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Date: June 9th 1917
Beulah Bahnsen (wife)
Ralph Watson

9 June, ’17.

My dearest Lal:

Well, the leave is a thing of the past. Nothing to look forward to but the end of the war, I guess.  When I got back, last night, the Battn. was in the same place; and I was more than glad, believe me, as to have gone direct into the line would have surely been the limit of contrasts. Even in the short time I’ve been away, I seem to have lost touch with it all. A dozen times I started a letter in London, but never finished it; it was all so different, all of it, that I could never concentrate. I stayed at the Club all the time, the one in Charles St., Lady Drummond’s house, and had for a companion most of the time an officer in the Flying Corps. We met in the Club; he had once been a private in a Canadian Battn. and was waiting for a transfer to the American Flying Corps. He certainly was a nice boy, in a “nice” way, as also was my other companion, a sergeant I met in the winter. He was over in London for a commission — and we all went everywhere together. I guess we saw everything worth seeing. We saw a show of some sort every day. And I have never seen such turns — never. Of course I was prepared to like everything, but I’m sure I never saw better; the music, everything, the dresses, the lightness, and brightness of it all. I couldn’t get it. After this. It came as a shock that our life together ought to include this. I was homesick as the very devil; often I wished I had never come — I wanted you.

Not once, but a thousand times, I tried to grasp the fact that so few miles away a hell was raging — and couldn’t. No wonder these people don’t understand. How could they? Lovely silk clothes and flowers and fruit and happiness don’t “jibe” with “the line.”

And the life of the town, at least on the surface, is just the same. One seems to half expect them to go about in black, be mournful, and serious, and grim, yet I suppose theirs is the better way. It makes you feel mad though, too, sometimes, to see so much happiness and flippancy. It did me, anyway; yet I would hate you to be unhappy just because I am here. Never have I seen so much gayety and richness of apparel, and spending of money in London before. The shops are full of the most expensive things; flowers and expensive fruit, and “eats” of the most elaborate seemed to me more common by far than before. And the prices — Good Heavens — I wouldn’t have believed it. I can’t think where the money can all come from.

When I was over in Blighty, I went to see a boy’s mother for him. She made me stay all night and was so hospitable it was painful. Remember, I had not spoken to an educated white woman since October last; and then suddenly to be transported into the midst of a “nice” family — the experience was overwhelming. Such things would be alright and natural, if you hadn’t all the time hid in the back of your mind that in a few days you would be “out there” again. And all at once I used to think of you, and what we might do, if only I was back — and then again, I would wish I hadn’t come. No! ‘Leave” is not all it is said to mean. The old lady was very worried. She was the first woman I have been in touch with, who was afraid for some one loved out here, and I can see it is no cinch sitting at home. I think it brought you and me a little closer. I could see your view. . . . If they would conscript wealth, property, as well as men, we wouldn’t need the men. The war would stop, tout suit.

Original Scans

Original Scans