"Ach! Yes! Water!" faintly moaned the Polish lad. His voice was a moan, but it was his voice. He opened his eyes, looked almost uncomprehendingly at his two chums and smiled faintly.
"So, come you haf!" he murmured. "Think I did dat you would!"
His head, which he had raised, sank back limply.
"Here!" cried Jimmy, opening his canteen. "Drink this!"
Poor Iggy did, gratefully enough. Some of the water trickled over his face, and when Roger wiped it away some of the blood and dirt went with it.
"Why he isn't hurt much--not up here, anyhow!" cried Jimmy. "I thought sure his whole head was blown off the way he looked."
"Well, let's get him out of here and look at him afterward," counseled Roger, and they resumed their work until the Polish lad's body was all exposed. Then he was lifted out, and in a little while it was ascertained that he was not seriously injured--at least outwardly. His arms and legs were whole, and there was no big wound, though he was terribly scratched and bruised.
"But why stand up can not I!" asked Iggy, for Roger and Jimmy were supporting him with their arms around him down in the sh.e.l.l hole.
"I guess he means why can't he stand up," translated Roger, for sometimes their foreign Brother misplaced his English words considerably.
"Sure! Why can't not I stand?" went on Iggy. "My legs--they is got no business to 'em. Like paper legs they is!"
Roger and Jimmy looked apprehensively at one another. This loss of feeling and muscular power in Iggy's legs might indicate that his spine was injured--that his whole lower body was paralyzed!
"We've got to get him to the rear--to a hospital," said Roger in a low voice, as the Polish lad's head drooped weakly on his shoulder.
"Yes," a.s.sented Jimmy. "But can we carry him?"
They looked about for some means of getting Iggy to the top of the sh.e.l.l hole. That would be the most difficult part of the rescue. Then, to their surprise, the two who had come back to seek their friend, heard a hail on the rim of the crater above them.
"What's the matter down there?" came the cry. "Do you want help!"
"You said it!" voiced Jimmy, vigorously.
"All right. Wait a minute. We'll be right down!"
It was two stretcher-bearers who had hailed, and, a little later, Ignace Pulinski was being carried to the rear. He had fainted when brought to the top of the sh.e.l.l hole.
A DOUBLE LOSS
After waiting a moment on the ground at the top of the sh.e.l.l crater, to see their comrade being carried to a first-aid dressing station at the rear, Jimmy and Roger started back to join their two friends who were still, it was to be hoped, waiting for orders to advance.
"S'pose he's much hurt?" asked Roger, something like a dry sob choking him as he thought of poor Iggy.
"I'm afraid so--yes," answered Jimmy. "That business of his legs feeling numb is a bad sign. It's a wonder he lived as long as he did, after what happened to him."
"I'll say so!" agreed Roger. "Tough luck all right!"
"Why," went on his chum as they started back toward their former places, "it looked as if his whole face was blown in. I can't understand it"
"Well, they'll do the best they can for him back there," and Roger nodded toward the dressing stations. "Maybe we'll get a chance to go to see him after this battle."
His words were drowned in a new roar of artillery and machine-gun fire. The heavy booming and the short, sharp, rattling explosions of the smaller guns seemed very close at hand.
"Something's doing!" cried Jimmy.
"Come on!" shouted his chum, and, with their rifles and gas masks, which they had brought up out of the sh.e.l.l hole, they rushed forward.
And as they advanced they became aware of shrill, whistling sounds in the air about them.
"Duck! Duck!" yelled Roger. "They're firing over our sector now!
We've got to crawl back!"
Jimmy realized this as well as did his chum, and, in another moment, the two were making their way back to their line as they had left it, by alternately moving on their hands and knees and again by working themselves forward on their elbows and stomach. It was the only safe way. The horizontal storm of missiles was, fortunately, about three feet above them, but that distance precluded walking upright.
"Come on, boys! Fall in! Fall in!" cried their lieutenant as Roger and Jimmy got back "We're going to advance. You're just in time!"
"Did you find him?" asked Bob, as he leaped to his feet in readiness for a dash toward the German lines.
"Yes. In a sh.e.l.l hole!" yelled Jimmy, for the firing was heavy on both sides of them now, making a vicious din.
"Alive!" Franz wanted to know.
"Yes, alive, but how long he'll be that way it's hard to say,"
answered Roger. "He was under a pile of dirt and--"
"Come on! Come on!" cried the lieutenant. "We're going to finish the job!"
He was leading his men, not driving them on as do the Germans, and n.o.bly the four Brothers and their fellows followed the gallant lieutenant.
On they rushed--ever onward. About them swept the leaden hail of death. Shoulder to shoulder, firing from the hip, rushed the four Khaki Boys. And even in that terrible din of battle they spared a thought for the gallant comrade who would have been with him if he could.
With wild yells the Sammies swept over the first line of German trenches. The Boches had deserted them in the face of a withering rifle and machine-gun fire.
"Come on! Come on!" yelled the lieutenant again and again. "They're laying down a perfect barrage for us! The Huns can't get through to attack us!"
This was true, to a certain extent. Supported by the big guns in the rear, the 509th Infantry was rushing onward. Before them, and ever moving forward, was a never-ending curtain of fire--a hail of lead and steel.
As this curtain advanced, caused by the continual but slow elevation of the muzzles of the big guns, the infantry followed. And this fire kept the German support from coming to save the lines that were under attack.
"Wipe 'em out! Wipe out the Hun nests!" cried the lieutenant.
"It's our turn now!" grimly shouted Roger in Jimmy's ear.
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