“Some pitchin’, Loo-tenant,” he panted beamingly, stepping back into shelter. “Hark at ’em. And every darn one right over the plate. Say, step out here an’ watch this next lot.”
“No time now,” said Courtenay hurriedly.
“They’re strengthening their defense every minute. Are you all ready there, lads?”
“I don’t know who this man is, sir,” said a sergeant quickly. “But he’s doing great work. Every bomb has gone in behind the parado there. He might try a few more to shake them before we advance.”
“Behind the parakeet,” snorted Rawbon. “I should smile. You watch! I’ll put some through the darn loopholes for you. Didn’t know I was pitcher to the Purple Socks, the year we whipped the League, did you? Gimme thirty seconds, Loo-tenant, and I’ll put thirty o’ these balls right where they live.”
As he spoke he picked up two of the bombs from a fresh box and held them to the lighter. As he plunged out a shower of bullets spattered the trench wall about him, but without heeding these he began to throw. As the roar of the bursting bombs began, the bullets slowed down and ceased. “Keep the lights blazing,” Rawbon paused to shout to the man with the pistol flares. “You slide out for the home base, Loo-tenant, and I’ll keep ’em too busy to shoot their nasty little guns.” He commenced to hurl the bombs again. Courtenay stepped out and watched a moment. Bomb after bomb whizzed true and hard across the hollow, just skimmed the breastwork, struck on the trench wall that showed beyond and a foot above it, and fell behind the barricade. Billowing smoke-clouds and gusts of flame leaped and flashed above the parapet. Courtenay saw the chance and took it. He plunged out into the lake of mud and plowed through it towards the barricade, the men swarming behind him, and the sergeant’s bombs hurtling with trailing streams of sparks over their heads.
“Come on, son,” said the sergeant. “You carry that box and gimme the slow match. I pitch better with a little run.”
Courtenay reached the barricade and led his men over and round it without a casualty. The space behind the barricade was deserted—deserted, that is, except by the dead, and by some unutterable things that would have been better dead.
The lost portion of trench was recaptured, and more, the defense, demoralized by that tornado of explosions, was pushed a good fifty yards further back before the counter-attack was stayed.
At daybreak next morning Courtenay and the sergeant stood together on the road leading to the communication trench. Both were crusted to the shoulders in thick mud; Rawbon’s cap was gone, and his hair hung plastered in a wet mop over his ears and forehead, and Courtenay showed a red-stained bandage under his cap.
“Rawbon,” he said, “I feel rotten over this business. Here you’ve done some real good work—I don’t believe we’d ever have got across without your bombing—and you won’t let me say a word about it. I’m dashed if I like it. Dash it, you ought to get a V.C., or a D.C.M. at least, for it.”