DIARY OF CAROLINE LACROIX
PRIVATE OF THE 92ND INFANTRY REGIMENT
DEAD FOR FRANCE 14/1/1915
The first day in the month of August, year nineteen hundred and fourteen
I may be going to Hell.
Should we be cursed to eternal damnation, simply for loving too much? I only want to save Armand’s life; it is as simple as that. Though, truly, is it so wicked a sin? Why should I feel the need to defend myself if I feel justified in my actions? I must say that I do feel guilty, but more because my religion requires me to feel in such a way, once I do something that God does not agree with, which is clearly quite a lot, if it is bad to protect the man that the Bible says I should dedicate myself to entirely.
I know God tells us not to lie, but in this case, it was necessary. My husband is going off to war, and I couldn’t possibly leave him to die alone on the battlefield. Therefore, today, I pretended to be an unmarried woman, and signed up to be a nurse. The only thing is, directly after, I bound my chest, dressed up in my husband’s clothing, cut my hair, and went to the recruitment office requesting my uniform. The man took my papers without even looking at them! I have just returned home with the uniform in my bag, and my husband only thinks that I have gone to the market to buy some food for us. I could not possibly tell him of this, because he would force me to stay home. He cares about me far too much. I love Armand dearly, but at times, he can become incredibly over-protective.
We head out tomorrow, and I must say, I am incredibly nervous. Armand, however, seems to be quite happy, so I suppose I cannot deprive him of the joy of our final night. I made him dinner, and I believe he liked it quite a bit, which means that I suppose he truly isn’t even half as nervous as I am. I mustn’t give away anything that suggests I will be accompanying him. Never in my life have I kept a secret, and it hurts me so. I wish dearly to be able to tell him, but perhaps it is better this way. I shall take some paper with me, so that I can continue to write. Maybe I shall tell Armand eventually, after the war, and the only way he would believe me is if I showed this to him. That being said, I shall not lie in here. This is a way for me to feel better about lying aloud; at least the truth shall come out eventually.
I have triple-checked everything; Armand’s bag has plenty of food and water, and other supplies he may need. I have given myself some water as well, in flasks that will hopefully resist the bullets through his haversack. After all, how difficult could it be to avoid bullets, across a large field? Though, I still feel nervous, even though I cannot quite explain why. It could be simply that it is hard to bear the though of my husband going off to war, killing others and possibly being killed – there is always a slight chance that he will be the unlucky one. He always was quite clumsy, yet I hope that this will put some sense into him. Maybe this war will make him a better man, but I find myself unable to say for certain.
I can hear my husband preparing for bed, so I must finish up today’s entry. I would apologise that it is so short, but I am afraid that I do not know who to apologise to, since this is my diary. He will be well fed, and well cared-for. I only hope that this will show through as a testament of my devotion to him, since I love him so dearly. There are a few things that I cannot see myself able to worm my way through, but I do not doubt that I will find a way. There is always a way.
The third day in the month of August, year nineteen hundred and fourteen
We have been on the train for quite some time, so I thought that this would be a good opportunity for me to write, and explain what has happened so far. Since my voice is not masculine in the slightest, I have decided to stay quiet. It was almost instantly that rumours spread that I was a mute. The bigger soldiers started to tease me, but I tried my best to ignore them. Men can be so cruel, even to their own kind! When they started pestering me, asking why I was mute, as well as how I could get into the army if I was unable to speak, a man stood up for me. He told all the men to leave me be, then he introduced himself as Sébastien. He gave me an odd look, and my heart skipped a beat, as if he noticed something. I did not want to drop my façade, not before I did so much as board the train, so I kept quiet.
It is quite difficult, pretending to be a mute. I must not say anything, ever, even if I am in pain. I know this because my dear friend Annette became mute after she had lost three of her children in an unfortunate locomotive accident. Her silent tears were somehow astounding, even if that is a morbid interest. We would communicate easily by letters, and when I was in her presence, I would speak, and she would write in reply. It is such a shame that she passed away but four years ago; she was a wonderful seamstress.
I digress! Sébastien boarded the train behind me, and sat at my side, here he is beside me still. He is currently trying to tell me about himself, but unfortunately, I have no interest. Can he not see that I am writing? Dear, he talks so much! I have tried looking for Armand, but I cannot seem to find him. However, I was not the last person upon the train, so perhaps he is somewhere at the end. He always was a slow one, my husband. I love him dearly, but he can never keep up with me when we go on our walks. There he is, at last. He looks so terrified, if only I could go up and comfort him! He must know, he has to know that I am here. I do not look incredibly different from before. I have been his wife for three years, how could he not recognise me in a piou piou uniform? Yet, whenever I look up, it is as though he is in his own little world.
The soldiers are singing songs that are quite patriotic and lively; I think I would join in if I knew them and if I was not “mute”. This will certainly be difficult, to not talk, and what will happen to me if someone gets suspicious? After all, mutes cannot join the army. I know that I worry far too much, Armand tells me this all the time, but it is how we have managed to keep safe and secure all this time. My husband is, forgive me, a little reckless at times, and I always have to be watching over him to make sure that he does not do something that will put his life in danger. The poor dear, the first time he had to shave, he cut his face so much! What will happen, should he accidentally shoot himself or one of his comrades? Nothing good, clearly. He could gravely injure someone who was only protecting him.
