Grace Harlow - Chapter 12
FRITZIES FIND A FRIEND
was need for ambulances that night, but getting near the advanced dressing stations was a perilous undertaking. The Huns were shelling every spot where they had reason to believe an American was stationed. It mattered not whether such Americans were combatants or not. More steel was falling than Grace had ever seen before,. It was a deluge on her side of the line, and she wondered what it must be on the other side where the Americans were laying down two shells to the enemy's one.
Grace drove the rest of the night through, and she drove fast, for the road was good, though fearfully congested and under fire almost every foot of the way. Many trucks were hit, ammunition dumps here and there were blown up, and great flashes, accompanied a few 8ecollds later by distant booms, told her that enemy ammunition dumps had shared a similar fate. These flashes on the enemy side were more frequent than those on her own side1
Surgeons and stretcher-bearers were working out at the front at top speed. No one had the time to talk, except to give necessary orders, and these were delivered tersely, vocal explosions every one of them. Grace barely left her car during the night. By the time she had backed it up to a dressing station the doors were thrown open and stretcher men were thrusting moaning soldiers in. Ordinarily a man not seriously wounded rode on the front seat with the driver, but there was little conversation, the patient not feeling like talking and the driver being too busy watching the road to indulge in lengthy conversation.
Shortly after daylight Grace was on her way back with five wounded men, none of them serious cases, from a very advanced station on ground that the enemy had held the day before~ but that now was in American hands, when she saw three heads appear out of a hole in the ground on one side of the road, and duck back again. She drew off to the right to see what it meant, thinking that perhaps there might be wounded men in a shell hole.
Getting near the place she discovered that it was a dugout, and inferred that doughboys were in there.
"I'll give them a scare,' she confided to the man sitting by her. "The Buddies won't mind,
I guess. Come out, you Fritzies!" she shouted in German. "Come out unless you want me to bomb you out!"
She had sprung out of the car to get a better view of the place, probably guided in her action by an intuitiveness which was characteristic of Grace Harlowe, when to her amazement men, in single file, began emerging from the dugout, their hands in the air, their faces wearing an expression of relief.
"Fritzies!" exclaimed the doughboy on the driver's seat. "Well, I'll be blest!"
"What? Germans?" gasped "Captain" Grace. "Who are you?"
"From the 232nd Bavarian Regiment," one of the Germans said. "Don't shoot, we go."
"How many of you? Come out every one of you I" she commanded sternly. "I have soldiers with me." She did not say that her soldiers were not even able to help themselves, and perhaps it would have made no difference to the Huns, for, to her, they seemed unduly eager to be taken in.
"Twelve," answered the spokesman.
"Line up! Keep your hands up," she commanded, reaching for the Lugar pistol that a wounded Buddy had given to her to take care of for him, knowing that if it went to the hospital 'with him he never would see it again.
"Say, girlie, you're all right," approved the doughboy on the front seat. "If you'll keep em covered I think I can pick up a few souvenirs from them before the fellows further along get a chance at them."
"No souvenirs will be taken from these prisoners so long as they are in my charge," answered "Captain" Grace. "You men march straight ahead. So long as you behave yourselves you will be all right, but don't change your minds and try to run away. Forward 1"
The strange outfit was greeted by howls and yells from soldiers on trucks and afoot. One group resting by the roadside made a rush for the prisoners to "fritz" them-relieve them of their belongings.
"Keep out of this, fellows. These are my prisoners."
"But they've got things on them," protested a soldier.
"So have you see I promised to bring home some Huns with me to exhibit at a charity bazaar, but this is the first likely bunch I have met up with and I wish to preserve them intact," added the Overton girl laughingly.
The soldiers howled.
"Go on! You win," shouted one, and the procession moved. The wounded man on the front seat acquainted his fellows back in tho
ambulance with what was going on, and some of them, despite their wounds, began to sing.
"Take it easy back there, Buddies," warned Grace. "Remember I am responsible for you. Sorry I have to go so slowly, but I couldn't leave these poor Fritzies back there in the dugout when they were so eager to get into a Yankee prison pen."
"Take your time. It's worth it," they called to her.
Several times on the way back Grace was obliged to be severe with souvenir-mad Yankee doughboys who insisted on removing the emblems from the caps of the prisoners and searching them for souvenirs. Grace succeeded in protecting her charges, however, and not a souvenir did a doughboy get from that outfit during the entire journey.
"When I turn them over our fellows may help themselves, as they probably will, but I don't care for that sort of thing. It is too much like stealing to suit me."
"Aw say, girlie, they're only Bodies," protested her companion.
"But we are Americans and shouldn't forget that," she responded. "To whom do I turn these men over, Buddy? Now that I have them I don't know what to do with them."
