“What is it!” asked Jimmie—always of the forward and pushing sort.
“The French ask for half a dozen men in a rush. They’ve had several motor-cycle units wiped out or captured.”
“Gee!” said Jimmie. “I’ll go!”
“And me!” said another. “And me!” “And me!”
“All right,” said the officer, and told them off: “You and you and you. And you, Cullen, take command. Report to French headquarters at Chatty Terry. You know where it is!”
“Sure, Mike!” said Cullen. “I been there.” Jimmie hadn’t been to “Chatty Terry”, but he knew it was somewhere across the Marne. The officer gave him a map, showing the villages through which he would go. Jimmie and his companions named these villages, using sensible language, without concession to the fool notions of the natives. Wipers, Reems, Verdoon, Devil Wood, Arm-in-tears, Saint Meal—all these Jimmie had heard about; also a place where the Americans had won their first glorious victory a week ago, and which they called, sometimes Cantinny, sometimes Tincanny. And now Jimmie was going to “Chatty Terry”, in charge of a red-headed Orangeman who a few days ago had expressed the opinion that all Socialists were traitors and should be shot!
The officer gave them passes, one for each man, in case they got separated, and they started towards the place where the new machines were lined up. On the way Jimmie had a moment of utter panic. What was this he was getting himself in for, idiot that he was? Going up there where the shells were falling, wiping out motor-cycle units! And shells that were full of poison gases, most of them! Of all the fool things he had done in his life this was the crown and climax! His knees began to shake, he turned sick inside. But then he glanced about, and caught Pat Cullen’s menacing blue eye; Jimmie returned the glare, and the spirit of battle flamed up in him, he laid hold of the handles of a motor-cycle and strode towards the door. Was any Irish mick going to catch him in a funk, and “bawl him out” before this crowd, and put the Socialist movement to shame? Not much!
JIMMIE HIGGINS MEETS THE HUN
The six motor-cyclists leaped on to their machines and went chugging down the road. Of course they raced one another; all motor-cyclists always race—and here was the best of all possible excuses, the French army in dire need of them, several of its precious cycle-units wiped out or captured! They tore along, dodging in and out between trucks and automobiles, ambulances and artillery caissons, horse-wagons and mule-wagons, achieving again and again those hair’s-breadth escapes which are the joy in life of every normal motor-cyclist. Now and then, when things were too slow, they would try a crawl in the ditches, or push their machines over the ploughed fields. So it happened that Jimmie found himself competing with his red-headed Irish enemy; there was a narrow opening between two stalled vehicles, and Jimmie made it by the width of his hand, and vaulted on to his machine and darted away, free and exulting—his own boss! He shoved in the juice and made time, you bet; no “mick” was going to catch up and shout orders at him!