Grace Harlow - Chapter 6
THE WRECK OF THE LIMITED
Men racked and torn cried out in alarm and pain, but Grace could not help them. She had been hurled to the floor and under a berth, leaving her dazed and partly unconscious.
One side of the car had been partially blown in by the explosion of an aerial bomb, and the other side was broken in when, in falling over, it struck the rocky edge of the road bed and slid down the embankment to the bottom, where part of the roof gave way.
The car was a mass of wreckage, a tangle of iron rods and broken woodwork. The forward car had not gone all the way over, but hung trembling on the edge of the embankment, threatening every moment to topple over. There was silence in the wrecked rear car for a moment, then shouts of alarm and cries of pain rose from those of the wounded who were still able to raise their voices.
Grace Harlowe heard those cries faintly, and 1Jl8 sound of them aroused her, stirred her,
brought home to her the realization of a duty to be done. She struggled to free herself from the weight of the berth that was pressing her down. To move hurt her and gave her pain, but she worked until she had freed her arms and obtained a grip with her hands on the edge of the berth. A moment later and she was free.
The car was in utter darkness. Grace lay breathing heavily, trying to more fully collect herself, then drew herself up and found she was standing on the side of the car looking out through the broken roof.
"Buddies, are you all right?" she shouted.
"No, we're all dead," answered a calm voice after a few seconds of silence.
Grace drew her pocket flash lamp and cast its rays about her. It did not seem possible that a human being could have come through alive in that tangled mass of wreckage. The man in the berth over her, or who had occupied the berth under which she had fallen, lay almost at her feet.
"I'll get you all out as soon as possible," shouted the Overton girl. "Don't try to help yourselves. If any of you are pinned down I'll help those first."
Not a voice answered her, though Grace well knew that some were in that predicament.
First she worked at the broken roof, tugged
at jagged pieces of galvanized iron that had covered it and turned the pieces back until an exit was free down almost to the edge at that point. Through this she dragged the soldier who had occupied the berth above her, and laid him on the ground a few yards from the car.
Straightening up she blew several long, trilling blasts on the sergeant's whistle that she always carried, knowing that if there were any unwounded soldiers within sound of it they would respond. She could hear some one chopping in the forward car that she could plainly see lying on its side up above her.
Crawling back into the car, she turned on her light and found another soldier. This one was pinned down under a piece of roofing and it required all her strength and repeated efforts to free him. He was conscious and, in reply to her inquiry, bravely declared that lie wasn't much hurt. Grace thought she knew better. She dragged him out also.
The next man was unconscious or dead, she was unable to decide which, but could not afford to take the time to find out. The important thing to be done was to get the men out as quickly as possible. One by one, exerting herself to the utmost, her clothing torn, Grace Harlowe Gray dragged the men out into the open and placed them on the ground.
They were nearly all out when a trainman came down to her assistance. It was fortunate that he did, for one of the last two of her patients was so firmly pinned down by the wreckage that she could not budge the mass of material that held him. Her own strength was failing her and she was beginning to feel weak and dizzy. For a brief few minutes Grace permitted herself to lie down on the ground, then she was up and at her work.
"Give them water. Here's my canteen. I'll be right back."
Grace crawled back into the car and found her way to her stateroom. The door was jammed so that she could not open it. She smashed it in with a piece of broken timber and crept in on all fours. The stateroom was a wreck too, and it took her some time to find her supply of first aid bandages and antiseptics. Finding them she got out as quickly as possible, gathering up a canteen and a couple of blankets as she went.
"Go in and get more blankets. Hurry! The men mustn't lie on the ground. Is any of them gone?"
"One," answered the trainman. "Couple more badly injured."
"Anybody killed forward?"
"Conductor and a trainman. No soldiers on
board except these and the fellows in the other car. This is a supply train." At Grace's bidding the trainman led her to the more seriously wounded, to whom she gave first aid. All, save three, had by this time regained consciousness.
"Hurry now and fetch the blankets," she urged. "Where are the engineer and the fireman?"
"Helping in the other car."
"Good. Was-was Miss Briggs hurt?"
"You mean the woman up there?" pointing to the car poised on the edge of the embankment.
"I don't think so. She's blowing off steam like an overloaded boiler and threatening the engine crew with a club because they aren't working fast enough," answered the trainman, who then hurried over to the rear wrecked car and began carrying out blankets and piling them on the ground.
"Good old Elfreda!" murmured Grace. "I knew she would find herself when face to face with an emergency such as this." Grace, happy at thought of Elfreda 's strength, spread out blankets and mattresses which the trainman was now throwing out, and called to him to come and help her lift the men onto them. Over each mattress a blanket was placed; on
this a wounded man was placed and over hum another blanket was stretched. It was a wonderful relief to those suffering doughboys.
"Please go to Miss Briggs and suggest that she make her patients comfortable in the same way, please," directed the Overton girl. "Assist her if she needs you, otherwise I shall be glad to have you here."
Grace now devoted her attention wholly to the men, stroking their heads, talking soothingly to them and calming them, for the nerves of most were shattered after their fearful experience. She was interrupted by the return of the trainman.
"Well?" questioned Grace.
"The woman says she doesn't need me. Says she has too many men already and that they are doing nothing but getting in each other's way."
"How near is the station?' she questioned.
"Five hundred yards or so."
"Is it open?"
"No. It won't open until seven in the morning.
"I am of a different opinion. Is there a telegraph office there!"
"Good! You go find the station agent and
fetch him to the station.