“We will drive slowly,” said Captain Ribaut, after he had given his orders to a soldier chauffeur, “for one does not usually go into the trenches until after dark. There will be plenty to see on the way, and enough to talk about.”
At one point Captain Ribaut directed the soldier-driver to turn the machine into a field. Here the Americans alighted to see seemingly endless streams of French “camions” go by. These are heavy motor trucks that carry supplies to the front.
“And here come some vehicles from the front that tell their own story,” spoke Captain Ribaut rather sadly.
In another moment the first of a string of at least half a hundred small cars went by at rapid speed toward the rear. Each car bore the device of the Red Cross.
“There has been disagreeable work, and our wounded are going back,” explained Captain Ribaut. “But my friends,” he cried suddenly, “I congratulate you on what you are privileged to see. These are not our French ambulances, but some of your own cars, given to France, and young men from America are driving them.”
That these were American ambulance sections in French service there could be no doubt, for as the drivers caught sight of the American uniforms they offered informal salutes in high glee. It was reserved for one gleeful young American, however, to call out, as his ambulance whizzed by:
“Hullo, buddies! Welcome to our city!”
“If that young man were in the American Army I would feel obliged to try to have him stopped,” said Major Wells good-humoredly. “That was not the real American form of salutation to officers, but I know the youngster felt genuinely glad to see us so close to the front.”
“They are a happy lot, perhaps sometimes a trifle too merry,” said Captain Ribaut half-apologetically. “But they are splendid, these young Americans of yours who drive ambulances for us. They never know the meaning of fear, and after a great battle they are devotion itself to duty. They will drive as long as they can sit and hold the wheel. There would have been many more aching hearts in France to-day had it not been for the fine young Americans who came over here with American cars to help us look after our wounded!”
Presently the party entered the car again. Every mile that they covered took them closer to the Inferno of shell-fire. More ambulance cars whizzed by.
Then the visitors’ car drew up before an unpretentious looking house just off the main road.
“If you will come inside,” invited Captain Ribaut, “I know that our general of division will be delighted to meet you.”
THE THRILL OF THE FIRE TRENCH
Passing the two sentries at the front door the officers found themselves in a small ante-room.
Excusing himself, Captain Ribaut left the Americans briefly, but was speedily back.