CHAPTER 2 Entry of the Gladiators
That curious procession, the Transport, was on its way up, and ensconced somewhere in it were two people who anticipated the very worst. On the horizon in front casual yellow lights climbed up broadening, leered maliciously and expired: there were long bursts of machine-gun fire; down south a strafe was warming up and a sinister thudding made itself heard and, even at this distance of perhaps a dozen miles, felt in the air. Through the shutting darkness a low damp wind came whispering, causing D— to murmur something about unshriven spirits, and a facetious driver to bawl, ‘Wind favourable for whizzbangs tonight, Will?’ Will, however, had sunk into a hypnotic doze behind his monotonous trotting mules, and made no answer. The column rattled ahead without any obstruction (those were halcyon days for the Transport). At last the Quartermaster, after seeing the convoy on the right road, left us to the mercies of the Transport Sergeant and departed with much good humour, spurring his animal, to take the CO up his ‘Daily Prevaricator’. I was puffing along in my British Warm and pack, and was somewhat perturbed by the behaviour of the mules behind; they kept nosing forward by my shoulder to chat about something which I couldn’t understand. No doubt they gathered I was a new draft. We passed a colony of half-ruined houses, with sacks stretched partway over some windows and lights glaring pleasantly from all. I was told these were the haunts of gunners, and miscellaneous outcries added the information that they were playing house.
Shortly after we turned on a side road and came across a kind of open-air smoking concert, standing or sitting in