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GRAPES OF WRATH 



GRAPES OF 
WRATH 



BYt->,^*c„4.^..,'^.„ 

Cboyd cabled - 

AUTHOR OP 

•VBTWBBN THE LINES." "ACTION FRONT," 

AND "DOING THEIR BIT" 



NEW YORK 

E. P. DUTTON & CO. 

(«1 FIFTH AVENUE 






CdPTKOHT, 1917, 
BT 

B. F. DUTTON AND COMPANY 



tinted in the United States of America 



9 



\-- 






H* 



TO 

ALL RANKS OF THE NEW ARMIES 

Men of the Old Country^ Men of (he Over^ 
seas, and those good men among the 
Neutrals who ptU aU else aside to join up 
and help us to Victory ^ this book is dedi- 
cated with pride and admiration by 

THE AUTHOR 
In ihs Fidd, 
iOth January, 1917 



X 

S 






THE AUTHOR'S ACKNOWLEDGMENT 

Acknowledgments are due to the Editors of The Com- 
hiU Magazine, Land and Water, and Pearson* 8 Magazine 
for i>ermis8ion to reprint such portions of this book as 
have appeared in their pages. 



.r^: 



BOYD CABLE— A PEEFATOET NOTE 

The readers of Boyd Cable's '* Between the 
Lines," "Action Front," and "Doing Their Bit," 
have very naturally had their curiosity exdted as 
to an author who, previously unheard of, has sud- 
denly become the foremost word-painter of active 
fighting at the present day, and the greatest "lit- 
erary discovery" of the War. 

Boyd Cable is primarily a man of action ; and 
for half of his not very long life he has been 
doing things instead of writing them. At the age 
of twenty he joined a corps of Scouts in ihe Boer 
War, and saw plenty of fighting in South Africa. 
After the close of that war, his life consisted 
largely of traveling in Great Britain and the prin- 
dlpal countries of Europe and the Mediterranean, 
his choice always leading him from the beaten 
track. He also spent some time in Australia and 



BOYD CABLE— A PREFATORY NOTE 

in New Zealand, not only in the cities, bnt in the 
outposts of civilization, on the edge of the wilder- 
ness, both there and in the Philippines, Java, and 
other islands of the Pacific. 

When he travels, Mr. Cable does not merely 
take a steamer-berth or a railway-ticket and write 
np his notes from an observation car or a saloon 
deck. He looks ont after a job, and puts plenty 
of energy into it while he is at it ; in fact, so many 
different things has he done, that he says himself 
that it is easier to mention the things he has not 
done than the ones he has. He has been an ordi- 
nary seaman, typewriter agent, a steamer-fireman, 
office-manager, hobo, farmhand, gold prospector, 
coach-driver, navvy, engine-driver, and many 
other things. And strangely enough, though he 
knows so much from practical experience, he has, 
until recently, never thought of writing down 
what he has seen. 

Before this present War, he was on the staff 
of a London advertising agency. At the outbreak 
of hostilities, he offered his services and was ac- 
cepted in 1914, being one of the first men not in 
the regular army to get a commission and be sent 
to the front. 

It was his experience as ** Forward Officer'* (or 






BOYD CABLE— A PREFATORY NOTE 
observation officer in the artillery) that gave him 

* 

the material which he began to use in ** Between 
the Lines/' 

In this dangerous and responsible position, his 
daily life of literally ** hairbreadth*' escapes af- 
forded him experiences as thrilling as any he has 
described in his books. On one occasion, for in- 
stance, when his position had been ** spotted*' by 
enemy sharp-shooters, he got a bullet through his 
cap, one through his shoulder-strap, one through 
the inside of his sleeve dose to his heart, and flfty- 
three others near enough for him to hear them 
pass — ^all in less than an hour. 

After eighteen months of this death-defying 
wor^ without even a wound, Mr. Boyd Cable was 
naturally disgusted at being invalided home on 
account of stomach trouble ; but it was only this 
enforced leisure that gave him really time to take 
up writing seriously. As may be remembered, the 
British Government selected him officially to make 
the rounds of the munijtion factories and write an 
account of what was being done in them, with the 
purpose of circulating it among the men at the 
fronts to let them see that the workers at home 
were "doing their bit.'* 

The following letter has just been received 



BOYD CABLE— A PREFATORY NOTE 

from Mr. Boyd Cable by the publishers, and they 
venture to include it here, entirely without the 
writer's consent (since that would be impossible 
to get within the necessary time), and fully realiz- 
ing that the letter was not written with a view to 
publication. They feel that it will give the reader 
an intimate view of the author, such as no amoimt 
of description or explanation could do. 

* ^ . . Many thanks for all the trouble you have 
taken trying to place my stories in magazines. It 
certainly is odd that British in U. S. A. are not 
more interested in the war. I only hope the 
States won't have one of its own to be interested 
in, but honestly I expect it within very few years. 

I am very glad you like **Grapes of Wratti'' 
and hope the further chapters (which Smith, 
Elder & Company tell me they have sent you) 
will equally please. I may not tell you where I 
am or what I'm doing since the Censor forbids, 
but may just say that since I came out again I've 
seen plenty of the Somme **Push" and have been 
able to make ** Grapes of Wrath" the more acoa- 
rate and up to date in details. 

Now we're all awaiting the Spring with full 
antidpations of going in for the last round and 
the knook-out to Germany. We're all very con- 
fident she can't stand the pace we've set for next 
year. 

We're having some bitter weather — ^fierce cold 
and wet and snow, but we're putting up with it, 
more or less cheered by the assurance that the 



BOYD CABLE— A PEEFATOEY NOTE 

Huns are feeling it every bit as bad as we are and 
probably a bit worse. 

With all regards and every good wish for the 
coming year. . . .'' 

It only remains to add that the importance of 
Mr. Boyd Cable's work may be judged by the fact 
that of ** Between the Lines" considerably over a 
hundred thousand copies have been printed in 
Great Britain alone. 

THE PUBLISHEES. 



CONTENTS 



I. Towards the Push ....... 15 

II. The Overture of the Guns .... 26 

in. The Edge of Battle 37 

IV. Across the Open 60 

V. On Captured Ground 69 

VI. Taking Punishment 79 

VII. Blind Man's Buff . 98 

VIII. Over the Top 112 

IX. A Side Show 134 

X. The Counter Attack 152 

XI. Forward Observing 179 

XII. A Village and a Helbiet 201 

XIII. With the Tanks 229 

XIV. The Battle Hymn 244 

XV. Casualties 253 

XVI. Play out the Game 275 



BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC 

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord: 
He is trampJmg out the vintage where the grapes of 

uorath (ure stored,; 
B.e hath loosed the fatal lightning of His terrible swift 

sword: 

His truth is marching on. 

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling 

camps; 
They have btUlded Him am, altar in the evening dews a/nd 

damps: 
I can redid His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring 

lamps: 

His day is marching on. 

I have read a fiery gospel, writ in bum^hed rows of 

steel: 
**As ye decA with My contemners, so with you My grace 

shall deaV; 
Let the Hero, bom of wonum, crush the serpent u)ith His 

heel! 

Since Ood is m^arching on! 

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never caU 

retreat, 
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment 

seat; 
Oh! be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilamt, my 

feet! 

Our Ood is marching on. 



« 



BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC 

In the beauty of the UUes Christ wca horn, across the 

sea, 
With a glory in His bosom that tra^nsfigures you amd 

me; 
As He died to make msn holy, let us die to make man 

free, 

While Ood is marching on. 

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the UHwe; 
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is succor to the brave; 
So the world shaU be His footstool and the soul of tims 
His slave: 

Our Ood is marching on. 

JuuA Wabd Howe. 



AUTHOR'S FOEEWORD 

It is possible that this book may be taken for an 
actual account of the Somme battle, but I warn 
readers that although it is in the bulk based on 
the fighting there and is no doubt colored by the 
fact that the greater part of it was written in the 
Somme area or between visits to it, I make no 
daim for it as history or as an historical account. 
My ambition was the much lesser one of describ- 
ing as well as I could what a Big Push is like from 
the point of view of an ordinary average infantry 
private, of showing how much he sees and knows 
and suffers in a great battle, of giving a 
glimpse perhaps of the spirit that animates the 
New Armies, the endurance that has made them 
more than a match for the Germans, the accept- 
ance of appalling and impossible horrors as the 
work-a-day business and routine of battle, the 
discipline and training that has fused such a mix- 
ture of material into tempered fighting metal. 
For the tale itself, I have tried to put into words 



AUTHOR ^S FOREWORD 

merely the sort of story that might and could be 
told by thousands of our men to-day. I hope^ in 
fact, I have so *Hold the tale^' that such men as 
I have written of may be able to put this book in 
your hands and say : ' * This chapter just describes 
our crossing the open,'' or **That is how we were 
shelled,'' or **I felt the same about my Blighty 
one." 

It may be that before this book is complete in 
print another, a greater, a longer and bloodier, 
and a last battle may be begun, and I wish this 
book may indicate the kind of men who will be 
fighting it, the stout hearts they will bring to the 
fight, the manner of faith and assurance they 
will feel in Victory, complete and final to the gain- 
ing of such Peace terms as we may demand. 

The Authob. 

In the Field 
20th January, 1917. 



GRAPES OF WRATH 



CHAPTER I 

TOWABDS THE PtJSH 

The rank and file of the 5/6 Service Battalion of 
the Stonewalls knew that ^* there was another 
push on,'^ and that they were moving up some- 
where into the push; but beyond that and the 
usual crop of wild and loose-running rumors they 
knew nothing. Some of the men had it on the 
most exact and positive authority that they were 
for the front line and ** first over the parapef ; 
others on equally positive grounds knew that they 
were to be in reserve and not in the attack at all ; 
that they were to be in support and follow the 
first line ; that there was to be nothing more than 
an artillery demonstration and no infantry attack 
at all ; that the French were taking over our line 
for the attack; that we were taking over the 
French line. The worst of it was that there were 
so many tales nobody could believe any of them, 

15 



16 GRAPES OF WEATH 

but, strangely enough, that did not lessen the eager 
interest with which each in turn was heard and 
discussed, or prevent each in tun; securing a num- 
ber of supporters and believers. 

But all the rumors appeared to be agreed that 
up to now the push had not begun, so far as the 
infantry were concerned, and also that, as Larry 
Arundel put it, ^* judging by the row the guns are 
making it's going to be some push when it does 
come/' 

The Stonewalls had been marching up towards 
the front by easy stages for three days past, and 
each day as they marched, and, in fact, each hour 
of this last day, the uproar of artillery fire had 
grown steadily greater and greater, until now the 
air trembled to the violent concussions of the guns, 
the shriek and rumble of the shells, and occasion- 
ally to the more thrilling and heart-shaking shriek 
of an enemy shell, and the crash of its burst in our 
lines. 

It was almost sunset when the Stonewalls 
swung off the road and halted in and about a 
little orchard. The lines of an encampment — 
which was intended for no more than a night's 
bivouac — ^were laid out, and the men unbuckled 
their straps, laid off their packs, and sank thank- 



TOWARDS THE PUSH 17 

fully to easeful positions of rest on the long grass, 
waiting until the traveling cookers, which on their 
journey along the road had been preparing the 
evening meal, were brought up and discharged of 
their savory contents. But before the meal was 
served there came an unpleasant interruption, 
which boded ill for the safety of the night *s camp. 
A heavy shell rushed overhead, dropped in the 
field about four hundred yards beyond the camp, 
burst with a crash and a gush of evil black smoke, 
a flying torrent of splinters and up-flung earth. 

While the men were still watching the slow dis- 
persal of the shell smoke, and passing comments 
upon how near to them was the line it had taken, 
another and another shell whooped over them in 
a prolonged line on the fields beyond. * * We seem^ ^ ' 
said Larry Arundel, **to have chosen a mighty 
unhealthy position for to-night's rest.'' 

*^If the CO. has any sense,*' retorted his mate, 
Billy Simson, **he'll up and off it somewheres out 
to the flank. We're in the direct line of those 
ommps, and if one drops short, it is going to knock 
the stuflSn' out of a whole heap of us." 

While they were talking an artillery subaltern 
was seen crossing the road and hurrying towards 



18 GRAPES OF WEATH 

them. '* Where is your CO.?*' he asked, when he 
came to the nearest group. 

*'Over in the orchard, sir,** said Billy Simson. 
*' 1*11 show you if you like.** 

The officer accepted his pilotage, urging him to 
hurry, and the two hastened to the orchard, and 
to a broken-down building in the comer of it, 
where the officers of the battalion were installing 
a more or less open-air mess. 

BiUy Simson lingered long enough to hear the 
Subaltern introduce himself as from a battery in 
a position across the road amongst some farm 
buildings, and to say that his Major had sent him 
over to warn the infantry that the field they were 
occupying was in a direct line ** regularly strafed** 
by a heavy German battery every few hours. 

'*My Major said I was to tell you,** went on the 
Subaltern, *Hhat there are one or two old bams 
and outbuildings on the farm where we have the 
battery, and that you might find some sort of shel- 
ter for a good few of your men in them ; and that 
we can find room to give you and some of the 
officers a place to shake down for the night.** 

Simson heard no more than this, but he soon had 
evidence that the invitation had been accepted. 
The battalion was warned to ** stand by** for a 



TOWAEDS THE PUSH 19 

move across the road, and the Colonel and Adjn- 
tant) with the Sergeant-Major and a couple of 
Sergeants, left the orchard and disappeared 
among the farm bmldingSy in the company of the 
gunner Subaltern. 

Billy Simson repeated to his particular chums 
the conversation he had overheard; and the re- 
sulting high expectations of a move from the un- 
healthy locality under the German guns' line of 
fire, and of a roof over their heads for the night, 
were ^presently fulfilled by an order for the bat- 
talion to move company by company. "C" Com- 
pany presently found itself installed in a commo- 
dious bam, with ventilation plentifully provided 
by a huge hole, obviously broken out by a shell 
burst, in the one comer, and a roof with tiles lib- 
erally smashed and perforated by shrapnel fire. 
But on the whole the men were well content with 
the change, partly perhaps because being come 
of a long generation of house-dweUers they had 
never become accustomed to the real pleasure of 
sleeping in the open air, and partly because of 
that curious and instinctive and wholly misplaced 
confidence inspired by four walls and a roof as a 
protection against shell fire. 

Somewhere outside and very close to them a 



20 GEAPES OF WRATH 

field battery was in action, and for a whole hour 
before darkness fell the air pulsed and the crazy 
buildings about them shook to an unceasing thump 
and bang from the firing guns, while the intervals 
were filled with the slightly more distant but 
equally constant thud and boom of other batteries ^ 
fire. 

While they were waiting for the evening meal 
to be served some of the men wandered out and 
took up a position where they could view closely 
the guns and gunners at their work. The guns 
were planted at intervals along a high hedge ; the 
muzzles poked through the leafy screen, and a 
shelter of leaves and boughs was rigged over each, 
so as to screen the battery from air observation. 

Billy Simson and his three particular chums 
were amongst the interested spectators. The four 
men, who were drawn from classes that in pre-war 
days would have made any idea of friendship or 
even intercourse most unlikely, if not impossible, 
had, after a fashion so common in our democratic 
New Armies, become fast friends and intimates. 

Larry Arundel, aged twenty, was a man of good 
family, who in civilian days had ocQupied a seat in 
his father's office in London, with the certain pros- 
pect before him of a partnership in the firm. Billy 



TOWAEDS THE PUSH 21 

Simson was a year or two older, had been educated 
in a provincial board school, and from the age of 
fourteen had served successively as errand boy 
and counter hand in a little suburban ^'empo- 
rium/' The third man, Ben Sneath, age unknown, 
but probably somewhere about twenty-one to 
twenty-five, was frankly of the *4ower orders'' ; 
had picked up a living from the time he was able 
to walk, in the thousand and one ways that a Lon- 
don street boy finds to his hand. On the roll of 
*'C" Company he was Private Sneath, B, but to 
the whole of the company — and, in fact, to the 
whole of the battalion — ^he was known briefly, but 
descriptively, as *'Pug." Jefferson Lee, the 
fourth of the quartette, was an unusual and some- 
what singular figure in a British battalion, be- 
cause, always openly proud of his birthplace, he 
was seldom called by anything but it — '^ Ken- 
tucky,*' or **Kentuck." His speech, even in the 
wild jumble of accents and dialects common 
throughout a mixed battalion, was striking and 
noticeable for its peculiar softness and slurring 
intonations, its smooth gentleness, its quiet, drawl- 
ing level. Being an American, bom of many gen- 
erations of Americans, with no single tie or known 
relation outside America, he was, in his stained 



22 GRAPES OF WRATH 

khaki and his place in the fighting ranks of a 
British regiment, a personal violation of the neu- 
trality of the United States. But the reasons that 
had brought him from Kentucky to England, with 
the clear and expressed purpose of enlisting for 
the war, were very simply explained by him. 

**Some of us,'' he said gently, *^ never really 
agreed with the sinking of liners and the murder 
of women and children. Some of us were a trifle 
ashamed to be standing out of this squabble, and 
when the President told the world that we were 
*too proud to fight,' I just simply had to prove 
that it was a statement which did not agree with 
the traditions of an old Kentucky family. So I 
came over and enlisted in your army." 

The attitude of the four men now as they 
watched the gunners at work was almost char- 
acteristic of each. Larry, who had relatives or 
friends in most branches of the Service, was able 
to tell the others something of the methods of 
modem artillery, and delivered almost a lecturette 
.upon the subject. Billy Simson was frankly bored 
by this side of the subject, but intensely interested 
in the noise and the spectacular blinding flash that 
appeared to leap forth in a twenty-foot wall of 
flame on the discharge of each gun. Pug found 



TOWAEDS THE PUSH 23 

a subject for mirth and quick, bantering jests in ) 
the attitudes of the gunners and their movements 
about the gun, and the stentorian shoutings v 
through a megaphone of the Sergeaut-Major from 
the entrance to a dug-out in the rear of the guns. 
Lee sat down, leisurely rolled and lit a cigarette, 
watched the proceedings with interest, and made 
only a very occasional soft drawled reply to the 

remarks of the others. 

**Do you mean to- tell me,^' said Pug incredu- 
lously, breaking in on ArundePs lecture, **that 
them fellows is shootin' off all them shells with- 
out ever seein' what they^re firin^ at! If that is 
true, I calls it bloondn' waste. '^ 

**They do not see their target, '' said Arundel^} 
*^but they are hitting it every time. You see they 
aim at something else, and they're told how much 
to the right or left of it to shoot, and the range / 
they are to shoot at — it is a bit too complicated to 
explain properly, but it gets the target all right. ' ' 

**Wot's the bloke with the tin trumpet whis- , 
perin' about f asked Pug. ** Looks to me as if 
he was goin' to be a casualty with a broke blood- 
vessel. ' ' 

** Passing orders and corrections of fire to the 
guns,'' explained Arundel. '* There's a telephone 



y 



24 GEAPES OF WEATH 

wire from that dug-out up to somewhere in front, 
where somebody can see the shells falling, and 
'phone back to tell them whether they are over or 
short, right or left.'' 

*'It's pretty near as good as a Brock's benefit 
night," said Billy Simson; *^but I'd want cotton 
wool plugs in my ears, if I was takin' up lodgin's 
in this street." 

The light was beginning to fade by now, but the 
guns continued to fire in swift rotation, from one 
end of the battery to the other. They could hear 
the. sharp orders, * * One, fire ; Two, fire ; Three, 
fire, ' ' could see the gunner on his seat beside each 
piece jerk back the lever. Instantly the gun flamed 
a sheet of vivid fire, the piece recoiled violently 
to the rear between the gunners seated to each 
side of it, and as the breech moved smoothly back 
to its position, the hand of one gunner swooped 
rapidly in after it, grabbed the handle and 
wrenched open the breech, flinging out the shin- 
ing brass cartridge case, to fall with a clash and 
jangle on to the trail of the gun and the other 
empty cases lying round it. The instant the breech 
was back in place, another man shot in a fresh 
shell, the breech swung shut with a sharp, metallic 
clang, the layer, with his eye pressed dose to his 



TOWAEDS THE PUSH 25 

sights juggled for a moment with his hands on 
shiny brass wheels, lifted one hand to drop it 
again on the lever, shouted ** Ready,'' and sat 
waiting the order to fire. The motions and the 
action at one gun were exactly and in detail the 
motions of all. From end to end of the line the 
flaming wall leaped in turn from each muzzle, the 
piece jarred backwards, the empty brass case 
jerked out and fell tinkling ; and before it ceased 
to roll another shell was in place, the breech 
clanged home, and the gun was ready again. 

Billy Simson spoke to a gunner who was mov- 
ing past them towards the billets. 

^*What are you fellows shooting at?" he asked. 

*'Wire cutting,'' said the gunner briefly. 
** We've been at it now without stopping this past 
four days, ' ' and he moved on and left them. 

** Wire cutting," said Arundel, ** sweeping away 
the barbed wire entanglements in front of the 
Boche trench. That's clearing the track we're 
going to take to-morrow or the next day." 

**I hopes they makes a clean job of it," said 
Pug; **and I hopes they sweep away some of 
them blasted machine guns at the same time." 

**Amen, to that," said Kentucky. 



CHAPTEE n 

THE OVBBTXJBB OF THE GTTK8 

All that night the meiiy packed close in their 
hlanketSy slept as hest they could, but continually 
were awakened by the roaring six-gun salvos firom 
the battery beside them. 

One of the gunners had explained that they 
were likely to hear a good deal of shooting during 
the night, *'the notion being to bust off six shells 
every now and again with the guns laid on the 
wire we were shooting at in daylight. If any 
Boche crawls out to repair the wire in the dark, he 
never knows the minute he's going to get it in the 
neck from a string of shells. '' 

**And how does it work!" asked the interested 
Arundel. 

*^ First rate,'' answered the gunner. ^'Them 
that's up at the O.P.^ says that when they have 
looked out each morning there hasn 't been a sign 
or a symptom of new wire going up, and, of 

^Obsenration Post. 



THE OVERTURE OF THE GUNS 27 

course, there 's less chance than ever of repairing 
in daytime. A blue-bottle fly — ^let alone a Boche 
— couldn't crawl out where we're wire-cuttiiig 
without getting filled as fuU of holes as a second- 
hand sieve." 

The salvos kept the barnful of men awake for 
the first hour or two. The intervals of firing were 
purposely irregular, and varied from anything be- 
tween three to fifteen minutes. The^inf antry, with 
a curious but common indifference to the future as 
compared to the present, were inclined to grumble 
at this noisy interruption of their slumbers, until 
Arundel explained to some of them the full pur- 
pose and meaning of the firing. 

^*Seein' as that's 'ow it is," said Pug, '^I don't 
mind 'ow noisy they are ; if their bite is anything 
like as good as their bark, it 's all helpin ' to keep 
a clear track on the road we've got to take pres- 
ently." 

'^ Those gunners," said Kentucky, ** talked 
about this shooting match having kept on for four 
days and nights continuous, but they didn't know, 
or they wouldn 't say, if it was over yet, or likely 
to be finished soon." 

**The wust of this blinkin' show," said Billy 
Simson, '*is that nobody seems to know nothin', 



28 GRAPES OF WRATH 

and the same people seem to care just about the 
same amount about anythin \ ^ ' 

**Come off it,'* said Pug; *^ here's one that cares 
a lump. The sooner we gets on to the straff and 
gets our bit done and us out again the better 
I'll be pleased. From what the Quarter-bloke 
says, we're goin' to be kep' on the bully and 
biscuit ration until we comes out of action ; so roll 
on with comin' out of action, and a decent dinner 
of fresh meat and potatoes and bread again." 

^'There's a tidy few," said Billy, ''that won't 
be lookin' for no beef or bread when they comes 
out of action." 

''Go on," said Pug; * that's it; let's be cheer- 
ful. We'll all be killed in the first charge; and 
the attack will be beat back ; and the Germans will 
break our line and be at Calais next week, and 
bombarding London the week after. Go on; see 
if you can think up some more cheerf uls. ' ' 

**Pug is kind of right," said Kentucky; '*but 
at the same time so is Billy. It's a fair bet that 
some of us four will stop one. If that should be 
my luck, I 'd like one of you, ' ' he glanced at Arun- 
del as he spoke, **to write a line to my folks in 
old Kentucky, just easing them down and saying 
I went out quite easy and cheerful. ' ' 



*y 



THE OVEBTUEE OF THE GUNS 29 

Pug snorted disdainfully. ** Seems to me,'' he 
said, ^*the bloke that expec's it is fair askin' for 
it. I'm not askin' nobody to write off no last 
dyin' speeches for me, even if I 'ad anybody to 
say 'em to, which 1 'aven't." 

* * Anyhow, Kentucky, ' ' said Arundel, * ^ I '11 write 
down your address, if you will take my people's. 
What about you, Billy!" 

Billy shuffled a little uneasily. *' There's a 
girl, ' ' he said, * * one girl partikler, that might like 
to 'ear, and there's maybe two or three others 
that I'd like to tell about it. You'll know the sort 
of thing to say. I '11 give you the names, and you 
might tell 'em" — he hesitated a moment — ^**I 
know, * the last word he spoke was Eose — or 
Gladys, or Mary,' sendin' the Eose one to Eose, 
and so on, of course." 

Arundel grinned, and Pug guffawed openly. 
**What a lark," he laughed, ''if Larry mixes 'em 
up and tells Eose the last word you says was 
'Gladys,' and tells Gladys that you faded away 
murmurin' 'Gobd-by, Eose.' " 

"I don't see anythin' to laugh at,' said Billy 
huffily. "Eose is the partikler one, so you might 
put in a bit extra in hers, but it will please the 
others a whole heap. They don 't know each other. 



30 GRAPES OP WEATH 

so they will never know I sent the other messages, 
and I'll bet that each of 'em will cart that letter 
round to show it to all her pals, and they'll cry 
their eyes out, and have a real enjoyable time 
over it. ' ' 

Arundel laughed now. ** Queer notions your 
girls have of enjoyment, Billy," he said. 

**I know 'em," insisted Billy; **and I'm right 
about it. I knew a girl once that was goin' to be 
married to a chum o' mine, and he ups and dies, 
and the girl 'ad to take the tru-sox back to the 
emporium and swop it for moumin'; and the 
amount of fussin' and cryin'-over that girl got 
was somethin' amazin', and I bet she wouldn't 
have missed it for half a dozen 'usbands ; and, be- 
sides, she got another 'usband easy enough about 
two months after." He concluded triumphantly, 
and looked round as if challenging contradiction. 

Outside, the battery crashed again, and the 
crazy building shook about them to the sound. 
A curious silence followed the salvo, because by 
some chance the ranked batteries, strung out to 
either side of them, had chosen the same interval 
between their firing. Most of the men in the barn 
had by this time sunk to sleep, but at the silence 
they stirred uneasily, and many of them woke and 



THE OVEBTUEE OF THE GUNS 31 

raised themselves on their elbows, or sat up to 
inquire sleepily **What was wrong nowt" or 
'*What was the matter t^^ With the adaptability 
under which men live in the fire zone, and with- 
out which, in fact, they could hardly live and keep 
their senses, they had in the space of an hour br 
two become so accustomed to the noise of the 
cannonade that its cessation had more power to 
wake them than its noisiest outbursts ; and when, 
after the silence had lasted a few brief minutes, 
the batteries began to speak again, they turned 
over or lay down and slid off into heedless sleep. 
Somewhere about midnight there was another 
awakening, and this time from a different cause — 
a difference that is only in the note and nature of 
the constant clamor of fire. Throughout the 
night the guns had practically the say to them- 
selves, bombs and rifles and machine guns alike 
being beaten down into silence; but at midnight 
something — some alarm, real or fancied — ^woke 
the rifles to a burst of frenzied activity. The first 
few stuttering reports swelled quickly to a long 
drum-like rolL The machine guns caught up the 
chorus, and rang through it in racketing and clat- 
tering bursts of fire. The noise grew with the 
minutes, and spread and spread, until it seemed 



32 GRAPES OF WRATH 

that the whole lines were engaged for miles in a 
desperate conflict 

Arundel, awakened by the clamor, sat up. **Is 
anybody awake f he asked in low tones, and in- 
stantly a dozen voices around him answered. 

**Is it the attack, do you supposed asked one, 
and a mild argument arose on the question, some 
declaring that they — ^the Stonewalls — ^would not 
be left to sleep there in quietness if our line were 
commencing the push; others maintaining that 
secrecy was necessary as to the hour planned, be- 
cause otherwise the Boches would be sure to know 
it, and be ready for the attack. 

** Maybe, '^ some one ventured the opinion, *4t's 
them that's attacking us.** But this wild theorist 
was promptly laughed out of court, it being the 
settled conviction apparently of his fellows that 
the Boche would not dare to attack when he knew 
from the long bombardment that our lines must be 
heavily held. 

As the argument proceeded, Arundel felt a 
touch on his elbow, heard the soft, drawling voice 
of Kentucky at his ear. 

**I*m going to take a little pasear outside, and 
just see and hear anything I can of the proceed- 
ings." 



THE OVEETUBE OF THE GUNS 33 

"Eight,*' said Arundel promptly. **I'm with 
you; I^m not a bit sleepy, and we might find out 
something of what it all means. * * 

The two slipped on their boots, moved quietly 
to the door, and stepped outside. 

They walked round the end of the bam to where 
they could obtain a view dear of the building and 

ft 

out towards the front, and stood there some min- 
utes in silence, watching and listening. A gentle 
rise in the ground and the low crest of a hill hid 
the trenches on both sides from their view, and 
along this crest line showed a constant quivering, 
pulsing flame of pale yellow light, dear and vivid 
along its lower edge, and showing up in hard, 
black silhouette every detail of the sky-line, every 
broken tree stump, every ragged fragment of a 
building's wall, every bush and heap of earth. 
Above the crest the light faded and vignetted off 
softly into the darkness of the night, a darkness 
that every now and then was wiped out to the 
height of half the sky by a blinding flash of light, 
that winked and vanished and winked again and 
again, as the guns on both sides blazed and flung 
their shells unseeing but unerring to their mark. 

Larry and Kentucky heard a call in the battery 
near them, the quick rush of running feet, a sue- 



34 GRAPES OF WRATH 

cession of sharp, shouted orders. The next in- 
stanty with a crash that made them jump, the six 
gnns of the battery spoke with one single and 
instantaneous voice. In the momentary gush of 
flame from the muzzles, and of yellow light, that 
blotted out aU other lights, the two men saw in 
one quick glimpse the hedge, the leafy screens 
above the guns, the guns themselves, and the gun- 
ners grouped about them. Out to their right, 
a moment after the darkness had flashed down 
again over the battery, a neighboring group of 
guns gave tongue in a rapid succession of evenly 
spaced reports. This other battery itself was 
hidden from the two watchers, but because of its 
nearness, the flashes from it also flung a blinding 
radiance upward into the night, reveaUng the out- 
lines of every roof and building, hedge and tree, 
that stood against the sky. 

Their own battery, in answer to a hoarse bel- 
lowing from the megaphone of ''Section Fire — 
5 seconds," commenced to pound out a stream of 
shells from gun after gun. Away to right and 
left of them the other batteries woke and added 
their din to the infernal chorus. The shells from 
other and farther-back batteries were rushing and 



THE OVERTURE OF THE GUNS 35 

screaming overhead, and dying away in thin wait- 
ings and whistlings in the distance. 

Another and different note struck in, rising this 
time from a shrill scream to a londer and lender 
and more savage roar, and ending with an earth- 
shaking crash and the shriek of flying splinters. A 
shell had burst a bare hundred yards from where 
the two stood, hurling some of its fragments over 
and past them to rap with savage emphasis on 
the stone and brick of the farm building. 

Larry and Kentucky ducked hastily, and ran 
crouching to the comer of their barn, as another 
shrill whistle and rush warned them of the ap- 
proaching shell. This time it burst farther off, 
and although the two waited a full fifteen minutes, 
no other shell came near, though along the crest 
of the sky-line they could see quick-flashing burst 
after burst and thick, billowing clouds of smoke 
rising and drifting blackly against the background 
of light beyond the slope. 

The tornado of shell fire beat the rifles down 
again to silence after some minutes. The rolling 
rifle fire and clatter of machine guns died away 
gradually, to no more than an occasional splutter, 
and then to single shots. After that the artillery 
slowed down to a normal rate of fire, a steady 



36 GRAPES OF WRATH 

succession of bangs and thuds and rumblings, that, 
after the roaring tempest of noise of the past few 
minutes, were no more than comparative quiet 

^'I'm glad we came out,'' said Larry; **it was 
quite a decent little show for a bit.'' 

Kentucky peered at him curiously. '*Did it 
strike you," he said, **the number of guns there 
were loosing off in that little show, and that most 
of those the other side are going to be doing their 
darnedest to spoil our little show, when it comes 
/ the time for us to be over the parapet t" 

**I suppose that's so," admitted Larry; **but 
then, you see, our guns will be doing the same by 
them, so the game ought to be even so far as that 
goes. ' ' 

**The game!" repeated Kentucky reflectively. 
* ' I notice quite a few of you boys talk of it as * a 
game,' or *the game'; I wonder whyt" 

* * I don 't know, ' ' said Larry, * * except that — oh, 
well — ^just because it is a game, a beastly enough 
one, I'll admit, but still a game that the best side 
is going to win." 

**The best side — — " said Kentucky, ^^ meaning, 
I suppose, you — ^us t ' ' 

**Why, of course," said Larry, with utter and 
unquestioning confidence. 



CHAPTER in 



THE EDGE OF BATTLE 



The men were awakened early next morning, and 
turned out, to find a gray, misty dawn. One might 
have supposed that in the mist it would have been 
impossible for the gunners to observe and direct 
any fire, but for all that the artillery on both sides 
were fairly heavily engaged, and the hangings 
and thumpings and rumblings rolled away to right 
and left, until they died down in the distance into 
the dull, muffled booming of a heavy surf beating 
on a long beach. 

The Stonewalls breakfasted hastily on biscuits, 
cheese, jam, and tea, were formed up, and moved 
on to the road. They marched slowly up this 
in the direction of the front, and presently found 
the mist clearing away and then dispersing rap- 
idly under the rays of the rising sun. It seemed 
as if the first beams of sunrise were a signal to 
the artillery, for the gunfire speeded up and up, 
until it beat in one long reverberating roar on the 

37 



38 GEAPES OF WEATH 

trembling air. The firing was not all from our 
side either ; although for the moment none of the 
enemy shells dropped very close to the Stonewalls, 
there were enough of them sufficiently close to be 
unpleasantly startling, and to send their frag- 
ments whistling and whining over their hastily 
ducking heads. 

■ 

About seven o'clock a new note began to run 
through the bellowing of the guns — ^the sharp, 
more staccato sound of the rifles and machine 
guns, the distinctive bang of bombs and hand- 
grenades. The rifle fire, hesitant and spasmodic 
at first, swelled suddenly to a loud, deep, drum- 
ming roll, hung there for several minutes, pitched 
upward again to a still louder tone, then sank and 
died away, until it was drowned out in the re- 
doubled clamor of the guns. 

The Stonewalls were halted and moved into the 
side of the road, and squatted lining the ditches 
and banks, listening to the uproar, discussing and 
speculating upon its meaning. 

* * Sounded like an attack, sure thing, * * said Ken- 
tucky, **but whether our side is pushing or being 
pushed I have not a notion. ' ' 

*^ Probably ours,'' said Larry; ^Hhe yarn was 



THE EDGE OF BATTLE 39 

going that we were to attack this morning, al- 
though some said it was for to-morrow. ' ^ 

' * Anyway, ^ ^ said Pug, * ' if our lot *as gone over 
they've either got it in the neck, and 'ad to 'ook 
it back again, or else they're over the No-Man 's- 
Land, and into the fust line. ' ' 
. ^^That's what," said Billy Simson. *'And 'ark 
at the bombs and 'and-grenades bustin ' off nine- 
teen to the dozen. That means we're bombin' our 
way along the trenches and chuckin' 'em down 
into the dug-outs. ' ' 

It was true that the distinctive sound of the 
bursting bombs had risen again to a renewed ac- 
tivity, and from somewhere further up or down 
the line the rifle fire commenced again, and rose 
to one long, continuous full-bodied roar. The 
sound spread and beat down in rolling waves 
nearer and nearer, ran outward again on both 
flanks, continued loud and unceasing. 

The Stonewalls were formed up and moved on 
again, and presently came upon, and marched into, 
the ruined fragments of a village, with shattered 
and tumble-down houses lining the sides of the 
road. They began to notice a new and significant 
sound, the thin whistling and piping of bullets 
passing high over their heads, the smack and 






40 GEAPES OF WEATH 

crack of an occasional one catching some upper 
portion of the ruined houses past which they 
marched. Here, too, they began to meet the first 
of the backwash of battle, the limping figures of 
men with white bandages about their heads, arms, 
and bodies; the still forms at full length on the 
sagging, reddened stretchers. At one of the 
houses in the village a Eed Cross flag hung limp 
over a broken archway, and through this the pro- 
cession passed in an ever-quickening stream. 

The village street rose to the crest of a gentle 
slope, and when the Stonewalls topped the rise, 
and began to move down the long gentle decline 
on the other side, they seemed to step from the 
outer courts into the inner chambers of war. Men 
hung about the broken fragments of the buildings ; 
ammunition carts were drawn up in angles and 
comers of the remaining walls ; a couple of am- 
bulances jolted slowly and carefully up the hill 
towards them; the road was pittedSnd cratered 
with shell holes ; the trees, that lined both sides of 
it, trailed broken branches and jagged ends of 
smashed off trunks, bore huge white scars and 
patches, and strewed the road with showers of 
leaves and twigs. The houses of the village, too, 
on this side of the slope, had been reduced to utter 



THE EDGE OF BATTLE 41 

min. Only here and there were two- or three- 
sided portions of a honse still standing; the rest 
were no more than heaped aad tangled rubbish- 
heaps of stone and brick, broken beams and wood- 
worky shattered pieces of furniture, and litter of 
red tiles. 

