I’m surely glad for a good excuse to write you.
Once in a blue moon I get a letter, and today Hutter brought me one from a soldier pard of mine who was with me in the Argonne. His name is Virgil Rust—queer name, don’t you think?—and he’s from Wisconsin. Just a rough-diamond sort of chap, but fairly well educated. He and I were in some pretty hot places, and it was he who pulled me out of a shell crater. I’d “gone west” sure then if it hadn’t been for Rust.
Well, he did all sorts of big things during the war. Was down several times with wounds. He liked to fight and he was a holy terror. We all thought he’d get medals and promotion. But he didn’t get either. These much-desired things did not always go where they were best deserved.
Rust is now lying in a hospital in Bedford Park. His letter is pretty blue. All he says about why he’s there is that he’s knocked out. But he wrote a heap about his girl. It seems he was in love with a girl in his home town— a pretty, big-eyed lass whose picture I’ve seen—and while he was overseas she married one of the chaps who got out of fighting. Evidently Rust is deeply hurt. He wrote: “I’d not care so . . . if she’d thrown me down to marry an old man or a boy who couldn’t have gone to war.” You see, Carley, service men feel queer about that sort of thing. It’s something we got over there, and none of us will ever outlive it. Now, the point of this is that I am asking you to go see Rust, and cheer him up, and do what you can for the poor devil. It’s a good deal to ask of you, I know, especially as Rust saw your picture many a time and knows you were my girl. But you needn’t tell him that you—we couldn’t make a go of it.
And, as I am writing this to you, I see no reason why I shouldn’t go on in behalf of myself.
The fact is, Carley, I miss writing to you more than I miss anything of my old life. I’ll bet you have a trunkful of letters from me—unless you’ve destroyed them. I’m not going to say how I miss your letters. But I will say you wrote the most charming and fascinating letters of anyone I ever knew, quite aside from any sentiment. You knew, of course, that I had no other girl correspondent. Well, I got along fairly well before you came West, but I’d be an awful liar if I denied I didn’t get lonely for you and your letters. It’s different now that you’ve been to Oak Creek. I’m alone most of the time and I dream a lot, and I’m afraid I see you here in my cabin, and along the brook, and under the pines, and riding Calico—which you came to do well—and on my hogpen fence—and, oh, everywhere! I don’t want you to think I’m down in the mouth, for I’m not. I’ll take my medicine. But, Carley, you spoiled me, and I miss hearing from you, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be all right for you to send me a friendly letter occasionally.