A POET OF THE AIR
LETTERS OF JACK MORRIS WRIGHT
OF THE AMERICAN AVIATION IN FRANCE
APRIL, 1917-JANUARY, 1918, continued
Paris, September 5, 1917
MY DEAR MOTHER: --
I long very much for some intelligent friends. This life of college boy without studies is funny for a week. The week has passed. I need some artistic friends of my own age to go with, to discuss and adventure with --- to laugh and work with. I must somehow gather them around me, but it is hard.
American boys when they are artists are fine. They have energy, soul, infinite fantastic desires, quick thought open wide, and an originality that they delightfully turn into some new school --- some mystic piece of oddity that always makes them wonderful.
Look at H. --- a good society boy when he needs must be --- ready to joke over the tea-cup or with the elevator boy, but always a fine deep shaft of art, of originality, of a worship of a school mingled with ideals --- always a fanciful floating of images that pick out the biting bits of sentiment, and in turning them into art, make his company interesting --- you are always conscious of it.
Look at Dick always paddling through the stormy clouds, châteaux towers, prisoners, princesses, highway robberies, of the moyen âge mixed with a delight of the rush and style of to-day --- he is a continuous germ of romance and yet a vital boy --- not a dreamer --- a boy who is doing something and has the stuff in him --- he is the artist friend again, but not the dreamer.
Look at L. --- psychological, sees ideals of color all around him, thinks, while he's on a visit --obscure and shut up in dreams of color --- yet material at the same time, a sport through and through --- a sturdy American boy.
These French kids have dreams continually. They are effeminate and ephemeral. They totter --they're not strong enough to realize their dreams --- they're not men. They can't be sturdy friends. They're not manly and energetic. They seem so hopeless that they can't be much, nor amount to much else. They need sports like a sick man needs medicine. They need something to straighten them out.
What am I to do then? Continually spread out my thoughts on fool's laughs and dallying appreciations, or shut myself up in solitude or fall in love and think some simple girl knows what I'm talking about?
You want to know something of my aviation program? I have told you much already. I can't tell you very much more on account of the censor, but here is a general idea of it which is public and permissible to tell: --
I go to training camp in the most beautiful country of France, this autumn. After three months' training --- proportional to weather conditions, I will know all about aeroplanes, motors and tactics and fighting. I will have passed semi-final and final exams and will be a full-fledged aviator pilot. with the grade of a First Lieutenant of the U.S. Army in whose service I will be.
I am enlisted now as a private for the duration of the war and will not get my stripes for some three months, when I am sent to the front to fly.
First let me tell you that the worst part of flying is learning it. If I get through school I will feel like a dog getting through his adolescence.
Now, there are different types of machines, but they can be divided into two classes. At first you are sent into the first and most dangerous class; then if you are wanted and are capable you are sent into the second class, with the aristocrats of the game.
First class: Bombing machines, biplane or triplane, large wings.
Observation machines, large wings.
Liaison machines, large wings --- the latter used in direct contact with the advance of the infantry to foretell the ground and the enemy's forces during the attack.
The first class is at the mercy of the more speedy, one-place, fighting machines that make up the second class. They have a short wing spread --- a place for the pilot only who shoots his own gun and has the duty of swooping down on the enemy's machines of Class I and killing their occupants and riddling up the machine with bullets. They are, of course, fired on by those of Class I, but their suppleness in manuvring and their speed gives them the advantage of the duel. You see, the first-class machines are not meant to fight or duel or chase except in defense. Sometimes machines of the first class are protected by those of the second --- the duel machines; sometimes they fly in fleets, sometimes alone. They consist of the most dangerous service and of the less praise from the public. To receive a duel machine is almost a reward, since you then attain a right to the throne of a public hero or, in aviation terms, of becoming an "ace," with a few German machines on your list of victories that steadily increase along with medals and praise and stripes, if --- if you've got the steel and keep your nerve.
It's all very dangerous; I want you to fully realize that fact, and am not attempting to hide it from you. Statistics show that fifty per cent never come back from their soarings in the skies of glory. In the offensive of Champagne, eight aviators out of ten were killed. But inasmuch as it is usually a question of brains, and cool-headedness and concentration, I think you can be fully confident in me.
One very nice thing, all my camion section is in the aviation and will all train and fly and risk together. It is wonderful to think that for three years some twenty boys who went to school together, and learned of football, studies, and jokes; that they crossed the ocean together and disembarked on a foreign land; that there they explored the country and cities together; that they went into the camion service and received their "baptême du feu" together; that after a fourth of a year of that they went to training camp and learned to use wings and smile at danger together; that they then flew in the great war, for its duration together; and that crossing back to America together they returned arm in arm to a wide horizon of peace --- tinted with the undying warming glow of glory and stirred with the luring breezes of a successful future.
I realize fully how brave you are and want you near me to make things easier and to save you much supplementary worrying and fretting you certainly do not deserve.
Tours, France, September 11, 1917
Permitted by Censor
MY VERY DEAR MOTHER: --
I don't know just what to say to you --- I don't know just what to say to myself! I have arrived at camp and don't know what to make of it. At least nothing has ever made me wonder more; so I guess it must be big and have more than a mechanical side to it; in fact I think that like any other very deep pleasure, you can only enjoy the more as you go along.
My trip down was gay and we arrived in Tours very happy to discover ourselves so near civilization, for camp is a short auto ride from the city. It is situated on a big plain where a rare bit of woods and a few houses break the horizon. The sky occupies most everything of the view and it takes you a couple of days to get used to its brightness. It's like being on the ocean.
The camp is large and comfortable, with German prisoners, Moroccans, Senegalese, and Annamite, to build them up and perfect them. A large restaurant-canteen with a piano is handy; mechanics tend to the numerous machines off in the large brown hangars. Some women make the beds, cook and wash the dishes --- real dishes; while a barber, a tailor, a bath house, are all on the grounds. Most of the pupils are American; the instruction, instructors (called "monitors") and high officers are French. With a few extras, such as trucks, ambulances, signal posts, etc., you have the whole outfit.
We get up at 5 A.M. (awful), have breakfast and get out to the field by 6.30 when we start flying until 9.30; you see the heat is bad for flying. Then we have a lecture until 10.30 and lunch at 11. From 11 to 3 P.M. we have absolute rest, and, believe me, we need it! I have found out that flying is going to be not only tiring but strenuous. Every day two trucks leave for town and let you wander around Tours at your ease until 3.30 when we have "goûter." At 4 we have lecture until 4.30; then we fly until 7.30 and eat at 8.15. We usually climb into bed immediately afterwards; though we can stay out all night if we wish; but that is absolute insanity if a man does n't intend to smash his machine up the next day.
