Papa at least will be awake by now. How familiar the old house seems to me—I can think of the place of every picture. Do you set the victrola going now-a-days? I bet you play Boys in Khaki, Boys in Blue.
Please send me anything in the way of eatables that the goodness of your hearts can imagine—also smokes.
I came back from the front-line all right and have since been hard at it firing. Your letters reached me in the midst of a bombardment—I read them in a kind of London fog of gun-powder smoke, with my steel helmet tilted back, in the interval of commanding my section through a megaphone.
Don’t suppose that I’m in any way unhappy—I’m as cheerful as a cricket and do twice as much hopping—I have to. There’s something extraordinarily bracing about taking risks and getting away with it—especially when you know that you’re contributing your share to a far-reaching result. My mother is the mother of a soldier now, and soldiers’ mothers don’t lie awake at night imagining—they just say a prayer for their sons and leave everything in God’s hands. I’m sure you’d far rather I died than not play the man to the fullest of my strength. It isn’t when you die that matters—it’s how. Not but what I intend to return to Newark and make the house reek of tobacco smoke before I’ve done.
We’re continually in action now, and the casualty to B. has left us short-handed—moreover we’re helping out another battery which has lost two officers. As you’ve seen by the papers, we’ve at last got the Hun on the run. Three hundred passed me the other day unescorted, coming in to give themselves up as prisoners. They’re the dirtiest lot you ever set eyes on, and looked as though they hadn’t eaten for months. I wish I could send you some souvenirs. But we can’t send them out of France.
I’m scribbling by candlelight and everything’s jumping with the stamping of the guns. I wear the locket and cross all the time.
with much love,
October 13th, 1916.
I have only time to write and assure you that I am safe. We’re living in trenches at present—I have my sleeping bag placed on a stretcher to keep it fairly dry. By the time you get this we expect to be having a rest, as we’ve been hard at it now for an unusually long time. How I wish that I could tell you so many things that are big and vivid in my mind-but the censor—!
Yesterday I had an exciting day. I was up forward when word came through that an officer still further forward was wounded and he’d been caught in a heavy enemy fire. I had only a kid telephonist with me, but we found a stretcher, went forward and got him out. The earth was hopping up and down like pop-corn in a frying pan. The unfortunate thing was that the poor chap died on the way out. It was only the evening before that we had dined together and he had told me what he was going to do with his next leave.