The church was in sight immediately I turned the corner, and around it was grouped the little village. I could see the motor bike standing against a wall in which was a doorway. In the opening was the motor cyclist chatting with a tall man with greying hair and a dumpy woman, obviously the farmer's wife. I approached the little group, entered the farm yard and was taken indoors, but not before the woman had said "good morning" very loudly, very proudly and with a strong accent. I learned a few days later that Madame was M. Preux second wife and had previously kept the village school. We entered the living room, which had a curious, fusty smell, the cause of which eluded me. The room was shabbily decorated and cluttered up with a good deal of ugly and useless furniture. We sat down immediately to a glass of wine. Two youngsters were introduced to me, (a nephew of the Preux and his young friend). Later I made the acquaintance of the village baker and wife, the local general store keeper, the two sons of the Preux family who had been at work on the farm and a few of the locals whom the Preux trusted.
My room here, was a large one, in which there was a double bed and a smaller one.
The elder of the two children and I shared the first and other was used by Nicot. I have forgotten my bed mate's name. It was here, that the rather dirtier French habits really struck me. We used to leave the room by a large window which gave onto a balcony, and over this balcony, as a ritual almost, before going to bed were performed the most natural and inevitable functions of the human body. Doubtless, this accounted for, along with a collection of snail's shells, for the musty smell in the living room underneath. However, -"when in Rome .... " And I did!
The family, were extremely good to me. I was provided with certain clothing, and my dirty attire was washed. Mme. Preux was a fine cook and her table was always loaded with good things to eat at meal times. To me fell the honour of serving out the soup to the family, as indeed I had done previously in Armentieres. To me too, fell the lot of sitting next to the younger of the two Preux sons, a pink faced, flabby lipped youth who imbibed his soup with sounds that would have put many a bath drain to shame.
My most vivid memories of food in that household are of the vast quantities of eggs and meat that were produced. The white bread was specially brought in by the "boulanger" in my honour, and the great bowls of red and white currants, with "eau de vie" and cream and sugar that followed the superb spread, in the middle of the day.
I was not hidden away at the farm and I am certain most of the village knew I was there. There was however one rather startling occasion in the late evening of a day about a week after my arrival. I was in the outhouse, when I heard a great shouting of German soldiery and saw the house lights suddenly extinguished. The family, were very careless of their blackout, although German soldiers were billeted next door. I expect a few eggs and some butter tempered the Aryan zeal, but on the occasion of which I write the zeal was definitely uppermost. I was preparing to leave the little privy when I heard the crunch of boots pacing up and down outside. A few very nasty moments ensued. The pacing grew more distant and I slipped into the house. It was very fortunate perhaps that I had been out when the German troops called. My disquiet, l found, was caused by a calf loose in the yard. The blackout was not ignored at all the next night.
I stayed in Morsain about ten days and had one very enjoyable outing, apart from a walk and a bathe in a stream with the two young boys. The outing I refer to, was a picnic on the bank of the river Aisne, which was reached after a walk of some eleven kilometres. The baker, his wife and the two children accompanied by the author set out on foot with a rucksack of food. It was a very hot day and we had to cross a large plateau, the scene of bitter fighting in 1914 to 1918. Old shells were still being unearthed by ploughmen. At the edge of the plateau was a ruined Chateau, and on the crumbling stone is now carved R. J. T. We spent the afternoon swimming, and basking in the sun, and were not alone in these pleasant pastimes as the spot was used as a bathing place by several surrounding villages. During the afternoon our diving greatly annoyed an angler on the far bank who gave us the sharp side of his tongue. As a result several of the bathers, myself included swam over to the far bank, the better to disturb his sport. He was furious and started to throw stones. The assembled company retaliated with little hard green apples from a nearby orchard, and raiding parties were continually crossing the river to splash about near his floats. The climax came when he threatened to cross the river and set about us only to be greeted with typical French wit in reply to his impossible threat. "Monte sur son velo, sans doute?" And the poor man retreated, laughed to scorn.