By now the bullets were singing and whisking 
overhead, crackling with vicious emphasis against 
the trees and walls. And now, suddenly and with- 
out the slightest warning, four shells rushed and 
crashed down upon the road amongst the ruined 
buildings. The men who had been hanging about 
in the street vanished hastily into such cover as 
they could find, and the Stonewalls, tramping 
steadily down the shell-smashed, rubbish-strewn 
street, flinched and ducked hastily to the quick 
rush and crash of another string of shells. An 
order was passed back, and the column divided 
into two, half taking one side of the road, and half 
the other ; the rear halting and lying down, while 
the front moved off by platoons, with some fifty 
to a hundred yards between each. 

A German battery was evidently making a tar- 
get of this portion of the road, for the shells con- 
tinued to pound up and down its length. After the 
sharp burst of one quartette fairly between the 



42 GEAPES OF WEATH 

ranks of a marching platoon, there was a call for 
stretchers, and the regimental stretcher-bearers 
came up at the double, busied themselves for a few 
minutes about some cnmipled forms, lifted them, 
and moved off along the road back to the Bed 
Cross flag of the dressing station. The shell- 
swept stretch of road was growing uncomfortably 
dangerous, and it was with a good deal of relief 
that the Stonewalls saw their leading platoon turn 
aside and disappear into the entrance of a com- 
munication trench. 

*'This ^ere,'^ said Pug, with a sigh of satisfac- 
tion, **is a blinkin^ sight more like the thing; and 
why them lazy beggars of a Staff 'aven't ^ad this 
communication trench took back a bit further beats 
me.'' 

"It sure is a comfortable feeling,'' agreed Ken- 
tucky, 'Ho hear those bullets whistling along up- 
stairs, and we safe down below ground-level." 

The communication trench was very narrow and 
twisted, and wormed its way for an interminable 
distance towards the still constant rattle of rifle 
fire and banging grenades. The men had not the 
slightest idea what had happened, or what was 
happening. Some of them had asked questions of 
the stretcher-bearers or of the wounded back in 



THE EDGE OF BATTLE 43 

the village, but these it appeared had come from 
the support trenches and from the firing-line be- 
fore the uproar of rifle fire had indicated the 
commencement of an attack by one side or the 
other. The long, straight, single-file line of Stone- 
walls moved slowly and with frequent checks and 
halts for over an hour ; then they were halted and 
kept waiting for a good thirty minutes, some chaf- 
ing at their inaction, others perfectly content to 
sit there in the safety of the deep trench. A few 
men tried to raise themselves and climb the 
straight^sided walls of the trench to the level 
ground, but the long grass growing there still hid 
their view, and the few who would have climbed 
right out on to the level were sharply reprimanded 
and ordered back by the officers and N.C.O.s ; so 
the line sat or stood leaning against the walls, 
listening to the unintelligible sounds of the con- 
flict, trying to glean some meaning and under- 
standing of the action's progress from them. 

The section of trench where Larry and his 
friends were waiting was suddenly overcast by a 
shadow, and the startled men, glancing hastily 
upward, saw to their astonishment a couple of 
Highlanders standing over and looking down upon 
them. One had a red, wet bandage about his head, 



44 GBAPES OF WEATH 

the other his hose-top slit down and dangling 
about his ankle, and a white bandage wound round 
the calf of his leg. The two stood for a minute 
looking down upon the men crouching and squat- 
ting in their shelter, on men too astonished for the 
moment to speak or do aught save gape upwards 
at the two above them. Somehow, after their relief 
at escaping from the open into the shelter of the 
trench, after the doubts and misgivings with which 
some of them had ventured to raise themselves 
and peer out above ground level, the angry orders 
given to them to get back and not expose them- 
selves, after having, in fact, felt themselves for an 
hour past to be separate only from a sudden and 
violent death by the depth of their shelter trench, 
it took their 'breath away to see two men walking 
about and standing with apparent unconcern upon 
a bullet-swept level, completely without protec- 
tion, indifferent to that fact But they recovered 
quickly from their amazement. 

*' Holloa, Jock,'' Pug called up to them, *^ what's 
the latest news in the dispatches! 'Ave we com- 
menced the attack t" 

** Commenced t Aye, and gey near finished, as 
far as we're concerned." 

There was a quick chorus of questions to this. 



THE EDGE OF BATTLE 45 

**How far had we gonef **Was the first line 
taken t" *'Was the attack pushing onf **Had 
the casualties been heavy f and a score of other 
questions. 

The two Highlanders bobbed down hastily, as 
a heavy shell fell with a rolling cr-r-r-funp within 
a hundred yards of them. 

**WeVe got the first line where we attacked," 
said one of them after a moment, ^^and we're 
pushing on to the second. They say that we have 
taken the second and third lines down there on the 
right, but the Huns are counter-attacking, and 
have got a bit of the third line back. I 'm no ' sure 
what's happened on the left, but I'm hearin' the 
attack was held, and pretty near wiped out. I 
only ken that our lot is tryin' to bomb up there to 
the left, and no' makin' much progress." 

His companion rose and stepped across the nar- 
row trench. 

"Come on, Andy," he said, **we'll awa' back to 
the dressin' station, and the first train to the 
North. This is no ' just a health resort to be bidin ' 
in. Good luck to you, lads. ' ' 

**Good luck, so long," chorused the trench after 
fhem, and the two vanished from sight. 

There was a buzz of excited talk after they had 



46 GRAPES OF WEATH 

gone — ^talk that lasted until word was passed back 
along the trench and the line rose and commenced 
to stumble onward again. 

**I suppose/' said Larry, ** they'll be moving us 
up in support. I hope we get out of this beastly 
trench soon, and see something of what's going 
on." 

Billy Simson grunted. * ' Maybe we '11 see plenty, 
and maybe a bit too much, when we get out of 
here,'' he said, *'and it is decently safe down 
here anyhow. ' ' 

Pug snorted. ^^Safef" he echoed; **no safer 
than it is above there, by the look of them two 
Jocks. They don't seem to be worritin' much 
about it being safe. I believe we would be all 
right to climb up out of this sewer and walk like 
bloomin' two-legged humans above ground, in- 
stead of crawling along 'ere like rats in a 'Ampton 
Court maze of drains." 

But, whether they liked it or not, the Stonewalls 
were condemned to spend most of that day in 
their drains. They moved out at last, it is true, 
from the communication trench into one of the 
support trenches, and from this they could catch 
an occasional narrow glimpse of the battlefield. 
They were little the wiser for that, partly because 



THE EDGE OF BATTLE 47 

the view gave only a restricted vision of a maze of 
twisting lines of parapets, of which they could tell 
no difference between British and German; of 
tangles of rusty barbed wire; and, beyond these 
things, of a drifting haze of smoke, of puffing 
white bursts of cotton wool-like smoke from shrap- 
nel, and of the high explosives spouting gushes of 
heavy black smoke, that leaped from the ground 
and rose in tall columns with slow-spreading tops. 
They could not even tell which of these shells 
were friends' and which were foes^ or whether 
they were falling in the British or the German 
lines. 

Pug was frankly disgusted with the whole per- 
formance. 

**The people at 'ome,'' he complained, **will see \ 
a blinkin' sight more of this show in the picture 
papers and the kinema shows than me what 's 'ere 
in the middle of it. ' ' 

** Don't you fret. Pug," said Larry; ** we'll see 
all we 're looking for presently. Those regiments 
up front must have had a pretty hot strafing, and 
they're certain to push us up from the supports 
into the firing-line." 

'*I don't see what you've got to grumble about," 
put in Billy Simson; ''we're snug and comfortable 



f 



i 
■ 



48 GRAPES OF WEATH 

enough here, and personally I'm not in any hurry 
to be trottin' out over the open, with the German 
Army shootin' at me.'' 

**I admit I'm not in any hurry to get plugged 
myself," drawled Kentucky, **but I've got quite a 
big mite of sympathy for Pug 's feelings. I 'm sure 
getting some impatient myself." 

** Anyway," said Pug, *4t's about time we 'ad 
some grub ; who's feelin' like a chunk of bully and 
apavin'-stonet" 

The others suddenly woke to the fact that they 
also were hungry. Bully beef and biscuits were 
produced, and the four sat and ate their meal, and 
lit cigarettes, and smoked contentedly after it, with 
the roar of battle ringing in their ears, with the 
shells rumbling and moaning overhead, and the 
bullets piping and hissing and singing past above 
their trench. 

After their meal, in the close, stagnant air of 
the trench they began to feel drowsy, and pres- 
ently they settled themselves in the most comfort- 
able positions possible, and dozed off to sleep. 
They slept for a good half hour, heedless of all 
the turmoil about them, and they were roused by 
a word passed down along the trench. 

They rose, and shook the packs into place on 



THE EDGE OF BATTLE 49 

their shoulders, tightened and settled the straps 
about them, patted their ammunition pouches, felt 
the bayonets slip freely in their scabbards, tried 
the bolts and action of their rifles, and then stood 
waiting with a curious thrill, that was made up of 
expectation, of excitement, of fear, perhaps — ^they 
hardly knew what. For the word passed along 
had been to get ready, that the battalion was 
moving up into the firing-line. 



CHAPTER IV 



ACBOSS THE OPEN 



The order came at last to move, and the men began 
to work their way along the support trench to the 
communication trenches which led up into the 
forward lines. 

Up to now the battalion, singularly enough con- 
sidering the amount of shelling that was going on, 
had escaped with comparatively few casualties, 
but they were not to escape much longer. As their 
line trickled slowly down the communication 
trench, Pug had no more than remarked on how 
cheaply they had got off so far, when a six- or 
eight-inch high-explosive shell dropped with a 
rolling crump, that set the ground quivering, close 
to the communication trench. The men began to 
mend their pace, and to hurry past the danger 
zone, for they knew well that where one shell fell 
there was almost a certainty of others falling. A 
second and a third shell pitched close to the other 
side of the trench, but the fourth crashed fairly 

50 



ACEOSS THE OPEN 51 

and squarely into the trench itself, blowing ont a 
portion of the walls, killing and wounding a num- 
ber of men, and shaking down a torrent of loose 
earth which half choked and filled that portion of 
the trench. The communication ways, and, indeed, 
all trenches, are constructed on a principle of 
curves and zig-zags, designed expressly to localize 
the effect of a shell bursting in any one portion. 
Practically every man in this particular section 
of trench was either killed or wounded, but the rest 
of the line did not suffer. But the German gun- 
ners, having found their target, and having pre- 
sumably, observed their direct hit upon it, had their 
direction and range exactly, and they proceeded 
to pound that portion of the trench to pieces, and 
to make it a matter of desperate hazard for any 
man to cross the zone covered by their fire. The 
zone, of course, had to be crossed, the only other 
alternative being to climb out of the trench and 
run across the open until the further shelter was 
reached. There was a still greater hazard at- 
tached to thiSj for the open ground in this locality 
— as the officers knew — was visible to the German 
Unes, and would expose the men, immediately 
upon their showing above ground, to a certain 
sweeping torrent of shrapnel, of machine-gun and 



52 GRAPES OF WRATH 

rifle fire. So the portion of the battalion which 
was making its way down that commnnication 
trench was set to run the gauntlet of the smashed- 
in trench, and the shells which continued to arrive 
— fortunately — ^with almost methodical punctual- 
ity. 

The procedure adopted was for the end of the 
line to halt just short of the fire zone, to wait there, 
crouched low in the bottom of the trench, until 
a shell had burst, then to rise and run, scrambling 
and climbing over the fallen debris, into the com- 
parative safety of the unbroken trench beyond, 
until the officer who was conducting the timing 
arrangements thought another shell was due to 
arrive, and halted the end of the line to wait until 
the next burst came, after which the same per- 
formance was repeated. 

Larry and his three chums, treading close on 
one another's heels, advanced and halted alter- 
nately, as the leading portion of the line rushed 
across or stayed. They came presently to a turn 
of the trench, where an officer stopped them and 
bade them lie down, keep as close as they could^ 
and be ready to jump and run when the next 
shell burst and he gave the word. The four 
waited through long seconds, their ears straining 



ACROSS THE OPEN 53 

for the sound of the approaching shell, their eyes 
set upon the officer. 

"Here she comes/' said Billy Simson, flattening 
himself still closer to the trench bottom. 

They all heard that thin but ominously rising 
screech, and each instinctively shrank and tried 
absurdly to make himself smaller than his size. 

**Just a-going to begin,'' said Larry, with a 
somewhat forced attempt at lightness of tone. 

** Don't you wish you was a bloomin' periwin- 
kle," said Pug, "with a bullet-proof shell?" 

There was no time for more. The screech had 
risen to a rushing bellow, and the next instant 
the shell dropped with a tumultuous crash, and the 
air was darkened with a cloud of evil-smelling 
black smoke, thick, choking, and blinding dust. 
The four were dazed and shaken with the shock, 
half-stunned with the thunderclap of noise, and 
stupefied with the nearness of their escape. But 
the next instant they were aroused to hear the 
voice of the officer beside them, calling and shout- 
ing to them to get up, to go on, to hurry across. 

"Get on!" repeated Pug, scrambling to his 
knees and feet. "My oath, get on. I wouldn't 
stop 'ere if I 'ad an invitation to tea with the King % | 
'imself." 



54 GRAPES OF WRATH 

* * Come, you fellows 1 * ' said Larry, and ran with 
his shoulders stooped, and dosely followed by the 
other three, along a short, unbroken portion of 
the trench, out into where it was broken down and 
choked to half its height with the debris of fallen 
earth and stones. Over this the four clambered 
and scuffled hastily, to find the trench beyond it 
wrecked out of semblance to a trench, a tossed 
and tumbled shallow gutter, with sides fallen in 
or blown completely out, with huge craters pitting 
the ground to either side of it, with the black reek 
and thick dust still curling and writhing and 
slowly drifting clear from the last explosion. And 
in that broken welter were the fragments of more 
than earth or stone ; a half -buried patch of khaki, 
a broken rifle, a protruding boot, were significant 
of the other and more dreadful fragments buried 
there. 

Larry and the other three did not, to be sure, 
waste time upon their crossing, but, rapidly as 
they thought they were moving, they still man- 
aged to accelerate their pace as their ears caught 
the warning sound of another approaching shell, 
and within a few seconds of hearing its first sound, 
and the moment when it burst, they had rushed 
across the remaining portion of the fire-zone, had 



ACEOSS THE OPEN 55 

flung themselves down the sides of the last earth 
heap, leaped to their feet, and dashed breathlessly 
into the next unbroken portion of the communica- 
tion trench. They did not attempt to halt there, 
but ran on panting and blowing heavily, their 
packs and haversacks scrubbing one side or the 
other of the trench, their heads stooped, and their 
shoulders rounded like men expecting a heavy 
blow upon their backs. This shell did not pitch 
into the broken ground where the others had 
blasted the trench out of any recognizable shape. 
It burst overhead with a sharp, ear-splitting crack, 
a puff of thick, yellowish-white smoke, a hail of 
bullets and flying splinters. 

The four men instinctively had half-thrown 
themselves, half-fallen in the bottom of the trench. 
It was well they did so, for certainly not all of 
them could have escaped the huge piece of metal 
which had been the head of the shell, and which 
spun down the portion of trench they were in, 
with a viciously ugly whirr, to bury itself a couple 
of feet above the footway in the wall, where the 
trench twisted sharply. It struck close to Pug, 
so close indeed that when it hit the wall, and then 
by its own force, breaking down the earth, feU 
with it into the trench bottom. Pug was able to 



56 GRAPES OF -W^RATH 

stretch out his hand ancj touch it. He gave a 

N^harp yelp of pain and surprise as he did so, 

Vhipped his hand in again, and under his armpit. 

** Strike me!^' he exclaimed, with comical sur- 
prise, **the bloomin^ thing is red 'of 

**Come on!'' gasped Billy Simson, struggling 
to his feet again. * * This whole blankey corner 's 
too red 'ot for my likin'." 

They rose, and pushed hastily on down the 
winding trench. After that, although they them- 
selves had no especially close shaves, the rest of 
the line suffered rather severely, for the German 
gun or guns that had been bombarding the one 
section of trench now spread their fire and began 
to pitch high explosives up and down along its 
whole length. The four had to traverse another 
short section that had been swept by a low-burst- 
ing shrapnel, and after they had passed it, Larry 
found his knees shaking, and his face wet with cold 
perspiration. 

'^Kentuck!" he gulped, '*I'm afraid — ^I'm sorry 
— I think I 'm going to be beastly sick 1 ' ' 

Kentucky, immediately behind him, urged him 
on. 

*'Get along, Larry!" he said; **you can't stop 
here ! You 'U block the whole line ! ' ' 



ACROSS THE OPEN 57 

But the line for the moment was blocked. That 
shell-burst had left few alive in the section of 
trench, but the two or three it had not killed out- 
right had been dragged clear, and down the trench 
a little way. Now the men who had taken them 
out had stopped and laid them down and were 
shouting vainly — and rather wildly — for \ 
stretcher-bearers, and endeavoring — some of the j 
more cool-headed amongst them — to fumble out / 
first field-dressings and apply them to the worst 
of the many wounds. They halted there, busy, and 
heedless for the moment of anything else, for a 
full ten minutes, while the trench behind them 
filled with men pressing on, shouting angrily, and 
unknowing the cause of the block, to "Move on 
there!'' to **Get out of the way!*' 

The end of the line next to the wounded men 
was forced to try and push forward; the trench 
was narrow, barely wide enough at its floor-level 
to accommodate the figures stretched out in it and 
the men who stooped or knelt over them fimibling 
at them, rolling and tying the field-dressing band- 
ages upon them; but the men made shift some- 
how to pass them, striding and straddling over 
their huddled bodies, squeezing past the men who 
tried to dress the wounds. These still struggled 



58 GRAPES OF WEATH 

to complete their task, quite absorbed in it, 
straightening themselves and flattening their 
bodies against the trench wall to allow a man to 
scrape past, stooping again about their work. 

** Who has got a spare field-dressing f or *'Give 
us your field-dressing,*' was all they took time to 
say to the men of the passing line, until a wrath- 
ful voice above suddenly interrupted them. 

One of the officers, fretting at the delay and the 
slow progress down the trench, had climbed out 
and run, risking the shells and bullets along the 
level, to find the cause of the check. He shouted 
angrily at the men below him : 

'^Wounded? What's that got to do with itf 
That's no reason you should block the whole com- 
pany going forward. Where do you think you 're 
in — a communication trench or a field-dressing- 
station or a base hospital? Pick those men up — 
two of you to each man — and carry them along 
until you can find a place to lay them where you 
won't choke the whole trench ; or carry them right 
on out of the communication trench." 

The wounded men were picked up somehow or 
anyhow by knees and shoulders, and carried and 
shuffled and bumped along the winding trench, un- 



ACROSS THE OPEN 59 

til th^y emerged into the old British front-line 
firing trench. 

Along this the Stonewalls now spread and took 
np their positions as supports for the lines that 
had gone ahead, and were now over somewhere 
amongst the German first-line trenches. From 
here they could look out over the couple of hun- 
dred yards' width of what had been the neutral 
ground, at the old German front-line trench. Be- 
yond its parapet they could see little or nothing 
but a drifting haze of smoke, but in the open 
ground between the trenches they could see many 
figures moving about, and many more lying in 
still and huddled heaps of khaki. The moving men 
were for the most part stretcher-bearers, and the 
Stonewalls were struck with what appeared to 
them the curious lack of haste and indifference to 
danger that showed in their movements. During 
many months, and in many visits to the trenches 
and spells in the forward fire trench, they had 
come to regard the neutral ground in daylight as 
a place whereon no man could walk, or show him- 
self, and live; more than that, they had been 
taught by strongly worded precept and bitter ex- 
perience that only to raise a head above the shel- 
ter of the parapet, to look for more than seconds at 



60 GRAPES OF WRATH 

a time over neutral ground, was an invitation to 
sudden death. It struck them then as a most ex- 
traordinary thing that now men should be able to 
walk about out there, to carry a stretcher in, to 
hoist it, climbing and balancing themselves and 
their burden carefully on the parapet, dear and 
exposed to any chance or aimed bullet. 

Kentucky watched some of these groups for a 
time and then laughed quietly. 

**Well!'' he drawled, **IVe been kind of scared 
stiff for days past at the thought of having to bolt 
across this open ground, and here I come and find 
a bunch of fellows promenading around as cool 
and unconcerned as if there weren't a bullet within 
a mile of them. ' ' 

**I was thinkin' just the same thing, *' agreed 
Pug, who was beside him, and looking with inter- 
est and curiosity over the open ground; *'but if 
there ain't many bullets buzzin' about 'ere now 
you can bet there was not long ago. There's a 
pretty big crowd of ours still lying na-poo-ed out 
there." 

But the ground was stiU far from being as safe 
as for the moment it appeared. The German artil- 
lery and the machine-gunners were evidently too 
busily occupied upon the more strenuous work 



\ 



/ 



ACROSS THE OPEN 61 

of checkmg the advance, or did not think it worth \ 
while wasting ammunition upon the small and ' 
scattered targets presented by the stretcher-bear- \ 
ers. But when a regiment which prolonged the 
line to the left of the Stonewalls climbed from 
the trench, and began to advance by companies 
in open order across the neutral ground, it was a / 
different story. 

An exclamation from Pug and a soft whistle 
from Kentucky brought Larry to the parapet be- 
side them, and the three watched in fascinated 
excitement the attempt of the other regiment to 
cross the open, the quick storm of shells and bul- 
lets that began to sweep down upon them the 
moment they showed themselves clear of the para- 
pet. They could see plainly the running figures, 
could see them stumble and fall, and lie still, or 
turn to crawl back to cover ; could see shell after 
shell burst above the line, or drop crashing upon 
it ; could see even the hail of bullets that drummed 
down in little jimaping spurts of dust about the 
feet of the runners. 

A good many more of the Stonewalls were 
watching the advance, and apparently the line 
of their heads, showing over the parapet, caught 
the attention of some German machine-gunners. 



62 GEAPES OF WRATH 

The heads ducked down hastily as sl stream of 
bullets commenced to batter and rap against the 
parapet, sweeping it up and down, down and up 
its length. 

** Doesn't seem quite as safe as we fancied, '' 
said Kentucky. 

**I don't think!'' said Pug. 

'^Anyway," said Larry, *4t's our turn next!" 

He was right, for a few minutes later their 
officer pushed along and told them to * * Stand by, ' ' 
to be ready to climb out when the whistle blew, 
and to run like blazes for the other side. 

**We'll run all right," said Pug to the others, 
*4f them jokers lets us," and he jerked his head 
upwards to the sound of another pelting sweep 
of bullets driving along the face of the parapet 
above them. 

Before the whistle blew as the signal for them 
to leave the trench, an order was passed along 
that they were to go company by company, A 
being first, B second, and C third. A couple of 
minutes later A Company, out on the right of the 
battalion, swarmed suddenly over the parapet and, 
spreading out to open order as they went, com- 
menced to jog steadily across the flat ground. Im- 
mediately machine-gun fire at an extreme range 



ACROSS THE OPEN 63 

began to patter bullets down amongst the advanc- 
ing men, and before they were quarter- way across 
the '* Fizz-Bang'' shells also began to smash down 
along the line, or to burst over it. There were a 
number of casualties, but the line held on steadily. 
Some of the men of the remaining companies were 
looking out on the advance, but the officers ordered 
them to keep down, and under cover. 

In C Company a lieutenant moved along the line, 
ordering the men down, and repeating the same 
sentences over and over again as he passed along. 

*'Keep down until you get the word; when we 
start across, remember that, if a man is hit, no 
one is to stop to pick him up; a stretcher-bearer 
will see to him. ' ' 

*' That's all right 1" said Larry to the others, 
when the officer had passed after repeating his 
set sentences, '*but I vote we four keep together, 
and give each other a hand, if we can." 

*' 'Ear, 'ear!" said Pug. **Any'ow, if any of 
us stops one, but isn't a complete wash-out, the 
others can lug 'im into any shell 'ole that 's 'andy, 
and leave 'im there. ' ' 

*'We'll call that a bargain," said Kentucky 
briefly. They sat fidgeting for a few seconds 
longer, hearing the rush and crash of the falling 



\ 



64 GEAPES OF WRATH 

shells, the whistle and smack of the bullets on the 
open ground beyond them. 

**I'm going to have a peep,'* said Larry sud- 
denly, **just to see how *A' is getting on/' 

He stood on the fire step, with his head stooped 
cautiously below the level of the parapet; then, 
raising it sharply, took one long, sweeping glance, 
and dropped down again beside his fellows. 

'* They 're nearly over," he said. *' There's a 
lot of smoke about, and I can't see very clear, 
but the line doesn't look as if it had been very 
badly knocked about." 

*' There goes *B,' " said Billy Simson, as they 
heard the shrill trill of a whistle. '*Our turn 
next!" 

**That open ground is not such a healthy re- 
sort afi we thought it a few minutes ago," said 
Larry. ** Personally, I sha'n't be sorry when 
we're across it." 

He spoke in what he strove to make an easy 
and natural voice, but somehow he felt that it was 
so strained and unnatural that the others would 
surely notice it. He felt horribly ashamed of that 
touch of faintness and sickness back in the com- 
munication trench, and began to wonder nerv- 
ously whether the others would think he was a 



ACROSS THE OPEN 65 

coward, and funking it ; still worse, began to won- 
der whether actually they would be right in so 
thinking. He began to have serious doubts of the \ 
matter himself, but, if he had known it, the others 
were feeling probably quite as uncomfortable as 
himself, except possibly Pug, who had long since 
resigned himself to the comforting fatalism that / 
if his name were written on the bullet it would 
find him. If not, he was safe. 

None of the four looked to see how '*B'^ Com- 
pany progressed. They were all beginning to feel 
that they would have to take plenty of chances 
when it came their turn to climb the parapet, and 
that it was folly to take an extra risk by exposing 
themselves for a moment before they need. 
A shout came from the traverse next to theuL 
**Get ready, *C' Company; pass the word!'* 
The four stood up, and Larry lifted his voice, 
and shouted on to the next traverse. 
**Gtet ready, *C'; pass the word!** 
*' Don't linger none on the parapet, boys,'' said 
Kentucky. ** They've probably got their machine 
gun trained on it. * ' 

The next instant they heard the blast of a 
whistle, and a shout rang along the line. 
**Come on, *C'; over with you!" 



I 



66 GRAPES OF WRATH 

The four leaped over the parapet, scrambling 
and scuf9ing up its broken sides. 

Near the top Pug exclaimed suddenly, grasped 
wildly at nothing, collapsed and rolled backward 
into the trench. The other three half -halted, and 
looked round. 

**Come on,'* said Kentucky; **he's safest where 
he is, whether he 's hurt much or little. ' ' 

The three picked their way together out through 
the remains of the old barbed-wire entanglements, 
and began to run across. 

* * Open out 1 Open out 1 ' ' the officers were shout- 
ing, and a little reluctantly, for the dose elbow- 
touching proximity to each other gave a comfort- 
ing sense of helpfulness and confidence, they 
swerved a yard or two apart, and ran on steadily. 
The bare two hundred yards seemed to stretch to 
a journey without end ; the few minutes they took 
in crossing spun out like long hours. 

Several times the three dropped on their faces, 
as they heard the warning rush of a shelL Once 
they half -fell, were half-thrown down by the force 
of an explosion within twenty yards of them. 
They rose untouched, by some miracle, and, gasp- 
ing incoherent inquiries to one another, went on 
again. Over and over again fragments from the 



ACROSS THE OPEN 67 

shells bursting above the line rattled down ui)on 
the ground amongst their feet. At least two or 
three times a shell bursting on the ground spat- 
tered them with dust and crumbs of earth; the 
whole way across they were accompanied by the 
drumming bullets that flicked and spurted little 
clouds of dust from the ground about them, and 
all the time they were in the open they were fear- 
fully conscious of the medley of whining and sing- 
ing and hissing and zipping sounds of the passing 
bullets. They knew nothing of how the rest of 
the line was faring. They were too taken up 
with their own part, were too engrossed in picking 
^ a way over the broken shell-cratered ground, past 
the still khaki forms that lay dotted and sprawled 
the whole way across. 

There was such a constant hail and stream of 
bullets, such a succession of rushing shells, of 
crashing explosions, such a wild chaos of sounds 
and blinding smoke and choking reek, that the 
whole thing was like a dreadful nightmare; but 
the three came at last, and unharmed, to the 
chopped and torn-up fragments of the old German 
wired defenses, tore through them somehow or 
anyhow, leaped and fell over the smashed-in para- 
pet, and dropped panting and exhausted in the 



68 GRAPES OF WEATH 

wrecked remains of the German trench. It was 
some minutes before they took thought and breath, 
but then it was evident that the minds of all ran 
in the same groove. 

**I wonder,'' said Larry, *4f Pug was badly 
hitf' 

**IVe no idea," said Kentucky. **He went 
down before I could turn for a glimpse of him." 

**I don't suppose it matters much," said Billy 
Simson gloomily. **He's no worse off than the 
rest of us are likely to be before we're out of this. 
Seems to me, by the row that's goin' on over there, 
this show is gettin' hotter instead of slackin' off." 



CHAPTER V 



ON CAPTUBED GBOUKD 



**I woNDEB what the next move isf said Larry. 
**I don't fancy they will leave us waiting here 
much longer.'* 

** Don't you suppose," asked Kentucky, "we'll 
wait here until the other companies get across?" 

**Lord knows," said Larry ; "and, come to think 
of it, Kentuck, has it struck you how beastly little 
we do know about anything? We've pushed their 
line in a bit, evidently, but how far we've not an 
idea. We don't know even if their first line is 
captured on a front of half a mile, or half a hun- 
dred miles; we don't know what casualties we've 
got in our own battalion, or even in our own com- 
pany, mudi less whether they have been heavy or 
light in the whole attack. ^' 

"That's so," said Kentucky; "although I con- 
fess none of these things is worrying me much. 
I'm much more concerned about poor old Pug 
being knocked out than I'd be about our losing 
fifty per cent, of half a dozen regiments." 



70 GRAPES OF WEATH 

Billy Simson had taken the cork from his water- 
bottle, and, after shaking it lightly, reluctantly 
replaced the cork, and swore violently. 

**IVe hardly a monthful left,*' he said. *'I'm 
as dry as a bone now, and the Lord only knows 
when we'll get a chance of filling our water-bottles 
again. '* 

**Here you are,*' said Larry; **you can have a 
mouthful of mine; I've hardly touched it yet.'* 

Orders came down presently to close in to the 
right, and in obedience the three picked up their - 
rifles and crept along the trench. It was not a 
pleasant journey. The trench had been very badly 
knocked about by the British bombardment; its 
sides were broken in, half or wholly filling the 
trench; in parts it waS* obliterated and lost in a 
jumble of shell craters ; ground or trench was lit- 
tered with burst sandbags, splintered planks and 
broken fascines, and every now and again the 
three had to step over or past bodies of dead men 
lying huddled alone or in groups of anything up 
to half a dozen. There were a few khaki forms 
amongst these dead, but most were in the German 
gray, and most had been killed very obviously and 
horribly by shell or bomb or grenade. 

**They don't seem to have had many men hold- 



ON CAPTUEED GROUND 71 

ing this front line, ' ' remarked Larry, * * or a good 
few must have bolted or surrendered. Doesn't 
seem as if the little lot here could have done much 
to hold the trench/' 

''Few men and a lot of machine guns, as usual, 
I expect," said Kentucky. ''And if this is all the 
trench held they claimed a good bunch of ours 
for every one of theirs, if you judge by the crowd 
of our lot lying out there in the open." 

The three were curiously unmoved by the sight 
of these dead — ^and dead, be it noted, who have 
been killed by shell fire or bomb explosions might 
as a rule be expected to be a sight upsetting to 
the strongest nerves. They were all slightly and 
somewhat xjasually interested in noting the mode 
and manner of death of the different men, and 
the suspicion of professional jealousy evinced by 
a remark of Billy Simson's was no doubt more or 
less felt by all, and all were a little disappointed 
that there was not more evidence of the bayonet 
having done its share. "The bloomin' guns seem 
to have mopped most o' this lot," said Billy. 
"An* them fellers that charged didn^t find many 
to get their own back on." They were all inter- 
ested, too, in the amount of damage done by the 
shells to the trench, in the methods of trench con- 



72 GRA.PES OF WEATH 

struction, in the positions and state of the dug- 
outs. And yet all these interests were to a great 
extent of quite a secondary nature, and the main 
<flieme of their thoughts was the bullets whistling 
avair..ti][!Em, iiro rush-j^ and crash of the 

shells still falling out on thie* open, the singing 
and whirring of their splinters above the trench. ' 
They moved with heads stooped and bodies half- 
crouched, they hurried over the earth heaps that 
blocked the trench, and in crossings where they 
were more exposed, halted and crouched still 
lower under cover when thfe louder and rising 
roar of a shelPs approach gave warning that it 
was falling near. 

When they had moved up enough to be in close 
touch with the rest of the company and halted 
there, they found themselves in a portion of trench 
with a dug-out entrance in it. The entrance was 
almost closed by a fall of earth, brought down 
apparently by a bursting shell, and when they 
arrived they found some of the other men of the 
company busy clearing the entrance. ^* Might be 
some soo-veniers down 'ere, ' ' one of the men ex- 
plained. **An', anyhow, we'd be better down be- 
low an' safer out o' reach b' any shell that flops 
in while we're 'ere,'' said another. 



ON CAPTURED GROUND 73 

*^ Suppose there's some bloomin' TJns still 
there, lyin* doggo, '* suggested Billy Simson. 
**They might plunk a shot at yer when you goes 
down. ' ' 

** Shouldn't think that's likely," said Larry. 
**They would know that if they did they'd get 
wiped out pretty quick after." 

*'I dunno," said one of the men. **They say 
their oflScers an' their noospapers 'as 'em stuffed 
so full o ' fairy tales about us killing all prisoners 
that they thinks they're goin' to get done in any- 
how, an' might as well make a last kick for it. I 
vote we chuck a couple o ' bombs down first, just to 
make sure. " 

Everybody appeared to think this a most natu- 
ral precaution to take, and a proposal in no way 
cruel or brutal ; although, on the other hand, when 
Larry, with some feeling that it was an unsporting 
arrangement, suggested that they call down first 
and give any German there a chance to surrender, 
everybody quite willingly accepted the suggestion. 
So work was stopped, and aU waited and listened 
while Larry stuck his head into the dark opening 
and shouted with as inquiring a note as he could 
put into his voice the only intelligible German he 
knew, ^ ' Hi, AUemands^ kamerad f ' ' There was no 



/ 

) 



74 GRAPES OF WEATH 

answer, and he withdrew his head. **I don't hear 
anything,*' he said; *'but perhaps they wouldn't 
nnderstand what I meant, I'll just try them 
again in French and English." He poked his 
head in again, and shouted down first in French 
and then in English, asking if there was anybody 
there, and did they surrender. He wound up with 
a repetition of his inquiring, ''Kamerad, eh? kam- 
erad?" but this time withdrew his head hurriedly, 
as an unmistakable answer came up to him, a muf- 
fled, faraway sounding ^*Kamerad." ** There's 
some of them there, after all, " he said, excitedly, 
*^ and they're shouting 'Kamerad,' so I suppose 
they want to surrender all right. Let's clear away 
enough of this to get them out. We'll make 'em 
come one at a time with their hands well up. ' ' 

There was great excitement in the trench, and 
this rather increased when a man pushed round 
the traverse from the next section with the news 
that some Germans had been found in another 
dug-out there. ** They 're singin' out that they 
want to kamerad," he said; *'but we can't i)er- 
suade 'em to come out, an' nobody is very keen 
on goin' down the 'ole after 'em. We've passed 
the word along for an officer to come an' see what 
'e can do with 'em." 



ON CAPTUEED GROUND 75 

**Let*s hurry up and get our gang out,'* 
said Larry enthusiastically, "before the oflSoer 
comes'*; and the men set to work with a will to 
clear the dug-out entrance. *^It*s rather a score 
for the Stonewalls to bring in a bunch of pris- 
oners, ' ' said one of the men. * * We ought to search 
all these dug-outs. If there's some in a couple of 
these holes it's a fair bet that there's more in the 
others. Wonder how they haven't been found by 
the lot that took the trench?" 

** Didn't have time to look through all the dug- 
outs, I suppose," said Larry. **And these chaps 
would lie low, thinking the trench might be re- 
taken. I think that hole is about big enough for 
them to crawl out. Listen! They're shouting 
*Kamerad' again. Can't you hear 'em?" 

He looked down the dark stairway of the en- 
trance and shouted **Kamerad" again, and lis- 
tened for the reply. **I wonder if the door is 
blocked further down, ' ' he said. * * I can hear them 
shout, but the sound seems to be blocked as if 
there was something between us and them still. 
Listen again." 

This time they all heard a faint shout, *'Kam- 
erad. Hier kom. Kamerad." 

**Hier kom — ^that means come here, I fancy," 



76 GRAPES OF WEATH 

said Larry. * * But why don 't they hier kom to us ? 
Perhaps it is that they're buried in somehow and 
want us to get them out. Look here, I'm going 
to crawl down these steps and find out what's up." 
He proceeded to creep cautiously down the low 
and narrow passage of the stair, when suddenly 
he saw at the stair foot the wandering flash of an 
' electric torch and heard voices calling plainly in 
\ English to * * Come out, Bochie. Kamerad. ' ' 
'^ The truth flashed on Larry, and he turned and 
^ttled hsLck up the stair gurgling laughter. ^ 'It's 
fliome of our own lot down there, ' ' he chuckled to 
the others. * * This dug-out must have another en- 
[trance in the next traverse, and we and the fel- 
lows round there have been shouting down the 
two entrauces at each other. Hold on now and 
! listen and hear them scatter." He leaned in at 
■ the entrance again, and shouted loudly. *'As you 
won't come out and surrender, Boche, we're going 
to throw some bombs down on you." He picked 
iup a heavy stone from the trench bottom and 
^ flung it down the steps. There was a moment of 
petrified silence, then a yell and a scuffling rush of 
footsteps from the darkness below, while Larry 
and the others sat and rocked with laughter above. 
They pushed round the traverse just as a couple 



ON CAPTUEED GROUND 77 

of badly scared and wholly amazed Stonewalls 
scrambled up from the dug-out, and commenced 
a voluble explanation that * * the blighters is chuck- 
in' bombs, . . . told us in English, good^plain 
English, too, they was goin' to 'cos we wouldn't 
surrender." 

