“Now you can have some warm water, if you want it.”
“But I do not want it! I like cold water best!”
“Then it is best for you, but it is not best for this man!”
I had never before seen any such wound as the one I was dressing, but I could think of but one way—clean it thoroughly, put on clean lint and rags and bandages, without hurting the patient, and this was very easy to do; but while I did this, I wanted to do something more, viz.: dispel the gloom which hung over that ward. I knew that sick folks should have their minds occupied by pleasant thoughts, and never addressed an audience with more care than I talked to that one man, in appearance, while really talking to all those who lay before me and some to whom my back was turned.
I could modulate my voice so as to be heard at quite a distance, and yet cause no jar to very sensitive nerves close at hand; and when I told my patient that I proposed to punish him now, while he was in my power, all heard and wondered; then every one was stimulated to learn that it was to keep him humble, because, having received such a wound in the charge on Marie’s Hill, he would be so proud by and by that common folks would be afraid to speak to him. I should be quite thrown into the shade by his laurels, and should probably take my revenge in advance by sticking pins in him now, when he could not help himself.
This idea proved to be quite amusing, and before I had secured that bandage, the men seemed to have forgotten their wounds, except as a source of future pride, and were firing jokes at each other as rapidly as they had done bullets at the enemy. When, therefore, I proposed sticking pins into any one else who desired such punishment, there was quite a demand for my services, and with my basin of tepid water I started to wet the hard, dry dressings, and leave them to soften before being removed. Before night I discovered that lint is an instrument of incalculable torture, and should never be used, as either blood or pus quickly converts some portion of it into splints, as irritating as a pine shaving.
About nine o’clock I returned to the man I had come to help, and found that he still slept. I hoped he might rouse and have some further message for his wife, before death had finished his work, and so remained with him, although I was much needed in the “very bad ward.”
I had sat by him but a few moments when I noticed a green shade on his face. It darkened, and his breathing grew labored—then ceased. I think it was not more than twenty minutes from the time I observed the green tinge until he was gone. I called the nurse, who brought the large man I had seen at the door of the bad ward, and now I knew he was a surgeon, knew also, by the sudden shadow on his face when he saw the corpse, that he was alarmed; and when he had given minute directions for the removal of the bed and its contents, the washing of the floor and sprinkling with chloride of lime, I went close to his side, and said in a low voice: