by Albert Payson Terhune
When Cassius Wyble came down from his mountains
to the 2OOO-population metropolis of Clayburg
on his half-yearly trip for supplies he thought the old
custom of Muster Day had been revived.
No fewer than eleven men in khaki were lounging
round the station platform or sitting on the steps of
the North America general store. Enlistment posters,
too, flared from windows and walls.
These posters—except for their pretty pictures—meant
nothing at all to Cash Wyble. For, as with his
parents and grandparents, his knowledge of the written
or printed word was purely a matter of hearsay.
Yet the sight of the eleven men in newfangled uniform—so
like in color to his own butternut homespuns—interested
“What’s all the boys doin’—togged up thataway?”
he demanded of the North America’s proprietor.
“Waitin’ for the band?”
“Waiting to be shipped to Camp Lee,” answered the
local merchant prince; adding, as Cash’s burnt-leather
face grew blanker: “Camp Lee, down in V’ginia, you
know. Training camp for the war.”
“War?” queried Cash, preparing to grin, at prospect
of a joke. “What war?”
“What war?” echoed the dumfounded storekeeper.
“Why, the war, of course! Where in blazes have you
been keeping yourself?”
“I been up home, where I b’long,” said Cash sulkily.
“What with the hawgs, an’ crops an’ skins an’ sich, a
busy man’s got no time traipsin’ off to the city every
minute. Twice a year does me pretty nice. An’ now
s’pose you tell me what war you’re blattin’ about.”
The storekeeper told him. He told him in the simplest
possible language. Yet half—and more than
half—of the explanation went miles above the listening
mountaineer’s head. Cash gathered, however, that
the United States was fighting Germany.
Germany he knew by repute for a country or a
town on the far side of the world. Some of its citizens
had even invaded his West Virginia mountains, where
their odd diction and porcelain pipes roused much
derision among the cultured hillfolk.
“Germany?” mused Cash when the narrative was
ended. “We’re to war with Germany, hey? Sakes,
but I wisht I’d knowed that yesterday! A couple of
Germans went right past my shack. I could ’a’ shot
’em as easy as toad pie.”
The North America’s proprietor valued Cash Wyble’s
sparse trade, as he valued that of other mountaineers
who made Clayburg their semiannual port of call.
If on Cash’s report these rustics should begin a guerilla
warfare upon their German neighbors, more of them
would presently be lodged in jail than the North America
could well afford to spare from its meager customer
Wherefore the proprietor did some more explaining.
Knowing the mountaineer brain, he made no effort
to point out the difference between armed Germans
and noncombatants. He merely said that the Government
had threatened to lock up any West Virginian
who should kill a German—this side of Europe. It
was a new law, he continued, and one that the revenue
officers were bent on enforcing.
Cash sighed and reluctantly bade farewell to an
alluring dream that had begun to shape itself in his
simple brain—a dream of “laying out” in cliff-top
brush, waiting with true elephant patience until a
German neighbor should stroll, unsuspecting, along
the trail below and should move slowly within range
of the antique Wyble rifle.
It was a sweet fantasy, and hard to banish. For
Cash certainly could shoot. There was scarce a man
in the Cumberlands or the Appalachians who could
outshoot him. Shooting and a native knack at moon-shining
were Cash’s only real accomplishments.
Whether stalking a shy old stag or potting a revenue
officer on the sky line, the man’s aim was uncannily
true. In a region of born marksmen his skill stood
He felt not the remotest hatred for any of these
local Germans. In an impersonal way he rather liked
one or two of them. Yet, if the law had really been
The zest of the man hunt tingled pleasantly in the
marksman’s blood. And he resented this unfair new
revenue ruling, which permitted and even encouraged
larger than Clayburg—which he knew to be the biggest
metropolis in America—Cash set out to nail the lie
by a personal inspection of Petersburg. He neglected
to apply for leave, so was held up by the first sentinel
Cash explained very politely his reason for quitting
camp. But the pig-headed sentinel still refused to let
him pass. Two minutes later a fast-summoned corporal
and two men were using all their strength to pry
Wyble loose from the luckless sentry. And again the
guardhouse had Cash as a transient and blasphemous
He was learning much more of kitchen-police work
than of guard mount. At the latter task he was a
failure. The first night he was assigned to beat pacing,
the relief found him restfully snoring, on his back, his
rifle stuck up in front of him by means of its bayonet
thrust into the ground. Cash had seen no good reason
why he should walk to and fro for hours when there
was nothing exciting to watch for and when he had
been awake since early morning. Therefore he had
gone to sleep. And his subsequent guardhouse stay
filled him with uncomprehending fury.
