“There’s some talk,” he said, a little further down the line, “of our being relieved from here to-morrow afternoon. I’ve told you what the Little Lad was saying about turning the sap party in to help here. It’s pretty you’d look clearing out to-morrow and leaving another battalion to come in to take over your new trench and your new sap and your German Gineral and the gold in his britches pocket together.” And with that parting shaft he moved on.
For the rest of that day and all that night work moved at speed, and when the O.C. made his tour of inspection the following morning he was as delighted as he was amazed at the work done—and that, as he told the Adjutant, was saying something. Up to now he had known nothing of the sap, merely expressing satisfaction—again mingled with amazement—when he saw the entrance to the sap, lightly roofed in with boards for a couple of yards and shut off beyond that by a curtain of sacking, and was told that the men were amusing themselves making a bomb-proof dug-out.
But on this last morning, when the sap had approached to within twenty or thirty feet of the white head which was its objective, the Colonel’s attention was directed to the matter somewhat forcibly. He heard the roar of exploding heavy shells, and as the “crump, crump,” continued steadily, he telephoned from the headquarters dug-out in rear of the support line to ask the forward trenches what was happening.
While he waited an answer, a message came from the Brigade saying that the artillery had reported heavy German shelling on a sap-head, and demanding to know what, where, and why was the sap-head referred to. While the Colonel was puzzling over this mysterious message and vainly trying to recall any sap-head within his sector of line, the regimental Padre came into the dug-out.
“I’ve just come from the dressing station,” he said, “and there’s a boy there, McRory, that has me fair bewildered with his ravings. He’s wounded in the head with a shrapnel splinter, and, although he seems sane and sensible enough in other ways, he’s been begging me and the doctor not to send him back to the hospital. Did ever ye hear the like, and him with a lump as big as the palm of my hand cut from his head to the bare bone, and bleeding like a stuck pig in an apoplexy?”
The Colonel looked at him vacantly, his mind between this and the other problem of the Brigade’s message.
“And that’s not all that’s in it,” went on the Padre. “The doctor was telling me that there’s been a round dozen of the past two days’ casualties begging that same thing—not to be sent away till we come out of the trenches. And to beat all, McRory, when he was told he was going just the minute the ambulance came, had a confab with the stretcher bearers, and I heard him arguing with them about ‘his share,’ and ‘when they got the Gineral,’ and ‘my bit o’ the fifty thousand francs.’ It has me beat completely.”