Some bread and some pale golden Hungarian Tokay were produced by our host for our refreshment. The latter was delicious, but it must have been much more potent than it looked, for though I only had one small glass of it, I collapsed altogether afterwards, and lay on the floor of the car, and could not move till the lights of Warsaw were in sight. In a few minutes more we arrived at the Hotel Bristol, and then the Flying Column went to bed at last.
MORE DOINGS OF THE FLYING COLUMN
The Grand Duchess Cyril happened to be staying at the Hotel Bristol too. Like most of the other members of the Russian Royal Family, since the beginning of the war she has been devoting her whole time to helping wounded soldiers, and is the centre of a whole network of activities. She has a large hospital in Warsaw for men and officers, a very efficient ambulance train that can hold 800 wounded, and one of the best surgeons in Petrograd working on it, and a provision train which sets up feeding-stations for the troops and for refugees in places where food is very scarce, which last is an indescribable boon to all who benefit by it. The Grand Duchess’s hospital in Warsaw, like every other just at this time, was crammed to overflowing with wounded from Lodz, and the staff was inadequate to meet this unexpected need.
The Grand Duchess met Princess V. in the lounge just as we arrived from Lodz, and begged that our Column might go and help for a time at her hospital. Accordingly, the next day, the consent of the Red Cross Office having been obtained, we went off to the Grand Duchess’s hospital for a time to supplement and relieve their staff. They met us with open arms, as they were all very tired and very thankful for our help. They only had room for fifty patients and had had about 150 brought in. Fortunately the Grand Duchess’s ambulance train had just come back to Warsaw, so the most convalescent of the old cases were taken off to Petrograd, but even then we were working in the operating-theatre till twelve or one every night. They hoped we had come for two or three weeks and were very disgusted when, in five days’ time, the order came for us to go off to Skiernevice with the automobiles. The hospital staff gave us such a nice send-off, and openly wished that they belonged to a flying column too. I must say it was very interesting these startings off into the unknown, with our little fleet of automobiles containing ourselves and our equipment. We made a very flourishing start out of Warsaw, but very soon plunged into an appalling mess of mud. One could really write an epic poem on Russian roads. At the best of times they are awful; on this particular occasion they were full of large holes made by shells and covered with thick swampy mud that had been snow the week before. It delayed us so much that we did not get to Skiernevice till late that night.