The salute, too, struck him as the height of absurdity—as
a bit of tomfoolery in which he would have no
part. Not that he was exclusive, but what was the
use of touching one’s forelock to some officer one had
never before met? He was willing to nod pleasantly
and even to say “Howdy, Cap?” when his company
captain passed by him for the first time in the morning.
But he saw no use in repeating that or any other form
of salutation when the same captain chanced to meet
him a bare fifteen minutes later.
Cash Wyble’s case was not in any way unique among
Camp Lee’s thirty thousand new soldiers. Hundreds
of mountaineers were in still worse mental plight.
And the tact as well as the skill of their officers
was strained well-nigh to the breaking point in
shaping the amorphous backwoods rabble into trim
Not all members of the mountain draft were so
fiercely resentful as was Cash. But many others of
them were like unbroken colts. The strange frequency
of washing and of shaving, and the wearing of underclothes
were their chief puzzles.
The company captain labored with Cash again and
again, pointing out the need of neat cleanliness, of
promptitude, of vigilance; trying to make him understand
that a salute is not a sign of servility; seeking to
imbue him with the spirit of patriotism and of discipline.
But to Cash the whole thing was infinitely worse and
more bewildering than had been the six months he had
once spent in Clayburg jail for mayhem.
Three things alone mitigated his misery at Camp Lee:
The first was the shooting; the second was his monthly
pay—which represented more real money than he ever
had had in his pocket at any one time; the third was
the food—amazing in its abundance and luxurious
variety, to the always-hungry mountaineer.
But presently the target shooting palled. As soon as
he had mastered carefully the intricacies of the queer
new rifle they gave him, the hours at the range were
no more inspiring to him than would be, to Paderewski,
the eternal playing of the scale of C with one finger.
To Cash the target shooting was child’s play. Once
he grasped the rules as to sights and elevations and
became used to the feel of the army rifle, the rest was
He could outshoot practically every man at Camp
Lee. This gave him no pride. He made himself popular
with men who complimented him on it by assuring
them modestly that he outshot them not because he
was such a dead shot but because they shot so badly.
The headiest colt in time will learn the lesson of the
breaking pen. And Cash Wyble gradually became a
soldier. At least he learned the drill and the regulations
and how to keep out of the guardhouse—except just
after pay day; and his lank figure took on a certain
military spruceness. But under the surface he was still
Cash Wyble. He behaved, because there was no incentive
at the camp that made disobedience worth
Then after an endless winter came the journey to the
seaboard and the embarkation for France; and the
awesome sight of a tossing gray ocean a hundred times
wider and rougher than Clayburg River in freshet time.
Followed a week of agonized terror, mingled with an
acute longing to die. Then ensued a week of calm
water, during which one might refill the oft-emptied
A few days later Cash was bumping along a newly
repaired French railway in a car whose announced capacity
was forty men or eight horses. And thence to
billet in a half-wrecked village, where his regiment was
drilled and redrilled in the things they had toiled so
hard at Camp Lee to master, and in much that was
novel to the men.
Cash next came to a halt in a network of trenches
overlooking a stretch of country that had been tortured
into hideousness—a region that looked like a Doré
nightmare. It was a waste of hillocks and gullies and
shell holes and blasted big trees and frayed copses and
split bowlders and seared vegetation. When Cash
heard it was called No Man’s Land he was not surprised.
He well understood why no man—not even an ignorant
foreigner—cared to buy such a tract.
He was far more interested in hearing that a tangle of
trenches, somewhat like his regiment’s own, lay three
miles northeastward, at the limit of No Man’s Land, and
that those trenches were infested with Germans.
Germans were the people Cash Wyble had come all
the way to France to kill. And once more the thrill of
the man hunt swept pleasantly through his blood. He
had no desire to risk prison. So he had made very
certain by repeated inquiry that this particular section
of France was in Europe; and that no part of it was
within the boundaries or the jurisdiction of the sovereign
state of West Virginia. Here, therefore, the law
was off on Germans, and he could not get into the
slightest trouble with the hated revenue officers by
shooting as many of the foe as he could go out and find.
Cash enjoyed the picture he conjured up—a picture of
a whole bevy of Germans seated at ease in a trench,
smoking porcelain pipes and conversing with one another
in comically broken English; of himself stealing
toward them, and from the shelter of one of those
hillock bowlders opening a mortal fire on the unsuspecting
It was a quaint thought, and one that Cash loved to
Also it had an advantage that most of Cash’s vivid
mind pictures had not. For, in part, it came true.
