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Army Boys in the French Trenches by Homer Randall

He had won in the duel of silence


Convinced

at last that it was safe to move, they commenced to crawl along the outside of the wire, trying by the sense of touch to find out what havoc had been made in it by the American artillery fire and where it would be easiest to break through.

They had drawn on rubber gloves, for they knew that the Germans sometimes charged the wires with electricity, and a touch with the bare hand would mean instant death.

But that day the fighting had been so fierce and the enemy had been kept so busy in resisting the American onslaught that no such precaution had been taken. And this better than anything else told the boys how badly the enemy had been shaken.

At several places they found gaps that had been made by the Yankee guns, and these they widened by the use of the wire cutters that they carried in their belts.

At each such breach the boys tied small pieces of white rag, so that on the next day these fluttering bits of white could be seen through field glasses by the American officers, and the full force of guns and men could be brought to bear against these weakened portions of the line.

They worked rapidly and silently, timing their cutting with the roar of the guns that still kept up the artillery duel, so that the click of the nippers would be drowned in the heavier sound.

Little

by little in the course of the work, the members of the patrol had drawn apart, depending upon their ability to rejoin each other by following the line of the wire.

Frank found himself working on a specially tangled bit of wire that was made still more difficult of handling because it was intertwisted with the stalks of a thick hedge. He had just nipped a piece of wire in two, when his quick ear detected a sound on the other side of the hedge.

Instantly he stiffened. Every muscle became as taut as tempered steel. He scarcely seemed to breathe while his unwinking eyes tried to bore through the mass of tangled brush and wire to see what was on the other side.

There too the rustling sound had ceased and a silence prevailed as deep as his own.

For minutes that seemed ages this condition persisted. Then slowly, so slowly that Frank at first was not sure that he saw aright, a slender spear-like point broke the outline of the top of the hedge. Only the fact that it stood out against the dim light that came from the enemy trench enabled Frank to see it at all.

Gradually the object rose higher until it seemed to broaden out at the base; and then with a quickening of the pulse Frank realized that what he saw was the spike of a German helmet!

He had won in the duel of silence. The other, unable to stand the strain, had risen first. Would he win in the grimmer duel that seemed to be impending?

Frank's fingers stole toward his revolver, but stopped before they reached it. There must be no shooting so near the enemy trench. A horde of Germans would be upon him in a twinkling.

His rifle lay beside him where he had placed it while working on the wire. His fingers closed upon the stock. Here was a weapon that he might use at either end with deadly effect. The butt could serve as a club, while the bayonet, painted black like the rest of his accoutrements so that no glimmer of steel should betray it, carried death on its point.


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