The same care had to be observed on the return journey, and we could only speak in the softest of whispers. The bombardment had now died away as suddenly as it had begun. The men turned from their posts to whisper “Bon soir, bonne chance,” or else “Dieu vous benisse.” The silence after that ear-splitting din was positively uncanny: it made one feel one wanted to shout or whistle, or do something wild; anything to break it. One almost wished the Germans would retaliate! That silent monster only such a little way from us seemed just waiting to spring. We crawled one by one out of the trenches on to the road, and began the perilous journey homewards with the blesses, knowing that at any moment the Germans might begin bombarding. As we were resting the Captain of the battery joined us, and in the semi-darkness I saw he was offering me a bunch of snowdrops! It certainly was an odd moment to receive a bouquet, but somehow at the time it did not seem to be particularly out of place, and I tucked them into the belt of my tunic and treasured them for days afterwards—snowdrops that had flowered regardless of war in the garden of some cottage long since destroyed.
Arrived once more at Headquarters we were pressed to a petit verre of some very hot and raw liqueur, but nevertheless very warming, and very good. I felt I agreed with the Irish coachman who at his first taste declared “The shtuff was made in Hiven but the Divil himself invinted the glasses!” We had got terribly cold in the trenches. After taking leave of our kind hosts we set off for the Hospital.
It was now about 1.30 a.m., and we were stopped no less than seventeen times on our way back. As it was my job to lean out and whisper into the sentry’s “pearly,” I got rather exasperated. By the time I’d passed the seventeenth “Gustave,” I felt I’d risk even a bayonet to be allowed to snooze without interruption. The blesses were deposited in Hospital and the car, once rid of its wounded load, sped through the night back to Lamarck, and I wondered sleepily if my first visit to the trenches was a reality or only a dream.
THE TYPHOID WARDS
When I first came to Hospital I had been put as V.A.D. in Ward I, on the surgical side, and at ten o’clock had heard “shop” (which by the way was strictly debarred, but nevertheless formed the one and only topic of conversation), from nurses and sisters in the Typhoid Wards, but had never actually been there myself. As previously explained the three Typhoid Wards—rooms leading one out of the other on the ground floor—were in a separate building joined only by some outhouses to the main portion, thus forming three sides of the paved yard.
The east end of the Cathedral with its beautiful windows completed the square, and in the evenings it was very restful to hear the muffled sounds of the old organ floating up through the darkness.