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THERE was one flat cap above a jutting rock three hundred yards away at which Jenks had been shooting fruitlessly for half an hour. Thirty-two times he had fired, he discovered by an examination of the empty loops in his cartridge-belt, and six times he had been rewarded by seeing the flat cap disappear. But always it reappeared in the same place, and always a bullet zummed through the air above Jenks' head or whanged, into the ground to one side or the other of him.

He felt a deepening animosity against the wearer of that flat cap. This unknown might have the grace to get in the way of one of Jenks' bullets, or send one of his own into Jenks' vitals! That at least would put an abrupt end to this endless lining of sights and pulling of trigger. At the present rate it could result only in Jenks' running out of cartridges and being forced to crawl back uncomfortably to where there might be more. Three months' enlightening experience had convinced Jenks that extra ammunition was always hard to find when it was most to be desired. He did not go out of his way to lay this up against the gigantic system of which he formed a part, but accepted it as. another galling fact in a chain of unpleasant realities which went to make tip an unsatisfactory universe.

"Why don't you tick your hat up on the end of your bayonet and see if you can't make that chap break cover?" suggested a mild voice in Jenks' ear.

The private looked around to see a man in drab clothes, a slouch hat and spiral puttees lying prone on the earth behind him. He recognized him as one of the war-correspondents whom the army was kept busy chasing away from the front, where they could really see things and so write authentic reports of what was going on.

"Well, in the first place," Jenks answered argumentatively, "I don't want that hat shot full of holes. It's a good hat, and now and then it rains in this country!"

After saying which he sniffed in high disdain and proceeded to follow the other's advice, employing a chance stick instead of his bayonet for the purpose. The stratagem succeeded. The first indications of success were so violent that the war-correspondent curled up his long legs and hugged the ground closer. For the owner of the flat cap rattled a magazine full of shots through the air around Jenks' hat, then, failing to hit it, he rose to his full height for a better shot, sent the hat skimming through the air, and got one of the .30 caliber, nickel-jacketed bullets from Jenks' rifle squarely in the pit of the stomach. Jenks and the journalist witnessed the fall of the man in lie flat cap with quiet enthusiasm.

"Through the middle, I 'low!" announced Jenks.

"Very pretty!" complimented the drab-clad man, and they relapsed into silence.

THERE might have been other flat caps sticking above the gray rocks for Jenks to shoot at, but he was in no mood to hunt for them. He laid the rifle to one side, wet his finger and laid it on the barrel, which sizzled sharply. Jenks swore, waved his blistered finger and opened the breech to let the air through the barrel more freely.

"Thirty rounds and you could boil coffee on 'em!" he complained to the drab man.

The latter nodded agreeably and offered Jenks a cigarette from a leather case. Jenks took it in his big, brown, blunt-nailed fingers and looked at it critically.

"Tryin' to get a real smoke out of a cigarette," he averred, "is like tryin' to plow a forty-acre field with a penknife!"

The newspaper man laughed and scratched a match on the sole of his boot.

"You come off a farm?" he asked casually. Jenks stared at the end of his glowing cigarette and nodded soberly several times.

"And God knows why!" he added seriously.

"Maybe you came because of the same reason that drove me," suggested the journalist. "I wanted to see what this business was like."

The wagging of Jenks' head was a decided negative.

"Nope," he said, "I ain't got no such sized curiosity. I got cured o' that when I was a kid. "I wanted to see just how hard a cow could kick! I found out all right, and I can't say I was any better off for knowin.' Nope, I didn't care none what war was like. I didn't think it was goin' to be fun. I just sort of thought I ought to go. Dunno why, 'zactly. Old Man White come round and talked to a lot of us fellers down at the corners 'bout our duty. 'You oughter go,' he says. 'It's your country callin' ye, the place that give birth to ye, the land of yer fathers! It's yer duty!'"

Jenks paused to snap the butt of his cigarette at the stalk of a milkweed.

"Now me an' the U-nited States ain't never got very close together," he continued. "I allus felt that if either me or the country died overnight we wouldn't notice it none if nobody told us. But Old Man White kind o' set me to thinkin'. I never took no interest in politics; never went out to vote—didn't even enroll. All the U-nited States meant to me was an eagle on the few dollars that come my way. Old Man White used to tell me I ought to be ashamed of myself. Said I wa'n't no citizen. Maybe he was right. I was keepin' my woman an' the kids fed an' runnin' my farm, but that's 'bout as far as my bein' a citizen did go, I guess."

Jenks was interrupted again by the clatter of a short-lived fusillade along another portion of the thin skirmish-line, hidden by a twist of the ridge. He raised his eyes from the ground to watch the distant passage of. an officer's patrol of cavalrymen in wide, flapping hats. The correspondent held out the leather case again, and Jenks selected another cigarette less critically.

