Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops
H. Irving Hancock
Part 2 out of 4
in low tones, Captain Holmes frequently nodding.
"And now, I think I had better go down to the adjutant's office,
to see if he's still at his desk," Dick finished, "and, if so, make
"You'll stagger him," Greg predicted.
One of Greg's orderlies had already ridden the major's horse to
the stable, so Prescott walked briskly along the street until
he came to regimental headquarters. As he entered the adjutant's
office he found Colonel Cleaves seated on the corner of his
subordinate's desk, in low-toned conversation with his subordinate.
"Am I intruding, sir?" Dick inquired, saluting the colonel.
"No," said Colonel Cleaves. "In fact, Captain, you may as well
know the subject-matter of our conversation. Captain Prescott,
this camp would appear to be infested with German spies! This
evening sixteen men in F company were taken ill after supper.
They are now in hospital and some of them are expected to die.
The surgeons have examined some of the food left over from that
supper and report finding ground glass in some pieces of the apple
pie served as dessert. Later the captain of our machine-gun company,
which has only one machine gun so far, had the piece taken into
the company mess-room to demonstrate the mechanism to his lieutenants
so that they might instruct the men. He found the mechanism of
the piece so badly jammed that the machine gun refused to work.
I have inspected that piece, and in my opinion the gun is ruined.
As if that were not enough sixteen rifles belonging to G company
have been found with their bolts broken off. It is very plain
that German spies and sympathizers are at work in Camp Berry,
and the scoundrels must be found, Captain."
Colonel Cleaves spoke under the stress of great excitement, his
eyes flashing, the corners of his mouth twitching.
Dick went to the door, then to the doors opening into the rooms
on either side. Then he came back, saying in a low voice:
"Colonel, I met one of the German spies tonight. Perhaps the
ring-leader. If I see him again I shall recognize him and arrest
him instantly. Do you see what this is, sir?"
Dick held up the weapon that the carpenter had hurled at Private
"It is a 45-caliber, United States Government automatic pistol,"
said Colonel Cleaves.
"Exactly, sir; and the spy I have mentioned had it in his possession.
How he obtained it, I do not yet know, but I hope to find out. And
now, sir, I will tell you what happened and what action I took."
Thereupon Captain Dick Prescott narrated the amazing adventure
of the evening, winding up with:
"So, sir, I have placed Private Mock in arrest at the guard-house,
and through his detention there I hope to gain the clues that shall
lead us to the ferreting out and arrest of the whole crew of German
spies at Camp Berry!"
AT GRIPS WITH GERMAN SPIES
New barracks buildings continued to spring up at Camp Berry. Drafts
of men for a National Army division began to arrive, besides
a brigade of infantry, a regiment of field artillery and a
machine-gun battalion of regulars.
Brigadier-General Bates arrived to take command of the regulars,
while Major-general Timmins assumed command of the National Army
division and became commanding general of the camp as well.
New batches of recruits, constantly arriving for the regulars,
soon gave the Ninety-ninth an average of a hundred and eighty
men to the company, or forty-five men to each platoon. Drill
went on as nearly incessantly during daylight as the men could
"In my opinion it won't be very long before the Ninety-ninth goes
over and reports to General Pershing," Dick told his chum. "At
the rate our ranks are being filled up we'll soon have a full-strength
"But most of our men are still recruits," Holmes objected. The
regiment really isn't anywhere near fit for foreign service."
"It won't be so many weeks before we're ordered abroad," Dick
insisted. "Wait and see whether I'm right."
Wonderful indeed was the speed with which buildings were erected.
The record time for constructing a two-story building with an
office, supply room, mess-room and sleeping quarters for two hundred
and fifty men was ninety minutes!
Fast, too, was the work done by the Regular Army regiments, which
had this advantage over the National Army regiments, that most of
their officers were trained regulars and a large proportion of them
West Point graduates.
Of the sixteen men made ill by eating powdered glass not one died,
for the glass had been ground too fine to do the utmost mischief.
However, the camp was alarmed, and all food was kept under close
guard and was regularly examined with care before being served.
Soldiers bearing German names were in some instances suspected,
and unjustly. Officers tried to undo this harm by talking among
the men. Yet all wondered what would be the next outbreak of
spy work in camp.
Private Mock, sentenced to two weeks' arrest for being off the
reservation without leave, served his sentence moodily, usually
refusing to talk with his fellow-prisoners.
One Private Wilhelm was also serving a term in arrest at the bull-pen.
His name was held against him Wilhelm as a brand-new man in the
regiment, and one of the few with whom Mock would talk.
One morning the latter was overheard to say:
"I'm sick of this war already. I hope the Germans win. If I'm
sent over to France I'll watch my chance to desert and get over
to the Germans."
"Oh, ye will, will ye?" demanded Private Riley, another prisoner
in the bull-pen. "Ye dir-rty blackguard!"
Buff! The Irish soldier's fist caught Mock squarely on the jaw,
sending him squarely to earth, though not knocking him out. After
a moment Mock was on his feet again, quivering with rage. He
flew at Riley, who was a smaller man, hammering him hard. Other
soldier-prisoners interfered on behalf of Riley, whereupon Private
Wilhelm, a heavily built fellow, rushed to Mock's aid.
"A German and a German sympathizer!"
With that yell a dozen or so of time prisoners set upon the pair.
Some lively and perhaps nearly deadly punishment would have been
handed out, had not several men of the guard rushed in, thrusting
with their rifle butts and breaking up the unequal fight.
