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SBButler Letters, March 1919

March 5, 1919
March 12, 1919
March 19, 1919
March 23, 1919
March 25, 1919
March 30, 1919

Letters to Eva March 1919


35 Brussels
March 5, 1919. [Wed.]


Dear Mother,

Four full days have gone by, with little opportunity to record them. They are somewhat of a mixture.

Saturday there was Antwerp. It is much different from Brussels. First, though Brussels is a Flemish city, French is the approved language & the most used language in the shops and everywhere. But Antwerp is predominantly Flemish. You see the Dutch-like faces, you see the store signs most all in Flemish and not in the two languages, and you try to talk your pigeon-toed French to some of the people without success, though in most of all shops they understood it. Then, Antwerp is as silent as the grave, beside Brussels; no street hawkers, no great noise, no great gaity. But it is beginning to resurrect. There are the same delightful pastry shops everywhere, that one finds in Brussels, and all the stores seem to be doing a fair business.

Antwerp is about an hour's run from here at present. One notes the distinct flatness & dampness as one approaches it; it's as near to Holland as we shall get. Upon arrival a quartermaster officer, whose rank wasn't on his raincoat, attached himself to us - a middleaged man who was formerly a grain merchant from Pittsburgh. I speak of him because he comes into the story later, having caused us both considerable amusement & likewise chagrin. We saw first the zoological gardens for which Antwerp is famous; while the fierce animals were all killed during the early days of the war to prevent their running amuck in case their cages should be broken open by the bombardment, there is still a very fine collection on exhibit - animals & fish from all over the world - even a common eel & perch from America. From there we found our way to the quais. Shipping is Antwerp's life and the traveler must always see its quais. They are very extensive, and must present a very busy appearance when going full blast; of course they have been dead for some years, and are just beginning to come to life again. There has been grass growing on many of them, even, and for a bit of local color, I took a photograph of one grass grown quay, side of which rested an old rusty disused barge, as probably a fair picture of conditions during the occupation. Between many of the quais only barges can go, and there were numerous fleets of them Saturday morning, all in gala attire, with their clotheslines full, for Saturday is wash day. I also have that one on camera. The quais are piled with all sorts of products from all over the world - some with lumber, some with boxed goods, some with grain, - everything. We even found two great sheds in which were piled blocks of Canadian alfalfa tops, compressed by some method similar to baling hay - blocks perhaps 1 1/2 ft square & 3 in. thick. They were something entirely new to all of us, even the grain merchant admitted it. We made our way from the quais to the exquisitely beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame; I can't describe it, only as I have just qualified it, and as a Gothic structure, with one high tower. Inside there is fine wood carving everywhere, lovely stained glass windows, which are both midiaeval and modern work - and then, as you go down the great nave thru the center, you see what to me is the most beautiful piece of work I have ever seen, the Cathedral's choir. The wood-carving seems like lace work - it is on either side of the passage from the nave to the alter - it seems hard to understand how anything could be made so perfectly. Perhaps it is helped, too, as you view it from the nave, by the Rubens' Assumption of the Virgin over the altar, and then by the whole setting in which you see it. On either side of the choir, practically facing the two aisles are two other great Rubens' pictures, the Elevation of the Cross, and his masterpiece, the Descent from the Cross. Between the two, if you look way up at a dome above, you see another "Assumption of the Virgin" painted thereon, by one of the VanDycks, I think; at any rate, a pupil of Rubens. There is also in this cathedral DaVinci's Head of Christ, painted on marble, from which you get the perfect illusion of having the eyes follow you whichever way you turn. And there are others. The pictures were all kept hidden in the cellar while the Germans were here & our guide took great delight in telling how the Kaiser came to see them, and had to go away without doing it. Oh, yes, and the grain merchant! Well, there were two English officers listening to the same guide with us - that made matters worse. They weren't in hearing distance when he, after looking some time at the Rubens' paintings, opined that the artist "must have been some dauber". But it was directly to them that he said, after seeing the DaVinci, "Let's see, DaVinski, he was an Eye-talian painter, wasn't he? How did his picture ever get up here?"! I was never so ashamed to be with anyone in my life. But we have had a number of laughs over him since.

