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Action Front Boyd Cable


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The battery was moving slowly down a muddy road that ran along the edge of a thick wood. It had been marching most of the night, and, since the night had been wet and dark, the battery was splashed and muddy to the gun-muzzles and the tops of the drivers' caps. It was early morning, and very cold. Gunners and drivers were muffled in coats and woolen scarves, and sat half-asleep on their horses and wagons. A thick and chilly mist had delayed the coming of light, but now the mist had lifted suddenly, blown clear by a quickly risen chill wind. When the mist had been swept away sufficiently for something to be seen of the surrounding country, the Major, riding at the head of the battery, passed the word to halt and dismount, and proceeded to "find himself on the map." Glancing about him, he picked out a church steeple in the distance, a wayside shrine, and a cross-road near at hand, a curve of the wood beside the road, and by locating these on the squared map, which he took from its mud-splashed leather case, he was enabled to place his finger on the exact spot on the map where his battery stood at that moment. Satisfied on this, he was just about to give the order to mount when he heard the sound of breaking brushwood and saw an infantry officer emerge from the trees close at hand.

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The officer was a young man, and was evidently on an errand of haste. He slithered down the steep bank at the edge of the wood, leaped the roadside ditch, asked a question of the nearest man, and, getting an answer from him, came at the double past the guns and teams towards the Major. He saluted hastily, said "Mornin', sir," and went on breathlessly: "My colonel sent me across to catch you. We are in a ditch along the edge of the far side of this wood, and could just see enough of you between the trees to make out your battery. From where we are we can see a German gun, one of their big brutes, with a team of about twenty horses pulling it, plain and fair out in the open. The Colonel thinks you could knock 'em to glory before they could reach cover."

"Where can I see them from!" said the Major quickly.

"I'll show you," said the subaltern, "if you'll leave your horse and come with me through this wood. It's only a narrow belt of trees here."

The Major turned to one of his subalterns who was with him at the head of the battery.

"Send back word to the captain to come up here and wait for me!" he said rapidly. "Tell him what you have just heard this officer say, and tell him to give the word, 'Prepare for action.' And now," he said, turning to the infantryman, "go ahead."

The two of them jumped the ditch, scrambled up the bank, and disappeared amongst the trees.

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Action Front
Boyd Cable

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