A POET OF THE AIR
LETTERS OF JACK MORRIS WRIGHT
OF THE AMERICAN AVIATION IN FRANCE
APRIL, 1917-JANUARY, 1918, continued
MY VERY DEAR MOTHER: --
I am now on permission in Paris and many adventures are whirling around the May pole of my youth: meeting Carlos, walks with Bourdelle, and much else of much excitement, but much as that much may seem, it is nothing compared with what I have to tell you.
I have just taken the biggest step of my life --- not through bewilderment nor through morbidness, but coolly and decidedly, obeying to a call that for me dominates all the world and its many voices. Inasmuch as it has taken the best in me, it must necessarily take the best in you, and I only hope that now that the challenge rings out, the love and inspiration you have had in me for eighteen years shall not shrink before a greater test and a greater source of their being.
I have joined the Aviation!
This has been no sudden gash of romanticism nor no ceding to influence. It has been the result of serious and hard thinking. I have not treated the matter lightly and claim a firm decision to stick to my choice. Just as you are starting to worry now, have I worried for the past three weeks, every day and every night. I have solved problems of philosophy. I have weighed material facts; I have listened to inspirations; I have taken in my surroundings, considered the past, present, and future, and now that the "calcul" is done and the time to draw up the results of three weeks of steady thought has come, I am firm and happy to enlist myself even to the last drop of my energy in the glorious defense of France and Democracy.
There are many reasons for my new action outside of such allurement as glory and prestige. I have told you, though, most of them: the choice between America and peace or France and war; the desire to be "one of them" over here and to feel fully worthy of France's beauty and her people's sympathy; the desire to be able to say with pride that I have done something real in the greatest of all struggles; the horror of shirking when boys like me are dying; the thousand and one other minor reasons that turn by turn assail me stronger and harder day by day as I remain in the new world of Europe.
There are two dominant reasons, however: the first is a law; the second, a call.
As you understand, a life without a philosophy and an ideal is worthless. From my first age of understanding, I have given my body and soul to the worship of an ideal. It is what has made me. In my letter some days ago, I gave you my philosophy of life --- that is what I consider the necessary system of living so that life may be lived to its greatest and highest God made possible for Man. Inasmuch as I am Idealist, it is my duty to obey the law of extremes and live each step of my life to its very extreme. That and that only can make the some little spark of divinity in my human existence that every man strives for. That is the first reason. I must obey the law laid down by the philosophy of my life. No lukewarmness can be tolerated. The chef-d'uvre must be perfect and man's chef-d'uvre is always his life. It is his living Art, his breathing statue---the greatest work he leaves behind him.
The second dominating reason is a call: So far there has been a soldier-poet, a poet of the woods, a poet of all, but as yet there has been no poet of the airs --- the wonderlands unknown, unfelt, unseen, but ever worshipped as God's own grounds, or as the symbol of the highest soarings of men. Nor, as yet, has there been a painter of the airs; none of color's wondrous workings amongst the skies overviewing the earth and seas; none of that has come to us. No originality has let imagination wander with it and lead it on into the making of an artist of the airs. Such a call to my youth almost comes as the sacred voice of a duty to mankind. It has set a new world of promise, hopes, light, happiness, and beauty within me. Am I to refuse the opening gates of heaven for wanderings through earth's trodden, darkened roads? I should not only feel like a shirker towards mankind, but a criminal to my soul and a suicider to myself were I to refuse the golden burst of a new day.
Can I not rise to the opportunity and devote every inch of me to the attainment of its heights? For once in my life I hear the voice of a supreme ideal, of a duty, of a mighty work sweep down on me from its grandeur in silence and might. Those are the two dominant reasons. Much as you must be enraged by now, you will have to admit that they are all-important. I have a great love and consideration for you, as you know, but more than any love on earth must I be true to my ideal. However reasonable though it may seem to have joined, I will not attempt to surround the service with gauzy veils of pink and blue. It is a dangerous service. Many do not come back. It is no child's play nor no youth's dream. It is a serious business, hard study, hard work, hard fight. You'll no longer have a son in the truck service, but a son in the aviation. No longer one who intends to help France, but a son who offers to sacrifice his life for France. Just so much greater that my new service has become, so much the greater reason can you have to be proud of me, and if the love you have in me is worthy of a true Roman mother, you will thank our God that you have a child worthy of you. I appeal to that admiration and to that high inspiration you said came to you from me. I put it to a test now, and hope that being deeply rooted in your heart, it shall not fail to soar still higher, and instead of useless grief, rejoice in the light of my recent decision. A true mother, attached to her country and hopeful in her son, could only be thankful that her son had realized that love and hope she had so long placed in him. Consider the event not as regrettable, but as the glorious realization of all the hopes you had placed in me and the nobility you had prayed to see reflected within me. I think, en plus, that I have at last a right to call myself a Man. I feel like a New Russia. When I come back to you, you will find in me, I hope, not the statuette of a child and a mother's son, but the monument of a man and a mother's protector. You know, also, that I have usually been of a brooding nature. Well, now, by Jove, the world just seems one happy burst of sunshine.
Hoping you feel as wonderfully happy as I am
Passy, July 30
MY DEAR MOTHER: --
Life is very amusing for me. Three days ago in Paris, I crossed the wide Rotunds, bridges, and fluttering boulevards on taxi-wheels of a fortune---smiled-at, flattered, caressed, and known everywhere in each café, on the street, in the theatre; I enjoyed it immensely.
Now I am writing you on a pine-wood table (such things are famous) in a barren room looking out on the little cobble-stone street of Passy where I sometimes wander down in the morning's bustle of vegetable women in the sunshine, or in the evening's mingle of harmonicas, and a rare, sickly street lamp. I am nevertheless enjoying it immensely. In other words, three days ago I was a duke of pleasure; now I am a broke artist. (I say "artist," for all day long I work at drawings for my chief.)
I enjoyed spending my permission money fastly and wonderfully and now the contrast of work and nothing to enjoy but three meals at headquarters, which I never could stand before.
A month ago I was a truck-driver, dreaming a little and boring myself considerably. A month from now I shall be an aviator, concentrating at continuous work one day, and snobbishly, but oh, how joyously, receiving the invisible laurels of thousands of friends --- friends and admirers everywhere I go. You see life over here, the way I am managing to make it, has little in comparison with the conventional, custom-tied, drudgerized, too-much-civilized life of Peaceful America. I consider myself most fortunate to be able, in these modern times, to turn my odd and peculiar dreams into realization --- a realization rendered all the more beautiful by the oddities of life itself. What I contemplated in a hero, what I envied in the knight-errant or the highway cavalier, what I wondered at in the rich duke, what I smiled at in the poor but happy artist, or contemplated in the growing of a poet, all of romance and all of adventure, all of continuous heights and activities of a life that flows without a worry or a moment of grief --- all of variety and wonder of war and of love --- all of youth is now within my reach and ready to be moulded in my hand. Were I to desire the hanging gardens of Babylon or the electric metallic marvels of Mars, I could invent and realize them almost immediately --- so has my self-confidence grown with the help of war --- the great electrifier, that banishes all stiff conventionality and stimulates passions, imaginations, free thinking and free acting, till the land of war becomes a land of living poems and poets' dreams of anything you want to make --- so supple and various does war make a country.
