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    Chapter 5

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    Chapter 5
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    CHAPTER V: OFF DUTY.

    "My dear girl, we shall have you sick in your bed, unless you
    keep yourself warm and quiet for a few days. Widow Wadman can
    take care of the ward alone, now the men are so comfortable, and
    have her vacation when you are about again. Now do be prudent in
    time, and don't let me have to add a Periwinkle to my bouquet of
    patients."

    This advice was delivered, in a paternal manner, by the youngest
    surgeon in the hospital, a kind-hearted little gentleman, who
    seemed to consider me a frail young blossom, that needed much
    cherishing, instead of a tough old spinster, who had been
    knocking about the world for thirty years. At the time I write
    of, he discovered me sitting on the stairs, with a nice cloud of
    unwholesome steam rising from the washroom; a party of January
    breezes disporting themselves in the halls; and perfumes, by no
    means from "Araby the blest," keeping them company; while I
    enjoyed a fit of coughing, which caused my head to spin in a way
    that made the application of a cool banister both necessary and
    agreeable, as I waited for the frolicsome wind to restore the
    breath I'd lost; cheering myself, meantime, with a secret
    conviction that pneumonia was waiting for me round the corner.
    This piece of advice had been offered by several persons for a
    week, and refused by me with the obstinacy with which my sex is
    so richly gifted. But the last few hours had developed several
    surprising internal and external phenomena, which impressed upon
    me the fact that if I didn't make a masterly retreat very soon, I
    should tumble down somewhere, and have to be borne ignominiously
    from the field. My head felt like a cannon ball; my feet had a
    tendency to cleave to the floor; the walls at times undulated in
    a most disagreeable manner; people looked unnaturally big; and
    the "very bottles on the mankle shelf" appeared to dance
    derisively before my eyes. Taking these things into
    consideration. while blinking stupidly at Dr. Z., I resolved to
    retire gracefully, if I must; so, with a valedictory to my boys,
    a private lecture to Mrs. Wadman, and a fervent wish that I could
    take off my body and work in my soul, I mournfully ascended to my
    apartment, and Nurse P was reported off duty.

    For the benefit of any ardent damsel whose patriotic fancy may
    have surrounded hospital life with a halo of charms, I will
    briefly describe the bower to which I retired, in a somewhat
    ruinous condition. It was well ventilated, for five panes of
    glass had suffered compound fractures, which all the surgeons and
    nurses had failed to heal; the two windows were draped with
    sheets, the church hospital opposite being a brick and mortar
    Argus, and the female mind cherishing a prejudice in favor of
    retiracy during the night-capped periods of existence. A bare
    floor supported two narrow iron beds, spread with thin mattresses
    like plasters, furnished with pillows in the last stages of
    consumption. In a fire place, guiltless of shovel, tongs,
    andirons, or grate, burned a log inch by inch, being too long to
    to go on all at once; so, while the fire blazed away at one end,
    I did the same at the other, as I tripped over it a dozen times a
    day, and flew up to poke it a dozen times at night. A mirror (let
    us be elegant !) of the dimensions of a muffin, and about as
    reflective, hung over a tin basin, blue pitcher, and a brace of
    yellow mugs. Two invalid tables, ditto chairs, wandered here and
    there, and the closet contained a varied collection of bonnets,
    bottles, bags, boots, bread and butter, boxes and bugs. The
    closet was a regular Blue Beard cupboard to me; I always opened
    it with fear and trembling, owing to rats, and shut it in anguish
    of spirit; for time and space were not to be had, and chaos
    reigned along with the rats. Our chimney-piece was decorated with
    a flat-iron, a Bible, a candle minus stick, a lavender bottle, a
    new tin pan, so brilliant that it served nicely for a pier-glass,
    and such of the portly black bugs as preferred a warmer climate
    than the rubbish hole afforded. Two arks, commonly called trunks,
    lurked behind the door, containing the worldly goods of the twain
    who laughed and cried, slept and scrambled, in this refuge; while
    from the white-washed walls above either bed, looked down the
    pictured faces of those whose memory can make for us--

    "One little room an everywhere."

