“Must be a big battle going on not far from here,” remarked Bob.
“I don’t believe there’s been any let-up in the big battle,” came from Jimmy.
“The only trouble is that we’re being left out!” exclaimed Franz. “I want to get back in the fighting again.”
“Same here!” murmured Roger. “Let’s eat and then well hike. We ought to get back to our lines to-day, sure.”
“If we have luck,” remarked Jimmy. “Well, let’s go!”
It was not much of a breakfast that the Khaki Boys had, but it was better than nothing. They managed to make a fire in the stove and boiled some coffee they found in a cupboard.
“Best meal I’ve had in a week!” exclaimed Bob with a grateful sigh, as he finished his cup of hot liquid. “Now I’m ready to meet Kaiser Bill himself!”
They packed up what food remained, filled their canteen from a little stream not far from the cottage, and then, bidding a silent farewell to the dead Frenchman, they started off once more.
The country through which the five Brothers traveled seemed as deserted as that over which they had journeyed the previous day after their rescue from the old mill. But the evidences of war were more frequent in destroyed orchards, ruined farmhouses and, here and there, immense holes in the ground where great shells had struck and exploded.
“What’s your trouble, Jimmy!” asked Bob, clapping his chum on the shoulder, as they trudged down a road. “You look as though you hadn’t heard from your girl in Buffalo in a month of Sundays.”
“Neither I have,” said Jimmy. “But I wasn’t exactly thinking of Margaret then, though I have given her a lot of thought at different times. I’m just wondering—”
“’Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile!’” sang Bob.
“Good advice,” commented Jimmy. “My troubles aren’t any more serious than those of anyone else in this war. But I was just wondering if that officer told us the truth”
“What officer?” asked Roger.
“The one who called himself Captain Dickerson, and who saved our lives at the red mill?” answered Jimmy. “I can’t get over his not coming with us to show us the way to the American lines. I believe he ought to have done it!” and Jimmy spoke very determinedly.
“He certainly would have if he had had any consideration for Iggy’s pet corn!” laughed Bob. “We don’t seem to be having any luck ourselves. It wouldn’t have hurt him to have taken command of this squad of rookies and led us back to civilization.”
“Civilization! I hope you don’t call the trenches with their big rats and cooties and—er—other things—civilization!” cried Jimmy. “If it is—give me barbarism.”
“Well, I didn’t just mean that,” went on Bob. “But I wish Captain Dickerson had come back with us.”
“Maybe he had orders to proceed elsewhere,” suggested Franz.
“If he had he was on a dangerous mission,” said Jimmy simply. “He went straight toward the German lines. I can’t understand it at all. He certainly was a strange man.”