Hardly had the French lieutenant finished when Dick was up and peering with all his might and curiosity. Hardly an instant later the bark of a field-gun was heard to the northward. A whining thing whizzed through the air.
Then, into the trench in which the party stood something thudded, with, at the same instant, a sharp report, a bright flash, and the air was full of flying metal!
OUT IN NO MAN’S LAND
If there was a disgusted person present it was Captain Greg Holmes. That angry young man spat out a mouthful of dirt, and then tried to rid himself of more.
Major Wells felt more like standing on his head. A fragment of shell had torn away the top of his tunic in back, without scratching his skin, and at the same time had thrown a shower of sand down inside his O.D. woolen shirt. Terry had been knocked over by the concussion, but had sustained no wound and was quickly on his feet, unhurt.
As for Prescott, he had turned, for an astounded second, then, much disturbed over what he believed to have been his fault, he had stepped down from the fire step.
Captain Ribaut and Lieutenant De Verne, neither of whom had been touched, looked on and smiled.
As Prescott stepped down to the duck-boards he saw Private Berger come back into the trench from the adjoining traverse, the latter a jog in the trench line intended to prevent the enemy from raking any great length of trench during an attack.
“I hadn’t an idea that just raising my head over the parapet would bring cannon fire so promptly,” Dick murmured to Ribaut.
“Nor did that act of yours bring cannon fire,” rejoined Captain Ribaut.
“Then what did?”
“It must have been that it just happened,” replied the Frenchman.
Private Berger stood leaning with his right hand on top of the sand-bag parapet.
“Shall I get back on the fire step for another look?” Dick inquired.
“Why not?” inquired Captain Ribaut, shrugging his shoulders. “Why not, indeed, if there is anything you wish to see?”
Waiting for no more Dick again mounted to the fire step, raising his head over the top, this time with greater caution.
“There it is again!” he cried, in a voice scarcely above a whisper, his words causing his friends astonishment.
A moment later there came another sharp report, followed by the same whining sound. This time a shell struck just behind the parados. There was an avalanche of shell fragments, but none flew into the trench, the parados preventing.
“Captain Ribaut, a word with you,” Dick urged, stepping down and laying a hand on the French officer’s arm. They stepped further along the trench.