― (363) ―


He may show what outward courage he will; but I believe as cold a night as 'tis, he could wish himself in Thames up to the neck; and so I would he were, and I by him, at all adventures, so we were quit here.


THEY moved back to Bus on the third day after their arrival at Louvencourt, and were in their usual billets by about four o'clock in the afternoon. They had taken off their packs, and leaned their rifles up against the boarding of the hut, to rest awhile, when the post arrived, and they all crowded in front of the hut which served as Headquarter Company's office. It was a large mail. Shem had gone off on his own somewhere, and one of the first letters was for him, so Bourne took it; Martlow had a letter and a parcel: but the remarkable feature of that particular post was that there were fourteen letters and parcels for Bourne. There was no kind of preliminary sorting, everything lay in a heap on the floor, and the post-corporal dished them out himself that day. As a rule the orderly-corporal brought the letters up from the post-corporal's billet, and the quartermaster-sergeant called out the name of the man to whom anything was addressed, and then flung it towards him with an indifferent aim.

  ― (364) ―
But to get rid of the stuff early, and also because he wanted to talk to the quarter-bloke, the post-corporal had brought it up to the company before they had arrived back from Louvencourt; and there, the other N.C.O.s being busy, he dished it out himself, the quarter-bloke seated at his table, taking only a perfunctory interest in the proceedings, while he continued with some other work. It was remarkable that so many of his friends should have shown their solicitude for Bourne's welfare about the same time. After a couple of parcels and three letters had been thrown at him, the repetition of his name was answered by groans from the crowd, and even the post-corporal seemed to resent the fact that he should be expected to deliver so many things to one man.

“Bourne!” he shouted impatiently, and shied another letter through the air like a kind of boomerang.

The pile gradually decreased, but Bourne's name was reiterated at intervals, to be met with a chorus of derisory complaint.

“D'you want the whole bloody lot?” someone cried.

He was childishly delighted, and laughed at the kind of prestige which the incident brought to him. At last there were only a few letters left, and one rather large box of three-ply wood, with a label tacked flat on it. One of the few

  ― (365) ―
remaining letters was tossed to him, and at last only the box remained. The post-corporal lifted it in both hands and read the label.

“Bourne; 'ere, take your bloody wreath,” he cried disgustedly, and the sardonic witticism brought down the house. The box actually contained a large plum-cake. When Bourne got back to his hut, he divided the contents of his parcels among the whole section, keeping only the cigarettes, cake, and a pork-pie, which a farmer's wife of his acquaintance had sent him, for himself. Most of it was food, though there were a few woollen comforters and impossible socks, as well as a couple of books, with which one could not encumber oneself.

During their time in Louvencourt, they had not seen much of their officers, who had probably been receiving their final instructions; but now there was continual wind-up. A hot and exasperated officer would suddenly appear outside the huts, and the men were fallen in to receive his orders. The first was about overcoats. Each man was to go over the top with his overcoat, which was to be worn en banderole; and as most of the men did not know how to roll up their coats in this fashion, they had to learn the art from the few regular soldiers who did. It tried the patience of everybody concerned. When the overcoat had been rolled up into a tubular form, one end was inserted in the other and

  ― (366) ―
fastened there, and a man put his head and one arm through the kind of horse-collar which it formed, so that it rested on one shoulder and passed under the other arm. The first man to achieve this difficult feat of arms was an object of admiration to his fellows.

“ 'o's the bloody shit 'o invented this way o' doin' up a fuckin' overcoat?” shouted Glazier indignantly.

“It's a bloody wonder to me 'ow these buggers can think all this out. 'ow the 'ell am a to get at me gas-mask?” asked Madeley.

“You put on your gas-'elmet afterwards, see,” said Wilkins, an old regular who was explaining matters to them. “But it beats me 'ow you're goin' to manage. You'll 'ave your ordinary equipment, an' a couple of extra bandoliers, an' your gas-bag, and then this bloody overcoat.”

“A can tell thee,” said Weeper, “the first thing a does when a goes over the bloody top is to dump it. What bloody chance would us'ns 'ave wi' a bay'net, when we can scarce move our arms.”

“It's fair chokin' me,” said Madeley.