"They're so durned small," he said, as though to apologize for smoking another, "that a feller has to smoke another to remember what the last one tasted like! Yes, I guess Old Man White drove me off here. I got to thinkin' 'bout things a whole lot, and I just made up my mind that maybe the debt was on my side. I hadn't done very much for the country, and I judged from what I see in the papers that about a hundred thousand chaps about my size an' age would come in pretty handy, so I sent Millie an' the kids to her folks an' just come along."

He stopped abruptly, as though having reached a natural conclusion, and sat staring out at the hot ridge opposite, its tumbling, rugged rocks climbing high above the level on which he sat. His companion looked at him narrowly and shifted his position on the warm earth.

"Glad you came?" the correspondent asked lazily, chewing his words as he shifted the cigarette to the other corner of his mouth with his tongue so that he might not have to move his hands.

"No," answered Jenks with surprising alacrity, "I ain't! I hadn't ought to have done it. Three months, now, I've grubbed around this landscape, shootin' at people I ain't got nothin' against, and gettin' shot at by them. Now' there's that chap a few minutes back. I was layin' for him same's I've laid for woodchucks. I was plain mad at him for no reason't all 'cept I couldn't hit him—an' now7 he's doubled up, and maybe he's got-a wife an' kids like mine. But that ain't the point! I ain't sayin' nothin' against this here war. Maybe it's all right; I dunno. nothin' about it. But I ain't no business here; I ought 'a' stayed to home! Three months gone, an' my farm's goin' to rack. When I get back I'll hev t' borrow money to get things squared up, an' it'll take me the Lord's own while to pay it up.

"An' I ain't no real use here! I ain't doin' half as much good potterin' round with this no-'count gun as I would be gettin' in my wheat. I ain't no for-sure soldier; it ain't in me. I haven't shirked none, but I don't like it. An' them same U-nited ?States wouldn't miss me none if I lit out right now. No, sir! if I could sneak past that cussed little lieutenant I could go home an' never be missed. But he'd see me, sure!"

"You'd desert, then, if you could?" asked the man in drab.

Jenks flared with sudden anger. "Not by a —— sight!" he snorted. "I ain't that sort. I come out for the war, an' I'm goin' to stay!"

His companion nodded with a show of understanding. There was a bundle of notes in his inside pocket which ought to reach the wire, but they could wait a few minutes.

"Well, suppose," he persisted, "you had the choice between doing some big thing tomorrow—getting to the top of that ridge, we'll say, or going home, which would you do?"

"Home with an honorable discharge?" queried Jenks.


Jenks rubbed a stubbly chin an instant, puckering his lips about the frayed end of the cigarette.

"I'd go home!" he announced finally. "Yeah, that's what I'd do all right; I'd go home. I know what you're thinkin', mister, but just look a-here. I leave my farm an' people an' come out here to go soldierin'. Maybe I go through all right, then I go back home, an' what happens? Do I get banquets an' statues an' such like? Un huh! Not me! There's too many of us. I wear my army pants, to plow in, and folks say: 'There's Bill Jenks usin' up his army clo'es. He was in the war. ' That's all!

"An' maybe I get shot; maybe it's for keeps, an' then Millie an' the kids is in for it. Her folks ain't got nothin'; she'd have to work the rest of her days. Maybe I lose an arm or a leg, an' then what am I good for? Nothin', just nothin' but settin' around in the sun an' lettin' her work for nflgf "'Thexft'S the chances I have to take, an' there ain't nothin' to set over ag'in 'em! They don't need me here half's much as that gal an' the kids does. There's a lot of chaps here could do Bill Jenks' soldierin' tor him, but they couldn't go back an' run his farm. I ain't needed!"

He threw the butt of the second cigarette at the same milkweed.

"Old Man White," he concluded, "give me a rum go. I ain't done my duty!"

The newspaper man rolled over and started to crawl away to file his sketchy despatches. He tossed Jenks a third cigarette as he prepared to go.

"Don't try to figure it out," he advised. "That question is only about as old as the institution of war—which is pretty average hoary. Smoke another stick on it. So long."

"S'long!" answered Jenks, and watched him crawl off through the grass.

IT WAS not on the cards that William Jenks should go in search of fresh cartridges to fill the gaping loops in his belt. His successful shot had been almost the last of the long rambling skirmish which had been but the prelude of the serious business that was in the making. While Jenks was still caressing the hot barrel of his rifle and wondering what he could do with himself until ordered to move in some direction, the hills rocked under the first shocks of a tremendous artillery duel. The thin skirmish-line of which Jenks formed a part was enfolded by the great masses of dun-colored infantry which swept up behind them, and the whole mass was spread out in hollows like great windrows, or sent trickling off through steep, scrubby defiles while the batteries thundered over their heads to cut a way for them.

