If they caught them, they don’t tell, but we have been ordered to harbor no strangers under a severe penalty. But that condition has really existed since the war broke out, as no one is even allowed to engage a workman whose papers have not been vise at the mairie.
I have had to have a wood fire today—it is alarming, with winter ahead, and so little fuel, to have to begin heating up at the end of September—three weeks or a month earlier than usual.
November 25, 1916
It is raining,—a cold and steady downpour. I don’t feel in the least like writing a letter. This is only to tell you that I have got enough anthracite coal to go to the end of February, and that the house is warm and cosy, and I am duly thankful to face this third war-winter free from fear of freezing. It cost thirty-two dollars a ton. How does that sound to you?
I have planted my tulip bulbs, cleaned up the garden for winter and settled down to life inside my walls, with my courage in both hands, and the hope that next spring’s offensive will not be a great disappointment.
In the meantime I am sorry that Franz Josef did not live to see this war of his out and take his punishment. I used to be so sorry for him in the old days, when it seemed as if Fate showered disasters on the heads of the Hapsburgs. I wasted my pity. The blows killed everyone in the family but father. The way he stood it and never learned to be kind or wise proved how little he needed pity.
All the signs say a cold winter. How I envy hibernating animals! I want to live to see this thing out, but it would be nice to crawl into a hole, like a bear, and sleep comfortably until the sun came out in the spring, and the seeds began to sprout, and the army was thawed out, and could move. In the silence on this hilltop, where nothing happens but dishwashing and bedmaking and darning stockings, it is a long way to springtime, even if it comes early.
I amused myself last week by defying the consign. I had not seen a gendarme on the road for weeks. I had driven to Couilly once or twice, though to do it I had to cross “the dead line.” I had met the garde champetre there, and even talked to him, and he had said nothing. So, hearing one day that my friend from Voulangis had a permission to drive to the train at Esbly, and that she was returning about nine in the morning, I determined to meet her on the road, and at least see how she was looking and have a little chat. I felt a longing to hear someone say: “Hulloa, you,”—just a few words in English.