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´╗┐Title: "Same old Bill, eh Mable!"
Author: Streeter, Edward, 1891-1976
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book ""Same old Bill, eh Mable!"" ***

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[Illustration: (cover page)]


[Illustration: "MARCHED TILL MY PACK GAINED A HUNDRED AN FIFTY POUNDS"]



"Same old Bill, eh Mable!"

BY

EDWARD STREETER

27TH (N.Y.) DIVISION

Author of "Dere Mable," "Thats me all over, Mable"


_WITH 27 ILLUSTRATIONS IN BLACK-AND-WHITE BY_

G. WILLIAM BRECK
("_Bill Breck_")
27th (N.Y.) DIVISION

[Illustration]


NEW YORK
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
PUBLISHERS



_Copyright, 1919, by_
Frederick A. Stokes Company



PREFACE


The rightful place for a preface is at the end of a book or, better
still, the scrap basket. My only reason for setting it here is lest
someone read and, misunderstanding, take offense.

Not for one moment has there been any thought of making light of that
splendid, almost foolhardy, bravery which has characterized the
American soldier. It was he himself who made light of it, as he did of
the whole war, and probably would of doomsday.

Nor is there anything unkind or deprecating in his attitude toward the
Frenchman. He met a race so distinct from his in ideals and customs
that there was no basis for understanding. Failing to understand, he
followed his usual rule in such instances and laughed.

One of those veterans of a dozen battles, chancing to glance over
these pages, may say that the dangers and horrors of those last five
months have been underrated. They, however, belong to a comparatively
small and enviable minority. Those who turned the tide in July, 1918,
and who knocked the line at St. Mihiel into its proper place in
September, also bore the brunt on the Meuse and the dreary
mud-spattered monotony of the Army of Occupation. The great mass of
the American army saw but a few brief weeks of fighting during October
and November. Thousands of other Bills, equally brave and more eager
because it was denied them, never heard the sound of guns except on
the target range.

This is not a treatise on International Relations. It is not a
chronology of battles. It is not a memorial of brave deeds. It is
merely a few impressions of Pvt. William Smith, Buck, placed in a
situation so new, so incomparable, that it had wiser men than he
guessing. He was one of those who left their reasons for being "there"
to be analyzed by men not so occupied in the business of keeping
alive. He would have been bored to death if you had tried to explain
them to him anyway. His loyalty and patriotism were so unquestioned
that its discussion was absurd. Sentimental, yet so sensitive to
obvious sentimentality that he died many times making fun of the
things that he was dying for.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


"Marched till my pack gained a hundred an fifty pounds"

"Everybody had a beard on both sides of his face"

"Beat the buttons off them with a big board"

"Everyone tucks there napkins under there chins"

"They just ishued us overseers caps an rapped leggins"

"Will have to lean them up agenst something"

"Tyin it under your chin like a bib"

"Mike Whozis, the Captins orderly"

"Ive found the first real use for my tin derby"

"Another boiler blew up right in front of us"

"Lem Wattles what never had his name in the paper"

"Were livin right up in the trenches now"

"It doesnt look as if it had ever exploded"

"There was the Lootenant boostin the Major out of the trench"

"I stuck my head around the bush"

"You ought to have seen those two Lootenants come down"

"'Do you happen to have any lemonade?'"

"Tried to make a blanket roll in six inches of mud"

"All I do is scratch, scratch, scratch"

"The people here wear wooden shoes an have no shapes"

"A German bed is like a loaf of bread thats rose to much"

"They take off there hats to us"

"Levels it off with a piece of bread"

"They lined us all up"

"That little snub nosed thing across the street"

"Im going to be just plain Mr. Bill Smith"



_"Same Old Bill, Eh Mable!"_


_Dere Mable:_

Were in sunny France at last. I cant tell you much about it yet on
account of its avin been so foggy since we got here. We didnt deboat
in Paris as I was expectin. We sailed up a river to a town with a wall
around it and got off there. I dont know what the wall was for unless
to keep people in. They certinly wouldnt need one to keep anybody out
of that place. Were now in what they call a rest camp. If this is
restin then all they say about war is true.

For the last two days weve been unpackin boats. You havnt any idear
how refreshin it is to pile up about 5 milyon cases of corn Willie.
Ive been puttin on weight ever since I got here but its all been on my
back.

Some of the fellos think they got us mixed up with one of these Steva
Dora regiments. It dont seem to worry the Captin much. Theres no
reason it should tho. All he has to do is to sit on a box an keep the
quartermaster from gettin over-stocked on cigars.

The day we got in they tied us out in the middle of the river. They
left us there so long that there was a roomer the war was over an we
was goin to turn around an go home. When it comes to takin that trip
right over agen I say on with the war.

We lay around there so long I was beginnin to feel like the keeper of
a light ship. Then they got into an awful hurry all of a sudden an
piled pretty near the whole boat load onto one coal barge. Our Bilitin
oficer met us at the dock. Hed been over here a month gettin things
fixed up for us. From the way he acted youd think he was the fello
that invented the war.

After that we got out in the country and marched till my pack gained a
hundred an fifty pounds an my tung was lyin on my chest. Joe said we
needed a rest camp after a hike like that. When wed walked about six
miles, or killen meters as they call them over here, we turned into a
bare field. The Bilitin oficer said that was the camp.

Just then it started to rain. The Captin told the Top to make us all
comfortable. Then he remembered some business in town and went away
before he had a chance to hear any first impreshuns about rest camps.
The Bilitin oficer must have wore himself out findin us a nice place
like this with only a month to do it in. Id like to see what hed turn
out if he only had a couple of days. It rained all night. When I get
home Ill be able to put in a good night in the swimmin pool of a Turks
bath.

The next mornin we started in on intensive restin. We unpacked a whole
boat out onto a dock. Then some General came along. I guess he thought
we still looked a little peaked. He says "Just run that stuff into the
shed across the tracks." The place he called a shed would have made a
nice hanger for the New York Central stashun.

They tell me now were not goin right up to the front. We got to go to
school agen to learn something. If I had a diploma for every school I
been to in the last year my room would look like a dentle parlor.

The French seem glad to see us but they cant express themselves very
well. They dont seem to talk the same kind of French the fello learned
us in the Y.M.C.A. last winter. There all mixed up on there money too.
About the only way a fello can buy anything is to hold out all hes got
and let them take what they want. I guess theyll never overcharge me
by takin all I can hold out.

The whole sistem is based on the Sue, Mable. As near as I can make out
a Sue aint worth anything. A hundred Sues make a Centimeter an a
hundred Centimeters make a Frank. Five Franks make a dollar only now
they dont. That gives you an idear how simple it is to go into a store
an figger what you can buy with a quarter.

I hear the battery comin back so I guess Ill quit this and fall in on
the tail of the colyum. It isnt that I wouldnt just as soon have them
all know where Ive been, but it makes the Captin feel a lot better to
have me there at formashuns.

     Yours if I survive the rest
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

If you ever have to do any travelin in France, walk. I dont suppose
you ever took a five day trip in an open trolly. We traveled five days
an all the time straight away from the front. First we thought we was
goin to Italy but we must have passed that long ago. They finally
landed us in a little town with about a hundred people, fifty cows an
no pictur show. The more I see of this country the more patriotic I
get.

The train we came down on looked like one I had when I was a kid on
tracks. You felt somebody ought to get out an wind the engine every
time it stopped. Whenever we got to stashuns a lot of fellos in long
coats would come out an blow whissels. Sometimes wed start but most of
the time nothin happened. At last I found a job for the Top sargent
when the war is over.

The cars are marked 1st, 2nd an 3rd class. The difference is that the
wheels on the 1st class has only got one flat side. The 2nd class has
got two, an the 3rd class wheels are square. We ride in the 3rd class.
Luckily the cars has only got four wheels. There so short you couldnt
get any more under them if you wanted to.

There freight cars are all Ford models to. On the doors they got
painted "Hommes 40 Chevaux 8." Thats French for 40 men an 8 horses.
That struck me as funny till I figgered out that they probably pack
five men between each horse sos they wont rattle round so much.

Of course nobody could ever collect tickets on a train like this. So
they got a saloon in every stashun insted of a ticket office. They
make the road pay on those. The first time we stopped Angus got off an
bought a bottle of Vinrooge wine. Thats a drink the French use. They
must wash in it to cause I havnt seen any water since I been here.

Marv Motel, one of the new fellos in the battery, said if you could
get two or three quarts of that under your belt it would act like a
couple of bottles of beer an help you to sleep. So at the next stashun
Angus got enuff for three quarts apiece.

The Vinrooge wine acted the way Marv said it would only he must have
meant two cases of beer insted of two bottles. It put everybody to
sleep like an anisthetic but Angus. He kept awake to finish what was
left. The last I saw of him he was singin Skotch songs out the windo
at the Engineer. One nice thing about these trains is the Top cant get
at you between stashuns.

You ought to have seen that bunch the next mornin. It would have been
an awful encouragin site for the Kiser. Everybody had a beard on both
sides of his face, inside an out an they wasnt talkin any more than
was necessary to call somebody something.

[Illustration: "EVERYBODY HAD A BEARD ON BOTH SIDES OF HIS FACE"]

About noon they got us out at some stashun sos the Captin could give
us the devil for not keepin neat an clean. Nobody minded much cause he
didnt look as tho hed spent the night in no dry cleaners himself.

Well, Mable, we just sat there for three days an three nights. I began
to think we must be goin home by the overland root. The only reason we
didnt murder nobody was because we didnt have room. Every once in a
while wed stop at a stashun an some red cross nurses would bring
around coffee. Only they wasnt red an they wasnt cross. Most of us was
so glad to see a woman that we could say something to besides "Ah We"
that we didnt menshun the coffee. Its funny what youll take from a
woman when it would be death for a mess sargent.

The Captin said wed have to stay in this town a week or two on account
of the school were goin to bein full. The Bilitin oficer came down
ahead as usual. This time he only had two days. After seein what he
could do in a month we didnt expect much. We got it. Ten of us are
roomin in a hay barn. The only good thing about it is that when your
in bed the Top sargent cant tell wether your there or not without
takin out all the hay.

As soon as we got here I noticed something awful strong an it wasnt no
geranium bed ether. Were getting used to it now. You can tell how rich
a Frenchman is by the size of his manure pile. There so proud of them
they set them right outside there windos sos they can sit an watch
them an never forget them. The bigger the pile the bigger man you are
in your home town. All I can say is Im glad the people we live with is
poor. Id hate to be bileted with the Mayor.

I got to quit now. The sensor cuts out most of this anyway. They say
he tears off half of every letter to lighten the mails.

     au reservoir as the French say
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

Id have rote you sooner only the sensor wont let me tell where I am an
I couldnt think of nothin else to say. This is the third letter Ive
rote since we landed. Im a little worried about the other two cause
the Captin said we couldnt menshun the names of no places. So I just
addressed them to Mable Gimp, nothin else.

In case you dont receive letters like that I wish youd let me know.
Then I wont be expectin any answer. Ritin letters from here is like
talkin to a fello over the fone that aint there.

Im having a little trouble with the languige. Its tricky. A lot of
these French words is the same as ours only they dont mean the same
thing. Like "Pan" an "We" an "Mercy" an "Toot sweet." As soon as I
find what the words stand for Ill be all right.

Some of the fellos dont seem to get onto the idear of this thing at
all. They think if they talk like they had an egg in there mouth an
put in lots of zs its French. Take Joe Loomis for instance. He talks
like a German thats lived with the French Canadians for a while. Hell
go into a lunch room an say "Geeve me ze beef stak rar, mit ze
on-yon." Then he gets sore when they put the wine list in front of
him.

It aint the wine list that makes him sore of course. He cant get over
the American custom tho of eatin with his meals.

The first three days we was here we didnt have no guns nor horses or
nothin. I thought perhaps the Captin would give us a chance to get
over that rest camp, but he seems to have an idear tho that just so
many of us has got to be killed in the war an the quicker he gets it
over with the better. So every day he walks us about ten killen
meters with the sun hot enuff to boil eggs.

The guns came yesterday. There painted up like a ten cent sunset. They
call them Soizant Cans, whatever kind that is. They look pretty much
in the bean blower class to me. One of those guns we left back in the
States would take care of the four of them. But of course after
polishin those up last winter till I almost wore them out the Captin
had to come off an forget them. I guess now were stuck with these.

No horses came with the guns. I suppose we got to pull them around
ourselves for the rest of the war. I can just here the Captin tellin
Gen. Perishing, "No, no, General. My men havnt got a thing to do.
Outside of a couple of single mounts for the oficers I wont need a
horse."

I wish your mother could see the wimmin wash close over here. She
might get more enjoyment out of that lawndress of hers. There is a lot
of summer houses down beside a creek behind the town. Every day they
go down there an stand in a barrel right in the creek. First they take
the close an drag them around the creek for a while. Then they lay
them on a wooden block an beat the buttons off them with a big board.
A button in a steam lawndry leads a life of quiet ease compared with
these.

[Illustration: "BEAT THE BUTTONS OFF THEM WITH A BIG BOARD"]

After they get them hammered out flat they hang them on a barb wire
fence. In the evening they take home anything the cows has left in
an old wheelbarro. I guess by that time there dirty enuff to wash agen
cause there always washin and you dont see no results.

We spend all our time now drillin with those little guns. Of course
there different from those we had in the States so everything we
learned over there has to be forgot. As far as I can make out we might
as well have learned basket weavin for all the good it did us.