The Germans, on the thither side of No Man’s Land,
seemed bent on jarring the repose and wrenching the
nerve of their lately arrived Yankee neighbors. Not
only were those veteran official entertainers, Minnie
and Bertha, and their equally vocal artillery sisters
called into service for the purpose, but a dense swarm
of snipers were also impressed into the task.
Now this especial reach of No Man’s Land was a veritable
snipers’ paradise. There was cover—plenty of
it—everywhere. A hundred sharpshooters of any scouting
prowess at all could deploy at will amid the tumble
of bowlders and knolls and twisted tree trunks and
battered foliage and craters.
The long spell of wet weather had precluded the
burning away of undergrowth. There were tree tops
and hill summits whence a splendid shot could be
taken at unwary Americans in the lower front-line
trenches and along the rising ground at the rear of the
Yankee lines. Yes, it was a stretch of ground laid out
for the joy of snipers. And the German sharpshooters
took due advantage of this bit of luck. The whine of a
high-power bullet was certain to follow the momentary
exposure of any portion of khaki anatomy above or
behind the parapets. And in disgustingly many instances
the bullet did not whine in vain. All of which
kept the newcomers from getting any excess joy out
of trench life.
To mitigate the annoyance there was a call for volunteer
sharpshooters to scout cautiously through No
Man’s Land and seek to render the boche sniping a less
safe and exhilarating sport than thus far it had been.
The job was full of peril, of course. For there was a
more than even chance of the Yankee snipers’ being
sniped by the rival sharpshooters, who were better acquainted
with the ground.
Yet at the first call there was a clamorous throng of
volunteers. Many of these volunteers admitted under
pressure that they knew nothing of scout work and that
they had not so much as qualified in marksmanship.
But they craved a chance at the boche. And grouchily
did they resent the swift weeding-out process that left
their services uncalled for.
Cash Wyble was the first man accepted for the dangerous
detail. And for the first time since the draft
had caught him his burnt-leather face expanded into
a grin that could not have been wider unless his flaring
ears had been set back.
With two days’ rations and a goodly store of cartridges
he fared forth that night into No Man’s Land.
Dawn was not yet fully gray when the first crack of his
rifle was wafted back to the trenches.
Then the artillery firing, which was part of the day’s
work, set in. And its racket drowned the noise of any
shooting that Cash might be at.
Forty-eight hours passed. At dawn of the third day
Cash came back to camp. He was tired and horribly
thirsty; but his lantern-jawed visage was one unmarred
mask of bliss.
“Twelve,” he reported tersely to his captain. “At
least,” he continued in greater detail, “twelve that I’m
dead sure of. Nice big ones, too, some of ’em.”
“Nice big ones!” repeated the captain in admiring
disgust. “You talk as if you’d been after wild turkeys!”
“A heap better’n wild-turkey shootin’!” grinned
Cash. “An’ I got twelve that I’m sure of. There was
one, though, I couldn’t get. A he-one, at that. He’s
sure some German, that feller! He’s as crafty as they
make ’em. I couldn’t ever come up to him or get a line
on him. I’ll bet I throwed away thutty ca’tridges on
jes’ that one Dutchy. An’ by an’ by he found out
what I was arter. Then there was fun, Cap! Him and
I did have one fine shootin’ match! But I was as good
at hidin’ as he was. And there couldn’t neither one of
us seem to git ’tother. Most of the rest of ’em was as
easy to git as a settin’ hen. But not him. I’d ’a’ laid
out there longer for a crack at him but I couldn’t find
no water. If there’d been a spring or a water seep anywheres
there I’d ’a’ stayed till doomsday but what I’d
’a’ got him. Soon’s I fill up with some water I’m
goin’ back arter him. He’s well wuth it. I’ll bet
that cuss don’t weigh an ounce under two hundred
Cash’s smug joy in his exploit and his keen anticipation
of a return trip were dashed by the captain’s reminder
that war is not a hunting jaunt; and that Wyble
must return to his loathed trench duties until such
time as it should seem wise to those above him to send
him forth again.
Cash could not make head or tail out of such a command.
After months of grinding routine he had at last
found a form of recreation that not only dulled his
sharply constant homesickness but that made up for
all he had gone through. And now he was told he
could go forth on such delightful excursions only when
he might chance to be sent!
Red wrath boiled hot in the soul of Cash Wyble. Experience
had taught him the costly folly of venting such
rage on a commissioned officer. So he hunted up Top
Sergeant Mahan of his own company and laid his griefs
before that patient veteran.
