Dec 10th 1915
My dearest Mela
Rumour says it may be possible to get a letter off today, so I am just writing a note on the chance.
Yesterday a mail brought me four letters from you, three recent (up to Nov 17th) and one of October 13th; also the air-pillow, for which I thank you very much. I had one like it, but it was punctured long ago. They are very useful things, and I am very pleased to have another. The first of your three later letters was the one you wrote while at Sammy's room, which I much enjoyed reading. I had letters too from Ethel (at Lancing) and Mother who wrote on the 20th when she was expecting George that evening. I can imagine how pleased she must have been to get his telegram. Not that the wording of her letter suggests it at all, but that is always Mother’s way - and you will probably think her youngest son takes after her.
Latest news says I can post early tomorrow which is excellent, and gives me quite a lot of time. You will gather that there is something not quite normal in our present existence; I shall explain when it becomes permissible. Meanwhile I give you what news I can.
On consideration is seems likely that this will arrive about your birthday; so I will wish you many returns, happier I hope than the coming one. Perhaps the next may find us married at last if things turn out well, and if that makes you as much happier as it will me it will have done a lot; this even supposing we still have to be separated, how much more if the war is over and I am back with you!
I am not going to send a cheque until mails are normal, but I will tell you what to expect. Your birthday present will be £2 10s. I hope this will serve to bring up to scratch that little reserve you laid in the bank, and in addition to this buy you a present of some really useful thing or things you really need. I don't mind what you spend the money on so long as it is something you require urgently, and I am sure that will give you only too large a selection to choose from.
I have every hope that the leather waistcoat and my other Christmas parcels from home will arrive in due course. A liberal margin of time has been given, and it is really rather important to secure the delivery of the men's mails because it will make a lot of difference to their good spirits. I quite look forward to spending a very cheery Christmas, though very unlike the one I should choose. If it is true that January and February are the really cold months out here the leather waistcoat will be just right for it. Many people swear by them. I know by experience it can be cold in this region. Lately is has been very mild and pleasant, not even the nights being cold at all. Breakfast in the open with no overcoat on is quite pleasant. It gets light about 6.45 am and dark soon after 5 pm here now, and the sun is always nice and warm when it is shining, as it quite often does. The other day I secured a prisoner. He wandered across minus rifle and bayonet opposite my trenches just after dawn. By luck I came up a communication trench to the very point he was making for just as he reached our wire, so I was there to welcome him. It was quite an event at the time, though others have made similar captures since in this neighbourhood. I believe there are plenty who wouldn't mind coming over, only it is rather problem how to do it in trench warfare. This one appears to have been part of a covering party sent out to guard a working party by night. Presumably a scratch of a wound in the arm was the last straw, and he slipped them and waited till light and then doubled over to us from where he lay. Of course we welcomed him, and bound his arm up, and at headquarters he enjoyed bully and biscuits immensely. He was full of talk and chatted hard the whole time - we comprehending not a word of course. He was younger and a better-looking man than most old Turks I have seen, a much pleasanter person than two old wretches I found lying near me at one of the field ambulances when I was wounded; my attention was originally called to their presence by an unfamiliar odour!
Your October letter contained a repeated acknowledgement of the Maltese lace, the safe arrival of which I am very glad to hear of; that you would like it I felt sure. I am sorry those letters you wrote from Tunbridge Wells never have turned up; I am rather afraid they may be really lost.
Thank you too for the cake which has unfortunately not turned up; as you wrote on October 13th that it must be very stale "by now" I tremble to think what may be its condition now if it exists. Very possibly they kept it in hospital as I had gone and it was perishable.
Although this may be your birthday letter, I must contradict one suggestion you make in your letter of November 10th. I don't think I am reading more into your words than you really mean, and all the same I say you are wrong when you suggest that long separation and a different kind of life has made me feel the need of you less. As a matter of fact the thought of you never really goes away, and every little risk I run, as one is bound to run them daily and almost hourly though they are slight enough, brings you back to me in thought unfailingly. But more than this, I find myself ever more and more intent upon getting married now that ways and means seem less remote, and I shall never be content to settle down to a further long uncertain wait after returning home. So you seem, I do feel the need of you, more if anything and certainly not less. But according to my habits I give you too little hint of it - though I sometimes think you must miss some of the hints that really are in my letters. But as usual we get on - I won't say badly but - at our worst by letter; which is yet another reason for wishing for the time when letters shall be unnecessary. May it be quite soon after all.
All my best love from
Your most affectionate
Cyril E Sladden