“That is because you have had your head rolled up in that sheet. Just keep your head uncovered, so you can breathe this nice, fresh air; open your eyes every little while, and you will see a whole row of those women, all hunting work!”
He seemed quite interested, and when I had done washing and given directions to a nurse to cleanse the balance of his person, I asked if there was anything more I could do for him, when he stammered:
“Not unless you could get me a cup of tea—a cup of good green tea, ’thout any milk or sugar in it. If you do, I’ll pay you for it.”
“Pay me for it, will you? and how much will you give me—three cents?”
“Oh, I’ll give you twenty-five cents.”
“Twenty-five cents for a cup of good green tea, without any milk or sugar in it!”
I called the ward to witness the bargain, said I should grow rich at that rate, and hurried off for the tea.
I had a little silver tray and tea-set, with two china cups. Mrs. Gangewer, of the Ohio Aid Society, had sent me a tin tea-kettle and spirit-lamp; folks at a distance had sent plenty of the best tea; and that little tea-tray had become a prominent feature of Campbell long before this poor fellow specified his want. I made the tray unusually attractive that day, and fed him his tea from a spoon, while he admired the tiny pot, out of which, with the aid of the kettle, I could furnish twenty cups of good tea. When I had served all in that ward who wanted tea, the first one took a second cup, and while taking it his skin grew moist, and I knew he was saved from that death of misplaced matter vulgarly called “dirt,” to which well-paid medical inspectors had consigned him, while giving their invaluable scientific attention to floor-scrubbing and bed-making, to whitewashing and laundry-work.
I doubt if there were a Medical Inspector in the army who was not a first rate judge of the art of folding and ironing a sheet or pillow-slip; of the particular tuck which brought out the outlines of the corners of a mattress, as seen through a counterpane; and of the art and mystery of cleaning a floor. It did seem as if they had all reached office through their great proficiency as cabin-boys.
Next day I went to that ward with my tea-tray; and after learning that that man had been washed once more, asked him if he wanted another cup of tea.
“I’d like to have one,” he stammered; “but I didn’t pay you for the last one, and I can’t find my wallet!”
I saw the debt troubled him, and took this as one more evidence that somewhere there were people who sold hospital stores to sick soldiers. So I took pains to explain that he owed me nothing; that the tea was his—ladies had sent it to me to give to him—and all the pay they wanted was for him to get well, and go home to his mother.
The idea that some one was thinking for him seemed to do him almost as much good as the tea.