2nd April 1916
A very significant letter from Arthur in which he pours out his heart to Dollie; he reasons they would have enough material resources to consider marrying soon; but he is also heartbreakingly frank with her: “But I’ve a horror lest I should get wounded, say & permanently injured, so as to unfit me or at any rate to handicap me in my life & in my effort to look after you. Everything then dear would need to be reconsidered: I could not hold you to our promise ….” and “that we must look at all chances, & that I must be your protector. Our future life depends on me; I am the man whose privilege it must be to work for you & to take care of you”…
Arthur to Dollie
In an Orchard, France, Sunday after: 5.30
… I’m sure you will forgive me for not having written a letter yesterday. I had an awful full day so wrote a postcard, but it missed the post. I will just give you my news first, dear heart, & then.
The weather the last two days has been glorious but extraordinarily hot. Yesterday I had to ride over to the Divisional School with Johnnie to see a display. It is a long ride about 8-9 miles each way, so that we weren’t back till after two. Our sports had been fixed for half-past one, so that I only had time enough to bolt some bread and cheese & go out.
The Divisional school is most gloriously situated: an old chateau in the woods with a great avenue about 2 miles long leading up to it. The show was quite good; they had a practise smoke attack, some sniping, bayonet fighting &c. There were an awful lot of “brass hats” (q.r. Staff) there.
Our sports weren’t bad fun: only Beresford, who apparently knows nothing about it, kept on doing foolish things. One very amusing item was wrestling on horseback. The transport men wrestled in teams of four and it was really awful good fun to watch. In the evening I went to Confession. After dinner, feeling very tired I turned in early. This morning I was up soon after 7, & went to Communion & Mass at 8. So to breakfast.
Afterwards I rode into F[revent] with Davis. It is a little town about 4 or 5 miles away, very like Merville or Bethune only smaller. I bought a protector for the glass of my watch & a pair of braces, also some carrots for “Ben”; whom you’ll be glad to hear is in tophole form. This afternoon, dear, we have all been lying out here in the shade. We have had tea out here. About Evie’s dinner with Beattie in F-, little one. I ws just feeling a bit “under the weather”: no more than that, so you won’t worry will you, dear. Leave is still going along. Lewis is away, the CO still, the Doctor & Brady goes to-night.
So much for all my news, dear heart. I want now to answer your dear letters of Wednesday & Thursday, that reached me last night… I realise to the full how you must feel … I cannot bear another hour to pass without you… So darling, never believe that our purpose has ever faltered or our lives seemed aimless.
I feel like this, that as things are, you with what you have, & I with my pay, & your Mother being willing for you to live with her, we could get married. All that has deterred me, dear heart, has been this. If I came through all right, then it would be up to me to get my job, either in the Pater’s office or elsewhere, perhaps, say, from Mr Lloyd, or McNair. If on the other hand, God sees fit that I shall fall, well-.
So much was pretty clear. But I’ve a horror lest I should get wounded, say & permanently injured, so as to unfit me or at any rate to handicap me in my life & in my effort to look after you. Everything then dear would need to be reconsidered: I could not hold you to our promise. I should just place myself absolutely in your dear hands. You see darling of my life, I am being absolutely frank. Please God, all will be well, but darling, don’t you see that while the uncertainty of my life exists, & though God in His Goodness, has watched over me, the uncertainty still exists. I felt that though I long for you with all my heart & soul, so that I feel I must burst with it all, still I cannot ask you to marry me, in case anything should happen, & I be left a cripple, perhaps blind, & with precious little cash. Don’t think that I am content to let things drift, darling. Don’t think that I don’t worry about you, my darling. You know how I feel. I’ve told you how things seem to me, & why I have tried to hold myself in check, & why I’ve said that I didn’t think marriage was fair to you until I was out of things here. I know you, dear light of my eyes. I am so proud of you; for thank God, your love is mine & you’re such a glorious unselfish little personage that you’d sacrifice everything. But you see, don’t you, dear, that we must look at all chances, & that I must be your protector. Our future life depends on me; I am the man whose privilege it must be to work for you & to take care of you. That is why, darling mine, I am so frightened of a bad wound.
Nonetheless, little one, I cannot but help thinking that it would be a good idea to write to the Pater & get the position clearly defined. So I’ll draft out a letter, dear, & send it to you to read before sending it on. Don’t you think so, dear heart? Well, little lover mine. This has been a long letter but I feel I haven’t said all I wished. It is hard to express things…