“Still, we must go on! We must win!”
“Yes, the offensive always wins in the end. We must go on!”
“And once we have the range—yes, once we’ve won one vital position—the men will recover their enthusiasm and be crying: ’On to the capital!’”
“Right! We were forgetting history. We were forgetting the volatility of human nature.”
WITH FELLER AND STRANSKY
Far up on a peak among the birds and aeroplanes, in a roofed, shell-proof chamber, with a telephone orderly at his side, a powerful pair of field-glasses and range-finders at his elbow, and a telescope before his eye, Gustave Feller, one-time gardener and now acting colonel of artillery, watched the burst of shells over the enemy’s lines. While other men had grown lean on war, he had taken on enough flesh to fill out the wrinkles around eyes that shone with an artist’s enjoyment of his work. Down under cover of the ridge were his guns, the keys of the instrument that he played by calls over the wire. Their barking was a symphony to his ears; errors of orchestration were errors in aim. He talked as he watched, his lively features reflective of his impressions.
“Oh, pretty! Right into their tummies! Right in the nose! La, la, la! But that’s off—and so’s that! Tell Battery C they’re fifty yards over. Oh, beady-eyed gods and shiny little fishes—two smacks in the same spot! Humph! Tell Battery C that the trouble with that gun is worn rifling; that’s why it’s going short. Elevate it for another hundred yards—but it ought not to wear out so soon. I’d like to kick the maker or the inspector. The fellows in B 21 will accuse us of inattention. It’s time to drop a shell on them to show we’re perfectly impartial in our favors. La, la, la! Oh, what a pretty smack! Congratulations!”
B 21 was the position of Fracasse’s company and the pretty smack the one that broke one man’s arm and crushed another’s head.
* * * * *
The “God with us!” song was singularly suited to the great, bull voice of its composer, born to the red and become Captain Stransky in the red business of war. It was he who led the thunder of its verses not far from where Peterkin led the song of the Grays.
“I certainly like that song,” said Stransky. Well he might. It had made him famous throughout the nation. “There’s Jehovah and brimstone in it. Now we’ll have our own.”
“Our own” was also of Stransky’s composition and about Dellarme; for Stransky, child of the highways and byways, of dark, tragic alleys and sunny fields, had music in him, the music of the people. The skin on his high cheek-bones was drawn tighter than before, further exaggerating the size of his nose, and the deeper set of his eyes gave their cross a more marked character. He carried on the spirit of Dellarme in the company in his own