Some of the girls got a Frenchwoman, “Alice” by name, to do their “cues” for them. She used to bring her small baby with her and dump him down anywhere in the corridor, sometimes in a waste paper basket, till she was done. One morning he howled bitterly for about an hour, and at last I went out to see what could be the matter. “Oh, Mees, it is that he has burnt himself against the stove, the careless one” (he couldn’t walk, so it must have been her own fault). “I took him to a Pharmacie but he has done nothing but cry ever since.”
Now I had fixed up a small Pharmacie in one of the empty “cues,” complete with sterilised dressings and rows of bottles, and bandaged up whatever cuts and hurts there were, in fact my only sorrow was there were not more “cases.” Considering the many men we had had at Lamarck burnt practically all over from fire-bombs, I suggested that she should bring the baby into the Pharmacie and see if I could do anything for it. She was quite willing, and carried it in, when I undid the little arm (only about six inches long) burnt from the elbow to the wrist! The chemist had simply planked on some zinc ointment and lint. I got some warm boracic and soaked it off gently, though the little thing redoubled its yells, and a small crowd of F.A.N.Y.s dashed down the passage to see what was up. “It’s only Pat killing a baby” was one of the cheerful explanations I heard. So encouraging for me. I dressed it with Carron oil and to my relief the wails ceased. She brought it every morning after that, and I referred proudly to my “out-patient” who made great progress. Within ten days the arm had healed up, and Alice was my devoted follower from that time on.
We had a lot of work that autumn, and barges came down regularly as clockwork. Many of these cases were taken to the Duchess of Sutherland’s Hospital. She had given up the Bourbourg Belgian one some time before and now had one for the British, where the famous Carroll-Dakin treatment was given. One night, taking some cases to the Casino hospital, there was a boy on board with his eyes bandaged. He had evidently endeared himself to the Sister on the train, for she came along with the stretcher bearers and saw him safely into my car. “Good-bye, Sister,” I heard him say, in a cheery voice, “thank you a thousand times for your kindness—you wait till my old eyes are better and I’ll come back and see you. I know you must look nice,” he continued, with a laugh, “you’ve got such a kind voice.”
Tears were in her eyes as she came round to speak to me and whisper that it was a hopeless case; he had been so severely injured he would never see again.
I raged inwardly against the powers that cared not a jot who suffered so long as their own selfish ends were achieved.
That journey was one of the worst I’ve ever done. If the boy had not been so cheerful it would have been easier, but there he lay chatting breezily to me through the canvas, wanting to know all about our work and asking hundreds of questions. “You wait till I get home,” he said, “I’ll have the best eye chap there is, you bet your life. By Jove, it will be splendid to get these bandages off, and see again.”