So noted had it become for the masculine pride of its management, that I had been warned not to stay past the length of an ordinary visit, lest I should be roughly told to go away; and my surprise was equal to my pleasure, when a man came and said:
“Would it not be easier for you if you had a pitcher?”
I said it would, but that I lived too far away to bring one.
“Oh! I will bring you a pitcher! Why did you not ask for one?”
“I did not want to trouble you, for they told me you did not like to have women here.” He laughed, and said: “I guess we’ll all be glad enough to have you! Not many of your sort. First thing they all do is to begin to make trouble, and it always takes two men to wait on one of them.”
He brought the pitcher, and I felt that I was getting on in the world. Still I was very humble and careful to win the favor of “the King’s Chamberlain”—those potencies, the nurses, who might report me to that Royal woman-hater, Dr. Baxter, surgeon in charge, whose name was a terror to women who intruded themselves into military hospitals.
As I passed, with my pitcher, I saw one man delerious, and expectorating, profusely, a matter green as grass could be—knew this was hospital gangrene, and remembered all Dr. Palmer had told me years before, of his experience in Paris hospitals, and the antidotes to that and scurvey poison. Indeed, the results of many conversations with first-class physicians, and of some reading on the subject of camp diseases, came to me; and I knew just what was wanted here, but saw no sign that the want was likely to be supplied. For this man it was too late, but I could not see that anything was being done to prevent the spread of this fearful scourge.
Passing from that ward into the one adjoining, I came suddenly upon two nurses dressing a thigh stump, while the patient filled the air with half-suppressed shrieks and groans. I had never before seen a stump, but remembered Dr. Jackson’s lecture over the watermellon at desert, on amputation, for the benefit of Charles Sumner; and electricity never brought light quicker than there came to me the memory of all he had said about the proper arrangement of the muscles over the end of the bone; and added to this, came a perfect knowledge of the relations of those mangled muscles to the general form of the body. I saw that the nurse who held the stump tortured the man by disregarding natural law, and setting down pitcher and glass on the floor, I stepped up, knelt, slipped my hands under the remains of that strong thigh, and said to the man who held it:
“Now, slip out your hands! easy! easy! there!” The instant it rested on my hands the groans ceased, and I said:
“Is that better?”
“Oh, my God! yes!”
“Well, then, I will always hold it when it is dressed!”
“But you will not be here!”
“I will come!”
“That would be too much trouble!”