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Title: Between the Lines
Author: Boyd Cable
Release Date: April 15, 2008 [EBook #25076]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK BETWEEN THE LINES ***
McCLELLAND, GOODCHILD, & STEWART, LTD.
THE EDITOR OF THE CORNHILL
REGINALD JOHN SMITH
_for whose helpful criticism and advice, kindly consideration and
This book, all of which has been written at the Front within sound of
the German guns and for the most part within shell and rifle range, is
an attempt to tell something of the manner of struggle that has gone on
for months between the lines along the Western Front, and more
especially of what lies behind and goes to the making of those curt and
vague terms in the war communiqu s. I think that our people at Home
will be glad to know more, and ought to know more, of what these bald
phrases may actually signify, when, in the other sense, we read
'between the lines.'
Of the people at Home--whom we at the Front have relied upon and looked
to more than they may know--many have helped us in heaping measure of
deed and thought and thoughtfulness, while others may perhaps have
failed somewhat in their full duty, because, as we have been told and
re-told to the point of weariness, they 'have not understood' and 'do
not realise' and 'were never told.'
If this book brings anything of interest and pleasure to the first, and
of understanding to the second, it will very fully have served its
THE ADVANCED TRENCHES
'NOTHING TO REPORT'
THE PROMISE OF SPRING
A CONVERT TO CONSCRIPTION
'BUSINESS AS USUAL'
A HYMN OF HATE
A SMOKER'S COMPANION
THE JOB OF THE AM. COL.
THE SIGNALLER'S DAY
For perhaps the twentieth time in half an hour the look-out man in the
advanced trench raised his head cautiously over the parapet and peered
out into the darkness. A drizzling rain made it almost impossible to
see beyond a few yards ahead, but then the German trench was not more
than fifty yards off and the space between was criss-crossed and
interlaced and a-bristle with the tangle of barb-wire defences erected
by both sides. For the twentieth time the look-out peered and twisted
his head sideways to listen, and for the twentieth time he was just
lowering his head beneath the sheltering parapet when he stopped and
stiffened into rigidity. There was no sound apart from the sharp
cracks of the rifles near at hand and running diminuendo along the
trenches into a rising and falling stutter of reports, the frequent
whine and whistle of the more distant bullets, and the quick hiss and
'zipp' of the nearer ones, all sounds so constant and normal that the
look-out paid no heed to them, put them, as it were, out of the focus
of his hearing, and strained to catch the fainter but far more
significant sound of a footstep squelching in the mud, the 'snip' of a
wire-cutter at work, the low 'tang' of a jarred wire.
A few hundred yards down the line, a dazzling light sprang out, hung
suspended, and slowly floated down, glowing nebulous in the misty rain,
and throwing a soft radiance and dusky shadows and gleaming lines of
silver along the parapets and wire entanglements.
Intent, the look-out stared to his front for a moment, flung muzzle
over the parapet and butt to shoulder, and snapped a quick shot at one
of the darker blotches that lay prone beyond the outer tangles of wire.
The blotch jerked and sprawled, and the look-out shouted, slipped out
the catch of his magazine cut-off, and pumped out the rounds as fast as
fingers could work bolt and trigger, the stabbing flashes of the
discharge lighting with sharp vivid glares his tense features, set
teeth, and scowling eyes. There was a pause and stillness for the
space of a couple of quick-drawn breaths, and then--pandemonium!
The forward trench flamed and blazed with spouts of rifle-fire, its
slightly curved length clearly defined from end to end by the spitting
flashes. Verey lights and magnesium flares turned the darkness to
ghastly vivid light, the fierce red and orange of bursting bombs and
grenades threw splashes of angry colour on the glistening wet parapets,
the flat khaki caps of the British, the dark overcoats of the Germans
struggling and hacking in the barb-wires. The eye was confused with
the medley of leaping lights and shadows; the ear was dazed with the
clamour and uproar of cracking rifles, screaming bullets, and
shattering bombs, the oaths and yells, the shouted orders, the groans
and outcries of the wounded. Then from overhead came a savage rush and
shriek, a flash of light that showed vivid even amidst the confusion of
light, a harder, more vicious crash than all the other crashing
reports, and the shrapnel ripped down along the line of the German
trench that erupted struggling, hurrying knots of men.
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