For a moment the khaki boys stood, motionless, and then Jimmy, looking around on the circle of his companions, exclaimed:
“Well, if that isn’t mysterious!”
“I should say so!” agreed Bob. “Talk about the man in the iron mask—this beats it!”
“Why doesn’t he come with us, toward the American lines?” asked Roger. “Why does he want to go over where the Huns are? This gets me. It looks as if he was——”
He did not finish the sentence. But his chums knew what he had started to say. Only it seemed a terrible suspicion to which to give voice, against the man who had saved their lives. Still, with all that, the khaki boys could not help thinking in their hearts that there was something wrong.
“Maybe he’s going over there to scout around and see if that’s a better way for us to get back to our quarters,” suggested Bob.
Jimmy shook his head. Then he remarked slowly:
“Come on! Let’s see about food and water and then well hike. All our stuff—guns, rations and everything—has gone up in the fire.”
“I haf yet two off dem handle chranades,” spoke up Iggy, meaning, thereby the serrated Mills bombs which were used in the trench raids.
“Hold on to them!” advised Jimmy. “We’ll need them if the Huns see us, and they’re very likely to.”
They crawled to the end of the mill flume. The fire was now some distance from this wooden water carrier. There, in a canvas bag which the boys recognized as one of the variety carried by the Americans, they found a goodly stock of provisions.
“They’ll last us a day, anyhow,” said Jimmy, making an inspection. “And by that time we may be back in our lines.”
“Or in the Germans’,” voiced Bob.
“There’s a big battle going on all around us, but we seem to be in the center of a calm area,” said Roger. “The question is how to find our way out.”
“Well, let’s go!” suddenly exclaimed Jimmy. “Well only get lame and stiff staying here, I feel as if I’d been rolled down hill in a spiked barrel.”
Not one of the five Brothers but what had several wounds. But, fortunately, they were superficial ones. They were sore and bruised from being knocked down by the concussion, and by being precipitated into the cellar by the collapse of the mill. But they were still able to travel; though, as Jimmy said, if they remained inactive their muscles and joints would stiffen.
“Hike!” cried Bob, and they set off in the direction indicated by Captain Dickerson—that strange man who had seemed so cold and reserved, and who had made so light of what he had done in saving the lives of the Khaki Boys.
“I wonder if we’ll ever see him again,” mused Franz, as they marched away from the burning mill.
“Somehow I have a feeling that we will,” said Jimmy. And afterward he was to recall those words under strange circumstances.
And so they began what was destined to be a most perilous journey to get back to their own lines.