Well, Mable, have as good a time as you can at home. I know how
tiresome those broken-winded fellos must be. Id go around with them
tho once in a while in case they should ask you. Democratic. Thats me
all over, Mable. Its the only thing your father an me has got in
common. Besides it will make it seem all the better when I get home.

     Yours in spite of these things
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

I guess your last letter must have been sensored to death cause I
never got it. I been over here three weeks now an the only letter I
got was a bill for some flowers I sent you a year ago. That fello
would make more money as a detective then a flowerist. I bet hed have
found Charlie Ross if Charlied owed him any money. I expect to be
sittin propped up agenst the wall some day in the Old Soldiers Home
an about six postmen will come staggerin in the gate with my mail.
Keep on ritin tho. I can always turn it over to some historical
society.

Saturday an Sunday was the end of the week so the Captin let a few of
us go in to a big town near here to take a bath. Hes always tryin to
stick a little extra duty like that into a mans private time.

Me an Angus an Marv Motel went down together in a truck. I dont
suppose you ever road in a truck with only two other fellos in it. I
bet it goes farther up an down then straight ahead. Angus was all for
seein the town as soon as we got there, that bein about the only thing
that didnt involve spendin money. We compromized by seem the
restawrants first.

Its interesting to lissen to the French eat, they enjoy things so.
Everyone tucks there napkins under there chins like your father used
to before he had a hired girl insted of your mother.

[Illustration: "EVERYONE TUCKS THERE NAPKINS UNDER THERE CHINS"]

The French is awful optimistic eaters. By takin everything separate
they can work themselves into believin theyve had a course dinner. If
they had such a thing as oatmeal an cream I bet theyd make you eat the
oatmeal first an drink the cream afterwards.

Every time you look away you get a clean plate. All you need to start
a restawrant in France is a thousand plates an a dozen eggs. The rest
of the food doesnt matter much. About everything you ask for is
"Defended." That seems to be the same as "Just out" in American. In
most places its just a question of how long you can think of things to
ask for before you end up with an omlet. The only place you can get
real French cookin Mable is in the States.

Theres a bunch of French soldiers in town. Most of them have beards an
little bags hangin all over them. I wish theyd let us wear beards. You
wouldnt have to go round with your collar buttoned all the time then.

When I first got into town I thought it must be a holiday or something
cause the saloons was overflowin right out on the sidewalks. Everybody
was sittin round at little tables drinkin beer. I went in one tho an
there wasnt a soul inside but flies. It certinly is mixin. In one
place a fello wont take a drink unless he can go behind a screen. Over
here he wont have it anywhere but in the middle of the street. I can
see your father sittin out on Main street in a wicker chair with a
stein of beer in his hands.

Well Mable at the rate Im not receivin mail I wont be able to tell
wether its last winter or next winter that your talkin about when I
finally get your letters. Im going to keep on ritin tho just to annoy
the sensor.

     Yours in haste
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

In a training camp once more beginin all over agen. If we had a school
system like this in civil life a fello would never live to finish high
school.

Were not livin in stables any more. They got us now in long stone
buildins with wood cots in them. I suppose somebody back at
headquarters heard of soft pine an thought it would be a good thing
for makin beds. I feel as full of bones as an old herrin.

We didnt have to pull the guns over after all. They tied them on
behind trucks. I was makin up a nice bed for myself in the back of a
truck when the Captin stuck his head in. He certinly believes in
exercisin his neck. As soon as he saw I was comfortable he says
"Smith, you ride on the end caisson an watch the brake." There was no
use tellin him Id seen the darn thing every day for two weeks. He
thinks he knows everything.

Of course youve never ridden on a caisson tied behind a truck. You
never went hitchin with a bob sled behind an express train in the
middle of summer nether. It was just luck that the old thing happened
to be under me every time I came down. Some times it would go crazy an
run from one side of the road to the other like it was lookin for a
chance to pass the truck. I dont know what would have happened if the
rope hadnt busted. That caisson must have thought it was a tank. It
turned right off the road, ran over a little ditch an tried to clime
a tree. It didnt have the build tho an quit.

The next thing I remember the Captin was sayin "Smith, what are you
tryin to do with that caisson, smash it?" Just as if Id swiped the
darn thing to go for a joy ride.

Well, Mable, your letter came at last. From the looks of it they must
have dragged the mail bag all the way. That certinly was interestin
about that poor young fello Archie Wainwright. It must be awful to
have a murmur in your heart when you want to go to war so bad.

Tell him not to worry about missin the war cause when I get back Ill
show him so much about it hell feel like a veteran in half an hour an
his family will be hangin out a service flag.

We just got ishued two new Lootenants inside of a week. Its gettin
harder an harder to rite anything interestin that youll understand.
For instance the first Lootenant was a 2nd and the second Lootenant
was a 1st. That shows you how tecknickle it all is but of course its
over your head like a shower-bath.

One of the Lootenants came over as a casulty oficer. He just came now
from Sam Moores College of Artilery over here in France. They turn
them out of there like Fords. If he knows as much as he admits he does
I dont see why they bother to put a high priced fello like Fosh in
command for.

Were bein learned mostly by French oficers. There awful polite. I
wish the Captin could hear them. Joe says he was made a gentleman by
an act of Congress when they made him an oficer. Congress certinly has
a lot of power in war time.

In the army your not supposed to be able to use anything till you know
how its made. You dont know how to put on a gas mask till you know
whats in the tin box an who was the first fello to use it. You cant
talk over a fone till your able to sit down an make one out of an old
cigar box an a piece of balin wire.

I never knew so little about so much in my life. You sit here all day
an lissen to a fello tell you how if you multiply something by enuff
other things you can hit a Fritz in the stummick three miles away.
Everythings tricky about this gun. Insted of shootin where you want to
hit like a man you look at a thermometer an a barometer, add em
together an look up the result in a little pink almanak. That tells
you where to shoot. I dont like this mystick stuff. Frank and
straitforward. Thats me all over, Mable.

They just ishued us overseers caps an rapped leggins. Theres one good
thing about these overseers caps. You cant put them out of shape like
the felt hats cause they never had any shape to begin with. I cant say
much in favor of the rapped leggins tho for a fello that never had any
experience with first aid or nothin.

[Illustration: "THEY JUST ISHUED US OVERSEERS CAPS AN RAPPED LEGGINS"]

I cant see any sense tho in ishuin close like a pictur puzzle. They
might just as well ishue your coat an pants in seckshuns an let you
hook em together every mornin.

I got to quit now. I was left behind to clean out the barracks an I
hear the battery comin in from drill so I got to hussle. Tell Archie
to cheer up about the war. When I come home hell be wearin so many
wound stripes hell be lookin like a zebra.

     Yours till Archie gets a service stripe
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

Theyve made me a door tender to a Soizant Cans. All Ive got to do is
to open the door an another fello puts in the shell. Then I close the
door an start the shell on its way with a piece of string. Its a
pretty important job cause if I dont latch the door the whole works
will probably come out the back entrance.

Our horses came today. They must have thought this was a mobile
vetrinary hospittle insted of a battery. Whoever grooms those things
will have to lean them up agenst something. I read somewhere how the
average life of a horse in this war is only 60 days. Accordin to that
this bunch has seen about seven weeks service already.

[Illustration: "WILL HAVE TO LEAN THEM UP AGENST SOMETHING"]

Every mornin we go out to the range an shoot away liberty bonds. The
good part about shootin into a desert like that is that theres nothin
out there to hit so you can call it a bullseye no matter where you
land. The oficers just walk around shakin hands an tellin each other
what good shots they are. They sit up behind the guns in a place that
looks like the press box of a baseball game. It has a nice roof an
everything. When it rains they just pull their toes in sos the water
wont drip offen the roof on them. Then they say "This is war. We cant
stop for a little wet." Every time a fello fires they call it a
problem. About the biggest problem is to figger what their firin at.

In the afternoon we go to school. Yesterday a fello gave us a talk on
the "Art of Handlin Men." Marv Motel says he knew him in New York. He
used to be a rubber in a Turks bath on 42nd street.

Theyve ishued green badges to the fellos that was down on the border.
It looks like St. Patricks day around here. Angus MacKenzie that wasnt
there calls them horse exercise medals. The day I put mine on the
French fello thats learnin us about telefones came up an shook hands
with me. All the Frogs think somebody has sighted us for bravery. Its
a good thing nobody knows enuff French to tell them about it.

The French have a medal they call the Crawdy Gare. If you do something
pretty good like sittin on a hand granade sos it wont go off an bother
the Captin or fieldin a shell right over the kitchin they hang one of
these on you. Then if you do somethin awful good like drivin a General
fast past a place thats been shelled they let you wear a silver rubber
plant on the ribbon.

Were almost ready to go up to the front now. I guess they want to get
us there before the horses 60 days is up to save funeral expenses.
Just at the last minit they ishued us a lot of replacement troops as
if we didnt have enuff to carry. The governmint dont need to waste no
tin derbies on that bunch. They certinly looked as if theyd been doin
some hard fast travelin when they struck here. All they had was what
was on them an that was mostly cooties.

I aint allowed to tell you wether were goin to the front from here or
not. I dont see why its such a secret tho cause were so far in the
rear here that its about the only way we could go. If you dont here
from me for a long time I dont want you to worry cause I may not be
killed but just badly wounded or taken prisoner or something. Or there
might be just a chance that it was because I was to busy to rite. This
door tender job is pretty important. When they get to fightin I guess
Ill have to be around most of the time.

     Yours till I leave the door unlatched
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

Were on our way to the front. I bet the Kiser an that funny lookin kid
of his is gettin there pulmoters out. We traveled three days an two
nights on the train an now we been hikin two nights more. I havnt
heard a gun yet. I dont think the Captin knows where the front is.
Theres a roomer around that we got off at the wrong stashun. I suppose
now we got to walk half way across France just because that fello dont
know how to read a time table.

They landed us in a field outside of a town. Youd have thought we got
off right in front of the Fritz trenches the way the oficers acted.
The new Lootenant bawled everybody out for not wearin there gas masks
at the alert. That means tyin it under your chin like a bib.

[Illustration: "TYIN IT UNDER YOUR CHIN LIKE A BIB"]

We didnt lose much time unloadin. Nobody knew then but what the
Fritzes might want to park a few Berthas right where we were. Then we
just sat around in the rain and waited. After about an hour the Captin
came splashin down the road an says "Harness an hitch. Come on. Hurry
up." He always gives an order as tho hed given it an hour before an
nobodied paid any attenshun to him. It didnt sound reasonable to me
cause it was gettin dark then an it would be time to turn in before we
could get any place. Bein a cannon ear tho an not havin anything to do
with the horses I didnt say anything. Willin. Thats me all over,
Mable.

After wed got hitched up we stood around for an hour more blottin up
rain. The Captin just leaned agenst his horse smokin a cigar as tho
that was the best place in the world to spend the evenin. Hes got one
of these Drench coats so it doesnt make any difference to him if
everybody else dissolved. Just as it was gettin dark a fello came up
on a motor cycle an gave him some mail. Then we started. It made the
fellos awful sore cause they say thats all he was waitin for. I
thought of course the Bilitin oficer had found some place that was
worse down the road an was takin us there for the nite. But we just
marched an marched till everybody could see that the Captin didnt know
where he was goin.

We couldnt light a light or scratch matches or nothin. The Captin said
a lot of Dutch airyplanes was out to get us an as soon as we struck a
light theyd drop bums on us. Then he passed the word back that nobody
was to talk above a whisper. The old guns rattle so you couldnt hear
anybody unless he yelled anyway. The Captin means all right but he
read to much cheap literachoor when he was a kid.

Every few minits a string of trucks would go tearin by in the other
direcshun. None of them had any lights. Its lucky they didnt cause if
they could have ever seen how near they came to not missin us they
could never have got there hair to lie down agen. When we were in camp
back in the States you dasnt go over ten miles an hour for fear
somebody would fall down in front of you and get run over. When you
get over here tho the idear seems to be to make the war as dangerous
as you can.

After a while I undid a couple of blanket rolls that didnt seem to
belong to anyone an I was just gettin as comfortable as a fello can on
top of a caisson in the pourin rain. I was dozin off when I heard
someone say "Whos that ridin on that carriage?" There was only one
person could ask a question like that. Right away I started to make
myself uncomfortable cause I knew thats probably what the trouble was.
Then he rode up an says "Is that you Smith? Didnt you hear me order
nobody to ride on any of the carriages?" Theres no use arguin with the
Captin. Its just a case of "All right. Have it my way."

They go to all the trouble of bildin a seat on these wagons. They
spend a year teachin you to sit on it in the most uncomfortable way.
Then when the first possible reason for usin them comes along they
make everybody get off an walk. I spent the rest of the nite kickin
mud puddles off the road.

About dawn we pulled off the road into an orchard an put some branches
over the guns to cover up the camooflage paint. I thought after bein
up all nite on account of his foolishness the Captin would at least
take pity on the horses an let them alone. That would have given us
some chance to sleep. Nothin would do tho but that we spend about half
the day smoothin them out. He says it makes them feel good. Of course
the way we feel hasnt got nothin to do with it.

After wed scoured the horses till they must have been sorer than we
were they gave us some monkey meat an let us turn in. Back to the hay
barns agen. That Bilitin oficer ought to make good on some board of
health when we get home. He can pick out all the worst places in a
town ten minites after he gets there.

Sleepin in the daytime is a kind of a joke anyway in the army. Every
time you get to sleep the horses has to be fed. And when your not
feedin them you got to get up an feed yourself. In the army a fellos
hungry when they tell him to eat an no other time.

