost
corner of my purse, that in the deepest recesses of my pocket, pile a
collection of miscellaneous articles atop, and pin up the whole. Just
get composed, feeling that I've done my best to keep them safely, when
the Conductor appears, and I'm forced to rout them all out again,
exposing my precautions, and getting into a flutter at keeping the man
waiting. Finally, fasten them on the seat before me, and keep one eye
steadily upon the yellow torments, till I forget all about them, in
chat with the gentleman who shares my seat. Having heard complaints of
the absurd way in which American women become images of petrified
propriety, if addressed by strangers, when traveling alone, the inborn
perversity of my nature causes me to assume an entirely opposite style
of deportment; and, finding my companion hails from Little Athens, is
acquainted with several of my three hundred and sixty-five cousins, and
in every way a respectable and respectful member of society, I put my
bashfulness in my pocket, and plunge into a long conversation on the
war, the weather, music, Carlyle, skating, genius, hoops, and the
immortality of the soul.

Ten P.M.--Very sleepy. Nothing to be seen outside, but darkness made
visible; nothing inside but every variety of bunch into which the human
form can be twisted, rolled, or "massed," as Miss Prescott says of her
jewels. Every man's legs sprawl drowsily, every woman's head (but
mine,) nods, till it finally settles on somebody's shoulder, a new
proof of the truth of the everlasting oak and vine simile; children
fret; lovers whisper; old folks snore, and somebody privately imbibes
brandy, when the lamps go out. The penetrating perfume rouses the
multitude, causing some to start up, like war horses at the smell of
powder. When the lamps are relighted, every one laughs, sniffs, and
looks inquiringly at his neighbor--every one but a stout gentleman,
who, with well-gloved hands folded upon his broad-cloth rotundity,
sleeps on impressively. Had he been innocent, he would have waked up;
for, to slumber in that babe-like manner, with a car full of giggling,
staring, sniffing humanity, was simply preposterous. Public suspicion
was down upon him at once. I doubt if the appearance of a flat black
bottle with a label would have settled the matter more effectually than
did the over dignified and profound repose of this short-sighted being.
His moral neck-cloth, virtuous boots, and pious attitude availed him
nothing, and it was well he kept his eyes shut, for "Humbug!" twinkled
at him from every window-pane, brass nail and human eye around him.

Eleven P.M.--In the boat "City of Boston," escorted thither by my car
acquaintance, and deposited in the cabin. Trying to look as if the
greater portion of my life had been passed on board boats, but
painfully conscious that I don't know the first thing; so sit bolt
upright, and stare about me till I hear one lady say to another--"We
must secure our berths at once;" whereupon I dart at one, and, while
leisurely taking off my cloak, wait to discover what the second move
may be. Several ladies draw the curtains that hang in a semi-circle
before each nest--instantly I whisk mine smartly together, and then
peep out to see what next. Gradually, on hooks above the blue and
yellow drapery, appear the coats and bonnets of my neighbors, while
their boots and shoes, in every imaginable attitude, assert themselves
below, as if their owners had committed suicide in a body. A violent
creaking, scrambling, and fussing, causes the fact that people are
going regularly to bed to dawn upon my mind. Of course they are; and so
am I--but pause at the seventh pin, remembering that, as I was born to
be drowned, an eligible opportunity now presents itself; and, having
twice escaped a watery grave, the third immersion will certainly
extinguish my vital spark. The boat is new, but if it ever intends to
blow up, spring a leak, catch afire, or be run into, it will do the
deed to-night, because I'm here to fulfill my destiny. With tragic
calmness I resign myself, replace my pins, lash my purse and papers
together, with my handkerchief, examine the saving circumference of my
hoop, and look about me for any means of deliverance when the moist
moment shall arrive; for I've no intention of folding my hands and
bubbling to death without an energetic splashing first. Barrels,
hen-coops, portable settees, and life-preservers do not adorn the
cabin, as they should; and, roving wildly to and fro, my eye sees no
ray of hope till it falls upon a plump old lady, devoutly reading in
the cabin Bible, and a voluminous night-cap. I remember that, at the
swimming school, fat girls always floated best, and in an instant my
plan is laid. At the first alarm I firmly attach myself to the plump
lady, and cling to her through fire and water; for I feel that my old
enemy, the cramp, will seize me by the foot, if I attempt to swim; and,
though I can hardly expect to reach Jersey City with myself and my
baggage in as good condition as I hoped, I might manage to get picked
up by holding to my fat friend; if not it will be a comfort to feel
that I've made an effort and shall die in good society. Poor dear
woman! how little she dreamed, as she read and rocked, with her cap in
a high state of starch, and her feet comfortably cooking at the
register, what fell designs were hovering about her, and how intently a
small but determined eye watched her, till it suddenly closed.

Sleep got the better of fear to such an extent that my boots appeared
to gape, and my bonnet nodded on its peg, before I gave in. Having
piled my cloak, bag, rubbers, books and umbrella on the lower shelf, I
drowsily swarmed onto the upper one, tumbling down a few times, and
excoriating the knobby portions of my frame in the act. A very brief
nap on the upper roost was enough to set me gasping as if a dozen
feather beds and the whole boat were laid over me. Out I turned; and
after a series of convulsions, which caused my neighbor to ask if I
wanted the stewardess, I managed to get my luggage up and myself down.
But even in the lower berth, my rest was not unbroken, for various
articles kept dropping off the little shelf at the bottom of the bed,
and every time I flew up, thinking my hour had come, I bumped my head
severely against the little shelf at the top, evidently put there for
that express purpose. At last, after listening to the swash of the
waves outside, wondering if the machinery usually creaked in that way,
and watching a knot-hole in the side of my berth, sure that death would
creep in there as soon as I took my eye from it, I dropped asleep, and
dreamed of muffins.

Five A.M.--On deck, trying to wake up and enjoy an east wind and a
morning fog, and a twilight sort of view of something on the shore.
Rapidly achieve my purpose, and do enjoy every moment, as we go rushing
through the Sound, with steamboats passing up and down, lights dancing
on the shore, mist wreaths slowly furling off, and a pale pink sky
above us, as the sun comes up.

Seven A.M.--In the cars, at Jersey City. Much fuss with tickets, which
one man scribbles over, another snips, and a third "makes note on."
Partake of refreshment, in the gloom of a very large and dirty depot.
Think that my sandwiches would be more relishing without so strong a
flavor of napkin, and my gingerbread more easy of consumption if it had
not been pulverized by being sat upon. People act as if early traveling
didn't agree with them. Children scream and scamper; men smoke and
growl; women shiver and fret; porters swear; great truck horses pace up
and down with loads of baggage; and every one seems to get into the
wrong car, and come tumbling out again. One man, with three children, a
dog, a bird-cage, and several bundles, puts himself and his possessions
into every possible place where a man, three children, dog, bird-cage
and bundles could be got, and is satisfied with none of them. I follow
their movements, with an interest that is really exhausting, and, as
they vanish, hope for rest, but don't get it. A strong-minded woman,
with a tumbler in her hand, and no cloak or shawl on, comes rushing
through the car, talking loudly to a small porter, who lugs a folding
bed after her, and looks as if life were a burden to him.

"You promised to have it ready. It is not ready. It must be a car with
a water jar, the windows must be shut, the fire must be kept up, the
blinds must be down. No, this won't do. I shall go through the whole
train, and suit myself, for you promised to have it ready. It is not
ready," &c., all through again, like a hand-organ. She haunted the
cars, the depot, the office and baggage-room, with her bed, her
tumbler, and her tongue, till the train started; and a sense of fervent
gratitude filled my soul, when I found that she and her unknown invalid
were not to share our car.

Philadelphia.--An old place, full of Dutch women, in "bellus top"
bonnets, selling vegetables, in long, open markets. Every one seems to
be scrubbing their white steps. All the houses look like tidy jails,
with their outside shutters. Several have crape on the door-handles,
and many have flags flying from roof or balcony. Few men appear, and
the women seem to do the business, which, perhaps, accounts for its
being so well done. Pass fine buildings, but don't know what they are.
Would like to stop and see my native city; for, having left it at the
tender age of two, my recollections are not vivid.

Baltimore.--A big, dirty, shippy, shiftless place, full of goats,
geese, colored people, and coal, at least the part of it I see. Pass
near the spot where the riot took place, and feel as if I should enjoy
throwing a stone at somebody, hard. Find a guard at the ferry, the
depot, and here and there, along the road. A camp whitens one
hill-side, and a cavalry training school, or whatever it should be
called, is a very interesting sight, with quantities of horses and
riders galloping, marching, leaping, and skirmishing, over all manner
of break-neck places. A party of English people get in--the men, with
sandy hair and red whiskers, all trimmed alike, to a hair; rough grey
coats, very rosy, clean faces, and a fine, full way of speaking, which
is particularly agreeable, after our slip-shod American gabble. The two
ladies wear funny velvet fur-trimmed hoods; are done up, like compact
bundles, in tartan shawls; and look as if bent on seeing everything
thoroughly. The devotion of one elderly John Bull to his red-nosed
spouse was really beautiful to behold. She was plain and cross, and
fussy and stupid, but J. B., Esq., read no papers when she was awake,
turned no cold shoulder when she wished to sleep, and cheerfully said,
"Yes, me dear," to every wish or want the wife of his bosom expressed.
I quite warmed to the excellent man, and asked a question or two, as
the only means of expressing my good will. He answered very civilly,
but evidently hadn't been used to being addressed by strange women in
public conveyances; and Mrs. B. fixed her green eyes upon me, as if she
thought me a forward hussy, or whatever is good English for a presuming
young woman. The pair left their friends before we reached Washington;
and the last I saw of them was a vision of a large plaid lady, stalking
grimly away, on the arm of a rosy, stout gentleman, loaded with rugs,
bags, and books, but still devoted, still smiling, and waving a hearty
"Fare ye well! We'll meet ye at Willard's on Chusday."

Soon after their departure we had an accident; for no long journey in
America would be complete without one. A coupling iron broke; and,
after leaving the last car behind us, we waited for it to come up,
which it did, with a crash that knocked every one forward on their
faces, and caused several old ladies to screech dismally. Hats flew
off, bonnets were flattened, the stove skipped, the lamps fell down,
the water jar turned a somersault, and the wheel just over which I sat
received some damage. Of course, it became necessary for all the men to
get out, and stand about in everybody's way, while repairs were made;
and for the women to wrestle their heads out of the windows, asking
ninety-nine foolish questions to one sensible one. A few wise females
seized this favorable moment to better their seats, well knowing that
few men can face the wooden stare with which they regard the former
possessors of the places they have invaded.

The country through which we passed did not seem so very unlike that
which I had left, except that it was more level and less wintry. In
summer time the wide fields would have shown me new sights, and the
way-side hedges blossomed with new flowers; now, everything was sere
and sodden, and a general air of shiftlessness prevailed, which would
have caused a New England farmer much disgust, and a strong desire to
"buckle to," and "right up" things. Dreary little houses, with chimneys
built outside, with clay and rough sticks piled crosswise, as we used
to build cob towers, stood in barren looking fields, with cow, pig, or
mule lounging about the door. We often passed colored people, looking
as if they had come out of a picture book, or off the stage, but not at
all the sort of people I'd been accustomed to see at the North.

Wayside encampments made the fields and lanes gay with blue coats and
the glitter of buttons. Military washes flapped and fluttered on the
fences; pots were steaming in the open air; all sorts of tableaux seen
through the openings of tents, and everywhere the boys threw up their
caps and cut capers as we passed.

Washington.--It was dark when we arrived; and, but for the presence of
another friendly gentleman, I should have yielded myself a helpless
prey to the first overpowering hackman, who insisted that I wanted to
go just where I didn't. Putting me into the conveyance I belonged in,
my escort added to the obligation by pointing out the objects of
interest which we passed in our long drive. Though I'd often been told
that Washington was a spacious place, its visible magnitude quite took
my breath away, and of course I quoted Randolph's expression, "a city
of magnificent distances," as I suppose every one does when they see
it. The Capitol was so like the pictures that hang opposite the staring
Father of his Country, in boarding-houses and hotels, that it did not
impress me, except to recall the time when I was sure that Cinderella
went to housekeeping in just such a place, after she had married the
inflammable Prince; though, even at that early period, I had my doubts
as to the wisdom of a match whose foundation was of glass.

The White House was lighted up, and carriages were rolling in and out
of the great gate. I stared hard at the famous East Room, and would
have liked a peep through the crack of the door. My old gentleman was
indefatigable in his attentions, and I said, "Splendid!" to everything
he pointed out, though I suspect I often admired the wrong place, and
missed the right. Pennsylvania Avenue, with its bustle, lights, music,
and military, made me feel as if I'd crossed the water and landed
somewhere in Carnival time. Coming to less noticeable parts of the
city, my companion fell silent, and I meditated upon the perfection
which Art had attained in America--having just passed a bronze statue
of some hero, who looked like a black Methodist minister, in a cocked
hat, above the waist, and a tipsy squire below; while his horse stood
like an opera dancer, on one leg, in a high, but somewhat remarkable
wind, which blew his mane one way and his massive tail the other.

"Hurly-burly House, ma'am!" called a voice, startling me from my
reverie, as we stopped before a great pile of buildings, with a flag
flying before it, sentinels at the door, and a very trying quantity of
men lounging about. My heart beat rather faster than usual, and it
suddenly struck me that I was very far from home; but I descended with
dignity, wondering whether I should be stopped for want of a
countersign, and forced to pass the night in the street. Marching
boldly up the steps, I found that no form was necessary, for the men
fell back, the guard touched their caps, a boy opened the door, and, as
it closed behind me, I felt that I was fairly started, and Nurse
Periwinkle's Mission was begun.



CHAPTER III

A DAY.

"They've come! they've come! hurry up, ladies--you're wanted."

"Who have come? the rebels?"

This sudden summons in the gray dawn was somewhat startling to a three
days' nurse like myself, and, as the thundering knock came at our door,
I sprang up in my bed, prepared

    "To gird my woman's form,
     And on the ramparts die,"

if necessary; but my room-mate took it more coolly, and, as she began a
rapid toilet, answered my bewildered question,--

"Bless you, no child; it's the wounded from Fredericksburg; forty
ambulances are at the door, and we shall have our hands full in fifteen
minutes."

"What shall we have to do?"

"Wash, dress, feed, warm and nurse them for the next three months, I
dare say. Eighty beds are ready, and we were getting impatient for the
men to come. Now you will begin to see hospital life in earnest, for
you won't probably find time to sit down all day, and may think
yourself fortunate if you get to bed by midnight. Come to me in the
ball-room when you are ready; the worst cases are always carried there,
and I shall need your help."

So saying, the energetic little woman twirled her hair into a button at
the back of her head, in a "cleared for action" sort of style, and
vanished, wrestling her way into a feminine kind of pea-jacket as she
went.

