The Chief of Staff drives the eight-horse team. He works sixteen hours a day. So do most of the others. This is how you prove to the line that you have a right to be at G.H.Q. When you get to know G.H.Q. it seems like any other business institution. Many are there who do not want to be there; but they have been found out. They are specialists, who know how to do one thing particularly well and are kept doing it. No use of growling that you would like a “fighting job.”
G.H.Q. is the main station on the road of war, which hears the sound of the guns faintly. Beyond is the region of all the activities that it commands, up to the trenches, where all roads end and all efforts consummate. One has seen dreary flat lands of mud and leafless trees become fair with the spring, the growing harvest reaped, and the leaves begin to fall. Always the factory of war was in the same place; the soldiers billeted in the same towns; the puffs of shrapnel smoke over the same belt of landscape; the ruins of the same villages being pounded by high explosives. Always the sound of guns; always the wastage of life, as passing ambulances, the curtains drawn, speed by, their part swiftly and covertly done. The enormity of the thing holds the imagination; its sure and orderly processes of an organized civilization working at destruction win the admiration. There is a thrill in the courage and sacrifice and the drilled readiness of response to orders.
The spectator is under varying spells. To-day he seems in a fantastic world, whose horror makes it impossible of realization. To-morrow, as his car takes him along a pleasant by-road among wheat-fields where peasants are working and no soldier is in sight, it is a world of peace and one thinks that he has mistaken the roar of a train for the distant roar of gun-fire. Again, it seems the most real of worlds, an exclusive man’s world, where nothing counts but organized material force, and all those cleanly, well-behaved men in khaki are a part of the permanent population.
One sees the war as a colossal dynamo, where force is perpetual like the energy of the sun. The war is going on for ever. The reaper cuts the harvest, but another harvest comes. War feeds on itself, renews itself. Live men replace the dead. There seems no end to supplies of men. The pounding of the guns, like the roar of Niagara, becomes eternal. Nothing can stop it.