Half a Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 352 pages of information about Half a Century.

“Oh, yes; I know he will take me home, and provide for my wife and children when I am gone.”

“Then all is well with you!” He told me his name and residence, in Pittsburg, and I remembered that his parents lived our near neighbors when I was a child.  So, more than ever, I regretted that I could not have made his passage through the dark valley one of less pain; but it was a comfort to his wife to know I had been with him.

When he slept again, I got a slightly wounded man to sit by him and keep away the flies, while I went to distribute some delicacies brought to him by visitors, and which he would never need.

At the door of Ward Three, a large man stood, and seemed to be an officer.  I asked him if there were any patients in that ward who would need wine penado.  He looked down at me, pleasantly, and said: 

“I think it very likely, madam, for it is a very bad ward.”

It was indeed a very bad ward, for a settled gloom lay upon the faces of the occupants, who suffered because the ward-master and entire set of nurses had recently been discharged, and new, incompetent men appointed in their places.

As I passed down, turning from right to left, to give to such men as needed it the mild stimulant I had brought, I saw how sad and hopeless they were; only one man seemed inclined to talk, and he sat near the centre of the ward, while some one dressed his shoulder from which the arm had been carried away by a cannon ball.  A group of men stood around him, talking of that strange amputation, and he was full of chat and cheerfulness.

They called him Charlie; but my attention was quickly drawn to a young man, on a cot, close by, who was suffering torture from the awkwardness of a nurse who was dressing a large, flesh-wound on the outside of his right thigh.

I set my bowl on the floor, caught the nurse’s wrist, lifted his hand away, and said: 

“Oh, stop! you are hurting that man!  Let me do that!”

He replied, pleasantly,

“I’ll be very glad to, for I’m a green hand!”

I took his place; saw the wounded flesh creep at the touch of cold water, and said:  “Cold water hurts you!”

“Yes ma’am; a little!”

“Then we must have some warm!” But nurse said there was none.

“No warm water?” I exclaimed, as I drew back and looked at him, in blank astonishment.

“No, ma’am! there’s no warm water!”

“How many wounded men have you in this hospital?”

“Well, about seven hundred, I believe.”

“About seven hundred wounded men, and no warm water!  So none of them get anything to eat!”

“Oh, yes! they get plenty to eat.”

“And how do you cook without warm water?”

“Why, there’s plenty of hot water in the kitchen, but we’re not allowed to go there, and we have none in the wards.”

“Where is the kitchen?”

He directed me.  I covered the wound—­told the patient to wait and I would get warm water.  In the kitchen a dozen cooks stopped to stare at me, but one gave me what I came for, and on returning to the ward I said to Charlie: 

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Half a Century from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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