“Fall in on parade,” shouted Corporal Marshall putting his head through the door; and divesting themselves for the moment of this latest encumbrance, they turned out into the twilight. This time it was Captain Thomson, with the R.S.M. in attendance, and he went through a list of the

  ― (367) ―
things the men would be expected to carry: two extra bandoliers of ammunition, two bombs, and either a pick or shovel. But at least there was one unusual piece of foresight: the men were ordered to go to the shoemaker's shop and have bars of leather fixed across the hob-nailed soles of their boots, to prevent them slithering in the mud; and, with the initial unreason which so often accompanied orders, they were forbidden to leave billets until this order had been executed. There were only three cobblers, who started on the work at once, and it was arranged almost immediately afterwards that the work should be carried out section by section, so that the men did not have to wait about indefinitely. It was characteristic that the men did not grumble at this latest order, as they saw at once its utility, and the precaution seemed to give them some confidence. It soon became equally clear that the order about overcoats worn in banderole was a matter for some misgivings with the officers themselves.

“This overcoat business will have to be washed out,” said Captain Thompson to the regimental sergeant-major.

“They seem to think we're goin' straight through, sir,” said the regimental with a short, hard laugh.

And the few men who overheard them spread abroad what had been said. The men were all

  ― (368) ―
quiet, alert, and obedient. They had an almost pathetic anxiety to understand the significance of every order, and even in the matter of the banderole, which hampered the freedom of their movements considerably, after reflection they became ready to offset the disadvantages by the advantages of having an overcoat with them. Even the sharp impatience with which a harassed and over-driven officer spoke to them, or the curses of a sergeant bustled by the suddenly increasing pressure of his work, did not cause more than a slight and momentary resentment.

“They're all in it wi' us, now, an' one man's no better nor another,” said Weeper, when Humphreys said something about Mr. Rhys being a bit rattled. “They can do nowt wi'out us'ns; an', gentle-folk an' all, we all stan' the same chance now.”

The thought of that equality seemed to console him. The change in him was perhaps more apparent than real; all his pessimism and melancholy remained, but now his determination emerged from it. Looking at that lean, ungainly, but extraordinarily powerful figure, with the abnormally long arms and huge hands, one realized that he might be a very useful man in a fight. And yet there was nothing of cruelty in him. The unbounded pity he felt for himself did, in spite of his envious and embittered nature, extend to others. Glazier was the kind of person

  ― (369) ―
who killed automatically, without either premeditation or remorse, but Weeper was a very different type. He dreaded the thought of killing, and was haunted by the memory of it; and yet there was a kind of fatalism in him now, as though he were the instrument of justice, prepared for any gruesome business confronting him.

There was something in what Bourne, half in jest, had said to him, that he thought himself better than most men. He knew that the others, including perhaps Bourne himself, did not face the reality of war squarely. They refused to think of it, except when actually involved in battle, and such thought as they had then did not extend beyond the instant action, being scarcely more than a spontaneous and irreflective impulse; but most of them had made their decision once and for all, and were willing to abide by the consequences, without reviewing it. It was useless to contrast the first challenging enthusiasm which had swept them into the army, with the long and bitter agony they endured afterwards. It was the unknown which they had challenged; and when the searching flames took hold of their very flesh, the test was whether or not they should flinch under them. The men knew it. We can stick it, they said; and they had to retrieve their own failures, to subdue their own doubts, to master their own pitiful

  ― (370) ―
human weaknesses, only too conscious for the most part, even when they broke into complaints, that the struggle with their own nature was always inconclusive.

Bourne, Shem, and Martlow were ordered to report to Sergeant-major Robinson and have their boots barred with the rest of A Company. The cobblers worked hurriedly, in a ring of light surrounded by a press of waiting men. As each man got his boots back, he showed them to Mr. Sothern, who approved the work, rather perfunctorily, with a nod. When Bourne and his companions presented themselves to the sergeant-major, Mr. Sothern wanted to know why they were there; and when the sergeant-major told him that they would rejoin the Company on the following day until after the attack, the officer said they had better have their boots done at once, so as to get them out of the way. As soon as the job was finished, shouldering his way to the door, Bourne turned irritably to the other two.

“For God's sake let's get out of this bloody confusion, and go somewhere where we can see life,” he said, almost as though they were the cause of keeping him waiting about the camp. There was really very little confusion, in spite of the haste and strain.

“We'd better see the corporal first,” answered Shem quietly.

  ― (371) ―

He and Martlow both noticed the acerbity in Bourne's tone.

“You can go out for 'alf an hour or so,” said Corporal Hamley indifferently, “but you may be wanted later. There's a carryin'-party goin' up the line.”