I have thought so much about this aviation that I have no more thoughts left on it, excepting now and then, coming out of the metro, for instance, into the midst of green foliage and cabs, smart gowns and smiling Oriental women at the Madeleine, I feel that it is more for me and that I am almost a Greek Marathon hero returning to the laurels and rose-strewn paths of welcoming, pleasure-giving Athens; or else when I notice a mother in black gazing at me, or a decorated soldier inspecting me, I already instinctively turn to their eyes the little part of my uniform over my heart, where the golden insignia of a pilot-aviator shall soon be glistening when I become one of that fraternity of MEN.
Now and then, too, I realize that it is a heavy task for a boy who has always been fondled. That for me to make a big machine hang just right, twelve thousand feet above solid ground isn't going to be such an Arabian dream as I may now contemplate. But my brain is very much shrunken up and lazy these days, as I am pretty much of a loafer, scribbling off some weak drawings, walking self-consciously down the street, and lacking a great deal of serious occupation. The hard work ahead at the Aviation School will do me much good and the concentration of flying will keep up the turning speed of my brains, acquired by the work at the school. Just now I am going to dig in hard and draw like a demon, hour in, hour out, for a couple of days. That will help, and besides it's got to be done.
Paris is bad when you're broke. Its pleasure-reflecting monuments and houses and people are no good as an inspiration to your imagination unless you are part of it or unless you have lived here steadily and can forget New York enough to consider Paris a city with all its excitement instead of a beautiful garden.
The country, then, is better for a poor man's brain. It has gigantic night scenes and infinite day scenes.
Ah! well, there's lots ahead. This is just a little lull, a sudden drop from a week that was extremely fast and tickling. I regret its pleasures muchly, not being willing to shrink into the "coutumier et bourgeois" surroundings of Passy and quite out of place, therefore lazy, unappreciative, and unimaginative. I think I'd die if my imagination died before I did. It's what makes the world seem good to me.
I saw Carlos the other day for the first time. He could hardly speak, and myself --- I was somewhat silly. He is just as modest, if not more, for the poor boy has been through as bad a three months as one could wish. I found him a skeleton and much worn. But he's all right now and just as good-hearted as though he were ever the same kid at rue Notre Dame des Champs.
Passy is a funny quarter --- a mixture of semi-poor and semi-rich. It's awfully out of the way and only has the advantage of looking over the Seine from one street. But oh, it's always Paris, and believe me, my lady, that makes every cobble-stone a black diamond.
French women remind me of collies, beautiful, Oriental, and treacherous. They would make great butterflies too, and sometimes a blue jay or just a simple every-day egoist. Most of them are intelligent, but they spoil it with a lot of jabber which is supposed to be the modern representation of what used to be French wit in the time of Louis XIV. Of course, I don't know many of the high-brows as yet, but when I shall, I don't think I'll be surprised at my opinions.
Paris is a beautiful series of étoiles, monuments and amusements, but it is n't a city and has none of the city's characteristics. It is like an exposition ground grown historic. New York is the best example of a typified city of to-day. It has a wonderful current of energy and progress throughout every nook and corner and wide boulevard. Paris is very much of a summer resort with a few old buildings of much art.
There are a number of "Croix de Guerre" men of this service en permission; their haughtiness makes me quite jealous, but I'll come around and give them the "once over" when I shine up in my aviator's tunic.
If I'm coming home before I train I think it would be quite the stunt to come back in my aviator's uniform. Leave a blue light in the chimney so that when I fly back I'll know where the house is.
The idea of a country house is wonderful! I've always wanted one of those play houses where you can run the car all over the garden and make the cook mad and the crow crow. Be sure to fix up an aero shed in my room; besides I will be no longer able to sleep peacefully unless you keep an extra loud electric fan roaring at my bedpost and making a breeze like 140 miles an hour.
But having my room is going to be far more wonderful than your having the whole house; although I won't be there often, I'll enjoy immensely what few parties I will have and will keep my room always ready for intimate guests and other intimate teas.
Now see if you can tackle the very difficult job, which I cannot, of telling everybody --- one and all --- how I thank them and only think of them, and a few more, such as the Berlin official could invent.
After that, take all my real love for yourself, and keep it where you can use it when necessary.
August 5, 1917
MY DEAR DICK: --
I don't know whether I ever told you how high I jumped when I received that telegram or not, but I guess it was high enough for you to see. Any recent earthquakes need not disturb you --- they were only the result of my landing afterwards.
But, while we're yet both on dry land, let me sincerely advise you not to sign up in the ambulance or the trucks or any such stuff for the duration of the war.
I think I know you pretty well, and being fully convinced that you are romantic --- as really romantic as I am --- I can assure you that one visit to the front will fully convince you in turn that the peaceful life of any such service is not what you would want. I say "peaceful": I mean lukewarm; something that is far worse.
Were it altogether peaceful, it would still be comprehensible, but is lukewarm --- neither war nor peace; just a way of touring the front with as much comfort as possible, totally undeserved.
Now I am not telling you to stay out of it by any means. On the contrary, get into it for as short a time as possible. Then when you have seen the war at a close hand and long enough to make you realize the extremes of bravery and "recompense" that war offers to youth --- then get a transfer either to America and absolute peace or to France and absolute war --- fighting, loving, and glory.
I am not saying this from an inconsiderate nor from a dare-devil point of view; I am telling you that perfectly coolly, at my little table that I use for a studio and all in the heart of summer-time, wonder-time, Paris. I am also telling you that with a conscientious knowledge of the danger of real warfare. I have been under shell-fire myself, and know that in advising my dearest friend to do the such, I am also flirting with the bitter thought that I might very possibly never see him again, were he to become a real soldier and a real man.
But as I said, once you have inspected for yourself the ranks of the men of the day, you will be more capable to decide whether or not you wish to partake of their eternity.
One thing sure, though. Do not stay in America one moment longer than necessary. Come over immediately, and I shall get you into something immediately, which will soon show you that those back home are hypnotized with the vague idea that war to-day has nothing of its ancient wonders --something that will prove to you that America and peace are barren attics compared to the Arabian Nights that the present adventure of chivalry has realized on the European continent.
