Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2018  Vol. 17 No. 2

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Gerzat: Chapter XII—The Spanish Influenza
from The Medical Pickwick VI (January 1920)

The major‚ who was commanding the battalion‚ came into the infirmary‚ sat down in my chair of state‚ crossed his legs and lighted a cigarette.

“I want to talk to you about the Spanish influenza‚” he said. “You know they’ve had a lot of it in the first battalion‚ and there’s quite a bit of it down at Clermont‚ in the auto school.”

“Yes‚ I know there is‚” I replied‚ “but we seem to be very fortunate—there have only been a few mild cases of it so far.”

“They say there are dozens of them sick down at Clermont‚” he continued; “and more taking down every day; they’re awful sick‚ too! I don’t want it to get started here if we can help it‚ and I just wondered if there was anything we could do to prevent it.”

“Nothing that I know of‚ Major. As near as I can learn this new disease is nothing more nor less than our old friend‚ influenza—grippe—with the ‘Spanish’ tacked on for good luck. I don’t think we need worry about it until it hits us‚ which calamity‚ I hope‚ will never happen.”

“Can’t you give the men something to keep them from taking it?”

“No; nothing that I or anybody else knows of.”

“Could you improve our sanitary conditions any?”

“Yes‚ we can always improve sanitary conditions. Fresh air is the thing‚ especially at nights‚ and we have that—the windows are open in every billet; and over-crowding as little as possible—if we could find some new billets we could do something along that line‚ for there is no question but what the men are fearfully over­crowded now; and I would like to get every man out of those barns with stone floors‚ and especially the big one with the dirt floor. Of course‚ it’s better than tents and better than we’ll have it at the front‚ but I don’t like it!”

“We’re doing the best we can about it‚” he answered. “Good billets are hard to find. Lieutenant Woods is at it every day.”

“I know he is‚ but it’s one of the essential things. Then‚ again‚ I believe it would be advisable to stop all passes into Clermont. Make the men stay away from there. The less they come in contact with it the better for them.”

I’ll do it!’’ he stated. “I’ll issue the order in the morning.”

“I don’t think we need be alarmed yet‚ Major‚” I said‚ as he started for the doorway. “Our cases have only been a few and not very severe. The first battalion had a lot of them I know‚ but it didn’t seem to hit them very hard. However‚ I hope we don’t get any.”

“So do I‚” he said‚ as he disappeared through the door.

spacer Of the ten men upstairs‚ who had come in the first day‚ four had pneumonia; and three of the four looked as if they might not weather the storm . . .

How little I thought that night‚ as I went to bed‚ that my hopes would be so entirely blasted on the morrow! It was like a bolt of lightning out of a clear sky. The suddenness of the thing was enough to frighten one. However‚ I still hold fast to my optimism. There is no use worrying over future sickness until it strikes you—you cannot delay it—you cannot put it off—be prepared for it‚ always‚ for the worst—and hope for the best.

We had been having an average sick call‚ three or four a day off duty‚ and as many more returning to it—mumps‚ colds‚ a few injuries. But the next morning there were about twenty-five names enrolled on the sick books and ten of them had fever ranging from 99 to 104. I put all of these men upstairs in the hospital room and filled it completely. Those without fever I returned to duty‚ but all afternoon they kept stringing back with high fevers. I could do nothing but send them back to their billets with instructions to go to bed and stay there. Several of my own medical department men were stricken that day.

The next morning I put thirty-five men to bed‚ and more during the day. I do not remember how many the next day or the next‚ but at the end of the fourth day I had 142 men in their bunks. Thereafter a few more each day. This was sufficient work to keep me and my entire force of assistants on the run‚ but a worse misfortune had befallen me—all of my own men were sick‚ except one—and I had it myself!

Almost half of our battalion was away‚ attending some kind of school or other. We were a motorized regiment and required many auto mechanics‚ so many of our men were in the Clermont auto school. We were also developing certain other men into specialists‚ and they were attending gas schools‚ camouflage schools‚ etc. Therefore‚ our numbers were small‚ and 142 sick did not leave many to do the necessary work of caring for them.

All other activities ceased.

