The fifth night passes and our fifth day dawns. Just after ‘stand-down’ young Snow sees an enemy soldier a full half mile away. This is the first enemy we’ve seen on this trip. The man is making back from the line going sideways across our line of vision. In the morning mist he shows up very big. The light of the breaking day is behind him. We see that he has a big pack upon his back.
‘Look at him. Off to Berlin on leave,’ says Dark, envious of anyone going on furlough.
‘Shake it up, boy, or you’ll miss the bus,’ laughingly advises Longun who is always friendly towards the enemy when they are a long way away.
‘Don’t you think we oughta have a pot at him? Farmer wants to know.
‘Let him go. Good luck to him,’ puts in the Prof. ‘Lucky to be getting out of this mud hole.’
‘Let him go be blowed. Watch me stir him up a bit.’ And Snow is busy getting the cover off his rifle breach. Snow leans half-balanced across the trench and aims. Crack! The rifle kicks hard, Snow collects a smack in the jaw from the recoil, slips and nearly falls, whilst Fritz never alters his stride. We laugh and enjoy Snow’s mishap.
‘Who got hurt the most, Snow?’
‘You’re a pretty decent shot, Snow. Oughta be a sniper.’
‘Fling a clod of mud at him. You might do better.’
‘Fritz is pretty safe.’
Snow is a bit rattled. Flat out across the trench he crawls, determined to have a better shot. He seems to forget that he is a wonderful target himself for the enemy manning their trench only a hundred yards away, but his luck is in and he isn’t fired at.
We watch Snow. Lying flat in the mud he aims. The rifle moves, steadies, drops a little and steadies again. In unison with Snow we hold our breaths. Crack! The rifle kicks back with a sudden jerk and half a mile across the muddy field the enemy soldier jolts upright, falls on one knee, rises hurriedly, takes a few staggering steps and collapses in a heap on the ground. Back in the trench drops Snow. He’s looking queer. No one speaks. We don’t quite know what to say. Snow gets his pull-through out and gives his rifle a couple of pulls through. He snaps and jerks at the rifle as if he holds it to blame. We all commence talking to relieve the tension for we know Snow is queerly affected by having shot the man.
‘Suppose you chaps think I’m a bloomin’ mongrel for doing that?’ he says, defiantly defending his action.
‘No, why the devil would we think that?’
‘What else did we come to the war for?’
Snow pelts the rifle up against the trench wall. ‘Well, a man’s a flamin’ mongrel to come at that, whether you think so or not. Poor beggar, probably going on leave too! A man ought to be shot himself for having anything to do with their rotten war.’