But Mock was reported for his utterance, and Wilhelm for his
sympathies. Both were brought up before Captain Greg Holmes, and
Dick was sent for to join in questioning the men, which was done
behind closed doors. At the end of the hearing Mock and Wilhelm
were returned to the guard-house looking much crestfallen.
"Did you hear what they said to me?" Mock was overheard to demand
of Wilhelm. "Said they'd have me tried for saying I'd desert,
and that I'd be likely to get several years in prison for talking
too much. Oh, I'm sure sick of being in this man's army!"
"Sure!" nodded Wilhelm, understandingly. "It's tough!"
"It'll be tougher, I warrant ye, if we hear ye two blackguards
using any more of your line of talk around here," Riley broke
in. "The guar-rd won't be forever stopping our pounding ye!"
After that Mock and Wilhelm were left severely alone by their
fellow-prisoners in the bull-pen. Most of these men were serving
merely sentences of a day to a week for minor infractions of
The next morning Private Riley managed to get word to Greg that
Private Brown, of the guard, had been talking with Mock at the
barbed wire of the pen enclosure.
"Private Brown is supposed to be an all right soldier, but he'll
bear watching," was Dick's comment when he heard the report.
That afternoon it was reported that both Mock and Wilhelm had
been talking with Private Brown at the barbed wire fence. Dick
smiled grimly when he heard it.
The next morning orders were read releasing Mock, Wilhelm, Riley
and some of the other soldier prisoners ahead of time that they
might not be deprived of too much instruction. The released ones
were cautioned to be extremely careful, in the future, not to
fall under the disciplinary ban.
"Sure, I can understand some of us getting out, but not Mock,"
declared Riley to a bunkie (chum). "Him an' his talk about deserting
to the enemy!"
In the meantime Dick had given an accurate description of the
carpenter who had tried to enlist Mock in some dangerous scheme
of revenge. The fellow had disappeared from among the gang of
carpenters, and that was all that was known. Secret Service men
had been put on the trail, but had failed to find the fellow.
"Now, maybe a soldier sometimes says more than he means," broke
in Sergeant Kelly, who had come up behind the pair on the nearly
deserted drill ground. "Soldiers are like other people in that
"But not Mock," Riley objected. "He's a bad egg."
"I don't say he isn't," Kelly rejoined. "What I'm advising you
is not to conclude that a man is worthless just because he talks.
For that matter, Riley, I believe that the men we have most to
fear are spies who manage to get in the Army, talk straight and
do their work well, and all the time they're plotting all kinds
of mischief. Like the fellow or the chaps who put that powdered
glass in the chow of F company not long ago."
"Here's hoping I live to see Mock hanged!" grumbled Private Riley,
as Sergeant Kelly moved away.
Kelly, who had served as sergeant with Dick in other regiments,
had followed him into the Ninety-ninth. Prescott rejoiced that
he had this excellent fellow with him, as capable first sergeants
are always looked upon in the light of prizes.
Yet, in a---to him---new man Greg Holmes had an almost equally
good top in Lund, a Swede who had put in ten years in the Army.
When Greg dropped into the company office that forenoon, Lund
handed him a list of men who had put in application for pass that
afternoon. It was to be a visitors' afternoon, and there would
be no drills.
"Nineteen, and all good conduct men, Sergeant Lund," commented
Greg, glancing over the list and reaching for a pencil with which
to O.K. the list.
"And two more put in application, but I didn't put their names
down, sir," Lund explained, as he stood at the side of the young
captain at the desk.
"Who were they?"
"Mock and Wilhelm."
"Have they behaved themselves since they got out of arrest?"
"Oh, yes, sir."
"Then we'll let them off this afternoon," proposed Holmes amiably,
as he wrote time two names down on the list. "Perhaps they'll turn
out better for a bit of considerate treatment."
Though Lund frowned as he received the list back in his own hand
he made no comment.
Immediately after the noon meal Mock and Wilhelm exhibited their
passes to the guard and walked briskly out of camp.
"Look at that now---the pair of traitors!" muttered Private Riley,
as he spat vengefully on the ground. "Me, I knew better than
to ask for it, and me so lately out of the pen. But those bir-rds
with dir-rty feathers get their chance to go off the reservation
and plot more mischief."
Had Private Riley been able to follow the pair unseen he would
have been even angrier. Mock and Wilhelm, stepping briskly along
the road over which Dick had ridden that eventful evening, kept
on for some three miles, then turned abruptly off into the forest.
For another half mile they kept on, going further and further from
"Here's the spot," said Mock, after some hunting under the trees.
"It must be the place, for it has the nail driven into the tree
"Sure, it's the place all right," Wilhelm agreed.
Mock emitted a shrill whistle that would not, however, carry very
far. Instantly there came an answering whistle.
"And here we are!" spoke up the stoop-shouldered stranger, coming
out of a. jungle of bushes. "I'm glad to see that you're on
time. And to-day I hope you've more sand than you had that night."
"Forget it," said Mock shortly.
"You're ready now?"
"To do anything," Mock agreed.
"Sure! He's all right!" Private Wilhelm nodded. "I've attended
"Come here, Carl!" called the stoop-shouldered one, in a low voice.
From another clump of bushes came another man, bearded and
bespectacled. If there's anything in a face, Carl was unmistakably
"Carl will tell you what to do," said time stoop-shouldered one.
