Hal glanced at his watch. “One hour exactly.”
“Good!” exclaimed the French soldier. “One half of the work done and most of us are still here. We’ll hold them!”
“Of course we’ll hold them, Francois,” exclaimed another. “Surely you didn’t think we couldn’t do it?”
“Well,” was the reply. “It’s a pretty big job and—”
“But we were ordered to hold them for two hours,” protested the other.
“Of course,” returned the man addressed as Francois. “That settles it. Two hours are two hours.”
“Right,” said the other. “Also two hours are only two hours, which makes it that much better.”
“But at the end of two hours, then what?” asked a third soldier.
The man who had first engaged Francois in conversation shrugged his shoulders.
“That,” he said, “is not for us to decide. But we will not be forgotten, you may be sure of that. Our general will see that we are relieved.”
“You may rest assured on that score,” Hal agreed. “Having picked you as the men to defend this important position, it is not to be expected that he will see you all sacrificed.”
There was another cheer from the men, followed a moment later by a shout from one at the front window.
“Here they come again, sir!”
HAL LEADS A SORTIE
Hal sprang forward and gave a quick look at the enemy.
Apparently, the assault was to be made on the same plan as before. After the last retreat of the enemy, their officers had succeeded in re-forming them beyond the zone of French fire and now were about to hurl the troops forward in another grand offensive against the farmhouse. The Germans moved forward silently and doggedly.
“It’ll be a little warmer this time,” Hal muttered to himself.
And the lad was right.
Straight on came the Germans at the charge in spite of the withering fire poured in among them by the French; straight up to the side of the house they rushed, though there were many men who did not get that far; and then the German troops deployed.
While perhaps a hundred men remained at the front of the house, apparently to seek entrance through the doorway blocked with their own dead, the others divided and dashed round the house, some to the right and some to the left.
Now, for the first time, French troops who had not been posted at the front windows came into action.
As the Germans rushed around the house, these French troops leaned from their windows on the side of the house and poured volley after volley into the German ranks. They were almost directly above the Germans and the latter were at a great disadvantage; for they could not return the fire of the French without pausing in their mad rush; and when they did pause and bring their rifles to bear upon the windows above, there were no French heads to be seen there.