I thought it would soon be over; but no sooner had this one finished than the next fell to, and gave us a prayer with more of those sobs made by hard inhalation than his predecessor, and a good deal more brimstone. No sooner had he relieved his mind than a third threw back his head to begin, and I spoke, quietly as possible; begged they would let the lieutenant sleep; told them that down in the old theater was a man in a back room, alone and dying. I had tried to get some one to sit with him and pray with him, and hoped one or two of them would go to him at once, as every moment might make it too late. A man was also dying in the engine-house, who ought to have some Christian friend with him as he crossed the dark valley.
They listened impatiently; then the man whose turn it was to ventilate his eloquence, pushed his sleeves up to the elbows, rubbed his hands as if about to lift some heavy weight, and exclaimed:
“Yes, sister! Yes. We’ll attend to them; but, first, let us get through with this case!”
Then he went to work and ladled out groans, sobs and blue blazes. The other three followed suit, and when they had all had a good time on their knees, each one gave a short oration, and when they got through I reminded them again of the two dying men; but like the undutiful son, they said, “I go! and went not!”
It was two of the six whom I met next morning, and asked to go to the relief of those poor patients, who promised and went not.
GET OUT OF THE OLD THEATER.
I do not know how long I was in charge of the old theater, but remember talking to some one of having been there ten days, and things looking as usual. It was after the change of base, that one afternoon I got eight hopeful cases sent to the General Hospital, where they would have beds. That night about ten o’clock the vidette halted a man, who explained that he was surgeon in charge of that institution, and when he got leave to go on, I caught him by the lapel of his coat, and said:
“If you are Surgeon—what is the reason that the eight men I sent you this afternoon had had no supper at nine o’clock?”
He promised to attend to them before he slept, and on that we parted. Soon after this, Dr. Childs, of Philadelphia, and a regular army surgeon, came to the old theater, hung their coats and official dignity, if they had any, on the wall—never said a word about the rubbish in the hall, but fastened up their sleeves and went to work. When they came, I felt as if I could not take another step, went to my room and lay down, thinking of Raphael’s useless angels leaning their baby arms on a cloud. My angels wore beards, and had their sleeves turned up like farm laborers, as they lifted men out of the depths of despair into the light and warmth of human help and human sympathy.
In sending the men away, they sent the amputation cases and George to the church, and sent for me to go to them there.