I am free to confess that I had a realizing sense of the fact that my
hospital bed was not a bed of roses just then, or the prospect before
me one of unmingled rapture. My three days' experiences had begun with
a death, and, owing to the defalcation of another nurse, a somewhat
abrupt plunge into the superintendence of a ward containing forty beds,
where I spent my shining hours washing faces, serving rations, giving
medicine, and sitting in a very hard chair, with pneumonia on one side,
diphtheria on the other, five typhoids on the opposite, and a dozen
dilapidated patriots, hopping, lying, and lounging about, all staring
more or less at the new "nuss," who suffered untold agonies, but
concealed them under as matronly an aspect as a spinster could assume,
and blundered through her trying labors with a Spartan firmness, which
I hope they appreciated, but am afraid they didn't. Having a taste for
"ghastliness," I had rather longed for the wounded to arrive, for
rheumatism wasn't heroic, neither was liver complaint, or measles; even
fever had lost its charms since "bathing burning brows" had been used
up in romances, real and ideal; but when I peeped into the dusky street
lined with what I at first had innocently called market carts, now
unloading their sad freight at our door, I recalled sundry
reminiscences I had heard from nurses of longer standing, my ardor
experienced a  sudden chill, and I indulged in a most unpatriotic wish
that I was safe at home again, with a quiet day before me, and no
necessity for being hustled up, as if I were a hen and had only to hop
off my roost, give my plumage a peck, and be ready for action. A second
bang at the door sent this recreant desire to the right about, as a
little woolly head popped in, and Joey, (a six years' old contraband,)
announced--

"Miss Blank is jes' wild fer ye, and says fly round right away. They's
comin' in, I tell yer, heaps on 'em--one was took out dead, and I see
him,--hi! warn't he a goner!"

With which cheerful intelligence the imp scuttled away, singing like a
blackbird, and I followed, feeling that Richard was not himself again,
and wouldn't be for a long time to come.

The first thing I met was a regiment of the vilest odors that ever
assaulted the human nose, and took it by storm. Cologne, with its seven
and seventy evil savors, was a posy-bed to it; and the worst of this
affliction was, every one had assured me that it was a chronic weakness
of all hospitals, and I must bear it. I did, armed with lavender water,
with which I so besprinkled myself and premises, that, like my friend
Sairy, I was soon known among my patients as "the nurse with the
bottle." Having been run over by three excited surgeons, bumped against
by migratory coal-hods, water-pails, and small boys, nearly scalded by
an avalanche of newly-filled tea-pots, and hopelessly entangled in a
knot of colored sisters coming to wash, I progressed by slow stages up
stairs and down, till the main hall was reached, and I paused to take
breath and a survey. There they were! "our brave boys," as the papers
justly call them, for cowards could hardly have been so riddled with
shot and shell, so torn and shattered, nor have borne suffering for
which we have no name, with an uncomplaining fortitude, which made one
glad to cherish each as a brother. In they came, some on stretchers,
some in men's arms, some feebly staggering along propped on rude
crutches, and one lay stark and still with covered face, as a comrade
gave his name to be recorded before they carried him away to the dead
house. All was hurry and confusion; the hall was full of these wrecks
of humanity, for the most exhausted could not reach a bed till duly
ticketed and registered; the walls were lined with rows of such as
could sit, the floor covered with the more disabled, the steps and
doorways filled with helpers and lookers on; the sound of many feet and
voices made that usually quiet hour as noisy as noon; and, in the midst
of it all, the matron's motherly face brought more comfort to many a
poor soul, than the cordial draughts she administered, or the cheery
words that welcomed all, making of the hospital a home.

The sight of several stretchers, each with its legless, armless, or
desperately wounded occupant, entering my ward, admonished me that I
was there to work, not to wonder or weep; so I corked up my feelings,
and returned to the path of duty, which was rather "a hard road to
travel" just then. The house had been a hotel before hospitals were
needed, and many of the doors still bore their old names; some not so
inappropriate as might be imagined, for my ward was in truth a
ball-room, if gun-shot wounds could christen it. Forty beds were
prepared, many already tenanted by tired men who fell down anywhere,
and drowsed till the smell of food roused them. Round the great stove
was gathered the dreariest group I ever saw--ragged, gaunt and pale,
mud to the knees, with bloody bandages untouched since put on days
before; many bundled up in blankets, coats being lost or useless; and
all wearing that disheartened look which proclaimed defeat,  more
plainly than any telegram of the Burnside blunder. I pitied them so
much, I dared not speak to them, though, remembering all they had been
through since the rout at Fredericksburg, I yearned to serve the
dreariest of them all. Presently, Miss Blank tore me from my refuge
behind piles of one-sleeved shirts, odd socks, bandages and lint; put
basin, sponge, towels, and a block of brown soap into my hands, with
these appalling directions:

"Come, my dear, begin to wash as fast as you can. Tell them to take off
socks, coats and shirts, scrub them well, put on clean shirts, and the
attendants will finish them off, and lay them in bed."

If she had requested me to shave them all, or dance a hornpipe on the
stove funnel, I should have been less staggered; but to scrub some
dozen lords of creation at a moment's notice, was really--really--.
However, there was no time for nonsense, and, having resolved when I
came to do everything I was bid, I drowned my scruples in my wash-bowl,
clutched my soap manfully, and, assuming a business-like air, made a
dab at the first dirty specimen I saw, bent on performing my task vi et
armis if necessary. I chanced to light on a withered old Irishman,
wounded in the head, which caused that portion of his frame to be
tastefully laid out like a garden, the bandages being the walks, his
hair the shrubbery. He was so overpowered by the honor of having a lady
wash him, as he expressed it, that he did nothing but roll up his eyes,
and bless me, in an irresistible style which was too much for my sense
of the ludicrous; so we laughed together, and when I knelt down to take
off his shoes, he "flopped" also, and wouldn't hear of my touching
"them dirty craters. May your bed above be aisy darlin', for the day's
work ye ar doon!--Whoosh! there ye are, and bedad, it's hard tellin'
which is the dirtiest, the fut or the shoe." It was; and if he hadn't
been to the fore, I should have gone on pulling, under the impression
that the "fut" was a boot, for trousers, socks, shoes and legs were a
mass of mud. This comical tableau produced a general grin, at which
propitious beginning I took heart and scrubbed away like any tidy
parent on a Saturday night. Some of them took the performance like
sleepy children, leaning their tired heads against me as I worked,
others looked grimly scandalized, and several of the roughest colored
like bashful girls. One wore a soiled little bag about his neck, and,
as I moved it, to bathe his wounded breast, I said,

"Your talisman didn't save you, did it?"

"Well, I reckon it did, marm, for that shot would a gone a couple a
inches deeper but for my old mammy's camphor bag," answered the
cheerful philosopher.

Another, with a gun-shot wound through the cheek, asked for a
looking-glass, and when I brought one, regarded his swollen face with a
dolorous expression, as he muttered--

"I vow to gosh, that's too bad! I warn't a bad looking chap before, and
now I'm done for; won't there be a thunderin' scar? and what on earth
will Josephine Skinner say?"

He looked up at me with his one eye so appealingly, that I controlled
my risibles, and assured him that if Josephine was a girl of sense, she
would admire the honorable scar, as a lasting proof that he had faced
the enemy, for all women thought a wound the best decoration a brave
soldier could wear. I hope Miss Skinner verified the good opinion I so
rashly expressed of her, but I shall never know.

The next scrubbee was a nice looking lad, with a curly brown mane, and
a budding trace of gingerbread over the lip, which he called his beard,
and defended stoutly, when the barber jocosely suggested its
immolation. He lay on a bed,  with one leg gone, and the right arm so
shattered that it must evidently follow: yet the little Sergeant was as
merry as if his afflictions were not worth lamenting over; and when a
drop or two of salt water mingled with my suds at the sight of this
strong young body, so marred and maimed, the boy looked up, with a
brave smile, though there was a little quiver of the lips, as he said,

"Now don't you fret yourself about me, miss; I'm first rate here, for
it's nuts to lie still on this bed, after knocking about in those
confounded ambulances, that shake what there is left of a fellow to
jelly. I never was in one of these places before, and think this
cleaning up a jolly thing for us, though I'm afraid it isn't for you
ladies."

"Is this your first battle, Sergeant?"

"No, miss; I've been in six scrimmages, and never got a scratch till
this last one; but it's done the business pretty thoroughly for me, I
should say. Lord! what a scramble there'll be for arms and legs, when
we old boys come out of our graves, on the Judgment Day: wonder if we
shall get our own again? If we do, my leg will have to tramp from
Fredericksburg, my arm from here, I suppose, and meet my body, wherever
it may be."

The fancy seemed to tickle him mightily, for he laughed blithely, and
so did I; which, no doubt, caused the new nurse to be regarded as a
light-minded sinner by the Chaplain, who roamed vaguely about,
informing the men that they were all worms, corrupt of heart, with
perishable bodies, and souls only to be saved by a diligent perusal of
certain tracts, and other equally cheering bits of spiritual
consolation, when spirituous ditto would have been preferred.

"I say, Mrs.!" called a voice behind me; and, turning, I saw a rough
Michigander, with an arm blown off at the shoulder, and two or three
bullets still in him--as he afterwards mentioned, as carelessly as if
gentlemen were in the habit of carrying such trifles about with them. I
went to him, and, while administering a dose of soap and water, he
whispered, irefully:

"That red-headed devil, over yonder, is a reb, damn him! You'll agree
to that, I'll bet? He's got shet of a foot, or he'd a cut like the rest
of the lot. Don't you wash him, nor feed him, but jest let him holler
till he's tired. It's a blasted shame to fetch them fellers in here,
along side of us; and so I'll tell the chap that bosses this concern;
cuss me if I don't."

I regret to say that I did not deliver a moral sermon upon the duty of
forgiving our enemies, and the sin of profanity, then and there; but,
being a red-hot Abolitionist, stared fixedly at the tall rebel, who was
a copperhead, in every sense of the word, and privately resolved to put
soap in his eyes, rub his nose the wrong way, and excoriate his cuticle
generally, if I had the washing of him.

My amiable intentions, however, were frustrated; for, when I
approached, with as Christian an expression as my principles would
allow, and asked the question--"Shall I try to make you more
comfortable, sir?" all I got for my pains was a gruff--

"No; I'll do it myself."

"Here's your Southern chivalry, with a witness," thought I, dumping the
basin down before him, thereby quenching a strong desire to give him a
summary baptism, in return for his ungraciousness; for my angry
passions rose, at this rebuff, in a way that would have scandalized
good Dr. Watts. He was a disappointment in all respects, (the rebel,
not the blessed Doctor,) for he was neither fiendish, romantic,
pathetic, or anything interesting; but a long, fat man, with a head
like a burning bush, and a perfectly expressionless face: so I could
dislike him without the slightest drawback, and ignored his existence
from that day forth. One redeeming trait he certainly did possess, as
the floor speedily testified; for his ablutions were so vigorously
performed, that his bed soon stood like an isolated island, in a sea of
soap-suds, and he resembled a dripping merman, suffering from the loss
of a fin. If cleanliness is a near neighbor to godliness, then was the
big rebel the godliest man in my ward that day.

Having done up our human wash, and laid it out to dry, the second
syllable of our version of the word war-fare was enacted with much
success. Great trays of bread, meat, soup and coffee appeared; and both
nurses and attendants turned waiters, serving bountiful rations to all
who could eat. I can call my pinafore to testify to my good will in the
work, for in ten minutes it was reduced to a perambulating bill of
fare, presenting samples of all the refreshments going or gone. It was
a lively scene; the long room lined with rows of beds, each filled by
an occupant, whom water, shears, and clean raiment, had transformed
from a dismal ragamuffin into a recumbent hero, with a cropped head. To
and fro rushed matrons, maids, and convalescent "boys," skirmishing
with knives and forks; retreating with empty plates; marching and
counter-marching, with unvaried success, while the clash of busy spoons
made most inspiring music for the charge of our Light Brigade:

   "Beds to the front of them,
    Beds to the right of them,
    Beds to the left of them,
    Nobody blundered.
    Beamed at by hungry souls,
    Screamed at with brimming bowls,
    Steamed at by army rolls,
    Buttered and sundered.
    With coffee not cannon plied,
    Each must be satisfied,
    Whether they lived or died;
    All the men wondered."

Very welcome seemed the generous meal, after a week of suffering,
exposure, and short commons; soon the brown faces began to smile, as
food, warmth, and rest, did their pleasant work; and the grateful
"Thankee's" were followed by more graphic accounts of the battle and
retreat, than any paid reporter could have given us. Curious contrasts
of the tragic and comic met one everywhere; and some touching as well
as ludicrous episodes, might have been recorded that day. A six foot
New Hampshire man, with a leg broken and perforated by a piece of
shell, so large that, had I not seen the wound, I should have regarded
the story as a Munchausenism, beckoned me to come and help him, as he
could not sit up, and both his bed and beard were getting plentifully
anointed with soup. As I fed my big nestling with corresponding
mouthfuls, I asked him how he felt during the battle.

"Well, 'twas my fust, you see, so I aint ashamed to say I was a trifle
flustered in the beginnin', there was such an allfired racket; for ef
there's anything I do spleen agin, it's noise. But when my mate, Eph
Sylvester, caved, with a bullet through his head, I got mad, and
pitched in, licketty cut. Our part of the fight didn't last long; so a
lot of us larked round Fredericksburg, and give some of them houses a
pretty consid'able of a rummage, till we was ordered out of the mess.
Some of our fellows cut like time; but I warn't a-goin' to run for
nobody; and, fust thing I knew, a shell bust, right in front of us, and
I keeled over, feelin' as if I was blowed higher'n a kite. I sung out,
and the boys come back for me, double quick; but the way they chucked
me over them fences was a caution, I tell you. Next day I was most as
black as that darkey yonder, lickin' plates on the sly. This is bully
coffee, ain't it? Give us another pull at it, and I'll be obleeged to
you."

I did; and, as the last gulp subsided, he said, with a rub of his old
handkerchief over eyes as well as mouth:

"Look a here; I've got a pair a earbobs and a handkercher pin I'm a
goin' to give you, if you'll have them; for you're the very moral o'
Lizy Sylvester, poor Eph's wife: that's why I signalled you to come
over here. They aint much, I guess, but they'll do to memorize the rebs
by."

Burrowing under his pillow, he produced a little bundle of what he
called "truck," and gallantly presented me with a pair of earrings,
each representing a cluster of corpulent grapes, and the pin a basket
of astonishing fruit, the whole large and coppery enough for a small
warming-pan. Feeling delicate about depriving him of such valuable
relics, I accepted the earrings alone, and was obliged to depart,
somewhat abruptly, when my friend stuck the warming-pan in the bosom of
his night-gown, viewing it with much complacency, and, perhaps, some
tender memory, in that rough heart of his, for the comrade he had lost.