    For a day or two I managed to appear at meals; for the human grub
    must eat till the butterfly is ready to break loose, and no one
    had time to come up two flights while it was possible for me to
    come down. Far be it from me to add another affliction or
    reproach to that enduring man, the steward; for, compared with
    his predecessor, he was a horn of plenty; but--I put it to any
    candid mind--is not the following bill of fare susceptible of
    improvement, without plunging the nation madly into debt? The
    three meals were "pretty much of a muchness," and consisted of
    beef, evidently put down for the men of '76; pork, just in from
    the street; army bread, composed of saw-dust and saleratus;
    butter, salt as if churned by Lot's wife; stewed blackberries, so
    much like preserved cockroaches, that only those devoid of
    imagination could partake thereof with relish; coffee, mild and
    muddy; tea, three dried huckleberry leaves to a quart of
    water--flavored with lime--also animated and unconscious of any
    approach to clearness. Variety being the spice of life, a small
    pinch of the article would have been appreciated by the hungry,
    hard-working sisterhood, one of whom, though accustomed to plain
    fare, soon found herself reduced to bread and water; having an
    inborn repugnance to the fat of the land, and the salt of the
    earth.

    Another peculiarity of these hospital meals was the rapidity with
    which the edibles vanished, and the impossibility of getting a
    drop or crumb after the usual time. At the first ring of the
    bell, a general stampede took place; some twenty hungry souls
    rushed to the dining-room, swept over the table like a swarm of
    locusts, and left no fragment for any tardy creature who arrived
    fifteen minutes late. Thinking it of more importance that the
    patients should be well and comfortably fed, I took my time about
    my own meals for the first day or two after I came, but was
    speedily enlightened by Isaac, the black waiter, who bore with me
    a few times, and then informed me, looking as stern as fate:

    "I say, mam, ef you comes so late you can't have no
    vittles,--'cause I'm 'bleeged fer ter git things ready fer de
    doctors 'mazin' spry arter you nusses and folks is done. De
    gen'lemen don't kere fer ter wait, no more does I; so you jes'
    please ter come at de time, and dere won't be no frettin'
    nowheres."

    It was a new sensation to stand looking at a full table,
    painfully conscious of one of the vacuums which Nature abhors,
    and receive orders to right about face, without partaking of the
    nourishment which your inner woman clamorously demanded. The
    doctors always fared better than we; and for a moment a desperate
    impulse prompted me to give them a hint, by walking off with the
    mutton, or confiscating the pie. But Ike's eye was on me, and, to
    my shame be it spoken, I walked meekly away; went dinnerless that
    day, and that evening went to market, laying in a small stock of
    crackers, cheese and apples, that my boys might not be neglected,
    nor myself obliged to bolt solid and liquid dyspepsias, or
    starve. This plan would have succeeded admirably had not the evil
    star under which I was born, been in the ascendant during that
    month, and cast its malign influences even into my " 'umble "
    larder; for the rats had their dessert off my cheese, the bugs
    set up housekeeping in my cracker bag, and the apples like all
    worldly riches, took to themselves wings and flew away; whither
    no man could tell, though certain black imps might have thrown
    light upon the matter, had not the plaintiff in the case been
    loth to add another to the many trials of long-suffering.
    Africa. After this failure I resigned myself to fate, and,
    remembering that bread was called the staff of life, leaned
    pretty exclusively upon it; but it proved a broken reed, and I
    came to the ground after a few weeks of prison fare, varied by an
    occasional potato or surreptitious sip of milk.