"You men are in two different companies?" asked the man behind
"I'm in B company," nodded Mock. "Wilhelm is in E company."
"Then you can take care of two companies of men," Carl went on.
"Do to-morrow morning what I'm going to tell you. See these?"
The bespectacled one held up two vials that he had taken from
"Each one of you takes one of these," he went on. "Hide them
to-night where you please. In the morning, when the men in your
barracks hang their bedding out of the windows and go down to
breakfast, stay behind. Uncork a vial, each of you, and sprinkle
the liquid in here on the bedding of at least half a dozen soldiers.
You understand? Then slip down to your breakfasts."
"What's in these vials?" asked Mock, taking the one offered him
and curiously inspecting the liquid in it.
"Germs!" said the bespectacled one. "Measles. Do as I tell you,
and in a few days measles will begin to run through the two companies
like wildfire. In a few days more it ought to be well through
the regiment. Tomorrow night slip out of camp and come here.
Under those bushes over there you'll find civilian clothing.
Understand? Yes? In the pockets of each suit you'll find the
money to pay for your work. Take off your uniforms and put on
the other clothes. Then go where you please, but be sure to keep
out of time Army after this, for American soldiers are going to
die fast! The money you'll find will take care of you. Yes?"
"Yes!" nodded Mock. "Sure!"
Then, suddenly, Mock turned and whistled.
"You two men will throw up your hands!" came in the sharp tones
of Captain Dick Prescott, as he, Sergeant Kelly and four privates
stepped into view.
"You sneak!" yelled the stoop-shouldered one, making a rush at
Mock and trying to seize the vial. But Mock dodged. In the same
instant the bespectacled German tried to snatch the other vial
away from Wilhelm, but that soldier, too, dodged and saved the
"On the ground is a good place for you!" growled Sergeant Kelly,
knocking the stoop-shouldered stranger flat. Then, before the
fellow could rise Kelly had snapped handcuffs his wrists.
Two of the soldiers seized the bespectacled German just as he
started to run. He, too, felt the clasp of steel around his wrists.
Though Kelly and the four privates were armed with automatic
pistols no weapon had been drawn.
"Twice you've played the sneak, you!" hissed the stoop-shouldered
one, glaring at Private Mock.
"Twice more I'll do it to help Uncle Sam," retorted Mock, with
a short laugh. "I owed it to you to see you caught!"
"But you're a German!" hissed the bespectacled one at Wilhelm.
"Why did you turn on us, who are also German?"
"My father was a German; he's an American now," said Wilhelm,
coolly. "Me, I've always been an American, and I'm one now, and
will be as long as I live."
"Let me have those vials," Dick ordered. "Sergeant, take these,
and mark them as soon as you get back to company office. Then
we'll turn them over to the medical department. Sergeant, march
Heading toward the road Sergeant Kelly and his four soldiers led
the German captives away.
Captain Dick, with Mock and Wilhelm, followed, but did not attempt
to keep up with the sergeant's party,
When Kelly showed up in camp again he did not have his prisoners
with him. He had taken them elsewhere, and they were soon on
their way to an internment camp, where, like "good" Germans in
America, they would live until the close of the war, cut off from
all further chance to plot against Uncle Sam's soldiers.
Halting at a farm-house on the way, Dick telephoned to regimental
headquarters. Two minutes after his message had been received
Private Brown, white-faced and haggard, was placed under arrest.
Under grilling, he confessed what Secret Service men had already
learned---that his name was really spelled B-r-a-u-n; that both
he and his father were German subjects, and that the young man
had enlisted for the sole purpose of playing the spy and the plotter
in the Army.
It had been Mock's talk of deserting in France that had caused Braun
to talk to Mock, who had been told by Captain Prescott to talk in
that vein while in the bull-pen. Braun had fallen into the trap.
As for Wilhelm---which wasn't the young an's real name---he was
the son of a German-born father, but a young man of known loyalty
to the United States. He wasn't a soldier, but a War Department
agent who had donned the uniform for a purpose, and had come to
Camp Berry with a draft of real soldiers.
And this was the plan that Dick had worked out following his pretended
arrest of Mock that night up the road. Mock, resolved to become
a good soldier again, had undergone his humiliation in the bull-pen,
and the scorn of his fellow-prisoners, in order to trap the
stoop-shouldered German, a pretended carpenter, but really August
Biederfeld, a German spy. The bespectacled one, Dr. Carl Ebers,
was another spy. The two had delivered their messages in camp
While the pair Ebers and Biederfeld were interned, Braun, as one
who had enlisted in the Army and had taken the oath of service,
was court-martialed on a charge of high treason, and shot for
his crimes. Before his death he confessed that it was he who
had shaken the powdered glass in the food of F company, the stuff
having been supplied by Dr. Ebers. It was Braun, also, who had
damaged the machine gun and worked havoc with infantry rifles,
he, too, had forged and placed the pretended Prescott note about
"Cooking Cartwright's goose."
"Wilhelm" soon vanished, undoubtedly to do other work as an alleged
German sympathizer elsewhere. As for Mock:
"Private James Mock, B company, having suffered humiliation and
scorn that he might better fulfil his oath and serve his country,
is hereby restored to his former rank of sergeant in B company,
and with full honor, he will be obeyed and respected accordingly."
So ran the official order published to the regiment.
The liquid in the two vials was found to be swarming with measles
germs that would have started a veritable epidemic at Camp Berry.
