“I like my blue aster better than that yellow weed of yours, Tom!”
“You didn’t know Ed Schmidt got it? Yes, he was right next me in the line.”
“Say, did you notice Dellarme’s smile? It was wonderful.”
“And old Bert Stransky! I heard him whistling the wedding march as he fired.”
“Miss, I’ll keep this flower forever!”
“They say Billy Lister will live—his cheek was shot away!”
“Once we got going I didn’t mind. It seemed as if I’d been fighting for years!”
“Hole no bigger than a lead-pencil. I’ll be back in a week!”
“Yes; don’t these little bullets make neat little holes?”
“We certainly gave them a surprise when they came up the hill! I wonder if we missed the fellow that jumped into the shell crater!”
“Our company got it worst!”
“Not any worse than ours, I’ll wager!”
“Oh—oh—can’t you go easier? Oh-h-h—” the groan ending in a clenching of the teeth.
“Hello, Jake! You here, too, and going in my automobile? And we’ve both got lower berths!”
“Sh-h! That poor chap’s dying!”
Worst of all to Marta was the case of a shrapnel fracture of the cranium, with the resulting delirium, in which the sufferer’s incoherence included memories of childhood scenes, moments on the firing-line, calls for his mother, and prayers to be put out of misery. A prod of the hypodermic from the major surgeon, and “On the operating-table in fifteen minutes” was the answer to Marta’s question if the poor fellow would live.
Until dark, in groups, at intervals, and again singly, the wounded were coming in from a brigade front in the region where the rifles were crackling and the shrapnel clouds were hanging prettily over the hills; and stretchers were being slipped into place in the ambulances, while Marta kept at her post.
“We shan’t have much more to do at this station,” said the major surgeon when a plodding section of infantry in retreat arrived.
STRANSKY FIGHTS ALONE
Every unit engrossed in his own work! Every man taught how a weak link may break a chain and realizing himself as a link and only a link! The captain of engineers forgot Marta’s existence as an error of his subordinates caught his eye, and he went to caution the axemen to cut closer to the ground, as stumps gave cover for riflemen. For the time being he had no more interest in the knoll than in the wreckage of dirigibles which were down and out of the fight.
After all, the knoll was only a single point on the vast staff map—only one of many points of a struggle whose progress was bulletined through the siftings of regimental, brigade, division, and corps headquarters in net results to the staff. Partow and Lanstron overlooked all. Their knowledge made the vast map live under their eyes. But our concern is with the story of two regiments, and particularly of two companies, and that is story enough. If you would grasp the whole, multiply the conflict on the knoll by ten thousand.