There is more than the main field to fly on, and each field has its share of spectators which on Sunday crowd around the fences in colors of pink shirt-waists and black coats or uniforms with carriages here and there in the shade. Yesterday P.M. two nice girls came out and took our photos (being on a smaller field they could approach), which pleased us all and them too, until, by mistake, they got behind a propeller when a machine went off, which gave them good cause to blush, seeing that the propeller shoots back a whirlwind strong enough to blow you off your balance.
You have to go through numerous schools. First you just follow the movements of your pilot; then he lets you gradually take control until he perfects you in the landing school. Landing is the most delicate of all flying. Then you go into the solo class; then the spiral, the triangle, and finally, graduate at the end of a time proportionate with the weather, and receive your First Lieutenant's commission.
The first few days we watched others go up; it was interesting for the time, but we did n't learn much. However, from the very start we have all been feeling great and a fine current of comradeship circulates as never I have seen, especially in America. You could n't help feeling great out here, excepting that you're continually sleepy.
The first evening I walked from the dinner table out about twenty yards to where stretched the main field, and where, forbidden sight, men came swooping down or went soaring up almost within hand's reach. What I had found such a rare treat in the movies was now going on before my eyes in reality; but I could hardly believe that this was actually the heroic, dreadful, sublime aviation school and that these mere boys who came joking along with their big helmets in one hand were not more than the mere puppets of actual student-pilots. Was it possible that this boy whom I had studied Latin with, and this kid, smiling in his poilu's coat was the man of to-day, and the one on whom the Government was spending a little fortune that within a few months he might be one of those most vital single factors in the war? That Bill was conquering the air, and that all of them could do so much was quite beyond me. But then I felt myself grow bigger; I knew that never had I faced such danger, and yet I was not afraid. Before I had been frightened by exams, matches, people, but now I felt myself to rise above fear through the immensity of nobleness that such danger invoked.
We received our private's uniform which gives you the feeling of ye ancient knight in armor. We received also our aviator's uniform --- leather coat, "trow " helmet, goggles, fur-lined gloves, sweater and knit hat, all of which is very imposing.
One morning the Lieutenant assigned us to a monitor. We packed into a truck with some fifteen other boys and made for one of the auxiliary fields. These auto rides are full of impression. Each boy has a face such as you would only find out of three hundred boys at school. Every face is strong-set and chiseled by Volonté and Ideals. Very few are "nuts," as the French claim you have to be, for this stuff. It is enough to set you going for a week just to glance around at those you have for companions and know that they'll be your friends through the months of war ahead.
We got out on the field and waited for the monitor with the machine. During that time a peasant (American, by the way) brought out bread, jam, milk, and pears to us, which we ate while the gigantic sun in a disc of orange came up over the purple slate roof of a peasant house. Then one, two, and two more planes hummed through the air, came out of the tinted morning skies and shutting off their motors came gliding down, swooped over our heads and landed, some with a little jarring. The pupils gathered around their teachers and some put on their helmets for flight.
Here is a curious incident: We arrived on Friday; I wear 13 on my wrist; we are 13 in the class; and I fly on machine No. 13. That's good luck in France.
Now I have been here four days, and though the Americans are good, have seen four accidents, of which one might have proved fatal, since he cut the wings off on some trees and spiked head first into the road. They don't let you get near the machine, though, for the sight of a friend hurt or killed would be bad for a beginner. I have a friend here who saw a double smashup and death, and he has n't been the same since. He's less indifferent and much more sympathetic.
I'll rest awhile now.
I now find that I must avoid all sentimentality. Since my first whack at the controls, I have discovered that aviation, at first, in the learning, necessitates an absolute annulment of emotion, sensitiveness, imagination, etc.; not only when two thousand metres up in space, but all day long one must cultivate low-down materialism. All one's senses and imaginations must be dulled. Therefore I will merely sketch to you my impression on my first flight. It will be the only sentimentality I can allow myself.
Going off the ground is slowly seeing the peasant houses and yards below you, until you seem to own them as toys; then under the setting sun you realize yourself miles up in the air, hanging in space by two thin wings and slowly progressing by the deafening motor and mad propeller, over the woodland villages blurred in the rose dusk of sunset. Your machine will dip on a wing and then rise face to the big glow of that setting sun over the infinite horizon hills. Face to this gigantic hearth of red light, you suddenly realize that the space you are floating in is a breathing medium --- a vast, colossal god in whose arms you are lying as a speck in the infinite. Then it comes upon you that your wings are too small; that the nervous whirling and pounding of the engine and propeller in front of you is a vain attempt; that it is merely a mechanic fashioned by man, able to fail! That it vainly attempts to rise in a forbidden world inasmuch as through the fathoms of sunset space about you are forces vast and unknown --- calm now, but in a second, fiercer than any human-explored cyclones or waves or landslides; forces far beyond those that trail around the earth and that are only the droppings-off of those main big elements of space, the ones that fashioned the spheres and the comets and the ones that can juggle and destroy the multitudinous worlds in their embrace. You feel that man cannot challenge these higher fundamentals --- these unknown mediums --- and that your motor that attempts constantly to rise on the little wings far above their mother earth are vain, fragile, and ready at any moment to slide, snap, and be crumpled as a bit of paper, along with you. That is the general impression I gathered through ten minutes of first flight.
A couple of dips took the stomach out of me, made my ears feel funny, and made me feel like having a bottle of extra "peppy" champagne shoot to my head. Those dips were the only positive physical sensations. Rising is inspiring; gliding down to earth is restful after the strain, but you feel sorry when your wheels once again "taxi" you across the field.
The next day I had my second flight. Already we were allowed to take the main control, once in the air. I came down with the conviction that I could never make an aviator. My first attempt at the wheel of a car did not leave me without less than great hopes, but I felt myself impossible to ever be able to hang correctly in space and tend to all the necessaries at once, when at the slightest mistake you were finished. I was not afraid at all, but most unconfident in the least bit of a future.
