Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

8 articles on this Page

THE RAT.

News
Cite
Share

THE RAT. [ BY O I'. ) A rat came out, of a shadow blob, and trailed stea(ilix, a stretch of level meadow land lit by a moon which was making No Man's Land almost as bright b as by day. Sniper Jackson, resting wearily in a shell-hole at the end of a long night patrol, looked up instantly and watched it. Jackson was sniping officer of his battalion moreover, he tmx a sniper— lience his title—which is a very different thing from being merely officer in charge of a sniping section. For iilore.tiiiii two years he had hunted the Germans, for the most pari round about the Ypres Salient, working in com- pany with his men, when trench systems were near each other playing a lone hand when no Man's Land was broad: master- ing all the German's tricks by < areful study and ex]>erieuce but learning much more from the creatures of the wild with whom he had shared every cover patch irom Birdcage Knoll above lloogc in the north to the battle-scarred slopes of Wytschaete itself. That is why he watched the rat so curiously. Once when walking in his stockinged feet along the duckboards between his own and a friend's dug-out he had trodden on a big buck-rat, which squirmed under his foot and bit him savagely. He could have killed that rat; but he spared it in spite of the bite. The incident has nothing to do with this story, except to emphasise the fact that long ago he had come to look on rats as most valuable allies in searching out the j i presence of men—men in unsuspected places. For where men are food is always to be found, and there also will the rats gather. This particular rat, tracking so earnestly across No Man's Laud, away from the established trench system aud the food scraps of its inhabitants, could only be go- ing to a new feeding ground. It must be a feeding ground which it had but lately discovered, or otherwise there would have been other rats in company. The question was: What were men doing out in the midst uf No Man's Land, in a settled position, moreover—it must be a settled position if they carried food and had eaten there? Sniper Jackson rose from his shell-hole and stealthily followed the rat. For a hundred yards the rat led the way. and lip walked boldly after it. but quietly, with all the craft of a wild creature. To a night-watcher he might have been a wraith stealing from shadow to shadow, for all the audible sign of his presence that he gave. But the unfaltering approach of the rat told liirn that the night-watchers bad departed and only a short time ago, or the little scavenger would have travelled that brail before. It entered a broken-down, concrete dug- out, and he followed a moment, or two later. Switching on his electric torch the moon was shining too brightly outside for any reflection to struggle against it- he found the rat making frantic efforts to reach a shelf on which was the remains of a German sausage. The animal blinked evilly in the electric glow, summed up its opponent, prepared to show fight, then, recognisiiig the hopelessness of the contest, slipped quickly out of the light circle and scurried through the dorway. Germans had been in that dug-out o recently. One of their army blankets, j with ends nailed to two stout poles, was hung against the wall. The sniper exa mined it curiously. Its centre was holed in a hundred places, as though a mis- chievous child had stabbed the cloth again: and again with a small pair of scissors. I So that is their game," he murmured, shutting off the light aud preparing to leave. But first he tumbled the sausage from its safe resting-place as a reward for the rat. which had led him thither. Next evening Sniper Jackson set out for the firing-line with his five most trusted snipers. They chose the main communication trench, for a machine-gun was raking the road which they usually followed. That machine-gun had been giving much trouble 91 1 for the past night or two, and in the firing- line they came on their own machine-gun officer frantically surveying No Man's Land for the flashes which would indicate the German gunners' position. It was a mystery gun no flashes had yet been located. Sniper Jackson led the way over the parapet and in a wide circle round behind the old concrete dug-out. There the mystery was explained to them. The Ger- man blanket had been erected a little in fron t of the entrance, stretched ti'ditlv between the two stout poles, and behind it was a German gun crew serving a gun whoso flashes were hidden by the blanket screen, but whose bullets pierced easily through the soft material on their deadly mission beyond. The gun stopped firing, and the Germans surrendered as they saw j t be siioen of the five ready bayonets. That evening the British machinc gun officer came to Sniper Jackson's dugout to get the full details. As they sat together a grey rat stole cautiously in by the door- way. The machine-gun officer reached for his revolver, but the Sniper stopped him with a gesture. Reaching for a large scrap of bully he flung it into the entrance. The monster pounced on it greedily and hur- ried away. lie, conies in every evening," lie said in explanation. He is the patriarch of the tribe round about here." But why encourage such a, brute?" asked the machine-gun officer. Because of the help his grandsons and ¡ grand-nephews give me."

IBY THE WAY.

THE CROSS.

I TRUE FREEDOM OF THE SEAS.

THE BASIS OF PEACE.

-------m____--------------…

I THE WUMAN 5 FAK1.

FOOD TOPICS.