    Very soon after leaving the care of my ward, I discovered that I
    had no appetite, and cut the bread and butter interests almost
    entirely, trying the exercise and sun cure instead. Flattering
    myself that I had plenty of time, and could see all that was to
    be seen, so far as a lone lorn female could venture in a city,
    one-half of whose male population seemed to be taking the other
    half to the guard-house,--every morning I took a brisk run in one
    direction or another; for the January days were as mild as
    Spring. A rollicking north wind and occasional snow storm would
    have been more to my taste, for the one would have braced and
    refreshed tired body and soul, the other have purified the air,
    and spread a clean coverlid over the bed, wherein the capital of
    these United States appeared to be dozing pretty soundly just
    then.

    One of these trips was to the Armory Hospital, the neatness,
    comfort, and convenience of which makes it an honor to its
    presiding genius, and arouses all the covetous propensities of
    such nurses as came from other hospitals to visit it.

    The long, clean, warm, and airy wards, built barrack-fashion,
    with the nurse's room at the end, were fully appreciated by Nurse
    Periwinkle, whose ward and private bower were cold, dirty,
    inconvenient, up stairs and down stairs, and in every body's
    chamber. At the Armory, in ward K, I found a cheery, bright-eyed,
    white-aproned little lady, reading at her post near the stove;
    matting under her feet; a draft of fresh air flowing in above her
    head; a table full of trays, glasses, and such matters, on one
    side, a large, well-stocked medicine chest on the other; and all
    her duty seemed to be going about now and then to give doses,
    issue orders, which well-trained attendants executed, and pet,
    advise, or comfort Tom, Dick, or Harry, as she found best. As I
    watched the proceedings, I recalled my own tribulations, and
    contrasted the two hospitals in a way that would have caused my
    summary dismissal, could it have been reported at headquarters.
    Here, order, method, common sense and liberality reigned and
    ruled, in a style that did one's heart good to see; at the Hurly
    burly Hotel, disorder, discomfort, bad management, and no visible
    head, reduced things to a condition which I despair of
    describing. The circumlocution fashion prevailed, forms and
    fusses tormented our souls, and unnecessary strictness in one
    place was counterbalanced by unpardonable laxity in another. Here
    is a sample: I am dressing Sam Dammer's shoulder; and, having
    cleansed the wound, look about for some strips of adhesive
    plaster to hold on the little square of wet linen which is to
    cover the gunshot wound; the case is not in the tray; Frank, the
    sleepy, half-sick attendant, knows nothing of it; we rummage high
    and low; Sam is tired, and fumes; Frank dawdles and yawns; the
    men advise and laugh at the flurry; I feel like a boiling tea-
    kettle, with the lid ready to fly off and damage somebody.

    "Go and borrow some from the next ward, and spend the rest of the
    day in finding ours," I finally command. A pause; then Frank
    scuffles back with the message: "Miss Peppercorn ain't got none,
    and says you ain't no business to lose your own duds and go
    borrowin' other folkses;." I say nothing, for fear of saying too
    much, but fly to the surgery. Mr. Toddypestle informs me that I
    can't have anything without an order from the surgeon of my ward.
    Great heavens! where is he? and away I rush, up and down, here
    and there, till at last I find him, in a state of bliss over a
    complicated amputation, in the fourth story. I make my demand; be
    answers: "In five minutes," and works away, with his head upside
    down, as he ties an artery, saws a bone, or does a little needle-
    work, with a visible relish and very sanguinary pair of hands.
    The five minutes grow to fifteen, and Frank appears, with the
    remark that, "Dammer wants to know what in thunder you are
    keeping him there with his finger on a wet rag for?" Dr. P. tears
    himself away long enough to scribble the order, with which I
    plunge downward to the surgery again, find the door locked, and,
    while hammering away on it, am told that two friends are waiting
    to see me in the hall. The matron being away, her parlor is
    locked, and there is nowhere to see my guests but in my own room,
    and no time to enjoy them till the plaster is found. I settle
    this matter, and circulate through the house to find Toddypestle,
    who has no right, to leave the surgery till night. He is
    discovered in the dead house, smoking a cigar; and very much the
    worse for his researches among the spirituous preparations that
    fill the surgery shelves. He is inclined to be gallant, and puts
    the finishing blow to the fire of my wrath; for the tea-kettle
    lid flies off, and driving him before me to his post, I fling
    down the order, take what I choose; and, leaving the absurd
    incapable kissing his hand to me, depart, feeling, as Grandma
    Riglesty is reported to have done, when she vainly sought for
    chips, in Bimleck Jackwood's "shifless paster."

