October-November 1917 - "Tell Mrs B. that I am carrying her Belgian coin for luck."
Fred to Evelyn
Oct. 1 1917
My darling wife, -
It is one of those beautiful clear evenings which have been our almost invariable portion since coming here. By daylight saving time, which still prevails with the army in France, it is 6.30 and a soft twilight haze has followed the setting of the sun. I went outside and stretched myself out on the bank, when before I started to write, I heard the distant hum of a German aeroplane and immediately after came the order "Get under cover," so we all hurried to our dugouts and now I am sitting at the entrance to the dugout which has been my home for the past 4 days and which we are leaving tonight for a while back of the lines.
We don't rush to cover from aeroplanes because of danger but because the aircraft are out for reconnaissance and the least movement on the ground is discernable. Naturally we don't want Heine to know what positions we occupy. Of course he knows this and where most of the other trenches now held by us are, both because he can see them and because a large number of them were once occupied by him. But such matters are employed to conceal the guns, dispositions of troops etc. that Fritz doesn't know where our strong points are, so on every available opportunity he sends over his aeroplanes for observation purposed, just as we do over Fritz's lines.
Since writing the above we had to put on our equipment and stand to, ready to move out. But as we have a wait of no one knows how long, I am back in the dugout writing by candle light. One has to snatch such odd moments if he would write at all. I haven't written any since last Friday.
Yesterday I received your letter written from Hagersville Sep Aug 22 and a bunch of Globes. Today there was a bundle of papers presumably sent by Elleda containing 2 New York Times a Scribner’s a Post & a Forum. Will you please thank her for me?
I haven't had any parcels from you since about a week prior to leaving Eng. I find that papers & boxes are sent up to the front line trenches however, when possible. Several of the fellows got parcels today. It really is wonderful to think that daily mail can be delivered even to the front line trenches. Yes - and hot tea and occasionally boiled rice or potatoes.
The grub here is remarkably good and there is no stint . Every night ration parties go out for the grub to the head of a narrow gauge railway about a mile away. Drinking water has to be carried rather farther. In some places it is almost impossible to get water for washing purposes at all but here we are unusually fortunate in having right at hand a spring well at the bottom of what Fritz had intended for a dugout before the water appeared.
Wed. evening, Oct 3/17
Once again my abode has changed. On Monday night we came out of the line and while the battalion is still considered as being in support we are back 4 or 5 miles - quite beyond the range of all but the largest guns - and they rarely put a shell over this way except when firing at one of our captive balloons so we feel absolutely safe here.
Though freer from danger this place is in many respects less desirable than the line. There the grub is of the best & unstinted. Here we have a piece of bread a slice of bacon & tea for breakfast. Bully beef, bread jam & cheese for dinner & mulligan bread & tea for supper. There the quarters were much more commodious & comfortable. ...
The dugout from which I last wrote was about from 4 to 5 feet in height. The ceiling & walls were all carefully timbered and planked by Fritz and it was dry & quite comfortable. Of course there were lice - they are everywhere here - but they didn't trouble much. Most of the boys have already been attacked but as far as I know I am still free.
There were a few rats which we could plainly hear in the walls & ceiling but I never saw any inside. As for our present abode it is more a hut than a dugout for it is not really underground. Made of sandbags with a roof of loose sheets of corrugated iron it is situated on the side of a steep slope facing west. The floor is of chalk clay.
Rat holes in the sand bags abound and the rodents themselves can be seen scurrying all around at any time of day or night. The night before last when I was up for a visit to the latrine I saw 2 of the night cooks out on a rat hunting expedition. One wouldn't so much mind them outside, but when they play hide and seek around and over you while you are sleeping, and even nibble at one's toes, as they did the other night to the serj. maj., they may truly be considered a pest.
Monday night I left a little bread & cheese in my mess tin for morning and as a result there are now 2 holes in the canvas cover and 2 distinct dents in the tin itself where Mr. Rat's teeth endeavored to punch a hole through the metal.
As for the mansion(?) itself - it is of such dimensions that when McKenzie, Edwards & I are in at night we have to put our packs & equipment outside. During the day we reverse the process. In plain figures, its inside dimensions are nearly 5' 10" long, 4 1/2' wide & 3 1/2' high - quite a snug little apartment for 3. Of course we sleep with our clothes on. We use our greatcoats for bedding, and the first night we each had a blanket over us but yesterday while we were out on a working party someone relieved us of 2 and now we have only 1 blanket for the 3 of us.
Fortunately the weather is mild, although the air becomes quite chilly before morning. However I always sleep warm. I haven't slept with my clothes off - I mean my outer clothes for 10 days. When we were in the line, of course we had to keep our puttees & boots on and wear our box respirators - and were supposed to keep all equipment on. In the front line everything is worn but in the support line where I was most of the fellows slept with their equipment off.
Last week I received your nice long letter written from O.S. & posted Sept 2nd. I’ll answer it later. It was such a good one and made a pleasant ending to a hard day.
I told you the night before we left the line we got back here about 3 a.m. had something to eat & got to bed about 3.30. Then 15 of us - among whom were McK.[McKenzie], Edwards & I had to get up at 6, breakfast at 6.30 & start at 7 on a working party. We marched back to within a mile of where we had been in the line -our work was under cover & needless to say we didn't work very hard. About 3.30 we quit & marched back - arriving here about 5.30. After supper I had a rub bath, & a shave and by the time I read your letter, & one from Don [Albright], I was ready for bed. Today we were on the same work and the same place.
It takes us about 2 hours each way going and coming, & the marching is all in trenches which wind and twist and turn. Nearly all the way the bottom is covered with trench matting - ie - a walk about 2 feet wide made of small slots laid crosswise on 2" x 4" scantling. This is a great boon in wet weather but makes hard walking in dry weather.
We have just been warned for the same working party tomorrow for which I am very glad. If we didn't go on the day party we'd be on a night one, and its nicer to work in the day and have the night for sleep. Don't worry about me darling. Though my time is full and I sometimes get tired, I'm hard as nails and never felt in better health in my life. I'm never too tired to sleep or rest and I'm sure I can hold up my end with the best of them.
Do you remember Mr. Lucas who was in the 191 & was with me at Sarcee? His son was killed last Thursday night. I wish you would see or phone Mrs. Lucas and assure her that her boy didn't suffer. He was killed instantaneously by a big shell which killed 1 other and wounded 2. This was the first night we were in the line. McKenzie helped to carry him out and he is buried near here in a little cemetery where the 50th now inter all their dead. If I get time I'll write the Lucases a short letter. Anyhow I know they would appreciate your telling them what I have just written.
Oh my darling, I am so glad you have been feeling better, and that you had a good visit at Beamsville. The other fellows have come in now and we must turn in so goodnight my own darling wife.
Fred to Evelyn
Thurs evening Oct. 4/17
My darling -
Tonight I'm writing under difficulties indeed. I think I told you the dimensions of our dugout. Well our first real French rain came today driven by a strong westerly wind which came straight into our door. I now understand what is meant by French wind. I thought I had experienced something of wind in Haldimand County but for stickiness and slipperiness the chalk mud of France is so far beyond every other kind that it is in a class by itself.
Today our party was out working at the same place - repairing shell holes in walls & ceilings of old cellars of a large building to make them gas proof, as it will probably be used as an advanced dressing station in the next big push. We didn't have to work tremendously hard In fact I took along the Scribner's Elleda sent me and in the intervals between my hod-carrying trips - for I carried the bricks with which Edwards repaired the breaches - I read a little.
This is the first opportunity I've had for any reading for a long while. There is one article which contains a letter written by an eminent French publicist who enlisted as a private. To my mind this letter expresses the best ideal of the allied soldiers. It certainly is mine. I am enclosing it and I wish you would keep it.
At 3.30 we started back but about 4 o'clock I left the party and made a side trip of half a mile or more to see Joe Shaw who is in the Xth Bn. Luckily I found him in and we had a nice chat but when we I left him it started to drizzle and I still had fully 3 miles to go. Thinking to shorten the route I soon left the trench and took the road for it was dusk and so foggy there was not the slightest danger of being seen. It was shorter but oh how slippery - and soon the rain fell in torrents.
By the time I reached camp I was soaking wet and my boots were plastered with mud. I found the other boys busy repairing the hut and putting up curtains over the doorway. They had reached camp before getting very wet, but while they were eating supper the rain came right through the door and made a terrible mess. I first went to the cook house then changed shirts & socks after rubbing myself dry. I have no other pants or drawers so must perforce keep on the wet ones. Changing is no small task in a little pen the size of ours when one has to do everything sitting or lying down. However I managed it.
I got your letter written Aug 30th and also the box sent from Beamsville. I had filled my mess tin with cold tea at the cookhouse which we heated over a paraffin lamp. (By the way we each were issued with one a few days ago). Then I opened the box & we ate all we could of the cakes & raisins - in fact more than we cared for - because I fear the rats will make short shrift of what is left! We have put some in our mess tins & have suspended the box from the roof. Here's hoping it may be untouched in the morning.
My, but the cakes & raisins were good. Then I read your letter & since then we have all been writing by the flickering light of candles. Candles are practically the only means of lighting in the army, and even they must be carefully used, for no light dare show outside. As it gets dark now about 6 o'clock you see we haven't much daylight, and we use a good many candles in the course of a week. They cost us at the rate of 3 for a franc.
The rain has stopped but the wind howls outside & makes our little rest hole seem comfortable by comparison. There is always a bright side to everything. If we hadn't been on working party today we'd be out tonight, and the tramp back & forth over that slippery mud would be work enough of itself. Anyhow we are all cheerful so don't worry about me. Like a good many other things it's not so bad once you are in it. But the candle is about gone so goodnight my own darling.
Fri. evening Oct 5/17
My darling, -
Once again our quarters have changed and tonight I'm lying on an improvised bunk made of a framework over which is stretched chicken wire in a large barn in a fairly large French village. We are several miles farther back today in the midst of cultivated areas and civilization.
My thoughts are with you dear in spite of the babel of noises - the bleating of the calves outside and the loud talk of the many soldiers, who have been spending yesterday's pay in the estaminets tonight. This bed is quite comfortable. The barn is strongly built and the bunks are 3 tiers high - I am on the top one, Edwards & McKenzie are beside me. About 75 men are in the building. For bedding I have my ground sheet & greatcoat.
Last night we slept well and rested thoroughly in spite of the cramped quarters & wet clothes. There was so little room we couldn't turn if we wanted to, but we all rested & knew nothing until at 6 a.m. the orderly serj. awakened us with "Wake up boys. Breakfast at 6.30. Parade in full marching order at 9."
Up we got & fussed around in the mud getting dressed. Not a rat had bothered us during the night and the box was safe. To get washed shaved and pack packed by 9 took all our time. We ate all we could from the box & put the candies & dates in my pocket & the remainder of the cakes & currants in our mess tins. It hadn't rained any more during the night but the ground was still so slippery we could hardly move - and this was the kind of marching we had for the first mile. After that we had good paved or cobble road all the way.
All told we marched about 10 miles today - and while this would be nothing if we were not loaded believe me it makes a hard day's work with the loads we have to carry. I stood it well however - better than a great many. In the first place, I had a good night's sleep last night while the company that has been in the line the last 4 days and last night's working parties had nearly XXXXX miles march from the front line during the night & hadn't got in until about XXXXX so they had but little sleep.
It was a nice cool day for marching and we stopped 1 1/2 hours at noon & had hot tea, bread, bully beef, cheese & jam. There is much I'd like to tell you but my hand feels cramped in the position I have to write in.