Captain Dick Prescott's quick thinking and steady action had resulted
in the capture of the German spies who were seeking to destroy
No quiet days, however, were in store for the regiment.
WITH THE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS
"No other business, Sergeant?" asked Dick, one October morning,
as he looked up from the desk in company office at his "top."
"Among the nineteen National Army men drafted into this regiment,
sir, are three conscientious objectors who ask to be transferred
to some non-fighting branch of the service."
"Send for them," ordered Dick briefly, a frown settling on his brow.
Privates Ellis, Rindle and Pitson speedily reported in the office,
saluting, then standing at attention.
"You men are all conscientious objectors?" Prescott asked coldly.
"Yes, sir," said the three together.
"You all have conscientious objections to being hurt?" Prescott
"I have conscientious scruples against killing a human being, sir,"
replied Private Ellis.
"And you also have scruples against giving him a chance to kill
you," Dick went on mercilessly. "You believe in a police force
for preserving order in a community, do you?"
"If you found a burglar in your home, and had an opportunity, you
would send for a policeman?"
"Yes, sir," Ellis admitted.
"Even though you knew the policeman might find it necessary to kill
the burglar in attempting to arrest him?" Prescott quizzed.
"Then, while you presumably would not kill a burglar yourself you
would not object to calling a policeman who might do it?"
Private Ellis began to suspect the trap into which he was falling.
"I could not bear to kill the burglar myself, sir," he replied.
"And you would not want the burglar to kill you, so you would
summon a policeman to do whatever killing might be necessary.
In that case, are you a moral objector to killing, or are you
merely a coward who relies on another to do the killing for you?"
Private Ellis appeared much confused.
"Answer me," Dick commanded.
"The case doesn't seem the same to me, sir, as serving as a fighting
man in the war."
"The case is exactly the same, except in the matter of magnitude,"
Prescott retorted. "Germany is the burglar, trying to break into
the house of the world. You haven't time necessary courage to
fight a German yourself, but you will be glad to see a braver man
serve on the firing line in your stead. And you are a conscientious
objector, too, are you, Rindle?"
"I---I thought I was, sir," confessed the soldier. "Your questions,
sir, and your way of putting the case confuse me."
"And you, Pitson?" Dick demanded, eyeing the third man. "Knowing
that, if you are sent to some non-combatant work, some other man
will have to be sent to this company to do your killing work for
you, you wish to dodge fighting duty?"
"Yes, sir; I do," Pitson answered unhesitatingly.
"Pitson, consider the matter seriously and try to decide whether
you're a moral hero or a physical coward!"
"Sir, I am no mor-----"
Here the man hesitated, growing red in the face.
"Out with it," Dick smiled coolly.
"I am a conscientious objector, sir," Pitson rejoined. "No matter
what punishment may await me for refusing, I _must_ decline to
accept any duty that may call upon me to kill another human being."
"Yet you would call a policeman, in the case of finding a burglar
in your house?"
"Not if I thought the policeman would have to kill the burglar,
sir," Pitson protested.
"I'll wager the fellow is lying, at that," Prescott reflected,
as he rose. "Take off your hat, Pitson."
The soldier obeyed. His forehead sloped up and back. The back
of his head sloped up and forward, so that the top of his head was
"I've been interested in seeing what the head of a real conscientious
objector looked like," Dick remarked slowly. "I've seen your
head and from its shape I believe you to be a real conscientious
objector. I am going to approve your transfer to a non-combatant
branch, Pitson. You may step outside until you are sent for again."
After Pitson had gone Dick ordered the two remaining men to remove
their campaign hats. He studied the shapes of their heads so
attentively that both young men winced plainly under the inspection.
"Your heads are shaped differently from Pitson's," Prescott went
on. "The top of his head goes up to a point. If a mule had a
head shaped like that our veterinary surgeons would call it a
fool mule and reject it. But you men have heads expressing more
"What is the matter with you two? Have you been listening to
socialistic or other freak talk? Do you realize that the German
Kaiser and his nation threaten the freedom of the world? Do you
realize that the Germans want to rule this world, and do you know
how they would rule it, and what a miserable, impossible world
it would be for free men to live in?
"Do you realize that the only way we can stop the Germans from
ruling the world in their own brutal way is for the free men
of all good nations to fight? Do you fully understand that we
cannot fight such a beastly enemy in any other way than by killing
him? Do you so thoroughly object to fighting that you would see
a free world ground under the heel of the despotic Kaiser sooner
than help kill his soldiers and thus prevent such a world-wide
tragedy? Are you men, or are you dish-rags? Are your consciences
so important that you would put the world in cruel bondage rather
than violate your own little personal ideas of what is moral?
Are you men so sure you're right that you'd dodge a slight wrong---if
wrong it be---and allow the greatest wrong ever attempted to triumph?
Do your moral principles tell you that it is better to let Shame
rule the world instead of Justice?"
Ellis and Rindle were plainly non-plussed by Dick's passionate
appeal to their broader sense of right and truth.
"I'm afraid you two have been patting yourselves on the back in
the idea that you stood out for a great moral principle," Captain
Prescott resumed. "Don't you begin to see that the fact is that,
instead, you're really moral slackers who'd let the world go into
the devil's keeping provided you didn't have to be made to do
something that you don't want to do? I won't say you're physical
cowards, for honestly I hardly think you are, but aren't you at
least moral slackers?"
