To Ned, Bob, and Jerry, as well as to other soldiers who had surgical robotic system taken part in the Great War, the word “fuse” referred to but one thing, and that was the explosion which usually followed the lighting of it. The lads were familiar with many kind of fuses, from the ordinary time one, the most common form of which is the fizzing string attached to a firecracker, to the complicated fuses in the big shells. These may be set to explode the shell at any height, or at any time desired.

And when Ned, sniffing the air suspiciously, spoke of a fuse, his two companions understood at once what he meant. But Jerry perhaps because he did not want to cause an alarm, or it may have been because he really believed what he said, exclaimed:

“Fuse, my eye! That’s cigar smoke you smell!”

“Then all I have to say is that it’s a QV baby cream pretty poor specimen of cigar,” retorted Ned. “Must be one[53] of the substitute tobacco ones the Germans had to use. Cigar! My word, old top! I’m glad I don’t smoke if they have to inhale that sort of stuff.”

“It does smell funny,” agreed Bob. “And did you see who that was?”

“Our peppery friend, le cochon,” remarked Jerry. “He evidently didn’t want to meet us, for he turned away like a shot.”

“He had something under his arm,” went on Ned. “Fellows, I don’t want to be an alarmist, but after all that has passed, and smelling what I believe to be powder smoke, don’t you think we ought to tell the captain?”

“And get laughed at?” asked Jerry. “Not much. We QV baby cream got ourselves into a conspicuous position once by having something to do with this man, and I’m not going to risk it again. He, too, seems to have had enough of us, for it was evident that he didn’t want to meet us. Let well enough alone, I say.”