A.A. Laporte Payne letter 28 March 1917.
Wednesday March 28th 1917
My own dearest,
Many thanks for all your letters. I am very lucky indeed for I have received two to day, and also a delightful cake from Mrs. Cross. Thank you so much for it. After the long days we have been having the cake is most acceptable when we get in late as to day. For three whole days now I have been away with the Colonel riding all over the country and getting back late. I hope tomorrow I shall get a freer day.
The weather as usual is beastly – cold and wet. Spring weather seems a long time coming. I should be very miserable but for your letters. The one dated the 18th I enjoyed very much. You have probably forgotten it so I won’t tell you why.
It must be very amusing to see everybody doing market gardening in England now. I suppose Sunday is the favourite day for working as they can frivol all the week and on Sunday when there is nothing doing they can pretend to be doing some work.
I am sorry you are getting all these shocks thinking I am at home. You flatter me too much. Unfortunately I can’t expect to get away yet. Do you remember that picture of Bairnsfather of a man in a dugout and his leave cancelled? That is how I feel at present.
It is perfectly awful the way I get interrupted when I try and write to you. I have already been called off three times. I suppose I notice it more when I am writing to you because it is so important and you will say, I suppose, quite an event! Thank you so much for enquiring after my health. “Hoping this will find you quite well as it leaves me at present in the pink.” That is the formula all the men use. I am sure that must have been in a copy book when they were at the village school. They all use it. I always forget to say I am well, I suppose, because I am fairly fit and because someone else’s health is much more important. I must adopt the formula.
What was it that I did that made you redden in the face that Wednesday morning? You are quite right I have forgotten. Disgraceful isn’t it? But I thought you had got past the stage of blushing. At any rate please do tell me. I badly want to know. You are always exciting my curiosity you wicked little darling. So you are reading Hankey’s “Lord of all Good Life”. No I have not seen it. You surprise me though. I did not think you liked his other book.
We are in Summer time here now. It changed last Saturday night. So we are living ahead of you for a bit. It is light here now at 7.30 p.m.
We are employing ourselves holding a bit of the line. We live in a large chateau not far from the front line. There is a lodge and a drive and the house is entered up a large flight of stone steps. The hall is covered with 3 layers of sandbags of bricks as a further protection to the cellars below in which we take refuge if ‘they’ start to shell us. Down there the telephone exchange is worked by our signallers. On the right of the hall is the ‘Wireless’ room for the operator for we have an installation here under my care.
Opposite the doorway is the clerk’s office and an inner room for the Colonel. There is a sitting room and a Mess Room with a piano in working order, and a good kitchen. Upstairs there are four officers’ bedrooms but as most of the windows are out I have a room at the top of the house which has been nicely furnished by my servant. He got a lot of white linen and has made table cloths & curtains tied up with purple ribbon. From my window I can see the Boche front line so I have to be very careful about lights.
We have good stabling for eight horses and a large garden with a track round it. We have put up three jumps there and the horses are quite enjoying themselves. My two horses jump beautifully – the bay mare especially. I am sure she would take a five barred gate but I should probably flunk it.
Reg seems to have good into the thick of it. Lucky fellow. I hope he will keep clear of places like Bapaume town hall though.
My servant has found a delightful pair of old brass candlesticks but like a fool before he let me know about it, he gave one to another officer’s servant for his room. I want the pair badly but the officer in question refuses to give it up and I certainly won’t give up mine. On my table I have got no less than 5 photographs of you.
The best war story (short) I have read I think is in the April Strand. It is called “Panzerkraftwagen” by F. Britten Austin (pronounce that if you can). A book I have got hold of is “The Reminiscences of Lady Dorothy Nevill”. Can’t you imagine me reading that?!
Have you read any of Stephen Leacock’s books? I enjoyed some of them very much. There is no time for much reading now.
How are you all keeping? I hope Mrs. Cross is better. Please give her my kindest regards and thank her very much indeed for the cake.
With all my love & kisses to you darling.