Until within an hour of daylight the French captain and lieutenant and their American pupils continued along the first line trench. Save for occasional shell fire it proved to be a rather quiet night. Leaving the front a sufficient time before dawn Major Wells and his subordinates went back to the fifth line trench. After breakfasting, they retired to bunks that had been bedded in advance of their coming, and slept until late in the afternoon.
“There is one thing I like about the French trenches,” declared Greg Holmes, with enthusiasm, as soldiers entered with the beginnings of a meal.
“And what is that?” inquired Captain Ribaut eagerly.
“The smell of the coffee when it comes in,” grinned Greg.
“To-day’s sleep, and the meals, I have found to be of the best,” said Captain Dick quietly, as he sat down to eat. “I am still more interested in the hope that to-night in the fire trenches will be more exciting than last night.”
“Perhaps it will be,” suggested Captain Ribaut, “for I have received word that patrols will be sent out into No Man’s Land to-night, and it has been suggested to me that one American officer should go with the patrol. Which one of you shall it be?”
“I know that Captain Prescott wants to go,” said Major Wells, as he noted Dick’s start of pleasure. “Therefore, Captain Ribaut, suppose you send him with the patrol.”
“Thank you, sir,” came Dick’s quick assent. “Nothing could please me more. It will make to-night a time surely worth while to me.”
Before the meal had been finished the German artillerymen began the late afternoon “strafing,” as a bombardment is called.
When the shell-fire had ceased Ribaut led his guests down to the front or fire trench. Lieutenant De Verne had not been with them since breakfast time in the morning.
“May I relieve one of your sentries, Captain, and take his post until there is something else for me to do?” Dick asked.
“Yes, certainly,” agreed Ribaut. “I will send for the corporal, who will instruct you as the other sentries are instructed.”
So Dick took the bayoneted rifle of a soldier who was much delighted at having a brief opportunity for sleep thus thrust upon him. Dick listened to the corporal’s orders, then, for the next two hours stood gazing patiently out over No Man’s Land. At the end of that time the sentries were changed and Dick stood down gladly enough, for his task had become somewhat dull and irksome.
Half an hour after being relieved Prescott heard a sentry challenging in low tones. Then Lieutenant De Verne came into the fire trench with a sergeant and six men.
“This is the patrol,” announced the younger Frenchman. “All my men for to-night are veterans at the game. Captain Prescott, do you wish to try your hand as a bomber tonight?”
“I am more expert, Lieutenant, with an automatic pistol.”