‘We’re awa’ this time, by Goad!’ yelled Willie in his friend’s ear.
And Macgregor laughed wildly and wrung his friend’s hand.
‘HULLO, GLESCA HIELANDERS!’
Like a trodden, forgotten thing Private Macgregor Robinson lay on the Flanders mud, under the murk and rain. A very long time it seemed since that short, grim struggle amid the blackness and intermittent brightness. The night was still rent with noise and light, but the storm of battle had passed from the place where he had fallen. He could not tell whether his fellows had taken the enemy’s trench or retired to their own. He had the vaguest ideas as to where he was. But he knew that there was pain in his left shoulder and right foot, that he was athirst, also that he had killed a man—a big stout man, old enough to have been his father. He tried not to think of the last, though he did not regret it: it had been a splendid moment.
He was not the only soldier lying there in the mud, but the others, friend or foe, were quite still. The sight of them in the flashes distressed him, yet always his gaze drifted back to them. His mind was a medley of thoughts, from the ugliest to the loveliest. At last, for he was greatly exhausted, his head drooped to his uninjured arm, his eyes closed. For a while he dozed. Then something disturbed him, and he raised himself and peered. In the flicker of a distant flare he saw a shape approaching him, crawling on hands and knees, very slowly, pausing for an instant at each still figure. It made Macgregor think of a big dog searching for its master—only it wore a helmet. Macgregor, setting his teeth, drew his rifle between his knees and unfixed the bayonet. . . .
‘Hist! Is that you, Macgreegor?’
‘Oh, Wullie’—in a whisper—’I’m gled to see ye!’
‘I believe ye!’ gasped Willie, and flattened out at his friend’s side, breathing heavily. At the end of a minute or so—’Ha’e ye got it bad, Macgreegor?’ he inquired.
‘So, so. Arm an’ leg. I’m feelin’ rotten, but I’m no fini shed yet. Ha’e ye ony water? Ma bottle’s shot through.’
‘Here ye are. . . . Feelin’ seeck-like?’
‘I’m seeck at gettin’ knocked oot at the vera beginnin.’
‘Never heed. Did ye kill yer man?’
‘Same here. . . . In the back. . . . Ma Goad!’
‘Ha’e we ta’en their trench?’
‘Ay; but no enough o’ us to baud it.
We’re back in the auld place. Better luck next time. No safe to strike a match here; could dae fine wi’ a fag.’
There was a silence between them, broken at last by Macgregor.
’Hoo did ye find me, Wullie? What way are ye no back in the trench?’
’Wasna gaun back wi’oot ye—I seen ye drap—even if ye had been a corp. . . . Been snokin’ aroun’ seekin’ ye for Guid kens hoo lang. I’m fair hingin’ wi’ glaur.’