Just back from a successful argument with Fritz, to find your kind good wishes. It’s rather a lark out here, though a lark which may turn against you any time. I laugh a good deal more than I mope. Anything really horrible has a ludicrous side—it’s like Mark Twain’s humour—a gross exaggeration. The maddest thing of all to me is that a person so willing to be amiable as I am should be out here killing people for principle’s sake. There’s no rhyme or reason—it can’t be argued. Dimly one thinks he sees what is right and leaves father and mother and home, as though it were for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. Perhaps it is. If one didn’t pin his faith to that “perhaps”—. One can’t explain.
A merry Christmas to you.
Yours very sincerely,
December 20th, 1916.
Dear Mr. A.D.:
I’ve just come in from an argument with Fritz when your chocolate formed my meal. You were very kind to think of me and to send it, and you were extraordinarily understanding in the letter that you sent me. One’s life out here is like a pollarded tree—all the lower branches are gone—one gazes on great nobilities, on the fascinating horror of Eternity sometimes—I said horror, but it’s often fine in its spaciousness—one gazes on many inverted splendours of Titans, but it’s giddy work being so high and rarefied, and all the gentle past seems gone. That’s why it is pleasant in this grimy anonymity of death and courage to get reminders, such as your letter, that one was once localised and had a familiar history. If I come back, I shall be like Rip Van Winkle, or a Robinson Crusoe—like any and all of the creatures of legend and history to whom abnormality has grown to seem normal. If you can imagine yourself living in a world in which every day is a demonstration of a Puritan’s conception of what happens when the last trump sounds, then you have some idea of my queer situation. One has come to a point when death seems very inconsiderable and only failure to do one’s duty is an utter loss. Love and the future, and all the sweet and tender dreams of by-gone days are like a house in which the blinds are lowered and from which the sight has gone. Landscapes have lost their beauty, everything God-made and man-made is destroyed except man’s power to endure with a smile the things he once most dreaded, because he believes that only so may he be righteous in his own eyes. How one has longed for that sure confidence in the petty failings of little living—the confidence to believe that he can stand up and suffer for principle! God has given all men who are out here that opportunity—the supremest that can be hoped for—so, in spite of exile, Christmas for most of us will be a happy day. Does one see more truly life’s worth on a battlefield? I often ask myself that question. Is the contempt that is hourly shown for life the real standard of