Fortunately for them, they were in a section of the trench that was protected on either side by artificial abuttments of hard dirt and stones thrown up by the troops and these caught heavy beams and rocks and other debris that would have showered down upon them and crushed them to death. A great log, or such it appeared, came down lengthwise and struck the abuttments on either side of the pit into which the lads had fallen; a second did likewise and these prevented the shower of rocks and pieces of big guns from going through. It was all that saved the lads.
Then more earth fell and covered these and the pit was effectually sealed. Below there was no light, and when Hal and Chester regained their feet neither could see light above. They groped for each other in the dark and at last clasped hands.
“Great Scott! What’s happened?” gasped Chester. “Where are we?”
“We are in a pit caused by the explosion of that shell,” said Hal, quietly. “The next question is how to get out.”
He put a hand above his head, but could touch nothing. He tried jumping, but with no better success.
“I can’t reach the top,” he said.
The lads felt around the sides of the pit. The walls were sheer. It was useless to think of getting up that way.
“Well, we’re up against it,” said Hal. “I don’t know how we are to get out of here. By Jove! It’s lucky we weren’t killed by the shell.”
“We might just as well have been as to die down here,” said Chester.
“Buck up, old man,” said Hal. “We’re not dead yet and while there’s life there’s hope. We’ve been in some ticklish positions before and pulled through all right.”
“We were never in a hole like this before,” said Chester.
Hal had made his way to one side of the pit.
“Here,” he called to Chester, “you climb up on my shoulders and see if you can reach the top.”
Chester did as Hal suggested and his efforts were rewarded by touching something overhead.
“What luck?” asked Hal.
“Good,” said Chester. “I have touched something. Feels like a log.”
“Can you pull it loose?”
“If I do we’re likely to be crushed down here.”
“If you don’t we’re likely to suffocate down here,” returned Hal. “I can scarcely get my breath now. We’ll have to take a chance.”
“Then I’ll have a try at it,” said Chester. “Be ready to crouch close to the side of the pit when I give the word. I’ll come down on top of you and we’ll trust to luck that the debris falls clear.”
“All right,” said Hal. “Yell when you’re ready.”
Again Chester tested the covering with his hands. At last he struck a spot where he could obtain a grip. He decided to throw his weight on it and see if it would come down. He took a firm hold and then called:
“All right, Hal! Stoop quickly!”