This something will be either the ambulance or truck or some other such touring facility that will enable you to go prospecting for inspiration and therein find the nugget of decision.
In fact, were you to remain in Paris only, distant as it may be from reality, you would not be long to decide that the curtains were going up on "Don Juan" and that it was precious time to profit of it.
Of course though, war may impress you differently --- a great event has many aspects. You may possibly find more beauty in stoically dying at the wheel of your cannon than in making of war a constant spring of Youth, Adventure, and Romanticism, with the thousand varieties of the such that I find and make of it all.
Again you may prefer to develop in you what is of the greatest value to others --- your Art. But could you not use your Art amongst the soldiers? One can never foretell the philosophy of any one else. One can only guess at it, and it was on a guess that I faintly indicated to you the possibilities this conflict offers to the soul of a Byron. I hope, however, that my guess did not miss the mark, for if so, I should sincerely pity you.
When you reach France, if you come, you must arrange to see me immediately, and we can clear matters up a little, for they must be doubtlessly somewhat blurred, seeing that you are three thousand miles from the truth.
Hoping that the drill of cavalry camp did n't leave you in an asylum too long, I am most enthusiastically,
Do ask me some questions, if there is yet time. I have great hopes that there is not time and that we shall meet again soon.
Paris, 7 August, 1917
MY BRAVE LITTLE MOTHER: --
War is pretty hard, is n't it? It's pretty hard on many mothers and sisters and sweethearts, but when it comes, it must be taken just as the other events of the world, and not only must it be taken, but it must be overcome. That requires much bravery, and now and then much suffering, but all is rewarded proportionately. According to what you shall have suffered, shall you be decorated before the ranks of all humans with the respect that is justly due you. The greater your share, the greater yourself, and I sincerely hope that you shall not shrink before the greatness that war has in store for you.
It is no ethereal theory. It is a living fact and no one in this gigantic conflict is more honored and respected and loved than the mother of a hero "poilu." it is one of my greatest ambitions to be able to attain for you those honors and those sympathies; to make all others respect you through me, and to build for you the pedestal that befits a noble mother and a thoroughbred woman.
To-day I am happier, perhaps, than I have been before in my life. I have successfully passed the rather hard examinations to the Aviation Corps and perhaps if my work of training is equally successful, an officership which at my young age can be considered rather honorable. To be a leader in a volunteer service, where there is no test, is somewhat of an advantage, but to gain an officership in the army towards which the whole world turns is an honor that any boy of nineteen can be proud of. I certainly intend to devote all my efforts towards the such.
As I said before, I am rejoicing to-day, not as a boy returning from a long term at school , but as a man who is distinctly proud to have taken the first great step in life that shall lead him to superiority and to have overcome all primary obstacles from hesitation to examinations in the fulfilling of such a heavy task. Immediately I shook hands for not less than a quarter of an hour with my chum who also passed; then, after ten days' poverty, I rushed to order a new aviation uniform --- the latest "cri de Paris" --- and then to the Café de la Paix where I feasted on chocolate ice cream and the sympathetic handshakes of many of the friends I have gathered about me since my last return to Paris. I am not bubbling and spurting with excitement, but quietly listening to an eternal murmuring of happiness within me --- a steady unfailing flow of joy and content.
To-day I received another letter from you --- that zig-zag strong writing gives me the most cheer when I go through my daily mail. Your letters are all very strong and very devoted --- intensified by the journey they have risked from you and America to me and France.
By the way, I passed the physical exams to-day with the highest marks. The mental exam is just to find out what kind of a boy you are, so I got by perfectly.
Ah là! This is Wednesday. This morning I had my mental test --- a cinch, but very agitating. I went up before a board of three Majors armed with a pretty stenographer. After a few questions one of them noticed how my recommend letters indicated my high standards.
"What do you think of the German submarine campaign? "
"I don't like it from a humanitarian standpoint, sir."
"What do you mean?".
"I don't approve of pirateship such as they did in their recent examples."
"What, for instance?"
I named and explained.
"If you were admiral in Germany, would you carry the campaign out?"
"I probably would because I would have a German mind, but myself, I would not."
"Do you approve of the sinking of the ship, leaving aside the question of the crew?"
"All right, you'll be notified."
"Good day, sirs."
It's all over. I await my official acceptance which I am pretty sure of getting. Of course I'm a little impatient, though. I ordered a wonderful uniform --- khaki, with gold aviators' buttons! ! ! Just wait until you see your little boy in his aviators' outfit standing next to his aeroplane, ready to mount the winds and review the mighty fortresses of the German lines! Just how would you like to be shown through the hangars, introduced to the legion of heroes, and carried over the land of France at some three hundred kilometres an hour by the little boy who back in America could only dream of such living poetry!
I want to get out to training school (perhaps that does n't sound good!) right away, but in the army you have to wait, wait, wait, and then wait some more! I'm dying to get to work, but I may have to finish this service out yet --- horrors!
Nevertheless, I'm enjoying new privileges and boasts already. I, little Jack Wright, take pleasure now and then by extending an invitation to visit the first American Aviation Camp in France, and if a special friend, I sometimes condescend to promise them a short tour in my aeroplane.
Would you like to fly around the block? It really would be nice to spin up to New London in the aero for the week-end and bid them all the top o' the morn --- eh, what?
I fully contemplate taking my mother up in her son's machine and giving her a bird's-eye view of the lines, if she drops into Paris soon.
Most sincerely and deeply affectionate towards you my very precious mother.
August 8, Friday
Just received official information of my official acceptance. I'm wild! ! ! Will start training as soon as my papers are signed by the General or Chief of Aviation. I am wonderfully happy. I am quiet but serene.
MY DEAR MOTHER: --
Another letter from you; it is so kind of you to write so often and I can only start to express my appreciation.
I regret to say that I shall not be able to return to New York before training. ---I am not anxious to either, for I want to return to you a full-fledged pilot.
If you explained having a son in the war you might be allowed passage. I don't suppose you'd want to disguise as a nurse for a while, eh? But wait until I get home and we'll talk it over.
I went through the Musée d'Invalides. It was wonderful, dark and secluded, in a world of glimmering swords, ancient red cloaks and flags and wild mural paintings of the glory of the past. They certainly had the right to war. They decorated up their heroes with the gold and flourish such king-adventures merit. Officers were pachas and viziers riding on inlaid saddles, all ornamented with luxury and ever living in dreams of romance and adventure, that made their wars, not a series of organized systems of defense and offense, but one glorious epic of fairyland.