Our acquaintance left us at noon, and in the afternoon Lucian & I visited the Hotel de Ville. It is nothing to look at on the outside, but inside there is some fine woodwork and decorative marble - black, amber, & mixed. The Salle des Neys is a room with historical paintings by the modern painter of that name, and the Salle des Mariages is very interesting by reason of the series of paintings about its walls depicting different forms of marriage ceremonies from the earliest Belgians to the first civil ceremony in 1790. In the burgomaster's office there are over the fireplace the four letters SPQA, which are some Latin inscription, an Antwerpian motto, as nearly as I can make out. At any rate, some Germans during the occupation wanted to know the meaning of those letters, and were told "Sals Prussiens Quittent Anvers" (as nearly as I could get it from the guide) - which is "Dirty Prussians are leaving Antwerp". Thereafter a popular inscription among the Germans.

We did no more sight-seeing after the Hotel de Ville, but wandered about Antwerp, thru quaint streets, and all about, in my usual search for local color. A couple of bits on my camera will I hope be interesting.

I fear I must leave the other three days till later.


36 Le Havre
12 March 1919. [Wed. ]


Dear Mother,

Look at that [note - small arrow pointing to the date]! But to continue - We've been covering no little amount of ground. Let's see, it's on a week ago Sunday I must begin. That's the morning the time changed, and we kept figuring out, even arguing it out, that the time changed back not forwards. Thus we missed the music of a high mass at the church of St. Gudule, and were late to an appointment with the Thys'. At any rate we found thereby a delightful little tea room, which has been a favorite haunt for light meals the rest of our stay. We were taken out to Tervueren, an attractive suburb of Brussels, where we saw first a giant Congo museum - filled with exhibits of every sort from the Belgian Congo - products of the country, native handiwork, religious fetishes of every weird kind, dancing masks in grotesque shapes, stuffed animals of the region - a complete Congo exhibit. It was extremely interesting and brought me into almost a new unknown world. Gen. Thys, the now deceased head of the house, and many of the family have had extensive interests in the Congo. For years he was in disfavor with Leopold II because he stood up and told him what he thought of the treatment the natives were receiving.

From there we went to the Royal Golf club - I with many misgivings, for I saw no graceful way to get out of playing, and I have played just once before in my life. There was indeed no way out of it, and after adorning ourselves with golf coats instead of our blouses, & neckties over our stocks, and I with a civilian cap - all from the lockers of some absent members of the family - Luty & I essayed forth to risk being seen by a professional or two, and, hardest of all, the scorn & titter of the lordly genus caddy. As it proved, Luty played a good game, but I stumbled erratically thru 18 holes, with no spectators, however, except our caddies, and mine was unusually most condescending. We unfortunately forgot the camera in our rush out in the morning, and shall always regret we couldn't immortalize ourselves in the rigs we had on.

It is quite lovely country out there, gently hilly, and with numerous forests of tall straight trees. I find European forests in general kept well, and a rigid conservation policy seems to be maintained in both France & Belgium at least.

In the evening we occupied the Thys' box at the opera in the Theatre Royal, where La Boheme was being sung. That was another treat.

Monday we had an extensive program which would get us up at 6:00 in the morning & bring us back in the middle of the evening with Waterloo the following day, Liege and Louvaine being the objectives, for I wanted to see something of the area affected in the first onrush of the Germans in 1914. But the tap on our door at 6:00 didn't find us in an up-and-going mood. So we looked at each other about five minutes, then shut the window again, drew the curtains, & knew nothing more till noon. In the middle of the afternoon we went out to Louvain for about an hour's stay. There we saw the great library which was ruthlessly burned by the Germans, and signs of the early days of the war on many other buildings. The Hotel de Ville there is quite different from any others I have seen - a tall building occupying a small area, covered with carved figures in regular rows on the outside, with four rows of little windows in the roof, and with conical spires surrounded at two intervals by a narrow round platform. Luty thought it a blot on the landscape, but I really quite liked it for its uniqueness, and I believe Luty wasn't quite yet over our 6 o'clock feeling.

