"Very well, sir. I'll do my best."
"I'm sure you will. Two machine gun teams are going up with us, and some time tomorrow a Missouri battalion comes up to support. I'd have had you over here before, but I only got my orders to relieve yesterday. We may have to advance under shell fire. The enemy has been putting a lot of big stuff over; he wants to cut off that trench."
Claude and David got into a fresh shell hole, under the half-burned scrub, and fell asleep. They were awakened at dusk by heavy artillery fire from the north.
At ten o'clock the Battalion, after a hot meal, began to advance through almost impassable country. The guns must have been pounding away at the same range for a long while; the ground was worked and kneaded until it was soft as dough, though no rain had fallen for a week. Barclay Owens and his engineers were throwing down a plank road to get food and the ammunition wagons across. Big shells were coming over at intervals of twelve minutes. The intervals were so regular that it was quite possible to get forward without damage. While B Company was pulling through the shell area, Colonel Scott overtook them, on foot, his orderly leading his horse.
"Know anything about that light over there, Wheeler?" he asked. "Well, it oughtn't to be there. Come along and see."
The light was a mere match-head down in the ground, Claude hadn't noticed it before. He followed the Colonel, and when they reached the spark they found three officers of A Company crouching in a shell crater, covered with a piece of sheet-iron.
"Put out that light," called the Colonel sharply. "What's the matter, Captain Brace?"
A young man rose quickly. "I'm waiting for the water, sir. It's coming up on mules, in petrol cases, and I don't want to get separated from it. The ground's so bad here the drivers are likely to get lost."