Observing that the man next him had left his meal untouched, I offered
the same service I had performed for his neighbor, but he shook his
head.

"Thank you, ma'am; I don't think I'll ever eat again, for I'm shot in
the stomach. But I'd like a drink of water, if you aint too busy."

I rushed away, but the water-pails were gone to be refilled, and it was
some time before they reappeared. I did not forget my patient patient,
meanwhile, and, with the first mugful, hurried back to him. He seemed
asleep; but something in the tired white face caused me to listen at
his lips for a breath. None came. I touched his forehead; it was cold:
and then I knew that, while he waited, a better nurse than I had given
him a cooler draught, and healed him with a touch. I laid the sheet
over the quiet sleeper, whom no noise could now disturb; and, half an
hour later, the bed was empty. It seemed a poor requital for all he had
sacrificed and suffered,--that hospital bed, lonely even in a crowd;
for there was no familiar face for him to look his last upon; no
friendly voice to say, Good bye; no hand to lead him gently down into
the Valley of the Shadow; and he vanished, like a drop in that red sea
upon whose shores so many women stand lamenting. For a moment I felt
bitterly indignant at this seeming carelessness of the value of life,
the sanctity of death; then consoled myself with the thought that, when
the great muster roll was called, these nameless men might be promoted
above many whose tall monuments record the barren honors they have won.

All having eaten, drank, and rested, the surgeons began their rounds;
and I took my first lesson in the art of dressing wounds. It wasn't a
festive scene, by any means; for Dr P., whose Aid I constituted myself,
fell to work with a vigor which soon convinced me that I was a weaker
vessel, though nothing would have induced me to confess it then. He had
served in the Crimea, and seemed to regard a dilapidated body very much
as I should have regarded a damaged garment; and, turning up his cuffs,
whipped out a very unpleasant looking housewife, cutting, sawing,
patching and piecing, with the enthusiasm of an accomplished surgical
seamstress; explaining the process, in scientific terms, to the
patient, meantime; which, of course, was immensely cheering and
comfortable. There was an uncanny sort of fascination in watching him,
as he peered and probed into the mechanism of those wonderful bodies,
whose mysteries he understood so well. The more intricate the wound,
the better he liked it. A poor private, with both legs off, and shot
through the lungs, possessed more attractions for him than a dozen
generals, slightly scratched in some "masterly retreat;" and had any
one appeared in small pieces, requesting to be put together again, he
would have considered it a special dispensation.

The amputations were reserved till the morrow, and the merciful magic
of ether was not thought necessary that day, so the poor souls had to
bear their pains as best they might. It is all very well to talk of the
patience of woman; and far be it from me to pluck that feather from her
cap, for, heaven knows, she isn't allowed to wear many; but the patient
endurance of these men, under trials of the flesh, was truly wonderful.
Their fortitude seemed contagious, and scarcely a cry escaped them,
though I often longed to groan for them, when pride kept their white
lips shut, while great drops stood upon their foreheads, and the bed
shook with the irrepressible tremor of their tortured bodies. One or
two Irishmen anathematized the doctors with the frankness of their
nation, and ordered the Virgin to stand by them, as if she had been the
wedded Biddy to whom they could administer the poker, if she didn't;
but, as a general thing, the work went on in silence, broken only by
some quiet request for roller, instruments, or plaster, a sigh from the
patient, or a sympathizing murmur from the nurse.

It was long past noon before these repairs were even partially made;
and, having got the bodies of my boys into something like order, the
next task was to minister to their minds, by writing letters to the
anxious souls at home; answering questions, reading papers, taking
possession of money and valuables; for the eighth commandment was
reduced to a very fragmentary condition, both by the blacks and whites,
who ornamented our hospital with their presence. Pocket books, purses,
miniatures, and watches, were sealed up, labelled, and handed over to
the matron, till such times as the owners thereof were ready to depart
homeward or campward again. The letters dictated to me, and revised by
me, that afternoon, would have made an excellent chapter for some
future history of the war; for, like that which Thackeray's "Ensign
Spooney" wrote his mother just before Waterloo, they were "full of
affection, pluck, and bad spelling;" nearly all giving lively accounts
of the battle, and ending with a somewhat sudden plunge from patriotism
to provender, desiring "Marm," "Mary Ann," or "Aunt Peters," to send
along some pies, pickles, sweet stuff, and apples, "to yourn in haste,"
Joe, Sam, or Ned, as the case might be.

My little Sergeant insisted on trying to scribble something with his
left hand, and patiently accomplished some half dozen lines of
hieroglyphics, which he gave me to fold and direct, with a boyish
blush, that rendered a glimpse of "My Dearest Jane," unnecessary, to
assure me that the heroic lad had been more successful in the service
of Commander-in-Chief Cupid than that of Gen. Mars; and a charming
little romance blossomed instanter in Nurse Periwinkle's romantic
fancy, though no further confidences were made that day, for Sergeant
fell asleep, and, judging from his tranquil face, visited his absent
sweetheart in the pleasant land of dreams.

At five o'clock a great bell rang, and the attendants flew, not to
arms, but to their trays, to bring up supper, when a second uproar
announced that it was ready. The new comers woke at the sound; and I
presently discovered that it took a very bad wound to incapacitate the
defenders of the faith for the consumption of their rations; the amount
that some of them sequestered was amazing; but when I suggested the
probability of a famine hereafter, to the matron, that motherly lady
cried out: "Bless their hearts, why shouldn't they eat? It's their only
amusement; so fill every one, and, if there's not enough ready
to-night, I'll lend my share to the Lord by giving it to the boys."
And, whipping up her coffee-pot and plate of toast, she gladdened the
eyes and stomachs of two or three dissatisfied heroes, by serving them
with a liberal hand; and I haven't the slightest doubt that, having
cast her bread upon the waters, it came back buttered, as another
large-hearted old lady was wont to say.

Then came the doctor's evening visit; the administration of medicines;
washing feverish faces; smoothing tumbled beds; wetting wounds; singing
lullabies; and preparations for the night. By eleven, the last labor of
love was done; the last "good night" spoken; and, if any needed a
reward for that day's work, they surely received it, in the silent
eloquence of those long lines of faces, showing pale and peaceful in
the shaded rooms, as we quitted them, followed by grateful glances that
lighted us to bed, where rest, the sweetest, made our pillows soft,
while Night and Nature took our places, filling that great house of
pain with the healing miracles of Sleep, and his diviner brother, Death.



CHAPTER IV

A NIGHT.

Being fond of the night side of nature, I was soon promoted to the post
of night nurse, with every facility for indulging in my favorite
pastime of "owling." My colleague, a black-eyed widow, relieved me at
dawn, we two taking care of the ward, between us, like the immortal
Sairy and Betsey, "turn and turn about." I usually found my boys in the
jolliest state of mind their condition allowed; for it was a known fact
that Nurse Periwinkle objected to blue devils, and entertained a belief
that he who laughed most was surest of recovery. At the beginning of my
reign, dumps and dismals prevailed; the nurses looked anxious and
tired, the men gloomy or sad; and a general
"Hark!-from-the-tombs-a-doleful-sound" style of conversation seemed to
be the fashion: a state of things which caused one coming from a merry,
social New England town, to feel as if she had got into an exhausted
receiver; and the instinct of self-preservation, to say nothing of a
philanthropic desire to serve the race, caused a speedy change in Ward
No. 1.

More flattering than the most gracefully turned compliment, more
grateful than the most admiring glance, was the sight of those rows of
faces, all strange to me a little while ago, now lighting up, with
smiles of welcome, as I came among them, enjoying that moment heartily,
with a womanly pride in their regard, a motherly affection for them
all. The evenings were spent in reading aloud, writing letters, waiting
on and amusing the men, going the rounds with Dr. P., as he made his
second daily survey, dressing my dozen wounds afresh, giving last
doses, and making them cozy for the long hours to come, till the nine
o'clock bell rang, the gas was turned down, the day nurses went off
duty, the night watch came on, and my nocturnal adventure began.

My ward was now divided into three rooms; and, under favor of the
matron, I had managed to sort out the patients in such a way that I had
what I called, "my duty room," my "pleasure room," and my "pathetic
room," and worked for each in a different way. One, I visited, armed
with a dressing tray, full of rollers, plasters, and pins; another,
with books, flowers, games, and gossip; a third, with teapots,
lullabies, consolation, and sometimes, a shroud.

Wherever the sickest or most helpless man chanced to be, there I held
my watch, often visiting the other rooms, to see that the general
watchman of the ward did his duty by the fires and the wounds, the
latter needing constant wetting. Not only on this account did I
meander, but also to get fresher air than the close rooms afforded;
for, owing to the stupidity of that mysterious "somebody" who does all
the damage in the world, the windows had been carefully nailed down
above, and the lower sashes could only be raised in the mildest
weather, for the men lay just below. I had suggested a summary smashing
of a few panes here and there, when frequent appeals to headquarters
had proved unavailing, and daily orders to lazy attendants had come to
nothing. No one seconded the motion, however, and the nails were far
beyond my reach; for, though belonging to the sisterhood of
"ministering angels," I had no wings, and might as well have asked for
Jacob's ladder, as a pair of steps, in that charitable chaos.

One of the harmless ghosts who bore me company during the haunted
hours, was Dan, the watchman, whom I regarded with a certain awe; for,
though so much together, I never fairly saw his face, and, but for his
legs, should never have recognized him, as we seldom met by day. These
legs were remarkable, as was his whole figure, for his body was short,
rotund, and done up in a big jacket, and muffler; his beard hid the
lower part of his face, his hat-brim the upper; and all I ever
discovered was a pair of sleepy eyes, and a very mild voice. But the
legs!--very long, very thin, very crooked and feeble, looking like grey
sausages in their tight coverings, without a ray of pegtopishness about
them, and finished off with a pair of expansive, green cloth shoes,
very like Chinese junks, with the sails down. This figure, gliding
noiselessly about the dimly lighted rooms, was strongly suggestive of
the spirit of a beer barrel mounted on cork-screws, haunting the old
hotel in search of its lost mates, emptied and staved in long ago.

Another goblin who frequently appeared to me, was the attendant of the
pathetic room, who, being a faithful soul, was often up to tend two or
three men, weak and wandering as babies, after the fever had gone. The
amiable creature beguiled the watches of the night by brewing jorums of
a fearful beverage, which he called coffee, and insisted on sharing
with me; coming in with a great bowl of something like mud soup,
scalding hot, guiltless of cream, rich in an all-pervading flavor of
molasses, scorch and tin pot. Such an amount of good will and
neighborly kindness also went into the mess, that I never could find
the heart to refuse, but always received it with thanks, sipped it with
hypocritical relish while he remained, and whipped it into the slop-jar
the instant he departed, thereby gratifying him, securing one rousing
laugh in the doziest hour of the night, and no one was the worse for
the transaction but the pigs. Whether they were "cut off untimely in
their sins," or not, I carefully abstained from inquiring.

It was a strange life--asleep half the day, exploring Washington the
other half, and all night hovering, like a massive cherubim, in a red
rigolette, over the slumbering sons of man. I liked it, and found many
things to amuse, instruct, and interest me. The snores alone were quite
a study, varying from the mild sniff to the stentorian snort, which
startled the echoes and hoisted the performer erect to accuse his
neighbor of the deed, magnanimously forgive him, and wrapping the
drapery of his couch about him, lie down to vocal slumber. After
listening for a week to this band of wind instruments, I indulged in
the belief that I could recognize each by the snore alone, and was
tempted to join the chorus by breaking out with John Brown's favorite
hymn:

"Blow ye the trumpet, blow!"

I would have given much to have possessed the art of sketching, for
many of the faces became wonderfully interesting when unconscious. Some
grew stern and grim, the men evidently dreaming of war, as they gave
orders, groaned over their wounds, or damned the rebels vigorously;
some grew sad and infinitely pathetic, as if the pain borne silently
all day, revenged itself by now betraying what the man's pride had
concealed so well. Often the roughest grew young and pleasant when
sleep smoothed the hard lines away, letting the real nature assert
itself; many almost seemed to speak, and I learned to know these men
better by night than through any intercourse by day. Sometimes they
disappointed me, for faces that looked merry and good in the light,
grew bad and sly when the shadows came; and though they made no
confidences in words, I read their lives, leaving them to wonder at the
change of manner this midnight magic wrought in their nurse. A few
talked busily; one drummer boy sang sweetly, though no persuasions
could win a note from him by day; and several depended on being told
what they had talked of in the morning. Even my constitutionals in the
chilly halls, possessed a certain charm, for the house was never still.
Sentinels tramped round it all night long, their muskets glittering in
the wintry moonlight as they walked, or stood before the doors,
straight and silent, as figures of stone, causing one to conjure up
romantic visions of guarded forts, sudden surprises, and daring deeds;
for in these war times the hum drum life of Yankeedom had vanished, and
the most prosaic feel some thrill of that excitement which stirs the
nation's heart, and makes its capital a camp of hospitals. Wandering up
and down these lower halls, I often heard cries from above, steps
hurrying to and fro, saw surgeons passing up, or men coming down
carrying a stretcher, where lay a long white figure, whose face was
shrouded and whose fight was done. Sometimes I stopped to watch the
passers in the street, the moonlight shining on the spire opposite, or
the gleam of some vessel floating, like a white-winged sea-gull, down
the broad Potomac, whose fullest flow can never wash away the red stain
of the land.

The night whose events I have a fancy to record, opened with a little
comedy, and closed with a great tragedy; for a virtuous and useful life
untimely ended is always tragical to those who see not as God sees. My
headquarters were beside the bed of a New Jersey boy, crazed by the
horrors of that dreadful Saturday. A slight wound in the knee brought
him there; but his mind had suffered more than his body; some string of
that delicate machine was over strained, and, for days, he had been
reliving in imagination, the scenes he could not forget, till his
distress broke out in incoherent ravings, pitiful to hear. As I sat by
him, endeavoring to soothe his poor distracted brain by the constant
touch of wet hands over his hot forehead, he lay cheering his comrades
on, hurrying them back, then counting them as they fell around him,
often clutching my arm, to drag me from the vicinity of a bursting
shell, or covering up his head to screen himself from a shower of shot;
his face brilliant with fever; his eyes restless; his head never still;
every muscle strained and rigid; while an incessant stream of defiant
shouts, whispered warnings, and broken laments, poured from his lips
with that forceful bewilderment which makes such wanderings so hard to
overhear.