Private Ellis swallowed hard before he replied:
"No, sir; I'm not a moral slacker, for I've changed my mind.
I'm going to fight if I'm told to. I'm going to do whatever Uncle
Sam wants me to do. You've put the matter in a different light
to me, Captain Prescott."
"And you, Rindle?"
"I'm going to do myself the honor of asking permission to remain
in your company, sir," replied the second man, his mouth twitching.
"I'm a bit of a fool, sir. But I don't believe that I'm a fool
all the way through. I believe that I can see at least part of
a truth when it's put to me fairly, and now I believe that it's
right to fight for truth and justice as against black tyranny---and
I'm ready to do it."
"Good enough!" cried Dick, his face lighting up, as he held out
his hand. "If you have any further doubts, later, come to me.
I don't know everything, but we can get together and perhaps
between us we can get close to the truth."
Shaking hands with the soldiers who had found themselves, and
dismissing them, Dick added:
"Sergeant Kelly, find out what non-combatant branch that fellow
Pitson would prefer to serve in, see what unit will have him, and
then bring the transfer papers to me to sign."
Passing into the corridor, and hearing the piano's notes in the
mess-room he glanced inside. It was a rest period between drills,
and a soldier seated at the instrument strummed his way through
the air of a mournful ditty. It's an odd thing that when the
average soldier is wholly cheerful he prefers the "sobful" melodies.
At one of the long mess tables near the piano sat four young men,
paying no heed to the music, nor, in fact, doing anything in
"How many of you men have mothers?" Prescott asked with a smile.
All admitted that they had.
"How many of you have written that mother to-day?"
"How many wrote her yesterday?" None.
"Think hard," Dick went on. "Has any of you written his mother
a letter within five days?"
One soldier asserted that he had written his mother four days before.
"I wish you men would do me a favor," Dick went on. "Each one
of you write his mother at least a four-page letter and mail it
before supper. There is going to be time enough between drills
to-day. How about it?"
Each of the four soldiers standing at attention promised promptly.
"All right, then," Prescott nodded. "Rest!" Whereupon they resumed
their seats on the bench. "Remember that a promise is a promise.
And I've seen enough of soldiers to know that they're likely to
be careless where it hurts most."
"I'd do anything Captain Prescott asked me to do," remarked one
of the soldiers when Dick had passed on out of barracks.
"If I knew anything he wanted me to do I'd do it before he asked
me," declared another.
When a captain's men feel that way about him it's a cinch that
he commands a real fighting unit.
ORDERS FOR "OVER THERE"
During the next drill period Sergeant Kelly, hearing an angry
voice, glanced out through the window.
In the last draft to the company some green recruits had come in,
men who had been drafted to the National Army and sent to the
Regulars to fill up. Among them were Privates Ellis and Rindle.
"About face!" rapped out the crisp tones of Corporal Barrow, as
he glared at eight men in double rank.
Badly enough most of them turned. "You poor mutt-heads!" rasped
the corporal. "Do you think you'll ever make soldiers?"
In a jiffy Kelly reached for his campaign hat, put it on, and
stepped out into the corridor, passing out and heading for the
"Right dress!" called out Corporal Barrow. "Front! Rotten!
I wonder if you fellows think you'll ever be soldiers?"
Plainly the recruits were chafing under the lash of the corporal's
tongue. But Barrow, a young man of twenty-two, who had received
his chevrons after only four months of service, was in no mind
to be easily pleased to-day.
"You're the most stupid squad in the regiment!" the young non-com
went on. "Your place is in the bullpen, not in the ranks."
"Let the squad rest a minute or two, Corporal, and come with me,"
Sergeant Kelly called placidly. "I've a message far you."
Giving the required order, and lull of curiosity, Corporal Barrow
stepped quickly over to Kelly, who, placing a hand on the young
man's shoulder, walked him some distance away. Suddenly the top
sergeant, his back turned to the squad, grilled Barrow with a
"You poor boob in uniform!" rapped the sergeant. "Whatever made
you think of taking up soldiering. And what made you think yourself
fit to be in a regiment of Regulars? Do you know your left foot
from your right? You know as much about the manual of arms as I do
about Hebrew verbs. When you salute an officer you're a standing
disgrace to the service! Do you know what you ought to be doing
His face growing violently red, Barrow soon forgot to be indignant
in the excess of his wonder.
"Meaning---what?" he demanded, thickly, his lower jaw sagging
"How do you like the way I'm talking to you?" asked Sergeant Kelly,
his own strong jaw thrust out as though he were seeking to provoke
"Why do you ask?" demanded the corporal, with some show of spirit.
"Does any man enjoy being spoken to like a thieving dog?"
Instantly Kelly dropped back into a placid tone.
"How do you think the men of that squad like hearing you talk
to them as I've just talked to you?"
"But they're such numbskulls!" declared Barrow.
"You won't improve their intelligence by turning the hot water
on them all the time," Sergeant Kelly continued. "Could I make
a better corporal of you by scorching you every time I saw you?"
"You know you couldn't."
"No more can you turn those rookies into soldiers by raging at
them every time you speak. Take it from me, Corporal Barrow,
the wise drill-master doesn't use any rough talk once a week,
and not even then unless nothing else will answer. Talk to the
men right along as I heard you doing, and they won't have a particle
of respect for you. That being the case, you cannot teach them
anything that it will be worth their while to know. If the captain
had heard what I heard you saying to those men he'd put you back
in the awkward squad yourself. Patience is the first thing a
drill-master needs. Whom do you call the smartest corporal in
"Corporal Smedley," Barrow answered, without hesitation.
