September 19th, 1916.
I’ve been in France 19 days, and it hasn’t taken me long to go into action. Soon I shall be quite an old hand. I’m just back from 24 hours in the Observation Post, from which one watches the effect of fire. I understand now and forgive the one phrase which the French children have picked up from our Tommies on account of its frequent occurrence—“bl—— mud.” I never knew that mud could be so thick and treacly. All my fear that I might be afraid under shell-fire is over—you get to believe that if you’re going to be hit you’re going to be. But David’s phrase keeps repeating itself in my mind, “Ten thousand shall fall at thy side, etc., but it shall not come nigh unto thee.” It’s a curious thing that the men who are most afraid are those who get most easily struck. A friend of G.M.C.’s was hit the other day within thirty yards of me—he was a Princeton chap. I mentioned him in one of my previous letters. Our right section commander got a blighty two days ago and is probably now in England. He went off on a firing battery wagon, grinning all over his face, saying he wouldn’t sell that bit of blood and shrapnel for a thousand pounds. I’m wearing your tie—it’s the envy of the battery. All the officers wanted me to give them the name of my girl. It never occurs to men that mothers will do things like that.
Thank the powers it has stopped raining and we’ll be able to get dry. I came in plastered from head to foot with lying in the rain on my tummy and peering over the top of a trench. Isn’t it a funny change from comfortable breakfasts, press notices and a blazing fire?
Do you want any German souvenirs? Just at present I can get plenty. I have a splendid bayonet and a belt with Kaiser Bill’s arms on it—but you can’t forward these things from France. The Germans swear that they’re not using bayonets with saw-edges, but you can buy them for five francs from the Tommies—ones they’ve taken from the prisoners or else picked up.
You needn’t be nervous about me. I’m a great little dodger of whizz-bangs. Besides I have a superstition that there’s something in the power of M.’s cross to bless. It came with the mittens, and is at present round my neck.
You know what it sounds like when they’re shooting coals down an iron run-way into a cellar-well, imagine a thousand of them. That’s what I’m hearing while I write.
God bless you; I’m very happy.
September 19th, 1916.
I’m writing you your birthday letter early, as I don’t know how busy I may be in the next week, nor how long this may take to reach you. You know how much love I send you and how I would like to be with you. D’you remember the birthday three years ago when we set the victrola going outside your room door? Those were my high-jinks days when very many things seemed possible. I’d rather be the person I am now than the person I was then. Life was selfish though glorious.