Top Sergeant Mahan—formerly of the Regular Army—listened
with true sympathy to the complaint; and
listened with open enthusiasm to the tale of the two
days of forest skulking. But he could offer no help
in the matter of returning to the battue.
“The cap’n was right,” declared Mahan. “They
wanted to throw a little lesson into those boche snipers
and make them ease up on their heckling. And you
gave them a man’s-size dose of their own physic.
There’s not one sniper out there to-day, to ten who
were on deck three days ago. You’ve done your job.
And you’ve done it good and plenty. But it’s done—for
a while anyhow. You weren’t brought over here
to spend your time in prowling around No Man’s Land
on a still hunt for stray Germans. That isn’t Uncle
Sam’s way. Don’t go grouching over it, man! You’ll
be remembered, all right. And if they get pesky again
you’ll be the first one sent out to abate them. You
can count on it. Till then, go ahead with your regular
work and forget the sniper job.”
“But, Sarge!” pleaded Cash, “you don’t git the idee.
You don’t git it at all. Those Germans will be shyer’n
scat, now that I’ve flushed ’em. An’ the longer the
news has a chance to git round among ’em, the shyer
they’re due to git. Why, even if I was to go out thar
straight off it ain’t likely I’d be able to pot one where I
potted three before. It’s the same difference as it is
between the first flushin’ of a wild-turkey bunch an’
the second. An’ if I’ve got to wait long there’ll be no
downin’ any of ’em. Tell that to the Cap. Make him
see if he wants them cusses he better let me git ’em
while they’re still gittable.”
In vain did Top Sergeant Mahan go over and over
the same ground, trying to make Cash see that the
company captain and those above him were not out
for a record in the matter of ambushed Germans.
Wyble had struck one idea he could understand, and
he would not give it up.
“But, Sarge,” he urged desperately, “I’m no durn
good here foolin’ around with drill an’ relief an’ diggin’
an’ all that. Any mudback can do them things if you
folks is sot on havin’ ’em done. But there ain’t another
man in all this outfit who can shoot like I can; or has
the knack of ‘layin’ out’; or of stalkin’. Pop got the
trick of it from gran’ther. An’ gran’ther got if off th’
Injuns in th’ old days. If you folks is out to git Germans
I’m the feller to git ’em fer you. Nice big ones.
If you’re here jes’ to play sojer, any poor fool c’n play
it fer you as good as me.”
“I’ve just told you,” began the sergeant, “that we——”
“’Nuther thing!” suggested Cash brightly. “These
Germans must have villages somew’eres. All folks do.
Even Injuns. Some place where they live when they
ain’t on the warpath. Get leave an’ rations an’ ca’tridges
for me—for a week, or maybe two—an’ I’ll
gar’ntee to scout till I find one of them villages. The
Dutchies won’t be expectin’ me. An’ I c’n likely pot
a whole mess of ’em before they c’n git to cover.
“Say!” he went on eagerly, a bit of general information
flashing into his memory. “Did you know
Germans was a kind of Confed’? The fightin’ Germans,
I mean. Well, they are. The hull twelve I got was
dressed in gray Confed’ uniform, same as pop used to
wear. I got his old uniform to home. Lord, but pop
would sure lay into me if he knowed I was pepperin’
his old side partners like that! I’d figered that all
Germans was dressed like the ones back home. But
they’ve got reg’lar uniforms. Confed’ uniforms, at
that. I wonder does our gin’ral know about it?”
Again the long-suffering Mahan tried to set him
right; this time as to the wide divergence between the
gray-backed troops of Ludendorff and the Confederacy’s
gallant soldiers. But Cash merely nodded cryptically,
as always he did when he thought his foreigner
fellow soldiers were trying to take advantage of his
supposed ignorance. And he swung back to the theme
nearest his heart.
“Now about that snipin’ business,” he pursued,
“even if the Cap don’t want too many of ’em shot up,
he sure won’t be so cantankerous as to keep me from
tryin’ to git that thirteenth feller! I mean the one
that kep’ blazin’ at me whiles I kep’ blazin’ at him;
an’ the both of us too cute to show an inch of target to
t’other or stay in the same patch of cover after we’d
fired. That Dutchy sure c’n scout grand! He’s a born
woodsman. An’ you-all don’t want it to be said the
Germans has got a better sniper than what we’ve got,
do you? Well, that’s jes’ what will be said by everyone
in this yer county unless you let me down him. Come
on, Sarge! Let me go back arter him! I been thinkin’
up a trick gran’ther got off’n th’ Injuns. It oughter
land him sure. Let me go try! I b’lieve that feller
can’t weigh an ounce less’n two-twenty. Leave me
have one more go arter him; and I’ll bring him in to
Top Sergeant Mahan’s patience stopped fraying, and
ripped from end to end.
