Skip to main content

Full text of "TheCompleteMemoirsOfGeorgeSherston"

See other formats

gown, his narrow whimsical face puffing a cigarette
below a turban-like bandage; he'd been brought
down by the Germans behind Arras and had spent
three days in a bombarded dug-out with Prussians,
until our men drove them back and rescued him. The
Prussians hadn't treated him badly, he said. His
partner was a swarthy Canadian with a low beetling
forehead, sneering wide-set eyes, fleshy cheeks, and a
loose heavy mouth. I couldn't like that man, especi-
ally when he was boasting how he "did in some pris-
oners". Along the ward they were still talking about
"counter-attacked from the redoubt", "permanent
rank of captain", "never drew any allowances for six
weeks", "failed to get through their wire". ... I was
beginning to feel the need for escape from such re-
minders. My brain was screwed up tight, and when
people came to see me I answered their questions ex-
citedly and said things I hadn't intended to say.

From the munition factory across the road,
machinery throbbed and droned and crashed like the
treading of giants; the noise got on my nerves. I was
being worried by bad dreams. More than once I
wasn't sure whether I was awake or asleep; the ward
was half shadow and half sinking firelight, and the
beds were quiet with huddled sleepers. Shapes of
mutilated soldiers came crawling across the floor; the
floor seemed to be littered with fragments of mangled
flesh. Faces glared upward; hands clutched at neck
or belly; a livid grinning face with bristly moustache
peered at me above the edge of my bed; his hands
clawed at the sheets. Some were like the dummy
figures used to deceive snipers; others were alive and
looked at me reproachfully, as though envying me
the warm safety of life which they'd longed for when
they shivered in the gloomy dawn, waiting for the