“Pass on. You’ll find your friends just beyond here.”
A moment later the two newcomers were grasping hands in the dark with the three waiting ones.
“The five Brothers are united again,” said Roger Barlow in a low voice.
“Sooner than I expected,” commented Jimmy Blaise. “Now we can go over the top together.”
“Over the top, may we all go together, in the wind and the rain or in damp, foggy weather,” was Bob Dalton’s contribution. He sometimes “perpetrated verse,” as he dubbed it—a reminder of his cub reporter days.
“But say, Jimmy, how did you manage to get here?” asked Franz.
“Walked,” was Jimmy Blaise’s laconic answer. “They haven’t had to carry me on a stretcher—at least not lately.”
“Oh, you know what I mean,” said Franz. “I mean, did you ask to be transferred from your station to this trench?”
“No, and that’s the funny part of it,” said Roger Barlow. “You know after we wrote our letters to-night—or, rather last night, for it’s past twelve now—Blazes and I went back to our station.”
“Yes, and we came here to wait for the zero signal,” interpolated Dal.
“Well, we hadn’t been out in our trench very long before we were relieved, and told to report to Lieutenant Dobson here,” resumed Jimmy. “And when we remembered that this was where you three were stationed, say, maybe we weren’t glad!”
“We are of a gladness also much!” whispered the Polish lad, and there was rather a pathetic note in his voice. “It is a goodness gracious to have you here!”
“Say, you can do more things to the English language than the Boches can on an air raid,” chuckled Jimmy.
“Oh, well, it is of a much hardness to speak,” sighed Iggy.
“Well, there’s no fault to be found with your fighting, that’s sure!” declared Roger. “Put her there, old pal!” and he clasped hands with his foreign “Brother.”
“How’s everything here?” asked Jimmy, when the five had taken such easy positions as were available in the narrow trench.
“We’re all ready for the zero hour,” replied Bob. “Everybody’s on their tiptoes. I wish it was over—I mean here. This waiting is worse than fighting.”
“It sure is,” commented Franz. “But it won’t be long now.”
“What time do you make it?” asked Bob.
“Must be quite some after three,” said Jimmy in a low voice. “It was nearly three when we got our orders to come here.”
Roger took out a tiny pocket flash lamp, and, placing one finger over the bulb so that no rays would escape, held the dim glow over his wrist-watch.
“Quarter to four,” he announced.
“Fifteen minutes more,” sighed Dal.
“They’ll seem like fifteen years, though, Bob,” commented Jimmy.
A reaction, in the shape of silence, came upon the Khaki Boys—“five Brothers” as they called themselves, for they had become that since their participation in the World War. Tensely and quietly they waited in the trench for the hands of time to move to the hour of four. This was the “zero” period, when in a wave of men and steel, or lead and high explosives, the Americans would go over the top, in an endeavor to dislodge the Germans from a strong position.