Guard posts‚ except one‚ were abandoned‚ because there were no men available for guard duty. Every man who was on his feet was needed to nurse‚ wash‚ transport and otherwise care for the sick men. It was necessary to assemble them in places by themselves‚ so that the sleeping quarters of the well men would be apart from those of the sick. We moved every man into a dry billet with good heating facilities. For days we were busy with this transferring‚ and every time one would happen to glance out he could see a litter or a borrowed French funeral bier pass with a patient. We moved some in trucks.

spacer We had to seal the list of temperatures in an envelope‚ because the men would look at them and if the fever was high the psychology of the matter worked on them in a harmful manner.

Their beds consisted only of the straw ticks on the floor. Each man had two light blankets over him and one under him‚ which was not enough cover during the period of chill. Their overcoats were used for pillows. I had their shelter tents strung upright between them‚ that coughing and sneezing would not spread the infection. I finally gathered them into eight different buildings‚ and they were so crowded that tick was against tick‚ and I must necessarily step on them to examine a comrade’s chest. This was bad‚ but what else could I do? The buildings were good ones‚ dry and warm.

On the fourth day the regimental surgeon came on his daily rounds‚ looked the situation over‚ offered no criticiam or advice‚ and departed. While I was acompanying him my knees shook vigorously and I had to keep my teeth firmly shut to keep them from chattering. I could hardly stay on my feet and was nearly exhausted from the walking‚ although the distance was not great. As soon as he left I went to the infirmary and called the one lone man I had to help me.

“I have made the rounds‚” I said to him. “Here is a list of the men who need Dover’s powder for their cough; here is another list of those who need acetyl-salicylic acid for their aching. Distribute the stuff this evening. I am going to my room and do not wish to be disturbed until morning. If I do not come again at that time you come to the room.”

“Are you sick‚ sir?” he asked anxiously.

“No‚” I replied‚ “but I am dead tired. I must rest.”

I knew that rest was what I needed. It was only two o’clock in the afternoon‚ but I went to my room‚ undressed and tumbled into bed and indulged in a good old-fashioned chill that would have shaken the house if it had been a wooden one. I was afraid to take my temperature. In a very few minutes I passed into a profuse sweat and a profound sleep‚ to be awakened some time in the night by the dim light of a candle‚ held close to the bed‚ by Madame Poste.

“Are you sick‚ Monsieur?” she inquired.

“No. Why?”

“You cough. Ou‚ la la! How you cough!”

“I was asleep. I did not know it‚” I explained.

“I will bring you some tea‚” she said‚ and I objected as strenuously as I could; but she did it.

The next morning I felt better‚ but would have preferred to lie abed rather than to move about. But this was no time to allow a lazy tendency to creep into my life. I was aware that my own case of influenza was going to be a failure‚ so I got up‚ shaved with cold water‚ as I was in the habit of doing—it was good and cold‚ too—and went to the infirmary.

Of the ten men upstairs‚ who had come in the first day‚ four had pneumonia; and three of the four looked as if they might not weather the storm‚ so I called an ambulance from the base hospital. It did not come that day‚ nor the next. I called again to find out the reason for the delay.

We haven’t got to it yet‚” I was informed. “Everybody is calling for ambulances for their sick‚ and the wounded keep pouring in. We will send one as soon as possible.”

There was no consolation in that. I was afraid that three of the men might die‚ and I knew that if they died in the infirmary I would have volumes of explanations to expound as to why I did not send them to a hospital‚ for I had no authority to keep dangerously sick patients. Nor did I desire to. I hunted up the supply officer and told him.

“Lieutenant‚ I’ve got four mighty sick men in the infirmary and can’t get an ambulance‚” I explained. “Will you haul them to the hospital on the truck?’’

“Yes‚ I’ll have the men stop on their way to Clermont in the morning‚ when they go in after supplies.”

We did it that way. We put the men’s ticks in the bottom of the truck and made them as comfortable as we could for the journey‚ but I said to one of the officers who was watching us load them: “I feel sorry for those poor fellows when they hit the cobblestones in Clermont.”

I cautioned the driver: Go slow and don’t bounce those men around any more than you can help—they’re awful sick.”