It was not very welcome news, but they accepted the fact quietly; and merely walked down to the estaminet for a drink, and returned. They were detailed for a carrying-party sure enough; and set off on limbers for Courcelles, continuing for the rest of the way on foot. It was very misty and cold, and under the moon, never clearly visible, the cloud and mist seemed curdled milkiness. While they were drawn up waiting by the dump, they heard something ponderous coming towards them, and, looking sideways along the road, saw their first tank, nosing its way slowly through the stagnant fog. They drew in their breath, in their first excitement, wondering a little at the suggestion of power it gave them; for its uplifted snout seemed to imply a sense of direction and purpose, even though it was not, in bulk, as formidable as they had expected. A door opened in the side, and a gleam of light came from it, as a man inside questioned another in the road: there was a tired note even in their determined voices.

“If a can't be inside one o' them, a don't want

  ― (372) ―
to be anywhere near it,” said Weeper, with absolute decision.

The carrying-party moved off, just as the tank was being manoeuvred to change direction; and the men, their eyes searching the fog for it on their return, found it gone. They marched the whole way back to billets, and, tired after a long day, as soon as they had finished drinking some tea and rum, slept heavily.

When Bourne woke early in the morning, he heard the guns drumming in the distance, a continued dull staccato, which had in it momentarily, from time to time, a kind of rhythm. He listened intently, and the bombardment seemed to increase in violence; and but for a vague reflection that the Hun must have wind-up at the avalanche of shells assailing him, his mind was blank and empty. He moistened dry lips with a tongue scarcely less dry. The hut smelt damp and frowsty. He saw Martlow's small face, pillowed on his pack beside him, the brows puckered slightly, and the lips parted, but breathing quietly in a dreamless sleep; and he looked at him in a kind of wonder for a moment. Sleep was the only blessing they had. Bourne drew his knees up, dropping his chin towards them, and sat clasping his feet with locked fingers, while he brooded over nothing. Shem stirred on the other side of him, cleared his

  ― (373) ―
throat, and then lifted himself to lean on one elbow, listening.

“D'you hear that?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Bourne, with dry brevity, and Shem fell back again flat, his eyes contemplating the rafters. Bourne sat immobile for a moment or two, and then drew in a quick deep gasp of air, to exhale it again in a sigh. He remained still.

“What d'you do that for?” asked Shem.

“Do what?”

“Gasp like that. I had an aunt who used to do that, and she died o' heart.”

“I don't think that I'm likely to die of heart,” was Bourne's dry comment.

He lay down again, pulling the blanket up to his chin. It was only about half-past five; and in a few minutes they were both asleep again, while the rhythmic drumming of the guns continued.

After breakfast that morning, Bourne passed by the regimental's tent, and saw his batman, who had just finished shaving, sitting on a box by the doorway. Bourne noticed that his boots had been barred.

“I didn't think you were going over the top with us, Barton,” he said, his surprise giving his words the turn of a question.

“The regimental didn't want me to go,” said Barton, blushing and smiling; “'e tried to work

  ― (374) ―
it so as I shouldn't go, but they wouldn't 'ave it.”

He was smiling, even as he blushed, in a deprecating way.

“I don't know what 'e wanted to bother for,” he said reasonably. “It's only right I should go with the rest, and I'd as lief go as stay. You think o' things sometimes as seem to 'old you back; but it's no worse for me than for the nex' man. I think I'd rather go.”

The last words came from him with slow reluctance and difficulty; and yet the apparent effort he made to utter them, hurrying a little toward the end, did not imply that they were untrue, but only that he recognized a superior necessity, which had forced him to put aside other, only less valid, considerations. He was thinking of his wife and children, of the comparative security in which he had left them, and of what their fate might be in the worst event; but war is a jealous god, destroying ruthlessly his rivals.

“You're in B Company, aren't you?” Bourne asked him, trying to carry the conversation over these awkward reflections.

“Yes,” said Barton cheerfully. “They're a nice lot in B Company; N.C.O.s an' officers, they're a nice lot of men.”

“Well, good-luck, Barton,” said Bourne quietly, moving away, as the only means of relief.

  ― (375) ―

“Good-luck, Bourne,” said Barton, as though he did not believe in luck.

