Grace Harlow - Chapter 10
WHERE THE BIG GUNS BOOMED
I was a happy party that sat down to dinner the Overton quarters that evening, and
it was a most excellent dinner that Grace and little Yvonne had prepared for them. Besides Grace, Elfreda and Anne, there were Mabel Ashe, Arline Thayer, Ruth Denton and Emma Dean, all trying to talk at once and most of them succeeding.
Elfreda related the thrilling story of her escape from the German patrol and the wreck of the hospital train. She told them how Grace had cooked a meal in the firebox of a locomotive, chopped down part of the French railroad station for fuel, and gave orders to the commander-in-chief of the American Expeditionary Forces.
"I did not," objected Grace. "I hope you all know I am too good a soldier to attempt to do such a foolish thing. I simply wired him what the conditions were, which it was my duty to do. By the way, Emma, how is Lieutenant Wll11am!"
"Fighting. If he is smacked again I know I shall die. This suspense is awful," wailed Emma Dean.
"Of course you correspond with him?"
"What's the good of correspondence? I ask you, Grace Harlowe, as a woman of experience in such matters, how can two loving hearts put down their tender thoughts on paper when they know that the cold eyes of a Second Loot are going to scan them and grin over the outpourings of one's heart? Why, a couple might as well correspond through the personal columns of a daily newspaper."
"Having had no experience in writing love letters for the edification of a company censor, Emma Dean to the contrary, I fear that my evidence will be of little value," answered Grace laughingly.
"Do you mean to tell me that you and Tom never write love letters to each other?"
"Of course not. We do not have to."
"If that's the way married people act, I think I can have more fun in remaining single," declared Emma heatedly. "The very idea! I don't see why people get married if it isn't for the sake of being able to make love to each other all the time, instead of only on Sundays and holidays. What I shall expect of my husband is a continuous performance, a reel of happiness
that will entertain the audience for ever and ever."
Emma's further remarks on the subject were lost in the shouts of laughter of everyone present.
"Alas, poor William," groaned David. Anne Pierson said her experience had been that men and women in the war zone lost much of the tender feelings that they possessed in peace time.
Grace declared that this attitude was on the 8urface, that the hearts of those who were devoted to each other did not change in war or peace, and she appealed, mischievously, to J. Elfreda to tell them what her attitude would be in such circumstances as Emma had described.
"I-I believe I should feel happy if the Bodies were to shoot the censor," declared Elfreda blushingly.
"Elfreda herself is beginning to have heart-twinges," spoke up Grace. "As yet she isn't r very responsive to those feelings, but when the right man comes along we'll all receive invitations by the next mail."
"I object to the witness's testimony," retorted Elfreda. "If the court please, let the witness con
fine herself to facts."
"That's what I say," agreed Captain Tom Gray. "I propose that we change the subject."
The Overton girls and their guests soon turned to the serious topics connected with the war, and that lay close to the hearts of all of them. It was late when the party broke up, David to go to the officers' club for the night, the others to pack themselves in as best they might in the rooms of the unit. Three army cots were set up in the front room for the Gray family, the rest of the party making up their own cots in the dining room.
Monday morning came all too soon, and with it the return of Yvonne to her school. The little yellow-haired girl laughed through her tears as Grace bade her adieu, and as she turned to wave a final good-bye the picture she saw was Yvonne hugging tie yellow cat and throwing kisses first from her own lips, then from the lips of the cat.
Grace, for the moment, forgot her own sorrow in her enjoyment of that scene.
"Was there ever such a child?" she cried.
There was a luncheon engagement with Tom and Elfreda that day, and after this they went to Grace's headquarters, where she found an imperative order to return to the front at once.
"I expected it," she said simply, handing the order to her husband. "You aren't included in it, Elfreda."
"It doesn't matter, I shall go when you do, but I hope and pray it may not take us five days
to make the journey. Once back at the front I shall never leave it again until either I am carried out or the war ends."
The two girls boarded a train late that night and started for the front, where they arrived late on the following day.
They were needed. The drive for the line was on, small advance actions already were being fought, and the heavy artillery was booming back of both armies. It really was a relief to "Captain" Grace to be within sound of the guns again, and it was a pleasure to have every one out there so glad to see her.
Major Price offered his apologies for having recalled her, and at the same time congratulated both young women on their splendid work with the hospital train.
"Your car is ready whenever you are, Mrs. Gray. The chief of your section is fuming because you did not get in early this morning. He hasn't traveled on French railroads as much as we have, eli?"
"I hope not in the way we traveled on this journey."
The car that was assigned to Grace was not a vehicle to be proud of. Its top showed the marks of bullets and shell splinters, the radiator was leaky, the commutator dirty and two spark plugs were missing. She did the best she
could to put the car in good working order, but hers was not a wholly successful job. She found that the car would run, but the noise it made threatened its early dissolution.
Her first assignment was to take a load of wounded men to the evacuation hospital, after which she was sent to a dressing station a mile back of the American lines. From that time on "Captain" Grace got no rest in many hours. Nor did she find time to get a single mouthful of food until midnight, when, leaving her car in front of the chief's office, she ran in to share the nurses' midnight luncheon with them.
Elfreda was there, telling an appreciative audience of the experiences of herself and Grace on their journey to Paris.
"Don't ask me any questions, young women. I am in a frightful hurry," begged Grace. "Miss Briggs is the eye-witness observer. Things are beginning to get brisk out on the line, and we shall have some lively work here about to-morrow."
"Lively work' appears to be your life occupation, Mrs. Gray," observed a supervising nurse. "I do not believe I could stand it to go through what you have experienced. Trouble seems to follow you like an-"
A tremendous explosion somewhere out front cut short the nurse's words.
Jerry has arrived!" cried a voice.
"That was a hit," observed Elfreda shrilly. "I wonder what it struck!'
"Probably my ambulance," interjected "Captain" Grace. "However, it can't be much worse looking than it was when I left it. I__"
"Mrs. Gray! Mrs. Gray!" called an excited female voice at the door. "Your ambulance has just been blown up!"
"Thank you. I'll be out and put it together again in a few minutes," answered the Overton girl, proceeding with her luncheon.