For days tired, wide-eyed officers had studied the black line across the map which stood for the ridge that Jenks and the sun-baked skirmishers had watched. At the end of those days the ways and means for the taking of that ridge had been devised, and the buttons at headquarters had been pressed which sent all the scattered units of the great army tumbling forward in apparently aimless confusion.

While the black ridge became hazy with the smoke of its defending batteries, and scarred from the crashing explosions of shells, the masses of dirty-looking infantry edged and crept in from every side. As the red flashes from the ridge batteries grew fewer, and the officers, through their binoculars, could see the gun-teams (looking like ants in the hazy distance) frantically dragging the battered guns out of the rain of shells, the movement of the brown waves of infantry grew faster, more certain; unguessed lines and straggling blocks of men sprang from cover; deep-slashed defiles spouted forth brown columns, and the converging waves washed and surged about the foot of the black ridge.

Jenks found himself carried along in a mad, frantic tumble up the same slopes that he had grown so tired of watching. For blurred, panting minutes he struggled over slippery footing through saplings and low bushes. The slope grew steeper, and he found himself clutching at grass for support—grass so slender that he knew it would not hold his weight, but which he felt would help him an inch higher and so make another inch possible. His breath came shorter and shorter until it hurt his laboring lungs sharply. The perspiration streamed down his face and gathered in uncomfortable pools under his eyebrows. Above all other things he desired to lie down and pant until he could regain his breath, but the sight of other men—desperately tired as he was but still struggling on—kept him at work.

As yet the fire of the enemy had not commenced to hunt them out. The crash of the artillery was still loud in his ears, but the beating volleys seemed still on other slopes of the ridge. Jenks' breath began to come more easily. The "second wind" had caught him when he needed it most, and he found that his brain was now capable of considering something besides the placing of his feet and the stabbing of the air at his chest.

He wondered hazily why he was racking the very heart out of him in this mad rush up a dark mountain. At the top he would only kill more men in flat caps—if he ever reached the top. He thought of the man he had shot, and no longer felt a species of nausea at the remembrance of the dark, still figure hanging over the rock with such pathetic limpness.

He glanced hastily at the other men around him. They were all strangers; in the rush of the attack he had become separated from the men of his own company. Yet he felt no unease, no panicky desire to find the familiar figures with which he had toiled and fought for three months. These flushed, hot, eager faces about him were not strange, after all. He knew that he must look very much like them at the moment. And they were just plain, ordinary men like himself, with things waiting for them at home. They had no more desire than he to reach the top of the hill and go stabbing with their bayonets among those dark-skinned men in the flat caps!

And yet they went—ran with all the strength of mind and body, as though reaching the crest were the one thing in life to be done. Aye, a thing greater than life itself, for all of these men would not reach the top. Jenks had always been careful of himself. He had been commended by his officers for his ability to take cover and keep under it without damaging his usefulness. Well, he. had not wanted to die. He had feared death as a healthy man with a deep, unanalyzed joy in mere animal life does. And these other men around him were as he was; he felt perfectly sure of that. And yet they went now to certain death without that fear which he knew must have been strong within them. Some greater thing than fear, some greater thing than the love of life was driving them.

A shell ripped through the upper branches of a tree and burst with a crash that set the very centers of his being to twitching. Another followed it, and then the woods were raked mercilessly by the screeching gusts of shrapnel. The men about Jenks did not pause nor look. Some of them sprawled heavily to the earth and lay still; others fell but did not lie still, and their screams and cries mingled with the racket of the firing. The bullets came now, too, whipping through the leaves and branches, plowing into the earth, keeping up their high-pitched music—like the sharp twanging of big wires in the air overhead.

Through the thinning trunks of the trees the bare surface of the crest showed, bending up toward the skyline in a sharper curve. Already its black surface was dotted with crawling brown figures, jeiiks looked and knew that out on this siope of rocks was death in a hundred forms. He looked at the men around him, and their faces told him that they knew* it, too—but did not care. Nor did he care, not for himself, but because these men about him did not—and they were his people!

THEY swept out on the open, uncovered surface of the rocky slope, and the whirring, scythe-like volleys caught them. Jenks did' not even bow his head before the metal blast. Instead, he straightened himself and looked up with all his eyes. Everywhere he saw the crawling, scrabbling brown figures, the black rocks, the bursting shells and the clouds of vapor lining the trenches above him. Far ahead and above him he saw a little tricolored moving dot that slipped from rock to rock, disappeared, stopped, came out again, was lost for a second in a wild scramble of brown shapes—but always went on, a little forward, a little farther up. Jenks raised his rifle high above his head. Something wriggled thrillingly inside him, and his full-throated yell sounded high above the roar of battle. Men looked at him with answering shouts as he bent his head and started up the rocks. The tired lines moved faster, Jenks in front; his eyes never leaving that bobbing, tricolored spot above him.