After theyd blown a horn at me about eight different times I figgered
I might as well stay up an rite you a letter. Now that were gettin up
near the front Im goin to rite just as much as I can. Thats partly sos
you wont worry an partly so that if I get knocked off you will have
something to amuse you in case you go into a convent.

I had to leave all those sweters an caps an everything that you nitted
me last winter. You dont need to feel bad about that tho cause they
wouldnt let us wear them anyway. If everybody wore all the stuff
thats been nitted for them since the war started this would look more
like an ice carnival than an army. Its sentiment that counts, tho, not
wool.

     In the meantime still
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

After travelin for three nites we dont seem to be any nearer the front
than we ever was. Ether the Fritzes are retreatin in trucks or were
goin the wrong way. The only reason were not marchin tonite is because
when we got into this town the Captin found a chatto for his P.C. P.C.
is military, Mable. It means a place for the Captin. Mike Whozis, the
Captins orderly, says hes got one of those limosine beds with a roof
an sides on it. Its so big it dont make any difference how you lie on
it. If all he says about it is true we may stick around for the rest
of the war.

[Illustration: "MIKE WHOZIS, THE CAPTINS ORDERLY"]

Well, never mind. Sailor Gare as the French say. Thats some old pirate
they blame everything on over here.

A bunch of prisoners came in last nite. They must have surrounded half
the German army cause it looked like a decorashun day parade when the
M.P. brought them in. If they make another hawl like that well have
about as much to fire at up at the front as we did back on the range.
Id never seen any Fritzes so Angus an I went down to the pen this
afternoon to see if they were breakin the child labor law or had any
wimmin with machine guns tied to them like you read about.

The pen is just a bunch of barracks not much better than the place
where we sleep. They got a lot of barb wire an an M.P. around it. The
Fritzes didnt look very wild to me. More like a bunch of stashun
porters out of a job. We tried to argu the M.P. into lettin a few of
them go at a time sos we could catch them agen but he took the war
awful serious.

I got in wrong with the Captin agen today. This army is something like
gamblin. Whichever way you decide your bound to lose sooner or later.
Youd think that the only reason a fello would give you food was
because he expected you to eat it. Thats because you dont know the
army. The other day they ishued each fello what they called Irun
Rashuns. That means a can of petrified crackers an a can of gold fish.
Its not a bad name for the crackers. Your supposed to tote around your
Irun Rashuns with you wherever you go. The only thing is that you
mustnt eat them.

When they handed them out the Captin said we wasnt ever to eat them
unless we absolutely had to. As if anybody in his right mind would. Im
all for obeyin orders tho when it dont conflict with my duty. Joe
Balderose ate his half an hour after breakfast and then wanted me to
split with him on mine. I says "No. Not till I absolutely have to. An
then Ill be so far gone that you wont have a look in." I waited till
hap past ten tho I was gettin awful weak the last half hour. Youd
ought to have heard the Captin when he saw me. Youd have thought I was
eatin some of his old harness.

As far as I can see, Mable, its just another of his ways of passin the
buck. If General Perishing should happen to find one of us starved to
death some mornin he wants to be able to show him we had plenty of
food on us when we slipped away. Hes smart all right, that fello.

You cant tell what may happen before I have a chance to rite agen but
we wont cross any bridges before we leap as the poets say.

     Yours to the last crum
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

Were on the front at last in what they call a quiet sector. Most of
the soldiers round this place is French. I understand there pretty
sore at the Americans cause some of them came up here and began
shootin up the Germans. Of course you cant have a decent war if
nobodies goin to pay any atenshun to the rules.

The worst part of the war is gettin to it. I been rained on so much
the last week I feel like an old sponge. Every nite weve been marchin
along thru the pitch dark with trucks an guns an everything else that
rattles poundin along on each side.

Nobody could strike a light durin the whole trip. Then when we get to
this place the Frenchmen that we were goin to relieve came out in the
road with lanterns to see who we were. Its a wonder the Captin didnt
make us crawl up on our hands an knees.

We finally got the guns in posishun. How we found the place in the
dark is more than I can tell. Were in the middle of a ruined village.
It looks like those picturs of old Greek office buildins that hangs in
the high school hall. Its funny, Mable, but the first real rest Ive
had since I got in the army is since Ive got to the front. The only
livin thing we see is rats an airyplanes. The archies shoot all day at
the planes but it dont seem to bother them much. They just sail along
like a limosine with a lot of little dogs tryin to bite off the tires.
I guess if they ever hit one the shock would kill the gun crew as
quick as it would the pilot.

Our guns is pointed at a hill right in front of us. Every mornin we
fire a few shots at this an then spend the rest of the day cleanin the
guns. If they used these guns as much as they clean them the war would
have been over long ago. Toward evenin the Fritzes return the
complement. Everybody comes out to see where they land but they must
fire them up in the air cause nobodies ever been able to find out yet.
When your not cleanin the gun or on gard you have to stay down in your
dugout sos the airyplanes wont see you. Theyve got to be awful quick
if they want to get a sight of me. Ive got the deepest dugout except
for the Captin. When the Top sargent wants a detail you can bet hes
not goin to clime down fifty steps after one Buck private.

Ive found the first real use for my tin derby. The fello that invented
these dugouts couldnt seem to decide wether to put in stairs or a
ladder so he split the difference. Right across the top of the
entrance he put a nice sharp beam. Its fixed so that it gets you in
the chin goin down an on the top of the head comin up. Hed have split
more than the difference long ago if it hadnt been for that tin derby
of mine.

[Illustration: "IVE FOUND THE FIRST REAL USE FOR MY TIN DERBY"]

Marv Motel, whats gunner on my piece, is busy all day fixin things up.
He says if were goin to be here the rest of our lives we mights well
have things homelike. He dug up an old rug an a lace curtin somewhere
that the Germans had missed. The rug hes got in the gun pit an the
curtin over the trail of the gun to set the barrage shell on. They
keep a shell ready all the time in case somebody starts a battle
without the usual weeks notice. Marvs got it shined up like a young
doctors door plate. Every nite he raps it up an put an old one in
its place. Angus says when he gets time hes goin to carve the names of
the gun crew on the side sos we can take it back an give it to some
museum.

Well, Mable, you might as well take down your service flag. I guess
the only action Ill ever see is when I get home an meet Archie
Wainwright.

     Yours till theres something doin
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

Well, you can take your service flag out of moth balls agen. An if the
Fritzes try any more monkey bisiness like they did this mornin you can
buy a can of radiator paint for the star.

Angus an I was standin outside the dugout finishin our mornin goldfish
an plannin a few correkshuns for the army when a boiler exploshun
happened right behind us. After things had quieted down a bit I looked
out from behind a piece of old stone wall where I seemed to be lyin,
to see if there was anything left for identificashun. I saw a foot
layin outside the dugout. I knew it belonged to Angus cause hes the
only man in the army with one like it. I was just goin to pick it up
thinkin his family might like it to remember him by when another foot
came out. Then the whole of him. Hed crawled under an old pawlin that
had been spread out to dry. This war certinly has proved that fish
aint a brain food. Outside of bein a little mussed up from a mud
pubdle hed found under the pawlin he seemed all right. When I ast him
if he was lookin for anything, tho, he got all worked up. The Skotch
is awful emoshunal.

While we was standin there wonderin wether somebodied been smokin in
bed in the amunishun dug out another boiler blew up right in front of
us. At least I think it was in front as near as I could tell from the
bottom of the dug out stairs. Angus saved my life that time cause we
both happened to go down the stairs together an I went down on top of
Angus.

[Illustration: "ANOTHER BOILER BLEW UP RIGHT IN FRONT OF US"]

Marv Motel was asleep down in the dug out. He got awful sore an wanted
to know how a fello was ever goin to get any rest with a bunch of this
an that fools rough housin around all day. Then came two more black
hand awtrocities. Angus swears the second one rocked the dug out so
his mess kit slid right offen the table. Things quieted down after
that so we went out finally to see if we could pick up any soovenirs
out of the wreck.

Well, Mable, Id have bet anybodies money before I went out that none
of those shots had lit more than ten feet away. It took us half an
hour tho before we could locate all the holes. When we did they was
all about a hundred yards away. The funny part about it was that there
was one in front and back an one on each side of the battery.

The Captin came out of his dug-out while we was lookin at them. I
guess hed been down there doin some deep thinkin. He looked them over
like he was Shylock Homes or somebody. Then he said that was an old
Fritz trick to put a shot on all four sides of a battery. Some day
when he had lots of amunishun hed split the diference. All I can say
is that when he starts splittin Im goin to set a new rekord down these
dug out stairs wether Angus is there to ride on or not.

Nothins happened since so weve all been hopin that those was just four
old shots that the Germans wanted to get rid of. A truck came in last
nite with a lot of bread an a quarter of a cow done up in burlap like
summer furniture so everybodies forgot the war in favor of a roast
beef dinner.

It certinly is goin to make me laugh, Mable, if I should ever get home
an see those sines about bread all done up in tishue paper what aint
never touched human hands since the fello that rapped it up. Over here
they handle bread like coal only a little rougher not havin any shoots
an things.

Our bread comes in round loaves like the French. Its handier to carry
an dont bust so easy when it hits things. Ive seen the doboys bore a
hole in the middle and sling a loaf over there shoulder with a piece
of string like a pair of feel glasse. I suppose theyll be gettin out
an order pretty soon about which side your to wear your bread on.

After all Ive eat tho I aint dead yet. Of course thats no permanent
health certifikate.

I started this letter early this mornin. Now its almost nite agen. A
fello never can get any work done without gettin interupted in the
army. I got to quit now cause I was supposed to relieve Marv Motel on
gard half an hour ago sos he could get his supper. I guess he wont
mind when he finds out weve gone back to gold fish agen.

     yours till they split the diference
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

We fooled the Fritzes by pullin out of that last place before theyd
had a chance to split the diference. We came back to this little town
for what they call a rest. That word "rest" dont mean the same thing
as the one we use. For instance when an oficer comes into the room
everybodys supposed to jump up like theyd been sittin on a tack. Then
he says "Rest." Youd naturally think he meant lie down an take it easy
for an hour or so. All he means is that you dont have to stand like a
windo dummie.

An then agen when your standin in line an somebody says "Parade rest."
Insted of lyin down in the grass somewhere an takin a smoke you grab
hold of your thums an stick one foot in front of the other like those
old fotografs of your grandfather in the album.

The worst kind of rest tho is when you get back in a place like this.
That means eight hours a day scrubbin guns an drillin an smoothin out
horses. If that doesnt seem to set you on your feet you stand gard all
nite.

The Bilitin oficer likes this place. Hes got my gun squad in a barn
with half the roof shot off an the other half awful undecided. It isnt
the part thats gone we mind so much as the part thats left. Id hate to
come all this way just to interfere with a brick. Everybody wears
there tin derby to bed at nite.

Payday came along this mornin. In the afternoon a couple of doboys
came along that had just been paid to. Me an Angus took them on for a
friendly game right off the Main street. It was rainin an the wind was
blowin cats an dogs but we had most of the doboys money an they didnt
seem to want to go till we had it all so nobody minded the wether
much. Angus had just passed six times an about all the money we had
was bet when there was a swish like a punctured tire an everything
seemed to blow up all around.

There is times in this world when you dont stop to figger what nobody
owes you. When I looked up agen I could see where it had lit in an old
wreck across the street. The next thing I noticed was that the doboys
an all the money was gone. We never did find out wether they was blown
up or skipped.

Were goin to move out of here now in a day or two. The Captin says
were goin to a more active sector.

     Yours till you read it in the papers
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

Were in a new posishun. That sounds like those vawdevel fellos that
paint themselves gold an stand on one leg or a hired girl. It aint
nothin like that tho. In the army a posishun is anywhere your guns
happen to be. Just now ours is in a woods an a couple of feet of mud.

The horses is showin wear to. If theyd done half the work I have theyd
be wearin a tin jacket labeled corn Willie long ago. Most of them is
so thin you could hang your hat on there hips an there ribs would make
a good letter file.

Every horse has got a gas mask tied under his chin. They think there
nose bags an pretty near break there necks tryin to get at them. Ive
showed my horse his mask open an everything. He doesnt seem to catch
on tho. Thats the trouble with these French horses. You cant make them
understand.

The Captin sent me back in the woods on a little undertakin job today.
Lem Wattles horse had succeeded in dyin after bein at it for two
weeks. It was the only thing he ever put any effort in. Just to look
at him you wouldnt see what took him so long. That horse just couldnt
do anything quick tho. It seems Im always buryin horses. There so darn
contrary theyll drag themselves for miles just to die at my feet.

We was sittin on the corps restin a while before we started to work
when we heard one of those high powered wash boilers go off back by
the guns. A minit later another landed. We postponed the funeral an
went back to collect the identificashun tags. One shell had lit right
behind my gun an thrown mud all over it. The other had planted itself
in a field just outside the woods.

Now we got to pull out of here tonite an go somewhere else like a
fello tryin to sleep on a park bench.

A lot of the fellos families is givin there letters to the newspapers.
Sometimes they print there picturs with them. Lem Wattles what never
had his name in the paper before except when he used to get arrested,
showed me a piece about two feet long with his face on top. Of course
none of the things he rote about ever happened. He was back at trainin
camp when he rote them. Lem will fight if you call him a liar tho.

[Illustration: "LEM WATTLES WHAT NEVER HAD HIS NAME IN THE PAPER"]

I dont mean this as a hint to you to give my letters to the papers
cause Im tryin to avoid publicity.