"Right, and he's going to be the next new sergeant. But Smedley
is the most patient drill-master in the company. Shall I send him
over to show you how to handle a green squad?"
"All right, then; I won't---unless you give me new reason to think
it necessary," smiled Kelly. Then his hand, still resting on the
younger man's shoulder, he walked back to where the squad waited.
"I'll tell you more about it any time you want to know," was Kelly's
last statement before he turned away.
"Attention!" called Corporal Barrow briskly. "Saluting is one
of the things a new soldier is likely to do badly at first. I'm
going to put you through a few minutes of it."
This time Barrow patiently singled out the soldier giving the
"You don't bring your hand up smartly enough," Barrow explained
patiently. "Try it again. No; don't bring it up with a jerk.
Do it like this---smartly, without jerk. No; that's not right,
either. Hold your hand horizontally when it touches your hat-brim.
Hold it the way I am doing. Don't be in a hurry to let hand
fall, either. When saluting an officer, keep the hand at the
hat-brim until he has returned the salute, or you've passed him.
There, you have it right now, Rindle. Do it three times more,
dropping your hand when I see you and return the salute. That's
it. Good work. Try it again, all together. Squad, salute!"
"Well done, Corporal," chimed in the voice of Captain Prescott,
who had come up behind the instructor, "Be sure that the squad
has drill enough in the salute, for a man is never a really good
soldier until he can render a salute smartly. Let the men break
ranks, Corporal, and have each man pass me in turn, saluting the
best he knows how."
As Captain Dick stood there, receiving and returning the salute
of each rookie as he passed, the young company commander noted
each man's performance with keen eyes.
"First rate for recruits, Corporal," Prescott said, as he turned
away. "Give them daily drill at it, however."
Corporal Barrow gave his own most precise salute as he received
his captain's orders. Then he called:
"In double rank, fall in! Mark time, march! Step more smartly,
Pelham. Hip, hip, hip! Squad halt! One, two!"
From the corner of the building Dick had paused an instant to
glance back. Then he went into the company office.
"I've just been watching Corporal Barrow and his new recruit squad,
Sergeant," Dick announced. "The men are doing first-rate for
new men. Corporal Barrow is a patient and competent drill-master."
"Yes, sir," Kelly replied, without trace of a smile.
"The patient instructor is the only one who can teach a recruit,
Sergeant. If you ever see a non-com in this company losing his
temper set him straight at the first chance."
"But don't make the correction in hearing of the squad unless the
case is a flagrant one."
"No, sir," Sergeant Kelly promised, his eyes smileless.
"How near is the company to full strength this morning?"
"Only twelve men short, sir. A new draft, coining in on the 4.10
train this afternoon is expected to fill all companies to strength,
Dick Prescott felt a sudden thrill. Filling up the companies
of the Ninety-ninth appeared to promise that the regiment would
soon be on its way overseas!
"If we get our full strength this afternoon, Sergeant, be sure
to have the clothing requisitions for them all in shape by this
evening. Then we'll try to draw to-morrow morning."
"I'm mighty glad that you applied for transfer to this regiment
when I was ordered to it. I don't know what I'd do without you."
"Thank you, sir!"
Kelly had sprung to his feet. He now stood at salute as Prescott
left the office.
The train due at 4.10 arrived after 8.30 that evening. Twelve
new men, assigned to A company, were marched to barracks after
ten. No man in the detachment had eaten since early morning. The
mess sergeant had coffee and sandwiches ready.
It was midnight when Kelly, with the aid of other non-coms, had
the measurements of the new men on paper and his clothing requisition
ready. Dick Prescott was on hand to sign as company commander.
At six in the morning first call to reveille sounded from the bugles.
Like the other companies in the regiment A company tumbled out
of its cots. Men dressed, seized soap, towels, brushes and combs,
and hurried to the wash-room at the rear of barracks. Then back
again, the final touches being administered. Outside a bugle
blew, calling the men to first formation. Then mess-call caused
two hundred and fifty hungry soldiers to file into the mess-room,
kits in hand, and line up at the further end for food and hot drink.
At 7.46 Dick Prescott stepped briskly into the company office.
"Sergeant Kelly, have each man carry out his mattress to the incinerator
and empty out the straw. Detail men to burn the straw. Have
the cots piled at the end of each squad room. At 8.25 turn the
company out with barracks bags and dismiss after the bags have
been placed. At 8.40 turn out the company in full marching order,
with arms and pack, for inspection. As soon as practicable thereafter
the men will be turned out again for issue of razors."
"Yes, sir," Kelly replied with a quiver. "Of course you know what
it means, Sergeant?"
"The regiment is moving, sir."
"Moving by rail to the point of embarkation, Sergeant. We're---at
last we're going over!"
There must have been an eavesdropper outside the office door,
for instantly, so it seemed, the news flashed through the building.
"Orders have come!"
"We're going over!"
"Stop that cheering, men!" boomed Dick Prescott's voice, as he
stepped into the corridor. "This is Georgia, and you'll wake
all the sleeping babies in North Carolina."
ON BOARD THE TROOPSHIP
North to an embarkation camp, not to a pier. There passed several
days of restlessness and unreality of life.
