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Title: What Outfit Buddy?
Author: Kelly, T. Howard
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "What Outfit Buddy?" ***

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Internet Archive)



                          WHAT OUTFIT, BUDDY?



[Illustration: SHE KISSED ME SMACK ON THE CHEEK AND SAID HER NAME WAS
LOUISE]



                           What Outfit Buddy?
                                   BY
                            T. HOWARD KELLY
              FORMERLY PRIVATE IN THE 26TH DIVISION A.E.F.

                              Illustrated

                      Harper & Brothers Publishers
                          New York and London



                           What Outfit Buddy?
                  Copyright 1920, by Harper & Brothers
                Printed in the United States of America
                        Published February, 1920



                                   TO
                                  PEG



                                CONTENTS

                I. “What Outfit, Buddy?”
                II. “Avey Vous de Chambre?”
                III. “That Mule Was a Slacker”
                IV. “Sunny France!”
                V. We Was Off for the Front!
                VI. American Joans of Arc
                VII. The First Big Battle of the Guerre
                VIII. “Guess I Didn’t Have the Guts”
                IX. “The Old Van Seezeum on Its Way”
                X. Château-Thierry
                XI. A Craw de Guerre
                XII. O. D. Meets Jimmy’s Gang
                XIII. “We’re Goin’ to Take Metz”
                XIV. “Well, We’re Here”
                XV. Pinching Off the St.-Mihiel Salient
                XVI. Beyond Verdun
                XVII. “Finee! La Guerre Finee!”



                             ILLUSTRATIONS

    She Kissed Me Smack on the Cheek and Said Her Name Was
    Louise

    “‘Take That Hat Off. It Isn’t Regulation,’ Says the Second
    Looey to Me”

    “Make Friends with the Cooties. Then You’re All Set”

    “I Want to Get a Picture of O. D.’s Grave”

    “A Bearded Poilu Came Tearing Out of a Ruined House, Waving
    a Bottle Over His Head”



A great many impressionable young men who become soldiers overnight and
go to war feel strongly inspired to write books about their adventures.
I felt the same way before the newness of the life on the western front
had been rubbed away by constant friction with some of the more
monotonous things of war, such as hunger, cold, mud, cooties, and other
romance-destroying agents. I buried the idea of writing a book just
before my division was called upon to stand between the Boches and Paris
during the trying days of July and August of 1918. It is very good for
me that I detached myself from the desire to write a war book about that
time. Experience proved that it was necessary to give all my available
time to the business of fighting the _guerre_.

The book-bug never came my way again, for I do not look upon _What
Outfit, Buddy?_ as the result of answering some insistent, invisible
summons to write a war book. I did not intend writing a war book when I
started the first line of _What Outfit, Buddy?_ I merely hoped to let
Jimmy McGee, a real, regular fighting Yank who has seen his share of _la
guerre_, tell the story of the things that he encountered as a member of
the American Expeditionary Force. I sincerely trust that my original
intentions have carried.

If I have allowed Jimmy McGee to tell you his story, then I have
fulfilled my hopes, for I believe that Jimmy McGee’s story of the war is
merely the universal version of the great adventure as held by legions
of his comrades.

In my effort to let Jimmy tell his story I have not tried to use book
language. I have used to the best of my ability the speech of men who
became a real integral part of the _guerre_.... To do that it was
necessary to let Jimmy and his comrades speak French in the manner of
American soldiers. I tried to register the true value of their struggles
with the difficult French language by resorting to phonetic spelling in
the case of practically all French words which have become a part of the
American Expeditionary Forces’ vocabulary. Students of the beautiful,
musical language of France will, I trust, grant me this indulgence, as I
have taken the liberties only in the desire to tell America how its
fighting men overcame the difficulties presented by living side by side
with a people who spoke a foreign language.

                                                        T. Howard Kelly.



                    CHAPTER I—“WHAT OUTFIT, BUDDY?”


Jimmy McGee, hanging on to a long, lean loaf of brown bread with his
left hand and swinging a heavy, dangerous-looking cane in his right
grip, moved leisurely over a white road of France toward the
four-year-old battlelines that stretched between _Verdun_ and
_Saint-Mihiel_.

McGee, himself, was camouflaged beneath an assortment of things and
stuff that would have made Panhandle Pete of funny-paper fame look like
a smartly dressed gentleman in comparison. His make-up was not
calculated to allow observers much chance to criticize his own physical
attributes or failings.

A bit of reddish-brown hair managed to crop up in sundry places outside
the distorted corners of the clownish thing that had been issued him in
the name of an overseas cap. The part of his shirt collar that almost
swallowed his ears and chin came very near hiding his freckled snub
nose. But it didn’t. The nose insisted on protruding enough to be seen.
Jimmy’s eyes, alone, were open and ready for inspection. Any one might
have guessed the nationality of his ancestors by the laughing blue of
his eyes. What could be seen of his features hinted that he owned a
strong, good-looking face. Perhaps his long length of wide limb would
have given him some individuality among a gang of six-footers, for he
was exceptionally tall. Unfortunately his height was lost in the bulk of
war-like paraphernalia that jangled from countless straps, ropes, and
belts. Otherwise his identity was completely blanketed.

Nobody, except one of his own kind, would have ever recognized him as an
American soldier. He was a sad departure from all that Army regulations
and magazine covers had insisted upon as a typical member of the “best
dressed and best fed army” in the world. Most likely Jimmy’s own mother
would have passed him up as a straying peddler. Perhaps Sergeant George
Neil, McGee’s pal and bunkie, might have recognized him by the stout,
strong-muscled legs which were swathed in muddy war-putees,—that ended
in a final strip of thin raglings below his knees,—and moved in an
easy-going stride peculiar to his own ideas of speed.

However strange and disillusioning, Private, 1st Class, Jimmy McGee may
have appeared to the men who designed the uniform and equipment of
American soldiers, there was nothing about the boy to distinguish him
apart from thousands of comrades in soiled and torn olive-drab, who had
come out of the Chateau-Thierry rackett with their appreciation for
neatly made packs and dress-parade tactics all shot to hell.

Appearances had long since ceased to count in his young life. He had
forgotten all of the old O. D. stuff, after discovering that “squads
right” and saluting could never win a _guerre_. Consequently Jimmy
ambled along, loaded down to the hubs under a confusion of equipment and
souvenirs that he had collected from three fronts during the past eight
months, without a thought of anything, except the height of the hill
that he was climbing and the emptiness of his stomach. The fact that he
didn’t know just exactly where he was, or where his outfit might be,
wasn’t causing him any worries. He had been separated from the battery
too many times already and this latest separation was only twenty-four
hours old,—a mere trifle to Jimmy McGee.

“Lost—strayed—and stolen—Guess I’m all three of ’em—_tous ensemble_, as
the Frogs would rattle in that darn machine gun language of theirs,”
muttered McGee as he shifted the weight of a blanket roll that looked as
if it contained a Baby Grand piano and a fat-legged stool.

“Well, I’ll find the outfit before the _guerre encores_, anyhow. If I
don’t I’ll turn myself in for salvage—anythin’ to keep from bein’ an
M. P. or gettin’ in the Quartermaster Corps. Those guys don’t——”

Honk!... Honk!... Honk!...

Jimmy shut his mouth and got himself off of the road, just in time to
miss being pressed into an old-fashioned pancake under the wheels of a
truck that whizzed by like an Austrian 88.

“Great Gods! I’d rather promenade along the top of a trench in broad
daylight than leave my life in the hands of those fool truck-drivers.
They ain’t got a bit of respect for a man’s body—ought to let ’em drive
a tank across No Man’s Land under a barrage once or twice—maybe then
they’d quit tryin’ to kill us poor guys that’s fightin’ this _guerre_.”

McGee thought some pretty hard things about truck drivers in general
after getting that load off his chest and started to make another hill,
being careful to hang close to the side of the road.

“What outfit, Buddy?”

Jimmy McGee stopped still in his tracks, steadied himself against his
cane to keep from rolling back down the steep hill, and shook himself so
roughly before answering that the tinware, brass, steel and other
whatnots which were a part of his baggage made a noise like the cows
coming home.

“Twenty-Sixth Division, Jack,” he shot back, as if he were putting over
a little barrage all by himself.

Then he advanced cautiously to inspect the strange-looking person who
had asked him the old familiar question. For a passing moment Jimmy was
pretty sure that the old gas had got to his eyes at last, or that his
thoughts were getting the best of him. Surely the man who sat on the
grass and was all rigged up like the soldiers in the Sunday papers and
popular monthlies, must be a model—A sort of guide or index for his
kind, thought Jimmy.

At last, after what seemed ten years to the waiting, strange one, the
dust-sprinkled Yank said outloud, more to himself than anyone else,
“_Oui_—it moves and breathes—guess it’s real—take a chance, anyhow.”
Then to the object of his remarks: “What outfit, yourself, old man?”

“None—that is, so far,” was the astonishing answer, made in a voice that
hadn’t taken on the tone of confidence which Jimmy knew well could only
be found out where he and a bunch of his side-kickers had been living
during the past few months.

“Well—that’s a hell of a good outfit to belong to. Guess you ain’t
bothered with second lieutenants much then, eh?” queried Jimmy, pushing
his shapeless roll over his head and letting it fall to the earth with a
thud.

“How do you mean—worried?” asked the wondering man, whose appearance
brought back memories of the hated O. D. days to Jimmy.

“Oh, you never had many of ’em hangin’ around you for salutes, givin’
foolish commands that ought to be listed with dead letters in the office
at Washington. That’s what I’m gettin’ at.... Get me, now?”

A gas-mask, two bulging _musettes_, the bottom of a mess-kit, and a
French canteen were thrown to the ground. McGee’s great height began to
assert itself. He stretched his long arms and shook a case of
field-glasses and a German luger aloose from their insecure attachments
to his left shoulder straps.

“Yes, I see now. No, can’t say that I’ve minded them so much as I
haven’t been in the Army long,” replied Jimmy’s roadside find.

“So,” muttered Jimmy reflectively. “Say, when in hell did you enlist
anyway?”

“I didn’t—I was drafted,” answered O. D., as McGee had already mentally
nicknamed the man in front of him.

“_Oui_—_Oui_—I _compree_,” said the product of eight months in the mud
and rain of the Western Front, nodding his head affirmatively.

Silence for a moment and then Jimmy said what was on his mind.

“Say, how does it feel to be that way buddy? It don’t bother you at
nights does it?”

“Don’t quite understand you,” stammered the product of General Crowder’s
machine.

“_Pas compree_, eh? Just like a Frenchman when he don’t want to give you
what you want,” answered Jimmy. “Well I’ll try to shoot away the
camouflage this time. Don’t you ever wish that you’d enlisted?”

“Sure—I wanted to enlist when the war first started but my Dad had just
died and he didn’t leave much; not enough to pay his funeral expenses.
My mother has always been sickly and Mary hadn’t finished her
business-schooling yet. I had to work like the deuce to keep things
going— Then I was drafted.”

“That’s just the way with this damn army,” interrupted Jimmy
sympathetically. “They do everything like the French, backwards. Why the
devil couldn’t they have let you stay home and take care of your mother
and Mary? There’s enough of us big hams without any cares to fight this
war. Who is Mary, your sister?” asked Jimmy bluntly; but he meant to be
gentle.

“Yes, she is my sister; only nineteen. Two years younger than me,”
explained the drafted man.

“How’s Mary and your ma makin’ it now?” was Jimmy’s next question.

“Mary’s finished business school and has a good job. I make a
twenty-dollar allotment, and my mother gets twenty-five dollars from the
Government along with that. They’re doing pretty good now, so their
letters tell me,” was the frank response.

Jimmy sat down next to the recruit and started to hack off a couple of
slices of bread according to the French way of doing it. He gave him a
slice.

“Slap some of this _confiture_ on it,” pointing to a tin of jam. “You
won’t mind if I call you O. D., will you?”

“No; but what makes you want to call me that? My right name’s William G.
Preston.”

“Damn glad to know you, Bill,” said Jimmy, shooting out his right hand;
“but about this O. D. stuff?”

“What’s that gold stripe on your sleeve for?” gasped Bill. “Have you
been over here six months?” was the amazing question.

“_Oui_, but that’s a wound stripe on the right sleeve—this is the sleeve
for service chevrons,” and McGee exhibited two greasy and rumpled
service chevrons.

Bill gasped a second time. “Why, you’ve been here twelve months. You
must have come over on the first troop-ship. Where and how were you
wounded?”

The questions were coming too fast for Jimmy McGee. He reached for his
gas-mask and tin hat.

“Hold it a minute till I get my wind—all right. I’ve been here twelve
months—I’m sure o’ that. No, I didn’t come over on the first troop-ship.
I sailed over on the first mule-ship—one of those
twenty-three-day-at-sea-affairs. In those days we didn’t have separate
stalls for the mules and men. Everybody and everythin’ _cushayed_
together down in the hold—except the officers, of course.”

“I came over in eight days, and on a big liner— A mule-ship—uuggh!”
shuddered William G. Preston, soon to be regenerated under the name of
O. D. “But where did you get wounded, and how?”

“I got it in the calf of the leg—fragment from high explosive that the
Heinies were rainin’ down the night we staged a battle at
Seicheprey—first fight of the _guerre_ for the Americans, you know,”
asserted McGee, solemnly. “I only got a little tear in the muscle. Poor
old Gordon, my pal, he got his left shoulder and part of his head torn
off. He died quick, though; didn’t suffer much. They gave his folks the
D. S. C., as he did some big hero stuff. But that ain’t gettin’ Frank
much,” soliloquized the veteran of Seicheprey, reminiscently.

Jimmy saw that Preston was getting too interested and might ask for a
story about the war, so he directed traffic in another direction.

“You didn’t give me a chance to tell you why I want to call you O. D.
Now, you see, we call anything that is regulation, red tape, and all
that kind of stuff, O. D.—just a sort of nickname. When I first saw you
I thought you was a soldier out of the drill-regulation book or a model
for some magazine artist. You see, you’re all made up accordin’ to the
blue-print. Carry your blankets just so; wear your cap at a right slant;
got your blouse buttoned up. Hell fire! you’re O. D.-lookin’, that’s
all. You’re the first of that kind I’ve seen in a mighty long time, so
I’m going to call you O. D.... From now on you’re O. D.... _Compree?_”

“Have it your way. What’s your name?” asked O. D.

“McGee. Jimmy, most of the gang calls me. Do the same.”

“All right, Jimmy.”

“You say you’re a replacement?”

“Yes. I arrived in Bar-le-Duc yesterday with a detail and got separated
from it. The A. P. M. told me to take this road and keep on going until
I located my regiment,” explained O. D.

“Got lost, myself, last night,” admitted Jimmy. “What outfit are you
goin’ to?”

“The One Hundred and Third Field Artillery. What division is that?”
O. D.’s question was drowned under Jimmy’s whoop.

“Well, I’m a son-of-a-gun! That’s my own outfit—Twenty-sixth, Yankee
Division, of course,” shouted McGee as he slapped O. D. across his
shoulders. “What the hell do you know about that! I’ll get you assigned
to my battery. Shake, old man, we’ll fight the rest of this _guerre_
together.”

Jimmy’s words, and the bread and jam that the Yankee Division V handed
out, did a lot to send the spirits of O. D. shooting up the ladder of
hope. Perhaps the war and the front wasn’t going to be so terrible,
after all he had read about it. Surely not, if it had a bunch of fellows
up there like Jimmy McGee, thought O. D.

“Gosh, I was hungry! This stuff is saving my life,” admitted O. D.,
gladly, as he left trailing evidence of the _confiture_ around the
corners of his lips. “Since I got lost from my detail last night I
haven’t had a thing to eat.... I can’t talk this French, so I was out of
luck for breakfast. I was just thinking about breaking into this
stuff”—and he showed his emergency rations of “corned willy” and
hardtack—“but the officer told me that I was not to touch them unless it
was a case of absolute emergency,” concluded O. D.

“_Bon—très-beans!_ Take his advice, boy: never touch that stuff unless
you are up against it mighty hard. Just a little of that embalmed mule
will kill any good man. Guess my stomach got used to it, as I’ve been
eatin’ it for damn near six months straight. I’ll get us a regular feed
when we hit a village to-night. Leave it to me.”

“Can you talk this lingo?” asked O. D., as if it were beyond
possibilities to juggle the language of the French around on an American
tongue.

“_Oui_, not _beaucoup_. _Cum see—cum saw_,” he replied, indicating a
very little bit by his hands. “But I can _parley_ enough to get a feed
and a place to _cushay_. You know _cushay_ means sleep and _monjay_
means eat. That’s about all you got to know. And _combien_—that’s how
much. They’ll tell you that _toot sweet_.”

“How the dickens do I get a drink of water?—I’m about dying of thirst.
Haven’t had a drop of water in three days, since we left the replacement
camp.”

“Oh, my God, man! You’re in the wrong place to get water. The French
don’t use that stuff at all. They think we’re nuts when we ask for water
to drink. You got to get used to that vinegar that they call _van blanc_
or _van rouge_. Here, take a swig of this stuff.” Jimmy unscrewed the
cork from his French canteen and offered it to O. D.

“What’s in it?”

“Oh, some of their old, rotten _van rouge_—red wine, you know. But it’s
better than nothin’.”

O. D. took a swallow, made a hard face and let a little more go down,
then he handed it back with the remark that it was sour.

“_Oui_, but _say la guerre_. Gotta get used to that stuff, I guess,” and
he nearly drained the canteen. “Smoke?” he asked, pulling out a package
of bruised Lucky Strikes.

“No, thanks.”

“You’ll get the habit after you’ve been up with us awhile. Nothin’ like
a cigarette, boy, in them damp dugouts when you’re waitin’ for some
party to come off.”

After the old blue smoke began to issue from his mouth and nostrils
Jimmy felt a bit talkative.

“So you goin’ to be an artilleryman, eh?”

“Yes; but the funny thing is that I’m an infantryman—that is, they
trained me in that kind of stuff. I never was on a horse in my life.
Never saw a real cannon, either,” answered O. D.

“Can that stuff. You don’t need to know anythin’ about ridin’ a horse in
this man’s army. I joined the artillery to keep from walkin’ and I’ve
been walkin’ most of the time since I enlisted. We never saw a cannon,
except those pea-shooters we had back in the States, until we hit
France. Just goes to show how this army’s bein’ run. They send you up to
the artillery and you were trained for infantry. Soon they’ll be sendin’
up submarine-chasers for caissons,” declared McGee.

“Say, Jimmy, wish you’d tell me something about the front, so I’ll know
how to act when I get there,” pleaded O. D.

“Ah, forget that front idea. You’ll never know the difference—unless, of
course, you get a fistfull of shrapnel in the face or a bellyful of gas.
Course, that makes it different.”

“Shrapnel! Gas! Gee, those are bad actors up there, I heard. Is it
raining shrapnel all the time, and does the gas come over every day, or
what?” asked O. D. kind of hopelessly.

“No, it ain’t nothin’ like that, O. D. There ain’t no flags flyin’ or
music playin’ when the boys go over the top, either. You’re liable to
get a down-pour of shrapnel, a shell-burst, or a bunch of gas any old
time. There’s no set rules for the way that stuff comes over—sorta like
goin’ to business every day after you get used to it. A man gets
accustomed to stayin’ up all night and jugglin’ ninety-five pound
shells, firin’ a piece, or rammin’ bayonets in Boche pigs. The hunger
and cold is about the worst thing. You’ll drift into the stuff easy
enough,” consoled the Yank.

“Some time, when you get a chance, will you tell me about some of your
experiences in the war?”

“_Oui_—when I get time, some day,” promised Jimmy. “Well, are you set
for another little hike? Guess it’s about three bells. We can make ’bout
seven kilometers before dark and we’ll look for a _chambre_—that’s a
room in French; then we’ll _monjay_ and _cushay_. It’ll never do to hit
a town after dark. You’re out of luck in this country to find a room or
anything once the sun goes down. They never make a light on account of
Boche planes. Might as well be in a barren desert as get into a French
town after nightfall.”

“I’m ready,” answered O. D., buckling up his harness and rising.

“It takes me quite a bit of time to get all of this junk on me,”
apologized McGee, as he began throwing _musettes_ over his shoulders and
buckling on belts and other stuff. O. D. gave him a hand and pretty soon
Jimmy McGee was once more arrayed in all the glory of a front-line
veteran.

“Guess we’ll hang onto this hunk of _du pan_. It’s mighty hard to get
bread in these French places,” said McGee, falling into the old stride
that he patronized when on the stem in France.



                   CHAPTER II—“AVEY VOUS DE CHAMBRE?”


Jimmy McGee and O. D., alias William G. Preston, made a great contrast
as they plodded up and down hill along the tree-lined route over which
passed in 1914 the stream of Paris taxicabs that brought French poilus
to the heights of Verdun in time for Papa Joffre to stop the mad advance
of the Prussians.

To the uninitiated, O. D., with his regulation pack and uniform
equipment, would most likely have been immediately picked for the better
soldier of the two. Jimmy McGee, habitué of the ragged battle-lines, and
showing the wear and tear of fighting in everything about him, save his
eyes, would have been dubbed a slouch. Which just goes to prove how
different are the standards of measurements and worth that obtain at the
front and in the S. O. S. Everything and everybody at the front is
discounted until nothing but naked realities show. There is no chance
for the superficial to flourish in the trenches and gun positions.

The pair had made about three kilometers when the sound of an
approaching auto warned Jimmy McGee to take to the bushes. He lost no
time in getting off the road. O. D. followed him with the statement that
he believed it was a general’s limousine coming.

“Let it come—we don’t need to see it. Just sit down and look the other
way. No use tryin’ to break our arms with that salutin’ stuff,” was the
reply.

Both men sat down facing the woods. There was a sound of tires scraping
the road, under pressure of quickly applied brakes. A door opened and
slammed shut.

“What outfit are you men from?” The question was asked in a heavy,
steady voice.

McGee and O. D. stood up and faced about to find themselves confronted
by a major-general. They saluted. McGee spoke up.

“Twenty-sixth Division, sir.”

“What are you doing straggling along this road?” asked the general.

“Just returnin’ to our outfits from the hospital, sir,” lied McGee, with
a feeling of glory.

“All right, men.”

The man with two stars on his shoulders stepped back into the warmth and
luxury of his chugging motor and was off in a swirl of dust that nearly
choked the two soldiers. McGee caught himself in the act of reaching for
his old, battle-scarred gas-mask.

“Gee! he was a major-general,” declared O. D. in an awed voice; “did you
see the two stars on his straps?” gasped the newcomer to Jimmy’s
hunting-grounds.

“_Oui_, I noticed them all right, but they didn’t mean nothin’ to me.
Generals don’t count much up there,” pointing in the general direction
of the front. “We see plenty of other things that’s more interestin’.
Course, you know, I generally salute officers from brigadier-generals
up—that is, when they see me first; but you get used to havin’ ’em
around you,” was Jimmy’s rejoinder.

“First time I ever had a general speak to me,” admitted O. D.

“Hell afire! I’ve had a dozen of ’em talk to me. Old General
Edwards—he’s our boss, you know, and some boy at that, too—gave me an
awful bawlin’-out one day on a hike when he caught me ridin’ on the
rollin’ kitchen. Then another time he came into my dug-out one day and
told me that the C. O. had said something good about a fool stunt I
pulled one night when our lines went down and we kept up communication
durin’ the bombardment and attack. Said he’d cite me, or somethin’ like
that, but I never bothered to find out much about the business. Believe
me, Edwards is the kind of man this army needs with a general’s stars
on. He gets right in the old _guerre_. Some of ’em fight the war back in
towns that the Boches have agreed not to shell. Say, by the way, ever
see Pershing down in the S. O. S.?” asked Jimmy, as he got started under
way again.

“Yes, once, when some French general gave him a medal or something. It
was quite a ceremony,” replied his new companion.

“What did he look like? Kinda curious, as I ain’t seen him yet.”

“Do you mean that you are right at the front and never see the general?”
The question was crowded with incredulity.

“Been on every front the Americans ever fought on, except the British
lines, and never seen Pershing yet,” maintained McGee.

“Whee-ew! I thought that he was at the front all of the time leading the
troops,” said O. D.

“No that Civil War stuff ain’t much in this _guerre_. Generals are like
the flags and bands at the time we go over—they ain’t there, as a rule,”
informed the man who knew about those things.

“Three kilometers to Issoncourt, according to that mile-stone,” said
O. D. after they had hiked about four more kilos.

“Don’t believe those things. Next one will say seven kilometers to
Issoncourt. That’s the way they build those things in this country. You
’ain’t arrived over here until you get there.”

“Looks like a nice town over yonder.” O. D. illustrated his words by
pointing to the cluster of red roofs that glared in the afternoon
sunlight.

“Looks—but that’s all. They’re all alike. At a distance you think these
darn French villages are the cat’s knee-knuckles, so to speak, but when
you get in them it’s the same old stuff—a bunch of old, moss-covered
buildings standin’ around a church that’s big enough for an Irish parish
in a big New York City precinct. A gang of cows in the street; an army
of sheep and goats runnin’ in and out of front doors; a few
hungry-looking dogs; _beaucoup_ manure smoking in front of every door;
some old men and women clatterin’ up and down in those wooden shoes—and
you’ve got the best French village I ever stayed in. I’d rather pass the
rest of my life in Yulee, Florida, than spend three months in one of
these places durin’ peace-times. There’s a few trains pass through
Yulee, and you get a newspaper once in a while; but in these French
dumps the biggest excitement is that old village crier with his drum and
line of talk that the inhabitants can’t _compree_, or a two-year-old
newspaper posted up on the city hall, or _Mairie_, as they call it. I’m
off ’em for life.”

It was only four o’clock when the pair reached Issoncourt, but already
the shades of oncoming night had started to curtain the early autumn day
with a sort of purple haze that soon became a regular night mist.

“Guess we’ll camp here for the night,” was Jimmy’s decision, as he noted
the signs of night coming.

Issoncourt had been attached to the sides of the main Verdun road, and
everything that the town owned was in plain view from the middle of the
street, or _Grande Rue_, as the villagers called the roadway.

“Looks like there might be a _chambre_ in that house. We’ll reconnoiter
a bit for a place to _cushay_,” and Jimmy started toward what he thought
was the best-looking house on the street.

Just as they reached the rough stone steps, after wading through the
usual three feet of mud, a young colt came tearing through a barn door
and nearly sent O. D. down for the count. Jimmy tapped at the door.