Im goin to turn in now a fighter cant get to much sleep. Besides I
was on gard last nite an my brains seem to be dead today.

     as always modist
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

I got a new job. Im an artilery runner with the infantry. Dont get the
idear Im on some kind of a track team cause theres one thing a runner
dont do an thats run. Im not sure yet what the jobs all about myself.
I dont seem to be in the artilery any more an Im not in the doboys.
Mugwump. Thats me all over, Mable.

As far as I can make out the artilery send an oficer up to live with
the infantry an keep the doboy majors mind off the war. He plays stud
poker with him an explains that those shells were Fritzes and not ours
that busted all over his prize company the other day. They dont
believe each other cause nether of them thinks the other fello knows
what hes talkin about so they get along pretty good.

The artilery oficer has two runners with him in case he wants a clean
shirt or something from the battery. Me an Joe Mink just lie around
and wait for something to happen. Nothin ever happens tho so we just
lie around an wait.

Were livin right up in the trenches now, Mable. Right down in them
would be more like it. This idear of comin into the war last certinly
has advantages. Every time I look at all these trenches an holes I
feel sorry for the poor fello what had to dig them. Whoever laid em
out didnt seem to have much idear of where he wanted to go. Most of
them wander around awhile an come back to where they started. All of
them are as crooked as a plummers assistant. If anyone asks you where
a place is around here your safe in sayin right around the corner.

[Illustration: "WERE LIVIN RIGHT UP IN THE TRENCHES NOW"]

Everywhere you step theres a foot of mud an water. If there wasnt so
many corners you could get around better in a canoo. They got
sidewalks in most of the trenches they call duck boards. A duck board
is a lot of little slats nailed across a couple of wooden rails. The
way there laid it looks as tho somebody had walked along the top of
the trench an dropped the seckshuns in. Some is upside down, some lap
over each other, some is leanin agenst the sides of the trench an in
the deep places some isnt there at all. Joe Mink says it keeps a fello
on his toes.

Every four or five feet they leave out half a dozen slats. If you dont
break your neck in one of these places they get the corners banked the
wrong way so youll slide off an get drownd. If they miss you on the
straitaway theyll get you on the turns.

The Lootenant sleeps with a couple of doboy oficers in a sekshun of
engine boiler set in the side of the trench. I sleep down in a place
that looks like an old mine. About the only way you could get a shell
into the thing would be to lower it down with a rope. Its the best
billet Ive struck up here tho. Theres no windos for fresh air feends
to be monkeyin with all the time, an of course there aint no light to
shine in your face when your tryin to sleep. The only trouble is
theres seven fellos sleepin there an only five bunks so we got to take
turns sleepin. The floor is to muddy.

That is to say, Mable, seven fellos an two hundred rats. I never used
to take much stock in those rat stories but I certinly take off my hat
to them now. Thats about all you can take off unless you want to get
eaten. These fellos will eat anything from the hobnails out of your
shoes to a bag of Bull. They make a goat look like a dispeptik. You
dont notice them while the candles are lit an your movin around. As
soon as you blow out the light an lie still, tho, you can hear them
comin out all over to have dinner off your equipment.

They have what they call a runners bench outside the tin house where
the Lootenant sleeps. Joe an I is supposed to take turns sittin there.
Its something like the bell hops bench in a hotel only this is an
active front. You wont get that for a minit, Mable. All you can here
when your sittin out there a fello inside saying "Hello. Pancake. Get
off the wire Peggy. I want Pancake. Pancake busy? Give me Pauline. Is
that you Purgatory? This is Pineapple speakin."

After Id lissened to that for about half an hour I felt like the gate
gard of a bug house. I got hold of the Lootenant in a friendly way an
told him Id go halves on my bunk with him cause I didnt think it was
safe to sleep with that fello. He might think he was a crum some night
an try to choke somebody. The Lootenant said that was just a way they
had of telefonin up here. He said you never could tell when a German
might be lyin up on the roof or under a bunk lissenin to you. On
account of that nobody called anybody else by there right name. For
instance he said they called the General Pancake an the Colonel Peggy
an this place was called Pineapple.

The more I thought about it the more it sounded like a good sensible
idear to me. I went in an told the Lootenant that unless he had
something better I thought Id call him Prune juice from then on. He
said Id guessed wrong unless I wanted to act as a stone crusher on a
road gang. The trouble with most of these fellos is there to stuck up
to play the game. Its all right to call a General Pancake or a Colonel
Peggy but you want to watch out what you call a 2nd Lootenant.

Well Mable, if what they say is true the doboys will be goin over
pretty soon. The Lootenant says were goin with em. Its about as good
a chance to pick up a few first hand soovenirs as a fello could want.
In case anything happens like my gettin killed or such dont bother
about goin into mornin or buyin a lot of new letter paper. Just give
them that pictur of me standin in front of the American flag. An when
the reporters call for details remember the skies the limit.

     yours until the Fritzes get me
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

Its nobodies fault but the Fritzes that you aint gettin an
extinguished service medal insted of this letter. A couple of mornins
after I rote you last Joe woke me up an said they were puttin on a
battle upstairs. From the way they were shootin things up he thought
they ought to be down in the dug-out in a little while. Joes the kind
of a fello that gets you up an hour before theres any need for it. I
told him to call me when he heard them at the top of the stairs.
Practical. Thats me all over, Mable. Then I turned over to get some
sleep.

Then the Lootenant came runnin down cussin an swearin because the fone
was busted. He told us wed have to go back to the battery an tell em
to snap out of it an show the Fritzes that it took two to make an
argument. From where we was the Fritzes seemed to be puttin up a
pretty good argument all alone an most of it seemed to be goin in the
direckshun of the battery. But Joe says Sailor Gare so we started off
down the road. There was plenty of noise out there. It was awful foggy
but you could see the red flashes once in a while when one of them lit
in a field near the road.

Every time one busted Joe would duck into a ditch. He had me doin it
pretty soon. The more we ducked the more we couldnt help it till we
was goin down the road like a couple of Rushin dancers. Then we broke
all the rules of the runners union an ran.

We didnt have no trouble findin the Captin cause we knew just where to
look. Just as we started to go down in his dug-out we heard a big one
comin and both landed together at the bottom. After a fellos face gets
broken in to goin down stairs that way its the easiest way. The Captin
was awful sore. He wanted to know what the this an that we meant by
comin in without knockin. That fello would want you to salute if you
had both arms shot off. I didnt say nothin. Just gave him the
Lootenants message.

That seemed to make him madder still. He pushed the papers around on
his desk an said didnt that one thing an another Lootenant know he
couldnt get fire without orders from regimental headquarters. An didnt
he know that regimental headquarters couldnt give any order till they
was asked for it by doboy headquarters. An why the this an that didnt
we go to the doboys if we wanted some fire.

Id like to have told him where to go to get some fire. I just saluted
tho, an said "Yes sir." Spirited. Thats me all over, Mable. Then we
went back to pass the buck to the Lootenant. The doboy oficers was all
sittin around tellin him how good the Inglish artilery was. A couple
of hours later when Joe an I was havin breakfast we heard the battery
fire about twenty shots. The doboys said it was lucky we didnt fire
any more cause they was probably all shorts anyway. That dont mean
that they were a different size or anything, Mable. A short is a shell
that hasnt got the ambishun.

I went up to an artilery observashun post with the Lootenant the other
day. Only it isnt a post but a round tin house like a ticket office
set in the trenches on top of a hill. Theres a slit cut in the front
to look thru. The Lootenant showed me where Nobodies land was. I could
see the Fritz trenches runnin in front of a piece of woods about half
a mile away. They must have all been away on a furlo or something
cause there wasnt as much as a fly sittin over there.

This is a great place for soovenirs. I got a lot of buttons, a piece
of shell, a couple of bones I found stickin out of the trench an a
Fritz hand grenade. As soon as I can find a box Im goin to send you
the whole bunch. I wouldnt monkey with the hand grenade much. It
doesnt look as if it had ever exploded. Give it to Archie Wainwright
an tell him its a trench warmer. Maybe hell stick it in the fire.

[Illustration: "IT DOESNT LOOK AS IF IT HAD EVER EXPLODED"]

In the afternoon when things is quiet an everybodies asleep we go out
an throw hand grenades at the rats. Thats good sport cause you got to
be quick or youll get your self insted of a rat. Joe Mink had to spoil
it of course by blowin in dug outs. Hed have been all right if hed
picked old dug outs but he wasnt satisfied till hed found one with a
fello comin up the stairs. I dont see yet tho why there was such a
holler raised. The old thing didnt go off. It just caught the fello in
the stummick an knocked some wind out. He blacked Joes eyes an then
went to the Major. Joes back in the eschelon now groomin horses. Angus
MacKenzie has come up in his place so Im just as satisfied.

I guess were goin across pretty soon now. Then Ill be able to get a
helmet an a looger pistel an a pair of feel glasses. I guess the
Fritzes are gettin scared. I hope there not as scared as I am.

     yours indefinitely
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

Since I rote you last I been over the top with the doboys, taken a
woods that I cant see why anybody wanted, an collected enuff soovenirs
to equip a South American army. Im ritin this from a Fritz dug-out in
the middle of the woods on Fritz oficers paper. If Id telefoned ahed
he couldnt have had things fixed up better for me. There was a lunch
out on the table an blankets an even clean underclose (if youll excuse
my menshuning them). They used to have electric lights here but
somebody soovenired the dinamo so they wont work.

The nite before we went over four more artilery runners came up. I ast
the Lootenant if they was plannin to send any doboys over to help us
in the attack. He said there had to be a lot of runners sos that when
two went back with a message an got killed he could send two more.
Always cheery an bright, the Lootenant.

The nite before the attack we went up to a tunnel thats dug right
under a hill an has got rooms in it an everything. Those fellos didnt
seem to care how many shovels they wore out. We got into it down a
long flight of steps in the pitch dark where I like to have broke my
neck. Then down a long passage feelin your way along the road. Every
four or five feet somebody would run into you an cuss you.

At last we came round a bend an there was all the doboys sittin in the
mud eatin supper an smokin. The only lights they had was pieces of
candle stuck up on there equipment. It looked like the whole army was
in that tunnel an all smokin at the same time. The Lootenant told us
to make ourselves comfortable then he disappeared into one of the
rooms off to the side.

About ten o'clock all the doboys got up an went out. Then we sat in
the mud and waited for three hours. Angus found some duck boards and
went to sleep.

Some time after midnite a lot of oficers came out of the room. We
walked thru the tunnel so far that I figgered that we must be comin
out somewhere behind the German lines. At last we climed a flight of
stairs an there we were right out doors. Id expected thered be an
awful battle goin on by that time but everything was as quiet as
church except for a few big ones that would sail over every once in a
while. The stars were all out just like it was an ordinary nite. We
walked along a lot of paths an fell over a lot of old barb wire, then
dropped into a trench. It struck me that was the time to go across
while things were quiet. But I heard the doboy Major say that there
was only four more hours to wait. These fellos are worse than your
family for gettin to places on time.

Everything was quiet for a long time. Then all of a sudden all the
guns in the world began bangin away at the same minit. Over the top of
the hill behind us an as far as you could see ether way it was just
one big flash. Then the shells began racin over, squealin an whisselin
an rumblin along like they was racin each other to see who was goin
to get first crack at the Fritzes.

Every one of them seemed to have its own speshul whissel tied onto it.
Some of them rumbled along like a fast train hittin a down grade. Some
would just sing an hum to themselves sort of quiet an happy while
others would go yellin an screamin across like the fire department on
an exhibishun run. There was one bunch that squealed like a trolly
goin round a turn on dry rails. You sort of felt as if someone ought
to grease it.

Besides all these noises over our heads there was the poundin an
hammerin behind us from the guns themselves. The big fellos just boom
boomed away like a bunch of base drums. Up nearer tho it was like a
mountin of giant fire crackers goin off together. Then thered be a let
up for a second like a fello thats awful mad but runs out of words.
After that theyd go at it agen harder than ever.

The best part of it was that most of them was our own shells. The
Fritzes didnt seem to get into the spirit of the thing at all. Every
few minutes theyd sail over a big one right near the tunnel where we
came out. That was about as safe a place as he could have put em cause
there wasnt anybody there.

At first the noise an everything gave a fello something to think
about. After a while tho you got used to it just like you do to
Niagra Falls or a steam radiator. Then there wasnt anything to do but
get cold an ask about the time. A couple of doboys got tellin each
other what kind of a dinner theyd order if they was some place where
they wasnt. Whenever you get uncomfortable enuff a couple of fellos
like that always show up. I slid down in the bottom of the trench
where it was a little warmer an tried to smoke a cigaret under my
hand. I must have dropped off to sleep cause the next thing I knew I
was all doubled up in the bottom of the trench an half froze. I heard
somebody say "Fifteen minites more." The guns was goin it harder than
ever. If we hadnt won that scrap wed have had to knock off the war for
a couple of months till they got some more amunishun.

Goin over wasnt much. Id read so many things about how you felt just
before an just when an just after that I tried to figger just how I
did feel. I was so cold I couldnt feel anything tho. I was thinkin
about this when somebody says "Snap out of it ahead there. There
goin." An there was the Lootenant boostin the Major out of the trench
an a lot of doboys with their rifles in there hands hurryin along the
top an disappearin in the fog.

[Illustration: "THERE WAS THE LOOTENANT BOOSTIN THE MAJOR OUT OF THE
TRENCH"]

Just as we got out of the trench the worst noise started I ever heard.
It made all the shootin that went before sound like a fello drummin on
the table with a couple of knives. Even the machine guns was in it
this time. They sounded like a rivitin competishun in a ship yard. I
heard somebody say "There goes our machine gun barrage. I hope they
get it over our heads." He struck me as a pretty sensible fello.

