I determined to get it back to our shack somehow, but before doing so went on rummaging about these cottages. In the second cottage I made an enormously lucky find for us. Under a heap of firewood in an outhouse I found a large pile of coal. This was splendid, and would be invaluable to us and our fire-bucket. Nothing pleased me more than this, as the cold was very severe, and a fire meant so much to us. When I had completed my investigations and turned over all the oddments lying about to see if there was anything else of use to us, I started off on the return journey. It was now dark, and I was able to walk along without fear of being seen. Of course, I was taking the table with me. I decided to come back later for the coal, with a few sandbags for filling, so I covered it over and hid it as much as possible. (Sensation: Ali Baba returns from the forest.) I started off with the table. I had about three-quarters of a mile to go. Every hundred yards I had to sit down and rest. A table is a horrible thing to accompany one on a mile walk.
I reached the chateau again, and out into the fields beyond, resting with my burden about three times before I got to the road which led straight on to our trenches. My task was a bit harder now, as I was in full view of the German trenches. Had it been daylight they could have seen me quite easily.
Fortunately it was dark, but, of course, star shells would show one up quite distinctly. I staggered on down the road with the green table on my back, pausing as little as possible, but a rest had to be taken, and this at a very exposed part of the road. I put the table down and sat panting on the top. A white streak shot into the air—a star shell. Curse! I sprang off the green top and waltzed with my four-legged wooden octopus into the ditch at the side, where I lay still, waiting for the light to die out. Suspense over. I went on again.
At last I got back with that table and pushed it into our hovel under the sack doorway.
Immense success! “Just the thing we wanted!”
We all sat down to dinner that night in the approved fashion, whilst I, with the air of a conspirator, narrated the incredible story of the vast Eldorado of coal which I had discovered, and, over our shrimp paste and biscuits we discussed plans for its removal.
[Illustration: “Take away me rank and honour, but give me a bag of coke.”]
THE AMPHIBIANS—FED UP, BUT DETERMINED
—THE GUN PARAPET
So you see, life in our cottage was quite interesting and adventurous in its way. At night our existence was just the same as before; all the normal work of trench life. Making improvements to our trenches led to endless work with sandbags, planks, dug-outs, etc. My particular job was mostly improving machine-gun positions, or selecting new sites and carrying out removals,