All day the business of preparation went on, with the same apparent confusion, haste, and impatience, but with quite a painstaking method underlying all that superficial disorder. To some, who did not understand the negligent manner of British officers and men, even the most efficient, the business may have seemed careless and perfunctory, when as a matter of fact all details were scrupulously checked, and all errors and deficiencies corrected. Bourne, Shem, and Martlow paraded with A Company, though their kit and blankets remained in the signals section hut, and were glad to find themselves in Corporal Jakes's section, under Sergeant Tozer. Jakes sometimes gave one the impression of being a stupid and stubborn fellow, but, as a matter of fact, he was a cool, level-headed fighting-man, with plenty of determination, but with sufficient flexibility of mind to make the best of any circumstances in which he might find himself. Like most men of his county he was short, broad, and ruddy, with plenty of stamina. Mr. Finch was more in evidence than Mr. Sothern in the morning. He would take a parade, as when he inspected gas-helmets, with the utmost seriousness and the most regimental precision, and the moment it was over, he would be laughing like a schoolboy, as though the excitement

  ― (376) ―
had gone to his head. Excitement was certainly increasing. In the intervals of that appearance of disorder, caused, mainly, by the haste with which parades and inspections succeeded one another, there was an apparent stillness, which was equally illusory. It might be broken by Mr. Finch's high-pitched laughter, suddenly cut off again, or by an explosion of anger from some individual man; but between these interruptions there was a glassy quiet. Men may conceal their emotion easily enough, but it is more difficult to hide the fact that they are concealing it. Many of them seemed oblivious of each other, as they sat, or waited about, with pondering brows, and one might pass a group of two or three hastening on their business, talking quickly together, and one caught a hint of something sinister and desperate in their faces. That was the oddest thing perhaps, the need for haste which obsessed them. Other men, recognizing one, seemed to warp their faces into a nervous grin, showing their teeth as a dog might, and then it would be wiped out by a pathetic weariness. One only caught such glimpses of the tension beneath the surfaces momentarily, and at unawares; and while it was more or less apparent in each individual, the general temper of the men was quiet and grave.

Bourne sometimes wondered how far a battalion recruited mainly from London, or from one

  ― (377) ―
of the provincial cities, differed from his own, the men of which came from farms, and, in a lesser measure, from mining villages of no great importance. The simplicity of their outlook on life gave them a certain dignity, because it was free from irrelevances. Certainly they had all the appetites of men, and, in the aggregate, probably embodied most of the vices to which flesh is prone; but they were not preoccupied with their vices and appetites, they could master them with rather a splendid indifference; and even sensuality has its aspect of tenderness. These apparently rude and brutal natures comforted, encouraged, and reconciled each other to fate, with a tenderness and tact which was more moving than anything in life. They had nothing; not even their own bodies, which had become mere implements of warfare. They turned from the wreckage and misery of life to an empty heaven, and from an empty heaven to the silence of their own hearts. They had been brought to the last extremity of hope, and yet they put their hands on each other's shoulders and said with a passionate conviction that it would be all right, though they had faith in nothing, but in themselves and in each other.

The succession of fatigues, parades, and inspections barely distracted their thought, so much a habit obedience had become. In one of the intervals, Martlow and Shem were sent off on

  ― (378) ―
some small fatigue to the stores, and as Martlow leaned his rifle against the side of the hut, he said something to Bourne, and, turning, hurried after Shem. Mr. Finch was standing only a few feet away, and he glanced at the boy talking to Bourne, looked after him as he turned and ran, and then turned to Bourne himself.

“Seems a bloody shame to send a kid like that into a show, doesn't it?” he said, in a kindly undertone.

“He was with us on the Somme in July and August, sir,” was all Bourne's reply, though that he, too, thought it a bloody shame was sufficiently obvious.

“Was he?” exclaimed Mr. Finch appreciatively. “Stout fellow. It's a bloody shame, all the same.”

He struck at a clod of mud with his stick.

“Bloody awful weather to go over in, isn't it?” he said, almost as though he were only thinking aloud. “However, we can only do our best.”

Some other men coming up, he moved off a few paces, and the drumming of the distant guns came to them. Bourne thought now that it did not sound so heavy as some of the bombardments on the Somme. Sergeant Tozer came on the scene, and when he went into the empty hut, Bourne followed him.

“What do you make of it, sergeant?” he asked.

  ― (379) ―

“I don't know what to make of it. What the bloody hell do you make of it, yourself? After all, that's what matters. I suppose we'll come through all right; we've done it before, so we can do it again. Anyway, it can't be more of a bloody balls-up than some o' the other shows 'ave been. Give us over that entrenching tool handle, that bloody snob drove a nail through my boot.”

