Grace Harlow - Chapter 8
GRACE ATTAINS HER OB3ECTIVE
"Send some one to the plane for my supplies. Fetch them first, then get the
'~ rations I have brought," he ordered crisply, altogether too crisply, Miss Briggs thought, considering the circumstances.
"Very good, sir. Orderly!"
The orderly reported promptly, stiffened and saluted.
"Conduct Major Cobb to the patients. I will join you when I have given the necessary directions for getting out the supplies."
The orderly led the way to the station, the medical officer taking in the scene there with alert, understanding eyes.
"Who had these men brought in here!"
"Mrs. Gray, sir.
"Had anything to eat!"
"Yes, sir, at noon to-day."
"Where'd they get it!"
"Mrs. Gray foraged through the village and bought it, then pooked it in the locomotive fircbox, sir."
"Humph! Where are the worst cases!"
"In the freight house, sir.
The officer lost no time in going to the half dozen men who were in what Grace considered to be a serious condition. He examined them and removed the dressing from the wounds of one.
"When were these dressings done?"
"This morning, sir," replied the orderly.
"Who did them?"
"Mrs. Gray and Miss Briggs. They dressed all the men's wounds after breakfast."
"Are they nurses, Orderly?"
"I believe not, sir. Mrs. Gray, I understand, is an ambulance driver who has been in front line work for some time. Miss Briggs is an attendant, not a trained nurse, at a field hospitaL She is a woman lawyer, I am told."
"Humph! They know how to dress a wound," observed the major to himself. "Could not have done it better myself. Could teach some of those young surgeons of my section
"Fetch a pail of water!"
The officer began dressing a wound, giving it rapid but careful professional attention. In the
;~ meantime Grace had gone out to the airplane with her assistants, herself carrying in the
medical supplies and suggesting to the pilot that he come in out of the rain.
"You will not be able to fly back to-night in all probability and-"
"The major intends to return to-night, I believe. Many hurt in the wreck?"
"All of them. Only one fatality, I am thankful to say," replied Grace. Reaching the station she carried the medical supplies, including dressings and medicines, into the freight house and put them down. The major was at work over the second case, but she did not go near him, not considering that it was expected of her.
"You won, Loyalheart," said Elfreda, who had halted just to the rear of her companion. "Your telegram resulted in quick action. I congratulate you."
"So do I congratulate you," smiled Grace.
"On being such a fine prophetess. Your prophecy was that something would drop. Something did drop-it was an airplane and it brought us what we so much needed, surgical assistance, food and medicines. Were I in your place I should hang out a sign in the form of an open book, on the title page of which I should have printed, 'Professor Briggs, who for twenty francs will open the book of your past, present and future.
"How foolish! The major is beckoning."
Grace stepped over to him.
"The first man's condition is not favorable, he informed her. "If he awakens and is in pain give him half of one of these tablets every hour until he goes to sleep, but do not awaken him to take the dose. Four others are in poor condition, but may pull through. I have numbered them from one to four in the order in which they lie, to correspond with directions written on this slip, which will guide you in giving them their medicine. Have the supplies been removed from the plane?"
"Yes, sir. Shall you look over the others?"
"Yes." He did so, here and there removing a bandage to examine a wound, but quickly replacing the bandage with that now familiar "humph!" The officer went down the line, working with great rapidity, but apparently neglecting nothing that should have been done.
"Get coffee," whispered Grace as Elfreda passed them. "The major and the pilot will need it, as they are returning to-night."
Elfreda hurried away. While she prepared the coffee the trainman started a fire in the station stove, and, by the time Major Cobb had completed his work, the coffee was ready.
"I have done all I can for them," he said tersely. "Some may die on your hands, but I
do not believe more than one will. If we had him where lie could have attention we might pull him through. He must be carefully watched so that restoratives may be administered and the heart action stimulated if need."
"I will sit with him all night, sir. He shall have all the attention that an inexperienced nurse is able to give him. We have taken the liberty to make some coffee for you. Have I your permission to ask your pilot to come in!"
The major's face brightened.
