We pulled in here - Paris Thanksgiving morning and as I cabled, I expect to have to stay until the 19th although I may get off about the eleventh with a bit of luck.
We all left Florence and went up to Milan. We were only there twenty-four hours as the office would do nothing for us. We asked them if they had telegraphed up here that we were coming and they told us that they had, two weeks before when we had passed through Milan at the beginning of our leave. Well, that sounded all very pretty, but now listen to what happened.
Supposedly, the Paris office knew that we were coming and that we were on our way home, so we also expected to find passage on the boat reserved for us and a place for us to sleep, too.
Well, we got to Paris about 10 A.M. Nobody met us at the station as they did when we came over, so we took the subway up to the Red Cross office. There was nobody there who knew a thing about us and we were told to go find hotels for ourselves. Two other boys and I were rather lucky and found a place at 18 francs a day - meals included. This also seemed very nice as our papers from the Italian Commission called for 30 francs a day while we were in Paris to pay our expenses.
The next morning, Nov. 29th, Friday, we went to the Red Cross. Then we were told that they could do nothing for us until we had been to the French line and made a reservation. We did that and the three of us were lucky enough to get places on a boat which left Dec. 2nd, Monday. Then the next difficulty was the Consulate which usually took 48 hours for visas, so we were sent up there to see if they would rush that for us and do it in 24 hours so that we could get our papers all fixed by Saturday afternoon. Well, the Consulate said we could have the paper the first thing Saturday morning, so we were feeling fine and looking forward to getting off early.
Then we went back to the Red Cross to get our orders for transportation and a paper for the Consulate. There were still the three of us and we had done everything together so far.
Well, we made out our applications for transport papers and took them into the room where the actual papers had to be made out. There was only one man there and he was the slowest person I ever have seen. He made out one of the papers and gave it back to the boy to take it and get it signed. Then, because it was exactly 12 o'clock, he had to go out to lunch, so he could not spend ten minutes more on me and the other boy. He told us to come back at two, which we did and then he just refused to make put the papers, giving no reason at all.
Yesterday, we started out on the war path again. We discovered a Captain who was awfully nice to us and after we had told him how we had been held up, he let us know that we had heard the same thing said of this clerk before. Then he gave us a note to the Lieut. over this man which read.: "Mr. Smith and Mr. Williams were held up unnecessarily by Mr. Brown. Please do all you can to expedite their return either via England or Bordeaux, as they wish". On the strength of that, we hope to get off at the latest by the 19th.
But that wasnt all the trouble we had. Our papers said we were entitled to 30 francs a day which was to be charged to the Italian Commission. But the Red Cross here refuses to pay more than 20, so Smith and I moved over here where Mr. Sleeper is maintaining a small home for convalescent soldiers and a place for men who were in this service to stay. We pay 2 francs a night for a bed, 1 franc for breakfast, and lunch and dinner are 2.50 each.
Mr. Sleeper tells us that it actually costs about three times that much for the food, but the rest is paid by the interest on the money which was left over when the Service was finished. We are very comfortable and eat American cooked food. We have oatmeal, coffee, bread and butter, and milk and sugar on the side for breakfast.
Tomorrow we go down and get some of our papers from the Red Cross. The day after tomorrow to the French line to see if we can get off before the 19th. In the meantime, the Red Cross is paying us 20 francs a day expenses merely because this clerk wouldn't spend ten minutes more fixing us up. A fine way to spend the shop girls' dollars. Another funny thing we discovered was that both the Paris and Rome office believed, until we came back from the front and they got a chance to ask us questions, that every ambulance driver was getting paid $250 lires a month. When we told them that we had been paying for everything except food and lodging out of our own pockets and had never received a cent in cash all the time we were out, they were the most surprised bunch I have ever seen.
Well, I have my honorable discharge and after six months under the Red Cross, I don't think I will try to earn another honorable discharge from them. It's strange that most of the unpaid volunteers feel the same way even amongst the officers. I am thinking of some eight or nine who were staying at the same hotel with us, two captains included.
Maybe I will see the Statue of Liberty before Xmas, and I certainly hope so. I am all right and very well fixed here.