“You seem to think this war is a cross between a
mountain feud and a deer hunt!” he growled. “Isn’t
there any way of hammering through your ivory mine
that we aren’t here to pick off unsuspecting Germans
and make a tally of the kill? And we aren’t here to
brag about the size of the men we shoot either. We’re
here, you and I, to obey orders and do our work. You’ll
get plenty of shooting before you go home again, don’t
worry. Only you’ll do it the way you’re told to. After
all the time you’ve spent in the hoosgow since you
joined, I should think you’d know that.”
But Cash Wyble did not know it. He said so—loudly,
offensively, blasphemously. He said many
things—things that in any other army than his own
would have landed him against a blank wall facing a
firing squad. Then he slouched off by himself to
As far as Cash Wyble was concerned the war was a
failure—a total failure. The one bright spot in its
workaday monotony was blurred for him by the orders
of his stupid superiors. In his vivid imagination that
elusive German sniper gradually attained a weight not
far from three hundred pounds.
In sour silence Cash sulked through the rest of the
day’s routine. In his heart boiled black rebellion. He
had learned his soldier trade, back at Camp Lee, because
it had been very strongly impressed upon him
that he would go to jail if he did not. For the same
reason he had not tried to desert. He had all the true
mountaineer horror for prison. He had toned down
his native temper and stubbornness because failure to
do so always landed him in the guardhouse—a place
that, to his mind, was almost as terrible as jail.
But out here in the wilderness there were no jails.
At least Cash had seen none. And he had it on the
authority of Top Sergeant Mahan himself that this
part of France was not within the legal jurisdiction of
West Virginia—the only region, as far as Cash actually
knew, where men are put in prison for their misdeeds.
Hence the rules governing Camp Lee could not be
supposed to obtain out here. All of which comforted
Cash not a little.
To him “patriotism” was a word as meaningless as
was “discipline.” The law of force he recognized—the
law that had hog-tied him and flung him into the Army.
But the higher law which makes men risk their all,
right blithely, that their country and civilization may
triumph—this was as much a mystery to Cash Wyble
as to any army mule.
Just now he detested the country that had dragged
him away from his lean shack and forbade him to disport
himself as he chose in No Man’s Land. He hated
his country; he hated his Army; he hated his regiment.
Most of all he loathed his captain and Top Sergeant
At Camp Lee he had learned to comport himself
more or less like a civilized recruit because there was
no breach of discipline worth the penalty of the guardhouse.
Out here it was different.
That night Private Cassius Wyble got hold of two
other men’s emergency rations, a bountiful supply of
water and a stuffing pocketful of cartridges. With
these and his adored rifle he eluded the sentries—a
ridiculously easy feat for so skilled a woodsman—and
went over the top and on into No Man’s Land.
By daylight he had trailed and potted a German
By sunrise he had located the man against whom he
had sworn his strategy feud—the German who had put
him on his mettle two days before.
Cash did not see his foe. And when from the edge
of a rock he fired at a puff of smoke in a clump of trees
no resultant body came tumbling earthward. And
thirty seconds later a bullet from quite another part
of the clump spatted hotly against the rock edge five
inches from his head.
Cash smiled beatifically. He recognized the tactics of
his former opponent. And once more the merry game
To make perfectly certain of his rival’s identity Cash
wiggled low in the undergrowth until he came to a jut
of rock about seven feet long and two feet high. Lying
at full length behind this low barrier, and parallel to
it, Cash put his hat on the toe of his boot and cautiously
lifted his foot until the hat’s sugar-loaf crown protruded
a few inches above the top of the rock.
On the instant, from the tree clump, snapped the
report of a rifle. The bullet, ignoring the hat, nicked
the rock comb precisely above Cash’s upturned face.
He nodded approval, for it told him that his enemy
was not only a good forest fighter but that he recognized
the same skill in Wyble.
Thus began two days of delightful pastime for the
exiled mountaineer. Thus, too, began a series of offensive
and defensive maneuvers worthy of Natty Bumppo
and Old Sleuth combined.
It was not until Cash abandoned the hunt long enough
to find and shoot another German sniper and appropriate
the latter’s uniform that he was able, under
cover of dusk, to get near enough to the tree clump for
a fair sight of his antagonist. At which juncture a
snap shot from the hip ended the duel.
