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No Man's Land   By: (1888-1937)

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First Page:

E text prepared by Al Haines

Transcriber's note:

In the original book, the author was given as "Sapper," the pseudonym of Herman Cyril McNeile. This e book uses the author's real name.

NO MAN'S LAND

by

H. C. McNEILE

Author of "Men, Women, and Guns," "Sergeant Michael Cassidy, R.E.," and "The Lieutenant and Others"

Hodder and Stoughton London New York Toronto MCMXVII

TO

THE INFANTRYMAN

PREFACE

During the first few days of November 1914 Messines was lost in silence; during the first few days of June 1917 Messines was regained and the noise of its capture was heard in London. And during the two and a half years between these two events the game over the water has been going on.

It hasn't changed very much in the time that game to the player. To those who look on, doubtless, the difference is enormous. Now they speak easily of millions where before they thought diffidently of thousands. But to the individual well, Messines is lost or Messines is won; and he is the performer. It is of those performers that I write: of the hole and corner work, of the little thumb nail sketches which go to make up the big battle panels so ably depicted over the matutinal bacon and eggs.

And as one privileged to assist at times in that hole and corner work, I offer these pages as a small tribute to those who have done so far more than I: to the men who have borne the burden of the days, the months, the years to the men who have saved the world to the Infantrymen.

CONTENTS

PART I

THE WAY TO THE LAND

PART II

THE LAND:

I. A DAY OF PEACE II. OVER THE TOP III. THE MAN TRAP IV. A POINT OF DETAIL V. MY LADY OF THE JASMINE VI. MORPHIA VII. BENDIGO JONES HIS TREE VIII. THE SONG OF THE BAYONET

PART III

SEED TIME:

I. THE SEED II. THE FIRST LESSON III. AN IMPERSONAL DEMONSTRATION IV. SOMEWHAT MORE PERSONAL V. A PROJECT AND SOME SIDE ISSUES VI. THE SECOND LESSON AND SOME FURTHER SIDE ISSUES VII. THE THIRD LESSON, AND A DIGRESSION VIII. THE THIRD LESSON IS LEARNED IX. "AND OTHER FELL ON GOOD GROUND"

PART IV

HARVEST

PART I

THE WAY TO THE LAND

I

It came suddenly when it did come, it may be remembered. Every one knew it was coming, and yet it was all so impossible, so incredible. I remember Clive Draycott looking foolishly at his recall telegram in the club he had just come home on leave from Egypt and then brandishing it in front of my nose.

"My dear old boy," he remarked peevishly, "it's out of the question. I'm shooting on the 12th."

But he crossed the next day to Boulogne.

It was a Sunday morning, and Folkestone looked just the same as it always did look. Down by the Pavilion Hotel the usual crowd of Knuts in very tight trousers and very yellow shoes, with suits most obviously bought off the peg, wandered about with ladies of striking aspect. Occasional snatches of conversation, stray gems of wit, scintillated through the tranquil August air, and came familiarly to the ears of a party of some half dozen men who stood by a pile of baggage at the entrance to the hotel.

"Go hon, Bill; you hare a caution, not 'arf." A shrill girlish giggle, a playful jerk of the "caution's" arm, a deprecating noise from his manly lips, which may have been caused by bashfulness at the compliment, or more probably by the unconsumed portion of the morning Woodbine, and the couple moved out of hearing.

"I wonder," said a voice from the group, "if we are looking on the passing of the breed."

He was a tall, thin, spare fellow, the man who spoke; and amongst other labels on his baggage was one marked Khartoum. His hands were sinewy and his face was bronzed, while his eyes, brown and deep set, held in them the glint of the desert places of the earth: the mark of the jungle where birds flit through the shadows like bars of glorious colour; the mark of the swamp where the ague mists lie dank and stagnant in the rays of the morning sun.

No one answered his remark; it seemed unnecessary, and each was busy with his own thoughts... Continue reading book >>




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