    I find Dammer a well acted charade of his own name, and, just as
    I get him done, struggling the while with a burning desire to
    clap an adhesive strip across his mouth, full of heaven-defying
    oaths, Frank takes up his boot to put it on, and exclaims:

    "I'm blest ef here ain't that case now! I recollect seeing it
    pitch in this mornin', but forgot all about it, till my heel went
    smash inter it. Here, ma'am, ketch hold on it, and give the boys
    a sheet on't all round, 'gainst it tumbles inter t'other boot
    next time yer want it."

    If a look could annihilate, Francis Saucebox would have ceased to
    exist; but it couldn't; therefore, he yet lives, to aggravate
    some unhappy woman's soul, and wax fat in some equally congenial
    situation.

    Now, while I'm freeing my mind, I should like to enter my protest
    against employing convalescents as attendants, instead of strong,
    properly trained, and cheerful men. How it may be in other places
    I cannot say; but here it was a source of constant trouble and
    confusion, these feeble, ignorant men trying to sweep, scrub,
    lift, and wait upon their sicker comrades. One, with a diseased
    heart, was expected to run up and down stairs, carry heavy trays,
    and move helpless men; he tried it, and grew rapidly worse than
    when he first came: and, when he was ordered out to march away to
    the convalescent hospital, fell, in a sort of fit, before he
    turned the corner, and was brought back to die. Another, hurt by
    a fall from his horse, endeavored to do his duty, but failed
    entirely, and the wrath of the ward master fell upon the nurse,
    who must either scrub the rooms herself, or take the lecture; for
    the boy looked stout and well, and the master never happened to
    see him turn white with pain, or hear him groan in his sleep when
    an involuntary. motion strained his poor back. Constant
    complaints were being made of incompetent attendants, and some
    dozen women did double duty, and then were blamed for breaking
    down. If any hospital director fancies this a good and economical
    arrangement, allow one used up nurse to tell him it isn't, and
    beg him to spare the sisterhood, who sometimes, in their
    sympathy, forget that they are mortal, and run the risk of being
    made immortal, sooner than is agreeable to their partial friends.

    Another of my few rambles took me to the Senate Chamber, hoping
    to hear and see if this large machine was run any better than
    some small ones I knew of. I was too late, and found the
    Speaker's chair occupied by a colored gentleman of ten; while two
    others were "on their legs," having a hot debate on the cornball
    question, as they gathered the waste paper strewn about the floor
    into bags; and several white members played leap-frog over the
    desks, a much wholesomer relaxation than some of the older
    Senators indulge in, I fancy. Finding the coast clear, I likewise
    gambolled up and down, from gallery to gallery; sat in Sumner's
    chair. and cudgelled an imaginary Brooks within an inch of his
    life; examined Wilson's books in the coolest possible manner;
    warmed my feet at one of the national registers; read people's
    names on scattered envelopes, and pocketed a castaway autograph
    or two; watched the somewhat unparliamentary proceedings going on
    about me, and wondered who in the world all the sedate gentlemen
    were, who kept popping out of odd doors here and there, like
    respectable Jacks-in-the-box. Then I wandered over the "palatial
    residence" of Mrs. Columbia, and examined its many beauties,
    though I can't say I thought her a tidy housekeeper, and didn't
    admire her taste in pictures, for the eye of this humble
    individual soon wearied of expiring patriots, who all appeared to
    be quitting their earthly tabernacles in convulsions, ruffled
    shirts, and a whirl of torn banners, bomb shells, and buff and
    blue arms and legs. The statuary also was massive and concrete,
    but rather wearying to examine; for the colossal ladies and
    gentlemen, carried no cards of introduction in face or figure;
    so, whether the meditative party in a kilt, with well-developed
    legs, shoes like army slippers, and a ponderous nose, was
    Columbus, Cato, or Cockelorum Tibby, the tragedian, was more than
    I could tell. Several robust ladies attracted me; but which was
    America and which Pocahontas was a mystery; for all affected much
    looseness of costume, dishevelment of hair, swords, arrows,
    lances, scales, and other ornaments quite passe with damsels of
    our day, whose effigies should go down to posterity armed with
    fans, crochet needles, riding whips, and parasols, with here and
    there one holding pen or pencil, rolling-pin or broom. The statue
    of Liberty I recognized at once, for it had no pedestal as yet,
    but stood flat in the mud, with Young America most symbollically
    making dirt pies, and chip forts, in its shadow. But high above
    the squabbling little throng and their petty plans, the sun shone
    full on Liberty's broad forehead, and, in her hand, some summer
    bird had built its nest. I accepted the good omen then, and, on
    the first of January, the Emancipation Act gave the statue a
    nobler and more enduring pedestal than any marble or granite ever
    carved and quarried by human bands.