Cash’s initial thrill of triumph, even then, was dampened.
For the sniper—to whom by this time he had
credited the size of Goliath at the very least—proved
to be a wizened little fellow, not much more than five
Still Cash had won. He had outgeneraled a mighty
clever sharpshooter. He had gotten what he came out
for, and two other snipers, besides. It was not a bad
bag. As there was nothing else to stay there for, and
as his water was gone, as well as nearly all his cartridges,
Cash shouldered his rifle and plodded wearily
back to camp for a night’s rest.
There to his amazed indignation he was not received
as a hero, even when he sought to recount his successful
adventures. Instead, he was arrested at once on a
charge of technical desertion, and was lodged in the
local substitute for a regular guardhouse.
Bewildered wrath smothered him. What had he done,
to be arrested again? True, he had left camp without
leave. But had he not atoned for this peccadillo fifty-fold
by the results of his absence? Had he not killed
three men whose business it was to shoot Americans?
Had he not killed the very best sniper the Germans
could hope to possess?
Yet, they had not promoted him. They had not so
much as thanked him. Instead, they had stuck him
here in the hoosgow. And Mahan had said something
about a court-martial.
It was black ingratitude! That was what it was.
That and more. Such people did not deserve to have
the services of a real fighter like himself.
Which started another train of thought.
Apparently—except on special occasions—the Americans
did not send men out into the wilderness to take
pot shots at the lurking foe. And apparently that was
just what the Germans always did. He had full proof,
indeed, of the German custom. For had he not found
a number of the graybacks thus happily engaged? Not
for one occasion only, but as a regular thing?
Yes, the Germans had sense enough to appreciate a
good fighter when they had one. And they knew how
to make use of him in a way to afford innocent pleasure
to himself and much harm to the enemy. That was
the ideal life for a soldier—“laying out” and sniping
the foe. Not kitchen-police work and endless drill and
digging holes and taking baths. Sniping was the job
for a he-man, if one had to be away from home at all.
And in the German ranks alone was such happy employment
to be found.
When Cash calmly and definitely made up his mind
to desert to the Germans he was troubled by no scruples
at all. Even the dread of the mysterious court-martial
added little weight to his decision. The deed seemed
to him not a whit worse than was the leaving of one
farmer’s employ, back home, to take service with another
who offered more congenial work.
Wherefore he deserted.
It was not at all difficult for him to escape from the
elementary cell in which he was confined. It was a
mere matter of strategy and luck. So was his escape
to No Man’s Land.
Unteroffizier Otto Schrabstaetter an hour later conducted
to his company commander a lanky and leather-faced
man in khaki uniform who had accosted a sentry
with the pacific plea that he be sworn in as a member of
the German Army.
The sentry did not know English; nor did Unteroffizier
Otto Schrabstaetter. And though Cash addressed
them both in a very fair imitation of the guttural
English he had heard used by the West Virginia
Germans—and which he fondly believed to be pure
German—they did not understand a word of his plea.
So he was taken to the captain, a man who had lived
for five years in New York.
With the Unteroffizier at his side and with two armed
soldiers just behind him Cash confronted the captain,
and under the latter’s volley of barked questions told
his story. Ten minutes afterward he was repeating
the same tale to a flint-faced man with a fox-brush
mustache—Colonel von Scheurer, commander of the
regiment that held that section of the first-line trench.
A little to Cash’s aggrieved surprise, neither the
captain nor the colonel seemed interested in his prowess
as a sharpshooter or in his ill-treatment at the hands
of his own Army. Instead, they asked an interminable
series of questions that seemed to have no bearing at
all on his case.
They wanted, for instance, to know the name of his
regiment; its quota of men; how long they had been
in France; what sea route they had taken in crossing
the ocean; from what port they had sailed; and the
approximate size of the convoy. They wanted to
know what regiments lay to either side of Cash’s in
the American trenches; how many men per month
America was sending overseas and where they usually
landed. They wanted to know a thousand things
more, of the same general nature.
Cash saw no reason why he should not satisfy their
silly curiosity. And he proceeded to do so to the best
of his ability. But as he did not know so much as the
name of the port whence he had shipped to France,
and as the rest of his tactical knowledge was on the
same plane, the fast-barked queries presently took
on a tone of exasperation.
This did not bother Cash. He was doing his best.