Tonight I had a striking instance of mixing of the coinage here. I bought a pound of grapes for 1 franc 2 pence. I gave madame a 5 franc note and here is the change she gave me - 1 shilling piece, 2 silver franc pieces, 1 paper note for 25 centimes, 2 pennies, 2 ha'pennies, 1 ten centime coin and 1 five centime coin. Can you beat it?
There is so much more I wanted to say but my hand is tired so I'll say goodnight my own wifie. Sweet dreams my own darling whom I love better each succeeding day.
Sat. p.m. Oct 6/17 3.45 p.m.
My dearest, -
I doubt whether I'd be writing were it not for the soldier's friend - the Y.M.C.A. It rained all morning and until about 2 o'clock - one of the drizzling October rains which go right to the bone. The sun is shining feebly now but our billets are cold and cheerless so as many as possible have gathered here at the Y. It is rest room, writing room, concert hall, restaurant & canteen all in one. One can buy may things at the 'Y.' which otherwise would be unobtainable - and their stuff is always good.
Did I tell you that when we were in the line last week we bought a pail of strawberry jam - about 3 lbs. I think for 5 francs. This together with what was issued by the gov't. lasted us all the time we were in the trenches. When I opened the pail the jam looked so much like Duerr's or Robertson's that I looked at the label. Judge my surprise at seeing the name "Aylmer Canning Co., Aylmer, Ont." It is as good as the best Eng. or Scotch jams. ... Most of the 'Y.' canned goods are from Canada. Apricots from California, peaches cherries & jams from Ontario are all first class and reasonable in price.
I believe I forgot to tell you in my last letter how they fed us when in the line - it is much better than when out, for they aim to make the needs of the men in the line the first consideration. Here is what they gave us. First I should tell you that the rations are put up in canvas or hemp bags - away behind the line - and are brought up XXXXX - part way by XXXXX or XXXXX and the remainder of the XXXXX by XXXXX parties. Each bag contains 1 whole day's rations for 5 men.
Water is also brought in each night & every man must fill his own bottle for the day - early in the morning. This is what our bag contained 2 loaves bread, 1 tin margarine, 3 large Spanish onions, 1 pound tin of jam, a very large piece of cheese, a very large piece of cold roast mutton or beer, 1 or 2 cans of pork & beans & 1 can of sweetened, prepared cocoa.
The first day instead of fresh meat we had 2 tins bully & 2 of McConachie. In addition to these rations we had an extra each day of either mashed boiled potatoes, or boiled rice for dinner, & the tea for breakfast & supper. So you see we fed pretty well when in the line.
Today we are resting - that is to say we are not marching, but the morning was busy every moment. All our clothing & equipment was dirty & muddy and it had to be cleaned - our brasses shined, rifles & ammunition cleaned, boots washed & cleaned etc., etc. Then there were parades for pay, shortages of clothing & equipment etc. Whenever a battalion comes out of the line there are many things which need replacing and no questions are asked.
A large bundle of socks was given out, and in the toe of one was this note - "These socks were knitted by a lady 80 years old & totally blind. Please let me know if they fit." Then follows name and address - Goderich Ont. This morning they also issued a cake of soap to each man and a candle to every 3. I never saw this done before.
The French may be very estimable & cleanly people but what I have seen certainly wouldn't lead me to that conclusion. Manure piles next to the front door, stagnant water pools everywhere - and many other unsanitary conditions, are the common lot.
Last night a girl came to a pool, dark & odorous with seepage from a nearby manure pile - bearing in one hand a pail of milk for the calves, with the other hand she dipped an empty milk pail in the pond, filled it & walked off to mix it with milk for the calves. Really I don't know how some of the people wash - to judge by their looks washing isn't by any means a daily occurrence with them.
This evening I'm going to get supper at an estaminet - eggs & coffee for a change. Goodnight my darling
Fred to Evelyn
Wed. Oct 10/17
My darling, -
I forget whether I last wrote on Sat or Sun. I know the letter wasn’t posted until Sun for there was no opportunity until we came here, and now this morning we are told we’ll not be able to send anymore mail for a week so I’m hurrying to get this off.
We were to have had the pleasure (?) of a general inspection - whether by the Brigadier of Gen Currie. I don’t know and in preparation for it all parades were called off yesterday p.m. to give us time to clean up. I’m hurrying to get this off.
We were to have had the pleasure(?) of a general inspection - whether by the Brigadier or Gen. Currie.(1) I don't know and in preparation for it all parades were called off yesterday p.m. to give us time to clean up. And believe me for a general inspection a half day for cleaning & shining is none too much. It's hard enough to keep things clean & bright in the best weather, but when it rains every day, as it has here for a week the task is well nigh impossible. However as yesterday afternoon there was no rain I washed a pr. drawers 6 pr. socks, 2 handkerchiefs, 1 towel, 1 shirt. The water was cold but soft & I did a fairly good job. I then hung them on the fence to dry, but about 6 p.m. the rain started again and my things are still wet.
This a.m. I managed to get madame of the farmhouse to allow me to hang my drawers up near her stove. Perhaps later I can get the rest dried the same way, for there is no sun this morning. It has been raining steadily and as it's an ill wind that blows nobody good the inspection has been called off because of it, so I can view my wet clothes and the mud & everything with equanimity.
Yesterday p.m. we had a field day for greybacks. [lice] I was told in Eng. that I'd be lousy before I was 2 days in France, but I managed to keep free of them until 2 days ago. Then the blankets we got here were reeking with lice & of course I received my share of their attentions. Yesterday they were so bold they crawled right out on the outside of our clothes & we picked them off by the dozen. Then we sought the sanitary serjeant & got a bottle of creosote solution. We resolved on stern measures & fairly saturated blankets, greatcoats, sweaters etc. Apparently our work was not in vain for last night we all slept undisturbed.
Last Sun. afternoon we left the place from which I last wrote & marched here - about 3 miles in a steady downpour of rain. ... The place where we are now is a little French village whose only feature of interest is an old castle said to have been built in the 12th century and also reputed to be the scene of some of the adventures of The Three Musketeers. It's so long since I read the book I don't remember the incidents myself.
Except for the castle the village consists only of farm buildings with the ubiquitous manure heaps, cobblestone streets flanked by filthy gutters through which wallow unlovely children, slatternly girls & haggish old women in wooden sabots or dilapidated high heeled boots run over at the heels. And mud everywhere. Mud! Mud!! Mud!!!
Most of the billets here are worse than at the last place but as there were not enough our company commander got 4 tents & bought some straw. The 2 McKenzies, Edwards & a couple other fellows & I got one tent to ourselves. For a franc we purchased 3 more bundles of straw and we've had the most comfortable quarters I've seen since I crossed the Channel.
The tent doesn't leak much. The straw keeps the ground dry and makes a soft bed, and 2 blankets apiece, together with our greatcoats provide bedding enough to keep us warm as toast Consequently since Sunday we've had 3 long nights of refreshing restful sleep. I'm quite caught up for sleep now. Did I tell you that on Monday we went back to standard time?
A couple days ago I received 2 lovely pairs of socks from Hazel. I kept one & gave one away. Socks are a great asset here, and by the way you might tell anyone who knits soldier's socks not to be afraid of getting them too thick. They have to be thick for marching. I have a couple pair now - lovely ones but too thin for marching so I just keep them for changing off at night & sleeping in. When one gets his feet wet & is marching he should change socks every day, and I am well supplied.
Today I am sending a bundle of your letters to Elmer to put in my trunk. I don't want to destroy them & I can't keep them here.
Did I tell you I broke my ring in the trenches? I was carrying a stretcher and the trench was a narrow my hand caught & twisted the ring right off. I am keeping the pieces however. Most of the good wrist watches fall down in the trenches. They get shell shock. Mine went bad in the trenches but I let it stop and now it runs all right again However I think I'll send it to Elmer & get an Ingersoll. That kind seems to do as well as any other . Don't you bother, dearie, to send one from Canada for I can get one here just as cheaply.
Now for a few answers to the questions in your letters Aug. 16 to Sept. 2nd. You ask about underwear & pajamas I think I have already told you I can carry only 1 suit of the first and the army furnishes that - and as for pajamas - their weight is too much to carry even if there were opportunity to use them - which there isn't. I still have 2 good pairs in my trunk at Bramshott.
I'm glad you ordered the Varsity. It will be nice to have. And I'm so glad your health improved so that the last half of your visit both at 'Aux Sauble' Beach & Beamsville & Owen Sound was more pleasant than the first. Of course you are back in Calgary now. I wonder who is living with you. Please dearie, don't work so hard as you did. I hope you are in the office more now & have less walking & standing. Remember me to all enquiring friends. There are many to whom I expected to write when I got to France but now I find I can't. Will you explain to them?
You speak of your letters being uninteresting and short. They have been anything but that. On the contrary they are bright & helpful and breathe so of love. I'm sorry my own have been so disjointed lately, and I'm sorry I haven't been able to write more frequently, but you know you are ever in my thoughts and whether I write or not my love always remains the same - the same? - No! for it grows each day from more to more.
Yes it would be nice if you kept a diary, but it makes a good deal of work and if you start one, promise me you will not write in it if it interferes with your rest, will you please?
Yes, I agree with you about both father & Margaret. I too wish Margaret could get away to some more hopeful wholesome environment. I wish we could help her. She has wonderfully good qualities but is inclined to fly off at tangents - and lacks poise. Perhaps after the war we can do something for her.
I’m sorry I didn’t know your mother’s birthday. I’d have tried to write her a birthday letter. I wanted to send my own mother one, but couldn’t get it written in time. I just managed to get it off on Monday.
About writing paper - There's no use sending much at any time for I can't carry it. A few sheets at a time would be all right but when we are moving about every few days one doesn't want any extra weight. I now realize what is meant by the marching at the front. It seems to me war for us is not fighting at all but consists solely of marching & working.
Similarly with parcels - It would be better not to send large ones - for they might arrive as the last one from Beamsville - just before we are moving & then we can't carry it with us. Besides even when we aren't moving there often isn't a place to keep them. So it would be better to send smaller ones more frequently. The last corrugated cardboard box carried all right but as a rule tin ones are best - especially as they often have to lie around her in the wet.
About Wray - I can't tell you all I know and I realize that his attitude looks bad, but there is a reason - and it's hard to be misunderstood, as he is. I can't say anymore. He is suffering partly, if not largely, for someone else.
It is now 11.30 & I must do a bit of shining. The orderly serj. just announced too that at 12.45 we'll fall in for a bath parade - the first in more than 2 weeks.
Hope there'll be some letters today. But letters or no, I always love you dearly my own wee wifie.
Fred to Evelyn
Friday, Oct 12/17
My dearest, -
In honour of your birthday I have a real table on which to write this letter. Yesterday we moved again this time about 23 miles - and - mirabile dictu! - by motor transport instead of marching. We are evidently going to a new front, but just where, why or for how long no one seems to know - not even the officers. However I have been long enough in the army to take things as they come and not to worry about the morrow. I find that every situation has its bright side - or at any rate that there is no circumstance - however bad that might not be worse.
Anyhow you may be sure we raised no kick yesterday when we learned that for once shank's horses were to give way to motor lorries. I don't know why, unless it is because we are wanted at our destination in less time than we could march there, but I quite approve of the idea and I have often wondered why it is not more frequently done. It would save a great deal of time. For example, in heavy marching order as we are travelling, it would take us 3 days to come this distance.
I dare say the reason motor transports are not used more for transporting troops is because of the congestion of traffic. All the way yesterday the road was one vast procession moving both ways - of vast motor lorries, mule carts, pack mules & lumber waggons. Our battalion alone must have taken about 50, so there were 20 men in a lorry. Some of them were built especially for army transport work, others were the tourist cars of peace time, such as we rode in along the English Lakes and in Wales in 1914.
