Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Clouds of Witness ch 6 cont

“So was Thorpe. All mother said was, that if he wasn't too old a bird yet to be taken in by that hoary trick he'd no business to be gettin' himself up as a grey-haired family practitioner. So then she asked the girl about the sick fits—when they happened, and how often, and was it after meals or before, and so on, and at last she got out of them that it generally happened a bit after breakfast, and occasionally at other  times. Mother said she couldn't make it out at first, because she'd hunted all over the room for bottles and things, till at last she asked who made the bed, thinkin', you see, Mary might have hidden something under the mattress. So Ellen said she usually made it while Mary had her bath. 'When's that?' says mother. 'Just before her breakfast,' bleats the girl. 'God forgive you all for a set of nincompoops,' says my mother. 'Why didn't you say so before?' So away they all trailed to the bathroom, and there, sittin' up quietly on the bathroom shelf among the bath salts and the Elliman's embrocation and the Kruschen feelings and the toothbrushes and things, was the family bottle of ipecacuanha—three-quarters empty! Mother said—well, I told you what she said. By the way, how do you spell ipecacuanha?”

                Mr. Parker spelt it.

                “Damn you!” said Lord Peter. “I did think I'd stumped you that time. I believe you went and looked it up beforehand. No decent-minded person would know how to spell ipecacuanha out of his own head. Anyway, as you were saying, it's easy to see which side of the family has the detective instinct.”
                “I didn't say so——”

                “I know. Why didn't you? I think my mother's talents deserve a little acknowledgment. I said so to her, as a matter of fact, and she replied in these memorable words: 'My dear child, you can give it a long name if you like, but I'm an old-fashioned woman and I call it mother-wit, and it's so rare for a man to have it that if he does you write a book about him and call him Sherlock Holmes.' However, apart from all that, I said to mother (in private, of course), 'It's all very well, but I can't believe that Mary has been going to all this trouble to make herself horribly sick and frighten us all just to show off. Surely she isn't that sort.' Mother looked at me as steady as an owl, and quoted a whole lot of examples of hysteria, ending up with the servant-girl who threw paraffin about all over somebody's house to make them think it was haunted, and finished up—that if all these new-fangled doctors went out of their way to invent subconsciousness and kleptomania, and complexes and other fancy descriptions to explain away when people had done naughty things, she thought one might just as well take advantage of the fact.”

                “Wimsey,” said Parker, much excited, “did she mean she suspected something?”
                “My dear old chap,” replied Lord Peter, “whatever can be known about Mary by putting two and two together my mother knows. I told her all we knew up to that point, and she took it all in, in her funny way, you know, never answering anything directly, and then she put her head on one side and said: 'If Mary had listened to me, and done something useful instead of that V.A.D. work, which never came to much, if you ask me—not that I have anything against V.A.D.'s in a general way, but that silly woman Mary worked under was the most terrible snob on God's earth—and there were very much more sensible things which Mary might really have done well, only that she was so crazy to get to London—I shall always say it was the fault of that ridiculous club—what could you expect of a place where you ate such horrible food, all packed into an underground cellar painted pink and talking away at the tops of their voices, and never any evening dress—only Soviet jumpers and side-whiskers. Anyhow, I've told that silly old man what to say about it, and they'll never be able to think of a better explanation for themselves.' Indeed, you know,” said Peter, “I think if any of them start getting inquisitive, they'll have mother down on them like a ton of bricks.”

The Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) was a voluntary organisation providing field nursing services, mainly in hospitals, in the United Kingdom and various other countries in the British Empire. The organisation's most important periods of operation were during World War I and World War II.

The organisation was founded in 1909 with the help of the Red Cross and Order of St. John. By the summer of 1914 there were over 2,500 Voluntary Aid Detachments in Britain. Each individual volunteer was called a detachment, or simply a VAD. Of the 74,000 VADs in 1914, two-thirds were women and girls.

At the outbreak of the First World War VADs eagerly offered their service to the war effort. The British Red Cross was reluctant allowing civilian women a role in overseas hospitals: most VADs were of the middle and upper classes and unaccustomed to hardship and traditional hospital discipline. Military authorities would not accept VADs at the front line.

Katharine Furse took two VADs to France in October 1914, restricting them to serve as canteen workers and cooks. Caught under fire in a sudden battle the VADs were pressed into emergency hospital service and acquitted themselves well. The growing shortage of trained nurses opened the door for VADs in overseas military hospitals. Furse was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the VAD and restrictions were removed. Female volunteers over the age of twenty-three and with more than three months' hospital experience were accepted for overseas service.

VADs were an uneasy addition to military hospitals' rank and order. They lacked the advanced skill and discipline of professional trained nurses and were often critical of the nursing profession. Relations improved as the war stretched on: VADs increased their skill and efficiency and trained nurses were more accepting of the VADs' contributions. During four years of war 38,000 VADs worked in hospitals and served as ambulance drivers and cooks. VADs served near the Western Front and in Mesopotamia and Gallipoli. VAD hospitals were also opened in most large towns in Britain.[2] Later, VADs were also sent to the Eastern Front. They provided an invaluable source of bedside aid in the war effort. Many were decorated for distinguished service.     

“What do you really think yourself?” asked Parker.

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