However, when I got down I decided that the next time my turn came to get on my helmet and climb in, I would take that "manche à balai" and swing that machine around to the gale as I d----- pleased, making myself at home and sure, or that I would, in attempting it, break my neck. I was bent on flying or nothing. That night I impatiently slept off the few hours to 5 A.M. But it rained a little and we couldn't go up. The next day (that's this A.M.) I went out and waited my turn while the sun came up and separated all the clouds and prospects of bad weather. I got in, we tested the motor, and off. The sun shone bright and I said to myself as though in a hammock, "Fine day to-day; the country will look pleasant. We'll enjoy the trip. Ah! We're up. I was getting bored with the earth!" I waited for the signal. Finally, at two hundred metres, after passing over another plane, my pilot tapped me on the back. I took the controls and calmly remembered what I was to guide by. For rocking, the top of the front top plane and the horizon. For level of flight, the vertical position of the reënforcement bars up and down between the front wings. (All machines, practically, are biplanes to-day.) The weather was calm ---no "bumps"---no "pockets." I was running the old boat as I had intended to --- like a man. When the trip was over, the results were accomplished. Between confident running of the plane or smash-up, I had gained the former ---and, believe me, how I did enjoy it. Now I must go ahead, for I have much to learn and resist and conquer, inasmuch as I intend to make an aviator.
Yesterday the men got three months' pay and turned Tours upside down. Now I'll do a little outside studying.
I enclose a picture of my "rookies" suit that I'll be wearing the next few months while I'm in the learning. Afterwards, I'll have an officer's garb, but one starts at the beginning even in this service, and I'm glad.
September 17, 1917
MY DEAR FRIEND DICK: --
I don't know just about what you are doing now, or what a parallel your life is making with mine. Doubtless you are on the verge of something, for you could not remain idle long. As for me, I am becoming quite French; the only time I despise them is when a "Parisienne" turns me down. I can add that the "Parisienne," therefore, don't give you much chance to despise. They are very patriotic and receive their new allies with open hearts and open arms.
But now I am far from Paris, in the historical and aerial town of Tours. Were I to live long, I would surely gain possession of one of these low, dark, ancient houses, where crouched and heavy arches lead through corridors of mystery. However, I am not entirely exiled from civilization; and after an early morning flight, I don my student-pilot's badge and uniform and take a ride to town. There, cafés and theatres, though somewhat provincial, still await me, and even other welcomes, whose provinciality renders all their charm. We have a lot of them to ourselves and usually have lunch down town and pass around until flying time in the P.M. In the evening, now and then, the boys go down for a show and come back for flying, next morning. We get up at five, for early morning and late afternoon are our working hours, but the work is better than play.
Yesterday afternoon, for instance, we rode out to my class field, and as one by one our planes swooped down and awaited us, one by one, peasants of the neighborhood, a car or two from a nearby château and a flock of little birds (such as could show you the way to inspiration) crowded along the side lines and formed a gauntlet of wondrous eyes and silent admiration, which we somewhat awkwardly, but very gladly, accepted. Somehow, you know, wherever I go I seem to be crowned by some new-born halo and pass from respectful crowds to adoring arms. It all seems a dream!
Well, a few jokes mingled the crowd together. A couple of girls promised me their stockings to wear over my head when I fly, and I was soon assured of the quality of silk they would be when the girlies got behind a propeller just starting up its blast of wind. So the evening passed. I would chatter French and giggle and --- well, you know. Then I would climb into the machine, the mechanics would start her up, and as Midinette and Parisette would throw some flowers at me, I would be off in a whirlwind, turn around the field and mount the air, just above their heads, waving back a temporary farewell. Then the houses would shrink; the wheels of the plane would still be turning, but in space, would be hanging in space, mounting higher in space, dominating more pastures and roads, hills and towns, till they all seemed but petty toilings and dabblings of innumerable bourgeois. High was I! Level with any eagle and glad to be rid of earth and its boredome, its heaviness, its chains. Then I would bank and swing 'round to the west, face with the blazing furnace of the setting sun --- roaring straight into its fecund womb, sending the motor and propeller to the highest pitch of their speed and wind and thundering, feel the rush through my veins of some of the unknown ether of space, some of the forces, of the mediums far above and around, that fashion globes and meteors, feel myself a god, partly rising in potentiality, partly gaining eternity, thousands of feet above men.
Well, I would feel the "monitor" push on my back for me to come down, then a turn --- the field was in sight, and giving the controls to the "monitor" who would shut off the motor, I could distinguish the crowd and the boys and the planes as we glided to earth --- skimmed it and then, once again, felt its sod take hold of our wheels with its chains and once again we would rumble across the campus back to the side lines.
Next, my boy, is an unexaggerated, fact-for-fact account of an afternoon's flying. Of course, we don't fly every afternoon or every morning. It often rains and the barracks of young heroes become the haunts of gloomy faces, lights and pens. But otherwise, the boys are seconds. In the morning as I reach the field with the rising sun, I often think of going down to New London beach in the morning's brisk air and early sunlight and I contemplate how it would have been to stride down to the beach for your morning flight, 'midst all your friends, instead of a bath. And such things will be true, for I've got good reasons to stick to aviation. During the morning, only little children, a good American lady with food for us, and some cows crowd around us, but it is all very pleasant and quiet. The little girls and boys will scramble on to our knees and chatter to us between minutes, of life and death high up in space.
We will tramp around in the wet dew, pick berries and fruit from Mother Nature and breathe in all the inspiration she can give us --- the dew, ripened fruit, the grass and the air, all is saturated with morning perfume and we are happy to do our work in quiet communion with deep, silent Nature.
Then comes a ride to the barracks in a car, and we have our second meal. We eat four times a day, which is, at least, very interesting to me. Some adventure at Tours in middle of the day and a lecture or two, and we fly again in the P.M.; and so on, the weeks through, in a continuous passing and re-passing of happy hours, gay adventures, high inspirations, and always the fine life that fine boys put together are sure to bring out.
Does none of that tempt you? Does none of that surpass your present hours of would-be romance, would-be freedom, and would-be happiness in America? Of course, one thing we have not. I have no time, to let my imagination wander, or my sensitiveness wallow in baths of perfume, or my poetry to murmur its symphony, or my fantastic dreams to weave their fanciful spider webs --- none of that. It would be deathly poison to me, for in my new game I must cultivate a cold indifference to danger and a cold determination to conquer. Were I to let my imagination or my artistic feelings loose for one second, up in the air, I would be lost. My first flight was a passenger one, and luckily, for it just taught me in time that anyhow life was to be void for the present of all supersensitiveness.
It is a great expanse of activity, positive accomplishments, action, real dreams, adventure, romance, speed, concentration, nerve, and a wide opening for glory; it is, therefore, through such elements as these, a horizon that no man could call an image and that no, man should be so hypnotized as not to fight to obtain. That is why I am putting it up to you.
