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Action Front Boyd Cable

A General Action

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Riley stared again into the periscope: "It's German the most of them are, anyway," he said, "that's one consolation, although it's small comfort to a sense of smell. I say, have a look at that man lying over there, out to the left of the listening-post. His head is towards us, and his hair is white as driven snow. They must be getting hard up for men to be using up the grandfathers of that age."

Brock examined the white head carefully. "He's a pretty old stager," he said, "unless he's a young 'un whose hair has turned white in a night like they do in novels; or, maybe he's a General."

"A General!" said Riley, and stopped abruptly. "Man, now, wait a minute. A General!" he continued musingly, and then suddenly burst into chuckles, and nudged Brock in the ribs. "I have a great notion," he said, "gr-r-reat notion, Brockie. What'll you bet I don't get the men coming to us before night with a petition to be allowed to do some digging?"

Brock stared at him. "You're out of your senses," he said. "I'd as soon expect them to come with a petition to be allowed to sign the pledge."

"Well, now listen," said Riley, "and we'll try it, anyway."

He explained swiftly, while over Brock's face a gentle smile beamed and widened into subdued chucklings.

"Here's Sergeant Clancy coming along the trench," said Riley. "You have the notion now, so play up to me, and make sure Clancy hears every word you say."

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"I want to see that General of theirs the Bosche prisoner spoke about," said Riley, as Clancy came well within earshot. "An old man, the Bosche said he was, with a head of hair as white and shining as a gull's wing."

"I'm not so interested in his shining head," said Brock, "as I am in the shining gold he carries on him. Doesn't it seem sinful waste for all that good money to be lying out there?"

Out of the tail of his eye Riley saw the sergeant halt and stiffen into an attitude of listening. He turned round.

"Was it me you wanted to see, Clancy?" he said.

"No, sorr--yes, sorr," said Clancy hurriedly, and then more slowly, in neat adoption of the remarks he had just heard: "Leastways, sorr, I was just afther wondering if you had heard anything of this tale of a German Gineral lying out there on the ground beyanst."

"You mean the one that was shot last week?" said Riley.

"Him with the five thousand francs in his breeches pocket, and the diamond-studded gold watch on his wrist?" said Brock.

"The same, sorr, the same!" said Clancy eagerly, and with his eyes glistening. "And have you made out which of them he is, sorr?"

"No," said Riley shortly. "And remember, Sergeant, there are to be no men going over the parapet this night without orders. The last battalion in here lost a big handful of men trying to get hold of that General, but the Germans were watching too close, and they've got a machine-gun trained to cover him. See to it, Clancy! That's all now."

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Action Front
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