Bruce eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 112 pages of information about Bruce.

CHAPTER IV.  When Eyes Were No Use

“Yes, it’s an easy enough trade to pick up,” lectured Top-Sergeant Mahan, formerly of the regular army.  “You’ve just got to remember a few things.  But you’ve got to keep on remembering those few, all the time.  If you forget one of ’em, it’s the last bit of forgetting you’re ever likely to do.”

Top-Sergeant Mahan, of the mixed French-and-American regiment known as “Here-We-Come,” was squatting at ease on the trench firing-step.  From that professorial seat he was dispensing useful knowledge to a group of fellow-countrymen-newly arrived from the base, to pad the “Here-We-Come” ranks, which had been thinned at the Rache attack.

“What sort of things have we got to remember, Sergeant?” jauntily asked a lanky Missourian.  “We’ve got the drill pretty pat; and the trench instructions and—­”

“Gee!” ejaculated Mahan.  “I had no idea of that!  Then why don’t you walk straight ahead into Berlin?  If you know all you say you do, about war, there’s nothing more for you to learn.  I’ll drop a line to General Foch and suggest to him that you rookies be detailed to teach the game to us oldsters.”

“I didn’t mean to be fresh,” apologized the jaunty one.  “Won’t you go ahead and tell us the things we need to remember?”

“Well,” exhorted Mahan, appeased by the newcomer’s humility, “there aren’t so many of them, after all.  Learn to duck, when you hear a Minnie grunt or a whizzbang cut loose; or a five-nine begin to whimper.  Learn not to bother to duck when the rifles get to jabbering—­for you’ll never hear the bullet that gets you.  Study the nocturnal habits of machine-guns and the ways of snipers and the right time not to play the fool.  And keep saying to yourself:  ‘The bullet ain’t molded that can get me!’ Mean it when you say it.  When you’ve learned those few things, the rest of the war-game is dead easy.”

“Except,” timidly amended old Sergeant Vivier, the gray little Frenchman, “except when eyes are—­are what you call it, no use.”  “That’s right,” assented Mahan.  “In the times when eyes are no use, all rules fail.  And then the only thing you can do is to trust to your Yankee luck.  I remember—­”

“’When eyes are no use’?” repeated the recruit.  “If you mean after dark, at night—­haven’t we got the searchlights and the starshells and all that?”

“Son,” replied Mahan, “we have.  Though I don’t see how you ever guessed such an important secret.  But since you know everything, maybe you’ll just kindly tell us what good all the lights in the world are going to do us when the filthy yellow-gray fog begins to ooze up out of the mud and the shell-holes, and the filthy gray mist oozes down from the clouds to meet it.  Fog is the one thing that all the war-science won’t overcome.  A fogpenetrator hasn’t been invented yet.  If it had been, there’d be many a husky lad living today, who has gone West, this past few years, on account of the fogs.  Fog is the boche’s pet.  It gives Fritzy a lovely chance to creep up or, us.  It—­”

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Project Gutenberg
Bruce from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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