At Esbly I found a different sort of person—a gentleman—he told me he was not a gendarme by metier, but a volunteer—and, although he put me through practically the same paces, it was different. He was sympathetic, not averse to a joke, and, when it was over, he went out to help me into my baby cart, thanked me for troubling myself, assured me that I was absolutely en regle, and even went so very far as to say that he was pleased to have met me. So I suppose, until the commander at Esbly is changed, I shall be left in peace.
This will give you a little idea of what it is like here. I suppose I needed to be shaken up a bit to make me realize that I was near the war. It is easy to forget it sometimes.
Amelie came this morning with the tale that it was rumored that all foreigners were to be “expelled from the zone des armees.” It might be. Still, I am not worrying. “Sufficient to the day,” you know.
September 8, 1915
You have the date quite right.
It is a year ago today—this very 8th of September—since I saw the French soldiers march away across the hill, over what we call the “Champs Madame”—no one knows why—on their way to the battle behind Meaux.
By chance—you could not have planned it, since the time it takes a letter to reach me depends on how interesting the censor finds it— your celebration of that event reached me on its anniversary.
You are absolutely wrong, however, to pull such a long face over my situation. You write as if I had passed through a year of misery. I have not. I am sure you never got that impression from my letters, and I assure you that I am writing exactly as I feel—I have no facade up for you.
I own it has been a year of tension. It has been three hundred and sixty-five days and a fourth, not one of which has been free from anxiety of some sort or other. Sometimes I have been cold. Sometimes I have been nervous. But all the same, it has been fifty-two weeks of growing respect for the people among whom I live, and of ever-mounting love of life, and never-failing conviction that the sum of it is beauty. I have had to fight for the faith in that, but I have kept it. Always “In the midst of life we are in Death,” but not always is death so fine and beautiful a thing as in these days. No one would choose that such things as have come to pass in the last year should be, but since they are, don’t be so foolish as to pity me, who have the chance to look on, near enough to feel and to understand, even though I am far enough off to be absolutely safe,—alas! eternally a mere spectator. And speaking of having been cold reminds me that it is beginning to get cold again. We have had heavy hailstorms already, hail as big and hard as dried peas, and I have not as yet been able to get fuel. So I am looking forward to another trying winter. In the spring my coal-dealer assured me that last winter’s situation would not be repeated, and I told him that I would take all the coal he could get me. Having said that, I took no further thought of the matter. Up to date he has not been able to get any. The railroad is too busy carrying war material.