    One trip to Georgetown Heights, where cedars sighed overhead,
    dead leaves rustled underfoot, pleasant paths led up and down,
    and a brook wound like a silver snake by the blackened ruins of
    some French Minister's house, through the poor gardens of the
    black washerwomen who congregated there, and, passing the
    cemetery with a murmurous lullaby, rolled away to pay its little
    tribute to the river. This breezy run was the last I took; for,
    on the morrow, came rain and wind: and confinement soon proved a
    powerful reinforcement to the enemy, who was quietly preparing to
    spring a mine, and blow me five hundred miles from the position I
    had taken in what I called my Chickahominy Swamp.

    Shut up in my room, with no voice, spirits, or books, that week
    was not a holiday, by any means. Finding meals a humbug, I
    stopped away altogether, trusting that if this sparrow was of any
    worth, the Lord would not let it fall to the ground. Like a flock
    of friendly ravens, my sister nurses fed me, not only with food
    for the body, but kind words for the mind; and soon, from being
    half starved, I found myself so beteaed and betoasted, petted and
    served, that I was quite "in the lap of luxury," in spite of
    cough, headache, a painful consciousness of my pleura, and a
    realizing sense of bones in the human frame. From the pleasant
    house on the hill, the home in the heart of Washington, and the
    Willard caravansary, came friends new and old, with bottles,
    baskets, carriages and invitations for the invalid; and daily our
    Florence Nightingale climbed the steep stairs, stealing a moment
    from her busy life, to watch over the stranger, of whom she was
    as thoughtfully tender as any mother. Long may she wave! Whatever
    others may think or say, Nurse Periwinkle is forever grateful;
    and among her relics of that Washington defeat, none is more
    valued than the little book which appeared on her pillow, one
    dreary day; for the D D. written in it means to her far more than
    Doctor of Divinity.

    Being forbidden to meddle with fleshly arms and legs, I solaced
    myself by mending cotton ones, and, as I sat sewing at my window,
    watched the moving panorama that passed below; amusing myself
    with taking notes of the most striking figures in it. Long trains
    of army wagons kept up a perpetual rumble from morning till
    night; ambulances rattled to and fro with busy surgeons, nurses
    taking an airing, or convalescents going in parties to be fitted
    to artificial limbs. Strings of sorry looking horses passed,
    saying as plainly as dumb creatures could, "Why, in a city full
    of them, is there no horsepital for us?" Often a cart came by,
    with several rough coffins in it and no mourners following;
    baroucbes, with invalid officers, rolled round the corner, and
    carriage loads of pretty children, with black coachmen, footmen,
    and maids. The women who took their walks abroad, were so
    extinguished in three story bonnets, with overhanging balconies of
    flowers, that their charms were obscured; and all I can say of
    them is that they dressed in the worst possible taste, and walked
    like ducks.

