I’m now waiting to be relieved and am hurrying to finish this so that I may mail it as soon as I get back to the battery. There’s a whole sack of letters and parcels waiting for me there, and I’m as eager to get to them as a kiddy to inspect his Christmas stocking. I always undo the string and wrappings with a kind of reverence, trying to picture the dear kneeling figures who did them up. In London I didn’t dare to let myself go with you—I couldn’t say all that was in my heart—it wouldn’t have been wise. Don’t ever doubt that the tenderness was there. Even though one is only a civilian in khaki, some of the soldier’s sternness becomes second nature.
All the country is covered with snow—it’s brilliant clear weather, more like America than Europe. I’m feeling strong as a horse, ever so much better than I felt when on leave. Life is really tremendously worth living, in spite of the war.
I’m back at the battery, sitting by a cosy fire. I might be up at Kootenay by the look of my surroundings. I’m in a shack with a really truly floor, and a window looking out on moonlit whiteness. If it wasn’t for the tapping of the distant machine guns—tapping that always sounds to me like the nailing up of coffins—I might be here for pleasure. In imagination I can see your great ship, with all its portholes aglare, ploughing across the darkness to America. The dear sailor brothers I can’t quite visualise; I can only see them looking so upright and pale when we said good-bye. It’s getting late and the fire’s dying. I’m half asleep; I’ve not been out of my clothes for three nights. I shall tell myself a story of the end of the war and our next meeting—it’ll last from the time that I creep into my sack until I close my eyes. It’s a glorious life.
Yours very lovingly,
January 31st, 1917.
DEAR MR. AND MRS. M.:
It was extremely good of you to remember me. I got back from leave in London on the 26th and found the cigarettes waiting for me. One hasn’t got an awful lot of pleasures left, but smoking is one of them. I feel particularly doggy when I open my case and find my initials on them.
I expect you’ll have heard all the news of my leave long before this reaches you. We had a splendid time and the greatest of luck. My sailor brothers were with me all but two days, and my people were in England only a few days before I arrived.
This is a queer adventure for a peaceable person like myself—it blots out all the past and reduces the future to a speck. One hardly hopes that things will ever be different, but looks forward to interminable years of carrying on. My leave rather corrected that frame of mind; it came as a surprise to be forced to realise that not all the world was living under orders on woman less, childless battlefields. But we don’t need any pity—we manage our good times, and are sorry for the men who aren’t here, for it’s a wonderful thing to have been chosen to sacrifice and perhaps to die that the world of the future may be happier and kinder.