It was past eleven, and my patient was slowly wearying himself into
fitful intervals of quietude, when, in one of these pauses, a curious
sound arrested my attention. Looking over my shoulder, I saw a
one-legged phantom hopping nimbly down the room; and, going to meet it,
recognized a certain Pennsylvania gentleman, whose wound-fever had
taken a turn for the worse, and, depriving him of the few wits a
drunken campaign had left him, set him literally tripping on the light,
fantastic toe "toward home," as he blandly informed me, touching the
military cap which formed a striking contrast to the severe simplicity
of the rest of his decidedly undress uniform. When sane, the least
movement produced a roar of pain or a volley of oaths; but the
departure of reason seemed to have wrought an agreeable change, both in
the man and his manners; for, balancing himself on one leg, like a
meditative stork, he plunged into an animated discussion of the war,
the President, lager beer, and Enfield rifles, regardless of any
suggestions of mine as to the propriety of returning to bed, lest he be
court-martialed for desertion.

Anything more supremely ridiculous can hardly be imagined than this
figure, scantily draped in white, its one foot covered with a big blue
sock, a dingy cap set rakingly askew on its shaven head, and placid
satisfaction beaming in its broad red face, as it flourished a mug in
one hand, an old boot in the other, calling them canteen and knapsack,
while it skipped and fluttered in the most unearthly fashion. What to
do with the creature I didn't know; Dan was absent, and if I went to
find him, the perambulator might festoon himself out of the window, set
his toga on fire, or do some of his neighbors a mischief. The attendant
of the room was sleeping like a near relative of the celebrated Seven,
and nothing short of pins would rouse him; for he had been out that
day, and whiskey asserted its supremacy in balmy whiffs. Still
declaiming, in a fine flow of eloquence, the demented gentleman hopped
on, blind and deaf to my graspings and entreaties; and I was about to
slam the door in his face, and run for help, when a second and saner
phantom, "all in white," came to the rescue, in the likeness of a big
Prussian, who spoke no English, but divined the crisis, and put an end
to it, by bundling the lively monoped into his bed, like a baby, with
an authoritative command to "stay put," which received added weight
from being delivered in an odd conglomeration of French and German,
accompanied by warning wags of a head decorated with a yellow cotton
night cap, rendered most imposing by a tassel like a bell-pull. Rather
exhausted by his excursion, the member from Pennsylvania subsided; and,
after an irrepressible laugh together, my Prussian ally and myself were
returning to our places, when the echo of a sob caused us to glance
along the beds. It came from one in the corner--such a little bed!--and
such a tearful little face looked up at us, as we stopped beside it!
The twelve years old drummer boy was not singing now, but sobbing, with
a manly effort all the while to stifle the distressful sounds that
would break out.

"What is it, Teddy?" I asked, as he rubbed the tears away, and checked
himself in the middle of a great sob to answer plaintively:

"I've got a chill, ma'am, but I ain't cryin' for that, 'cause I'm used
to it. I dreamed Kit was here, and when I waked up he wasn't, and I
couldn't help it, then."

The boy came in with the rest, and the man who was taken dead from the
ambulance was the Kit he mourned. Well he might; for, when the wounded
were brought from Fredericksburg, the child lay in one of the camps
thereabout, and this good friend, though sorely hurt himself, would not
leave him to the exposure and neglect of such a time and place; but,
wrapping him in his own blanket, carried him in his arms to the
transport, tended him during the passage, and only yielded up his
charge when Death met him at the door of the hospital which promised
care and comfort for the boy. For ten days, Teddy had shivered or
burned with fever and ague, pining the while for Kit, and refusing to
be comforted, because he had not been able to thank him for the
generous protection, which, perhaps, had cost the giver's life. The
vivid dream had wrung the childish heart with a fresh pang, and when I
tried the solace fitted for his years, the remorseful fear that haunted
him found vent in a fresh burst of tears, as he looked at the wasted
hands I was endeavoring to warm:

"Oh! if I'd only been as thin when Kit carried me as I am now, maybe he
wouldn't have died; but I was heavy, he was hurt worser than we knew,
and so it killed him; and I didn't see him, to say good bye."

This thought had troubled him in secret; and my assurances that his
friend would probably have died at all events, hardly assuaged the
bitterness of his regretful grief.

At this juncture, the delirious man began to shout; the one-legged rose
up in his bed, as if preparing for another dart, Teddy bewailed himself
more piteously than before: and if ever a woman was at her wit's end,
that distracted female was Nurse Periwinkle, during the space of two or
three minutes, as she vibrated between the three beds, like an agitated
pendulum. Like a most opportune reinforcement, Dan, the bandy,
appeared, and devoted himself to the lively party, leaving me free to
return to my post; for the Prussian, with a nod and a smile, took the
lad away to his own bed, and lulled him to sleep with a soothing
murmur, like a mammoth humble bee. I liked that in Fritz, and if he
ever wondered afterward at the dainties which sometimes found their way
into his rations, or the extra comforts of his bed, he might have found
a solution of the mystery in sundry persons' knowledge of the fatherly
action of that night.

Hardly was I settled again, when the inevitable bowl appeared, and its
bearer delivered a message I had expected, yet dreaded to receive:

"John is going, ma'am, and wants to see you, if you can come."

"The moment this boy is asleep; tell him so, and let me know if I am in
danger of being too late."

My Ganymede departed, and while I quieted poor Shaw, I thought of John.
He came in a day or two after the others; and, one evening, when I
entered my "pathetic room," I found a lately emptied bed occupied by a
large, fair man, with a fine face, and the serenest eyes I ever met.
One of the earlier comers had often spoken of a friend, who had
remained behind, that those apparently worse wounded than himself might
reach a shelter first. It seemed a David and Jonathan sort of
friendship. The man fretted for his mate, and was never tired of
praising John--his courage, sobriety, self-denial, and unfailing
kindliness of heart; always winding up with: "He's an out an' out fine
feller, ma'am; you see if he aint."

I had some curiosity to behold this piece of excellence, and when he
came, watched him for a night or two, before I made friends with him;
for, to tell the truth, I was a little afraid of the stately looking
man, whose bed had to be lengthened to accommodate his commanding
stature; who seldom spoke, uttered no complaint, asked no sympathy, but
tranquilly observed what went on about him; and, as he lay high upon
his pillows, no picture of dying stateman or warrior was ever fuller of
real dignity than this Virginia blacksmith. A most attractive face he
had, framed in brown hair and beard, comely featured and full of vigor,
as yet unsubdued by pain; thoughtful and often beautifully mild while
watching the afflictions of others, as if entirely forgetful of his
own. His mouth was grave and firm, with plenty of will and courage in
its lines, but a smile could make it as sweet as any woman's; and his
eyes were child's eyes, looking one fairly in the face, with a clear,
straightforward glance, which promised well for such as placed their
faith in him. He seemed to cling to life, as if it were rich in duties
and delights, and he had learned the secret of content. The only time I
saw his composure disturbed, was when my surgeon brought another to
examine John, who scrutinized their faces with an anxious look, asking
of the elder: "Do you think I shall pull through, sir?" "I hope so, my
man." And, as the two passed on, John's eye still followed them, with
an intentness which would have won a clearer answer from them, had they
seen it. A momentary shadow flitted over his face; then came the usual
serenity, as if, in that brief eclipse, he had acknowledged the
existence of some hard possibility, and, asking nothing yet hoping all
things, left the issue in God's hands, with that submission which is
true piety.

The next night, as I went my rounds with Dr. P., I happened to ask
which man in the room probably suffered most; and, to my great
surprise, he glanced at John:

"Every breath he draws is like a stab; for the ball pierced the left
lung, broke a rib, and did no end of damage here and there; so the poor
lad can find neither forgetfulness nor ease, because he must lie on his
wounded back or suffocate. It will be a hard struggle, and a long one,
for he possesses great vitality; but even his temperate life can't save
him; I wish it could."

"You don't mean he must die, Doctor?"

"Bless you there's not the slightest hope for him; and you'd better
tell him so before long; women have a way of doing such things
comfortably, so I leave it to you. He won't last more than a day or
two, at furthest."

I could have sat down on the spot and cried heartily, if I had not
learned the wisdom of bottling up one's tears for leisure moments. Such
an end seemed very hard for such a man, when half a dozen worn out,
worthless bodies round him, were gathering up the remnants of wasted
lives, to linger on for years perhaps, burdens to others, daily
reproaches to themselves. The army needed men like John, earnest,
brave, and faithful; fighting for liberty and justice with both heart
and hand, true soldiers of the Lord. I could not give him up so soon,
or think with any patience of so excellent a nature robbed of its
fulfillment, and blundered into eternity by the rashness or stupidity
of those at whose hands so many lives may be required. It was an easy
thing for Dr. P. to say: "Tell him he must die," but a cruelly hard
thing to do, and by no means as "comfortable" as he politely suggested.
I had not the heart to do it then, and privately indulged the hope that
some change for the better might take place, in spite of gloomy
prophesies; so, rendering my task unnecessary. A few minutes later, as
I came in again, with fresh rollers, I saw John sitting erect, with no
one to support him, while the surgeon dressed his back. I had never
hitherto seen it done; for, having simpler wounds to attend to, and
knowing the fidelity of the attendant, I had left John to him, thinking
it might be more agreeable and safe; for both strength and experience
were needed in his case. I had forgotten that the strong man might long
for the gentle tendance of a woman's hands, the sympathetic magnetism
of a woman's presence, as well as the feebler souls about him. The
Doctor's words caused me to reproach myself with neglect, not of any
real duty perhaps, but of those little cares and kindnesses that solace
homesick spirits, and make the heavy hours pass easier. John looked
lonely and forsaken just then, as he sat with bent head, hands folded
on his knee, and no outward sign of suffering, till, looking nearer, I
saw great tears roll down and drop upon the floor. It was a new sight
there; for, though I had seen many suffer, some swore, some groaned,
most endured silently, but none wept. Yet it did not seem weak, only
very touching, and straightway my fear vanished, my heart opened wide
and took him in, as, gathering the bent head in my arms, as freely as
if he had been a little child, I said, "Let me help you bear it, John."

Never, on any human countenance, have I seen so swift and beautiful a
look of gratitude, surprise and comfort, as that which answered me more
eloquently than the whispered--

"Thank you, ma'am, this is right good! this is what I wanted!"

"Then why not ask for it before?"

"I didn't like to be a trouble; you seemed so busy, and I could manage
to get on alone."

"You shall not want it any more, John."

Nor did he; for now I understood the wistful look that sometimes
followed me, as I went out, after a brief pause beside his bed, or
merely a passing nod, while busied with those who seemed to need me
more than he, because more urgent in their demands; now I knew that to
him, as to so many, I was the poor substitute for mother, wife, or
sister, and in his eyes no stranger, but a friend who hitherto had
seemed neglectful; for, in his modesty, he had never guessed the truth.
This was changed now; and, through the tedious operation of probing,
bathing, and dressing his wounds, he leaned against me, holding my hand
fast, and, if pain wrung further tears from him, no one saw them fall
but me. When he was laid down again, I hovered about him, in a
remorseful state of mind that would not let me rest, till I had bathed
his face, brushed his "bonny brown hair," set all things smooth about
him, and laid a knot of heath and heliotrope on his clean pillow. While
doing this, he watched me with the satisfied expression I so liked to
see; and when I offered the little nosegay, held it carefully in his
great hand, smoothed a ruffled leaf or two, surveyed and smelt it with
an air of genuine delight, and lay contentedly regarding the glimmer of
the sunshine on the green. Although the manliest man among my forty, he
said, "Yes, ma'am," like a little boy; received suggestions for his
comfort with the quick smile that brightened his whole face; and now
and then, as I stood tidying the table by his bed, I felt him softly
touch my gown, as if to assure himself that I was there. Anything more
natural and frank I never saw, and found this brave John as bashful as
brave, yet full of excellencies and fine aspirations, which, having no
power to express themselves in words, seemed to have bloomed into his
character and made him what he was.

After that night, an hour of each evening that remained to him was
devoted to his ease or pleasure. He could not talk much, for breath was
precious, and he spoke in whispers; but from occasional conversations,
I gleaned scraps of private history which only added to the affection
and respect I felt for him. Once he asked me to write a letter, and as
I settled pen and paper, I said, with an irrepressible glimmer of
feminine curiosity, "Shall it be addressed to wife, or mother, John?"

"Neither, ma'am; I've got no wife, and will write to mother myself when
I get better. Did you think I was married because of this?" he asked,
touching a plain ring he wore, and often turned thoughtfully on his
finger when he lay alone.

"Partly that, but more from a settled sort of look you have; a look
which young men seldom get until they marry."

"I didn't know that; but I'm not so very young, ma'am, thirty in May,
and have been what you might call settled this ten years; for mother's
a widow, I'm the oldest child she has, and it wouldn't do for me to
marry until Lizzy has a home of her own, and Laurie's learned his
trade; for we're not rich, and I must be father to the children and
husband to the dear old woman, if I can."

"No doubt but you are both, John; yet how came you to go to war, if you
felt so? Wasn't enlisting as bad as marrying?"

"No, ma'am, not as I see it, for one is helping my neighbor, the other
pleasing myself. I went because I couldn't help it. I didn't want the
glory or the pay; I wanted the right thing done, and people kept saying
the men who were in earnest ought to fight. I was in earnest, the Lord
knows! but I held off as long as I could, not knowing which was my
duty; mother saw the case, gave me her ring to keep me steady, and said
'Go:' so I went."

A short story and a simple one, but the man and the mother were
portrayed better than pages of fine writing could have done it.

"Do you ever regret that you came, when you lie here suffering so much?"

"Never, ma'am; I haven't helped a great deal, but I've shown I was
willing to give my life, and perhaps I've got to; but I don't blame
anybody, and if it was to do over again, I'd do it. I'm a little sorry
I wasn't wounded in front; it looks cowardly to be hit in the back, but
I obeyed orders, and it don't matter in the end, I know."

Poor John! it did not matter now, except that a shot in the front might
have spared the long agony in store for him. He seemed to read the
thought that troubled me, as he spoke so hopefully when there was no
hope, for he suddenly added:

"This is my first battle; do they think it's going to be my last?"

"I'm afraid they do, John."

It was the hardest question I had ever been called upon to answer;
doubly hard with those clear eyes fixed on mine, forcing a truthful
answer by their own truth. He seemed a little startled at first,
pondered over the fateful fact a moment, then shook his head, with a
glance at the broad chest and muscular limbs stretched out before him:

"I'm not afraid, but it's difficult to believe all at once. I'm so
strong it don't seem possible for such a little wound to kill me."

Merry Mercutio's dying words glanced through my memory as he spoke:
"'Tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door, but 'tis
enough." And John would have said the same could he have seen the
ominous black holes between his shoulders; he never had; and, seeing
the ghastly sights about him, could not believe his own wound more
fatal than these, for all the suffering it caused him.

