GRIPPED IN SUSPENSE
From that hour on Jack continued in a fever of suspense. His one thought was of the coming of the official notification connected with their hoped-for leave.
Tom fancied that his chum did not get much sleep on the following night, the last both of them hoped they would have to spend in the dugout used as a billet back of the American front.
So another day found them. Jack took special delight in casting up figures connected with the case. These he would show to his chum, and make various comments. Tom, realizing how the other was endeavoring to suck consolation from this proceeding, encouraged him in it.
“By to-night,” Jack said, more than once, “it will be three whole days since the steamer sailed from Havre. I’ve tried to find out how fast she is, and then figured that they’d have to slow down when passing through the barred zone. I reckon it will take her eight or nine days to get across.”
“Oh, all of that,” Tom assured him; “and it might be as many as twelve. You see, the few passenger steamers still in use haven’t been in dry dock for the longest time, and their hulls must be covered with barnacles, which cuts off considerable from their speed.”
Jack gave him a thankful look.
“You’re the best sort of jollier, Tom,” he observed. “You know how to talk to a fellow who’s quivering all over with eagerness and dread. What if something happens to hold up those notices until it’s too late for even Colin’s big bomber to catch up with the steamer?”
“You’re only borrowing trouble when you allow yourself to fear that,” was the reply. “But all the same, I mean to do everything I can to get things hurried along. I’ll see the general, and with your permission explain to him that there’s great need of our getting word to-day.”
“But, surely, you wouldn’t dare hint anything about the big trip we want to take, Tom?” asked Jack, looking alarmed.
“I should say not!” came the immediate response. “If we did that, the general would consider it his duty to put his foot down on the mad scheme right away. Trust me to let him know we stand to lose out in something that concerns your whole future if the notifications are delayed beyond early this afternoon, and I’m sure he’ll start the wires going to get them here.”
“What can I be doing in the meanwhile?”
“You might see to making arrangements for crossing to the coast on the first train that goes out,” answered Tom.
“But that’s going to be slow traveling, even if we’re lucky enough to get aboard,” protested the other. “Tom, do you think the general would permit us to take our machine, and fly to Dunkirk?”
“Good! That’s a clever idea you’ve hit on, Jack!” exclaimed the other. “I’ll take it up with the general when I see him. He might find it convenient, you know, to have some message sent across the country to the coast; and it would save us hours of time, perhaps win the race for us. A splendid thought, Jack!”