Let those who know my affection for Troy consider what my feelings were, the other day, when on my return from a brief jaunt to London I alighted at the railway station amid all the tokens of a severe and general catastrophe. The porter who opened the door for me had a bandaged head. George the ‘bus driver carried his right arm in a sling, but professed himself able to guide his vehicle through our tortuous streets left-handed. I had declined the offer, and was putting some sympathetic question, when a procession came by. Four children of serious demeanour conveyed a groaning comrade on a stretcher, while a couple more limped after in approved splints. I stopped them, of course. The rearmost sufferer–who wore on his shin-bone a wicker trellis of the sort used for covering flower-plots, and a tourniquet, contrived with a pebble and a handkerchief, about his femoral artery– informed me that it was a case of First Aid to the Injured, which he was rendering at some risk to his own (compound) fracture.
“It’s wonderful,” said George, with a grin, “what crazes the youngsters will pick up.”
Thereupon the truth came out. It appeared that during my absence a member of the Ambulance Association of St. John of Jerusalem had descended upon the town with a course of lectures, and the town had taken up the novelty with its usual spirit.
I said a course of lectures; but in Troy we are nothing if not thoroughgoing, and by this time (so George informed me) three courses were in full swing. The railway servants and jetty-men (our instructor’s earliest pupils) had arrived at restoring animation to the apparently drowned; while a mixed class, drawn from the townsfolk generally, were learning to bandage, and the members of our Young Women’s Christian Association had attended but two lectures and still dallied with the wonders of the human frame.
George told me all about it on our way through the town–for I had consented to be driven on condition that he removed his arm from the sling, and he could not deny this to an old friend (as I make free to call myself). Besides, he was bursting to talk. To be sure, he slipped it back for a few moments as we breasted the hill beyond the post-office and his horses dropped to a walk. I fancy that he glanced at me apologetically; but since there was comparatively little danger hereabouts I thought it more delicate to look the other way.
“And the Chamber of Commerce has not protested?” I asked.
We call it the “Chamber of Commerce” for euphony’s sake. It is in fact an association which keeps an eye upon the Parish Council, Harbour Board, and Great Western Railway, and incites these bodies to make our town more attractive to visitors. It consists mainly of lodging-house keepers, and has this summer prevailed on the Railway Company to issue cheap Saturday market tickets to Plymouth–a boon which the visitor will soon learn (if we may take our own experience as a test) to rank high among the minor comforts of life.
No; the Chamber of Commerce had not protested. And yet it occurred to me more than once during the next few days that strangers attracted to Troy by its reputation as a health resort must have marvelled as they walked our streets, where cases of sunstroke, frost-bite, snake-bite, and incipient croup challenged their pity at every corner. The very babies took their first steps in splints, and when they tumbled were examined by their older playmates, and pronounced to be suffering from apoplexy or alcoholic poisoning, as fancy happened to suggest. I believe that a single instruction in the Association’s Handbook– carefully italicised there, I must admit–alone saved our rising generation. It ran: “Unless perfectly sure that the patient is intoxicated, do not give the emetic.”