    The men did the picturesque, and did it so well that Washington
    looked like a mammoth masquerade. Spanish hats, scarlet lined
    riding cloaks, swords and sashes, high boots and bright spurs,
    beards and mustaches, which made plain faces comely, and comely
    faces heroic; these vanities of the flesh transformed our
    butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers into gallant riders of
    gaily caparisoned horses, much handsomer than themselves; and
    dozens of such figures were constantly prancing by, with private
    prickings of spurs, for the benefit of the perambulating flower-
    bed. Some of these gentlemen affected painfully tight uniforms,
    and little caps, kept on by some new law of gravitation, as they
    covered only the bridge of the nose, yet never fell off; the men
    looked like stuffed fowls, and rode as if the safety of the
    nation depended on their speed alone. The fattest, greyest
    officers dressed most, and ambled statelily along, with orderlies
    behind, trying to look as if they didn't know the stout party in
    front, and doing much caracoling on their own account.

    The mules were my especial delight; and an hour's study of a
    constant succession of them introduced me to many of their
    characteristics; for six of these odd little beasts drew each
    army wagon, and went hopping like frogs through the stream of mud
    that gently rolled along the street. The coquettish mule had
    small feet, a nicely trimmed tassel of a tail, perked up ears,
    and seemed much given to little tosses of the head, affected
    skips and prances; and, if he wore the bells, or were bedizzened
    with a bit of finery, put on as many airs as any belle. The moral
    mule was a stout, hard-working creature, always tugging with all
    his might; often pulling away after the rest had stopped,
    laboring under the conscientious delusion that food for the
    entire army depended upon his private exertions. I respected this
    style of mule; and had I possessed a juicy cabbage, would have
    pressed it upon him, with thanks for his excellent example. The
    historical mule was a melo-dramatic quadruped, prone to startling
    humanity by erratic leaps, and wild plunges, much shaking of his
    stubborn head, and lashing out of his vicious heels; now and then
    falling flat and apparently dying a la Forrest: a gasp--a
    squirm--a flop, and so on, till the street was well blocked up,
    the drivers all swearing like demons in bad hats, and the chief
    actor's circulation decidedly quickened by every variety of kick,
    cuff jerk, and haul. When the last breath seemed to have left his
    body, and "Doctors were in vain," a sudden resurrection took
    place; and if ever a mule laughed with scornful triumph, that was
    the beast, as he leisurely rose, gave a comfortable shake, and
    calmly regarding the excited crowd seemed to say--"A hit! a
    decided hit! for the stupidest of animals has bamboozled a dozen
    men. Now, then! what are you stopping the way for?" The pathetic
    mule was, perhaps, the most interesting of all; for, though he
    always seemed to be the smallest, thinnest, weakest of the six,
    the postillion, with big boots, long-tailed coat, and heavy whip,
    was sure to bestride this one, who struggled feebly along, head
    down, coat muddy and rough, eye spiritless and sad, his very tail
    a mortified stump, and the whole beast a picture of meek misery,
    fit to touch a heart of stone. The jovial mule was a roly poly,
    happy-go-lucky little piece of horse-flesh, taking everything
    easily, from cudgeling to caressing; strolling along with a
    roguish twinkle of the eye, and, if the thing were possible,
    would have had his hands in his pockets, and whistled as he went.
    If there ever chanced to be an apple core, a stray turnip, or
    wisp of hay, in the gutter, this Mark Tapley was sure to find it,
    and none of his mates seemed to begrudge him his bite. I
    suspected this fellow was the peacemaker, confidant and friend of
    all the others, for he had a sort of "Cheer-up,-old-boy,-I'll-
    pull-you-through" look, which was exceedingly engaging.

