Sister Wicks asked me one day to go through these wards with her. It must be remembered that at this early period there were no regular typhoid hospitals; and in fact ours was the only hospital in the place that would take them in, the others having refused. Our beds were therefore always full, and the typhoid staff was looked on as the hardest worked in the Hospital, and always tried to make us feel that they were the only ones who did any real work!
It was difficult to imagine these hollow-cheeked men with glittering eyes and claw-like hands were the men who had stemmed the German rush at Liege. Some were delirious, others merely plucking at the sheets with their wasted fingers, and everywhere the sisters and nurses were hurrying to and fro to alleviate their sufferings as much as possible. I shall always see the man in bed sixteen to this day. He was extremely fair, with blue eyes and a light beard. I started when I first saw him, he looked so like some of the pictures of Christ one sees; and there was an unearthly light in his eyes. He was delirious and seemed very ill. The sister told me he had come down with a splendid fighting record, and was one of the worst cases of pneumonic typhoid in the ward. My heart ached for him, and instinctively I shivered, for somehow he did not seem to belong to this world any longer. We passed on to Ward III, where I was presented to “Le Petit Sergent,” a little bit of a man, so cheery and bright, who had made a marvellous recovery, but was not yet well enough to be moved. Everywhere was that peculiar smell which seems inseparable from typhoid wards in spite, or perhaps because of, the many disinfectants. We left by the door at the end of Salle III and once in the sunlight again, I heaved a sigh of relief; for frankly I thought the three typhoid Salles the most depressing places on earth. They were dark, haunting, and altogether horrible. “Well,” said Sergeant Wicks cheerfully, “what do you think of the typhoid Wards? Splendid aren’t they? You should have seen them at first.” As I made no reply, she rattled gaily on, “Well, I hope you will find the work interesting when you come to us as a pro. to-morrow.” I gasped. “Am I to leave the blesses, then?” was all I could feebly ask—“Why, yes, didn’t they tell you?”—and she was off before I could say anything more.
* * * * *
When one goes to work in France one can’t pick and choose, and the next morning saw me in the typhoid wards which soon I learnt to love, and which I found so interesting that I hardly left them from that time onwards, except for “trench duty.”