“However,” he continued, “my point is simply my plea for patience with our enterprise even at the times when we can’t send home sensational figures. ‘They also serve who only stand and wait,’ and the essence of our utility, as of that of any ambulance corps, is just to be there, on any and every contingency, including the blessed contingency of a temporary drop in the supply of the wounded turned out and taken on—since such comparative intermissions occur. Ask our friends, I beg you, to rid themselves of the image of our working on schedule time or on guarantee of a maximum delivery; we are dependent on the humors of battle, on incalculable rushes and lapses, on violent outbreaks of energy which rage and pass and are expressly designed to bewilder. It is not for the poor wounded to oblige us by making us showy, but for us to let them count on our open arms and open lap as troubled children count on those of their mother. It is now to be said, moreover, that our opportunity of service threatens inordinately to grow; such things may any day begin to occur at the front as will make what we have up to now been able to do mere child’s play, though some of our help has been rendered when casualties were occurring at the rate, say, of 5,000 in twenty minutes, which ought, on the whole, to satisfy us. In face of such enormous facts of destruction—”
Here Mr. James broke off as if these facts were, in their horror, too many and too much for him. But after another moment he explained his pause.
“One finds it in the midst of all this as hard to apply one’s words as to endure one’s thoughts. The war has used up words; they have weakened, they have deteriorated like motor car tires; they have, like millions of other things, been more overstrained and knocked about and voided of the happy semblance during the last six months than in all the long ages before, and we are now confronted with a depreciation of all our terms, or, otherwise speaking, with a loss of expression through increase of limpness, that may well make us wonder what ghosts will be left to walk.”
This sounded rather desperate, yet the incorrigible interviewer, conscious of the wane of his only chance, ventured to glance at the possibility of a word or two on the subject of Mr. James’s present literary intentions. But the kindly hand here again was raised, and the mild voice became impatient.
“Pardon my not touching on any such irrelevance. All I want is to invite the public, as unblushingly as possible, to take all the interest in us it can; which may be helped by knowing that our bankers are Messrs. Brown Brothers & Co., 59 Wall Street, New York City, and that checks should be made payable to the American Volunteer Motor Ambulance Corps.”
By Edward Lyall Fox
[From THE NEW YORK TIMES, April 11, 1915.]
Copyright, 1915, by the Wildman News Service.