“Yes sir‚” he said‚ and moved off.

spacer The delirium was of the wild‚ violent‚ battle variety. They fought in aeroplanes‚ tanks‚ submarines‚ balloons and battleships; they fought with artillery‚ infantry‚ machine guns‚ grenades‚ bayonets and even with their fists

I called the one man I had for duty and we worked out a plan of campaign. He was to go ahead of me and take the temperatures of the sick men and leave a list of them for me in each place. I would follow and pick out the worst cases and examine them for complications. I could not examine every man; it would take too much time; and I could not listen to so many chests every day without the stethoscope making my ears so sore that I could hear nothing. On my rounds I would indicate any special drugs needed for the men‚ and my assistant would make a second round and distribute them. We did not have many drugs and it was necessary to conserve them. Unless a man was extremely ill or had some complication we gave him nothing. We followed this method throughout the entire epidemic and found it satisfactory‚ except that we had to seal the list of temperatures in an envelope‚ because the men would look at them and if the fever was high the psychology of the matter worked on them in a harmful manner.

By three o’clock in the afternoon I was completely exhausted and chilly again‚ so I went home and repeated my actions of the previous day. The landlady repeated hers.

The next morning I found many cases of pneumonia‚ and some were becoming delirious. I would gain this information from the nurses‚ or would discover it myself. For instance‚ one of the men‚ who had not previously shown himself to he very sick and had never been irrational‚ said to me as I passed his bunk:

“That was a great stunt I saw you do yesterday!’’

“What was that?” I inquired‚ for I did not remember anything unusual.

“Cutting those fellows up and putting them together again!”

“It wasn’t I‚” I said.

“Yes‚ it was you‚ too. I saw it‚ but you didn’t know I was looking.”

“How many men did I cut up?” I asked.

“About a hundred.”

I do not wish to detract from the glories of the Red Cross‚ the Salvation Army (never will I let a tambourine shake under my nose without adding a little to its meager horde)‚ the Knights of Columbus‚ the Jewish Welfare Society and numerous others. There was only one thing to do with him‚ and I hastened to order it done—get him away from the other men at once. Most of these cases died later‚ although one of them‚ whom I remember in particular‚ did not. He was apparently not very sick—fever never over a hundred—but he had a slight pneumonic involvement in the lower part of both lungs‚ posteriorly. He was quiet and caused no commotion or trouble‚ except that the nurses reported they could not keep him in bed—he would insist upon going to the doorway‚ where he would stand and mumble.

“Why don’t you stay in bed?” I asked him. “What makes you want to stand in the door all the time? You will catch cold.”

“My wife comes to the door and calls me and I must go and talk to her. She’s worried about me‚” he answered.

“Why?” I asked. “You’re all right‚ aren’t you?”

“Yes‚ but she’s worried and I have to keep telling her that I’m O K.”

I had him removed‚ too‚ and the hallucination kept up for two weeks. After he recovered he told me: “I could hear my wife calling me as plain as day‚ and I could see her‚ too‚ when I went to the door.”

It would not do to leave these men with the patients who were not in the delirious state‚ because most of the delirium was of the wild‚ violent‚ battle variety. Fevers ranged as high as 106‚ or more‚ in many of these cases. Most of the patients wanted to fight‚ and they did fight if let alone. Their wanderings were many and varied: they fought in aeroplanes‚ tanks‚ submarines‚ balloons and battleships; they fought with artillery‚ infantry‚ machine guns‚ grenades‚ bayonets and even with their fists. Many of them did not know they were in a foreign land and were still in their earthly heaven—the United States of America. One poor fellow was calling for mother and asking to be taken home.

“I want you to have Mr. Volney stop with his wagon and take me home‚” he said to me.

I tried to soothe him by saying: “Never mind‚ my boy‚ you are home now.”

“No‚ I’m not!”

“Where are you?” I inquired.

‘‘I’m at Mr. Wilson’s. It’s only a half mile from here to my home‚ and I want to go there. Mr. Volney will stop and take me if you’ll tell him to.”

“What state are you in?” I asked.

He answered in an indignant tone‚ as if to reprimand me for being so ignorant of my surroundings: “Iowa.” Then he asked: “Will you tell Mr. Volney?”