"Shall I write to your mother, now?" I asked, thinking that these
sudden tidings might change all plans and purposes; but they did not;
for the man received the order of the Divine Commander to march with
the same unquestioning obedience with which the soldier had received
that of the human one; doubtless remembering that the first led him to
life, and the last to death.

"No, ma'am; to Laurie just the same; he'll break it to her best, and
I'll add a line to her myself when you get done."

So I wrote the letter which he dictated, finding it better than any I
had sent; for, though here and there a little ungrammatical or
inelegant, each sentence came to me briefly worded, but most
expressive; full of excellent counsel to the boy, tenderly bequeathing
"mother and Lizzie" to his care, and bidding him good bye in words the
sadder for their simplicity. He added a few lines, with steady hand,
and, as I sealed it, said, with a patient sort of sigh, "I hope the
answer will come in time for me to see it;" then, turning away his
face, laid the flowers against his lips, as if to hide some quiver of
emotion at the thought of such a sudden sundering of all the dear home
ties.

These things had happened two days before; now John was dying, and the
letter had not come. I had been summoned to many death beds in my life,
but to none that made my heart ache as it did then, since my mother
called me to watch the departure of a spirit akin to this in its
gentleness and patient strength. As I went in, John stretched out both
hands:

"I know you'd come! I guess I'm moving on, ma'am."

He was; and so rapidly that, even while he spoke, over his face I saw
the grey veil falling that no human hand can lift. I sat down by him,
wiped the drops from his forehead, stirred the air about him with the
slow wave of a fan, and waited to help him die. He stood in sore need
of help--and I could do so little; for, as the doctor had foretold, the
strong body rebelled against death, and fought every inch of the way,
forcing him to draw each breath with a spasm, and clench his hands with
an imploring look, as if he asked, "How long must I endure this, and be
still!" For hours he suffered dumbly, without a moment's respire, or a
moment's murmuring; his limbs grew cold, his face damp, his lips white,
and, again and again, he tore the covering off his breast, as if the
lightest weight added to his agony; yet through it all, his eyes never
lost their perfect serenity, and the man's soul seemed to sit therein,
undaunted by the ills that vexed his flesh.

One by one, the men woke, and round the room appeared a circle of pale
faces and watchful eyes, full of awe and pity; for, though a stranger,
John was beloved by all. Each man there had wondered at his patience,
respected his piety, admired his fortitude, and now lamented his hard
death; for the influence of an upright nature had made itself deeply
felt, even in one little week. Presently, the Jonathan who so loved
this comely David, came creeping from his bed for a last look and word.
The kind soul was full of trouble, as the choke in his voice, the grasp
of his hand, betrayed; but there were no tears, and the farewell of the
friends was the more touching for its brevity.

"Old boy, how are you?" faltered the one.

"Most through, thank heaven!" whispered the other.

"Can I say or do anything for you anywheres?"

"Take my things home, and tell them that I did my best."

"I will! I will!"

"Good bye, Ned."

"Good bye, John, good bye!"

They kissed each other, tenderly as women, and so parted, for poor Ned
could not stay to see his comrade die. For a little while, there was no
sound in the room but the drip of water, from a stump or two, and
John's distressful gasps, as he slowly breathed his life away. I
thought him nearly gone, and had just laid down the fan, believing its
help to be no longer needed, when suddenly he rose up in his bed, and
cried out with a bitter cry that broke the silence, sharply startling
every one with its agonized appeal:

"For God's sake, give me air!"

It was the only cry pain or death had wrung from him, the only boon he
had asked; and none of us could grant it, for all the airs that blew
were useless now. Dan flung up the window. The first red streak of dawn
was warming the grey east, a herald of the coming sun; John saw it, and
with the love of light which lingers in us to the end, seemed to read
in it a sign of hope of help, for, over his whole face there broke that
mysterious expression, brighter than any smile, which often comes to
eyes that look their last. He laid himself gently down; and, stretching
out his strong right arm, as if to grasp and bring the blessed air to
his lips in a fuller flow, lapsed into a merciful unconsciousness,
which assured us that for him suffering was forever past. He died then;
for, though the heavy breaths still tore their way up for a little
longer, they were but the waves of an ebbing tide that beat unfelt
against the wreck, which an immortal voyager had deserted with a smile.
He never spoke again, but to the end held my hand close, so close that
when he was asleep at last, I could not draw it away. Dan helped me,
warning me as he did so that it was unsafe for dead and living flesh to
lie so long together; but though my hand was strangely cold and stiff,
and four white marks remained across its back, even when warmth and
color had returned elsewhere, I could not but be glad that, through its
touch, the presence of human sympathy, perhaps, had lightened that hard
hour.

When they had made him ready for the grave, John lay in state for half
an hour, a thing which seldom happened in that busy place; but a
universal sentiment of reverence and affection seemed to fill the
hearts of all who had known or heard of him; and when the rumor of his
death went through the house, always astir, many came to see him, and I
felt a tender sort of pride in my lost patient; for he looked a most
heroic figure, lying there stately and still as the statue of some
young knight asleep upon his tomb. The lovely expression which so often
beautifies dead faces, soon replaced the marks of pain, and I longed
for those who loved him best to see him when half an hour's
acquaintance with Death had made them friends. As we stood looking at
him, the ward master handed me a letter, saying it had been forgotten
the night before. It was John's letter, come just an hour too late to
gladden the eyes that had longed and looked for it so eagerly! yet he
had it; for, after I had cut some brown locks for his mother, and taken
off the ring to send her, telling how well the talisman had done its
work, I kissed this good son for her sake, and laid the letter in his
hand, still folded as when I drew my own away, feeling that its place
was there, and making myself happy with the thought, that, even in his
solitary place in the "Government Lot," he would not be without some
token of the love which makes life beautiful and outlives death. Then I
left him, glad to have known so genuine a man, and carrying with me an
enduring memory of the brave Virginia blacksmith, as he lay serenely
waiting for the dawn of that long day which knows no night.



CHAPTER V

OFF DUTY.

"My dear girl, we shall have you sick in your bed, unless you keep
yourself warm and quiet for a few days. Widow Wadman can take care of
the ward alone, now the men are so comfortable, and have her vacation
when you are about again. Now do be prudent in time, and don't let me
have to add a Periwinkle to my bouquet of patients."

This advice was delivered, in a paternal manner, by the youngest
surgeon in the hospital, a kind-hearted little gentleman, who seemed to
consider me a frail young blossom, that needed much cherishing, instead
of a tough old spinster, who had been knocking about the world for
thirty years. At the time I write of, he discovered me sitting on the
stairs, with a nice cloud of unwholesome steam rising from the
washroom; a party of January breezes disporting themselves in the
halls; and perfumes, by no means from "Araby the blest," keeping them
company; while I enjoyed a fit of coughing, which caused my head to
spin in a way that made the application of a cool banister both
necessary and agreeable, as I waited for the frolicsome wind to restore
the breath I'd lost; cheering myself, meantime, with a secret
conviction that pneumonia was waiting for me round the corner. This
piece of advice had been offered by several persons for a week, and
refused by me with the obstinacy with which my sex is so richly gifted.
But the last few hours had developed several surprising internal and
external phenomena, which impressed upon me the fact that if I didn't
make a masterly retreat very soon, I should tumble down somewhere, and
have to be borne ignominiously from the field. My head felt like a
cannon ball; my feet had a tendency to cleave to the floor; the walls
at times undulated in a most disagreeable manner; people looked
unnaturally big; and the "very bottles on the mankle shelf" appeared to
dance derisively before my eyes. Taking these things into
consideration, while blinking stupidly at Dr. Z., I resolved to retire
gracefully, if I must; so, with a valedictory to my boys, a private
lecture to Mrs. Wadman, and a fervent wish that I could take off my
body and work in my soul, I mournfully ascended to my apartment, and
Nurse P was reported off duty.

For the benefit of any ardent damsel whose patriotic fancy may have
surrounded hospital life with a halo of charms, I will briefly describe
the bower to which I retired, in a somewhat ruinous condition. It was
well ventilated, for five panes of glass had suffered compound
fractures, which all the surgeons and nurses had failed to heal; the
two windows were draped with sheets, the church hospital opposite being
a brick and mortar Argus, and the female mind cherishing a prejudice in
favor of retiracy during the night-capped periods of existence. A bare
floor supported two narrow iron beds, spread with thin mattresses like
plasters, furnished with pillows in the last stages of consumption. In
a fire place, guiltless of shovel, tongs, andirons, or grate, burned a
log inch by inch, being too long to to go on all at once; so, while the
fire blazed away at one end, I did the same at the other, as I tripped
over it a dozen times a day, and flew up to poke it a dozen times at
night. A mirror (let us be elegant!) of the dimensions of a muffin, and
about as reflective, hung over a tin basin, blue pitcher, and a brace
of yellow mugs. Two invalid tables, ditto chairs, wandered here and
there, and the closet contained a varied collection of bonnets,
bottles, bags, boots, bread and butter, boxes and bugs. The closet was
a regular Blue Beard cupboard to me; I always opened it with fear and
trembling, owing to rats, and shut it in anguish of spirit; for time
and space were not to be had, and chaos reigned along with the rats.
Our chimney-piece was decorated with a flat-iron, a Bible, a candle
minus stick, a lavender bottle, a new tin pan, so brilliant that it
served nicely for a pier-glass, and such of the portly black bugs as
preferred a warmer climate than the rubbish hole afforded. Two arks,
commonly called trunks, lurked behind the door, containing the worldly
goods of the twain who laughed and cried, slept and scrambled, in this
refuge; while from the white-washed walls above either bed, looked down
the pictured faces of those whose memory can make for us--

"One little room an everywhere."

For a day or two I managed to appear at meals; for the human grub must
eat till the butterfly is ready to break loose, and no one had time to
come up two flights while it was possible for me to come down. Far be
it from me to add another affliction or reproach to that enduring man,
the steward; for, compared with his predecessor, he was a horn of
plenty; but--I put it to any candid mind--is not the following bill of
fare susceptible of improvement, without plunging the nation madly into
debt? The three meals were "pretty much of a muchness," and consisted
of beef, evidently put down for the men of '76; pork, just in from the
street; army bread, composed of saw-dust and saleratus; butter, salt as
if churned by Lot's wife; stewed blackberries, so much like preserved
cockroaches, that only those devoid of imagination could partake
thereof with relish; coffee, mild and muddy; tea, three dried
huckleberry leaves to a quart of water--flavored with lime--also
animated and unconscious of any approach to clearness. Variety being
the spice of life, a small pinch of the article would have been
appreciated by the hungry, hard-working sisterhood, one of whom, though
accustomed to plain fare, soon found herself reduced to bread and
water; having an inborn repugnance to the fat of the land, and the salt
of the earth.

Another peculiarity of these hospital meals was the rapidity with which
the edibles vanished, and the impossibility of getting a drop or crumb
after the usual time. At the first ring of the bell, a general stampede
took place; some twenty hungry souls rushed to the dining-room, swept
over the table like a swarm of locusts, and left no fragment for any
tardy creature who arrived fifteen minutes late. Thinking it of more
importance that the patients should be well and comfortably fed, I took
my time about my own meals for the first day or two after I came, but
was speedily enlightened by Isaac, the black waiter, who bore with me a
few times, and then informed me, looking as stern as fate:

"I say, mam, ef you comes so late you can't have no vittles,--'cause
I'm 'bleeged fer ter git things ready fer de doctors 'mazin' spry arter
you nusses and folks is done. De gen'lemen don't kere fer ter wait, no
more does I; so you jes' please ter come at de time, and dere won't be
no frettin' nowheres."

It was a new sensation to stand looking at a full table, painfully
conscious of one of the vacuums which Nature abhors, and receive orders
to right about face, without partaking of the nourishment which your
inner woman clamorously demanded. The doctors always fared better than
we; and for a moment a desperate impulse prompted me to give them a
hint, by walking off with the mutton, or confiscating the pie. But
Ike's eye was on me, and, to my shame be it spoken, I walked meekly
away; went dinnerless that day, and that evening went to market, laying
in a small stock of crackers, cheese and apples, that my boys might not
be neglected, nor myself obliged to bolt solid and liquid dyspepsias,
or starve. This plan would have succeeded admirably had not the evil
star under which I was born, been in the ascendant during that month,
and cast its malign influences even into my "'umble" larder; for the
rats had their dessert off my cheese, the bugs set up housekeeping in
my cracker bag, and the apples like all worldly riches, took to
themselves wings and flew away; whither no man could tell, though
certain black imps might have thrown light upon the matter, had not the
plaintiff in the case been loth to add another to the many trials of
long-suffering Africa. After this failure I resigned myself to fate,
and, remembering that bread was called the staff of life, leaned pretty
exclusively upon it; but it proved a broken reed, and I came to the
ground after a few weeks of prison fare, varied by an occasional potato
or surreptitious sip of milk.

Very soon after leaving the care of my ward, I discovered that I had no
appetite, and cut the bread and butter interests almost entirely,
trying the exercise and sun cure instead. Flattering myself that I had
plenty of time, and could see all that was to be seen, so far as a lone
lorn female could venture in a city, one-half of whose male population
seemed to be taking the other half to the guard-house,--every morning I
took a brisk run in one direction or another; for the January days were
as mild as Spring. A rollicking north wind and occasional snow storm
would have been more to my taste, for the one would have braced and
refreshed tired body and soul, the other have purified the air, and
spread a clean coverlid over the bed, wherein the capital of these
United States appeared to be dozing pretty soundly just then.

One of these trips was to the Armory Hospital, the neatness, comfort,
and convenience of which makes it an honor to its presiding genius, and
arouses all the covetous propensities of such nurses as came from other
hospitals to visit it.

The long, clean, warm, and airy wards, built barrack-fashion, with the
nurse's room at the end, were fully appreciated by Nurse Periwinkle,
whose ward and private bower were cold, dirty, inconvenient, up stairs
and down stairs, and in every body's chamber. At the Armory, in ward K,
I found a cheery, bright-eyed, white-aproned little lady, reading at
her post near the stove; matting under her feet; a draft of fresh air
flowing in above her head; a table full of trays, glasses, and such
matters, on one side, a large, well-stocked medicine chest on the
other; and all her duty seemed to be going about now and then to give
doses, issue orders, which well-trained attendants executed, and pet,
advise, or comfort Tom, Dick, or Harry, as she found best. As I watched
the proceedings, I recalled my own tribulations, and contrasted the two
hospitals in a way that would have caused my summary dismissal, could
it have been reported at headquarters. Here, order, method, common
sense and liberality reigned and ruled, in a style that did one's heart
good to see; at the Hurly burly Hotel, disorder, discomfort, bad
management, and no visible head, reduced things to a condition which I
despair of describing. The circumlocution fashion prevailed, forms and
fusses tormented our souls, and unnecessary strictness in one place was
counterbalanced by unpardonable laxity in another. Here is a sample: I
am dressing Sam Dammer's shoulder; and, having cleansed the wound, look
about for some strips of adhesive plaster to hold on the little square
of wet linen which is to cover the gunshot wound; the case is not in
the tray; Frank, the sleepy, half-sick attendant, knows nothing of it;
we rummage high and low; Sam is tired, and fumes; Frank dawdles and
yawns; the men advise and laugh at the flurry; I feel like a boiling
tea-kettle, with the lid ready to fly off and damage somebody.

