Flanders. Part 1

BERTINCOURT,  27 August, 1917

I am inclined to think you are causing yourself too much discomfort about me. After all, the worse I can get just now goes to a hardening. All I want you to consider is this : that so far I have told the unvarnished truth, coloured bareness in places, given sordid things a new gleam which might enliven them to my idea, but make them more squalid still perhaps to yours, but I have never consciously said things were well with me when they were not. It might sound harsh to your ear at the time, weak, nostalgic, but nothing loses in repetition, and if pleasure comes and I say so, then you can believe me to your heart’s content and not be deceived. Thus I don’t want you to lay too much stress on any sickness you think to find in my letters ; it is a mood rather than a condition, wears off in a minute and may be replaced by an intense momentary delight.

Some write letters as a mere formality, not too careful about facts, and always insisting on the top note, like a mavis on a spring morning. One could easily say “I  am in the pink”, etc., in every screed, but what’s the good of that ? That has no value to anybody, least of all to the man who writes it. A letter, as I conceive it, is at best a picture, not drawn with pencil or brush, but a picture for all that of the writer, and as such should be inherently true. The more vivid the description of moods and fancies, the better and more valuable it is. Even if I don’t wish you to think of me as one who goes singing Cherry Bright with an easy conscience always, I don ‘t wish you to see me brooding or melancholic.

So far, war has remained a romance to me; every page, every incident, a part of a definite purpose, clear design. If you could look at it like that and treat everything that happens calmly, dispassionately, knowing the end of the story will be the end of fairy, “and they lived happily ever afterwards ”, we would surely have a good time, making pleasant adventures out of passing troubles, and join disgust, despair, boredom, with delight, joy, and interest to form a real happiness. I look on it that way, prepared for anything and surprised at nothing, certain of clearing a path through every obstacle and of “getting there” in the long run.

I know it is an ideal hard to accomplish, and even harder to seek, making a letter a part of myself, but if you can even hear me speaking, however faintly and distantly, as I can with yours, then it will be crowned with success and find ample justification. You must be cheerful at all times : even if fatalist, one can be an optimist as well. The new rendering is  “Everything comes to those who know how to wait”.  If I can keep patience, the cards will fall to me soon and give me a winning hand. I am sure of that as I am that this beautiful day of sunshine has come after a wet night, and the white clouds moving royally across the blue are the aftermath of a great storm of wind and rain.