Somebody had marked the place up with tape like a tennis court. We
followed along one of these till we came to another tape runnin the
same way as the trenches. There was a lot of doboys lyin down there an
a lot of others comin up thru the fog, half runnin, half walkin an all
of them stooped over like they was carryin something heavy.

In front it was just fog. We could see red flashes runnin thru it like
bubbles in boilin water where the shells from our barrage was bustin.
The fog didnt go very high cause you could make out a little blue sky
once in a while. Then right thru the top of it came tearin out a
regular fourth of July celebrashun of Fritz fireworks. They were just
like the rockets at Weewillo Park that spit out long snakes of gold
fire like a broom when they bust. The nearer that barrage came to the
Fritz trenches the faster they went up all along the line.

We lay there a few minites till everybody came up. The thing that
struck me now was that I wasnt scared. Id been more afraid of bein
scared than anything else. Then the Major got up an started on with
everybody else taggin along with him. It was to foggy to see what was
happenin on each side. We went down a hill. It got swampy an we struck
some duck boards. Somebody must have been over before us an put them
down. If they could get around as easy as that it beat me what they
were makin all this fuss for.

All around us was big shell holes filled with water. They gave the
Americans a second hand battle field to begin on. The French had used
it lots of times before. Once I lost sight of the Lootenant an stepped
off the duck boards to pass some doboys. It was like steppin into a
well. There didnt seem to be any bottom to it. I grabbed hold of a
doboy that was goin by but he pushed me back agen an says "Who the
this an that do you think your mawlin around here?" Then somebody gave
me a hand. What I needed more than a tin derby was a pair of water
wings. I didnt feel cold any more tho.

Something happened to the duckboards an we was wadin in mud to our
knees. Every once in a while Id slip into a shell hole an then Id have
to run to catch up agen. That Major must have been brought up in
Indiana the way he got thru the mud. My rapped leggins began to shrink
an the cavs of my legs hurt something awful. But we kept goin an goin
without ever gettin to the Fritz trenches.

After a while we came to a little creek about ten foot wide with
bushes along each side. The Major an a couple of the oficers just
jumped right in an waded across. It wasnt much over there waste but it
looked awful cold an black slippin along thru the fog. The doboys
stood for a minit on the bank shivering like a dog when you throw a
stick he wants in a pond he knows is cold.

I wish you could have heard the Major cuss. He had a line that would
have driven a team of mules without reins or a whip. Naturally havin
gotten all wet he couldnt see callin the battle off there. Pretty soon
some doboy jumped in right where hed gone over. Then it seemed like
the whole army was fightin to get across in that one place. Of course
they had the whole creek to pick from but somehow nobody thought of
that till everything was all over.

All this time I kept thinkin how we was most across Nobodies land an I
wasnt scared yet. I got so cocky about it I stopped to light a cigaret
just to show the doboys that a battle or so didnt make no difference
to me one way or the other. But we were thru the swamp now an my legs
hurt agen. We came to a road runnin right down the middle of Nobodies
Land. The Major stopped here an sent out fellos to see where the rest
of the outfit was. The fog was still so thick you couldnt see nothin
an you couldnt hear nothin of course on acount of the racket.

All of a sudden a flock of machine guns got under way at the same
time. There was a noise all around like a bunch of fellos whisselin
thru there teeth. Everyone dropped down in the grass. I lay so close
to the ground I bet I was a foot wider than usual. Then I knew the
reason I hadnt been scared before was because nobodied been firin at
us till now. Fightin is good fun, Mable, as long as the bullets are
all goin the same way as you are. I dropped my cigaret when I flopped
down. Now I could smell it burnin a hole thru my coat. I wouldnt have
raised up enuff to pull it out tho if it had burned a hole right thru
me.

As soon as the whisselin let up a little the Major jumped up an says
how he didnt know where the rest of the army was but we wasnt goin to
lie there an rot. I didnt feel as if I was goin to rot for quite a
while but I didnt like to get left behind so I tagged along. We passed
two or three of our fellos that was done in. Then a bunch of barb wire
with a couple of doboys workin like hell with wire clippers. Our
shells had busted it up pretty good but there was an awful lot to
bust.

Just as we got thru the wire somebody says "Look out." A Fritz was
runnin toward us thru the fog. His hands was floppin over his head
kind of loose an he was makin the queerest noises I ever heard. The
way I imagine a sheep would if youd kicked it.

His helmet was so big it looked more like a tin sunbonnet. He was
just a kid an the scardest one I ever seen. We didnt have time to
soovenir him. Somebody just planted him an awful kick that sent him
across the barb wire an out of sight thru the fog in the direcshun of
our lines.

[Illustration: "HIS HELMET LOOKED LIKE A TIN SUNBONNET"]

Something else moved up ahead. We yelled at it but it didnt say nothin
so a couple of doboys dropped down an fired. We passed him a minit
later. He was layin on his back with one arm still floppin a little
like a fello thats restless in his sleep.

We were right in the Fritz trenches now. They were the ones Id seen a
few days before from the observashun post. Everybody seemed to have
cleared out except a few that was beyond clearin. There machine guns
was layin around still hot. The doboys just distributed a few bums
into the dug-outs like salvashun army tracks. Then we climed out an
went on.

The woods werent more than half a minit from the trenches. We ran
right into them before we knew it. Everybody just busted into the
bushes but I tell you Mable, it was worse than takin a cold bath in
winter. I expected to fall into a machine gun nest any minit. Nobody
tried to stop us tho. It looked as tho theyd all beat it. Pretty soon
I came to a road all made out of boards. Id lost the Lootenant and the
Major by this time but there was a lot of doboys around an it looked
as tho the show was all over anyway. Just as we stepped out on the
road about a dozen Fritzes came runnin down with there hands floppin
over there heads an blattin like the first one had. Some doboy made a
pass at one of them with a bayonet just for fun. He started to whine
like a kid. No matter how scared I ever get Mable Ill never be as
scared as these Fritzes an thats sayin a goodeel.

Things seemed pretty well over so I stopped to help the doboys
soovenir this bunch. I just took a few buttons an a helmet offen one.
He had red hair. Most of them wanted us to take everything they had.
Then I started up the road to see if I could find the Lootenant an the
Major an a looger pistel. There was a bunch of us all together. I dont
know just how it happened but I guess there must have been a machine
gun planted at a bend in the road just ahead of us. It cut loose as
soon as the last prisoner had started for the rear. I could hear those
old pills whisselin thru there teeth at me as they went past. A couple
of the doboys dropped without lettin out a sound an I made a move that
would have deceived the quickest eye. I never saw a road cleared so
quick in my life. An there I lay beside the board road, Mable,
lissenin to the machine gun bullets playin she loves me she loves me
not with the daisies over my head.

I hated to lose that helmet havin taken it off the Fritz myself an he
havin red hair an the like. So I slipped it into an openin under the
road. Then I noticed everybody else crawlin away thru the bushes so I
crawled after them havin nothin else to do.

After Id crawled till it seemed like I must be pretty near out of the
woods an the knees of my trousers I stood up. When I looked around for
the doboys there wasnt any. All I could hear was rivitin machines an
shells bustin all around me. An the bullets was criss-crossin thru the
bushes like a bunch of draggin flies. It seemed like a useless place
for an artilery fello to be in.

Well, Mable, Im goin to quit now cause one of the doboy runners is
goin back an I want to give him this letter. I am enclosin some mud I
picked up in Nobodies Land. It may help to give you some idear of the
country.

     Yours to the last Fritz
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

I never thought Id be ritin such long letters that Id have to be
gettin them off my chest on the instalment plan. Ive sharpened my
pencil so ofen there aint hardly enuff left to hang onto. There
shellin the woods today. Every time one lands anywhere near the dug
out something seems to break the point.

Well, Mable, in my last letter I left myself standin all alone in the
middle of the woods lissenin to a lot of things flyin round my head
that arent in no bird book. I was beginnin to think wether, havin lost
the Lootenant an the Major, I hadnt ought to go back to my battery.
Duty before plesure. Thats me all over, Mable. Just then I heard
someone comin thru the woods.

That was the worst minit of my life except once when I had to make a
speech in High School. I decided if it was goin to be my last Id spend
it as private as I could so I stepped behind a bush. Whoever was comin
seemed to have the spring halt. Hed come a little way. Then hed stop.
Then hed come a little. I couldnt figger where I had any call to act
as a Fritz recepshun comittee so I started to crawl away. Just as I
stuck my head around the bush I saw something that made me lie down
agen so hard I bet the ground is still stamped with the eagels on my
buttons. It was only the end of a shoe passin thru the brush about
fifteen feet away. There are times tho when an old shoe can look worse
than your granfathers gost sittin on the end of your bed makin faces
at you.

[Illustration: "I STUCK MY HEAD AROUND THE BUSH"]

I lay there for what seemed like a couple of days. I didnt dare roll
over on my back for fear of makin a noise an I didnt dare stay on my
face for fear of somebody makin a pincushun out of me while I wasnt
lookin. I was tryin to think out some way of not doin ether when the
queerest noise you ever heard started on the other side of the bush.
It was like water comin back into a facet after its been shut off for
a while. I could feel my tin derby pull right up offen my head. The
noise kept gettin loud an ended up with a sneeze. You couldnt have
lifted me higher with a shell. I never was gladder tho to hear a
sneeze cause I knew who that belonged to. I could have told it
blindfolded in a milyun.

I was so glad to find Angus I forgot he didnt know I was there an ran
around the bush. He was lying in a bunch of briars all red in the face
from trying to hold in. When he heard me comin he threw up both hands.
Then when he saw who it was he tried to make out he was stretchin.

Angus said hed been crawlin around the woods tryin to find somebody
till he saw me duck behind a bush. Hed been layin there ever since
tryin to decide wether to shoot me an take a chance on missin or lay
there till I died a natshural death. It was easy to see tho that we
wouldnt win anything but a wooden cross hangin round there so we
walked thru the woods till we ran into about twenty doboys. One of
them said they was after a machine gun nest that was holdin things up.
Even that was better than snoopin around alone an we followed along
like a couple of dogs after a parade.

Well, Mable, the doboys is ether awful brave or awful stupid. They
might have been after birds nests the way they went at it. Nobody but
me seemed to figger that we might be comin up in front of that
machine gun insted of behind it. It was just beginnin to strike me
that this didnt have much to do with an artilery runner when a couple
of the doboys off to one side began throwin hand grenades. I heard a
lot of cussin an when we got up there was five Fritzes standin in a
pit with a machine gun. There hands was up in the air except for a
couple that didnt count.

It was the first time Id seen them doin any real soldierin. An do you
know, Mable, there wasnt a woman among em. They wasnt even chained to
there guns. Theres something wrong with this war or else the styles
are changin.

One of the doboys took them back. They were a pretty poor lot an didnt
have anything worth while with them. The doboys seemed to have some
idear where they were goin so we stuck along. They went down in a few
dug outs. In one of them we found six Fritzes an four looger pistels.
That made everybody feel pretty good except the fellos that was left
out. They voted solid it was a rotten show. The machine guns was off
more to one side now but it seemed like they was throwin a lot of
shells around without much regard to where we was.

We came out on a road an ran into a doboy Captin an two or three men.
Havin nothin better to do we followed him. He turned up a little
railroad track like the one that used to run around the county fair
for a dime. It twisted along thru the woods without seemin to come out
much of anyplace. Then we came round a bend an about fifty yards away
was a gang of Fritzes stokin shells into four whoppin big guns as fast
as they could fire them out.

The next thing I knew I was runnin down that little track behind the
Captin. Quite a ways behind, Mable. Everybody was cussin like a
mule-skinner. Angus was sayin things in Skotch I bet hed hate to have
rote down as his last words. But the Fritzes didnt seem to have no
idear of makin them that. They stopped for one look an dove in the
bushes like a bunch of rabbits. All except a few that was to scared to
run. They just stood an gobbled at us.

It seemed to me wed done something worth sittin around an havin a
postmortem about. But the Captin just rote the name of his company on
one of the guns with a piece of chalk. Then he lit his pipe an started
off down the track agen. We came out on a road after a while an there
was the Major an a whole lot of doboys. The doboys was sittin on the
railroad track, smokin cigarets an watchin the shells bust in the
woods all around them like they was at a baseball game. A squad of
Fritzes was puttin a few of our doboys on stretchers an carryin them
off down the road.

Well, Mable, there aint much more to tell. The Major sent me over to a
tin house where the Lootenant was. I found him dryin off by an old
Fritz stove an eatin somebodies Irun Rashuns. I never could find out
when the battle was offishully over. There was machine guns poppin
away all the afternoon but nobody seemed to be botherin much about
them. I guess they just got sick of it an quit. Anyway they were gone
by night.

Now were lyin around takin it easy. We fire at the Fritzes all day an
they fire back at us. They havnt interfered with my meals yet tho so
let them go to it. Every dug out has been turned inside out. I guess
the Fritzes dont get charged for losin equipment like we do. From the
amount of stuff we found they must get pretty near undressed before
they run away.

Ive just been figgerin up the total victory with Angus. We got five
loogers, two pair of feel glasses (one broke), a gold watch that can
be fixed, three pocket fulls of buttons, a lot of letters we cant read
an four belts. As for helmets an gas masks an the like all you got to
do is reach your hand out the dug out door. If we could only soovenir
a Ford truck to carry all this stuff wed be fixed.

Im goin to quit now an get some sleep. Angus says lay up all you can
while you have a chance. Hes laid up enuff to last him the rest of his
life since Ive known him.