How fast the time flies. When I sat down to write today I was in doubt whether it is Thurs. or Fri. and when Madame said "Vendredi," I thought she was mistaken, but no! I find she is correct. I last wrote to you on Wednesday morning.
In the afternoon we had a bathing parade. Imagine marching a little over 3 miles and back for a bath. Yet it was worth it, although 3 minutes was the time limit. They were shower baths and 20 had to go in at a time. One could wish for a longer time, but so many men have to go through the baths in the course of a day, that it is necessary to rush us through on schedule time. After the bath one could exchange socks & shirts if he wished. As I told you before I prefer to keep my own.
The town where the baths are is quite good sized - the most town-like & business-like of any I've seen since leaving the base. Of course it too was full of troops. We returned by a different road There is so much traffic that it has to be regulated and certain roads can be travelled only in one direction.
Yesterday morning reveille was at 4.30 & breakfast at 5.30, as the kitchens had to be ready to leave at 6. After breakfast we packed up and cleaned & shined for an inspection at 9.30. While I was cleaning my rifle in front of the house one of the 2 nice old ladies who the previous evening had put my washing around her fire to dry, invited me in for a cup of café noir. Wasn't that nice of her? Oh, I forgot to tell you that Wed. evening four of us had cafe au lait - 2 glasses each - for 2 francs.
Where we were the country, except for the absence of hedges, churches & pretty nestling villages & farmsteads, looks very much like a bit of England, rolling and very well tilled. But the people are poor, dirty & altogether unlovely looking. As we came along yesterday the appearance of country & people changed. The land became flat and low-lying with canals & ditches. Instead of large farms we saw vegetable garden plots - with beets, cabbages, beans & potatoes as the principal crops.
The farm buildings, while still built on the same plan, with manure pile in the centre of the court, were neat & cleaner & the people too seem more intelligent and very friendly. Their houses have cleanly scrubbed brick or flagstone floors and doorsteps, and all about the barns or stables the place is reasonably clean - as clean as the ubiquitous mud will permit. The day was fine without rain and we enjoyed the ride.
Our battalion is billeted in a small village, quite near to a manufacturing town of considerable size. I, with 20 others are in a small barn and as we had a good bed of wheat straw last night we all had a long night's sleep and excellent rest. It has rained all day and we had no parades - though we spent the morning in cleaning & shining & had a lecture this p.m.
Last night 6 of us went over to the town and after wandering from one end to the other came to a cafe - "Le cafe de la gare," which looked clean & inviting & we went in. This hasn't previously been a quartering place for troops which I suppose accounts for the absence of eating places. But our long search was rewarded for we had lovely fresh eggs - 2 each, some boiled & some in omelette, fresh bread & sweet butter with several cups of café au lait & tea.
The reckoning was 2 francs apiece - rather stiff we thought - but well worth the price. The proprietress was a nice, intelligent Frenchwoman whose 2 little boys kept up quite a conversation with me while we and other customers were waited on by 2 Belgian girls - very good looking they were too.
This morning I ingratiated myself with madame of the place where we are billeted, and she hung all my half-dry washing up around the stove. She is a nice little old lady - the mother of 10 children - several of whom are married. One of her sons has been killed in the war, - one aged 23 works in a near by munition factory as does also a younger lad of 10. One daughter about 20 is at home.
After breakfast I was invited into the house where I did all my cleaning and at the same time carried on a running conversation with mademoiselle. Occasionally the father or mother put in a word too. About 10 o'clock mademoiselle gave me a cup of café noir, - also one this evening and I am now writing by lamplight.
A short while ago 3 of us went out & found a farmhouse where (the place where I am billeted is only a small one, where they keep chickens & rabbits but no cows or horses) we get bread & butter & café noir, with a bit of stewed apple for 1 1/2 fr. for the 3 - very cheap n'est-ce-pas? Prices of produce here are very high. Eggs 10 1/2 francs per dozen of 13, Butter 4 francs lb, Beefsteak 3 francs per lb (and not very good at that.) This evening I bought a franc's worth of chocolate which I gave mademoiselle.
Oh my darling, how I hope you have not been lonesome today. If only I could take you in my arms and tell you how I love you and kiss away the anxiety and care that has been yours during these past months. Next year I hope we shall be together again. Of late the war seems to me to have progressed considerably and I am in hopes that before the year's end Fritz will have received the most decisive blow yet.
Don't worry about me dearest. I am quite well, have some very good fellows with me in my platoon, and most of the battalion officers and all of the company officers are the best. One more ex-191 officer joined us yesterday - Lt. Jimmie Rogers who came over with the 31st as a private & won his commission on the field. He's a prince.
I don't know how soon I can mail this for they don't take letters while on the march but I'll send it as soon as possible.
Au revoir ma chérie.
Evelyn to Fred
Canadian Pacific Railway
En Route [to Calgary]
My Darling fred: -
It's about six o'clock Saturday night and we get into Regina about eleven. It is starting to rain on the prairies, not much though. We are right on the flat part now, having left behind a river and hills. However, I have not found the trip tiresome.
I have not found the trip tiresome. I have been knitting all day, and am getting down to the heel. I do not know how to do that, so as soon as I get that far I'll have to put it away. We found it rather cold along the way, with ice on the little ponds. However it was nice and bright when we got to Winnipeg.
Laura [Wright] met me at the station and we went for a walk. We got back about twenty minutes before train time, and Amy Edwards came down then, and they went out with me and got on the train. It made a pleasant break in the trip to get off there and to see them. They both asked about you.
Tomorrow at this time I'll be back in Calgary. I hope I get some mail from you when I arrive. I do not know when I have been so homesick for you as I am now at the thought of not seeing you when I get there. We have just passed through Oakland, a pretty little town with trees and a little park around the station.
I keep thinking of the time when we came out here three years ago, but I remember it seemed a long journey, but very interesting. I wonder if you felt the way I did when we got off the train. I had been hoping we'd be met and taken to a friend's, and I felt homesick. I do not think I'd feel that way now, if I had my sweetheart with me, no matter where we went - together. I like to think this, dearest, that I'll be there to meet you when you come back, and have a home where I can take you. How long, how long I wonder, will it be before that time comes.
There is a fat man on the train so fat that when he sat down at the table behind me at lunch, I had to just squeeze myself tight against the table in order that he could get in. And he ate, oh, their orders nearly covered the card. There was another man with him, but he was slim. I do not know whether it is booze or too much food has made him so fat, but in any case he ought to be ashamed to be such a pig. I was observing the men to-day, to see how they responded to the call for eating something in place of bacon and wheat. A few did, but not many. I'd like to see them just starving the pigs.
It's nearly nine o'clock now, though we'll soon be setting our watches back an hour. That makes me one day farther away from you. I wonder where you are and what you are doing.
Last night I read the 91st Psalm and it gave me great comfort for I know that you do dwell in the secret place of the Most High.
I shall be glad to get back to work again. I am getting a lot of sleep these nights on the train, and I am making myself drink milk. I'll not try to write any more tonight.
Good-night, my darling, the light of my life in very truth.
Sunday a.m. [Oct. 14]
We have just passed Medicine Hat, where I was out until it began to rain. It is raining now, but seems clear in the South. The air is much warmer than it was in Winnipeg and Regina.
Last night I told the porter to call me ten minutes before we got to Regina, at 20 to twelve I awoke to find our train standing still, but thought we could not possibly be there. Suddenly I heard a voice I knew say “Is Mrs. Albright on this train?” I hurried into my slippers and dressing gown, but when I got out she was gone. I went up to the other end of the car, but could not see Edith. However she came back and we had a chat for about twenty minutes.
If I had known, though, that they had daylight saving in Regina and that she was coming to the station at twenty minutes to one, I’m afraid I should not have had the nerve to suggest her coming down. She said she came out by G.T.P. Let us try that sometime dearie, it would be a nice change. Amy and Alice Edwards were at the Coast this summer, going G.T.P. to Prince Rupert and from there going to Vancouver by boat. They found it a very delightful trip.
A family boarded the train at Winnipeg, composed of a father, mother, baby in arms and two little girls - I wonder if I am getting snobbish. The man, judging from his hands, was a working man. And the children had on the most old fashioned, poorly made clothes. She showed the little girl how to eat an egg by dipping bread in it. And then, one child got angry at the other and the look of uncontrolled rage was painful to see. The mother spoke in such a harsh way to them, and was going to "cuff" their ears. I don't think really I care how poor people are, but I can't get interested in people who have no culture.
Now Mrs. Bell is poor, and sometimes displays a lack of self control, but somehow she is superior in many ways. Some of the men on the train don’t look interesting. One who sat opposite me has an upper tooth protruding over his lower lip, and he wears a brown suit and wrinkles in his forehead. I hate the combination, they make me think of a grubber.
I'll post this much at Bassano. I have been talking to your former O.C. and in my next letter I'll tell you what he said. He's pretty much disgruntled himself.
Your loving wife.
Sunday, 11.45 a.m.
I was afraid the other letter would be too bulky, so I'm starting another. He said, what you did not, but what I rather inferred, that the man who went north with you was no good, and that he expected to see him back in Calgary. He joined the Imperial army however. Mr. Rankin he said, he could have place in the Forestry co. if he had not been in such a hurry.
Hill was going to join the R.C. Dragoons as a private, when Ottawa sent him over as a supernumerary. He himself tried to join the Light Horse as a private, but was held up on account of his age. He said that the former D.O.C. received his recommendations, and tabled them at any rate, he never sent them on to Ottawa. So you see? He has been down at Petawawa for three months, looking after coolies. It was a bad job he said, and the condition of things there was sickening.
I do not understand why you say conscription is needed and why some returned men say there are plenty of reserves. There are about 4,000 artillerymen at St. John & Halifax guarding wharves. He [Fred's former O.C.] thinks there is going to be a straight party fight, says he has heard our A.H.C. [A.H. Clarke] spoken of as a member of Sir W's [Wilfrid Laurier] cabinet.
He met some men who had been talking with the Leader and they came away convinced that he was right. Had he supported conscription, Quebec would have been in the hands of Bourassa; now he says to the French Canadians "Conscription is law; obey it." Is it political astuteness after all?
He says he heard a man talking about Tamanny Hall, but added “Oh, we’re nothing to you Canadians.” Rogers and Hughes are reported to be preparing to flop. I may believe in conversion and the forgiveness of sins and repentance, but hardly that kind. This man and another both report February as the month when peace is to be made. Queer how some people have claimed that there is a prophecy in Revelations to that effect.
However, the enemy had better make peace while the making is good. I think I see now why the O.C. said Hughes(2) was responsible for a great deal of the trouble in Quebec, he's an Orangeman and the first named is decidedly not. I feel rather sorry for the old chap; he’s out of a job. He has seen other battalions organized and his own go to pieces which is no pleasant sight for a man.
Before I expressed myself I asked him his politics, I thought he was “agin” us, but he said he was an Independent. I think I’ll be one. It gives one a splendid opportunity to abuse either party or both at the same time if one so chooses. I think I’ll ask A.H.C. if he goes to Ottawa, to take me along as his private secretary. Now don’t laugh, but in my make believe dreams, I’ve really been it, I wonder if one could come that near politics and remain honest.
Are you disappointed in me that so after the summer I have thought about doing things and then have been too lazy to carry them out? Being on holidays is certainly not conducive to mental effort. Queer, but now that I'm getting back to work, my mind seems to be getting in running order.