"Go and borrow some from the next ward, and spend the rest of the day
in finding ours," I finally command. A pause; then Frank scuffles back
with the message: "Miss Peppercorn ain't got none, and says you ain't
no business to lose your own duds and go borrowin' other folkses." I
say nothing, for fear of saying too much, but fly to the surgery. Mr.
Toddypestle informs me that I can't have anything without an order from
the surgeon of my ward. Great heavens! where is he? and away I rush, up
and down, here and there, till at last I find him, in a state of bliss
over a complicated amputation, in the fourth story. I make my demand;
he answers: "In five minutes," and works away, with his head upside
down, as he ties an artery, saws a bone, or does a little needle-work,
with a visible relish and very sanguinary pair of hands. The five
minutes grow to fifteen, and Frank appears, with the remark that,
"Dammer wants to know what in thunder you are keeping him there with
his finger on a wet rag for?" Dr. P. tears himself away long enough to
scribble the order, with which I plunge downward to the surgery again,
find the door locked, and, while hammering away on it, am told that two
friends are waiting to see me in the hall. The matron being away, her
parlor is locked, and there is nowhere to see my guests but in my own
room, and no time to enjoy them till the plaster is found. I settle
this matter, and circulate through the house to find Toddypestle, who
has no right, to leave the surgery till night. He is discovered in the
dead house, smoking a cigar; and very much the worse for his researches
among the spirituous preparations that fill the surgery shelves. He is
inclined to be gallant, and puts the finishing blow to the fire of my
wrath; for the tea-kettle lid flies off, and driving him before me to
his post, I fling down the order, take what I choose; and, leaving the
absurd incapable kissing his hand to me, depart, feeling, as Grandma
Riglesty is reported to have done, when she vainly sought for chips, in
Bimleck Jackwood's "shifless paster."

I find Dammer a well acted charade of his own name, and, just as I get
him done, struggling the while with a burning desire to clap an
adhesive strip across his mouth, full of heaven-defying oaths, Frank
takes up his boot to put it on, and exclaims:

"I'm blest ef here ain't that case now! I recollect seeing it pitch in
this mornin', but forgot all about it, till my heel went smash inter
it. Here, ma'am, ketch hold on it, and give the boys a sheet on't all
round, 'gainst it tumbles inter t'other boot next time yer want it."

If a look could annihilate, Francis Saucebox would have ceased to
exist; but it couldn't; therefore, he yet lives, to aggravate some
unhappy woman's soul, and wax fat in some equally congenial situation.

Now, while I'm freeing my mind, I should like to enter my protest
against employing convalescents as attendants, instead of strong,
properly trained, and cheerful men. How it may be in other places I
cannot say; but here it was a source of constant trouble and confusion,
these feeble, ignorant men trying to sweep, scrub, lift, and wait upon
their sicker comrades. One, with a diseased heart, was expected to run
up and down stairs, carry heavy trays, and move helpless men; he tried
it, and grew rapidly worse than when he first came: and, when he was
ordered out to march away to the convalescent hospital, fell, in a sort
of fit, before he turned the corner, and was brought back to die.
Another, hurt by a fall from his horse, endeavored to do his duty, but
failed entirely, and the wrath of the ward master fell upon the nurse,
who must either scrub the rooms herself, or take the lecture; for the
boy looked stout and well, and the master never happened to see him
turn white with pain, or hear him groan in his sleep when an
involuntary motion strained his poor back. Constant complaints were
being made of incompetent attendants, and some dozen women did double
duty, and then were blamed for breaking down. If any hospital director
fancies this a good and economical arrangement, allow one used up nurse
to tell him it isn't, and beg him to spare the sisterhood, who
sometimes, in their sympathy, forget that they are mortal, and run the
risk of being made immortal, sooner than is agreeable to their partial
friends.

Another of my few rambles took me to the Senate Chamber, hoping to hear
and see if this large machine was run any better than some small ones I
knew of. I was too late, and found the Speaker's chair occupied by a
colored gentleman of ten; while two others were "on their legs," having
a hot debate on the cornball question, as they gathered the waste paper
strewn about the floor into bags; and several white members played
leap-frog over the desks, a much wholesomer relaxation than some of the
older Senators indulge in, I fancy. Finding the coast clear, I likewise
gambolled up and down, from gallery to gallery; sat in Sumner's chair,
and cudgelled an imaginary Brooks within an inch of his life; examined
Wilson's books in the coolest possible manner; warmed my feet at one of
the national registers; read people's names on scattered envelopes, and
pocketed a castaway autograph or two; watched the somewhat
unparliamentary proceedings going on about me, and wondered who in the
world all the sedate gentlemen were, who kept popping out of odd doors
here and there, like respectable Jacks-in-the-box. Then I wandered over
the "palatial residence" of Mrs. Columbia, and examined its many
beauties, though I can't say I thought her a tidy housekeeper, and
didn't admire her taste in pictures, for the eye of this humble
individual soon wearied of expiring patriots, who all appeared to be
quitting their earthly tabernacles in convulsions, ruffled shirts, and
a whirl of torn banners, bomb shells, and buff and blue arms and legs.
The statuary also was massive and concrete, but rather wearying to
examine; for the colossal ladies and gentlemen, carried no cards of
introduction in face or figure; so, whether the meditative party in a
kilt, with well-developed legs, shoes like army slippers, and a
ponderous nose, was Columbus, Cato, or Cockelorum Tibby, the tragedian,
was more than I could tell. Several robust ladies attracted me; but
which was America and which Pocahontas was a mystery; for all affected
much looseness of costume, dishevelment of hair, swords, arrows,
lances, scales, and other ornaments quite passe with damsels of our
day, whose effigies should go down to posterity armed with fans,
crochet needles, riding whips, and parasols, with here and there one
holding pen or pencil, rolling-pin or broom. The statue of Liberty I
recognized at once, for it had no pedestal as yet, but stood flat in
the mud, with Young America most symbolically making dirt pies, and
chip forts, in its shadow. But high above the squabbling little throng
and their petty plans, the sun shone full on Liberty's broad forehead,
and, in her hand, some summer bird had built its nest. I accepted the
good omen then, and, on the first of January, the Emancipation Act gave
the statue a nobler and more enduring pedestal than any marble or
granite ever carved and quarried by human bands.

One trip to Georgetown Heights, where cedars sighed overhead, dead
leaves rustled underfoot, pleasant paths led up and down, and a brook
wound like a silver snake by the blackened ruins of some French
Minister's house, through the poor gardens of the black washerwomen who
congregated there, and, passing the cemetery with a murmurous lullaby,
rolled away to pay its little tribute to the river. This breezy run was
the last I took; for, on the morrow, came rain and wind: and
confinement soon proved a powerful reinforcement to the enemy, who was
quietly preparing to spring a mine, and blow me five hundred miles from
the position I had taken in what I called my Chickahominy Swamp.

Shut up in my room, with no voice, spirits, or books, that week was not
a holiday, by any means. Finding meals a humbug, I stopped away
altogether, trusting that if this sparrow was of any worth, the Lord
would not let it fall to the ground. Like a flock of friendly ravens,
my sister nurses fed me, not only with food for the body, but kind
words for the mind; and soon, from being half starved, I found myself
so beteaed and betoasted, petted and served, that I was quite "in the
lap of luxury," in spite of cough, headache, a painful consciousness of
my pleura, and a realizing sense of bones in the human frame. From the
pleasant house on the hill, the home in the heart of Washington, and
the Willard caravansary, came friends new and old, with bottles,
baskets, carriages and invitations for the invalid; and daily our
Florence Nightingale climbed the steep stairs, stealing a moment from
her busy life, to watch over the stranger, of whom she was as
thoughtfully tender as any mother. Long may she wave! Whatever others
may think or say, Nurse Periwinkle is forever grateful; and among her
relics of that Washington defeat, none is more valued than the little
book which appeared on her pillow, one dreary day; for the D D. written
in it means to her far more than Doctor of Divinity.

Being forbidden to meddle with fleshly arms and legs, I solaced myself
by mending cotton ones, and, as I sat sewing at my window, watched the
moving panorama that passed below; amusing myself with taking notes of
the most striking figures in it. Long trains of army wagons kept up a
perpetual rumble from morning till night; ambulances rattled to and fro
with busy surgeons, nurses taking an airing, or convalescents going in
parties to be fitted to artificial limbs. Strings of sorry looking
horses passed, saying as plainly as dumb creatures could, "Why, in a
city full of them, is there no horsepital for us?" Often a cart came
by, with several rough coffins in it and no mourners following;
barouches, with invalid officers, rolled round the corner, and carriage
loads of pretty children, with black coachmen, footmen, and maids. The
women who took their walks abroad, were so extinguished in three story
bonnets, with overhanging balconies of flowers, that their charms were
obscured; and all I can say of them is that they dressed in the worst
possible taste, and walked like ducks.

The men did the picturesque, and did it so well that Washington looked
like a mammoth masquerade. Spanish hats, scarlet lined riding cloaks,
swords and sashes, high boots and bright spurs, beards and mustaches,
which made plain faces comely, and comely faces heroic; these vanities
of the flesh transformed our butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers
into gallant riders of gaily caparisoned horses, much handsomer than
themselves; and dozens of such figures were constantly prancing by,
with private prickings of spurs, for the benefit of the perambulating
flower-bed. Some of these gentlemen affected painfully tight uniforms,
and little caps, kept on by some new law of gravitation, as they
covered only the bridge of the nose, yet never fell off; the men looked
like stuffed fowls, and rode as if the safety of the nation depended on
their speed alone. The fattest, greyest officers dressed most, and
ambled statelily along, with orderlies behind, trying to look as if
they didn't know the stout party in front, and doing much caracoling on
their own account.

The mules were my especial delight; and an hour's study of a constant
succession of them introduced me to many of their characteristics; for
six of these odd little beasts drew each army wagon, and went hopping
like frogs through the stream of mud that gently rolled along the
street. The coquettish mule had small feet, a nicely trimmed tassel of
a tail, perked up ears, and seemed much given to little tosses of the
head, affected skips and prances; and, if he wore the bells, or were
bedizzened with a bit of finery, put on as many airs as any belle. The
moral mule was a stout, hard-working creature, always tugging with all
his might; often pulling away after the rest had stopped, laboring
under the conscientious delusion that food for the entire army depended
upon his private exertions. I respected this style of mule; and had I
possessed a juicy cabbage, would have pressed it upon him, with thanks
for his excellent example. The historical mule was a melo-dramatic
quadruped, prone to startling humanity by erratic leaps, and wild
plunges, much shaking of his stubborn head, and lashing out of his
vicious heels; now and then falling flat and apparently dying a la
Forrest: a gasp--a squirm--a flop, and so on, till the street was well
blocked up, the drivers all swearing like demons in bad hats, and the
chief actor's circulation decidedly quickened by every variety of kick,
cuff jerk, and haul. When the last breath seemed to have left his body,
and "Doctors were in vain," a sudden resurrection took place; and if
ever a mule laughed with scornful triumph, that was the beast, as he
leisurely rose, gave a comfortable shake, and calmly regarding the
excited crowd seemed to say--"A hit! a decided hit! for the stupidest
of animals has bamboozled a dozen men. Now, then! what are you stopping
the way for?" The pathetic mule was, perhaps, the most interesting of
all; for, though he always seemed to be the smallest, thinnest, weakest
of the six, the postillion, with big boots, long-tailed coat, and heavy
whip, was sure to bestride this one, who struggled feebly along, head
down, coat muddy and rough, eye spiritless and sad, his very tail a
mortified stump, and the whole beast a picture of meek misery, fit to
touch a heart of stone. The jovial mule was a roly poly, happy-go-lucky
little piece of horse-flesh, taking everything easily, from cudgeling
to caressing; strolling along with a roguish twinkle of the eye, and,
if the thing were possible, would have had his hands in his pockets,
and whistled as he went. If there ever chanced to be an apple core, a
stray turnip, or wisp of hay, in the gutter, this Mark Tapley was sure
to find it, and none of his mates seemed to begrudge him his bite. I
suspected this fellow was the peacemaker, confidant and friend of all
the others, for he had a sort of
"Cheer-up,-old-boy,-I'll-pull-you-through" look, which was exceedingly
engaging.

Pigs also possessed attractions for me, never having had an opportunity
of observing their graces of mind and manner, till I came to
Washington, whose porcine citizens appeared to enjoy a larger liberty
than many of its human ones. Stout, sedate looking pigs, hurried by
each morning to their places of business, with a preoccupied air, and
sonorous greeting to their friends. Genteel pigs, with an extra curl to
their tails, promenaded in pairs, lunching here and there, like
gentlemen of leisure. Rowdy pigs pushed the passers by off the side
walk; tipsy pigs hiccoughed their version of "We wont go home till
morning," from the gutter; and delicate young pigs tripped daintily
through the mud, as if, like "Mrs. Peerybingle," they plumed themselves
upon their ankles, and kept themselves particularly neat in point of
stockings. Maternal pigs, with their interesting families, strolled by
in the sun; and often the pink, baby-like squealers lay down for a nap,
with a trust in Providence worthy of human imitation.

But more interesting than officers, ladies, mules, or pigs, were my
colored brothers and sisters, because so unlike the respectable members
of society I'd known in moral Boston.

Here was the genuine article--no, not the genuine article at all, we
must go to Africa for that--but the sort of creatures generations of
slavery have made them: obsequious, trickish, lazy and ignorant, yet
kind-hearted, merry-tempered, quick to feel and accept the least token
of the brotherly love which is slowly teaching the white hand to grasp
the black, in this great struggle for the liberty of both the races.

Having been warned not to be too rampant on the subject of slavery, as
secesh principles flourished even under the respectable nose of Father
Abraham, I had endeavored to walk discreetly, and curb my unruly
member; looking about me with all my eyes, the while, and saving up the
result of my observations for future use. I had not been there a week
before the neglected, devil-may care expression in many of the faces
about me, seemed an urgent appeal to leave nursing white bodies, and
take some care for these black souls. Much as the lazy boys and saucy
girls tormented me, I liked them, and found that any show of interest
or friendliness brought out the better traits which live in the most
degraded and forsaken of us all. I liked their cheerfulness, for the
dreariest old hag, who scrubbed all day in that pestilential steam,
gossipped and grinned all the way out, when night set her free from
drudgery. The girls romped with their dusky sweethearts, or tossed
their babies, with the tender pride that makes mother-love a beautifier
to the homeliest face. The men and boys sang and whistled all day long;
and often, as I held my watch, the silence of the night was sweetly
broken by some chorus from the street, full of real melody, whether the
song was of heaven, or of hoe-cakes; and, as I listened, I felt that we
never should doubt nor despair concerning a race which, through such
griefs and wrongs, still clings to this good gift, and seems to solace
with it the patient hearts that wait and watch and hope until the end.

