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A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

A Few Days' Rest In Billets

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The first day somebody found a fox terrier, evidently lost and probably the pet of some officer. We weren't allowed to carry mascots, although we had a kitten that we smuggled along for a long time. This terrier was a well-bred little fellow, and we grabbed him. We spent a good part of both mornings digging out rats for him and staged some of the grandest fights ever.

Most of the day we spent at a little estaminet across the way from our so-called billets. There was a pretty mademoiselle there who served the rotten French beer and vin blanc, and the Tommies tried their French on her. They might as well have talked Choctaw. I speak the language a little and tried to monopolize the lady, and did, which didn't increase my popularity any.

"I say, Yank," some one would call, "don't be a blinkin' 'og. Give somebody else a chawnce."

Whereupon I would pursue my conquest all the more ardently. I was making a large hit, as I thought, when in came an officer. After that I was ignored, to the huge delight of the Tommies, who joshed me unmercifully. They discovered that my middle name was Derby, and they christened me "Darby the Yank." Darby I remained as long as I was with them.

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Some of the questions the men asked about the States were certainly funny. One chap asked what language we spoke over here. I thought he was spoofing, but he actually meant it. He thought we spoke something like Italian, he said. I couldn't resist the temptation, and filled him up with a line of ghost stories about wild Indians just outside Boston. I told him I left because of a raid in which the redskins scalped people on Boston Common. After that he used to pester the life out of me for Wild West yarns with the scenes laid in New England.

One chap was amazed and, I think, a little incredulous because I didn't know a man named Fisk in Des Moines.

We went back to the trenches again and were there five days. I was out one night on barbed wire work, which is dangerous at any time, and was especially so with Fritz in his condition of jumpy nerves. You have to do most of the work lying on your back in the mud, and if you jingle the wire, Fritz traverses No Man's Land with his rapid-firers with a fair chance of bagging something.

I also had one night on patrol, which later became my favorite game. I will tell more about it in another chapter.

At the end of the five days the whole battalion was pulled out for rest. We marched a few miles to the rear and came to the village of Petite-Saens. This town had been fought through, but for some reason had suffered little. Few of the houses had been damaged, and we had real billets.

My section, ten men besides myself, drew a big attic in a clean house. There was loads of room and the roof was tight and there were no rats. It was oriental luxury after Bully-Grenay and the trenches, and for a wonder nobody had a word of "grousing" over "kipping" on the bare floor.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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