We shook hands on parting, and from our inmost hearts, I am sure, wished each other well. I was more than ever impressed by the genuine greatness of the man, who had been degraded by the use of irresponsible power.
We reached Washington in good time, and I soon realized the great advantage of rest. Six hours of office work came so near nothing to do, that had I been in usual health I should probably have raised some disturbance from sheer idleness; but I learned by and by that the close attention demanded to avoid mistakes, could not well have been continued longer.
Several ladies continued distributing hospital stores for me all that fall and winter, and next spring I still had some to send out. When able I went myself, and in Carver found a man who had been wounded in a cavalry charge, said to have been as desperate as that of “the Light Brigade;” and who refused to take anything from me, because he had “seen enough of these people who go around hospitals pretending to take care of wounded soldiers.”
I convinced him it was his duty to take the jelly in order to prevent my stealing it. Also, that it was for my interest to save his life, that I might not have to pay my share of the cost of burying him and getting a man in his place. Nay, that it was my duty to get him back into the saddle as fast as possible, that my government need not pay him for lying abed. He liked this view of the case, and not only took what I offered him, but next time I went asked for Jefferson-tie shoes to support his foot, and when I brought them said he would be ready for duty in a week.
In Judiciary Square, a surgeon asked me to give a jar of currant jelly to a man in Ward Six, who was fatally wounded.
I found the man, those in the neighboring cots and the nurse, all very sad, talked to him a few moments, and said:
“You think you are going to die!”
“That is what they all say I must do!”
“Well, I say you are not going to do anything of the kind!”
“Oh! I guess I am!”
“Not unless you have made up your mind to it, and are quite determined. Those hip wounds kill a great many men, because folks do not know how to manage them, and because the men are easy to kill; but it takes a good deal to kill a young man with a good conscience, who has never drank liquor or used tobacco; who has muscle like yours, a red beard and blue gray eyes.”
I summoned both his day and night nurse, told all three together of the surgical trap-door that old Mother Nature wanted made and kept open, clear up to the center of that wound. The surgeon would always make one if the patient wanted it. I told them about the warmth and nourishment and care needed, and left him and them full of hope and resolution.
Next time I was in Judiciary, a young man on crutches accosted me, saying:
“Were not you in Ward Six, about six weeks ago?”