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"WHEN WE BEGIN TO PUSH"
"Here we are," said the Colonel, halting his horse. "Fine view one gets from here."
"Rather a treat to be able to see over a bit of country again, after so many months of the flat," said, the Adjutant, reining up beside the other. They were halted on the top of a hill, or, father, the corner of an edge on a wide plateau. On two sides of them the ground fell away abruptly, the road they were on dipping sharply over the edge and sweeping round and downward in a well-graded slope along the face of the hill to the wide flats below. Over these flats they could see for many miles, miles of cultivated fields, of little woods, of gentle slopes. They could count the buildings of many farms, the roofs of half a dozen villages, the spires of twice as many churches, the tall chimneys and gaunt frame towers of scattered pit-heads. It had been raining all day, but now in the late afternoon the clouds had broken and the light of the low sun was tinging the landscape with a mellow golden glow.
"There's going to be a beautiful sunset presently," said the Colonel, "with all those heavy broken clouds about. Let's dismount and wait for a bit."
Both dismounted and handed their reins to the orderly, who, riding behind them, had halted when they did, but now at a sign came forward.
"We'll just stroll to that rise on the left," the Colonel said. "The best view should be from there."
The Adjutant lingered a moment. "Take their bits out, Trumpeter," he said, "and let them pick a mouthful of grass along the roadside."
A rough country track ran to the left off the main road, and the two walked along it a couple of hundred yards to where it plunged over the crest and ran steeply down the hillside. Another main road ran along the flat parallel with the hill foot, and along this crawled a long khaki column.
"Look at the light on those hills over there," said the Colonel. "Fine, isn't it?"
The Adjutant was busily engaged with the field-glasses he had taken from the case slung over his shoulder and was focusing them on the road below.
"I say," he remarked suddenly, "those are the Canadians. I didn't know the ----th Division was so far south. Moving up front, too." The Colonel dropped his gaze to the road a moment and then swept it slowly over the country-side. "Yes," he said, "and this area is pretty well crowded with troops when you look closely."
The light on the distant hills was growing more golden and beautiful, the clouds were beginning to catch the first tints of the sunset, but neither men for the moment noticed these things, searching with their gaze the landscape below, sifting it over and picking out a battery of artillery camped in a big chalk-pit by the roadside, the slow-rising and drifting columns of blue smoke that curled up from a distant wood and told of the regiment encamped there, the long strings of horses converging on a big mine building for the afternoon watering, the lines of transport wagons parked on the outskirts of a village, the shifting khaki figures that stirred about every farm building in sight, the row of gray-painted motor-omnibuses, drawn up in a long line on a side road. The countryside that under a first look slept peacefully in the afternoon sunlight, that drowsed calmly in the easy quiet of an uneventful field and farm existence, proved under the closer searching look to be a teeming hive of activity, a close-packed camp of well-armed fighting men, a widespread net and chain of men and guns and horses. The peaceful countryside was overflowing with men and bristling with bayonets; every village was a crammed-full military cantonment, every barn stuffed with soldiers like an overfilled barracks.
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