After supper the men fell on their packs and began to lighten them, throwing away all that was not necessary, and much that was. Many of them abandoned the new overcoats that had been served out at the railhead; others cut off the skirts and made the coats into ragged jackets. Captain Maxey was horrified at these depredations, but the Colonel advised him to shut his eyes. "They've got hard going before them; let them travel light. If they'd rather stand the cold, they've got a right to choose."
The Battalion had twenty-four hours' rest at Rupprecht trench, and then pushed on for four days and nights, stealing trenches, capturing patrols, with only a few hours' sleep,--snatched by the roadside while their food was being prepared. They pushed hard after a retiring foe, and almost outran themselves. They did outrun their provisions; on the fourth night, when they fell upon a farm that had been a German Headquarters, the supplies that were to meet them there had not come up, and they went to bed supperless.
This farmhouse, for some reason called by the prisoners Frau Hulda farm, was a nest of telephone wires; hundreds of them ran out through the walls, in all directions. The Colonel cut those he could find, and then put a guard over the old peasant who had been left in charge of the house, suspecting that he was in the pay of the enemy.
At last Colonel Scott got into the Headquarters bed, large and lumpy,--the first one he had seen since he left Arras. He had not been asleep more than two hours, when a runner arrived with orders from the Regimental Colonel. Claude was in a bed in the loft, between Gerhardt and Bruger. He felt somebody shaking him, but resolved that he wouldn't be disturbed and went on placidly sleeping. Then somebody pulled his hair,--so hard that he sat up. Captain Maxey was standing over the bed.
"Come along, boys. Orders from Regimental Headquarters. The Battalion is to split here. Our Company is to go on four kilometers tonight, and take the town of Beaufort."
Claude rose. "The men are pretty well beat out, Captain Maxey, and they had no supper."
"That can't be helped. Tell them we are to be in Beaufort for breakfast."
Claude and Gerhardt went out to the barn and roused Hicks and his pal, Dell Able. The men were asleep in dry straw, for the first time in ten days. They were completely worn out, lost to time and place. Many of them were already four thousand miles away, scattered among little towns and farms on the prairie. They were