A boy fell injured between the barbed wire in front of his trench and the enemy, in that No Man’s Land of so many tragedies. His comrades, afraid of hitting him, stopped firing.
“Go on!” he called to them. “No matter about me. Shoot at them!”
So they fired, and he writhed for a moment.
“I got one of yours that time!” he said.
The Germans retired, but the boy still lay on the ground, beyond reach. He ceased moving, and they thought he was dead. One may believe that they hoped he was dead. It was more merciful than the slow dying of No Man’s Land. But after a time he raised his head.
“Look out,” he called. “They are coming again. They are almost up to me!”
That is all of that story.
FRENCH GUNS IN ACTION
The car stopped. We were at the wireless and telephone headquarters for the French Army of the North. It was a low brick building, and outside, just off the roadway, was a high van full of telephone instruments. That it was moved from one place to another was shown when, later in the day, returning by that route, we found the van had disappeared.
It was two o’clock. The German wireless from Berlin had just come in. At three the receiving station would hear from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It was curious to stand there and watch the operator, receivers on his ears, picking up the German message. It was curious to think that, just a little way over there, across a field or two, the German operator was doing the same thing, and that in an hour he would be receiving the French message.
All the batteries of the army corps are—or were—controlled from that little station. The colonel in charge came out to greet us, and to him Captain Boisseau gave General Foch’s request to show me batteries in action.
The colonel was very willing. He would go with us himself. I conquered a strong desire to stand with the telephone building between me and the German lines, now so near, and looked about. A French aeroplane was overhead, but there was little bustle and activity along the road. It is a curious fact in this war that the nearer one is to the front the quieter things become. Three or four miles behind there is bustle and movement. A mile behind, and only an occasional dispatch rider, a few men mending roads, an officer’s car, a few horses tethered in a wood, a broken gun carriage, a horse being shod behind a wall, a soldier on a lookout platform in a tree, thickets and hedges that on occasion spout fire and death—that is the country round Ypres and just behind the line, in daylight.
We were between Ypres and the Allied line, in that arc which the Germans are, as I write, trying so hard to break through. The papers say that they are shelling Ypres and that it is burning. They were shelling it that day also. But now, as then, I cannot believe it is burning. There was nothing left to burn.