It Is Only When The Figure On The
Stretcher Lies Under A Blanket That The Tumult And Push And
Sweltering Mass Comes To A Quick Pause, While The Dead Man's Comrade
Stands At Attention, And The Officer Raises His Fingers To His
Then the mass surges on again, with cracking of whips and
shouts and imprecations, while the yellow dust rises in thick clouds
and buries the picture in a glaring fog.
This moving, struggling
mass, that fights for the right of way along the road, is within easy
distance of the shells. Those from their own guns pass over them
with a shrill crescendo, those from the enemy burst among them at
rare intervals, or sink impotently in the soft soil. And a dozen
Tommies rush to dig them out as keepsakes. Up at the front, brown
and yellow regiments are lying crouched behind brown and yellow rocks
and stones. As far as you can see, the hills are sown with them.
With a glass you distinguish them against the sky-line of every hill,
for over three miles away. Sometimes the men rise and fire, and
there is a feverish flutter of musketry; sometimes they lie
motionless for hours while the guns make the ways straight.
Any one who has seen Epsom Downs on a Derby day, with its thousands
of vans and tents and lines of horses and moving mobs, can form some
idea of what it is like. But while at the Derby all is interest and
excitement, and every one is pushing and struggling, and the air
palpitates with the intoxication of a great event, the winning of a
horse-race - here, where men are killed every hour and no one of them
knows when his turn may come, the fact that most impresses you is
their indifference to it all.
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