Just then an officer pushed his way along to 
them, and the joke was explained with great glee 
by Larry and the men from the other part of the 
trench. Every one thought it a huge joke, and 
laughed and cracked jests, and chuckled over the 
episode. Kentucky listened to them with some 
wonder. He had thought that in the past months 
of peace and war he had come to know and un- 
derstand these comrades of his fairly well. And 
yet here was a new side in their many-sided char- 
acters that once more amazed him. A couple of 
dead Germans sprawled in the bottom of the 
trench a yard or two from them ; their own dead 
lay crowded thick on the flat above; the bullets 
and shells continued to moan and howl overhead, 
to rush and crash down dose by, the bullets to 
pipe and whistle and hiss past and over; while 
only a few hundred yards away the enemy still 
fought desperately to hold their lines against our 
attacks, and all the din of battle rolled and rever- 



78 GRAPES OF WEATH 

berated unceasingly. And yet the men in that 
trendi laughed and joked. They knew not the 
moment when one of those shells falling so close 
outside might smash into the trench amongst 
them, knew that all of those there would presently 
be deep in the heart of the battle and slaughter 
that raged so close to them, knew for a certainty 
that some of them would never come out of it; 
and yet — ^they laughed. Is it any wonder that 
Kentucky was amazed? 

And they continued to chuckle and poke fun at 
the two who had been the butt of the jest and had 
run from the flung stone, continued even as they 
began to move slowly along the ruined trench that 
led towards the din of the fighting front lines. 



CHAPTER VI 



TAKING PUNISHMENT 



"C Company of the Stonewalls progressed 
slowly for some distance up the communication 
trench, with the whistling of bullets growing faster 
the nearer they approached to the firing line. This 
trench too had been badly damaged previous to 
the attack by the British artillery, and the cover 
it afforded to the crawling line of men was fre- 
quently scanty, and at times was almost nil. 
/There were one or two casualties from chance 
bullets as men crawled over the debris of wrecked 
portions of the trendi, but the line at last reached 
wWt had been one of the German support 
trenches, and spread along it, without serious loss. 
This trench had been reversed by our Engineers, 
that is to say, the sandbags and parapet on what 
had been its face, looking towards the British 
line, had been pulled down and re-piled on the new 
front of the trench, which now looked towards the 
ground still held by the Germans. The trench was 

79 



80 GRAPES OF WEATH 

only some three to four hundred yards behind 
what was here the most advanced British line, the 
line from which some of our regiments were at- 
tacking, and in which they were being attacked. 
Practically speaking, therefore, the Stonewalls 
knew their position was well up on the outer 
fringe of the infantry fighting, and through it 
swirled constantly eddies from the firing line in 
the shape of wounded men and stretcher-bearers, 
and trickling but constantly running streams 
of feeders to the fighting — ammunition carriers, 
staggering under the weight of anmiunition boxes 
and consignments of bombs and grenades; regi- 
mental stretcher-bearers returning for fresh 
loads; ration parties carrying up food and water. 
There were still communication trenches leading 
from the Stonewalls * position to the firing line, but 
because these had been and still were made a regu- 
lar target by the German guns, had been smashed 
and broken in beyond all real semblance of cover 
or protection, and brought their users almost with 
certainty under the bursting shrapnel or high ex- 
plosive with which the trench was plastered, most 
of the men going up or coming back from the for- 
ward trench, and especially if they were laden 
with any burden, preferred to take their chance 



TAKING PUNISHMENT 81 

and make the quicker and straighter passage over 
the open ground. 

The daylight was beginning to fade by now, the 
earlier because dark clouds had been massing, and 
a thin misty drizzle of rain had begun to fall ; but 
although it was dusk there was no lack of light in 
the fighting zone. From both the opposing 
trenches soaring lights hissed upwards with trail- 
ing streams of sparks, curved over, burst into 
vivid balls of brilliant light, and floated slowly 
and slantingly downwards to the ground. 

The Stonewalls could see — ^if they cared to look 
over their parapet — this constant succession of 
leaping, soaring, and sinking lights, the dancing 
black shadows they threw, and the winking spurts 
of fiery orange flame from the rifle muzzles and 
from the bursting grenades, while every now and 
again a shell dropped with a blinding flash on or 
behind one or other of the opposing parapets. 
There were not many of the Stonewalls who cared 
to lift their heads long enough to watch the blazing 
display and the flickering lights and shadows. The 
position of their trench was slightly higher than 
the front line held by the Germans, and as a result 
there was always a hissing and whizzing of bullets 
passing close overhead, a smacking and slapping 



82 GRAPES OF WRATH 

of others into their parapet and the ground before 
it ; to raise a head above the parapet was, as the 
men would have said, *^Askin^for it," and none 
of them was inclined needlessly to do this. But 
the other men who passed to and fro across their 
trench, although they no doubt liked their expo- 
sure as little as the Stonewalls did, climbed with 
apparent or assumed indifference over the para- 
pet and hurried stooping across the open to the 
next trench, or walked back carefully and deliber- 
ately, bearing the stretcher laden with the 
wounded, or helping and supporting the casualties 
who were still able in any degree to move them- 
selves. 

The Stonewalls were given no indication of the 
time they were to remain there, of when or if they 
were to be pushed up into the forward trench. 
The thin rain grew closer and heavier, a chiU wind 
began to blow, setting the men shivering and 
stamping their feet in a vain attempt to induce 
warmth. Some of them produced food from their 
haversacks and ate; almost all of them squatted 
with rounded shoulders and stooping heads and 
smoked cigarettes with hands curved about them 
to hold off the rain, or pipes lit and turned upside 
down to keep the tobacco dry. They waited there 



TAKING PUNISHMENT 83 

for hours, and gradually, although the sounds of 
fighting never ceased on their front, the rolling 
thunder that had marked the conflict during the 
day died down considerably as the night wore on, 
until it became no more than a splutter and crackle 
of rifle fire, a whirring and clattering outburst 
from some distant or near machine gun, the whoop 
and rush and jarring burst of an occasional shell 
on the British or German lines. 

At intervals the fight flamed upward into a re- 
newed activity, the rifle fire rose rolling and drum- 
ming, the machine guns chattered in a frenzy of 
haste ; the reports of the bursting bombs and gre- 
nades followed quickly and more quickly upon 
each other. Invariably the louder outburst of 
noise roused the guns on both sides to renewed 
action. The sky on both sides winked and flamed 
with flashes that came and went, and lit and dark- 
ened across the sky, like the flickering dance of 
snmmer lightning. The air above the trenches 
shook again to the rush of the shells ; the ground 
about and between the front lines blazed with the 
flashes of the bursts, was darkened and obscured 
by the billowing clouds of smoke and the drifting 
haze of their dissolving. Invariably, too, the on- 
slaught of the guns, the pattering hail of their 



84 GRAPES OF WRATH 

shrapnel, the earth-shaking crash of the high 
explosives, reduced almost to silence the other 
sounds of fighting, drove the riflemen and bomb- 
throwers to cover, and so slackened off for a space 
the fierceness of the conflict. 

To the Stonewalls the night dragged with bitter 
and appalling slowness; they were cramped and 
nncomf ortable ; they were wet and cold and miser- 
able. The sides of the trench, the ground on which 
they sat, or lay, or squatted, turned to slimy and 
sticky mud, mud that appeared to cling and hold 
clammily and unpleasantly to everything about 
them, their boots and puttees, the skirts of their 
coats, their packs and haversacks, their hands and 
rifles and bayonets, and even to their rain-wet 
faces. 

Long before the dawn most of the men were 
openly praying that they would soon be pushed 
up into the front rank of the fighting, not because 
they had any longing or liking for the fight itself, 
not that they had — any more than any average 
soldier has — a wish to die or to take their risks, 
their heavy risks, of death or wounds, but simply 
because they were chilled to the bone with inac- 
tion, were wholly and utterly and miserably wet 
and uncomfortable, were anxious to go on and get 



TAKING PUNISHMENT 85 

it over, knowing that when they had been in the 
front line for a certain time, had been actively 
fighting for so long, and lost a percentage of their 
number in casualties, they would be relieved by 
other regiments, would be withdrawn, and sent 
back to the rear. That sending back might mean 
no more than a retirement of a mile or two from 
the front trench, the occupation of some other 
trench or ditch, no less wet and uncomfortable 
than the one they were in ; but, on the other hand, 
it might mean their going back far enough to 
bring them again into touch with the broken vil- 
lages in the rear, with houses shattered no doubt 
by shell fire but still capable of providing rough 
and ready-made shelter from the rain, and, a boon 
above all boons, wood for fires, with crackling, 
leaping, life-giving flames and warmth, with the 
opportunity of boiling mess-tins of water, of heat- 
ing tinned rations, and of making scalding hdt tea. 
There might be much to go through before such 
a heaven could be reached. There were certainly 
more long hours, in th« hell of the forward line, 

* 

there was black death and burning pain, and limb 
and body mutilation for anything up to three- 
fourths of their number, to be faced. There were 
sleeting rifle bullets, and hailing storms from the 



86 GRAPES OF WRATH 

machine gons, shattering bombs and grenades, 
rending and tearing shrapnel and shell splinters, 
the cold-blooded creeping murder of a gas attack 
perhaps; the more human heat and stir of a 
bayonet charge; but all were willing, nay, more, 
all would have welcomed the immediate facing of 
the risks and dangers, would have gladly taken the 
chance to go on and get it over, and get back again 
— such of them as were left — ^to where they could 
walk about on firm ground, and stretch their limbs 
and bodies to sleep in comparative dryness. But 
no order came throughout the night, and they lay 
and crouched there with the rain still bjeating 
down, with the trench getting wetter and muddier 
and slimier about them, with their bodies getting 
more numbed, and their clothing more saturated ; 
lay there until the cold gray of the dawn began to 
creep into the sky, and they roused themselves 
stiffly, and with many groans, to meet what the 
new day might bring forth to them. 

The day promised to open badly for the Stone- 
walls. As the light grew, and became suflficiently 
strong for the observation of artillery fire, the 
guns recommenced a regular bombardment on 
both sides. From the first it was plain that the 
support trench occupied by the Stonewallp had 



TAKING PUNISHMENT 87 

been marked down as a target by the German gun- 
ners. The first couple of shells dropped on the 
ground behind their trench and within fifty yards 
of it, sending some shrieking fragments flying over 
their heads, spattering them with the mud and 
earth ontflung by the explosions. Another and 
then another fell, this time in front of their trench, 
and then one after another, at regular intervals of 
two to three minutes, a heavy high explosive 
crashed down within a yard or two of either side 
of the trench, breaking down the crumbling sides, 
blowing in the tottering parapet, half-burying 
some of the men in a tumbling slide of loose, wet 
earth and debris ; or falling fairly and squarely in 
the trench itself, killing or wounding every man 
in the particular section in which it fell, blasting 
out in a fountain of flying earth and stones and 
mud the whole front and back wall of the trench, 
leaving it open and improtected to the searcbing 
shrapnel that burst overhead and pelted down in 
gusts along the trench's length. 

The Stonewalls lay and suffered their cruel 
punishment for a couple of hours, and in that time 
lost nearly two hundred men, many of them killed, 
many more of them so cruelly wounded they might 
almost be called better dead; lost their two 



88 GRAPES OF WEATH 

hundred men without stirring from the trench, 
-without being able to lift a finger in their own de- 
fense, without even the grim satisfaction of firing 
a shot, or throwing a bomb, or doing anything to 
take toll from the men who were punishing them 
so mercilessly for those long hours. 

Larry, Kentucky, and Simson lay still, and 
crouched close to the bottom of the trench, saying 
little, and that little no more than expressions of 
anger, of railing against their inaction, of cursings 
at their impotence, of wondering how long they 
were to stick there^ of how much longer they could 
expect to escape those riving shells, that pounded 
up and down along the trench, that sent shiverings 
and tremblings through the wet ground under 
them, that spat at them time and again with earth 
and mud and flying clods and stones. In those two 
hours they heard the cries and groans that fol- 
lowed so many timfes the rending crash and roar of 
the shell's explosion on or about the trench; the 
savage whistling rush and crack of the shrapnel 
above them, the rip and thud of the bullets across 
trench and parapet. They saw many wounded 
helped and many more carried out past them to 
the communication trench that led back to the rear 
and to the dressing-stations. For all through the 



TAKING PUNISHMENT 89 

two hours, heedless of the storm of high explosive 
that shook and battered the trench to pieces, the 
stretcher-bearers worked, and picked np the cas- 
ualties, and sorted out the dead and the dying 
from the wounded, and applied hasty but always 
neat bandages and first field-dressings, and 
started off those that could walk upon their way, 
or laid those who were past walking upon their 
stretchers and bore them, staggering and slipping 
and stumbling, along the muddy trench into the 
way towards the rear. 

**I wonder,'' said Larry savagely, **how much 
longer we're going to stick here getting pounded 
to pieces. There won 't be any of the battalion left 
if we're kept here much longer." 

^ * The front line there has been sticking longer 
than us, boy," said Kentucky, **and I don't sup- 
pose they're having any softer time than us." 

**I believe it's all this crowd trampin' in an' 
out of our trench that's drawin' the fire. They 
ought to be stopped," said Billy Simson indig- 
nantly. ** Here's some more of 'em now. . . . Hi, 
you I Whatjer want to come crawlin' through this 
way for! Ain't there any other way but trampin' 
in an' out on top of us 'eref " 

The couple of mud-bedaubed privates who had 



90 GRAPES OF WRATH 

sKd down into the trench and were hoisting an 
ammnnition-box on to the parapet stopped and 
looked down on Billy crouching in the trench bot- 
tom. **Go'n put yer 'ead in a bag,*' said one 
coarsely. **0f course, if you says so, me lord 
dock,'' said the other with heavily sarcastic poUte- 
ness, **we'll tell the CO. up front that you objects 
to us walkin' in your back door an' out the front 
parlor ; an' he must do without &ny more ammuni- 
tion 'cos you don't like us passing through this 
way without wipin' our feet on the mat." 

^*0h, come on an' leave it alone," growled the 
first, and heaved himself over the parapet. The 
other followed, but paused to look back at Billy. 
*^Good job the early bird don't 'appen to be about 
this momin'," he remarked loudly, *^or 'e might 
catch you," and he and his companion vanished. 

*' What's the good of grousing at them, Billy f" 
said Larry. *^ They've got to get up somehow." 
He was a little inclined to be angry with Billy, 
partly because they were all more or less involved 
in the foolish complaint, and partly no doubt just 
because he was ready to be angry with any one or 
anything. 

**Why do they all come over this bit of trench, 
then!" demanded Billy. *^And I'm damned if 



TAKING PUNISHMENT 91 

'ere ain't more of 'em. Now wot d'you suppose 
■he's playin' atf " 

** They 're Gmmers," said Larry, *^ laying a tele- 
phone wire out, evidently. ' ' 

A young oflScer, a Second Lieutenant, and two 
men crept round the broken comer of the trench. 
One of the men had a reel of telephone wire, which 
he paid out as he went, while the other man and 
the officer hooked it up over projections in the 
trench wall or tucked it away along the parts that 
offered the most chance of protection. The officer 
turned to the three men who crouched in the 
trench watching them. 

** Isn't there a conununication trench somewhere 
along here!" he asked, ^*one leading off to the 
right to some broken-down houses!" 

**We don't know, sir," said Larry. **We 
haven't been further along than this, or any fur- 
ther up." 

**The men going up to the front line all say the 
communication trenches are too badly smashed, 
and under too hot and heavy a fire to be used," 
said Kentucky; **most of them go up and down 
across the open from here. ' ' 

* * No good to me, ' ' said the officer. But he stood 



92 GRAPES OF WRATH 

up and looked carefully out over the ground in 
front. 

**No good to me/' he repeated, stepping back 
into the trench. **Too many shells and bullets 
there for my wire to stand an earthly. It would be 
chopped to pieces in no time. ' ' 

**Look out, sir/' said Larry hurriedly; ** there 
comes another one.'' 

The officer and his two men stooped low in the 
trench, and waited until the customary rush had 
ended in the customary crash. 

**That," said the officer, standing up, ^^was 
about a five-pointruine H.E., I reckon. It's mostly 
these six- and eight-inch they have be^n dumping 
down here all the morning. ' ' 

He and his men went on busily with their wir- 
ing, and before they moved off into the next trav- 
erse he turned to give a word of warning to the 
infantrymen to be careful of his wire, and to jump 
on any one they saw pulling it down or trampling 
on it. 

**Lots of fellows," he said, **seem to think we 
run these wires out for our own particular benefit 
and amusement, but they howl in a different tune 
if they want the support of the guns and we can't 



TAKING PUNISHMENT 93 

give it them because our wire back to the battery 
is broken. ' ' 

The three regarded the slender, wriggling wire 
with a new interest after that, and if the rest of 
the trench full of Stonewalls were as zealous in 
their protection as they were, there was little fear 
of the wire being destroyed, or even misplaced, by 
careless hands or feet. 

Billy Simson cursed strenuously a pair of blun- 
dering stretcher-bearers when one of their elbows 
caught the wire and pulled it down. ^* 'Ow dV^r 
suppose, '* he demanded, *Hhe Gunners' Forward 
OflBcer is goin' to tell 'is guns back there to open 
fire, or keep on firin', if yer go breakin' up 'is 
blinkin ' wire f ' ' And he crawled up and carefully 
returned the wire to its place. 

**Look out," he kept saying to every man who 
came and went up and down or across the trench. 
** That's the Gunners' wire ; don't you git breakin' 
it, or they can't call up to git on with the shell- 
in'." 

About two or three hours after dawn the 
German bombardment appeared to be slackening 
off, but again within less than half an hour it was 
renewed with a more intense violence than ever. 
The Stonewalls' trench was becoming hopelessly 



94 GRAPES OF WEATH 

destroyed, and the casualties in the battalion were 
mounting at serious speed. 

** Hotter than ever, isn't itf said Larry, and 
the other two assented. 

**We're lucky to 'ave dodged it so far/' said 
Billy Simson; ^^but by the number o' casualties 
we've seen carted out, the battalion is coppin' it 
pretty stiff. If we stop 'ere much longer, there 
won't be many of us left to shove into the front 
line, when we 're needed. ' ' 

**D'ye notice," said Kentuc^, **that the rifle 
firing and bombing up in front seems to have 
eased off a bit, and the guns are doing most of the 
work!" 

*^ Worse luck," said Larry, **I'd sooner have the 
bullets than the shells any day." 

"Ar'n't you the Stonewalls!" suddenly de- 
manded a voice from above them, and the three 
looked up to see a couple of men standing on the 
rearward edge of the trench. 

**Yes, that's right," they answered in the same 
breath, and one of the men turned and waved his 
hand to the rear. 

** Somebody is lookin' for you," he remarked, 
jumping and sliding down into the trench. "C 
Company o' the Stonewalls, 'e wanted." 



TAKING PUNISHMENT 95 

^'That's us,'' said Larry, **but if he wants an 
officer he must go higher up/' 

Another figure appeared on the bank above, 
and jumped hastily down into the trench. 

** Stonewalls,'' he said. ** Where's *C' — ^why 
'ere yer are, chums " 

**Pugf" said Larry and Kentucky incredu- 
lously. **We thought that — ^why, weren't you 
hit!" ** Thought you was 'alf-way to Blighty by 
now," said Billy Simson. 

**You were hit, after all," said Larry, noticing 
the bloodstains and the slit sleeve on Pug's jacket. 

** 'It!" said Billy Simson, also staring hard. 
*^ Surely they didn't send yer back 'ere after bein' 
casualtiedf" 

**Give a bloke 'alf a chaace to git 'is wind," 
said Pug, **an' I'll spin yer the cuffer. But I'm 
jist about puffed out runnin' acres t that blinkin' 
field, and dodgin' Jack Johnsons. Thought I was 
niver goin' to find yer agin ; bin searchin' 'alf over 
France since last night, tryin' to 'ook up with yer. 
Where 've you bin to, any'owf " 

**Bin tol" said Billy Simson, indignantly. 
** We've bin now 'ere. We've bin squatting 'ere 
freezin' and drownin' to death — ^them that 'aven't 
bin wiped out with crumps. ' ' 



96 GRAPES OF WEATH 

**We came straight across from where we left 
you to the old German trench, ' ^ said Larry, * * then 
up a communication trench to here, and, as Billy 
says, weVe stuck here ever since." 

**An' 'ere," said Pug, "IVe bin trampin' miles 
lookin' for yer, and every man I asked w'ere the 
Stonewalls was told me a new plice." 

**But what happened, Pug?" said Kentucky. 
**Tou were wounded, we see. that; but why ar'n't 
you back in the dressing station?" 

"Well," said Pug, hesitatingly, **w'en I got this 
puncture, I dropped back in the trench. I didn't 
know w 'ether it was bad or not, but one of our 
stretcher-bearers showed me the way back to the 
fust aid post. They tied me up there, and told me 
the wound wasn't nothia' worth worritin' about, 
and after a few days at the Base I'd be back to the 
battalion as good as ever ; so I 'ad a walk round 
outside, waitin' till the ambulance come that they 
said would cart me back to the 'orspital train, and 
w'en nobody was lookin' I jist come away, and 
found my way back to w'ere yer lef ' me. Then I 
chased round, as I've told yer, till I found yer 
'ere. ' ' 

* ' Good man, ' ' said Larry, and Kentucky nodded 
approvingly. 



TAKING PUNISHMENT 97 

Billy Simson didn't look on it in the same light. 
**You 'ad a chance to go back, and you come on 
up 'ere agin, ' ' he said, staring hard at Pug. * * For 
God's sake, what for?" 

"Well, yer see," said Pug, **all the time I've bin 
out 'ere I've never 'ad a chance to see the inside of 
a German trench; an' now there was a fust class 
chance to git into one, an' a chance maybe of 
pickin' up a 'elmet for a soo-veneer, I thought I'd 
be a fool not to take it. You 'aven't none of yer 
found a 'elmet yet, 'ave yer?" and he looked in- 
quiringly round 

** 'Elmet," said Billy Simson disgustedly. 
**Blowed if yer catch me comin' back 'ere for a 
bloomin' 'undred 'elmets. If I'd bin you, I'd a bin 
snug in a 'ospital drinkin' beef tea, an' smoMn' a 
fag by now. ' ' 

*'Ah!" said Pug profoundly. **But w'at good 
was a week at the Base to me?" 

**You would 'ave missed the rest of this rotten 
show, any'ow," said Billy. 

*' That's right," assented Pug, **and I might 
'ave missed my chance to pick up a 'elmet.* I want 
a blinkin' 'elmet — see — ^and wot's more, I'm goin' 
to git one." 



CHAPTER Vn 



BUND MAN^S BUPP 



The Sergeant stumbled round the comer of the 
traverse and told the four men there that the 
battalion was moving along the trench to the right, 
and to **get on and follow the next file/' They 
rose stiffly, aching in every joint, from their 
cramped positions, and plodded and stumbled 
round the corner and along the trench. They were 
all a good deal amazed to see the chaotic state to 
which it had been reduced by the shell fire, and 
not only could they understand plainly now why 
so many casualties had been borne past them, but 
found it difficult to understand why the number 
had not been greater. 

**By the state of this trench,'^ said Larry, 
** you'd have thought a battalion of mice could 
hardly have helped being blotted ouf 

*'It licks me,'' agreed Kentucky; '*the whole 
trench seems gone to smash; but I'm afraid there 
must have been more casualties than came past 



us/' 



98 



BLIND MAN« BUFF 99 

*'Look out!'* warned Billy Simson, " 'ere's 
another,*^ and the four halted and crouched again 
until the shell, which from the volume of sound of 
its coming they knew would fall near, burst in the 
usual thunder-clap of noise and flying debris of 
mud and earth. Then they rose again and moved 
on, and presently came to a dividing of the ways, 
and a sentry posted there to warn them to turn off 
to the left. They scrambled and floundered 
breathlessly along it, over portions that were 
choked almost to the top by fallen earth arid rub- 
ble, across other parts which were no more than a 
shallow gutter with deep shell craters blasted out 
of it and the ground about it. In many of these 
destroyed portions it was almost impossible, stoop 
and crouch and crawl as they would and as they 
did, to avoid coming into view of some part of the 
ground still held by the Germans, but either be- 
cause the German guns were busy elsewhere, or 
because the whole ground was more or less veiled 
by the haze of smoke that drifted over it and by 
the thin drizzle of rain that continued to f aU, the 
battalion escaped any concerted effort of the Ger- 
man guns to catch them in their scanty cover. But 
there were still sufficient casual shells, and more 
than sufficient bullets about, to make the passage 



» • 



100 GRAPES OF WEATH 

of the broken trench an uncomfortable and dan- 
gerous one, and they did not know whether to be 
relieved or afraid when they came to a spot where 
an officer halted them in company with about a 
dozen other men, and bade them wait there until 
he gave the word, when they were to jump from 
the trench and run straight aeross the open to the 
right, about a hundred yards over to where they 
would find another trench, better than the one they 
were now occupying, then to '*get down into it as 
quick as you can, and keep along to the leff 
They waited there until a further batch of men 
were collected, and then the officer warned them to 
get ready for a quick run, 

**You'll see some broken-down houses over 
there, ^ ' he said ; * * steer for them ; the trench runs 
across this side of them, and you can't miss it. 
It's the first trench you meet; drop into it, and, 
remember, turn down to the lef i Now — ^no, wait 
a minute.*' 

They waited until another dropping shell had 
burst, and then at the quick command of the officer 
jumped out and raa hard in the direction of the 
broken walls they could just see. Most of the men 
ran straight without looking left or right, but 
Kentucky as he went glanced repeatedly to his 



BLIND MAN^S BUFF 101 

left, towards where the German .lines were. He 
was surprised to find that they were evidently a 
good way off, very much further off, in fact, than 
he had expected. He had thought the last com- 
munication trench up which they moved must have 
been bringing them very close to our forward line, 
but here from where he ran he could see for a 
clear two or three hundred yards to the first break 
of a trench parapet; knew that this must be in 
British hands, and that the German trench must 
lie beyond it again. He concluded that the line 
of captured ground must have curved forward 
from that. part behind which they had spent the 
night, figured to himself that the cottages towards 
which they ran must be in our hands, and that the 
progress of the attack along there had pushed 
further home than they had known or expected. 

He thought out all these things with a sort of 
secondary mind and consciousness. Certainly his 
first thoughts were very keenly on the path he had 
to pick over the wet ground past the honeycomb 
of old and new shell holes, over aad through some 
fragments of rusty barbed wire that still clung to 
their broken or uptom stakes, and his eye looked 
anxiously for the trench toward which they were 
running, and in which they would find shelter from 



102 GRAPES OF WEATH 

the bullets that hissed and whisked past, or 
smacked noisily into the wet ground. 

There was very little parapet to the trench, and 
the runners were upon it almost before they saw 
it. Billy Simson and Larry reached it first, with 
Pug and Kentucky dose upon their heels. They 
wasted no time in leaping to cover, for just as they 
did so there came the rapid rush-rush, hang-hang 
of a couple of Pip-Squeak shells. The four tum- 
bled into the trench on the instant the shells burst, 
but quick as they were, the shells were quicker. 
They heard the whistle and thump of flying frag- 
ments about them, and Billy Simson yelped as he 
fell, rolled over, and sat up with his hand reaching 
over and clutching at the back of his shoulder, his 
face contorted by pain. 

*'What is it, Billy? '^ said Larry quickly. 

**Did it get you, son?*' said Kentucky. 

**TheyVe got me,*' gasped Billy. '*My Christ, 
it do 'urt." 

''Lemme look," said Pug quickly. ** Let's 'ave 
a field-dressin', one o' yer." 

Simson 's shoulder was already crimsoning, and 
the blood ran and dripped fast from it. Pug 
slipped out a ktiife, and with a couple of slashes 
split the torn jacket and shirt down and across. 



BLIND MAN^S BUFF 103 

*'I don't think it's a bad 'un," he said. **Don't 
seem to go deep, and it's well up on the shoulder 
anyway. ' ' 

*'It's bad enough," said Billy, '*by the way it 
'urts." 

Kentucky also examined the wound closely. 

* * I 'm sure Pug 's right, ' ' he said. * * It isn 't any- 
ways dangerous, Billy." 

Billy looked up suddenly. *'It's a Blighty one, 
isn't it?" he said anxiously. 

**0h, yes," said Kentucky; *'a Blighty one, 
sure." 

**6ood enough," said Billy Simson. ** If it's a 
Blighty one I've got plenty. I'm not like you, 
Pug; I'm not thirstin' enough for Germ 'elmets to 
go lookin' any further for 'em." 

One of the sergeants came pushing along the 
trench, urging the men to get a move on and clear 
out before the next lot ran across the open for the 
shelter. 

*^Man wounded," he said, when they told him of 
Billy Simson. *'You, Simson! Well, you must 
wait 'ere, and I'll send a stretcher-bearer back, if 
ye 're not able to foot it on your own. ' ' 

**I don't feel much up to footin' it," said Billy 



104 GRAPES OF WRATH 

Simeon. **I ihiiik 1^11 stick here xmtil somebody 
comes to give me a hand/' 

So the matter was decided, and the rest pushed 
along the narrow trench, leaving Simson squatted 
in one of the bays cut out of the walL The others 
moved slowly along to where their trench opened 
into another running across it, turned down this, 
and went wandering along its twisting, curving 
loops until they had completely lost all sense of 
direction. 

The guns on both sides were maintaining a con- 
stant cannonade, and the air overhead shook con- 
tinually to the rumble and wail and howl of the 
passing shells. But although it was difficult to 
keep a sense of direction, there was one thing 
always which told them how they moved — ^the 
rattle of rifle fire, the rapid rat-tat-tatting of the 
machine guns and sharp explosions of bombs and 
grenades. These sounds, as they all well knew, 
came from the fighting front, from the most ad- 
vanced line where our men still strove to push 
forward, and the enemy stood to stay them, or to 
press them back. 

The sound kept growing ominously louder and 
nearer the further the Stonewalls pushed on along 
their narrow trench, and now they could hear, even 



BLIND MAN'S BUFF 105 

above the uproar of the guns and of the firing 
lines, the sharp hiss and zipp of the bullets pass- 
ing close above the trench, the hard smacks and 
cracks with which they struck the parapet or the 
ground about it. The trench in which they moved 
was narrow, deep, and steep-sided. It was there- 
fore safe from everything except the direct over- 
head burst of high-explosive shrapnel, and of these 
there were, for the moment, few or none ; so that 
when the men were halted and kept waiting for 
half an hour they could see nothing except the 
narrow strip of sky above the lips of the trench, 
but could at least congratulate themselves that 
they were put of the inferno in which they had 
spent the night and the early part of the morning. 
It was still raining, a thin, cold, drizzling rain, 
which collected in the trench bottom and turned 
the path into gluey mud, trickled down the walls 
and saturated them to a sticky clay which daubed 
the shoulders, the elbows, the hips, and haversacks 
of the men as they pushed along, coated them with 
a layer of clinging, slimy wetness, clammy to the 
touch, and striking them through and through with 
shivering chills. When they halted most of the 
men squatted down in the bottom of the trench, 
sitting on their heels and leaning their backs 



106 GRAPES OF WEATH 

against the walls, and waited there, listening to 
the near-by uproar of the conflict, speculating on 
how little or how long a time it would be before 
they were into it actively ; discussing and guessing 
at the progress the attack had made, and what 
ground had been taken, and held or lost. Here 
and there a man spoke of this point or that which 
the attack had reached, of some village or hill, or 
trench, which he heard had been taken. Usually 
the information had been gleaned from wounded 
men, from the stretcher-bearers and ammunition 
carriers with whom the Stonewalls had spoken, as 
they crossed and recrossed their trench early that 
morning. 

In the trench they now occupied they gleaned 
no further news, because none of these wayfarers 
to and from the firing-line passed their way. 

^'Our front line cau^t be getting pushed very 
hard,^' suggested Larry; "because if they were, 
they'd have shoved us in support before now.'' 

"It looks to me," said Kentucky, "that they 
have slid us off quite a piece to the right of where 
we were meant to go. What lot of ours do you 
suppose is in these trenches in front of us now?" 
But of that nobody had any definite opinion, 
although several made guesses, based on the 



BLIND MAN'S BUFF 107 

vaguest rumors, and knowledge of this regiment 
or that which had gone up ahead of them. 

'* 'Ark at the Archies/^ said Pug suddenly. 
^^TheyVe 'avin^ a busy season on somebody. 
D^yer think they're ours, or the 'Uns'f 

^*I donH know,'' said Kentucky, ^*but I fancy 
I hear the 'planes they're shooting at." 

He was right, and presently they all heard the 
faint but penetrating whirr of an aeroplane 's en- 
gines, even above the louder and deeper note of 
the cannonade and rifle fire. 

' * There she is, ' ' said Larry. ^ * Can you see the 
marks on her?" 

''It's ours," said Kentucky. '*I see the rings 
plain enough." 

Although the aeroplane was at a good height, 
there were several who could distinguish the 
bull 's-eye target pattern of the red, white and blue 
circles painted on the wings and marking the aero- 
plane as British. For some time it pursued a 
course roughly parallel to the line of the trench, so 
that the Stonewalls, craning their heads back, 
could follow its progress along the sky, and the 
trailing wake of puflSng smoke from the shrapnel 
that followed it. They lost sight of it presently 
until it curved back into the range of their vision, 



108 GEAPES OF WRATH 

and came sailing swiftly over them again. Then 
another 'plane shot into view above them, steering 
straight for the first, and with a buzz of excited 
comment the Stonewalls proclaimed it a Hnn and 
speculated keenly on the chances of a * ^ scrap. ' ' 

There was a * * scrap, ' ' and in its opening phases 
the Stonewalls had an excellent view of the two 
machines circling, swooping, soaring, and diving 
in graceful, bird-like curves. The ** Archies'' 
ceased on both sides to fling their shrapnel at the 
airy opponents, because with their swift dartings 
to and fro, and still more because of their proxim- 
ity to one another, the Archie gunners were just as 
liable to wing their own 'plane and bring it down, 
as they were to hit the enemy one. For two or 
three minutes the Stonewalls watched with the 
wildest excitement and keenest interest the ma- 
neuvering of the two machines. Half a dozen times 
a gasp or a groan, or a chorus of comment ^ * He 's 
hit," and "He's downed," and ''He's got .him," 
followed some movement, some daring plunge or 
nose dive of one or other of the ' machines ; but 
always before the exclamations had finished the 
supposed injured one had righted itself, swooped 
and soared upward again, and swung circling into 
its opponent. 



BLIND MAN^S BUFF 109 

Once or twice the watchers thought they could 
catch the faint far-off rattle of the aeroplanes' 
machine guns, although amongst the other sounds 
of battle it was difficult to say with any certainty 
that these shots were fired in the air; but just 
when the interest and excitement were at their 
highest, a sharp order was passed along the trench 
for every man to keep his face down, on no ac- 
count to look upwards out of the trench, and offi- 
cers and sergeants, very reluctantly setting the 
good example by stooping their own heads, pushed 
along the trench to see that the men also obeyed 
the order. 

^'Blinkin' sell, I calls it,'* exclaimed Pug dis- 
gustedly. **The fust decent scrap between two 
'planes I've ever 'ad a chance to see, and 'ere I'm 
not allowed to look at it." 

'*You wait until you get 'ome, and see it on the 
pictures," said the Sergeant, who stood near them. 
**It'll be a sight safer there. If you don't know 
you ought to, that a trench full of white faces 
lookin' up at a 'plane, is as good as sending a 
postcard to their spotter upstairs sayin' the trench 
is occupied in force; and I don't suppose," he con- 
cluded, **you're any more anxious than I am for 



110 GRAPES OF WRATH 

that 'Un to be sendin' a wireless to his guns, and 
'avin' this trench strafed like the last one was." 

**From what I can see of it," said Pug, **that 
*Un up there was ^avin' Is *ands too full to worrit 
about wot was goin^ on down ^ere." 

**Well, anyhow," said the Sergeant, **you 
needn't keep yer eyes down looMn' for sixpences 
any longer. Both the ^planes is out of sight." 

**Well, I^m blowed," said Pug, *4f that's not a 
sickener. 'Ere we 'as a fust-class fight, and us 
in the front seats for seein' it, and they goes and 
shifts off so we don't even know which side won." 

And they never did. A minute later the anti- 
aircraft guns broke out into fire again, their 
peculiar singing reports easily distinguishable 
from the other gun fire, even as the distant reports 
of their shrapnel bursts in the air were distin- 
guishable from the other sounds of many bursting 
shells near the ground. But which of the * ^ Archi- 
balds ' ' were firing they did not know. They could 
only guess that one of the machines had been shot 
down, and that the anti-aircraft guns of the oppos- 
ing side were endeavoring to bring down the vic- 
tor — ^but which was the victor, and whether he 
escaped or not, was never known to the Stone- 
walls. 



BLIND MAN'S BUFF 111 

"Bloomin' Blind-Man 's-Buff, I calls it," grum- 
bled Pug. "Gropin* ronnd after 'Uns you can't 
see, an' g^ttin' poked in the ribs without seein' 
one — ^like BiUy was, ' ' 



CHAPTER Vin 



OVEB THE TOP 



The long-delayed and long-expected crisis in the 
affairs of the Stonewalls came at last about mid- 
day, and they were moved up into the front line, 
into the battered trench held by the remains of an- 
other battalion. 

This line ran curving and zigzagging some fifty 
to a hundred yards beyond the shattered and shell- 
smitten fragments of a group of houses which 
stood on the grass- and weed-grown remains of a 
road. What was now the British front line of 
trench had been at one time a German communica- 
tion trench in part of its length, and apparently 
some sort of support trench in another part. But 
throughout its whole length it had been so battered 
and wrecked, rent and riven asunder by shell fire, 
by light and heavy bombs of every sort and de- 
scription, that it was all of much the same pattern 
— a comparatively wide ditch, filled up and choked 
to half its depth in some places by fallen walls 

112 



OVEB THE TOP 113 

and scattered sandbags, in other parts no more 
than a line of big and little shell-craters linked up 
by a shallow ditch, with a tangle of barbed wire 
flung out in coils and loops in front of the trench, 
with here and there a few strands run out and 
staked down during the night. 

