It was the summer of 1917, and I suppose the war, though I had never really bothered to keep much attention towards it, was well on its way.
Thousands were killed; boys and men alike were left to rot in the trenches. The women back at home rotted as well, though in their minds, mostly, through the loss of sons and husbands.
Though I already said that I did not pay much attention to the war, sometimes one cannot help but become involved. The girls back home in Sept Iles were writing me, saying how terrible things were now that their boys were gone. Though I tried to never think of it, I hoped that Henri would never leave to the front.
We all hated the war. By “we” I mean most of us in Quebec. Then again, perhaps I should not say we hated the war, but rather that we hated that we were told to fight it. That the English went to fight for Britain was one thing, but why say that the French should as well? The argument was then that we should not then fight for Britain, but for France, for our home. Since when had France been our home? We were not Frenchmen, no; we were, and are, Canadians.
Most of the boys were safe. They did not enlist, and the government told us that there would be no draft for this war, so mostly we were all happy. Henri, my husband, worked fairly well at the steel mill, though he would always come home and complain about his back. That damn back of his was always putting out, but when I would ask him about it he would always give me that smile of his, that tight lipped, easy smile and say “Flower, it will be better in the morning. Smile for me?” Of course I would, and that would be all that was said on the matter.
Winter came, cold and unforgiving.
The snow was worse this year then the last, and the cold cut through every towel we put around the windows. I kept the fire going as much as I could, but it made no difference. It seemed that the cold itself was at war against us, but we did not falter. Henri continued working, continued hurting, and always came home with that smile, saying things would be better in the morning. We looked forward to Christmas and planned to bring over my family.
Conscription came, cold and unforgiving.
The bastards lied to us. The English said that we, the French-Canadians, were slackers, traitors, set in our ways, stubborn as mules, and the end of Canada. The government may as well have agreed, saying that we had to fight for our country if nothing else; had to help the boys at the front. Prime Minister Borden was the traitor.
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