“You’re wounded,” said the other.
“It ain’t much,” said Jimmie, apologetically. “It was a long time ago, anyhow.”
“Well, you go back,” said the doughboy. “We’re here now—it’ll be all right.” He said it, not boastingly, but as a simple matter of fact. He was a mere boy, a rosy-cheeked kid with a little ugly pug-nose covered with freckles, and a wide, grinning mouth. But to Jimmie he seemed just the loveliest boy that had ever come out of the U.S.A. “Can you walk?” he asked.
“Sure!” said Jimmie.
“And these Frenchies?” The doughboy looked at the others. “You savvy their lingo?” When Jimmie shook his head, he turned to the battle-worn hairy ones. “You fellows go back,” he said. “We don’t need you now.” When they stared uncomprehending, he asked: “Polly voo Francy?”
“We, we!” cried they in one voice.
“Well, then,” said the doughboy, “go back! Go home! Toot sweet! Have sleep! Rest! We lick ’em Heinies!” As the poilus did not show much grasp of this kind of “Francy”, the doughboy boosted them to their feet, pointed to the rear, patted them on the back, and grinned with his wide mouth. “Good boy! Go home! American! American!”—as if that was enough to make clear that the work of France in this war was done! The poilus looked over the top of the shell-hole, and saw a swarm of those new fashion-plate soldiers, darting forward through the woods, throwing themselves down and shooting at the sockray Bosh. They looked at the rosy-cheeked boy with the grateful faces of dogs, and shouldered their packs and rifles and set out for the rear, helping Jimmie, who suddenly found himself very weak, and with a splitting headache.
These doughboys had a song that Jimmie had heard all the time: “The Yanks are coming!” And now the song needed to be rewritten: “The Yanks are here!” All these woods through which Jimmie had blundered with his motor-cycle were now swarming with nice, new, clean-shaven, freshly-tailored soldier-boys, turned loose to get their first chance at the Hun. Four years they had been reading about him and hating him, a year and a half they had been getting ready to hit him—and now at last they were turned loose and told to go to it! Back on the roads was an endless procession of motor-trucks, with doughboys, and also marines, or “leather-necks”, as they were called. They had started at four o’clock that morning, and ridden all day packed in like sardines; and here, a mile or two back in the woods, the trucks had come to a halt, and the sardines had jumped out and gone into this war!
Jimmie did not realize till long afterwards what a world-drama he had been witnessing. For four months the Beast had been driving at Paris; irresistibly, incessantly, eating his way like a forest fire, spreading ever wider and more fearful desolation—this Beast with the Brains of an Engineer! The world had shuddered and held its breath, knowing that if he got to Paris it would mean the end of the war, and of all things that free men value. And now here he made his last supreme rush, and the French lines wavered and cracked and gave way; and so in this desperate crisis they had brought up the truck-loads of doughboys for their first real test against the Beast.