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Action Front Boyd Cable

A Benevolent Neutral

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The sergeant had worked busily as he talked, and now, as he commenced to replace the repaired fork, he was thoughtfully silent a moment.

"I suppose there's some dandy sna-aps up in those trenches, Loo-tenant?" he said at last.

"Oh, well, I dunno," said Courtenay. "Sort of thing you see in the picture papers, of course."

"Them!" said the sergeant contemptuously. "I could make better sna-aps posin' some of the transport crowd in these emergency trenches dug twenty miles back from the front. I mean real pictures of the real thing--fellows knee-deep in mud, and a shell lobbing in, and such like--real dandy snaps. It makes my mouth water to think of 'em. But I suppose I'll go through this darn war and never see enough to let me hold up my head when I get back home and they ask me what was the war really like and to tell 'em about the trenches. I could have made out if I'd even seen those blame trenches and got some good snaps of 'em."

Courtenay was moved to a rash compassion and a still more rash promise.

"Look here, sergeant," he said, "I'm dashed if I don't have a try to get you a look at the trenches. We go in again in two days and it might be managed."

* * * * *

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Three days later Sergeant Rawbon, mounted on the motor-cycle which he had repaired and which had been sent over to him, found all his obstacles to the trenches melt and vanish before a couple of passes with which he was provided--one readily granted by his captain on hearing the reason for its request, and one signed by Second Lieutenant Courtenay to pass the bearer, Sergeant Rawbon, on his way to the headquarters of the 1st Footsloggers with motor-cycle belonging to that battalion. The last quarter mile of the run to the headquarters introduced Sergeant Rawbon to the sensation of being under fire, and, as he afterwards informed Courtenay, he did not find the sensation in any way pleasant.

"Loo-tenant," he said gravely, "I've had some of this under fire performance already, and I tell you I finds it no ways nice. Coming along that last bit of road I heard something whistling every now an' then like the top note of a tin whistle, and something else goin' whisk like a cane switched past your ear, and another lot saying smack like a whip-lash snapping. I was riding slow and careful, because that road ain't exactly--well, it would take a lot of sandpapering to make it really smooth. But when I realized that those sounds spelt bullets with a capital B, I decided that road wasn't as bad as I'd thought, and that anything up to thirty knots wasn't outside its limits."

"Oh, you were all right," said Courtenay carelessly, "bullets can't touch you there, except a few long-distance ones that fall in enfilade over the village. From the front they go over your head, or hit that parapet along the side of the road."

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Action Front
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