Half a Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 294 pages of information about Half a Century.

The proportion of thigh stumps saved, was the test of a hospital’s success; and the summer I was in Campbell, we saved nineteen out of twenty; next summer Chaplain Gaylord told me they lost nineteen in twenty, and added:  “Piemia has literally swept our wards.”

CHAPTER LXV.

LIFE AND DEATH.

When released from the hospital, I had neither money nor clothes, and this is all the account I can render to the generous people who sent me hospital stores.  I could not answer their letters.  Some of them I never read.  I could only give up my life to distributing their bounty, and knew that neither their money nor my own had remained in my hands when it was necessary for me to borrow two dollars to get a dress.  My cloth traveling suit was no longer fit for use, and my platform suit too good.  These were all I had brought to Washington; but the best men never refused me audience because I wore a shaker bonnet, a black lawn skirt and gray linen sack.  Some thought I dressed in that way to be odd, but it was all I could afford.

The Quarter-Master-General had canceled my appointment, because I had not reported for duty, but Secretary Stanton reinstated me, and I went to work on the largest salary I had ever received—­fifty dollars a month.  After some time it was raised to sixty, and I was more than independent; but my health was so broken that half a dozen doctors commanded me to lie on my back for a month, and I spent every moment I could in that position.

I had grown hysterical, and twice while at work in the office, broke out into passionate weeping, while thinking of something in my hospital experience, something I had borne, when it occurred, without a tear, or even without feeling a desire to weep.

In September I had twenty days’ leave of absence to go to St. Cloud, settle my business and bring my household gods.  There were still no railroads in Minnesota, and I was six days going, must have six to return, and one to visit friends at Pittsburg, yet in the time left, sold The Democrat, closed my home, and met Gen. Lowrie for the first and last time.

He called and we spent an hour talking, principally of the war, which he thought would result in two separate governments.  His reason seemed to be entirely restored; but his prestige, power, wealth and health were gone.  I tried to avoid all personal matters, as well as reference to our quarrel, but he broke into the conversation to say: 

“I am the only person who ever understood you.  People now think you go into hospitals from a sense of duty; from benevolence, like those good people who expect to get to heaven by doing disagreeable things on earth; but I know you go because you must; go for your own pleasure; you do not care for heaven or anything else, but yourself.”  He stopped, looked down, traced the pattern of the carpet with the point of his cane, then raised his head and continued:  “You take care of the sick and wounded, go into all those dreadful places just as I used to drink brandy—­for sake of the exhilaration it brings you.”

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Half a Century from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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