1er Régt. Étranger, B. 2,
April 17, 1915.
I was very glad to receive your letter this afternoon as it was all I had heard from you for over a month, except one card. I have written the other Regiment and two of the fellows about my mail, but all I have received is what I wrote you of. I have been hoping to hear that you are going to be discharged, for I know you are not physically able to come back to the trenches and stand the life.
I received the underwear at the same time as the letter. I was glad they were not warm suits, but would have preferred something in the line of B. V. D.’s as they are easier washed, and easier for clearing of lice, but this is good underwear, so am satisfied.
In regard to seeing a doctor and getting evacuated, I have never reported at sick call once since you left. I may be wrong, for I still have very painful rheumatism in my arms and hands, but I have been conscientious about doing my best ever since I enlisted.
At first I was handicapped very much by not knowing any French. Now, however, I speak a little and understand more. They all treat me now as being a good soldier. The corporal shows a little favoritism towards me; more than to anyone else in the squad. The sergeant asked me not long ago if I wanted to be a candidate for corporal. That, however, meant drilling when the others were at rest; and then, the men do not like the ones who get to be corporal that way, so I said “No.” However, I really feel that if I could speak French a little better I would make a better officer than many of them here. Being in the war is probably the only useful thing that I have ever done or ever will do, so while I am in it I want always to do my best; and if I am killed in it, I will be perfectly contented to die, more so now that you are getting all right, and I know that you will prove to mamma that her sacrifices and worrying have not been wasted. Even if I come out of the war, I am afraid that that will be up to you, for I have lost my ambition for what the world calls success.
I do not want to go to the doctor and be evacuated, although there are very few who have been in the trenches as long as I and not gone back for a rest. If, through any other means, I am given a rest, I will be glad to accept it.
As regards a commission as sous-lieutenant, I doubt if that will be possible. However, I may get a chance to show my ability, and merit a commission.
About the Americans here, one is Kenneth Weeks, an author of several books who has lived in France for several years with his mother; another is Russell Kelly, who went to the Virginia Military Institute in 1910, the son of a lawyer in New York City; another is John Smith, an adventurer, who served in the Spanish-American War, was a sergeant in the Philippines, has lived in the Orient, in Alaska, and many other places; another is Laurence Scanlon, a New York electrical engineer, and young. These three men came over in November on horse boats. The last is “Skipper Pavelka,” sailor and wanderer, has never had any ambition, otherwise could probably have made a success as he has quite a lot of genius in several ways. Weeks has plenty of money and speaks perfect French. The other four have no money and do not speak French as well as I. Weeks and I share what we have with them and the six of us stick together pretty close and get a lot of pleasure out of being together. Weeks is now cooking chocolate and we are going to eat some of the cake with it that arrived in the package you and the Vicomte and Vicomtesse du Peloux packed, and which I am enjoying greatly.
I have been back in the trenches for three days now, and probably will be here about three weeks longer. This trench is a little to the rear of the first line trench where we go to-morrow. This whole field is nothing but a network of trenches. The town I was at for repos is where we rested four days last fall. It has more civilians now than then, and when we were there this time we could buy anything to eat that we wanted. The Germans shell it almost every day, and there have been a number of women and children killed there.
I am able to get matches now and do not need a briquet. If you could get a Rubaiyat in Paris and send it to me, I would enjoy reading it.
Give my regards to the Vicomte and Vicomtesse du Peloux, tell them that I received the package of “eats” and thank them, and that I will write soon.
P. S. Seeger was alive when I left the Second Régiment. Phelizot got in a scrap with two drunken Arabs of the Machine Gun Section, and a third Arab slipped up behind him and hit him on the head with a two-liter bidon full of wine. The wound was neglected, and Phelizot was not excused from service when he said he was seriously hurt. The next day, he fell by the roadside, where a lieutenant found him paralyzed and lockjaw setting in. He died two days later, after horrible suffering. The only time he could speak was just before he died, when he raised up out of bed, and pulled the American flag from around his waist, and cried, “I am an American.”
Phelizot had given quite a lot of money to the war sufferers, and had nine thousand francs on him when he died.