The Methodist Review
Excerpts from Private Letters of “Mademoiselle Miss”
AMBULANCE 12-1, April 12, 1918
…. But who would not get out of focus in this great, sleepy deserted village; all the troops I love, all the good officers I know, even to the general, gone up yonder into the furnace, and I nailed to my post. I only note that years have brought some advantage for instead of getting into a perfect paroxysm of restlessness as I would have done once, I am trying to let my bark glide calmly with the current only with her decks cleared for action so that no time need be lost if a chance presents itself. Do not imagine that I am idle; every minute is taken, sorting materials, packing, unpacking, dispensing, and it would take two months to write all the letters I owe on the subject. Despite the hundreds and hundreds of cases that I have opened in the interim, there are cases that have followed me about unopened, and what made me hold on to them was not so much their contents, for they could have been so thankfully used anywhere, as the hope of some time thanking their givers. I always have this hope on opening a case, but it is not often enough fulfilled. What happens is that I go in the night or instead of eating my lunch, to open a certain case that I think holds the articles that, for the moment, I want most on earth. I generally find them and a card, or a list, with the name of the person who has made me happy. Overflowing with gratitude I want to write while the inspiration is fresh. Of course that is impossible, for my patients need me, so I put the card in my pocket, and if I don’t lose it I find it weeks afterward among a pile of similar souvenirs tucked away with conscientious care. By this time I have accumulated many more pressing tasks, and so the dear person who has packed that case, and put so much love, thought, and sacrifice into it, is relegated to the limbo of loving memory.
April 24 –All quiet in our budding valley, so quiet that one has to stop one’s mind from working, or, at least, hold it within the visible horizon, in order to keep steadily at all. And since keeping steady and not only seeming but being serene is everyone’s cardinal duty, at present, perhaps in itself that ought to be enough occupation. War not only consists in charging over open country, but in waiting wearily and molding in damp holes as well, and sometimes the latter part demands the greater valor. Thus I try my lesson of waiting. I think I told you of my hapless American ambulance driver who had the misfortune to get stranded here with pleurisy. For two weeks I respected the convention and limited myself to taking him fruit and lemonade and a word of cheer. But as time passed and his so called infirmier never thought to bathe him or do anything else, in fact, I kicked over the traces and gave him baths, etc, on the sly. By a delightful coincidence his fever – over 104 degrees during nearly three weeks – began to fall after the first one. When he was able to eat I bribed soldiers who brought me chickens and eggs, and my case for some time had been to fatten my American – not so easy a matter, since he measures almost six feet three inches tall and had lost over sixty pounds, at the same time I wrote letters in all directions scheming to get the poor fellow into the hands of our own people, a crying necessity in every case, in no way provided for by our authorities. A brave American lieutenant offered me an auto as far as E—— and a man of his section to conduct White to Paris – White’s section having gone to the Somme.
The ‘Medecin Chef’ was persuaded to return him officially to his corps, and Tuesday morning, with many hot water bottles, for the air was sharp, we trundled our patient carefully along through the soft brown hills and reached E—–in time to stoke him up with hot chocolate, and arrange for a private compartment before the scheduled arrival of the train. The train was nearly two hours late, during which time I stretched out my patient on the quai, and when it came there was hardly a corner to stand a musket in. A pretty dilemma for a man whom the least over-exertion might kill outright. I flew despairingly from one end of the platform to the other, and in the last compartment of all came upon a party of train officials who had just laid out their lunch in style. To persuade them that they must get out, and to hoist my American in, took less time than I do to tell it, but they piled like creatures mesmerized, and I don’t believe to this moment they knew why. White was stretched at his full lank length on the coveted seat with my lunch box and the last of Mrs Buffington’s chocolates ready to open beside him. “All is well that ends well’.
White left to official devices would now be restrained in some town of the interior, dependent upon chance to get him with his own people, and a chance that it might take many weeks to realize. The other day I had a unique experience – one that for picturesqueness and pathos could not be surpassed. The British War- Relief Society had sent me masses of civilian clothing, no easy thing to dispose of in a military camp far from all centers and rather a white elephant to house. I asked “Medecin Chef” if he could not find me some refugees. The dear man set to work, wrote to the mayors of all villages in the vicinity, and found there was quite a colony in the hamlet of S—, and on Sunday we went together in a “Camion” full of cases and played at beneficent fairies in the queer little school-house. “Medecin Chef” worked as hard as a poilu and as cleverly as a woman. Everything from old linens and baby caps to overcoats and shoes were classified on the school benches, and in the middle was a table with bags of candy among flags and toys (again that blessed Mrs Buffington). Then the cracked old bell was rung, and in they came – the homeless ones who had clung to their bombarded city all these years only to be driven out at last now by the flames. Old men and women, girls and mothers with their babies, and not one went out without a smile or a tearful blessing that it seemed somehow must make its hallowed way across the sea. Could you have seen the “Medecin Chef” trying a shawl on an old women or a bonnet on a baby your heart would have uttered a special hallelujah. And their city? It wears its martyr’s crown of flame. Perhaps no generation has witnessed such a dazzling horror since Nero looked on Rome. A few nights ago I saw it first. I had walked through the balmy afterglow, the young moon was setting, the great stars rising – village and valley seemed at prayer. Then a turn in the path revealed the hellish horror. Miles of city mounting in straight red flame to heaven, and belching smoke that hid the horizon stars. O merciful God, do not let the smoke get into the eyes of our souls! Do not let it veil the star of everlasting love! Let us hope, and write on the cities’ sacred ashes “Sursum Corda”.
No copyright found
Volume: Vol. 101, Ser. 5, Vol. 34, Pt. 2
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Phillips & Hunt
Call number: 31833017365286
Digitizing sponsor: Internet Archive
Book contributor: Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center
Notes: No copyright page found. Page 838 missing from book.T his digital copy is from a photocopy of an original book
Full catalog record: MARCXML