The hilt of a Lieutenant's sword contained more jewels than could be found in the possession of a Colonel to-day. The world must have been much richer --- life more luxurious --- philosophy less frozen, and souls more apparent in the days when l'Empereur presented Paris with the captured flags of every capital of Europe and Africa. What a pity men to-day must be so Jésuite that they cannot have rich beauty, oddity, and soul about them; that they cannot run through their life an elevating, enchanting vein of fairyland. Thank God I can and am actually doing it --- not only dreaming.
Napoleon certainly did --- even on campaign. He lined his tent with a cloth like the skin of a tiger; had long black leather map-carriers with the gold eagle and "N.," and sat in a chair of deep tarnished red leather to write on a dark mahogany table oddly carved. That alone could have made him wonderful., but he has so many remarkable sides.
Paris takes me very well, as Americans are, for the present, so popular that even the cute midinettes are enlarging their horizon on life by the broad Far West sombrero.
I am now in front of my window feasting on a semi-white apartment house of little bourgeois; also a café for laborers and a "Bois et Charbons" sign of red and white. Pretty girls, and the rest of the population of Passy, pass before my little fancy iron railing --- but it all has its parts in the whole of Paris, so I do not doubt that could I throw before you a perfect picture of its little street scene, echoing with French joy, damp and dusky, with a piece of sky overhead, I reckon you'd be very happy. 'Midst its funny barrenness sits myself, all in khaki and laziness, somewhat in dreams and hopes for the near future.
Remember me to all, and always and especially to Mr. W., my very good friend.
August 12, 1917
MY VERY DEAR MOTHER:
I fully realize that you are suffering very much and cannot resist writing you more than usual. Later on you will become used to events and will even admire them, but I can fully understand that you do not now on account of the spontaneous overflow of grief. I am very sorry to put you into this state, but I prefer giving you these moments of regret and illusion than to fail to give you absolute guarantee that I am an idealist who carries out his ideals and a poet who, more than dreaming, drifts his ambitions towards lofty goals. Were I to not live out my philosophy of life and to shrink before the call of an hitherto unknown muse of the airs; were I to go back on my steps --- would be to me a far more painful suicide than the crime I may now be committing to you.
If, above all, though, above the flow of your tears you will only let the sunshine of my deep-rooted love for you come through, a wide-span rainbow of happiness may yet dawn across such skies of storm.
In any case, clouds always clear up and then the sun is ten times brighter through its brilliant contrast. I have no doubts but that already you are feeling more of that motherly happiness that you ought to feel, just as every mother in France has the privilege of possessing.
This afternoon I went to the old haunt --- the Luxembourg Gardens --- where just. as the color-bedabbled crowds of Babylon used to wander through the sunshine and mingle along the streets and temples to some weird music, so the Parisians of the Latin Quarter pass on the right-hand terrace between the trees along the balustrade while the louder notes of the orchestra mingle with the distant roll of tramways.
They are either bourgeois --- old and smiling, or young girls from little smart families, or from cafés, nodding to returned soldiers or listening good-naturedly to the brainless eccentricities of would-be artists who haven't the ambition to get up and shake off their pettiness and mirage.
I also met an old school friend, now an adjutant doctor with the wounded ribbon, just as crazy as in the days. he tried to ride down Grizier's beautiful oak stairway on his bicycle.
I loafed on a chair under the green of tall trees and while smoking nonchalantly my cigarette watched the flirtatious, good-for-nothing but very cute crowd go by.
I went to the Luxembourg, my old haunt, and found the same coffee fiends and their sweethearts enjoying love for nothing, hidden by the gardens, the one from his studies, the other from her café limelight.
Down in the bassin little children sailed their yachts and bumped into you, officer or general, if you did not get out of their way, for their yacht was full bent for the brink of the pond and they would n't take time to think about other people's nerves or wars and stuff. The donkeys still took other kiddies riding along the sunbaked walks bordered by hollyhocks and statues, and now and then a beautiful mother smilingly watched the future play, whilst up on the terrace the crowds of Babylon passed in haught and splendor and nothingness.
Once I was amused --- a madman called the terrace crowd and started on a speech of his Arabian Nights. The crowd gathered like bees and butterflies and insects, until an old guard, realizing that his dignity and the authority of the law and the state had been trespassed, energetically expelled the madman by little mad gestures.
The madman walked to the gateway, proud, and calling to his disciples and the laughing children; once outside he started his speech all over again, but the "infidels" had vanished, so he discouragedly strode away.
And thus the Latin Quarter around the Pantheon goes on--- everlastingly brainless, now and then cute, and rare times sympathetic in its heart-to-heart love affairs, but everlastingly brainless, exaggerating, studious, unenergetic, unambitious, unattaining, mad, but nevertheless quiet and happy. It has not seen enough of the world. Sometimes a big man is found there, but only because he will be undisturbed by traffic and a lack of strolling possibilities when outside of his work room.
Little does he care for the buzzing of the daily voices about him and little does he partake of them or belong to them. Fabre, Reclus, Bourdelle, they are all there and yet they are not there. It is because the stagnancy of a dead pond is less distractive to the thinker than the silver flow of Italian lakes, such as represent the smooth luxury of hotels and valets in the Étoile Quartier.
Paris is thick with the varied uniforms of every nation in Europe; it is a grand parade of uniformed heroes ---and nationalities.
I enclose you a poem or two, but they don't mean anything, less than fanciful notes; since I have n't concentrated for three months.
I expect to do fine in the aviation even though my real work will be reserved until after the war, for the wear of war work will be too hard, I fear, to give much extra time for anything but distraction and severe duty.
I will send you some more poems later, but as it is late now, I shall retire and wait for the superlative later.
With these tender considerations for you that you can ever find in me --
Paris, August 18, 1917
MY DEAREST MOTHER: --
Not yet off to school, but in the midst of many balancing complications.
I am now guard on the fourth floor of the Aviation Headquarters. Nevertheless I have much company: two little boys, Scouts, continually talking about everything in their kiddish lives, and now and then the Boy Scouts of the whole building --- kids about twelve --- gather around me like kittens and puppies. One of them draws remarkably and is very quiet. Doubtless a future artist.
They fixed me up a table with a blotting pad, roller, pen, pencils, ink, and a letter sorter during my absence and showed it to me when I came back as children about a Christmas tree.
It is a very new white building I am in; one of the type of new French apartment houses, with outpoints and inpoints, fanciful decorations, various windows, arched and rounded, cherubims, playing along the balconies --- with wreaths of marble --- all very white and sparkling in the sunshine. You know Paris is not a city of gray days, but one most at home in the sunshine, for a city is not characteristic in the weather that predominates in its climate, but in the weather that is most in tune with the city's architecture and the customs and occupations and pleasures of its people.
What better than sunshine would be in tune with the happy, pleasure-loving, "insouciant" gay Parisian architecture and people and gardens?
