“I guess he means why can’t he stand up,” translated Roger, for sometimes their foreign Brother misplaced his English words considerably.
“Sure! Why can’t not I stand?” went on Iggy. “My legs—they is got no business to ’em. Like paper legs they is!”
Roger and Jimmy looked apprehensively at one another. This loss of feeling and muscular power in Iggy’s legs might indicate that his spine was injured—that his whole lower body was paralyzed!
“We’ve got to get him to the rear—to a hospital,” said Roger in a low voice, as the Polish lad’s head drooped weakly on his shoulder.
“Yes,” assented Jimmy. “But can we carry him?”
They looked about for some means of getting Iggy to the top of the shell hole. That would be the most difficult part of the rescue. Then, to their surprise, the two who had come back to seek their friend, heard a hail on the rim of the crater above them.
“What’s the matter down there?” came the cry. “Do you want help!”
“You said it!” voiced Jimmy, vigorously.
“All right. Wait a minute. We’ll be right down!”
It was two stretcher-bearers who had hailed, and, a little later, Ignace Pulinski was being carried to the rear. He had fainted when brought to the top of the shell hole.
A DOUBLE LOSS
After waiting a moment on the ground at the top of the shell crater, to see their comrade being carried to a first-aid dressing station at the rear, Jimmy and Roger started back to join their two friends who were still, it was to be hoped, waiting for orders to advance.
“S’pose he’s much hurt?” asked Roger, something like a dry sob choking him as he thought of poor Iggy.
“I’m afraid so—yes,” answered Jimmy. “That business of his legs feeling numb is a bad sign. It’s a wonder he lived as long as he did, after what happened to him.”
“I’ll say so!” agreed Roger. “Tough luck all right!”
“Why,” went on his chum as they started back toward their former places, “it looked as if his whole face was blown in. I can’t understand it”
“Well, they’ll do the best they can for him back there,” and Roger nodded toward the dressing stations. “Maybe we’ll get a chance to go to see him after this battle.”
His words were drowned in a new roar of artillery and machine-gun fire. The heavy booming and the short, sharp, rattling explosions of the smaller guns seemed very close at hand.
“Something’s doing!” cried Jimmy.
“Come on!” shouted his chum, and, with their rifles and gas masks, which they had brought up out of the shell hole, they rushed forward. And as they advanced they became aware of shrill, whistling sounds in the air about them.
“Duck! Duck!” yelled Roger. “They’re firing over our sector now! We’ve got to crawl back!”