It had been a lively picture to me, but to the soldiers, I suppose, it had only been an every day’s occurrence.
My only fear had been that there might be children or a wagon on the winding road. Luckily the way was clear.
An hour later, the men returned, leading the horses. They had galloped down to the river, and returned by way of Voisins, where they had stopped right in front of the house where the Captain was quartered, and the Captain had been in the garden and seen them.
This time the Aspirant had to laugh. He slapped one of the horses caressingly on the nose as he said: “You devils! Couldn’t you go on a lark without telling the Captain about it, and getting us all into trouble?”
To make this all the funnier, that very night three horses stabled in a rickety barn at Voisins, kicked their door down, and pranced and neighed under the Captain’s bedroom window.
The Captain is a nice chap, but he is not in his first youth, and he is tired, and, well—he is a bit nervous. He said little, but that was to the point. It was only: “You boys will see that these things don’t happen, or you will sleep in the straw behind your horses.”
This is the first time that I have seen anything of the military organization, and I am filled with admiration for it. I don’t know how it works behind the trenches, but here, in the cantonnement, I could set my clocks by the soup wagon—a neat little cart, drawn by two sturdy little horses, which takes the hill at a fine gallop, and passes my gate at exactly twenty-five minutes past eleven, and twenty-five minutes past five every day. The men wait, with their gamelles, at the top of the hill. The soup looks good and smells delicious. Amelie says that it tastes good. She has five soldiers in her house, and she and Pere often eat with them, so she knows.
From all this you can guess what my life is like, and probably will be like until the impatiently awaited spring offensive. But what you will find it hard to imagine is the spirit and gaiety of these men. It is hard to believe that they have been supporting the monotony of trench life for so long, and living under bombardment,—and cavalry at that, trained and hoping for another kind of warfare. There is no sign of it on them.
December 17, 1916
Well, we did not keep our first division of dragoons as long as we expected. They had passed part of their three weeks out of the trenches at Nanteuil, and on the journey, so it seemed to us as though they were hardly settled down when the order came for them to return. They were here only a little over a week.
I had hardly got accustomed to seeing the Aspirant about the house, either writing, with the cat on his knees, or reading, with Dick sitting beside him, begging to have his head patted, when one evening he came in, and said quietly: “Well, madame, we are leaving you in a day or two. The order for the releve has come, but the day and hour are not yet fixed.”