After we had strolled through several sumptuous apartments, we were taken out into the adjoining square, where there were large barracks as white as lime and brushes could make them, and making a pretty picture among the trees. Inside, the walls were white as on the outside, and the pictures already up, as well as those just being put up, were bright as bright could be. Indeed. I do not know how pictures could have been greener or bluer or yellower or redder, and when the show-off man called my attention to them, as calculated to make the place cheerful; I recognized their merit, but suggested that some paper blinds might be desirable to keep the sun from shining into the faces of the men who lay on the cots.
The roof or walls did not seem well calculated to keep out wind or rain, but paper blinds would ward off sunshine. From the condition of the floor, it was evident that the demon of the scrubbing brush, which has possession of all model institutions, had full sway in Douglas barracks. Pine boards could not well have been made whiter. No laundry man need have feared to own to the doing up of the bed linen and counterpanes, and science had not discovered any mode of making a bed look more like a packing box, than those in that model hospital.
What an impertinence a sick or wounded man was, in one of those nice, square beds. He was almost certain to muss and toss it, and this must have been a crowning calamity.
After the showman had shown all he cared to have me see. I sat talking with the man I had come to visit, and he said, in a whisper:
“Are there lice in all the hospitals?”
“Lice? Why, certainly not.” “Well, there are plenty of them here, and they tell us they cannot be helped—that they have them in all the hospitals. Look here!”
He turned down the nice counterpane, and there, in the blanket, the disgusting creatures swarmed. I was shocked, and half rose, in the impulse to make an outcry, but he warned me not to let any one know he had told me, or it would be bad for him. I asked why he did not tell the surgeon.
“He knows all about them, and says they cannot be helped.”
“You have Sisters of Charity here; tell them.”
“Oh, they never do anything in the ward but walk around and talk nice, and pray with men who are going to die. They must know about them.”
I walked around alone, and the show-man did not seem to like it, but I talked with the men in the cots, put my hand under the cover, found feet encrusted with the exudations of fever, until they were hard and dry as a bit of kindling wood; hair full of dust from the battle-field, and not one man who had been washed since being carried away from it; while there were vermin in every bed.
The ward-master objected to my leaving a jar of jelly with my friend. It would spoil the good order of the ward, and all delicacies were to be given into the care of the Sisters. I found one of them who was quite willing to take charge of anything I wished to leave, but was powerless in the matter of vermin. It was the ward master’s business to attend to that. It was the business of the Sisters to look after the clothing when it came from the laundry, put it in order, and give it out when wanted.