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conversation with a remarkably tall, military-looking man, who moved about awkwardly as if he was learning to walk upon stilts, or was lame in both legs, which I afterwards found to be the case. He appeared friendly and intelligent, and gave me interesting information in relation to the inmates and economy of the establishment.
I learned from him that the bed nearest mine, within a few feet on the right hand, and the one beyond it, were occupied by two boys who were victims of a sad misfortune. Their intense sufferings were the cause of the moans and murmurings I had heard during the night. These boys were apprentices to the rope-making business, and a few days before, while spinning ropeyarns, with the loose hemp wound in folds around their waists, the youngest, a lad about fourteen years old, unwittingly approached an open fire, the weather being cold. A spark ignited the hemp, and in a moment the whole was in a blaze. The other boy, obeying an involuntary but generous impulse, rushed to the assistance of his companion, only to share his misfortune. They were both terribly burned, and conveyed to the hospital.
Every morning the rations for the day were served out to the patients. The quality of the food, always excepting a dark-looking liquid of revolting aspect, known as “beer porridge," and which I ate only through fear of starvation, was generally good, and the quantity was sufficient to keep the patients alive, while they had no reason to apprehend ill consequences from a surfeit.
In the course of the forenoon Captain Bacon came to see me. He expressed regret at my misfortune, and tried to console me with the assurance that I should be well cared for. He said the ship Packet would sail the next
that my chest and bedding should be sent to the house where the crew had boarded, that he had commended me to the particular consideration of the American consul, who was his consignee, and would see
that I was sent back to the United States as soon as I should be in a condition to leave the hospital. He put a silver dollar into my hand, as he said to buy some fruit, bade me be of good cheer, and left me to my reflections.
In the afternoon of the same day, one of my shipmates, a kind-hearted lad, about my own age, called at the hospital to bid me farewell. He regretted the necessity of our separation, and wept over the misfortune that had occasioned it. From him I learned that the key of my chest having been left in the lock when I was carried from the ship, he feared that Allen and one or two others of the crew, who were not liberally supplied with clothing for a long voyage, had made free with my property. He also told me that three of the ship's company had deserted, having no confidence in the amiable qualities of Mr. Stetson, the chief mate; but that Allen, who had been the victim of his vindictiveness during the whole passage from Boston, dreading the horrors of impressinent more than the barbarity of the mate, and having a good American protection, had determined to remain by the ship!
He told me, further, he was by no means satisfied with the character of Stetson, and feared that when again on the ocean he would prove a Tartar; and that I had no great reason to regret an accident which would prevent my proceeding on the voyage.
I subsequently learned that Stetson showed his true colors after the ship left Liverpool, and owing to his evil deportment and tyrannical conduct, there was little peace or comfort for the crew during the three years' voyage.
On the third day of my residence in the Infirmary, the unfortunate boy who occupied the bed nearest mine appeared to be sinking rapidly. It was sad to witness his sufferings. His mother, a woman in the lowest rank of life, was with him through the day. She eagerly watched every symptom of his illness, nursed him with care and tenderness, sought to prepare him for the great change
which was about to take place; and, a true woman and a mother, endeavored to hide her own anguish while she ministered to the bodily and spiritual wants of her only child, who nobly risked his life to save that of his companion. I watched the proceedings with deep interest through the day, and when night came I felt no inclination to sleep. The groans of the unfortunate boy became fainter and fainter, and it was evident he would soon be released from his sufferings by the hand of death.
At length I became weary with watching, and about eleven o'clock fell asleep, in spite of the dying moans of the boy and the half-stifled sobs of his mother. I slept soundly, undisturbed by the mournful scenes which were enacted around me. When I awoke the was lighted only by the rays of an expiring lamp in the chimney corner. No one was moving; not a sound was heard except the loud breathing of the inmates, who, their wonted rest having been interrupted by this melancholy interlude, had buried their pains and anxieties in sleep.
I looked towards the bed where the sufferer lay whose sad fate had so attracted my attention and elicited my sympathies a few hours before. His mother was no longer present. His moans were no longer heard. His form seemed extended motionless on the bed, and his bead reposed as usual on the pillow. But I was startled at perceiving him staring fixedly at me with eyes preternaturally large, and of a cold, glassy, ghastly appearance! I closed my own eyes and turned my head away, while a tremor sbook every nerve. Was this an illusion ? Was I laboring under the effects of a dream? Or had my imagination conjured up a spectre ?
I looked again. The eyes, like two full moons, were still there, glaring at me with that cold, fixed, maddening expression. I could no longer control my feelings. If I had been able to use my limbs I should have fled from the room. As that was impossible I called loudly to the
nurse, and awoke her from a sound sleep! She came muttering to my bedside, and inquired what was the matter?
“Look at William's eyes!” said I. "Is he dead, or is he alive? What is the meaning of those horriblelooking, unearthly eyes? Why don't you speak ?”
“Don't be a fool," replied the nurse, sharply, “and let shadows frighten you out of your wits.”
While I remained in an agony of suspense she leisurely returned to the fireplace, took the lamp from the hearth, raised the wick to increase the light, and approaching the bedside, held it over the body of the occupant. The boy was dead! Two large pieces of bright copper coin bad been placed over the eyes for the purpose of closing the lids after death, and the faint and flickering reflection of the lamplight, aided, probably, by the excited condition of my nervous system, had given them that wild and ghastly appearance which had shaken my soul with terror.
For three weeks I lay in my bed, an attentive observer of the singular scenes that occurred in my apartment. I was visited every morning by a student in surgery, or “ dresser," and twice a week by one of the regular surgeons of the establishment while going his rounds. My general health was good, notwithstanding a want of that exercise and fresh air to which I had been accustomed. My appetite was remarkable; indeed, my greatest, if not only, cause of complaint, was the very stinted quantity of daily food that was served out to each individual. No discrimination was observed; the robust young man, with an iron constitution, was, so far as related to food, placed on a par with the poor invalid, debilitated with protracted suffering or dying of inappetency.
In every other situation in which I have been placed I have had abundance of food. Sometimes the food was of a quality deplorably wretched, it is true, but such as it was there was always enough. But in the Liverpool In
firmary I experienced the miseries of short allowance, and had an opportunity to witness the effect it produces in ruffling the temper and breeding discontent. It also opened my eyes to the instinctive selfishness of man. Those who were in sound health, with good appetites, although apparently endued with a full share of affections and sympathies, seemed actually to rejoice when one of their companions, through suffering and debility, was unable to consume his allowance of bread or porridge, which would be distributed among the more healthy inmates of the apartment.
At the expiration of three weeks the dresser informed me he was about to case my fractured limb in splints and bandages, when I might quit my mattress, don my garments, and hop about the room or seat myself by the fireside.
This was good news, but my joy was somewhat dampened by the intelligence that I could not be furnished immediately with a pair of crutches, all belonging to the establishment being in use. I borrowed a pair occasionally for a few minutes, from an unfortunate individual who was domiciled in my apartment, and sometimes I shuffled about for exercise with a stout cane in my right hand, and a house-brush, in an inverted position under
position under my left arm, in lieu of a crutch.
I witnessed many interesting scenes during my stay in the Infirmary, and fell in with some singular individuals, all of which showed me phases of human life that I had