I expected to have to defend myself from accusations of prejudice
against color; but was surprised to find things just the other way, and
daily shocked some neighbor by treating the blacks as I did the whites.
The men would swear at the "darkies," would put two gs into negro, and
scoff at the idea of any good coming from such trash. The nurses were
willing to be served by the colored people, but seldom thanked them,
never praised, and scarcely recognized them in the street; whereat the
blood of two generations of abolitionists waxed hot in my veins, and,
at the first opportunity, proclaimed itself, and asserted the right of
free speech as doggedly as the irrepressible Folsom herself.

Happening to catch up a funny little black baby, who was toddling about
the nurses' kitchen, one day, when I went down to make a mess for some
of my men, a Virginia woman standing by elevated her most prominent
features, with a sniff of disapprobation, exclaiming:

"Gracious, Miss P.! how can you? I've been here six months. and never
so much as touched the little toad with a poker."

"More shame for you, ma'am," responded Miss P.; and, with the natural
perversity of a Yankee, followed up the blow by kissing "the toad,"
with ardor. His face was providentially as clean and shiny as if his
mamma had just polished it up with a corner of her apron and a drop
from the tea-kettle spout, like old Aunt Chloe, This rash act, and the
anti-slavery lecture that followed, while one hand stirred gruel for
sick America, and the other hugged baby Africa, did not produce the
cheering result which I fondly expected; for my comrade henceforth
regarded me as a dangerous fanatic, and my protege nearly came to his
death by insisting on swarming up stairs to my room, on all occasions,
and being walked on like a little black spider.

I waited for New Year's day with more eagerness than I had ever known
before; and, though it brought me no gift, I felt rich in the act of
justice so tardily performed toward some of those about me. As the
bells rung midnight, I electrified my room-mate by dancing out of bed,
throwing up the window, and flapping my handkerchief, with a feeble
cheer, in answer to the shout of a group of colored men in the street
below. All night they tooted and tramped, fired crackers, sung "Glory,
Hallelujah," and took comfort, poor souls! in their own way. The sky
was clear, the moon shone benignly, a mild wind blew across the river,
and all good omens seemed to usher in the dawn of the day whose
noontide cannot now be long in coming. If the colored people had taken
hands and danced around the White House, with a few cheers for the much
abused gentleman who has immortalized himself by one just act, no
President could have had a finer levee, or one to be prouder of.

While these sights and sounds were going on without, curious scenes
were passing within, and I was learning that one of the best methods of
fitting oneself to be a nurse in a hospital, is to be a patient there;
for then only can one wholly realize what the men suffer and sigh for;
how acts of kindness touch and win; how much or little we are to those
about us; and for the first time really see that in coming there we
have taken our lives in our hands, and may have to pay dearly for a
brief experience. Every one was very kind; the attendants of my ward
often came up to report progress, to fill my wood box, or bring
messages and presents from my boys. The nurses took many steps with
those tired feet of theirs, and several came each evening, to chat over
my fire and make things cozy for the night. The doctors paid daily
visits, tapped at my lungs to see if pneumonia was within, left doses
without names, and went away, leaving me as ignorant, and much more
uncomfortable than when they came. Hours began to get confused; people
looked odd; queer faces haunted the room, and the nights were one long
fight with weariness and pain. Letters from home grew anxious; the
doctors lifted their eyebrows, and nodded ominously; friends said
"Don't stay," and an internal rebellion seconded the advice; but the
three months were not out, and the idea of giving up so soon was
proclaiming a defeat before I was fairly routed; so to all "Don't
stays" I opposed "I wills," till, one fine morning, a gray-headed
gentleman rose like a welcome ghost on my hearth; and, at the sight of
him, my resolution melted away, my heart turned traitor to my boys,
and, when he said, "Come home," I answered, "Yes, father;" and so ended
my career as an army nurse.

I never shall regret the going, though a sharp tussle with typhoid, ten
dollars, and a wig, are all the visible results of the experiment; for
one may live and learn much in a month. A good fit of illness proves
the value of health; real danger tries one's mettle; and self-sacrifice
sweetens character. Let no one who sincerely desires to help the work
on in this way, delay going through any fear; for the worth of life
lies in the experiences that fill it, and this is one which cannot be
forgotten. All that is best and bravest in the hearts of men and women,
comes out in scenes like these; and, though a hospital is a rough
school, its lessons are both stern and salutary; and the humblest of
pupils there, in proportion to his faithfulness, learns a deeper faith
in God and in himself. I, for one, would return tomorrow, on the
"up-again,-and-take-another" principle, if I could; for the amount of
pleasure and profit I got out of that month compensates for all the
pangs; and, though a sadly womanish feeling, I take some satisfaction
in the thought that, if I could not lay my head on the altar of my
country, I have my hair; and that is more than handsome Helen did for
her dead husband, when she sacrificed only the ends of her ringlets on
his urn. Therefore, I close this little chapter of hospital
experiences, with the regret that they were no better worth recording;
and add the poetical gem with which I console myself for the untimely
demise of "Nurse Periwinkle:"

    Oh, lay her in a little pit,
    With a marble stone to cover it;
    And carve thereon a gruel spoon,
    To show a "nuss" has died too soon.



CHAPTER VI

A POSTSCRIPT.

My Dear S.:--As inquiries like your own have come to me from various
friendly readers of the Sketches, I will answer them en masse and in
printed form, as a sort of postscript to what has gone before. One of
these questions was, "Are there no services by hospital death-beds, or
on Sundays?"

In most Hospitals I hope there are; in ours, the men died, and were
carried away, with as little ceremony as on a battle-field. The first
event of this kind which I witnessed was so very brief, and bare of
anything like reverence, sorrow, or pious consolation, that I heartily
agreed with the bluntly expressed opinion of a Maine man lying next his
comrade, who died with no visible help near him, but a compassionate
woman and a tender-hearted Irishman, who dropped upon his knees, and
told his beads, with Catholic fervor, for the good of his Protestant
brother's parting soul:

"If, after gettin' all the hard knocks, we are left to die this way,
with nothing but a Paddy's prayers to help us, I guess Christians are
rather scarce round Washington."

I thought so too; but though Miss Blank, one of my mates, anxious that
souls should be ministered to, as well as bodies, spoke more than once
to the Chaplain, nothing ever came of it. Unlike another Shepherd,
whose earnest piety weekly purified the Senate Chamber, this man did
not feed as well as fold his flock, nor make himself a human symbol of
the Divine Samaritan, who never passes by on the other side.

I have since learned that our non-committal Chaplain had been a
Professor in some Southern College; and, though he maintained that he
had no secesh proclivities, I can testify that he seceded from his
ministerial duties, I may say, skedaddled; for, being one of his own
words, it is as appropriate as inelegant. He read Emerson, quoted
Carlyle, and tried to be a Chaplain; but judging from his success, I am
afraid he still hankered after the hominy pots of Rebeldom.

Occasionally, on a Sunday afternoon, such of the nurses, officers,
attendants, and patients as could avail themselves of it, were gathered
in the Ball Room, for an hour's service, of which the singing was the
better part. To me it seemed that if ever strong, wise, and loving
words were needed, it was then; if ever mortal man had living texts
before his eyes to illustrate and illuminate his thought, it was there;
and if ever hearts were prompted to devoutest self-abnegation, it was
in the work which brought us to anything but a Chapel of Ease. But some
spiritual paralysis seemed to have befallen our pastor; for, though
many faces turned toward him, full of the dumb hunger that often comes
to men when suffering or danger brings then nearer to the heart of
things, they were offered the chaff of divinity, and its wheat was left
for less needy gleaners, who knew where to look. Even the fine old
Bible stories, which may be made as lifelike as any history of our day,
by a vivid fancy and pictorial diction, were robbed of all their charms
by dry explanations and literal applications, instead of being useful
and pleasant lessons to those men, whom weakness had rendered as docile
as children in a father's hands.

I watched the listless countenances all about me, while a mild Daniel
was moralizing in a den of utterly uninteresting lions; while Shadrach,
Meshech, and Abednego were leisurely passing through the fiery furnace,
where, I sadly feared, some of us sincerely wished they had remained as
permanencies; while the Temple of Solomon was laboriously erected, with
minute descriptions of the process, and any quantity of bells and
pomegranates on the raiment of the priests. Listless they were at the
beginning, and listless at the end; but the instant some stirring old
hymn was given out, sleepy eyes brightened, lounging figures sat erect,
and many a poor lad rose up in his bed, or stretch an eager hand for
the book, while all broke out with a heartiness that proved that
somewhere at the core of even the most abandoned, there still glowed
some remnant of the native piety that flows in music from the heart of
every little child. Even the big rebel joined, and boomed away in a
thunderous bass, singing--

    "Salvation! let the echoes fly,"

as energetically as if he felt the need of a speedy execution of the
command.

That was the pleasantest moment of the hour, for then it seemed a
homelike and happy spot; the groups of men looking over one another's
shoulders as they sang; the few silent figures in the beds; here and
there a woman noiselessly performing some necessary duty, and singing
as she worked; while in the arm chair standing in the midst, I placed,
for my own satisfaction, the imaginary likeness of a certain faithful
pastor, who took all outcasts by the hand, smote the devil in whatever
guise he came, and comforted the indigent in spirit with the best
wisdom of a great and tender heart, which still speaks to us from its
Italian grave. With that addition, my picture was complete; and I often
longed to take a veritable sketch of a Hospital Sunday, for, despite
its drawbacks, consisting of continued labor, the want of proper books,
the barren preaching that bore no fruit, this day was never like the
other six.

True to their home training, our New England boys did their best to
make it what it should be. With many, there was much reading of
Testaments, humming over of favorite hymns, and looking at such books
as I could cull from a miscellaneous library. Some lay idle, slept, or
gossiped; yet, when I came to them for a quiet evening chat, they often
talked freely and well of themselves; would blunder out some timid hope
that their troubles might "do 'em good, and keep 'em stiddy;" would
choke a little, as they said good night, and turned their faces to the
wall to think of mother, wife, or home, these human ties seeming to be
the most vital religion which they yet knew. I observed that some of
them did not wear their caps on this day, though at other times they
clung to them like Quakers; wearing them in bed, putting them on to
read the paper, eat an apple, or write a letter, as if, like a new sort
of Samson, their strength lay, not in their hair, but in their hats.
Many read no novels, swore less, were more silent, orderly, and
cheerful, as if the Lord were an invisible Wardmaster, who went his
rounds but once a week, and must find all things at their best. I liked
all this in the poor, rough boys, and could have found it in my heart
to put down sponge and tea-pot, and preach a little sermon then and
there, while homesickness and pain had made these natures soft, that
some good seed might be cast therein, to blossom and bear fruit here or
hereafter.

Regarding the admission of friends to nurse their sick, I can only say,
it was not allowed at Hurly-burly House; though one indomitable parent
took my ward by storm, and held her position, in spite of doctors,
matron, and Nurse Periwinkle. Though it was against the rules, though
the culprit was an acid, frost-bitten female, though the young man
would have done quite as well without her anxious fussiness, and the
whole room-full been much more comfortable, there was something so
irresistible in this persistent devotion, that no one had the heart to
oust her from her post. She slept on the floor, without uttering a
complaint; bore jokes somewhat of the rudest; fared scantily, though
her basket was daily filled with luxuries for her boy; and tended that
petulant personage with a never-failing patience beautiful to see.

I feel a glow of moral rectitude in saying this of her; for, though a
perfect pelican to her young, she pecked and cackled (I don't know that
pelicans usually express their emotions in that manner,) most
obstreperously, when others invaded her premises; and led me a weary
life, with "George's tea-rusks," "George's foot bath," "George's
measles," and "George's mother;" till after a sharp passage of arms and
tongues with the matron, she wrathfully packed up her rusks, her son,
and herself, and departed, in an ambulance, scolding to the very last.

This is the comic side of the matter. The serious one is harder to
describe; for the presence, however brief, of relations and friends by
the bedside of the dead or dying, is always a trial to the bystanders.
They are not near enough to know how best to comfort, yet too near to
turn their backs upon the sorrow that finds its only solace in
listening to recitals of last words, breathed into nurse's ears, or
receiving the tender legacies of love and longing bequeathed through
them.

To me, the saddest sight I saw in that sad place, was the spectacle of
a grey-haired father, sitting hour after hour by his son, dying from
the poison of his wound. The old father, hale and hearty; the young
son, past all help, though one could scarcely believe it; for the
subtle fever, burning his strength away, flushed his cheeks with color,
filled his eyes with lustre, and lent a mournful mockery of health to
face and figure, making the poor lad comelier in death than in life.
His bed was not in my ward; but I was often in and out, and for a day
or two, the pair were much together, saying little, but looking much.
The old man tried to busy himself with book or pen, that his presence
might not be a burden; and once when he sat writing, to the anxious
mother at home, doubtless, I saw the son's eyes fix upon his face, with
a look of mingled resignation and regret, as if endeavoring to teach
himself to say cheerfully the long good bye. And again, when the son
slept, the father watched him as he had himself been watched; and
though no feature of his grave countenance changed, the rough hand,
smoothing the lock of hair upon the pillow, the bowed attitude of the
grey head, were more pathetic than the loudest lamentations. The son
died; and the father took home the pale relic of the life he gave,
offering a little money to the nurse, as the only visible return it was
in his power to make her; for though very grateful, he was poor. Of
course, she did not take it, but found a richer compensation in the old
man's earnest declaration:

"My boy couldn't have been better cared for if he'd been at home; and
God will reward you for it, though I can't."

My own experiences of this sort began when my first man died. He had
scarcely been removed, when his wife came in. Her eye went straight to
the well-known bed; it was empty; and feeling, yet not believing the
hard truth, she cried out, with a look I never shall forget:

"Why, where's Emanuel?"

I had never seen her before, did not know her relationship to the man
whom I had only nursed for a day, and was about to tell her he was
gone, when McGee, the tender-hearted Irishman before mentioned, brushed
by me with a cheerful--"It's shifted to a better bed he is, Mrs.
Connel. Come out, dear, till I show ye;" and, taking her gently by the
arm, he led her to the matron, who broke the heavy tidings to the wife,
and comforted the widow.

