May 10 —You remember me telling you of the visit of the American doctors here last winter, and my pleasure in meeting their very remarkable chief, Col. Ashford. He has returned with a new “team” and came to see me the first day. I gave him and a notable associate tea the next day, and we examined the distressing problem of Americans stranded in French hospitals. I had valuable and poignant data to present on the subject, and they are keen to rectify the lacks in the evacuation system….. My life continues crowded, though I am less of a nurse just now than “Cantiniere,” and cheering up bureau for the defected. So many of the children, beside Galois have been wounded in the Somme region, and they write pathetically that they want their “petit mere,” which calls for many letters. Several of the divisions, near here last winter, returned recently and have been in cantonments and villages around about for a little while before going back to the front lines. So many came to call that the “Medecin Chef’ jestingly declared that he would put a sentinel on the road, and only let them pass one at a time. I gave them all tea and sandwiches (more of a luxury than you might think with butter 7frs. a half rancid pound.), and as much welcome and cheer as I knew how.
Whenever I am tempted to get restive at the fate that holds me here inactive, I think of the joy of all these lonely souls finding a little oasis of affection amid the cruel desert whose boundaries no man see, and I am comforted. If my cup of tea is going to send a man off to the trenches with a better heart what more constructive thing could I be doing? Now the last battalion has mounted and I won’t hear any more of them for some days. When Kara Mustapha and Hadj Mohammed – two lone waifs from Fez – came to say goodbye Kara slipped four hard-boiled eggs, still hot, into my apron pocket, and Hadj pressed a five-franc note into my hand. You see they take me literally as their “Maman” to whom offerings are made at parting. To refuse both would have broken their hearts, so I took the eggs and gave one the “Medecin Chef” and one to the “Gestionaire,” but refused the note. I had a difficult time with Hadj, who insisted that he had belonged to me, was I not his “Maman”?
Mark you, I have never done anything for Hadj but give him a kind word and a few cigarettes; but all these exiled hearts hunger for affection. It is their one talisman against the shells. I see a great deal of the American section 640 who invited me to Thanks-giving dinner last fall. During the winter I saw little of the section. It was off getting its costly experience and didn’t often evacuate here. Occasionally one of them would drop in dripping to get warm by my mite of a stove and, unless I was busy with a patient, he had a most sympathetic listener and a cup of something hot; but these ambulance men are not much on recounting their exploits. It has been too often repeated by the sleek “embusques” at home and in the rear, “If you can’t fight drive an ambulance,” and its iron has entered into their souls. I use all the magnet I possess to draw it out every time I get a chance, for it is a poisonous lie. Perfectly true that nearly every section gets months of perfectly stupid, safe service – sort of to and from the station thing- but when it is in action it is in action in a way to test the mettle of the bravest. There is not a man in the trenches who would have changed jobs with 640 when it was evacuating Rheims a little while ago. When I looked down upon that gigantic brazier from the hill, consuming away the pride of France there under the soft spring stars, it did not make the sight any more bearable to think that my brothers were ploughing through the midst of it. Any poilu will tell you there was never anything finer than the way 640 evacuated Rheims- the bravest joint action made by all the sections round about – and it is the only one that has had no citation….At least, however I could show them publicly what I thought of their conduct. Invited to an occasion I arrived with 37 baby croix de guerre, wrapped up in the Stars and Stripes, and pinned on the crosses, beginning with the lieutenant and ending with “cookie”, amid one delighted roar of cheers. I had explained that the accolade should go with the real decoration of which this was a similar prophecy.
No copyright page 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