The face of the trench was no longer a perpen- 
dicular wall with a proper fire step, as all regu- 
larly constructed trenches are made when possi- 
ble ; the walls had crumbled down under the explo- 
sions of shell and bomb, and although some at- 
tempt had been made to improve the defenses, 
actually these improvements had been of the 
slightest description, and in many cases were de- 
stroyed again as fast as they were made; so for 
the most part the men of the battalion holding the 
trench picked little angles and corners individually 
for themselves, did their best to pile sandbags for 
head cover, lay sprawling on or against the slop- 
ing trench wall, and fired over the parapet. 

At the point occupied by the Stonewalls the 
opposing lines were too far apart for the throwing 
of hand grenades, but the line was still suffering 
a fairly heavy and uncomfortably accurate artil- 
lery bombardment. The trench was strewn along 
its length with a debris of torn sandbags, of packs 



114 GBAPES OF WEATH 

and equipments stripped from the wounded, of 
rifles and bayonets, mess-tins, and trenching tools, 
and caps and boots and water-bottles. Collected 
here and there in odd comers were many dead, 
because scattered along the whole length of line 
there were still many wounded, and until these 
had been safely removed there could, of course, be 
no time or consideration spared for attention to 
the dead. 

The Stonewalls passed in single file along the 
broken trench behind the men who stUl held the 
position aud lay and fired over their parapet. 
There were many remarks from these men, caus- 
tic inquiries as to where the Stonewalls had been, 
and why they had taken so long to come up ; ex- 
pressions of relief that they had come ; inquiries 
as to whether there was to be another attack, or 
whether they were to be relieved by the Stone- 
walls, and allowed to go back. The Stonewalls, of 
course, could give no information as to what would 
happen, because of that they themselves had not 
the faintest idea. They were pushed along the 
trench and halted in a much closer and stronger 
line than the widely spaced men of the defending 
force which had held it. 

Larry remarked on this to Pug and Kentucky, 



OVEB THE TOP 115 

when at last the little group of which they were a 
part was told by their Sergeant to halt. 

**I suppose,** said Kentucky, **we're thicker 
along this line because there's more of us. 
Whether the same reason will hold good by this 
time to-morrow is another proposition.'* 

**I*m goin* to *ave a peep out,** said Pug, and 
scrambled up the sloping face of the trench to 
beside a man lying there. 

** Hello, chum!** said this man, turning his head 
to look at Pug. ** Welcome to our *ome, as the 
text says, and you'll be a bloomin* sight more wel- 
come if you're takin* over, and lettin* us go back. 
I've 'ad quite enough of this picnic for one turn.'* 

** *As it bin pretty *ot here!** asked Pug. 

The man slid his rifle-barrel over a sandbag, 
raised his head and took hasty aim, fired, and 
ducked quickly down again. * * 'Ot ! * * he repeated. 
**I tell yer *ell's a bloomin' ice cream barrow com- 
pared to wot this trench 'as been since we come 
in it. 'Ot? Myblanky oath!" 

Pug raised his head cautiously, and peered out 
over the parapet. 

**I 8 'pose that's their trench acrost there," he 
said doubtfully, **but it's a rummy lookin' mix! 
up. Wot range are yer shootin' at!" 



116 GRAPES OF WEATH 

** Pretty well point blank/' said the private. 
''It's about 200 to 250 they tell me/' 

* * 'Oo 's trench is that along there to the left 1 ' ' 
asked Pug. *'It seems to run both ways." 

*'I'm not sure," said the other man, ''but I 
expect it's an old communication trench. This 
bit opposite us they reckon is a kind of redoubt ; 
you'll notice it sticks out to a point that their 
trenches slope back from on both sides. ' ' 

"I notice there's a 'eap of wire all round it," 
said Pug, and bobbed his head down hastily at the 
whizz of a couple of bullets. "And that's blinkin' 
well enough to notice, ' ' he continued, ' ' until I 'as 
to look out an' notice some more whether I likes 
it or not." 

He slipped down again into the tre^jjjS bottom, 
and described such of the situation as he had seen, 
as well as he could. He found the others discuss- 
ing a new rumor, which had just arrived by way of 
the Sergeant. The tale ran that they were to 
attack the trenches opposite ; that there was to be 
an intense artillery bombardment first, that the 
assault was to be launched after an hour or two 
of this. 

"I 'ear there's a battalion of the Jocks joined 
up to our left in this trench," said the Sergeant, 



OVER THE TOP 117 

**and there's some Fusilier crowd packin' in on 
our right/' 

**That looks like business/' said Larry; **but is 
it true, do you think, Sergeant? Where did you 
get it from!" 

** There's a 'tiUery forward oflSoer a little piece 
along the trench there, and I was 'avin' a chat 
with 'is signaler. They told me about the attack, 
and told me their Battery was goin' to cut the 
wire out in front of us. ' ' 

Kentucky, who was always full of curiosity and 
interest in unusual proceedings, decided to go 
along and see the Forward Officer at work. He 
told the others he would be back in a few minutes, 
and, scrambling along the trench, found the Artil- 
lery Subaltern and two signalers. The signalers 
had a portable telephone connected up with the 
trailing wire, and over this the Subaltern was 
talking when Kentucky arrived. He handed the 
receiver to one of his signalers, and crossing the 
trench took up a position where by raising his 
head he could see over the parapet. 

^^Nxmiber One gun, fire," he said, and the sig- 
naler repeated the words over the telephone, and 
a moment later called sharply : * * No. 1 fired, sir. ' ' 

Kentucky waited expectantly with his eye on 



118 GRAPES OF WEATH 

the Forward OflSeer, waited so many long seconds 
for any sound of the arriving sheU or any sign of 
the Officer's movement that he was beginning to 
think he had misunderstood the method by which 
the game was played; but at that moment he 
heard a sudden and savage rush of air close over- 
head, saw the Forward Officer straighten up and 
stare anxiously out over the parapet, heard tiie 
sharp crash of the bursting shell out in front. 
The Officer stooped his head again and called 
something about dropping twenty-five and repeat- 
ing. The signaler gave his message word for 
word over the 'phone, and a minute later reported 
again: **No. 1 fired, sir.'' 

Kentucky, not knowing the technicalities of gun- 
ners' lingo, was unable to follow the meaning of 
the orders as they were passed back from the of- 
ficer to the signaler, from the signaler to the 
Battery. There was talk of adding and dropping, 
of so many minutes right or left, of lengthening 
and shortening, and of ** correctors " ; but al- 
though he could not understand all this, the mes- 
sage was clear enough when the officer remarked 
briefly : 

** Target No. 1; register that," and proceeded 
to call for No. 2 gun, and to repeat the compli- 



OVER THE TOP 119 

cated directions of ranges and deflection. Pres- 
ently No. 2 found its target also, and the For- 
ward Officer went on with three and the remain- 
ing guns in turn. For the first few shots from 
each he stood up to look over the parapet, but 
after that viewed the proceedings through a peri- 
scope. 

Kentucky, establishing himself near the sig- 
naler, who was for the moment disengaged, talked 
with him, and acquired some of the simpler mys- 
teries of registering a target, and of wire cut- 
ting. * * He stands up at first, * ' explained the sig- 
naler, in answer to an inquiry, ^'because he pitches 
the first shell well over to be on the safe side. 
He has to catch the burst as soon as it goes, and 
he mightn't have his periscope aimed at the right 
spot. After he corrects the lay, and knows just 
where the round is going to land, he can keep 
his periscope looking there and waiting for it. 
It's not such a risky game then, but we gets a 
heap of F.0.0. 's oasualtied doing those first peeps 
over the parapet." 

After the Forward Officer had got all his guns 
correctly laid, the Battery opened a rapid and 
sustained fire, and the shells, pouring in a rushing 
stream so close over the trench that the wind of 



120 GBAPES OF WRATH 

their passing could be felt, burst in a running 
series of reports out in front. 

Kentucky made his way back to his own por- 
tion of the trench, and borrowing a pocket look- 
ing-glass periscope, clipped it to his bayonet and 
watched for some time with absorbed interest the 
tongues of flame that licked out from the burst- 
ing shells, and the pu£Sng clouds of smoke that 
rolled along the ground in front of the German 
parapet. The destruction of the wire was plain ^ 
to see, and easy to watch. The shells burst one 
after another over and amongst it, and against the 
background of smoke that drifted over the ground 
the tangle of wire stood up clearly, and could be 
seen dissolving and vanishing under the streams 
of shrapnel bullets. As time passed the thick 
hedge of wire that had been there at first was 
broken down and torn away ; the stakes, that held 
it were knocked down or splintered to pieces or 
torn up and flung whirling from the shell bursts. 
Other batteries had come into play along the same 
stretch of front, and were hard at work destroy- 
ing in the same fashion the obstacle to the ad- 
vance of the infantry. The meaning of the wire 
cutting must have been perfectly plain to the Ger- 
mans ; clearly it signified an attack ; clearly that 



OVER THE TOP 121 

signified the forward trenches being filled with 
a strong atta<^ng force; and clearly again that 
meant a good target for the German gons, a tar- 
get upon which they proceeded to play with sav- 
age intensity. 

The forward and support Unes were subjected 
to a tornado of high explosive and shrapnel fire, 
and again the Stonewalls were driven to crouch- 
ing in their trenph while the big shells pounded 
down, round, and over and amongst thenu They 
vere all very sick of these repeated series of 
hammerings from the German guns, and Pug 
voiced the idea of a good many, when at the end 
of a couple of hours the message came along that 
they were to attack with the bayonet in fifteen 
minutes. 

**I don't 8 'pose the attack will be any picnic," 
he said, **but blow me if I wouldn't rather be up 
there with a chance of gettin' my own back, than 
stickin' in this stinkin' trench and gettin' blown 
to sausage meat without a chance of crookin' my 
finger to save myself." 

For two hours past the British guns had been 
giving as good as they were getting, and a little 
bit better to boot; but now for the fifteen min- 
utes previous to the assault their fire worked up 



122 GRAPES OF WEATH 

to a rate and intensity that must have been posi- 
tively appalling to the German defenders of the 
ground opposite, and especially of the point which 
was supposed to be a redoubt. The air shook to 
the rumble and yell and roar of the heavy shells, 
vibrated to the quicker and closer rush of the 
field guns' shrapnel. The artillery fire for the 
time being dominated the field, and brought the 
rifle fire from the opposing trenches practically 
to silence, so that it was possible with some de- 
gree of safety for the Stonewalls to look over their 
parapet and watch with a mixture of awe and de- 
light tiie spectacle of leaping whirlwinds of fire 
and billowing smoke, the spouting debris that 
splashed upwards, through them ; to listen to the 
deep rolling detonations and shattering boom of 
the heavy shells that poured without ceasing on 
the trenches in front of them. 

**If there's any bloomin' Germans left on that 
ground,'' said Pug cheerfully, *'I'd like to know 
'ow they do it. Seems to me a perishin' black- 
beetle in a 'ole could not 'ave come through that 
shell fire if 'e 'ad as many lives as a cat." 

It almost looked as if he was right, and that 
the defense had been obliterated by the artillery 
preparation, for when the order came along and 



OVER THE TOP 123 

the British Infantry began to scramble hurriedly 
over the parapet, to make their way out through 
the wire, and to form up quickly and roughly on 
the open ground beyond it, hardly a shot was fired 
at them, and there was no sound or sign of life 
in the German trenches except the whirling smoke 
clouds starred with quick flashes of fire from the 
shells that still streamed overhead and battered 
and hammered down on the opposite lines. 

The infantry lay down in the wet grass and 
mud for another two or three minutes, and then, 
suddenly and simultaneously, as if all the guns 
had worked together on the pulling of a string, 
the shells, without ceasing for an instant to roar 
past overhead, ceased to flame and crash on the 
forward lines, but began to pound down in a belt 
of smoke and fire some hundreds of yards be- 
yond.. Along the length of the British line whistle 
after whistle trilled and shrieked; a few figures 
could be seen leaping to their feet and beginning 
to run forward; and then with a heave and a 
jumble of bobbing heads and shoulders the whole 
line rose and swung forward in a long, uneven, 
but almoiSt solid wave. At the same instant the 
German trenches came to life, a ragged volley 
of rifle fire crackled out, grew closer and quicker. 



124 GBAPES OF WBATH 

swelled into one tnmnltnons roll with the machine 
guns hanunering and rapping and clattering 
sharply and distinctly through the uproar. About 
the ears of the running infantry could be heard 
the sharp hiss and zipp and whistle and whine 
of passing bullets; from the ground amongst 
their feet came the cracking and snapping of bul- 
lets striking and the spurts of mud thrown up by 
them! At first these sounds were insignificaut, 
and hardly noticed in the greater and more ter- 
rifying clamor of the guns' reports, the shriek 
and whoop of the passing shells, the crashing 
bursts of their explosions. But the meaning and 
significauce of the hissing buUet sounds were 
made swiftly plain as the rifle and machine-gun 
fire grew, and the riflemen and machine gunners 
steadied to their aim and task. The buUet storm 
swept down on the chargiug Une, and the Une 
withered and melted and shredded away under 
it. It still advanced steadily, but the ground be- 
hind it was dotted thicker and closer and more 
and more quickly with the bodies of men who fell 
and lay still, or crawled back towards their para- 
pet or to the shelter of the nearest shell crater. 
The line went on, but half-way across the open 
ground it began to show ragged and uneven with 



OVER THE TOP 125 

great gaps sliced out of it at intervals. The wet 
ground was heavy going, and the fierceness of the 
fire and the numbers struck down by it began to 
make it look a doubtful question whether a suf- 
ficient weight of men could reach their goal to 
carry the charge home with any effect. From 
one cause or another the pace slowed sensibly, 
although the men themselves were probably un- 
aware of the slowing. 

Kentucky, Larry, and Pug kept throughout 
within arm's length of one another. They had set 
out under the same bargain to keep close and help 
one another if need arose ; but Kentucky at least 
confesses that any thoughts of a bargain, any 
memory of an arranged program, had completely 
left him, and very probably his thoughts ran in 
much the same direction as three-fourths of the 
charging line. His whole mind, without any con- 
scious effort of reasoning, was centered on get- 
ting over the open as quickly as possible, of com- 
ing to hand grips with the Germans, of getting 
down into their trench out of reach of the sleet- 
ing bullets that swept the open. He arrived at 
the conclusion that in the open he was no more 
than a mere helpless running target for shells and 
bullets ; that once in the German trench he would 



126 GRAPES OF WRATH 

be out of reach of these ; that if the trench were 
held and it came to hand-to-hand fighting, at least 
he would stand an equal chance, and at least his 
hand could guard his head. How many men he 
might have to meet, what odds would be against 
him, whether the attackers would be thinned out 
to a hopeless outnumbering, he hardly troubled 
to think. That need could be met as it arose, and 
in the meantime the first and more imperative 
need was to get across the open, to escape the 
bullets that pelted about them. He ran on quite 
unconscious of whether the rest of the line was 
still advancing, or whether it had been extermi- 
nated. Arrived at the wrecked entanglements of 
wire he did look round, to find Larry and Pug 
close beside him, and all three plunged into the 
remains of the entanglement almost side by side, 
and began to kick and tear a way over and 
through the remaining strands and the little 
chopped fragments that strewed the ground. 

Kentucky was suddenly aware of a machine-gun 
embrasure almost in front of them, placed in an 
angle of the trench so as to sweep the open ground 
in enfilade. From the blackness of the embrasure 
mouth flashed a spitting stream of fire, and it 
came to him with a jerk that on the path he was 



OVER THE TOP 127 

taking he would have to cross that stream, that 
the bullets pouring from it must inevitably cut 
down his two companions and himself. He turned 
and shouted hoarsely at them, swerved to one 
side, and slanted in to the trench so as to escape 
the streaming fire ; but, looking round, he saw that 
the other two had not heard or heeded him, that 
they were still plowing straight on through the 
broken wires, that another few paces must bring 
them directly in the path of the bullets' sweep. 
He yelled again hoarsely, but realized as he did 
so that his voice was lost and drowned in the 
clamor of the battle. But at that instant — and 
this was the first instant that he became aware 
of others beside the three of them having come 
so far — a man plunged past him, halted abruptly, 
and hurled something straight at the black hole 
of the embrasure. The bomb went true to its 
mark, the embrasure flamed out a broad gush of 
fire, a loud report boomed thunderously and hol- 
lowly from it — ^and the spitting fire stream 
stopped abruptly. 

Kentucky ran on, leaped at the low parapet, 
scrambled on top of it, swung the point of his 
bayonet down, and poised himself for the leap. 
Below him he saw three faces staring upward, 



128 GRAPES OF WEATH 

three rifle muzzles swing towards him and hai^g, 
as it seemed, for an eternity pointed straight at 
his f aoe. 

His mind was so full of that overpowering 
thought it had carried all the way across the open, 
the desperate desire to get down into the trench, 
that, confronted by the rifle muzzles and the 
urgent need to do something to escape them, he 
could not for the moment readjust his thoughts or 
rearrange his actions. The instant *s hesitation 
might easily have been fatal, and it is probable he 
owed his life to another man who at that moment 
leaped on the broken parapet and jostled him 
roughly just as two of the rifles below flamed and 
banged. As he half reeled aside from that jolt- 
ing elbow he felt a puff of wind in his face, was 
conscious of a tremendous blow and violent up- 
ward leaping sensation somewhere about his head, 
a rush of cold air on his scalp. His first foolish 
thought was that the top of his head had been 
blown away, and he half dropped to his knees, 
clutching with one hand at his bare head, from 
which the shot had whirled his helmet. And as he 
dropped he saw beside him on the parapet the 
man who had jostled him, saw the swift down- 
ward fling of his hand as he hurled something into 



OVER THE TOP 129 

the trench and instantly flung himself to ground. 
Kentucky realized what the bomber was doing just 
in time to duck backwards. A yell from the trench 
below was cut short by a crashing report, a spout 
of flame and smoke shot up, and the parapet trem- 
bled and shuddered. The bomber leaped to his feet 
and without a word to Kentucky leaped across 
the trench and ran along its further side, swing- 
ing another bomb by its stick-handle. He carried 
a lot more of these hanging and dangling about 
his body. They jerked as he ran, and it flashed 
across Kentucky's mind to wonder if there was 
no possibility of two of them by some mischance 
striking and detonating one another, or the safety 
pins jolting out, when he saw the man crumple 
suddenly and fall sprawling and lie still where he 
fell. Reminded abruptly of his exposed position 
and of those significant whiskings and swishings 
through the air about him, Kentucky jumped to 
his feet, glanced over into the trench, and jumped 
down into it. At the moment he could see no other 
British soldier to either side of him, but in the 
trench bottom lay the three bodies of the men 
killed by the bomb. A sudden wild and nervous 
doubt shot into his mind — could he be the only 
man who had safely reached the trench? But on 



!•■ 



130 GRAPES OF WEATH 

the same instant he heard cries, the rush of feet, 
and two or three men leaped over and down into 
the trench beside him, and he caught a glimpse of 
others doing the same further along. 

**Seen any of 'em?^^ gasped one of the new- 
comers, and without waiting an answer, **Come 
along, men; work along the trench and look out 
for dug-outs.'' 

Kentucky recognized them as men of another 
company of the Stonewalls, saw that they, too, 
were loaded with bombs, and because he was not 
at all sure what he ought to do himself, he fol- 
lowed them along the trench. The bombers 
stopped at the dark entrance to a dug-out, and the 
officer leading them halted and shouted down it. In 
reply a rifle banged and a bullet hissed out past 
the officer's head. The men swore, stepped hur- 
riedly aside, and one of them swung forward a 
bomb with long cloth streamers dangling from it. 
**Not that," said the officer quickly. **It'll ex- 
plode on the stairs. Give 'em two or three Mills ' 
grenades." The men pulled the pins from the 
grenades and flung them down the stairway and 
the rifle banged angrily again. ** That's about 
your last shot," said one of the men grimly, and 
next instant a hollow triple report boomed out 



OVER THE TOP 131 

from deep below. **Eoll another couple down to 
make sure/' said the officer, **and come along.'' 
Kentucky remembered the episode of the double 
entrance to the dug-out in the other trench. 
** There may be another stair entrance further 
along," he said quickly. **Come on," said the 
officer abruptly, **we'll see. You'd ii^tter come 
with us and have your bayonet ready. I've lost 
my bayonet men." He led the way himself with 
a long ^Hrench dagger" in his hand — a murder- 
ous looking long knife with rings set along the 
haft for his fingers to thrust through and grip. 
Kentucky heard a shout of * * C Company. Bally 

along here, C." 
''Td better go, hadn't I?" he asked. ^^I'm C, 

and they're shouting for C." 

^* All right," said the officer, **push off. Pick 
t*p that rifle, one of you. It's a German, but it'll 
do for bayonet work if we need it." 

Kentucky had no idea where **C" Company 
was calling from, and down in the trench he could 
see nothing. For a moment he was half inclined 
to stay where he was with the others, but the 
shout came again, **C Company. Along here, C." 
He scrambled up the broken rear wall of the 
trench, saw a group of men gathering along to 



132 GEAPES OF WEATH 

the right, heard another call from them, and 
climbed out to run stooping across and join thenu 

*^ Hello, Kentucky,*' he heard, ** where you bint 
Thought you was a wash-out.'' 

**I'm all hunkadory. Pug," he answered joy- 
fully. **I missed you coming across just after 
that bomber slung one in on the machine gun. 
Lucky thing for you he did, too." 

**Hey?" said Pug vaguely, ^*wot bomber, an' 
wot machine gunt" 

**Well, I didn't think you could have missed 
seeing that," said Kentucky in astonishment. 
**You and Larry were running right across its 
muzzle. But where 's Larry t" 

**Dunno," said Pug anxiously. '^I thought 'im 
an' you would be together. He was with me not 
more'n a minute or two afore we got in. Hope 
'e 'asn't been an' stopped one." 

**Do you remember where you got int" said 
Kentucky. *'I believe I could find where that 
machine gun was. If he was hit it must have been 
there or in the trench here. I think we ought to 
go and hunt for him." 

But their officer and sergeant had other and 
more imperative ideas as to their immediate 
program. * * Pick up any of those picks and spades 



OVER THE TOP 133 

yon see lying abont/' ordered the sergeant, **and 
try'n get this trench into shape a bit. The rest 
of you get on to those sandbags and pile 'em up 
for a parapet Sharp, now, every man there. 
You, Pug, get along with it, bear a hand. That 
arm of yours all right? If it isn't you'd best 
shove along back to the rear." 



CHAPTER IX 



A SIDE SHOW 



Although Pug and Kentucky were not allowed 
to go and look for their lost chum, and in fact 
did not know for long enough what had happened 
to him, the tale of that happening, I think, fits best 
in here. It is perhaps all the more worth the tell- 
ing because it is a sample of scores of incidents 
that may never be heard of outside the few who 
participated in them, but are characteristic of one 
of the most amazing features of the New Armies 
— ^and that, mark you, is rather a big word, re- 
membering we are speaking of something which 
itself is nothing but one huge amazing feature — 
the readiness and smoothness with which it has 
fallen into professional soldiering ways and the 
instinct for fighting which over and over again 
it has been proved to possess. And by fighting 
instinct I do not mean so much that animal in- 
stinct which every man has hidden somewhere in 
his make-up to look out for himself and kill the 

134 



A SIDE SHOW 135 

fellow who is trying to kill him, but rather that 
peculiar instinct which picks a certain comer of a 
trench as a key to a local position, which knows 
that if a certain bit of ground can be taken or held 
it will show much more than its face value, which 
senses the proper time to hang on and the right 
moment to risk a rush. 

These, of course, are the instincts of leadership, 
and these are the instincts which the New Army 
has shown it possesses, not only in its officers and 
non-coms., but time and again — ^in innumerable lit- 
tle-known or unknown incidents of battle that have 
been lost in the bigger issues — ^in the rank and 
file, in privates who never were taught or ex- 
pected to know anything about leadership, in men 
brought up to every possible trade, profession 
and occupation except war. One can only suppose 
it is an instinct deep rooted in the race that has 
lain dormant for generations, and only come to 
life again in the reviving heat of war. 

It will be remembered that Larry became sep- 
arated from his two friends in their rush on the 
German line, and just as they reached the remains 
of the barbed wire before the German trench. 
For the greater part the wire had been uprooted 
and swept away by the storm of British shells and 



136 GRAPES OF WRATH 

mortar bombs, but here and there it still remained 
sufficiently intact to make a difficult and unpleas- 
ant obstacle. 

Larry and Pug, deflected from their course by 
one or two yawning shell craters, ran into one of 
these undestroyed patches of wire, and while Pug 
turned to the left, Larry turned right and ran 
skirting along its edge in search of a place 
through. Several other men did the same, and by 
the time they had found an opening there were 
about a score of them to go streaming through the 
gap and plunging at the broken parapet. Half of 
them were shot down in that last dozen yards, 
and as they opened out and went clawing and 
scrambling at the parapet with rifles banging al- 
most in their faces, hand grenades lobbed over to 
roll down amongst their feet and explode in show- 
ers of flying splinters. The few who for the mo- 
ment escaped these dangers, knowing that every 
instant they remained in the open outside the 
trench carried almost a certainty of sudden death, 
flung desperately at its parapet, over and down 
into it among the Grerman bayonets, without stop- 
ping to count or heed what the hand-to-hand odds 
might be. 

Larry Arundel, at the lip of the trench, sud- 



A SIDE SHOW 137 

denly finding himself poised above a group of some 
four or five men, checked his downward leap from 
a first instinctive and absurd fear of hurting the 
men he would jump down upon, recovered him- 
self, and swung his rifle forward and thrust and 
again thrust savagely down at the gray coats and 
helmets below him, saw the bright steel strike 
and pierce a full half its length with no other feel- 
ing than a faint surprise that he should sense so 
little check to its smooth swing, shortened the grip 
on his rifle, and, thrusting again as he jumped, 
leaped down into the space his bayonet had 
cleared. The last man he had stabbed at evaded 
the thrust, and like a flash stabbed back as Larry 
landed in the trench. But the two were too close 
for the point to be effective, and Larry *s hip and 
elbow turned the weapon aside. He found him- 
self almost breast to breast with his enemy, and 
partly because there was no room to swing a 
bayonlBt, partly because that undefended face and 
point of the jaw awoke the boxer's instinct, his 
clenched fist jerked in a fierce uppercut hard and 
true to its mark, and the German grunted once 
and dropped as if pole-axed. 

But there Larry's career would probably have 
cut short, because there were still a couple of 



138 GRAPES OF WRATH 

men within arm's length of him, and both were on 
the point of attacking, when another little batch 
of belated attackers arrived at the trench. Sev- 
eral of them struck in at the point where Larry 
was engaged with his opponents, and that particu- 
lar scrimmage terminated with some abruptness. 

Larry was a little dazed with the speed at which 
events of the past minute had happened and also 
to some extent by the rather stunning report of a 
rifle fired just past his ear by a somewhat hasty 
rescuer in settlement of the account of his nearest 
opponent. 

**Wh-what's happened f he asked. **Have we 
got this trench all right f 

** Looks like it,*' said one of the others. **But 
blest if I know how much of it. There didn't 
seem to be much of our line get in along to the 
right there to take their bit of front.'' 

** Let's have a look," said Larry, and scrambled 
up the broken side of the trench. He stood there 
a minute until half a dozen bullets whistling and 
zipping dose past sent him ducking fast to cover. 

** They've got the trench to our right safe 
enough," he said, **and they seem to be advancing 
beyond it. I suppose we ought to go on, too." 

^^Wot's this fakement?" asked one of the men 



A SIDE SHOW 139 

who had been poking round amongst the debris of 
the shattered trench. He held out a two-armed 
affair with glasses at the ends. 

**That,^' said Larry quickly, taking it and rais- 
ing it above the edge of the trench — ^* that's some 
sort of a periscope.^' He looked out through it 
a moment and added: **And a dash good one it 
is, too. • • • I say, that line of ours advancing on 
the right is getting it in the neck. . . . Machine- 
gun fire it looks like. . . . They've stopped. . . . 
Most of 'em are down, and the rest running back 
to the trench.'' 

He was interrupted by an exclamation from one 
of the other men who had climbed up to look over 
the edge. 

**Look out," he said hurriedly. **Bomb over," 
and he dropped back quickly into the trench. 

A German stick grenade sailed over, fell on 
the trench parapet above them, rolled a little, and 
lay still, and in another second or two went off 
with a crash, half deafening and blinding them 
with the noise and smoke, but hurting no one. 
Some of the men swore, and one demanded angrily 
where the thing had come from, and **Who frew 
dat brick t" quoted another. 

But there was little room for jests. One, two, 



140 GRAPES OF WEATH 

three grenades came over in quick succession ; one 
going over and missing the trench, another falling 
in it at the toe of a man who promptly and neatly 
kicked it clear round the comer of the traverse, 
where it exploded harmlessly; but the third fall- 
ing fairly in the trench, where it burst, just as 
a man grabbed for it to throw it out, killing him 
instantly and sUghtly wounding one or two others. 

** Who's got those Mills f said Larry hurriedly. 
**You, Harvey — chuck a couple over the traverse 
to the right. Must be some of them in there. ' ' 

Harvey drew the pins out of a couple of Mills ' 
grenades and tossed them over, but even as they 
burst another couple of German grenades came 
over, one bursting in the air and the other f aUing 
to explode. 

**IVe spotted them," suddenly said Larry, who 
had been watching out through the periscope. 
** There's some sort of trench running into this 
about a dozen yards along. They're in there; I 
saw the grenades come over out of if 

Some of the men with him had moved back 
out of section of trench under bombardment, and 
as more grenades began to lob over there was a 
mild stampede of the others round the traverse. 



A SIDE SHOW 141 

Larry went with them, but pulled up at the comer 
and spoke sharply. 

**See here, it's no good letting them chase ns 
out like this. They'U only follow up and bomb 
us out traverse by traverse till there's none of us 
left to bomb out. Let's have some of those gre- 
nades, Harvey, and we'll rush them out of it." 

Some of the men hesitated, and others de- 
murred, muttering that there weren't enough of 
them, didn't know how many Germs there were, 
ought to find an officer and let him know. 

It was just here that Larry took hold and saved 
what might have been an ugly situation. He saw 
instinctively what their temporary or partial re- 
tirement might mean. The advance on the right 
had been held up, had evidently secured that por- 
tion of the trench, but could only be holding it 
weakly. The trench from which the grenades had 
come was evidently a communicating trench. If 
the Germans were free to push down it in force 
they might re-secure a footing in the captured 
main trench, and there would be no knowing at 
what cost of time and men it would have to be re- 
taken from them. 

All this he saw, and he also saw the need for 
prompt action. No officer, no non-commissioned 



.142 GRAPES OF WRATH 

oflSoer even, was with them, and by the time they 
had sent back word of the position the Germans 
might have secured their footing. Apparently 
there was no one else there willing or able to 
take command, so Larry took it. 

He had never given a real order in his life — 
even his orders to the office boy or typist at home 
had always been in the form of **Will yon 
please r^ or **Do yon mindr* He had no actnal 
authority now to give commands, was the junior 
in years and in service to several there. But give 
orders he did, and, moreover, he gave them so 
clear and clean-cut, and with such an apparent 
conviction that they would be obeyed, that actu- 
ally they were obeyed just as unhesitatingly and 
wiUingly as if he had been Colonel of the regi- 
ment. 

In three minutes his dispositions were made 
and his directions given, in four minutes his little 
attack had been launched, in five minutes or little 
more it had succeeded, and he was *4n possession 
of the objective.^' He had about half a score of 
men with him and a very limited supply of gre- 
nades, obviously not sufficient strength to attempt 
a deliberate bombing fight along the trench. So 
at the greater risk perhaps, but with a greater 



A SIDE SHOW 143 

neck-or-nothing chance of success, he decided ta 
lead his little party with a rush out of the trench 
across the angle of the ground to where he had 
seen the branching trench running into theirs. 

Two men were told off to jump out on the 
side they had entered, to run along under cover of 
the parapet and shoot at any one who emerged 
or showed in the entrance to the .communication 
trench; two more to fling over a couple of gre- 
nades into the trench section into which the com- 
munication-way entered and follow it up with 
their bayonets ready, one to push on along the 
trench and bring any assistance he could raise, the 
other to be joined by the two men above, and, if 
the main attack succeeded, to push up along the 
communication-way and join Larry ^s party. 

This left Larry with half-a-dozen men to lead 
in his rush over the open. The whole of his lit- 
tle plans worked out neatly, exactly, and rapidly. 
He waited for the crash of the two grenades his 
bombers flung, then at his word **GoI'^ the two 
men told off heaved themselves over the rear 
parapet, and in a few seconds were pelting bullets 
down the communication trench entrance; the 
bombers scuffled along the trench without meeting 
any resistance. 



144 GRAPES OF WEATH 

Larry and his men swarmed np and ont from 
their cover, charged across the short, open space, 
and in a moment were running along the edge of 
the communication trench, shooting and stabbing 
and tossing down grenades into it on top of the 
surprised Germans there. There were about a 
score of these clustered mainly near the juncture 
with the other trench, and in half a minute this 
little spot was converted into a reeking shambles 
under the bursting grenades and the bullets that 
poured into it from the two enfilading rifles. 

Every man in that portion of trench was killed 
— one might almost say butchered — ^without a 
chance of resistance. Another string of Germans 
apparently being hurried along the trench as re- 
enforcements, were evidently stampeded by the 
uproar of crashing bombs and banging rifles, the 
yells and shouts of the attackers. 

They turned and bolted back along their trench, 
Larry's men in the open above them pursuing 
and slaughtering them without mercy, until sud- 
denly, somewhere across the open, some rifles and 
a machine gun began to sweep the open, and a 
storm of bullets to hail and patter about the little 
party of Stonewalls. 

Larry promptly ordered them down into the 



A SIDE SHOW 145 

trench, and they leaped in, and, raider cover from 
the bullets above, continned to pnsh the retreating 
Germans for another hundred yards along the 
trench. 

Here the enemy made a determined stand, and 
Larry instantly realized that, with his weak force, 
he had pushed his attack to the limit of safety. 
He left a couple of men there to keep the enemy 
in clay for a few minutes with a show of pressing 
the attack with persistent bombing, and hurried 
the others back to a point that offered the best 
chance of making a stand. 

He chose a short, straight stretch of trench 
running into a wide and deep pit blown out by 
one of our heavy shells. Round the edge of this 
shell-crater pit ran a ready-made parapet thrown 
up by the explosion, and forming a barricade 
across the two points where the trench ran in and 
out of it. 

Man by man, Larry pointed out to his little 
force the spot each was to occupy, and bade him 
dig in for his life to make cover against the bomb- 
ing that would assuredly be their portion very 
soon. He himself crawled up on to the open to 
some uprooted barbed wire he had noticed, was 
dragging together all the tangled strands and 



146 GRAPES OF WRATH 

stakes he could move, when he noticed a rusty reel 
of wire, half unwound, grabbed that, and shuf- 
fled back into the trench. 

A shrill whistle brought his two outposts hurry- 
ing and hobbling in, one of them wounded in the 
leg by a grenade fragment, the other with a clean 
bullet wound through his forearm. 

The barbed wire was hastily unreeled and piled 
in loose coils and loops and tangles in the 
straight bit of trench through which the Germans 
must come at the pit, while from the pit barricade 
one man tossed a grenade at intervals over the 
heads of the workers into the section of trench 
beyond them. But the wiring job had to be left 
incomplete when the arrival of two or three 
grenades gave warning of the coming attack, and 
Larry and the others scrambled hurriedly over 
the barricade parapet into the pit. 

For tibe next ten minutes a hot fight — small in 
point of the numbers engaged and space covered, 
but savage in its intensity and speed — ^raged 
round the pit. The Germans tried first to force 
their way through by sheer weight of bombing. 
But the Stonewalls had made full use of their 
trenching tools and any scattered sandbags they 
could pick up, and had made very good cover for 



> 



A SIDE SHOW 147 

themselves. Each man was dug into a niche round 
the inside of the parapet from which he could 
look out either over the open ground or back into 
the pit. 

The Germans showered grenades over into the 
wired trench and the pit, and followed their ex- 
plosions with a rush for the barricade, Larry, 
with one man to either side of him, behind the 
pit rim where it blocked the trench, stopped the 
rush with half-a-dozen well-placed Mills ^ gre- 
nades. 

Almost at once the enemy copied the Stone- 
walls' first plan of attack, and, climbing suddenly 
from their trench, made to run along the top and 
in on the defense. But their plan failed where 
Larry's had succeeded, simply because Larry had 
provided its counter by placing a man to ke^p a 
lookout, and others where they could open a 
prompt rifle-fire from the cover of the pit's para- 
pet. The attack broke under the rapid fire that 
met them, and the uninjured Germans scuttled 
back into their trench. 

A fresh bombing rush was tried, and this time 
pushed home, in spite of the grenades that met it 
and filled the trench bottom with a grewsome 
debris of mangled men, fallen earth, and torn wire. 



148 GRAPES OF WEATH 

At the end the rush was only stopped at the very 
parapet by Larry and his two fellows standing np 
and emptying their rifle magazines into the men 
who still crowded into the shambles trench, tear- 
ing a way through the wire and treading their 
own dead under foot 

More of the Stonewalls were wounded by frag- 
ments of the grenades which each man of the at- 
tackers carried and threw over into the pit before 
him, and one man was killed outright at the para- 
pet by Larry ^s side. He was left with only four 
effective fighting men, and, what was worse, his 
stock of grenades was almost exhausted. 

The end looked very near, but it was staved off 
a little longer by the return of one of the severely 
wounded men that Larry had sent back in search 
of help, dragging a heavy box of German stick- 
grenades. Nobody knew how to use these. Each 
grenade had a head about the size and shape of 
a 1-lb. jam tin attached to a wooden handle a 
foot long. There was no sign of any pin to pull 
out or any means of detonating the grenade, but 
Larry noticed that the end of the handle was 
metal-tipped and finished off with a disc with 
notched edges. 

A quick trial showed that this unscrewed and 



A SIDE SHOW 149 

revealed a cavity in the handle and a short, looped 
length- of string coiled inside. Some rapid aad 
rather risky experiments proved that a pnll on 
the string exploded some sort of cap and started 
a fnse, which in turn detonated the grenade in a 
few seconds. 

**Neat/' said Harvey, the bomber. **Bloomin' 
neat; though I don't say as it beats the old Mills \ 
But, anyhow, we 're dash lucky to have *em. 'Ere 
they come again, Larry 1'' 

**Sock it in,'' said Larry briefly. "There's 
more bombs than we'll have time to use, I fancy, 
so don't try'n save them up." He shouted or- 
ders for any of the wounded that could move them- 
selves to clear out, and set himself to tossing over 
the grenades as fast as he could pull the detonat- 
ing-strings. 