Now and then a French aviator comes up the stairs --- often American ones. Messengers trip up and down continuously. Clerks, typewriters, "stenogs." Multitudinous rooms are continuously buzzing --- those are the American Aviation Headquarters.
In the early morning a few workmen start to brush around and stir up the drowsy dust of night, while one by one the neat "stenogs" climb the long spiral marble stairway. At night they start putting on their hats a quarter of an hour early, vaguely smiling at their friend the clock, while the workmen have all disappeared. A few serious men make the typewriters count out endless papers on papers, all for the few at the front, until the house of Headquarters is deserted to its former peace and Parisian surroundings.
I have a few books to read and the hopes that I'll be in some kind of a job other than sitting still all day in front of a door.
I suppose by now you are well back in New York fretting about the heat, the war, your son, and the rest of the world. Please don't fret. Just get some facts from a good source and sit down and reason it out like a man. You'll find that things are all for the best. They always have been ...
19 August, 1917
MY DEAR MR. W.: --
Much to my pleasure I have just received your letter some days ago.
I gave my mother a pretty exact and impartial judgment of the American Field Service. It is monotonous, fatiguing without offering genuine work. I have brains and energy so I guess that my change was all for the good, and I certainly hope that you realize it. Although it may be the breaking of me, it will, if I last out, be the very finest making of me. Of course, you who are still in America and therefore hypnotized by three thousand miles distance from the actual front do not realize that of the whole war only one little strip of land and the sky above it are actual war; the rest is not dangerous and differs in no way from the work going on around the dock quarters in New York City, excepting that there is more idleness and less, far less, variety and brains.
The trucks consist of one part loafing around camp and the other part driving over the same roads in the same loads and the same sleepy, banging, greasy routine. I don't mind the dirt or the work, except that it is of weak results for such energies as a red-blooded boy may have, to be turning out. Otherwise things are excellent, such as the food, the quarters, and the spirit and the boys.
I am not spending too much money, although I may go beyond my allowance; that is because laundry, clothes, etc., oblige one to spend more than at home, especially as things cost more. A shirt at home (white, soft) cost me $1.50 at the most; here it costs (of the same goods) $4.00.
The field outfit does not need to be dressy, but it must be respectable, as one is constantly meeting people and receiving invitations almost as at a summer resort. That may not be fully necessary to a soldier, but it's very pleasant. Then in Paris one has to be quite dolled up. Even the American troops are getting fancy ---like the French ---and will soon, like their allies, use corsets and powder-puffs.
But why tell you very specifically about the American Field Service. I am no longer in it. I am between two services. Although enlisted in the American Army, I am not yet at the Aviation School, but translating military books in an office at Headquarters. At first I was a door-keeper. Altogether, I'm having quite a rush time and political campaign getting out of the one into the other. It's as exciting as a day in court.
The service I am going into I know nothing about, excepting that after three months' training at an American Camp in Southern France, I will fly over the front as a First Lieutenant --- if I pass all the exams. First they give you a bombarding or observing machine --- more dangerous than a duel machine, but less dangerous than school training. Then, if you're good, you get the privilege of running a duel boat. About six months from now, say, I ought to get a leave back to see you all and have the pleasure of making you all salute me, unless, in the meantime, I've joined the "other" fifty per cent of the aviators. I only hope, whatever the risk, that I will find the necessary "guts" stored in me somewhere to fight it out to the last round; then I shall be happy.
Mr. C. has doubtlessly informed you of his luck at getting to war. When I last saw him --yesterday --- he had just received his stripes and was like a kid --- bubbling over with joy and curiosity and such general good feeling that he handed me out two hundred francs as soon as I mentioned it. (This may sound as though he sometimes objected. He is very nice about it and never refuses; I prospect asking him for a few thousand next time --- he'd give them to me.)
Mother's letters slightly tickle my vanity --- that's why I like to get your sound, business-like notes now and then, so I hope you won't forget me when a couple of months go by and just send me a few lines in between your office hours, which I have always respected, inasmuch as I have never worked myself.
I have received everything that has been sent, including the luxurious menus (real fortunes) and the silent, but half decent good wishes of Tee and (permit me to include him) Imp.
Give my love to both of them --- the beloved little Cain-raisers.
Paris, France, August 21
DEAREST MOTHER: --
Well, I'm not off for aviation training yet. It is most exasperating. It is enough to drive a man crazy. I just puff, blow, burn, and foam all day long, agonizing for aerial flights and compelled to make out office blanks and scratch out files, etc., from 8.30 A.M. to 6.30 P.M.
Most of the time I have nothing to do, but must sit on a chair with about as much brain matter on the horizon as a stuffed animal, inanimately gazing out of a case window, in the spotted, dappled skin that once used to leap wild forest chasms and pant at the lapping waters of bottomless pools. But ---out with the such! I am now a private, a number, and must consider the dullest, meanest, most monotonous jobs as wonderful staircases in the palace of Romance. I expect within four months, though, to be better off, by a good deal, and within a few weeks to be much better off, for then I'll be learning to fly, just like a baby bird, though still a human; learning to fly, to go through the metamorphose of growing wings, of feebly trying them out, and of finding soon, shading my human frame the mighty stretch of an eagle's wings ready to carry my human soarings to the heights of their realization. Yet in the midst of such dreams here I am writing out the orders of a private!
I suppose, though, that I should make use of it all and make a wonderful poem of it, or an O. Henry article. (To think that most of his work was done in the stupidity of a cell room!) Or even write a story of it all. But there again is the difference between a man that counts, and a kid of nineteen. Nevertheless, I reproach myself, in the midst of all this tediousness, for not having the initiative to make my very tediousness into something great. Perhaps, if I reproach myself long enough, I'll succeed. I've made a good percentage of things out of reproaching myself.
I am living at a little hôtel on rue Vaugirard, next to the hôtel Foyot, where I would have stayed, but that it was temporarily closed. This hotel takes quite a bunch out of my allowance, but it is preferable to flea-bitten French barracks where everything decent is immediately stolen. I eat breakfast about eight in the early Parisian sunlight that warms the sleepy faces of the cart-draggers and penetrates lazily along the café table where an equally sleepy face of an orderly is choking down black coffee with some bread. Then I take the metro to my new address. There a table in the secretary's office awaits me with a smiling rose-colored blotter, red ink, black ink, forms, files, and plenty of nothing-to-do. Outside a few autos snort --- staff cars under the avenue trees and windows. Inside Majors and Lieutenants make you rise to attention every time one of them crosses the hall to inquire about the health, children, appetite, maladies, tooth-powder, and military affairs (perhaps) of another of them. There I sit, a true school of patience and a model petrified to any sculptor's delight. At 1 P.M. I stop sitting and with such brains as have n't exhaled during the long session, I go to déjeuner. That takes place at a little round table on the sidewalk where an apache girl waits on me crossly behind a few bushes.
