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Date: February 11th 1918

Feb. 11th, 1918

Dear Mother:

Am on duty in the exchange and as there is not much doing want to drop you a line. It is almost 9:30 p.m. and everything is almost perfectly quiet. In fact, were it not for the surroundings one would scarcely know that there was a war on. It is a perfect night, clear and starlit and mild, more like a September night at home than February. One could not wish for better weather than. we have had for all the last three weeks.

Received your parcel containing chicken, coffee, milk etc. the night before last, the only Canadian mail that I, or in fact any of us, have had for the last ten days or more. Don't know what has become of it. Many thanks for the parcel. Say, that chicken certainly goes good. I don't know of anything that could be appreciated more. The coffee also was welcome and the milk especially so, for one cannot buy any milk now. There is a government order out forbidding the sale of it in the canteens and YMCA. Don't know what the idea is. The same thing happened about this time a year ago and for a month or six weeks one could not buy it anywhere, then they started selling again and one could always buy as much as one wanted. Have not much to write about. Things have been very quiet lately than there is not much news to write.

By the way I would like you to send my old arithmetic book if it is around. Hamblin Smith's if you can find it or if not any old textbook. I find that I am getting a bit rusty on the work and would like to brighten up a bit on some of it. Would also like to have my text on Trigonometry if it is still around but at any rate it is not of any importance if you can't find it. Two or three years away from one's books and one certainly gets rusty in the work. However one could soon revise upward again and know it better than ever. French is I think the only subject on which I have advanced. Naturally in coming across we have tried to pick up as much of the French language as possible and while I am not at all fluent in it I can easily make myself understood and can carry on a kind of a conversation. But while my book education has in a sense suffered or rather been delayed I have received another education which is even more valuable in fitting a man for a successful life and that is an education in men and in human nature. In this life one meets men from all classes of society and gets to understand their different viewpoints on life and while in a great many cases one does not agree with their ideals, yet one gets to understand their side of the question and to sympathize with them. One great lesson I have learned is this: never condemn a man without a hearing. Condemn the evil always but as far as the man himself is concerned he is at least entitled to a chance to vindicate himself before he is condemned. In my everyday life out here I have worked with men who three years ago I would have considered outside the pale, so to speak, yet on becoming acquainted with them I have found them to be in many cases real men, with strong characters and high ideals in life. They have this one weakness for which, I think, in a great many cases they themselves cannot be held responsible, but beyond that you could not meet finer fellows. A man should be judged not from what he appears to be but from what he is. Let me illustrate. I know a couple of chaps physically fit and with no dependents attending college, theological students, and understand that they have gained exemption on the strength of it. That is they have covered their lack of physical courage with a lame excuse for they could really do a great deal more real good out here than at home and at the same time be doing their share in serving their country. But not merely have they got clear of coming to the front but one of them has played a doubly cowardly trick by writing to a friend, or rather to a chap who was at one time his friend, and telling him that he heard he was drinking, and fact, unless he cut it out, he need never be expected to recognize him as a friend again. Now that chap to whom this letter was written is a personal friend of mine and a more worthy gentleman is hard to find. As a matter of fact he does take an occasional drink. The same man would go through a regular inferno and through a thousand dangers to help another man whom he had never seen before and would probably never see again. He would give the last drop of water in his bottle to a wounded comrade although he had still twelve hours to go before being relieved and knowing that the only water he would obtain for himself was that which lay half stagnant in the shell holes. Choose for yourself which is nearer the Christ-like spirit, and which after all was the real man. Personally I would, if asked to choose, take as my friend one who came in answer to duty's call and proved his manhood in the relentless test of war.

Now I think I must ring off. This scrawl it is long enough and I doubt if you can read it anyway. We'll write again in a few days. All well. Again thank you for your parcel.

With love to all, Harold