"That was fine of you. Certainly, ask the pilot in. A hot cup of coffee will do us both a world of good. It's going to be a trying drive back to our station.
Grace excused herself and sent the trainman for the pilot. In the meantime Grace had poured the coffee and the major was fairly gulping it down. She offered him some hardtack and a can of corned beef. He accepted the hardtack, but declined the canned stuff.
'Come in, Sergeant," lie called, observing his pilot standing just outside of the station door. "Here's the makings of warmth for us for our journey. The men seem pretty well content here, and I don't know that I blame them. Were either of you injured in the wreck!"
"Merely shaken up, sir," answered Grace. "It was tough on the men, though. May I ask
what are the prospects of our getting through!" "Not very good. You will not get away tonight. On the way out I observed that the line was congested with stalled trains. It didn't look as though they ever would get the tracks clear. Some of those trains will have to back up all the way to Paris. There are not sidings enough to hold them. I think the rations we brought will be sufficient for another day. By that time you should be on your way.
Grace expressed the hope that assistance might come soon.
"How did you get word out! The orders came from headquarters and were very insistent."
"I telegraphed to the Commander-in-Chief." Grace flushed a little as she told him.
The major gazed at her inquiringly, then laughed outright.
"Young woman, I will say that you have nerve. I congratulate you. No man could have done better. I doubt if a man could have obtained such quick action from headquarters. Your work here has been of a high order. You no doubt have saved the lives of several of the patients, and in my report to my superior I shall give you the credit that you deserve. Sergeant, are you ready!"
The major extended an impulsive hand, first 8liaking hands with Grace, then with Elfreda J Briggs. He then saluted and strode out fob lowed by his pilot. Grace sent the orderly and the trainmen to help the fliers to take off.
Grace told Miss Briggs what the officer had said about their worst case and said she would sit with the wounded man through the night. Elfreda urged that she be permitted to take her watch, but Grace shook her head, declaring that the responsibility being hers she must do the actual work in this instance.
"Should I need assistance I will send for you. The man is sleeping now, so we might as well ~it down and chat. The agent says we are to use his office freely and to make it our sleeping place. I have the key. He has gone for the night." After instructing the orderly to watch the patient, the two overworked Overton girls went to the agent's office and sat down in the two comfortable chairs that the place contained. The rain was pouring down on the roof, but the swinging lamp made the office warm and cheerful
It was the first time they had enjoyed such comfort since leaving their station at the front. Elfreda asked if Grace's husband knew that she was coming to Paris.
"No. Not knowing how long the trip might
take, I thought best not to tell him, knowing that, were we to be detained, lie would stew and imagine all sorts of things had happened to us. You don't know how happy I shall be to have Tom and darling little Yvonne with me. It seems strange to think that I shall see my daughter. Think of it, Elfreda."
"I do think of it, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I shall be as happy as you to see her. I wish she belonged to me-that is, I wish you could find another one just like her and give her to me-not Yvonne, but the new find, I mean."
The girls chatted until midnight, when Grace got up to resume her watch, directing Elfreda to turn in. The orderly she sent to bed and then she made a quiet trip about her two wards, observing the patients critically. The remaining members of the train crew were asleep at one end of the freight house on blankets that had been provided by Grace. They had proved themselves to be good fellows, each one of them, and the Overton girl reflected that an American, no matter what his garb or station in life might be, ordinarily was a man to be depended upon in an emergency.
Along toward morning her patient had a bad spell. She worked over him coolly, but fearful of the result. To her great relief his heart acr
tion improved and he began breathing naturally a few moments after she had administered the heart stimulant. After that she did not leave him for a single moment during all the rest of the night. When morning came she sent for Elfreda and, rolling up in a blanket on the floor of the freight house, went to sleep, after leaving instructions that she was to be called at seven to get breakfast for the men.
When Grace was called, breakfast was ready. J. Elfreda had stolen a march on her and was already serving the doughboys. The serious case, much to "Captain" Grace's relief, showed marked improvement and greeted her with a smile that went straight to her heart. Perhaps he knew that she had saved his heart from ceasing its beats during the night.
The morning was cool and rainy, and the fire was kept going in the station stove all the forenoon, the train crew making frequent attacks on the rear platform.