You think it is void of Art? My boy, IT is the Art --- the living Art; not the dream of a poem, but the realization of it; the standing statue, the breathing masterpiece.
And later on, when I become thoroughly at home above the clouds, when I'm back in America, I'll find more time to paint on the side, things that have never been painted, and explore with my muse the rhythm and power of regions unexplored. Secret: I intend to become the Poet of the Airs; of course, it is not merely a question of eternal soaring; now and then, two or three of us will get serious and mention death, but we get rid of it hurriedly, knowing that the world won't stop turning around when we do, and the rest of the time death is the general joke of the day; it makes us laugh, and it takes on quite a sporty disguise; nevertheless, it is there --- always present --- even when I would be listening by soft feminine locks the whispering of "Comme nous sommes heureux ensemble" ---just so, the next morning with the early sunrise, might I pass from such happiness forever. Therefore, in urging you, I also am warning you; but once in the game, you'll find that usually death serves as a stimulant to the vitality of life and daring of flying. (I distinguish life as usually understood and flying --- it is exact.)
Well, think it over --- form a philosophy, create a fancy, realize a necessity, do something, and then join, for I'm sure your decision would not --- could not be the contrary. At least, if you are as I know you --- Richard Mansfield II.
Now it's a rainy day, the mandolins are a-tingle amongst the little military cots, and denseness of cigarette smoke makes their soft caressing of forgotten ragtime bring you back to the old, funny-seeming cabarets of Broadway. How distant they now seem; how blurred the faces of American beauty and the lights of American gayety; how foggy, through this cigarette smoke, here on the field in France, do those ancient symbols of peculiar joys and days forgotten come peering back at me --- tempting me with homesickness, but only strengthening my desire to drink deeper of France --- her joy, her sympathy --- and her Great War. I am young, and Youth is here! Now, then, it is a rainy day. I will go over to the little café across the way, see a friend aviator or two; salute a uniform, smile at a maid or two, and with a tall glass of black coffee and a volume of Verlaine muse at the big, low hangars crouching along the field in the rain and contemplate the hour or two away until the car leaves for town.
Good-bye, and until then I'll remember you to all the little Touraine maidens. They'll surely want to be more than remembered to you --- just because they're French.
September 24, 1917
DEAR MOTHER: --
In the midst of boys coming back from the day's flying, throwing their helmets on to their cots with their leather coats --- and falling down on top of the whole or ducking under the cold water faucet --
I was interrupted by the dinner bell. Now it's the next morning. I'm just back from the morning's work. Now I'm practically running the old boat except for some corrections now and then on the end of the landings which are the hardest parts of flying.
Tours was lost in a fog this morning and around the two black cathedral towers but a few roofs glinted in the vague sunlight. The river ran its silver into the fog, making the whole look like a bay.
I'm enjoying flying more and more. I can't get enough of it. Each time I come down I remain silently enraptured with its voluptuousness, for a long while, until once again it is my turn.
I feel a little shiver (for I'm still that way until the motor starts up) and then the monitor in the front seat puts his hand on the side of the bathtub, coffin, side car ---whatever you will call it ---gets the flag signal to leave and shakes his hand straight ahead; I pull back on the gas lever --- the motor pounds like a battery of artillery --- the handle-stick (manche à balai) pushes hard on your hand and with a few manuvres the machine is skimming the ground --- leaving it --- mounting higher.
We're off some hundred yards above the ground with the wind to fight with and give "pep" to it all, for the sun is up and air pockets are frequent. They make you drop --- they boost you up like a tin plate --- they whack one wing and tip you ---they give you a wonderful tussle.
I've had four and one-half hours now and will be ready for landing school in a half-hour or so. That lasts a day or two, then I'll be " lâché" or "soloing " --- sailing around by myself --- visiting the château country by the third dimension.
I have just finished "Madame Bovary" (Flaubert). It is, as you know, recognized as the strongest novel in history and I have n't gotten over it yet. It sure is a beautiful slam at the bourgeois --- Flaubert's lifelong enemies. When reading it I was happy to know that I was not a bourgeois, that I was not a feeble dreamer with dreams never realized, even completed or specified, but that just outside were the beautiful birds of paradise which I could make lead me to real idealism, and, as now and then an aero-motor would start up, it would set up a current of satisfaction through me, for I knew that I was realizing my dreams and living my art, and it all made me smile as I would return to feeble Madame Bovary and her oppressing bourgeois.
I am very tired, so I won't write you long. I'm ashamed not to have written before, but really, we get awfully lazy and just snore all day long.
I have to go to lecture now. We smoke in there and have general discussion. It seems a scandal compared to school classes. At night we go out with the lecturers. It's a social crime.
I'll answer some of your questions: I had a number of very interesting war trophies, but along with three-fourths of my belongings they disappeared completely while I was "on permission."
Our studio in Paris is occupied by an "embusqué" French officer who uses it for a den to celebrate the victory in. Bright orange tapestries, black wickerwork and shining brass have turned it from a spacious chapel of work into a crowded boudoir.
I have not seen any one but Toussaint, a second, always smiling and deaf. Bourdelle I have told you about; Madame Rose a little more cheerful and Sevastos a little more curious and simple. The concierge I paid little attention to; the Impasse is just as dirty. A few extra dogs make it more active. The court is damp, mossy, and quiet, with the big, still studio windows opening on the blue sky.
The object of your sculpture "Call of the Clouds" seems indefinite and a call that would attract more the dreamer of fifteen who has not the books and relations to sacrifice that you say you put at his feet. If it is in view of an aviator, it is different. The idea is original and probably came from your lying on your back and gazing at those clouds whose novelty struck you, since in the city one never sees them unless on the ferryboat.
The idea is so original and startling that it can be made very powerful if given more definitism. --n'est-ce pas?
Sculpture is already almost as indefinite as music --- an indefinite subject would hurt it considerably.
But this "Call of the Clouds" interests me considerably. Since I have gone into aviation, I have been temporarily forced to abandon Art; as a result I don't know as much as I used to up at school, and my opinion is vague and lazy, but I do wish you to tell me the development of this monument.
Please don't be so much of a woman as not to get interested in your interest and to not carry it out fully.
It seems an odd subject for sculpture and yet one that would be better for sculpture than anything else.
