“Then I shall preserve the glove to remember a great pleasure, for I have long wished to see you.”
My escort was more surprised than I by her unusual cordiality, and said afterwards:
“It was no polite affectation. I cannot understand it from her.”
I understood at once that I had met one with whom I was in sympathy. No politeness could have summoned that sudden flash of pleasure. Her manner was too simple and natural to have any art in it; and why should she have pretended a friendship she did not feel? Abolitionists were at a discount. They had gone like the front ranks of the French cavalry at Waterloo, into the sunken way, to make a bridge, over which moderate men were rushing to honors and emoluments. Gideon’s army had done its work, and given place to the camp followers, who gathered up the spoils of victory. None wore so poor that they need do them reverence, and I recognized Mrs. Lincoln as a loyal, liberty-loving woman, more staunch even than her husband in opposition to the Rebellion and its cause, and as my very dear friend for life.
NO USE FOR ME AMONG THE WOUNDED.
I had not thought, even after deciding to remain in Washington, of doing any hospital work—knew nothing about it; and in strength was more like a patient than a nurse; but while I waited for a summons to go to the duties of my clerkship, I met some ladies interested in hospitals.
One of these, Mrs. Thayer, had an ambulance at her command, and took me for a day’s visiting among the forts, on a day when it was known that our armies in Virginia were engaged with the enemy. The roads were almost impassable, and as a skillful driver and two good horses used their best efforts to take us from place to place, I felt like a thief; that ambulance ought to be at the front, and us with it, or on our knees pleading for the men whose breasts were a living wall between us and danger, between Liberty and her deadly foes.
The men in the forts had no special need of us, and sometimes their thanks for the tracts we brought them, gave an impulse to strike them square in the face, but Mrs. Thayer was happy in her work, and thought me uncivil to her friends.
We reached the last fort on our round before I saw anything interesting; and here a sorrowful woman drew me aside to tell me of the two weeks she had spent with her husband, now in the last stage of camp-fever, and of her fruitless efforts to get sufficient straw for his bed, while the bones were cutting through the skin as he lay on the slats of his cot. She wrung her hands in a strange, suppressed agony, and exclaimed “Oh! If they had only let me take him home when I came first; but say nothing here, or they will not let me stay.”
I verified her statement of her husband’s condition, so that I could speak from observation without compromising her, and spoke to the surgeon, who politely regretted the scarcity of straw, and hoped to get some soon.