If these people did not like his answers that was no
affair of his. He was here to fight, not to talk. His
Presently he interrupted the colonel’s most searching
questions to ask: “You-all don’t happen to be the
Kaiser, do you? I s’pose not though. I’ll bet that
old Kaiser must weigh——”
A thundered oath brought him back to the subject
in hand, and the cross-questioning went on. But all
the queries elicited nothing more than a mass of misinformation,
delivered with such palpable genuineness
of purpose that even Colonel von Scheurer could not
doubt the man’s good faith.
And at last the two officers began to have a very
fair estimate of the mountaineer’s character and of
the reasons that had brought him thither.
Still it was the colonel’s mission in life to suspect—to
take nothing for granted. And after all, this yokel
and his queer story were no more bizarre than was
many a spy trick played by Germany upon her foes.
Spies were bound to be good actors. And this lantern-jawed
fellow might possibly be a character actor of
high ability. Colonel von Scheurer sat for a moment
in silence, peering up at Cash from beneath a thatch
of stiff-haired brows. Then he ordered the captain
and the others to leave the dugout.
Alone with Wyble the colonel still maintained his
pose of majestic surveillance.
Then with no warning he spat forth the question:
“Wer bist du?”
Not the best character actor unhung could have
simulated the owlish ignorance in Cash’s face. Not
the shrewdest spy could have had time to mask
a knowledge of German. And, as Colonel von
Scheurer well knew, no spy who did not understand
German would have been sent to enlist in the German
The colonel at once was satisfied that the newcomer
was not a spy. Yet to make doubly certain of the
recruit’s willingness to serve against his own country
Von Scheurer sought another test. Pulling toward
him a scratch pad he picked up a pencil from the table
before him and proceeded to make a rapid sketch.
When the sketch was complete he detached the top
sheet and showed it to Cash. On it was drawn a rough
likeness of the American flag.
“What is that?” he demanded.
“Old Glory,” answered Cash after a leisurely survey
of the picture; adding in friendly patronage: “And
not bad drawed, at that.”
“It is the United States flag,” pursued the colonel,
“as you say. It is the national emblem of the country
where you were born; the country you are renouncing,
to become a subject of the All Highest.”
“Meanin’ Gawd?” asked Cash.
He wanted to be sure of every step. While he did
not at all know the meaning of “renounce,” yet his
attendance at mountain camp-meeting revivals had
given him a possible inkling as to what “All Highest”
“What?” inquired the puzzled colonel, not catching
“The ‘All Highest’ is Gawd, ain’t it?” said Cash.
“It is His Imperial Majesty, the Kaiser,” sharply
retorted the scandalized colonel.
“Oh!” exclaimed Cash, much interested. “I see.
In Wes’ V’ginny we call Him ‘Gawd.’ An’ over in
this neck of the woods your Dutch name for Him is
‘Kaiser.’ What a ninny I am! I’d allers had the idee
the Kaiser was jes’ a man, with somethin’ the same
sort of job as Pres’dent Wilson’s. But——”
“This picture represents the flag of the United
States,” resumed the impatient Von Scheurer, waiving
the subject of theology for the point in hand. “You
have renounced it. You have declared your wish to
fight against it. Prove that. Prove it by tearing
that sketch in two—and spitting upon it!”
“Hold on!” interposed Cash, speaking with tolerant
kindness as to a somewhat stupid child. “Hold on,
Cap! You got me wrong. Or may be I didn’t make it
so very clear. I didn’t ever say I wanted to fight Old
Glory. All I said I wanted to do was to fight that
crowd of smart Alecks over yonder who jail me all the
time an’ won’t let me fight in my own way. I’ve got
nothin’ agin th’ old flag. Why, that ’ere’s the flag I
was borned under! Me an’ pop an’ gran’ther an’ the
hull b’ilin’ of us—as fur back as there was any ’Merica,
I reckon. I don’t go ’round wavin’ it none. That ain’t
my way. But I sure ain’t goin’ to tear it up. And I
most gawdamightysure ain’t goin’ to spit on it. I——”
He checked himself. Not that he had no more to
say, but because to his astonishment he found he was
beginning to lose his temper. This phenomenon halted
his speech and turned his wondering thoughts inward.
Cash could not understand his own strange surge
of choler. He had not been aware of any special
interest in the American flag. A little bunting representation
of the Stars and Stripes—now faded close
to whiteness—hung on the wall of his shack at home,
where his grandmother, a rabid Unionist, had hung it
nearly sixty years earlier, when West Virginia had
refused to join the Confederacy. Every day of his life
Cash had seen it there; had seen without noting or
Camp Lee, too, had been ablaze with American flags.
And after he had learned the rules as to the flag salute
Cash had never given the banners a second thought.
