The air was full of the scream of shells and the clatter of their bursting, an infernal din out of which he could hardly pick individual sounds. The road ahead was less crowded; the vehicles had left it, spreading out to one side or the other. How much farther ahead was that fork? And suppose the Germans had got there, and had captured “Botteree Normb Cott”—was he going to present them with a brand new motor-cycle in addition? There were other “botterees” which he passed; why couldn’t he give them the maps? Jimmie rode on, raging inwardly. If he had been a dispatch rider he would have known all about this, but he was only a repair man, and they had had no business to put such a job off on him!
There were woods about him now, the trees smashed up by shells, and Jimmie considered it the part of prudence to get off his machine and steal forward and peer out to see if there were Germans in the opening beyond. And suddenly his knees gave way, because of the fright he was in, with all this deadly racket. He became violently sick at his stomach, and began to act as he had acted on the first three days of his ocean passage from New York. At the same time all the other functions of his body began to operate. A group of Frenchmen passing by burst into hilarious laughter; it was ridiculous and humiliating, but Jimmie was powerless to help it—he wasn’t cut out for a soldier, he hadn’t agreed to be a soldier, they had had no business sending him up here where vast craters of shell-holes were opening in the ground, and whole trees were being lifted out of the earth, and the air was full of a stink which might require a gas-mask or might not—how was poor Jimmie to tell?
He mastered the awful trembling of his knees and the grotesque efforts of his body to get rid of everything inside him, and got on his machine again and stole ahead. He could only go a few rods at a time, because the road was so cut up. Should he leave the machine and run for it? Or should he go back and tell them their infernal maps were all wrong, there was no fork in the road? No—for there at last was the fork, and after Jimmie had ridden and run a hundred yards farther, there was a wheat-field, and a line of woods, and at the edge of it four guns belching flame and smoke and racket. Jimmie stood his machine in a ditch and went tearing across the fields, wild with relief, because he had found his “Botteree Normb Cott”, and could hand over his precious packet and get out of this mess as fast as two wheels would take him.
But to his dismay he found that it wasn’t the French battery, it was an American battery; the French battery was farther ahead, and a little to the right; the officer gave directions, taking it entirely for granted that Jimmie would go on to his goal.