I carry the "porte-bonheur" you sent me when I fly. I am glad you realized that I could have an increase of allowance. Can you make it definite? It is important, so that's why I insist. I've found that comfort is more important than I thought, and distraction, too, since I have been on the job flying. I not only need it, but must have it, from the smallest detail of milk up to the joy rides and dinners and a theatre show now and then. I have not received candy nor cigarettes, nor soap, nor safety-pins from you, and only need the first two, though I thank you for all those attentions.
As yet I have seen no battles and don't wish you to say I have. A battle is far different from the artillery joking I've come in contact with.
I think I told you that I received my student-pilot badge from the French Government and I wear it proudly, counting it fully equal to a medal. It's a silver wreath with a silver wing and a silver star and is worn on the right chest pocket.
Now and always understand me as very loving and considerate.
26 September, 1917
VERY DEAR MOTHER: --
Having just received two very worrisome letters from you, I answer immediately.
First: You have worried about a good many things since April 28th. It is now September 26th and none of the worrying has, so far, done any good. The subjects of worry just come out good by themselves. Now, of course, some kind fairy, knowing your merits, has done all that for you, and intends to keep things straight; so just let the fairy work of its own accord.
Now you reproach me mainly of, first, not telling you definitely about my affair in Paris; second, not giving you specific details about the Aviation Corps and which corps I was entering. Well, first, I told you at the moment, that I could not say the least more about my affair in Paris, for "Taisez-vous, Méfiez-vous, Des oreilles ennemies vous écoutent." Now I cannot yet explain, but will soon.
Nothing in the way of a scandal has taken place. It has merely to do with some organizations and everything is now perfect --- in no way have I ever come near a bad tangent to that honor which I have so far held sacred for my sake and that of my family line.
Third: I did not, at first, tell you which aviation corps I had joined or anything else concerning it, so as to be ready to resist any attempt on your part to keep me out of it. Now that I have your consent, I can tell you everything that the censor will permit, and that much have I done. Beyond those limits I, inasmuch as I am to become one of the officers of our Army, cannot give to any one the information that has naturally been intrusted to me. Besides, such details, technique, etc., would not weigh much in appeasing maternal worrying. It is more about my health, etc., that you are upset, and about the such I can talk to you freely.
We have an American doctor and a French dentist for our use. Our laundry we pay for; also clothing repairs. When we become officers, we'll have to pay for all clothing, orderly-work, and a thousand other details.
As to my spirits, you can fully realize my enthusiasm, as shown in my letters.
As to finance --- I did n't have sufficient an allowance; I asked for more and explained why; you kindly agreed to increase it and, my dear mother, I more than agree to thank you for that decision. If there is any souvenir you would like from France, in return, I am here to fulfill your wishes. I am sending you some magazines, the most practical souvenir on account of shipping risks and I hope you receive all.
I am in the American Aviation --- the only one. We are to have the most wonderful of all machines. I know something of what types and something of further perfecting-training and something of what kind of a machine I'll get, but I cannot tell you.
There are so many multitudes of "embusqués" it makes me sick. In no other country have I heard of the thousands of ways possible to get out of the real fight.
I've got a slight grippe, so I'm wearing the pink muffler of Elaine, around my neck, and it seems funny, for while hearing the airplanes roar over the barracks, her face is comical 'midst the wings of death and adventure --- her pink muffler funny around my blood-red veins.
I wish you'd persuade H. to get over here. It would give him the necessary push and manliness to succeed --- at least to succeed in America.
September 29, 1917
DEAREST MOTHER: --
When under the sun are you going to get over here! The planes are still flying all right, and I'm getting impatient to get advanced through the school. If an accident of some account would only come around it might calm me down, but just now I feel bold and brave and over-confident. Of course there are from two to six smash-ups a day, but those are all in solo classes and I don't see them; besides, no one ever gets hurt, so you don't even hear about them.
Yesterday evening a peasant kid on a bike was following our camion, which, by mistake, threw over on the road and sent him flying against a tree which broke his neck. I spoke to him, but though he tried, he could not answer, so we had to let him die without his parents.
Landing class is great fun. My new monitor (the fourth I've had) is a little husky Southerner. He used to be a prize-fighter and is therefore a thoroughbred aviator.
The other day two medical officers, a Major and a Captain, wanted to go up, put on some clothes and started trembling as though they were in the trenches. The Major told the monitors that he wanted a short ride with no tricks. The officers got in --- white, waxen, paralyzed. Well, the monitors winked at us, and in a twinkling, those two machines were doing stunts in the air, from "looping" to "sea-sicking." I don't think by the looks of the Major and Captain, when they landed, that many more medical officers will go up again. But I'm pretty positive that if we could only give a few senators and law-makers a ride, we'd be getting that one hundred dollars a month that all the men get who are training in officers' camps in America. We are very peeved, that being under the same conditions, only more dangerous, training the same for officership, we do not get that one hundred dollars a month. That is the only grudge we've got on the Government. Of course, though, once away from home, you're usually more or less slighted, so we take it as Fate and laugh it off.
As I was saying, landing class is fun. In ten minutes you have to make seven landings up and back the long field. The only trouble is that as soon as a partridge is sighted within a few miles' radius, school stops immediately; the monitors jump in their machines and run down the birds, catching them in the wires and coming back with a great feed. Talking about "running down," ---yesterday a monitor saw a car run into a woman and then speed up to get away. He came back to a hangar, took out a machine, flew just over the road, caught up with the auto, made the owner turn around, and come back to pay his debt. It's just great to be an aviator! But you can only fly in case there's no wind, no rain, no heat, no fog, no snow, or hail, or anything else, and then you can't always fly; machines and parts lack terribly. We've just ordered fifty new ones ($150,000) for the place, but they won't be here for Kingdom come. We'll all be dead and forgotten by that time. Except for one friend, Eternity, he says he'll keep our memory up and put fresh flowers where we dropped .
There's not so much doing out of the ordinary these days, but when I get to "solo" I'll have my own experiences to relate and shall try and make them just as active as possible, so as to more amuse the folks at home.
Does America realize she's at war yet?
1 October, 1917
DEAR MUZZIE: --
Tours is a very attractive town. Opening her streets to the warm sunlight of a calm and majestic country, she partakes herself of something of the surroundings and interweaving meadows and poplar trees, mists and wallowing cattle. Her big cathedral and her river bind her forever to God and Nature, while just off the busy hum of la rue Nationale, its concerts and cafés, still crowd together and overlap, the tile roofs, the bulging plastered walls hiding dwarf-like, winding stairway, doors, tunnels; still squirms in obscureness and filth a vast labyrinth of the Mediæval Ages with but the geraniums of a few balconies and a rare ray of sunlight to spot it now and then with a glance of truth and happiness.