    Pigs also possessed attractions for me, never having had an
    opportunity of observing their graces of mind and manner, till I
    came to Washington, whose porcine citizens appeared to enjoy a
    larger liberty than many of its human ones. Stout, sedate looking
    pigs, hurried by each morning to their places of business, with a
    preoccupied air, and sonorous greeting to their friends. Genteel
    pigs, with an extra curl to their tails, promenaded in pairs,
    lunching here and there, like gentlemen of leisure. Rowdy pigs
    pushed the passers by off the side walk; tipsy pigs hiccoughed
    their version of "We wont go home till morning," from the gutter;
    and delicate young pigs tripped daintily through the mud, as if,
    like "Mrs. Peerybingle," they plumed themselves upon their
    ankles, and kept themselves particularly neat in point of
    stockings. Maternal pigs, with their interesting families,
    strolled by in the sun; and often the pink, baby-like squealers
    lay down for a nap, with a trust in Providence worthy of human
    imitation.

    But more interesting than officers, ladies, mules, or pigs, were
    my colored brothers and sisters, because so unlike the
    respectable members of society I'd known in moral Boston.

    Here was the genuine article--no, not the genuine article at all,
    we must go to Africa for that--but the sort of creatures
    generations of slavery have made them: obsequious, trickish, lazy
    and ignorant, yet kind-hearted, merry-tempered, quick to feel and
    accept the least token of the brotherly love which is slowly
    teaching the white hand to grasp the black, in this great
    struggle for the liberty of both the races.

    Having been warned not to be too rampant on the subject of
    slavery, as secesh principles flourished even under the
    respectable nose of Father Abraham, I had endeavored to walk
    discreetly, and curb my unruly member; looking about me with all
    my eyes, the while, and saving up the result of my observations
    for future use. I had not been there a week before the neglected,
    devil-may care expression in many of the faces about me, seemed
    an urgent appeal to leave nursing white bodies, and take some
    care for these black souls. Much as the lazy boys and saucy girls
    tormented me, I liked them, and found that any show of interest
    or friendliness brought out the better traits which live in the
    most degraded and forsaken of us all. I liked their cheerfulness,
    for the dreariest old hag, who scrubbed all day in that
    pestilential steam, gossipped and grinned all the way out, when
    night set her free from drudgery. The girls romped with their
    dusky sweethearts, or tossed their babies, with the tender pride
    that makes mother-love a beautifier to the homeliest face. The
    men and boys sang and whistled all day long; and often, as I held
    my watch, the silence of the night was sweetly broken by some
    chorus from the street, full of real melody, whether the song was
    of heaven, or of hoe-cakes; and, as I listened, I felt that we
    never should doubt nor despair concerning a race which, through
    such griefs and wrongs, still clings to this good gift, and seems
    to solace with it the patient hearts that wait and watch and hope
    until the end.

    I expected to have to defend myself from accusations of prejudice
    against color; but was surprised to find things just the other
    way, and daily shocked some neighbor by treating the blacks as I
    did the whites. The men would swear at the "darkies," would put
    two gs into negro, and scoff at the idea of any good coming from
    such trash. The nurses were willing to be served by the colored
    people, but seldom thanked them, never praised, and scarcely
    recognized them in the street; whereat the blood of two
    generations of abolitionists waxed hot in my veins, and, at the
    first opportunity, proclaimed itself, and asserted the right of
    free speech as doggedly as the irrepressible Folsom herself.

    Happening to catch up a funny little black baby, who was toddling
    about the nurses' kitchen, one day, when I went down to make a
    mess for some of my men, a Virginia woman standing by elevated
    her most prominent features, with a sniff of disapprobation,
    exclaiming:

    "Gracious, Miss P.! how can you? I've been here six months. and
    never so much as touched the little toad with a poker."

    "More shame for you, ma'am," responded Miss P.; and, with the
    natural perversity of a Yankee, followed up the blow by kissing
    "the toad," with ardor. His face was providentially as clean and
    shiny as if his mamma had just polished it up with a corner of
    her apron and a drop from the tea-kettle spout, like old Aunt
    Chloe, This rash act, and the anti-slavery lecture that followed,
    while one hand stirred gruel for sick America, and the other
    hugged baby Africa, did not produce the cheering result which I
    fondly expected; for my comrade henceforth regarded me as a
    dangerous fanatic, and my protege nearly came to his death by
    insisting on swarming up stairs to my room, on all occasions, and
    being walked on like a little black spider.

