The orders had been to hold at all hazards; but that had not been enough for the doughboys, they and the leather-necks had seized the offensive and sent the Germans reeling back. The very pride of the Prussian army had been worsted by these new troops from overseas, at whom they had mocked, whose very existence they had scouted.
It was a blow from which “Fritz” never recovered; he never gained another foot, and it was the beginning of a retreat that did not stop until it reached the Rhine. And the Yanks had done it—the Yanks, with the help of Jimmie Higgins! For Jimmie had got there first; Jimmie had held the fort while the Yanks were coming! Yes, truly; if he hadn’t stuck by that machine-gun and helped to work it, if he hadn’t hid in that shell-hole, emptying the contents of a rifle and an automatic pistol into the charging Huns, if he hadn’t held them up that precious hour—why, they might have swept over this position, and the Yanks might not have had a chance to deploy, and the victory of “Chatty Terry” might not have gone resounding down the ages! The whole course of the world’s history might have been different, if one little Socialist machinist from Leesville, U.S.A., had not chanced to be wandering through “Bellow Wood” in search of a fabulous and never-discovered “Botteree Normb Cott!”
JIMMIE HIGGINS SEES THE OTHER SIDE
But these exultations and glory-thoughts were reserved for a later stage of Jimmie Higgins’s life. At present he was weak, and his head was splitting, and his left arm burning like fire. And on top of this came a happening so strange that it drove the whole battle from his thoughts. He was walking on a path with his French companions, when one of them noticed a man in a French uniform lying on the ground a little way to one side. He was not a soldier, but a hospital-orderly or stretcher-bearer, as you could tell by the white bandage with a red cross on his arm. He had been shot through the shoulder, and someone had plugged up the wound and left him; so now the French soldiers helped him to his feet and started to lead him back. Jimmie watched them, and when he saw the man’s face, the conviction stole over him that he had seen that face before. He had seen it, or one incredibly like it—and under circumstances of intense emotion. The old emotion stirred in the depths of his subconsciousness, and suddenly it burst to the surface, an explosion of excitement. It could not be! The idea was absurd! But—it must be! It was! The wounded French stretcher-bearer was Lacey Granitch!
The young heir of the Empire Machine Shops might never have known the little Socialist machinist; but recognition was so evident on Jimmie’s face, that Lacey was set groping in his own mind. Now and then as the party walked along he stole an uneasy glance at his fellow-countryman; and presently when they struck a road, and sat down to rest and wait for a vehicle of some sort, Lacey put himself beside Jimmie and began: “You’re the fellow that was in the house that night, aren’t you?”