“Yes‚” I said‚ “I will tell him. Go to sleep until he comes.”

I presumed that‚ like most delirious cases‚ he would soon forget it and start on another subject‚ but the desire was so impressed on his mind that‚ many times day‚ he would look out of the window and inquire if Mr. Volney had arrived; and when an ox-cart passed an attendant would have to hold him down.

I had moved these men into our little hospital room until I could evacuate them to the base hospital. I sent another load on the truck and the driver brought back the word:

“The major down at the hospital says not to send more men‚ because they’re so crowded they’ve got to put ’em in billets just like ours‚ and he said they couldn’t
give ’em any better care than what you’re doin’.”

That afternoon I received an official order to the same effect from the regimental surgeon. It stated that I was to care for the men myself and to notify regimental headquarters in case of death.

spacer It was my plan never to let conscious men get a glimpse of the delirious cases or to see a comrade dying—

This turn of affairs complicated matters somewhat‚ on account of not having room enough to handle the rapidly increasing number of delirious cases. I was pondering over this when the Y. M. C. A.  man entered the infirmary to inquire if there was anything more he could do. The poor fellow was nearly worked to death as it was‚ helping in the nursing‚ writing letters for the sick men‚ distributing books and magazines to those able to read and caring for the cash and valuables of those wishing such services. I told him of my plight.

“Take the Y. M. C. A.  room‚” he said. “There’s the kitchen‚ which will be a good place to cook for them. I’ll move right out and let you have it”

I spoke about it to the major.

“No‚ I don’t want to use it unless we have to‚” he said. “There is a terrible depression among the men who are not ill. They are worked very hard and need some sort of a recreation room when they have a little time off duty‚ and the Y. M. C. A.  is the only place where they can loaf without mingling with the sick men.”

“Very true‚” I agreed‚ “and‚ besides‚ we are soon going to have a bunch of convalescents on our hands to amuse. They will have to have a place to congregate.”

spacer The next day there had arrived a good-sized box of powdered chocolate‚ several dozens of eggs‚ a box of oranges‚ some lemons and several baskets of apples. I don’t know where he got them‚ unless he stole them‚ and even then I am puzzled over the source of supply.

But it was not long before we were compelled to take the room for the purpose. We moved the piano to the hotel again‚ and the Y. M. C. A.  man moved his supplies back to the old mill; but he did not spend much time there‚ because only a few were able to come and buy. He took his wares among the sick and distributed them and took no pay from sick men. Finally he became sick and I had to force him to go to bed and threaten to lock him in if he got out of it. I did not have to put my threat into effect. but it was necessary to have an attendant watch over him to keep him from getting out and endeavoring to work among the men. The Y. M. C. A. and kindred organizations did a noble work in France. I lay more stress on the Y. M. C. A.  because it was the only one we came in contact with‚ but I do not wish to detract from the glories of the Red Cross‚ the Salvation Army (never will I let a tambourine shake under my noee without adding a little to its meager horde)‚ the Knights of Columbus‚ the Jewish Welfare Society and numerous others.

We placed the billiard table in one end of the big room and piled the smaller tables and chairs onto it‚ disinfected the room thoroughly and brought in our patients—having ample room for twelve of them. It was located next door to the infirmary‚ where I could devote most of my time to their needs.

All told‚ at this time‚ I had over forty cases of pneumonia‚ although many of them were not severe ones. Later‚ however‚ more of them developed alarming symptoms and it was necessary to take over another—the best—building to put delirious cases in. There were three good rooms in it and I could shift the patients around‚ according to the severity of their symptoms. It was my plan never to let conscious men get a glimpse of the delirious cases or to see a comrade dying—it depressed them and worried them. I watched very closely for this sign‚ and as soon as a man began to talk irrationally I would move him into one of these places. It was so frequent that we were constantly moving them in or moving them out again when they were sufficiently improved.

The food problem puzzled me. Most of the cooks were sick and it was necessary to put untrained men in the kitchen. This fact‚ along with what food was available produced rather unappetizing dishes‚ even for well men‚ and the sight of it would often nauseate the patients. Our supplies consisted of corned beef‚ beans‚ some fresh beef‚ prunes‚ bacon‚ rice‚ bread‚ coffee and enough condensed milk for it. At their best these articles do not make a satisfactory food for sick men‚ and when prepared by amateurs‚ who never before had cooked an egg‚ the result was an indescribable feat of culinary slop. They tried to make soup‚ but average dishwater is good in comparison.