Straight in front, perched on the top of a natural salient of rock, was a battery of Maxims. As yet the enemy had kept the wicked little weapons silent. Their tiny muzzles were trained on the wriggling masses below them, the gunners stood with their hands on the cranks, the open boxes of ammunition waiting beside them, their eyes shifting nervously from the slopes below them to the swarthy officer at their side. At length, when the brown waves swept closer through the shrapnel and bullets, he nodded, and the gunners turned the cranks as easily as a grocer spins the handle of his coffee-mill.

Into the very center of the group around the tricolored dot sprayed the first shower of bullets from the Maxims. On all sides men raised their heads and looked an instant as this new rasping, grinding note sounded through the din. Jenks looked up and saw the bright dot motionless, inert in the center of a still brown pile. He heard the clatter of the Maxims, and again his yell sounded as he bounded up from rock to rock. Once he felt a stab of pain in his arm, again in. his leg. He realized that he could no longer raise his rifle, and flung it away.

He was conscious only of three things: that the noise of the Maxims grew steadily louder; that the bright dot was closer, and that he was growing weaker because of something wet which kept sliding away from him down his arm and leg. Through a raging riot of noise and motion he was conscious of reaching down into a tangle of figures for the bright thing which danced crazily before his eyes; of jerking the yellow pole from a thin white hand with a brown stain across it which clung to the wooden pole with cold tenacity. It was hard for him to regain his feet, because another of the streams was slipping down his shoulder now, but he lurched from his knees to his feet with the bright thing (cloth of some sort, he discovered) clinging to his arms and legs and impeding his efforts to go forward.

He sensed rather than knew that the machine-like explosions had ceased and that a wild chorus of shouting was sounding high above the firing. He reached out his hand and clutched the searing-hot barrel of a Maxim. His hand slipped down to the cooler metal of the supporting tripod, and, with the other hand gripped around the flagpole, he tried feebly to ward off the blows of a swarthy officer who was slashing at him with a sword of unnatural brightness—

JENKS reached out the three fingers of his left hand to accept the cigarette which the drab-colored man proffered him across the foot of the tiny cot.

"Still smoke them pesky things?" he demanded cheerfully.

The journalist replied that he did, and asked Jenks how he was, as he held a match so that the wounded man could light his cigarette.

"Well," answered Jenks as he leaned back comfortably against the pillows, "what's left of me feels pretty good. They take awful good care of me here. 'Bout a dozen nurses cornin' in every four or five minutes to see if I don't want somethin', an' more doctors'n I can count. An' eat! Say, mister, I've eat so much since I come here that I'm goin' to be able to fast a year when I get out!

"Yes, I'm goin' to get out. They tell me they was one time they didn't think I would. They had to pare off so much of me to make the rest good for anything. Gangrene, I think they said. I've got one arm an' 'bout a leg an' three-quarters! I'll make a beaut of a farmer, won't I?"

The correspondent leaned on the foot of the bed and asked his question with cold deliberation, for he was very anxious to know some things.

"Don't you wish," he asked, "that you'd gone home that day you and I shot their outpost through the middle?"

"You just bet I don't!" snapped Jenks. "Why, man, all I wanted to do was get home an' 'tend to my farm! I never seemed to think the country needed me! Some reporter chap was in here the other day— few days after they give me this"—and his hand strayed to the medal on his breast, —"an' he 'lowed that maybe we wouldn't have got up that hill if I hadn't picked up that there flag! Now I don't believe that; there was a sight of the boys right behint me, an' one of 'em 'Id 'a' done it 5 I hadn't —but that ain't the point! A feller's pretty small potatoes after all, and the country's a middlin' big thing. It's a darned sight closer to ye than I used to think, too! It's kind of like a feller's dad, a nice old party like the feller in striped pants an' a'long whisker in the papers. He's yer boss, an' that's all there is to it! 'But when ye get to thinkin' about it, you just plain want to do what's up to you to do! Maybe ye have to give somethin' up. I had to leggo of an arm an' a leg! But it was up to me, an'"I done it! An' ain't I gettin' took care of 'bout as well as the next one? Yes, sir, Old Man White done me a good turn! I ain't kickin' none!"

And Jenks looked through the smoke of his cigarette at the mass of red roses beside his bed.

The war correspondent shook Jenks' hand and (after a nod from the doctor) dropped several packages of cigarettes on the foot of the bed. Then he walked out of the room feeling unaccountably good, and warm and thankful at the very core of his being—not so much toward Jenks as toward a grotesque picture of a man in a swallowtailed blue coat, a pair of red-and-white striped trousers and a long goatee.