By now the noise was so great that even the sleepers began to stir, and one or two of them to wake. One sat up and asked the telephonist, sitting idle over his instrument, what was happening. He was told briefly, and told also that the line was “disc.” He expressed considerable annoyance at this, grumbling that he knew what it meant—more trips in the mud and under fire to take the messages the wire should have carried.
“Do you think there’s any chance of them pushing in the line and rushing this house?” he asked. The telephonist didn’t know. “Well,” said the man and lay down again. “It’s none o’ my dashed business if they do anyway. I only hope we’re tipped the wink in time to shunt out o’ here; I’ve no particular fancy for sitting in a cellar with the Boche cock-shying their bombs down the steps at me.” Then he shut his eyes and went to sleep again.
The morsed key signal for his own company buzzed rapidly on the signaler’s telephone and he caught the voice of the corporal who had taken out the repair party. They had found the break, the corporal said, and were mending it. He should be through—he was through—could he hear the other end? The signaler could hear the other end calling him and he promptly tapped off the answering signal and spoke into his instrument. He could hear the morse signals on the buzzer plain enough, but the voice was faint and indistinct. The signaler caught the corporal before he withdrew his tap-in and implored him to search along and find the leakage.
“It’s bad enough,” he said, “to get all these messages through by voice. I haven’t a dog’s chance of doing it if I have to buzz each one.”
The rear station spoke again and informed him that he had several urgent messages waiting. The forward signaler replied that he also had several messages, and one in particular was urgent above all others.
“The blanky line is being pushed in,” he said. “No, it isn’t pushed in yet—I didn’t say it—I said being pushed in—being—being, looks like it will be pushed in—got that? The O.C. has’ stopped one’ and the second has taken command. This message I want you to take is shrieking for reenforcements—what? I can’t hear—no I didn’t say anything about horses—I did not. Reenforcements I said; anyhow, take this message and get it through quick.”
He was interrupted by another terrific crash, a fresh and louder outburst of the din outside; running footsteps clattered and leaped down the stairs, the door flung open and the sergeant rushed in slamming the door violently behind him. He ran straight across to the recumbent figures and began violently to shake and kick them into wakefulness.
“Up with ye!” he said, “every man. If you don’t wake quick now, you’ll maybe not have the chance to wake at all.”
The men rolled over and sat and stood up blinking stupidly at him and listening in amazement to the noise outside.