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Swarms of Shells

Monday, October 9

Anniversary of two marriages:  ours and Jean’s. 

For a long time, I’ve been hiding all the horseshoe nails.  But the boches have been stealing them from other places and bringing their horses to me.  But because I don’t clinch the nails, the shoes fall off right away.

Suzette has received a picture of her and René, taken two weeks ago, that they’d sent to Audincourt to be developed, which made her cry.  It’s the final farewell.  Poor children!

Did Jean hear London radio when it recounted the massacre of Etobon?  We’ve told him nothing.  It’s soon enough for him to find out when he comes back.  When I see the two boches who have been forced on us, who eat at our table, revolt cries out within me.  And for all that, despite the cruelties they have inflicted on us, I don’t want to kill them, these two:  Karl, whose eyes fill with tears when I tell him our sorrows; the other, Willy, is just a kid.

Tuesday, October 10

I climbed up into the church attic, where the tiles are stored, so that I can fix the roof of the parsonage, which was pierced by a shell.  They had stored munitions and explosives there.  Along with Jacques, I had come to take them and hide them somewhere else, but we had found nothing.  Today, sticking my arms down into spaces under the arches, I find enough to blow up the whole village.  What should I do?  Nothing, evidently, with these boches everywhere.  And, if we blow up something, they’ll blow up something.

They’ve brought back some soldiers from the front, muddy, dead on their feet, drained.  One of them, who could hardly hold himself up, leaned against one of our doors.  He was rubbing the four hairs on his chin.  I said, “Here’s one with a goatee.”  He understood.  “Yes.  A little beard.”  “Where did you learn French?”  “Me, traveled a lot, Italy, Spain, France.”  “What’s your job?”  “To play the accordion at dances.”  “Well, it’s time to play.”  “Ah!  Soon be finished dancing.  It’s the Americans who are making the music.”  “What do you say about the war?”  “Not good.  For you, soon finished.  For us, all the way to the end, everything.”  “Everything, to the bitter end?  OK, my friend, you’ve said something that makes me happy.  Come in, and we’ll give you something warm to drink …”  Did I react wrongly?  This Willy Imbet told us that he had come out of a true hell and that during his fifteen months in Russia he hadn’t suffered so much.  You understand when he tells about the sound of hundreds of “screamers” that come down on the front.

A battery of four guns passes through the village, a walking forest.  The soldiers have branches on them all the way to their helmets.  Will they at least put them back?  Shells are arriving in swarms, tearing up fields and orchards.  One on the reservoir.  One a direct hit on Fritz’s house.

More echoes of the massacre.  No one saw Jacques at Chenebier.  Two people say they saw him getting into a car.  But he wasn’t seen at Belfort.  Could he have escaped on the way?  But we would have seen him by now.  And then his pants that were found in that awful room …

Willy Imbet just heard that a bomb fell on the trench that he left this morning.  Of the five that were found, three were dead, two wounded.  Between Sunday and yesterday, they’ve had 110 dead in this area.

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