After breakfast the men were bathed, but, save in half a dozen instances, no bandages were removed, the surgeon having told the girls that it would not be necessary that day. This was a relief, the redressing and rebandaging being a trying task.
Later in the day the agent informed her that a train was expected to get through early in the
evening, and that sometime during the night the men would be evacuated. This meant that the night's rest of the wounded soldiers would have to be broken, which "Captain" Grace did not look upon with approval. However, it was not for her to express disapproval, for this would come as an official order.
Before dark engineers and workmen were on the job relaying the track. Soon the wrecking car was pushed in, the damaged cars were lifted off and tumbled down the bank; the track was put in order, and a train rolled through on its way toward the front.
A procession of trains followed it, all moving slowly. This procession continued until midnight, when a train halted at the station and shifted two cars to the siding. They were the cars for the wounded men, but carried neither stretcher-bearers nor surgeons. There were orders, however, for Grace, directing her to load the men aboard as quickly as possible and be ready to be coupled to a westbound train.
"I don't believe we shall be hauled out before to-morrow, but orders are orders so we might as well get the job done," announced Grace. "Orderly, awaken the train crew, and ask them to help us get the patients aboard."
The patients grumbled, but the train crew got
~ up smilingly and began their work. Grace and
Elfreda carried in the blankets. These were government property and she felt herself responsible for them. At the same time she directed the placing of the men, paying especial attention to the four serious cases, who withstood the excitement of the moving much better than she had thought they would.
At two o'clock the train was loaded, mat-. tresses aboard, provisions stored and all government property, not destroyed in the wreck, accounted for. Grace breathed a sigh of relief when the task was finished, and, leaving Elfreda in charge, turned in for a short sleep. She got up at daylight, finding that they were still on the siding.
"Just as I expected," she declared laughingly. "Elfreda, you turn in. It is my turn to get the breakfast. You may have yours later. How did the men come through!"
"They all slept the night through. The trainmen have taken care of the two who passed out and will take them on to Paris."
Grace's face sobered, but she made no reply. Breakfast that morning was prepared on the station stove, and served, piping hot, by the orderly, which put the men in excellent shape for the journey. There would be no more hot meals, in all probability, until they reached Paris. Grace reported to Paris that their pa-
tients were on board, but no train stopped for them until after eleven o'clock that morning, when they were coupled to a westbound supply train which rumbled slowly away. They had a fairly uninterrupted rim for an hour. That is, they had the right of way, but frequently were obliged to wait for other trains to take sidings to permit them to pass.
"it is a wonder the Americans haven't laid ~ second track on this important line," observed Elfreda.
"The Americans have been otherwise engaged of late," answered "Captain" Grace. "They are going to be still further engaged almost any day now. That is the reason I am eager to get back, for there is going to be the biggest and most important drive of the war, a drive that I believe is going to break the back of Heinie beyond all hope of repair. Happy day, eh, Elfreda!"
"Indeed it will be, then back to the law for J. Elfreda Briggs, never again to stray from the paths of peace. Once is enough to last me for a lifetime and on through any possible reincarnations in the future ages. How is that, Loyalheart '/"
"A wonderful flight. One could almost play that on a piano," laughed Grace.
The girls passed the rest of the day chatting
with the men. Grace had found some apples in a French village and gave the men a happy surprise when she passed them around late in the afternoon, and for those who could not use their hands, the girls scraped the apples and fed them to the patients on the point of a table knife, just the way many of them had been fed scraped apple when they were too young to eat them in the adult way.
It was midnight when the train finally pulled in at the Eastern Station in Paris, where ambulances were waiting to convey the men to the American Hospital at Neuilly. Elfreda rode in with the first lot, Grace remaining with the train until all of her charges had been placed in ambulances. "Captain" Grace then rode in with an ambulance driver, after having asked for and received a receipt for the government property which she had turned over at the station.
The two Overton girls were assigned to cots in the nurses' quarters for the night, and, with responsibility thrown off, they slept the night through without once turning on their pillows. The coming day was destined to offer a full measure of interest for both.