The regimental flags, too, here in France, had seemed
to him but a natural part of the Army’s equipment,
and no more to be venerated than the twin bars on his
Thus he could not in the very least account for the
fiery flare of rebellion that gripped him at this ramrod-like
Prussian’s command to defile the emblem. Yet
grip him it did. And it held him there, quivering and
purple, the strange emotion waxing more and more
overpoweringly potent at each passing fraction of a
second. Dumb and shaking he glowered down at the
Von Scheurer watched him placidly for a few moments;
then with a short laugh he advanced the test.
Reaching for the sheet of paper whereon he had sketched
the flag the colonel held it lightly between the fingers
of his outstretched hands.
“It is really a very simple thing to do,” he said
carelessly, yet keeping a covert watch upon the mountaineer.
“And it is a thing that every loyal German
subject should rejoice to do. All I required was that
you first tear the emblem in two and then spit upon
it—as I do now.”
But the colonel did not suit action to words. As
his fingers tightened on the sheet of paper the dugout
echoed to a low snarl that would have done credit to a
And with the snarl six feet of lean and wiry bulk
shot through the air across the narrow table that separated
Cash from the colonel.
Von Scheurer with admirable presence of mind
snatched his pistol from its temporary resting place
in his lap. With the speed of the wind he seized the
weapon. But with the speed of the whirlwind Cash
Wyble was upon him, his clawlike fingers deep in the
colonel’s full throat, his hundred and sixty pounds of
bone and gristle smiting Von Scheurer on chest and
Cash had literally risen in air and pounced on the
Prussian. Under the impact Von Scheurer’s chair
collapsed. Both men shot to earth, the colonel undermost
and the pistol flying unheeded from his grasp.
Over, too, went the table, and the electric light upon
it. And the dugout was in pitch blackness.
There in the dark Cash Wyble deliriously tackled
his prey, making queer and hideous little worrying
sounds now and then far down in his throat, like a dog
that mangles its meat.
And there the sentry from the earthen passageway
found them when he rushed in with an electric torch,
and followed by a rabble of fellow soldiers.
Cash at sound of the running footsteps jumped to
his feet. The man he had attacked was lying very
still, in a crumpled and yet sprawling heap—in a
posture never designed by Nature.
With one wild sweep of his windmill arms Cash
grabbed up the sheet of paper on which Von Scheurer
had made his life’s last sketch. With a simultaneous
sweep he knocked the glass-bulbed torch from the
sentinel, just as a rifle or two were centering their
aim toward him; and, head down, he tore into the
group of men who blocked the dugout entrance.
Cash had a faintly conscious sense of dashing down
one passageway and up another, following by forestry
instinct the course he noted when he was led into the
He collided with a sentinel; he butted another from
his flying path. He heard yells and shots—especially
shots. Once something hit him on the shoulder, whirling
him half round without breaking his stride. Again
something hot whipped him across the cheek. And at
last he was out, under the foggy stars, with excited
Germans firing in his general direction and loosing
off star shells.
Again instinct and scout skill came to the rescue
as he plunged into a bramble thicket and wriggled
through long grass on his heaving stomach.
An hour before dawn Cash Wyble was led before his
sleepy and unloving company commander. The returned
wanderer was caked with dirt and blood. His
face was scored by briers. Across one cheek ran the
red wale of a bullet. A very creditable flesh wound
adorned his left shoulder. His clothes were in ribbons.
Before the captain could frame the first of a thousand
scathing words Cash broke out pantingly: “Stick me
in the hoosgow if you’re a mind to, Cap! Stick me
there for life. Or wish me onto a kitchen-police job
forever! I’m not kickin’. It’s comin’ to me, all right,
arter what I done.
“I git the drift of the hull thing now. I’m onter
what it means. It—it means Old Glory! It means—this!”
He stuck out one muddy hand wherein was clutched
a wad of scratch-pad paper.
Then the company commander did a thing that
stamped him as a genius. Instead of administering
the planned rebuke and following it by sending the
wretch to the guard house he began to ask questions.
“What do you make of it all?” dazedly queried the
captain of Top Sergeant Mahan when Cash had been
taken to the trench hospital to have his shoulder
“Well, sir,” reported Mahan meditatively, “for
one thing, I take it, we’ve got a new soldier in the
company. A soldier, not a varmint. For another
thing, I take it, Uncle Sam’s got a new American on
his list of nephews. And—and, unless I’m wrong,
Kaiser Bill is short one crackajack sniper and one
perfectly good Prussian colonel too. War’s a funny
—Albert Payson Terhune.