There were beautiful clouds, grey they were, but not sullen. I think I feel the spaciousness of nature more in huge grey and blue banks of clouds than I do in the prairies. Trying to analyze this sensation, I conclude that it is because one can see more of the sky at once that one can of the land ... I hope I am entertaining you. Curious isn’t it, but if you were sitting here, I might think the same thing, but I’d scarcely consider it worth while telling you, and yet perhaps it would be news to you.
Edith, as I told you, gave me some magazines when I left, Hearst’s, Cosmopolitan & Saturday Night. I have not read the latter as yet. Of the others, one was a novel of divorce, one a case of a girl becoming pregnant and the man dying before he married her, another a girl wilfully becoming that way because she wanted a baby, another a story of a trial marriage - being married for a couple years you know, to see if they loved each other, only fortunately in this case, they are not living together, so that the reader is spared such complications
Mrs Coutts was telling me that there is a certain school of thought now that says it is desirable that every woman should have one child, be she married or single. Why not, they say? Physically, a woman is better for it, and it fulfills a natural desire on her part. Why not go back to polygamy? Such specious argument is sickening. I wonder if such people think they are being terribly broad minded. Vulgar minded and terribly so, I should say.
It's raining quite hard now. These little prairie towns are dismal in the rain.
Monday, Oct. 15/17
Dearest One: -
I am back at the office with nothing to do as yet. J.M. is scarcely at the office at all, he is giving his services free as Registrar. Miss Scott said he expected he’d be there about six months. Miss Playter says Mr. Clarke is very angry about J.M. taking the position. I’m glad if he is.
I was met at the station last night by Lena and Miss Cummer. The last mentioned brought me four letters from you, so you see I was well met.
The 'Y.' is full, but I have a room at Mrs. Lavis' on Sixth Ave. Elizabeth told Lena I might stay there, but I'd have to sleep in Fritz's bed when he was away, and then move when he comes back. That would be all right except that I want to stay in bed when I'm sick, and so I think it will be better to go to Mrs. Lavis'. The room is $13.00 a month with 25¢ for breakfast, and I have to get my other meals out. So I think that will do very nicely for the time being.
It was so good of Lena and Miss Cummer to meet me. I went up to Elizabeth's for tea and all night, and am going back for tea tonight. You know dearest, I never know exactly what she wants, whether she wants me to stay there or not. Now I have finally got settled. I went to Mrs Lavis', and as she was expecting me to stay a month, she did not think it worth my while going at all, though she said I might come if I could not get another place.
I telephoned Mrs. Tulk, who said she thought they could get out the 25th. [October] Then I 'phoned Elizabeth, but she thought I'd be crowded. After that Mrs. Adams 'phoned and asked me to come out there, as Mr. Adams is to be away until the end of the month. So I'm going there.
Sometimes I think I might board some place, if Laura does not come out. It has seemed like a kaleidoscope, things changing so quickly, but now I'm settled for a time.
This morning Charlie Brine came in to see Miss Playter and me. He and another man had to go to Washington as witnesses in a state prosecution, and he had to get his papers signed. I went with him over to J.M.’s office and to the Post Office and he got them fixed up. Then Miss Playter and I had lunch with this other man and him at the Bay.
I have done a lot of running around, and am tired. I have to go to the station to see about my trunk, and to send a telegram to my father, so I think I’ll clear out pretty soon.
There are a lot of changes even in the short time I have been away, but I'll tell you about them tomorrow. I went to church last night and saw a lot of the people. Everyone asked about you and several said they had cards from you and wanted your address. Wilbur Horner and Mrs. Wilson being among the number.
It was good to be back, but oh my darling, to think of your being there in that dreadful place is awful. I take it you are near Lens and that you landed in Boulougne. Dr. Davey is at the latter place.
Everyone here, as soon as they shook hands with me, asked about you. You'd have laughed at the little old elevator man he shook my hand with both of his, and laughed and laughed.
Good-bye my brave sweetheart.
Fred to Evelyn
Sun. Oct 14/17.
My darling, -
This has been the most Sundayish Sunday I've experienced in France. We haven't been to church it's true - nor has there been a church parade but we have done nothing but clean up and rest. The day, in contrast to the past 2 weeks, has been bright & sunny, and from 2 not distant villages there has come to us the chime of church bells - a hitherto unaccustomed sound to me in France.
We came here yesterday - not by motor transport but by the ancient mode of infantry travel - à pied. It was a hard march - the hardest we've had yet. We started at 8 o'clock in a drizzling rain which continued intermittently all day - and without stopping except for the usual 10 minute rest in each hour.
We kept going steadily until 2.30 p.m. By that time we thought we had arrived at our destination, but, owing to some mistake about our billets, we had to wait around until the captain located a new billet, and it was nearly 3.30 when we finally reached the farm which was to be our billet.
Off our tired shoulders came packs, equipment etc. and the inviting straw and chaff on the barn floor made a welcome rest for wearied bodies. I don't know how far we had marched but it was quite enough. The rain and mud, which had become worked up into a perfect slush, made the going harder than it otherwise would have been. However, not many fell out and I'm sure I stood it quite as well as if not better than most.
The kitchens arrived with us and the cooks immediately busied themselves making tea and mulligan for our dinner. At best they work under difficulties but yesterday, slopping around in the mud and much of the barnyard (for that is where the kitchen is located) with the rain pouring down, they had an unenviable task indeed. But when dinner was ready, at about 4 o'clock, and we lined up in the rain for it, it was one of the most savoury meals I ever tasted.
After dinner I took off my boots & socks rubbed my feet dry, put on dry socks & my canvas shoes, rubbed my body down vigorously and felt much better. About six o'clock we had supper consisting of bread, cheese, bully beef, rice & jam. The rice was improved by the addition of a dozen eggs which one of the cooks had found in a nest in the straw.
Soon after supper we went to bed. Owing to the fact that the different companies of the battalion were in such widely scattered billets - "A" company is about 6 miles from "D" company - our blankets didn't arrive last night. However most of the fellows had a fairly good bed of straw to sleep on and Whitmore & I left our corner and stole upstairs into a mow full of oat sheaves into which we burrowed until we were completely covered. In this bed we slept warm and soundly until 7 o'clock this morning.
How delightful it was this morning to feel that we could lie in bed a few extra minutes. Breakfast was at 7.30 and everybody arose refreshed & rested - and hungry. After breakfast we sought a pool in the adjoining field where we washed and shaved. Then we were told to shine and clean up for an inspection this p.m. (which, by the way, didn't come off).
It was a lovely bright sunny morning and the countryside looked lovely in the morning light. About here the land is rolling and a few miles to the north east is a pronounced ridge on top of which glistened the buildings of a considerable town. This is a very fertile and well-tilled section - the most like England I've seen, rolling meadows, in which sleek cattle graze, winding roads lined by thorn hedges, not neatly trimmed as in Eng. - yet hedges nevertheless, commodious farm buildings with red-tiled roofs, and in the distance both east and west church spires.
After my morning work was done I went with several others on a blackberry hunt. The hedges are full of berry bushes, and they are black with large sweet juicy berries I was surprised to find them so late in the season. Before long we had eaten all we could hold - and still there are lots of berries left here in the next field.
After dinner I sewed some buttons, then wrote to your father & mother & began this letter. Once again I found my way to the farmhouse kitchen where I wrote until the table was wanted for the family supper. Incidentally madame gave me a cup of coffee, and I turned the separator for her while I again brushed up in my French conversation.
This is a big farm, as is attested by the large stocks, the good sized barns, the dairy herd of 10 fine cows, the big root pits, the large sugar beet field etc. Madame is a very intelligent clean looking woman of 60, who looks not more than 40 She has a grown up son & a daughter of 21 and there are 2 servants She churns every day - and nice butter she makes too. The house looks clean and the whole place is much superior to the farms we have stayed at previously.
Around here the farms are larger than where we were before and the buildings are on the farm instead of being grouped in villages as they are farther south. It changes the appearance of the country greatly, for where we were before the country was one vast open space unbroken by fences, hedges or buildings, while here the hedges and buildings make the country look more like England.
Since leaving madame's kitchen I have been writing lying on the barn floor, - by candle light. The candle is soon going out so good night my own darling. God bless and keep you.
Monday afternoon, Oct 15th.
I thought we'd move again today but here we are still and it is rumoured we'll be here a couple days yet. It rained again during the night and until about 9 a.m. but since then the sun has been shining and the air is quite warm. Last night there was a white frost. Again we slept in late - until 6.45 and breakfasted at 7.15.
We had a half hour's lecture and about 1 1/2 hour's drill - not a very heavy morning's work. As far as I know there will be no parades this afternoon but one for pay. Owing to the widely scattered disposition of the battalion, we will have to march about 2 miles for it. But our platoon is fortunate in having the company kitchen here. The other platoons of the cay (company) have to come here for their meals - distances of from 1/8 to 3/4 mile.
I suppose you wonder where I got the ink. Lieut. Jimmie Rogers gave it to me. I've spoken about him before as a prince and no words of praise are too good. If all officers were like him there'd be more satisfied men. He comes around among the men & talks with them and looks after them. Yesterday he said he'd O.K. any of my letters to you without reading them. Isn't that nice? Of course there's the possibility of their being re-censored later - but it's not very likely.
I have sent you a couple letters in green envelopes. A limited number of them are given out to each battalion for distribution. Letters put in them are not censored by the battalion officers but at the base. The idea is twofold. They can be used when one writes about some private matters which he doesn't want read by officers known to him. Then they can be posted anywhere - and at times when no battalion mail is censored. As for example when it is in the line or on the march. At such times the officers are not allowed to censor letters, but if they are put in green envelopes they may be dropped in a civil post office box and they will be forwarded to the base censor.
Do you ever see the weekly magazine published in London called Canada? It is the great soldier's paper as it gives more military news affecting Canadians than any other paper. In the Oct 9th issue there was an extract from one of Stewart Lyon's dispatches giving an account of a German aeroplane attack on 2 of our captive balloons, & then being brought down in turn by one of our airmen. It was a very accurate description for I saw the whole of it.
The first balloon was brought down only a few hundred yards from our huts while we were having supper. After bagging his quarry the German machine flew very low over us, dropping a few bombs the while. We fired at him with one of our machine guns and anti-air craft guns peppered at him, and 3 or 4 of our machines chased him, but he escaped. This occurred about 5.30 p.m
That same evening we were on the move going up into the line and while resting about 7 o'clock on the roadside we witnessed the second encounter - described by Stewart Lyon. It was a wonderful sight - the way those machines flew and dived & turned & twisted & manouevered.
We watched, breathless as one of ours went straight at Fritz like a bolt of lightning, and we could see the sparks as he poured a rain of machine gun bullets into his adversary, all the while flying at full speed & diving & turning in the most wonderful way. The whole affair occupied only a few minutes though it seemed much longer, and we all gave a cheer as we saw the German machine come to earth and land in our lines near the huts we had left a short while before.
How small the world is! As I sit on an old fashioned horse power machine in a back shed there faces me a Deering binder. Not far off is a Massey Harris mower -while in the barn where we were billeted last we saw a flail. All of these implements are in present use and indicate the mixture of old and new methods to be found in juxtaposition almost anywhere in France.
I hope there'll be some mail today. Some Canadian mail arrived both Sat. & Sun. but not for me. Perhaps mine went to "D" company, for I along with several others was transferred to it temporarily and returned to my own company only last Thurs. That cake would be most acceptable today.
A week ago today was Thanksgiving Day. I didn't know it until yesterday. Here's hoping we may spend the next one together.
Ever your loving husband.
