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Deeds Of Darkness

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M'Snape wriggled silently away, and paused to reflect. Then he began to creep forward once more.

Having covered fifty yards, he turned to his right again, and presently found himself exactly between Bain and the trenches. As he expected, his hand now descended upon another cord, lying loosely on the ground, and running at right angles to the first. Plainly Bain was holding one end of this, and some one in the trenches--Captain Wagstaffe himself, as like as not--was holding the other. If an enemy stumbled over the trip-cord, Bain would warn the defence by twitching the alarm-cord.

Five minutes later M'Snape was back at the rendezvous, describing to Simson what he had seen. That wise subaltern promptly conducted him to Captain Mackintosh, who was waiting with his Company for something to go upon. Shand had departed with his own following to make an independent attack on the right flank. Seven of the twelve scouts were there. Of the missing, Dunshie, as we know, was sunning his lonely soul in the society of his foes; two had lost themselves, and the remaining two had been captured by a reconnoitring patrol. Of the seven which strayed not, four had discovered the trip-cord; so it was evident that that ingenious contrivance extended along the whole line. Only M'Snape, however, had penetrated farther. The general report was that the position was closely guarded from end to end.

"You say you found a cord running back from Bain to the trenches, M'Snape," asked Captain Mackintosh, "and a sentry holding on to it?"

"Yess, sirr," replied the scout, standing stiffly to attention in the dark.

"If we could creep out of the wood and rush him, we might be able to slip our attack in at that point," said the Captain. "You say there is cover to within twenty yards of where he is sitting?"

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"Yes, sirr."

"Still, I'm afraid he'll pull that cord a bit too soon for us."

"He'll no, sirr," remarked M'Snape confidently.

"Why not?" asked the Captain.

M'Snape told him.

Captain Mackintosh surveyed the small wizened figure before him almost affectionately.

"M'Snape," he said, "to-morrow I shall send in your name for lance-corporal!"


The defenders were ready. The trenches were finished: "A" and "B" had adjusted their elbow-rests to their liking, and blank ammunition had been served out. Orders upon the subject of firing were strict.

"We won't loose off a single shot until we actually see you," Captain Blaikie had said to Captain Mackintosh. "That will teach your men to crawl upon their little tummies, and ours to keep their eyes skinned."

(Captain Wagstaffe's string alarm had been an afterthought. At least, it was not mentioned to the commander of the attack.)

Orders were given that the men were to take things easily for half an hour or so, as the attack could not possibly be developed within that time. The officers established themselves in a splinter-proof shelter at the back of the supporting trench, and partook of provender from their haversacks.

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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