“One would truly say from the distance that they were men, but this one, when one sees her close, is not too bad!” said a third.
“Passing remarks about you, they are, I should say,” said McLaughlan to me as I fixed the spare wheel in place.
“You wait,” I panted, “I’ll pay them out.”
“See you her strong boots?” they continued. “Believe you that she can understand what we say?” asked one. “Never on your life,” was the answer, and the wheel in place, they watched every movement as I wiped my hands on a rag and drew on my gloves. “Eight minutes exactly,” whispered McLaughlan triumphantly, as he seated himself beside me on the lorry preparatory to starting.
The crowd still watched expectantly, and, leaning out a little, I said sweetly, in my best Parisian accent: “Mesdames et Messieurs, la seance est terminee.” And off we drove! Their expressions defied description; I never saw people look so astounded. McLaughlan was unfeignedly delighted. “Wot was that you ’anded out to them, Miss?” he asked. “Fair gave it ’em proper anyway, straight from the shoulder,” and he chuckled with glee.
I frequently met an old A.S.C. driver at one of the hospitals where I had a long wait while the rations were unloaded. He was fat, rosy, and smiling, and we became great friends. He was at least sixty; and told me that when War broke out, and his son enlisted, he could not bear to feel he was out of it, and joined up to do his bit as well. He was a taxi owner-driver in peace times, and had three of them; the one he drove being fitted with “real silver vauses!” I heard all about the “missus,” of whom he was very proud, and could imagine how anxiously she watched the posts for letters from her only son and her old man.
Some months later when I was driving an ambulance a message was brought to me that Stone was in hospital suffering from bronchitis. I went off to visit him.
“I’m for home this time,” he said sadly, “but won’t the old missus be pleased?” I looked at his smiling old face and thought indeed she would.
He asked particularly if I would drive him to the boat when he was sent to England. “It’ll seem odd to be going off on a stretcher, Miss,” he said sadly, “just like one of the boys, and not even so much as a scratch to boast of.” I pointed out that there were many men in England half his age who had done nothing but secure cushy jobs for themselves.
“Well, Miss,” he said, as I rose to leave, “it’ll give me great pleasure to drive you about London for three days when the war’s over, and in my best taxi, too, with the silver vauses!”
(N.B. I’m still looking for him.)
Life in the Convoy Camp was very different from Lamarck, and I missed the cheery companionship of the others most awfully. At meal times only half the drivers would be in, and for days at a time you hardly saw your friends.