Fred to Evelyn
My own darling,-
Yesterday's wish came true - there was a generous bundle of mail for me 3 Globes - 2 U. of A. newsletters, a joint letter from father & mother posted Sept. 4th & 7th. What nice long letters they were! Father gave a lot of interesting news about their farming operations and crops, and mother, as usual, made light of her own illness and was full of regret that she could not entertain you better on your visit, and of concern because she said Margaret was overworked. I do wish mother could get a rest from work for a few weeks.
Margaret's letter was written after they had received mine telling about being on draft for France. She says father is mellowing greatly in his attitude toward the war. The snaps which she enclosed are very good, - 4 of the chickens 1 of Mr. & Mrs. Tinlin, 1 of the parsonage, 1 of you Ray & Lina and several others of your folks & mine I am glad for these pictures especially because they are of you and they are of a size that I can carry with me in my pocket.
The photograph you sent me, I of course had to leave in my trunk. The picture of the parsonage, too, is very welcome for that place will ever be associated in my mind with you - as the place where I first knew you - and loved you.
In one of your letters you enclosed Berta’s letter. It is a nice chatty one isn’t it? I’d be glad to have one myself from either her or George if they can find time to write.
And what shall I say of your letters? It seems to me each succeeding one is more precious and full of love than the last. Compared with them my own letters seem so cold and formal. But yours are not censored while mine are, and though they may not be full of love messages, you know dearest, do you not, that it grows with each succeeding day, more steadfast and stronger and more pure. Oh, my darling, you are in very truth my love and my life.
It is now 5.30. I have had supper and am sitting in the farmhouse kitchen which has been turned into a sort of estaminet during the soldiers' stay here. Several of the officers are here too - one of them is turning the milk separator while the others are around the fire. For 1 penny I bought a glass of warm fresh milk and the half emptied glass is now before me.
Just before supper the mail came, and for me there was a Globe and the box which you mailed Sept 13th. It arrived in very good condition and nothing is broken nor stuck together. I haven't emptied it yet, but of course the cake was cut at once and most of it has been distributed and eaten, drawing forth encomiums quite as flattering as any that greeted the Dickenson cake. It is lovely. I have kept a fair sized piece for tomorrow. Some of the candies & nuts have also been distributed.
The first thing to meet my eyes when I opened the box was the face cloth. These are most acceptable as I have told you before. Altogether it is a lovely box and today was a most opportune time for its arrival. We expect to be here all day tomorrow for there will be a brigadier's inspection in the afternoon, but it is probable that we shall move again on the following day.
In your recent letters you have often spoken of the trees. In their Autumn dress they are lovely in Ontario aren't they? And here they are too, though different from the Canadian & English trees. In England as you remember, they all have such wide spreading branches, giving them a very bush-like appearance. Here they have long straight bare trunks with a tuft or bunch of leafy branches at the top - almost like palm trees. And then the foliage seems much more dim and shadowy than that of our own trees.
Really the French landscape painters - Corot in particular - have painted much truer to French nature than I ever before realized. I used to think Corot's paintings were very fanciful, but now I think they are very true to life. I was saying today that if the buildings were different the district we are now in might easily be taken for an Ontario or an English scene. Really there is something very attractive about the kind of French rural life we see here.
I'm so glad dearie that at the time of writing your last letter you were feeling so much better - and enjoying your visit accordingly. Yes, I have often thought that you really cared for Ora more than you realized. She's one of the dependable kind, isn't she? That means such a lot to me.
No dearest, much as I want another little girlie, there is just one whom I shall always love the best.
About Xmas presents, I think our fathers would like the Geographic very much. And Don’s [Albright] too. They are very fond of reading and the Geographic would help to keep them a little in touch with the outside world.
Yes, Don told me in his letter about the new experimental work.
Don’t bother dearie to send me the Sat. Eve. Post. For one thing I don’t get time to read even what magazines & papers have come. It is only at times like the past few days that I get time to read at all, and at other times the papers & magazines would simply go unread.
Yes, dearie, I remember perfectly the day we went to Toronto from Bala 4 years ago - and the day following. If we could be together now we'd have a better time would we not? Because we know and love each other better.
I can't tell dearie, how long a pair of socks lasts for I change so often. I noticed this morning that one pair of white ones is becoming thin and will not last much longer. When marching or in the trenches, I wear a pair once a day without washing. One has to take care of his feet.
As near as I can judge, I should get at least 2 pairs per month from now on to keep me going right right - although I have a reserve supply in my trunk with Elmer which I can draw upon any time, and besides they issue very good socks in the army, - and quite frequently too. I don’t care whether they are white or red grey. They are all the same to me. The main thing is to have them thick.
This afternoon I washed an undershirt and a pair of socks. I found my first lice on the shirt - 2 big fat ones and several medium sizes ones. I killed them all, I think all. I hope there are no more. If they do trouble me I'll put on some oil of cedar which Whitmore got from home yesterday. Really, I have escaped the lice very well so far. I believe I have been less troubled than anyone else.
I wonder how long it takes for my letters to reach you. I do hope, dearest that you don't worry when they come irregularly. Oh, my darling, don't work so hard as you did last winter.
Look after yourself and remember that "He shall give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways."
Goodnight my own sweetheart.
France, Wed. Oct 17/17
My own brave little wife -
Though my candle is flickering low, I can't go to bed without writing at least a page or two to you. Earlier in the evening I wrote father & mother. Then Nease arrived with a new draft and I spent some time talking to him.
The mail arrived late today, and it was only tonight that I got your letter written Sept. 10, 11 & 12th - after you knew I was on draft for France. Oh, how brave you were at the news, and how bright and loving and helpful your letter is. If only I could tell my darling how I love and admire you.
As I read your letter I saw again the brave attempt you made to keep back the tears as you watched the eastbound train from Cheadle station platform last March - March, did I say? Seven whole months, and more, since I held you in my arms and pressed my lips to yours. And yet all this while you have been near to me - and grown steadily dearer.
And how comforting it is to know that our prayers reach the ear of the same Father who watches over and cares for us wherever we are. I am reading the 46th Psalm for my evening psalm tonight. There my candle is gone.
So goodnight, my brave, sweet little girl - my own love.
Thurs. p.m. Oct. 18/17
My darling, -
Last week our old colonel came back to us, Col. Page ... He has served in the ranks himself and does all he can for the men. None of the men liked the Col. who took Page's place while he was away on 2 month's leave He had no consideration for us, and the men said he always kept in a bomb proof place, while Col. Page goes right up in the front line and "over the top" with the boys. The day after he returned we noticed a difference, and one of his rules is that when we are not on the move or in the line we have every afternoon off for sports.
This p.m. we have no sporting utensils so we are just doing nothing - ie - resting, washing, picking lice, playing cards & writing - each man according to his own individual taste. It is a lovely October day and there has been no rain since last night. We drilled all morning - but not too hard and now we are left to our own devices.
This morning I got another letter from you - written Sept. 7, 8, 9. It really came last night but went to Sergt Wright by mistake - You ask a good many questions in it which I’ll answer now.
You ask a good many questions in it which I'll answer now. Vote as you think best. I doubt whether R.B. [Bennett] will run again but if he did, I think I'd vote for him in preference to J.A. Irvine. Irvine isn't a big enough man. He'd only be a party jack in the box. Jimmie Barnes was formerly assistant city clerk. He has one child His wife lives in Crescent Heights, - was formerly a steno but doesn’t work at it now because of the baby.
Yes, I knew Weir was killed. He was in this batt. - a fine fellow who came over with the 189th. Was at the school at Sarcee last year when I was there.
There's no use sending the Onward dearie for I don't get time to read it, and I hope you haven't sent the books you spoke of either, for the same reason & because I can't carry them around. For the same reason, dearie, don't bother sending such things as tooth powder or other toilet articles. Every extra bit of weight counts and I can’t carry tooth powder. When I left Bramshott I gave away what I had on hand.
If I get back to Eng. I can easily buy more of such articles as cheaply as they can be bought in Canada. Up to the present I have carried 3 towels. I intend to discard one and perhaps 2. An issue of towels was made last week and I got a large new one of excellent material. After a battalion comes out of the line a man can get anything he needs without questions being asked, - clothing, boots even shoelaces, soap, etc.
Yes, Sergt Rounce is the armourer sergt of the 21st Reserve, Bramshott. It is he who made up and sent you the book of views for your birthday. If you can find time I'd be glad if you'd acknowledge receipt to him and express your appreciation of his work. He is a fine Christian man.
His address is
Armourer Sergt. G.A. Rounce
21st Can. Reserve Bn
He is a fine christian man - He also lived at Crescent Heights.
About my not having been chosen for the instructional staff at Bramshott - they are gradually sending all of the sergeant instructors to France because of the need of men - and their places are being taken by returned men.
Since I came away 20 other serjeants - some of whom had been on the instructional staff for a year or more - have come over as privates. We must have at least 2 dozen such in our battalion now. Four more came in yesterday and they tell us that all of the company sergt majors of the 21st have been reduced to serjeants - including Scotty McLaws. Scotty has tried & tried to get away but up to the present they have insisted on keeping him at Bramshott.
About a vest sweater - It would be all right. In a week or two we shall all be issued with leather vests or jerkins for the winter. But knitted wristlets or gloves will be very acceptable. When standing out all night one needs some covering for the hands even now - and in the depth of winter - much more so. I have sent to Elmer asking him to send over the gloves I left in my trunk - but they will not last long.
You ask me to cable to you at the apartment. Would it not be better to use the office code address? The apartment address would be so long. I'm glad you can stay in the apartment and that the rent will only be $40.00. That is the same as last winter n’est ce-pas?
In your last letter you said you'd probably go home about Oct 15th. I thought you'd arrived there about Oct. 1, and addressed my letters accordingly so I'm afraid there will have been a time when you didn't get any before leaving Owen Sound I'm sorry but it can't be helped now.
My pen has run out - a notice to me to quit. I want to do a little more washing anyhow so I shall take the hint.
Remember me particularly to the Fallises - and all other enquiring friends. I'd like to write to many of them but I simply can't get time. Please, please, dearie don't work too hard. I hope you & Laura are getting along well.
Remember the precious promises in the psalms. They do help me so much. What would we do without the faith & hope of our religion? And what would I do without my own brave little kiddie?
Am enclosing a couple Globe editorials I think particularly good. Will you please keep them.
Evelyn to Fred
Oct. 16, 1917.
My Darling: -
It seems as if I had been home much, oh, very much longer than two days, though it isn't really home, but it's more that then any other place.
Mr. Robertson to-day said my face was fat and that you would hardly know me. To this I replied that I only wished you had the chance, but he said I didn't mean it that as long as one had enough to eat and wear, one was satisfied.
Last night I sent you a copy of the Eye-Opener, and he came along just as I was posting it. He said you’d be interested in hearing about the Registrarship, “Are you?” I asked, “Oh, I was.” he answered. Then I asked if there was any salary and he said about 250 a month he expected had heard. “Is he going to turn it in to the general funds?” I asked, “Oh, God knows,” he said, “it’s just a ——— excuse.” “Well, if he doesn’t, it’s pretty rotten” I said but he answered “You’d better leave those opinions to Fred. If you harbour them you can’t help its showing and it’s to your interest not to let such opinions show.”
Now I have opinions, and they show. “Well”, I said, “I’ve had opinions for some time.” He’s right I know. That’s one thing about him, he doesn’t reprove me for occasionally spitting out, but he lets me see what it’s to my own advantage to do.
