In Ward Five was one man who had been laid on his left side, and never could be moved while he lived. His right arm suffered for lack of support, and when I knelt to give him nourishment from a spoon, and pray with him that the deliverer would soon come, he always laid that arm over my shoulders. The first time I knelt there after I was known, he said:
“Ah, you are such a great lady, and do not mind a poor soldier laying his arm over you!”
“Christ, the great Captain of our Salvation,” I replied, “gathers you in his arms and pillows your head upon his bosom. Am I greater than he? Your good right arm has fought for liberty, and it is an honor to support it, when you are no longer able.”
But nothing else I could ever say to him, was so much comfort as the old cry of the sufferer by the wayside, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.”
Over and over again we said that prayer in concert, while he waited in agony for the only relief possible—that of death; and from our last interview I returned to the bad ward, so sad that I felt the shadow of my face fall upon every man in it. I could not drive away death’s gloom; but I could work and talk, and both work and talk were needed.
I sat down between two young Irishmen, both with wounded heads, and began to bathe them, and comfort them, and said:
“If you are not better in the morning, I shall amputate both those heads; they shall not plague you in this manner another day.”
Maybe my sad face made this funny, for their sense of the ridiculous was so touched that they clasped their sore heads and shrieked with laughter. Every man in the ward caught the infection, and I was called upon for explanations of the art of amputating heads, and inquiries as to Surgeon Baxter’s capacity of performing the operation.
This grotesque idea proved a fruitful subject of conversation, and aided in leading sufferers away from useless sorrow, toward hope and health; and bad as the ward was we lost but two men in it.
In that sad ward one superior, intelligent young man, who was thought to be doing well, suddenly burst an artery, and ropes were put up to warn visitors and others not to come in, and we who were in, moved with bated breath lest some motion should start the life-current. While his last hope was on a stillness which forbade him to move a finger, two lady visitors came to the door, were forbidden to enter, but seeing me inside, must follow the sheep instinct of the sex, and go where any other woman had gone. So, with pert words, they forced their way in, made a general flutter, and, oh horror! one of them caught her hoops on the iron cot of the dying man. He was only saved from a severe jerk by the prompt intervention of the special nurse. They were led out as quietly as possible, but the man had received a slight jerk and a serious shock. The hemorrhage would probably have returned if they had not come in, but it did return, and the young, strong life ebbed steadily away in a crimson current which spread over the floor.