In the evening we ran across an American naval officer in the hotel and chatted for some time with him. He is an attache of the American embassy in London, apparently in service only for the war, for he has been a professor at Columbia - Van Koffen, I think his name was. Sailor Jack we got so we called him, but I don't believe he has ever saw a ship. He's terribly simple-minded and afforded us no little amusement. He had known me exactly one minute when he pushed a book at me and asked me if I had ever read that. It was a volume of war poems by himself! - each one dedicated to some person and the whole dedicated to Josephus Daniels & Lord Northcliffe jointly!

Tuesday morning we got up bright and early for Waterloo. Miss Thys wanted to go with us, too, for she hadn't been since she was five years old. I say bright & early, but a drizzling rain greeted us. However the accounts say that the great day at Waterloo started out the same way, so it helped to live over the day. The battlefield is somewhat south of the village of Waterloo - and presents a peaceful rural aspect of turnip and cabbage fields, & pasture ground - except for a small area about the great Lion monument. There are there little restaurants, curio stores, postcard counters, etc. which are grown up for the tourists. The Lion Monument is on a large artificial conical mound of earth, which it takes 225 steps to mount. From it one obtains a splendid view of the entire battlefield & the country thereabouts. I stood in the rain with my maps & guide book and after some study got fairly well oriented & got the rough outlines of the battle worked out in my mind. Then we went down and looked at the great panoramic picture of the battle painted about the inside of the walls of a cylindrical building at the foot of the monument. It helped get the details of the battle in mind some better, and then, while Lou & Miss Thys waited in one of the restaurants & dried out, I tramped all over the battlefield with the camera, got pictures from English & from French positions, tried to reconstruct & live over the great battle of a century ago as nearly as I could put it together from the limited material I had. I fear that the rainy day will prove to have made my pictures impossible, but I hope to be happily disappointed. For think what generations of the American youth may profit thereby in future years!

I emerged mud-covered and soaked thru all my water-proofing, only to find that time had run away with me, and that we had to wait an extra three or four hours for a car, which in time entailed absolute impossibility for a projected trip to Bruges the same afternoon, for a day. It was disappointing to miss Bruges but I felt pretty well satisfied with my Waterloo day, & so, compensated.

Wednesday we did a bit more shopping in Brussels, took a walk in a hitherto unexplored section of the city on a nice springlike afternoon, had a last afternoon tea in our delightful tea room, then left for our unknown route down thru the front to Toul & Major June. I wanted Verdun most of anything, & it was my chief idea in starting in the direction we did, but, as it proved, we never got there. We left Brussels with almost a pang, for we became very much attached to it, & the life there, particularly by way of contrast to what we must return to here.