Along the river-bank is a small palisades with a broad hotel front now and then, multitudinous windows open to the sky, and big cushions of trees turning to rust. Far out of the town a crossing of tracks and an invisible railroad station tell you that the boulevards and embassies of Paris are only four hours at the most away.
Its character, I forget, but it's very naive in the country and therefore very soothing and very simple in the city, and therefore very despairing. In fact, the only fun I get out of the city is in making it what it is not. In breaking up the theatre shows, singing better than the concert singer at the concerts, and owning all the waiters and cochers along the rue Nationale and the "Place."
A few dens sprinkled here and there in the obscure mediæval houses, a few garden parties laid amongst the bright châteaux, complete the fun, but it's all too small. It does n't level up with the other half of my life-aviation. This morning I got another ten minutes' landing practise. Coming back I was with the wind and landed about 150 kilometres an hour, so fast that it was hard to judge your height when settling down on the grass.
It's awfully cold flying these brisk but golden autumn days. And the cows won't get out of the way. Nor the people either, when you feint a landing right on them. They just stand frozen on the field admiring you, and when you land, all the little "Tourangelles," the girls from Tours, just " Ah!" and "Oh!" at you by the hour.
Why, when our truck goes through town you would think that the glorious dream of Napoleon's or Alexander's armies marching into Cairo or Alexandria, whilst women hailed them from their balconies and threw flowers on their path, had come true; for when we pass, the little ladies rush out to the street and the more beautiful ones cheer to us from their dainty balconies and holler "Les Américains! --- Je vous adore!" And even down to the little gutter-urchins does the street along our way ring behind and ahead of us with "Vive nos Américains!" I'll get scared and think my job dangerous if the ladies keep up such cheering and the girls such smiles of praise out on the field. It's real fun; no novel reading, but the real stuff.
DEAREST MOTHER: --
Flying went rotten this morning. I'm away behind in my class on account of the landings. Aviation gives you extremes, either joy or "the blues," so I guess it's a pretty big service, bigger than the camions.
To-day our truck lived up to its nickname of the "hearse" by killing a dog.
Talk about feeling discouraged. I don't need to fret so much, for I'm intent on either making a good flier or a good fighter. One can always go out and fight better than other fliers and until you're "popped" beat them in reputation. Guynemer, the greatest aeronaut of the war, can't make (I mean could n't) a good landing yet, and took one hundred hours to go through this school.
Bill is flying alone now and is trying to persuade himself he's in love. In fact everybody seems to be in love but me. Since the war came on, everybody has a sweetheart. I've never had one, but I don't seem to be bored with life half so much and I seem to get a good deal more out of characters and events.
Yesterday a rumor of peace swept the barracks, and I felt real sorry. All my adventures seemed to fade. America looked oppressive and barren. Once again I came back to France. Now and then a picture of Paris brings me back too. I'd like to go to Italy, though.
I had something to tell you. I forgot --- Oh! yes. I always was a city lover; being broke now, I feel quite lonesome without even little Tours. But I'll be on my feet again in a couple of weeks. I've had about six hours of flying now, only get too imaginative once in a while in the air, and hope to perfect my landings enough this afternoon to be "lâché" -thrown on to wings alone. I have shop work this P.M. and will learn a lot of excellent practical work, then " goûter," then flying, then home again --dinner, bed.
You'll get some pictures soon, but I'm not taking any now, for there's nothing of interest.
Life is very stupid; not enough flying! --- too lazy to work at anything, forbid myself any art, not tired enough to sleep, broke so that I can't go to town. I'm a damned fool altogether, and live like a bourgeois or a college boy, from minute to minute --- ideas stuffed up, no thought, inspiration, souvenirs, or hope. Terribly indifferent, hoggishly lazy, criminally conscious of the whole.
October 12, 1917
DEAREST MOTHER: --
A long time since I've written you. Well, the time's been longer for me. We haven't been flying at all hardly. In other words, I've been learning the chief occupation of aviation school --- seeing the country, being broke, indulging in laziness so beautifully that everything bores you but flying. Nevertheless, in spite of a week and a half without seeing a machine outside of the hangar, I've been able to get in enough time to get through landing school and am now ready to pilot a machine through the air alone. That means that at the next break Nature makes and lets the sun out, the rain away, and the wind down, with the fog up, I'll be out to jump into the big excitement of school work. Your first "solo-hop."
I don't know whether I've told you that I'm in a room with three others. Bill, Jack, and Bruce (a man and a writer, an excellent camp companion). My favorite rainy-day occupation is a side track of my general Beelzebubic life. Writing letters to juggle friends, mix up circumstances and conditions, churn politics with psychology, and get my mail, a little more exciting, bringing definite messages of broken hearts, simple researches, unveiling characters, threats of vengeance, and a defeat or victory here and there and all around.
All my sweethearts are breaking off with me! It's so annoying, for I'll just have to waste a week getting new ones. Now isn't that the serious life for a man who should be contemplating the thousand and one inspirations that aviation outpours through its divine channels to a man!
But you see, were it not for my frivolities, I would either be thinking all the time of flying, either extending my artistic sensibilities, either doing nothing at all. The first would result in insanity, the second in a fatal mood of supersensitiveness some nine thousand feet off earth, which would quickly save me the trouble of becoming sensitive again. The latter would result in idiocy. Therefore, instead of those three, I chose a fourth --- slightly better --- that of frivolity which makes a man laugh, more human, somewhat rusé and experienced according to his vanity --- and a good companion, according to others.
You say you like Science better than Fiction, for Fiction is all unrealities. I doubt it. As to the surface of Fiction: Characters and habits, those may be unreal, but these characters and habits are only means of approaching the reader through a channel of comprehension most natural to him --that of his fellowmen and their actions, to the greater truths of life, outstanding in every good novel. For it is only for the form of persons that the author claims a demand of interest --- not the reality of them. And it is through this form --- human characters and their actions --- that the author shows how life is beautiful---brings forth with the lives of his characters, as history with the lives of nations, the truths of nature---the philosophies of life and the many factors that go to make the life of man so beautiful and even to show it the way to heaven.
Of course all novels do not aim mostly at an aspect of life --- a view of heaven, an ideal, or a disdain. Some get deeply interested in their characters, sympathize with the heroes and shudder at the villains, their baseness. Those novels tend to make you understand those about you better, to make you appreciate their delicacies of soul, and to realize that man's day-to-day life, with all its materialism is a great, quivering harp with high notes and low ones all a-tremble of a gigantic Fairyland.
