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CHAPTER XII

 

CANADIAN WAR CAMPS

 

LIGHT mists are common in the Laurentian valleys. Long sunlit days and cool nights give us, in the early, breathless dawn, silver clouds; not unpleasant, but mysterious in their coming and going; not dense, but partially veiling the scenes for a radius of a hundred yards, and blotting out all distant prospects. Such a mist hung low one morning in September, 1914. Behind these billows of chiffon lay Valcartier Camp where 33,000 men were encamped, the first overseas contingent of the Canadian army. The sun was not yet risen. Out of the greyness came the blare of a bugle call, the rattle of artillery harness, the sound of wood-splitting, the neigh of a horse, a man's laugh—varied sounds of an awakening life. Then suddenly the air began to colour. A transfused pink all about us, with a deeper hue in the East, told of the sun beginning another valiant day. In a few minutes the mist had thinned to a mere haze and wonderful things were revealed ! Here were four miles of bell-tents, rank upon rank; snow-white, touched with the pink of morning—a very range of mountains in miniature. Here were the infantry lines, on a level plain beside the river. The tents nearest the observer at Headquarters were perhaps two hundred yards away. The farthest looked like a rosy drift of summer cloud. All between lay a divinely beautiful sierra, opalescent and radiant.

With the sun came a light cool wind. Soon other excellencies were revealed. Yonder were the burly hills, round-shouldered as became their age, but showing the riotous colour of a Quebec autumn. Red sumachs were in the middle distance. Then in the forests, climbing up over the hills, a dozen hues of crimson, a hundred tints

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