There was no stopping him; he had gone.
“Matty’s a devil!” said the big man. “He’ll get it, all right. He’s equal to reaching over the Boches’ parapet and picking one off a Boche’s head!”
As we proceeded on our way, officers came out of the little houses to meet Captain P------and the stranger civilian. They had to come out, as there was no room to take us inside; and sometimes they talked shop together after I had answered the usual question, “Is America against us?” There seemed to be an idea that we were, possibly because of the prodigious advertising tactics of a minority. But any feeling that we might be did not interfere with their simple courtesy, or lead them to express any bitterness or break into argument.
“How are things going on over your side?”
“A little this morning. No harm done.”
“We cleaned out one bad sniper to-day.”
“Ought to have some sandbags up to-night.”
“It’s a bad place there. They’ve got a machine-gun trained which has quite a sweep. I asked if the artillery shouldn’t put in a word, but the general didn’t think it worth while.”
“You must run across that break. Three or four shots at you every time. We’re gradually getting shipshape, though.”
Just then a couple of bullets went singing overhead. The group paid no attention to them. If you paid attention to bullets over the parapet you would have no time for anything else. But these bullets have a way of picking off tall officers who are standing up among their houses. In the course of their talk they happened to speak of such an instance, though not with reference to the two bullets I have mentioned.
“Poor S------did not last long. He had been out only three weeks.”
“How is J------? Hit badly?”
“Through the shoulder; not seriously.”
“H------is back. Recovered very quickly.”
Normal trench talk, this! A crack which signifies that the bullet has hit —another man down. One grows accustomed to it, and one of this group of officers might be gone to-morrow.
“I have one, sir,” said Matty, exhibiting a helmet when we returned past his station. “Bullet went right through the head and came out the peak!”
It was time that Captain P------ was back to his own command. As we came to his company’s line word was just being passed from sentry to sentry:
“No firing. Patrols going out.”
It was midnight now.
“We’ll go in the other direction,” said Captain P------ when he had learned that there was no news.
This brought us to an Irish regiment. The Irish naturally had something to say.
Here not the Irish Sea lay between the broad a and the brogue, but the space between two sentries or between two rifles with bayonets fixed, lying against the wall of the breastworks ready for their owners’ hands when called to arms in case of an alarm. One stepped from England into Ireland; and my prediction that the Irish would have something to say was correct.