Some English airmen gather there and talk. They are only clerks usually. Now and then a pretty maid drops into a chair beside me (not with me!!!). Now and then no one is there. I usually smoke a cigarette (being off duty) after two dishes of a dessert comprised of stewed gooseberries and whipped sour cream.
Then I walk around the block, take in more sunshine, more air, more faces, more Paris: its bridges and towers and trees, and then come back to the smiling rose-colored blotter and the blanks and files. Oh, such room for a soul!
Well, after 6.30 P.M. I do have a pretty good time. I feel office-worn and that feeling makes all rest a pleasure. I take the metro to the Odéon; imagine, mother, the Odéon! How would you like to get off the subway at a station called Odéon or Maine or Opéra or any of those sweet cellars which lead up to a burst of sunshine and styles and flowing ease and pleasure and quiet moving scenery of Paris? Well, I drop into a little leathered-cushioned café at the carrefour de l'Odéon and there as the lights come on gradually, I sit and restfully eat a long meal on a hungry stomach, while a few artists make the place familiar --- a few deputies or business men make it clean and respectable and a few pretty Parisiennes with their delicate bows make the whole of a "smiling atmosphere," as my futurism at its extremes might say.
Then, with a heavy reposing digestion silently under way, with the extra pleasantness of another cigarette, I make my way, a hand in one pocket, chamois gloves in the other hand, lazily towards the Boulevard Saint-Michel and the Luxembourg, a true inhabitant of the Latin Quarter. And you have to be a "true inhabitant" to enjoy it.
When I had money, when I was just back on leave, I came to the Quarter and found it pretty, for it was a reminiscent --- but no more; its poverty and pettiness bothered me. Now those two things it possesses are dear to me. Everybody is poor like myself and therefore chats with me without the expectation of a party or an auto ride; everybody is friendly and good-hearted and all in bad luck.
Immediately the Luxembourg Gardens, where artists and students and models roam, the little rues and the boulevard or two, the old senate house, black against a sad evening sky, the cabs rolling in silence on their rubber wheels, the milkmaid, the flower girl, the statue you always see before going into the hotel, the old proprietor, all these objects of pettiness, but of a pleasant and sincere sympathy to the extent their little brains and souls permit, all the café-haunters and garden wanderers, and sometimes even the respected silent gods, distinguished and envied by their red rosettes at the buttonhole, become dear friends of hard luck, but of good cheer just the same.
Well, by then it is about nine or earlier, the night has come, and I have entered into my little room, payed the proprietor and asked to be called at 7 A.M. A last cigarette, a poem of Verlaine for a prayer, and I am sleeping off in about as much empty space as at the office all the long day through --- hour after hour.
Thus, I live in Paris --- an hour or so at breakfast --- at lunch and at dinner; otherwise I am just one of the corner-stones in one of the many white apartment houses that dumbly yawn their bay windows in the Paris sunlight, but that yet help to make it all a wonderful metropolis. I resign myself to my fatal part of a dumb animal in the mighty theatre of the war, but with the hopes that my sixth letter from this one will bring you the joyful expectancy of getting ready to leave Paris and boredom for the country and airdom.
The picture you sent was not me. We do not have bayonets in the trucks and never go on parade. We are not soldiers and not ornaments.
But, thank Heavens, the present case of "to be" does not apply here. I can only say I was so and so in the trucks. I gloriously cast them away from me forever. They only have two decent things about them to be remembered --- they brought me over here for one and the luxurious English pasture in front of my trailer at camp for another.
Now I lay me down to sleep --- that is back to the smiling rose-colored blotter and the gray-blue walls of the office.
In the glorious service of his country; God save America!
August 22, 1917
DEAREST MUZZIE: --
I feel somewhat better towards this office drawling. Perhaps it won't last over two weeks and who couldn't hang around that long!
If one is overwhelmed with work it takes volonté to see it through, but then your work inoculates you with a certain desperate go and energy to rush it through by day and night; such a victory is decidedly a test in a man, of course, and one to be proud to impose on one's self, but to meet the test of doing absolutely nothing but sitting still for two weeks is a test far greater and one that I consider as mighty good for one and myself.
It will depend entirely on my own brain to distract the long hours away, and perhaps I can even make the hours profitable, if I sit down and think up a problem to think out again. What more suitable occupation for a bellboy than to tie up knots and then to untie them again?
When I do get down to camp, I'll have to make good, through the series of exams (not easy either) or I'll be having to wash windows till the war's over.
.My chum is so grouchy about being held up with me this way that he can't talk, so it makes me feel quite optimistic. Anybody always makes you feel the opposite unless you're mighty good friends.
We're out for a cheaper room Sunday (if we get it "off," for we don't always) and perhaps we'll rent bicycles to save carfare.
To-day I get my uniform --- U.S. private. The coat ---supposed to fit tight ---comes down to my knees and up to my ears. I have n't dared to try the rest on, but am ordered to to-morrow. How Paris will enjoy me! Thank God it's only for about four months and three and one-half of those out in the country --- hidden carefully from all pretty eyes and respectable "salons."
Thank Heavens, Bill is getting into aviation too. He will go into training next week. Just now he is shovelling coal for the American Field Service. I'm glad to see him get into the war with the rest of us, as he has n't seen much so far. Some of my school-mates are already in Flying Camp.
Paris is bathing pleasantly, contentedly in its last months of sunshine, for in October all is cold. Everybody seems happy with life in this metropolis where no work, traffic, or noisy bustle is noticeable.
A badly wounded man or a girl in mourning, crying while driving her street car, now and then reproach your smile if you're a civilian, but if you're a soldier, they make you proud and if you're an aviator (which I'm in the hopes of being) they make you feel like a god, to know you're out for their vengeance.
This office work sure does teach you to enjoy the freedom of spare hours, their out-of-door sunshine, the width of the avenues, the common people, happily, leisurely working about their little stores, and all the many little things that a man without many wonders and luck soon takes pleasure to discover.
But I'd so much rather be in the trenches.
You must understand that from now on, all my letters are to be censored --- since I am not permitted to seal them and since they go through the Service's censorship always. I will not even be allowed to tell you where I am, and a number of mutual whisperings will have to be cut off, in view of the fact that they would become public.
One of my "camion" pals just jumped into the office, back from training camp! He had aviator buttons all over him and a new outfit, boots, uniform, and everything of that wonderful and only tenue --- the tenue that makes people look up to you at every step you take, at every one you glance at.