“_Entrez_,” called a woman’s voice.

McGee pushed the door in and both men stepped into the room. It was the
same old stuff to Jimmy. The room was big and contained two beds that
were built into the walls and canopied over with some kind of red
curtain. A rickety table with a half-emptied bottle of _vin rouge_ on it
stood in the center of the room. There was the usual number of chickens
passing in and out to the barn. Several cats lounged about the great
open fireplace that was bare of fire, except for a few pieces of smoking
things that looked like grape-vines. A dog got up somewhere in the
darkness and shook himself back to life. The woman who had told them to
enter was not in sight.

Suddenly the sound of wooden shoes rattling over stones announced the
approach of some one. A woman came in from the barn carrying an apron
full of potatoes and greens. A small army of chickens followed at a
respectful distance. The woman was of medium height, kind of pudgy
around the gills and places where a corset should have been. Her hands
were red and big enough to handle any one-hundred-and-sixty-pound man.
Of course, she wasn’t good-looking or particularly ugly, just an
ordinary peasant face.

“_Que désirez-vous, Messieurs?_” (What will you have, messieurs?)

“Eh—_bonjour, madame_,” began Jimmy, unsteadily. “_Avey vouse de chambre
for comrade_ and _moi_?”

The woman cocked her ear to get the drift. “_Chambre—pour coucher?_” she
asked.

“Ah, _oui, madame_,” assured Jimmy, picking up courage.

The woman dropped her load of potatoes and greens on the floor, kicked
off the wooden boats, and, telling them to follow her, waddled into the
next and only room in the house.

“_Voilà!_” (There), she exclaimed, pointing to a bed that was at least
seven feet high.

“_Bon—tres-beans, madame_,” to the woman. Then Jimmy turned to O. D.:
“We may need a step-ladder to get in and a pulley to get us out; but
_say la guerre_. It’s a hundred times better than a hay-loft.”

“Sure,” said O. D., enthusiastically.

“_Madame, monjay ici?_” was Jimmy’s next effort.

“_Mais, messieurs, je n’ai rien! Trés-difficile d’obtenir quoi que ce
soit depuis la guerre! Figuerez-vous, une livre de sucre pour une
personne par mois! Et du pain! O là là! C’est terrible, vous comprenz?_”
(Oh, messieurs, I have very little. Too difficult to get things since
the war started. One pound of sugar a person for a month, a ration of
bread. It’s terrible, you understand?), answered the woman, evasively.

“_Oui, madame, compree_; but _comrade, moi_, no _monjay. Beaucoup
hungry. Beaucoup fatigue. Compree?_” questioned McGee, tapping his
stomach as if it were an empty bag.

“_Oui_,” answered the _madame_, solemnly.

“_Omelette, pom du tear fritz, trey-bon vous, serve comrade, moi, s’il
vous plate._” Jimmy did his darnest to tell her what he was thinking.

She understood him after the fashion of the French people who had been
near American soldiers before. Most of the peasants in the regions where
many American soldiers were located soon learned to speak their native
French just as brokenly as the Americans. It was necessary to do so in
order that the likes of Jimmy McGee might _compree_ just a little bit.

After much puffing and running around, the woman finally set a table for
her hungry guests. A fifteen-egg omelet, _beaucoup_ French-fried
potatoes, what was left of Jimmy’s bread, a dish of white cheese, and a
tall bottle of wine awaited the offensive of the two Americans.

“Ah, _madame_,” said McGee, licking his chops, “I’ll say that’s the
_darb_——”

“_Qu’est-ce qu’il dit?_” (What did you say?)

“Oh, I said its mighty _bon—beaucoup monjay_, you _compree moi_?”

The peasant woman smiled at him as if she understood, and Jimmy made a
dive into the middle of the big yellow omelet.

“Gee, this is the best feed I’ve sat down to in a long, long time,”
admitted O. D. as he piled the brown potatoes knee-deep in his plate.
“Wish I could speak French like you do, I’d be able to keep from
starving.”

“Oh, I don’t _parley_ much, just enough to get along. Course, I never
have any time to study. If we get a chance I’ll teach you some of the
stuff.”

“Thanks. Say, wonder if you could get her to give me a drink of water.
I’ll pass away with this thirst.”

“Here, take a glass of the _vin rouge_. It may be better than the stuff
I had in my canteen,” offered Jimmy.

“No, believe I’d rather have the water, if you can get it without too
much trouble.”

“None t’all. Wait ’till the madame blows in again; I’ll see what we can
do.”

“_Madame, avey vous der low?_” asked Jimmy, hoping that she would get
his meaning.

“_Der low_,” repeated the woman, lost for a moment. “_Der low_,” again.
This time with great wondering, “_Pas compris, monsieur_.”

“_Cum see, cum saw_,” explained McGee, raising an empty glass to his
lips.

“_Oh, pardon, monsieur, pardon, oui, tout de suite._” She hurried over
to the wall and pulled a part of it out, found a cupboard where nobody
else would have ever dreamed there was one, and drew forth a glass. She
brought the glass to Jimmy and gave it to him.

“She didn’t get me,” groaned Jimmy. “Thought I wanted another glass,
just like a Frog.” Then to the woman, “_Madame, compree low, der low_,
drink, you _savvy_?” he floundered deeper.

The woman shook her head while McGee scanned the room in search of a
pump or something by which he might readily explain his desire. There
was nothing in sight to help him. He turned again to the waiting woman.

“_Madame, moi comrade—no van rouge_—no _pas bon_ for _comrade_.
_Kisskesay, der low_, water, in _Fransay_?” Jimmy was at the limit of
his resources.

“Never mind, old man, I’ll go without it,” said O. D., coming to the
rescue.

“_Der low, der low_,” muttered the woman shaking her head
uncomprehendingly and pronouncing the word just as Jimmy had done.
Suddenly a light flashed across her stolid features.

“_De l’eau, vous dites._” (Water you said.)

“_Oui, Oui, madame._”

“_Ah, mon Dieu, de l’eau, je comprends_,” and she dashed out of doors
with a small bucket.

“At last she gets it—some battlin’, though. These doggone French people
can’t _compree_ this water stuff. Maybe if they’d drink more water the
war’d be won faster. But I’m getting just like ’em—haven’t had any water
in four days myself now. Guess I’ll tank up to-night.”

Madame returned with the water and immediately poured it all in a basin,
grabbed some soap and a towel and brought the whole outfit over to
Jimmy.

“_Voilà!_” she exclaimed as if the _guerre_ was won.

Jimmy looked at the basin, the soap and towel. Then he looked long and
hard at O. D. The woman stood fast, regarding them both, feeling
suddenly guilty of having sinned again.

“Corporal of the guard, relief, post number one,” shouted Jimmy. “Can
you beat that, wouldn’t it drive a man nuts? I ask for a drink of water
and the woman insists that I wash. No use, O. D.” Then to the woman,
“_Madame, pas wash, cum saw_,” and he lifted the glass to his lips for
the second time.

_“Quoi? Boire de l’eau? Impossible!! Buvez donc du vin! quelle race! Eh!
mon Dieu! ils bovvent de l’eau!_” (What! you want water to drink.
Impossible. Drink the red wine. What people—what people! My God! they
drink water), exclaimed the mystified woman, and she nearly went into
fits.

“_Oui, madame_,” insisted Jimmy, raising the glass up and down as if to
convince her by that action of the sincerity of his words and meaning.

“_Comme vous voulent, messieurs!_” (As you will then, messieurs),
answered madame, and she went out for more water.

Just as the boys were hitting the cheese or _fromage_ course as Jimmy
insisted on calling it, the man of the house, or _patron_, as madame
called him, blew in. He was nothing more and nothing less than a
grizzled old poilu rigged up in civilian clothes.

“_Bon swoir, messieurs_,” was his hearty greeting.

“_Bonjour, monsieur_,” responded Jimmy, rising to shake his hand.

“_Bonne mangee?_” asked the Frenchman, pointing to the table.

“_Oui ... trey-bien_,” declared McGee, and he let out two notches in his
belt to prove that he was well fed.

The old man dragged up a chair and made believe he was going to roll a
cigarette. Jimmy saw the act and got wise.

“Here, have a regular cigarette,” he said, extending a pack of Piedmonts
to the _patron_.

“_Merci. Merci, monsieur._”

“Take ’em all. I can get more. Suppose we ain’t too near the front yet
for the Y. M. C. A.”

“_Ah, monsieur, vous êtes très?-gentil, très bon._” (Ah, sir, you are
very nice, very kind.)

“Not at all.”

Once the cigarette was lighted, the man of the house waddled over to the
cupboard and extracted a long dark bottle. He came back to the table,
measured out four glasses of brownish-looking stuff and handed them
around. He touched his own against every one else’s and shouted:

“_Vive l’Amérique!_”

“_Vive la France!_” shouted Jimmy.

The old cognac went down at a swallow. Everyone smacked their lips
except O. D. He busied himself brushing away two big tears that filled
his eyes.

“_Bon_,” grunted the Frenchman.

“_Ah, oui_,” answered Jimmy, patting his stomach.

“_Mangee_,” said the husband. He sat down with his wife to a meal of
soup, with bread floating around in it, a dish of boiled potatoes,
bread, cheese, and wine.

“Want to show you something, Jimmy,” said O. D., rising and getting an
envelope out of his blouse. He spread a lot of pictures in front of
Jimmy.

“That’s mother, in her little rose-garden. This is Mary, always loved
flowers, too. See she’s hiding behind some tall lilies, just so you can
see her face.”

“Gee, I can’t tell the difference between Mary and the lilies,”
interrupted Jimmy, admiringly, as he looked upon the picture of Mary’s
sweet, girlish face. “Golly! it must be pippin stuff to have a sister
like that.”

“Here’s some more of Mary, taken on the front stoop and one at the shore
when I took her down there to go swimming one hot day.”

Jimmy was so absorbed looking at Mary’s pictures that he didn’t hear the
madame’s inquisitive question.

“_Fiancée, fiancée?_” she asked, pointing to Mary’s photo.

“No,” answered Jimmy at last, “sister, _compree_? _Sœur_ to _comrade_,”
pointing to O. D., who nodded his head in affirmation.

The snap of Mary taken on the beach fascinated Jimmy. He decided it
should belong to him. When O. D. was not watching, the Yank who never
let Boche shells or gas worry him swept the picture under his blouse
with a strange feeling of unrest running through his body and soul.



                 CHAPTER III—“THAT MULE WAS A SLACKER”


“Jimmy, tell me how you happened to get in the army?” asked O. D.

“Well, time the _guerre_ started I meant to enlist. But it was kinda
funny after all just how I came to join this Yankee outfit,” admitted
McGee.

“How’s that?”

“Back in the old States I used to be a little two-by-four newspaper man
’round New York—scribbled a few lines about murders, scandals, subway
accidents, and wrote up a lot of stuff ’bout people who pulled wild
stunts to get their names in print. Ever since I left my home down in
Florida five years ago, after my folks all died and I was alone in this
so-called cruel world, I had a hankering for adventure. Used to travel
’round quite a bit, and finally landed in New York as a cub reporter.
Stayed there awhile and got so I could make my own livin’ as a newspaper
man. Then the war started.

“Naturally I wanted to go to France _toot sweet_. Always was kinda
romantic—so much so till I thought seriously of goin’ into the movies
once or twice—that along with the adventure-bug and natural-born desire
to take a good crack at them dirty Heinies sent me up to a
recruitin’-station to get some dope about joinin’ the army.

“About that time I got a telegram to beat it for Providence. A friend of
mine who was a captain in the Coast Artillery said that he had a good
job in the army for me. I shot over to Providence and went down to the
fort where the captain’s outfit was located. The job hadn’t come through
when I arrived, so while waitin’ I became correspondent for _The
Providence Journal_.

“Three months passed and the job—I was to be sergeant-major of the post,
with promise of an early commission—hadn’t materialized. I got mighty
itchy to be a soldier. Folks used to look at me and wonder why I wasn’t
wearin’ khaki instead of white flannels and silk shirts, so I thought,
anyhow.

“Finally the job came through—I was to enlist on August eleventh. The
night before I started down to Providence to see some friends and say
_au revoir_. On the way I ran into a column of field artillery headed
for a railroad station.

“Where you fellows goin’?” I asked.

“To France,” answered a little corporal.

“To France,” says I to myself a couple of times, and I’m going to take a
plush-lined job down at a Coast Artillery fort. Never do it. Sure enough
two hours later, me, my white flannels, silk shirt, and dinky Panama was
on board a flat ridin’ toward Boxford, Massachusetts.

“That night I _cushayed_ on the ground with a horse-blanket for
coverin’. Great God! Thought I’d freeze to death before the bugle blew
to quit _cushayin’_. Next mornin’ I was sworn in. For three days I
drilled, dressed up in my white pants and seashore outfit. They didn’t
have a uniform big enough for me. Gee, it was funny for everybody but
me. Finally I got a pair of breeches that wouldn’t split everytime I
tried to get in ’em.

“We got _beaucoup_ of that squad’s east and double-time stuff there.
Then came an order for my battalion to _partee_ for Newport News,
Virginia.

“Down there they put us doin’ guard duty over a few miles of wild horses
and hungry mules. Stayed there a month and a half. Then we got orders.
That’s how I got in this man’s army,” concluded Jimmy.

“Gee, you’re the most interesting fellow I ever met. Don’t quit now. How
did you come across?”

“One Saturday afternoon me, George Neil, and Sundberg was sittin’ in a
theater watchin’ some guys fall in and out of stale slapstick stuff when
a gink, the manager, I guess, blew out on the stage between acts and
said that all men in the One Hundred and Third Field Artillery must
report _toot sweet_ in front of the house.”

_“Monsieur, voulez-vous coucher maintenant?_” (Will you sleep now?)
interrupted the madame.

_“Oui_,” replied Jimmy, making a move to get up.

_“Peu importe! Restez donc près du feu!_” (It does not make any
difference. Stay by the fire if you are not ready to go.)

_“Merci, madame_,” and Jimmy sat down again.

The old man was jerked out of his snoring slumber. With little less ado
than to shake off his slippers and take off his coat the old fellow
climbed into bed, pants, cap, and everything else on. His spouse went
ahead with her preparations for sleep as if the two Americans had been
miles away.

“Just like these people. They don’t give a darn for any one,” explained
Jimmy as he started to scratch around his neck and chest. “Damn these
cooties, they always get restless when I stay near a hot fire long.” He
pushed farther away from the fireplace and put a cigarette to his lips.

“Go on, Jimmy, with your story. You were told to leave the house—and
what then?” begged O. D.

“Well, I reported in front of the theater and a sergeant grabs me and
says, ‘Git in that truck and go to camp.’ ‘What the hell’s up?’ I asked.
‘Never mind, you’ll find out soon enough,’ snaps out the sergeant.

“When we hit the camp half of the battery was lined up gettin’ inspected
and the other half was fallin’ all over each other, rollin’ up blankets
or cussin’ the supply sergeant because he wouldn’t issue stuff that had
been swiped or lost. Tacks McLoughlin, who used to _cushay_ next to me
in the tent, told me that my detail was goin’ to France _toot sweet_.

“You can imagine that the news kind of excited me just a little, ’cause
I was green to real excitement in those days. I started to make up my
own roll, but when it came time to strap it up I found that I was tyin’
up my own arm inside the roll, so had to unwind the whole darn thing.
Finally I got all set and was inspected. Nobody tried to stop me from
goin’, so I guess I was thought able and fit. _Toot sweet_ after we
_monjayed_ a rotten supper of goolash—some meal to hand a gang about to
come to this God-forsaken country—the gang started bettin’ like a bunch
of wild men at a horse-race.

“‘Bet we’ll get torpedoed,’ shouted one crape-hanger. ‘Ten to one we’ll
be at the front in two months,’ said Sundberg, goin’ wild. I told him to
lay dead on that stuff. I knew there wasn’t much chance of ’em sendin’ a
gang of men who didn’t know a halter-shank from the breech-block of a
piece to the front right away. One gink wanted to bet me that he’d get
hit before me. I listened to the bull just to keep my excitement down.

“The trucks rolled up about eight bells and we all piled in on top of
one another and started for the ship. It didn’t take long to get down to
the pier and we were loaded on like a bunch of cattle.

“We just followed the man in front of us up and down, in and around all
of the decks on that cussed boat until, at last, somebody found the way
down to what they had rigged up as our quarters. Time I stuck my nose
down that companionway I knew that somethin’ was wrong—smelled just like
the horse and mule corrals that we had been guardin’. Finally I landed
on the last deck, which was at least fifty feet below daylight, and
reached my bunk, which was jammed up close to the rear of another mule—I
mean a mule’s stall. I swore like a sailor and some funny guy who knew a
little bit of French bawled out, ‘_Say la guerre_,’ which I understand
pretty well now, even if I didn’t know what he was talkin’ about then.

“Well, O. D., you know a mule don’t smell like a flower-garden and when
you put sixty mules and fifty men in a rat-hole, ’way below fresh air
and daylight, there ain’t goin’ to be any perfumery-shop made by doin’
so. Boy, that was one hell of a night. Gas ain’t in it with the fumes
that filled that bunking-place. When I woke up in the mornin’ my old
bean was so heavy I thought I was wearin’ a cast-iron derby. I believe
I’d have suffocated if it wasn’t for a trick that some wise bird played
on Johnson, who _cushayed_ in the bunk above. You see, our tier of
torture-racks was right below one of those air-funnels, or whatever you
call them things on ships that look like big question-marks. ’Bout
midnight the funny guy lets a whole bucket of cold water go down that
funnel. Course Johnny got most of it in the stomach, but I got enough to
kinda revive me.

“Soon as I woke up I thought we was out to sea. I felt sick enough to be
in the middle of the ocean, but some guy who had been up on deck
hollered down that we hadn’t moved a foot from the dock. Sundberg, who
had been talkin’ about the motion of the boat, had to crawl under a bunk
after that.

“The first day on the boat was enough to make me believe that we would
all be starved to death before gettin’ to France. They had a Chinese
steward named Yung Kow, and that slant-eyed chink hid most of the stuff
we were supposed to eat.

“His parents would have turned in their grave if they only knew how well
his name fitted him. Too bad pig ain’t a Chinese word. Young pig would
have been better than Yung Kow. The third night out we caught him and
three more almond-eyed cooks storin’ the stuff down in a hold. Didn’t do
a thing but turn the deck hose on the crew of ’em.

“Before we started loadin’ them wild jackasses and horses on I had a
chance to pike the tub off that was to take us across. It was an old
Hawaiian line freighter named the _Panaman_. Seemed to be a fair-looking
ship—but none too big for nine hundred mules, ninety-nine horses, and
two hundred men.

“I was talkin’ to a cannibal named Punkjaw who had been a sailor ever
since he quit eatin’ people four years before. He couldn’t speak much
English, but could sputter some words in Spanish, and as I took a
correspondence course in that lingo I got about every tenth word. Along
came Bill O’Rourke, actin’ top-kicker, and tells me to haul it down on
the dock and lead a few mules aboard. I dragged along and started to do
as he said.

“But listen here, O. D., you know a mule is one of them persons a man
can’t lead any too easy. The first long-eared brat that I got didn’t
have no intention of goin’ to France—not if he could help it. I took the
halter-shank and went as far up that gangway as the slack of my rope let
me. Then I stopped. A mule, ’specially these army ones, is stronger than
most men. That fellow I had was a regular Goliath. He just stood there
like a statue. Well, I pulled and cussed about ten minutes and got a
nigger-boy to wallop that brute over the hind with a thick plank.
Nothin’ doin’.

“That mule was a slacker. He just wasn’t goin’ to France and fight. You
know how aggravatin’ a top-sergeant, more so an actin’ one, can be. ‘Git
on that rope and drag your mule up; you’re holdin’ up the ship,’ bawls
O’Rourke. Can you imagine that stuff from a man like O’Rourke, who had
spent quite a bit o’ time with mules and knew their tricks. ‘Git on the
rope yourself,’ I shot back. See, I’d only been in the army a little
time and a top-sergeant didn’t seem like no tin god to me.

“Course O’Rourke was sore as a boil. But he couldn’t do nothin’. We got
a detail at the head and stern of that critter and when somebody counted
three everybody yanked and pushed. The damn mule stood fast, but Berny
Garrity and another guy went overboard while several others landed on
different bales of cotton nearby. We got some coons to help us. Them
niggers shouted like madmen in a side-show. But nothin’ didin’. Finally
we hooked that fool mule onto a pulley with _beaucoup_ ropes and hauled
him aboard. It was a battle to get that gink in his stall.

“The ship was loaded and ready to start to France at three bells that
afternoon. ’Bout four we pulled up the anchor and got under way. When we
got so far out into the ocean that shore was just like a low cloud in
the west I said, ‘Good-by, old America.’ Thought I’d never see the
United States for many moons again. Can you imagine us wakin’ up the
next mornin’ in plain sight of Jersey coast? We did—and went into New
York Harbor for a convoy.

“After waitin’ thirty-six hours they finally got all of the tubs in a
line that was to go across with us. I never saw such a fleet of
fishin’-smacks and whalers in all my life. There wasn’t one that could
make over seven miles an hour, except ourselves, as we soon found out.

“The Statue of Liberty was about the last friend I seen as we pulled out
of New York and hit for the briny. That night we were out to sea for
fair and the _Panaman_ did some stunts that would make a good Holy
Roller feel ashamed.

“Can’t say that our trip was as bad as it might have been. Course I got
out of that hole they stuck us in for sleepin’-quarters and made a bunk
upon the second hatch, ’midships. Sundberg and I slept together there
and we used to rope ourselves down at night to keep from rollin’
overboard. The eatin’ was rotten for us, but the mules and horses ate
pretty fair, that is, all but mine. I had eighteen soft-brained,
long-eared mules to feed, and they got so damn mean until they would
bite my back when I turned ’round to pick up hay. So I starved ’em a few
times just to show ’em who was runnin’ their little boardin’-house.

“There wasn’t any amusements on that boat. Not even a checker-board or a
game of tiddledy-de-winks. In that case we had to shoot crap quite a
bit. Generally the whole outfit includin’ the crew, galley hounds, and
even Punkjaw, shot all mornin’ long and after dinner we _encored_ until
dark. The games got so high and interestin’ until the ship’s officers
and some army lieutenants got a few hands in. That’s how I met Lindsey,
the third engineer. He and I got chummy over a couple of good hands that
ran for me almost half an hour and first thing I knew I had fixed to
sleep in his stateroom on the little sofa thing in there.

“’Bout that time I made friends with Julius. He served the captain’s
mess and used to hand me in a feed every meal through the port-hole.
Talk about good _monjayin’_. Boy, them was the days when a dish of ham
and eggs looked like a mess-kit full of ‘corn willy.’ Them officers used
to get chicken almost every meal. Course I _monjayed_ just as good as
they did when that chink steward didn’t have his heads on Julius.

“The only ceremonies that took place on board was funerals. We had quite
a few mules die, and of course there wasn’t much use in carryin’ them
along like that. A dead mule ain’t much account hitched up to a ration
cart or a rollin’ kitchen. So we hauled ’em up and let ’em slide
overboard. There was a couple of guys who hollered about doin’ that, as
they said German submarines might track us or find out that there was
boats around if they saw dead mules floatin’ on the ocean. But I told
those fellows that it would be a darn sight easier to locate us if we
kept the mules on board than if we threw ’em over.

“After fifteen days of rollin’ and pitchin’ we sneaked into the danger
zone, as that place was called where there was supposed to be _beaucoup_
U-boats. Funny thing, but you never heard a word ’bout submarines until
we hit the zone. Then the only thing said was that we might have to swim
a good deal if we got hit, as most of the boats were not seaworthy.
Still we kept on drillin’ with them just as if they were good enough to
get in if the ship got torpedoed.

“Our third day in the zone, after the little toy-boats, or destroyers as
they called them, bobbed up, gave us a little fun. One of the guys on
watch—that’s the same thing as guard in this man’s army—swore he saw a
submarine on the starboard railin’ or somethin’ like that. Everybody
rushed to that side of the ship until we like to have tipped over. You
might think that we would have had sense enough, knowin’ it was a German
submarine, to have ducked behind something so as to get out of the way
of anythin’ that the Dutchmen would shoot over. But no, just like
Americans, they had to run out and see what was goin’ on.

“The captain had ’em blow the bugle to call everybody, ’cept the gunners
and crew, to the life-boats. ’Bout the time that the racket started
Samson and me was just gettin’ away with a big pan full of bread-puddin’
that the chinks and Japs had made for their own dinner. I heard ’em
yellin’, ‘Submarine, submarine!’ But hell, I didn’t want to lose that
puddin’, not after gettin’ away so clean, so Samson and I ran down the
ladder that goes from the smokestack room down to the hold and hid the
stuff. When I got upstairs—I mean on deck again—the bow-gun crew had a
gun trained on the German and banged away once or twice. Some of the
fellows swear that they saw the wake of a torpedo ’way behind us as if
the Boche had fell short by a good many yards. But guess they was seein’
things.

“That was the last fun we had until we hit the harbor of Brest after
bein’ at sea twenty-three days. A Frenchman pilot got on aboard. Believe
me it was a hell of a funny thing—he couldn’t speak a word of English
and none of the officers could say a line of French. In them days I was
just as bad as the officers as I couldn’t even say good mornin’ or ask
for a drink of water in the Frog stuff. They got a buck private by the
name of St. Gabriel or somethin’ like that who was a French Canuck to
parley for them. That was one day that the privates had the officers at
parade rest. Gabriel was the only man that knew what was up beside the
pilot, and they had each other bluffed I believe. Well, buddy, that’s
how I got to this sunny France business. Sunny! We ain’t had two whole
clear days since we hit the country.” Jimmy McGee started running his
hand under his shirt and scratched away in a professional manner.



                       CHAPTER IV—“SUNNY FRANCE!”


“You sure had a tough time getting here, Jimmy, compared to me. I came
over on an old ocean liner. We had good clean bunks and three settings
at table. There were regular bill o’ fares and live waiters. Only took
eight days to come over. What was your first impression of France and
where did you land at Brest?” O. D.’s brown eyes didn’t show a bit of
sleepiness and his ears were cocked for every word that Jimmy McGee was
willing to spill.

“Hell, no—not at Brest, that must have been a good town in them days.
There was a rule made at the beginning of the war not to give this
division anything good. We stayed in Brest that night and started for
St. Nazaire _toot sweet_ the next day. God help anybody, even the
M. P.’s who had to fight the _guerre_ in St. Nazaire. That town is the
first place the Lord made and He forgot about it ten minutes after
putting it up. It’s worse than the town old Bill Blodgett comes from.