Final issues of all lacking equipment were made at last. Then,
one evening, after dark, the Ninety-ninth once more fell in and
marched away, the bandsmen, carrying their silent instruments,
marching in headquarters company.
No send-off, no cheering, not even the playing of "The Girl I
Left Behind Me."
No relatives or friends to say good-bye! Nothing but secrecy,
expectancy, an indescribable eagerness clothed in stealth.
"How do you feel, Sergeant?" Captain Prescott asked, as he and
his top stood at the head of A company awaiting the final order
that was to set the nearly four thousand officers and men of the
Ninety-ninth in motion on the road.
"Like a burglar, sneaking out of a house he didn't realize he
was in, sir," Kelly answered.
First Lieutenant Noll Terry shivered; it was impatient
Then the order came. The dense column reached the railway, where
the sections of the troop train waited. By platoons the men marched
into dimly lighted cars. When all were aboard the lights were
turned off, leaving Uncle Sam's men in complete darkness, save
where a pipe or cigarette glowed.
Despite the eagerness the newness and uncertainty of it all, many
of the soldiers dozed unconscious of the talk and laughter of others.
Singing was forbidden and non-coms had orders to be alert to stop
any unnecessarily loud noises.
Forth into the night fared the sections of the train. How long
it was on the rail none of the men had any clear idea. It was
still dark, however, when a stop was made and the order ran
Again dim lights were turned on, that men might find all their
belongings. Adjusting their packs the platoons of the Ninety-ninth
found their way to the ground below.
For once there was no attempt at good military formation. At
route step and in irregular columns, the regiment moved forward
by platoons. Unknown officers stood along the way to direct,
for the regiment's platoon leaders had no knowledge of the way.
Thus a mile or more was covered by a regiment that looked disorganized
and spectral in the darkness. Then the aspect changed somewhat.
Whiffs of salt air prepared the soldiers. Army trucks were moving
on parallel roads or trails. Ahead of them appeared high fences
of barbed wire. It looked as though the travelers had come upon
a huge bull-pen. There were gates, guarded by military sentries
not of the Ninety-ninth.
Through these gates and past the barbed wire filed the marching men.
Further ahead loomed the sheds of a great pier.
With the help of officers who knew the ground the Ninety-ninth found
room to fall in for roll call.
"All present or accounted for!"
Then battalion by battalion, a company at a time, the regiment
passed on through the dimly lighted pier sheds. On the further
side towered the bulwarks of a great ship, with gangways reaching
down to the pier.
In some mysterious way order reigned and speed was observed.
Line after line of uniformed men passed up the gangways and vanished.
Lights were on the ship, yet dim enough to be in keeping with the
Last of all the almost muffled noises of gangways being drawn
down on to the piers. Hawsers were cast off. Stealthy tugs hauled
the ocean monster out into the stream.
"Off at last!" was felt more than spoken. Then the tugs let go
and the ship, outwardly darkened save for the few necessary running
lights, moved slowly down stream.
Some venturesome soldiers found their way up on deck.
Above them, on a still higher deck, the shadowy forms of officers
The strangeness of the dark sea lay over all. It seemed uncanny,
this dark departure from one's native land---the land for which
these men were going to fight, to bleed and die!
Yet there was no sense of fear. It was the strangeness that gripped
Up forward on the spar deck a few enlisted men opened their mouths
to sing. The chorus grew in volume and the words rolled up:
_"And I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way!"_
_"For I belong to the Regulars. I'm proud to say."_
_"And I'll do my dooty-ooty, Night or day."_
_"I don't know where I'm going, But I'm on my way!"_ Breaking
through the words the ship's deep-throated whistle boomed its
IN THE WATERS OF THE SEA WOLVES
Some days later the same ship steamed steadily through the waters
on the further side of the Atlantic.
Nor was the Ninety-ninth alone. Seven other transports were keeping
her company, together with a busy, bustling escort of British and
For these American adventurers of to-day were nearing the coast
Whether these transports were to unload their cargoes of human
beings and munitions at any port in Great Britain or Ireland few
on the transports knew, nor did those few tell others.
Ever since the first morning out there had been daily drills,
on every transport, in abandoning ship. A few night drills, too,
had been held. Not an officer or man was there but knew his station
and his lifeboat in case of disastrous meeting with a submarine.
These had not been the only drills, however. From morning to
night platoons had been drawn up on the decks and military drills
had been all but incessant while daylight lasted. Especially
had the newest recruits been drilled. By this time the latest
of them to join the regiment had gained considerable of the appearance
of the soldier.
Dick and Greg, sharing the same cabin, had been much together,
for on shipboard they had found much leisure. It had been the
lieutenants who had drilled the platoons. Captains were but little
occupied on shipboard.
On the morning that it became known that the fleet had entered
the Danger Zone, Dick and Greg stood on deck to the port of the
pilot house. Leaning over the rail they idly scanned the surface
of the sea to northward.
"Almost in France, my boy!" Prescott cried eagerly. "Or England!"
"Near enough, yet we may never see either country," returned Captain
Holmes, suppressing a yawn, for the sea air, even after a night's
rest, made him drowsy.
"Croaker!" laughed Dick.
"I'm not," Greg denied, "and I don't want to croak, either, but
who can tell? We are now in the waters where the sea wolves have
been busy enough in finding prey."
"So far they haven't proved that they could do much to troopships,"
Dick declared warmly.
"There always has to be a first time," Holmes retorted.
"All right, then," smiled Prescott. "We're going to be torpedoed.
