You have been reproaching me for over a year that I did not write enough about the war. I do hope that all this movement about me interests you. It is not war by any means, but the nearest relation to it that I have seen in that time. It is its movements, its noise, its clothes. It is gay and brave, and these men are no “chocolate soldiers.”
January 30, 1917
My, but it is cold here! Wednesday the 24th it was 13 below zero, and this morning at ten o’clock it was 6 below. Of course this is in Centigrade and not Fahrenheit, but it is a cold from which I suffer more—it is so damp—than I ever did from the dry, sunny, below zero as you know it in the States. Not since 1899 have I seen such cold as this in France. I have seen many a winter here when the ground has hardly frozen at all. This year it began to freeze a fortnight ago. It began to snow on the 17th, a fine dry snow, and as the ground was frozen it promises to stay on. It has so far, in spite of the fact that once or twice since it fell the sun has shone. It looks very pretty, quite unnatural, very reminiscent of New England.
It makes life hard for us as well as the soldiers, but they laugh and say, “We have seen worse.” They prefer it to rain and mud. But it makes roading hard; everything is so slippery, and if you ever happened to see a French horse or a French person “walking on ice” I don’t need to say more.
Well, the unexpected has happened—the cavalry has moved on. They expected—as much as a soldier ever expects anything—to have divided their time until March between our hill and the trenches in the Foret de Laigue. But on the twenty-second orders began to rush in from headquarters, announcing a change of plan; a move was ordered and counter-ordered every few hours for three days, until Thursday afternoon, the twenty-fifth, the final order came—the whole division to be ready to mount at seven-thirty the next morning, orders for the direction to come during the night.
You never saw such a rushing about to collect clothes and get them dried. You see it has been very hard to get washing done. The Morin, where the wash-houses are, is frozen, and even when things are washed, they won’t dry in this air, and there is no coal to heat the drying-houses.
However, it was done after a fashion. Everyone who had wood kept a fire up all night.
On Wednesday afternoon I had a little tea-party for some of the sous-officiers—mere boys—a simple goodbye spread of bread and butter and dry cookies,—nothing else to be had. I could not even make cake, as we have had no fine sugar for months. However, the tea was extra good—sent me from California for Christmas—and I set the table with all my prettiest things, and the boys seemed to enjoy themselves.
They told me before leaving that never since they were at the front had they been anywhere so well received or so comfortable as they have been here, and that it would be a long time before they “forgot Huiry.” Well, we on our side can say that we never dreamed that a conscript army could have a whole regiment of such fine men. So you see we are all very much pleased with each other, and if the 23d Dragoons are not going to forget us, we are as little likely to forget them.