For example—wouldn’t it seem logical that such a warfare would brutalize the men who are actually in it? It doesn’t. It seems to have just the contrary effect. I can’t tell you how good the men are to one another, or how gentle they are to the children. It is strange that it should be so, but it is. I don’t try to understand it, I merely set it down for you.
June 16, 1916
You can imagine how trying and unseasonable the weather is when I tell you that I not only had a fire yesterday, but that I went to bed with a hotwater bottle. Imagine it! I have only been able to eat out-of-doors once so far.
This is not a letter—just a line, lest you worry if you do not hear that I am well. I am too anxiously watching that see-saw at Verdun, with the German army only four miles from the city, at the end of the fourth month, to talk about myself, and in no position to write about things which you know. One gets dumb, though not hopeless. To add to our anxieties the crops are not going to be good. It was continually wet at planting time, and so cold, and there has been so little sun that potatoes are rotting in the fields already, and the harvest will be meagre. The grain, especially that planted last fall, is fairly good, but, as I told you, after the tempest we had, there is to be no fruit. When I say none, I absolutely mean none. I have not one cherry. Louise counted six prunes on my eight trees, and I have just four pears and not a single apple. Pere’s big orchard is in the same condition. In addition, owing to the terrible dampness,—the ground is wet all the time,—the slugs eat up all the salad, spoil all the strawberries, and chew off every young green thing that puts its head above the ground, and that in spite of very hard work on my part. Every morning early, and every afternoon, at sundown, I put in an hour’s hard work,— hard, disgusting work,—picking them up with the tongs and dropping them into boiling water. So you see every kind of war is going on at the same time. Where is the good of wishing a bad harvest on Germany, when we get it ourselves at the same time? However, I suppose that you in the States can help us out, and England has jolly well fixed it so that no one can easily help Germany out.
August 4, 1916
Well, here we are in the third year of the war, as Kitchener foresaw, and still with a long way to go to the frontier.
Thanks, by the way, for the article about Kitchener. After all, what can one say of such an end for such a man, after such a career, in which so many times he might have found a soldier’s death—then to be drowned like a rat, doing his duty? It leaves one simply speechless. I was, you see. I hadn’t a comment to throw at you.
It’s hot at last, I’m thankful to say, and equally thankful that the news from the front is good. It is nothing to throw one’s hat in the air about, but every inch in the right direction is at least prophetic.