His face was a little more set and his smile a little heartier --- already he was the beginning of one more of those BIG MEN that the war alone has been able to turn out, one of the Grand Legion. He was as happy as a king, but rather upset because for the first time he had seen an accident --yesterday. A couple of boys met in mid-air and were buried far underground. One, a sailor, was just on the point of receiving his diploma and lieutenantship.
All this has again made me impatient and made me prouder to stick through this nightmarish office period.
I'm like a chained colt with a race track just out of reach.
Just you wait till I get my pilot-ship. I'll show them they've misjudged me, if I can't prove it now. All will come out good; it must. I feel that I can make things succeed and do as good as any one. I always have.
You see, I'm not boasting; I'm just giving you the course of my intimate thoughts.
This is a funny letter. Every second the door opens and every time the door opens I must bob up my head to see if it's an officer, etc., which requires the bobbing up of my whole self, to attention. I'm sure learning what the army is ---so much that I consider myself bold if I ask any one in the street the time, without bowing a few times, or if I call a taxi without standing at attention to the chauffeur.
The army is awfully funny; but it will be very grand for me soon.
Last night we had a grand celebration. A friend of Jack's had dinner with us at the Latin Quarter where we latter are living. We introduced him to the famous Quarter and he grew white with fear that at any street corner nude Bacchantes would turn up.
We had a feast at a little restaurant I like considerably; a feast of melon, beefsteak, French-fried potatoes, whipped cream and fruit. It was glorious. We were spending money gluttonously and dionysianacly. We were giving the friend some banquet --- some treat, some sight. To wind up furiously, we had a cup of coffee at the Taverne du Panthéon (now dead excepting for a friend or two). Then we showed him our sweets at the "Grand, Grand, Hôtel-Château." There we read O. Henry, instead of listening to a fair one miss notes on the piano, and having laughed and smoked the hours away until midnight (horrors!) we went to bed much disgusted that the maid wouldn't get up in the middle of her sleep and cook us chocolate.
I felt after that celebration as happy and as dizzy (I don't mean any liquor!) and excited as I have felt after any of the merry-go-roundiest parties at --- from the Biltmore or the Domino Club to the Café de la Paix --- yet during the whole evening we spent no more than $3.50 for the three of us, including everything.
To-day I am reading the strongest novel in history, "Madame Bovary" (Flaubert), a book which I bought five years ago, but towards which I have never felt intelligent enough to tackle. I am only reading it now, much against my wish, because I might not get another chance very soon.
In between the paragraphs I sketch the people that come in to interview the Secretary I'm working for, and all along I gather and often jot down little notes which will all help in some later work or other.
It is very interesting, not only as an office, nor even as an office of urgent military affairs, but more yet as an office that tends only to matters of the greatest work on earth ---AVIATION. The boys that come in have faces either of fools or heroes and they know what they are signing up for. The men that come in are already decorated multiply from the various armies they represent. Now and then a few peculiar stenographers orother insignificant people make you smile as the Secretary takes care of their individual, remarkable, unique qualities --- not from experience, perhaps, but hiddenin the heart --- you know --- one after the other in the same elegant fashion of quietly, optimistically discharging them.
Good-bye for a while, mother.
With my best love to all my friends and my bestus love to you.
It seems that in the Field Service or at the Y.M.C.A. I should meet every one I had ever said good-bye to. Last night I met my history "prof " who has just left Andover. Even the memory of history classes seemed good and slightly home-sickening, but only for a second. The only scene that makes me homesick longer than a second is that of you --- on the chaise longue --- three thousand miles away.
1 September, 1917
MY DEAR DR. STEARNS: --
It has been four months of continuous change in life; new adventures, new hopes, and new inspirations that have separated me from the unforgettable day on which I left you on the dock in New York. If you have not been able to join us on account of a duty --- more silent but none the less admirable --- I can at least express to you, through my hearty appreciation, the uplifting, graduating work Andover has sent us to, on the battle-fields of France.
At first we were satisfied with automobile service, but in continuation with that same spirit we had cultivated back on Brothers' Field, we, as a majority, have joined the American Aviation with the ambition of representing the place we came from, to your complete satisfaction, for though a third of a year and three thousand miles away, we still take pride in saying, after a good piece of work, " I guess Al would be pleased at that!"
If any of the fellows left behind inquire about us, do tell them that we not only talk of them while eating a meal at the front, or joke of those days while greasing the cars, but that we go still farther and hope to renew old college days by the stronger bonds that come with days of real life and action. Tell them that we are standing all in a row on the shores of France to cheer the boat that will bring them where they have the privilege of being sent. I say a privilege, for since we have been over here we have learned to sympathize with more than the "Rah-rah" side of life, and to perfect our first comprehension of the words you endeavored to brand us with.
We thank you for it --- for the foreword you gave to this larger outlook; for the warning, the guiding, the inspiration we owe you.
It is only my sincerity that makes me write so straightforwardly, thanking you. It is only my sincerity that makes me write so nakedly. It is true American thanks, straight to the point.
It would be foolish of me, in fact, to attempt to circle around metaphors and figures to tell you how, at the front posts, in the barracks, all alone, we have remained true students and have not forgotten the direct and sincere help that you have given us for some four years of critical days at school, some four years, every day, from the chapel pulpit or the office desk.
Some of us are more than just grateful, and I take pleasure in realizing that I, with them, owe a very deep-rooted inspiration of the various forces and elements of the world to your talks from the chapel platform, as well as a very substantial and generous help to me from the office desk.
You have been to me a cherished principal and one of the few men for whom I would do anything. I hope in the future to consider you as a friend. It is the hope of all the little band of students who now look back to what gave birth to our present happy duty. It is because these thoughts were deeply rooted within me alongside a few other undying incidents of my youth, that I have taken the liberty to write you plainly and freely as though I were an intimate. It would not be irrelevant to add that half the Andover Unit is now in training and shall soon be the "Commissioned Flying" Andover Unit in the service of America, just as in former wars.
This letter may sound haughty, but it is not of us but of Andover and what you turn out that I am so proud.
Endeavoring to express the good cheer of all the Unit and wishing you to accept my brief thanks for what you have stood for, to me, I am
Paris, September 1
MY DARLING MUZZIE, --
Who for one summer, at least, has managed to spend her vacation in the country, now and then a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, thereby fully retiring from the usual routine of the year, so as, within the refreshing, isolating arms of some country cottage, to become completely renewed and almost foreign to the city. Why, one week after you will have been back to New York you'll not realize you ever saw a green tree, or a so-called shady brook. And that is the way you obey the prescriptions of your son. What a patient! Luckily I am not the family doctor.
Mr. S. has just found me after wandering from one headquarters to another, thoroughly seeing Paris (very pleasant!) and winding up with the grand finale of the big spiral stairway of Aviation Headquarters, which politely, at every floor, opens up a way into some fifty different offices. Well, he invited me out to the cinema.
