MONTHS AND MONTHS before Christopher Tietjens had stood extremely wishing that his head were level with a particular splash of purposeless whitewash. Something behind his mind forced him to the conviction that, if his head -- and of course the rest of his trunk and lower limbs -- were suspended by a process of levitation to that distance above the duckboard on which, now, his feet were, he would be in an inviolable sphere. These waves of conviction recurred continually: he was constantly glancing aside and upwards at that splash; it was in the shape of the comb of a healthy rooster; it gleamed, with five serrations, in the just-beginning light that shone along the thin, unroofed channel in the gravel slope. Wet half-light, just flickering; more visible there than in the surrounding desolation because the deep, narrow channel framed a section of justilluminated rift in the watery eastwards!
Twice he had stood up on a rifleman's step enforced by a bullybeef case to look over -- in the last few minutes. Each time, on stepping down again, he had been struck by that phenomenon: the light seen from the trench seemed if not brighter, then more definite. So, from the bottom of a pit-shaft in broad day you can see the stars. The wind was light, but from the north-west. They had there the weariness of a beaten army, the weariness of having to begin always new days again. . . .
He glanced aside and upwards: that cockscomb of phosphorescence. . . . He felt waves of some X force propelling his temples towards it. He wondered if perhaps the night before he had not observed that that was a patch of reinforced concrete, therefore more