Then his last man on the lookout on the pit rim 
yelled a warning and opened rapid fire, and Larry 
knew that another rush was coming over the open. 
That, he knew, was the finish, because now he had 
no men left to keep up a fire heavy enough to stop 
the rush above ground, and, if Harvey and he 
went to help, the oeasing of their grenade-throw- 
ing would leave the attack to come at him along 
the shattered trench. 



160 GRAPES OF WRATH 

He and Harvey looked once at each other, and 
went on grimly throwing grenades. Then Harvey 
dropped without a word, and Larry, looking up, 
saw a few Germans shooting over the pit rim. 
They disappeared suddenly as he looked, cut down 
— ^although he did not know that — by a heavy 
rifle-fire that had been opened by the British- 
owned trench behind him. 

He yelled ^hoarsely at the one man left still fir- 
ing from his niche up on the parapet, grabbed 
the box with the remaining grenades, and made a 
bolt across the pit for the other side and the 
trench opening from it. The rifleman did the 
same, but he fell half-way across, and Larry, 
reaching cover, glanced round and saw the other 
struggling to his knees, turned and dashed back, 
and half dragged, half carried the man across, up 
the crumbling edge of the pit, and heaved him 
over into the trench mouth. Then he took up his 
position behind the breastwork and made ready to 
hold it to the last possible minute. 

In that last minute assistance arrived — ^and 
arrived clearly only just in time. Headed by an 
officer, a strong detachment of the Stonewalls, 
hurrying along the trench, found Larry standing 
waist-high above the barricade jerking the deto- 



A SIDE SHOW 151 

nating-strings and hurling the last of his grenades 
as fast as he could throw them into the pit, from 
which arose a pandemonium of crashing explo- 
sions, yells and shrieks, guttural curses and the 
banging reports of rifles. 

The Stonewalls swarmed, cheering, over the 
barricade and down into the hole beyond like ter- 
riers into a rat-pit. Most of the Germans there 
threw down their rifles and threw up their hands. 
The rest were killed swiftly, and the Stonewalls, 
with hardly a check, charged across the pit into 
the trench beyond, swept it clear of the enemy for 
a full two hundred yards, and then firmly estab- 
lished themselves in and across it with swiftly- 
built barricades and plentiful stores of bombs. 
Larry's share ended there, and Larry himself 
exited from the scene of his first command quite 
inconspicuously on a stretcher. 



V 



CHAPTER X 



THE CX)trKTEB ATTACK 



Kjsntttokt and Pug and their fellow Stonewalls 
fell to work energetically, their movements has- 
tened by a galling rifle or machine-gnn fire that 
came pelting along their trench from somewhere 
far out on the flank, and reaching the trench al- 
most in enfilade, and by the warning screech and 
crash of some shells bursting over thenL The 
rain had ceased a few hours before, but the trench 
was still sopping wet and thick with sticky mud. 
It was badly battered and broken down, and was 
little more for the most part than an irregular 
and shallow ditch half filled with shattered tim- 
bers, fallen earth, full and burst sandbags. Here 
and there were stretches of comparatively unin- 
jured trench, deep and strongly built, but even in 
these, sandbags had been burst or blown out of 
place by shell explosions, and the walls were crum- 
bling and shaken and tottery. The Stonewalls 
put in a very strenuous hour digging, refilling 

162 \ 



THE COUNTER ATTACK 153 

sandbag, piling them up, putting the trench into 
some sort of shape to aflford cover and protection 
against shell and rifle fire. There was no sun, bnt 
the air was close and heavy and stagnant, and the 
men dripped perspiration as they worked. Their 
efforts began to slacken despite the urgings of the 
officers and non-coms., bnt they speeded up again 
as a heavier squall of shell fire shrieked up and 
began to burst rapidly about and above the trench. 

**I was beginning to think this trench was good 
enough for anythin', and that we^d done diggin' 
enough, ^^ panted Pug, heaving a half -split sand- 
bag into place, flattening it down with the blows of 
a broken pick-handle, and halting a moment to 
lift his shrapnel helmet to the back of his head 
and wipe a dirty sleeve across his wet forehead. 
^^But I can see that it might be made a heap safer 
yet.'* 

** There's a plenty room for improvement,'' 
agreed Kentucky, wrenching and hauling at a 
jumble of stakes and barbed wire that had been 
blown in and half buried in the trench bottom. 
When he had freed the tangle, he was commencing 
to thrust and throw it out over the back of the 
trench when an officer passing along stopped him. 
* * Chuck it out in front, man alive, ' ' he said. * * We 



154 GRAPES OF WRATH 

don't want to check our side getting in here to 
help nSy and it's quite on the cards we may need 
it to help hold back the Boche presently. We're 
expecting a counter-attack, you know." 

''Do we knowf" said Pug, disgustedly, when 
the oflSoer had passed along. **Mebbe you do, but 
I'm blowed if I know anythink about it. All I 
know I could put in me eye an' then not know it 
was there even." 

**I wish I knew where Larry is, or what's hap- 
pened to him," said Kentucky. '*I'm some wor- 
ried about him." 

A string of light shells crashed overhead, an- 
other burst banging and crackling along the 
trench, and a procession of heavier high explo- 
sive began to drop ponderously in geyser-hke 
spoutings of mud and earth and smoke. The 
Stonewalls crouched low in the trench bottom, 
while the ground shook under them, and the air 
above sang to the drone and whine of flying shell 
fragments and splinters. Our own guns took up 
the challenge, and started to pour a torrent of 
light and heavy shells over on to the German 
lines. For a time the opposing guns had mat- 
ters all to themselves and their uproar completely 
dominated the battle. And in the brief intervals 



THE COUNTER ATTACK 155 

of the nearer bangs and crashes the Stonewalls 
could hear the deep and constant roar of gun-fire 
throbbing and booming and rolling in full blast up 
and down along the line. 

**I s^pose the papers ^ud call this an ar-tillery 
doo-el,^^ remarked Pug, **or re-noo-ed ar-tillery 
activity/^ 

**I always thought a duel was two lots fighting 
each other/' said a man hunkered down close in 
the trench bottom beside him; **but the gunners' 
notion of dueling seems to be to let each other 
alone and each hammer the other lot's infantry." 

** Seems like they're passing a few packets back 
to each other though," said Kentucky. '*Hark at 
that fellow up there," as a heavy shell rumbled 
and roared over high above them, and the noise 
of its passing dwindled and died away, and was 
drowned out in the steadily sustained uproar of 
the nearer reports and shell bursts. 

** Stand to there!" came a shout along the 
trench. **Look out, there, C Company. • . • 
Wait the word, then let 'em have it. . . . Don't 
waste a shot, though." 

**Wot's comin' nowf" said Pug, scrambling 
to his feet. Kentucky was already up and settling 



156 GRAPES OF WEATH 

himself into position against the front wall of the 
parapet. 

** Looks like that counter-attack we heard of/* 
he said. *^And — ^yes, by the Lord, some counter- 
attack too. Say, look at *em, will you? Jes* look 
and see *em come a-boiling.** 

Pug, snuggling down beside him, and pounding 
his elbow down on the soft earth to make a con- 
venient elbow-rest, paused and peered out into the 
drifting haze of smoke that obscured the front. 
At first he could see nothing but the haze, starred 
with the quick fire flashes and thickened with the 
rolling clouds of our guns * shrapnel bursts. Then 
in the filmy gray and dun-colored cloud he saw 
another, a more solid and deeper colored gray 
bank that rolled steadily towards them. 

' * Gaw *strewth, * * he gasped. * * Is that men f Is 
all that lump Germans f Blimey, it must be their 
*ole bloomin* army comin* at us.** 

' ' There sure is a big bunch of *em, * * said Ken- 
tucky. * ' Enough to roll us out flat if they can get 
in amongst us. This is where we get it in the neck 
if we can*t stop *em before they step into this 
trench. It looks ugly. Pug. Wonder why they 
don*t give the order to fire.** 

**I*ve never bayoneted a *Un yet,** said Pug, 



THE COUNTER ATTACK 157 

''but mebbe 1^11 get a chawnce this time/* He 
peered out into the smoke. *^Can you see if 
theyVe got 'elmets on, Kentuck?*' he said anx- 
iously. **I'm fair set on one o' them ^ehnets.*' 
To Kentucky and Pug, and probably to most 
of the rest of the Stonewalls* rank and file, the 
German counter-attack boiled down into a mere 
matter of the rapid firing of a very hot rifle into 
a dense bank of smoke and a dimly seen mass of 
men. Each man shot straight to his front, and 
took no concern with what might be happening 
to right or left of that front. In the beginning 
the word had been passed to set the sights at point 
blank and fire low, so that there was no need at 
any time to bother about altering ranges, and the 
men could devote the whole of their attention to 
rapid loading and firing. So each simply shot and 
shot and went on shooting at full speed, glancing 
over the sights and squeezing the trigger, jerking 
the bolt back and up, and pulling trigger again 
till the magazine was empty; then, throwing the 
butt down to cram a fresh clip of cartridges into 
the breech, swinging it up and in again to the 
shoulder, resuming the rapid shoot-and-load, 
shoot-aujd-load until the magazine was empty 
again. Each man was an automatic machine. 



158 GRAPES OF WEATH 

pumping out so many bullets in so many seconds, 
and just because long drill and training had all 
gone to make the aiming and shooting mechani- 
cally correct and smooth and rapid it was me- 
chanically deadly in its effect. And because the 
motions of shooting were so entirely mechanical 
they left the mind free to wander to other and, 
in many cases, ridiculously trivial things. Ken- 
tucky began to fear that his stock of cartridges 
would not last out, began vaguely to worry over 
the possibiUty of having to cease shooting even 
for a minute, until he could obtain a fresh sup- 
ply. Pug was fiUed with an intense irritation 
over the behavior of his rifle, which in some mys- 
terious fashion developed a defect in the loading 
of the last cartridge from each clip. The car- 
tridge, for some reason, did not slide smoothly 
into the chamber, and the bolt had to be with- 
drawn an inch and slammed shut again each time 
the last cartridge came up. Probably the extra 
motion did not delay Pug^s shooting by one sec- 
ond in each clip, but he was as annoyed over it 
as if it had reduced his rate by half. He cursed 
his rifle and its parts, breech, bolt, and magazine 
severally and distinctly, the cartridges and the 
clips, the men and the machinery who had made 



THE COUNTER ATTACK 159 

each ; but at no time did he check the speed of his 
shooting to curse. * * What *s the matter f ' ' shouted 
Kentucky at last. **This Masted rifle, '* yelled 
Pug angrily, jerking at the bolt and slamming it 
home again, '* keeps stickin* all the time.'* Ken- 
tucky had some half-formed idea of saying that it 
was no good trying to shoot with a sticking rifle, 
and suggesting that Pug should go look for an- 
other, handing over meantime any cartridges he 
had left to replenish his, Kentucky's, diminishing 
store ; but just then two men came pushing along 
the trench carrying a box of ammunition and 
throwing out a double handful of cartridges to 
each man. Kentucky grabbed. **0h, good man,'' 
he said joyfully; *'but say, can't you give us a 
few more f ' ' 

Pug glanced round at the heap flung at his 
elbow. ^*Wha's th' good o' themf " he snapped. 
**F'r Gawd' sake rather gimme a rifle that'll 
shoot. ' ' 

*'Eifle!" said one of the men; ^ there's plenty 
spare rifles about"; and he stooped and picked 
one from the trench bottom, dropped it beside 
Pug, and pushed on. Pug emptied his magazine, 
dropped his rifle, snatched up the other one, and 
resumed shooting. But he was swearing again 



160 GRAPES OF WEATH 

before he had fired off the one clip, and that done, 
flung the rifle from him and grabbed his own. 
** Rotten thing, *^ he growled. ''It don^t fit, don't 
set to a man's shoulder; an' it kicks like a crazy 
mule. ' ' 

Both he and Kentuc^ had jerked out their 
sentences between shots, delaying their shooting 
no fraction of a second. It was only, and even 
then reluctantly, when there was no longer a visi- 
ble target before their sights that they slowed up 
and stopped. And then both stayed still, with 
rifles pointing over the parapet, peering into the 
smoke ahead. Kentucky drew a long breath. 
* ' They Ve quit ; and small blame to theuL ' ' 

**Got a bit more'n they bargained for, that 
time, ' ' said Pug exultantly, and then * ' Ouch I ' ' in 
a sharp exclamation of pain. ''What's the mat- 
ter!" said Kentucky. "You feeling that arm?" 
"No, no," said Pug hastily, "just my elbow 
feelin' a bit cramped an' stiffish wi' leanin' on it." 

The rifle fire was slackening and dying along 
the line, but the shells still whooped and rushed 
overhead and burst flaming and rolling out balls 
of white smoke over the ground in front. "Wish 
them guns 'd knock orf a bit till we see what sorter 
damage we've done," said Pug. But along to the 



THE COUNTER ATTACK 161 

right with a roUing crash the rifles burst out into 
full blast again. **Look out/* said Kentucky 
quickly, **here they come again/* and he tossed 
muzzle over the parapet and commenced to pump 
bullets at the gray bulk that had become visible 
looming through the smoke clouds again. He was 
filled with eagerness to make the most of each 
second, to get off the utmost possible number of 
rounds, to score the most possible hits. He had 
just the same feeling, only much more intensified, 
that a man has at the butts when the birds are 
coming over fast and free. Indeed, the feeling 
was so nearly akin to that, the whole thing was 
so like shooting into driven and helpless game, 
the idea was so strong that the Germans were 
there as a target to be shot at, and he there as a 
shooter, that it gave him a momentary shock of 
utter astonishment when a bullet hit the parapet 
close to him and threw a spurt of mud in his face, 
and almost at the same instant another hit glano- 
ing on the top of his helmet, jolting it back on his 
head and spinning it round until the chin-strap 
stopped it with an unpleasant jerk on his throat. 
He realized suddenly, what for the moment he had 
completely forgotten, that he was being shot at 
as well as shooting, that he was as liable to be 



162 GRAPES OF WEATH 

killed as one of those men ont there he was pelting 
bullets into. Actually, of course, his risk was not 
one-tenth of the attackers'. He was in cover and 
the men advancing against the trench were doing 
little shooting as they came. They on the other 
hand were in the open, exposed full length and 
height, were in a solid mass through and into 
which the sleeting bullets drove and poured in a 
continuous stream. Machine-gun and rifle fire 
beat fiercely upon its face, while from above a 
deluge of high-explosive shells and tearing gusts 
of shrapnel fell upon it, rending and shattering 
and destroying. And in spite of the tempest of 
fire which smote it the mass still advanced. It 
was cut down almost as fast as it could come on, 
but yet not quite as fast, and the men in the 
trencdi could see the front line constantly break- 
ing and melting away, with ragged, shifting gaps 
opening and closing quickly along its length, with 
huge mouthfuls torn out of it by the devouring 
shells, with whole slices and wedges cut away by 
the scything bullets, but still filling in the gaps, 
closing up the broken ranks, pressing doggedly 
and desperately on and in on their destroyers. 

But at last the attack broke down. It had cov- 
ered perhaps a hundred yards, at an appalling 



THE COUNTER ATTACK 163 

cost of lives, when it checked, gave slowly, and 
then broke and vanished. Most of the men left 
on their feet turned and ran heavily, but there 
were still some who walked, and still others who 
even then either refused to yield the ground they 
had taken or preferred the chance of shelter and 
safety a prone position offered rather than the 
heavy risk of being cut down by the bullets as 
they retreated. These men dropped into shell 
holes and craters, behind the heaps of dead, flat 
on the bare ground; and there some of them lay 
motionless, and a few, a very few, others thrust 
out their rifles and dared to shoot. 

A heavy shell screamed over and burst just 
behind the Stonewalls' trencn. Another and an- 
other followed in quick succession, and then, as 
if this had been a signal to the German guns, 
a tornado of shells swept roaring down upon the 
British line. It was the heaviest and most de- 
structive fire the Stonewalls had yet been called 
upon to face. The shells were of every weight and 
description. The coming of each of the huge 
high explosives was heralded by a most appalling 
and nerve-shaMng, long-drawn, rising torrent of 
noise that for the moment drowned out all the 
other noises of battle, and was only exceeded in 



164 GRAPES OF WEATH 

its terror-inspiring volnme by the rending, bel- 
lowing crash of its burst; their lesser brethren, 
the 5-in. and 6-in. H.E., were small by compari- 
son, but against that their numbers were far 
g^reater, and they fell in one long pitiless succes- 
sion of hammer-blows up and down the whole 
length of trench, filling the air with dirty black 
foul-smelling smoke and the sinister, vicious, and 
ugly sounding drone and whurr and whistle of 
flying splinters; and in still larger numbers the 
lighter shells, the shrapnel and H.E. of the field 
guns, the ^^Whizz-Bangs'* and ** Pip-Squeaks," 
swept the trench with a regular fusillade of their 
savage *' rush-crash'' explosions. The air grew 
dense and choking with the billowing clouds of 
smoke that curled and drifted about the trench, 
thickened and darkened until the men could 
hardly see a dozen yards from them. 

Pug, crouched low in the bottom of the trench 
beside Kentucky, coughed and spluttered, ** Bad's 
a real old Lunnon Partickler," he said, and spat 
vigorously. 

An officer, followed by three men, crawled along 
the trench towards them. **Here you are, Cor- 
poral," said the officer, halting and looking over 
his shoulder ; ^ * this will do for you two. Get over 



THE COUNTER ATTACK 165 

here and ont about fifty yards. Come on, the 
other man. We'll go over a bit further along/' 
and he crawled off, followed by the one man. 

**Wot's the game, Corp'rilf asked Pug, as 
the two began to creep over the top of the para- 
pet. **List'nin' post,'' said the Corporal briefly. 
^*Goin' to lie out there a bit, in case they makes a 
rush through the smoke," and he and his compan- 
ion vanished squirming over the shell-torn ground 
in front 

A few minutes later another couple of men 
crawled along and huddled down beside Pug. 
** Crump blew the trench in on some o' us along 
there," said one. *' Buried a couple an' sent Jim 
an' me flyin'. Couldn't get the other two out 
neither. Could we, Jim!" Jim only shook his 
head. He had a slight cut over one eye, from 
which at intervals he mechanically wiped the blood 
with a shaking hand. 

* * Trench along there is a fair wreck, ' ' went on 
the other, then stopped and held his breath at the 
harsh rising roar that told of another heavy shell 
approaching. The four men flattened themselves 
to earth until the shell struck with a heavy jarring 
THUMP that set the ground quivering. **Dud," 
said two or three of them simultaneously, and 



166 GRAPES OF WEATH 

** Thank God,'* said Kentucky, ^Hhe burst would 
liave sure got us that time/' 

*^Wot*s that they're shoutin* along there f 
said Pug anxiously. ^ * Strewth ! ' * and he gasped 
a deep breath and grabbed hurriedly for the bag 
slung at his side. **Gas . . . * Helmets on/ 
they're shoutin'.'' 

Through the acrid odors of the explosives' 
fumes Kentucky caught a faint whiff of a heavy, 
sickly, sweet scent. Instantly he stopped breath- 
ing and, with the other three, hastily wrenched 
out the flannel helmet slung in its special bag by 
his side, pulled it over his head, and, clutching 
its folds tightly round his throat with one hand, 
tore open his jacket collar, stuffed the lower edge 
of the flannel inside his jacket and buttoned it up 
again. All four finished the oft-drilled operation 
at the same moment, lay perfectly quiet, inhaling 
the pungent odor of the impregnated flannel, and 
peering upward through the eye-pieces for any 
visible sign of the gas. 

They waited there without moving for another 
five minutes, with the shells still pounding and 
crashing and hammering down all round them. 
Pug leaned over and put his muflled mouth close 
to Kentucky's ear: *^They got a dead set on us 



THE COUNTEE ATTACK 167 

here," he shouted. ^* Looks like our miinber was 
up this time, an 's if they meant to blow this trench 
to blazes/' 

Kentucky nodded his cowled head. It did look 
as if the German gunners were determined to com- 
pletely obliterate that portion of the trench, but 
meantime — ^it was very ridiculous, of course, but 
there it was — ^his mind was completely filled with 
vague gropings in his memory to recall what per- 
fume it was that the scent of the gas reminded 
him of. He puzzled over it, recalling scent after 
scent in vain, sure that he was perfectly familiar 
with it, and yet unable to place it. It was most 
intensely and stupidly irritating. 

The shell fire worked up to a pitch of the most 
ferocious intensity. None actually hit the portion 
of trench the four were in, but several came dan- 
gerously dose in front, behind, and to either side 
of them. The wall began to crumble and shake 
down in wet clods and crumblings, and at the 
burst of one shell close out in front, a large piece 
broke off the front edge and fell in, followed by 
a miniature landslide of falling earth. The trench 
appeared to be on the point of collapsing and 
falling in on them. 



168 GRAPES OF WRATH 

*^We gotter move out o* this!*^ shouted Pug, 
*'else we ^11 be buried alive/* 

*^ What's the good of . . . don't believe there's 
any one left but us . . • better get out of it," said 
the man Jim. His voice was muffled and indis- 
tinct inside his helmet, but although the others 
only caught fragments of his sentences his mean- 
ing was plain enough. The four looked at each 
other, quite uselessly, for the cowl-like helmets 
masked all expression and the eyes behind the 
celluloid panes told nothing. But instinctively they 
looked from one to the other, poking and twisting 
their heads to bring one another within the vision 
range of the eye-pieces, so that they looked 
like some strange ghoidish prehistoric monsters 
half -blind and wholly horrible. Jim's companion 
mumbled something the others could not hear, and 
nodded his shapeless head slightly. His vote was 
for retirement, for although it had not been 
spoken, retirement was the word in question in the 
minds of all. Kentucky said nothing. True, it 
appeared that to stay there meant destruction; 
it appeared, too, that the Stonewalls as a fight- 
ing force must already be destroyed . . . and 
. . . and ... violets I was it the scent of violets! 
No, not violets ; but some flower . . . 



THE COUNTER ATTACK 169 

Pug broke in. ^* There's no orders to retire/' 
he said. * * There 's no orders to retire, ' ' and poked 
and turned his head, peering at one after the other* 
of them. '*We cam't retire when there ain't no 
orders," waggling his pantomimic head trium- 
phantly as if he had completely settled the matter. 
But their portion of trench continued to cave in 
alarmingly. A monster shell falling close out 
on their right front completed the destruction. 
The trench wall shivered, slid, caught and held, 
slid again, and its face crumbled and fell in. The 
four saw it giving and scrambled clear. They 
were almost on the upper ground level now, but 
the hurried glances they threw round showed 
nothing bat L chnmed np gronnd. the drifting 
curling smoke-wreaths, tinted black and green and 
yeUow and dirty wHte, torn whirling asunder 
every few moments by the fresh shell bursts which 
intnrnponr«iontmorebinowingdond,. No man 
of the Stonewalls, no man at all, coiQd be seen, 
and the four were smitten with a sudden sense of 
loneliness, of being left abandoned in this end- 
of-the-world inferno. Then the man Jim noticed 
something and pointed. Dimly through the smoke 
to their left they saw one man running half 
doubled up, another so stooped that he almost 



170 GRAPES OF WEATH 

crawled. Both wore kilts, and both moved for- 
ward. In an instant they disappeared, but the 
sight of them brought new life and vigor to the 
four. 

**The Jocks that was on our left,** shouted 
Pug, **gettin* outer the trench into shell-holes. 
Good enough, too. Come on.'* 

They did not have far to seek for a shell-hole. 
The ground was covered with them, the cirde of 
one in many cases cutting the circle of the next. 
There were many nearer available, but Pug 
sheered to his left and ran for the place he had 
seen the two Highlanders disappear, and the 
others followed. There were plenty of bullets fly- 
ing, but in the noise of shell-fire the sound of their 
passing was drowned, except the sharp, angry hiss 
of the nearer ones and the loud smacks of those 
that struck the ground about them. 

They had less than a dozen yards to cover, but 
in that short space two of them went down. Jim's 
companion was struck by a shell splinter and 
killed instantly. Pug, conscious only of a violent 
blow on the side, fell, rolling from the force of the 
stroke. But he was up and running on before 
Kentucky had well noticed him fall, and when 
they reached the shell-hole and tumbled into it 



THE COUNTEE ATTACK 171 

almost on top of the two Highlanders there, Pug, 
cautiously feeling round his side, discovered his 
haversack slashed and torn, its contents broken 
and smashed flat. **Fust time IVe been glad o* a 
tin o ' bully, ' * he shouted, exhibiting a flattened tin 
of preserved meat. **But I s'pose it was the bis- 
cuits that was really the shell-proof bit.*' 

**Are you hurt at all!'* said Kentucky. **Not 
a ha'porth,'* said Pug. **Your pal was outed 
though, wasn't 'e, chum!*' 

The other man nodded. *S . . cross the neck 
. . . *is 'eadtoo . • . as a stone. . . .'* 

*^ You're no needin' them,'' said one of the 
Highlanders suddenly. *^It's only tear-shells — no 
the real gas." 

The others noticed then that they were wearing 
the huge goggles that protect the eyes from 
*^tear," or lachrymatory shells, and the three 
Stonewalls exchanged their own helmets for the 
glasses with huge relief. 

^*What lot are you!" said one of the Scots. 
**0h, ay; you're along on oor right, aren't ye!" 

**We was," said Pug; *^but I 'aven't seen one 
o' ours since this last shell strafin' began. I'm 
wondering if there 's any left but us three. Looks 
like our trench was blotted out." 



172 GRAPES OF WRATH 

But on that he was corrected swiftly and dra- 
matically. The pouring shells ceased suddenly to 
crash over and about them, continued only to rush, 
shrieking and yelling, high above their heads. At 
the same moment a figure appeared suddenly from 
the ground a little in front of them, and came 
running back. He was passing their shelter when 
Kentucky recognized him as the officer who earlier 
had moved along the trench to go out in front and 
establish a listening post. He caught sight of the 
little group at the same moment, swerved, and ran 
in to them. * * Look out, ' ' he said ; * * another attack 
coming. You Stonewalls! Where's our trench! 
Further back, isn *t it f 

** What's left of it, sir,'' said Kentudiy. 
** Mighty near blotted out, though.". 

* * Open fire, ' ' said the officer. * * Straight to your 
front. You'll see 'em in a nmiute. I must try'n 
find the others." 

But evidently the word of warning had reached 
the others, for a sharp crackle of rifle fire broke 
out along to the right, came rattling down towards 
them in uneven and spasmodic bursts. The men 
in the sheU-hole lined its edge and opened fire, 
while the officer trotted on. A dozen paces away 
he crumpled and fell suddenly, and lay still. In 



THE COUNTEE ATTACK 173 

the shell-liole they were too busy to notice his fall, 
but from somewhere further back, out of the 
smoke-oozing, broken ground, a couple of figures 
emerged at the double, halted by the limp figure, 
lifted and carried it back. 

** There's still some of us left,*' said Pug, cheer- 
fully, as they heard the jerky rifle fire steady down 
and commence to beat out in the long roll of in- 
dependent rapid fire. 

**Not too many, though,'' said Kentucky anx- 
iously. **And it took us all our time to stand 'em 
off before, ' ' he added significantly. He turned to 
the two Highlanders, who were firing coolly and 
methodically into the thinning smoke. * * Can you 
see 'em yetf " 

**No," said one, without turning his head; **but 
we've plenty cairtridges ... an' a bullet gangs 
straight enough withoot seein '. ' ' And he and the 
other continued to fire steadily. 

Then suddenly a puff of wind thinned and lifted 
the smoke cloud, and at the same instant all saw 
again that grim gray wall rolling down upon them. 
The five rifles in the pit crashed together, the bolts 
clicked back, and the brass cartridge-cases winked 
out and fell ; and before they had ceased to roll 
where they dropped the five rifles were banging 



174 GRAPES OF WEATH 

again, and the five men were plying bolt and trig- 
ger for dear life. Behind them and to the right 
and left other rifles were drumming and roaring 
out a furious fire, and through their noise rose the 
sharp tat-tat-tat-tat of the machine guns. The 
British artillery, too, had evidently seen their tar- 
get, the observers had passed back the corrections 
of range and rapid sequence of orders, and the 
bellowing guns began to rake and batter the ad- 
vancing mass. 

But this time they had an undue share of the 
work to do. For all the volume and rapidity of 
the infantry fire, it was quickly plain that its 
weight was not nearly as great as before, that the 
intense preparatory bombardment had taken 
heavy toll of the defenders, that this time the at- 
tack had nothing like the numbers to overcome 
that it had met and been broken by before. Again 
the advancing line shredded and thinned as be- 
fore under the rifle and shell fire, but this time 
the gaps were quicker filled ; the whole line came 
on at greater speed. In the pit the five men shot 
with desperate haste, but Kentucky at least felt 
that their effort was too weak, that presently the 
advancing tide must reach and overwhelm them. 
Although other shell-holes to right and left were 



THE COUNTER ATTACK 175 

occupied as theirs was they were slightly in ad- 
vance of the ragged line, and must be the first to 
be caught. There was nothing left thein appar- 
ently but to die fighting. But if the others saw 
this they gave no sign of it— continued merely to 
fire their fastest. 

One of the Highlanders exclaimed suddenly, 
half rose, and dropped again to his knees. The 
blood was welling from a wound in his throat, but 
as his body sagged sideways he caught himself 
with a visible effort, and his hands, which had 
never loosed their grip on the rifle, fumbled at the 
breech a moment, and slipped in a fresh clip of 
cartridges. He gulped heavily, spat out a great 
mouthful of frothy blood, spoke thidkly and in 
gasps, * * Hey, Mao . • . tak' her, for . . . the last. 
The magazine's full ..." And he thrust out the 
rifle to the other Soot with a last effort, lurched 
sideways, and slid gently down in the bottom of 
the pit. The other man caught the rifle quickly, 
placed it by his side, and resumed firing. The 
others never ceased for a moment to load and fire 
at top speed. Plainly there was no time to attend 
to the dead or wounded when they themselves were 
visibly near the end the other had met. 

The German line was coming in under the guard 



176 GRAPES OF WEATH 

of the shells that the gunners dared not drop 
closer for fear of hitting their own line. The rifles 
were too few to hold back the weight of men that 
were coming in now in a scattered rush. 

Pug cursed wrathfully. ^*I do believe the 
blighters is goin' to get in on us,*^ he said ; and by 
his tone one might suppose he had only just re- 
alized the possibility; was divided between as- 
tonishment and anger at it. Kentucky, who had 
looked on the possibility as a certainty for some 
little time back, continued to pick a man of the ad- 
vancing line, snap-shoot hurriedly at him, load 
and pick another target. And away somewhere 
in the back of his mind his thoughts worked aud 
worried at the old, irritating puzzle — ** Lilies, no; 
but something like them . . . heavy, sweetish . . . 
not lilies . . . what other flower, now . . .**; Jim, 
the third Stonewall, glanced back over his shoul- 
der. **Why can^t them fellows back there shoot 
a bit quicker!** he said irritably. **They*ll have 
this lot a-top o* us if they don*t look out.** Ken- 
tucky, his fingers slipping in a fresh cartridge-clip, 
his eye singling out a fresh mark, was slightly 
amused to notice that this man, too, seemed sur- 
prised by the possibility of the Germans breaMng 
through their fire; and all the while **. . . lilac, 



THE COUNTEE ATTACK 177 

stocks, honeysuckle, hyacinth . . . hyacinth, hya- 
cinth, no ... '^; the Scot lifted the dead man's 
rifle and put it on the ledge at his right elbow. 

**Strewth,** said Pug, with confident cheerful- 
ness. *^ Won't our chaps make them 'Uns squeal 
when they gets close enough for the baynit!'' 

The shells continued to rush and scream over- 
head, and burst in and over the mass of the at- 
tackers. But the front line was well in under this 
defense now, scrambling and struggling over the 
broken ground. The nearest groups were within 
thirty to forty yards. 

They were near enough now for the bombers 
to come into play, and from the scattered shell- 
holes along the British line little black objects be* 
gan to whiri and soar out into the air, and the 
sharp crashes of the exploding Mills' grenades 
rose rapidly into a constant shattering series that 
over-ran and drowned out the rolling rifle fire. 
The ground out in front belched quick spurts of 
flame and smoke, boiled up anew in another 
devil's cauldron of destruction. 

The advancing Germans were for the moment 
hidden again behind the swirling smoke bank, 
but now they too were using their bombs, and the 
stick-grenades came sailing out of the smoke; 



178 GRAPES OF WRATH 

curving over, bombing down and rolling or bucket- 
ing end over end to burst about the British line. 
One fell fairly in the shell-crater beside Kentucky, 
and he had only bare time to grab at it, snatch it 
up and fling it clear before it burst. And yet, 
even as he snatched half expecting the thing to 
go off in his hand, his mind was still running on 
the memory quest after the elusive name of that 
scent he had forgotten. 

The German line emerged from the smoke, rag- 
gedly but yet solidly enough to overwhelm the 
weakened defense. Plainly this was the end. 

** Roses, *^ said Kentucky, suddenly and trium- 
phantly. * * Roses — ^tuberoses. That 's it exactly. * ' 



CHAPTEE XI 



FOBWABD OBSEBVING 



Among the stock situations of the melodrama, one 
of the most worked to death is that of the be- 
leaguered garrison at the last gasp, and the thrill- 
ing arrival of the rescuing force at the critical 
moment. It is so old and threadbare now that 
probably no theater would dare stage it; but in 
the war the same situation has been played again 
and again in the swaying and straining lines of 
battle in every variety of large and small scale. 
What the theater has rejected as too theatrical, 
the artificial as too artificial, the real has accepted 
as so much a conunonplace that it is hardly re- 
marked. Actually the battle line is one long series 
of critical situations on one side or the other, the 
timely arrival, or failure to arrive, of assistance 
at the critical moment. The great difference is 
that in the theater the rescue never fails to arrive, 
in war it often does. 
Certainly the Stonewalls were as near the last 

179 



180 GRAPES OF WRATH 

gasp as ever dramatist would dare bring Ms 
crisis ; but when their rescue came they were too 
busy helping it, too busy pushing the Germans 
back into what they hoped would be a similar un- 
pleasant situation (without the timely rescue) to 
bother about it being a ** dramatic situation*^ 
at all. 

The Scot and the three Stonewalls shooting 
from the shell crater a little in front of the thin 
and scattered line were close enough to the front 
groups of the advancing German Une to distin- 
guish the features of the men^s faces,, when they 
were suddenly aware that the groups were going 
down : were vanishing from before their eyes, that 
the charging line came no nearer, that its front, 
if anything, receded. The front lines were being 
cut down now faster than they could advance, 
and the lines which fell dropped out of the low 
vision line of the defenders, and were hidden in 
the low-hanging smoke haze and in the welter of 
shell-pits, furrows, and heaps of earth over which 
the advance moved. The sound of the rifle fire 
swelled suddenly and heavily; the air grew vi- 
brant with the hiss and zipp of bullets. 

The four in the shell pit continued to give all 
their attention to rapid shooting until the sound 



FORWARD OBSERVING 181 

of running footsteps and shouting voices made 
them turn. All along the line to right and left of 
them they could see figures running forward in 
short rushes, halting to fire, running on again, 
dropping into holes and opening a rapid fire from 
their cover. Into the pit beside the four tiunbled 
three men one after another, panting and blowing, 
but shouting and laughing. ** Cheer oh, mates/' 
calleid one. "Give us a bit o' room on the front 
edge there, will you!** Each of the three carried 
some burden. They clustered closely together a 
moment, but with a delay of no more than seconds 
stood up and began to hoist into position on the 
pit's edge a light machine gun. "Let *er rip, 
Bill,'* said one, who wore the tunic of an officer; 
and Bill, crouching behind his gun, started to "let 
*er rip" in a stream of fire jets and clattering re- 
ports. 

"You boys were pretty near the limit, eh!" 
said the officer. * * Mighty near, * * said Kentucky ; 
"you just sat into the game in time to stop *em 
scooping the pool, sir. * ' 

"Hey, Chick, get a move on wi' that loadin* 
there," said Bill; "you're hardly keepin' the ol' 
coffee mill grindin'." 

"You're Anzacs, ain't you!" said Pug, noticing 



182 GRAPES OF WEATH 

the shirt-tunic the oflScer wore. Bill was bare- 
headed ; Chick wore a metal helmet crammed down 
on top of his slouch hat. 

*^ That's what,*' said Chick, feverishly busy 
with his loading. **What crowd are youT' 

*' Fifth Sixth Stonewalls,'' said Pug. 

** You was damn near bein' First 'n' Last Stone- 
colds this trip, ' ' said Chick. * * Good job we buzzed 
in on you.*' 

A few yards away another machine gun, peer- 
ing over the edge of a shell crater, broke out in 
frantic chattering reports. 

*^ That's Bennet's gun, I expect,'' said the offi- 
cer; *^I'll just slide over and see how he goes. 
Keep her boiling here, and mind you don't move 
out of this till you get the word." 

Chick nodded. **Eight-oh!" he said, and the 
officer climbed out of the hole and ran off. 

For another minute or two the machine gun 
continued to spit its stream of bullets. ** They 're 
breaking again," said Kentucky suddenly; *^my 
Lord, look how the guns are smashing them. ' ' 

The attack broke and fell back rapidly, with the 
running figures stumbUng and falling in clusters 
under the streaming bullets and hailing shrapnel. 
In less than half a minute the last running man 



FORWAED OBSEEVING 183 

had disappeared, the ground was bare of moving 
figures, but piled with dead and with those too 
badly wounded to crawl into cover. 

** First round to us,*' said Bill cheerfully, and 
cut off the fire of his gun. **An* last move to a 
good many o * them blokes out there, ' ' said Chick ; 
' * they fairly got it in the neck that time. I haven 't 
seen such a bon^r target to strafe since we was in 
GaUpoli.** 

* * Is there many o * you chaps here f ' * said Pug. 
^*Dunno rightly,*' said Chick, producing a packet 
of cigarettes. * * 'Bout time for a smoke-oh, ain 't 
it, Billf" 

*^I'm too blame dry to smoke," said Bill. 
** Wonder wot we're waitin' 'ere for now. D'you 
think the other battalions is upf " 

* * Have you heard anything about how the show 
is going!" said Kentucky. 