“Well, we got in the harbor there ’bout two o’clock. It was kinda foggy
and rainin’ off and on. ’Ain’t quit since then. Still they call it
‘Sunny France.’ After a lot of waitin’ around they shoved us in the
canal locks, and I’m a liar if we didn’t go right through the middle of
the town. Some of the houses on both sides of the locks looked like
twins or else as if they had been pushed apart so as the canal could run
through the town.

“Guess the first impression I got was that the Americans was still a new
play toy for the French, ’cause there was a gang of kids and people
runnin’ up and down the docks shoutin’ and wavin’ to us. Then I began to
notice the buildings—whew! They looked old enough to be
great-grandfathers to some of those four-hundred-year-old houses down in
St. Augustine, Florida. Most of ’em had _Café_ or _Van Rouge_ written
all over them. I never saw so many _cafés_ in all my life. Course the
French people looked funny as hell to us. Some were all dolled up in
fine clothes and others looked as if they would catch cold for want of
somethin’ to cover them. There was more soldiers walkin’ up and down on
the piers than we had in the whole American army at that time. I thought
we must be pretty near the front as there was so many. Some of the
Frenchmen wore helmets. That’s about all that most of the Frogs have got
left now. Never saw so many widows in all my days. Most of the women who
was dressed up at all wore black and long veils. They made me think
’bout the war, and I felt kinda good ’cause there wasn’t any woman to
wear black in case I got knocked off at the front.

“Some Americans, who acted as though they had just bought the town and
could end the war with a snap of their fingers, came down to the edge of
the locks and began shootin’ the bull. Most of the Americans wanted to
know how the football games were coming off in the States. We told them
we didn’t know as they hadn’t started good when we left. I had to
explain to one guy that we didn’t come over on an express and that it
took nearly a month to get here. He began tellin’ me where we could get
our money changed and where the best champagne was and how to do things
in general while in France. I asked him if he had been to the front yet
and he said, ‘Oh no, I’m a receivin’-clerk, with the grade of corporal.’
‘The hell you are! I thought you had been up endin’ the war,’ says I.
But he didn’t seem to get my meanin’.

“They kept us on that boat two days. Durin’ that time some little French
kids who could _parley_ a little English rowed out in a tub and sold us
_beaucoup van rouge_ and _cognac_. About half of the ship got zig-zag
_toot sweet_. I thought they’d put us in irons.

“Finally we got marched ashore and through the town to our barracks.
Some barracks for a white man I’ll say. No bunks. No floor. No stoves.
Nothing but a roof and the ground. It comes easy now to _cushay_ on a
bag of ten-penny nails, but in them days sleepin’ on the cold bumpy
ground was just as bad as missin’ your weekly Saturday bath in the
States.

“I’ll never forget my first night in France. I got put in the jug. Those
damn American M. P.’s of course. Ever since then I ain’t had much love
for that branch of the service. Course we don’t see too much of them up
at the front, but they get in a man’s way now and then. Seems as though
you had to have a pass to be on the streets. As usual I never had any
pass, so they grabbed me, Samson, Johnson, and Kicky Hull. When we got
to the brig we found practically the whole outfit lined up there.

“We had a fair time the first few days. But I had a job tryin’ to
_compree_ this foolish-looking French money. Say, O. D., ain’t it the
worst stuff you ever handled? For one good ten-spot, American dough, I’d
give ’em all the _frankers_ they ever printed. _Pas bon_, that stuff.

“I met one fine French family in that town. There was the mother,
father, and girl. Her name was Suzanne, and, honest, boy, she was a
little rose mademoiselle. Pretty and delicate-like, you know, and could
speak English in that _bon_ way that these janes over here _parley_
American after studyin’ it. Lots better than you or me can. Suzanne and
her people were regular folks. Why, they were almost the same as
Americans. Had all kinds of stuff in the house, stoves and pianos, like
us, and did mostly as we do, except I never saw them drinking water.

“Well, Suzanne had a _fiancée_, a young French lieutenant, and she was
always talkin’ about him and how much she loved him. She hated the
Germans worse than rats. All Suzanne wanted to do was end the war, have
her _fiancé_ come home and get married. Her people was pretty wealthy
for French people. Had a big stationery and athletic-goods store. They
sure tried to make life worth while for old Samson and myself. Believe
Sammy was a bit stuck on Suzanne, but he never said nothin’ ’bout it to
me. He could _parley_ a little bit, and it used to get me mad as hell to
go into a store or any place and have him start that French stuff and
talk to the people when I couldn’t get a word of the lingo.

“We must have had a reputation as chambermaids for mules, ’cause they
put the battery to work in another corral, cleaning it up and feedin’
the animals. Sometimes they used to wake us up in the middle of the
night and send us down to ships that had just come in so that we could
lead the mules up to the corral. That was some job. The mules would be
wilder than ever after bein’ penned up on a boat so long, and time
they’d hit the street they usually started tearin’ off. If any of us
happened to have hold of them mules at the time, we mostly went with the
mule.

“After a month of that kind of work we were sent to Camp Coetquidan to
learn how to fight the _guerre_ with real cannon. When we got to camp
the other batteries had already found out how to fire the guns and were
blowin’ away at anything for a target. It didn’t take us long to find
out how those six-inch howitzers worked. The French called ’em _sonn
sankont-sanks_, which means one hundred and fifty-fives.

“I’ll never get in another _guerre_ again as long as I live, but if I do
get mixed up in another I’ll keep clear of France and especially
Coetquidan. Rain—mud—mud—rain. All day and all night at that hole. We
slept in the barracks that Napoleon and his army used to _cushay_ in. No
wonder he always had his hand in his shirt. Guess he was scratchin’. No,
there wasn’t any cooties there. But they had some kind of bed-ticks or
ground rats that used to bite us up pretty bad. Bein’ about the first
fightin’ troops over we couldn’t expect to have gloves, shower-baths,
and warm barracks. The only thing that was issued was _beaucoup_ reserve
officers.

“I got a pass to be away from camp for two days and went down to a place
called Rennes, ’bout thirty-eight kilofloppers from camp. It took six
hours to get there on the little narrow-gauge, and I spent all my time
down there in a big house where I got a _bain_—that’s what the Frogs say
for bath—tryin’ to get clean. Didn’t get another _bain_ until two months
later at the front.

“Saw a lot of Boche prisoners down there. Course we seen quite a few at
St. Nazaire, but didn’t have a chance to say anything to ’em. They must
have knew we was green at this _guerre_ stuff, as they asked us for
cigarettes and chocolate, and we was fools enough to hand ’em some.
Catch me givin’ them dirty sausage-meats cigarettes now. ‘_Caput_’ for
’em all, that’s what the Frogs say.

“After Christmas passed and we got our first real batch of mail—Say,
O. D., I guess you get a bunch of mail from your ma and sis, don’t you?”
asked Jimmy.

“I’ve been getting about four letters a week, but guess I’ll have to
wait until it gets forwarded to me now,” acknowledged O. D.

“_Mon Du!_” was the ejaculation, “four a week. Gosh, you’re lucky. Why,
I’ve only got seventeen since I hit this country. Course there’s nobody
to write me but a few of the boys down at the newspaper office who
couldn’t pass the physicals——”

“Is that a fact, Jimmy?”

“_Oui._ Bet your tin hat.”

“Don’t see how you stand this life without letters.”

“Comes tough at times, ’specially when the other guys gets _beaucoup_
letters. Kinda feel like a nobody. But generally somethin’ turns up—we
start drivin’—or the Boches get some guts and throw a few over. Then
there ain’t much chance to think about such things.” Jimmy spoke as if a
few letters could do a great deal toward winning wars.

“By George, I’m goin’ to get Mary to write to you right—— How do you say
it in French, Jimmy?”

“_Toot sweet_,” prompted the Yank, with new hope in his tones.

“Well, I’ll have Mary write you _toot sweet_, then—that is, if you want
me to.”

“Want you to—— Whew, boy, that’ll save my life. Will you?” he asked,
eagerly.

“Sure,” assured O. D.



                  CHAPTER V—WE WAS OFF FOR THE FRONT!


Before he had joined the army and been through a lot of front-line stuff
Jimmy McGee thought that it was mighty romantic to wear a uniform and
carry a gun off to war. But somebody spilled the beans for him pretty
soon. Jimmy couldn’t find any romance in the mud and rain when his chief
ration was black coffee, canned beef, and hardtack. When O. D. said that
he would have Mary write to him something stirred ’way down in him that
hadn’t stirred since he had quit thinking about war as a romantic
expedition, and Jimmy was pretty sure that the romance stuff was coming
back to life again.

“Wonder if Mary would want a souvenir of this _guerre_?” asked Jimmy,
thoughtfully.

“I know she would, because before I left she made me promise to bring
back a German helmet or something from the battles. But of course I
haven’t been near a fight yet,” answered O. D.

“Mary gets the helmet that I took from that Boche major, and _toot
sweet_, you can bet on that,” declared McGee.

“But you’ll want to keep the helmet yourself, Jimmy.”

“Hell afire, the helmet’s Mary’s. There’s no use waitin’ until the
_guerre_ is _finee_ before I give it to her, is there?” blurted out
Jimmy, confusedly.

“No—guess not. Send it to her, then. Mary’ll be tickled to death with it
and to know that it comes from a real soldier who’s been wounded. But go
on with what you were tellin’ me. When did you get sent up to the
front?”

“Arrh, we hung ’round Coetquidan until ’bout February first, then we got
orders to _partee_. We was darn sure that we was goin’ to the front, but
didn’t have no idea what part of it. Anyhow, if you had told us we
wouldn’t have known any better, as we never paid any particular
attention to any special fronts. All we knew was that the front was the
front.

“Guess you know by now that we don’t travel first-class in this country.
You’ve seen them little cars that looks like a shoe-box set on wheels,
marked, ‘40 _hommes_’—that’s forty like you and me—and ‘8
_chevaux_’—means eight horses or as many mules. Well, that’s the kind of
parlor-cars that I’ve been tourin’ France in. I always get in a
horse-car if I can, as it’s warmer, and, supposin’ the _chevaux_ don’t
step all over you, there’s a chance to lay down and cork off a bit.

“They loaded us bag and baggage on a train of them kind of cars and a
Frog blew some kind of a horn. We was off for the front. God a’mighty,
you should have heard them Yanks cheerin’ as we headed for the front.
Passed through a lot of big towns and _beaucoup_ villages where all of
the Frogs came out to look at us as if we was a travelin’ circus. Come
pretty near starvin’ before we got where we was goin’.

“Stayed on the train all one night and one whole day. About seven
o’clock of the second night I squirmed into about three feet of floor
space and _cushayed_. Must have slept pretty good, ’cause next thing I
knew somebody was shakin’ me and yellin’, ‘Hey, come out of it,
Jimmy—get up, we’re at the front.’ Gee! I snaps into it and rushes out
of the door expectin’ to see the front right outside. It was pretty
dark, but I looked hard and couldn’t see no Germans or trenches. It was
quiet as death. I says to Frank Reynolds, who was top-sergeant of E
Battery—you see, I had transferred from C to E—‘Where the hell is it?’
‘What?’ he asks. ‘The front, you nut,’ I told him. ‘Oh, it’s right
around here,’ and he waved his arms around pointin’ in every direction.

“I couldn’t see nothin’ but a railroad station and some flat cars.
‘Funniest front I’ve ever been on,’ said one of them Mexican-border
veterans. ‘This ain’t no front,’ says I.

“’Bout that time it sounded as if there was goin’ to be a
thunder-shower. Everybody looked at one another kinda funny-like. We
heard the thunder _encore_. I looked to the north and there was a lot of
flashes showin’ against the sky. The thunder began to growl like a bunch
of bears over a big bone. Some rockets shot up and spilled a lot of
sparks. A smart guy had to remark that they must be havin’ a Fourth of
July up there, but I was too busy tryin’ to _compree_ that them things
meant war. I kept sayin’ to myself, ‘That’s a war goin’ on out there;
that’s the thing we came up here to get in.’

“They talk a lot about thrills in love-stories and books, but those
story-page people don’t know a thrill from a bowl of mush compared to
the things that was runnin’ up and down my backbone that first night.
Course you know the guns and flashes was quite a ways, ’bout twenty
kilos from where we was, and there wasn’t much danger of us gettin’ in
any trouble ourselves. But seein’ and hearin’ just got me to thinkin’
about the old _guerre_ and knowin’ that we was in it at last—well, it
kind of made me feel a little different, that’s all.

“We harnessed the old _chevaux_ up, hooked ’em to the guns and got all
the other junk, includin’ them _fourgeons_—French wagons, you
know—started. ’Bout dawn we rumbled through a town that looked as if it
had been shut up for the winter. Wasn’t a light goin’. Not a pup on the
streets. Nothin’ but us. There was _beaucoup_ houses all shot to
hell—roofs gone, windows out, walls cavin’ in. Some places were nothin’
but rubbish. There was so little left of a few houses that you couldn’t
have salvaged a thing even if you had a pull with the guy at the salvage
dump. I found out later that the name of the place was _Swasson_
(Soissons). Must have been some battlin’ ’round that joint.

“After leavin’ _Swasson_ we hit a road that led right up to the
trenches, or damn near it, anyway. Anybody, even an S. O. S. bird with
six months’ experience in Paris, would have guessed that we must be
somewhere near the front. There was old trenches runnin’ every which
way; at that time I thought the detail that dug ’em must have been
zigzag, as all of the trenches was crooked like a bunch of old dead
snakes. I saw _beaucoup_ barbed wire stretched ’round. But I’ve seen
lots more since that day.

“As we hiked along a gun would boom out some place up along the front.
Wasn’t none of that war stuff that you look for after readin’ some war
books. Just now and then a boom and a flash or two.

“It was mighty cold ridin’ a horse that night. Bein’ from Florida, I
ain’t used to much cold weather, and my hands and feet come pretty near
bein’ ice before we finally got to our _échelon_ near a tumbled-down
village called Chassemy. Listen ’bout that _échelon_ stuff. It was
somethin’ new to me before I got to the front, as I never took Greek at
school. Well, it seems that _échelon_ means the place that ain’t quite
at the front, but just about as bad, bein’ as how the Boche can always
shell _échelons_ with big guns. The men, horses, and other things that
ain’t needed at the front all the time stay at the _échelon_ till they
send for them. Time we made the _échelon_ everybody was so sleepy that
we didn’t wait to unroll, but just sprawled about on the barrack floor
and _cushayed_.

“I came to about four o’clock in the afternoon and we started to hunt
somethin’ to eat, naturally. Everybody was damn curious to know just
where the front was. Nobody seemed to know just exactly what way to take
to get to it and to our positions. You see, we were to relieve the
French. There was nothin’ else to do but wait ’round.

“Finally, two days later, three French officers came over and got the
Cap to go off with them to reconnoiter. He came back that night and told
us that we would move the guns into position next day.

“Next night we took the four pieces and everythin’ needed to fight the
_guerre_ with and hit for the front. You can imagine us goin’ to the
front for the first time. Lots of the boys was expectin’ a battle before
we got up there and other guys kept lookin’ for dead men or wounded. It
was the same as walkin’ to church on Sunday. We got to the front without
knowin’ it.

“‘Here we are,’ says the skipper, and he halted the column on the side
of a road. The top-sergeant thought he was tryin’ to fool us and asked
him what the halt was for. ‘Do you want to go out in No Man’s Land?’
asked the Cap. To tell the truth, it was hard for any of us to believe
that we were at the front. You’ll find that the front ain’t what it’s
cracked up to be, in a way.

“We put the guns in four positions that had already been built by the
French and camouflaged ’em with a lot of nettin’. When I saw ’em in
daylight I thought I was lookin’ at a scene in a theater. The gun
positions was right on the road, mind you—any one passin’ could see ’em,
and I thought that we would hide the things ’way down in some kind of a
mysterious valley, or somethin’ like that.

“Our homes were ’way down under the earth, dug-outs they call ’em. No
chance much to keep warm in dug-outs, and two men couldn’t pass each
other in ’em, they was so narrow. We _cushayed_ on wooden planks. Every
thing, kitchens, officers’ quarters, and all, were down in dug-outs.
When you did get upon the ground you had to be mighty careful as there
was _beaucoup_ shell-holes. The fields looked as if they had the
smallpox—and it was hard to keep from fallin’ into them shell-holes.

“After foolin’ around with the old army stuff of changin’ orders a
hundred times a day we put over our first shots by registerin’ on a
brewery that the Germans was supposed to live in. Before I forget it let
me tell you one of the funniest things about fronts. Our guns pointed
one way and the front was in another, or almost that bad, anyway. I kept
thinkin’ the lines was out beyond the muzzles of our pieces, but the Cap
said that it was off to the right more and that if we walked that way
we’d most likely run into the Germans’ first-line trenches. Sure was a
puzzle to me for a long time.

“Well, can’t say that there was any too much excitement up on the old
Cheman de Damns front (Chemin des Dames) except the mornin’ that Jimmy
Leach, our cook, made real biscuits. It’s a wonder the Heinies didn’t
hear us hollerin’ and come over, we made so much fuss over those
biscuits. Then there was hell to pay after we put over a big barrage
once. You _compree_ barrages, don’t you, that’s when all the big and
little guns start popping off at once accordin’ to some kind of a
schedule and generally the doughboys go over under the barrage to attack
the Boche trenches. You see, before we got up there the Boches and
French were fightin’ the _guerre_ like this, ‘You don’t shoot and I
won’t.’ We changed that argument _toot sweet_ by startin’ in with
barrages and raids. Naturally the Germans got mad and came back at us.
That made the French hotter than hell. A general came right over to our
general and said it had to be stopped. No wonder the _guerre_ ain’t
ended. As we was under the French command we had to do accordin’ to
orders.

“You might think that we got into the ways of the _guerre_ with an awful
jolt. But we didn’t. It just came to us gradual like. We got used to the
whine of a shell and got so we could tell when they was comin’ and
goin’. There wasn’t many casualties. Few fellows got bumped off in the
infantry on raidin’ parties. We lost a couple or so in the artillery.

“I saw my first dead man, killed in the _guerre_, about three weeks
after goin’ in the line. Fragments of a shell had hit him in two or
three places. He was messed up all over one side of the road. I couldn’t
tell much if he was a man or mule, the way he was scattered ’round. A
fellow standin’ near said it was Bill Rand, a lad I used to sleep in the
same tent with at Boxford. Course I was sorry for poor Bill, but it
didn’t worry me much. Never thought of it anymore—that’s the way it’s
been for all the boys. Just got used to takin’ the _guerre_ as it came
along.

“The cooties got on us up there and I ain’t been lonesome for ’em since
that time—don’t believe a fellow can ever get rid of the damn things.
Gas was the big thing that scared me at first. Now it’s bombs. O. D.,
one of them Boche planes dronin’ over your bean, waitin’ to pull up his
tailboard and let a bomb drop, is the worst thing I ever want to be up
against. You ’ain’t got a bit of protection, unless, of course, you’re
’way under the ground.

“Talkin’ about the gas stuff reminds me of what happened to Bill Conway.
Bill was an old regular, been in the service eighteen years, soldiered
every place the American flag ever flew and told us that gas, bombs, and
shrapnel all tied up in one bag couldn’t made him budge. We knew Bill
pretty well and if there was anything that had him licked it was gas. He
used to go to sleep with his mask on sometimes. Well, Jimmy Leach and a
few of us decided to get Bill one night, so we hid his old gas-mask and
when he got in the dug-out somebody beat on a tin can and bawled out,
‘Gas—gas!’

“Say, you would have died laughin’ at old Bill. He jumps for his mask.
Nothin’ doin’. He tried to take Jimmy Leach’s, but couldn’t. Everybody
had piled into the bunks and pulled blankets over their heads. Some of
’em began groanin’ and coughin’. ‘Oh, my God, I’m gassed, I’m gassed!’
yelled Bill, and he dived under a pile of his own blankets. ‘So am I,’
shouted Leach, comin’ up for air. The rest of us all threw the blankets
back and began smokin’. Finally, after ’bout half an hour, and he nearly
suffocated, Bill stuck his head out and saw us and that there wasn’t any
gas. Maybe he didn’t cuss us out! Said we were tin soldiers and belonged
to a tin army. Some day if I ever get back to my old newspaper job and a
typewriter I’m goin’ to write a book about Bill Conway and call it _Tin
Sojers_.”



                    CHAPTER VI—AMERICAN JOANS OF ARC


“A month and a half was long enough for us on the Cheman de Damns front.
We _parteed_ ’bout March fifteenth or so and got on another one of them
funny little trains—didn’t stay on long—only ’bout fifteen hours.

“Detrained at Château-Brienne and started hiking over the road to our
rest-camp. We was due for a rest, also furloughs. But I ain’t seen
neither of them things so far. That country down there sure was the darb
for us. It was just turnin’ off kind of spring-like and warm, too. We
were the first Americans to go through that section, and the
people—honest, O. D., they must have thought that we were American Joans
of Arc. Everybody came rushin’ to the doors and waved to us. The
mademoiselles threw us kisses by the bushel. I got so excited that I
muffed most of ’em that came my way.

“After bein’ up in that mud-coated front country where you hardly ever
saw human bein’s, just soldiers, and where all of the houses had holes
in ’em and the gardens were all torn up by shells, it was great to get
back where the fields was green and people smiled and said nice things.
I was gettin’ to this French stuff ’bout that time and I could _compree_
a little of what they said.

“Our first stop was at a little town called Dienville. We blew in with
the band playin’ and everybody happy. The villagers gave us the hell of
a fine welcome and made us feel to home _toot sweet_. Right after I put
my horse on the picket-line and camouflaged my equipment I started
lookin’ for something to monjay and a place to _cushay_. First store I
hit was a baker shop—_boulangerie_, they say in _Fransay_. The shop was
full of women and little girls. They was talkin’ a mile a minute. That’s
the fastest thing they do in this country, you know, _parley_—and every
few minutes I could hear ’em say ‘_Américains—Américains_.’

“Finally I asked ’bout _monjayin’_ and they told me where the restaurant
was. I never had tried to get a _chambre_ before, but I got _parleyin’_
’bout a place to _cushay_, and a little girl ’bout twelve years old and
pretty—listen to me, O. D., that child was the darb of a _petite
mademoiselle_. She asked her mother how ’bout my stayin’ with them, or
it sounded that way to me. Course I said in my foolish French,
‘_Keskesay?_’ which means, What did you say?

“The mademoiselle was a little timid. Guess I’m kind of hard to look at,
anyway. She got closer to her mother, but she didn’t hide them pretty
blue eyes. Looked me straight in the face and said her mother, the
madame, would fix me up on the _cushay_ stuff. Then I got kind of brave
myself and went over to her and her mother. The girl put her hand in
mine _toot sweet_ and said, ‘_Comrade_.’ I never was much for bein’
’round children, but I grabbed her and threw her up and down like I have
seen daddies do. She kissed me smack on the cheek and said her name was
Louise.

“That little mademoiselle’s kiss was the first one I had in a long time,
O. D. Sometimes I still get the taste of it, as I ’ain’t had another
since. Louise and the madame was more than _jauntee_, which as I
_compree_ it means nice, or kind. They fed me _dey zerfs_, _der
lay_—that’s eggs and milk—and _beaucoup pom de tear fritz_ for every
_monjay_. I _cu-shayed_ in a real _lee_—Frog for bed—that night, and
honest it took me near three hours to get asleep, the bed was so soft.
Next mornin’ I fooled ’em and didn’t answer _reveille_—_cushayed_ till
’bout nine bells and got up, shaved with real hot water, washed as far
down my neck as my hand could go and sure felt fittin’ for anything.

“Louise had beat it to school, but the madame saved a big bowl of
_café-ooo-lay_—O. D., if you ever drink a bowl of real French
_café-ooo-lay_ you’ll never be satisfied with that stuff they serve in
Childs’ or the Waldorf. It’s coffee with _beaucoup_ hot milk, and it
sure is the darb. Along with that _café-ooo-lay_ I had a hunk of regular
_du pan_. Frog bread is _bon_ when it’s made right—and some _du
burre_—butter, you know. Madame kept _parleyin’_ somethin’ ’bout _dey
zerfs_—which are eggs in American—but I told her that I’d wait till
dinner to _monjay_ the omelet.

“While I was gettin’ away with the _petite dayjunay_—as madame called
what I was monjayin’—she told me that her _marrieh_, her husband, was a
lieutenant in the Frog artillery—_swasont kans_—which means the same as
our three-inch pieces. Showed me _beaucoup_ pictures of the old man and
lots of souvenirs. He’d been in the _guerre_ three and a half
years—wounded three times. I began thinkin’ that us Americans didn’t
have so much kick comin’ bein’ as how we were about four years late in
gettin’ in against the Kaiser.

“When Louise came home from school she took me out for a walk. Say, you
ought to have seen the guys pike me off. ‘What you doin’, Jimmy,
teachin’ kindergarten?’ lots of ’em asked me. I told ’em no, that she
was my _fiancée_ and was goin’ to _partee_ to _Amérique_ with me. Louise
_compreed_ that line and said, ‘_Oui_’ all the time.

“There was a band concert in the little square that afternoon, and,
believe me, the Frogs sure enjoyed it. They hadn’t heard any music since
the _guerre_ started, except the church organ, I guess. I had a flock of
little mademoiselles hangin’ on to me by that time, as Louise was mighty
popular with ’em all. Course, as luck would have it, I had a bar or two
of chocolate in my jeans, and I handed it over to Louise and her little
friends. Boy, they thought I was a regular Santa Claus after that.

“When we left Dienville two days later all the kids in the village was
cryin’ because the Americans was _parteein’_. I sure got to hand it to
those people in that place, they was the old darb for us. Course things
has changed a good deal since then—we ain’t new to the Frogs any more
and lots of ’em with stuff to sell have found out that we get a darn
sight more _frankers_ a month than the Frog army pays.

“We hiked ’bout five days or so, stoppin’ every night in some village
and finally got to the area which was to be our rest-camp. Just got
settled in the billets when we got an order to _partee toot sweet_. We
was kinda sore, but most of us said, ‘_Say la guerre_,’ and let it go at
that. Nobody knew what the hell it meant as we was miles from newspapers
and telegraph wires, and never got any news of the _guerre_. That’s how
we started the seventeen-day hike from down around Joinville straight up
to the Toul front.

