March 25, 1917
Well here I am up the line again with D Company, billeted for the present in a suite of nice dry cellars - the houses in this particular locality being "napoo". We have a sort of Heath Robinson fire-place of bricks and wire and scraps of iron, that ought to smoke horribly, but doesn't; and altogether we are quite cozy and comfortable, though appearance are decidedly in contrast to my recent billet at the Rest Station.
When I arrived here I found a bunch of letters and parcels from you, (cake etc.), from Ella, and form Herb Richardson. One has since arrived from Grandmother. Of course they are all appreciated, but I should rather discourage the sending of anything except eatables unless they or it is asked for. At present I am the proud possessor of four tooth-brushes - one (perhaps fortunately) broken in transit; three sticks of shaving-soap; two tubes of tooth-paste, (which I never use; but may find recipients for); a number of towels and wash-cloths in excess of what I need; and soap enough to last me for months. It isn't that I don't appreciate the things; but one doesn't like to be over-loaded. I've no doubt one could dispose of some of the surplus if the needy ones could be discovered; but you can hardly parade the company and ask for vacancies. Don't say a word of course to Ella or Grandma that could make them feel that their things were not wanted; but if you hear of any parcels in future just drop a hint. One doesn't like to throw things away, and the disposal entails too much trouble. We move so frequently, and no one wants to carry extra articles. It isn't as if we couldn't get things here, if we needed them on short notice. At the present moment we have orders to cut down the weight of our kits; and are preparing to leave all dispensable articles in storage, when we move from here, so I shall just leave these extras on the chance of picking them up again when I need them, or "apres la guerre." Of eatables, cake is the most acceptable, as we don't get it except through the mail.. A certain amount of sweets can be disposed of, but I would sooner you didn't spend money on buying stuff, as I can make more than an average contribution to the mess from other boxes. I know you like to send me things, but stick to home-mades and not too much, not too often, please. My comment on chiclets bore fruit with a vengeance. You and Herb between you fairly swamped me. It is always acceptable, but better in small quantities at one time. A book or magazine every ten days or so.
Herb sent me Service's new book of verse - "Rhymes of a Red Cross Man." It is very fine. He has kept all his old imaginative vigor, his swing and action, and his vividly original phrasing, but he has sloughed off much of the old slap-dash vulgarity. It is a book worth reading and re-reading. He gives you modern was with its glamour (for it has a glamour of sorts in spite of what most of us say) and he gives you it without. You won't read many pages with dry eyes; and yet it doesn't make you morbid of pessimistic. And the best of it all is that he has preserved his sanity with regard to the only possible way of bringing peace on earth and that is, having beaten the Bosch, to give him the hand of friendship. I wish there were more prospect of such a consummation.
In spite of Marjorie's warning, I did nearly faint - with laughter - when I read about the Weaver twins. Isn't it the bally limit? I do feel sorry for Edith - though of course it wouldn't do to say so.
It was more than kind of Mrs. Knight to think of me. Do thank her for me and give her my love. I shall try to write her myself when I receive some of the evidence of her goodness if not before. But I am horribly behind with my correspondence.
Too bad you are short of fuel. In the line of course, that is our chronic state. We officers, of course, escape the real pinch, as our servants have little else to do but rustle wood. They I believe pray hopefully every time they hear a shell, that it will knock down one of the few remaining roofs or parts of roofs, and furnish some rafters. Everything within reach of the ground has been gone for ages. Of course, we get an occasional ration of coke, which helps out.
If this reaches Toronto before Marj. goes to Woodstock, she must convey my best to Dorothy; and thanks for the sock project. I don't need them, however, and won't unless the war lasts through another winter.
At present our Company is somewhat altered. Capt. Peters (single) is away on a course, and his place is being filled by Capt. Eaton (married) a Leicester architect, who designed the Christmas card I sent. Wright (single) is away on the bombing course. He is one of those charming eccentrics one sometimes reads about. He never talks much about his past; but one gathers that he has a small private income and has never really done anything - except, quite unconsciously, to make life more interesting and agreeable for everyone who knows him. He has a brother, a vicar, in Wigston, and he himself has, I believe, done a good deal of work among boys' clubs or something of the sort; but quite unprofessionally. At first sight one is inclined to very much under-rate him. As a matter of fact I don't think there is a pluckier or more danger-loving individual in the battalion. Maggitt and Underwood, the other present members of the mess are both unmarried; as is also Bently, our second in command, now on detached duty as transport officer on a light railway.
Yes, I used Frances' scarf several times during the winter. Our cooking is done by an old fellow named Bagley, who was a hosiery manufacturer before the war, and must have perjured his soul to get into the army. He does very well, and takes delight in sending his menus home to his wife. He had never done anything of the sort before. No, our laundry work is done by the local inhabitants. Bayley sees to mine. All I have to do is pay the bill, which tallies up somewhere a franc a week.
The cake is very nice. I can't compare it with the Christmas cake, as I gave it to one of the servants, thinking it was the same sort put in to fill up, not then having read your letter. I think card-board is just as good or better than tin; though the cake came perfectly this time.
Socks with cotton legs are quite satisfactory, but I really have enough to do me for months.
No, we did no riding at Oxford. Mother may set her mind at rest about the "creeping things". I've seen none yet, and if I do get any, I shall easily get rid of them. For the men it is not so easy; though most of them manage to keep fairly free.
While writing, the mail has come, bringing Father's letter of Feb. 18th. Mother's of the 25th came two days ago.
Oceans of love to all,