Novels, then, where the chief interests of the author are his characters, are novels for the heart---they cultivate appreciation. Novels where there is an interest from the author to show a truth in life and nature and opening to heaven or hell, are novels for the soul --- they tend to direct in the channels of philosophy towards an ideal --- high or low.
Well, you have read some of Flaubert: You don't like his 'Éducation Sentimentale"; evidently you did n't see in every detail the general truth of the whole. That in every act of the boy, you did n't see the germ of bourgeoisie, tending to destroy the first boyish ideals --- high and worthy --- until, losing little by little the ambition to carry them out or the appreciation of the spiritual at all, the only bit of light he had left was the souvenir of away back in his first promising days of youth and ideals --- but what souvenir? That of his ideals --- his dreams? No! a souvenir of a mediocre palpitation of passion --- of mediocre tangency to life, but a tangency nevertheless, for the once and only time.
You did n't see Flaubert all the way through, fighting his enemy as a crusader --- for a religion. Flaubert fighting bourgeoisie --- abhorring it --- trying, through the decadence of the boy's idealism into base materialism, to damn bourgeoisie in the face of all his readers.
Not only was Flaubert appealing to your heart to appreciate the palpitations, the flux and reflux, harmonies and discords of his characters, but was he begging of your soul to spur itself away from bourgeoisie. I also note that of all Flaubert's works you have not read that book which has made him the author of the strongest novel of contemporaneous literature --- " Madame Bovary."
You say you are reading Baudelaire. I am sorry. He is not one of my idols. He is just a satisfier for certain moods --- a bible for the wicked; and one can only be wicked by moods, without becoming voluntarily insane, like the author.
To read him you must first read a sketch of his life, and realize that the man voluntarily, through his supreme sensitiveness, went dopy, sensitive outrageously, insane. He became a wreck and enjoyed it. He grinned at his carcass and the haunt of approaching death. He found beauty in it (the most wonderful and correct of Baudelaire's achievements). He wrote madly when convulsions and dizziness and pain never left him, and in his dying bed, glorified in the news that he had contracted a malady the physicians could not solve --- something beyond their science --- something new, deliciously eccentric. But I'm sorry you're reading Baudelaire. Unless one fully realizes what they're running into and has a complete bird's-eye view of the man, his life, and his work, they are liable to get mixed up between the beauty of his lines and their own concentration, and not seeing much of a horizon in general, soon get mixed up in the details, until they feel they've been reading Nietszche for a sermon the last century or two.
Besides Baudelaire is more of a curiosity --- the psychological specimen of a dangerous beauty---than an idol. He was the starter of the new musical school, but I doubt if he knew so. It probably came unconsciously through his love of sound. Don't read Baudelaire unless you want to go mad. Now I suppose you surely will.
Well, I expect to get some "argent" soon and get some food and adventure.
One fellow is ringing (I mean banging) a banjo in my left ear---the second, Bill, is whistling rag-time like a freight whistle in my right ear, and a third is chewing an apple, like a yard of swine at one trough, in both ears at once, so good-night before I become Baudelaire, his poems and an aviator; in other words, the foam in raging and hydrophobia in foam.
Aviation School, October 15, 1917
WELL, DEAREST, --
How is the sunshine in New York this afternoon? Here the sky is blue-gray, full of rain, excepting in the west where a firmament of gold reflects its rays over a favored blotch of Touraine landscape --- the poplar trees and the rusty roofed houses 'midst their orchards, and elevates with its golden mist this mirage of country into regions divine as the mist of a halo sheds a heavenly grace on the face of a painting.
Outside of heaven there's also been a little hell, just to make the world go round. That is --- I've flown alone! I've made my first "solo-hop." How I came out, how I felt, my impressions --- I don't know. Ask some blind man, some crazy man, some dying man --- he could tell you far better. I myself know nothing about it, either how I went, why I went, or where I went.
When "reveille" sounded this morning, and I looked out on a clear day, I knew that the biggest moment of school work had come --- the dreaded first "hop" alone.
I had been so filled with scarey tales and wild descriptions that I did n't have any imagination left to get scared on myself, so when I got out to the long-envied solo field, I took a look at the sky as usual, put on my gloves, and climbed in. The thing that bothered me most, so material I had become, was that the seat was n't very comfortable.,
Then the chief pilot showed me the direction, and before I knew it (just like at the dentist's) they had the motor on. Where was my monitor, why was n't he in the machine? Oh --- it's to be all done alone by myself--- to hang in space by myself --- well, " Remember I like lilies, boys," and without knowing why --- the demon was off. Things seemed smooth --- the sun was coming up prettily and I leaned over the side to see if I was off yet. Well, I felt like I was standing on the head of the flag pole of the Metropolitan Building. Then I felt alone. And Gee! I was never quite so homesick --- never in the depths even of a jungle --- as I was just then, a little way off solid ground. I decided mighty quickly that Mother Earth was very loving --exceedingly loving, so I cut her off and nosed into a glide. Somehow she decided --- for she's a masterful mistress, a real vampire --- she decided to cati-corner --- that is, to make the "first hopper" feel like a kitten entangled in a ball of yarn; so that my landing was like a flat tire.
By the time I fully realized that I had flown by myself, without breaking my neck, a few Annamite mechanics came running up to me and set me on my backward route --- "taxying" across the field. And there you are! At least I can come walking back with the crowd from solo field. I am one of the austerities of camp. Flying now starts --- I mean not exactly flying --- but excitement.
Of course aviation is, from the first ride to the last smash-up, one long series of heart-quakes; dinner parties, and sleeping, but after you start out alone in the world, the heart-quakes become soul-quakes.
Machines break up around you, friends escape by a hair's breadth or don't get the hair's breadth in, and you yourself are floating between heaven and earth with a trip much easier and quicker to make upwards to Saint Peter and heaven, than downwards to earth.
My next trip will be a "tour-de-piste" about ten minutes around the main field. Other machines to look out for (landing from a height and length of time not counting the weather up above and your nervousness) make it quite appalling, so I'll go to the theatre and get it off my mind.
By the way, we'll be allowed the privilege of being the first of America's Army to get to the front, for the other boys won't be in the trenches before we overfly them.
Say, by the way, is n't this the typical dream --- a mother reading her boy's letter about the trenches and the enemy?
