I regret to say that this did not console wife one bit.
As he never can tell anything without acting it out, he was very comic when he told about the battle in which the Prussian Guard was wiped out. He is in the artillery, and he acted out the whole battle. When he got to the point where the artillery was ordered to advance, he gave an imitation of himself scrambling on to his gun, and swaying there, as the horses struggled to advance over the rough road ploughed with shell, until they reached the field where the Guard had fallen. Then he imitated the gesture of the officer riding beside the guns, and stopping to look off at the field, as, with a shrug, he said: “Ah, les beaux gars” then swung his sabre and shouted: “En avant!”
Then came the imitation of a gunner hanging on his gun as the gun-carriage went bumping over the dead, the sappers and petrole brigade coming on behind, ready to spray and fire the field, shouting: “Allez aux enfers, beaux gars de Prusse, et y attendre votre kaiser!”
It was all so humorous that one was shocked into laughter by the meeting of the comic and the awful. I laughed first and shuddered afterward. But we do that a great deal these days.
I don’t think I told you that I had found a wonderful woman to help me one day in the week in the garden. Her name is Louise, and she was born in the commune, and has worked in the fields since she was nine years old. She is a great character, and she is handsome—very tall and so straight—thirty-three, married, with three children,—never been sick in her life. She is a brave, gay thing, and I simply love to see her striding along the garden paths, with her head in the air, walking on her long legs and carrying her body as steadily as though she had a bucket of water on her head. It is beautiful.
Well, Louise has a brother named Joseph, as handsome as she is, and bigger. Joseph is in the heavy artillery, holding a mountain-top in Alsace, and, would you believe it, he has been there twenty months, and has never seen a German.
Of course, when you think of it, it is not so queer, really. The heavy artillery is miles behind the infantry, and of course the gunners can’t see what they are firing at—that is the business of the officers and the eyes of the artillery—the aeroplanes. Still, it is queer to think of firing big guns twenty months and never seeing the targets. Odder still, Joseph tells me he has never seen a wounded or a dead soldier since the war began. Put these little facts away to ponder on. It is a war of strange facts.
April 28, 1916
I have lived through such nerve-trying days lately that I rarely feel in the humor to write a letter.
Nothing happens here.
The spring has been as changeable as even that which New England knows. We had four fairly heavy snowstorms in the first fortnight of the awful fighting of Verdun. Then we had wet, and then unexpected heat—the sort of weather in which everyone takes cold. I get up in the morning and dress like a polar bear for a drive, and before I get back the sun is so hot I feel like stripping.