He was just a common or garden ordinary sort of chap. He was lying on hot, pointed, uncomfortable stones through which long tufts of coarse grass protruded. Drops of sweat were trickling down his face, and his hands left wet marks where they came into contact with the stock or barrel of his rifle. With elbows, with chest, with stomach, with legs, he was trying to press hard against the ground. It is a curious feeling, that lying down and trying to press against the ground. He wished to reduce himself to the substance of a postage-stamp. This was the day of his first fight, but since he had got up everything was unaccountably unlike his expectation. The reveille had sounded in the dark at three o'clock in the morning. It was bitterly cold outside the tents, and his hands trembled as he fumbled with his putties. He had had a hard struggle to turn out from under that warm rug where he had been dreaming the real soldier's dream. Detaille's picture is all rot—the soldier's dream is not the picture of victorious battalions with banners flying, marching through the clouds. He had been dreaming of tripe and onions. Visions of past good meals in comfortable quarters washed down with deep cooling draughts of bitter floated in procession through sizzling clouds of vapour smelling of invisible kitchens. As he fumbled with his putties the rumble of waggons came out of darkness from a road hard by, mingled with the sharper rattle that tells of the gunners already on the move. The vague rumours of last night, he felt, were going to shape into the actuality of fight; but what an hour to go out fighting! Why should they be hauled out to fight in the dark? Why could not men wait for light? Wait until the world was aired? He was thirsty and uncomfortable, with the taste of stale tobacco in his mouth, and joined in the variegated imprecations muttered by the men when he found there would be only a few minutes to get anything to eat and no time for hot coffee. Presently he is a unit in a long snake-like column of men that winds along the road through the dark into the unknown. As he plods on he speculates how the fight will start. Perhaps the kopjes on either side of the road may be already full of Boers. Perhaps the beginning of the fight will be to find that they have marched into another ambush. It was a nasty uncomfortable feeling, that tramping through the darkness into the unknown. He felt better as the light spread from the eastern hills, and felt companionship and security in being part and parcel of that great mass of men that extended before and behind him on the road as far as he could see. Suddenly there is the boom of a gun, and he comes into collision with the man in front of him, who has stopped dead at the sound. A strange tingling feeling goes up his spine. There is a hush! No one speaks. The whole essence of vitality strains to listen. A faint whir crescendoes rapidly into the shrill whoop of a steam-siren, and a great balloon-shaped cloud of smoke and dust has already arisen from amidst the marching mass of men ahead. There is no sign whence came the shot. Nothing can be more peaceful-looking than the shoulders of these hills lying bathed in the quiet morning light. There is no sign of an enemy. Sharp words of command ring out while the cloud of smoke and dust is still hanging in the air, and in a dazed and mechanical way he finds himself deploying over the ground, which shakes with the gallop of cavalry as they spread out fan-like on either side of the road. The artillery rattle and jolt over the stones, and the limbers toss like little punts towed through a choppy sea. His company advances in extended order across the stony ground tufted with grass, and are ordered to lie down. The captain says, "Any men who have got anything to eat, let them eat it now." He has a piece of bread in his haversack, but feels no inclination to eat that dry and crumby stuff; but he is thirsty, and takes a long and deep pull at his water-bottle. The sun has already become very hot. The artillery has already got into action on the left, and is engaged in a duel with the Boer gunners. The minutes of waiting seem hours to him. Then all the men watch with keen interest an officer with a red-banded German cap galloping towards them. The result of his arrival is an order for them to advance up the gradual slope of this rounded hill. Just as he starts there is a light keen whistle in the air overhead like the call of a bird, then another and another. Instinctively he feels that these are made by bullets flying overhead. As he goes on an occasional one rings with a sharp bitterness in its tone, and he ducks his head as one might duck to the swish of a riding-whip near the face. They go with knees and backs bent, and he longs for the order to halt and lie down again. A fellow drops out alongside of him, but he does not look to see what has happened—he is afraid to look. Just when they have reached the crest of the hill, and when the whistling sounds have become more plentiful than ever, they are ordered