I then went back to our cottage, where I had a meal with the transport officer, conversing the while with Suzette, Berthe and Marthe. I don’t know which I liked the best of these three, they were all so cheery and hospitable. Marthe was the most interesting from the pictorial point of view. She was so gipsy-like to look at: brown-skinned, large dark eyes, exceeding bright, with a sort of sparkling, wild look about her. I called her “La jeune fille farouche” (looked this up first before doing so), and she was always called this afterwards. It means “the young wild girl”; at least I hope it means that. The doctor came back again after dinner, and we all proceeded to fill the air in the small kitchen with songs and tobacco-smoke. The transport officer was a “Corona Corona” expert, and there he would sit with his feet up on the rail at the side of the stove, smoking one of these zeppelins of a cigar, till we all went to bed.
There was an heir to the estate in that cottage—one Andre, Suzette’s son, aged about five. He went to bed early, and slept with wonderful precision and persistence whilst we were making noise enough to wake the Cure a hundred yards away. But, when we went to bed, this little demon saw fit to wake, and continue a series of noises for several hours. He slept in a small cot alongside Suzette’s bed, so it was her job, and not mine, to smack his head.
Anyway, we all managed very comfortably and merrily in those billets, and I look back on them very much as an oasis in a six months’ desert.
GETTING FIT—CARICATURING THE CURE—
“DIRTY WORK AHEAD”—A PROJECTED
Military life during our ten days was to consist of getting into good training again in all departments. After long spells of trench life, troops get very much out of strong, efficient marching capabilities, and are also apt to get slack all round. These rests, therefore, come periodically to all at the front, and are, as it were, tonics. If men stayed long enough in trenches, I should say, from my studies in evolution, that their legs would slowly merge into one sort of fin-like tail, and their arms into seal-like flappers. In fact, time would convert them into intelligent sea-lions, and render them completely in harmony with their natural life.