You hardly knew him, I know, but no one ever saw his upright figure, his thin, clear-cut features, bronzed by tropic suns, and his direct gaze, and forgot him.
December 6, 1915
It is two months since I wrote—I know it. But you really must not reproach me so violently as you do in yours of the 21st of November, just received.
To begin with, there is no occasion for you to worry. I may be uncomfortable. I am in no danger. As for the discomforts—well, I am used to them. I cannot get coal very often, and when I do I pay twenty-six dollars a ton for it, and it is only imitation coal, at that. I cannot get washing done oftener than once in six weeks. Nothing dries out-of-doors in this country of damp winters. I am often forced to live my evenings by candle-light, which is pretty extravagant, as candles are costly, and it takes a good many to get through an evening. They burn down like paper tapers in these days.
When I don’t write it is simply because I have nothing more interesting than things like that to tell you. The situation is chronic, and, like chronic diseases, much more likely to get worse than to get better.
You should be grateful to me for sparing you, instead of blaming me.
I might not have found the inspiration to write today if something had not happened.
This morning the town crier beat his drum all over the hill, and read a proclamation forbidding all foreigners to leave the commune during the next thirty days without a special permit from the general in command of the 5th Army Corps.
No one knows what this means. I have been to the mairie to enquire simply because I had promised to spend Christmas at Voulangis, and, if this order is formal, I may have difficulty in going. I have no desire to celebrate, only there is a child there, and the lives of little children ought not to be too much saddened by the times and events they do not understand.
I was told at the mairie that they had no power, and that I would have to address myself to Monsieur le General. They could not even tell me what form the request ought to take. So I came home, and wrote the letter as well as I could.
In the meantime, I am distinctly informed that until I get a reply from headquarters I cannot go out of the commune of Quincy-Segy.
If I really obey the letter of this order I cannot even go to Amelie’s. Her house is in the commune of Couilly, and mine in Quincy, and the boundary line between the two communes is the path beside my garden, on the south side, and runs up the middle of my road from that point.
It is annoying, as I hardly know Quincy, and don’t care for it, and never go there except to present myself at the mairie. It is further off the railroad line than I am here. Couilly I know and like. It is a pretty prosperous village. It has better shops than Quincy, which has not even a pharmacie, and I have always done my shopping there. My mail comes there, and the railway station is there, and everyone knows me.