Tennyson and the Albrights 03/26/2010
Evelyn to Fred [Owen Sound]
[Sun. Sept. ?16 or Sept. 23, 1917
My Own Lover and Sweetheart:-
... When not at church, eating or working, I was sleeping and resting and thinking of you. Do you know what most of my thoughts are about? The time when you'll be home again ...
Yesterday when we reached home there was a parcel here for Ora. She had told me to open it as there was a napkin ring in it for me, and that I was to take my choice but I want her to see them both, so I think I'll send them on. I think they are supposed to be made of shells. One is gun metal in colour, with a raised design on it of a bird - a swan or something like it, with an arrow in its breast, and a crown over its head. I like it best I think. The other is brass, with a shield and a wreath of leaves around the shield with "Ypres" engraved on it. Then too there was a jewel case from Nice. I don't know what the wood is ..., Ora will be so pleased with it - It is her birthday present ...
I didn't tell you how much I appreciated your letter telling about Tennyson's home. That was a good description, dearest. I should like to pass it on to my friends, and I must type it out when I get time, or get Miss Scott to do it. I wonder how you've spent to-day. One place you have been - that is in the thoughts of your own wife.
Fred's Description of Tennyson's Home From Aug 21/17
"I didn't tell you about my visit to Tennyson's home did I? Well, after dinner on Sunday I asked Jimmie Barnes and a couple others to join me but they had made prior arrangements so about 1.30 I set out alone. ... I didn't hurry at all but walked leisurely and arrived at Tennyson's lane about 2.45. I think I told you before, it is about 2 1/2 miles from this point to the house called Aldworth. For fully a mile and a half the lane winds up a steady slope under overarching oaks, beeches and pines. Then one comes out upon an open heath stretching out like a peninsula about the surrounding country which falls steeply away to a level perhaps 3,000 feet lower. ... You can perhaps imagine the view on 3 sides - a vast expanse of undulating Surrey landscape of meadow, cornfield, park and woodland - with the ubiquitous hedgerows and here and there peeping out from their covert of sheltering trees, cosy farmhouses andmore pretentious country seats with which this district abounds. ... Soon the road took an abrupt turn to the left but straight in front was another lane with a sign post bearing the word "Private." This, I had been told, would lead to the house so I followed it for perhaps another half mile over the bare moorland until suddenly turning to the right I came right upon the gate bearing the name "Aldworth." Just inside was the gate house and stables. ... My first thought was - "How far away from man's haunts, and how much alone Tennyson must have loved to be. I wonder what the house itself is like." I soon learned. Following the driveway, which circled around the gatehouse into what seemed to be a regular forest of enormous pines, with an occasional patriarchal oak or beech, a couple hundred yards gave me my first glimpse of the house nestled right against the hillside, with great trees all around it. ... I soon saw that Tennyson had chosen for his home a site almost on the nose of the "peninsula" where the slope was heavily wooded, in marked contrast to the open heath above and where it fell abruptly almost in a sheer precipice for 250 or 300 feet. The cattle grazing in the fields below looked very small and far away although so near. No water was visible although if the horizon did not always disappear in a blue haze it is possible that one could see the channel. ... One thinks he has seen the whole when lo! an opening in the hedge reveals an unexpected nook or bowling green, or tennis courts or flower garden. Paths lead in every direction and through the fence down the hillside. The lowest terrace is one great flower garden filled almost entirely with old fashioned flowers. I did so long for your presence, dearest, for you would have known their names. Such a variety of color as there was - and such a sweet perfume. I could almost hear you say "Isn't that a lovely smell?" and bend down to caress the lovely petals. ... The house is not open to visitors. In fact the grounds are only open on Saturday & Sunday to Canadians in khaki. Some day, dearest, you and I will visit it together, shall we not? Another of the bright things to look forward to!"
Fred to Evelyn France
Sun. Sept. 16/17
My darling wife, -
It is now 8 o'clock a.m. and our draft is out on the parade ground with rifles piled, equipment & packs lying on the sand beside them, the men standing or sitting about in little groups talking, or an occasional one lying stretched out with pack for a back rest reading or writing. ...
We fell in at 6.30 had roll call & inspection then paraded to the cook house for our rations - each man getting a can of bully beef 4 army biscuits and a bit of cheese tied up in a clean cotton bag. After that we were told to strike tents & clean up our lines which we have done. I understand we are to have a church service shortly and that we shall probably entrain about 9 o'clock.
Our tent party is going to try to keep together in the car. ... Here at this base camp there have been 12 in a tent. It has been fairly crowded but being more accustomed to stow ourselves & belongings in a small space than when I was at Sarcee, I think I have been as comfortable here as there. The only bedding we had was a blanket each and we found it sufficient.
We will travel today in box cars - 40 in a car. In addition to our rations our party has 1 can pork & beans 2 cans jam, 1 can McConachie - ie - a prepared ration of beef, potatoes beans & other vegetables, all cooked together - some Huntley & Palmer biscuits, & some margarine left over from breakfast. So we should fare pretty well.
In my last letter I left off at our port of embarkation, didn't I? That was last Saturday. At 6.15 we embarked. There were 3 boat loads and we were packed in until the decks were black. We had an escort of course of several destroyers which formed a screen around us. The passage was smooth and lasted only a couple of hours Very few got sick. About 9 o'clock we were all disembarked and began a march of about 2 miles - possibly 3 - through a large French city to the rest camp on the outskirts.
The night was cloudy and it was very dark. Every window blind was down. Not a street lamp was lighted and only when here and there a door opened to a small slit as we passed and a bit of light fell across our pathway did we get any evidence that the city was not deserted. Scarcely any one was on the streets except ourselves and the measured tramp of our feet upon the uneven cobblestones had become far too common a sound by now to excite more than a passing interest. One is fairly staggered as he thinks of the millions of armed men that have tramped that same road in the past 3 years. The last mile to the camp was up a long steady hill and no one was sorry when the top was reached. It didn't take long for us to get allotted to our tents. Are moving off Goodbye dearest.
Am writing this now but will write more on the train.