Wednesday night we only got as far as Namur on our route. We searched in vain for transportation of some sort to get us on to Dinant, because we wanted to get as far on as possible anyway, & because I conceived the fancy that living a night in Dinant, where the Germans waged so much destruction & killed so many innocent persons, and talking to the people there, would be very unique, & it would make so much more vivid to us just what had happened there. [note - in the AEF scrapbook, there is a booklet account of the massacre and burning at Dinant of men, women, and children as a retaliation measure for the villagers welcoming the French Army into the town during a battle in 1914. ] But at Namur we had to stay, not only for the night but all next morning, because at the station itself we were misinformed about the hour of the morning train. However Namur was interesting. It is at the junction of the Sambre & Meuse rivers, on both sides of both rivers. Down at the junction, high land along both valleys meets in a pointed bluff, called the Citadel, for it is elaborately fortified for the defense of the city. We walked all up around the old forts, still sprinkled with useless obsolete cannon, and with elaborate passage-ways, places of refuge, ammunition vaults, and so on. We also had a splendid view up the Meuse valley (south), and it was in that direction we took our train in the afternoon. The Meuse valley is most picturesque particularly in this Belgian Ardennes country, and being on our first uncrowded train, it was all the more enjoyable to travel thru it. The country is quite wild and tempting for summer tramps and rides, also for fishing and boating which is said to be very good there. There are many green rock formations, such as in one place one single layer about three feet wide at the most sticking up into the air for 50 or 75 ft. , like a great scythe-blade; in another place there is a road that goes right thru a natural hole in a rock projecting out over it; and the guide book tells of grottoes near by, with stalactites and such weird things. I want to know that country more intimately some time. We passed Dinant, so at least saw it from the train. It, like Namur is overshadowed by a great natural citadel above the city. The limit of the little road we were on was Givet, a tiny citadel-crowned town in a little lip of France which sticks up into Belgium. We arrived there in a drizzling rain to find that the only train for the day, which went further south, had gone at 10:45 in the morning. So we had lost a whole day by that bit of misinformation at Namur. We found that the railroad only went about 20 kilometers below, to Fumay, after which the railroad was cut and had not yet been repaired; so that from there for some distance we should have to rely on hooked rides in motor trucks. We established ourselves at the Great Hotel of the White Horse and then searched for other means to get out of Givet than by rail to Fumay. Our efforts were finally rewarded by the discovery of a French soldier who was taking a truck thru to Mezieres the next morning, & agreed to carry us along. Then we went back, warmed up by the Great Hotel of the White Horse's only stove - the kitchen range, got a candle & ascended to the royal suite, which boasted one sheet on each bed, covered next by a very doubtful blanket. So we shrouded ourselves in the one sheet and got rested for our strenuous over-the-road journey the next day. It was going to get us to Mezieres before 11 o'clock, so that we could take a train for Rheims or get more transportation in thru Sedan & Verdun for Toul. However fortune willed otherwise. The two Americans must have Jonah-fied the truck, for after several balks, it decided some ten miles down the road that it didn't want to go any further. We next hailed another passing truck - a French military truck carrying flour - and had a flour bag ride the rest of the way. Just outside Rocroi, an interesting little village banked on all sides by four- century-old fortifications (I took the natives' word), the driver stopped for a leisurely two hours & lunch at a road-house. The Frenchman always has plenty of time. We got the proprietress to fix up an omelette for us, and sat around by the welcome fire, until the driver decided to move along. We made good time to Charleville, just across from Mezieres, & arrived soon after three. As usual, we searched the first thing for a way to get out. The slowness & uncertainty of motor truck transportation, & the rapidly approaching end of our leave time made it seem advisable to give up any attempt to proceed the long journey thru Sedan & Verdun to Toul - for we were really only half way to Toul from Brussels then. Our best bet proved to be the next morning train for Rheims, where we could get connections going east for Toul. We stayed overnight in Charleville at the Great Hotel of the Silver Lion - electric lights & two sheets - after a little afternoon tour of the city & its twin, Mezieres. They were captured by the French in the very last few days of the war, and show the effects of the struggle everywhere, but not so completely as later places we have seen. The best house in Charleville was an important headquarters for the German Crown Prince.

Our journey to Rheims was of course our second crossing of the front. For a long distance out of Mezieres you see very little evidence of the late struggle - quite extensive untouched forest, a large evergreen nursery perfectly whole, I noticed also - but if there is a village or a house, there has usually something happened. Finally however, you arrive at the great barren belt which marks the war area of the last four years everywhere; first shallow lines of trenches from time to time, which I think were in most cases intended reserve lines to be dug more thoroughly if ever occupied. That is a bit of revelation, for one would have you believe that behind the front trench systems of lines there were for miles & tens of miles to the rear equally elaborately dug reserve lines. But I can't find that such is the case, and from what I have seen of the front, I believe that behind the front lines & the immediate reserves actually occupied during the long period when the war was stationary, there was little elaborate field fortification work done, trenches not even being constructed according to the approved manner & dimensions prescribed by the Field Fortification text books. The great German lines back thru Northern France and Belgium must have been a myth. I have seen no evidence of them. But the occupied positions in the long stationary period were elaborately constructed - because, of course, they were there & must do something, and could keep adding & adding, and digging & digging. Near the village of Witny-lez-Reims we came to the long stationary front in this sector, - confused masses of trenches, barbed wire, dugouts, & razed villages. By the way, the barbed wire is another revelation, for it is practically all low - a foot or two above the ground - belting the ground with a band perhaps a rod wide in the usual cases. I was taught, I am sure, that high wire was equally used with low wire, if, in fact, that it wasn't the rule. I can say most positively, it is not true.