^*Good-oh, tiiey tell us," said Chick. *^We saw 
a big bunch o' prisoners back there a piece, an' 
we hear there's two or three villages taken. We 
came up here to take some other village just in 
front here. I s'pose they'll loose us on it pres- 
ently." 

There was a short lull in the gunfire, and the 
noisy passage of the shells overhead slowed down. 



i 



184 GRAPES OF WRATH 

A shout was heard: ** Close in on your right, 
Stonewalls. Rally along to the right/' 

**Hear that!*' said Pug, *Hhere is some Stone- 
walls left, then. Blimey, if I wasn't beginnin' to 
think we was the sole survivors." 

**We'd best move along," said Kentucky, and 
the three made ready. **Well, so long, mates," 
said Chick, and **See you in Berlin — or the nex' 
world," said Bill lightly. 

**Tio your right, Stonewalls; close to your 
right, ' ' came the shout again, and the three clam- 
bered out of their hole and doubled in across the 
torn ground to their right. There were other men 
doing the same, stooped low, and taking advan- 
tage of any cover they found, and gradually the 
remains of the battalion gathered loosely together, 
in and about the remains of the old trench. Pug 
and Kentucky anxiously questioned every man 
they met as to whether they had seen anything of 
Larry Arundel, but could get no tidings of him. 
The battalion was rapidly if roughly sorted out 
into its groups of companies, and when this was 
done and there were no signs of Larry, little could 
be concluded but that he had been killed or 
wounded. **He'd sure have been looking for us," 
said Kentucky; '^I'm afraid he's a wash-out. 



9J 



FOEWAED OBSERVING 185 

** Looks like it,*' said Pug sadly. **But mebbe 
he's only wounded. Let's hope it's a cushy one." 

The guns were opening behind them again, and 
bombarding with the utmost violence a stretch of 
the ground some little distance in front. **It's a 
village we're to take," one of the sergeants told 
them. **That was our objective when the German 
counter-attack stopped us. We were to attack, 
with the Anzacs in support. Suppose we're going 
on with the original program; but we're pretty 
weak to tackle the job now. Hope the Jocks on 
the left didn't get it too bad." 

* * Should think we was due for a bit of an ease- 
oflf , ' ' said Pug. * * It 's long past my usual desh-oo- 
nay time as it is." 

An officer moved along the line. **Now, boys, 
get ready," he said, **the next bit's the last. Our 
turn's over when we take this village. Make a 
quick job of it." 

In front of them the ground was shrouded again 
with drifting smoke, and out beyond the broken 
ground and the remains of a shattered parapet 
they could see the flashing fires and belching 
smoke clouds of the shells that continued to pour 
over and down. In a minute or two the fire lifted 
back from the belt where it had been thundering, 



186 GEAPES OF WEATH 

and at that the Stonewalls, with the Highlanders 
to one side and another regiment to the other, 
rose and began to advance. From their front there 
came little opposition, bnt from somewhere ont on 
the flank a rain of machine-gun bullets swept driv- 
ing down upon them. The Stonewalls pushed on 
doggedly. It was heavy going, for the ground 
was torn and plowed up in innumerable furrows 
and pits and holes and ridges, laced with clutch- 
ing fragments of barbed-wire, greasy and slippery 
with thick mud. The Stonewalls went on slowly 
but surely, but on their right the other regiment, 
which had perhaps caught the heavier blast of fire, 
checked a little, struggled on again gamely, with 
men falling at every step, halted, and hastily 
sought cover amongst the shell holes. The Stone- 
walls persisted a little longer and went a little fur- 
ther, but the fire grew fiercer and faster, and pres- 
ently they too, with the Highlanders on their left, 
flung down pantingly into such cover as they could 
find. 

Kentucky and Pug had struggled along to- 
gether, and sought shelter from the storming bul- 
lets in the same deep shell hole. Three minutes 
later an officer crawled over the edge and tumbled 
in after them. He was wounded, the blood 



FOEWAED OBSEEVING 187 

streaming from a broken hand^ a torn thigh^ and 
a bnllet wound in the ned^. 

**One of you will have to go back,*' he said 
faintly; "I can't go further. You, Lee,*' and he 
nodded at Kentucky; **d'you think you can take a 
message through to the gunners f 

**Why, sure,'' said Kentucky, promptly. 
** Leastways, I can try." 

So the officer crawled to the edge of the pit 
and pointed to where, amongst some scattered 
mounds of earth, they had located the nest of ma- 
chine guns. Then he pointed the direction Ken- 
tucky must take to find the Forward Observing 
Officer of Artillery. ** About a hundred yards be- 
hind that last trench we were in, ' ' said the officer. 
* * Look, you can see a broken bit of gray wall. Get 
back to there if you can, and tell the officer where 
these machine guns are. Tell him they're holding 
us up and the CO. wants him to turn every gun 
he can on there and smash them up. Take all the 
cover you can. You can see it's urgent we get the 
message through, and I don't know where any of 
the regular runners are." 

**Eight, sir," said Kentucky; /^I'U get it 
through." He nodded to Pug, ^^S'long, Pug," and 
Pug nodded back, **So long, Kentuck. Goo' 



188 GEAPES OF WEATH 

lucf Kentucky scrambled from the hole and 
went off, crouching and dodging and running. No 
other man was showing above ground, and as he 
ran he felt most horribly lonely and appallingly 
exposed. He took what cover he could, but had 
to show himself above ground most of the time, 
because he gained little in safety and lost much 
in time by jumping in and out of the shell holes. 
So he skirted the larger ones and ran on, and came 
presently to the line of Anzacs waiting to support. 
He hardly waited to answer the eager questions 
they threw him, but hurried on, crossed the 
ruined fragments of the old trench, found pres- 
ently a twisted shallow gully that appeared to ruh 
in the direction he wanted, ducked into it> and 
pushed on till he came almost abreast of the gray 
wall. He had to cross the open again to come to 
it, and now, with a hazy idea that it would be a 
pity to fail now, took infinite precautions to crawl 
and squirm from hole to hole, and keep every scrap 
of cover he could. He reached the wall at last 
and crept round it, exulting in his success. He 
looked round for the officer — ^and saw no one. A 
shock of amazement, of dismay, struck him like a 
blow. He had struggled on with the one fixed 
idea so firmly in his mind, looking on the gray wall 



FORWARD OBSERVING 189 

so definitely as his goal, measuring the distance to 
it, counting the chances of reaching it, thioking no 
further than it and the deUvery of his message 
there, that for a moment he felt as lost, as helpless 
as if the sun had vanished at noon. He was just 
recovering enough to be beginning to curse his 
luck and wonder where he was to look f 6r the lost 
officer when a loud voice made him jump. * * Sec- 
tion fire ten seconds, ' ' it said, and a moment later 
a hollow and muffled voice repeated tonelessly: 
** Section fire ten seconds.'' Kentucky looked 
round him. A dead man sprawled over the edge 
of a shell hole, a boot and leg protruded from be- 
hind some broken rubble, but no living man was in 
sight, although the voices had sounded almost el- 
bow close. 

** Hullo," said Kentucky loudly. ** Artillery. 
Where are you, sirf 

* * Hullo, ' ' answered the voice. * * Who is there t ' ' 
and from a tumbled pile of sandbags at the end 
of the broken wall a head was cautiously raised. 
"Do you want me? Keep down out of sight. I 
don't want this place spotted." 

Kentucky was creeping carefully towards him 
when a sepulchral voice from underground some- 



190 GRAPES OF WRATH 

where made him jmnp. * * Beg pardon, sir. Didn 't 
catch that last order, sir.'' 

**A11 right, Ridley,'' said the oflScer. *^I was 
talking to some one up here"; and to Kentucky, 
^^Whatisitl" 

Kentucky gave his message briefly. *^ Right," 
said the officer, pulling out a soiled map. * * Come 
along beside me here,' and see if you can point the 
spot from here. Careful now. Keep down. If 
they spot this for an Oh Pip^ they'll shell us oflf 
the earth." 

The officer was a young man, although under the 
mask of dirt and mud splashes and unshaven chin 
he might have been any age. He was sprawled 
against a broken-down breastwork of f aUen bricks 
and timber, with a rough strengthening and but- 
tressing of sandbags, and an irregular shaped 
opening opposite his head to look out from. Ken- 
tucky sidled to the opening and looked long and 
carefully for landmarks on the smoke-clouded 
ground before him. He found the task difficult, 
because here he was on slightly higher ground, 
from which the aspect appeared utterly diflFerent 
to the little he had seen of it from below. But at 
lasit he was able to trace more or less the points 

*0.P. Observation Post 



FOEWAED OBSEEVING 191 

over which he had passed, to see some of the An- 
zacs crouching in their cover and moving cau- 
tiously about behind it, and from that to locate the 
Stonewalls ^ position and the rough earth heaps — 
which now he could see formed part of an irregu- 
lar line of trench — ^where the machine-guns were 
supposed to be. He pointed the place out to the 
officer, who looked carefully through his glasses, 
consulted his map, looked out again. 

** Likely enough spot,'^ he commented. **It's 
been well strafed with shell fire already, but I 
suppose they have their guns down in deep dug- 
outs there. Anyhow, we '11 give 'em another going 
over. Eidley I ' ' 

* ^ Sir, * ' answered the voice from below. * * Stop. 
Fresh target. Machine-guns in trench. All 
guns. . . . ' ' and followed a string of orders about 
degrees and yards which Kentucky could not fol- 
low. **Now you watch the spot,'' said the officer 
when the voice had reported **A11 ready, sir," and 
he had settled himself in position with glasses to 
his eyes. * * Watch and see if the shells land about 
the place you think the guns are. ' ' He passed an 
order to fire, and a few seconds later said sharply, 
*^There! See them!" 

But Kentucky had not seen them, and had ,to 



192 GRAPES OF WRATH 

confess it. Or rather he had not seen these par- 
ticular bursts to be sure of them, because the 
whole air was puffing and spurting with black 
smoke and white smoke and yellowish smoke. 

^^They were a bit left and beyond where I 
wanted 'em/* said the officer. **We'll try again. 
I *m firing four guns together. Look for four white 
smoke bursts in a bunch somewhere above your 
earth heaps. *' 

**See themr* ^*I got 'em,'* exclaimed the offi- 
cer and Kentucky simultaneously a moment later. 
Kentucky was keyed up to ao excited elation. 
This was a new game to him, and he was enjoying 
it thoroughly. He thought the four bursts were 
exactly over the spot required, but the more 
experienced observer was not so satisfied, and 
went on feeling for his target with another couple 
of rounds before he was content. But then he 
called for high explosive, and proceeded to deluge 
the distant trench with leaping smoke clouds, 
flashes of fire, and whirlwinds of dust and earth. 
Kentucky watched the performance with huge 
satisfaction, and began to regret that he had not 
joined the artillery. It was so much better, he 
concluded, to be snugly planted in a bit of cover 
calling orders to be passed back per telephone and 



FORWAED OBSEEVING 193 

watching the shells play on their target. He was 
soon to find that this was not quite all the ganners ' 
business. He ducked suddenly back from the 
lookout as a shower of bullets threshed across the 
ground, swept up to the broken wall, and hailed 
rattling and lashing on and round it. The hail 
continued for some seconds and stopped suddenly. 
**Some beast out there,'' said the officer reflec- 
tively, ^*has his suspicions of this spot. That's 
the third dose I Ve had in the last half -hour. Ma- 
chine gun." 

He went on with his firing, watching through 
his glass and shouting corrections of aim to the 
signaler below if a gun went off its target. An- 
other shower of bullets clattered against the 
stones, and two spun ricocheting and shrieking 
through the loophole. Kentucky began to think 
observing was hardly the safe and pleasant job he 
had uWned. "AfrL my UtUe ei^hteen-poLder 
pills won't make enough impression there, if 
they're in dug-outs," said the officer. "Think I'll 
go 'n ask the Brigade to turn the Heavies on to that 
lot. If you're going back you can tell your CO. 
I'm fixing it all right, and we'll give 'em a good 
hammering. ' ' 

A shell shrieked up and burst dose overhead. 



194 GRAPES OF WEATH 

followed in quick succession by another and an- 
other. 

** Better wait a bit before you start/' said the 
Forward OflBicer. ** Looks as if they might be 
making it hot round here for a bit. Come along 
below while I talk to the Brigade. Carefully now. 
Don't let 'em spot you." 

The two crawled back, and then dived down a 
steep stair into a deep dug-out. Close to the en- 
trance a telephonist sat on the ground with an in- 
strument beside him. The oflScer squatted beside 
him and worked the *^ buzzer" for a minute, and 
then explained the situation to whoever was at 
the other end. 

^'That's aU right," he said at the finish. *'The 
Heavies are going to hot 'em a bit You'd better 
wait a little longer, ' ' he continued, as the dug-out 
quivered to a muffled crash somewhere above them. 
* ^They're still pasting us. I'm going up to ob- 
serve for tiie Heavies," he said, turning to the 
signaler. **You just pass my orders back and 
the battery will put them through. ' ' 

He disappeared up the narrow stair just as 
another heavy shell crashed down. The signaler 
set his instrument beside him, lifted the receiver 
to his head, and leaned back wearily against the 



FORWAED OBSERVING 195 

wall. * * Are yon ready, sir f he shouted a moment 
later, and faintly the officer's reply came back to 
them, "All ready,'' and was repeated into the tele- 
phone. A moment later, ** Fired, sir," the sig- 
naler shouted, and after a pause down came the 
officer's remarks, to be repeated back word for 
word. 

Once Kentucky started up the stairs, but on 
reaching the open he heard what had failed to 
penetrate to the dug-out, the loud whistling 
screams of shells, the sharp crack of their over- 
head burst, the clash and thump of the flying frag- 
ments on the stones and ground. Kentucky came 
down the steps again. *^Bit warm up there, ain't 
it!" said the signaler, continuing to hold the re- 
ceiver to his ear, but placing his hand over the 
mouthpiece in speaking to Kentucky. 

** Mighty warm," said Kentucky. **I don't 
fancy your officer's job up top there in the open." 

The signaler yawned widely. "He's the second 
to-day, ' ' he said. * ^ One expended to date — ^bit o ' 
shrap — Skilled straight out" 

"You look kind of tuckered out," said Ken- 
tucky, looking at the man. " I 'm nex ' door to doin ' 
the sleep-walkin' act," said the signaler. He 
passed another order. "We bin shootin' like mad 



196 aEAPES OF WEATH 

for a week. Not too much sleep, going all the 
time, an^ I 'aven't shut my eyes since yesterday 
morning. ' ' 

Another shell hit the gronnd close outside, and 
some fragments of stone and dirt pattered down 
the stair. 

** Can't say I like this,'* said Kentucky rest- 
lessly. ^*If a shell plunked into that entrance or 
bust it in where 'd we be f 

*^ That's easy,'* said the telephonist. **We'd 
be here, an' likely to stay here," and raised his 
voice again to shout a message to the officer. 

They sat another five minutes with the walls 
shivering slightly or quaking violently as the 
shells fell close or at a distance. The telephonist 
sat apparently half -asleep, his eyes vacant, and his 
shoulders rounded, his voice raised at times to 
shout to the Forward Officer, sunk again to a 
monotonous drawl repeating the officer's words 
into the telephone. Once he glanced at Kentucky 
and spoke briefly. **Why don't you get down to 
it an' 'ave a kip I" he said. And when Kentucky 
said he didn't feel particularly sleepy, and any- 
how must move along in five or ten minutes, *^My 
Gawd," said the telephonist; **not sleepy! An' 
missin ' a chance for ten minutes ' kip. My Gawd ! ' ' 



FORWARD OBSERVING 197 

When the shelling appeared to have slackened 
Kentucky crawled np the stair, and after a word 
with the oflBicer set out on his return journey. 
Ahead where he judged the German position to he 
he could see a swirling cloud of dirty smoke, torn 
asunder every moment hy quick-following flashes 
and springing fountains of earth and more belch- 
ing smoke-clouds that towered upward in thick 
spreading columns, and thinned and rolled out- 
ward again to add still further to the dirty reek. 
The earth shook to the clamorous uproar of the 
guns, the air pulsed to the passage of countless 
shells, their many-toned but always harsh and 
strident shriekings. The greater weight of metal 
was from the British side, hut as he hurried for- 
ward, stumbling and slipping over the wet and 
broken ground, Kentucky heard every now and 
then the rush and crash of German shells bursting 
near him. The rolling, pealing thunder of the 
guns, the thuds and thumps and hangings of their 
and their shells' reports, were so loud and so sus- 
tained that they drowned the individual sounds of 
approaching shells, and several times Kentucky 
was only aware of their burst on seeing the black 
spout of earth and smoke, on hearing the flying 



198 GRAPES OF WRATH 

fragments sing and whine dose past or thnd into 
the wet ground near him. 

He toiled on and came at last to an enormous 
shell crater in which a full dozen of the Anzacs 
squatted or stood. He halted a moment to speak 
to them, to ask how things were going. He 
found he had come through the main Anzac line 
without knowing it, so broken and uptom was the 
ground, and so well were the men concealed in the 
deeper scattered holes. This dozen men were well 
in advance and close up on the line which held the 
Stonewalls and which they were supporting. 

**Your mob is just about due to slam at 'em 
again, mate,'' said a sergeant, looking at his wrist- 
watch. ** You'd better hustle some if you want to 
go to it along wi' yer own cobbers. There goes the 
guns liftin' now. Time, gentlemen, please," and 
he snapped down the cover of his watch and stood 
to look out. 

Kentucky climbed out and ran on. The 
thunder of the guns had not ceased for an instant, 
but the fire-flashes and spurting smoke clouds no 
longer played about the same spot as before. 
The guns had lifted their fire and were pouring 
their torrent of shells further back behind tiie spot 
marked for assault. Now, as Kentucky knew well. 



FORWARD OBSERVING 199 

was the designed moment for the attack, and he 
looked every moment to see a line of figures rise 
and move f orwisird. But he saw nothing except the 
tumhled sea of broken ground, saw no sign of ris- 
ing men, no sign of movement. For full two or 
three minutes he hunted for the Stonewalls, for 
the line he wanted to rejoin; and for those pre- 
cious minutes no beat of rifle fire arose, no hail of 
bullets swept the ground over which the attack 
should pass. Then a machine gun somewhere in 
the haze ahead began to chatter noisily, and, 
quickly, one after another joined it and burst into 
a streaming fire that rose rapidly to a steady and 
unbroken roar. Shells began to sweep and crash 
over the open too, and Kentucky ducked down into 
a deep shell-hole for cover. 

** What's gone wrong f he wondered. **They 
were sure meant to start in when the guns lifted, 
and they'd have been well across by this. Now 
the Boche machine-gunners have had time to haul 
the guns from their dug-outs and get busy. What's 
wrong I Surely the battalion hasn't been clean 
wiped out." 

He peered cautiously over the edge of his hole, 
but still he saw no sign of movement. He was 
completely puzzled. Something was wrong, but 



200 GRAPES OP WEATH 

what? The Anzacs had told him the attack was 
due, and those lifting guns had backed their 
word. And yet there was no attack. He waited 
for long minutes — ^minutes empty of attack, empty 
of sign, empty of everything except the raving 
machine guns and the storming bullets. 



CHAPTER Xn 



A YIIiLAGE AND A HELMET 



Kentucky decided that it was as useless as it was 
unnecessary for him to remain alone in his ex- 
posed position, and forthwith proceeded to crawl 
back to where he knew that at least he would find 
some one. So, keeping as low as possible, he 
started back, dodging from shell hole to shell hole. 
In about the fourth one he came to he found a 
group of several men, all dead, and plainly killed 
by the one low-bursting shell. He could see that 
they were Stonewalls, too, and began to wonder if 
the reason for his failing to find the line was the 
simple one that the line no longer existed. It was 
a foolish supposition perhaps, but men are prone 
to such after long day and night strain in a hot 
action, are even more prone to it under such cir- 
cumstances as brought Kentucky to this point of 
crouching on the edge of a shell-hole with sudden 
death whistling and crashing and thundering in his 
ears, spread horribly under his eyes. He shivered, 

201 



202 GRAPES OF WRATH 

skirted round the pit, and over into the next one, 
just as another man stepped crouching over its 
edge. Kentucky saw him, and with a sense of 
enormous relief recognized him too as one of the 
Stonewalls* oflScers. Here at last was some one 
he knew, some one who knew him, some one who 
would tell him perhaps what had happened, would 
certainly tell him what to do, give him simple or- 
ders to be simply obeyed. The officer was a boy 
with a full quarter less years to his age than Ken- 
tucky himself had, -& lad who in normal life would 
probably still have been taking orders from a 
schoolmaster, who certainly, instead of giving, 
would have been taking orders or advice from a 
man his equal in education, more than his equal in 
age and worldliness, as Kentucky was. And yet 
Kentucky saw him with something of the relief a 
lost child would feel to meet his mother, and the 
officer was as natural in giving his orders as if 
Kentucky were the child. There is nothing un- 
usual in all this. I only mention it because its very 
usualness is probably odd to any one outside the 
Service, and is likely to be little realized by them. 

**I'm mighty glad to see you, sir,*' said Ken- 
tucky. '*I thought I'd clean lost the battalion.'* 

*'The battalion's strung out along here," said 



A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 203 

the officer. ^^Bnt I'm just passing along orders to 
retire a little on the supporting line behind us. So 
just push along back, and pass the word to do the 
same to any of ours you run across/' He moved 
on without further word, and Kentucky continued 
his rearward journey. He was aiming for the 
same lot of men he had passed through on his way 
forward, but in the broken litter of ground missed 
them, and instead ran on another group of half a 
dozen sheltering in another deep shell crater. He 
explained to them that in obedience to orders he 
had retired to join their line. 

**Well, you got to keep on retiring mate,'* said 
one of them sulkily, *4f you're going to hitch in 
with us. We just got the office too that we're to 
take the back track." 

**Hope it's all right," said another doubtfully. 
^^ Seems so dash crazy to push up here and then 
go back for nix." 

**That Curly 's such a loose-tiled kid, he might 
easy have mistook the order," said another. 

** Anyway," said the first, **this bloke says 'im 
an' 'is cobbers is hittin' out for the back paddods, 
and " 

'* What's that?" several interrupted simul- 
taneously, and moved eagerly to the crater edge. 



204 GRAPES OF WEATH 

Clear through the rolling rifle and gan-fire came a 
shrill **Coo-ee,'' and then another and another, 
louder and nearer. Kentucky scrambled to the 
edge with the others and looked out. Down to 
their right they could see figures climbing out of 
shell holes, starting up from the furrows, moving 
at the run forward, and again they heard the shrill 
'^coo-ee's'' and a confusion of shouts and calls. 
Kentucky saw the half-dozen Anzacs scrambling 
from their hole like scared cats going over a fence, 
scuffling and jostling in their haste, heard them 
shouting and laughing like children going to a 
school treat. '^Come on, mates . . . nix on the 
back track . . . play up, Anzacs. . . .^' For a 
moment Kentucky was puzzled. He had plain or- 
ders to retire to the support line. **Come on,^ 
cully," shouted the last man out, looking back at 
him — ^but if the support line was advancing — 
**• . . your bunch is mixin' it with us." He paused 
to catch up and fling along the line the coo-ee that 
came ringing down again, hitched his rifle for- 
ward, and doubled off after the others. Kentucky 
climbed out and followed him. At first the whistle 
and shriek and snap-snap of bullets was continu- 
ous, and it seemed impossible that he should con- 
tinue without being hit, that each step he took 



A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 205 

must be the last. He wondered where the bullet 
would hit him, whether it would hurt much, 
whether he would have to wait long for the 
stretcher-bearers. He slackened his pace at sight 
of an Anzac officer rolling on the ground, cough- 
ing and spitting up frothy blood. But the Anzac 
saw his pause, and gathered strength to wave him 
on, to clear his choking throat and shout thickly to 
**Go on, boy; go on. I^m all right. Give 'em hell.'* 
Kentucky ran on. The bullets were fewer now, 
although the roar of firing from in front seemed 
to grow rather than slacken. His breath came 
heavily. The ground was rough and killingly 
slippery. He was nearly done up; but it was 
crazy to slow down there in the open ; must keep 
on. He caught up one of the groups in front and 
ran with them. They were shouting . . . where 
did they get the wind to shout . . . and how much 
further was it to the trench? Then he saw the men 
he ran with begin to lift their rifles and fire or 
shoot from the hip as they ran; he saw gray coats 
crawling from a dug-Out a dozen yards to his left, 
and with a shock realized that there was no trench 
to cross, that the shells must have leveled it, that 
he was actually into the enemy position. He ran 
on, heavily and at a jog-trot, without a thought 



206 GRAPES OF WEATH 

of where he was rnnning to or why he ran. He 
didn't think; merely ran because the others did. 
He stopped, too, when they stopped, and began to 
fire with them at a little crowd of Germans who 
emerged suddenly from nowhere and came charg- 
ing down at them. Several Germans fell ; the oth- 
ers kept on, and Kentucky saw one of them swing 
a stick bomb to throw. Kentucky shot him before 
he threw — shot with his nerves suddenly grown 
steel strong, his brain cool, his eye clear, his hand 
as steady as rock. He shot again and dropped 
the man who stooped to pick the bomb that fell 
from the other's hand. Then the bomb exploded 
amongst them. There were only four standing 
when the smoke cleared, and the Anzacs were run- 
ning at them with bayonets at the level. There 
were only three Anzacs now, but the Germans 
threw their hands up. Then when the Anzacs 
slowed to a walk and came to within arm's length, 
with their bayonet points up, one of the Germans 
dropped his hand and flashed out a pistol. 
Kentucky shot him before he could fire. He had 
not run in with the others, and was a score of 
paces away, and one of the Anzacs half-hid the 
man with the pistol. But he shot knowing — ^not 
believing, or thinking, or hoping, but hnovmg 



A VILLAaE AND A HELMET 207 

he would kill. It was his day, he was "on his 
shoot/' he couldn't miss. The other Gennans 
dropped their hands too, but whether to run or 
fight — ^the bayonet finished them without a chance 
to answer that. **Come on, Deadeye,'' shouted 
one of the Anzaos; and when Kentucky joined 
them, * * Some shootin % that. I owe you one for it 
too/' 

They went on again, but there was little more 
fighting. Anyhow, Kentucky didn't fight. He 
just shot ; and whatever he shot at he hit, as surely 
and certainly as Death itself. There were a great 
many dead Germans lying about, and the ground 
was one churned heap of broken earth and shell- 
holes. They came suddenly on many men in khaki, * 
walking about and shouting to each other. Then 
a Stonewall corporal met him and pointed to 
where the Stonewalls were gathering, and told 
him he had better go join them, and Kentucky 
trudged off towards them feeling all of a sudden 
most desperately tired and done up, and most hor- 
ribly thirsty. The first thing he asked when he 
reached the Stonewalls was whether any one had 
a drop of water to spare; and then he heard a 
shout, a very glad and cheery shout that brought 



208 GRAPES OF WEATH 

a queer, wann glow to his heart, ^^Kentuckl Hi, 
Kentucky I'' 

*'Pug,''hesaid. * ' Oh, y on, Pug ! My, but I'm 
glad to see you again, boy. ' ' 

They talked quickly, telling in snatches what 
had happened to each since they separated, and 
both openly and whole-heartedly glad to be to- 
gether again. 

**I got a helmet, Kentuck,*' said Pug joyfully, 
and exhibited his German helmet with pride. 
**Tole you I'd get a good 'un, didn't If An' I 
downed the cove that 'ad it meself. We potted 
at each other quite a bit — 'im or me for it — ^an' 
I downed 'im^ an' got 'is 'elmet." 

Now the capture of the village was a notable 
feat of arms which was duly if somewhat briefly 
chronicled in the General Headquarters dispatch 
of the day with a line or two enumerating the 
depth and front of the advance made, the prison- 
ers and material taken. The war correspondents 
have described the action more fully and in more 
enthusiastic and picturesque language, and the 
action with notes of the number of shells fired, the 
battalions and batteries employed, and nice clear 
explanatory maps of the ground and dispositions 
of attackers and defenders will no doubt in due 



N 



A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 209 

course occupy its proper place in the history of 
the wax. 

But none of these makes any mention of Pug 
and his hehnet, although these apparently played 
quite an important part in the operation. Pug 
himself never understood his full share in it — 
remembered the whole affair as nothing but a 
horrible mix-up of noise, mud, bursting shells and 
drifting smoke, and his acquirement of a very 
fine helmet souvenir. Even when Pug told his 
story Kentucky hardly understood all it meant, 
only indeed came to realize it when he added to 
it those other official and semi-official accounts, his 
— ^Kentucky's — own experience, and the mysteri- 
ous impulse that he had seen change the Anzacs ' 
retreat into an attack, into the charge which swept 
up the Stonewalls and carried on into and over 
the village. To get the story complete as Ken- 
tucky came to piece it out and understand it we 
must go back and cover Pu^'s doings from the 
time Kentucky left him and the others in the shell- 
hole to carry the message back to the artillery 
F.0.0. 

After the German counter-attack was caught in 
the nick of time and driven back with heavy loss, 
at good many of the counter-attackers instead of 



210 GRAPES OF WEATH 

risking the run back to the shelter of their trench 
dropped into shell-holes and craters, and from 
here the more determined of them continued to 
shoot at any head showing in the British line. 
The men of the latter were also scattered along 
the broken ground in what at one time had been 
the open between two trenches, but was now a bet- 
ter position and in its innumerable deep shell cra- 
ters offered better cover than the wrecked frag- 
ment of a trench behind them. On both sides too 
the gunners were ferociously strafing the opposi- 
tion trenches, but since they dare not drop their 
shells too near to where they knew their own front 
lines to be located the tendency on both sides was 
for the front line to wriggle and crawl forward 
into the zone left uncovered by bursting high- 
explosive shells and shrapnel. The German and 
British infantry naturally did their best to dis- 
courage and make as expensive as possible the 
forward movement by the opposition, and indus- 
triously sniped with rifle and machine gun any 
men who exposed themselves for a moment But 
when the counter-attack fell back Pug was for 
some minutes too busily engaged in helping to 
bandage up a badly wounded man to pay much 
attention to what the Germans were doing. When 



A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 211 

the job was completed he raised his head and 
looked out of the shell hole where he and the oth- 
ers were sheltering and peered ronnd through the 
drifting smoke haze. He caught dim sight of some 
moving figures and raised his voice lustily. 
* ' Stretche-e-er ! ^ ' he shouted, and after waiting 
a minute, again * * Stre-tche-e-er I ' * Amidst all the 
uproar of battle it is not probable that his 
voice had a carrying power of more than scanty 
yards, but when no stretcher-bearers immediately 
materialized in answer to his call Pug appeared 
a good deal annoyed. "Wot d^you s^pose them 
blanky bearers is doin'f he grumbled, then 
raised his voice and bawled again. He shouted 
and grumbled alternately for a few minutes with 
just the growing sense of annoyance that a man 
feels when he whistles for a taxi and no taxi ap- 
pears. Two or three times he ducked instinctively 
at a hiss of a close bullet and once at the **Cr-r- 
ump'^ of a falling shell and the whistle of its flying 
splinters, and when he stood to shout he took care 
to keep well down in his shell hole, raising no 
more than his head above its level to allow his 
voice to carry above ground. Apparently, al- 
though he thought it unpleasantly risky to be 
above ground there, and in no way out of place 



212 GRAPES OF WEATH 

for him not to expose himself, he took it quite for 
granted that stretcher-bearers would accept all 
the risk and come running to his bellowings. But 
in case it be thought that he expected too much, 
it ought to be remembered that it is the stretcher- 
bearers themselves who are responsible for such 
high expectations. Their salving of broken bod- 
ies from out the maelstrom of battle, their desper- 
ate rescues under fire, their readiness to risk the 
most appalling hazards, their indifference to 
wounds and death, their calm undertaking of im- 
possibly difficult jobs, these very doings which by 
their constant performance have been reduced to 
no more than the normal, have come to be accepted 
as the matter-of-fact ordinary routine business of 
the stretcher-bearers. Pug, in fact, expected them 
to come when he called, only because he had seen 
them scores of times answer promptly to equally 
or even more risky calls. 

And the stretcher-bearers in this instance did 
not fail him. A couple appeared looming hazily 
through the smoke, and at another call labored 
heavily over the broken ground to him. They 
saw the wounded man before Pug had time to 
make any explanation of his call, and without 
stopping to waste words, slid over the edge of the 



A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 213 

crater, dropped the stretcher in position beside 
the wonnded man, ran a quick, workmanlike glance 
and touch over the first field-dressings on him, 
had him on the stretcher and hoisted up out of 
the hole all well inside a couple of minutes. 

Pug returned to his own particular business, 
and settling himself against the sloping wall of 
the crater nearest the Germans took a cautious 
survey of the ground before him. At first he saw 
nothing but the rough, chumed-up surface and a 
filmy curtain of smoke through which the resum- 
ing British bombardment was again beginning to 
splash fountains of shell-flung reek and dust. But 
as he looked a figure appeared, came forward at 
a scrambling run for a score of paces and dropped 
out of sight into some hole. At first sight of him 
Pug had instinctively thrust forward his rifle 
muzzle and snapped off a quick shot, but the man 
had run on apparently without taking any notice 
of it. Pug was a fair enough shot to feel some 
annoyance. * * D ' jer see that f he asked his neigh- 
bor. ** Beggar never even ducked; an' I'll bet I 
didn't go far off an inner on 'im." The neighbor 
was taking a long and careful sight over the edge 
of the pit. He fired, and without moving his rifle 
gazed earnestly in the direction he had shot 



214 * GRAPES OF WEATH 

*'Wot's tliat, Pugf lie said at last, jerking out 
the empty shell and reloading. **Who ducked? 
Ah, would yer I * ' he exclaimed hastily, and pumped 
out a rapid clipful of rounds. Pug joined in with 
a couple of shots and the dodging figures they 
had shot at vanished suddenly. *'Wot's their 
game now, I wonder, '' said Pug. *'D*you think 
they^re edgin^ in for another rushf^' He had 
raised himself a little to look out, but the venom- 
ous hisS'Zizz of a couple of bullets dose past his 
head made him bob down hurriedly. 

** You gotter look out,'' said the other man. ** A 
lot o' blighters didn't bolt when we cut up their 
attack. They just dropped into any hole that 
come handy, an' they're lyin' there snipin' pot 
shots at any one that shows." 

Pug banged oflf a shot, jerked the breech open 
and shut and banged off another. ** See that," he 
said. **Same bloke I potted at afore. Not 'arf 
a cheeky blighter either. Keeps jumpin' up an' 
runnin' in to'ards us. But you wait till nex' time 
— ^I'U give 'im run." He settled himself nicely 
with elbow-rest, wide sprawled legs, and braced 
feet, and waited with careful eye on his sights 
and coiled finger about the trigger. Two minutes 
he waited, and then his rifle banged again, and 



A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 215 

he exclaimed delightedly, **I gottim, chum. I got- 
tim that time. See 'im flop?'* But his exclama- 
tion changed to one of angry disgust as he saw the 
man he supposed he had **gof rise from behind 
his cover, beckon vigorously to some one behind 
him, and move forward again another few steps. 

Pug blazed another shot at him, and in response 
the man, in the very act of dropping to cover, 
stopped, straightened up, and after staring in 
Pug's direction for a moment, turned, and lifting 
the helmet from his head repeated the beckoning 
motion he had made before. 

*^Well of all the blinkin' cheek,'' said Pug 
wrathf uUy ; * * take that, you cow, ' ' firing again. 

**Wot's up?" said his companion. **Is some 
bloke stringin' you I" 

**Fair beats me," said the exasperated Pug. 
**IVe 'ad half a dozen clean shots at 'im, an' 'e 
just laughs at 'em. But I've marked the last 
place 'e bogged down into, an' if 'e just pokes a 
nose out once more, 'e'U get it in the neck for 
keeps." 

** Where is 'ef" said the interested chum; 
**show us, an' I'll drop it acrost 'im too when 'e 
pops out." 

* * No, ' ' said Pug firmly, * * fair dinkum. 'E 's my 



216 GRAPES OF WEATH 

own private little lot, an' I'm goin' to see 'im 
safely 'ome myself, S-steady now, 'ere 'e comes 
again. Just 'avin' a look out, eh Fritz. Orright, 
m' son. Keep on lookin' an' it'll meet yer optio — 
plunk," and he fired. ** Missed again," he said 
sadly as he saw a spurt of mud flick from the 
edge of the German's cover. **But lumme, chum, 
di'jer see the 'ehnet that bloke 'ad!" The Ger- 
man it may be remembered had drawn attention 
to his helmet by taking it off and waving it, but 
Pug at that moment had been too exasperated loff 
the impudence of the man's exposure to notice the 
helmet. But this time a gleam of light caught 
the heavy metal ** chin-strap " that hung from it, 
and although the helmet itself was covered witK 
the usual service cover of gray cloth. Pug could 
see distinctly that it was one of the old pickel- 
hauben type—one of the kind he so greatly cov- 
eted as a * * souvenir. ' ' 

* * That settles it, ' ' said Pug firmly. * * I 'm goin ' 
to lay for that bloke till I gets 'im, an' then when 
we advance I'll 'ave 'is 'elmet." 

He lay for several minutes, watching the spot 
where the German was concealed as a cat watches 
a mouse-hole, and when his patience was rewarded 
by a glimpse of gray uifif orm he took steady aim. 



A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 217 

carefully squeezed the trigger until he felt the 
faint chec^ of its second pull-off, held his breath, 
and gave the final squeeze, all in exact accordance 
with the school of musketry instructions. The 
patch of gray vanished, and Pug could not tell 
whether he had scored a hit, but almost immedi- 
ately he saw the spike and rounded top of the hel- 
met lift cautiously into sight. Again Pug took 
slow and deliberate aim but then hesitated, 
**Tchick-tchicked** softly between his teeth, aimed 
again and fired. The helmet vanished with a jerk. 
*'Lookin' over the edge of 'is 'ole, *e was," said 
Pug. **An^ at first I didn't like to shoot for fear 
of spoilin' that 'elmet. But arter all,'' he con- 
ceded cheerfully, **I dunno' that it wouldn't may- 
be improve it as a fust-class sooven-eer to 'ave a 
neat little three-oh-three 'ole drilled in it." 

