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The Hero Of Company G
by [?]

The flies and the sun! The sun and the flies! The two tents of the division ward in the hospital had been pitched end to end, thus turning them into one. The sun filtered through the cracks of the canvas; it poured in a broad, dancing, shifting column of gold through the open tent flap. The air was hot, not an endurable, dry heat, but a moist, sticky heat which drew an intolerable mist from the water standing in pools beneath the plain flooring of the tents. The flies had no barrier and they entered in noisome companies, to swarm, heavily buzzing, about the medicine spoons and the tumblers and crawl over the nostrils and mouths of the typhoid patients, too weak and stupid to brush them away. The other sick men would lift their feeble skeletons of hands against them; and a tall soldier who walked between the cots and was the sole nurse on duty, waved his palm-leaf fan at them and swore softly under his breath.

There were ten serious cases in the ward. The soldier was a raw man detailed only the day before and not used to nursing, being a blacksmith in civil life. An overworked surgeon had instructed him in the use of a thermometer; but he was much more confident of the success of his lesson than the instructed one. There was one case in particular bothered the nurse; he returned to the cot where this case lay more than once and eyed the gaunt figure which lay so quietly under the sheet, with a dejected attention. Once he laid his hand shyly on the sick man’s forehead, and when he took it away he strangled a desperate sort of sigh. Then he walked to the end of the tent and stared dismally down the camp street, flooded with sunshine. “Well, thank God, there’s Spruce!” said he. A man in a khaki uniform, carrying a bale of mosquito netting, was walking smartly through the glare. He stopped at the tent. “How goes it?” said he, cheerfully but in the lowest of tones. He was a short man and thin, but with a good color under his tan, and teeth gleaming at his smile, white as milk.

“Why, I’m kinder worried about Maxwell–“

Before he could finish his sentence, Spruce was at Maxwell’s cot. His face changed. “Git the hot-water bottle quick’s you can!” he muttered, “and git the screen–the one I made!” As he spoke he was dropping brandy into the corners of Maxwell’s mouth. The brandy trickled down the chin.

“He looks awful quiet, don’t he?” whispered the nurse with an awestruck glance.

“You git them things!” said Spruce, and he sent a flash of his eyes after his words, whereat the soldier shuffled out of the tent, returning first with the screen and last with the bottles. Then he watched Spruce’s rapid but silent movements. At last he ventured to breathe: “Say, he ain’t–he ain’t–he ain’t–?”

Spruce nodded. The other turned a kind of groan into a cough and wiped his face. Awkwardly he helped Spruce wherever there was the chance for a hand; and in a little while his bungling agitation reached the worker, who straightened up and turned a grim face on him.

“Was it me?” he whispered then. “For God’s sake, Spruce–I did everything the doctor told me, nigh’s I could remember. I didn’t disturb him, ’cause he ‘peared to be asleep. I–I never saw a man die before!”

“It ain’t no fault of yours,” said Spruce in the same low whisper. “I’m sorry for you. Did you give him the ice I got?”

“Yes, I did, Sergeant.”

“And was there enough for Green and Dick Danvers?”

“Yes, I kept it rolled up in flannel and newspapers. Say, I got a little more, Sergeant.”


“The doctors or some fellers had a tub of lemonade outside, a little bit further down. I chipped off a bit.”