“If we live through this,” Jimmy was saying, “I’m going to get leave and see if I can’t find Maxwell. It isn’t so much for the sake of the money as it is for him. He was a good friend to me.”
“To all of us,” declared Bob.
“Well, I can’t imagine what has become of him,” said Roger. “If he—”
There was no chance for further words, for at that moment it seemed as if all the thunderstorms from the beginning of the world to the present time had broken loose at once.
“It’s our barrage!” cried Jimmy. “Get ready to go over and fight!”
And ten minutes later the five Brothers were in the midst of the most desperate struggle in which they had had a part since the start of the World War.
THE LONELY HUT
And now it was that Jimmy and his chums were advancing across a dangerous stretch, protected by their own barrage. They rushed forward shouting, though it was hard for any one to hear his own voice, so terrific was the din.
There was little use in firing rifles now. The shrapnel from the American guns would take care of any Germans among which it fell. But when the barrage ceased, and the infantry would rush forward to try to take the Hun positions—then would come the most deadly fighting.
Forward, foot by foot, rushed the Khaki Boys, and on either side of them their bunkies also advanced. They were to go forward until their barrage ceased.
But it was not easy going after the first rush, for the Germans had awakened to the importance of the pending battle and they were now sending over a counter-barrage. With a roar that matched the opening chorus of the American guns, those of the Boche sent out their missiles of death.
And many of the shrapnel bullets, or pieces of exploding shells, found their marks. The ground was strewn with dead and dying, for the German barrage was meeting with and passing through that of the Americans.
Yet the advance never stopped. Company after company of khaki-clad youths and men rushed from the trenches and started across that vale of death. They advanced in battle formation—not too close together—for that offered too good a target for the machine-guns, and though many nests had been wiped out, many still remained.
Suddenly the awful ear-rending chorus on the American side died away as if by magic. The silence was almost as appalling as had been the terrific noise, for it portended more.
“Come, on!” cried the officers to their men. “Come on! Wipe out the Huns!”
And the men followed them to victory or death.
Jimmy found himself yelling and firing his rifle as rapidly as he could pull the trigger. For a moment the five Brothers, all together, seemed to be in comparative safety. But then bullets began to sing about their heads like angry wasps.