“Stick them in your pocket, Everton,” said the youngster; “you’ve done good work with them. Now lie down here.”
All this was a matter of no more than three or four minutes’ work. When the other gaps were completed—the men in them being less fortunate than Everton and having several wounded during the task—the line rose, rushed streaming through the gaps and down into the trench. If anything, the damage done by the shells was greater there than in the first line, mainly perhaps because the heavier guns had not hesitated to fire on the second line where the closeness of the first line to the British would have made risky shooting. There were a good many dead and wounded Germans in this second trench, and of the remainder many were hidden away in their dug-outs, their nerves shaken beyond the sticking-point of courage by the artillery fire first, and later by the close-quarter bombing and the rush of the cold steel.
The Hotwaters held that trench for some fifteen minutes. Then a weak counter-attack attempted to emerge from another line of trenches a good two hundred yards back, but was instantly fallen upon by our artillery and scourged by the accurate fire of the Hotwaters. The attack broke before it was well under way, and scrambled back under cover.
Shortly afterwards the first captured trench having been put into some shape for defense, the advance line of the Hotwaters retired. A small covering party stayed and kept up a rapid fire till most of the others had gone, and then climbed through the trench and doubled back after them.
The officer, whose wire-cutters Everton had used, had been hit rather badly in the arm. He had made light of the wound, and remained in the trench with the covering party; but when he came to retire, he found that the pain and loss of blood had left him shaky and dizzy. Everton helped him to climb from the trench; but as they ran back he saw from the corner of his eye that the officer had slowed to a walk. He turned back and, ignoring the officer’s advice to push on, urged him to lean on him. It ended up by Everton and the officer being the last men in, Everton half supporting, half carrying the other. Once more he felt a childish pleasure at this opportunity to distinguish himself. He was half intoxicated with the heady wine of excitement and success, he asked only for other and greater and riskier opportunities. “Risk,” he thought contemptuously, “is only a pleasant excitement, danger the spice to the risk.” He asked his sergeant to be allowed to go out and help the stretcher-bearers who were clearing the wounded from the ground over which the first advance had been made.
“No,” said the Sergeant shortly. “The stretcher-bearers have their job, and they’ve got to do it. Your job is here, and you can stop and do that. You’ve done enough for one day.” Then, conscious perhaps that he had spoken with unnecessary sharpness, he added a word. “You’ve made a good beginning, lad, and done good work for your first show; don’t spoil it with rank gallery play.”