“You had better call me mother.”
“Mother!” he snarled, “You my mother!”
“Why, you’re not old enough!”
“I am twice as old as you are!
“No, you ’re not; and another thing, you’re not big enough!” He raised his head, surveyed me leisurely and contemptuously, his dark silky moustache went up against his handsome nose as he sank back and said slowly:
“Still, I am large enough to take care of you and send you back to your regiment if you are reasonable: but no one can do anything for you if you fly into a rage in this way!”
“Yes! and you know that, and you put me in a rage going after them other fellows. You know I’ve got the best right to you. I claimed you soon as you come in the door, and called you afore you got half down the ward. You said you’d take care of me and now you don’t do it. The surgeon give me to you too. You know I can’t live if you don’t save me, and you don’t care if I die!”
I was penitent and conciliatory, and promised to be good, when he said doggedly:
“Yes! and I’ll call you Mary!”
“Very well, Mary is a good name—it was my mother’s, and I shall no doubt come to like it.”
“I guess it is a good name! It was my mother’s name too, and any woman might be glad to be called Mary. But I never did see a woman ’at had any sense!”
He soon growled himself to sleep, and from that time I called him “Ursa Major;” but he only slept about half an hour, when a nurse in great fright summoned me. They had lifted him and he had fainted.
I helped to put him back into bed, and bathed him until consciousness returned, when he grasped my wrist with a vice-like hold and groaned.
“Oh God! Oh mother! Is this death?”
I heard no more of Miss Mary, or nice girls; but God and mother and death were often on his lips.
To the great surprise of every one I quelled the inflammation and fever, banished the swelling, and got him into good condition, when the foot was amputated and shown to me. The ankle joint was ground into small pieces, and these were mingled with bits of leather and woolen sock. No wonder the inflammation had been frightful; but it was some time after that before I knew the foot might have been saved by making a sufficient opening from the outside, withdrawing the loose irritating matter, and keeping an opening through which nature could have disposed of her waste. I do not know if surgery have yet discovered this plain, common-sense rule, but tens of thousands of men have died, and tens of thousands of others have lost limbs because it was not known and acted upon. All those men who died of gun-shot flesh wounds were victims to surgical stupidity.
I nursed the cross man until he went about on crutches, and his faith in me was equal in perfection to his form, for he always held that I could “stop this pain” if I would, and rated me soundly if I was “off in ward Ten” when he wanted me. One day he scolded worse than usual, and soon after an Irishman said, in an aside: