I found in my visit to those men that some orderlies needed some one to keep them in order, and that a helpless man is not always sure his servant will serve him. Often the orderlies themselves were powerless, and those men would have suffered if I had not cared for them. More than once some of them said: “I wish, mother, we were back with you in the Old Theater?”
There was a captain whose stump I must fix every night before he could sleep, and when his wife came I tried to teach her, but she was so much afraid of hurting him she could do nothing. I learned in time that officers quartered in private houses, even with the greater comforts they had, often suffered more than the men in all their privations. Mrs. Barlow came for me to see one given up to die, and I found him in a large handsome room, on the first floor of an elegant residence, absolutely hopeless, but for years have not been able to recall the trouble in his case.
It must have been easy to set right, for he began at once to recover, and I felt that people had been very stupid, and that there was an unreasonable amount of wonder and gratitude over whatever it was I did. It was often so easy to save a life, where there were the means of living, that a little courage or common sense seemed like a miraculous gift to people whose mental powers had been turned in other directions.
But I found another side to looking after officers in private quarters. One evening after dark, Georgia called to tell me of a dreadful case of suffering which a surgeon wished her to see. He was there to accompany her, but she declined going without me, and I went along, walking close behind them, as the pavement was narrow. He did not seem to notice that I was there, was troubled with the weight of his diploma and shoulderstraps, and talked very patronizingly to the lady at his side, until she turned, and said to me:
“Do you hear that?”
“Oh, yes,” I replied, “and feel very grateful to the young man for his permission to do the work he is paid for doing, but if he had reserved his patronage until some one had asked for it, it would have had more weight.”
“Your friend is sarcastic,” was his reply to her; and I said no more until we reached the case of great distress, which was on the second floor of a vacant house, and proved to be a colonel in uniform, seated in an easy chair, smoking, while his orderly sat in another chair, oil the other side of the room.
Georgie stood looking from one man to the other in speechless surprise; but I spoke to the man in the chair, saying:
“How is it, sir, that you, an officer, in need of nothing, have trespassed upon our time and strength, when you know that men are dying by hundreds for want of care?”
He began to apologize and explain, but I said to Georgie:
“Come, Miss Willets, we are not needed here.”
As we passed from the room, the surgeon took his cap to accompany us, when I stopped, made a gesture, and said: