“Dead?” echoed the others.
“Come on—let’s go into the other room,” suggested Jimmy.
There was another room opening out from the kitchen. Into this the Khaki Boys filed silently.
“Do you suppose the Germans killed him?” asked Roger.
“Very likely. Or he may have died from old age, fright or shock. We’ll leave him where he is.”
“And stay here?” asked Bob.
“Sure! Why not? We’re out of the rain. The poor dead man can not harm us, and we have seen enough of death, in worse forms than this, to be afraid now.”
“Oh, it isn’t that I’m afraid!” exclaimed Bob. “But if the Germans did that to—him—they may come back and—”
“I fancy not,” said Jimmy. “I believe they think they have cleaned out this place. It’s the safest spot for us with the old man as a silent sentry. Come, fellows, well spend the night here with the dead to guard us.”
It was said reverently—piously—and there was a strange feeling in the hearts of all the boys as they closed the door on the silent, pathetic figure and stood together in the other room, while the rain beat down on the roof, and dashed against the windows.
And so they began their bivouac of the with death as a sentry on guard.
IN THE BATTLE AGAIN
“Well, we’ve got to be thankful that we had a place to stay all night where we were out of the wet,” remarked Jimmy, as he and his chums awoke the next morning in the lonely cottage of the dead Frenchman.
“Yes, and we’re going to have a good day to travel, too,” said Bob. “There’s the sun up good and proper, as Tommy Atkins would say.”
“No telling how long it’ll stay up,” came from Roger. “Yesterday started in fine, but look what happened before night.”
“Look what happened!” echoed Jimmy. “I don’t believe since we joined the service any more things have happened in any one day. We ought to be thankful we’re alive.”
“Sure we are,” said Iggy. “But I thinks me dat he is going to rain!”
“Who’s he?” asked Franz.
“Him!” and Iggy pointed to the sun. “Der wedder I mean. Him will rain before night I feel, for of my foot there is such a pains. Always when it rain going to be is, of my foots there is a pain.”
“You mean your corn hurts!” asked Bob, with a laugh. He had been rather gloomy the day before, but now he seemed to have recovered his usual good spirits. “Imagine having a corn in these days of battle!” he went on.
“He is not what you say—imagitive!” declared the Polish lad earnestly. “He is real, dat pain in mine foots! But I can away from here march quick. It gives me bad dreams,” and he looked toward the kitchen where the silent occupant had acted as sentry for them.
There had been no disturbance during the night, and if any parties of Germans had passed the lonely farmhouse this was unknown to the boys. Occasionally they heard the sound of distant firing, but now, as the sun rose higher in the heavens, the noises became louder, and, seemingly, nearer.