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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

This having been carefully explained to the chauffeur


So

now we had to admire the way one officer had had his sleeping-shack wall-papered, how another had invented some home-made shower-baths, how a third had had a genuine heavy wooden bedstead installed instead of a camp cot.

However, finally we made our adieus and motored away with full directions from the General as to how to meet him at 4 o'clock at an observation-post from which he was to witness an interesting bombardment. As it was then a quarter to 3, my hopes of getting into the trenches began to look slim.

We were now motoring straight toward the front over a stretch of country which the Germans had been profusely bombarding. The road was full of holes where the Belgian blocks had been torn out by shells. We bumped over the shallower ones and dodged the deeper ones, but every now and then the chauffeur would miscalculate the depth of a hole and the car would come down on its axle with a prodigious thump. By shutting one's eyes one could easily imagine one's self taxicabbing along a New York side-street.

The guns had, of course, by now resumed work after their lunch-time siesta and were grumbling away at each other in great shape. Presently we came to a deserted village, which could be seen from some of the German artillery positions and which they shelled on the slightest provocation. The General had particularly told us to run through the village in a hurry, especially

across the open place around the church. When we got safely out of the other end of the place, he had said, we might leave our motor and sneak back on foot to take photographs. This having been carefully explained to the chauffeur, he bumped us swiftly down the ruined main street, reached the open place by the church, where he had to turn to the right, came suddenly on top of a big, deep shell-hole, just dodged it by slapping on his emergency, and stood stock-still trying to get into first speed.

[Illustration: Page 127

"THE CHAUFFEUR REACHED THE OPEN PLACE BY THE CHURCH"]

[Illustration: Page 127

ON THE SHATTERED CHURCH HUNG THIS CRUCIFIX INTACT THOUGH SURROUNDED BY SHRAPNEL HOLES]

The Commandant cursed and I swore, the Commandant's orderly sitting next the chauffeur shook his fist at the chauffeur, and the chauffeur shook one fist at his gears while with the other he wrenched and hauled at his lever.

There is no use denying that we were all equally nervous. Every instant we expected to see the first of a stream of shells explode near us. Finally, after the suspense had in reality lasted not more than six or eight seconds, the accursed low gear meekly meshed and we bumped off down the side-street, heaving deep sighs of relief.


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