to disperse it
utterly The shrapnel puffs materialized from the air at first as small and white as wads of cotton wool, then growing swiftly larger and turning to a vivid grey, then fainter again and travelling across the view like tadpoles of cloud, until at last they trailed their tails in a kind of fatigue before they dissolved against the sky. Heavy shells created volcanoes all along the line, and from the sea, like drums solemnly beaten, came the sound of the ships firing.
It seemed very calm in the shelter, as the wind fretted the grass and fluttered two magenta cistus flowers immediately outside the window, and as a tortoise crawled laboriously passed our straining binoculars. It seemed very calm as one looked at the maps pegged out upon the trestle tables: but it was ten minutes to twelve, and at twelve o'clock the advance would begin. The gunfire lessened, and from the whole line the noise of musketry and maxims came sharply, a noise that was tenser than the guns, and more portentous. It was as if one had been listening to a change of orchestration in a symphony, as if after a heavy and almost dull prelude, the strings were leading to a breathless finale.
Yet, as one gazed through the glasses, there was scarcely a visible sign of action. Once indeed a large body of men were visible as they limbed the green slope, but they were soon lost, and not withstanding those angry rifles, we had nothing at which we could look except the mules standing motionless in the hollow, and once down a ribbon of road an orderly galloping. Yet all the time messages were coming in along the wires, all the time it was possible to mark with green and red and blue pencils a redoubt gained, a trench occupied, or at some point perhaps a check. One message brought news of 50 prisoners coming in up on