Surgeons could do little without soiling their uniforms, but my dress had long been past soiling or spoiling; my old kid slippers without heels, could be slid, with the feet in them, quite under a man, and as I stepped sideways across them, they took care that my soft dress did not catch on their buttons. When I sat on one heel to bathe a hot face, give a drink or dress a wound, some man took hold of me with his well hand and steadied me, while another held my basin. I had half of an old knapsack to put under a wound, keep the floor dry and catch the worms when I drove them out—and no twenty early birds ever captured so many in the same length of time. I became so eager in the pursuit that I kept it up by candle-light, until late midnight, when I started to go to my stateroom.
Entering the cabin, I came upon a social party, the like of which I trust no one else will ever see. On the sofas sat those seven lady nurses, each with the arm of an officer around her waist, in full view of the wounded men on the floor, some of whom must go from that low bed, to one still lower—even down under the daisies.
I stopped, uttered some exclamation, then stood in speechless surprise. Three surgeons released the ladies they were holding, came forward and inquired if there was anything wanted. I might have replied that men and women were wanted, but think I said nothing. When I reached my room I found in the berth a woman who raised up and said:
“The stewardess told me this was your room; will you let me stay with you?”
She was another Georgie—young, calm, strong, refined, was Miss Gray of Columbia Hospital, and staid with me through a long hard trial, in which she proved that her price was above rubies.
Next morning I found on one of the guards, young Johnson, the son of an old Wilkinsburg schoolmate. Hoped I had so checked the decay and final destroyers which had already taken hold of him, that he might live. Wrote to his people, and saw him at noon transferred with the other patients, the surgeons and stylish lady nurses, to a large hospital boat; when Miss Gray and I returned in the transport to Fredericksburg.
TAKE FINAL LEAVE OF FREDERICKSBURG.
I cannot remember if our boat lay at the Fredericksburg wharf one day or two; but she might start any moment, and those who went ashore took the risk of being left, as this was the last boat. The evacuation was almost complete, and we waited the result of expeditions to gather up our wounded from field hospitals at the front. We were liable to attack at any moment, and were protected by a gunboat which lay close along side.