I would wish above all things, if some fairy gave me the chance, to be a hibernating animal this year, during which the weather has almost called an armistice along our front, locked from the Swiss border to the sea.
There is but one consolation, and that is that, costly and terrible as have been the first four months of the war, three of the great aims of the German strategy have been buried too deep ever to be dug up— their hope of a short war is gone; they did not get to Paris, and now know that they never will; they did not, and never can get to Calais, and, in spite of their remarkable feats, and their mighty strength, in the face of those three facts even their arrogance cannot write “victory” against their arms.
I have to confess that I am almost as cold as the boys out there in the rain and the mud. I have managed to get a little coal—or what is called coal this year. It is really charbon de forge—a lot of damp, black dust with a few big lumps in it, which burns with a heavy, smelly, yellow smoke. In normal times one would never dignify it by the name of coal, but today we are thankful to get it, and pay for it as if it were gold. It will only burn in the kitchen stove, and every time we put any on the fire, my house, seen from the garden, appears like some sort of a factory. Please, therefore, imagine me living in the kitchen. You know the size of a compact French kitchen. It is rather close quarters for a lady of large ideas.
The temperature of the rest of the house is down almost to zero. Luckily it is not a cold winter, but it is very damp, as it rains continually. I have an armchair there, a footstool, and use the kitchen table as a desk; and even then, to keep fairly warm, I almost sit on top of the stove, and I do now and then put my feet in the oven.
I assure you that going to bed is a ceremony. Amelie comes and puts two hot bricks in the foot of the bed. I undress in the kitchen, put on felt shoes, and a big wrap, and, with my hotwater bottle in one hand and a book in the other, I make a dash for the arctic regions, and Amelie tidies up the kitchen, locks the doors behind her, and takes the keys away with her.
I am cosy and comfy in bed, and I stay there until Amelie has built the fire and got the house in order in the morning.
My getting up beats the lever de Marie Antoinette in some of its details, though she was accustomed to it, and probably minded less than I do. I am not really complaining, you know. But you want to know about my life—so from that you can imagine it. I shall get acclimated, of course. I know that.
I was in Paris for Christmas—not because I wanted to go, but because the few friends I have left there felt that I needed a change, and clinched the matter by thinking that they needed me. Besides I wanted to get packages to the English boys who were here in September, and it was easier to do it from Paris than from here.