The two truants, it may be added, could not be found. Corporal Smith had to return without them. At a late hour of the evening they appeared, not an atom repentant, at the hospital, having persuaded someone to put them into the correct bus. One of them, Jock, explained that, being from the North, he had desired to seize this opportunity of seeing the sights of London. Jock, I may remind you, is totally blind. Jock’s guide, the man who had volunteered to show him the sights and who had only once been in London before, could see very faintly the difference between light and dark.... Thus this pair of irresponsibles had fared forth into the dusk of Regent Street.
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It sounds a very horrible fate to be blinded. But somehow the blind men themselves seldom seem to be overwhelmed by its horribleness. If you want to hear the merriest banter in a war hospital, visit the blind men’s wards. The pathos of them lies less in the sadness of the victims than in the triumphant, wonderful fact that they are not sad. I wish we others all inhabited the same mysteriously jocund spiritual realm as Jock and his comrades, who come tramp-tramping to the concert-room down the corridor from the D wards.
WHEN THE WOUNDED ARRIVE
The receiving hall of the hospital is its clearing house of patients. It is a huge room, with a lofty and echoing roof, a little in the style of a church. Before the war, when the building was a school, this rather grandiose apartment no doubt witnessed speechifyings and prize distributions. May the time be not far distant when it will once again be used for those observances! Meanwhile its vast floor is occupied by ranks of beds.
Those beds are generally untenanted. Visitors who, like the lady in the play, have taken the wrong turning, are apt to find themselves in the receiving hall, and, gazing at its array of vacant beds, have been known to conclude that the hospital was empty. (As if any war-hospital, in these times, could be empty!) But our patients have only a short acquaintanceship with the receiving-hall beds: these beds are momentary resting-places on their journey healthwards: they are not meant to lie in but to lie on. The three-score wards for which the receiving hall is the clearing house are the real destination of the patients; down long corridors, in wards far cosier because less ornate than this, the patient will find “his” bed ready for him, the bed which he is not to lie on but in.