"Any officer can take them off your hands.
Better take them on to the field hospital and turn them in there. They will make a hit."
"I think they will," agreed Grace.
The grounds about the hospital were filled with convalescent patients, who gazed in wonder at seeing an ambulance with wounded driving ahead of it a dozen German soldiers. A yell went up when the full import of the scene was realized by them.
"Is Ferrot about?" called Grace as she drove in.
"Over there," answered a stretcher-bearer, pointing to a tent.
"Prisoners halt! Call Ferrot, somebody."
The Belgian came out, Grace watching him narrowly as he took in the scene. The expression on his face interested her greatly.
"My compliments to Major Price, Ferrot, and say to him that I have twelve German prisoners here and wish to know what to do with them."
"The froggie doesn't seem to be pleased," growled the soldier by her side, glowering at the Belgian.
"It is constitutional with him," answered Grace. "A perpetual grouch such as many persons acquire in wartime, especially Fritzies. There comes the major. Better get down, Buddy."
Major Price and an aide were seen striding toward them. He halted upon observing the prisoners, looked them over curiously, then walked over to the ambulance.
"Where did you get these men?"
"From a dugout on our side of the line. Our fellows failed to mop them up, sir.
"This is rather serious, Mrs. Gray."
"II am aware of that, sir, but I could not let an opportunity such as this pass. There was no one to take them in, and perhaps after nightfall they might have managed to get back to their own lines."
"No apologies necessary. You have done well and should be commended for it. I will turn them over to the first officer I see going to the rear. Thank you."
"The men have not been searched, sir. Would it not be a good plan to have some one do that for possible papers, orders and the like?"
"Excellent idea. I'll have my aide attend to that."
The prisoners were marched to a tent and a guard put over them, after which they were searched and then marched to the rear.
"You have done it this time, Grace Harlowe," rebuked Elfreda Briggs shaking a warning finger at "Captain" Grace, when they met a few minutes later.
Grace admitted that perhaps she had.
"If the enemy, having heard of this, should get hold of you I fear it would go hard with you.,,
"No doubt, but I don't propose that they shall get me, J. Elfreda. I fully expect to be too busy to permit of my being captured. After that the war will be over; then nothing much will matter, and we shall be on our way to America. Won't that be a grand and glorious feeling, dear?"
"The most glorious thing in the world from the present point of view," agreed Elfreda, "but I don't see us experiencing it just yet awhile."
"We shall see," replied Grace.
It proved to be a busy day for Grace Harlowe in her work of mercy. Just before dark she halted at the field hospital only long enough to sit down and eat a hurried supper, after which she took to the road again and drove with all the speed she dared put on.
Darkness having fallen, Grace drove to the immediate rear of the line on which the Twenty-Seventh and Thirtieth Divisions were operating, with the Third British Corps on their left, the Australians and the Tenth French Army to the right, forming a formidable front. Opposed to them were the flower of the German
army, making a desperate fight to hold their enemy back, but already showing signs of a weakening morale.
Everything that the enemy bad to send over was breaking about the Overton girl. The explosions were deafening. The air was full of dust, suffocating fumes, flying pieces of steel and ricocheting bullets of small caliber that sped past with a familiarly weird zingl Stretcher-bearers plodded stolidly through the storm, bringing in gravely wounded men on their litters; men with bandaged heads staggered or crawled in unaided, others with superficial wounds hurried in to have those wounds ~1ressed, after which they surreptitiously slipped away again, instead of going to the rear as ordered, to once more plunge into the maelstrom of battle from which many of them did not again return. It was a scene that lived for years in. the memory of Grace Harlowe, and in the memories of all who participated in that night of turmoil and terror.
It was on one of these journeys to the front that the Overton driver, finding no stretchermen at hand to Load up for her, went into the dressing station to inform the officer in charge that she was waiting. She was told that there was not a stretcher-bearer left at the station, and that the bearers out on the field had, in
many instances, fallen with their stretcher loads.
"Some one give a hand and I will help load," she offered.
An assistant surgeon offered his services and together they began lifting men into the ambulance.
They had placed four seriously wounded cases into the ambulance, and were in the dugout dressing station placing another on their stretcher when there occurred an explosion that hurled every person in the underground room violently to the floor, stunning all and rendering some unconscious.
Grace got up dazedly.
"That one evidently was marked for us," she stammered, her face pale and drawn, for the shock had been almost too much for her nerves to stand. It had deafened most of them too, and they had to shout to make themselves heard. The assistant who was aiding her got up and looked himself over inquiringly.
"I surely thought I had been lit," he said, grinning through the smoke that hung in a haze under the swaying lamp over the operating table.