A man has started to talk to Armand. He is quite loud. I hope that he helps cheer him up. Armand only seems mildly interested – the poor dear! Is he thinking of me? He needn’t do so, if only he knew that I was but a metre away from him. I long to reach out and touch him, I really do; the urge is almost irresistible, but resist I must, or else I will not be able to see him again. If my husband does not denounce me, then I know someone else will. I cannot ruin this for the both of us, not after I have come so far. I believe I have crossed the most difficult hurdles, all I have left is to settle into the camp. I need to –
I fell asleep, and forgot how to finish my sentence. Such a pity, though it was most likely along the lines of “I need to sleep”. Evident now, I suppose, but no longer necessary. It is sometime early in the morning, and the sun has not yet risen. It is quite difficult to see my paper, but if I lean in close, I am able to make out the whereabouts of my pencil. I believe what woke me up was Sébastien’s loud snoring, and in all honesty, I am quite surprised that he has not awoken anyone else. I poked him gently, with the intent of perhaps pulling him out of so deep of a slumber, but he only rolled over and started snoring louder. I do not think that I shall try this again. It would be pointless to get him upset at me.
The train has now stopped, therefore I believe we are at our destination, or, we will be quite soon. I am apprehensive, as the moment we go out into the battlefield, it is war. The tents need to be set up, still, but that should take only a few hours. We are not the first train to arrive, in any case, so I do not doubt that most of the work will already be done for us. The sun is peeking through the clouds, and I think that today will be a nice day. It is warm, as days in August already are. A man has asked Sébastien what day it is, which is odd, since I remember it being only the third, perhaps the fourth.
He says it is already the fifth! I can hardly believe it. What happened to yesterday? It was spent on the train, of course, but I hardly remember at all what happened during that time. Perhaps the hours slipped by somewhere between the naps, scenery rolling by, and Sébastien’s ceaseless chatter. I also heard the rather boisterous talk of the man who has befriended Armand. He seems to have an incredibly thick country accent, and I wonder if that is normal for other villages. It is normal for ours, but neither I nor Armand are from Clermont. Armand comes from Paris, like the pompous man he is. I do not know why he left the city to go to a little farming town, but perhaps it was the same reason why my father left with me from Bordeaux.
It was quite by chance that the two of us met. The New Year’s celebration to ring in the century was a large one, even for a village with a population around three hundred people. Surprisingly posh, my father dressed me up in one of the nicest dresses he could afford. He loved me dearly and cared for me so, after my mother died. I was always grateful to him, and always will be. At the celebration, there was a charming man with a tiny golden moustache, dazzling blue eyes, and a sort of amusing limp in his step. I teased him for the evening, which seemed to make him quite nervous, but after getting the approval of my father – who enjoyed the way this man spoke – I decided to approach this handsome, albeit clumsy, figure.
And clumsy he absolutely was! I remember vividly the way he took a step forward, a glass of wine in his hand held out to me. Suddenly, his foot caught on the dress of a woman, and he lurched forward, spilling wine over the floor just in front of me. It was there, from his spot on the floor, where he was already on his knees that Armand Lacroix proposed to me. How could I say no to such a gorgeous face, with the sweet and innocent smile? I accepted, and we were married in but a few short months.
My assumptions about Armand were all correct, much to my surprised delight. He is incredibly shy, always meek, and blushes when I kiss him. Such a sweet, kissable face! However, that is completely irrelevant to these entries, as it adds nothing to his history. What I found strange about him, however, was the fact that he always tried to hide his past, the one about growing up in Paris. It was impossible to do so, of course, since he had the most refined accent in the entire province. He looked quite rich as well, even if he insisted he was not. He told me that his parents had sent him money to buy a nice outfit in order to attract a suitor. It worked, I suppose. But it does not matter to me in the slightest that I do not have a rich husband. In Clermont, it is not an expectation.
Why he chose me, I cannot say for certain. I am hardly anything amazing, and my skin is slightly darker than all the pale, perfect Parisian women, as my mother was a Bohemian. I never met her, but my father insists that she was a very wonderful woman. Whenever I ask what happened to her, he will never say. Such a pity, as I would have liked to meet her! In any event, I suppose it is easy to tell the origins of my mother simply by looking at me, which would have no doubt made me less than attractive to the simple farming men in Clermont. Luckily, Armand is not a simple farming man. He did not tell me what his job used to be, back in Paris, but I cannot imagine that it was anything requiring nimble fingers! He plays the cornet, and a little bit of fortepiano, which makes me believe that he could have been a musician.
In any event, I must cease writing for the day. The very official-looking men are giving us orders. Apparently we are to march out, get the supplies we need, and go to the camp of our regiment – the 92nd – to receive further orders. I do not doubt that that will take up most of the day, but if I have time to write this evening, I suppose I will. After all, I cannot socialise with the other soldiers, clearly, so I must do something else with my time. I know I have a duty to watch over Armand, which of course, I will do, but I cannot appear suspicious. My husband, he keeps looking at me. What is it in his gaze? I think it is something like pity, but I do not know why he would pity me. I am smaller than a lot of the other soldiers, but I do not think that I look worthy of pity. At least my uniform fits me, unlike his!