Late in the next week Mrs. Thayer came, in great tribulation, to know how I ever could have done so foolish and useless a thing as report that case to Miss Dix! Oh dear! Oh dear! It was so unwise!
Miss Dix had gone to the fort on Monday, taken the surgeon to task about that bed, gave me as her authority, and for me Mrs. Thayer was responsible, and would be excluded from that fort on account of my indiscretion. There was another standing quarrel between the directress of nurses and the surgeons. The bitterness engendered would all be visited upon the patients, and it was so deplorable to think I had been so imprudent.
Her distress was so real, and she was so real in her desire to do good, that I felt myself quite a culprit, especially as the man got no bed, and died on his slats.
I was so lectured and warned about the sin of this, my first offense, in telling that which “folk wad secret keep” in hospital management, that I was afraid to go to another, lest I should get some one into trouble; so stayed at home while the Washington hospitals were being filled with wounded from the battle of Chancellorville. I think it was the afternoon of the second Sabbath that I went with Mrs. Kelsey to visit Campbell, to get material for a letter, and tendered my services, but their arrangements were complete. Passing through the wards it did indeed seem as if nothing was wanting.
As a matter of form, I asked James Bride, of Wisconsin, if there was anything I could do for him, was surprised to see him hesitate, and astounded to have him answer:
“Well, nothing particular, unless”—he stopped and picked at the coverlid—“unless you could get us something to quench thirst.”
“Something to quench thirst? Why, I have been told you have everything you can possibly require!”
“Well, they are very good to us, and do all they can; but it gets very hot in here in the afternoons, we cannot go out into the shade, and get so thirsty. Drinking so much water makes us sick, and if we had something a little sour!”
“But, would they let me bring you anything?”
“O yes! I see ladies bring things every day.”
“Then I shall be glad to bring you something tomorrow.”
That morning I wrote to the New York Tribune, relating the incident of the man asking for cooling drinks, and saying that if people furnished the material, I would devote my time to distributing their gifts. Next morning I got two dozen lemons, pressed the juice into a jar, put in sugar, took a glass and spoon and, so soon as visitors were admitted, began giving lemonade to those men who seemed to have most need. Going to the water tank for every glass of water made it slow work, but I improved my walks by talking to the men, hearing their wants and adding to their stock of hope and cheerfulness, and was glad to see that the nurses did not seem to object to my presence, even though Campbell was the one only hospital in the city from which female nurses were rigorously excluded.