     Yours as long as it lasts
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

Ive heard so many shells floatin over this old wood in the last week
that they dont mean much more to me now than the postmans whissel.
Only I hope I dont ever hear one stop an turn in here cause I aint
hankerin to be evakuated like a pictur puzzle.

Im sleepin with the doboy runners. If you want to know anything about
the war thats the place to live.

Yesterday the Lootenant called me over to his dug out an said he was
goin to establish a couple of observashun posts. I thanked him an said
Id seen all I wanted to so if it was the same to him Id stay in an
keep my eye on the soovenirs. As soon as he saw I had something else
to do hed have dragged me out if Id only had one leg to walk on.

The Lootenant loaded everything he could think of onto my back. I
wouldnt have been surprised if hed ended up by climin on himself. If
you could win this war with telescopes an things it would have been
over three days after he got into it. We went to a place where the
Dutch had built a platform way up in a tree on the edge of the woods.
The Lootenant an a doboy oficer climed up. They was up there so long
we thought theyd probably found an old machine gun nest an gone to
sleep in it.

While we was sittin under the tree plannin how wed improve the army
if it was ours we heard an airyplane comin. You could tell by the
noise it was flyin low. We figgered if it was a Dutch plane the
Lootenants was up a tree more ways than one cause they stuck up above
the rest of the woods like a sore thum. Pretty soon we could see it
thru the branches an sure enuff there was the irun cross painted on
the bottom. It came up to the tree an circled round it. Then it opened
up its machine gun at it an flew away with a trail of yellow smoke
comin out its hind end.

You ought to have seen those two Lootenants come down. They beat every
law of gravity old man Newton ever passed. The Lootenant said theyd
fixed that observashun post all right an now he was goin to put up
another one on the other side of the woods. He thought this next one
would be better on the ground.

[Illustration: "YOU OUGHT TO HAVE SEEN THOSE TWO LOOTENANTS COME DOWN"]

The next place we stopped was a little clearin on the side of a hill.
You could look right across the Moose river an see where our shells
was landin in a grave yard right near a Fritz town. Some of these
fellos certinly is there. The Fritzes was gettin back at us by shellin
our doboys near where we was workin. Thats the way they do. When we
shell the Fritz doboys they come right back at us an shell ours. Its a
case of you kick my dog an Ill kick yours. Thats a nice arrangement
for everybody but the doboys.

The Lootenant set up a little table an began squintin thru some
glasses like he was goin to lay a railroad thru to Berlin. Then
shh-bang an one of those little Hungry Awstrian guns lit in the woods
behind us. Those things dont lie around in the sun decidin wether
there goin to be duds or not I can tell you. I dont stand around
waitin to find out ether. Im gettin so I can drop quicker than a war
stock. When that thing lit we was all standin round watchin the
Lootenant. When it started distributin itself around there wasnt
nobody in sight. A couple of others came right after it closer still.

After a while I heard the Lootenant say "Its so comfortable in here I
hate to get out." Like he was takin a hot bath or something. Only he
didnt fool nobody that way. When it looked like the Hungry Awstrians
had quit everybody began poppin out of the ground agen. As soon as we
was all up shh-bang. Angus cut his eye on a rock in the bottom of a
shell hole. Hell be able to give pointers to Annie Kellerman when he
gets home. If he ever gets wounded Ill bet itll be in the sole of the
foot.

After that the Lootenant decided he wouldnt keep us out any longer. He
was afraid wed miss our mess. The war is changin some people.

Well Mable Ill rite you agen in a few days if I dont get put on
detached service with the Angels.

     until then yours exclusively
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

I suppose you thought I was dead for the last two weeks. You was so
near to right a couple of times I wanted to get something definite on
it before I rote you. I been havin newmonya now in the hospittle for
ten days. I havnt been so sore since I had the mumps Crismus vacashun.
After duckin half the shells the Croup people ever turned out I had to
get hit with a cold in the head. I bet I get the chicken pox on my
honeymoon.

An now here I am holdin down an irun cot that creeks when you turn
over, missin all the fun an not even goin to get a wound stripe. The
worst of it they tell me I got as much chance of gettin back to my
battery as I havin of catchin the Croun Prince. They say like as not
Ill land in some Steva Dora regiment in the SOS or in the M.P.s. They
dont seem to have nothin to do in this army but take you from where
you want to be an put you where you dont.

But I aint goin to complain, Mable. I told em that after Id been here
four days. All I say is if they dont let me out of this hole toot
sweet Im goin to get up an beat it an die on the road. Then perhaps
theyll wish they had.

Theres not a blessed thing to do but wait for mess an lissen to the
fello lie in the next bed. He can make Annie Nias look like Martha
Washington before hes been talkin five minites. He says that when he
got hit the shells was fallin around him so fast that the only way he
saved his life was by deflectin them off with a bayonet. Two of them
came at him at once an he got mixed up. I ast him why he didnt catch
one on the back of his neck like the fello does the cannon balls in
the vawdeville show. The nurse told me yesterday he got his foot run
over by a truck. Everybody spends there time tellin how they used to
shake dice with death every mornin before breakfast. It works out all
right cause nobody believes anybody else an it gives them good
practice for when they go home.

Its a funny thing about the fello in the next bed. I came in two days
after he did. Four days after he got here he came down with newmonya.
I got it two days later. He died last night. But of course that dont
necesarily mean nothin. Cheerful an bright to the last gasp. Thats me
all over, Mable. Of course I dont want you to worry cause that would
make me worry an theres no tellin what that would bring on.

Well, Mable, I got a big surprise for you. I guess itll take a load
offen your mind. You know all that stuff we been readin in the war
stories about hospittles an the like. It all goes the same. "The next
thing the fello knew he was lyin between snowy white sheets an a
butiful vizun was bendin over him. She had vilet eyes an was full of
tears like shed been cryin or something. An she smooths out his pillo
an says 'Your better now.'" That smoothin out the pillo always seems
to cure em. Well, Mable, Im sorry to say thats all bunk--every word of
it.

When I first heard they were goin to send me to a hospittle behind the
lines I didnt care a bit. I wanted to have a look at a vilet eyed
nurse. Accordin to the books they usuly turn out to be Dutcheses or
somebody. I was plannin to look up in her eyes an say "This must be
heven. Do you happen to have any lemonade?" Or something mushy like
that. Then shed cry some more an like as not put a stick in the
lemonade.

[Illustration: "'DO YOU HAPPEN TO HAVE ANY LEMONADE?'"]

Of course I wouldnt have married her or nothin. In the first place all
the churches over here is knocked down an besides I got other plans if
I ever get a chance between wars.

The thing started off all wrong by my not bein unconshus when they
brought me in. I didnt even ride in on a stretcher. I was a sittin
case. They walk. Before I could get into the place at all I had to
report to a sargent. He ast me so many questions I thought I must have
struck some recruitin stashun an might be enlistin agen. I pretty near
had heart failure for a minit. The sargent told me report to Ward 19.
You never go anywhere in the army. You report. Theyd have a fello in
his coffin report to his grave if they could.

When they built Ward 19 they took all the joy out of it by makin it
look like a barracks. Insted of a vilet eyed nurse there was a bleary
eyed Captin sittin in a little room in front. He didnt look as if hed
been to bed since the war started. I says "Sir, Private Smith reports
to be sick in Ward 19." Nobody cried or looked at me with tears in
there eyes. The Captin just says "What the this an that is the matter
with those fellos up there do they think this is the only hospittle in
France? Lets see your card."

He called an orderly who showed me an empty bed where I was to be
sick. Then he says "If you want anything to eat you better get your
close off." Just like a fello couldnt eat right with his close on. An
he says "You dont have to set your dirty shoes on the blankets
nether."

After Id got into bed the nurse came along to take my temperment. I
aint goin to say nothin agenst that nurse tho. She was all right an it
wasnt her falt she didnt have vilet eyes. As for cryin, Mable, she was
too busy to have shed a tear if you shoved a peck of onyuns under her
nose. I never saw anybody work so hard. Shed make a good wife for the
Top sargent. It would make him happy to sit around an watch her.

Well, Mable, if you dont get another letter from me youll probably get
one from the local congressman explainin why. If the worst come to
worst tell your father I didnt bear no grudge agenst him. I was
thinkin yesterday about a little motto or something for my toomstone.
I sort of like this one. I showed it to the nurse. She said she never
saw anything like it on anybodies toomstone so I guess itll be all
right.

     Here lies the body of Bill Smith, dead
     For the good of the service, with a cold in his head
     Tho hed felt (without duckin) the bullets breeze
     He was called aloft by an ordinary sneeze.

     yours hopefully
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

All kinds of things has happened since I rote you last. In the first
place I didnt die of newmonya like I said I was goin to but I bet I
had the government worried about my insurance a couple of times. One
day they put a bunch of us in an ambulance an drove off. Nobody knew
where we was goin except that it was toward the front. It seemed good
almost to hear those old guns bangin away just like Id never been
gone. An then the first person I saw when they let me out was the Top
sargent. Itll give you an idear how glad I was to get back to the
outfit when I say I could have kised him, whissel an all.

Im riting this way down in a Dutch dug-out. Upstairs there shellin all
the time. War certinly has changed since I went to the hospittle. You
take more chances goin to mess up here than you did goin over the top
when this all started. In half an hour, I got to go on gas gard. That
means I stand in front of the dug out an when I smell something I blow
a klaxon. If any old Ford ever sneaks up behind me when I get home an
blows a klaxon theyll probably see me clap my derby over my face an
dive into a coal hole.

Theyve thrown so much gas at us lately that its gettin on the mens
nerves as well as there close. Most of the fellos would yell gas if
you threw a pot of geraniums into the dugout. Somebody stepped on
Anguses hand while he was asleep yesterday an he put some iodine on
it. He woke up in the middle of the night an smelt it. He had us
wearin our gas masks pretty near the rest of the night. But we--

Ive forgot what I was goin to say there. I bet Ive got gray hairs
since I rote that last line. Just as I got to the "we" I heard the old
klaxon squawk. When I felt around my chest for my gas mask it wasnt
there. It was worse than findin yourself on the street car without a
nickel on the way to your own weddin. I sat there wonderin how long I
could hold my breth till I almost busted a lung. Then I remembered it
was on my knee under the letter where Id been usin it for a ritin
desk. Theyd have sent me back to the States as gas instructor if they
could have seem me put on that mask. Chained lightenin. Thats me all
over, Mable.

All we do nowdays is move. Back in the States it used to take us 24
hours to get ready for a hike. Now were lucky if we get 24 minits. We
expect anything an we havnt been disappointed so far. Like the other
nite when we were on our way to this place. It was rainin as usual.
Wed pitched pup tents in the woods an had just gotten to sleep. Angus
an I was bunkin together on some hay that hed pulled of a forage wagon
that was caught in a jam. We was lissenin to the rain an sayin how
lucky we was not to be out in it. That is nothin but our feet an there
always wet so they dont count. Its funny how different rain sounds
beatin on the sides of a pup tent an on a tin derby.

I went to sleep an dreamed I was on a train just pullin into
Philopolis. I looked out the windo an saw your father on the platform
with a whissel in his mouth. He was blowin it an dancin around like a
mad monkey. Then I woke up an the Top was standin outside blowin on
his whissel like he was tryin to blow the pea out of it an sayin "Fall
in. Harness an hitch."

Well, Mable, to say that bunch was sore was like callin Niagra Falls
pretty. I dont supose you ever tried to make a blanket roll in the
pitch dark an six inches of mud. It comes out like a jelly roll only
mud insted of jelly.

[Illustration: "TRIED TO MAKE A BLANKET ROLL IN SIX INCHES OF MUD"]

About midnight the Top came from somewhere an says "Unhitch an
unharness. Put up your pup tents. We aint agoin to move."

I never saw so much mud. Mud seems to go with the army just like
monkey meat an Top sargents an first calls.

Theres been a whole lot of talk about peace lately. Angus says theres
some Dutch oficers comin thru here in an automobile to see General
Fosh about an armistice. An armistice is awful tecknickle, Mable.
About the only way I can explain it is that you dont quit fightin only
you do. I may be eatin gobbler at Thanksgivin yet.

Just now I got to quit cause theres no armistice yet an Im supposed to
go on gas gard at five o'clock. Its six now. The fello thats on gard
has been yellin down the stairs at me fer an hour so I guess Ill go up
an see whats the trouble. Hes an awful nervus fello.

     yours till I come off gas gard
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

The war is over. Finney le gare. The six inch head lines lost their
job at leven oclock Monday mornin. Its so quiet you can almost hear
it. It sure will be a come down when we have to look at picturs in the
Sunday papers of the Prince of Whales visitin a tooth pick factory an
the flower show at Passadinner.

It wasnt much of an endin to a worlds champeenship scrap. Id always
thought that when they ended wars like this they lined up same as in
the pictur your father has of whats his name surrenderin to
thingumbob at Yorktown. I thought General Fosh would come ridin out on
a big white horse an General Hinderberg on a big black one. Hed hand
Fosh his sord or whissel or whatever it is that Generals carry
nowdays. Then everybody would cheer, the bands would bust out with the
Star Spangled Banner an it would be just like after the fello rides a
bicicle over five elefants in the circus. After that wed hand our guns
over to some museum an go home. Somehow or other it was to big to
peter out the way it did.

We fired off an on Sunday night an then quit when it got daylight.
Most of the fellos were down in the dug outs catchin a little sleep
except for the gards an a few others that was monkeyin around
upstairs. Me an Angus was sittin in a little trench in front of the
first gun. Angus was cleanin his revolver. I might have known from
that that something out of the way was goin to happen.