He had unrolled one of his puttees, taken a boot off, and sat on the ground while he felt for the offending nail with his fingers, a look of exasperated patience on his face; having found it he tried to flatten, bend, or break the point off with the metal-bound end of the handle.

“Fuck the bloody thing!” he said fiercely under his breath.

Ultimately he succeeded in his object, and after feeling where the point had been, critically, with his fingers, he drew on his boot again.

“You don't want to get the fuckin' wind up, you know,” he said kindly.

“Who's getting wind up?” replied Bourne, resentfully. “Don't you worry about me, sergeant. I can stick it all right. If I do get it in the neck, I'll be out of this bloody misery, anyway.”

“That's all right, ol' son,” said the sergeant. “You needn't take me up the wrong way, you know. I'm not worryin' about you. I'm a bit

  ― (380) ―
windy myself. It'll be all right when we get started. We'll pull it off somehow or other.”

He stood up, and then stooped to pull his trouser down over the top of his puttee, turning himself sideways with one arm outstretched, and glancing down, afterwards, to see that it hung straight and neat. Then he chucked out his chest, flinging his head back so that his chin seemed more aggressive, and swung out of the hut into the mist.

“I'll lay our artillery is puttin' the bloody wind up them fuckin' Fritzes,” he said to Bourne over his shoulder, so that he failed to see Mr. Finch, who had returned. “If they haven't got a suspish already, they'll be wonderin'. … I beg pardon, sir, I didn't see you was there.”

“Shall we win, sergeant?” said Mr. Finch, laughing.

“Oh, we'll win all right, sir,” said Sergeant Tozer grimly, “but not yet.”

“Sergeant, about those bombs,” began Mr. Finch, and Bourne, saluting, walked off to the signallers' hut again.

They didn't do much that night. Going into an estaminet early, they had a bottle of wine between them, and then strolled from one end of the town to the other. It was a long, straggling town, with a large civilian element, and chinks of light came between the blinds of the windows. On their way back to billets they turned into the

  ― (381) ―
Y.M.C.A. to get some cocoa. They did not feel like drinking bad wine or beer in a crowded and noisy estaminet, and argued that in any case they would have a rum ration that night. The Y.M.C.A., however, was as noisy and as crowded as the estaminet; and there was a good deal of clowning. One man was singing I want to go home:

“Oh, my! I don't want to die,
I want to go 'ome!”

dancing, as he sang, with a kind of waltz step. At the next table were three men smoking and talking, so close that above the murmuring din one heard snatches of their talk. Bourne ordered cocoa, and paid for it; and they talked a little to Weston, the attendant, who had been in the Westshires at one time. Then he left them, and they sat there, smoking. One of the men at the next table was talking to the other two.

“ ‘What's the matter wi' the girl?’ the officer asked 'im. ‘I don' know, sir,’ said Sid, ‘she went into one o' them out-'ouses wi' Johnson; an' the nex' thing I 'eard was that Johnson 'ad gone for the doctor. Said she'd 'ad a fit.’—‘Oh,’ said the officer, ‘bloody tight fit, I suppose.’ ”

They all laughed, and Bourne looked at their sneering faces, and turned away again. He

  ― (382) ―
wanted to get out of all this senseless clamour; and as his eyes turned away, he chanced to see over the door a red strip on which was printed in white letters: “AND UNDERNEATH ARE THE EVERLASTING ARMS.” It struck him with an extraordinary vividness, that bare text sprawling across the wall above the clamour of those excited voices; and once again he knew that feeling of certitude in a peace so profound, that all the turmoil of the earth was lost in it.

“Shall we go back?” he asked the others quietly, and they followed him out into the mist and mud.

After they had had their rum-ration they took off boots, puttees, and tunic, and rolled themselves into their blankets, spreading their great-coats over them as well, because of the cold. Bourne felt quiet, and was almost asleep, when suddenly full consciousness came to him again, and, opening his eyes, he could just see Martlow looking abstractedly into the dark.

“Are you all right, kid?” he whispered, and put out a hand to the boy's.

“Yes, I'm all right,” said Martlow quietly. “You know, it don't matter what 'appens to us'ns, Bourne. It don't matter what 'appens; it'll be all right in the end.”

He turned over, and was soon sleeping quietly, long before Bourne was.