Nobody was to blame for this.

The articles above enumerated made a good‚ plain‚ substantial diet for a fighting army in the field‚ and such a preponderance of sick was unthought of. Under normal conditions the sick soldier was transported to the base hospital‚ where the nicer and finer dainties and delicacies‚ suitable for his ailment‚ could be prepared.

It was just an unfortunate circumstance.

spacer “How many died last night?” I knew that there was no use asking did anybody die.

We came out of it with flying colors—thanks again to the Y. M. C. A.  man. Before he became sick he had gone to his headquarters‚ and the next day there had arrived a good-sized box of powdered chocolate‚ several dozens of eggs‚ a box of oranges‚ some lemons and several baskets of apples for the convalescents. I don’t know where he got them‚ unless he stole them‚ and even then I am puzzled over the source of supply. He turned the entire layout over to me. Thus I was enabled to give the dangerously sick men nutritious drinks of hot chocolate with plenty of milk‚ soft-boiled and poached eggs. This was like fairy land to them. It was gratifying to see the smile of those mumbling‚ groping men when I would ask them if they wanted a soft-boiled egg. Such things had been out of our grasp so long that it was hard to realize they existed.

Captain Motay and Captain Keely pooled their battery funds and sent men out to scour the country for eggs. They were hard to get and the only reason that we did get them was because the French people took pity on our sick men and would go without for their sake. They cost a franc each‚ which made them a very expensive luxury‚ but to us a necessity. We managed to obtain enough for our serious cases. Many of the patients could eat no more than two teaspoonfuls‚ but it satisfied them.

You should have heard the shout that went up when I first issued the chocolate. I decided that I had sufficient for all‚ once a day‚ and the dangerously sick three times a day. That is the way I gave it.

Every delirious man would rally enough to recognize me on my rounds. I had been with them for many months; I had given them health talks; I had delivered first-aid lectures; I had treated them in previous diseases and injuries; I had been with the regiment when they came into it and had examined them at that time‚ during their sudden change from civilian life to the military‚ and now they seemed to know that I was doing my best for them. Should I stand over the bedside long they would again go into their ravings and perhaps become violent‚ but I could calm any one of them down by
gently speaking to him and telling him to lie down and go to sleep; they would look at me with wild eyes‚ recognize me and do as I told them. Of course‚ this period of quiescence would not last long. It was necessary to post a guard over each man to keep him in bed.

The nurses tried my method of persuasion with them‚ but to no purpose; they only succeeded in increasing antagonism in the patient. My one lone assistant could do it. All of them knew him and were glad to see him come. He worked night and day among these men. He saw to it that the nurses attended to the various duties with which they were unaccustomed. He took charge of the dying cases‚ because many of the others were afraid of them‚ and he laid them out in the little room which served as our morgue until their pine box should arrive‚ when he put them in and nailed it shut. Oh‚ those were trying times! Of a morning I would ask of him:

“How many died last night?” I knew that there was no use asking did anybody die. I was with all the cases that died in the daytime at the time of their demise. At one time we had five bodies in that room and we kept a guard over them constantly‚ although we needed every man for other work‚ but we did not feel as if we had done our duty unless we kept a guard of honor over their dead bodies and gave them a military burial as best we could.

spacer I had some difficulty with some of the officers. They were inexperienced in medical matters and had the interest of the men at heart and kept insisting that I do the impossible.

I wish to pay high tribute to some of the men who acted as nurses. They had no previous training—they were not soldiers of the medical department—they were men picked out of the batteries of artillery‚ because they were fortunate enough not to get sick. As would be expected‚ some were useless and so much in the way that I had to transfer them to other duties—they were frightened and would stand in the sick room as if paralyzed. On the contrary‚ others dived into the job and showed aptitude beyond description. The latter class were few and many of them worked days and nights without sleep; they gave up their blankets to the sick; I have had to order them into bed. I remember one man in particular—he was an automobile mechanic and wholly unversed in nursing—who said to me:

‘‘I’m afraid of those fellows. Every time they get wild I am afraid of them‚ and when one of them dies I tremble all over. I can’t help it; it’s getting on my nerves!”

