"If I can do it, you can. It's worse on a fat man like me. This is no march to make a fuss about. Why, at Arras I talked with a little Tommy from one of those Pal Battalions that got slaughtered on the Somme. His battalion marched twenty-five miles in six hours, in the heat of July, into certain death. They were all kids out of school, not a man of them over five-foot-three, called them the 'Bantams.' You've got to hand it to them, fellows."
"I'll hand anything to anybody, but I can't go no farther on these," Jones muttered, nursing his sore feet.
"Oh, you! We're going to heave you onto the only horse in the Company. The officers, they can walk!"
When they got into Battalion lines there was food ready for them, but very few wanted it. They drank and lay down in the bushes. Claude went at once to Headquarters and found Barclay Owens, of the Engineers, with the Colonel, who was smoking and studying his maps as usual.
"Glad to see you, Wheeler. Your men ought to be in good shape, after a week's rest. Let them sleep now. We've got to move out of here before midnight, to relieve two Texas battalions at Moltke trench. They've taken the trench with heavy casualties and are beat out; couldn't hold it in case of counter-attack. As it's an important point, the enemy will try to recover it. I want to get into position before daylight, so he won't know fresh troops are coming in. As ranking officer, you are in charge of the Company."
"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.