And the next day was the same, in all outward

  ― (383) ―
seeming. They got their tea, they washed, shaved, and had their breakfast, smoked, and fell in on parade, in the ordinary course of routine. The extra weight they were carrying was marked, but the overcoat worn banderole had been washed-out, a rumour among the men being that the Colonel had sent a man up to Brigade, equipped as they had ordered, to show the absurdity of it. As he arrived in front of A Company's huts, Bourne, Shem, and Martlow found groups of men talking among themselves.

“What's up?” he asked.

“Miller. 'e's 'opped it, again. I knew the bugger would. 'e's a bloody German spy, that's what 'e is. They should 'ave shot the bugger when they 'ad 'im! One o' them fuckin' square-'eads, an' they let 'im off!”

There was an extraordinary exultation in their anger; as they spoke, a fierce contemptuous laughter mingled with speech.

“Yes, they let a bloody twat like 'im off; but if any o' us poor fuckers did it, we'd be for th' electric chair, we would. We've done our bit, we 'ave; but it wouldn't make any differ to us'ns.”

The angry, bitter words were tossed about from one to another in derision. ‘Bourne was more struck by the severity and pallor of Sergeant Tozer's face, when he saw him in the hut. He did not ask any questions; they just passed

  ― (384) ―
the time of day, and then there was a pause, broken by Bourne.

“You shouldn't blame yourself, sergeant,” he said. “It's not your fault.”

“That's all right,” said Sergeant Tozer. “I'm not blamin' meself. On'y if I saw the bugger in the road I'd put a bullet into 'im; an' save 'em any bloody fuss with a court-martial.”

The men fell in; and Captain Marsden, with Mr. Sothern and Mr. Finch, came on parade. The final inspection was a very careful one. Bourne noticed that Marsden, who often spoke with a dry humour, restricted himself to a minimum of words. He saw that one of Bourne's pouches didn't fasten properly, the catch being defective. He tried it himself, and then tried the clipped cartridges inside, satisfying himself apparently that they fitted into the pouch so tightly that they would not fall out until one clip had been removed. Anyway he ignored it, and loosening Bourne's water-bottle, shook it to see if it were full. Bourne stood like a dummy while this was going on, and all the time Captain Marsden looked at him closely, as though he were trying to look into his mind. It angered Bourne, but he kept his face as rigid as stone: in fact his only emotion now was a kind of stony anger. Some of the men had forgotten to fill their bottles, and were told what bloody nuisances they were. Eventually it was over, and they

  ― (385) ―
went off to their huts for what little time was left to them. One had a vague feeling that one was going away, without any notion of returning. One had finished with the place, and did not regret it; but a curious instability of mind accompanied the last moments: with a sense of actual relief that the inexorable hour was approaching, there was a growing anger becoming so intense that it seemed the heart would scarcely hold it. The skin seemed shinier and tighter on men's faces, and eyes burned with a hard brightness under the brims of their helmets. One felt every question as an interruption of some absorbing business of the mind. Occasionally Martlow would look up at Shem or Bourne as though he were about to speak, and then turn away in silence.

“We three had better try and keep together,” said Shem evenly.

“Yes,” answered the other two, as though they engaged themselves quietly.

And then, one by one, they realized that each must go alone, and that each of them already was alone with himself, helping the others perhaps, but looking at them with strange eyes, while the world became unreal and empty, and they moved in a mystery, where no help was.

“Fall in on the road!”

With a sigh of relinquishment, they took up their rifles and obeyed, sliding from the field into

  ― (386) ―
the road, which was about five feet lower, down a bank in which narrow steps had once been cut, though rain and many feet had obliterated them. The details crowded there, to see them go. They fell in, numbered off, formed fours, formed two deep, and stood at ease, waiting, all within a few moments. A few yards on either side, the men became shadows in the mist. Presently they stood to attention again, and the Colonel passed along the ranks; and this time Bourne looked at him, looked into his eyes, not merely through and beyond him; and the severity of that clear-cut face seemed to-day to have something cheerful and kindly in it, without ceasing to be inscrutable. His grey horse had been led down the road a few minutes before, and presently the high clear voice rang through the mist. Then came the voices of the company commanders, one after the other, and the quick stamping as the men obeyed, the rustle as they turned; and their own turn came, the quick stamps, the swing half-right, and then something like a rippling murmur of movement, and the slurred rhythm of their trampling feet, seeming to beat out the seconds of time, while the liquid mud sucked and sucked at their boots, and they dropped into that swinging stride without speaking; and the houses of Bus slid away on either side, and the mist wavered and trembled about them in little eddies, and earth, and life, and time, were as if they had never been.