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   Chapter 30 THE ATTACK

The Boy Allies with Haig in Flanders; Or, the Fighting Canadians of Vimy Ridge By Clair W. Hayes Characters: 8266

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

It was three minutes to the attack or less, and the hurricane fire of the French artillery swept cyclonic over the German lines.

A thousand yards away, more or less, as the ground gave advantage, the French front-line trenches were filled with men awaiting the hour of 10-two minutes off now-to go over the top.

The German batteries, behind, knew that the time was near; but just when it would be, in two minutes, or in ten or in an hour-they did not know. When the fire of the French guns lifted, they did not know whether it would be to let the poilus assault, or whether it would be only to trick the German infantry and machine-gun men out of their tunnels and dugouts to meet the frightful fall of the French hurricane fire again.

But the German guns doubled their response now when the French trebled theirs.

One minute to 10 o'clock!

Chester, lying in a shell hole with, his bag, of grenades open before him, felt a shock on his back. A bit of shell or shrapnel had struck him, but he moved his arms and, except for the stinking pain, he was all right. He choked-and instantly held his breath. A bit of metal, flying from somewhere, had pierced his gas mask. The tear was right before his mouth. He thrust the fabric into his mouth and bit it, holding it tight between his lips. That patched the hole; there was no other. He breathed again without choking.

Ten o'clock!

From over the German front-line trenches, a half mile or more forward, the storm of the French artillery fire had lifted-lifted to add to the cyclone of shells sweeping the reserve lines. The German star-shells, rising and floating and glaring constellations, spread their garish light over the front, and showed the French charging forward in the open.

They rushed onward, few falling, almost unopposed. For the Germans in the front-line trenches-those who had not been withdrawn under that hurricane of shells-were dead or crouched down, stunned, and in stupor.

The French took the advanced trenches, the second supporting, and came on.

Now, from the "pill-boxes"-the few scattered points for machine-gun support which the artillery had not found-resistance came. The French, though fewer, came on.

Before Chester, lying with his bag of grenades open at the edge of a shell crater, the ground suddenly opened and, a great causeway gaped down into the earth. Where solid ground had seemed to be, men were rushing forth-German infantrymen with rifles and bayonets fixed to the counter-attack.

Off to the right twenty yards another such gap yawned in the ground.

And Chester, rising, hurled a missile from the bag he had carried.

It burst among the emerging men; he hurled another. A leap of blue flame, which flared high and blinding, followed its detonation. He hurled at the other causeway, first halting by a bomb the out rush of men; and thus he marked the mouth of this second causeway the next instant by a sheet of blue game.

Off to the side, 200 yards, blue flames shot up and glared. Hal was alive, that meant-at least, he had been alive a moment ago, calling shells upon himself from the French batteries, as well as attack from the Germans coming from the ground.

For the shells already were arriving; one burst just beside the great causeway and blocked it.

The shell annihilated the men rushing at Chester. He rolled over, deaf and unseeing. Shells were coming true and straight. An aeroplane appeared overhead so close down that Chester could see it plainly in the light of the star-shells when his sight came back. Aeroplanes were guiding the guns and dropping aerial torpedoes.

One landed in the mouth of that other causeway and blew it out of shape, and this was the last thing which, for a long time, Chester remembered.

When Chester opened his eyes, he lay on a bed with the whitest of sheets. For a moment he could remember nothing, then the details of the great battle carve back to him.

His first thought, naturally, was of Hal. He sat up in bed. There, in another bed in the center of what Chester now recognized as a hospital tent, lay Hal, his head swathed in bandages.

"He's safe, anyhow," said Chester to himself.

The lad passed a hand across his head, and ascertained that his head also was wrapped tightly, and that there were more bandages around his body.

"Wonder what's the matter with me?" he muttered. "I don't remember being hit, and here I am all wrapped up like a baby doll. I must be in pretty bad shape."

Nevertheless, now that his mind had been eased regarding Hal's safety,

Chester soon closed his eyes, again and slept.

It was late the following day that the lad was aroused by the sound of voices at his bedside. One voice he recognized as Hal's, the other came to him later. It was the voice of Stubbs.

Chester opened his eyes, and gazed at the little war correspondent.

The latter spoke first.

"The sleeper awakes," he said to Hal. "See, Chester thinks it's time to get up, and I'm not a bit sure he isn't right. He's been in bed for four days now. That's longer than I ever slept."

"I'm not so weak I can't get out of here and pull, your nose," declared

Chester, sitting up.

Anthony Stubbs grinned.

"I feel pretty safe right here," he said.

"What's the matter with me, anyway?" demanded Chester. "Hello there, Hal. What's the trouble with you? You seem to be pretty well bunged up."

"Guess neither of us is going to die," said Hal with a smile. "The doctor tells me that we both have holes in our heads, and that we have a few pieces of shell in our legs and bodies. He says we are about the luckiest pair he ever saw."

"How long does he figure we must stay in bed;"' Chester wanted to know.

"He said something about thirty days," said Stubbs, with another grin.

"Then he's barking up the wrong tree," Chester declared. "I don't feel exactly lovely, but I know I'm not going to stay here a month. Any broken bones, Hal?"

"No; and neither have you, according to the doctor. He said that we should be able to get about in a week or two."

"Well, that's a little better," Chester grumbled. "What do you mean by telling me a month, Stubbs?"

"I didn't say he said a month," Stubbs protested. "I said the doctor said something about thirty days, and so he did. He said that most men would have to lie in bed thirty days with your wounds, but that he felt you would be able to leave the hospital sooner because of a pair of remarkably fine constitutions."

"I think you were trying to have a little fun with me, Stubbs," Chester declared.

"You know I wouldn't joke with a sick boy," said Stubbs.

"No, I don't know it, either, Stubbs; and when I get out of here, I shall make it a point to get even with you."

"To get even?" Stubbs exploded. "You listen to me. You're even and a long ways ahead right now. In fact, you're so far ahead that I couldn't get even with you in a life time. However, when you get well, I'm going to have a try."

"You'd better not fool with me, Stubbs," said Chester. "I'm liable to get out of here right now and have a little bout with you."

"Well," said Stubbs, "I can lick you now."

Chester grinned.

"Guess you're right," he said. "Maybe I had better postpone it. By the way, did the attack succeed?"

"Did it?" exclaimed Stubbs enthusiastically. "I rather think it did. The French have advanced from four to five miles into the enemy's lines; and I overheard a man say if it had not been for your work in bottling up the enemy underground the French would have been surprised and hurled back."

"Well, I'm glad we helped," said Hal simply.

"And I'll be glad when we can help some more," declared Chester. "It won't be long before we are up and doing again."

"I should think you had had enough," said Stubbs.

"We haven't, though," said Hal. "Now, run away, Mr. Stubbs, and come back later. I want to take a little snooze."

"Same here," said Chester.

Both made themselves as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. And while they are taking a much-needed rest, we will bid them a brief adieu, only to meet them later on in a succeeding volume, entitled: "THE BOY ALLIES WITH PERSHING IN FRANCE; OR, OVER THE TOP WITH UNCLE SAM'S WARRIORS."


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