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|Live Rounds||Ian Hay|
The Trivial Round
|Page 4 of 13||
"All present?" inquires Simson.
It is discovered that M'Snape has not returned. Anxious eyes peer over the parapet. The moon is stronger now, but it is barely possible to distinguish objects clearly for more than a few yards.
A star-shell bursts, and heads sink below the parapet. A German bullet passes overhead, with a sound exactly like the crack of a whip. Silence and comparative darkness return. The heads go up again.
"I'll give him five minutes more, and then go and look for him," says Simson. "Hallo!"
A small bush, growing just outside the barbed wire, rises suddenly to its feet; and, picking its way with incredible skill through the nearest opening, runs at full speed for the parapet. Next moment it tumbles over into the trench.
Willing hands extracted M'Snape from his arboreal envelope--he could probably have got home quite well without it, but once a Boy Scout, always a Boy Scout--and he made his report.
"I went back to have a look-see into the crater, sirr."
"It's fair blown in, sirr, and a good piece of the sap too. I tried could I find a prisoner to bring in"--our Colonel has promised a reward of fifty francs to the man who can round up a whole live Bosche--"but there were nane. They had got their wounded away, I doubt."
"Never mind," says Simson. "Sergeant, see these men get some sleep now. Stand-to at two-thirty, as usual. I must go and pitch in a report, and I shall say you all did splendidly. Good-night!"
This morning, the official Intelligence Summary of our Division--published daily and known to the unregenerate as "Comic Cuts"--announced, with solemn relish, among other items of news:--
Last night a small party bombed a suspected saphead at--here followed the exact bearings of the crater on the large-scale map. Loud groans were heard, so it is probable that the bombs took effect.
For the moment, life has nothing more to offer to our seven friends.
As already noted, our enthusiasm for our own sphere of activity is not always shared by our colleagues. For instance, we in the trenches frequently find the artillery of both sides unduly obtrusive; and we are of opinion that in trench warfare artillery practice should be limited by mutual consent to twelve rounds per gun per day, fired by the gunners at the gunners. "Except, of course, when the Big Push comes." The Big Push is seldom absent from our thoughts in these days.
"That," observed Captain Wagstaffe to Bobby Little, "would leave us foot-sloggers to settle our own differences. My opinion is that we should do so with much greater satisfaction to ourselves if we weren't constantly interfered with by coal-boxes and Black Marias."
"Still, you can't blame them for loosing off their big guns," contended the fair-minded Bobby. "It must be great sport."
"They tell me it's a greatly overrated amusement," replied Wagstaffe--"like posting an insulting letter to some one you dislike. You see, you aren't there when he opens it at breakfast next morning! The only man of them who gets any fun is the Forward Observing Officer. And he," concluded Wagstaffe in an unusual vein of pessimism, "does not live long enough to enjoy it!"
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