Rheims is a huge ruin, perhaps the greatest ruin of the war. We had no time to see much of it, & couldn't even walk up as far as the Cathedral but we could see it and all the town very well from the railway. I did go up a little way into the city to get something to eat while Lou secured our seats on the train south to Epernay, leaving in an hour. Epernay is the center of the Champagne country - with both capital & small "c". Great vineyards are evident all about it and there are large champagne factories ("factory" doesn't seem right - but it can't be brewery or distillery, & if there is a corresponding word for a wine manufacturing plant, I don't know it) in the city. We got our supper there, and waited for the midnight express east to Toul. It was an alleged express all the way, without changes, but at Bar-le-Duc, at 3:30 A. M. we were dumped out and loaded on another train, already full, so stood up most of the time till 7:30 when we arrived at Toul.

We found Major June at Caseme Jeanne d'Arc, outside of Toul, where he is located in quite a nice camp on high country, occupied by the 2nd Army Supply Train, which he commands. He is also now Chief Motor Transport Officer of the 2nd Army, headquarters of which are at Toul. He is the same old Pop, and surely seemed good to see him. His room is like a brass workshop, for he has for a hobby getting all sorts of articles made up from salvaged battlefield materials - shells & bullets & what-not picked up from the battlefields by himself. With him we toured the whole St. Mihiel salient, above Toul, but not by train or foot, quite the contrary, by Cadillac. I am surely thankful not to have missed that day, & the opportunity to go over an American battlefield. The St. Mihiel salient was strongly held by the Germans and there was surely elaborate work there in the way of dug-outs, machine gun emplacements, trench lines, and barbed wire. It is quite a maze now with the churning up that the guns have given it, and there is no room for doubt in ones mind that something has happened there lately. We took a number of pictures on the camera and picked up a few small relics ourselves, including a brass shell case, which I hope to make into a few souvenirs. The villages in the salient are beaten down to pulp; in some there are hardly a wall of a house over the height of a man. It was an impressive trip, and the chance to see it now, when scarcely anything has been cleared up is of infinitely more value than a similar trip a few years hence.

The Major left somebody to get him a 3 day leave to Paris, while we were gone, & when we returned found that he had his leave, and, right after supper started out on an all night ride to Paris in the Cadillac. We lost our way several times but finally arrived about eight in the morning. While there we took time to go out and see the great Palace at Versailles, but had no time to go in; furthermore we still had the mud of St. Mihiel on our boots. The rest of our time was spent poking about the streets trying to find our way amid fog, myriads of taxis & other vehicles, & confusing streets. Our chief accomplishments were to get the brakes fixed on the car, get a breakfast at the University Union, and get our tickets for return to Le Havre. We imitated the French & rolled into our train an hour ahead of time, said good-bye to the Major, and completed the last leg of our journey.

I feel that our two weeks have been well worth while - we have done so many different things and at the same time had rest, recreation, & change. I have thoroughly enjoyed it all, & am glad not to have gone back without it. There couldn't be a better traveling companion than Lou; he has been so ready for anything, and agreeable to anything, that I'm afraid I took too much advantage of it to take in everything which suited my fancy. No one could surely complain at having both good company & their own way.

There is other news since we returned, but I'll reserve that for a later letter.

Lots of love to you & all
Sylvester

I'm not reading the letter over as I want to get it in afternoon mail - so much by way of explanation of all errors.
I purchased myriads of postcards but am sending scarcely any now. Shall have them all to show you, if you ever care to have me.

S.


37 Nevers, France
19 March 1919. [Wed. ]


Dear Mother,

Another move! I am located now in Nevers, again down in the center of France, in the section known, as far as the American Army is concerned, as the Intermediate Section, S. O. S.

