Jan 1st / 18
My Dearest Betty & Kiddies:
My first letter of the New Year & of course to you, at last (just last evening) I received letters from you, six all in a bunch, Nos 23-24-25-26-28 & No 1. needless to say I was pleased & grateful to have them, though I leave you to imagine my feelings as I read of all your expectations & hopes & preparations for my home-coming in the near future & to know that for the time being at least you must be doomed to diss-appointment, evidently your application is just sent on from Ottawa to the authorities in England & now that I am in France once more, it will get us no further. You will know now of the new work in which I am engaged hard - hard work but a great deal more satisfactory - congenial & interesting - for nearly one week I was under shell fire by day, & bombs by night, but two weeks ago now the division to which I am attached came out of the line for a month's rest, so that now I am about 25 miles behind the lines, though we can still hear the booming of the big guns.
We have just got the Xmas dinners over, we had two each day for four days in our Y.M.C.A. marquee here & in the evening we gave the boys a concert, last Sunday evening I preached to a very large and interested audience, & I could not help but feel that if was more worth while than if I had been in the Emerson pulpit this week - yesterday I celebrated New Year's eve by fixing up a reading & writing tent for the boys, I can assure you we are kept busy from morning until night, we also run a library in connection with our plant as well as a dry canteen. I am having my meals with a French family near by they are very good to me - I sleep in the barn, lots of good clean straw, in company with the cows - horses - pigs etc. etc. rather an appropriate place to spend Xmas eve in was it not - on Xmas eve 12 P.M. I went to Mass with the two eldest daughters, it was a quaint, old church - lit by candles crudely, yet interestingly decorated, there was a model of the stable with a doll baby lying in a manger & images of Mary & Joseph, with cows - donkeys & sheep standing arround - I was wishing Shirley & Billy could have seen it, the singing was rather good & music provided by an old harmonium. Before I forget, re your letter about Xmas presents for the kiddies, it will be too late by the time you receive this but anything that you decide will be quite alright, I am enclosing in this, a pound note, (about 5 dollars) for presents use it as you think fit, & if you have already got them, why it will help to pay for them. I am rather anxious about the $10.00 shortage on the assigned pay, let me know how you get on about it, & be sure & write them about it, to Ottawa, you ought to be getting $25.00! I hope there is no mix up, by the same mail as I received your letters, I also got one from Mrs. Pryor which I shall send on to you & also a short note from Lady Low, she is indeed a beautiful character, & brilliantly clever she is the best type of our old English aristocracy, though I'm afraid that she has formed altogether too high an opinion of your's truly, as you will well know, but it does one good to have the regard & friendship of such choice souls.
In about two weeks we shall be up the line once more, where the shells are dropping etc, but don't worry dear things will turn out all right - let us hope & trust & pray that 1918 will see the end of the awful war.
I have not received your parcel yet, but it will no doubt come in the coarse of time, & needless to say I shall enjoy it, though I would not bother dear about sending any more parcels. I did fairly well this Xmas for plum pudding, I had 4 Xmas dinners with the battalions stationed here & lots of plum pudding.
You asked about Miles - I can't say much about him of course but he certainly has not made good, & is not in the line but has a pretty safe job, when this is over & the boys get back, they will say what they think about him & it will not be complimentary.
On second thoughts I think that I will get a registered envelope & enclose that one pound note, it will be safer.
I must wind up now dear - I hope that 1918 will bring to us & all the world better things, & that the bells that ring in the New Year will indeed "Ring out the thousand wars of old. Bring in the thousand years of peace." Remember me to All the friends & give my love to Ruby & all the rest of the family, I shall very, very busy from now on, but will try & write Ruby - I hope she is better. We are having awfully cold weather we have two feet of snow & the prospect of more, so you may have some faint idea of what conditions are here, it is a wonder how the boys stand it. You might send me a couple of pair of socks if you have them handy.
God bless you my dears & keep you in His sheltering care. Fondest love & kisses from