I had not suspected this‚ for he had not shown it. He was constantly quieting down the delirious cases and would help a little with the dead. He had not slept for three days.

“You had better quit‚ then‚” I said to him. “You’ve done enough. Get out and take a good rest and go to some other work. I’ll try and find sombody else for this job.”

“No‚” he said‚ “I’ll stick it out! These fellows are friends of mine‚ some of them in my own squad. I’m not some lo desert them when they’re down and out!”

What can you do with a man like that? I said to him:

“Pile down on that litter under the table and go to sleep.”

He did. He slept for sixteen hours. He stayed on the job until the room was empty of patients and turned over to the Y. M. C. A again.

The treatment given these men was the most primitive. As mentioned‚ our variety of drugs was not wide‚ neither was our supply of each article. With so many men sick at one time a tablet given to each‚ every three hours‚ would require 1‚136 tablets a day. As they came in bottles of 1‚000 and we had less than a bottle of each at the outbreak of the epidemic‚ one can see how little could be given until we renewed our supplies‚ which took some time. I conserved them for the worst cases. Later in the course of the epidemic I received a goodly supply of medicaments‚ but most of the patients were convalescent and did not need them. At no time during the entire course of the malady did I let the serious cases want for any needed medication. Every man of them had a hypodermic injection of stimulant—strychnine or digitalin—every three hours. It was necesaary to teach our newly-attained nurses how to administer drugs by this method‚ and we did it.

My own case was light. I had to retire early in the afternoon for about four days. After that I kept going until late at night.

I had some difficulty with some of the officers. They were inexperienced in medical matters and had the interest of the men at heart and kept insisting that I do the impossible. They wanted me to give the soldiers something to keep them from having pneumonia (this was in accord with my own desires‚ also‚ but where is such a remedy?); they wanted me to give something to stop the cough (I explained that the cough was due to bronchitis and would not clear up until that did). I explained it over and over; I went through the disease as we know it several times a day with some of them‚ until the burden of the discussion made me weary. Then they wanted poultices and other things. I tried to patiently point out that such procedures were of no benefit‚ as shown by modern medical science‚ and to use them was not practicable on account of the lack of material and help. They were frightened. They were artillerymen of high grade‚ and I do not believe any shell would be big enough to frighten them—or‚ rather‚ to make them show it—but this was worse than shells.

spacer . . . we know practically nothing concerning the cause of Spanish influenza. Of the men who had the disease‚ as many came from good dry billets as did from the colder‚ damp and dirt-floored barns. It made no difference.

I insisted that the crest of the epidemic would pass in a few weeks‚ as all such epidemics have done before‚ but it was hard to convince them that such would be the case‚ and I never did convince them that there was not some marvelous‚ miraculous remedy that would abate or cure the disease. Of course‚ some of them went on the theory that I knew my business‚ and co-operated with me in every way without question. I had the co-operation of the others‚ also‚ but they made the work harder for me than it would have otherwise been; but I do not blame them‚ they had the interest of their men at heart; they were groping at some imaginary straw to save the situation. It never occurred to them‚ however‚ that I had an interest in the thing‚ too; that I had no desire to see the men sick; that I was troubled with the seriousness of affairs and every death grieved me (I expect I have remembered them more vividly than they have); that I would do everything in my power for the men; that I wished for—oh‚ how I wished for—something that would cure or prevent the disease‚ but being‚ as they were not‚ informed as to the nature of the infection‚ the pathology of the tissues and the course of the disease‚ I knew only too well that such hope was beyond human power. Perhaps they doubted my ability as a medical man and would have been content with some other personage—I do not know.

The epidemic lasted for three long‚ horrible weeks. I felt as if it had been as many months. It was terrible! My meagre description on paper falls flat and sounds hollow in comparison with what actually transpired.

