It’s a wonderful autumn day, golden and mellow; I picture to myself what this country must have looked like before the desolation of war struck it.
I was Brigade observation officer on September 26th, and wouldn’t have missed what I saw for a thousand dollars. It was a touch and go business, with shells falling everywhere and machine-gun fire—but something glorious to remember. I had the great joy of being useful in setting a Hun position on fire. I think the war will be over in a twelvemonth.
Our great joy is composing menus of the meals we’ll
eat when we get home. Good-bye for the present.
October 1st, 1916.
My dearest M.:
Sunday morning, your first back in Newark. You’re not up yet owing to the difference in time—I can imagine the quiet house with the first of the morning stealing greyly in. You’ll be presently going to church to sit in your old-fashioned mahogany pew. There’s not much of Sunday in our atmosphere—only the little one can manage to keep in his heart. I shall share the echo of yours by remembering.
I’m waiting orders at the present moment to go forward with the Colonel and pick out a new gun position. You know I’m very happy-satisfied for the first time I’m doing something big enough to make me forget all failures and self-contempts. I know at last that I can measure up to the standard I have always coveted for myself. So don’t worry yourselves about any note of hardship that you may interpret into my letters, for the deprivation is fully compensated for by the winged sense of exaltation one has.
Things have been a little warm round us lately. A gun to our right, another to our rear and another to our front were knocked out with direct hits. We’ve got some of the chaps taking their meals with us now because their mess was all shot to blazes. There was an officer who was with me at the 53rd blown thirty feet into the air while I was watching. He picked himself up and insisted on carrying on, although his face was a mass of bruises. I walked in on the biggest engagement of the entire war the moment I came out here. There was no gradual breaking-in for me. My first trip to the front line was into a trench full of dead.
Have you seen Lloyd George’s great speech? I’m all with him. No matter what the cost and how many of us have to give our lives, this War must be so finished that war may be forever at an end. If the devils who plan wars could only see the abysmal result of their handiwork! Give them one day in the trenches under shell-fire when their lives aren’t worth a five minutes’ purchase—or one day carrying back the wounded through this tortured country, or one day in a Red Cross train. No one can imagine the damnable waste and Christlessness of this battering of human flesh. The only way that this War can be made holy is by making it so thorough that war will be finished for all time.