“No,” said Stubbs, “I am going to keep it to myself.” He added under his breath: “The young cubs! Trying to pump an old-timer like me to see how much I know!”
“You mean you are not even going to tell the general?” asked Hal.
“That’s what I mean,” said Stubbs.
Hal and Chester exchanged glances. They wondered what had come over the little man so suddenly. Stubbs caught the interchange of glances and again he read it wrong. To Stubbs it appeared that there was relief on their features.
Stubbs shook his head.
“I’m going to turn in,” he said.
Not another word could the lads get out of him, try as they would. But Stubbs, on his cot, did not sleep immediately. Covertly he watched the two lads as they talked in tones too low for him to hear, strain his ears as he would.
“Well, I guess I don’t need to hear ’em,” he told himself. “I can guess what it’s all about.”
He rolled over and went to sleep.
But the nature of the lads’ conversation was a whole lot different from what Stubbs thought it was, though it concerned the little man himself.
“Something wrong with him,” said Chester.
“Right you are,” agreed Hal. “Talks like we had offended him or something.”
“Maybe he just wants to keep us guessing.”
“That might be it. Anyhow, if he doesn’t tell us to-morrow, I’m going to tell him what I think of him.”
“Then he won’t talk,” said Chester.
“We might be able to get him mad enough to make him talk,” returned Hal.
“By Jove! so we might,” said Chester. “We’ll have a try at it to-morrow if it’s necessary.”
“All right. Then let’s turn in. I’ve a feeling it’s going to be a strenuous day to-morrow.”
And it was; though not strenuous in the way Hal had expected.
A PERILOUS SITUATION
Hal and Chester held no conversation with Anthony Stubbs the following day, and therefore were unable to learn more than they already knew of the war correspondent’s great “story.”
Before they rose Stubbs was up and gone, and when he returned, several hours later, Hal and Chester were receiving orders from General Petain.
The German advance had continued the day before in spite of the heroic stand of the French troops. Successive charges by the Teuton hordes had driven the defenders back along practically the entire front. Here, with the coming of night, they had taken a brace with the arrival of reinforcements and had stemmed the tide; but not a man failed to realize that there would be more desperate work on the morrow.
The French lines now had been pushed back well to the west of the city of Verdun itself and the civil population of the town had fled. The town had been swept by the great German guns until hardly one stone remained upon another. North of the city, the French had been bent back as the Germans thrust a wedge into the defending lines almost to the foot of Dead Man’s Hill.