As soon as Lou and I returned to Le Havre from leave, we learned the news that Headquarters, Medical Officer, Cos. A, B, & C were to go to Nevers for duty under the Intermediate Section Motor Transport Officer, and after some confusion and several changes of orders, Headquarters, the Doctor, and half of Co. B left Le Havre by rail early last Saturday morning and after the usual tedious train ride, attached to freights, hung up in freight yards for long periods, & persuading French chefs de service to get you moving, we arrived in Nevers about midnight between Sunday & Monday. Co. C started the same day for La Pallice to drive motor transportation from there to a big repair center at Romorantin for about three weeks, then to report here. Co. A started the same day to drive transportation overland to Romorantin & entrain there for this station but have since been ordered back to Le Havre. The other half of Co. B is still at Le Havre waiting to take some transportation overland and then come here. Co. D has been at Tours - Headquarters S. O. S. - for a month, and Cos. E & F are still at Le Havre. So we are pretty well split up and it's hard to tell what's going to happen next, particularly with Co. A being ordered back to Le Havre. The half of Co. B that is here has been sent up to Vendonne on special duty as a MTC detachment with the 6th Cavalry, I have given a few clerks to the Section M. T. O. and the local Motor Command for their use, and Lieut. Fox who commands B Co. is to act in a special capacity under the Section M. T. O. If the other companies come up here, they will be detailed as wholes or parts for duty thruout the section also - which is very extensive. I have been given space to maintain my Train headquarters, and promised transportation to inspect outlying detachments when it seems to me necessary; hence may have a chance to do some more travelling around. The folks here are much more human than at Le Havre, in fact have warmed my heart no little bit by their cordiality up to the present - I've dealt with so many of the other kind that I've gotten to be terribly suspicious & watchful of everyone & even unfortunately perhaps look for motive behind friendliness. But we have all been treated most decently, and the job up here seems from every point of view thus far obtainable more desirable than Le Havre. So, if we've got to stay out the spring here, I hope to see the rest of my companies coming along. All of us, except Lieut. Doyle, are billeted in private houses in Nevers; Capt. Stuart and I took a room & alcove together, which seems quite pleasant - fireplace especially - but Stuart has been ordered away today to Grenoble and I think that probably Fox will come in with me to-morrow.

Nevers is a pleasant town, quite clean, and apparently has somewhat of a history. Of the latter I don't have much recollection, but one has only to walk about to see countless evidences of work that is centuries old. It doesn't look as though I were going to have very much to do outside of sitting in our headquarters, with occasional trips, and I have already reconciled myself to somewhat of a stay here, but hope to spend some worthwhile time in fields which are not altogether military - it may be an opportunity to get some good first hand French history, to make more of a concerted effort in acquiring the French language - and any number of things have been pouring in on my mind the last couple of days.

I'll see you sometime. Guess I'll have to get my next year's job by mail.

Pardon pencil, please, for I have no ink at the moment.

There is a Lieut. Col. Butler of the Coast Artillery stationed here. I happen to know it quite well for I had a collision with him first day over a stove and lamp which walked from one room to another, thru the alleged agency of some of my outfit. He has a bearlike cough, which is desired to produce fear & trembling, I expect, but after a little talk, he began to compare families - but we couldn't connect, he being from Louisiana but a Carolina family.

There were lots of your letters waiting for me at Le Havre when I returned from leave. I was glad to hear about Mr. Scarborough, for I have often wondered how he came thru - figuring that anybody in the 26th who got home was somewhat lucky.

None of the men of the outfit have married any French girls. I have only known one man in the Army who has done so, a Captain in the Park at Le Havre.

I was surely sorry to hear of Lottie Sage's death, and surprised also, though you had written me earlier of her sickness.

Moody's letter was interesting to all the crowd. He is probably home & back at the insurance business by now.

It seemed strange enough to be reading an account of Ralph's wedding and I am glad it went off so well and so many could be there.

Best of love to all
Sylvester

Address me
301st Supply Train Headquarters
A. P. O. 708, American E. F.


