Their particular fighting contingent had been halted in a grain field. All about them, that is up and down such a line as had been formed, the fighting was going on.
And on either side of them, and in front and behind, there was the rumble and roar and thunder of heavy guns. In the ranks of the comrades of the five Brothers there were bloody gaps. They had won their way thus far at no small sacrifice of life and limb. But, so far, our friends had escaped scatheless, though they all bore wounds, as you know.
It was a pleasant, sunny day—that is, it would have been pleasant had it not been for the war. That spoiled the pleasantness, but nothing could stop the sunshine. To the great orb that had seen the earth formed, this fighting, momentous as it was destined to be, was only an incident in the rolling on of the ages of time.
“Wonder why we’re being held up?” ventured Franz. “I haven’t had half enough of fighting yet.”
“Nor of me, neither,” declared Iggy, who seemed to have recovered all his spunk and spirit. “It is of a betterness to shoot lots when of a gas mast you are delivered, yes?”
“Right, old top!” shouted Jimmy. “Hello!” he went on, as he saw the major of the battalion approaching. “I guess here’s where we get orders!”
And they got them—orders to advance. And this time they went forward with yells, for it was said that the gas attack was over—the kindly wind had done its work well.
“There they are! There are the Huns!” cried Roger.
His chums looked, and saw dimly through the smoke, a gray line, like some great worm, that would oppose their progress.
“Come on! Come on! Eat ’em up!” shouted Jimmy.
The others needed no urging. At the Huns they went—firing and being fired at.
For a time it was a battle of rifles—the artillery and machine-guns seemed to have been silenced temporarily. On rushed the Sammies, in their own peculiar but comparatively safe, open formation. Rushing, dropping, firing, up again, now down, but ever going onward, led by their officers.
The Huns received the fire, and that it was deadly was evidenced by the gaps torn in the gray ranks. Then they would close up, fire as though by platoons, and come on slowly.
Suddenly the comparative slowness of the rifle fire was broken by the staccato explosions of a machine-gun. It opened on the left of the position taken up by Jimmy and his chums, and in an instant had mowed down several doughboys.
“Take what cover you can!” shouted a lieutenant. “Where’s that gun? Did any one notice?” “Over in that red mill!” some one shouted. Afterward it developed that this was Franz, who was an expert shot and quick in judgment.
Dropping flat in the low-growing grain, many eyes of the Sammies turned in the direction of the red mill. It was a French one, of picturesque construction. And as Jimmy and his chums looked they saw a little wisp of smoke come from one of the windows. Then came another staccato discharge, but this time with less deadly effect.