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War was fifty kilometres away, though we could hear
the big guns booming beyond the horizon.

I was happy as I trudged along the lanes in the
column, with my platoon chattering behind me and
everything gilt with the sun's good humour. Happier
still when I borrowed the little black mare no one
could ride and cantered about the open country by
myself, which I did two or three afternoons a week.
The black mare was well bred, but had lost the use
of one eye. She had a queer temper, and had earned
an evil reputation by kicking various officers off or
bolting back to the transport lines with them after
going half a mile quite quietly. She was now used as
a pack-pony for carrying ammunition, but by gentle
treatment I gained her confidence and she soon
became a sort of active-service echo of my old favour-
ites. Dick rode out with me as often as he could per-
suade the Transport Officer to let him have a horse.

When riding alone I explored the country rather
absent-mindedly, meditating on the horrors which I
had yet to experience; I was unable to reconcile that
skeleton certainty with the serenities of this winter
landscapeŚclean-smelling, with larks in the sky, the
rich brown gloom of distant woods, and the cloud
shadows racing over the lit and dappled levels of
that widespread land. And then I would pass a grey-
roofed chateau, with its many windows and no face
there to watch me pass. Only a bronze lion guarding
the well in the middle of an overgrown lawn, and
the whole place forlorn and deserted. Once, as I
was crossing the main road from Abbeville to
Beauvais, I watched the interminable column of a
French army corps which was moving southward.
For the first time I saw the famous French field-guns
-the "75's".