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Action Front Boyd Cable

A Benevolent Neutral

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"Which is comforting, so far," said the sergeant, "though, personally, I've just about as much objection to be hit by a bullet that comes over a village as any other kind."

They were outside the remains of a house in the cellar of which was headquarters, Courtenay having timed the sergeant to arrive at an hour when he, Courtenay, could arrange to be waiting at headquarters.

"Now we'll shove along down and round the trenches. I spoke to the O.C. and explained the situation--partly. He didn't raise any trouble so just follow me, and leave me to do any talking there is to do. You must keep your eyes open and ask any questions about things after. It would look a bit odd and raise remarks if the men saw me showing you round and doing the Cook's Tour guide business. And if you've brought that camera, keep it out of sight till I give you the word. When we get along to my own company's bit of trench I'll tell you, and you can take some snaps--when I'm not looking at you. Just tip the wink to any men about and they'll be quite pleased to pose or anything you like."

"Loo-tenant," said Sergeant Rawbon earnestly, "you're doin' this thing real handsome, and I won't forget it. If ever you hit the U-nited States----"

"Oh, that's all right," said Courtenay, "come along now."

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"When we find your bunch," said Rawbon as they moved off, "if you could make some sort of excuse out loud, and fade from the scene a minute and leave me there with the men, I'll sure get some of the dandiest snaps I'd wish. I reckon it'll satisfy the crowd if I promise to send 'em copies. It will if they're anything like my lot in the Mechanical Transport."

They slid down into a deep and narrow and very muddy ditch that ran twistingly through the wrecked village. Courtenay explained that usually they could walk this part above ground, sheltered from bullets by the broken-down houses and walls, but that a good few shells had been coming over all day, and that in the communication trench they were safe from all shells but those which burst directly over or in the part they were in.

"You want to run across this bit," he said presently. "A high explosive broke that in this morning, and it can't be repaired properly till dark. You go first and wait the other side for me. Now--jump lively!"

Rawbon took one quick jumping stride to the middle of the gap, and another and very much quicker one beyond it, as a bullet smacked venomously into the broken side of the trench. Another threw a spurt of mud at Courtenay's heels as he made the rush. "A sniper watches the gap and pots at anyone passing," he explained to Rawbon. "It's fairly safe, because at the range he's firing a bullet takes just a shade longer to reach here than you take to run across. But it doesn't do to walk."

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Action Front
Boyd Cable

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