Sometimes I think it’s awful to be so deceptive, and then sometimes I just take delight in hiding my real feelings. It’s like acting. I just imagine from the whole attitude of the place that everybody is sore about it. Miss Playter, who is at the Clarke’s a lot, says Mr. Clarke is very angry. She, knowing him so well, asks him things about office management, and he says “Ask Mr. Carson,” but there is no Mr. Carson to ask. Miss Scott said, “Oh, he’s one of the best known men in the province now.” I wonder if he’s after politics.
Mr. Clarke told me to-day that he had not written to you about the Medicine Hat Wheat Co. case because the decision had just been give. We won, but he says they’ll appeal. I’ll get the report of it and give you the grounds for the judgement some time soon.
Say honey, when did you think my birthday was, in October? If you did, you're just one month ahead of time, but I don't care. The book of pictures arrived to-day, and all I can say is that it is a work of art. Our people would enjoy the pictures too, and I am thinking of writing to him Mrs Rounce about doing some more. I have been showing them around and everybody thinks they are excellent.
Last night I went over to the Oaten’s to call. They are in one of those stone houses in the gore, back of Millican’s, on 29th Ave. The woman who owns it retains one room. It is very nice downstairs, but the bedrooms upstairs are very tiny. Wilfred has one, Ruby & Helen one, and Mother O. one. The house is very attractive inside. Wilfred has a studio of his own in the Southam Building, and has a large class. Ruby said the Kerby’s slandered him, said he was familiar with his pupils. That was pretty rotten.
Dr. Hodgson was asked to resign from Knox after he had been engaged at Mount Royal, and so the Kerby’s tried to get him in at Central. They wanted his pupils to practice on the Central organ and Wilfred said he’d have to bring it before the Board.
The Kerbys said he’d see whether they could have the use of the organ or not and Mr. Cushing was going to have Dr. Hodgson at the organ the next Sunday. Mr. Peters and Mr. Baldwin said that Central church was not going to be made the cats-paw of Mount Royal College. All this happened while Mr. Fallis was away.
All this, Ruby and Mother O. said. Do you remember how generous the Kerby’s were in their contribution to the rebuilding fund? It’s about time that same Major Kerby found out that Central Church does not exist for him and him alone. When I told them I was going to Mrs. Adams to stay, Mother O. said, “She did not ask me this time. Mrs. Adams is not so friendly as she used to be.” I said nothing, but I recalled what Mrs. Adams had said about not asking her again how fussy she was when she was there before. A funny old world.
I shall not expect you to write so often darling, much as it means to get your letters. I want you to get all the rest you possibly can. Someway, I am not able to visualize you as being there. This makes it easier for me, but I am afraid I do not suffer with you as much as I otherwise might.
To-day it has snowed all day, and yesterday was such a glorious day. The first snow always makes me think of Christmas, and of my own sweetheart. But, it's very strange, something seems to hold me back, most of the time, from worrying about you. That Something seems to say "He is safe." May you be ever protected, and soon come home to your own wife.
Dearly Beloved: -
Mrs. Adams is quite worried because she has not had a lettergram from him as he promised, although she has had letters. Being alone out there yesterday she allowed herself to get into a bad nervous condition and this morning she woke up with a bad headache. I got up and helped get breakfast. I wished I could have stayed home from the office, but I did not feel that I ought. It seems strange to be living by rule again.
Yesterday Mr. Macleod gave me a little work to do, but so far that is all I have had. I have started Underhill on Torts. I am satisfied to get a little reading done now for likely I'll soon be busy enough. Mr. Macleod asked me how I'd like to read with Mr. Clarke. That would be a good opportunity for me, would it not?
I was at the Fallis’ for tea last night and Harold then drove me out about nine. He has been sick recently, a kind of nervous breakdown. Mr. Fallis was in the East this summer, and his brother-in-law sent word for him to come down to New York. So he spent some time there and in Philadelphia. Edwin, the one in the motor co. in New York sent him out with a driver to meet Arthur from Philadelphia.
...Tonight is a Congregational meeting at the church but I think I won't go; I don't want to go out to the Adamses' alone, and at any rate, I want to go to bed early. ...
Mr. Macleod does not want me to go into the suite alone again; he says I'll be underfed and melancholy.
I am to write to Arm.-Sergt. Rounce to tell of the arrival of the book.
I love you darling for your thought for me. You always try to make things as easy for me as you can.
David [Adams] said last night to his mother. "If I prayed to God for something, I'd wait until he did something." I am waiting for Him to "do something" for my darling.
With my heart's love
Fred to Evelyn
Fri. Oct. 19/17
My darling wife, -
This is Friday - one of our lucky days. For me it has been largely a day of rest - and writing. This morning we had a route march from 8.45 until 11.15 but it was without packs or haversacks and so seemed very light work indeed. This p.m. we are supposed to be cleaning up for another inspection tomorrow - this time by the Canadian Corps commander but most of the fellows haven't started yet - at 3 pm.
I wrote a long letter to Wilfred and will now talk to you for a short time before beginning my cleaning. How have you spent the day? In the office I suppose.
Most of the contents of your box are gone. There's still a piece of cake some cheese & biscuits & sugar. By the way, dearie, don't bother sending sugar for since coming to France everything has been sweetened sufficiently. The rock cakes were especially good and the candies - in fact everything. Nothing broke or crushed although the sides of the box were crushed in somewhat.
Last night it rained again but today it has been fine - though cloudy - not very good weather for drying clothes, but mine are quite dry now and we don’t expect to move for a day or two - and then it is reported, it will be by motor lorries again.
Our walk this morning took us through a lovely bit of farming country - and a couple of quaint villages. In one place they were threshing from the stocks with a little box of a separator, quite similar to those in use in older Ontario - and with an old fashioned portable engine. All the crops about here are now in barn or stock except sugar beets and potatoes, which are being gathered and put in large pits.
Everywhere the meadows are still green with rich timothy or clover pastures. Farmers are busy drawing manure and plowing, and the rich warm odor of upturned earth was pleasant to smell.
There do not appear to have been many flower gardens, but here and there one sees asters or dahlias slightly frost-tipped. The buildings are nearly all thatched with eaves of red tiles. The walls are of brick or white plaster. Under peace conditions this would be a very interesting and pretty country - although the hedges roadsides and house plots are far from being as well kept as in Eng.
One sees very few vines here - and as I said, not many flowers. Speaking of flowers, I had picked 5 or 6 different varieties in the trenches on Vimy Ridge which I was going to enclose in a letter to you, but they spoiled and before I got a chance to get others we moved away from there.
I have just finished my shining & cleaning - having been at it steadily since 5 p.m. and about half an hour before that. I have gone over every one of my 120 cartridges with brush & cloth, have shined every bit of brass - cleaned my boots & arranged my haversack & equipment - we don't carry packs tomorrow.
It appears when General Currie last inspected our battalion he was much displeased and as a result we have had more shining to do ever since. But if he isn't satisfied tomorrow he doesn't deserve to be satisfied with anything.
I almost forgot to tell you that when passing through a village today I saw the sign "Massey Harris Implements." It was the only English sign in the place.
I'm so glad the doctor's examination was encouraging. Are you sure it was a thorough one? And I am not quite certain what he did to correct the difficulty which he found. Is it nothing but rest? At any rate I'm glad that you have been feeling better and enjoying your holiday more. Now that you are back at work, you will be careful dearest to rest when you feel ill, will you not?
Your account of your Markdale visit was very interesting. I had no idea Uncle Bennys had relatives there. And I’m not sure who Sam Albright is, but I think he must be a first cousin to father - son of grandfather Albright’s eldest brother Samuel, who use to live at South Cayuga. Did you meet him at Markdale?
While I have been writing Drysdale & Whitmore have been eating some bread & butter beside me. I was asked to join them but didn’t feel hungry. Some of the fellows buy a loaf of bread every night - one of the big round French loaves made of barley wheat & oat rye flour which is really quite appetizing. They cost 1 franc & 2d. and butter, as I probably told you is 4 francs per lb.
Am going to bed now dearest as reveille is at 5 tomorrow morning Good night my own loved one.
Sat. morning Oct 20th.
Shortly before 5 this morning I was awakened by the orderly serjt.'s voice calling to our platoon serjt "Inspections Off" - a welcome announcement indeed, so I rolled over & had another good sleep for reveille didn't go until 7. As we expect to move again tomorrow there's to be a church parade today at 10.45 - and no other parades have been announced thus far.
We have all cleaned up and are now pursuing our customary several spare time occupations. It is a fair morning again and the sun is shining, but it is so low in the heavens and there is always such a haze that it hasn't much power.
All last night there was a terrific bombardment - by far the heaviest I've heard yet. There was no let up and about 4 o'clock it was particularly heavy. Then too, at any time of the night, if one were awake he could hear the hum of vast numbers of aeroplanes overhead. There's an aerodrome very near hear and every night recently raids in force have been made over Fritz's lines.
No, Mr. Clarke hasn't written me. In fact I haven't heard from anyone in the office except for the letter from Roy in May and the short note from J.M.
That was nice of Art to send you the present. I think he has been where it is possible to buy things. I have been on the lookout for something for my darling for Xmas - I don't think I'd be able to send Xmas presents to anyone else - but I haven't been anywhere where I could buy a thing. I don't know where the French country people do their buying, for the villages I have been in have no shops at all - merely little places where the barest necessaries are sold.
Of course the people don't buy much anyhow. Their clothes are simple and made to wear a long time - and they produce most of what they eat. I am hoping that I shall be going into or through a town before long, so that I can get you some remembrance.
By this time you should have received the birthday book. Did it arrive in good shape & did you enjoy it? If it [is] as good as the one I saw - and I am sure Sergt. Rounce would do his best - I think it is very fine. There are 2 or 3 pictures of Tennyson's home that are especially good.
Yes dearest I would be glad if you would enclose a few sheets of paper in each letter. The pad Mother O sent is almost gone. I don't know what I should have done without it. Ordinarily one can always get Y.M.C.A. paper, but for the past 10 days there hasn't been a Y.M.C.A. anywhere near and the canteen has been completely out of paper. When we settle down again I dare say I shall be able to get paper, but in the meantime Mother O's contribution has filled the gap.
That tooth powder you sent is lovely. Perhaps I can take it along after all. At any rate if we leave here in lorries I’ll take it along. Meanwhile I’m making good use of it. It has such a nice perfume.
Am going to send your last 5 letters to Elmer to put in the trunk. I don't want to destroy any of them.
I hope October weather in Calgary is pleasant and that you are enjoying life. I always thank God for you and pray that you may be kept safe while I am away.
P.S. How is Mr Brown. Remember me to them & tell Mrs B. that I am carrying her Belgian coin for luck.
Evelyn to Fred
Oct. 21 
My Darling Ferd:-
When I went up to get my paper to write David saw your picture and said “do you like to carry it around with you so that it keeps you from worrying? When you are dressing you have someone to look at.”
He and I are here alone. I went to church this morning and took him to Sunday school this afternoon. He has a birthday this week, and just had to be there to put his seven coppers in. It is the first time I was ever in the primary department and it is very interesting indeed. Mr. Marwood to-day asked me to take a class, as did Mr. Trickey, who is now superintendent. But I do not feel like taking that responsibility just now.
Mrs. Adams went over to Mrs. Allen’s this afternoon and is not back yet. David and I are here by the grate fire. He came and looked at my writing, and said “What is that you said about David” and then read “Do” and said I didn’t put the tail on my O, so you’ll see I remedied that defect in the second line.
I telephoned to Mr. Maclean yesterday for Pat’s address, Hazel wanted it. He said he did not expect to go over to France until the new year. It seems rather strange that you should have reached there so much sooner than he, yet I am trusting and hoping that you will be kept safe.
