"Sure," replied the farmer, and shut the window.
That one word, coming out of the dark in such an unpromising place, had a cheering effect upon the patrol, and upon the men, when it was repeated to them. "Sure, eh?" They kept laughing over it as they beat about the field and dug into the straw. Those who couldn't burrow into a stack lay down in the muddy stubble. They were asleep before they could feel sorry for themselves.
The farmer came out to offer his stable to the officers, and to beg them not on any account to make a light. They had never been bothered here by air raids until yesterday, and it must be because the Americans were coming and were sending in ammunition.
Gerhardt, who was called to talk to him, told the farmer the Colonel must study his map, and for that the man took them down into the cellar, where the children were asleep. Before he lay down on the straw bed his orderly had made for him, the Colonel kept telling names and kilometers off on his fingers. For officers like Colonel Scott the names of places constituted one of the real hardships of the war. His mind worked slowly, but it was always on his job, and he could go without sleep for more hours together than any of his officers. Tonight he had scarcely lain down, when a sentinel brought in a runner with a message. The Colonel had to go into the cellar again to read it. He was to meet Colonel Harvey at Prince Joachim farm, as early as possible tomorrow morning. The runner would act as guide.
The Colonel sat with his eye on his watch, and interrogated the messenger about the road and the time it would take to get over the ground. "What's Fritz's temper up here, generally speaking?"
"That's as it happens, sir. Sometimes we nab a night patrol of a dozen or fifteen and send them to the rear under a one-man guard. Then, again, a little bunch of Heinies will fight like the devil. They say it depends on what part of Germany they come from; the Bavarians and Saxons are the bravest."
Colonel Scott waited for an hour, and then went about, shaking his sleeping officers.
"Yes, sir." Captain Maxey sprang to his feet as if he had been caught in a disgraceful act. He called his sergeants, and they began to beat the men up out of the strawstacks and puddles. In half an hour they were on the road.