Sidor som bilder

never dreamed of. The tall, military-looking man, with whom I became acquainted soon after I entered the establishment, proved to have been a soldier. He had served for years in a regiment of heavy dragoons, and attained the rank of corporal. He had sabred Frenchmen by dozens during the unsuccessful campaign in Holland under the Duke of York. He fought his battles over again with all the ardor and energy of an Othello, and to an audience as attentive, although, it may be, not so high-born or beautiful.

There was also present during my stay a young native of the Emerald Isle, who had seen service in the British navy. In an obstinate and bloody battle between English and French squadrons off the Island of Lissa, in the Adriatic, about nine months before, in which Sir William Hoste achieved a splendid victory, his leg had been shattered by a splinter. After a partial recovery he had received his discharge, and was returning to his home in “dear Old Ireland," when a relapse took place, and he took refuge in the hospital. He also could tell tales of wondrous interest connected with man-of-war life. He loved to talk of his cruises in the Mediterranean, of the whizzing of cannon balls, the mutilation of limbs, decks slippery with gore, levanters, pressgangs, boatswains' calls, and the cat-o'-nine-tails of the boatswains' mates.

The patient, from whom I occasionally borrowed a pair of crutches, although a pleasant companion, bore upon his person unequivocal marks of having met with rough handling on the ocean or on the land. He was minus an eye, his nose had been knocked athwart-ships to the great injury of his beauty, and a deep scar, from a wound made with a bludgeon, adorned one of his temples ! I learned that this man, who seemed to have been the football of fortune and had received many hard kicks, had never been in the army or the navy that his wounds had been received in civil wars, battling with his countrymen. I was further told by the nurse, as a secret, that although he was so amiable among his fellow-sufferers in the hospital, when outside the walls, if he could obtain a glass of gin or whiskey to raise his temper and courage to the striking point, he never passed a day without fighting. He was notorious for his pugnacious propensities; had been in the Infirmary more than once for the tokens he had received of the prowess of his opponents. In his battles he always came off second best, and was now in the “ accident ward” in consequence of a broken leg, having been kicked down stairs by a gang of rowdies whom he had insulted and defied!

There were also in the Infirmary inmates of a more pacific character. Fortunately for mankind it is not the mission of every one to fight. Among them was a gardener, a poor, inoffensive man, advanced in years, who with a cleaver had chopped off — accidentally, he said two fingers of his right hand. The mutilation was intentional without doubt; his object having been to procure a claim for subsistence in the Infirmary for a time, and afterwards a passport to the poorhouse in Chester for life. He had experienced the ills of poverty; had outlived his wife and children; and able to talk well and fluently, entertained us with homely but forcible narratives illustrating life in the lowest ranks of society. When his wounds were healed he was reluctant to quit his comfortable quarters, and was actually driven from the establishment.

Other patients were brought in from time to time, and their wounds dressed. Some were dismissed in a few days; others detained for months. One intelligent young man, an English mechanic, was afflicted with a white swelling on his knee and suffered intolerable pain. His sobs and groans through the night, which he could not suppress, excited my sympathy, but grated harshly on the nerves of my tall friend the corporal of dragoons, who expostulated with him seriously on the unreasonableness

[ocr errors]

of his conduct, arguing, like the honest tar on board the brig Clarissa, that these loud indications of suffering, while they afforded no positive relief to the sufferer, disturbed the slumbers of those who were free from pain or bore it with becoming fortitude.

In the evening, after we had partaken of the regular meal, those of us who were able to move about, and to whom I have more particularly alluded, would gather around the hearth, a coal fire burning in the grate, and pass a couple of hours in conversation, in which agreeable occupation, having read much and already seen something of the world, I was able to bear a part. There are few persons who are unable to converse, and converse well too, when their feelings are enlisted and they labor under no restraint; and very few persons so dull and stupid as to fail to receive or impart instruction from conversation with others.

Notwithstanding the rules of the Infirmary to the contrary, the inmates of "number one” were not altogether deprived of the advantages and charms of female society. To say nothing of the old nurse, who was a host in gossip herself, her two daughters, both young and pretty girls, were sometimes smuggled into the Infirmary by the connivance of the grim and trustworthy porter, and remained there days at a time, carefully hid away in the pantry whenever the master” or the surgeons went their regular rounds, which was always at stated hours. When the wind raged without, and the rain, hail, or snow sought entrance through the casement, while sitting near a comfortable fire, listening to female prattle and gossip, narratives of incidents of real life, discussions on disputed points in politics, philosophy, or religion between my friend with the crutches and the tall corporal of dragoons, who were both as fond of controversy as Mr. Shandy himself; or drinking in with my ears the Irish tar's glowing descriptions

“Of moving accidents by flood and field;
And of the cannibals that each other eat;
The anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders !”

I was led to confess there were worse places in the world than the Liverpool Infirmary.

After a week's delay I came into possession of a pair of crutches, and could move around the room at pleasure, take exercise in the hall, and even visit an acquaintance in either of the other apartments. The garden attached to the establishment was thrown open to the patients at stated hours on particular days. The season was not inviting; nevertheless, one sunny day, accompanied by my lame friend of pugnacious reputation, I visited the garden, and rejoiced at finding myself once more in the open air. The ramble on crutches through the lonely walks was truly refreshing. Our spirits mounted to fever heat, and as we returned towards the building through the neatly gravelled avenue, my companion proposed a race, to which I assented. I have forgotten which won the race; I know we both made capital time, and performed to our own satisfaction, but not to the satisfaction of others. The gardener grumbled at the manner in which his walks were perforated and disfigured by our crutches. He complained to the authorities, and greatly to our regret a regulation was adopted by which all persons using crutches were forbidden to enter the garden.

I remained six weeks in the Infirmary, and became accustomed to the place, and made myself useful in various ways. I held the basin when a patient was let blood; I took charge of the instruments and bandages when a serious wound was closed by sutures and afterwards dressed; and was particularly busy when a fracture was examined or a dislocation reduced. Indeed I took a strange kind of interest in witnessing and aiding in the various operations, and was in a fair way to become a good practical

surgeon, when I was discharged, and found myself a poor sailor, friendless, penniless, and lame. But the surgical knowledge, inaccurate and desultory as it was, which I acquired in the Liverpool Infirmary, and the power to preserve coolness and presence of mind, and minister relief in cases of wounds and dangerous diseases, when no medical adviser could be applied to, has often since been of valuable service to myself and others.

I took an affectionate farewell of my friends and acquaintances in the establishment, not forgetting the nurse and her pretty daughters, and, accompanied by the landlord of the house where the crew of the ship Packet boarded, passed through the gateway without meeting any obstruction on the part of the porter, who, on the contrary, grinned his approbation of my departure.

The distance to the boarding house was about half a mile; nevertheless I accomplished it easily on crutches without being fatigued, and congratulated myself when I passed the threshold and arrived at what I considered my home. But my troubles were not ended. The landlady, who was actually “the head" of the house, did not welcome my return with the cordiality I expected. She expressed a hope that the American consul would lose no time in providing means for my return to the United States, and favored me with the interesting information that while the regular charge for board without lodging was eighteen shillings a week, the American government allowed only twelve shillings a week for board and lodg. ing. The inevitable inference was, that I was an unprofitable boarder, and the sooner they got me off their hands the better.

Another circumstance was a source of greater chagrin. When I reached the house, one of my first inquiries was for my chest and other property which I left in the forecastle of the ship. My chest was safely deposited with the landlord; but it was nearly empty! To my dismay I

« FöregåendeFortsätt »