“That hike was one of the worst things we bucked against durin’ this
_guerre_. There wasn’t but two days on which the sun came out at all. It
rained day and night. The roads was all mud and so slippery that the men
and horses was slidin’ all over the place. There wasn’t no way to carry
fresh rations, so we _monjayed_ ‘corn willy,’ black coffee, and hardtack
seventeen days straight. The horses had a hell of a time, too, as there
never was enough hay and oats for all of ’em to _monjay_ at one time.
Guess we covered ’bout twenty-two kilofloppers every day. Never got up
later than three bells in the mornin’ and generally got to _cushay_
around _nerver_. That’s nine o’clock in this country.

“When we hit a town at night we had to stretch a picket-line for the
_chevaux_, then water and feed ’em. After that we could feed ourselves
and hunt a _chambre_ or hayloft to _cushay_. As a rule, the _chambres_
was all for the officers when we got to ’em. We sure had a tough time
hikin’ across this damn country. Never did get warm the whole time.
’Bout that time my old feet began to get _malade_. Whenever you hear a
Frog say _malade_ you’ll know they’re talkin’ about bein’ sick. They was
so cold all the time until they would swell up overnight and in the
mornin’ you had a fat chance of gettin’ your shoes on, as those darn
hobnails used to shrink up like a pair of white-flannel britches do
after washin’ ’em. One mornin’ the old feet was so bad that I had to
wear a pair of those wooden boats ’round. The doctors call feet like I
had trench feet. I’ve had ’em ever since. Wear tens now; used to wear
eights and a half back in civilian days.”



               CHAPTER VII—THE FIRST BATTLE OF THE GUERRE


“Long ’bout April second we passed through Toul and hit the American
front. The First Division outfits was relieved there by us. Most of our
gang got billeted ’round a placed called Boucq. I was at Corniéville
before we went into positions. Our billets were the worst things a man
could imagine. Dirty, cold, and hardly any bunks at all.

“We soon found out that we was goin’ to fight a different kind of
_guerre_ down there than we had been doin’. The country was so muddy and
soft that you couldn’t dig in and make dug-outs. Everything was on the
ground. Course my battery had to get the worse place of all—up in a
swamp. If you got off the little duckboard walks you had to get a detail
to pull you out of the mud. The positions that we had was on the
Germans’ maps, as they had already got a gun belonging to the First
Division, before we took the position over.

“Two days after we got our pieces layed on some Boche targets they began
throwin’ ’em over at us. That was the first time we’d ever been under
real shell-fire in the positions. It was a regular circus. Old Bill
Conway was on gas guard at the time. They gave us a klaxon for a gas
alarm, unless it’s possible to rig up some kind of a tin gong to heat
on. Well, Bill, he was walkin’ post swingin’ the Ford klaxon ’round,
just as uninterested in the _guerre_ as if he had been walkin’ post in a
safe Coast Artillery fort. He had been told to sound that klaxon in case
of gas. A big boy whistled on the way. Sounds just like the whine of a
dyin’ wildcat. Something terrible to listen to, believe me, till you get
kind of fed up on the stuff.

“Bang—Bluey! That two-twenty—we call ’em barrack bags, they’re so damn
big—landed ’bout thirty feet from our last latrine and sent fragments of
itself and trees, with about a ton of dirt, in all directions. Old
Conway, with his eighteen years of continued service, started cranking
that klaxon for all he was worth as he ran toward a bunkhouse.

“Bang! Bang! Bang!

“The Heinies were puttin’ ’em over for fair and too damn close to be
interestin’. Course everybody jerked on the old gas-mask. But Bill
Conway was so excited and scared till he clean forgot all about his own
mask—all he could do was sound that klaxon and shout, ‘Gas!’ The skipper
came tearin’ out of his B. C. station, gas-mask and all. The first thing
he saw was Conway without a mask. ‘Put your mask on, you boob, ’ain’t
you got any sense? I’ll court martial you for disregardin’ orders.’
Conway drops the klaxon and pulls the mask over his bean and face _toot
sweet_.

“Corporal Reynolds, who was gas non-com., comes up about that time and
asks Bill what the devil he sounded the gas alarm for. Bill says, ‘We’re
gettin’ gassed.’ Reynolds, of course, was expected to know gas from
ordinary fresh air, bein’ as how he was the gas non-com., so he pulled
his mask off and sniffed ’round considerable. ‘Hell afire,’ says he,
‘there ain’t no gas.’ Everybody took off their masks and the skipper
gave Conway extra fatigue for causin’ such a disturbance.

“All durin’ the time that they was arguin’ ’bout the gas the old shells
were sailing right over our heads and hittin’ pretty close. One guy got
a splinter in the fat of his thigh and Deacon O’Tell’s underclothes were
ripped off a line where he had ’em dryin’. But that was all the
casualties we had that day. You see, the woods was mighty tall and
strong there and they sorta shielded us from the fragments and hunks.

“Things rattled on that way every day. We used to get shelled every
afternoon ’round three or four o’clock. Couple of the boys got it pretty
soon and they carted ’em off to a hospital. Never seen or heard of ’em
since.

“The _monjayin’_ was _pas bon_. Never got any sugar in the coffee, and
as for milk—well, there wasn’t any ’round them diggin’s. O. D., that’s
one thing that got my goat a long time. You read ’bout all this
Hooverizin’ stuff. How the folks back home is doin’ without sugar—havin’
wheatless, meatless, fireless and all kind of days so the men at the
front can get the best _monjayin’_ there is—and we was starvin’ a good
many times. Course if we hadn’t been Americans we’d have kicked and
raised an awful smell, but bein’ a bunch of Yankees and knowin’ what we
was up against in this _guerre_, we just fooled ’em and kept on
regardless. Now I ain’t sayin’ this so much for myself, cause I’m pretty
hefty and can get along. But we had a bunch of little guys up there that
weren’t more than a bunch of strings. Those kids used to stay up all
night luggin’ ninety-five-pound shells—gettin’ wet most of the time—then
dive into their cold bunks, _cushay_ ’bout two hours and get up to
_monjay_. What the hell do you think they’d get? Maybe a thin slice or
two of bacon—hardtack most of the time, black coffee with no sugar, and
that’s all. Fat breakfast for a fightin’ man. You can’t blame nobody for
them things except the people back at the ports and in the S. O. S. who
are supposed to get the eats up to us.

“That’s a rotten, damn shame, because we always got good eating back
where I was—fresh meats—vegetables—butter—jam—milk in the coffee all the
time,” interrupted O. D.

“Listen to that,” exploded Jimmy. “There you are—everybody for himself
in this army. Those ginks back there ain’t worryin’ much ’bout us guys
that’s fightin’ this _guerre_. ‘Send ’em up a carload of “corn-willy”
and a train of hardtack—that’ll be enough to keep ’em goin’ another
month or two,’ that’s what they say down in the S. O. S., I guess.

“Round about April tenth the Boches thought they’d give our lines a good
feel, so they came over strong and sent gas barrages and high explosive
mixed up with _beaucoup_ shrapnel and other stuff, along with their
doughboys. This happened up in the Bois Brûlé—which means burned woods
in Frog lingo. Now you might think that our boys, bein’ a bit green at
the _guerre_ stuff, would have been sick to their stomachs, or somethin’
like that after gettin’ such rough treatment from the Boches, but it
wasn’t that way at all. I believe that most of the doughboys was just
itchin’ for a good battle, anyway. The way they waded into the Boches
was big stuff. Banged ’em all over the lots. When the ammunition gave
out the fellows started wallopin’ ’em with their fists and the butt-ends
of rifles. You know Boches ain’t no good when it comes to fightin’ at
close quarters. In fact, if you take ’em out of that close formation
stuff that they pull when comin’ over—well, they ain’t worth a hurrah—so
when the Yanks shoved their fists in the snouts it was _finee toot
sweet_.

“The battlin’ kept up for about three or four days. Every time the
Boches tried to get a footin’ in Appremont we’d throw ’em out again.
Soon they got tired, seein’ how impossible it was to stay there, and
went back to their trenches and dug-outs.

“The Boches stayed quiet until the night of April nineteenth, or rather
first thing in the mornin’ of the twentieth. I was up in a position so
close to the front-line trenches that you could throw hand grenades at a
Yankee doughboy, if he was fool enough to stick his bean over the
parapet. About ten men from each battery had been detailed to man a
ninety-five-millimeter battery—some old-fashioned French guns, relics of
the war in 1870.

“Well, O. D., they can talk ’bout battles till they’re blue in the face,
but I’ll always claim that the battle of Seicheprey which was pulled off
that mornin’ was the first big battle of the _guerre_ that this army
ever got mixed up in. We lost five hundred men that one night and the
Boches lost a hell of a lot more—so you can judge by that.

“Funny as the devil how a man kinda knows when somethin’ big is comin’
off. But you do. Every night there’d be _beaucoup_ rockets and
star-shells goin’ up. But this night there was more than _beaucoup_, if
you know what that means. The way those red and different colored
rockets began goin’ up made me think that a bunch of pink, yellow, and
red snakes had been turned loose in heaven and was crawlin’ ’round the
sky. Now and then a star-shell would go up and bust. Then you could see
the trenches and No Man’s Land. But that’s all. There wasn’t a thing
stirrin’. Not a sound. Almost too quiet to be safe.

“Just at the beginnin’ of one o’clock a German gun boomed. Then hell
broke loose all along our front. Never heard such an infernal noise in
all my life. Sounded like a bunch of demons poundin’ on brass-drums with
trip-hammers. _Toot sweet_ our guns began to talk back. They got us up
to the pits and we started to man them crazy-looking
ninety-five-millimeter stove-pipes. That’s what the cannon looked like,
anyway.

“Shells was whizzin’ in from every direction. High explosive cracked
over our beans and rained down like hail. Rat-ta-tat! Ra-ta-tat! Bang!
Bluey! Smash! That was all we could hear up and down the lines. The
barrages roared away like barbarian music. Pretty soon the noise hurt my
ears so till I couldn’t try to listen to orders. Just worked away like a
mechanical man.

“We started to fire just as a shell spilled its load near the first
piece. God! the screech of them three boys that got all torn up was
enough to tear a man’s ear-drums to shreds—couldn’t help but hear ’em
even with the bangin’ of the guns.

“All of us was too busy rammin’ shells in our piece and firin’ the thing
to notice much that was goin’ on, but the flames from the burstin’
shells and the flares made it almost as bright as day ever gets to be in
this country. The yellow light was kinda blindin’ as it came in spurts
and jerks. I looked ahead of us, down toward the trenches and No Man’s
Land. The Boche infantry was coming straight at us with fixed bayonets.
I ain’t jokin’ you, boy, but there was some kind of a cold thing chasin’
up and down my old spine for a few minutes. I could almost see our
doughboys strainin’ down in their trenches waitin’ to get up and at ’em.

“At last they let ’em go to it. It was some smash-up when they hit them
Germans. The Boches was at least five to one stronger than us and their
weight counted enough to make us fall back to the streets of Seicheprey.

“I speak of streets and Seicheprey as if it might have been a regular
village. But it wasn’t. Seicheprey was just like a village ghost. Not a
house standin’ up—everythin’ littered about. Stones, bricks, wood heaps,
rubbish, barbed-wire entanglements were in the streets and every place.
The fightin’ down there was all hand to hand.

“We had been told to fall back with the infantry in case it was
necessary to let the Boches come on so that our reinforcements could get
up and give us a hand. But Lieutenant Davis, who was runnin’ our
battery, was off that fallin’-back stuff. He says, ‘Stick to it, boys,
and give ’em hell!’ We stuck all right, but it was hot stickin’.

“There was one boy only about eighteen years old in our crew, and when
Johnson got his arm ripped off by shrapnel and it flew off and hit
Jackson, the kid, he got up from the blow a wild man. That’s one of the
worst things I’ve seen in this _guerre_.

“Jackson’s face was drippin’ blood and he was swingin’ Johnson’s arm
around to hit the boys that was tryin’ to get him out of the pit. It’s
damn hard to work with a madman next to you cursing and prayin’ in the
same breath. Finally they cornered him and carried him out. Johnson was
stone dead, o’ course, and they had to get him out, as we was steppin’
all over him and trippin’ up. Sergeant Broadhead and Shorty Williams
picked poor Johnson up and was gettin’ back toward a dug-out, when high
explosive got ’em both—scooped Broadhead’s stomach right off him and
gashed the legs off of Shorty. Course we heard ’em groanin’ as the noise
of the battle would go up and down just like a piece of music. But they
quit sufferin’ soon, as both the lads went west _toot sweet_.

“All liaison with the other outfits was shot to hell, and we could only
guess at what was goin’ on with the doughboys and batteries. From the
rifle and machine-gun firin’ and the shoutin’ and cursin’, too—for there
was _beaucoup_ of that, and it sounded worse than the barrages, I judged
that there must be some awful battlin’ down in topsy-turvy Seicheprey.
Accordin’ to doughboys that I saw later, the Boches got mashed up all
over that place.

“You see, when the scrappin’ started down in Seicheprey it wasn’t in
formation. Everybody was by himself—or almost that way. That made it
rotten for the Boches, as they ain’t got any guts once they’re alone. So
the doughboys whaled ’em for a bunch of ghouls. Tell me they stripped
right down from helmets on and started in bare fist or with bayonets.

“The Boches got some kind of a signal back to their batteries to throw
over gas, and all of a sudden it looked as if the night had gone green.
Green is the gas warnin’, you know.

“‘Gas! Gas!’ You could hear that cry everywhere when the noise of the
battle would let you. We stopped workin’ our piece long enough to jerk
gas-masks on. I swear but we looked like a bunch of devils with them
things on, ’specially when the flames would shoot up around us.

“Our gang was gettin’ it pretty hot ’round the gun-pits and there was so
many of the fellows wounded and lyin’ out beyond the pits that the
Sanitary guys couldn’t drag ’em in fast enough. Most of these wounded
had been on the ammunition details and were hit on the way to the guns
with shells. Every forty-five minutes a few of us would get relieved and
crawl into the dug-out for a minute’s rest. The Sanitary men asked for
volunteers to help ’em get the wounded in. Every man who was on relief
at that minute jumped up and went out to bring the boys in. That’s the
kind of spirit they had.

“A chap by the name of Wilson from F Battery had gone out to bring in
some other lad and he got both of his own legs blown off. My old pal,
Frank Gordon, heard Wilson moanin’ out there and he ran out to get him.

“I’ll never forget what happened just as Frank got on top of the little
trench that ran ’round our gun. He had Wilson’s legless body slung over
his back. Shrapnel screamed like a hell-cat and good old Gordon’s left
arm and part of his head were jerked right out of socket and went flyin’
over our heads. Gordon and Wilson toppled out of sight. I saw it all and
couldn’t stop myself. I jumped the trench, grabbed the first moanin’
body I come to. Couldn’t see ’em as there wasn’t so much flares goin’,
and ran for the dug-out that they was usin’ as a first-aid station. I
found out that I had brought Ray Mason in.”



              CHAPTER VIII—“GUESS I DIDN’T HAVE THE GUTS”


“That dug-out was sure one hell-hole. See we had been gettin’ gas right
along and it poured in the dug-out, as they had to keep openin’ the door
to let ’em in with wounded. There was nine fellows, naked and smeared
all up with iodine and blood, stretched out on bunks. Most of ’em were
so torn up and badly hurt that their wounds had made ’em numb.
Consequently they were darn quiet—except one little Greek boy. He was
alive to pain all right. Both his eyes were hangin’ to strings of flesh
and his body was like an old flour-sieve. He couldn’t keep from moanin’,
and I’ll be damned if I could keep from listenin’ to him.

“The first thing a wounded man generally does is to jerk his mask off,
if he’s got one on. That’s what the boys were doin’ in the dug-out. You
had to battle with some of ’em to keep the things on. Those that did get
the masks off got sick and vomited all over. Gosh, O. D., it was kinda
bad down there. The big thing that appealed to me was how all the guys
acted. Those that wasn’t wounded worked along pretty cool and didn’t
show much signs of breakin’. The wounded showed a lot of guts the way
they kept still and didn’t let the old hurts get the best of ’em.

“While I was down there givin’ ’em a hand a doughboy that had been
captured crawled into the dug-out with his tongue cut out. The Boches
did that to scare us, and they drove him back into our lines with a
bayonet. Hines, one of the gun crew, went crazy, he got so mad when he
heard that, and tore out of the place for Seicheprey, where he got
fightin’ hand to hand with the Germans.

“I went back to the gun and was fixin’ to try and get Frank when
Lieutenant Davis gave us orders to fire again, and said there was no use
tryin’ to bring him in, as he was dead.

“The ammunition was comin’ mighty slow and when a man came in with a
shell I told him to make it snappy and get ’em comin’ faster. He said,
‘All right, Jimmy.’ I looked at him hard, and be damned if it wasn’t
Father Farrell, our chaplain. Say, that was one brave little guy. He
ain’t any bigger than a small kid, but he was luggin’ shells for a long
time before he let anybody know it was him.

“Course, every time one o’ the boys would get it he would run to him
_toot sweet_ and do what he could—brought the wounded in and buried the
dead right under the hardest kind of a fire. Father Farrell got nicked
in the arm with a shell splinter on his way back to the rear the next
day. So did I. On recommendation of our general the French gave him a
_Craw de Guerre_. I never could say that thing right, but it’s a War
Cross for pullin’ hero stuff.

“I saw how hard the chaplain was workin’ and I knew my job on the crew
wasn’t so heavy, so he took my place and I carted ammunition a while.
Just when we thought that the thing was _fineed_ a Boche plane came
swoopin’ down on us and opened up a machine-gun barrage. I’ll say that
the Boches had pretty good guts, but no more than Carl Davis had, the
‘loot’ that was our C. O. Davis grabbed a rifle from one of the gang and
ran right after that Boche, pepperin’ away at him like he was shootin’
at a flock of blackbirds. It was still darker than hell and all that we
could see of the Boche plane was black outlines, just as if some big
hawk was flappin’ its wings right over our heads. Gee! it was uncanny
and sort of ghostlike. Davis was runnin’ up and down like a man in a
relay race all by himself. He didn’t have nothin’ on except an
undershirt, pants, and boots. We all laughed at him and that helped a
lot to get our minds off our troubles. Finally the Boche whirred away
and Lieutenant Davis put the old rifle up. Poor Davis, he was some
fightin’ kid. They got him up at Château-Thierry. But that comes later.

“The battlin’ was wearin’ down to a small noise. Most of the Boches had
all they could stand. They began tryin’ to get back to their lines, and
our batteries cut ’em up like a lawn-mower gets the grass. Their
artillery had shut up except those few guns that was firin’ at
ambulances and wounded parties. You see, our ambulances had to come up
over a road that was pickin’ and when they started ’round Dead Man’s
Curve—Bluey! Bang!—the Boches would smash ’em, wounded and all, into
pieces. We had to keep our wounded down in that dugout about six hours
waitin’ to evacuate ’em on that account. The little Greek boy I was
tellin’ you about died before they got him away.

“Exceptin’ for a few guns goin’, now and then, the place was quiet
’round five-thirty. So quiet you could hear the wounded moanin’ mighty
easy, and now and then a thud was heard when barbed wire supportin’ a
dead man would snap and let the body hit the ground.

“The early mornin’ was as gray as cigarette ashes, but it was plenty
light enough to see what was ’round us. I wished it had been a blame
sight darker. I couldn’t look at poor old Frank Gordon to save my life.
He was lyin’ right outside the trench—face turned toward the dug-out,
mouth wide open and all blue and bloated like. The only arm he had was
pointin’ to the sky just like an arrow. He was almost straddlin’
Wilson’s trunk.

“But Gordon and Wilson was just two of many. There was _beaucoup_ more
of our boys and officers lyin’ ’round in stiff heaps, all broken and
twisted up. Down ’round the first-line infantry trenches it was as grim
lookin’ as an opened-up graveyard. There was _beaucoup_ Germans piled up
on the ground and hangin’ on wire entanglements. All mostly dead—some
just dyin’. I saw a few Americans scattered in and out between ’em, too.

“Father Farrell came along and asked some of us to give him a hand to
put the boys away. I was one of the gang that started the buryin’ stuff,
but when I came to Frank Gordon— Honest to God, O. D., I couldn’t touch
him. Sounds foolish to say that—don’t it? I swear it’s a fact. Guess I
didn’t have the guts.

“I says, ‘Father, you’ll have to get somebody else on this detail in my
place. I can’t touch Gordon.’ I used to sleep with that boy and listen
to him tell me ’bout his girl, a colleen that was waitin’ for him to
come back to the old country—Gordon was born in Ireland, you see. Father
Farrell understood, I guess, ’cause he says, ‘Here, you take his
identification tag, this ring and pocketbook, and keep it; they’re his
effects. Then you beat it to the dug-out.’ I grabbed them things and run
like hell. I was kinda feelin’ funny in the gills. First and last time
it’s hit me that way, though.

“We got relieved that night and were sent back to the _échelon_ for a
rest and somethin’ to eat. We’d been _monjayin’_ the old iron rations
for almost a week straight.

“It wouldn’t have been nothin’ more than half natural for us to mope
’round after such excitement and think ’bout it or talk a hell of a lot.
But I never saw much of that stuff—not durin’ the whole time we’ve been
in the _guerre_. Day after we got back we got an old madame to cook up a
big feed for some of us that was on the gun crew. Had a hot bath before
_monjayin’_, and maybe I didn’t feel like a regular guy!

“All the fellows was cleaned up, and you’d have never known that they
had been battlin’. Course everybody missed old Gordon. He could tell the
funniest stories I ever listened to and play and sing stuff in a way
that would have set Broadway nuts. Somebody got up and said a toast to
him, and we drank champagne to his memory. There wasn’t no crape-hangers
at the party. Course we was mighty sorry for the boys that had passed
out. But we still had to fight the _guerre_ for ourselves, and if
there’s any way the _guerre_ can lick you it’s by getting your goat over
things that’s happened to you or your pals. You got to forget it, O. D.
Got to be a hard guy as much as you can.

“I heard lots about the stuff called philosophy of soldiers and all that
bosh before I got over here—if it’s philosophy that they’ve got or
actin’, I don’t believe the boys know it themselves. Anyhow they call it
that in books and magazines. I used to throw that kind of line back
yonder, years ago—so it seems. But I’m _finée_ now. You got to hand me
nails when I ask for nails to-day. Brass-headed tacks won’t do, O. D.

“But to get back to the philosophy stuff. In this _guerre_ you got to
tell yourself that there ain’t no shells or bullets with your name on
’em, watch your step on the gas stuff and you ain’t got much to say
about whether a bomb is goin’ to get you or not. So quit worryin’ ’bout
’em till you get in a raid. Makes no difference how close they come or
how many they get right next to you. That’s just proof that nothin’
ain’t labeled for you. Get me on that? All right, next. One of the first
damn things in French I’m goin’ to learn you is to say, ‘_Say la
guerre._’ Means, ‘It’s the war.’ When you get to sayin’ that till you
believe it then you got the old war licked a hundred ways. That’s my way
of lookin’ at this stuff. Call it philosophy if you want to. But old
Zeke Doolittle looks at it the same way and he couldn’t know a
philosophy book from a monocle.

“I ate so much at that party had to see the doctor next day. Had a
bellyache that worried me more than the battle of Seicheprey. Doc tried
to shoot some bull ’bout my havin’ got gassed—then he painted my stomach
with iodine and gave me a pill—same old stuff.”



              CHAPTER IX—“THE OLD VAN SEEZEUM ON ITS WAY”


“After the scrap ’round Seicheprey we didn’t _encore_ the battle much
except when the Battle of Boucq started. That was one hell of a curious
battle. The Boches got mad and began heavin’ shells ’way back in the
rears. Boucq wasn’t too far away to be in it.

“That’s where all our headquarters was located—regimental, brigade,
division, and the whole damn shootin’-match. At that time Mudgy Jones,
also known as Chisel-Face or Whistlin’ Jaws, was colonel of our
regiment. Let me tell you right now our regiment had a hell of a time
gettin’ where it was, handicapped as we were with that man as a C. O.
All he could do was walk ’round whistlin’ somethin’ that didn’t have no
tune at all and find fault. Well, just to show you what kind of a gink
Mudgy was, when the stuff started comin’ and breakin’ near regimental P.
C. he dives down into a cellar and loses himself. The general comes over
to give him hell ’bout somethin’, and he couldn’t be found. Finally some
guy bribed Jones’ orderly to tell where he was. Mudgy didn’t pull any
whistle stuff when the old gen. hauled him up.

“The battle of Boucq lasted ’bout four days, durin’ which the One
Hundred and Fourth Infantry—hardest bunch of doughboys in this man’s
army—got lined up on a hill by some French general and handed the Craw
de Guerre for the whole damn outfit. Only outfit in the A. E. F. that
can wear that thing as a regiment, too.

“We had a gang fight down ’round Xivray that lasted a day or so and made
us lose quite a number of the fellows. Then we got pulled out of the
Toul lines and loaded on another bunch of foolish-lookin’ trains. When
we was loadin’—that was ’bout the last day of June or nearbouts—they
handed out some wild rumor stuff ’bout us goin’ to parade in Paree on
the Fourth. All the _soldats_ believed it and a hell of a lot of second
looeys—even the C. O. By the way, Davis that was with us at Seicheprey
had been made a captain and put in charge of our outfit.

“The train started toward Paree and made ’bout three hundred kilos in
that direction. All along the tracks and in the big towns we passed
through there was gangs of girls and school-kids shoutin’ at us.
Throwin’ kisses and askin’ for _bisqués_—them’s biscuits in _anglay_. We
fired all the hardtack we had to ’em, as usual.

“That was the time we learned how to call ourselves in _fransay_. I kept
hearin’ the French kids sayin’ somethin’ that sounded like ‘_Van
Seezeum_’ and wondered what the hell it meant. A French Canuck up and
says, ‘That’s the way they say Twenty-sixth in Frog.’ They was glad, he
says, because the old _Van Seezeum_ was on its way. Then I began gettin’
it. The kids knew who we was somehow. Some of ’em hollered, ‘_Caput_
Boches at Seicheprey.’ Gosh! there must have been somethin’ in the
papers ’bout us, the way they was talkin’ it off.

“Right when we got close enough to smell Paree—and Otto Page began
swearin’ that he could see the Eiffel Tower—the trains got switched off
to the right and started hell bent for election toward Château-Thierry.
Noisy-le-Sec was where we got switched off, and that’s where the cussin’
started and it lasted until we got in the old _guerre_ again up ’round
Saacy and Citry.