*'Did you drill it!" asked his companion di- 
rectly. 

*' Dunno," admitted Pug, "but I'm keepin' a 
careful eye on 'im, an' I'll soon know if 'e moves 
again. ' ' 

But in the process of keeping a careful eye Pug 
was tempted for an instant into keeping a less 
careful head under cover than the situation de- 
manded. A bullet leaped whutt past within an 



218 GRAPES OF WEATH 

inch of his ear and lie dropped flat to earth with 
an oath. **That was 'im,^' he said, **I saw the 
flash of Is rifle. Looks like 'e^s got me piped oflf, 
an^ it's goin' to be 'im or me for it." 

Chick and another man in the same hole had 
been bnsy shooting at any mark that presented, 
but when their every appearance above gronnd 
began to be greeted by an unpleasantly close bul- 
let, they ceased to fire and squatted back in the 
hole to watch Pug and the conducting of his duel. 
A dozen times he and the German fired, each 
drawing or returning instant shot for shot. Pug 
moving from one spot to another in the shell cra- 
ter, pushing his rifle out slowly, lifting his head 
cautiously an inch at a time. 

Over their heads the great shells shrieked and 
rushed, round them crackled a spattering rifle fire, 
the occasional hammering of a machine gun, the 
rolling crash and whirr of bursting shells and fly- 
ing splinters. Wide out to right and left of them, 
far to their front and rear the roar of battle ran, 
long-thundering and unbroken, in a deafening 
chorus of bellowing guns, the vibrating rattle of 
rifles and machine guns, the sharp detonations 
and reports of shells and bombs and grenades. 
But Pug and, in lesser degree, his companions. 



A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 219 

were quite heedless of all these things, of how the 
battle moved or stayed stilL For them the strag- 
gle had boiled down into the solitary duel between 
Pug and his German ; the larger issues were for 
the moment completely overshadowed, as in war 
they so often are, by the mere individual and 
personal ones. Pug insisted in finishing off his 
duel single-handed, declining to have the others 
there interfere in it. **It^s 'im or me for it," he 
repeated, **fair dinkum. An* I^m goin* to get 'im 
and 'is 'elmet on my blinMn* own." 

He decided at last to move his position, to 
crawl along and try to catch his opponent in flank, 
to stalk his enemy as a hunter stalks a lidden 
buck. Since he could not escape from the crater 
they were in without exposing himself to that 
watchful rifle, he scraped down with his entrench- 
ing tool a couple of feet of the rim of the crater 
where it formed a wall dividing off another crater. 
When he had cleared the passage he came back 
and fired another shot, just to keep his enemy 
watching in the same spot for him, and hurriedly 
crawled over into the next crater, squirmed and 
wriggled away from it along cracks and holes and 
folds of the torn and tumbled ground in a direc- 
tion that he reckoned would allow him to readi the 



220 GRAPES OF WRATH 

German sheltering in his hole and behind a broken 
hillock of earth. But before he reached such a 
position as he desired he found himself looking 
over into a deep crater occupied by an officer and 
half a dozen men with a machine gun. 

The officer looked up and caught sight of him. 
** Hullo, Sneath/' he said. ** Where are you off 
to! You're moving the wrong way, aren't you! 
The order was to retire, and you're moving for- 
ward." 

Pug wriggled over into the crater and crouched 
puffing and blowing for a moment. **I 'adn't 
'eard nothin' about retiring, sir," he said doubt- 
fully. 

* * That 's the order, ' ' said the officer briskly. * * I 
don't know what it means any more than you do, 
but there it is. You'd better wait now and move 
back with us." 

Pug was annoyed — exceedingly annoyed. This 
retirement looked like losing him his duel, and 
what was more, losing him his coveted helmet. 
Eetirement was a thing he had not for an insta?'*' 
calculated upon. He had taken it quite^'fcK? 
granted that if he could slay the wearer of the 
helmet, the helmet was his, that he had only to 
wait until the line advanced to go straight to it 



A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 221 

and pick it up. With a vague idea that he would 
have managed the affair much better on his own, 
without these interfering directions of his move- 
ments, he began to wish he had never come across 
this officer, and from that passed to wondering 
whether he couldn't give the officer the slip and 
finish off his program in his own way. 

At that moment the British artillery fire re- 
doubled in intensity and the rush of shells over- 
head rose to a roaring gale. 

** Sharp there,'' said the officer. **Get that gun 
picked up. Now's our chance to get back while 
the guns are socking it into 'em. ' ' 

He was right, of course, and their chances of 
retirement were likely to be improved by the heav- 
ier covering fire. Pug was also right in a half- 
formed idea that had come to him — ^that the cover- 
ing fire would also lessen the risk of a move for- 
ward, or as he put it to himself — ^ ' With all them 
shells about their ears they'll be too busy keepin' 
their heads down to do much shootin' at me if I 
' ance a quick rush; an' most likely I'd be on top 
o' tnat bloke wi' the 'elmet afore 'e knew it." 

The others were picking up the machine gun 
and preparing to move, and Pug took a long and 
careful look over the edge of the hole to locate his 



222 GEAPES OF WBATH 

helmet wearer. With a quick exclamation he 
snatched the rifle to his shonlder, aimed, and 
fired. 

**That*ll do,'* said the officer sharply turning at 
the sound of the shot. ^ ^ Cease firing and get along 
hack. ' ' But Pug was gazing hard in the direction 
of his shot. " I Ve got 'im, ' * he said triumphantly, 
**I'll swear I got *im that time. Showin' a fair 
mark 'e was, an' I saw 'im jerk 'an roll when I 
fired." 

** Never mind that," said the officer impatiently. 
** There's their rifle fire beginning again. Time 
we were out of this. Keep down as well as you 
can all of you. Move yourselves now. ' ' 

The men began to scramble out of the hole, 
and in an instant Pug's mind was made up. They 
were retiring; so far as he knew the battalion 
might be retiring out of the line, out of the battle, 
and out of the reach of chances of German hel- 
mets. And meantime there was his helmet lying 
there waiting to be picked up, lying within a hun- 
dred yards of himu ' 

He climbed up the rear waU of the crater, v 
halted and spoke hurriedly to the officer. "I 
won't be 'alf a mo', sir," he said. ** Something 
there I want to pick up an' bring in," and without 



A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 223 

waiting for any reply tnmed and bolted across 
the open towards his helmet. The officer was con- 
sumed with a quick gust of anger at such disobedi- 
ence. **Here,'' he shouted and scrambled out of 
the pit. '*Hi, come back you^*; and as Pug gave 
no sign of having heard him, he shouted again 
and ran a few paces after him. 

And so it was that about a dozen Anzacs rising 
sullenly and grumblingly out of a big shell crater 
in reluctant obedience to the order to retire, saw 
a khaki figure rise into sight and go charging 
straight forward towards the enemy, and a second 
later the figure of an officer bound into sight and 
follow him. 

Two or three of the Anzacs voiced together the 
thought that rose to all their minds. 

^^Who said retire. . . . What blundering fool 
twisted the order . . . retire, Gostrewth, they^re 
advancing ... us retire, an' them goin' for- 
ward . . ." 

To them the position required little thinking 
over. They could see some men advancing, and 
distinctly see an officer too at that. And how 
many more the smoke hid 

In an instant they were swarming up and out of 
their crater ; there was a wild yell, a shrill * * Coo- 



224 GRAPES OF WRATH 

ee/' a confused shouting, ** Come on, boys ... at 
'em, Anzacs . . . Advance, Australia, *' and the 
dozen went plunging off forward. Out to right 
and left of them the yell ran like fire through dry 
grass, the ooo-ees rose long and shrill; as if by 
magic the dead ground sprouted gleaming bayo- 
nets and scrambling khaki figures. Every man 
who looked saw a ragged and swiftly growing line 
surging forward, and every man, asking nothing 
more, taking only this plain evidence of advance, 
made haste — exactly as Kentucky's companions 
made haste — ^to fling into it. Straight at the 
flashing rifles and the drifting fog-bank of shell 
smoke that marked the German position the shift- 
ing wave swept and surged, the men yelling, 
shouting and cheering; Bullets beating down upon 
them, shells crumpling and smashing amongst 
them cut them down by dozens, but neither 
halted nor slowed down the charging line. It 
poured on, flooded in over the wrecked trenches 
and dug-outs, the confused litter of shell holes big 
and little, piled earth heaps, occasional fragments 
of brickwork and splintered beams that alone re- 
mained of the village. The flank attacks that had 
been launched a few minutes before and held up 
staggering under the ferocious fire that met them. 



A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 225 



found the weight of their opposition suddenly 
grow less, took fresh hreath and thrust fiercely in 
again, gained a footing, felt the resistance weaken 
and bend and break, and in a moment were 
through and into the tumbled wreckage of a de- 
fense, shooting and stabbing and bayoneting, 
bombing the dug-outs, rounding up the prisoners, 
pushing on until they came in touch with the swirl- 
ing edges of the frontal attack's wave, and joining 
them turned and overran the last struggling rem- 
nants of the defense. The village was taken ; the 
line pushed out beyond it, took firm grip of a 
fresh patch of ground, spread swiftly and linked 
up with the attack that raged on out to either side 
and bit savagely into the crumbling German line. 
These wider issues were of course quite beyond 
the knowledge or understanding of Pug. He had 
come uninjured to the spot where his German lay, 
found he was an oflScer and quite dead, snatched 
up the helmet that lay beside him, and turned to 
hurry back. Only then was he aware of the line 
charging and barging down upon him, and under- 
standing nothing of why or how it had come there, 
noticing only from a glimpse of some faces he 
knew that men of his own battalion were in it, he 
slipped his arm through the chinstrap of his cap- 



226 GRAPES OF WBATH 

tured helmet, turned again and ran forward with 
the rest. With them he played his part in the final 
overrunning of the village — ^the usual confused, 
scuffling jumble of a part played by the average 
infantry private in an attack, a nightmarish mix- 
ture of noise and yelling, of banging rifles^ shat- 
tering bomb reports, a great deal of smoke, the 
whistle of passing bullets, the crackling snap and 
smack of their striking ground and stone, swift 
appearance and disappearance of running figures. 
He had a momentary vision of men grouped about 
a black dug-out mouth hurling grenades down it ; 
joined a wild rush with several others on a group 
of gray-coated Germans who stood firm even to a 
bayonet finisL Scrambling and scuffling down 
and up the steep sides of the smaller shell craters, 
round the slippery crumbling edges of the larger, 
he caught glimpsea-this towards the end-of 
scattered groups or trickling lines of white-faced 
prisoners with long gray coats flapping about 
their ankles, and hands held high over their heads, 
being shepherded out towards the British lines by 
one or two guards. All these scattered impres- 
sions were linked up by many panting, breathless 
scrambles over a chaos of torn and broken ground 
pocked and pitted with the shell craters set as 



A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 227 

close as the cells of a broken honeycomb, and 
ended with a narrow escape, averted jnst in time 
by one of his officers, from firing upon a group of 
men — ^part of the flank attadfc as it proved — ^who 
appeared mysteriously out of the smoke where 
Germans had been firing and throwing stick-gre- 
nades a moment before. 

Through all the turmoil Pug clung tightly to 
his helmet. He knew that there had been a stiff 
fight and that they had won, was vaguely pleased 
at the comforting fact, and much more distinctly 
pleased and satisfied with the possession of his 
souvenir. He took the first opportunity when the 
line paused and proceeded to sort itself out beyond 
the village, to strip the cloth off his prize and 
examine it. It was an officer's pickelhaube, re- 
splendent in all its glory of glistening black pat- 
ent-leather, gleaming brass eagle spread-winged 
across its front, fierce spike on top and heavy- 
linked chain ** chin-strap*' of shining brass. Pug 
was hugely pleased with his trophy, displayed it 
pridef uUy and told briefly the tale of his duel with 
the late owner. He told nothing of how the secur- 
ing of his prize had assisted at the taking of the . 
village, for the good reason that he himself did • 



228 GRAPES OF WRATH 

not know it, and np to then in fact did not even 
know that they had taken a village. 

He tied the helmet securely to his belt with a 
twisted bit of wire, and at the urgent command 
of a sweating and mud-bedaubed sergeant pre- 
pared to dig. **Are we stoppin' 'ere then!" he 
stayed to ask. 

** Suppose so/' said the sergeant, ** seeing we Ve 
taken our objective and got this village/' 

Pug gaped at him, and then looked round won- 
deringly at the tossed and tumbled shell-riddled 
chaos of shattered earth that was spread about 
them. **Got this village," he said. **Limune, 
where 's the village then ! ' ' 

Another man there laughed at him. ** You came 
over the top o' it, Pug," he said. ** Don't you re- 
member the broken beam you near fell over, back 
there a piece! That was a bit o' one o' the houses 
in the village. An' d'you see that little bit o' gray 
wall there! That's some more o' the village." 

Pug looked hard at it. **An' that's the village, 

is it, ' ' he said cheerfully. * * Lor ' now, I might 'ave 

trod right on top o ' it by accident, or even tripped 

over it, if it 'ad been a bit bigger village. You can 

: keep it; I'd rather 'ave my 'elmet." 



i » 



CHAPTEE Xin 



WITH THE TANKS 



Soon after Kentucky rejoined them the Stonewalls 
were moved forward a little clear of the village 
they had helped to take, just as one or two heavy 
shells whooped over from the German guns and 
dropped crashing on the ground that had been 
theirs. The men were spread out along shell holes 
and told to dig in for better cover because a bit of 
a redoubt on the left flank hadn't been taken and 
bullets were falling in enfilade from it. 

**I>ig, you cripples/' said the sergeant, "dig in. 
Can't you see that if they counter-attack from the 
front now you'll get shot in the back while you're 
lining the front edge of those shell holes. Get to 
it there, you Pug. " 

** Shot in the back, linin' the front," said Pug as 
the sergeant passed on. * * Is it a conundrum. Ken- 
tuck!" 

** Sounds sort of mixed," admitted Kentucky. 
**But it's tainted some with the truth. That re* 

229 



230 GRAPES OF WRATH 

doubt is half rear to ns. If another lot comes at 
us in front and we get up on the front edge of this 
shell hole, there's nothing to stop the redoubt bul- 
lets hitting us in the back. Look at that/' he con- 
cluded, nodding upward to where a bullet had 
smacked noisily into the mud above their heads as 
they squatted in the hole. 

The two commenced wearily to cut out with 
their trenching tools a couple of niches in the sides 
of the crater which would give them protection 
from the flank. and rear bullets. They made rea- 
sonably secure cover and then stayed to watch 
a hurricane bombardment that was developing on 
the redoubt. '^Goo on the guns,'' said Pug joy- 
fully. * * That 's the talk ; smack 'em about. ' ' 

The gunners ** smacked 'em about" with fifteen 
savage minutes ' deluge of light and heavy shells, 
blotting out the redoubt in a whirlwind of fire- 
flashes, belching smoke clouds and dust haze. 
Then suddenly the tempest ceased to play there, 
lifted and shifted and fell roaring in a wall of fire 
and steel beyond the low slope which the redoubt 
crowned. 

With past knowledge of what the lift and the 
further barrage meant the two men in the shell- 



WITH THE TANKS 231 

pit turned and craned their necks and looked out 
along the line. 

^ ^ There they go, ^ ' said Pug suddenly, and * * At- 
tacking round a half-circle,^^ said Kentucky. The 
British line was curved in a horse-shoe shape 
about the redoubt and the two being out near one 
of the points could look back and watch clearly 
the infantry attack launching from the center and 
half-way round the sides of the horse-shoe. They 
saw the khaki figures running heavily, scrambling 
round and through the scattered shell holes, and 
presently, as a crackle of rifle fire rose and rose 
and swelled to a sullen roar with the quick, rhyth- 
mic clatter of machine guns beating through it, 
they saw also the figures stumbling and falling, 
the line thinning and shredding out and wasting 
away under the vsdthering fire. 

The sergeant dodged along the pit-edge above 
them. * * Covering fire, ' ' he shouted, * * at four hun- 
dred — slam it in,^' and disappeared. The two 
opened fire, aiming at the crest of the slope and 
beyond the tangle of barbed wire which alone in- 
dicated the position of the redoubt. 

They only ceased to fire when they saw the 
advanced fringe of the line, of a line by now woe- 
fully thinned and weakened, come to the edge of 



232 GRAPES OF WBATH 

the barbed wire and try to force a way throngh it. 

** They 're beat,*' gasped Pug. "They're done 
in . . ." and cursed long and bitterly, fingering 
nervously at his rifle the while. **Time we rung 
in again," said Kentucky. "Aim steady and 
pitch 'em well clear of the wire." The two opened 
careful fire again while the broken remnants of 
the attacking liue ran and hobbled and crawled 
back or into the cover of shell holes. A second 
wave flooded out in a new assault, but by now the 
German artillery joining in helped it and the new 
line was cut down, broken and beaten back before 
it had covered half the distance to the entangle- 
ments. Kentucky and Pug and others of the 
Stonewalls near them could only curse helplessly 
as they watched the tragedy and plied their rifles 
in a slender hope of some of their bullets finding 
those unseen loopholes and embrasures. 

* * An ' wot 's the next item o ' the program, I won- 
der! " said Pug half an hour after the last attack 
had failed, half an hour filled with a little shoot- 
ing, a good deal of listening to the pipe and whis- 
tle of overhead bullets and the rolling thunder of 
the guns, a watching of the shells falling and 
spouting earth and smoke on the defiant redoubt. 

" Reinforcements and another butt-in at it, I 



WITH THE TANKS 233 

expect,'' surmised Kentucky. ** Don't see any- 
thing else for it. Looks like this pimple-on-the- 
map of a redoubt was holdin' up any advance on 
this front. Anyhow I'm not hankering to go 
pushin' on with that redoubt bunch shootin' 
holes in my back, which they'd surely do." 

**Wot's all the buzz about be'ind usf " said Pug 
suddenly, raising himself for a quick look over the 
covering edge of earth behind him, and in the act 
of dropping again stopped and stared with raised 
eyebrows and gaping mouth. 

*^What is it?" said Kentucky quickly, and also 
rose, and also stayed risen and staring in amaze- 
ment. Towards them, lumbering and roUing, dip- 
ping heavily into the shell holes, heaving clumsily 
out of them, moving with a motion something be- 
tween that of a half-sunken ship and a hamstrung 
toad, striped and banded and splashed from head 
to foot, or, if you prefer it, from fo'c'sl-head to 
cutwater, with splashes of lurid color, came His 
Majesty's Land Ship **Here We Are." 

^^OtoT'Strewthl'^ ejaculated Pug. *^Wha-what 
is it?" 

Kentucky only gasped. 

** 'Ere," said Pug hurriedly, "let's gerrout o' 



234 GRAPES OF WBATH 

this. It's comin' over atop of ns," and lie com- 
menced to scramble clear. 

Bnt a light of understanding was dawning on 
Kentucky's face and a wide grin growing on his 
lips. **It's one of the Tanks," he said, and giggled 
aloud as the Here We Are dipped her nose and 
slid head first into a huge shell crater in ludicrous 
likeness to a squat bull-pup sitting back on its 
haunches and dragged into a hole: **I've heard 
lots about 'em, but the seein' beats all the hearin' 
by whole streets," and he and Pug laughed aloud 
together as the Here We Are's face and gun-port 
eyes and bent-elbow driving gear appeared above 
the crater rim in still more ridiculous resemblance 
to an amazed toad emerging from a rain-barrel. 
The creature lumbered past them, taking in its 
stride the narrow trench dug to link up the shell 
holes, and the laughter on Kentucky's lips died to 
thoughtfully serious lines as his eye caught the 
glint of fat, vicious-looking gun muzzles peering 
from their ports. 

**Haw haw haw," guffawed Pug as the monster 
lurched drunkenly, checked and steadied itself 
with one foot poised over a deep hole, halted and 
backed away, and edged nervously round the rim 
of the hole. **See them machine guns pokin' out, 



WITH THE TANKS 235 

Kentucky,*' he continued delightedly. **They 
won ^t *arf pepper them Huns when they gets near 
enough. ' * 

Fifty yards in the wake of the Here We Are 
a line of men followed up until an officer halted 
them along the front line where Pug and Kentucky 
were posted. 

**You blokes just takin* 'im out for an airin'f 
Pug asked one of the newcomers. ** Oughtn't 
you to *ave 'im on a leadin' string f 

**Here we are, Here we are again,*' chanted the 
other and giggled spasmodically. **An' ain't he 
just hot stuff! But wait till you see 'im get to 
work with his sprinklers. ' ' 

''Does 'e bite!" asked Pug, grinning joyously. 
** Oughtn't you to 'ave 'is muzzle onf " 

''Bite," retorted another. "He's a bloomin' 
Hun-eater. Jes' gulps 'em whole, coal-scuttle 'ats 
an' all." 

"He's a taed," said another. "A loUopin, flat- 
nosed, splay-fittit, ugly puddock, wi's hin' legs 
stuck oot whaur .his front should be. ' ' 

"Look at 'im, oh look at 'im ... he's alive, 
lad, nobbut alive." . . . "Does every bloomin' 
thing but talk." . . . "Skatin' he is now, skatrn' 



236 GRAPES OF WBATH 

on 'is oflF hind leg, ' ' came a chorus of delighted 
comment. 

*^Is he goin' to waltz in and take that redoubt 
on his ownsumf ^' asked Kentucky. **No/' some 
one told him. *^We give him ten minutes' start 
and then follow on and pick up the pieces, and the 
prisoners. ' ' 

They lay there laughing and joking and 
watching the uncouth antics of the monster wad- 
dling across the shell-riddled ground, cheering 
when it appeared to trip and recover itself, 
cheering when it floundered sideways into a hole 
and crawled out again, cheering most wildly of all 
when it reached the barbed-wire entanglements, 
waddled through, bursting them apart and trailing 
them in long tangles behind it, or trampling 
them calmly under its diurning caterpillar-wheel- 
bands. It was little wonder they cheered and less 
wonder they laughed. The Here We Are's mo- 
tions were so weirdly alive and life-like, so play- 
fully ponderous, so massively ridiculous, that it 
belonged by nature to nothing outside a Drury 
Lane Panto. At one moment it looked exactly 
like a squat tug-boat in a heavy cross sea or an 
ugly tide-rip, lurching, dipping, rolling rail and 
rail, plunging wildly bows under, tossing its nose 



WITH THE TANKS 237 

up and squattering again stem-rail deep, pitching 
and heaving and diving and staggering, but al- 
ways pushing forward. Next minute it was a 
monster out of Prehistoric Peeps, or a new pat- 
ent fire-breathing dragon from the pages of a very 
Grimm Fairy Tale, nosing its way blindly over 
the Fairy Princess pitfalls; next it was a big 
broad-buttocked sow nuzzling and rooting as it 
went ; next it was a drunk man reeling and stag- 
gering, rolling and falling, scrabbling and crawl- 
ing; next it was — ^was anything on or in, or un- 
derneath the earth, anything at all except a deadly, 
grim, purposeful murdering product of modern 
war. 

The infantry pushed out after it when it 
reached the barbed wire, and although they took 
little heed to keep cover — ^being much more con- 
cerned not to miss any of the grave and comic 
antics of their giant joke than to shelter from 
flying bullets — the line went on almost without cas- 
ualties. ** Mighty few bullets about this time,'' 
remarked Kentucky, who with Pug had moved out 
along with the others *Ho see the fun." ** That's 
'cos they're too busy with the old Pepper-pots, 
an' the Pepper-pots is too busy wi' them to leave 
much time for shootin ' at us, ' ' said Pug gayly. It 



238 GRAPES OF WEATH 

was true too. The Pepper-pots — ^a second one had 
lumbered into sight from the center of the horse- 
shoe curve — ^were drawing a tearing hurricane of 
machine-gun bullets that beat and rattled on their 
armored sides like hail on a window-paue. They 
waddled indifferently through the storm and Here 
We Are, crawling carefully across a trench, halted 
half-way over and sprinkled bullets up and down 
its length to port and starboard for a minute, 
hitched itself over, steered straight for a fire- 
streaming machine-gun embrasure. It squirted 
a jet of lead into the loophole, walked on, butted 
at the emplacement once or twice, got a grip of 
it under the upward sloped caterpillar band, 
climbed jerkily till it stood reared up on end like 
a frightened colt, ground its driving bands round 
and round, and — ^f eU forward on its face with a 
cloud of dust belching up and out from the col- 
lapsed dug-out. Then it crawled out of the 
wreckage, crunching over splintered beams and 
broken concrete, wheeled and cruised casually 
down the length of a crooked trench, halting every 
now and then to spray bullets on any German who 
showed or to hail a stream of them down the black 
entrance to a dug-out, straying aside to nose over 



X* 



WITH THE TANKS 239 

any suspicious cranny, swinging round again to 
plod up the slope in search of more trenches. 

The infantry followed up, cheering and laughing 
like children at a fair, rounding up batches of 
prisoners who crawled white-faced and with 
scared eyes from dug-out doors and trench cor- 
ners, shouting jests and comments at the lumber- 
ing Pepper-pots. 

A yell went up as the Here We Are, ed^ng 
along a trench, lurched suddenly, staggered, side- 
slipped, and half disappeared in a fog of dust. 
The infantry raced up and found it with its 
starboard driving gear grinding and churning full 
power and speed of revolution above ground and 
the whole port side and gear down somewhere in 
the depths of the collapsed trench, grating and 
squealing and flinging out clods of earth as big as 
clothes-baskets. Then the engines eased, slowed, 
and stopped, and after a little and in answer to 
the encouraging yells of the men outside, a scuttle 
jerked open and a grimy figure crawled out. 

*' Blimey,'^ said Pug rapturously, ** 'ere's Jo- 
nah 'isself. OP Pepper-pot's spewed 'im out." 

But ** Jonah'' addressed himself pointedly and 
at some length to the laughing spectators, and 
they, urged on by a stream of objurgation and in- 



240 GRAPES OF WEATH 

vective, fell to work with trenching-tools, with 
spades retrieved from tiie trench, with bare hands 
and busy fingers, to break down the trench-side 
under Here We Are's starboard driver, and pile 
it down into the trench and under the uplifted 
end of her port one. The second Pepper-pot 
cruised up and brought to adjacent to the opera- 
tions with a watchful eye on the horizon. It was 
well she did, for suddenly a crowd of Germans 
seeing or sensing that one of the monsters was 
out of action, swarmed out of cover on the crest 
and came storming down on the party. Here We 
Are could do nothing; but the sister ship could, 
and did, do quite a lot to those Germans. It 
sidled round so as to bring both bow guns and aU 
its broadside to bear and let loose a dose-quarter 
tornado of bullets that cut the attackers to rags. 
The men who had ceased digging to grab their 
rifles had not time to fire a shot before the affair 
was over and *^ Jonah'' was again urging them to 
their spade-work. Then when he thought the 
way ready. Here We Are at his orders steamed 
ahead again, its lower port side scraping and 
jarring along the trench wall, the drivers biting 
and gripping at the soft ground. Jerkily, a foot 
at a time, it scuffled its way along the trench 



WITH THE TANKS 241 

till it came to a sharp angle of it where a big 
shell hole had broken down the wall. Bnt just as 
the starboard driver was reaching out over the 
shell hole and the easy job of plunging into it, 
gaining a level keel and climbing out the other 
side, the trench wall on the right gave way and the 
Here We Are sank its starboard side level to and 
then below the port one. She had fallen bodily into 
a German dug-out, but after a pause to regain its 
shaken breath — or the crew's — ^it began once 
more to revolve its drivers slowly, and to chum 
out behind them, first a cloud of dust and clots of 
earth, then, as the starboard driver bit deeper into 
the dug-out, a mangled debris of clothing and 
trench-made furniture. On the ground above the 
infantry stood shrieking with laughter, while the 
frantic skipper raved unheard-of oaths and the 
Here We Are pawed out and hoofed behind, or 
caught on its driving band and hoisted in turn 
into the naked light of day, a splintered bedstead, 
a diewed up blanket or two, separately and 
severally the legs, back, and seat of a red velvet 
arm-chair, a torn gray coat and a forlorn and 
muddy pair of pink pajama trousers tangled up 
in one officer's field boot. And when the drivers 
got their grip again and the Here We Are rolled 



242 GRAPES OF WEATH 

majestically forward and up the further sloping 
side of the shell crater and halted to take the 
skipper aboard again. Pug dragged a long branch 
from the fascines in the trench debris, slid it up 
one leg and down the other of the pink pajamas, 
tied the boot by its laces to the tip and jammed 
the root into a convenient crevice in the Tank^s 
stem. And so beflagged she rolled her triumphant 
way up over the captured redoubt and down the 
other side, with the boot-tip bobbing and swaying 
and jerking at the end of her pink tail. The sequel 
to her story may be told here, although it only 
came back to the men who decorated her after 
filtering round the firing line, up and down the 
communication lines, round half the hospitals and 
most of the messes at or behind the Front. 

And many as came to be the Tales of the Tanks, 
this of the Pink-Tailed 'un, as Pug called her, 
belonged unmistakably to her and, being so, was 
joyfully recognised and acclaimed by her decora- 
tors. She came in due time across the redoubt, 
says the story, and bore down on the British line 
at the other extreme of the horseshoe to where 
a certain infantry CO., famed in past days for 
a somewhat speedy and hectic career, glared in 
amazement at the apparition lurching and bobbing 



WITH THE TANKS 243 

and bowing and crawling toad-like towards him. 

*^I knew/' lie is reported to have afterwards 
admitted, **I knew it couldn't be that I'd got 'em 
again. But in the old days I always had one in- 
fallible sign. Crimson rats and purple snakes I 
might get over ; but if they had pink tails, I knew 
I was in for it certain. And I tell you it gave me 
quite a turn to see this bHghter waddling up and 
wagging the old pink tail.'' 

But this end of the story only came to the Stone- 
walls long enough after — ^just as it is said to have 
come in time to the ears of the Here We Are's 
skipper, and, mightily pleasing him and his crew, 
set him chuckling deUghtedly and swearing he 
meant to apply and in due and formal course 
obtsun permission to change his land-ship's name, 
and having regretfully parted with the pink tail, 
immortalize it in the name of H.M.L.S. The D.T/s. 



CHAPTEB XIV 



THE BATTLE HTMlfr 



Kbhttucky was suddenly awaxe of an overpower- 
ing thirst. Fug being appealed to shook his anpty 
water-bottle in reply. "Bnt 1*11 soon get some/* 
he said cheerfully and proceeded to search 
amongst the Oerman dead lying thick around 
them. He came back with a full water-bottle and 
a haversack containing sausage and dark brown 
bread, and the two squatted in a shell hole and 
made a good meal of the dead man's rations. 
They felt a good deal the better of it^ and the ex- 
pectation of an early move back out of the firing 
line completed their satisfaction. The Stonewalls 
would be relieved presently, they assured each 
other ; had been told their bit was done when the 
village was taken ; and that was done and the re- 
doubt on top of it. They weren't sure how many 
Stonewalls had followed on in the wake of the 
tank, but they'd all be called back soon, and the 
two agreed cordially that they wouldn't be a little 

2i4 



THE BATTLE HYMN 245 

bit sorry to be out of this mud and murder game 
for a spell. 

An attempt was made after a little to sort out 
the confusion of units that had resulted from the 
advance, the Stonewalls being collected together 
as far as possible, and odd bunches of Anzacs and 
Highlanders and Fusiliers sent oflf in the direction 
of their appointed rallying-plaoes. The work was 
made more difficult by the recommencing of a slow 
and methodical bombardment by the German guns 
and the reluctance of the men to move from their 
cover for no other purpose than to go and find 
cover again in another part of the line. Scattered 
amongst craters and broken trenches as the Stone- 
walls were, even after they were more or less col- 
lected together, it was hard to make any real esti- 
mate of the casualties, and yet it was plain enough 
to all that the battalion had lost heavily. As odd 
men and groups dribbled in, Kentucky and Pug 
questioned them eagerly for any news of Larry, 
and at last heard a confused story from a 
stretcher-bearer of a party of Stonewalls that 
had been cut off, had held a portion of trench 
gainst a German bombing attack, and had been 
wiped out in process of the defense. Larry, their 
informant was almost sure, was one of the casual- 



246 GRAPES OF WRATH 

ties, but he oonld not say whether killed, slightly 
or seriously wounded. 

**Wish I knowed 'e wasn't hurt too bad,'' said 
Pug. ** Rotten luck if 'e is." 

** Anyhow," said Kentucky, **we two have been 
mighty lucky to come through it all so far, with 
nothing more than your arm scratch between us. ' ' 

** Touch wood," said Pug wamingly. ** Don't 
go boastin ' without touchin ' wood. ' ' 

Kentucky, who stood smoking with his hands 
buried deep in his pockets, laughed at his earnest 
tone. But his laugh died, and he and Pug glanced 
up apprehensively as they heard the thin, distant 
wail of an approaching shell change and deepen 
to the roaring tempest of heart and soul-shaking 
noise that means a dangerously close burst. 

**Down, Pug," cried Kentucky sharply, and on 
the same instant both flung themselves flat in the 
bottom of their shelter. Both felt aad heard the 
rending concussion, the shattering crash of the 
burst, were sensible of the stunning shock, a sen- 
sation of hurtling and falling, of . . . empty 
blackness and nothingness. 

Kentucky recovered himself first. He felt 
numbed all over except in his left side and arm, 
which pricked sharply and pulsed with pain at 



THE BATTLE HYMN 247 

a movement. He opened his eyes slowly with a 
vague idea that he had been lying there for hours, 
and it was with intense amazement that he saw 
the black smoke of the burst stUl writhing and 
thinning against the sky, heard voices calling and 
asking was any one hurt, who was hit, did it catch 
any one. He called an answer feebly at first, then 
more strongly, and then as memory came back 
with a rush, loud and sharp, **Pug! are you there, 
Pugf Pug!'* One or two men came groping and 
fumbling to him through the smoke, but he would 
not let them lift or touch him until they had 
searched for Pug. **He was just beside me,*' he 
said eagerly. **He can't be hurt badly. Do hunt 
for him, boys. It's poor old Pug. Oh, Pugl'^ 

**H'lo, Kentuck . . . you there?" came feebly 
back. With a wrench Kentucky was on his knees, 
staggered to his feet, and running to the voice. 

* * Pug, ' ' he said, stooping over the huddled figure. 

* * You're not hurt bad, are you, Pug, boy f ' ' With 
clothing torn to rags, smeared and dripping with 
blood, with one leg twisted horribly under him, 
with a red cut gaping deep over one eye. Pug 
looked up and grinned weakly. *'Orright," he 
said;**I'm . . . or right. But I tole you, Kentuck 
. . . I tole you to touch wood." 



248 GRAPES OF WRATH 

A couple of stretcher-bearers hurried along, and 
when the damages were assessed it was found that 
Pug was badly hurt, with one leg smashed, with 
a score of minor wounds, of which one in the 
side and one in the breast might be serious. Ken- 
tucky had a broken hand, torn arm, lacerated 
shoulder, and a heavily bruised set of ribs. So 
Pug was lifted on to a stretcher, and Kentucky, 
asserting stoutly that he could walk and that there 
was no need to waste a precious stretcher on car- 
rying him, had his wounds bandaged and started 
out alongside the bearers who carried Pug. The 
going was bad, and the unavoidable jolting and 
jerking as the bearers stumbled over the rough 
ground must have been sheer agony to the man 
on the stretcher. But no groan or whimper came 
from Pug's tight lips, that he opened only to en- 
courage Kentucky to keep on, to tell him it 
wouldn't be far now, to ask the bearers to go slow 
to give Kentucky a chance to keep up. But it was 
no time or place to go slow. The shells were stUl 
screaming and bursting over and about the ground 
they were crossing, gusts of rifle bullets or lonely 
whimpering ones still whistled and hummed past. 
A fold in the ground brought them cover pres- 
ently from the bullets, but not from the shells, and 



THE BATTLE HYMN 249 

the bearers pushed doggedly on. Kentucky kept 
up with difficulty, for he was feeling weak and 
spent, and it was with a sigh of relief that he saw 
the bearers halt and put the stretcher down. 
^ ' How do you feel, Pug f he asked. * * Bit sore, ' ' 
said Pug with sturdy cheerfulness. **But it's 
nothin* too bad. But I wish we was outer this. 
We both got Blighty ones, Kentuck, an' we^l go 
'ome together. Now we're on the way 'ome, I'd 
hate to have another of them shells drop on us, 
and put us out for good, mebbe. ' ' 

They pushed on again, for the light was failing, 
and although the moon was already up, the half- 
light made the broken ground more difficult than 
ever to traverse. Pug had fallen silent, and one 
of the bearers, noticing the gripped lips and pain- 
twisted face, called to the other man and put the 
stretcher down and fumbled out a pill. * * Swallow 
that," he said, and put it between Pug's lips; 
*^an' that's the last one I have." He daubed a 
ghastly blue cross on Pug's cheek to show he had 
been given an opiate, and then they went on 
again. 

They crept slowly across the ground where the 
Germans had made one of their counter-attacks, 
and the price they had paid in it was plain to 



250 GRAPES OF WRATH 

be seen in the piled heaps of dead that lay 
sprawled on the open and huddled anyhow in the 
holes and ditches. There were hundreds upon 
hundreds in that one patch of ground alone, and 
Kentucky wondered vaguely how many such 
patches there were throughout the battlefield. The 
stretcher-bearers were busy with the wounded, 
who in places still remained with the dead, and 
sound German prisoners under ridiculously slen- 
der guards were carrying in stretchers with 
badly wounded Germans or helping less severely 
wounded ones to walk back to the British rear. A 
Uttle further on they crossed what had been a 
portion of trench held by the Germans and from 
which they appeared to have been driven by shell 
and mortar fire. Here there were no wounded, 
and of the many dead the most had been literally 
blown to pieces, or, flung bodily from their shel- 
ters, lay broken and buried under tumbled heaps 
of earth. Half a dozen Germans in long, flap^ 
ping coats and heavy steel ^^coal-scuttle*' helmets 
worked silently, searching the gruesome debris for 
any living wounded ; and beyond them stood a soli- 
tary British soldier on guard over them, leaning 
on his bayoneted rifle and watching them. Far to 
the rear the flashes of the British guns lit the 



THE BATTLE HYMN 251 

darkening sky with vivid, flickering gleams that 
came and went incessantly, like the play of sum- 
mer lightning. It brought to Kentucky, trudg- 
ing beside the stretcher, the swift memory of lines 
from a great poem that he had learned as a child 
and long since forgotten — the Battle Hymn of his 
own country. In his mind he quoted them now 
with sudden realization of the exactness of their 
fitting to the scene before him — ^ * Mine eyes have 
seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, He is 
trampling out the vintage where the grapes of 
wrath are stored, He hath loosed the fateful light- 
ning of His terrible swift sword; His truth is 
marching on.*' Here surely in these broken dead, 
in the silent, dejected prisoners, in the very earth 
she had seized and that now had been wrested 
from her, was Germany's vintage, the tramplings 
out of the grapes of a wrath long stored, the smit- 
ten of the fiwift sword that flashed unloosed at 
last in the gun-fire lightning at play across the 
sky. 