Another day, running up to my room for a breath of fresh air and a five
minutes rest after a disagreeable task, I found a stout young woman
sitting on my bed, wearing the miserable look which I had learned to
know by that time. Seeing her, reminded me that I had heard of some
one's dying in the night, and his sister's arriving in the morning.
This must be she, I thought. I pitied her with all my heart. What could
I say or do? Words always seem impertinent at such times; I did not
know the man; the woman was neither interesting in herself nor graceful
in her grief; yet, having known a sister's sorrow myself, I could have
not leave her alone with her trouble in that strange place, without a
word. So, feeling heart-sick, home-sick, and not knowing what else to
do, I just put my arms about her, and began to cry in a very helpless
but hearty way; for, as I seldom indulge in this moist luxury, I like
to enjoy it with all my might, when I do.

It so happened I could not have done a better thing; for, though not a
word was spoken, each felt the other's sympathy; and, in the silence,
our handkerchiefs were more eloquent than words. She soon sobbed
herself quiet; and leaving her on my bed, I went back to work, feeling
much refreshed by the shower, though I'd forgotten to rest, and had
washed my face instead of my hands. I mention this successful
experience as a receipt proved and approved, for the use of any nurse
who may find herself called upon to minister to these wounds of the
heart. They will find it more efficacious than cups of tea,
smelling-bottles, psalms, or sermons; for a friendly touch and a
companionable cry, unite the consolations of all the rest for
womankind; and, if genuine, will be found a sovereign cure for the
first sharp pang so many suffer in these heavy times.

I am gratified to find that my little Sergeant has found favor in
several quarters, and gladly respond to sundry calls for news of him,
though my personal knowledge ended five months ago. Next to my good
John--I hope the grass is green above him, far away there in
Virginia!--I placed the Sergeant on my list of worthy boys; and many
jovial chat have I enjoyed with the merry-hearted lad, who had a fancy
for fun, when his poor arm was dressed. While Dr. P. poked and
strapped, I brushed the remains of the Sergeant's brown mane--shorn
sorely against his will--and gossiped with all my might, the boy making
odd faces, exclamations, and appeals, when nerves got the better of
nonsense, as they sometimes did:

"I'd rather laugh than cry, when I must sing out anyhow, so just say
that bit from Dickens again, please, and I'll stand it like a man." He
did; for "Mrs. Cluppins," "Chadband," and "Sam Weller," always helped
him through;  thereby causing me to lay another offering of love and
admiration on the shrine of the god of my idolatry, though he does wear
too much jewelry and talk slang.

The Sergeant also originated, I believe, the fashion of calling his
neighbors by their afflictions instead of their names; and I was rather
taken aback by hearing them bandy remarks of this sort, with perfect
good humor and much enjoyment of the new game.

"Hallo, old Fits is off again!" "How are you, Rheumatiz?" "Will you
trade apples, Ribs?" "I say, Miss P. may I give Typus a drink of this?"
"Look here, No Toes, lend us a stamp, there's a good feller," etc. He
himself was christened "Baby B.," because he tended his arm on a little
pillow, and called it his infant.

Very fussy about his grub was Sergeant B., and much trotting of
attendants was necessary when he partook of nourishment. Anything more
irresistibly wheedlesome I never saw, and constantly found myself
indulging him, like the most weak-minded parent, merely for the
pleasure of seeing his blue eyes twinkle, his merry mouth break into a
smile, and his one hand execute a jaunty little salute that was
entirely captivating. I am afraid that Nurse P. damaged her dignity,
frolicking with this persuasive young gentleman, though done for his
well being. But "boys will be boys," is perfectly applicable to the
case; for, in spite of years, sex and the "prunes-and-prisms" doctrine
laid down for our use, I have a fellow feeling for lads, and always
owed Fate a grudge because I wasn't a lord of creation instead of a
lady.

Since I left, I have heard, from a reliable source, that my Sergeant
has gone home; therefore, the small romance that budded the first day I
saw him, has blossomed into its second chapter, and I now imagine
"dearest Jane" filling my place, tending the wounds I tended, brushing
the curly jungle I brushed, loving the excellent little youth I loved,
and eventually walking altarward, with the Sergeant stumping gallantly
at her side. If she doesn't do all this, and no end more, I'll never
forgive her; and sincerely pray to the guardian saint of lovers, that
"Baby B." may prosper in his wooing, and his name be long in the land.

One of the lively episodes of hospital life, is the frequent marching
away of such as are well enough to rejoin their regiments, or betake
themselves to some convalescent camp. The ward master comes to the door
of each room that is to be thinned, reads off a list of names, bids
their owners look sharp and be ready when called for; and, as he
vanishes, the rooms fall into an indescribable state of
topsy-turvyness, as the boys begin to black their boots, brighten
spurs, if they have them, overhaul knapsacks, make presents; are fitted
out with needfuls, and--well, why not?--kissed sometimes, as they say,
good-bye; for in all human probability we shall never meet again, and a
woman's heart yearns over anything that has clung to her for help and
comfort. I never liked these breakings-up of my little household:
though my short stay showed me but three. I was immensely gratified by
the hand shakes I got, for their somewhat painful cordiality assured me
that I had not tried in vain. The big Prussian rumbled out his
unintelligible adieux, with a grateful face and a premonitory smooth of
his yellow mustache, but got no farther, for some one else stepped up,
with a large brown hand extended, and this recommendation of our very
faulty establishment:

"We're off, ma'am, and I'm powerful sorry, for I'd no idea a 'orspittle
was such a jolly place. Hope I'll git another ball somewheres easy, so
I'll come back, and be took care on again. Mean, ain't it?"

I didn't think so, but the doctrine of inglorious ease was not the
right one to preach up, so I tried to look shocked, failed signally,
and consoled myself by giving him the fat pincushion he had admired as
the "cutest little machine agoin." Then they fell into line in front of
the house, looking rather wan and feeble, some of them, but trying to
step out smartly and march in good order, though half the knapsacks
were carried by the guard, and several leaned on sticks instead of
shouldering guns. All looked up and smiled, or waved their hands and
touched their caps, as they passed under our windows down the long
street, and so away, some to their homes in this world, and some to
that in the next; and, for the rest of the day, I felt like Rachel
mourning for her children, when I saw the empty beds and missed the
familiar faces.

You ask if nurses are obliged to witness amputations and such matters,
as a part of their duty? I think not, unless they wish; for the patient
is under the effects of ether, and needs no care but such as the
surgeons can best give. Our work begins afterward, when the poor soul
comes to himself, sick, faint, and wandering; full of strange pains and
confused visions, of disagreeable sensations and sights. Then we must
sooth and sustain, tend and watch; preaching and practicing patience,
till sleep and time have restored courage and self-control.

I witnessed several operations; for the height of my ambition was to go
to the front after a battle, and feeling that the sooner I inured
myself to trying sights, the more useful I should be. Several of my
mates shrunk from such things; for though the spirit was wholly
willing, the flesh was inconveniently weak. One funereal lady came to
try her powers as a nurse; but, a brief conversation eliciting the
facts that she fainted at the sight of blood, was afraid to watch
alone, couldn't possibly take care of delirious persons, was nervous
about infections, and unable to bear much fatigue, she was mildly
dismissed. I hope she found her sphere, but fancy a comfortable bandbox
on a high shelf would best meet the requirements of her case.

Dr. Z. suggested that I should witness a dissection; but I never
accepted his invitations, thinking that my nerves belonged to the
living, not to the dead, and I had better finish my education as a
nurse before I began that of a surgeon. But I never met the little man
skipping through the hall, with oddly shaped cases in his hand, and an
absorbed expression of countenance, without being sure that a select
party of surgeons were at work in the dead house, which idea was a
rather trying one, when I knew the subject was some person whom I had
nursed and cared for.

But this must not lead any one to suppose that the surgeons were
willfully hard or cruel, though one of them remorsefully confided to me
that he feared his profession blunted his sensibilities, and perhaps,
rendered him indifferent to the sight of pain.

I am inclined to think that in some cases it does; for, though a
capital surgeon and a kindly man, Dr. P., through long acquaintance
with many of the ills flesh is heir to, had acquired a somewhat trying
habit of regarding a man and his wound as separate institutions, and
seemed rather annoyed that the former should express any opinion upon
the latter, or claim any right in it, while under his care. He had a
way of twitching off a bandage, and giving a limb a comprehensive sort
of clutch, which though no doubt entirely scientific, was rather
startling than soothing, and highly objectionable as a means of
preparing nerves for any fresh trial. He also expected the patient to
assist in small operations, as he considered them, and to restrain all
demonstrations during the process.

"Here, my man, just hold it this way, while I look into it a bit," he
said one day to Fitz G., putting a wounded arm into the keeping of a
sound one, and proceeding to poke about among bits of bone and visible
muscles, in a red and black chasm made by some infernal machine of the
shot or shell description. Poor Fitz held on like a grim Death, ashamed
to show fear before a woman, till it grew more than he could bear in
silence; and, after a few smothered groans, he looked at me
imploringly, as if he said, "I wouldn't, ma'am, if I could help it,"
and fainted quietly away.

Dr. P. looked up, gave a compassionate sort of cluck, and poked away
more busily than ever, with a nod at me and a brief--"Never mind; be so
good as to hold this till I finish."

I obeyed, cherishing the while a strong desire to insinuate a few of
his own disagreeable knives and scissors into him, and see how he liked
it. A very disrespectful and ridiculous fancy of course; for he was
doing all that could be done, and the arm prospered finely in his
hands. But the human mind is prone to prejudice; and though a
personable man, speaking French like a born "Parley voo," and whipping
off legs like an animated guillotine, I must confess to a sense of
relief when he was ordered elsewhere; and suspect that several of the
men would have faced a rebel battery with less trepidation than they
did Dr. P., when he came briskly in on his morning round.

As if to give us the pleasures of contrast, Dr. Z. succeeded him, who,
I think, suffered more in giving pain than did his patients in enduring
it; for he often paused to ask: "Do I hurt you?" and seeing his
solicitude, the boys invariably answered: "Not much; go ahead, Doctor,"
though the lips that uttered this amiable fib might be white with pain
as they spoke. Over the dressing of some of the wounds, we used to
carry on conversations upon subjects foreign to the work in hand, that
the patient might forget himself in the charms of our discourse.
Christmas eve was spent in this way; the Doctor strapping the little
Sergeant's arm, I holding the lamp, while all three laughed and talked,
as if anywhere but in a hospital ward; except when the chat was broken
by a long-drawn "Oh!" from "Baby B.," an abrupt request from the Doctor
to "Hold the lamp a little higher, please," or an encouraging, "Most
through, Sergeant," from Nurse P.

The chief Surgeon, Dr. O., I was told, refused the higher salary,
greater honor, and less labor, of an appointment to the Officer's
Hospital, round the corner, that he might serve the poor fellows at
Hurly-burly House, or go to the front, working there day and night,
among the horrors that succeed the glories of a battle. I liked that so
much, that the quiet, brown-eyed Doctor was my especial admiration; and
when my own turn came, had more faith in him than in all the rest put
together, although he did advise me to go home, and authorize the
consumption of blue pills.

Speaking of the surgeons reminds me that, having found all manner of
fault, it becomes me to celebrate the redeeming feature of Hurly-burly
House. I had been prepared by the accounts of others, to expect much
humiliation of spirit from the surgeons, and to be treated by them like
a door-mat, a worm, or any other meek and lowly article, whose mission
it is to be put down and walked upon; nurses being considered as mere
servants, receiving the lowest pay, and, it's my private opinion, doing
the hardest work of any part of the army, except the mules. Great,
therefore, was my surprise, when I found myself treated with the utmost
courtesy and kindness. Very soon my carefully prepared meekness was
laid upon the shelf; and, going from one extreme to the other, I more
than once expressed a difference of opinion regarding sundry messes it
was my painful duty to administer.

As eight of us nurses chanced to be off duty at once, we had an
excellent opportunity of trying the virtues of these gentlemen; and I
am bound to say they stood the test admirably, as far as my personal
observation went. Dr. O.'s stethoscope was unremitting in its
attentions; Dr. S. brought his buttons into my room twice a day, with
the regularity of a medical clock; while Dr. Z. filled my table with
neat little bottles, which I never emptied, prescribed Browning,
bedewed me with Cologne, and kept my fire going, as if, like the
candles in St. Peter's, it must never be permitted to die out. Waking,
one cold night, with the certainty that my last spark had pined away
and died, and consequently hours of coughing were in store for me, I
was amazed to see a ruddy light dancing on the wall, a jolly blaze
roaring up the chimney, and, down upon his knees before it, Dr. Z.,
whittling shavings. I ought to have risen up and thanked him on the
spot; but, knowing that he was one of those who like to do good by
stealth, I only peeped at him as if he were a friendly ghost; till,
having made things as cozy as the most motherly of nurses could have
done, he crept away, leaving me to feel, as somebody says, "as if
angels were a watching of me in my sleep;" though that species of wild
fowl do not usually descend in broadcloth and glasses. I afterwards
discovered that he split the wood himself on that cool January
midnight, and went about making or mending fires for the poor old
ladies in their dismal dens; thus causing himself to be felt--a bright
and shining light in more ways than one. I never thanked him as I
ought; therefore, I publicly make a note of it, and further aggravate
that modest M.D. by saying that if this was not being the best of
doctors and the gentlest of gentlemen, I shall be happy to see any
improvement upon it.

To such as wish to know where these scenes took place, I must
respectfully decline to answer; for Hurly-burly House has ceased to
exist as a hospital; so let it rest, with all its sins upon its
head,--perhaps I should say chimney top. When the nurses felt ill, the
doctors departed, and the patients got well, I believe the concern
gently faded from existence, or was merged into some other and better
establishment, where I hope the washing of three hundred sick people is
done out of the house, the food is eatable, and mortal women are not
expected to possess an angelic exemption from all wants, and the
endurance of truck horses.

Since the appearance of these hasty Sketches, I have heard from several
of my comrades at the Hospital; and their approval assures me that I
have not let sympathy and fancy run away with me, as that lively team
is apt to do when harnessed to a pen. As no two persons see the same
thing with the same eyes, my view of hospital life must be taken
through my glass, and held for what it is worth. Certainly, nothing was
set down in malice, and to the serious-minded party who objected to a
tone of levity in some portions of the Sketches, I can only say that it
is a part of my religion to look well after the cheerfulnesses of life,
and let the dismals shift for themselves; believing, with good Sir
Thomas More, that it is wise to "be merrie in God."

The next hospital I enter will, I hope, be one for the colored
regiments, as they seem to be proving their right to the admiration and
kind offices of their white relations, who owe them so large a debt, a
little part of which I shall be so proud to pay.

Yours,
  With a firm faith
    In the good time coming,
      TRIBULATION PERIWINKLE.





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