38 Nevers, France
23 March 1919. [Sun. ]


Dear Mother,

Nothing new has happened officially since last writing. I have the most comfortable headquarters the 301st Supply Train ever had, established in an old French non-commissioned officers' barracks at Caserne Pittie, this place, with no prospect of any duty than to maintain those headquarters for the companies which still belong to me but are none of them here. There is another captain here commanding another supply train who has been in exactly the same fix for over four months. I hope to have, and have been given reason to believe that I shall have, opportunity as desired to travel by motor to the stations of the different companies for the purposes of inspection & administration. One couldn't object very much to that, but I rather doubt if that will go to the extent of my visiting companies outside the Intermediate Section - the three still at Le Havre.

I have joined our officers' mess to that of the 427th Supply Train, to which I have referred above; officers of the other casual outfits also eat there. I did so largely because I had an opportunity to get 6 sergeants from the Headquarters Co. into the same mess - the first chance to get something a little out of the ordinary for them, and I welcomed it. It is a much better mess & much more reasonable than that which we had at Havre.

Nothing at Havre was good, and everything and everybody here shine by comparison.

For myself I am very comfortably fixed. I am finally living altogether alone, in the room & alcove Stuart and I had selected. I am once more sleeping under a canopy in a fine old oak bed. My fire-place has a reserve stock of 1000 lbs. of wood, and I have also an oil stove and know where I can get kerosene when I want it. As for the fireplace it makes any evening in the room worthwhile; with it I can if necessary get easily along without company, or have a cosy, warm assistant in hospitality with company. As for the oil stove, it enables me to cook eggs in the morning to suit the peculiar S. B. B. taste, & go with Madame's bread & coffee or cocoa; it enables me also in the evening to brew delicious cocoa for myself or guests, and I have other experiments in mind. I also have the makings for chocolate malted milk shakes, and keep a stock of candy, cakes, jam, canned cherries & grapes. Condensed milk cans & such are perhaps not very ornate or dignified table appointments - but it's all a new toy to play with, it helps to make things homelike, and is an aid to hospitality. Better drop in.

The postal service got adjusted much better for this last move of ours, and your letter of March 2 got here Thursday of this last week. I'm sorry Lucinthia had such a time with her hair and had to resort to that perfectly hideous Dutch cut - trust it will stop falling, though, and that the hair will come out as nice as it always used to be, again.

Lots of love to all
Sylvester


39 Nevers
25 March 1919. [Tues.]


Dear Mother,

A few omissions of Sunday and another minor detail or two before I forget them -

I received Aunt Laura's card at Christmas time, and am sure I acknowledged it. I have just mailed her another card, so as to make partial amends in case I did forget previous acknowledgment, but did not mention her Xmas card again, to avoid stultification. So much for that.

Inasmuch as the time of my arrival home becomes more uncertain rather than less so, I am taking up matters in connection with getting located for next fall by mail. This consists mainly in reestablishing relations with the Fisk agency to whom I have a lengthy letter, ready for mailing, now on my table. It will be hard for them to do much, with me at such a long distance, but I told them to fire away on the cables if something good came along, and believe my year of experience will help a great deal; also I put forward my Army experience & record as a positive factor in my candidacy - in fact, honestly believe it will help me a great deal, particularly if I can get a principalship.

I had good plans all laid for other avenues of search than the agency, based on a supposition I would be demobilized by April 1, but obviously they have gone awry. I had a perfect framework, complete structure, I guess we could call it, of plans from April 1 to Sept. 1, but then, it didn't hurt me any. I thought I had a reasonable basis, but didn't lack realization that it was not infallible.

Lieut. Thorpe is buried here, so I have had a chance to see his grave. Incidentally got a picture taken of it for his father. I've entrusted myself with a mission to his father when I return, and dread it somewhat, as the old man was terribly hard hit.

I've tried to remember everyone I ought in the postcard line once. Every once in a while I take an evening off and address a bunch, as I have to-night. I have kept no systematic record of them to whom I have sent them, so fear I may make some hideous error of omission but trust not.

