Letters from France eBook

Charles Bean
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about Letters from France.

That is the difference.

CHAPTER VI

THE GERMANS

France, May.

The night air on every side of us was full of strange sound.  It was not loud nor near, but it was there all the time.  We could hear it even while we talked and above the sound of our footsteps on the cobbles of the long French highway.  Ahead of us, and far on either side, came this continuous distant rattle.  It was the sound of innumerable wagons carrying up over endless cobble stones the food and ammunition for another day.

A cart clattered past from the front with the jingle of trace chains and hammer of metal tyres upon stones.  So one driver had finished his job for the night.  Farther on was a sound of voices and a chink of spades; some way to our left across a field we can make out dark figures—­they may be stunted willows along the far hedge, or they may be a working party going up, with their spades and picks over their shoulders, to one of those jobs which in this flat country can only be done by night.

Twenty miles behind the lines, or more, you can see every night along the horizon in front of you a constant low flicker of light—­the flares thrown up by both sides over the long ribbon of No Man’s Land—­the ribbon which straggles without a break from one end of France to the other.  We were getting very close to that barrier now—­within a couple of miles of it; and the pure white stars of these glorified Roman candles were describing graceful curves behind a fretwork of trees an inch or two above the horizon.  Every five or six seconds a rifle cracked somewhere along the line—­very different from the ceaseless pecking of Gallipoli.  Then a distant German machine-gun started its sprint, stumbled, went on again, tripped again.  A second machine-gun farther down the line caught it up, and the two ran along in perfect step for a while.  Then a third joined in, like some distant canary answering its mates.  The first two stopped and left it trilling along by itself, catching occasionally like a motor-car engine that misfires, until it, too, stuttered into silence.  “Some poor devils being killed, I suppose,” you think to yourself, “suppose they’ve seen a patrol out in front of the lines, or a party digging in the open somewhere behind the trenches.”  You can’t help crediting the Germans—­at first, when you come to this place as a stranger—­with being much more deadly than the Turks both with their machine-guns and their artillery.  But you soon learn that it is by no means necessary that anyone is dying when you hear their machine-guns sing a chorus.  They may chatter away for a whole night and nobody be in the least the worse for it.  Their artillery can throw two or three hundred shells, or even more, into one of its various targets, not once but many times, and only a man or two be wounded; sometimes no one at all.  War is alike in that respect all the world over, apparently; which is comforting.

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Letters from France from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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