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Army Boys in the French Trenches by Homer Randall

Whispered Bart with a low chuckle


They

lay perfectly still, although each of them took a tighter grasp on his rifle.

The men conversed in guttural tones for several minutes, that seemed as many ages to the watchers in the shadows.

Would the Germans come toward them or walk away from them? Their lives, or at the least their liberty, might depend upon the answer.

One of the men pointed in their direction and even took a step forward, but his comrades stopped him and an animated discussion ensued, which finally resulted in their retracing their steps in the direction from which they had come.

A sigh of relief went up from the boys and their grip on their weapons relaxed.

"A mighty close shave," whispered Billy.

"It was all of that," agreed Bart.

"As close for them as it was for us," said Tom grimly. "I had that big fellow picked out and I'd have dropped him sure."

Like so many ghosts, the party drifted along in Corporal Wilson's wake until they came to the gap. A glance at the motionless sentry showed that he had not yet returned to consciousness.

"That was a knockout for fair," murmured Billy admiringly.

"He must have thought a house was falling on him," whispered Bart with

a low chuckle.

"Frank's no featherweight," agreed Tom. "I'd hate to have those trench clogs of his come down on my back with him inside of them."

A warning "s--sh" from the corporal brought them back to the grim business still before them, and they crept along behind him as he wormed his way through the breach.

Camp utensils were scattered upon the ground and indicated that a field kitchen had stood there recently, an impression that became a conviction when Bart burned his hand by bringing it down upon some smoldering embers covered with ashes.

He bit his tongue trying to repress the exclamation that leaped to his lips, but he succeeded, although his fingers were badly blistered.

Little by little, with many pauses, they reached the edge of a small section of the first trench. Nothing hindered them, no one challenged them. In fact their progress was so free from obstacles that the corporal, a wily veteran who had had long experience among the savage Moros while serving in the Philippines, became uneasy, fearing an ambush.

Still, that was one of the chances that the party had to take, and there was nothing to do but to keep on. But they redoubled their precautions, every sense tingling with watchfulness against a sudden surprise.

They worked their way along the trench until they reached the entrance. No sound came from the interior. They listened for the murmur of conversation, the scraping of feet, the clank of a weapon. They looked down its length for a ray of light. Not a gleam or a sound rewarded them.

As far as they could judge, it was absolutely deserted. But on the other hand it might be bristling with armed men, waiting in a stillness as deathlike as their own the command to fire.

For fully ten minutes their watch continued. Then the corporal gathered them close around him and gave his commands in a whisper.

"We'll raid it," he decided. "There are only a few of us, but we'll have the advantage of surprise. That is, if they're not waiting to surprise us. But we'll have to gamble on that. It's only a connecting trench, and there won't be more than a dozen men or thereabouts in it. If we could bag them and take them back to camp it would be a good night's work. Have your guns ready and be prepared to slip them a few grenades if we have to. I'll lead the way and when the time comes I'll flash my light. Come along now and be right on your toes when I give the word."


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