The time was late in the autumn of the second
year of the war; the place, the garden of a war hospital in a small Austrian
town, which lay at the base of wooded hills, sequestered as behind a Spanish
wall, and still preserving its sleepy contented outlook upon existence.
Day and night the locomotives whistled by. Some
of them hauled to the front trains of soldiers singing and hallooing,
high-piled bales of hay, bellowing cattle and ammunition in tightly-closed,
sinister-looking cars. The others, in the opposite direction, came creeping
homeward slowly, marked by the bleeding cross that the war has thrown upon all
walls and the people behind them. But the great madness raced through the town
like a hurricane, without disturbing its calm, as though the low, brightly
colored houses with the old-fashioned ornate façades had tacitly come to the
sensible agreement to ignore with aristocratic reserve this arrogant,
blustering fellow, War, who turned everything topsy-turvy.