I'll expect to be out to training camp by the first week of September; either that, or suicide, or a rash adventure into society's gabbling with a few of my introduction letters or something half as red as this ink --- I don't know exactly.
Your last letter has just arrived with a full gust of autumnal winds tossing browned leaves around silky dresses of midinettes and pulled down hats of business men. The summer's last sun splashes across the Champs Élysées, around the Étoile, and sprays of it sift through the twining clusters of trees. Streaks of limousines in khaki or gray pass up the silent, stylish avenue and back again toward the Place de la Concorde where taxis make a little more racket, so as gradually to introduce you to the hum and buzz and more frequent passing of friends and officers of the Madeleine and the Café de Paris which quite eclipses the Opéra and is the main step-stone between the Madeleine and the beginning of the end: Montmartre.
Your letter, then, of August 7th, arrived under favorable omens. but it is not the first dionysian blowings of autumn, nor the happiness of Paris that convinces me that it is the best letter that I ever received from you. I'll take it up point by point, perhaps with prejudice because once decided on my philosophy it would take a harder blow than a letter to change me.
First, I did receive and most certainly did enjoy the one hundred francs you sent me on my birthday. I am delighted that you thought of me so promptly, for it came exactly on permission time and many were the "cafés au lait," the "fiacres," the "promenades" that it afforded me through summer-time Paris.
I do not underestimate what I am doing. Vanity has always been one of my blessed qualities. You, rather, overestimate me, inasmuch as you cannot see the reality of things. When I was leaving America, I, too, had the idea that the "camions" were a terrible work. I've found out since then that it is not up to my qualities. (Just listen to that vanity! you who say I have none. Feed upon such an outspread of it!)
You speak of the benefit of having contact with the simplest and the most monotonous, so as to learn it. I think that for the last three months I've had as much of it as possible. Monotony has some beauty, perhaps, but you have to be mighty irregularized and occupied to see it.
I intend not to take either spiritual idealism or romantic idealism, but to take both and live life completely. The two cannot be done together; they must be distinct epochs --- one the epoch of youth, the other the epoch of manhood. One may tend to overlap and destroy the other, but I intend to separate them distinctly by the blessed medium of work --- a pool into which man can ever plunge and come out new and refreshed. If I win, I will have found a bit of new philosophy, which --- not contenting itself with one grand ideal of all life --- takes all the beauty life contains and makes man perfect in his complete absorption of all existence. If I lose, it is the sacrifice of myself. It is all somewhat of a chance, but what great reformers, Luther, Calvin, etc., ever took up their ideas without the consciousness that they might get their heads cut off to punish with.
Outside of all that "deep stuff" there is the simple fact that I don't expect to last long in this new game; so why not? I mean --- so why not experiment? Everything is a chance that's worth while. Of course, though, I want you to understand that I am far above some of your superstitions.
My ideas are not so stingy as they may seem, for if I succeed, I will give a better philosophy to those whom I come in contact with; at least if I write, it will be much improved by my experience and therefore able to send out its word. But I don't like to talk much about the writing, for I'd soon be all talk and no work.
I don't find any trace of Diriks, and am very sorry, as he is not only a friend, but one who could have a lot to show and tell me. Please send me his address and I'll buy him all the bottles of whiskey in Paris.
I've seen Mrs. B. and Mrs. S. lately; both were very nice to me.
The money you make on your Beaux-Arts School for charity fund --- if sent to me, would be given out directly to those many biting cases I constantly find at the front and often behind the lines. It would be more appreciated --- more certainly spent towards urgent relief work and would be more satisfactory to you, to know personally and intimately the corners into which you have sent great aid for great need. It would be interesting to you and your friends to receive news of the individual use made of the fund, which, not being enormous, could be better used in that way. I might even photograph the different cases and you could have an album of your relief .
What dentist should I go to?
If I don't get out of here soon, I'll take a little hut in the country and go out there every night. I'll have a couple of fellows out there with me, my paints, books, and writing ---all in the midst of autumnal golden Meudon or Bellevue; I'll have my little vegetable garden, a pot of geranium flowers in the window, with a yellow cur to bark at me when I get home and a fattening cat to claw at my sleeve and whine while I eat. I guess it will be cute, and I might get a piece of work done outside of office hours. The country is much better when you're broke anyway.
Well, I just fainted when I got your letter answering the news of my going into ---aviation! I expected a cable disinheriting me or a tube of deadly poison at least. A time-pose bomb or a tear-moistened epistle or a funeral ode would not have surprised me at all. As it was I just blew into a very big balloon and burst! But now, something great --- I'm off --- off to fly! Off in a cloud of dust! ! !
At last my chains are broken --- monotony and the rest of the long office hours are under my feet; I breathenew life from a new breeze in the air. The sun is brighter and the world larger and I feel greater than all together. Now I start my big life. It's the beginning of all I am to be in the world, and I can feel myself going ahead all ready. Things have become amenable to me. I no longer shall awe at the factors and forces in the world, but free from all ties of conventionality or defects, I shall be able to handle perfectly all the forces the world puts together. Of spiritual or material beings I have a full right to seek the command, and thanks to work, I shall certainly arrive at something.
From now on I'll not only feel happy, but very happy, no matter how barren the aviation camp gets---no matter whether it dries up and the ground cracks --- whether the trees die and I never get a leave ---no matter what happens --- there's always much ahead for me and also overhead.
You see, I'm going to stick to aviation after the war. I'll get a superintendent's job and write at the same time. I'll have to do quite a bit of studying, though.
Now, since I have not done any art for about four months, I feel that it was all a dream of childhood, but I count that a little work and study will put me back --- a little brain work to wake me up and then a few sensations.
Now you, too, are going to feel some new joys, those that my new letters will bring you. I'm not going to keep a diary---just a notebook so you'll hear more fluently of my days of which not a one shall have a dull hour. Can you imagine a more wonderful realization--- not a dull hour in such a dull world! I guess Isadora would rather jump at that and you --- and who not?
But there's one thing lacking and that's you. Now stop and think how you can get over here, because I want to see you --- is n't that plain enough. What more of an excuse could you invent? I want to take you up in my aeroplane. Paris is starting the royal season of autumn, enough crisp in the gay sunshine to make people walk snappier and smile brighter --- a crisp "pep" in the air and everything running to perfection --- "leaves of soldiers" --- the war and the friendships.
Some recent mournings are the only trouble. Much love
P.S. One of the most tickling sensations I could have would be popping off one of those "saucisse" German observation balloons. I've always looked at their eggy forms up in the air and always wanted to get at one. How I'll enjoy it!