But there are happier things than that. For instance, you should hear us singing at night in our dug-out—every tune we ever learnt, I believe. Silver Threads Among the Gold, In the Gloaming, The Star of Bethlehem, I Hear You Calling Me, interspersed with Everybody Works but Father, and Poor Old Adam, etc.
I wish I could know in time when I get my leave for you to come over and meet me. I’m going to spend my nine days in the most glorious ways imaginable. To start with I won’t eat anything that’s canned and, to go on, I won’t get out of bed till I feel inclined. And if you’re there—!
Dreams and nonsense! God bless you all and keep us near and safe though absent. Alive or “Gone West” I shall never be far from you; you may depend on that—and I shall always hope to feel you brave and happy. This is a great game—cheese-mites pitting themselves against all the splendours of Death. Please, please write well ahead, so that I may not miss your Christmas letters.
November 6th, 1916.
My Dear Ones:
Such a wonderful day it has been—I scarcely know where to start. I came down last night from twenty-four hours in the mud, where I had been observing. I’d spent the night in a hole dug in the side of the trench and a dead Hun forming part of the roof. I’d sat there re-living so many things—the ecstatic moments of my life when I first touched fame—and my feet were so cold that I could not feel them, so I thought all the harder of the pleasant things of the past. Then, as I say, I came back to the gun position to learn that I was to have one day off at the back of the lines. You can’t imagine what that meant to me—one day in a country that is green, one day where there is no shell-fire, one day where you don’t turn up corpses with your tread! For two months I have never left the guns except to go forward and I have never been from under shell-fire. All night long as I have slept the ground had been shaken by the stamping of the guns—and now after two months, to come back to comparative normality! The reason for this privilege being granted was that the powers that he had come to the conclusion that it was time I had a bath. Since I sleep in my clothes and water is too valuable for washing anything but the face and hands, they were probably right in their guess at my condition.
So with the greatest holiday of my life in prospect I went to the empty gunpit in which I sleep, and turned in. This morning I set out early with my servant, tramping back across the long, long battlefields which our boys have won. The mud was knee-deep in places, but we floundered on till we came to our old and deserted gun-position where my horses waited for me. From there I rode to the wagon-lines—the first time I’ve sat a horse since I came into action. Far behind me the thunder of winged murder grew more faint. The country became greener; trees even had leaves upon them which fluttered against the grey-blue sky. It was wonderful—like awaking from an appalling nightmare. My little beast was fresh and seemed to share my joy, for she stepped out bravely.