For the rest of the way that he walked back 
to the First Aid Post the words of the verse kept 
running over in his pain-numbed and weary mind 
— ^^. . . where the grapes of wrath are stored; 



252 GRAPES OF WRATH 

trampling out the vintage where the grapes of 
wrath . . .'' over and over again. 

And when at last they came to the trench that 
led to the imdergronnd dressing-station just as 
the guns had waked again to a fresh spasm of fury 
that set the sky ablaze with their flashes and the 
air roaring to their deep, rolling thunders, Ken- 
tucky's mind went back to where the great shells 
would be falling, pictured to him the flaming fires, 
the rending, shattering crashes, the tearing whirl- 
winds of destruction, that would be devastating 
the German lines. ** Grapes of wrath,'* he whis- 
pered. ** God, yes — ^bitter grapes of wrath.'' And 
in his tasixsy the guns caught up the word from 
his mouth, and tossed it shouting in long-drawn, 
shaking thunder: ** Wrath — ^wrath — wrathP^ 



CHAPTER XV 



CASUALTIES 



A DEEP and comparatively uninjured German dug- 
out had been adapted for use as a dressing-sta- 
tion. Its entrance lay in a little cup-shaped de- 
pression with a steep, sloping bank behind it, and 
the position of this bank and the entrance opening 
out of it away from the British lines had probably 
been the saving of it from shell fire. Kentucky 
groped his way down the dark stairway, and the 
bearers followed with Pug on the stretcher. The 
stair was horribly steep, built in high and narrow 
wooden steps which were coated with thick, slip- 
pery mud, and it was with some diflSculty that the 
stretcher was brought down. The stair opened 
out direct into a large, well-built dug-out with 
planked floor, walls and roof, and beyond it again 
a narrow passage led to a further room, also well 
built and plank lined, but much longer, and so 
narrow that it barely gave room for men to be 
laid across it. This chamber, too, was filled with 

253 



254 GRAPES OF WBATH 

wounded, some of them stretched at full length, 
others squatting close packed about the floor. The 
first room was used by the doctors, beeause, being 
more widely built, it gave room for a couple of 
tables. There were three doctors there, two work- 
ing at the tables, the third amongst the cases 
huddled along the wall. Kentucky took his place, 
leaning back against the wall and waiting his turn, 
but Pug was carried almost at once to one of the 
tables. 

**Have you heard anything about how the whole 
show is going f Kentucky asked one of the or- 
derlies. "Not a word,*' said the man. ** Least- 
ways, weVe heard so many words you can't be- 
lieve any of 'em. Some o' the casualties tells us 
one thing an' some another. But we've bumped 
the Hun back a lump, that's sure. They all tell 
us that." 

Kentucky stayed there some minutes longer, 
waiting his turn and watching the doctors at their 
work. They were kept hard at it. The casualties 
came stumbling down the stair in an unbroken 
procession, and in turn passed along to the doc- 
tors at the tables. Most of those that walked had 
bandages about their heads, faces, hands, or 
arms ; most of them were smeared and spattered 



CASUALTIES 255 

with blood, all of them were plastered thick with 
mud. Many had sleeves slit open or shirts cut 
away, and jackets slung loosely over their shoul- 
ders, and as they moved glimpses of white flesh 
and patches of bandage showed vividly fresh and 
dean behind the torn covering of blood-stained 
and muddy khaki. As fast as the doctor finished 
one man another took his place, and without an 
instant's pause the doctor washed from his mind 
the effort of thought concentrated on the last case, 
pounced on the newcomer, and, hurriedly strip- 
ping off the bandages, plunged into the problem of 
the fresh case, examining, diagnosing, and label- 
ing it, cleansing the wound of the clotted blood and 
mud that dung about it, redressing and bandag- 
ing it. Then each man's breast was bared and a 
hypodermic injection of ** anti-tetanus " serum 
made, and the man passed along to join the others 
waiting to go back to the ambulances. And be- 
fore he was well clear of the table the doctor had 
turned and was busied about the next case. The 
work went on at top speed, as smooth as sweet- 
running madiinery, as fast and eflSdently as the 
sorting and packing of goods in a warehouse by 
a well-drilled and expert staff. It was curiously 
like the handling of merchandise, if you gave your 



256 GRAPES OF WEATH 

main attention to the figures passing down the 
stairs, moving into line np to the tables, halting 
there a few minutes, moving on again and away. 
The men might have been parcels shifting one by 
one up to the packers ' tables and away from them, 
or those pieces of metal in a factory which tridde 
up leisurely to a whirling lathe, are seized by it, 
turned, poked, spun about with feverish haste for 
a minute by the machine, pushed out dear to re- 
sume their leisured progress while the machine 
jumps on the next piece and works its ordered 
will upon it That was the impression if one 
watched the men filing up to and away from the 
doctor's hands. It was quite different if attention 
were concentrated on the doctor alone and the 
case he handled. That brought instant realiza- 
tion of the human side, the high skill of the swiftly 
moving fingers, the perfection of knowledge that 
directed them, the second-cutting haste with which 
a bandage was stripped off, the tenderness that 
over-rode the haste as the raw wound and quiver- 
ing flesh were bared, the sure, imhesitating touch 
that handled the wound with a maximum of speed 
finely adjusted to a minimum of hurt, the knowl- 
edge that saw in one swift glance what was to be 
done, the technical skill, instant, exact, and un- 



"s; 



CASUALTIES 257 

deviating, that did it. Here, too, was another hu- 
man side in the men who moved forward one by 
one into the strong lamp-light to be handled and 
dealt with, to hear maybe and pretend not to heed 
the verdict that meant a remaining life to be spent 
in crippled incompetence, in bed-ridden helpless- 
ness ; or a sentence that left nothing of hope, that 
reduced to bare hours in the semi-dark of under- 
ground, of cold and damp, of lonely thoughts, the 
life of a man who a few hours before had been 
crammed with health and strength and vitality, 
overflowing with animal fitness and energy. With 
all these men it appeared to be a i>oint of honor 

■ 

to show nothing of flinching from pain or from 
fear of the future. All at least bore the pain 
grimly and stoically, most bore it cheerfully, 
looked a detached sort of interest at their un- 
covered wounds, si>oke with the doctor lightly or 
even jestingly. If it was a slight wound there 
was usually a great anxiety to know if it would 
be ' * a Blighty one ' * ; if it were serious, the anx- 
iety was still there, but studiously hidden under 
an assumed carelessness, and the questioning 
would be as to whether *4t would have to come 
off'* or ^4s there a chance for me?'* 
When Kentucky's turn came he moved forward 



258 GRAPES OF WEATH 

and sat himself on a low box beside the table, and 
before he was well seated the orderly was slip- 
ping off the jacket thrown over his shoulders and 
buttoned across his chest. The doctor was in 
his shirt-sleeves, and a dew of perspiration beaded 
his forehead and shone damp on his face and 
throat. ** Shell, sir,*' said Kentucky in answer to 
the quick question as the doctor began rapidly to 
unwind the bandages on his shoulder. * * Dropped 
in a shell hole next the one I was lying in with 
another man. That's him,'' and he nodded to 
where Pug lay on the other doctor's table. **He's 
hurt much worse than me. He's a particular 
chum of mine, sir, and — ^would you mind, sir f — ^if 
you could ask the other doctor he might tell me 
what Pug's chances are." 

**We'll see," said the doctor. **But I'm afraid 
you've got a nasty hand here yourself," as he 
carefully unwound the last of the bandage from 
Kentucky's fingers and gently pulled away the 
blood-clotted pad from them. ' * Yes, sir, ' ' agreed 
Kentucky. **But, you see, Pug got it in the leg, 
and the bearers say that's smashed to flinders, 
and he's plugged full of other holes as well. I'm 
rather anxious about him, sir; and if you could 

ctSK* • • • 



CASUALTIES 259 

* * Presently, * ^ said the doctor, and went on with 
his work. **What was your job before the war! 
Will it cripple you seriously to lose that hand; be- 
cause I'm afraid they'll have to amputate when 
you go down.*' 

Kentucky was anxiously watching the men at 
the other table and trying to catch a glimpse of 
what they were doing. **It doesn't matter so 
much about that, sir," he said: **and I'm a lot 
more worried about Pug. He'll lose a leg if 
he loses anything, and mebbe he mightn't pull 
through. Couldn't you just have a look at him 
yourself, sirf" 

As it happened, his doctor was called over a 

* minute later to a hurried consultation at the other 

table. The two doctors conferred hastily, and 

then Kentucky's doctor came bad: to finish his 

bandaging. 

**Bad," he said at once in answer to Kentucky's 
look. **Very bad. Doubtful if it is worth giving 
him a place in the ambulance. But he has a faint 
chance. We'll send him down later — ^when there 's 
room — ^if he lasts. . . . There you are . . . now 
the anti-tetania ..." busying himself with the 
needle *^ . . and off you go to Blighty." 



260 GRAPES OF WBATH 

"Thank you, sir,'' said Kentucky. **And can 
I stay beside Pug till it's time to move?" 

**Yes," said the doctor. **But I'm afraid we'll 
have to let you walk if you can manage it. There ^s 
desi)erately little room in the ambulances." 

^^I can walk aU rights sir,",said Kentucky; and 
presently, with a label tied to the breast of his 
jacket, moved aside to wait for Pug's removal 
from the table. They brought him over presently 
and carried him into the other room and laid him 
down there dose to the foot of another stair lead- 
ing to above-ground. Kentucky squatted beside 
him and leaned over the stretcher. **Are yon 
awake. Pug?" he said softly, and immediately 
Pug's eyes opened. ** Hullo, Kentuck," he said 
cheerfully. **Yes, I'm awake orright. They 
wanted to gimme another dose o' that sleep stuff 
in there, but I tole 'em I wasn't feelin' these holes 
hurt a bit. I wanted to 'ave a talk to you, y'see, 
ol' man, an' didn't know if another pill 'ud let 
me." 

**Sure they don't hurt muchf " said Kentucky. 

**No," said Pug; **but it looks like a wash-out 
for me, Kentuck." 

** Never believe it, boy," said Kentucky, forc- 
ing a gayety that was the last thing he actually 



CASUALTIES 261 

felt. *'We^re going down and over to Blighty to- 
getiier. ' * 

Pug grinned up at Mm. * * No kid stakes, Ken- 
tuck," he said; ^*or mebbe you don't know. But 
I 'eard wot them M.O.s was sayin', though they 
didn't know I did.* They said it wasn't worth 
sendin' me out to the ambulance. You knows 
wot that means as well as me, Kentuck.'' 

Kentucky was silent. He knew only too well 
what it meant. Where every stretcher and every 
place in the ambulances is the precious means of 
conveyance back to the doctors, and hospitals, and 
the hope of their saving of the many men who 
have a chance of that saving, no stretcher and no 
place dare be wasted to carry back a dying man, 
merely that he may die in another place. The 
ones that may be saved take precedence, and those 
that are considered hopeless must wait imtil a 
slackening of the rush allows them to be sent. In 
one way it may seem cruel, but in tiie other and 
larger way it is the more humane and merciful. 

** There's always, a chance. Pug," said Ken- 
tucky, striving to capture hope luijQself . * ' Course 
there is," said Pug. ''An' you can bet I'm goin* 
to fight it out an' cheat them doctors if it can be 
done, Kentuck. You'll go down ahead o' me, but 



262 GRAPES OF WBATH 

m 

there ain't so many casualties comin* in now, an* 
the battalion bein' on the way out will leave less 
to be casualtied an* more room on the ambulance. 
Yon keep a lookout for me, Kentuck. I might be 
down at the boat as soon as you yet/* 

' ^ That *s the talk, boy, * * said Kentucky. A man 
hobbling on a stick oame in from tiie doctors* 
room, and, seeing Kentucky, picked his way over 
the outstretched forms to him. ^ ^ Hello, Kentuck, * * 
he said. *^You got your packet passed out to 
you, then. An* you, too, Pug?** as he caught 
sight of Pug*s face half -hidden in bandages. 

**Cheer-oh, Jimmy,** said Pug. *^ Yes, gave me 
my little sooven-eer all right. An* the worst of it 
is I*m afraid they've made a mess o* my fatal 
beauty.** 

** Never min*, Pug,** said Jimmy, ehuckling and 
seating himself beside the stretcher. ^'I see 
they've lef* your *andsome boko in action an* 
fxdly efficient.** 

'*Wot*s yours?** said Pug with interest. *'0h, 
nothin* much,** said the other. *^Bit of shrap 
through the foot. Just good enough for Blighty, 
an* nothin* else to fuss about. How far did you 
get?** 

Pug tried to tell his story, but in spite of him- 



CASUALTIES 263 

self his voice weakened and slurred, and Ken- 
tucky, catching Jimmy's eye, placed his finger on 
his lips and nodded significantly towards Pug. 
Jimmy took the hint promptly. ** Hullo, some 
more o' tiie old crush over there/' he said. **I 
must go'n 'ave a chin-wag with 'em,'' and he 
moved off. 

**D'you think you could find me a drink, Ken- 
tuck!" said Pug; and Kentucky went and got 
some from an orderly and brought it and held it 
to the hot lips. After that he made Pug lie quiet, 
telling him he was sure it was bad for him to be 
talking; and because the drug still had a certain 
amount of hold perhai>s, Pug half -drowsed and 
woke and drowsed again. And each time he woke 
Kentucky spoke quietly and cheerfully to him^ 
and lied calmly, saying it wasn't time for him to 
go yet — although many others had gone and Ken- 
tucky had deliberately missed his turn to go for 
the sake of remaining beside the broken lad. Most 
of the walking cases went on at once or in com- 
pany with stretcher parties, but Kentucky let them 
go and waited on, hour after hour. His own arm 
and hand were throbbing painfully, and he was 
feeling cold and sick and deadly tired. He was 
not sleepy, and this apparently was unusual, for 



264 GRAPES OF WRATH 

most of the men there, if their pain was not too 
great, lay or sat and slept the moment they had 
the chance. Although many went, the room was 
always fnll, because others came as fast. The 
place was lit by a couple of hanging lamps, and 
blue wreaths of cigarette smoke curled and floated 
up past their chimneys and drifted up the stair- 
way. Kentucky sat almost opposite the stair, and 
the lamplight shone on the steps and on the figures 
that disappeared up it one by one, their legs and 
feet tramping up after their heads and bodies had 
passed out of vision. The ground above had evi- 
dently been churned into thin mud, and the water 
from this ran down the* stair, and a solid mass 
of the thicker mud followed gradually and over- 
flowed step by step under the trampling feet. For 
an hour Kentucky watched it coming lower and 
lower, and thought disgustedly of the moment 
when it would reach the floor and be tramped and 
spread out over it, thick and slimy and filthy. 
His back began to ache, and the tiredness to grip 
and numb him, and his thoughts turned with in- 
tolerable longing to the moment when he would 
get off his mud-encrusted clothes and lie in a clean 
hospital bed. Every now and then some order- 
lies and bearers clumped down the stair into the 



CASUALTIES 265 

dug-out, and after a little stir of preparation a 
batch of the wounded would walk or be helped or 
carried up out into the open to start their journey 
back to the ambulances. But the cleared space 
they left quickly filled again with the steady inflow 
of men who came from the doctors' hands in the 
other room, and these in their turn settled them-, 
selves to wait their turn squatting along the walls 
or lying patiently on their stretchers. They were 
all plastered and daubed with wet mud and clay, 
worn and drooping with pain and fatigue; but 
all who had a spark of consciousness or energy 
left were most amazingly cheerful and contented. 
They smoked cigarettes and exchanged experi- 
ences and opinions, and all were most anxious to 
find out something of how 'Hhe show'' had gone. 
It was extraordinary how little they each ap- 
peared to know of the fight they had taken such 
an active part in, how ignorant they were of how 
well or ill the action had gone as a whole. Some 
talked very positively, but were promptly ques- 
tioned or contradicted by others just as positive ; 
others confessed blank ignorance of everything ex- 
cept that they themselves had stayed in some ditch 
for a certain number of hours, or that the bat- 
talion had been *^held up" by machine-gun fire; 



266 GRAPES OF WRATH 

or that the sheUing had been ^^heU.'^ *'But if I'd 
'a' had to ha' choosed/' said one, ^*I'd ha' sooner 
been under their shell-fire than ours. The Bosche 
trenches in front o ' us was just blowed out by the 
roots." 

** Never seed no Bosohe trenches myself," said 
another. **I dodged along outer one shell-hole 
inter another for a bit an' couldn't see a thing 
for smoke. An' then I copped it and crawled 
back in an ' out more shell-holes. Only dash thing 
I've seed o' this battle has been shell-holes an' 
smoke. ' ' 

'^Anyways," put in a man with a bandaged 
jaw, mumblingly, *4f we didn't see much we heard 
plenty. I didn't think a man's bloomin' ears 
would 'ave 'eld so much row at onct." 

*^We got heaps an' heaps o' prisoners," said a 
man from his stretcher. *^I saw that much. We 
muster took a good bit o' ground to get what I 
saw myself o ' them. ' ' 

'^Hadn't took much where I was," remarked 
another. **I didn't stir out of the trench we oc- 
cupied till a crump blew me out in a heap." 

^^Did any o' you see them Tanks? Lumme, 
wasn't they a fair treat? ..." 

Talk of the Tanks spread over all the dug-out. 



CASUALTIES 267 

It was plain that they were the feature of the bat- 
tle. Every man who had seen them had wonder 
tales to tell; every man who had not seen was 
thirsting for information from the othei*s. The 
Tanks were one huge joke. Their actual services 
were overshadowed by their humor. Thjey drew 
endless comparisons and similes; the dug-out 
rippled with laughter and chuddings over their ap- 
pearance, their uncouth antics and — ^primest jest 
of all — ^the numbers their guns had cut down, the 
attempts of the Germans to bolt from them, the 
speed and certainty with which a gust of their 
machine-gun fire had caught a hustling mob of 
fugitives, hailed through them, tumbled them in 
kicking, slaughtered heaps. 

In the midst of the talk a sudden heavy crash 
sounded outside and set the dug-out quivering. 
A couple more followed, and a few men came down 
the stairs and stood crowded together on its lower 
steps and about its foot 

**Pitchin' 'em pretty dose,** one of these in- 
formed the dug-out. ** Too dose for comfort. An' 
there's about a dozen diaps lyin' on top there 
waitin' for stretchers." 

Immediately there followed another tremendous 
crash that set the dug-out rocking like a baat 



268 GRAPES OF WRATH 

struck by a heavy wave. Prom above came a con- 
fused shoutingy and the men on the stair surged 
back and down a step, while earth fragments rat- 
tled and pattered down after them. 

In the dug-out some of the men cursed and 
others laughed and thanked their stars — ^and the 
Bosche diggers of the dug-out — ^that they were so 
deep under cover. The next shells fell further 
away, but since the Germans of course knew the 
exact location of the dug-out, there was every 
prospect of more dose shooting. 

Efforts were concentrated on clearing the 
wounded who lay at the top of the stair in the 
open and as many of the occupants of the dug-out 
as possible. 

But Kentucky managed to resist or evade being 
turned out and held his place in the shadows at 
Pug's heady sat there still and quiet and watched 
the others come one by one and pass out in 
batches. And each time Pug stirred and spoke, 
**You there, Kentuckf Ain't it time you was 
gone?" told him, "Not yet, boy. Presently.'* And 
he noticed with a pang that each time Pug spoke 
his voice was fainter and weaker. He spoke to an 
orderly at last, and the doctor came and made 
a quick examination* With his finger still ob 



CASUALTIES 269 

Pug's wrist he looked up at Kentucky and slightly 
shook his head and spoke in a low tone. ^ ^ Noth- 
ing to be done^'' he said, and rose and passed to 
where he coxdd do something. 

' * Kentuck, ' ' said Pug very weakly ; * * collar hold 
o' that Germ 'elmet o' mine. I got no one at 
'ome to send it to . . . an' I'd like you to 'av it, 
chummy . . . f or a sooven-eer . . . o'anol'pal." 
Kentucky with an effort steadied his voice and 
stooped and whispered for a minute. He could 
just catch a faint answer, ^^I'morright, chum. I 
ain't afeard none ..." and then after a long 
pause, ^ ^ Don 't you worry 'bout me. / 'm orright. ' ' 
And that was his last/word. 

Kentucky passed up the stair and out into the 
cold air heavily and almost reluctantly. Even 
although he could do nothing more, he hated leav- 
ing Pug; but room was precious in the dug-out, 
and the orderlies urged him to be off. He joined 
a party of several other ** walking cases" and a 
couple of men on stretchers, and with them struck 
off across the battlefield towards the point on the 
road which was the nearest the ambulance could 
approach to the dressing station. The Germans 
had begun to shell again, and several *^ crumps" 
fell near the dug-out. Kentucky, with his mind 



270 GRAPES OF WEATH 

busied in thoughts of Pug, hardly heeded, but the 
others of the party expressed an anxiety and 
showed a nervousness greater than Kentudiy had 
ever noticed before. The explanation was simple, 
and was voiced by one cheerful csasualty on a 
stretcher. **IVe got my dose, an' I'm bound for 
Blighty," he said, ^'an' gels chuckin' flowers in 
the ambulance in Lunnon. If you bloomin' bear- 
ers goes cartin' me into the way o' stoppin' an- 
other one — strewth, I'll come back an' 'aunt yer. 
I've 'ad the physic, an' I don't want to go missin' 
none o' the jam." 

They moved slowly across the torn fields aad 
down along the slope towards the road. In the 
valley they walked in thin, filmy mists, and further 
on, where low hUls rose out of the hollow, camp 
fires twinkled and winked in scores on the hill- 
sides. And still further, when they rounded a 
low shoulder and the valley and the hills beyond 
opened wide to them, the fires increased from 
scores to hundreds. *'Bloomin' Crystal Palis on 
firework night," said one man, and '*Why don't 
the special conetables make 'em draw the blinds 
an' shade the lights?" said another. 

Kentucky saw these things, heard the men's 
talk, without noting them ; and yet the impression 



CASUALTIES 271 

must have been deeper and sharper than he knew, 
for there oame a day when he recalled every spot 
of light aad blot of shadow, every curve of hill 
and mist-shrouded valley, every word and smoth- 
ered groan and rough jest and laugh, as clearly 
as if they had been in his eyes and ears a minute 
before. In thej same detajbhed way he saw the 
bodies of men lying stiff in grotesque, twisted 
postures or in the peaceful attitudes of quiet 
sleep, the crawling mists and the lanterns of or- 
derlies and stretcher-bearers searching the field 
for any still living, heard the weak quavering calls 
that came out of the mists at intervals like the 
lonely cries of sheep lost on a mountain crag, the 
thin, long-drawn *^He-e-e-lp'' of men too sore 
stricken to move, calling to guide the rescuers 
they knew would be seeking them. And in the 
same fashion, after they came to the ambulances 
waiting on the broken roadside and he had been 
helped to the seat beside the driver of one, he 
noticed how slowly and carefully the man drove 
and twisted in and out dodging the shell holes; 
noticed, witiiout then realizing their significance, 
the legions of men who tramped silently and 
stolidly, or whistling and singing and blowing 
on mouth-organs, on their way up to the firing 



272 GRAPES OP WRATH 

line, the faces emerging white and the rifles glint- 
ing out of the darkness into the brightness of the 
headlights. The car made a wide detour by a 
road which ran over a portion of gronnd cap- 
tured from the Germans a few weeks before. A 
cold gray light was creeping in before they cleared 
this ground that already was a swarming hive of 
British troops, and further than the faint light 
showed, Kentucky coxdd see and sense parked 
ranks of wagons, lines of horses, packed camps 
of men and rows of bivouacs. From there and 
for miles back the car crept slowly past gun po- 
sitions and batteries beyond count or reckoning, 
jolted across the metals of a railway line that was 
already running into the captured ground, past 
**dump'' after **dump'' of ammunition, big shells 
and little piled in stacks and house-high pyramids, 
patches of ground floored acre-wide with trench 
mortar bombs like big footballs, familiar gray 
boxes of grenades and rifle cartridges, shells 
again, and yet more shellb. ** Don't look like we 
expected to ever lose any o' this ground again,'' 
said the driver cheerfully, and Kentucky realized 
— ^ihen and afterwards — ^just how little it looked 
like it, and quoted softly to himself, from the Bat- 
tle Hymn again — * * He has sounded forth the tram- 



CASUALTIES 273 

pet that shall never call retreat/' As the light 
grew and the car passed back to where the road 
was less damaged or better repaired their speed 
increased and they ran spattering in the roadside 
to meet more long columns of men with the brown 
rifle barrels sloped and swaying evenly above the 
yellow ranks — ' ' . . . a fiery gospel writ in rows of 
burnished steel/' murmured Kentucky. **Wot 
sayf questioned the driver. ** Nothing/' said 
Kentucky. ** That's the dearin' station ahead 
there," said the driver. **Tou'll soon be tucked 
up safe in a bed now, or pushin' on to the ambu- 
lance train and a straight run 'ome to Blighty." 
So Kentucky came out of the battle, and step- 
ping down from the ambulance, with an alert or- 
derly attentive at his elbow to help him, took the 
first step into the swift stages of the journey 
home, and the long vista of kindness, gentleness, 
and thoughtful care for which the hospital service 
is only another name. From here he had nothing 
to do but sleep, eat, and get well. He was done 
with battle, and quit of the firing line. But as 
he came away the war had one more word for his 
ear, and as he was carried on board the hospital 
train, the distant guns growled and muttered 



274 GRAPES OF WRATH 

fheir la£t same message to him — ^^^ grapes of 
wrath, of wrath, of wrath/' 

And after he had lost the last dull rumble of 
the guns he still bore the memory of their message 
with him, carried it down to the edge of France, 
and across the Narrow Seas, and into the sheltered 
calm of England. 

He had been strangely impressed by the fitting 
of his half-forgotten verses to all he had come 
through, and their chance but dear coincidence 
worked oddly on him, and came in the end to be 
a vital influence in picking the path of his im- 
mediate future and leading it utterly away from 
other plans. 



CHAPTER XVI 



PLAY OUT THE GAME 



Kentucky thouglit often over the Battle Hymn 
in the long waMng hours of pain and the listless 
time of convalescence, and since his thoughts came 
in time to crystallize into words and words are 
easier to set down than thoughts, here is a talk 
that he had, many weeks after, when he was al- 
most well again — ot rather as well as he would 
ever be. 

The talk was with Larry, with the broken wreck 
of a Larry who would never, as the doctors told 
him, walk or stand upright again. Kentucky had 
finished his convalescing at Larry ^s home, and the 
talk came one night when they were alone together 
in the big dining-room, Larry, thin-faced and daw- 
handed, on a couch before the fire, Kentucky in 
a deep armchair. They had chatted idly and in 
broken snatches of old days, and of those last 
desperate days in *Hhe Push,** and on a chance 
mention of Pug both had fallen silent for a space. 

275 



276 GRAPES OF WEATH 

**Poor Pug/' said Larry at last. **Did it ever 
strike you, Kentucky what a queer quartette of 
chums we were, Billy Simson and Pug and you 
and mef 

* * Yes, mighty queer, come to think of it, ' ' agreed 
Kentucky. **And the game handed it out pretty 
rough for the lot of us — ^Billy and Pug killed, 
you like this, and me ... " and he had lifted the 
stump of a hand bound about with black silk band- 
ages and showing nothing but a thumb and the 
stump of a finger. **And I figure that out of the 
lot yours is maybe the worst. ' ' 

**I don't know,'* said Larry slowly. **I'm well 
enough off, after all, with a good home and my 
people asking nothing better than to have the 
looking after of me. I always think Billy had the 
hardest luck to be hit again just as he was coming 
out of it all with a safe and cushy one. ' ' 

** Anyway,*' said Kentucky, *4t's a sure thing 
I came out best. I 'm crippled, of course, but I 'm 
not right out of action, and can still play a little 
hand in the game. ' ' 

** That's right,'' said Larry heartily. **You're 
fit enough to tackle the job in his office in my place 
that the Pater 's so keen to have you take — ^and as 
I am, selfishly, because the offer carries the con- 



PLAY OUT THE GAME 277 

dition that you live with us. I hope youVe de- 
cided to sign on with the firmf 

**I'm going to tell your father to-night, '* said 
Kentucky very slowly. **But I'm glad to have 
the chance to tell you first. I asked him to give 
me a day to think it over because I wanted to 
know first if I'd a good-enough reason for re- 
fusing " 

**Bef using,''. Larry said, and almost cried the 
word. 

**When I went out this morning," said Ken- 
tucky quietly, **I went to the Bed Cross people 
and had a talk with Kendrick. I showed him I 
was fit endugh for the job and he asked me if I'd 
take an ambulance car to drive up front." 

Larry stared at him. **Up front again," he 
gasped. * * Haven 't you had enough of the front f ' ' 

*'More than enough," said Kentucky gravely. 
**I'm not going because I like it, any more than I 
did in the first place. It's just because I ^bink I 
ought to play out the game." 

**God," said Larry. **As if you hadn't done 
enough. You've got your discharge as unfit. Who 
would ever blame you for not going back, or dream 
you ought to go!" 

**Only one man," said Kentucky with the glim- 



278 aBAPES OF WEATH 

mer of a smile, ^^but one that oounts a smart lot 
with me ; and he 's — ^myself. ' ' 

**But it^s nonsense, *' said Larry desperately, 
**Why, it's not even as if you were one of us. 
After all, you're American, and this country has 
no claim, never had a daim, on you. You Ve done 
more than your share already. There isn't an 
earthly reason why you should go again." 

**Not even one of us," repeated Kentucky 
softly. **Well, now, haven't I earned the right 
to call myself one of you ! No, never mind ; course 
I know you didn't mean it that way. But you're 
wrong otherwise, boy. I 'm not an American now. 
If you folks went to war with America to-morrow, 
and I was fit to fight, I'd have to fight on your 
side. There was an oath I took to serve your 
King, when I enlisted, you'U remember." 

* * No one would expect an oath like that to bind 
you to fight against your own people, ' ' said Larry 
quickly. 

**In Kentucky, boy," said Kentucky gently, his 
speech running, as it always did when he was 
stirred into the slurred, soft * * r ' '-less drawl of his 
own South, * * an oath is an oath, and a promise is 
little sho't of it. I fought foh yoh country be- 
cause I thought yoh country was right. But I 



PLAY OUT THE GAME 279 

oome at last to fight foh her, because IVe got to 
be proud of her and of belonging to her. And I 
want to pay the best bit of respect I can think of 
to those men I fought along with. It just pleases 
me some to think poor old Pug and Billy and a 
right smart mo' we knew would like it — ^I'm going 
to take out naturalization papers just as soon as I 
can do if 

**Like it," said Larry, with his eyes glistening; 
**why, yes, I think they'd like it/' 

Kentucky hesitated a little, then went on slowly : 
**And theh's some verses I know that have so't 
of come to map out a route fo' me to follow. 
Oveh theh those verses stood right up an' spoke 
to me. I've thought it oveh quite a lot since, an' 
it's sure plain to me that I was made to see how 
dose they fitted to what I could see, an' heah, an' 
undehstand, just so I could use the otheh verses 
to show me otheh things I could not undehstand. 
I'd like to tell yo' some of those verses an' how 
they come in." 

He toldn&rst the picture he had seen of the 
German prisoners searching amongst their own 
heaped dead, while the British guard stood watch- 
ing them, and the sky flickered with **the fateful 
lightning" and the guns growled their triumph 



280 GRAPES OF WRATH 

song; and then went on and repeated the verse of 

the Battle Hymn, **Mine eyes have seen *' 

"Yon see jnst how exact it fitted, '* he said. 
**But it wasn't only in that. Theh were otheh 
lines'*; and he went on to tell of the journey bac^ 
from the advanced dressing station, the camp fires 
dotting the hills, the mists crawling in the valley, 
the lanterns moving to and fro where the bearers 
still searched for the wonnded. "Jnst see how it 
came in again,'' he said, and repeated another 
verse : 

I have leen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling eampa^ 
Th^ have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps, 
I have read His righteous sentence in the dim and flaring lamps, 

His truth is marching on. 

"That wasn't all," he went on. **The words 
fitted 'most everywheh they tonched. All along 
I've neveh qmte managed to get so soaked in con- 
fidence that we mnst win as every man I've met 
in the British Army has been. I've had some 
donbts at times ; but that night I lost them all. It 
wasn't only seeing the men pouring up into the 
firing line, an' the sureness of not being driven 
back that I could figure was in the minds of the 
higher Commands when they set to building roads 
an' rails right up into the captured ground; it 



PLAT OUT THE GAME 281 

wasn't only the endless stacks of shells and stuflE 
piled right there on the back doorstep of the battle, 
and the swarms of guns we came back throngh. 
It was something that just spoke plain and dear 
in my ear, * He has sounded forth the trumpet that 
shall never call retreat,' an' IVe had no shadow 
of doubt since but that Germany will go undeh, 
that theh is nothing left for her but defeat, that 
she is to be made to pay to the last bitter squeez- 
ing of the grapes of wrath for the blood and 
misery she plunged Europe into. Theh will be no 
mercy fo' heh. That was told me plain too — ^*I 
have read the fiery gospel writ in rows of bur- 
nished steel, * * As ye deal with My contemners so 
with you My soul shall deal." ' . . . Bernhardi 
an' all his lot writ a fiery enough gosi>el, but it's 
cold print beside that other one, that strips the 
last hope of mercy from His contemners with 
their gospel of blood and iron and terror and 
f rightfulness." He paused and was silent a little, 
and then glanced half-shamef acedly from the flick- 
ering fire-shadows at Larry. 

**Any one else might think I was talkin' like 
a rantin ', crazy, fanatic preacher, ' ' he said. * * But 
you an' I, boy, an' most that's been oveh theh, will 
undehstand, because we 've learned a lot mo ' than 



282 GRAPES OF WRATH 

we can eveh tell or speak out loud. ... So IVe 
come to believe that all these things fetched home 
a plain message to me, an' I'd do right to follow 
the rest of the verses as best I could. *As He 
died to make men holy, let us die to make men 
free,' is straight enough, an' I've got to go oiw 
offering my life as long as He sees fit to let me, or 
until He sees fit to take it. ' ' 

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreaty 
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat^ 
O be swift, mj soul, to answer Him, be jubilant my feet, 

Our God is marching on I 

He was speaking now slowly and low and 
musingly, almost as if he spoke to himself. * * My 
heart has had some sifting too. It was so easy 
to take this off eh of yo' father's, and live pleasant 
an' smooth; an' it was nasty to think about that 
otheh life, an ' the muck and misery of it all. But 
altho ' I could be no ways swift or jubilant about 
it, I came to allow I'd just go again, an' do what 
I could." 

In the silence that followed they heard the quick 
slam of an outer door, and a minute later their 
room door swung open and some one entered 
briskly, stopped in the half-dark and cried out in 



PLAY OUT THE GAME 283 

a girPs laughing voice, **Why — ^whatever are you 
two boys doing in the dark!'* 

Kentucky had jumped to his feet and was mov- 
ing round the couch, but Larry's sister st)oke im- 
periously. ^^WUl you sit down, Kentuck? How 
jpften have I to tell you that you haven't quite es- 
caped being an invalid yetf " 

** Why, now, I thought I'd been discharged fit,'* 
said Kentucky, and Larry called, **Come here, 
Eose, and see if you can persuade this crazy fel- 
low." 

Eose came forward into the firelight and made 
Kentucky sit again, and dropped to a seat on the 
floor in front of Larry's couch. Kentucky sat 
back in the shadow looking at her and thinking 
what a picture she made with her pretty English 
face framed in a dark close-fitting hat and a heavy 
fur round her throat with the outside damp cling- 
ing and sparkling on it. 

** Persuade him," she said, **what to! Wouldn't 
it be easier for me just to order himf " 

* ' He talks about going back, ' ' said Larry. * * Out 
there — ^to the front again. ' ' 

The girl sat up wide-eyed. **The front," she 
repeated. **But how — ^I don't understand — ^your 
hand. . • ." 



284 GRAPES OF WRATH 

**Not in the firing line,'* said Kentucky quickly, 
"I^m not fit for that. But I am fit for Red Cross 
work, ' ' 

** It's as bad/' said Larry, **if you're working 
close up, as I know you'd be if you had a chance. ' ' 

The girl was staring into the flickering fire with 
set lips. She looked round suddenly and leaned 
forward and slipped a hand on to Kentucky's 
knee. **0h, Ken . . . don't, don't go. Stay here 
with us." 

Kentucky's thought flashed out to * * over there, ' ' 
where he would move in mud and filth, would be 
cold and wet and hungry. He saw himself crawl- 
ing a car along the shell-holed muddy track, his 
hands stiff with cold, the rain beating and driving 
in his face, the groans of his load of wounded be- 
hind him, the stench of decay and battle in his nos- 
trils, the fear of God and the whistling bullets 
and roaring shells cold in his heart. And against 
that was this snug, cozy room and all the life that 
it stood for . . . and the warm touch of the girl 's 
hand on his knee. He wavered a moment while a 
line hammered swiftly through his mind, **. . . 
sifting out the hearts of men. ..." 

Then he spoke quietly, almost casually; but 



PLAY OUT THE GAME 285 

knowing him as they did, both knew that his words 
were completely finaL 

**Why, now,'' he said slowly, **Kendrick, my 
friend Kendrick of the Bed Cross, asked me ; and 
I passed my word, I gave my promise that I'd go/' 

Oct 2 9 1917