The Fritzes was sowin a big field in front of the battery with wash
boilers. Theyd been at it all mornin but about the only thing they was
killen was the grass. Not bein interested in the hay crop we wasnt
callin them up to tell them about it. Every ten minites or so you
could feel a big one land. Then wed stick our heads up over the top of
the trench an watch it throw up mud in the air like Old Faithless
guyser.

We was talkin about the armistice. Angus said if it was sined up we
was to go to college in Ingland for six months or else to Rusha to
fight the Slovo Checkracks or the Checko Swaybacks or somebody. Not
wantin to do ether I couldnt see where the armistice was goin to do me
much good.

Just then I saw the Top comin but it was to late to go anywhere. He
says "I want you fellos to go an help unload a rashun truck thats
stuck in the mud down the road. An by the way, the wars over in about
five minits so dont go around shootin anybody after that unless you
want to land in the gard house." I bet if the angel Gabriul stuck his
head out of a cloud an said the world was goin to end in twenty minits
all that would worry the Top would be thinkin up details to keep us
sweatin that long.

Thats about all there was to the end of the war as far as I was
concerned. Angus says "Ill be damed." Then he squinted thru his gun an
handed it over to me an says "See if you think thats rust up near the
front end." We stopped everybody that came along an told them about
it. Most of them would just say "Ill be damed." Then theyd stand
around for a minit thinkin it over an ask "When are we goin home?"
Youd think me an Angus was runnin some kind of a Cooks toor.

Things warmed up a little after it got dark. Everybody got there
fireworks out an touched them off. It was the first time since we
been in the war that we found out what a lot of those rockets were. It
made 4th of July look like Sunday in Philadelfia.

Of course all anybody thinks about now is when there goin home. Most
of the fellos is expectin to help put the fires out on the family
Crismus tree. Theres a few of them thinks theyll be eatin homemade
turkey Thanksgivin. I wouldnt worry much if I was a turkey tho.

Well, Mable, after all the baths I took last winter an all Ive been
rained on since I got here I finally adopted a pack of cooties. I
guess some Fritz left them in a dug out to starve. I dont know why it
is that animals seem to take to me so. This bunch is so attached to me
I havnt been able to shake them for two weeks. I used to think cooties
was funny just like you think slippin on a banana peel is funny till
its your slip. Now all I do is scratch, scratch, scratch. Thats me all
over, Mable.

[Illustration: "ALL I DO IS SCRATCH, SCRATCH, SCRATCH"]

Im enclosin a blank slip they gave out today. Anybody that wants to
send a Crismus present has to have one. I wasnt goin to send it first
cause it sounded a little like I was expectin a present. Then I
figgered Id just tell you I didnt want one an send it for a curiosity.

I guess Ill see you in about a month. Its just a question of findin
somebody thats fool enuff to take these guns offen our hands. You
might as well start oilin the victrola. You can tell your father hes
goin to sit down to the biggest dinner he ever tackeled the first
Sunday after I get home, liver or no liver.

     till then as always
          _Bill_

P.S. Im sendin half a dozen of those slips extra in case the first one
should get lost or some of your friends wanted to send anything to
somebody over here.


_Dere Mable:_

You couldnt guess where I am now. Im not to sure myself. All I know is
it isnt the way home. A couple of days after the armistice was signed
we pulled the guns into what was left of a town. The Fritzes had just
moved out. Then the Captin told us there was an army goin into Germany
an we was to be part of it. It struck me as a pretty low trick when
wed told the Fritzes we was thru fightin to go right on pickin on
them. He said it was an honer. Im always leary of that. In the army
honer an hard work are the same thing.

We lay around four days before we started. The Lootenant said that was
to give the Fritzes a good start. I cant make out if were still at war
or if this is some kind of a handicap race. We traveled a week tho and
didnt see one of them. I guess we gave up after that cause theyve
let us lie around here four or five days. They call this the
Providence of Luxemburg. Im glad we didnt have to fight our way here.

Thanksgivin is over. You probably know that tho. I suppose we got a
lot to be thankful for but a fello gets a short memory when his brains
full of mud. As far as I can see the turkeys had the most to crow
about this year. It might have been St. Patricks day for all we saw of
them. We had stake an gravey an potatoes. The mess sargent said we
ought to be thankful it wasnt corn Willie. He could think up some
reason why we ought to be grateful to him if he fed us nails.

The people here wear wooden shoes an have big manure piles an no
shapes. Theyll scrub the inside of the house till its so clean you
could eat offen the floor. Only I never could see any advantage in
that cause nobody in his right mind would want to eat there. Then
theyll build a manure pile right under the front windo. That aint so
bad here as it would be home cause the only time they open the windos
is when they want to throw something out. Then they shut em quick sos
they wont let out any air. I bet the greatest hardship the German army
had was sleepin outdoors for four years.

[Illustration: "THE PEOPLE HERE WEAR WOODEN SHOES AN HAVE NO SHAPES"]

Angus says the Providence of Luxemburg is run by a Dutchess thats
young an good lookin. I guess she must be a foriner. Shes never been
married which shows shes got pretty good taste from all Ive seen
around here. There sure will be great opportunities over here for a
young fello after the war.

Well, Mable, I dont think well be over here long. Angus says this is
just a kind of a parade to show the Fritzes how good we are. Im glad
to hear your goin to a motor school. It certinly will be good when you
have a puncture not to have a bunch of wimmin hangin out of the tonno
askin you if you want some candy an should they get out.

     as ever sick of the army
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

We crossed into the Fodderland yesterday. After scrappin about it for
four years nobody seemed to give a rap any more than if wed been
draggin in a load of hay. You remember how the papers used to say if
we ever drove the Fritzes back to Germany we could never get across
the border. Proper Gander, every word of it. They didnt even have a
fence around it.

We just crossed a little river no wider than Silver Creek an there we
was. No screamin wimmin, no stray shots out of attiks, no awtrocities.
Nobody even took the trouble to come out an hiss at us. It made
everybody feel pretty low I can tell you. The only ones that took any
interest at all was a bunch of kids in soldiers caps an stand up
collars like your father wears. They seemed to think we was goin to
show in their town an trotted along beside us to watch the big tent go
up.

Wed all been plannin for some time on committin a few good awtrocities
as soon as we got into Germany just to liven things up a bit.

As usual tho when the Captins runnin the party anything sporty is
ruled out. The only awtrocities hell let us commit is makin faces at
the Fritzes. The whole thing has been an awful disappointment. This
country aint no diferent from France or the one we just left. It aint
even colored diferent like it is on the map.

Theres a fello from Milwawke in our battery named Joe Bush. It
certinly helps to have somebody around that speaks German. Last night
Joe told me hed found a regular bed in one of the Fritz houses that
the oficers seemed to have missed. He traded me half of it for a
package of cigarets. Back to the hay barn for me tonite.

A German bed is like a loaf of bread thats rose to much. Its so high
you need a chair to get onto it. I guess youd need a coroner if you
ever rolled off it. When I first got up on it I couldnt make out where
the bed close was. Then I found there was two matdresses, one about
four feet thick an the other on top about a foot thick. Your supposed
to sleep between them like a sanwidge. The little matdress is built
so it just reaches from your neck to your ankles if you aint to tall.
You can get the idear by lyin down an puttin a sofa pillo over you.
Ether the Fritzes has awful tuff feet or there built like a pocket
drinkin cup. I tried rollin up like a dog till Joe caught onto it to.

[Illustration: "A GERMAN BED IS LIKE A LOAF OF BREAD THATS ROSE TO
MUCH"]

Well, Mable, in about an hour I felt like I was in the hot room of a
Turks bath. I dont see how the Germans is so fat if they sleep between
these things.

The young girl in a kimony on the cover of the Murad boxes gives you
an idear how you sleep on a German bed. I never knew why she looked so
discouraged before.

The old fello that owned the bed seemed kind of scared at first. I
guess he thought after we found what it was like we might commit a few
awtrocities just to put us to sleep.

We agreed to call off the awtrocities if hed leave his Frow cook us up
a mess of waffles toot sweet. Frow is what they call there wives,
Mable. I guess its short for Frowsie.

I got to start in forgettin my French now an begin on Dutch. I bet I
talk pigen Inglish when I get home. I dont have much trouble with
languiges tho. I can say quite a few things already like "Ya" and
"Nine" an "Vas iss." Thats all right if your Just out for a social
time but it aint any good in commershul life.

Its no use tellin you to rite I never get your letters.

     yours disgustedly
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

We crossed the Rine day before yesterday. It was Friday the 13th but
the bridge held up in spite of it. The Rine didnt look like much to
me. Im not much of a judge of rivers tho. Its been rainin for three
days an it would take an awful lot of water in one place to make much
impreshun on me.

We all thought we was goin to a town by the name of Coblence. The Mess
sargent had told us everybody was to have a room to himself an that
most of the time when we wasnt at the movies wed be canoin up an down
the river. The armies got an idear tho that if you let a soldier get
near anything thats worth while hell take it to pieces an cart it
away. So they saved Coblence by goin around it.

That night we stuck the horses and guns in the front yard of a Chatto.
It looked more like Central Park to me. The fello that owned the place
was standin at the gate when we came in. He had on a green felt hat
with the edges curled up like a derby an a feather stuck in it. I
wouldnt have been surprised if hed started to yodel. I bet he was as
glad to see us as the meesels. A regiment of field artilery walkin
around your front yard aint no grass cultivator.

This isnt a bad place to lay over for a day tho. The town is built
round a big cliff. On top is the ruins of an old cassel. Some of the
town tried to clime up the side of the cliff an got stuck half way. In
the house where Im bilited the front door is where it ought to be an
the back door opens onto the street from the third floor. I can hear
your mother sayin, "Run up in the attik, Mable, an see who that is
knockin at the back door."

Theres a little stream runnin thru the town. Its very beautiful an
full of tin cans. The sides are all bricked up. The Fritzes would make
the trees grow square if they could. The hills go straight up all
around us. I dont know how the stream ever got in here or how were
goin to get out. It certinly is a useful place for artilery. About the
only thing you could shoot out of here would be a skyrocket.

They told us we was goin to have yesterday to ourselves. Then the last
minit they made us all take a bath. In the army they dont give you
credit for knowin how or when to take a bath. They have a corperal
there to show you. The one they had on the job yesterday must have
learned from a correspondence school.

You dont get into a bath here. You take it out of something an spread
it over you. This time theyd heated a big kettle of water in a wood
shed. You dipped out a pailful an put some of it over you an the
rest over your close. Just about the time youve got a good lather
worked up the corperal says "Come on. Hurry up an get your close on.
Your eight minits is up." Ford ought to get hold of that fello. Hed
have them poppin out of the factory like corn out of a roaster.

I didnt get a bath, but I didnt need one. Me an Angus both took one
the day after the armistice was signed. There aint nothin thatll keep
a man fit like keepin clean as the poets say.

Everyones sore at these Dutchmen. They havnt got as much spirit as a
bottle of near beer. All they do is take off there hats to us like we
was a bunch of ladies an say "Tag." I thought first they was sayin
"Dog." I went to the Captin an ast him if I could clean up with the
next fello that said it.

[Illustration: "THEY TAKE OFF THERE HATS TO US"]

The Captin said Tag was just Fritz for Howdy. Then I ast him if I
could clean up half a dozen of them anyway just to get them started on
the right lines. He says "Smith, if you try any of your back alley
sanitashun around here youll be cleanin up around the gard house as
quick as we get one." He thinks hes awful funny. Thats the way it
goes, tho, Mable. One day your a quitter if you dont throw everything
but the kitchin stove at a fello and the next day they want you to
kiss him.

Im sendin you a lot of post cards I paid eighty two fennigs for. I
dont know wether that was a bargin or a fortune. I never seen any
places like these but they give you a good idear of the country. I got
to quit now cause there linin up for mess. If I ever get out of this
army I wont stand in line agen if they was handin out five dollar
bills. If you want to go to the movies with me you got to go early an
avoid the rush.

Tell Archie Wainwright I wish him a merry Crismus cause its liable to
be his last. His only chance for a happy New Year is if the war breaks
out agen.

     Until it does yours
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

Weve quit hikin at last. Not because we get anyplace tho. Why they
stopped here when there is a road goin right thru is more than I can
figger. Theres about fifty houses in this place. I guess most of them
was built as soon as the flood was dried out enuff sos they could lay
the foundashuns. I havnt seen a new house since I been in Germany. A
place that wed be puttin bronze tablets on they think has just been
built.

They seem to be short on everything over here. From what I seen they
live mostly on potadoes. The only thing they get enuff of is mud. Our
guns is parked in a field an if we stay here much longer well have to
blast to get them out.

The Captin says the rules on letter ritin is off an we can say where
we are. The only thing we cant do is criticize the army. I dont know
where we are an I couldnt spell it anyhow so theres not much to rite
about.

We sleep in rooms now insted of barns. The Dutch dont seem to care
much. I can hear your mother if four tramps came walkin into her front
parlor an went to sleep on the floor. The old fello that owns the room
thinks were crazy because we have to open our windos every night. He
told Joe Bush there wasnt any use makin a fire for us cause when he
spent the whole evenin gettin the room full of heat wed open the windo
an let it all out. When we first got into that room I guess it had the
original heat his granfather put in it.

Crismus is only a few days away. I suppose theyll let us sleep half an
hour extra for a Crismus present an then forget to tell the buglers
like they did last year. About all it amounted to was standin around
in the rain half an hour longer for mess.