“Damn, but we was sore—been thinkin’ ’bout that promised rest and
paradin’ up and down Paree, you know, and we felt that they was rubbin’
it in, that’s all. They just hated to think that some guy was rubbin’ it
in. We was National Guard Boy Scouts, some of ’em called us before the
_guerre_. But they can take their funny names plumb to hell to-day. Like
to know where this man’s army would be if it wasn’t for the National
Guard.

“Jerked us out of sleep ’bout midnight and unloaded the works at a joint
called La Ferté—hiked thirteen kilofloppers to a town that I couldn’t
call out loud if I wanted to. Have to think it when I want to remember
anythin’ ’bout the place. They put us up in a big park. Spent the Fourth
there. The villagers hung out _beaucoup_ flags, but I couldn’t recognize
’em, though a Frenchman pointed to some and said, ‘_Américain_.’ Had a
party on the Fourth. _Beaucoup van rouge._ Some old champagne—and a
_poulet_. Forgot to tell you ’bout _poulets_—they’re chickens—the eatin’
kind, you _savvy_?

“Next day we got orders to haul it up to the front or pretty near it. We
blew into a big _château_ grounds ’round early mornin’—everybody was so
darn tired they _cushayed_ right off the bat without camouflaging the
stuff. A nuisance by name of Boots Jenkins, who had been made a second
looey when even corporals was hard to get, was the Officer of the Day.
He didn’t come to until broad daylight and a bunch of Boche planes got
hummin’ overhead. Boots tried to turn out the guard—and found out that
he had forgot to put a guard on at all. ‘Some guy he was.’ Then he
started wakin’ everybody up. ‘Get up, every mother’s son of you, move
this picket-line and camouflage the wagons. Come on, shake it up,’ and
he pulled the blankets off George Woods. ‘Git the hell out o’ here—I’m
_cushayin’_,’ bawled Woods. ‘Don’t give a damn, get up,’ commanded
Jenkins. ‘Ah, take a flop for yourself, I don’t belong to your gang. I’m
a naval gunner on special duty.’ That’s what Boots got on every side.

“After a long time he got the stable sergeant—some draggin’ kitchen
police and old Bill Conway—wonderful crew for a detail. They moved every
damn _cheval_ we had and threw bushes over the guns and wagons. The rest
of us had dragged our blankets and stuff up to the top of a hill and
_cushayed_ right on.

“The outfits hid in that big woods until it got time for us to cross the
Marne and relieve the Second Division. This happened ’bout July eleventh
or so. We was all set for any trick that the Boches might be willin’ to
try.

“There had been _beaucoup_ bull flyin’ ’round that Germany was makin’ a
last big drive for old Paree and most likely they’d try to cut through
us ’round the Château-Thierry sector—that stuff was pretty well soaked
into us and guess the gang wanted to show the marines that two weeks in
Belleau Woods wasn’t such big stuff after all, considerin’ the way they
jumped into the battlin’ when it started. Course I ain’t disputin’ that
the marines didn’t pull off good stunts down there. But you got to
remember we’d been in the lines damn near six months when the noise
started at Château-Thierry.”



                       CHAPTER X—CHÂTEAU-THIERRY


“July fifteenth started off with a good bang.

“The Boches began drivin’ from Rheims to where we were. The good old
Rainbow boys from the Forty-second Division was near Rheims, so we
didn’t worry much ’bout the Boches breakin’ through on the right flank.
When the drive started toward us through Château-Thierry the Boches laid
their last egg, I’m thinking. They gained a few yards the first day.
Slowed right up the second. On the third we stopped ’em dead still in
their tracks.

“The big thing happened before we had time to know it was comin’ off.
Some bird—Foch most likely—pushed a button and the whole damn French and
American lines jumped up and busted the Boches right on the nose and in
the eyes.

“Say, O. D., we better _cushay_ before I get talkin’ ’bout them mad days
from Torcy up to Sergy Plateau. I could keep you awake all night
listenin’ to that Château-Thierry stuff,” said Jimmy. His blue eyes were
shooting fire and his face showed the excitement that just the mention
of Château-Thierry caused.

“If you stop now, Jimmy, I won’t ask Mary to write to you,” warned O. D.

“You win, _toot sweet_,” answered McGee, quickly.

“_Encore_, then. If that’s the way you say it in French,” begged the
brother of Mary.

“My outfit was stuck up on the top of a little ant-hill with the old
howitzers pointed slam-bang at the Germans who was on a small mountain
right across the way, when our drive got under way. The Yankee doughboys
was down on the side of the ant-hill, hangin’ on the roots and different
kind of bushes to keep from slidin’ down to the bottom and boggin’ up to
their necks in mud. The Boches had all the high places.

“The doughboys started over. We had to grab a place called Torcy. Now
you must remember that country had seen _beaucoup_ battlin’ and was all
shot up—so much so it was mighty hard traveling. There was so much
rubbish and ruins. All that was left of some towns was names. As I said,
the infantry jumped at ’em. The Boches was sure caught nappin’—didn’t
have an idea that we would come back so quick and hard. _Toot sweet_
they began givin’ us hell with their damn machine-guns. Course that was
while they was makin’ a stab at gettin’ their yellow doughboys over the
big scare that we threw into ’em. But our boys had got such a start that
machine-gun fire, even as hellish as what they pumped into us, couldn’t
stop ’em. They was out for the Kaiser’s scalp.

“We took Torcy on the short end of bayonets and barrage. The old
artillery banged the Boches into a lot of sausage meat. The bodies used
to trip us up, and how some of the guys cussed them dead Germans. _Toot
sweet_ after we started the drive a drove of prisoners began comin’
in—privates, non-coms., loots, majors, and even colonels. We called ’em
all Heinie and Fritz, you know, and some of the Boche officers got mad
as the devil and wanted to be treated as officers. The Yanks prodded ’em
with stiff bayonets when they pulled that stuff.

“From the first minute of the drive there was no let-up in battlin’.
None of that trench-line fightin’. Open warfare, buddy. Open as a
doorless barn, I mean. The noise never stopped like it did at
Seicheprey, a few hours after it started. No, O. D., it was just one
continual roarin’, bangin’, crashin’, swearin’, moanin’, and prayin’.
That’s all. Gosh! there was so many kinds of different things that could
kill a man, goin’ at the same time that it’s a wonder anybody was left
to tell ’bout the Second Battle of the Marne.

“Time we took Torcy they said to get Hill 190. Maybe you know that’s
right ’bove Château-Thierry itself. You can imagine that the Boches made
some stand to hang on to that place. They sure did. We had _beaucoup_
boys put out of business gettin’ up to Hill 190, believe me.

“After strugglin’ up the sides of the hill—through barbed wire almost
five feet high—and gettin’ a smashin’ artillery barrage shot at us—the
Boches had got their big guns back and in position by that time—we ran
into the worst machine-gun fire that ever was. The dirty Germans had
camouflaged a few hundred machine-guns in a big wheat-field on top of
the hill. You couldn’t see nothin’ but the wheat wavin’ in the breeze
when we started across it.

“Rat-ta-ta-tat! went the machine-guns. The boys began droppin’ like
rain. Wiped out companies at times. Our own machine-gunners said, ‘To
hell with waitin’ on horses and mules.’ They dragged their little babies
right up to that wheat-field and gave the Boches some of their own
medicine. Will you believe me that lots of the Boche gunners was found
chained to their guns? Yep. It’s a fact. The Boche morale had got so low
till they had to chain their men to posts.

“The old _cheveaux_ that used to drag our pieces ’round was half dead,
anyway, when the drivin’ started, and we had one hell of a time tryin’
to keep up with the doughboys. Everybody had to get on the wheels and
push and cuss at the same time. I tell you, man, the damn _chevaux_ was
dyin’ in the traces. We managed to keep within range, but had to get
some trucks to help us move.

“The Boches was thrown so hard from the top of Hill 190 that you could
hear their necks breakin’ when they landed down in the valley. I never
saw such a gory-looking hill in all the days of drivin’. There was men
piled waist high. Mostly Germans. Nobody had time to stop and bury dead
people at a time like that. There wasn’t time for nothin’ but fightin’
and movin’.

“Takin’ 190 meant gettin’ into Château-Thierry. We found _beaucoup_
Boches down there. They put up a scrap because there was a pile of stuff
in the town that they wanted to try and save. Down in some parts of the
joint, even after most of the Germans had started sprintin’ for the
Fatherland, there was some terrible battlin’.

“The main _rues_ and _boulevards_ was all chock-ablock with breastworks.
They had pianos, tables, beds, big lookin’-glasses, sofas, bags stuffed
with rotten smellin’ rags and rubbish, piled up—well, Lord knows what
wasn’t used to stop us. Behind these things was the Boche machine-guns.
They was just like a bunch of hose and played as wicked a stream of lead
as you can think of. Americans and Frogs both forced these works and
_fineed_ the machine-gun fire.

“After that there ain’t no way to describe the fightin’. It got all over
the place. Like scrambled eggs in a fryin’-pan. The Yanks used rifles
for clubs and waded into the Boches like a bunch of good cops. Bayonets
and trench dirks came in with a noise like _finee_ for the
Germans—chased ’em up alleyways, dug ’em out of cellars, laid ’em
cold—that’s all there was to it.

“Long, black shadows were camouflagin’ what was left of Château-Thierry
as we rumbled through it. I ain’t much at tellin’ how things look, any
more. But Château-Thierry looked like a plowed-up graveyard and then
some. The moonlight got turned on and made everythin’ seem ten times
worse, as the effect was kinda weird. Houses looked like a bunch of
crumblin’ skeletons. Troops was movin’ over every street. Supply-trains
and ammunition trucks rattled up and down. Ambulances crawled by so slow
till we could hear the groans of the poor guys in them.

“Time we got opposite the bridge that had been knocked into the river by
American artillery we got treated to a warm bombardment. Mashed up some
of the lads pretty badly. That bombardment wasn’t a trifle compared to
the smell that came from unburied men. Whew! I hadn’t got a chance to
_monjay_ all day and my belly was pretty weak ’bout that time. It sure
was an awful stink.

“There was dead Americans, dead Frenchmen, and heaps of stark Boche
corpses linin’ the route—just like so many yard stones. Couldn’t help
but feel good when we would pass a big bunch of them swollen-up Germans,
all blue in the face from dyin’ like they did.

“Our column was halted in Château-Thierry for ’bout three hours. We had
to wait for some trucks to _encore_ the drive with. Poor old _chevaux_
were down for the count.

“I had already lost _beaucoup_ stuff. Thought I’d hunt ’round some of
the near-by houses, or what was left of houses. Needed some underclothes
pretty bad. In one place I found a closet full of mademoiselle’s
underclothes. You know that kind of stuff all full of holes and ribbons.
I was up against it for underwear. As it was, I didn’t have on any
drawers. I grabbed two suits and gave two to George Neil. Damn stuff
nearly choked me to death after I got it on. The girl who wore it was
smaller than me in a good many places. Four days after I got the stuff
Neil and I hit a little stream and thought we’d try to take a bath.
Funny as a crutch, the way we looked gettin’ out o’ the mademoiselle’s
riggin’s. Neil got one arm caught in some lace and got a cramp before he
could get loose again.

“Just before daybreak we got orders to move ahead. Most of the hikin’
was right down alongside the Marne—river looked like a big red, open
sewer. Never hope to see so much filthy water in my life again. Bodies,
wreckage of all kinds, clothes, empty ammunition cases. A hundred things
else, I guess. All floatin’ down the stream. The tide washed lots of
bodies to shore. Most of them you couldn’t recognize, as the water and
fishes had eaten their faces and hands off. Only way we could tell what
army they belonged to was by parts of equipment and uniforms. Water had
faded most of the uniforms, though.

“The woods and river sent up an awful smell. When we came to a windin’
road that looked like a brown snake crawlin’ up a hill the column turned
up it and pretty soon we was in position with the old pieces boomin’
away at the flyin’ Boches.

“Boche prisoners was pourin’ in like smoke pours out of a factory
smoke-stack. Some of ’em tried to be friendly. There was damn few smiles
they got from us, I can tell you. We were darn tired of their ways of
yellin’ ‘_Kamerad!_’ and then throwin’ them hand grenades at a man.

“The boys was all full o’ fun at that. Most of ’em had got hold of high
hats, derbies, colored parasols, and a lot of other fool things in
Château-Thierry, and the next mornin’ they was drivin’ along wearin’
silk hats, carryin’ green umbrellas and Lord knows what else. I had a
high hat on myself. The Frenchmen thought we was nuts sure enough, goin’
to war rigged up like that. But we told ’em ‘_Say la guerre._’ O. D.,
the guys in this man’s army ain’t lettin’ no _guerre_ get their nannies.
I guess most of ’em was brought up just to get in this _guerre_ and
wallop the Heinies.

“’Bout twelve bells we started firin’. Just in time to let dinner get
cold. Hadn’t put over eight rounds before the old coal barges—that’s the
big shells that Fritz throws at us—began sailin’ right in. Third shell
struck a shallow dug-out ’bout twenty feet from where our piece was.
There was four boys tryin’ to _cushay_ in that dug-out. They was all in
a row, accordin’ to the way I heard it. First one nearest us got smashed
up ’round the lungs. Olsmo, second lad, got killed outright. He was
mashed to pulp in places. Ripped the stomach out of Papan, next to him,
and tore Pap’s knees clean out of socket. The fourth guy, Thayer,
sleepin’ jam up to Pap, didn’t get a scratch—not a thing. Course he got
all bloody from the others. But that wasn’t nothin’.

“When we dug ’em out we found Silvia, the first lad, dyin’. He _fineed
toot sweet_. Just a gasp or so ended him. Olsmo, of course, was stone
cold—gashed into tit-bits from head to foot. O. D., he was twisted
inside out and then all ground up like hash. Them shells can sure ruin a
man. Poor Pap, he got it worse than all. ’Cause it didn’t kill him. His
legs dangled from threads of flesh. You couldn’t see his face on account
of the blood that spurted from his chest—covered his face with red. Pap
was in some agony, boy, but he had guts. Looked like his pain gave him
strength. But guess it was the madness that made him act strong and not
the hurtin’. He went insane for a few minutes—then he would quiet down.

“‘Olsmo,’ he shouted, grittin’ his teeth so till it gave me cold
shivers. Then he shook cold Olsmo with his blood-drippin’ hand. ‘Snap
into it,’ yelled Pap. ‘Christ Almighty, man, we can’t stay here. It’s
killin’ me. Move! Get that horse out of my way. Cannoneers on the
wheels.’ He raved until he got so weak he just couldn’t whisper. The way
Pap stared at us out of them sunken eyes of his was enough to scare a
man to death. But when your pals are dyin’, sufferin’, cussin’, prayin’,
beggin’ for water and cigarettes, a man ain’t got no business to be
scared, O. D. That’s what kept lots of us goin’, I suppose. Pap wanted
cigarettes. Had to smoke, he said. Course we gave ’em to him. But as
fast as he got one in his mouth he’d throw it away and holler for
another.

“The shellin’ was goin’ on merrily durin’ all that time. Our piece was
out of action, of course, till we got Pap in the ambulance. Heard later
that he didn’t pass out for ten hours. Docs claim he was the grittiest
man they’d seen in some time. Wasn’t time to bury the other lads then.
We wrapped ’em in shelter-halves, dug holes and put ’em all in the same
grave that night before we pulled to another place.

“We got orders to move three kilos that night and go in another
position. Hitched and hooked in ’round five. That gave us time enough to
down some ‘corn-willy’ and black coffee. First we’d had to _monjay_
since mornin’. Soon as it was dark we got out on the main road and
started. That road was just like Broadway with traffic. Only they don’t
have so many ambulances goin’ up and down Broadway. It was all a man
could do to skin himself and horse, or whatever his _cheval_ was hooked
on to, by the stuff that was floodin’ down from the first lines. There
wasn’t no trenches in that war. Just lines, and half the time we didn’t
know just where in hell the first lines was, ’cause after them doughboys
would make three or four kilometers they would be scattered all over
creation.

“Column halted near a little village that was all knocked into a cocked
hat. There was a few thousand replacements waitin’ to go in. All
infantry. On one side of the road was a battery of 155 longs. Them
things make a noise like a mine explosion and raise a man off his feet
when they go off. The horses got scared, naturally, and part of the
column got smeared all over the road.

“Just ’bout that time General Edwards comes bowlin’ along in his big
limousine. He was ridin’ on the seat with the driver. The back of the
machine was full of sandwiches. Course he couldn’t get by on account of
the jam-up. Boy, he climbed down and got hold of a first loot who was in
the command of the outfit whose horses was raisin’ all the hell. Gosh!
you ought to heard him give that gink a bawlin’-out.

“‘Git this stuff out of my way! Damn quick too! Look in that car. Look!’
he yelled; honest he was cryin’. ‘See what’s there, don’t you? Somethin’
to eat for my boys. Yes, the doughboys. Now move.’ O. D. that first loot
got on a caisson wheel and strained himself enough to get a discharge
from the army. They got the stuff out of the way _toot sweet_.

“General Edwards hadn’t no more than got started when the old shells,
whizz-bangs, blew in town with an awful noise. Gas came over, too. There
was gas alarms goin’ enough to wake New York City out of a
Sunday-mornin’ sleep. Then those cussed Boche planes began dronin’ over
our heads. Ever heard a bomb explode? No? Well, you’re just as well off.
They’re _pas bon_ stuff, O. D.

“The Boches sure must have known that we was right down-stairs under
’em, ’cause they started pullin’ up the old tailboards and droppin’ ’em
every damn minute. Bombs, bombs, and more bombs. They dropped right in
the column, knocked ruined houses into our ears, filled your eyes with
dirt. Some horses, ’bout ten, got hurt so bad we had to shoot ’em. Think
’bout three men got killed while the jam lasted, but ain’t quite sure.

“We moved after a while, and the planes followed us up. Got to the fork
of some roads and took the one leadin’ right down to the Marne. That was
just below Mont St. Pierre, a little village. There was a pontoon
bridge, one of them boat things, you know—right near where we halted for
the night. You can imagine how the Germans was tryin’ to pot-shot that
bridge. The town was all marbles from shells hittin’ it that was aimed
at the bridge.

“Time we halted a big boy banged in. Hit in the woods where we was to
camp for the night. _Bon_ welcome, eh? Stink? Whew! Those woods did
reek—had to bury our noses in the ground to get to sleep. Well, the gas
came over strong. The Heinies threw bombs down as regular as Christy
Mathewson used to heave strikes across the plate—and everybody was
scared as hell.

“Don’t let any man ever tell you he don’t get scared at the front. He’s
a damn liar if he says he don’t get scared. Ain’t that you want to run
away or lose your guts in the fightin’. No, not that kind of scared
stuff. It’s like this. There you are waitin’ for somethin’ to come along
and take you off on some strange trip. You know it’s goin’ to hurt like
hell gettin’ started, too. It’s that uncertain, don’t-know stuff that
gets you. When those bombs are fallin’ and you’re in a place like we was
that night, with no place to go, there’s nothin’ to do but pull a
cheesecloth blanket over your head and try to _cushay_. Ain’t much fun,
O. D. I had one hell of a toothache and it worried me so much I didn’t
get a chance to be as scared as I should have been. Funny how a thing
like a toothache can take your mind off other troubles.

“Things got so bad toward five bells in the mornin’ that the C. O.
decided to wake us up and move. But before we could get set to move the
shellin’ let up and he says, ‘Ah, let her go, we’ll stay.’ Camouflaged
the old _cheveaux_ and stuff again and hung ’round for breakfast. Course
breakfast only meant a thin slice of bacon and a fistful of hardtack.
The coffee had given out by that time. You might expect that the
supplies could have reached us easy. But gettin’ supplies to us was like
findin’ a nigger in the dark. I swear I believe we were lost durin’ most
of the Château-Thierry racket. Seems that way, anyhow. For a long time
after we left Mont St. Pierre the batteries never did know where the
_échelons_ were and the _échelons_ didn’t know where anything was.
Mules, drivers, and ration-carts used to get lost every day. That’s why
we were short of _café_.

“Put some over from there and got orders to move up in the afternoon.
The column had just got formed and was waitin’ on the order to pull when
a drove of Boche birds headed straight toward us. We knew they were
Boches long before they got close enough to fire.

“‘Look at ’em comin’,’ shouted one guy, and the whole crew popped their
eyes out.

“I felt in my bones that we were in for a good lickin’ of some kind, but
I had my horse to watch out for, so I was tied up, as it were. Lots of
the other guys were in the same fix as me, and when the officer yelled,
‘Take cover!’ we didn’t know what in hell to do.

“‘Tie your mounts to a wheel and beat it,’ says my platoon commander.

“Didn’t ask for any further orders. Tied Jim so hard he couldn’t have
answered mess-call. Beat it to the edge of the woods and dove under a
ration-wagon. The Boches was in range by then and they started a
machine-gun barrage. Worst thing I ever was in. They had us by the
halter-shanks, and maybe they didn’t twist and squeeze! We didn’t have
nothin’ to get back at them birds with. Blooey! The bombs started to
fall and bust.

“An M. P. got crowned on the bean. He had been walking post on the
pontoon bridge. Tumbled right in the river and floated away. Then a bomb
lands right in the middle of a caisson team. Horses’ legs and wheels was
flyin’ in all directions. I couldn’t find my tin hat and sure was glad
that there was two fellows layin’ on top of me as the machine-gun
bullets was zippin’ all ’round us. Everybody was sayin’, ‘Where in hell
is the American birds? Why don’t they show?’ After the Boches had a big
chance to _finee_ us and the bridge, and missed out, a flock of
Americans and Frenchmen showed up and the Dutchmen beat it _toot sweet_.
That was one of the Hairbreath Harry things that we had happen that day.
Believe me, there wasn’t much time lost in gettin’ that column movin’
after that. When they counted up the casualties it was found that there
was ’bout twelve guys killed, nine wounded, and we lost at least
eighteen _chevaux_. There you are, O. D.

“Moved toward Beuvardis that afternoon. That took us northwest from the
Marne and farther in toward Swasson (Soissons), our old hunting-grounds.
There was some tough fightin’ in there, believe me. The Boches began to
put up a mean defense; their artillery was in position and the roads
sure caught hell for a while. I can’t remember all the woods and hills
we had to take and hold, but there was _beaucoup_ and it took _beaucoup_
men killed to make them objectives.

“The _monjayin’_ got worse all the time and our nerves began to get just
like a ragged toothache. So many of the fellows was gettin’ bumped off
and hit ’round us that a man couldn’t help wonderin’ if his own name
wasn’t written on a shell or bullet. I saw fat guys get as lean as a
penny stick of candy in a week’s time. There wasn’t no chance to shave
or wash, so we all looked as wild as cannibals soon. I never had any
underclothes after I threw away that stuff I got at Château-Thierry. We
slept full pack all the time and the cooties had one big party all day
and all night. That was the time, durin’ the Second Battle of the Marne,
that young majors and colonels got gray-headed.

“The second day out from St. Pierre was the day that I had a big
argument with a lieutenant who blew by in a Ford. He was wearin’ a
campaign hat. Course I felt superior like to any man that was wearin’ a
campaign hat in them days. A campaign lid was the sign of an S. O. S.
bird, ’cause we had thrown ’em to the salvage-men months ago.

“I was ploddin’ along ’way behind the column, with Herb Carnes and
another guy just as lazy—my horse had been taken by a loot. Course I
happened to have my high hat on. I’d lost my overseas cap, also my
helmet. The loot blows by. Never thought ’bout salutin’ him. That kind
of stuff is a joke up at the front, especially in a drive. He stops
_toot sweet_ and calls us back.

“‘Why don’t you salute an officer?’ he asks me.

“‘Salute?’ says I, kinda dumfounded. ‘Hell, we don’t go in for that kind
of stuff in this sector,’ I told him. You ought to seen that man’s face.

“‘How long have you men been over here?’

“‘Eleven months. How long have you been here?’ I knew he had just
landed. His Sam Browne was new-lookin’.

“‘How does New York look without any lights now?’ asked Carnes.

“Say, that officer must have felt like fifty _centimes_. He saw my high
hat ’bout that time.

“‘Take that hat off. It isn’t regulation,’ says the second looey to me.

[Illustration: “‘TAKE THAT HAT OFF. IT ISN’T REGULATION,’ SAYS THE
SECOND LOOEY TO ME”]

“‘Regulation’s out of style up here,’ says I. ‘It’s all I got; can’t
take a chance of gettin’ sunstruck.’

“‘Don’t give a damn, take it off,’ he commands.

“I tipped my hat to him, bowed, and says, ‘Yes, sir.’ We moved on. ’Bout
thirty minutes later he blows by again and sees the hat on me.

“‘Didn’t I tell you to take that hat off?’ he yells.

“‘Yes, sir,’ I yelled back, and tipped my hat again.

“Never saw that gink after that, but it just goes to show you how some
of them guys fought the _guerre_, runnin’ ’round in Fords tryin’ to get
salutes and make things, O. D. You never see any of our officers doin’
that kinda stuff. They know that it’s all bunk after bein’ with the boys
in the lines.

“Beauvardis, or just beyond it a few kilos, is where Cap. Davis got it.
We was ’way up close to the front lines there. Had us in front of the
light pieces. There was a regiment of seventy-fives right behind us. We
went into position in a place where the Boches must have had a gun
position, as the place was littered up with their equipment and
_beaucoup_ dead Germans. I didn’t get in until late in the night, right
in the middle of a barrage that the seventy-fives was puttin’ up. The
woods was ringin’ with a noise that sounded as if the devils themselves
was shoutin’ and yellin’ down in hell and we was gettin’ a loud echo of
it. Before us the whole country was lit up by a big fire from a burnin’
German ammunition dump. Sure was weird in them woods. I asked where I
was to _cushay_, and Frank Reynolds, top-kick, says, ‘Anywhere ’round
here.’ Bickford and I drops our load, spread the blankets, and tried to
_cushay_. No human bein’ could sleep much in that place. But we managed
to cork off a little now and then. The woods smelled rotten.

“When daylight came I looked over my head and saw an arm pointin’ right
down at me. There wasn’t no head or body. Just that one arm. I got up
quick as hell. Found out I had been restin’ my head against a dead Boche
all night. Felt like runnin’, but was afraid I might run right into the
German lines. They was only a few yards away over a little hill.

