They had marched more than thirty kilometers since dawn, along the white, hot road where occasional thickets of trees threw a moment of shade, then out into the glare again. On either hand, the valley, wide and shallow, glittered with ...
They had marched more than thirty kilometers since dawn, along the
white, hot road where occasional thickets of trees threw a moment
of shade, then out into the glare again. On either hand, the
valley, wide and shallow, glittered with heat; dark green patches
of rye, pale young corn, fallow and meadow and black pine woods
spread in a dull, hot diagram under a glistening sky. But right in
front the mountains ranged across, pale blue and very still, snow
gleaming gently out of the deep atmosphere. And towards the
mountains, on and on, the regiment marched between the rye fields
and the meadows, between the scraggy fruit trees set regularly on
either side the high road. The burnished, dark green rye threw off
a suffocating heat, the mountains drew gradually nearer and more
distinct. While the feet of the soldiers grew hotter, sweat ran
through their hair under their helmets, and their knapsacks could
burn no more in contact with their shoulders, but seemed instead to
give off a cold, prickly sensation.
He walked on and on in silence, staring at the mountains ahead,
that rose sheer out of the land, and stood fold behind fold, half
earth, half heaven, the heaven, the barrier with slits of soft
snow, in the pale, bluish peaks.
He could now walk almost without pain. At the start, he had
determined not to limp. It had made him sick to take the first
steps, and during the first mile or so, he had compressed his
breath, and the cold drops of sweat had stood on his forehead. But
he had walked it off. What were they after all but bruises! He
had looked at them, as he was getting up: deep bruises on the backs
of his thighs. And since he had made his first step in the
morning, he had been conscious of them, till now he had a tight,
hot place in his chest, with suppressing the pain, and holding
himself in. There seemed no air when he breathed. But he walked
The Captain's hand had trembled at taking his coffee at dawn: his
orderly saw it again. And he saw the fine figure of the Captain
wheeling on horseback at the farm-house ahead, a handsome figure in
pale blue uniform with facings of scarlet, and the metal gleaming
on the black helmet and the sword-scabbard, and dark streaks of
sweat coming on the silky bay horse. The orderly felt he was
connected with that figure moving so suddenly on horseback: he
followed it like a shadow, mute and inevitable and damned by it.
And the officer was always aware of the tramp of the company
behind, the march of his orderly among the men.