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Full text of "TheCompleteMemoirsOfGeorgeSherston"

burning low when the grinding jolting column lum-
bered back. The field guns came first, with nodding
men sitting stiffly on weary horses, followed by wag-
gons and limbers and field-kitchens. After this rumble
of wheels came the infantry, shambling, limping,
straggling and out of step. If anyone spoke it was only
a muttered word, and the mounted officers rode as if
asleep. The men had carried their emergency water
in petrol-cans, against which bayonets made a hollow
clink; except for the shuffling of feet, this was the only
sound. Thus, with an almost spectral appearance, the
lurching brown figures flitted past with slung rifles and
heads bent forward under basin-helmets. Moonlight
and dawn began to mingle, and I could see the barley
swaying indolently against the sky. A train groaned
along the riverside, sending up a cloud of whitish
fiery smoke against the gloom of the trees. The Flint-
shire Fusiliers were a long time arriving. On the hill
behind us the kite balloon swayed slowly upward with
straining ropes, its looming bulbous body reflecting
the first pallor of daybreak. Then, as if answering
our expectancy, a remote skirling of bagpipes began,
and the Gordon Highlanders hobbled in. But we had
been sitting at the crossroads nearly six hours, and
faces were recognizable, when Dottrell hailed our
leading Company.

Soon they had dispersed and settled down on the
hillside, and were asleep in the daylight which made
everything seem ordinary. None the less I had seen
something that night which overawed me. It was all
in the day's work—an exhausted Division returning
from the Somme Offensive—but for me it was as
though I had watched an army of ghosts. It was as
though I had seen the War as it might be envisioned
by the mind of some epic poet a hundred years hence.

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