I havnt had my feet under a table now in four months. Theyve gotten so
big since I been wearin these army shoes that I dont know if theyll go
under any more. When I get home Ill probably pile my whole dinner in a
soup plate an take it out in the back yard.

All feelin aside, Mable, it certinly will be good to get my food
seperated agen. These fellos would pour your coffee over your dinner
if there was any room. When you come up to the kitchin the first K.P.
sticks a piece of meat in the bottom of your mess kit. Thats a sort of
a foundashun. Then a spoonful of loose potadoes hit it like a soft
nose bullet an thats the last you see of your meat. The next fello
covers that with a quart of gravy an sticks a pickle in the top with
his thum like inlaid work. The last one levels it off with a piece of
bread slammed on like a cover. Angus says its a wise man that knows
his own dinner unless hes got a good memory.

[Illustration: "LEVELS IT OFF WITH A PIECE OF BREAD"]

Ive learned to put down an awful lot of food, tho, in less time than
it takes to chew it. You got to be fast if you want any seconds. Some
of these fellos must store up there food like squirrels cause there
finished an back in the line before its moved ten places. Theres
always some smart alex that washes up his mess kit an pretends hes
just come up from the picket line. We got a mess sargent tho that
makes Shylock Homes look like a night watchman. He could tell
yesterdays greece from todays if you scoured your mess kit with
sandpaper.

The Fritzes are more balled up on there money than the French. These
fellos dont even know what the stuffs worth themselves. They have two
kinds of money, fennigs an marks. I dont know wether marks make
fennigs or fennigs make marks. I know they both make me tired. Its
about as easy to buy anything here as it is to check up a Chinese
lawndry bill. They tell you the price of a thing in fennigs an marks.
Then you got to figger that into franks an figger what its all worth
in United States. Just to give your mind a little exercise fennigs an
marks aint the same more than five minites. Everybody has there own
idear of what there worth an the fello thats doin the sellin never has
the same idear that you have.

The first time I bought a glass of beer in Germany it took me so long
to pay for it I almost got arrested for bein out after taps. We never
did decide the thing. The reason none of these fellos over here never
get spiffed is because they make you pay after every drink. Youd be
more likely to die of thirst.

I havnt received no Crismus box yet. Im glad you an your mother did as
I told you an didnt pay any atenshun to those slips I sent you for
curiosities. If thered been any chance of sendin you anything Id have
done it. You dont want to feel bad about that tho, cause this idear of
looking at Crismus like a horse swap is all wrong. I certinly hope you
have a merry Crismus. Youll probably get this letter sometime in
August.

     Yours optimistically
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

Another Crismus an New Years has gone by. I wonder where theyll pick
out for me to spend my next one. I wish I could get hold of a geografy
an see what places are left. One of these days I may be able to get a
furlo for Crismus if we happen to be fightin some country right near
home. Then I can tell you how all the different nashuns spend there
holidays.

I knew thered be some string on sleepin late Crismus mornin. The day
before there was a couple of fellos late to revelry. They were fellos
whod never done any work anyway so I couldnt see how it mattered much.
The Captin said hed been plannin on lettin us sleep till seven o'clock
Crismus but if we couldnt learn to make revelry wed have to keep on
practisin gettin up at six. It seems to me if a fello dont know how to
do that now he never will. If I get up at six the first Crismus I
spend home itll be six in the evening you can bet.

Crismus mornin they lined us all up an gave each fello a little box
marked "Greetins from the Folks at Home." Only they didnt say whose
folks. Inside there was some tobacco an cigarets an chockolate an the
like. Angus thinks theres something foney about it somewhere. He says
like as not theyll take it out of our next pay roll or our A Lot
Meants. Angus would think you had some axe to grind if you pulled
him out of a burnin buildin.

[Illustration: "THEY LINED US ALL UP"]

We didnt have nothin to do Crismus but take care of the horses an "the
usual policin." That left me with almost an hour in the middle of the
day without anything to do. I was goin to rite you a letter but I felt
kind of drowsy. Ever since I been in the army Ive said that my first
duty was to keep fit so I went to sleep insted. Patriotic. Thats me
all over, Mable.

The reasen I got a chance to rite this letter is because some horse
stepped on my foot the other day an I cant walk. It wasnt any
accident. That horse an me never got along. Hes been layin for me ever
since I brushed his teeth with a curry brush. The more I see of horses
the more I want to meet the fello that wrote Black Buty. He must have
learned about horses in a carpenter shop. Im goin to rite a book about
them when I get home that will put the S.P.C.A. out of business. I got
to stop ritin now an answer sick call with my foot. Yesterday they
gave me some pills. I suppose today theyll look at my tongue an tell
me its my stummick thats out of order.

Well, Mable, I havnt had so much as a pictur post card from you in two
weeks. I hope that fello Archie Wainwright aint botherin you agen
cause our hospittles is crowded enuff now. Im still a gentleman but if
I ever catch him moldin your hammick around his figger--well, Mable,
Id talk it over with him cause I seen enuff blood shed already.

     yours doubtfully till I hear
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

I got the first real news for you Ive had since I joined the army.
Were comin home toot sweet. Theres an outfit on its way up here now to
relieve us. It certinly will relieve me. Just a couple of weeks longer
an then no more square heads, no more flannel bandages around my legs,
no more engins without cowcatchers. It wont seem right at first. I
expect Ill feel like I was A.W.O.L. an run around the corner every
time I see a policeman. Theres one man they neednt be afraid of ever
startin any more wars an his names Smith. If I ever have a son an he
so much as starts off with his left foot hes goin to have the worst
lickin you ever heard of.

A General inspected us today. I cant help feelin sorry for his wife.
She must spend most of her time lookin for a new hired girl. If he
ever said anything nice to anybody I bet hed come back an apologize.
Hes the kind of a fello that eats his own young.

Everybody knew the General wasnt comin over to hang no wreaths around
nobodies neck. So we all slicked up pretty well to humor him.

Everything would have gone off as well as you could have expected if
it hadnt been for that horse. A jokes all right in its place but its
place aint under a General. The horse was so big that the General like
to have bust gettin up. As soon as he got set the horse took a couple
of steps. Then he sat down in the mud like a dog an let out a groan.

Of course it was all off then. By the time hed coaxed that horse up to
the battery he was so sore hed have found rust on the perly gates an
put Saint Peter under arrest for not bein shaved.

When he got around to my seckshun I thought he was about due to be out
of breath. I had a little rip in my pants that I hadnt had time to sew
up. Nothing anybodied notice. Just my knee stickin thru. That fello
could see a hole in your undershirt tho. When he came up to me he
looked me over like I was a windo dummy that he didnt care much about.
Then he says to the Captin "What do you mean by lettin a man stand
inspeckshun like that?"

The Captin looked at me surprised like hed never seen me before. Then
he turns to the sargent an says "Sargent, I want a report on why was
that man permitted to stand inspeckshun in that condishun." They all
talk as if they were doin me a favor by lettin me stand inspeckshun.
Ill tell the world I didnt go around an ask nobodies permishun.

The sargent looked at my pants kind of hurt like I hadnt ast for a
new pair thirty seven times. After the General had put the whole
battery under arrest an rode away to get some raw meat he sighed like
a fello that everybodies agenst. Then he turns to the corperal an says
"What the this an that do you mean by gettin me in Dutch, you big
space filler?"

So the corperal stuck me on detail manacurin the streets for a couple
of days. About all there is left for me is to go around an kick a few
horses in the stummick after dark.

The funny part about it is that everybody knew there hadnt been no
pants ishued since we got here. Half the fellos in the battery is
comin thru in places the General couldnt see because he was mounted.
That dont make no difference. A fellos knees aint got no rights in
this mans army. I wish I was a Lady from Hell an I wouldnt have to
bother about pants. Thats tecknickle, Mable. I dont guess youll get
it.

They call this passin the buck. In the army they got it fixed up so
that nothin aint ever nobodies fault. Its always on the next fello
down. That works out pretty good unless you happen to be on the bottom
step like me. I dont know why they call it passin the buck. I never
saw it pass him yet.

Your Crismus box came yesterday. It sure was good of you to send it
after all I said. At least a good part of it came considerin one end
of the box was gone. There was enuff left to give me an idear of what
had been in it. The only reason that any of it got here was because
theyd set so many things on top of it that some of the stuff got kind
of baled an stuck to the insides.

The thing that struck us most was the size of the box. Whoever got
that up must have thought that the folks at home was goin to send us
jewelrey for Crismus. I didnt care cause I knew it wasnt your falt.
Joe took it kind of hard tho cause he forgot to send any slips home an
he was kind of countin on me.

I got six letters from you all at once a couple of days ago. You must
carry them around in your pocket a week or two like I do when anybody
gives me a bunch to mail. I didnt care about anything tho when I read
that Archie Wainwright had gone an married that little snub nosed
thing across the street. I guess he must have been tipped off that
nobodied given him the freedom of the city. Some reason or other tho I
feel madder at him than I did before. I guess theres got to be a
casulty when I get home anyway.

[Illustration: "THAT LITTLE SNUB NOSED THING ACROSS THE STREET"]

I aint goin to rite any more cause the sargent ast me to help him out
this afternoon cleanin the guns. I dont like to leave him to do it all
alone when were so near the finish. Tell the good news to your father
an mother.

     Yours on the home stretch
          _Bill_


_Dere Mable:_

Here I am ritin you at the govermints expense for the last time. Were
in the same place where we first rested almost a year ago. It hasnt
changed much except theyve gotten in more mud an tents since then an
there aint so many boats to unpack.

Weve turned in our Soizant Canses to some monument factory. Weve said
good by to our horses for ever. The last thing one of them did was to
try an kick me as I went past. Thats there idea of gratitude. Now we
got less to do than the doboys cause we havnt even got rifles to
clean. This is the last letter youll ever get from me in France. If I
have my say about it its the last letter youll ever get from me
anywhere. I never want to get out of telefone range agen. Our boat is
all ready. This will probably travel over on the same boat with me. I
wanted to rite you from the A.E.F. for the last time. An by the way,
Mable, that dont mean Am Expectin Flowers but Am Extremely Fortunate.

There aint much to say just like there aint much to do. I feel awful
funny. I cant exactly explain it. Of course I want to go home. Thats
all Ive wanted to do since November. At the same time I feel kind of
sad like you do when your comin back to work from your summer
vacashun. We been in the old army so long, an weve done the same
things an cussed at them so many times, that you get sort of fond of
the whole business just like you do any job that takes an awful long
time an a lot of hard work to finish, but that youve finished. I guess
you could get sentimental about piece work in a factory--after youd
quit.

I never thought when I sat here in the mud last May an rote you how Id
escaped from the pearls of the sea, as the poets say, that Id ever sit
here agen an rite you that I was comin home. I never menshuned this of
course for fear it would worry you. Now that its all over tho its all
right to talk about it. It wasnt that I was scared cause I guess you
know that I was never scared of nothin. Nerveless. Thats me all over,
Mable. But I used to think of how hard youd take it when you saw it in
the papers, an how people would come an look at your house an shake
there heads an walk away. Some of them would pull out a lace
hankercheff out of there neck or sleeve or wherever you carry those
things. Theyd touch up there eyes a bit an say "I knew him well,"
wether they did or not.

You know, Mable, that once or twice when I get lyin awake at night
thinkin about all that stuff I came pretty near cryin myself it struck
me as so sad. The one I liked to think of best tho was the minister
sayin a few butiful words about me Sunday. All the people was turnin
around to look at you. You were cryin quiet like an your mother was
tryin to keep the tears from spottin the red Moroko himnal.

An here I am safe an sound without even a wound stripe. I feel the
same way that I did when I came across on the boat without getting
sunk. It aint fair to you somehow or other. I kind of cheated somehow,
tho for the life of me I cant figer how. It makes me into a sort of a
third class crook but Im glad to be one.

Theres been an awful lot of talk in the papers an magazines about how
were comin home changed men. I dont believe your goin to have any
trouble recognizin me, Mable. Perhaps Ive gotten a little stouter.
Thats about all. Even the Captin, whose been with me ever since we
started, was sayin to me the other day "Smith, I cant see any
difference in you since the first day you came into the army."

I got thinkin the other night what a lot of good yarns I had to spin
when I got home. I was plannin on how people would probably ask me
around to dinner sos I could amuse em with stories about the war. I
happened to menshun it to Angus an he says yes an there was about two
milyun others plannin the same thing. He says the stuff about the
folks that stay at home sufferin the most was never truer than it is
just now.

So Ive just sworn off talkin war when I get home. I aint never goin to
get like that fello down in Henrys barber shop that just sits around
all day tryin to get somebody to lissen to the Battle of Gethisburg.

I may have speshul occashuns when I let loose. Like once in a while
when were sittin alone evenins in the little house with the green
blinds that aint built yet. Then Ill get out the helmet that belonged
to the red headed Fritz an the looger pistel an the irun crosses. Ill
tell you how the big ones sounded when they went over the dug-out. Ill
show you how Fritz says Kamarad. Ill tell you about bilets an mud an
Top sargents an whiz bangs. Perhaps once a year, say Crismus or
something, Ill tell about goin over the top. I got to get that out of
my sistem once in a while.

The rest of the time Im goin to be just plain Mr. Bill Smith, docter
or brick layer or lawyer or street car conductor--anything in fact
that hasnt got any horses connected with it.

[Illustration: "IM GOING TO BE JUST PLAIN MR. BILL SMITH"]

So good by for a while. The next time you here from me itll be the
scrapin of my hobnails on the front stoop. Then look out. Impulsive.
Thats me all over, Mable.

          _Bill_


THE END





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