I start on a motor trip Friday or Saturday to the stations of all the companies in the Train, taking Lieut. Achorn and Sgt. Callahan along with me. It will be quite a long journey, and will permit us, I hope, to take in a few new places of interest. I also hope to gather in a bit of information which will shed some light on the present uncertainty as to our future.

Am making my white sugar syrup to-night, and am planning French Toast in the morning. And if you had only been here to drink a nice rich chocolate malted milk shake with me this evening you would think you had discovered the fountain of youth.

I think this is all.

Lots of love
Sylvester.


40 Nevers, France
30 March 1919. [Sun.]


Dear Mother,

Tomorrow morning I start bright and early for my first inspection tour of all my detached companies, and expect to be 8 or 9 days in the process. It's going to be a chance to see a few extra things without going much out of the road, and without having to take leave to do it; for tomorrow night I hope to sleep in Rheims for on my short stop-off there 3 weeks ago I saw a hotel which had reopened, even though there were still a few gaping holes in it. The next day, we'll take our route to Chateau-Thierry, from there north to Belleau Wood, which will all be over ground which now holds a place in American History. After that we'll turn due west which ought to bring us to Le Havre by night. On our trip to-morrow we must pass by the vicinity, at least, of the battleground where the Huns of 1500 years ago were finally turned back by the Visigoths, Franks, & Romans (Battle of Chalons, 451 A. D. , I think).

Most of my pictures came out fairly well but my Waterloo ones were a complete fizzle, and my view of the trenches taken by the 42nd Division the first morning of the St. Mihiel attack, which was to be my special treasure, is apparently a failure. The photographer didn't try to print it, but I have given the negative to one of the young ladies where Achorn lives, who develops her own pictures, and have asked her to make a try of it, also of three or four other doubtful ones.

I took supper down at Achorn's house to-night & spent the evening. He lives with a family by the name of Meunier, plain, hospitable, and very friendly. They are all extremely fond of John, & he seems quite one of the family, and has only been there these short ten days or so. They have two girls, who speak English very well, both of them; the older, who has the photograph hobby, is an excellent pianist, and plays good music, but along with it has acquired every American popular song there is, I should think, the last couple of years; they seem to be quite thoroughly introduced here. The worst feature of that is that when the French speak of "American music" you know they refer to the above variety. The younger girl is only about 15, a little sandy haired curly haired perfect imp, always up to something; seems much more American than French.

One of my corporals has turned me out an excellent inkstand & well from the brass German shell case I picked up near St. Mihiel; in front have been soldered in on either side a French & a German machine gun bullet, and it is I think very artistic and well balanced. I am especially moved to say so, as I am the proud designer. Out of the rest of the case and some more bullets he is making me at present some paper cutters & a penholder. Pretty soon I'll have to sacrifice some more underwear or something to make room for souvenirs of Europe & the great war I fit so bloodily in.

I see by the newspapers that Dr. Baldwin is over here at an International Red Cross medical conference at Nice. I'll try to get some word to him in case he has a chance to look me up. I forgot to tell you last week that I had run into Tom Beers, while walking out of a store the other day. He's at Vermeuil, not very far from here, and I hope to run down and see him one of these days.

I haven't experimented on much of anything new in the cooking line, but was much more successful with my second trial of French toast than with the first. I find the fire place much better to fry in than on the oil stove. As for chocolate malted milks they are getting to be a habit of which I am a helpless but healthy victim.

I do work so hard though. I'm getting excellent experience for falling heir to an independent income. For a few mornings I scrambled my own eggs. But now it's "Lollis, let me know when you've got breakfast ready. " [note - this must have been his aide. There is a man of this name on the roster] I suppose there are a lot of other things I've got to learn how to do myself again someday, too - shining my own shoes, brushing my own clothes, preparing my own water for morning wash, and putting away my own dirty clothes. I do still dress myself and brush my own teeth.

Well, it's midnight, and I've got to get up at the impossible hour of seven to-morrow.

Lots of love to you and all
Sylvester.


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