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Many of the wounded who were brought in between the 18th and the 24th of January came in after sundown.  The largest number arrived on the night of Monday, the 22nd.  It was a very dark night.  The outline of the tents and marquees was shadowy and faint.  The camp was but the ghost of a camp. Here and there a feeble light would be shining through the fly of a marquee, and here and there an orderly, picking his way among the tent ropes by the aid of a lantern, would light up a row or two in the little canvas town.  In the front of the camp was the flagstaff, high up upon which were suspended the two white lights which marked the situation of the hospital.  These lamps only sufficed to illumine a few of the tents in the first line.  The flaps of these tents were probably secured and the occupants asleep.

It was a weary journey to the hospital, and one can imagine with what eagerness the tired, hungry, aching wounded would look ahead for the two white lights.  Rocking in pain on a crawling ox wagon, or jolted in the rigid fabric of an ambulance, the way must have seemed unending. Tumbling along in the dark, with no sound but the creaking of the wagon and the incessant moans of the shapeless, huddled figures who were lying in the cart, the journey might well have been one never to be forgotten. How many a time a tired head must have been lifted up from the straw to see if there were yet any sign of the two white lights.  Would the journey never end, and the pain never cease? and was the broken limb to be wrenched every time the blundering wagon pitched and rolled?  And why had the man who had talked so much ceased to speak - and indeed to breathe?  Would they drive through the dark for eternity? and would they never come in view of the two white lights?

It was a miserable sight to see these belated wagons come in, and they would often rumble in all night.  They emerged one by one out of the darkness and drew up in the open space between the two central lines of tents, and between the few uplifted lanterns held by the sergeants and the men on duty.  After they had deposited their load they moved away and vanished again into the night.

Some of the wounded in the wagons were sitting up, but the majority were lying on the straw with which the wagon would be littered.  Some were asleep and some were dead; and by the light of the lanterns the wagon seemed full of khaki-coloured bundles, vague in outline and much stained with blood, with here and there an upraised bandage, and here and there a wandering hand, or a leg in crude splints, or a bare knee.  And round about all a medley of rifles, boots, haversacks, helmets, cartridge pouches and tin canteens.

What the journey must have been to many I could gather from an incident of one of these dreary nights.  A wagon had reached the hospital lines and was waiting to be unloaded.  A man with a shattered arm in a sling was sitting up, and at his feet a comrade was lying who had been very hard hit, and who had evidently become weaker and less conscious as the wagon had rolled along.  The apparently sleeping man moved, and, lifting his head to look at his pal, who was sitting above him, asked wearily, for probably the fiftieth time, "Don’t you see nothing yet, Bill, of the two white lights?"

Parent Category: Books
Category: Treves: The tale of a field hospital
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