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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

Aeroplane shellings decidedly were not


Page 70


"Keep under the tree! Keep under the tree!" warned the General sharply. "If he sees us all standing here, and gets away, he will report this as an important point and it will rain 'marmites' for days to come."

So he, his staff-officers, Eyre and I grouped ourselves under a big tree and stared up at the approaching aeroplane through the gaps in its branches.

"Whang!" A "soixante-quinze" exploded violently in the woods close by, and I jumped equally violently.

"Whang! Whang! Whang!" came three more shots in extremely close succession.

"You've got a whole battery shooting, haven't you?" I remarked.

"Oh, no! There is only one gun located just there. It does not waste time in firing, does it?" smiled the General. "Our 'soixante-quinze' field-guns can shoot twenty-five shots a minute."

Other guns in the immediate neighborhood took up the chorus, and, looking through our glasses, we could see little soft white cloudlets puff into being all around the aeroplane.

But he kept sailing calmly on.

A little further

off in the woods came a staccato rat! tat! tat! tat! tat! like a boy drawing a stick along a picket fence.

"There goes one of our mitrailleuses at work on him."

We were completely absorbed in watching the soft little clouds playfully dancing along ahead of the lazily drifting aeroplane, when the General's voice brought us back to earth.

"Come! Come! We must hurry or we shall be late for lunch. I did not realize how late it was."

I looked at him in horror. What! Forsake the sensations of this moment for such a thing as a lunch! Any one of those gentle little white puffs might transform the aeroplane into a hurtling mass of flame. Lunch!

But the General was entirely sincere and very positive. From his point of view Boche aeroplanes could be shot at any hour of the day, but lunch was an event which took place only once in the twenty-four hours. Lunch was the recognized symbol of hospitality; aeroplane shellings decidedly were not.

As we reluctantly followed him through the woods he may have noticed my disappointment, for he remarked:

"It is highly improbable that you would see anything more than you already have seen. They are very difficult things to hit, you know. As a matter of fact, we were doing most of our shooting in front of him rather than at him, so as to head him back. But he evidently has his nerve with him, for he has kept right on and got away from us. Listen! Our guns have stopped, and there are the guns I telephoned to at Number 12 taking a shy at him."

As we hiked along at the General's favorite pace Captain F---- diffidently suggested:

"And the batteries, mon General, in which this gentleman was much interested. I suppose there will be no opportunity to see them?"

"Oh, there is really nothing interesting about them, as they are not firing to-day. The pieces are scattered all over the hillside in the woods, and the crews are having their lunch. But as a matter of fact our route home takes us right by one 120-millimetre gun and we can have a look at that."

Walking down the rear slope of the hill, we came upon a party of soldiers, apparently out for a picnic, eating their lunch on a rustic table, with pine branches over their heads and fragrant pine needles under their feet.

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