I could understand his reluctance to go back into that death-haunted house; and I found myself breathing deeply with the relief of getting out of it. The walk uptown did me good. The rain had ceased, and the air felt clean and fresh as though it had been washed. I took deep breaths of it, and the feeling of fatigue and depression which had weighed upon me gradually vanished.
The horror that this white and frightful scene of desolation had at the beginning filled me with was renewed with such violence when I saw that my boat was lost, and I was to be a prisoner on the death-haunted waste, that I fell down in a sort of swoon, like one partly stunned, and had any person come along and seen me he would have thought me as dead as the body on the hill or the corpse that kept its dismal look-out from the deck of the schooner.
There they are: stars, sun, sea, light, darkness, space, great waters; the formidable Work of the Seven Days, into which mankind seems to have blundered unbidden. Or else decoyed. Even as I have been decoyed into this awful, this death-haunted command. . . ."
But to Vane gigantic captures in men and guns meant a very different picture. He saw just the one man crawling on his belly through the mouldering bricks and stinking shell-holes of some death-haunted village. He saw the sudden pause the tense silence as the man stopped motionless, listening with every nerve alert.
Through the ensuing years many women cried quietly or vehemently, according to their natures, and many men went away from places that had known them, to be no more known of those places; and the little Kingdom of Sorrows, shattered, blood-soaked, and unconquerable, stood fast, a bulwark between the ravager of the world and his victory until there sped across the death-haunted seas the army that was to turn the scales.
Half a dozen officers were standing about the front door, and in another moment I was bustled into the conveyance provided and was being driven away from the death-haunted spot. I had heard the last whisper of those pines for many, many days. But not in my dreams; it ever came back at night, sinister, awesome, haunted with dead hopes and breathing of an ever doubtful future.
The red ruins of Vermelles, a mile or so away, were sharply defined, as through stereoscopic lenses, in the quiver of sunlight, and had the sinister look of a death-haunted place. It was where the French had fought their way through gardens, walls, and houses in murderous battle, before leaving it for British troops to hold.