When I saw the little children to-day I just fancied we had some there. The Macauley’s and another man and woman had theirs babies baptized down in the primary room this afternoon. Mrs. Brown was there too - she is in charge of the cradle roll, and there were several other women there.
Mr. Sprung to-day asked me to go and stay with them, now that Sybil is away - she is at Edmonton - and I said “Do you mean that? for I was thinking of asking you.” I should be glad to go there. I thought about it some time ago, and if Laura gets settled elsewhere, I’d be glad to go. I’d like to stay here too, yet I always feel that it isn’t the same for people to have an outsider always in their midst.
Mrs. Adams is so good to me, makes me drink a couple glasses of milk a day, and last night you should have seen the steak she made me eat. I thought I couldn’t do it and protested to that effect, but I ate it. I never have anything like that without wishing that you could have it instead of me.
I saw Mr. Peters to-day, and he said Herbert had said that he had seen you in France. He had had a cable from their London office on the 10th that he was safe as yet.
Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Trickey, Mr. Graham, Mr. McLatchie, Mrs. Austin and ever so many more asked about you. It is the first thing they say after shaking hands with me. I spoke to a woman I did not know this morning. She sat beside me, and she was alone and wore a military pin, so thinking of you, I shook hands with her and she responded with a smile. Mrs. Fallis invited me over for dinner, but of course I did not go. I saw Wilfred too, and he seemed glad to see me back.
Yesterday when I was talking to Mr. Maclean he invited me to join a Parliamentary debating club. At first I declined, but on second thought I decided to go. It was nice of him to ask me, and it will be good for me to see different people. Also, it will be good training, and it doesn't hurt, if one is going into business, to become known. Ray is minister of the Interior in the Government.
It is nearly nine and I should have made David go to bed at eight I suppose, but I don’t feel like making him go. He’s tired and is just as cross as can be because his mother came in just as I was going to read him a little story which was his bribe to make him go. It’s hard to know what to do with other people’s children.
Roy told me that they’d had a firm meeting and that J.M.[Carson] is going to turn in his Registrar’s salary to the general funds. Of course, he’ll be away only about six months, and it isn’t so bad for us as if he decided to be generous and say he wouldn’t take any salary at all.
I told Roy what you said a long time and I’m sure he’ll stick until after the war. Our office has the reputation of being well-run, but at present it certainly does not deserve it, though times will change again.
Your letter of the 27th [Sept.] came yesterday morning. I must send you some ink tablets in the next box. Mrs. Adams is just now talking to Mrs. Bruce, and she and Muriel are coming out some night this week to make candies. We are going to make cakes this week. When I send you your Christmas box, I am going to send one for you to give away to someone who hasn’t any.
Monday a.m. [Oct. 22]
Last night after Mrs. Adams came home and got David in bed, we went ourselves. I suppose I should have made the youngster go earlier, but she said he knew he should have gone. He does say the cutest things, and is a very likeable child.
Mrs. Adams said they saw Mr. Romanes on the street not long ago. I am rather anxious to know if he has come back to stay. I wonder why he left the army, maybe he was not strong enough to stand it. I often wonder how you are.
Your letter [Sept. 27] was interesting, but oh my darling, my heart aches to think of your being hungry and cold and tired. And I can't do anything to help you, only love you and let you know it. I am enclosing a five-franc note - that is if I can get one at the bank.(3)
I lost, or had stolen a two dollar bill out of my purse yesterday. When I arrived at church I found my purse open, so I don't expect ever to see that bill again. That's the first time I have lost that much money, I think, so that is not such a terribly bad record, is it?
Friday I was very much surprised to have Irene Stett from Ottawa, call me up from Ogden. She is dietician down at the Convalescent Home, and has been there nearly a month. We had supper together up town, and then she went home because she was so tired.
I always thought a lot of Irene and it is nice to have her here. She said she wondered Ora did not want to go into this work. It seems they need help, and the salary is from $75 to $100 a month, besides all one’s living expenses. Irene may not stay so very long because she thinks she ought to be near home. Her sister at home is not strong and, her only brother being at the front, her parents are very much worried. You may recall that I told you about her last year: her fiancé was killed shortly after they became engaged.
Just received a card from my travelling companion, Miss LeBarre, the one who had been to China and Japan. Did I tell you the Hunts once more sent us a program of their fall recital?
This mail also brought a letter from Laura. She will be getting my letter about the same time. She is still anxious to come, so I'll continue trying to dig up something for here. I know we'd get along well together.
If only my darling, I could show you the measure of my love and thought for you. You are truly my reason for wanting to live.
Your loving wife.
Evelyn to Fred
Most Dearly Beloved: -
How I have wanted you to-day. I was going to say, no one knows, but you know, for you want me as much. Sometimes I do not know whether or not to tell you my worries, but there is always this for you to remember, that by the time you get this, they'll be all over.
To-day in the library, Mr. Macleod asked me if I could help Miss Playter, and I told him I could, because I didn't want to tell him in front of Mr. Egbert, but later I told him there were times when I could not go up there and stand up so long. He was very nice and said he certainly did not want me to do anything to injure my health. But I told him it was too much for Miss Playter to do both Court House and Land Titles, and that we ought to have seats.
I could see by his face that it had never entered his head that it would be hard on us. I hated to tell him that, but I need not have been so squeamish about it . But at such times, how I long for your protection and care. However I say to myself, that anybody can get along when everything is easy.
Mrs. Adams has gone out to some missionary affair at Mrs. Crawford’s. David is in bed. I have been making one of those nice fruit cakes, like the one Ora and Elleda made. It is in the oven now, and I am a little anxious about the baking of it, as I never made one before.
I was invited to a party at Mrs. Venini's last night, a shower of handkerchiefs for Miss Fick, who is going to Victoria to go in to a hospital for training. I did not go however, but instead was in bed by a quarter to ten.
I did not sleep very well for part of the night though, for there was a chinook and it was so noisy it kept me awake. I slept until twenty minutes after seven. I am getting in nine hours and more of sleep a night. How would you feel if you had that much? Someway or other it seems tonight as if, if I turned around suddenly, I might see you. If only I might.
I saw Arthur Lilly tonight. The battery has come up to Calgary for the winter. The people in Lethbridge are quite hot over their being moved, I hear.
McKay went over with the draft that left before the rest left Petawawa as did Miss Cummer’s brother Harold. Scott has gone down to Toronto to join the Aviation Corps.
Mrs. Adams came in last night before I finished, and we sat knitting while the cake finished baking. It looks lovely; this morning she said she was coming down to take a big bite out of it, but she won’t ever take a taste. However, when I divide it up, I’ll make her. She has gone out for dinner tonight, but she had our dinner on cooking for us when I got home. Mind you, she even ironed my clothes for me to-day, so you will see that I’m glad to be able to do a little for her occasionally.
David said he wasn’t going to bed until eight o’clock, but I told him he was going at seven as his mother said. Also I said if he went without any fuss, I’d read him some stories after he got in bed, and he went very obediently. After I read to him and said that was all I’d read tonight he said “I don’t know whether I can go to sleep or not, I’ve had so many nice stories, but maybe I can go to sleep.”
I asked him if he’d give me a kiss, and he said “On my cheek” and then he rubbed it off, but it’s quite a concession you know, for a little by. He is seven tomorrow, and I got him a little book of stories of King Arthur. It is so easy to entertain children who are fond of stories.
Ruby called up to-day to get your address. The choir is packing boxes tonight, and they are going to send you one, and she's going to put in some things for you in one of my boxes, so I guess you'll be well looked after. I told you, did I not, dearest, that I am preparing one for Pat and one for Noble, from you and me?.
I sometimes get a little discouraged at the office, because I am not doing more. Being slightly ill to-day, I could not go to the Court House, and did only ten minutes office work. But I have nearly finished a cursory reading of Underhill on Torts this week, and am glad to get in a little reading now.
Mr. Power does not know whether we’ll have any lectures or not, but so far as Dr. Scotts [sic] are concerned in their value for examination purposes - let me study the book instead.
According to the papers, it would have been interesting to have attended the meeting in Central Church last night. I’ll send you clippings. I’m glad Dr. Clark has consented to run on a Union ticket.
There was a lady in here tonight, when I got home, Mrs. Smallpiece, who said that after the Campbells went to the coast this summer, Sandy came to live with them, and although they have not fed him since the Campbell’s [sic] came home, still he returns to the Smallpieces’ to sleep. Poor old Sandy, I wonder if he too is homesick for a home with his master.
As I passed Dr. Lindsay's house to-day, I thought that at present our lives were like that, dull and grey, silently waiting for good times to come again, to complete them according to our dreams. I pray for you my darling, that is all I can do, and send my love messages across the spaces of air. I don't think I could ever get used to having you away, well, I might get used to it, but I could never acquiesce in it.
With a world of love,
Evelyn to Fred
I am going to write your letter before I get my dinner, and afterwards I have several to write. I have never yet thanked Art for the napkin ring he sent me. It does not seem long since we packed his box last winter, does it? I wonder if Pat ever got his. At any rate we’ll try again. Do you know his address? I presume so - Lieut. W.H.P. Canadian Machine Gun Depot, Seaford Sussex Eng.-
Maybe had you gone in the University Battalion you would now have a commission. And I see now that you joined what you did for my sake, so that you could be near me as long as possible. That last winter was very precious, I think we grew nearer than ever then, a year ago now we were still in our house, but I don't think I ever want to go back to it, I should like to start anew, it will be like being married, only we shall have all our love and understanding to make things run smoothly.
Mrs. Adams and David have gone to church, and are then going to the Clarke’s for dinner. I was asked too, but I thought I’d better not rush around so much. I stayed in bed part of yesterday, and nearly all of Friday, and am almost better now. The way I have been this time shows that my health is improving very rapidly.
I must tell you a little news. Jim Garden sold his house for 15,000 to a man from the country. Don’t you think that was cheap, with all that land. Dr. Crawford’s house & grounds cost 29,000. I don’t think his place is worth it. Jim Garden did not have anything much, so the money (cash) looked good to him, and they are living in a house in the crescent.
Mrs. Garden told Mrs. Adams that he fully expected to go overseas, and felt it keenly because he was discharged. He was thanked for raising the company but told that they could get men of better build for the work, and with better education. I think that would be a bitter pill to swallow, but his wife, naturally, was very much relieved.
And can you imagine what doctor has gone. None other than Dr. Graham, who was in the militia in peace times, I was quite surprised to learn that.
I wish you were here for dinner with me. There is some nice chicken, and there are vegetables too. I am glad you are getting enough to eat, but it certainly needs a little variation, does it not? In the boxes I am starting to put the date, so that I'll know if you get them all.
I thought from your letter of the 1st October that you were a wee bit disappointed at not receiving a box when the others did. I think I sent one before we took that trip to Hagersville, but I’m not sure. At any rate, I helped send one from Beamsville, and sent another from Owen Sound about the 7th of September, or sometime along there.
Then I sent a box of candies from Toronto, about the 21st, and the next one sent was before I left for home along the first of October.
I think I did send a box before I went to Hagersville, which I posted at Arthur. You see, when I was visiting around, or spending a week in bed at a time, I could not send boxes regularly, not that I think you expect me to, but I really love to do it, and I feel as if I am neglecting you when I do not do it.
We are going to Fritz's for tea. I guess he's getting along pretty well, at any rate he was advertising for a stenographer and book keeper combined.
Mrs. Adams says Hector Allen thinks the second class of men will be called out in the spring, and he is getting his affairs in shape for it. Of course, I think anybody who does not prepare for it, is very foolish, though personally I do not expect to see it come to that. Last night's paper said the Americans were in the front lines. If they had only been prepared last spring when they declared war.