“That mornin’ we got more movin’ orders. Our doughboys had already been
relieved by the Forty-second Division infantry, as they were all shot to
hell. I’ll bet that there wasn’t a full battalion left in any regiment.
The Rainbow doughboys can fight, now, buddy, I ain’t jokin’. They made
us artillery hump to keep up with ’em, too. But guess we did, as most of
’em said our barrages was as good to go over under as an umbrella is in
the rain. There ain’t much use tellin’ much more. Course, as I said,
Cap. Davis got picked near Beauvardis. He was steppin’ out of his P. C.
when a shell fragment knocked him cold. Funny how all good men get it so
quick. He was only a kid, but, believe me, he had guts and could handle
a battery.

“We got up to Sergy Plateau and cleaned the Germans off that place and
they relieved us. We had been in the drive from July fifteenth to August
fourth—that’s a long time to battle, O. D. Accordin’ to reports, we
gained ’bout twenty-five kilometers against the Boches. Not bad, eh?”
concluded Jimmy, starting to stretch.

“Gee! you had some war experience, Jimmy. They sure must have given you
a long rest and furlough after all that time at the front.”

“Rest? Hell, man, there ain’t no such thing in this man’s army. Time we
got pulled out of Château-Thierry we went back to La Ferté and waited
there for trains to take us to a rest area I got transferred back to
Battery C there. We was only in that rest area ten days and while there
I’ll bet we did more work than at the front. We had hikes every day and
drillin’. They even tried to pull that salutin’ stuff again. Only good
thing ’bout the rest area was that we could take a bath, as there was
_beaucoup_ little creeks ’round, and of course it’s warm here in August.
On the tenth day I was standin’ on a big lawn with Samson and a couple
of other guys lookin’ at the divisional minstrel. Right in the middle of
the song up jumps the C. O. of the regiment and bawls out, ‘Men we’re
off to another fight!’ He must have been an actor in civil life ’cause
he sure did pull the old dramatic stuff; believe he waited just for that
minute to spill the beans ’bout movin’ to another front. That night we
was on the old road hikin’. Got on another French train. Hit Bar-le-Duc
two days ago, started hikin’ this way yesterday mornin’ and I got lost
from the gang last night. That’s all there is to it, O. D. Just waitin’
for the _guerre_ to _finee_ now. Then we’ll get a seven-day leave,
_purtet_—that’s what the Frogs say for perhaps. What do you say to a
little _cushayin’_, O. D.? I get kinda drowsy in the eyes ’round
_nerver_—used to hittin’ the blankets ’bout seven bells every night now,
tryin’ to make up for time lost at Château-Thierry.” Jimmy yawned to
show how true his statement was.

“Jimmy, you don’t mind if I tell some of the things you said to Mary and
mother in my next letter, do you?” asked O. D., as he was pullin’ his
hobnails off.

“No—just so long as you don’t hit the _guerre_ stuff too hard. That red,
battle-front stuff ain’t good for their hearts, you _savvy_? Gets ’em
all scared for nothin’,” cautioned Jimmy.

Both boys were tired and they were almost asleep when Jimmy stirred and
blurted out:

“Say, O. D., I forgot to tell you that you’re liable to get _beaucoup_
cooties _cushayin’_ with me. I’m crawlin’.”

“I’ll get them sooner or later, anyhow, won’t I?” asked O. D.

“Sure thing,” assured the man with cooties.

“Then I might just as well get used to them _toot sweet_,” declared the
man who was about to find out just what the thing that Jimmy McGee
called the _guerre_ really meant.

“That’s the right dope. You won’t be long gettin’ on the front if you’re
willin’ to learn. _Bon swoir_, O. D.” Jimmy felt mighty proud of his new
pupil, then he dropped off and forgot the _guerre_ in a dream of Mary
Preston.



                      CHAPTER XI—A CRAW DE GUERRE


“_Bonjour_, O. D. How did you _cushay_?” was Jimmy McGee’s greeting to
O. D. the next morning as he came out of a sound sleep.

“Great sleeping in these beds, Jimmy. Don’t know just how I’ll get out.
Gee! I’m down about four feet.”

“Yep. You’ve got to be a regular three-ring circus acrobat to climb out
of a French _lee_ without hurtin’ yourself,” admitted Jimmy as he got a
good hold on the side of the bed and pulled himself out.

O. D. followed his example, but experienced quite a lot of difficulty in
doing so.

“I’ll ask madame to fix us up a little _petit dayjunay_ of some kind
before we hit the road again. Course a _petit dayjunay_ ain’t any too
much in a marchin’ man’s stomach. Means a bowl of _café_ and a slice of
bread. We may be lucky to-day and run across a truck-driver who’ll give
us a lift. Them kind of guys are mighty scarce in this army. Frenchmen
will give you a lift before an American. Unless, of course, he belongs
to your division.”

While Jimmy was winding his last puttee on, the madame came in the room
and asked him if he and his friend would eat. Jimmy told her _oui_ and
the woman clattered out to prepare the _café_.

“Now what do you think of _café-ooo-lay_, O. D.?” asked Jimmy as he
raised his bowl to finish what was left.

“_Trey—_” O. D. stammered as if he had forgotten just what he intended
to say.

“_Trey-beans_, you want to say. That means very good in French,”
prompted Jimmy.

“Thanks. I’ll get it after a while, I guess. But say, is beans a French
word, too?”

“No. Don’t believe it is. But sounds enough like French to use it O. K.
The Frogs understand it all right. Well, we’ll get strapped up and on
the way. Got to try and make the outfit to-day. There’s somethin’ up in
our comin’ up here so sudden and we can’t afford to miss anythin’. Got a
hunch, O. D., that the Boches is goin’ to get an awful beatin’ up in
these parts. Heard Frenchmen say it wasn’t possible to drive the Germans
out of the positions they’ve got ’round Verdun and St. Mihiel. Put a
bunch of Americans in there. I’ll bet all the pay they owe me, and
that’s three months now, that we’ll take Metz. Say, O. D., I ’ain’t got
over four francs. How are you set on _frankers_?”

“I just got paid a few days ago. Let’s see,” said O. D., counting his
money. “Oh, about sixty-five francs. How much do you want?”

“I’ll ask madame how much we owe,” answered Jimmy. “_Madame, combien?_”

The madame told him to wait a minute. She got an old pencil and a piece
of paper and started figuring.

“It’s a fact, O. D., these Frogs can’t tell you how much a glass of _van
rouge_ costs without workin’ it out on paper. Ain’t it the limit. Look
at her now.”

Finally the madame reached a conclusion of figures.

“_Dix francs_,” she told Jimmy.

“That’s ten francs or two dollars,” interpreted Jimmy to O. D.

O. D. gave her a ten-franc note without another word.

“That’s five francs I owe you, O. D. Keep ’count of that, will you?”

“Forget it, Jimmy. What I’ve got is yours. _Compree?_” asked O. D.,
showing the effect of association with McGee in his language.

“Gee! you’re gettin’ the stuff great. Well, we’re off. _Bonjour, madame.
Merci beaucoup_,” said Jimmy, shaking hands with the madame. O. D. did
the same and mumbled something that sounded like “_Banjo_.”

“_Au revoir, messieurs_,” responded the old woman.

Down the village street they ambled like a pair of old comrades.

Just as they were getting near the last house on the _Grande Rue_ a
couple of American soldiers came out of a barn door. Hay was sticking to
their clothes and around their necks and heads. They approached Jimmy
and O. D.

“What outfit, buddy?” asked the first one to Jimmy.

“Twenty-sixth division. Know where any of the Twenty-sixth is ’bout
here?” was Jimmy’s question.

“You’re gang got a YD painted on all your stuff?”

“_Oui_,” answered Jimmy.

“Well, there was artillery passed through here yesterday noon—_beaucoup_
of it—whole regiment about. Say have you seen anything of the
Twenty-eighth Division? We got lost a few days ago. ’Ain’t been able to
locate ’em yet.”

“No, can’t say I know where you’re outfit is. Which way did that
artillery go?”

“Straight up the Verdun road toward Souilly. Find anything to _monjay_
or drink here?” asked the Twenty-eighth Division man.

“_Oui_, got _beaucoup pom du tear fritz, dey zerfs_, and _van rouge_
down the line there,” and Jimmy pointed out the house where he and O. D.
had spent the night.

“_Merci._ Well, be good and take care. Just out of Château-Thierry,
ain’t you?”

“_Oui._ So long, fellows!” answered Jimmy, and he and O. D. hiked on
toward Verdun.

During the course of two kilometers three trucks passed the hikers.
Chances of riding looked _pas bons_ to them when another truck appeared
on the crest of a high hill, making toward them.

“Maybe this guy’ll have a heart. We’ll stop here and look tired as
hell,” said Jimmy, stopping on the roadside.

The truck came closer.

“Hell afire! Believe it’s a YD truck, O. D.”

“How ’bout a lift, buddy?” shouted Jimmy as the truck was almost up to
them.

The driver slowed down and let them climb on.

“What outfit, buddy?” he asked Jimmy.

“One Hundred and Third Field Artillery, Jack.”

“Thought you looked like a YD man,” answered the driver as he changed
gears.

They made about four kilometers when the driver complained of feeling
hot. He stopped his truck and started taking off his leather jerkin.
There was a Croix de Guerre pinned over his heart. O. D. saw it and his
eyes bulged out.

“I see you’re a hero,” said O. D., pointing to the bronze medal attached
to the green ribbon.

“Hero, hell!” exclaimed the driver. “Anybody can get one of these
things. The Frogs wear ’em as souvenirs of the _guerre_. You can buy a
dozen for a few francs. I was lucky enough to have this one given to
me,” he explained.

“What did you do, swipe a bag of white sugar and give it to some French
general?” asked Jimmy.

“Well, I’ll tell you, buddy, this thing was given to me for bravery
under fire and devotion to duty. That’s the way the paper read, anyhow.
I was drivin’ up to Château-Thierry in this junk with some bread. Got
pretty near Saacy when I run into _beaucoup_ shell-fire. The big boys
was bustin’ ahead of me and behind me—all around me. Wasn’t anything
else to do so I climbs down and gets under the engine, thinkin’ that the
truck would give me a bit of protection from splinters. Had on my
jumpers and in my jumpers was a little hammer. Lucky for me it was. A
bunch of Frogs includin’ a colonel gets chased out of the woods by
shells. Happens that they come straight toward me. I had sense enough to
start tinkerin’ with the engine so as to leave a good impression. The
colonel spots me. He could talk some English. Tells me all kinds of bull
about bein’ brave under shell-fire. I didn’t spoil his speech by tellin’
him I was scared to death. He takes my name and outfit. Few weeks later
I get a paper citin’ me and givin’ me right to wear a Craw de Guerre.
Well, I stayed right under there tappin’ away until the shellin’ quit,
which happened _toot sweet_. Can you beat it? The _guerre’s_ a farce so
long as it don’t get you, eh, buddy?” to Jimmy.

“I’ll say so. That’s what I tell my friend here. He ’ain’t never been up
yet,” answered Jimmy.

“Never seen the front, eh, Jack?” this to O. D.

“No, not yet,” admitted O. D.

“Well, you’ll be disappointed if you’re lookin’ for all that you heard
tell about. Once you get used to starvin’, wearin’ one suit of
underclothes about three months, and _cushayin’_ out in any old mud-hole
there won’t be much excitement for you. All the other things depend on
your own good luck. If the Kaiser ’ain’t got your number you’ll pull
through without a scratch. I know. I was in the infantry not long ago.”

Jimmy and the Yankee division truck-driver fought the battles of
Château-Thierry all over again while O. D. listened and didn’t miss a
word. The things that the veterans talked and laughed about caused his
mind a thousand and one perplexities. He had always formed his ideas and
pictures of the front according to the suggestion and impressions of men
and women who painted the existence on the lines as a red hell-life of
misery and sufferings.

He could only conceive the front as a sinister, shadowy place, abounding
in terrors and hardships, where men were fighting one another day and
night, while the guns roared away incessantly. But beside him were two
boys who spoke of the front as if it were a playground of strange
adventure where by mere accident, rather than by deliberate execution,
men were killed or wounded. He was certain, instinctively, that these
boys knew what they were talking of. He knew that men cannot tell about
living with death, while laughing and singing of life, unless they have
actually done such a thing.

O. D. heard Jimmy tell of buying a suit of underclothes at La Ferté,
after his outfit had been taken out of the fight shattered to the bone
from continual battling. He judged from the way Jimmy said it that he
would remember buying that forty-franc suit of underclothes when his
memory of the capture of Hill 190 would grow dim. Jimmy cussed more
because the army was unable to give him underclothes at that time than
he did over the fact that he had to lug ninety-five-pound shells on a
stomach that had been empty for twenty-four hours.

O. D. wondered if he would ever be able to understand the life of the
front as his new friend Jimmy did. He wondered if there was enough good
stuff in him to make him accept his burden of front-line work like the
other men who had already gone in and proved themselves. O. D. wondered
a hundred things that were all closely associated with the fact that he
was about to enter a life that would bring him face to face with supreme
sacrifice. Like a hundred thousand other American boys, before and after
him, O. D. saw the bigness of the test that awaited every young novice
on the battle-field, and he was concerned only with the one question:
“Can I make good?”

“Well, here we are at Heippes,” said the driver, cutting a story of the
capture of Vaux short. “Your outfit’s up ’round Souilly, I think. I turn
off here and go out toward Rambluzen. Be good, Jack, and take care of
your friend here,” indicating O. D.

“_Oui_, bet your life. _Au revoir_, old man,” answered Jimmy.

“Thanks,” said O. D.

“Not at all, Jack; glad to give you a lift,” shouted the driver, and he
was off.

“That’s a regular guy,” said Jimmy. “You take any fellow that’s been
through what we have and he’s damn glad to help a guy out. He knows
himself what it is to be hungry and tired. This old war’s teachin’ a few
guys that there’s others in the world besides themselves. Guess it’s
time to _monjay_. Take a look for the _café_ here. Hold it here a
minute. I’ll ask this M. P. guy where a man can get a bite.” Jimmy
headed for an M. P.

“Say, Jack, where’s there a place to _monjay_ ’round here?” he asked.

“Couldn’t tell you, buddy. Only been here a week,” answered the M. P.

“A week,” repeated Jimmy. “What do you have to do, spend a winter in a
place to find out where the grub is? Have you seen artillery go by here
lately?”

“Nope—nothin’ lately—in three days or so.”

“What was it, seventy-fives or one hundred and fifty-fives—big or
little? What?”

“Don’t remember,” answered the M. P. as he motioned a car to go by.

“Hell afire, O. D., I knew it. Those M. P.’s don’t even know there’s a
_guerre_ goin’ on,” said Jimmy, with disgust. “Follow me, I’ll find
somethin’ _toot sweet_,” and Jimmy McGee started toward a house about
one hundred feet away.



                  CHAPTER XII—O. D. MEETS JIMMY’S GANG


After going through the same old stuff with the madame, Jimmy, with the
help of Gabrielle, madame’s nineteen-year-old daughter, finally
succeeded in arranging for a dinner of _pomme de terre frites_ and an
omelet.

While they were washing up a little bit, Gabrielle told Jimmy that there
were three Americans sleeping in the house. The girl told him that the
Americans had arrived the night before, tired out and hungry. None of
them had got up yet, she told him.

Jimmy was just taking a man’s share of the potatoes when the door in
front of him opened.

“Jimmy McGee! You old son of a gun! What in hell!”

“George Neil!” shouted Jimmy as he rushed at the new-comer and nearly
bowled him off his feet. “How did you get in here?”

“_Cushayed_ too long and the outfit left me back in some little joint
ten kilos or so from Bar-le-Duc. Joyce and Pop Rigney are still
_cushayin’_. Who’s your friend?” asked Neil, pointing to O. D.

“Oh, hell, I almost forgot. This is O. D. Picked him up yesterday; he’s
goin’ to the outfit as a replacement. Meet my pal, George Neil, O. D.”

“Glad to know you, sergeant,” said O. D., shaking Neil’s outstretched
hand.

“Forget the sergeant stuff, old man. Glad to meet anybody that Jimmy
McGee knows. But what did you say that your name was?”

“It’s William G. Preston, but Jimmy—,” answered O. D.

“I changed it to O. D. Don’t you think that’s better, George. Look at
the way he’s rigged up,” interrupted Jimmy.

“You’re right, Jimmy. Where did you enlist from, O. D.?” asked Neil.

“He was drafted. But that don’t make any difference. Wasn’t his fault he
didn’t volunteer. I got his whole story and it’s straight. He’s one of
us from now on and I’m goin’ to get him in the outfit,” declared Jimmy.

“Good stuff—shake on that, O. D.,” and George Neil shook hands with the
drafted man to show him how he felt.

“_Messieurs, voluez-vous manger?_” (Messieurs, will you eat?)

“Bet your life. _Oui, mademoiselle, toot sweet_,” answered McGee as he
began getting chairs up to the table.

“Let those two mopes _cushay_. We’ll _monjay_ and then call ’em out,”
suggested Neil.

In answer to his suggestion the door of the room that he had been
sleeping in opened and a bald head stuck out.

“Look out, Pop—cover that bald dome up. You’re too old to be goin’
’round uncovered,” warned Jimmy.

“I’ll show you how old I am if I get skinned out of those _poms_ and
_dey zerfs_,” shot back Pop Rigney, as he pulled his bald head behind
the protection of the door. He began talking to Joyce, who was still in
bed, and the men at the table knew that Pop was warning him to dash for
the table unless he wanted to starve.

The meal progressed as all meals do when young American soldiers are
eating in a French home, with much misunderstanding as to the exact
meaning of the things that are said in the French and English languages.
Gabrielle laughed over their funny way of talking her native language
and tried to help matters by using her only stock and store of English,
which was represented by the words “yes” and “finish.”

“I want some water myself,” admitted Jimmy, after finishing his meal,
“but I’m scared to ask for it after last night.”

“I’ll ask her,” volunteered Neil.

“Gabrielle,” he called.

She answered with a big, wonderful smile and came over to him.

“_Donnay mwa_ glass _de low_,” was Neil’s way of telling her his want.

Gabrielle looked helplessly at the empty dishes. A little frown of
perplexity showed on her forehead. Gradually the frown was camouflaged
by a spreading smile of understanding light.

“Oh, finish?” she asked him.

“Great Lord, ’ain’t she got wonderful blue eyes!” ejaculated Neil. “Some
of these peasant girls are sure the darb. Wish I could _parley_ her
talk.”

“I’ll get that water myself,” said Jimmy, rising. He found a glass and
went outside to look for a pump. Gabrielle watched him smilingly,
wishing that she could comprehend the wants of the big, good-natured
American boys with whom she found it so easy to make friends.

“’Ain’t been over long, have you?” asked Neil of O. D. as Jimmy
disappeared through the doorway.

“Just about two months. Spent all my time down at the replacement camps
waiting to be sent to some outfit.”

“Well, you are gettin’ in with a darn good outfit and Jimmy’s a great
guy for a friend. He’ll show you ’round the front.”

“Guess I’ll feel kind of funny going up there with all you fellows that
are used to it,” said O. D.

“Not at all; you’ll never know the difference. Two or three days and
you’ll think you’ve been there all your life. After a month you’ll
hardly ever know you used to live in a house back in the States. Gets in
your blood. Just like the mud up there gets all over you. Make friends
with the cooties. Then you’re all set,” explained Neil.

“Jerk aloose from that table and let two good men _monjay_,” shouted Pop
Rigney and Joyce, pushing their door open and making for what was left
in one of the dishes.

[Illustration: “MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE COOTIES. THEN YOU’RE ALL SET”]

“Meet Jimmy’s friend, O. D. This is Pop Rigney, the oldest man in this
man’s army, and the other fellow is Joyce, our supply sergeant.” The men
shook hands all around and sat down.

“I got that water. Had to walk almost a mile to find it,” said Jimmy,
entering. “Well, Rigney, you old bald-headed monkey, you got up, eh?
Guess Joyce’s mess-hound appetite did it. Well, you can _monjay_ what I
left.”

Rigney and Joyce got enough by accepting odds and ends. When they
finished it was agreed that the party move on and catch the outfit.

“_Combien, Gabrielle?_” asked Jimmy.

“_Dix france, pour tous_,” she answered. (Ten francs for everything.)

“Not bad at all. Gettin’ kinda sick of the highway-robbery stuff. Guess
you’ll have to pay, George; I’m flat,” said Jimmy.

“_Oui_,” answered Neil. He gave Gabrielle three five-franc notes and
told her to keep the change.

_“Monsieur, vous donney trop!_ (you give too much, monsieur) she told
him, insisting that he take what was over and above.

“Forget it,” refusing the returned money.

“_Merci bien, monsieur_,” answered Gabrielle.

_Au revoirs_ were quickly said. The little party of Yanks started off in
the general direction of Verdun over the great white highway that many
Frenchmen call the “Sacred Road.”

“Got any idea where the outfit is, Joyce?” asked O. D., after two
kilometers had been left behind with their hobnail tracks.

“Heard they’re right near Souilly. Believe they’ll hang there a day or
so and then go into the lines. Big stuff on up here. Heard about it?”

“Lot of rumors ’bout a big smash, but nothin’ certain. What dope did you
get?” asked Jimmy.

“Nothin’ but that everybody from the big guys down are looking for a
drive to start and go through to Metz. Dope is we start the push on
early in September, about the tenth or so. ’Ain’t got any too much
time.”

“Guess we’ll be right up in the front end of this thing. Better get us
some new _chevaux_. I’m tired listening to that ‘Cannoneer on the
Wheel,’ stuff,” snorted Rigney.

“If it’ll end this _guerre_ any quicker I’m with ’em to drive all
winter,” declared Jimmy.

O. D. listened to his new friends talk about driving and pushing, and
many other things that happen only at the front, with the feeling that
he was a rank outsider in their company. They spoke so casually of
attacking the Germans and taking Metz that O. D. could not dissuade
himself from believing that at times war must be a sort of picnic. Yet
something told him that while these men spoke as lightly as they did of
fighting they knew the hell of it, too. He wondered again and again if
when it came his time to learn, as they had done before him, he would be
able to accept the fun and hell just as they did. That thought worried
O. D. more than anything else.

“How far is that place where you think the outfit is?” asked old Pop
Rigney. The five kilometers that brought them to another little village
had brought some aches and weariness to his aging limbs.

“Another kilometer or two, I guess,” answered Joyce.

“Better grab a truck. You don’t know where we’re going,” was Rigney’s
suggestion.

“Gosh! There’s a Y. M. C. A. sign. Let’s go over and get some
cigarettes. No tellin’ if we’ll ever see them again. Gettin’ up close
now, you know,” warned Jimmy.

“We’re off,” said Neil.

The quintet made for the Y. M. C. A. hut.

“Any cigarettes?” asked Joyce of the man behind the canteen counter.

“Not to-day. All out of smokings,” was the disappointing answer.

“Any chocolate or cookies?” questioned Jimmy.

“Expect stuff in to-morrow. Hard to get transportation,” curtly.

“Oh, well. We’ll live through it,” said Jimmy.

Once outside Pop Rigney said what he thought.

“What the hell is wrong with them guys? Always the same old stuff—’Out
to-day; come to-morrow. I’m off ’em,” declared Pop.

“Damn if I know. Look at the Château-Thierry times when we never was
able to get the stuff. I’m for the Salvation Army every time,” announced
Jimmy.

“We used to have darn good Y. M. C. A.’s back at the replacement camps.
Always had lots of cigarettes, chocolate, and cakes. Twice a week we had
pictures and shows,” stated O. D.

“Sure, ’way back in the S. O. S.—why wouldn’t they have everything? What
good is that doin’ the guys up at the front where you can’t buy the
stuff. Just like the eats and clothes. Back in the States I guess the
folks think that all the good stuff goes up to the fightin’ men. Like
hell it does,” snapped Jimmy.

A big green truck approached them.

“Hell, there’s the Regimental Supply truck. Let’s climb on,” shouted
Neil as he started running to meet the camion.

“Make it fast, boys,” said Champ, the driver, “I got to get back to camp
and make another trip for supplies before night. We’re movin’ up
to-morrow, you know.”

“Good stuff. Where ’re we goin’? Anybody know?” asked Jimmy.

“Yep; near a place that sounds like Rupt. Something else tacked onto it,
but don’t remember. We’re goin’ to start this drive soon.”

“Gettin’ any fresh beef in for supplies now?” asked Joyce.

“_Beaucoup_ ‘canned willy’; that’s about all,” replied Champ.

“Get ready to _monjay_ that stuff another two months, I guess. Wouldn’t
it give a man a pain!” groaned Neil.

“There’s the gang over yonder along that road. See ’em?” asked Champ,
pointing to a road over to the left.

“_Oui_, pretty good camouflage; but you can tell it,” answered Jimmy.

“I don’t see anything. Where do you mean?” asked O. D.

“All along that road. See the tree branches and stuff that looks like
it’s growin’ out in the road. That’s the guns and stuff. They’re
camouflaged on account of Boche planes. The horses are down in the woods
some place,” explained Jimmy.

“I see now what you mean. Gee! that camouflage is fine stuff; I’d never
know it was anything from here,” admitted O. D.

“You’ll pick camouflage from the real stuff _toot sweet_, O. D.; don’t
worry.”

“Say, we better hit the road here and slip in. Some boob may ask what
we’re doin’ blowin’ in at this time of day,” suggested Joyce.

The crew acted on his advice and approached the camp from the woods.

Just before gaining the fringe of road where pieces, caissons, wagons,
and a lot of equipment were hidden beneath newly cut branches, a bugle
blasted out “Attention!”

“A Boche plane goin’ over. That means take cover, O. D.,” explained
McGee.

A few minutes later the bugle sounded recall and everybody went about
their business with little ado.

Jimmy brought O. D. up to Regimental Headquarters, and by a little
stroke of army diplomacy got Sergeant-Major Creamer to assign him to
Battery C. Later he went to the captain with Jimmy and asked that O. D.
be assigned to the same section as himself.

“Put him in your gun crew, if you want to. You’ve got to be acting
gunner-corporal now. Corporal Schott went to the hospital with fever,”
said the captain.

“_Trey-beans_,” answered Jimmy. “Thanks _beaucoup_.”

“Not at all,” answered the C. O.

“Great guy, our old man,” Jimmy told O. D. when they got out of the
captain’s hearing. “Just like one of the fellows all the time. We call
him Pop Henderson. He knows it, too. I believe you could call him Pop to
his face and he’d take it all right. Course we don’t, you know. He’s too
good. Bunch of officers like him in this outfit. There ’re cranks and
bums in every profession, but our officers are pretty much the darb. Get
that way after bein’ up at the front with you a long time, you see.”