to lie down again. Looking through the streaky stems of grass immediately in front of him, he can see a similarly shaped hill about 1200 yards away. It looks absolutely deserted. Nothing moves upon the skyline. Little puffs of smoke momentarily appear above it, which he knows are caused by the bursting of our shrapnel. He begins to feel he is really in the fight, but it is just altogether opposite to what he expects. It is commonplace and disappointing to a degree. He sees the gunners busy on the left, the horses standing behind them as if all the whistling sounds are only a rain-shower. There is a small stone in front of him, just half the size of his helmet. He knows it is not half big enough to cover him. All his preconceived ideas of a fight are crumbling away. Here they are being led out to lie on the grass to be potted at, and not allowed to reply. But then, as he looks at the opposite hill, he sees nothing to fire at. A group of red-capped officers walk their horses along the line left behind them. He recognises the General in command. They stop, and one of the General's aides-de-camp dismounts and opens a paper parcel, from which the General takes a sandwich and bites a big semicircular piece out of it. He finds it hard to realise that this is a battle and that this is the General commanding. In all pictures of battles that he has seen from his youth upwards the General is seated on a horse poised on two legs, and waving a sword or pointing with a marshal's bâton. And here is a General with a sandwich with a big bite out of it, who points with the sandwich-hand instead. And then he begins to wonder, with all this multitudinous whistling, that nobody seems to be hit. Then the order is given to advance again. He feels a tremendous disinclination to leave the stone, and waits to see the other men around him get up. They all get up except the fellow on his right. Reaching over with his rifle, he pokes him in the ribs. He then hits him on the shoulder with it. Thinking he is asleep, he tips off his helmet from behind. His eyes are quite open; and then, like a douche of cold water, comes the consciousness that this man is dead. A feeling to get away from that corpse more than any other brings him amongst his comrades a few yards in advance, who are already firing and lying flat. He keeps blazing away mechanically at the innocent-looking hill opposite. His rifle is hot in his moist hands. An order to "cease fire" is given, and then there is another long interval of waiting. The whole business seems waiting. It isn't a bit like a proper sort of fight. There is nobody to fight; but still the bird-like notes are in the air above, and bitter little sounds against stones, and tiny little fountains of dust spurt from the ground around. And then a great feeling comes to him that he would like to be out of it all. There is no glory in it. The sun is hotter than he ever felt it before. His water-bottle is finished, and his mouth is clammy. A young subaltern with an eye-glass, no end of a toff, walks along the front of the line, and he watches with interested delight microscopic ducklets of his head, synchronising with whistles. Just as the toff is opposite him, he spins round suddenly, exclaiming, "By Jove!" and falls down like a sack of potatoes all of a heap. He begins to feel a strange sickness in the stomach, just the same as coming out on the transport. He feels it coming on. He knows he is going to be sick, and as he is going to be sick he wants to go away. There is no use in a sick man remaining in the fighting line. But then he feels as if he were held down there by the weight of the whirring air. There is no room in it for him to get up safely. There is no room to go away. Momentarily the noises increase. Men are firing about him, and he strains his eyes on the opposite hill to see something to shoot at, and empties his magazine at what looks like a man but may be a tree-trunk, and then stops again and gets sick. Another long period of waiting follows. All the water is gone from his water-bottle; an intolerable thirst is scorching his throat. He does not reload his magazine, and makes up his mind to say that his rifle is jammed, so that he need not go further with any fresh stupid advance that may be ordered. This is no time to care about what any one may think of him, it is just too awful for anything.

The ground has ceased trembling with the cavalry, who have dashed to the front. There is no longer any whizzing in the air. The "cease fire" is already sounding right along the line. The man who was afraid stands up with his comrades, who are already on their legs. The old Colonel trots along the line, mopping his red face with his handkerchief. "That was a hot business," he says to his Captain, and calls cheerily to us, "Well done, C Company! You are damned steady boys under as hot fire as I have ever seen." The man who was afraid opens his shoulders and pulls out the collar of his tunic and stoops down to wipe off the cakes of dirty earth that are sticking to his knees.