24 June, ’17.
My ownest Lal, —
I seem just now to have so much to tell you that I don’t know where to begin. As you know, we are on rest, and altogether having a ripping time — only a little drill or lectures on specialty stuff in the mornings, the rest of the day off. There is a lake close at hand, though not a lake similar to yours. I mean there are no trimmings, no boats or anything; it’s just a small French village in the mining district, but all the surrounding country is glorious, nevertheless, and there are no stray shells — most important feature of all. All the boys are enjoying things finely. . . .
Everything just now is devoted to sports — Inter-Battn., Inter-Brigade, Inter-Division. The finals were all in our grand sports day yesterday. Of course, every one is a most enthusiastic booster for his Battn., and it’s all been most exciting.
It took place at this very village where I’ve been all winter. When I got there, the village was a mass of men all on holiday; every Battn. came to cheer its men in one event or another; but ours mainly to get that ball game. It was great, just like a big Sports at home, only there were no girls or women; the field was surrounded with trees, an ideal place. All the big brass hats and every one was there, and out for a good time, and I sure did enjoy it. The (page cut by censor) know how to stage-manage a thing of this sort, and they went the whole hog, even to having the theatrical bunch dress as girls and stroll around with sunshades. Well, we won the ball game. We didn’t do much in the running races; our Battn. doesn’t run, we stand fast!!! But we won the heavyweight boxing, and the tug of war.
All the time I was running into fellows I knew. It was a thoroughly jolly enjoyable day. I wished a hundred times you had been with me. I guess there will be a day or two like that, though when the big bunch go back to Canada; and then we’ll see it all, together — because I’m coming home alright. I’m getting some of your optimism.
Poor old Lal! I haven’t finished laughing yet at your idea of a good war story. . . . But for your information, as it directly concerns my own job, stretcher bearers don’t carry morphine; they carry — I carry — bandages, dressings (shell and field), iodine which I slash liberally on every wound, a pair of scissors, and sometimes a little sal volatile. That’s all. . . . Imagine, before going over the bags, sitting in a dugout writing a lot of trash, and licking up the envelope. Precious lot of dugouts a private is ever allowed in! Moreover, you don’t take biscuit boxes in the line; they go up in sandbags. And taking a blanket over the top is too funny. If you want to read front-line stuff, read Ian Hay who has been there — or, for a change, the personal experiences of Mrs. R.A.L.’s husband. By the way, I see you like my descriptions. I’m glad; that’s why I write ’em; and if you didn’t, it wouldn’t be any fun. (Will you keep them for Bill when she grows up?) I’m just beginning to get used to things here again; the awful contrasts of home life and this are beginning to fade from my mind. Luckily, I didn’t have to make the jump from England right into the line, but shall reach there by easy stages, so to speak. It isn’t really bad here at all; in fact, it’s just heaven after the line. But compared with life amongst equals and with freedom — of course it’s awful.
I know the present is rotten for you, dear, in every way; but we must “carry on.” It’s all we can do. So I’ll be where I won’t have time to think of anything but life and death, eating and drinking to live, and being dry and warm — just an animal — a hunted animal. We all have our worries. Remember only to be alive is something to thank God for.
The photographs of you are simply splendid. I fell in love with you all over again. You are the “Ideal”, the only one, and will be till I die — and I hope afterwards. Remember hard — always — that, if I should happen to have to pay the sacrifice, my last thought will, my very last one will, be loving you and hoping that the rest of your life is to be happy. Don’t take this in a morbid spirit. I don’t mean it that way at all. Already I have experienced moments which I was sure were “the” one. It wasn’t, as it happened, but I was thinking of you hard. And I repeat my love will go out to you then, as it does now when I am alive and gloriously well.
It is because I love you so, and want our home so much, that I want to get through with this thing so badly.
You are worried about the political point of things, the “human” view, the reasons. I am concerned alone as to whether we can manage to pull through, while doing the day’s work. I have done my “day’s work” here satisfactorily; I know that. I have heard from several sources that I have “made good.” It is enough. All we want now is for it to end — and begin our lives again; isn’t it?