“Seemed mighty nice,” said O. D. “Where are we going to sleep to-night,
Jimmy?”

“Oh, we’ll rig up our shelter-halves and _cushay_ in the woods some
place. Won’t be as good as that Frog bed we hit last night, but _say la
guerre_, you know O. D.”

“I’m willing, Jimmy.”

“This place is as good as any, I guess,” said Jimmy, examining the
ground with his foot. “There’s a few damn loots in the way, but if you
get yourself wrapped around then you’ll _cushay bon_.”

Jimmy didn’t try to put the tent up in regulation way. He got a few
small branches, a stick or two, and with the poles that O. D. had he
made a shelter that would at least keep some wind away or afford
protection against rain.

“I lost all my pins and poles ’round Château-Thierry,” he said in
apology for using his bayonet as a tent-pin.

Jimmy had two blankets and O. D. had three. They spread them all out on
the ground, tucked in the end near the opening of the tent and crawled
between the blankets, leaving two between them and the earth.

“Roll your blouse up and use it for a pillow. Generally I use my
gas-mask, sometimes my tin hat, for a pillow, if it’s cold and I’m
alone. Neil and I used to _cushay_ together, but he can hang with Pop or
Joyce, as he knows how to get along here.”



                CHAPTER XIII—“WE’RE GOIN’ TO TAKE METZ.”


O. D. turned restlessly for a long time before he could adapt his body
to the topography of the ground that was his bed. He had funny feelings
in his joints as if something was grinding against the bones, especially
when he remained in one position long. Jimmy’s snoring told him that his
new friend was asleep.

The new-comer to the environs of the front lay awake almost two hours.
He thought of home, of his mother, of Mary, and of what was before him.
Now and then a distant rumbling as if thunder was muttering in far-away
skies came to his ears.

Jimmy had explained the rumbling as being the noise of guns that were
perhaps twenty kilometers away. O. D. couldn’t put down the idea that he
was near the front, the thing that he had been working toward since
becoming a soldier. The idea gripped him so strongly that he couldn’t
stay the restless feelings which worked through his veins fire-like.

He sat up, reached for his shoes, slipped them on, and crawled out of
the tent.

The night was singularly clear for France. A growing moon and myriad
stars had purged the world of shadows and given it a generous possession
of silver light. Except for the soft noises made by the horses and the
occasional rumble that came from the hills of Verdun, the night was
quiet and suggestive of peaceful repose.

O. D. looked and listened at the things of the night. A sentry strolled
leisurely along the road where the guns of his regiment were
camouflaged. Far in front of him a chain of golden rockets climbed
against the horizon and disappeared as if by magic. The thing that O. D.
had thought was thunder came to his ears again. Then all was so quiet
that he could hear Jimmy sleeping.

“I’m almost at the front,” soliloquized the man to himself. “No one else
seems to know it, or feel it, but me. Guess I better try to sleep.” He
turned to go back in the pup tent.

A soft, subdued thing like the drone of a bee rose and fell on the night
air. O. D. jumped forward a trifle, startled by the sinister beelike
noise that seemed almost overhead.

Rat-tat-tat-tat! B-o-o-m! B-o-o-m! Rat-tat-tat-tat!

The peace of the night ended in the fierce barking of machine-guns and
the crash of anti-air-craft cannon. Between shots, the soft droning that
came from the skies continued in a casual, business-like way that caused
cold perspiration to come unbidden to O. D.’s forehead.

B—A—N—G!

A bomb exploded about four hundred yards from where O. D. stood, and the
ground quivered beneath him.

The sound of waking men stirred him to speak.

“What—— What is it?” he asked.

“Nothin’ but a Boche plane droppin’ bombs. They’re goin’ at him with the
archies, but might just as well use pea-shooters. Never get a plane with
that stuff,” came the answer from a dark part of the woods.

W-h-i-r-r!

Something was passing directly overhead. O. D. looked up. He saw a black
shadow flit between himself and the moon. Then another bomb exploded.
O. D. dived into the tent. He landed on Jimmy.

“What the hell’s up?” asked Jimmy, coming out of sleep.

“Listen,” whispered O. D. in a hoarse voice.

Jimmy listened.

“Nothin’ but some Boche planes, I guess. They’ll never get us, but I
hate ’em just the same. Turn over and let’s _cushay encore_.”

O. D. lay down again, but did not sleep until the droning had ceased and
the guns had become quiet. Fatigue finally overpowered his senses and he
fell into deep slumber.

“Wake up, O. D. Time to _monjay_.” Jimmy, fully dressed, was bending
over O. D.

“What—— Oh—— Time to get up and eat, eh? What have they got for
breakfast, Jimmy?”

“Bacon, hardtack, and coffee. The coffee’s got sugar in it for a wonder.
Make it fast or we’ll get nothin’ but seconds.”

Sitting bolt upright in the little tent, O. D. took account of the fact
that Jimmy was all ready and showed signs of having been up some time.

“You have been up and around, Jimmy; why didn’t you wake me up before?”
asked O. D.

“What’s the use? You’ll get enough early rising before you’re through
with this outfit. Might as well beat the army out of a little sleep when
you can. When you come down to brass tacks about it, every time you
_cushay_ late and _monjay_ a lot you’re makin’ yourself stronger and a
better man for the army work. _Cushay_ all you can, O. D. We had to get
up at six and feed them soft-headed horses and bring ’em down to a
little lake to water. Come on if you’re set and we’ll beat it up to the
mess-line.”

O. D. and Jimmy, mess-kits and cups in hand, found their way through the
woods to the long line of hungry men that extended from the smoking,
rolling kitchen to a point almost one hundred yards away.

O. D. had never looked upon such a motley group of American soldiers
since entering the army. Most of the boys were in their shirt-sleeves.
Some wore leggings and some did not. Half of them did not have caps or
hats on. They were all mud-splashed. Everybody was either talking or
laughing.

“When are we goin’ to eat?” asked one man near the end of the line. A
rattle of mess-kits followed that question, and soon the entire
mess-line began to bawl out the cooks and kitchen police in general.

“Look at the ears on him!” shouted a Yank. A chorus of laughs followed.

O. D., falling in line behind Jimmy, heard that remark and turned red in
the face.

“Why did he say that, Jimmy? Are my ears big, or what?” he asked.

Jimmy laughed.

“They’re not talkin’ ’bout you, O. D. That’s just a sayin’ in this man’s
army which is more popular ’round mess-time than any other. Don’t worry
’bout these guys gettin’ fresh with you,” answered Jimmy.

The top-sergeant stopped Jimmy and O. D. as they were making their way
back from mess.

“Say, Jimmy, is this the new guy?” asked the top, indicating O. D.

“_Oui._ Pop Henderson said I could get him in my crew.”

“_Trey-beans._ You’ll fix him up, then. Have you had any time on the
guns?” he asked O. D.

“No. I was in the infantry.”

“What about that, Jimmy?”

“I’ll show him ’round that baby of ours. He don’t need no trainin’ for
the job I’m goin’ to give him,” declared McGee.

“Well, be good to him. Luck to you, old man,” and the top hurried away
to scare up some details for grooming the horses.

“We pull up to-night, O. D.—not right into the front, you know. About
three kiloflappers from where our positions will be. So I want to get
down to the piece and look her over. Got to get Betsy in great shape for
this drive. We’re goin’ to take Metz. You heard that, didn’t you?”

“Yes, but I thought Metz was the German’s stronghold and a long ways
off,” answered O. D.

“_Oui._ What of it? We’ll take it all right. Wait till this old Yankee
army gets loose at ’em.” Jimmy spoke with a confidence which O. D.
hadn’t yet learned to grasp.

The day was spent by Jimmy in cleaning and getting Betsy, his faithful
Schneider howitzer of 155-millimeter range, in condition for the work
that was in store for it. O. D. got a chance to familiarize his fingers
and sight with the parts that were henceforth to engage his attention
while a member of Jimmy McGee’s gun crew.

A few minutes before supper final moving orders were announced. The
regiment was to hike twenty-four kilometers and camouflage in a woody
valley near Rupt-en-Woevre.

Jimmy, standing around with O. D. and Neil, hearing the orders,
remarked.

“Can you imagine this stuff back in the States? Suppose a guy blew in
your office just before supper and told you to grab your typewriter and
hike eighteen miles or so. Why, man, you’d throw him down ten flights of
stairs. Over here they tell you to load up with a hundred pounds of junk
and hike twenty-odd kilometers, and you do it like you was goin’ off to
a dance. Don’t know what the hell we’ll do when we do get back.”



                    CHAPTER XIV—“WELL, WE’RE HERE.”


After the usual amount of orders and rescinding of orders had been
accomplished the regiment was lined up in a column of three battalions
and awaited the command “forward.”

Just as the sun fell behind the green hills of Verdun and the shadows of
night began to fill the valleys a long column of American artillery
started rolling toward the lines of the St. Mihiel sector. Jimmy McGee
and William G. Preston, alias O. D., loaded down under their equipment
and carrying canes, followed behind Betsy, the third piece of Battery C,
humming the chorus of “Where Do We Go from Here, Boys?”

It was two o’clock in the morning when the regiment reached its
rendezvous in a wooded valley near Rupt-en-Woevre. The sky had become
clouded and the early morning was jet black.

“Guess we’ll get soaked, O. D.,” prophesied Jimmy when they halted and
got a chance to observe the weather conditions.

“Will we stay here now?” asked O. D.

“_Oui_. Might just as well scare up a place to _cushay_. Wait here; I’ll
look ’round.”

A little while later Jimmy returned with the news that there was nothing
to do but put the pup tent up again and sleep on the ground.

“There’s one barrack here, but the First Battalion guys grabbed that as
they got here first,” he explained.

Jimmy and O. D. put the tent up on the slope of a hill that formed the
eastern side of the valley in which the horses and _matériel_ of the
entire regiment were hidden.

O. D. heard, in a sort of indifferent manner, the growl of big guns that
seemed very near. He was startled once or twice by the crash of bombs
and the anti-air-craft guns. But he was too tired to lend ears and
thoughts to such things on his first night at the front, for the
regiment was only a few kilometers from the first lines. O. D. fell
asleep immediately and didn’t wake until three hours later when a
downpour of rain splashed him from head to foot.

The wind that accompanied the rain swept the tent away time and time
again. Everything that Jimmy and O. D. owned got soaked. The earth
beneath them turned into crawling slime. Finally, seeing the
impossibility of keeping the tent up, Jimmy told his friend to pull his
shelter-half over him, head and all. Jimmy did likewise with his
shelter-half and blankets. The two boys, wrapped in canvas and blankets,
lay in the deluge like two muffled mummies, trying to sleep.

Instead of moving into position at once the regiment made at least fifty
final preparations to do so, only to be ordered to remain in the valley
for further orders.

Four days passed. Rain fell incessantly. The bottom of the valley became
as slippery as glass. Men bogged up to their knees in mud. There were no
boots. The mess was a succession of “corned willy,” hardtack, and
sugarless coffee meals.

At last, when every man and officer had reached the point of absolute
disgust, the guns were dragged out of their mud-holes and hauled by
horse and man power to the positions from which they were scheduled to
launch their part of the drive.

Passing through the shell-torn village of Rupt-en-Woevre, the Second
Battalion, of which Jimmy’s battery was a part, swerved off the main
road and followed a woods trail that seemed to lead straight into the
noises and strange, mysterious lights of the front.

A gun barked out, not forty feet from the road. O. D. looked to Jimmy.

“Are we at the front now Jimmy?” he asked in a whisper.

“Don’t know myself. Guess there’s a battery in the woods near here.
We’ll be there soon now.”

The firing was not very heavy that night. Occasionally a big gun spoke
or the staccato voices of machine-guns stabbed the night air
intermittently. Flares and rockets went up frequently, causing the
darkness of the woods that bordered the road to accentuate. O. D. owned
some strange, indescribable feelings at times, but he could not identify
any of them as the sensations which he had expected to experience upon
his first intimacy with the things of the front.

The column halted at a crossroad. Orders to dismount came quickly and
were repeated down the line of guns in ordinary tones. Before O. D. had
a chance to ask what was going on platoon commanders had issued
instructions for the piece teams to haul the guns into certain positions
nearby.

“Well, we’re here. Now for the business,” declared Jimmy.

“You mean we are at the front,” gasped O. D., incredulously. “I
thought—”

“Sure, we all thought the same thing when we came up the first time.
Looked for signposts sayin’, ‘This is the front,’ or a bunch of Germans
tryin’ to get us. Just like that No-Man’s-Land stuff. I’d heard so much
about that place before comin’ to France that I thought it would be as
easy to find as a piece of choice real estate. Kinda expected that it
would be a square field, or somethin’ like that, between two story-book
trenches. First No Man’s Land I ran into was in the middle of a village.
Graveyard and church made most of it. The front’s built on the same
idea.”

Jimmy selected a spot near the third piece and arranged a place for
himself and O. D. Before O. D. fell asleep he mentioned that he wanted
to write some letters to his mother and Mary.

At the sound of Mary’s name Jimmy instinctively ran his hand over his
breast pocket to see if the picture was still there. It was.

“You can write to-morrow, O. D.”

“I can?” said O. D. “I thought it would be pretty hard to get a chance
to write at the front.”

“That’s what most of the guys spend their time doin’ when there ain’t no
firin’ or work,” assured Jimmy.

“Well, good night, old man.”

“_Bon swoir_, O. D.”

The mention of Mary made Jimmy forget about sleeping. Since the night
that he had spent in the French house with O. D. he had been
day-dreaming whenever the chance to do so came. He wondered if Mary was
in love with somebody back in America or in France. That idea disquieted
him a great deal, but judging from O. D.’s conversations, he felt at
liberty to hope that her heart was still free.

When he was sure that O. D. was sound asleep Jimmy lit a cigarette and
took Mary’s picture out of his pocket. By drawing hard on the cigarette
he caused a fire glow that was enough to enable him to catch glimpses of
her face.

“Gosh! She’s a pretty, slender somebody,” mused the Yank to himself.
“Bet she’s as sweet as she looks. It’ll be great gettin’ letters from
her. If I make this old _guerre_ I’m sure goin’ to know Mary O. D. But
I’m a nut. What business have I got thinkin’ that she’ll even look at a
bum like me? I’d disgrace her most likely in public, ’specially at a
dinnertable, as I’d forget and use the old knife. Got to put the brakes
on this cussin’ stuff, too. I can imagine her if I said ‘damn’ in front
of her. I’d be _fineed toot sweet_.” Jimmy put the picture away and
puffed on while his dreams mingled with his blue cigarette smoke.



             CHAPTER XV—PINCHING OFF THE ST. MIHIEL SALIENT


By noon of the next day Battery C’s guns had all been securely emplaced.
O. D. wrote three letters in the morning, all of which centered around
Jimmy McGee and the front. In his letter to Mary he said, in part:

    You’ll love Jimmy, he’s so big and kind. If he ever got all
    cleaned and dressed he’d sure be handsome, but the boys
    don’t have time for that kind of life up here.

    Mary, Jimmy never gets any letters, except from a few boys
    that work where he used to. His folks are all dead. I told
    him that you would write to him. He is sending you a German
    officer’s helmet that he took from a German at
    Château-Thierry. You see, Jimmy has been at the front for a
    long time.

    I am at the front with him now. But, somehow, I don’t feel
    like I thought I would. It doesn’t seem so terribly
    different from a place that we stopped at about twenty miles
    from here. Of course the guns make a lot of noise when they
    go off and there’s all kinds of mysterious lights at night
    that make you think of ghosts at work. But the airplanes and
    bombs are what scare me most....

Before supper was served on the afternoon of September 11th the guns of
Jimmy McGee’s regiment had registered on their targets and everything
was in readiness to participate in the greatest effort that the First
American Army was destined to make on the fields of France.

That night there were no certain indications that the drive would start
immediately. The ordinary precautions were taken. But they alone did not
suggest to the men that something big was about to happen. Yet, in the
blood of them all, a fever was present which brought its presentiments.

“O. D., I got a hunch. Nothin’ certain in this _guerre_, you know. But
I’ve got a feelin’ in my fingers that we’re goin’ to use old Betsy
to-night,” spoke Jimmy.

“Jimmy—Jimmy.” Neil was calling him.

“_Oui_. What’s up?”

“How do things look to you?” asked Neil, crawling in the little shelter
tent.

“I was just sayin’ to O. D. that I’ve got a hunch—just like the one
before the battle of Seicheprey—that somethin’ is goin’ to come off.
Mighty damn quiet, though. But it’s always that way before a real
racket.”

“What time have you got, O. D.?” asked Neil.

“Darn near midnight. Jimmy and I have been sittin’ around talking a good
deal. What are you doing up?”

“I’m on guard to-night.”

The shrill blast of a pocket whistle interrupted him and caused the
three of them to jump a little.

“Callin’ to the guns, boys,” whispered Jimmy. “I knew somethin’ was in
the wind. Get ready, O. D.”

“I’ve got to beat it, then,” said Neil, getting out.

In a few seconds Jimmy and O. D. were running toward their gun-pit. Soon
afterward the other members of the crew were at their stations.

Just as the executive officer was giving out the firing data the world
seemed caught in the vortex of a terrible electrical storm. Up in front
of Battery C’s position a barrage from the seventy-five’s crashed into
life. Big guns away behind the position began to bay.

Jimmy got orders to fire. The darkness of night was lost in blinding
flashes of yellow flames that came from the thundering guns. Shells
whined and whistled on their way toward the German trenches and
positions. O. D. rammed the shells home, wondering if the world was
coming to an end. The roar of the pieces, the rattle of machine-guns,
the earth that quivered beneath him and the skies that seemed to be
blazing with varicolored fires assailed his ears, his eyes, and his soul
with a violence that he had never dreamed of. He looked to Jimmy for
confidence. Jimmy was working his sights and traversing the piece as if
he were listening to a jazz victrola record. O. D. bit his lips. He knew
that one of his real trials was at hand.

The din of battle became a unison of wild, barbaric music. Out where the
doughboys were going over, under the barrages, rockets crawled against
the livid heavens. O. D. thought of dragons and unearthly monsters as he
watched these things.

The scream of a shell, more sinister than the rest, caused O. D.’s hair
to stand up straight.

“That one’s comin’ in,” bawled out Jimmy.

Another shell whistled in the same fashion.

B—A—N—G!

The sound of an explosion new to the ears of O. D. throttled the
vicinity of his piece. A human cry made itself heard above the angry
roaring of the guns.

“Somebody got it—poor guy!” shouted Jimmy. O. D. nodded and kept on
placing the shells on the tray and ramming them in the smoking breech.

For four hours the battle storm raged incessantly. During those hours
Jimmy’s gun crew worked away with straining muscles. There was no mental
or spiritual strain attached to their labor. They were hardened to the
unnatural sounds and sights of modern fighting. But O. D., new to the
things of big action, face to face with the relentless fury of war for
the first time, had to contend with both the physical and spiritual
conditions which presented themselves. He was naturally strong; but four
hours of work, under stress of fighting, made his arms and back feel as
if they were breaking. No man, however iron of will and nerves, can go
through his first battle without some demoralization of his mental
forces. O. D. was only an ordinary boy. Naturally he suffered his share
of spiritual anguish in the trying moments of competition for the
control of his soul powers before the onslaught of terrors that
threatened to smash his nerve and courage.

When orders to cease firing came O. D. was tired and a bit wan. But he
had found himself. That alone counted with him. A few moments later,
when Jimmy asked him how he liked it, O. D. found himself answering:

“It kind of got me at first—especially when that wounded man cried out.
But when I didn’t stop to think, and kept on working, I didn’t mind it
so much.”

“That’s the stuff. Now you’ve heard all the noise that they can make in
this war, so you’re done with that experience. The rest of the stuff is
only incidental-like,” said Jimmy. “Course somebody’s got to get killed
or wounded. There wouldn’t be no war if that didn’t happen. But it won’t
be us. It’s always the other guy. _Compree_?”

“_Oui_,” answered O. D.

“Get yourself together, boys, we’re pullin’ right out. O. P.’s report
that the Germans are hauling it fast. Hardly any resistance. _Beaucoup_
prisoners comin’ in. Thousands, they say. The old doughboys are goin’
like hell,” shouted Neil, running up to O. D. and Jimmy.

“That’s the old pep. Come on, O. D., we’re off to another fight,” and
Jimmy started on the run for the tent.

The first few sharp points of dawn were piercing the haze of early
morning as Jimmy, O. D., and the rest of the outfit started across the
decaying stretch of land southeast of wrecked Mouilly. For four long
years the ground that the Yankees trampled underfoot had been the No
Man’s Land between the German and French lines. There was no real road,
just a winding succession of shell-holes and gaping craters, bordered on
one side by a water-filled trench that had been the late target of
American guns. On the other side of the ruined road stretched a bumpy,
chaotic plain, out of which the snags of shell-smashed trees lifted
jagged points and shattered limbs. Rusty barbed wire was strung in
baffling tangles from every charred stump and smoking post. Demolished
guns, rifles, bayonets, and sundry articles of equipment were littered
over the grim terrain. Gray desolation, destruction, and barrenness
abounded.

“This is what they call the _Grande Tranchée_, O. D. Never seen anything
like this, even in the movin’ pictures, did you?” questioned Jimmy.

O. D.’s eyes were fastened on a gruesome heap of headless men whose
bodies were torn, twisted, and partly covered by debris. He shuddered
before answering.

“No, Jimmy. Look down there,” pointing to the dead.

“_Oui_, Boches,” responded Jimmy, casually. “Sure tore up this place
some. Our old Betsy was landin’ ’em down here. Ain’t nothin’ over three
feet high ’round here.”

A long column of German prisoners filed by under guard of American
doughboys.

“What outfit, buddy?” asked Jimmy of a guard.

“First Division,” answered the man.

“Seen much of the Twenty-sixth doughboys?” questioned Jimmy.

“_Oui_, they beat us into Vigunelles. Those guys sure bagged some
Boches,” and the guard picked up a faster step with his prisoners.

The attack was still in force and shells were plowing up the broken
ground in every direction when the battery arrived opposite a German
cemetery. Orders were received at that point for the regiment to go into
position behind the hills of St. Rémy. The tired and worn columns
entered the woods by a road that had been used by the Germans only the
day before.

“The Boches must have thought that they was here to stay, by the looks
of this joint,” said Jimmy, pointing to the graveyard with its high
stone fence and tall tombstones. “The Boches got in here four years ago
and never moved till last night. That accounts for all this stuff. Guess
they had regular funerals and church services for the guys that got
knocked off. Just goes to show how they was fightin’ the _guerre_ up
here. Livin’ the life of Riley and didn’t know it.”

He and O. D. climbed over the fence and inspected some of the
tombstones. They came to an exceptionally big one.

“Guess this gink must have been a general. Can’t read Boche, but most
likely all the stuff reads, ‘He died for God and Country.’ See that
‘Gott’ business on ’em all. Everybody pulls the same line when a guy
gets killed. Funny thing, but there ain’t many shell-holes in
cemeteries. Now and then you see one all turned upside down from
shell-fire. But most of ’em that I’ve seen get by somehow. Maybe the
shells get superstitious.”

“There is where one shell hit.” O. D. showed Jimmy a grave that had been
dug out by a shell.

“_Oui_. Even the dead don’t get no rest in this _guerre_,” declared
Jimmy.

The whine of an incoming shell caused them both to fall flat on their
bellies. An explosion followed. Dirt and stones covered them from head
to foot.

“Beat it _toot sweet_. This joint ain’t no place for a live man, O. D.,”
and Jimmy started for the wall at double-time. They caught up with the
battery a few minutes before the order to halt came.

“We’re goin’ to use an old German position here,” said Neil, coming up
to Jimmy. “You never saw such stuff in your life. The Boches have got
dug-outs fifty feet deep. Regular places, beds, sofas, everything. You’d
think they had bought the place for a resort.

“That’s nothin’,” broke in Pop Rigney. “Down at the foot of the hill in
Hattonville they’ve got regular theaters built up. Boche _cafés_. They
say Boche women used to live here with the officers. Joyce found some
silk stockings and a woman’s hat in one dug-out.”

Jimmy and O. D. went on an exploration tour immediately. They found that
the dug-outs were all built of cement and stone and must have
necessitated months in construction. A piano, all smashed up, was found
in one. There were various kinds of mysterious cords and wires in most
of the _abris_. O. D. said that he thought they must be attached to
bells, but Jimmy warned him that the Boches had most likely left them
tied to some kind of death-dealing engine and to keep his hands off.
That same day a member of the outfit tampered with a string and had his
left hand mangled by a hand grenade which fell to the stone floor as a
result and exploded on contact.

The Germans had fled so precipitately from their positions that they
even left all the guns behind them. The men found souvenirs galore, but
threw most of them away, as they had no means of carting around extra
stuff.

“I’m off the souvenir stuff. I’ll be good enough souvenir if I get
myself back,” said Jimmy as he discarded some German belts that he had
picked up.

“Guess we’ll get back and _monjay_. ’Ain’t had any breakfast yet, you
know,” suggested Neil.

In the mess-line the talk was running fast. Samson and Johnson, who had
been up in the O. P.’s with the doughboys and had just returned to the
outfit, told about the capture of St. Mihiel and the speed with which
the Boches were evacuating the salient.

“We’re in a hell of a fix, though,” said Samson. “Can’t move another
inch forward. There’s a plain twenty kilometers deep in front of us. The
Boches have got high ground behind it and we couldn’t go across it
without losing the whole division. Guess we’ll have to stand pat awhile.
Ain’t that hell?”

His words panned out true. Before the guns of the Yankee division lay a
great deep plain. To send men out into that plain meant to expose them
to certain death with no possibility of a military advantage being
obtained by so doing. Consequently, with the exception of a sacrifice
attack planned against the enemy to divert his attention from the major
operations being launched in the Argonne forest, the division remained
in its victorious tracks for nearly six weeks. The sacrifice attack
succeeded, but it cost the division almost the entire One Hundred and
Second Infantry Regiment.

During this time O. D. drank to the dregs of the front. He became able
to distinguish the difference between the whine of an ordinary shell and
the whistle of a gas shell. Whizz-bangs got to be a part of his
vocabulary, and he knew enough to duck _toot sweet_ when he heard one
coming. The mud stuck to him as Neil told him it would. He became
friendly with cooties.