    I waited for New Year's day with more eagerness than I had ever
    known before; and, though it brought me no gift, I felt rich in
    the act of justice so tardily performed toward some of those
    about me. As the bells rung midnight, I electrified my room-mate
    by dancing out of bed, throwing up the window, and flapping my
    handkerchief, with a feeble cheer, in answer to the shout of a
    group of colored men in the street below. All night they tooted
    and tramped, fired crackers, sung "Glory, Hallelujah," and took
    comfort, poor souls! in their own way. The sky was clear, the
    moon shone benignly, a mild wind blew across the river, and all
    good omens seemed to usher in the dawn of the day whose noontide
    cannot now be long in coming. If the colored people had taken
    hands and danced around the White House, with a few cheers for
    the much abused gentleman who has immortalized himself by one
    just act, no President could have had a finer levee, or one to be
    prouder of.

    While these sights and sounds were going on without, curious
    scenes were passing within, and I was learning that one of the
    best methods of fitting oneself to be a nurse in a hospital, is
    to be a patient there; for then only can one wholly realize what
    the men suffer and sigh for; how acts of kindness touch and win;
    how much or little we are to those about us; and for the first
    time really see that in coming there we have taken our lives in
    our hands, and may have to pay dearly for a brief experience.
    Every one was very kind; the attendants of my ward often came up
    to report progress, to fill my wood box, or bring messages and
    presents from my boys. The nurses took many steps with those
    tired feet of theirs, and several came each evening, to chat over
    my fire and make things cozy for the night. The doctors paid
    daily visits, tapped at my lungs to see if pneumonia was within,
    left doses without names, and went away, leaving me as ignorant,
    and much more uncomfortable than when they came. Hours began to
    get confused; people looked odd; queer faces haunted the room,
    and the nights were one long fight with weariness and pain.
    Letters from home grew anxious; the doctors lifted their
    eyebrows, and nodded ominously; friends said "Don't stay," and an
    internal rebellion seconded the advice; but the three months were
    not out, and the idea of giving up so soon was proclaiming a
    defeat before I was fairly routed; so to all "Don't stays" I
    opposed "I wills," till, one fine morning, a gray-headed
    gentleman rose like a welcome ghost on my hearth; and, at the
    sight of him, my resolution melted away, my heart turned traitor
    to my boys, and, when he said, "Come home," I answered, "Yes,
    father;" and so ended my career as an army nurse.

    I never shall regret the going, though a sharp tussle with
    typhoid, ten dollars, and a wig, are all the visible results of
    the experiment; for one may live and learn much in a month. A
    good fit of illness proves the value of health; real danger tries
    one's mettle; and self-sacrifice sweetens character. Let no one
    who sincerely desires to help the work on in this way, delay
    going through any fear; for the worth of life lies in the
    experiences that fill it, and this is one which cannot be
    forgotten. All that is best and bravest in the hearts of men and
    women, comes out in scenes like these; and, though a hospital is
    a rough school, its lessons are both stern and salutary; and the
    humblest of pupils there, in proportion to his faithfulness,
    learns a deeper faith in God and in himself. I, for one, would
    return tomorrow, on the "up-again,-and-take-another" principle,
    if I could; for the amount of pleasure and profit I got out of
    that month compensates for all the pangs; and, though a sadly
    womanish feeling, I take some satisfaction in the thought that,
    if I could not lay my head on the altar of my country, I have my
    hair; and that is more than handsome Helen did for her dead
    husband, when she sacrificed only the ends of her ringlets on his
    urn. Therefore, I close this little chapter of hospital
    experiences, with the regret that they were no better worth
    recording; and add the poetical gem with which I console myself
    for the untimely demise of "Nurse Periwinkle:"

    Oh, lay her in a little pit,
    With a marble stone to cover it;
    And carve thereon a gruel spoon,
    To show a "nuss" has died too soon.

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