But then came another officer. “What have you got there?” And when Jimmie answered maps, he demanded them; he seemed as greedy for maps as a child for his gifts on Christmas morning. He ripped open the packet—what is called “cutting red tape” in the army—and spread out the papers and began to call out figures to another officer who sat on a camp stool at a little folding table, with many sheets of figures in front of him. This officer went on noting down the information—and the men at the guns went on shoving in shells and stepping back while the screaming messengers were hurled upon their way. In the rear were other men, wheeling up ammunition, unloading one of the big camions which Jimmie had been dodging on the roads. It was a regular factory, set up there in the middle of the fields, dispatching destruction to the unseen foe.
“We’re having the hell of a time,” remarked the officer, as he folded up the maps again and handed them to Jimmie. “Our wires have been cut three times in the last half-hour, and we have to shoot blind.”
“Where are the Germans?” asked Jimmie.
“Somewhere up ahead there.”
“Have you seen them?”
“Good Lord, no! We hope to move before they’re that near!”
Jimmie felt a bit reassured by the quiet, business-like demeanour of all the men in this death-factory. If they could stand the racket, no doubt he could; only, they were all together, while he had to go off by himself. Jimmie wished he had enlisted in the artillery!
He shoved the maps into the inside pocket of his jacket, and chased back to his machine and set out. He took a side-path as directed, and then a wood-road—and then he got lost. That was all there was to it—he was hopelessly lost! The path didn’t behave at all as the one he was looking for. It went through a long stretch of woods with shattered trees lying this way and that; then it crossed a field of grain, and then it plunged down into a ravine, and climbed to the other side, and up a ridge and down again. “Hell!” said Jimmie to himself. And if you could imagine all the noises in all the boiler-factories in America, you would have something less than the racket in that wood through which Jimmie was wandering, saying “Hell!” to himself.
He got to the top of the ridge, puffing and panting and dripping perspiration; and there suddenly he jumped from his machine and ran with it behind a tree-trunk and stood anxiously peering out. There were men ahead; and what sort of men? Jimmie tried to remember the pictures of Germans he had seen, and did they look like this? The air was full of smoke, which made it hard to decide; but gradually Jimmie made out one group, dragging a machine-gun on wheels; they placed it behind a ridge of ground, and began to shoot in the direction of Germany. So Jimmie advanced, but with hesitation, not wanting to interfere with