I received the Pequot Casino cigarettes, and outside of making me sick for New London every time I smoked one they arrived just at the critical point in the happiness and sociability of a room of four camp boys, when all four are broke and the last pinch of tobacco has long gone, even to the last scent of its smoke-rings, for when a room no longer smells of sweet tobacco, it loses coziness and spirituality; the boards of the walls, the crude furniture, all its materialism triumphs in its cold reality.
Did I tell you I had just finished Benj. Constant's "Adolphe"? A powerful analysis mediocrely told.
Some of the causes seem often weak, but of course he had a weak and lazy type to treat, who, moreover, had the misfortune to go through his first love affair --- period when one has wild ideals of self-sacrifice --- under conditions that made his smallest actions and thoughts important and lead to important results --- a woman depending on no one, free to be with him continually, for him and more than all over him. Too strong a character seeking too decisive results and important results out of a boy who was only in his first love , where beautiful principles dominate the demands of life and thereby wreck them if they get a chance. They got a chance at Adolphe, for he was free to act as his puppy heart dreamt and wreck him they did.
Of course, too, the weak causes can be defended as true to nature, through the fact that it was the actual experience of the author and Madame de Staël.
Create some big work this winter out of your summer's inspiration.
Aviation School in France
MY DEAR GRANNY: --
Now don't you wish you had flattered and fondled me beyond all extremes, now that I can fly instead of walk; don't you wish you could get a hint, an invitation, an actual flight? Think of seeing Uncle Free's palace from above and soaring fax beyond its pinnacles a-gleam in the sunlight, to glide to the four corners of wide-spanning Watseka! Dominating the world, dominating the human race, dominating Watseka, Onarga, Kankakee, and La Hogue all at once, from one point in space in the time of one second --- then would n't you feel like flattering and fondling more than ever your little grandson?
It's great sport, though, and after eating and sleeping, is really divine. I'm running the ol' boat alone now, and Gee! how the clouds do hate me! They stir up more wind and Cain-raising in a second or two than all the Fourth-of-July crackers in Watseka could do at three in the morning. It even beats the arguments around the corners of Main Street and often has the advantage of very decisive results --- absolute smash ups.
That, of course, adds a current of excitement to the monotony of camp --- betting whether or not a chap is going to "slip off" on his glide or "pancake" on his landing, and often winning a few greenbacks if he does.
You see you're on the field for the excitement of the gang, and if you don't come down 'midst a cloudburst of splinters and wires or at least turn a few somersaults, you're not worth the training of an aviator.
It's not all just so romantic; though to-night, to see us sitting around a double-jointed stove, smoking pipes, blinking in the heat, and arguing out of the corner of your mouth freed by your pipe, to see us talking of bedtime instead of movie stars and anticipating a decent breakfast instead of a palace in Venice, you would turn our aviation camp into a little town gathering in the hardware store or the grocer's.
Now and then, forgetting the price of beans or lawn mowers, we mention that Tom had a forced landing at dark, or that Bill, instead of milking the cow, slipped off the wing and just turned over in time.
Now and then we put wings on the speckled cow, but outside of that we appear, are, and feel like a bunch of farmers. Of course (as you can guess) just during the broke period.
Pay-day always leaves the farmyard gathering miles beyond and looms up the dear and more becoming palaces of the Venice of our Youth.
A city is at our disposal and aeroplanes to spur us on, so we usually make things hum. We turn the town's old propeller around and if the motor does n't spin, we break it into a dozen sky rockets.
Does that seem comprehensible to you in America? I hope so, because over here aviators are supposed to be insane, and I'm almost afraid we are. We have fits of silliness, daring, and raving absolutely worthy of Kankakee's insane asylum, far exceeding the limits of the stage or even of auto-racing, worthy only of its true native home into which it fits perfectly, this flying life --- the insane house. In fact, you can see that from the beautiful mixture I have here composed you of farmyards and castles in Spain, with a few big words and accidents on the side. Nevertheless, I can always be sure I love you no matter how "nutty" I become.
MY DEAR MOTHER:
In the American Field Service, the percentage of death (therefore of bravery and risk) was one-fifth, while in aviation, according to the statistics of the last offensive that permitted flying weather, the percentage was eighty per cent. In other words, out of ten boys that left camp, two came back. So I was amused at your recommending me to be brave. If you'd have heard, as my comrades did, when I started off on my first "tour-de-piste" alone, our monitor exclaim: "There goes a dead machine!" you would have turned your recommendation to bravery into one to God and my soul.
However, I got out of the cheval-de-bois all right --- straightened out; and feeling somewhat the color of the trees below me, shot on through the air, my eyes watering as if they were peeling onions.
I don't think I ever hesitated more as to whether I wished to continue to be an aviator, than I did just then. Somehow my legs were pushing the rudder unconsciously like the wagging of a dog's tail, my hand just couldn't steady the manche à balai, and the old boat was exhibiting gleefully to me, such twists and twirls and unknown sensations as I never imagined an aeroplane, with all the space to help it, could ever find the caprice to invent. As for other aeros, I did n't give a snap --- they just had to look out for themselves. I was far too busy trying to carry a ton of tacks on an ice-covered path one foot wide, between two gigantic abysses.
Every peculiar lurch, start, or cati-cornered thrust instantly became for me a wing slip (certain death) or a tail slip (fair death) or a loss of speed (absolute death), with a few extra possibilities such as leaping off the Woolworth, turning somersaults on the last twig of a tree and lighting on the lightning rod --- Pavlova style.
As I was most 'round the "piste" my engine started missing and I to look for a landing ground in case of a forced landing. Well, I did n't look long. Mother Earth's smile, from up above, turns into the most ghastly grin of Satanism. I just kept my eyes ahead and waited. She picked up and before I realized it, it was time to cut off; then to re-dress, to pull back gently for a beautiful skimming landing, and to suddenly feel a bump --- brrrr --- as the boat hits the wharf instead of just fitting in. However, I was lucky, for out of thirteen who went up, seven machines were broken that morning and mine was still intact.
But I won't feel at home up there for at least five or six more trips. That front seat sure looks empty. It just makes a big vacuum inside you, and between you and the ground --- a great vacant lot of nothing --- great falling matter.
You see, as I told you, once in solo, a man has a lot to tell --- the heart-quake moments turn into hours as "Poor Butterfly" goes, and the dreams into nightmares.
I don't know where I'll be this winter; as long as I'm on the earth it will be all right.
I'll write to Mr. W. as soon as I get a little brain matter and ambition back. I've been loafing and sleeping terribly, lately. My health could not improve.
Give me news of Dick and tell him to get over here before I fly back and kidnap him.