No 12 Infantry Base Depot, B.E.F. France
December 18, 1916
As you see, I am still behind the lines, but expect to go up in a few days now. My address then will be 11th Leicestershire Reg't, B.E.F., France.
Yesterday was Sunday, and a lovely day for December. In the morning I spent an hour censoring letters and another at church parade. In the afternoon one of the fellows - Stevens - and I set out in quest of adventure. He has spent odd holidays in France, Belgium, and Holland, and can get along very well as far as the language is concerned. He has, unfortunately, an unquenchable thirst; but is too much of a gentleman not to respect absolutely the T.T. principles of another. Otherwise he is a most interesting and companionable fellow. We had no definite plan when we started out; but at the first village we came to we dropped into an Estaminet, he ordered a beer for himself and a grenadine and soda for me, and made enquiries as to the country round about. (Perhaps this is as good a place as any to explain - if you don't know - that grenadine is a sweet, pink syrup with no really characteristic flavor except sweetness, which is the delight of French children; but would hardly satisfy the various taste of the soda-fountain-trained youth of America.) Well, we found that by walking ten miles we would come to a certain little town which must, I regret, be nameless, from which we could get a train back about 8.00 P.M. to a station not far from Camp. We rambled along through quaint little villages with their neat Estaminets, and across the level unfenced plain of Picardy, enjoying ourselves every step of the way. As we neared our destination dusk was coming on, and it began to rain fitfully. The approaching lights of the town, however, and the thoughts of supper prevented it dampening our spirits. We found the place rather weird in the semi-darkness - a queer muddle of railway sidings, canals and bridges. Stevens' French, however, helped by the unfailing desire to oblige on the part of everyone we met got us to the best eating-place in the town, and we sat in the tap-room and studied the character and dress of everybody who came in until supper-time. It was a real supper, too - delicious ham and some sort of potted meat, salad, most delicious cheeses and bread and butter, and to finish off a tall glass of black coffee. Madame was perhaps a bit flustered at having les officiers Anglais, for without apparent reason she dropped the salad bowl with a crash in the doorway. The salad was rescued, however, and was none the worse for it. There was a little shrim of a poilu in the room reading of all things the weekly Times; and after supper Stevens approached him to enquire the way to the station, thinking that a little English might not be amiss in so important a matter. The poilu was not over-confident of his ability to explain - we understood the difficulty later; but at this juncture a Belgian adjutant - corresponding to our regimental serjeant-major- intervened with the information that he was going to the station and would be happy to show us the way. It developed that his wife and daughter were going too, - our luck being at the flood; and we were soon outside stumbling merrily through an inky drizzle. Talk about fun! We would have been hopelessly lost without our friends. As t was we were continually getting into ditches and puddles, and nearly going into canals instead of over the bridges, but our friends seemed to get nothing but fun out of it all. Of course I missed a good deal from not knowing more French; but Mademoiselle had my hand - or I had hers, whichever you please - so I didn't do too badly; and laughter is a common language. Well, we got to the station, and there, to our delight, found that our fair friends were going with us. Papa handed them over to us with most charming grace, the train came in, we rushed about in the dark trying to find a second class carriage and finally landed in a third. Not that it mattered. I got a seat by Mademoiselle and Madame, and Stevens sat opposite and delighted them with his French; while I did my best to catch on to the conversation and pick up what phrases I could. We were really sorry when our station came and we had to say adieu. We got back to camp about 9.30, and went to bed, healthily tired, full of pleasant reflections, and poorer by only 5 francs.
Love to all,
P.S. Hope Frances has had as pleasant and happy a birthday as I