It would have been easy to weep with her, but they don’t weep. I have never seen fewer tears in a great calamity. I have read in newspapers sent me from the States tales of women in hysterics, of women fainting as they bade their men goodbye. I have never seen any of it. Something must be wrong with my vision, or my lines must have fallen in brave places. I can only speak of what I see and hear, and tears and hysterics do not come under my observation.
I did not do anything interesting in Paris. It was cold and grey and sad. I got my packages off to the front. They went through quickly, especially those sent by the English branch post-office, near the Etoile, and when I got home, I found the letters of thanks from the boys awaiting me. Among them was one from the little corporal who had pulled down my flags in September, who wrote in the name of the C company, Yorkshire Light Infantry, and at the end of the letter he said: “I am sorry to tell you that Captain Simpson is dead. He was killed leading his company in a charge, and all his men grieved for him.”
That gave me a deep pang. I remembered his stern, bronzed, but kindly face, which lighted up so with a smile, as he sat with me at tea on that memorable Wednesday afternoon, and of all that he did so simply to relieve the strain on our nerves that trying day. I know nothing about him—who he was—what he had for family—he was just a brave, kindly, human being, who had met me for a few hours, passed on—and passed out. He is only one of thousands, but he is the one whose sympathetic voice I had heard and who, in all the hurry and fatigue of those hard days, had had time to stop and console us here, and whom I had hoped to see again; and I grieved with his men for him.
I could not write last week. I had no heart to send the usual greetings of the season. Words still mean something to me, and when I sat down, from force of habit, to write the letters I have been accustomed to send at this season, I simply could not. It seemed to me too absurd to even celebrate the anniversary of the days when the angel hosts sang in the skies their “Peace on earth, good will to men” to herald the birth of Him who added to religion the command, “Love one another,” and man, only forty miles away, occupied in wholesale slaughter. We have a hard time juggling to make our pretensions and our acts fit.
If this cold and lack of coal continues I am not likely to see much or write much until the spring campaign opens. Here we still hear the guns whenever Rheims or Soissons are bombarded, but no one ever, for a minute, dreams that they will ever come nearer.
Though I could not send you any greetings last week, I can say, with all my heart, may 1915 bring us all peace and contentment!
January 21, 1915
I have been trying to feel in a humor to write all this month, but what with the changeable weather, a visit to Paris, and the depression of the terrible battle at Soissons,—so near to us—I have not had the courage. All the same, I frankly confess that it has not been as bad as I expected. I begin to think things are never as bad as one expects.