To-day we lead a bourgeoise life, almost too comfortable. The cold keeps us with the extraordinary woman who lodges us whenever we visit the village where we are billeted three days out of nine.
I will not tell you about the pretty view from the window where I write, but I will speak of the interior which shelters many of our days. By day we live in two rooms divided by a glass partition, and, looking through from one room to another, we can admire either the fine fire in the great chimney-place or the magnificent wardrobe and the Meuse beds made of fine old brass. All the delicate life of these two old women (the mother, 87 years old, and the daughter) is completely disorganised by the roughness, the rudeness, the kind hearts and the generosity of the soldiers. These women accept all that comes and are most devoted.
As for Spinoza, whose spirit you already possess, I think that you can go straight to the last theorems. You will be sure to have intuitive understanding of what he says about the soul’s repose. Yes, those are moments experienced by us too rarely in our weakness, but they suffice to let us discover in ourselves, through the blows and buffetings of our poor human nature, a certain tendency towards what is permanent and what is final; and we realise the splendid inheritance of divinity to which we are the heirs.
Dear mother, what a happy day I have just spent with you.
There were three of us: we two and the pretty landscape from my window.
Seen from here, winter gives a woolly and muffled air to things. Two clouds, or rather mists, wrap the near hillside without taking any delicacy from the drawing of the shrubs on the crest; the sky is light green. All is filtered. Everything sleeps. This is the time for night-attacks, the cries of the charge, the watch in the trenches. Let our prayers of every moment ask for the end of this state of things. Let us wish for rest for all, a great amends, recompense for all grief and pain and separation.