During the last week I received twenty cots with mattresses and pillows. They were old ones‚ loaned by the French army‚ with rope bottoms—but they were appreciated as much as if they had been the finest of beds. There were enough for half of the sick at that time‚ for the majority of the men were convalescent and had returned to their billets‚ although they were not able to do any work‚ as the effects of the disease had left them in a very weakened state. Within three more days there were sufficient recoveries so that I could boast of having a cot for every sick man in the battalion. Some of these men were still frightfully sick and it was doubtful whether they would recover or not. Some did—some of the worst cases; other did not.

What was the outcome of all this?

I lost fourteen cases on the premises‚ not including those that died in the base hospital. This was ten per cent of the total sick‚ or about twenty-five per cent of the pneumonia cases. On the whole‚ it is not such a bad record. In the United States‚ during the same epidemic‚ with every known facility at hand and available‚ where every man had at least a cot and a pillow throughout the disease‚ and most patients had good beds; where science wielded a strong arm; where medicine was abundant; where the nurses were skilled; where sanitation was at the highest point of achievement—in fact‚ where conditions were perfect—they did not do much better.

It was a sad relief when our last dangerous case passed away and the last pine box‚ wrapped with the flag‚ had borne its occupant to the American cemetery‚ the chaplain had paid his tribute‚ and the salute had been fired over the grave. I breathed a deep sigh and quickly caught my breath again with fear and trembling lest some case should relapse. But all was well. They kept gradually improving. New cases developed‚ but the grade of the disease was light. We had no more deaths.

To sum up: My experience leads me to believe that we know practically nothing concerning the cause of Spanish influenza. Of the men who had the disease‚ as many came from good dry billets as did from the colder‚ damp and dirt-floored barns. It made no difference.

spacer All the while it rained and rained and rained. The sun seemed to be lost to us.

During this time the civilian population was running our men a close race‚ for they‚ too‚ had the disease with equal vigor. My assistant attended many of them and I cared for a few. The village lost about twenty-two inhabitants as a result of the malady. The girl who had the hysterics turned in and helped with these village folks; she saw that mothers and children had attention‚ where the entire family was down; she washed their clothes; she traveled from place to place‚ made beds‚ bathed the patients and calmed their fears; she showed herself to be a natural and efficient nurse‚ kind of heart and willing of muscle. Others were afraid to enter the sick rooms‚ but she was fearless. No work was too difficult or too dirty for her to do; she attacked it all with ferociousness. My respect for her increased greatly.

Never‚ as long as I live‚ will I forget the attentions of my good landlady‚ Madame Poste‚ during the trials and tribulations of the ordeal through which I passed

Never a night did I come in too late to find my fire lighted‚ the room warm‚ and within a few minutes the servant would knock at my door and enter with a tray on which would rest some china and silverware of the finest kind‚ with tea or coffee and some dainty. Even the sight of it was cheerful after the day’s toil among the wild delirium, and the stimulant effect of the heated drink was beneficial beyond words to express it. While I was indulging in this recreation the Madame was in the habit of visiting and conversing a few moments. She was very much interested in the trend of things; she took an interest in all of the Americans, and she watched over me like a mother, constantly fearful of my own health and constantly trying to make life easier for me.

I remember one dark, raw, rainy night when my orderly came for me to make a late visit to see a man who was beyond control. He stood outside in the rain while telling me of it, which worried the Madame considerably, so she invited him to come in and do his talking. He was wet and muddy and refused the invitation as politely as he could through me as an interpreter. But she was insistent. So was he. The result of their argument was that she took hold of him, gently but firmly, and pulled him in the house, where she gave him coffee and lunch.

All the while it rained and rained and rained. The sun seemed to be lost to us, except on very rare occasions, when it would peep shyly through an accidental opening in the thick veil of clouds, as if fearful of us, and then disappear suddenly, continuing hidden for a day or two.

I am not versed in the technical ways of artillery, but something in the vocation required that calculations be made with the aid of the sun. They called it “shooting the sun.” Once, at our noonday meal, the surgeon of the first battalion was visiting us, when Lieutenant Clark said, while trying to fish some tangible meat out of the stew:

“I got a shot at the sun this morning‚ but something was wrong‚ for I was way off in my calculations.’’

“That’s easily explained,” said the surgeon. “Anbody that puts dependence in this French sun will go amiss every time!”  

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