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|Live Rounds||Ian Hay|
In The Trenches--An Off-Day
|Page 4 of 6||
Wagstaffe nods gravely.
"Yes. There are some changes in the Mess since I last dined there," he says. "Anyhow, the old hands took our boys to their bosoms at once, and showed them the ropes."
"The men did not altogether fancy look-out work in the dark, sir," says Bobby Little to Major Kemp.
"Neither should I, very much," said Kemp. "To take one's stand on a ledge fixed at a height which brings one's head and shoulders well above the parapet, and stand there for an hour on end, knowing that a machine-gun may start a spell of rapid traversing fire at any moment--well, it takes a bit of doing, you know, until you are used to it. How did you persuade 'em, Bobby?"
"Oh, I just climbed up on the top of the parapet and sat there for a bit," says Bobby Little modestly. "They were all right after that."
"Had you any excitement, Ayling?" asks Kemp. "I hear rumours that you had two casualties."
"Yes," says Ayling. "Four of us went out patrolling in front of the trench--"
"Myself, two men, and old Sergeant Carfrae."
"Carfrae?" Wagstaffe laughs. "That old fire-eater? I remember him at Paardeberg. You were lucky to get back alive. Proceed, my son!"
"We went out," continues Ayling, "and patrolled."
"Well, there you rather have me. I have always been a bit foggy as to what a patrol really does--what risks it takes, and so on. However, Carfrae had no doubts on the subject whatever. His idea was to trot over to the German trenches and look inside."
"Quite so!" agreed Wagstaffe, and Kemp chuckled.
"Well, we were standing by the barbed wire entanglement, arguing the point, when suddenly some infernal imbecile in our own trenches--"
"Cockerell, for a dollar!" murmurs Wagstaffe. "Don't say he fired at you!"
"No, he did worse. He let off a fireball."
"Whew! And there you stood in the limelight!"
"What did you do?"
"I had sufficient presence of mind to do what Carfrae did. I threw myself on my face, and shouted to the two men to do the same."
"No. They started to run back towards the trenches. Half a dozen German rifles opened on them at once."
"Were they badly hit?"
"Nothing to speak of, considering. The shots mostly went high. Preston got his elbow smashed, and Burke had a bullet through his cap and another in the region of the waistband. Then they tumbled into the trench like rabbits. Carfrae and I crawled after them."
At this moment the doorway of the dugout is darkened by a massive figure, and Major Kemp's colour-sergeant announces--
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