“Barlow and Dalton captured?” cried one of the privates whom Jimmy had selected. “That’s tough!”
“We’ll bring ’em back, or go over with ’em!” added another.
“Come on!” cried Jimmy, and he led the way.
He had only a vague notion of where to look for Bob and Roger. But he and his companions in arms saw immediately ahead of them a dark mass of fighting men. And they judged this to be the attacking party of Germans, taking away prisoners, and fighting off the attacks of those Americans who had hurried to the rescue.
“Come on! Let’s get in on that!” cried Jimmy. “Forward!”
“Forward she is!” came the grim answer from one of the lads he was leading.
There came a fierce burst of machine-gun fire from the German line to the left of that fighting, struggling bunch of forms. It was followed by yells of rage, mingled with pain, and then deep groans.
“Anyone here hit?” asked Jimmy.
“I think Jepson has gone out,” some one answered. Jimmy hesitated. He was between two duties—that toward one of his immediate force, and the desire to rescue his chums. But he knew his duty as an officer required him to look after his command first. He ran back to where two of the privates were bending over Jepson. A look and a touch convinced Jimmy that the man was past all aid.
“We’ll carry him back later,” he said. Then, stifling his own feelings he cried: “Come on!”
Grimly his men followed.
On in the darkness they stumbled, now scarcely seeing where they were going, and again blinded by fierce lights. Their ears were deafened by the rattle and bang and roar of big and little guns.
“Why don’t you call out?” suggested one of the remaining men in Jimmy’s small command. “Maybe Bob and Roger could hear you and answer. Then you’d know where they are.”
“Good idea! I will!” shouted Jimmy. He had to yell just then, for a burst of artillery fire from the German lines, answering the guns of the Americans, drowned all ordinary talk.
Then, when it was comparatively quiet again, Jimmy cried:
“Bob! Roger! Where are you? We’re coming to the rescue!”
“Americans over this way!” was shouted in answer. “Over to your right!”
Whether or not this was either Bob or Roger, Jimmy could not tell. But the words were English, though immediately afterward could be heard guttural German voices.
“That’s funny!” said one of Jimmy’s men. “I thought the main fighting was over to our left. Now they tell us to go to our right.”
“Well, we’ll take a chance,” said Jimmy.
He turned and was about to lead his small command in that direction when they were subjected to a fierce burst of fire. There was no time to drop and escape it, though Jimmy called to the men to lie flat as soon as he realized that a machine gun was aimed in their direction. For two of his men there was never any more need of orders. They were instantly killed, and one was so wounded that he could not move. This only left Jimmy and two men. But the sergeant had no thought of turning back.