“Damn it all, Jimmy,” said O. D. five weeks after the St. Mihiel salient
had been nipped off by the pinchers of the First American Army, “if
they’d only lay off that ‘canned willy’ once in a while this _guerre_
wouldn’t be half bad. Say, I lost my gas-mask two days ago, wonder if
Joyce has got any in yet. The Boches are puttin’ gas over right along
now.”

“Hope the hell we get up to a regular front again soon,” replied Jimmy,
offering O. D. a cigarette. “Since Austria blew up we ought to get
behind the Boches and push ’em right in the Rhine.”



                       CHAPTER XVI—BEYOND VERDUN


“Is this place hot enough to suit you, Jimmy?” asked O. D. as he and
Jimmy huddled in a water-filled shell-hole while a drove of barrack bags
went skimming over their heads.

“I’ll say, _oui_,” replied Jimmy. “Wish for a thing and you’ll sure get
it. Remember my wishing that they’d send us to a real front. There ain’t
no camouflage to this joint. Listen to that damn machine-gun music, will
you?”

From the depths of the Haumont Bois issued the frenzied snapping and
barking of machine-guns that contrasted strangely with the unending
thunder-roll of the heavy guns.

Before Jimmy and his pal was the pivot upon which the German defenses in
the Argonne depended. Upon that cemented pivot was hinged the hopes of
the German High Command. If the pivot was forced the entire line of
defenses that swung back and forth like a red, intangible thing in the
depth of the Argonne woods would be swept away by the intrepid American
troops. The Prussian militarists had rushed some of their finest
divisions in front of Verdun to stay the advance of American soldiers
who had been ordered to unhinge the pivotal defense at all costs.

It mattered not that companies and battalions were cut to pieces and
mowed down by the hidden machine-gun fire of the Germans who held the
high ground and were securely intrenched. The order was to force the
pivot. Jimmy’s division had been ordered to unhinge it.

For three weeks he and his comrades had advanced yard by yard, each yard
calling for the sacrifice of many brave men. After the third day in the
lines beyond Verdun Jimmy had looked for his friend Neil, to learn that
an ugly shell wound had sent him to the hospital. An entire new gun crew
was manning the first piece, as every man had been killed or wounded
when a German two-hundred-and-twenty made a direct hit on the howitzer.
The Boches had been using gas with deadly effect. Ten men that he knew
very well had been caught by the poisonous fumes and were evacuated to a
hospital. Death had come pretty close to both Jimmy and O. D., but by
some law of destiny they had come through unscratched.

“We might try to get back now, O. D.” Jimmy raised himself cautiously
and scanned their surroundings.

A shell whistled, almost in his ear. He ducked down again.

“That drink of water may cost us a lot before we get back. Gee! but I
was thirsty. No water in three days. It’ll be three more before we can
pull this stunt again. Think them damn Heinies have got us under
observation. Stuff’s comin’ mighty close. They’re breakin’ right over by
that hill.” He pointed to a hill not a hundred yards away. It was
perforated by shell hits and blue smoke was rising from a dozen places
where shells had lately exploded.

“Dick said we were goin’ to fire again, _toot sweet_, so we’ll have to
make a dive for it. You follow me, O. D.”

Jimmy squirmed out of the slimy hole and crawled away in the direction
of his position. O. D. followed behind at about ten yards’ interval. The
condition of O. D.’s clothing made him look like a tramp. His wrap
puttees were mud-soaked and ripped in many places. His breeches were as
dirty as Jimmy’s had ever been. He had the front written all over him.
The _guerre_ had stamped its trade-mark upon O. D.

After fifteen minutes of snakelike progress Jimmy and O. D. reached the
position. There wasn’t a soul to be seen. Everybody and everything lived
below the surface in those terrible days and nights beyond Verdun.

“Let’s get down to the old hole and lie quiet till it’s time to fire,”
and Jimmy crawled down to what he and O. D. called “the hole.”

It was their home. The boys had stretched their canvas shelter-halves
over the top of a crater made by a giant shell. Underneath this
protection was their stock and store of worldly possessions, which
consisted of an odd sock, a suit of dirty underclothes, and a little box
that held a few personal trinkets. Raincoats, and what little extra
underclothes they once owned, had been lost in the advance from Verdun.

Jimmy got to “the hole” first.

“Great Lord, O. D.! Here’s some mail. Ration cart just brought it up
from the _échelon_. Guess it’s all for you. No here’s three for me,” he
cried, excitedly.

Mail it was. The first that they had seen in nearly a month. Jimmy had
three letters from Mary and in one was two pictures.

“To hell with this _guerre_!” shouted Jimmy, jumping up.

“What’s the matter, Jimmy? Get good news from some of the boys?” asked
O. D.

“Boys hell!” answered Jimmy. “They’re from Mary—” then he stopped short
and felt kind of foolish.

“Oh!” exclaimed O. D. “I knew Mary would write if I told her to. I’ve
got some from her and mother.”

The two boys read their letters on in silence. The more that Jimmy read
of Mary’s letters the more he was willing to believe the rumors that had
been coming in by radio that the Germans might sign an armistice. In
fact, you could have told Jimmy almost anything at that moment and he
would have believed it. He studied Mary’s new pictures with the one that
he had taken from O. D. O. D. caught him in the act.

“Mary gave me one of those seashore pictures before I left, but I lost
it some place lately,” said O. D., looking at the two new pictures.

“Yes, I guess you did, O. D. I swiped it from you. Don’t mind, do you,
old man? I wanted a picture of Mary.”

“Did you take that one, Jimmy?”

“_Oui_.”

“Anything you do, old boy, is O. K. with me. You know that, Jimmy, don’t
you?” asked the brother of Mary.

“Bet I do, O. D. Funny how guys get to be pals up here, ain’t it! Back
in the States you and me would have passed each other up, most likely.
Out here it’s mighty darn different. Makes a fellow get down under the
skin of things. I feel like I’ve known you all my life, O. D.”

“So do I, Jimmy. I never knew any fellow as good as I’ve come to know
you.”

“Well, when men get close to dyin’ with each other, when they’ve starved
side by side and damn near froze to death under the same pieces of
cheesecloth, it ain’t any wonder that they find out who and what each
other is. Do you know, it’s gettin’ colder every night? We’ve got to
rustle up some more coverin’ soon or we’ll pass out one of these nights.
It’s that cold mud underneath us that puts ice in the bones. Look here,
O. D., don’t you wake up in the night no more and listen to me talk in
my sleep ’bout cold and put your coat over me. Keep it on your side. I’m
more used to this stuff than you,” commanded Jimmy.

“I wasn’t cold, Jimmy, honest. Think I’ll turn over and _cushay_ a
while. We ’ain’t slept in forty-eight hours now. There won’t be anything
to _monjay_ tonight; stuff got in too late for supper. Goin’ to give us
some coffee and stuff ’round nine o’clock.”

“Well, we’ll both crawl in and knock out some sleep,” said Jimmy, and
they got under their thin dirt-spattered blankets and fell into sound
slumber with no effort.

Three hours later Jimmy and O. D. were throttled out of their sleep by
the banging of incoming shells and the quaking of earth that shivered
and shook as the shells ripped great smoking holes in its sides.

Between the bangs and the crashes they caught the piping of the whistle
that called them to the pits. Twenty seconds later Sergeant Dick Dennis,
chief of Jimmy’s gun section, sang out to the executive officer, “Third
section in order, sir.”

“Battery—On basic deflection—Right, One—Three—Zero—F. A. shell—I. A. L.
fuse—Charge double zero—Site zero—One hundred rounds—At my
command—Elevation five, six three,” shouted the executive officer.

There was grim silence in the gun-pits. A shell came tearing over and
hit fifty yards from the first piece. Fragments and stones pattered down
through the trees.

“F—I—R—E!” was the command.

Four flashes illuminated the night shadows and four guns loosened their
brass tongues of thunder. The ground rocked. The air quivered. The
pieces bayed and roared on like mad, fire-spitting animals. Joining
their voices in the savage symphony of death that filled the woods they
crowded that particular part of the world with an infernal clamor.

Down in the cozy mire of their gun-pit Jimmy McGee and his gang worked
hands over fists to keep Betsy roaring. Almost ten months on the line
had made them indifferent to enemy fire, especially if they were
fighting back, so they labored on while the Hun missiles came tearing
overhead, spilling their contents of death dangerously near.

O. D., working directly behind Jimmy, marveled at his pal’s coolness in
adjusting sights and elevations, unconscious of the fact that he was
almost as cool in his own work as Jimmy.

An explosion more terrific than any previous one shook the entire
vicinity of the battery position. After the crash of bursting steel and
iron had ended agonized cries were torn from the throats of suffering
men. Piteous pleadings for aid filled the flame-shot night. Above the
groans that were racked by pain a voice called out, “First piece out of
order, sir.” A fit of coughing followed the report.

Spare men and the two Sanitary Corps men rushed to the pit of the first
section where the shell had landed and demolished the gun while tearing
the crew into lifeless or quivering wrecks of humans. Everything that
could be done for the men was accomplished heedless of the incoming
shells. Every moment brought an increasing number of shells into the
immediate vicinity of the battery position. Trees were smashed and
chewed to bits. Earth was thrown high into the air. Tree branches
mingled with the shell splinters that rained down.

“Second section out of order, sir,” shouted the chief of that section.
His gunner had reported that the bore would not stand another shot. The
piece had been recommended for the mobile repair shop two weeks before.

“Second section, abandon your piece. Take cover,” ordered the executive
officer, crowding data for the third and fourth piece on top of that
command.

Jimmy McGee’s crew was still putting them over when fragments from a
shell that had ruined the fourth section knocked his Nos. 4 and 6 down.
Short-handed he kept the hot one-hundred-and-fifty-five howitzer going.
O. D. was still hanging on the rammer and pushing the big shells in the
breech.

Captain Henderson rushed into the pit.

“You men take shelter. Your gun’s the only one left in action.”

“Please don’t make us quit, Pop. Pardon, sir. Shoot the dope along.
We’ll stick, won’t we, O. D.?”

“Bet we will, Jimmy!” shot back O. D., grimly, as he helped his No. 5
get the shell on the tray.

The answer had barely escaped his lips when a shell made a direct hit on
a tree behind the pit. O. D. fell to the ground. Jimmy McGee sank down
with a stifled groan. The two boys left in the pit toppled like young
trees from the blow of a mighty ax.

The captain, who was untouched, raised Jimmy and got his knee under his
head.

“Get Bacon or March, the first-aid men, quick!” commanded the captain to
a man who was stumbling over the debris in the pit.

“Both of ’em are down, sir; got hit. The boys are havin’ a hell of a
time with the wounded.” The man stooped to pick up Dick Dennis, who had
been killed outright.

“My God!” groaned Henderson, tearing away Jimmy’s blouse to get at his
wounded arm.

“Cap—cap,” called Jim, feebly. Henderson bent over him. “I’ve only got a
splinter—only stunned. Get to O. D. first.” Jimmy tried to get loose and
go to O. D., who lay quiet in a pool of blood.

“Johnson—Johnson, try to bind O. D.’s wound,” ordered the C. O., turning
to a man who sat all huddled up amid the horror and torture, puffing
wildly at a cigarette like some grotesque being.

“Can’t touch him,” answered Johnson, blowing a mouthful of smoke after
the jerky words. “God have mercy on me,” he kept repeating. The fellow’s
nerve was gone. Henderson had seen a few like him before. He let him
alone.

Jimmy crawled to O. D.

“O. D.—O. D.! Talk to me! God! Look at his back; it’s all busted up.
O. D., I’m Jimmy. Answer me, boy,” implored his pal.

Henderson came with a mess-cup full of water and some bandages.

The water brought O. D. to a state of semi-consciousness. Jimmy saw his
eyes flutter open about half-way and he started talking again.

“We’re fixin’ you, boy—hang on. The Boches never was made to get you and
me. We got to go back to Mary, O. D.”

“Jimmy—Jimmy—” The name was called so faintly that Jimmy could hardly
hear it. He bent his ear close to O. D.’s blue lips.

“I’m listenin’, pal. What is it?”

“You go back—back—back—to Mary for—” The words trembled and stopped
short.

“For you, O. D.?” supplied Jimmy.

“_Oui_,” gasped the dying boy.

“But you’ll go, too, O. D. Hell, you can’t die now.”

“Yes—die—later—see you—somewhere— Good-by, Jim—” Death cut the words
short.

A great lump rose in Jimmy McGee’s throat. Something warm and salty
burned his eyes. He pressed his good hand against the torn back of his
pal and tried to staunch the incessant red flow with his fingers.
Captain Henderson removed him tenderly from the body of his pal a few
moments later and led Jimmy, dry-eyed and white-faced, over to the
dressing-station.

“Just the way of it, cap. The best guys gets it. Poor O. D.!” muttered
Jimmy as they bound up his splintered arm.

They buried O. D. in a shell-hole and wrapped his body in the blankets
and shelter-halves that he and Jimmy had slept between. Jimmy looked at
the sad mound of earth and then let them take him away to the ambulance
that was to bring him and two others down to the _échelon_ infirmary.
His wound was not deemed serious enough for hospital treatment.



                 CHAPTER XVII—“FINEE! LA GUERRE FINEE!”


In the somber shadow of gaunt, historic Verdun the eleventh day of the
eleventh month of 1918 crawled slowly toward its epoch-making eleventh
hour. The progress of each advancing minute was accompanied by a
bombardment that started in a rumbling basso-profundo of fourteen-inch
naval guns and reached its crescendo of barbaric medley in a crackling
cataract of machine-gun fire.

“You can’t tell me that this _guerre_ is goin’ to _finee toot sweet_,”
asserted Jimmy McGee to an infirmary orderly. “Listen to that
hell-bent-for-election noise.” He paused to allow himself and the
orderly to appreciate the significance of his assertion.

Both had grown accustomed to the thunder of barrages and the din of
battles, but their ears were not listening to any ordinary bombardment.
Their pals in arms were putting over the heaviest artillery fusillade
that had ever made the base of Verdun’s brave citadel tremble. The noise
was magnificent and awe-inspiring. The men held their tongues awhile.
Then Jimmy spoke.

“Maybe it’s possible, but I doubt it. How the hell can they stop a thing
like this _guerre_ so quick?”

“Damn if I know. Sounds like bull to me, but the radio order says that
we stop fightin’ at eleven o’clock. That’s all I know,” answered the
orderly.

“I’m going to breeze ’round a bit. If it’s straight dope I’ll blow up to
the position. Want to get a picture of O. D.’s grave. Camouflage me if
any of them guys get wonderin’ where I am. The old wing’s gettin’
_très-bon_ now, anyhow. They might just as well let me go back to the
battery,” and Jimmy took his bandaged left arm out of its sling just to
prove his words.

“Go on, I’ll cover you up,” said the orderly.

Jimmy wandered through the different barracks of the regimental
_échelon_ and finally landed at Headquarters Office.

“What’s the dope, Barney?” asked Jimmy of a bespectacled sergeant who
sat humped over a desk full of morning reports.

“The _guerre_ is _finee_ at eleven o’clock,” was the answer in slow,
methodic tones.

[Illustration: “I WANT TO GET A PICTURE OF O. D.’s GRAVE”]

“Guess it’s straight enough if Barney believes it,” muttered Jimmy,
closing the door.

He found Joyce, borrowed a pocket camera from him, and started for the
front. Jimmy evaded Verdun and picked the straight road from Thierville
to Bras. From Bras he intended following the muddy trail that led
directly to the present position of his outfit.

A continuous stream of nondescript traffic flowed past him going in the
direction of the _échelons_. Captured Boche wagons, ammunition limbers,
ration-trucks, caissons, staff cars, and ambulances were some of the
vehicles that passed Jimmy as he plodded along. Their presence on the
road at ten-thirty in the morning was a significant thing in itself. He
knew that such heavy traffic was forbidden on roads that were under
enemy fire during the hours of daylight. But the rattle and clatter of
the motley traffic could not drown out the fury of the American
bombardment.

“Well, it’s _finee_, old man,” shouted a man in fatigue clothes riding a
balky mule.

“_Oui_,” responded Jimmy, unenthusiastically.

At Bras Jimmy stopped at one of the ambulance stations to watch them
load on some boys who had just been wounded.

“Where the hell are you bound? The _guerre’s finee_.”

Jimmy looked at the speaker. He was Mike Merrowitz, of his own outfit.

“Goin’ up to the battery. What the hell did you do to your arm, Mike?”

“Nothin’ much. Was mendin’ a broken wire early this mornin’ and a piece
of shell got me there. Doc said they might have to cut it off at the
elbow. But I don’t believe it’s that bad. Remember my tellin’ you that
I’d go through this _guerre_ and get walloped on the last day? Well, the
damn thing is _finee_, anyhow. Take care, Jimmy,” he admonished, looking
at his bandaged arm.

Jimmy McGee could only nod his answer. The idea that a man could go
through the war as long as Mike had and then get hit during the last
minute of play was beyond him. He began wondering if it was all a
mistake about the _guerre_ being finished. The banging of the guns
certainly didn’t help him to renew his faith in all the statements that
he had heard to the effect that fighting would end at eleven o’clock.

It was exactly ten-forty-five when he started out on the second lap of
his trip.

“Fifteen minutes to make good in,” muttered Jimmy to himself.

Along the sides of the slimy trail strange things were happening. Men
began to appear on the surface. Horses and mules browsed around, hunting
for a green patch of grass.

“What time have you got, buddy?” asked Jimmy of a man who was stripped
to the waist and washing in an honest attempt to remove some of the dirt
that had accumulated on his body since the wash of two months ago.

The man stopped and picked up his wrist watch. “Five minutes before
knocking-off time, Jack,” was the casual reply.

“Five minutes,” repeated Jimmy McGee, doubtfully. “Say, do you think
it’ll _finee_ at eleven?” he asked.

“Sure,” was the confident reply. “It started in ten minutes; why the
hell can’t it end in a few minutes?”

“Guess it can, but it seems funny as hell to talk ’bout the _guerre_
endin’. Why, there’s been times lately when I thought the damn thing
would never _finee_,” stated Jimmy, very solemnly.

“It will be strange to have it all finished. But I can get along without
it. Say, I wonder when the hell we’ll go home, Jack?”

“Great God! I’d never thought of that. If this _guerre finees_ to-day we
ought to get a crack at the first boats. Been over here long enough. Can
you imagine gettin’ back to the old life, wearin’ garters and stuff like
that?”

“Too much for me, Jack,” admitted the man as he scrubbed away.

The bombardment seemed just in the act of flinging all of its violence
into their ears when the roar of cannon and the shrieking of shells
toned down to a puny whisper. A few seconds of scattered “booms” passed.
Then a silence unknown to that part of the world settled over the
vicinity of Verdun.

The guns of war had been hushed as if by the magic command of some
invisible master voice.

Jimmy and the man looked at each other, stunned into dumbness by the
miracle of silence. Five minutes passed in strange quietude.

“Guess I’ll blow up to the guns and see how the boys are takin’ this
stuff,” said Jimmy, slowly.

“Well, it’s _finee_, sure as hell,” declared the man. He was reading his
shirt and snapping his catches between thumb-nails.

“So long, bud; I’ll meet you in Boston,” was Jimmy’s parting shot.

“In Boston, eh?” replied the man as if a new and pleasing idea had
occurred to him. “_Oui_—in Boston.”

The pockmarked hills that sloped down to meet the trail and mingle muddy
rivulets with the slimy water that stagnated in its shell-holes took on
a new lease of life as Jimmy surveyed them. Dark rings of smoke curled
upward. The forms of men and animals began to appear, slowly at first,
as if the bowels of the earth were giving up their recent inhabitants
with great reluctance. Gradually whole processions of men moved against
the horizons made by the dip and rise of Verdun’s storied hills. Mules
and horses scampered at liberty and joined their braying and neighing
with the sounds of human life that were heard in the great silence that
obtained.

Turning an abrupt curve Jimmy McGee was almost upon his battery. Even
Jimmy, who had grown to believe that he had seen every sight that the
front could offer, admitted that the scene before him was unusual.

Humans and creatures who had been spending most of the last two months
below the surface were breathing God’s free air once more without
risking their lives by so doing. Men in undershirts, some without any,
most all of them bareheaded, were stretching, washing, shaving, talking,
and doing many other simple and ordinary things as if they were all
undergoing a novel experience. There was not a clean-faced man in the
crowd.

The four guns that had been participating in the final barrage of the
war stood in their crude emplacements like stage-settings in a scene
that had been deserted by all of the actors. They looked forlorn and
lonely in their abandonment.

Equipment, most of it soiled, stained, and rusty, was piled in little
heaps. A batch of rations had been uncovered and lay exposed to the
possibility of unlawful seizure, as guards were a nonentity. Smoke
issued from a field range that was in operation. The rattle of mess-kits
announced the fact that the small line of men who had formed for mess
were hungry.

Jimmy made for a group of men who were standing around a bucket of
water, waiting their turn to wash.

“Hello, Sammy; how’s the boy?” asked McGee of a short, stocky lad in the
waiting line of toilet-makers.

“_Bon_, Jimmy,” responded Sampson. “What do you think of this guerre
being _fineed_?”

“Gosh! I can hardly believe it.”

“I keep thinking that it’s liable to start up any old time,” admitted
Sammy.

“Are you goin’ down to the _échelon_, Sammy?”

“_Oui, toot sweet_. Wait till I get a ton of this dirt off and I’ll hike
along with you.”

“All right, I’m goin’ to look ’round just a bit. Will see you at the
kitchen.”

“_Trey-beans_.”

Jimmy toured the position and inspected his Betsy.

“Well, old girl, you’re _finee_ now,” he said, patting the barrel of his
faithful piece affectionately.

He talked with all the boys he met. The one big question that they put
to him was, “Know when we go home, Jimmy?” But that was a query beyond
his power to answer. A few hinted that the division might be sent into
Germany as a part of the Army of Occupation. These suggestions were
routed by indignant denial of such a possibility.

“They’ll never send this outfit to Germany. We’re slated for home. Let
them guys that just got over here take a crack at that stuff,” snapped
Pop Rigney.

Later, after they had mess, Jimmy and Sammy started cross-country for
Thierville so that they might pass O. D.’s grave and make a picture of
it.

Jimmy found the mound of earth that covered the mortal remains of his
pal, and after arranging the helmet on the crude little cross he
photographed the grave and walked away with the remark, “O. D. was sure
one white man, Sammy.”

They continued in silence until the outskirts of Verdun were reached.

“Gee! there’s something goin’ on in town,” declared Sammy.

The sound of pealing bells and stirring music reached their ears. They
quickened their step. Cheering and shouts sounded above the music.

A bearded poilu came tearing out of a ruined house, waving a bottle over
his head.

[Illustration: “A BEARDED POILU CAME TEARING OUT OF A RUINED HOUSE,
WAVING A BOTTLE OVER HIS HEAD”]

“_Finee! La guerre finee!_” he shouted, and offered them the bottle.
They drank and shouted back:

“_Oui. Finee._ Hurrah!”

The grizzled poilu and the two Americans sallied down the narrow street
to locate the music. Progress became difficult after the trio reached
one of the main streets. Soldiers—for there were very few civilians
residing in the battered remnants of Verdun—piled out of every doorway
and alley, most of them singing and shouting. Finally, after stopping to
drink the success of the armistice with at least ten different parties
of poilus and Yanks, Jimmy, Sammy, and their new friend found themselves
in the square where a parade was forming.

A hastily organized band crashed out the stirring music of “Quand
Madelon.” The mob cheered itself into action and started off behind the
band. Flags, mostly American, waved above the surging crowds. Another
band, half American and half French, swung into the square playing the
“Marseillaise.” Then “The Star-Spangled Banner” brought a thunderous
volley of applause.

“_La guerre c’est finie_,” was the predominating cry. “_Vivent les
Américains!_” was the second in strength.

Most of the demonstrations came from the throats of the French whose
natural dramatic and emotional temperament responded to the occasion
more quickly than did the less demonstrative make-ups of the Yankee
soldiers. But it was only natural that the French should have indulged
in greater feelings and demonstrations than their brothers in arms, the
Americans, for they had borne the yoke of war years longer. It was
wonderful to see the worn lines on veteran poilu faces as their
sternness relaxed in smiles and laughs.

Jimmy and Sammy found themselves drinking wine and other liquors with
many strange men. The password to good-fellowship was “_Finee, la guerre
finee_,” and when the liquor began to assert itself in the blood of the
men who acclaimed the Allied triumph on the streets of Verdun
good-fellowship reached its zenith.

That night the men of Jimmy’s section were gathered around a
cheery-looking beer keg in a comfortable barrack at Thierville hashing
over the _guerre_ and its swift dramatic dénouement. The flight of the
Kaiser and the downfall of his military empire had dwindled into a
meaningless fact before the expanding idea of an early departure for
home.

“Home! Great Lord, it ain’t possible!” ejaculated one man as he looked
wistfully into the blazing fire that roared up a great open fireplace. A
bit of silence followed on the heels of his remark. Then Limy Mills and
Vine started singing the chorus of “There’s a Long, Long Trail
Awinding.” Twenty throats, unsteady from an emotion that was new and yet
old, joined in the singing.

Jimmy McGee, sitting in a far corner of the room, looked up from the
letter that he was writing to Mary O. D. and listened while a strange
yearning for something that the song suggested mastered his feelings.

Four days later Jimmy McGee’s outfit rolled down the “Sacred Road” of
France. No officer or enlisted man knew its destination. All that any
man could be certain of was that he was headed for the rear.

Jimmy, lacking a roll and stripped of sundry equipments that he had
carried over the same road three months before, followed behind his
Betsy.

“What outfit, buddy?” asked an engineer who leaned on his shovel to
watch the decrepit parade pass.

“Twenty-sixth division,” answered Jimmy.

“You guys are goin’ home _toot sweet_, ain’t you?” questioned the
engineer.

“So they tell us, buddy,” responded the Yankee veteran as a man does who
speaks from another world. His thoughts were four thousand miles away,
they stretched across the ocean and reached a certain, slender somebody
who answered the name of Mary O. D. in the thoughts of Jimmy McGee.

“Gee! It sure will be tough tryin’ to tell her and her mother ’bout
O. D. I wonder what Mary’ll think of me,” and Jimmy McGee trudged along
to accept the future, even as he had accepted the _guerre_.

                                THE END



Transcriber’s Note

In this book, text shown in italics as originally published is enclosed
in underscores _like this_.





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