When night came, it found the boys on a lonely stretch of land, partly bogs, with, here and there, patches of woods. The prospect was most gloomy, for their food was getting scarce, and they were tired and. sore. Their wounds, slight as they were, bothered them, and though none complained, each one would have been glad to be able to slip into some dugout, no matter how rough, and there rest.
“What shall we do!” asked Jimmy, as it became almost too dark to proceed along an uncertain path. “Shall we hole in or keep on?”
“It’s going to be cold, holing in this night,” replied Roger, with a shiver. “Look at that fog!” he went on, as the mists rolled up from a swamp. “It goes right through you!”
“Well, then let’s keep on walking,” said Jimmy, trying to speak cheerily.
They walked on in silence. Bob did not get off any of his queer, improvised rhymes, and as for Iggy he turned up the collar of his coat, hunched his shoulders; and seemed like some old man tramping along.
“Hark!” suddenly called Jimmy, and the words came in a tense whisper. It was as if he had said “Halt!” for his chums came to a stop on the instant.
“What is it?” asked Bob.
“Don’t you hear some one walking toward us?” went on Jimmy, his voice still low and tense.
They all listened. The fog swirled around them in cold, white clouds. And then, through the darkness, they all heard, and distinctly, this time, the measured beat of marching feet.
“Soldiers all right!” commented Roger in a whisper.
“Yes, but what kind?” was Jimmy’s question. “Are they our boys, some of the Allies or—Germans?”
“What shall we do?” asked Franz, and, in the misty darkness he turned toward Jimmy, as seemed natural.
“Keep still,” was the advice given. “And crouch down. If they are Boches well let ’em pass—if they’ll be so obliging as to go on. If they’re some of our boys—”
“Oh, boy! If they only are!” sighed Bob.
The tramping feet came nearer.
“They’re headed right this way!” declared Franz, who was crouching down next to Jimmy.
“Yes. But keep still! Don’t even whisper. Sounds carry very far on a misty night—almost as they do over water.”
The thud of heavily shod feet sounded plainly now, and then, suddenly, so suddenly that it made the hearts of the Khaki Boys thump fiercely, there came a voice out of the darkness saying:
“I don’t believe we’d better go any farther, boys. We’ve come quite a way from our lines, and we haven’t seen a sign of even a Hun sentry. We can go back and report the coast clear!”
And the voice was that of an American! Hearing it Jimmy and his chums leaped to their feet.
“Americans there”! sung out Bob.
Instantly came the sharp challenge:
“Some of the 509th Infantry,” answered Jimmy, giving the names of his companions and himself.