Yes, I’ll write to Elleda, it’s time I wrote to here anyway. If I have time, I’ll write to-day.
...I find myself thinking consciously less about you; a touch in the darkness, a glance across the stars, a whisper by the river, - so you come back to me; but the different things we said and did do not return with quite such sharp distinctness and sharp pain. Yet I exist more and more in you, living your life and mine too, spirit to spirit.
Loneliness seems forever impossible since you went out and left the gate ajar, and all the world came in and all its sorrows. The griefs that enter, in some strange way, solace my own, and this increasing sense of anguish of the world is lightened and lofted by sharing it with other folk.
It is good to feel so passionately and so utterly a part of all that lives and throbs and suffers. Though the life that goes on in the little red house must inevitably lack something of the human warmth and joy that we should have known together, more life and greater enters, I think, than would have been ours if our old dream of happiness had come true. One can bear whatever happens, so long as it makes one understand.
I started out in loneliness to tell my story, to you and to myself, for comfort in the long silences, and lo! I have no story; I do not seem to be merely I; I have gone out of myself and cannot find my way back. In this relieving greatness is, perhaps. aim for knowledge of what is to come. I have nothing left to ask of life, no demands to make; a little service, work, and sleep, - and then?”
That is exquisite, is it not darling? The trouble with me is that I have not gone out of myself. My life seems so selfish and self centred, and yet I have not the strength to do anything but my work and play the part of friend as opportunity offers. The clock says it is away past dinner time, so farewell, my sweet one, for a short time.
Oh my Darling:-
There doesn't seem to be much but work and sleep some days, but I ought not to complain, for certainly that's all you have these days, with but very little time for sleep. I was so disappointed when I took your box to post, to find that it was overweight, and now I'll have to open it up and repack it, so was so anxious to get it off to-day.
...This morning I thought I was going to get down earlier than I feared, when Mr. Thornley asked me to have a ride, but when we got down to Twelfth Avenue, he stopped to get oil and could not get started again. Consequently I had to take a car after all, and arrived at the office at 9.30.
It was eight when I woke this morning, and nobody else was awake when I started routing them out. We went to bed early too, about nine, but I could not sleep for a wander. Mrs. Adams is really not strong; she is done out if she does half what I could do. I do wish she could get some help.
She was telling me to-day that Mrs. Cummings over here pays 60 a month, and that there are plenty of advertisements at 40 a month. I guess I’ll go into service, I could make more at it than at law.
It’s funny how the students’ salaries are different in our office. Ferguson told Miss Playter that he got 60. Ray and Fitch got more than 60 in their third years, they got a percentage.
Oh, P.R.B. was placed in A2 class, but got a letter from his doctor which placed him in A E. He has a poor stomach. Maybe he has, poor beggar. I guess Ferguson is the only one to go this time.
I don’t have to do Court House work Friday morning Mr. Macleod told Miss Playter that he had a nice pleasant attractive assistant for her, and when she asked who it was he said A.J.R. He won’t be here long though, for I hear him asking people about little towns. He’s a queer character. Wonder what he lives on. His son-in-law, Childs has certainly worked himself up in the Army. He’s only a young fellow too.
You never say you loathe your job or that you are sick of it, but I don't see how you stand the monotony When I get fed up on just working, I have a cry, but I suppose you wouldn't waste your energy in that way. I know to some extent though, how hateful it must all be to a man who has been accustomed to use his brain. Now to-day for me was full of incidents, only I am always so lonely for you at night.
We had a chinook to-day.
I wonder if your are cold.
Oh my sweetheart, I can never become reconciled to your being there. I know I don't wish any more fervently than you do for the time to come when you'll all come home.
Your own kiddie.
Evelyn to Fred
Sweetheart My Own:
Another night and we are alone together again. How I wish we really were, instead of just making believe.
To-day I happened in to the office at an opportune moment, for Mr. Macleod was in there and he gave me some law to look up. I have not finished it as yet, but I like that kind of work so much better than chasing up people to squeeze some money out of them.
W.C.R. [W.C. Robertson] came in and said he heard the students were out after money for a banquet and came in to register his protest. Roy said if the others were doing it, he thought we ought to, W.P. said we ought to say we'd give them the money to be used for field comforts, but J.E.A.M. [MacLeod] thought the dignified way was to tell them we thought they ought not to have a banquet.
In fun he said they wouldn't give anything if they didn't ask me, but now that even the barristers have given up their banquet. I think the students have little consideration for the times to want a banquet. I never before heard Mr. Macleod criticize J.M. but he did to-day for even engaging A.J.R.
I seem to write a little bit, and then I go off into a staring fit, looking at your picture. The news to-day is so bad. Oh my darling, I pray that you are safe and that a sane peace may soon come.
Ever your loving wife.
I took this down to the office, thinking I’d have time to write, but I got the date written and nothing more. Mr. Macleod gave me some more law to look up and it kept me busy except when I gave Miss Davidson some letters of yours to type, and when I was in the library Roy and Mr. Macleod were talking politics.
P.R.B. asked about you to-day and engaged me in conversation much against my own inclination. The Russian situation certainly makes things look bad.
To return to a brighter subject. Tonight Mr. Adams was talking about a meeting tonight to nominate the unionist candidates, and he was speaking about the men who were going to the Laurier convention in Edmonton. He named Ed. Ryan, O.E. Culbert several others and was pausing to think of another name when David chipped in with “Alf Clarke.”
It did sound very ridiculous, and we certainly had to laugh. Poor David is always getting in to trouble; he is very often disobedient, yet he is such a decent little shaver I like him very much.
You'll think I'm going to stay here for good. I did propose going back next week but Mrs. Adams says I'm not going back until Mrs. Wright [Laura] comes I have made up my mind that I won't stay alone again. Did I tell you that I had lunch with Ruby down town the other day? She told me that one day they were at the Sprungs', and that Mr. Sprung said you were the best man in the church. He said you had been so thoughtful of other people that it was going to come back to you "in chunks" some time.
I sewed up your box tonight and will post it tomorrow. On Monday I'll post another and I'll mark on it "for another" and I want you to give it to someone who hasn't a box of his own, that is, unless you don't get one for yourself. I don't believe I'll send it until I send your next box - I want him to get it about Christmas time, but of course it's rather hard to gauge the time correctly.
To-day came your letters of 16-18 of October. How tender and loving they are. I could not do without you, my dearest friend, my lover and my husband.
I am writing at the office, having nothing in particular to do, after trying to look up some law for Mr. Macleod. I'll study soon.
This morning I received a letter from Laura. She is waiting in Chicago until she gets word from me that there is a position here for her, but she'll wait a long time for that. Positions are not served up on silver platters, but I quite understand why she does not wish to come while things are so indefinite.
Mrs. Tulk just telephoned me - the doctor gave the janitor orders to do the floors, but only on the outside, so I’ll have to see about getting them done all over, especially the living room.
To-day we had lunch at the Board of Trade. You must join when you come home; they get excellent meals there for 50¢, and the members may take their wives on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Do you ever see any lace or things of that sort? You might send some if you do. Let me know how much it costs and I'll send you some money for it for I know you do not have enough of your own for such things.
Last night was the meeting to nominate Unionist candidates. Mr. Adams was offered the nomination but refused it. He was offered it once before, but refused it, so you see what you once said was wrong. Naturally he would enjoy it, but one night M.S. McCarthy told him some things, I do not know what, which made him make up his mind to stay out of the game.
I do not know how Mr. Tweedie is going to afford it, but at any rate he accepted the nomination for West Calgary, and Lee Redman for East Calgary. The morning paper gives it to Bennett for returning now, because he does not like A.L. Sifton. J.E.A.M. says it’s because he doesn’t see anything in it for himself with A.L.S. and Lougheed ahead of him. I guess J.E.A.M. does not love the firm of L.B. Mc. & Co. I thought he was such a Tory he’d love them, but he is very moderate for him. He’s a pretty good sort.
Wilfred is giving an Organ Recital this afternoon but I won't go to-day. I'm going home to wash my hair, make candies and pack boxes.
I do want to write to Art tomorrow. I'm so lazy about writing letters, but I must at least thank him for the present he sent me, a napkin ring made out of a shell.
I'll send some money to Hazel and ask her to send you a pair of socks a month, and between the rest of us, we can get another pair made. If only I didn't have to study at night I think I could keep you supplied, for I love to knit. Laura said Elmer sent on your letter, and she is going to write to you.
With all my love, your wife.
Evelyn to Fred
Nov. 11 1917
Dearest Ferd: -
One year ago to-day was the Sunday when the gas was off. That was a memorable day, wasn't it? And to-day was so warm that I didn't even wear my little fur around my neck, much less carry my muff.
I took David to church this morning and Mr. and Mrs. Peters kindly brought us home. David kicked up a row, but I did not tell his parents as they would have felt very much humiliated, and I'm not sure that a spanking would have done him any good. I gave him a good talking to tonight when he was in bed. He needs a very firm hand, and he's just at a very saucy age.
Mr. Dagleish preached this morning about the halo on common things. It was a good enough sermon, freely interspersed with quotations from the poets, Ruskin, etc. I wonder why that stuff seems so academic to me now, whereas it used to appeal to me very much. The church was very well filled this morning and the music was good. Wilfred gave an Organ Recital yesterday afternoon, which I did not attend, but if he keeps them up all winter I hope to go often.
We had lunch at the Board of Trade yesterday. They have the rooms that used to be Crown’s, and Mr. Kolb has the job of furnishing the meals - a fifty-cent lunch. It is very nice down there, and the meals certainly are good.
After lunch I mailed your box and Mrs. Adams and David and I came home, and I made a lot of candies before supper, and washed my hair afterwards.I had a good night’s sleep, and am going to bed early tonight.
Last night, in the night I woke up, and an utterable longing for you swept over me, and so dearest, I prayed for you, and then I went to sleep again. I had just received your letter telling me you were reading the 46th Psalm, the night we read the bad Russian news, and I read it and felt comforted.
This was such a beautiful afternoon that, when the family went to Sunday school, instead of staying in and reading or writing, I went down to Fritz’s. Wray was there and came up with me. Lena said his pulse was acting up, was very rapid. Mr. Coutts told me had been put in Class A. 2. but Lena said he was changed later.
There are some things I'd like to tell Wray, yet I do not want to preach at him, and I can't say some of them without making him think we were discussing him at Beamsville, which as you very well know we were, so I had better keep my mouth shut.
Well dearie, I'll have a birthday this week. How funny you should think it was in October, but as for the date, you have it mixed with our wedding day, that is all.
Tomorrow is our anniversary, the day the Victory Loan begins. I’m afraid I can’t buy a Bond, unless my salary is raised.
Mr. Clarke told Miss Playter she was to get $40 after she had been there two months, the same as they gave me, but I was there 5 months before they gave me $40. And if she gets $40, then why shouldn't I get what Fitch, Roy and Bryenton have been getting? You don't think me mercenary, do you dear? Of course, I know I'm not worth very much to the office just now, but that's not my fault; I'll work if I get it to do.
I had a good story to tell you, but I've forgotten what it was. Maybe I'll remember it to tell you tomorrow. Goodnight dearest. I'm going up to get in bed now, and I'll write to my parents there. You seem far away tonight dearest. I wonder why. You are ever uppermost in my thoughts.
1. Sir Arthur William Currie. 1875-1933. Senior military commander of the Canadian Corps during World War I.
2. Col. Sam. Hughes. 1853-1921. Minister of militia and defence (1911-1916) in Robert Borden's cabinet. Resigned over differences of opinion with Borden.
3. A five franc note is enclosed with this letter. Also, two blank sheets of writing paper.