Now, I hope that satisfies you."
"You know it doesn't," Holmes rejoined. "This sea air makes me
so sleepy, all the time, that I don't feel as though I could stand
any real excitement."
"Being torpedoed would be something to look back upon in later
years," Dick observed thoughtfully.
"Yes, if we had any later years on earth in which to look back,"
Captain Holmes responded.
"Who's this strange-looking creature coming?" Dick suddenly demanded,
as he stared aft.
"Captain Craig, the adjutant, of course," Greg answered. "He has
his life belt on, and he's stopping to talk to others."
"After he speaks they hurry away," Dick went on. "I understand.
All hands are ordered to put on life belts."
And that, indeed, proved to be the message that Captain Craig
brought forward with him. Dick and Greg did not have far to go
to reach their cabin. In five minutes they reappeared on deck
in the bulky contrivances intended to buoy them up in the water
should they have the bad fortune to find themselves tossing on
"This makes the danger seem real," Prescott observed.
"Too blamed real!" grumbled Greg. "We're ordered not to take
these belts off, either, until the order is passed, and are told
that the order won't be passed to-day, either. Imagine our trying
to get close to the dining table to eat in comfort!"
"It may be in the plans that we're not to eat to-day," Captain
Ahead, on either flank and at the rear, the torpedo-boat destroyers
were scouting vigilantly, with gunners standing by ready to fire
promptly at any periscope or conning tower of an enemy craft that
might be sighted.
"I don't suppose there'll be any band concert this afternoon,"
said Greg Holmes suddenly and ruefully. "And we have a mighty
good band, too. And probably no band concert to-morrow forenoon,
"We may not be at sea to-morrow forenoon," Dick suggested.
"Have you been able to figure out at all where we are?" Captain
"I haven't. I don't know either our course or the speed at which
we are traveling. All I am sure of is that we are still out of
sight of land. I was told that we are nearing the coast of Ireland,
but Ireland is a town of some size, so the information isn't very
"Say," ejaculated Greg, suddenly looking over at the water, "we
have begun to hit up a faster speed. So have the other transports.
And look at the destroyers off yonder. They are moving faster,
too. I wonder if any submarine signs have been seen."
There could be no doubt that the fleet was moving faster.
"I take it," Prescott guessed, "that we've reached the part of
the ocean, where greater speed is considered much more healthful."
"The leading transport is signaling, and so are the destroyers
in the lead," Greg announced, peering ahead.
In their path, and coming nearer four columns of dense smoke could
be observed ascending as though coming up out of the water.
"More destroyers, or some cruisers, coming out to meet us," Dick
conjectured. "As yet they're too far away to be seen from this
deck. Yes, I must be right. Look at the watch officers on the
bridge. They are using their marine glasses and looking forward."
"More craft coming to help us?" Greg called up, after having walked
nearly under the bridge end on the port side.
"Yes, sir," replied one of the watch officers. "Four American
destroyers coming up to strengthen the escort."
Then he named the oncoming craft, whereat Dick Prescott started
"The first two are the craft commanded by Darry and Danny Grin,"
Dick murmured to his chum.
"That's right," Greg nodded. "I wonder if they know we're here."
"Probably not. And they wouldn't recognize us, even if they saw
us at a distance. The uniform tends to make all men look alike
at a very little distance. It will seem tough, though, to be
so near Darry and Danny Grin and not have even a wave of the hand
"What part of the ocean are we in?" Greg called up to the obliging
"On the surface, sir," came the dry reply. "On the surface---just
where, in latitude and longitude?" Holmes insisted.
But the ship's officer smiled and shook his head.
"I'm not permitted to tell that, sir. Wish I could."
Going at the speed now employed the transport fleet and the oncoming
destroyers were not long in getting to close quarters.
Dick named the two destroyers commanded by Lieutenant-Commander
Dave Darrin and Lieutenant-Commander Dan Dalzell and asked the
bridge officer if he could point them out. That the man above
was able and very glad to do.
"We'll keep our eyes open in the hope of being close enough to
signal Darry and Danny Grin," Captain Holmes suggested.
"We-----" Dick began, but he stopped right there, for of a sudden
three of the destroyers let go with their three-inch guns with
a great deal of energy.
Two periscopes had been sighted off to northward. After a few
rounds had been served from the destroyers' guns the firing ceased,
for half a dozen of the escort craft had gone racing northward
and there was danger of hitting them.
Not that any periscopes were now visible, however, for these had
been instantly withdrawn under the surface. The destroyers, however,
went alertly in search of their enemy prey, even to dropping a
few depth bombs on the chance of destroying the enemy sub-sea craft.
"A good warning, at least," commented Captain Prescott. "We don't
feel quite as foolish, now, in our life belts."
Everlastingly and splendidly alert the naval craft had chased
off the sea wolves ere the latter had had time to bare their teeth!
Still more the speed was increased. An hour passed in which there
was no alarm. Then the enlisted men, forward, filed below decks
to have their early noon meal. The first lieutenants of each
company went below, too, to inspect the food served to their men.
Half an hour later the Ninety-ninth's officers descended to their
own mess in the cabin dining-room.
"This trip through the danger zone isn't as exciting as I had
supposed and expected it would be," announced Major Wells.
"Yet, sir, one attempt was made against us this forenoon," said
"True, but the destroyers showed how promptly the attackers could
be driven off," the major argued.
"Yet suppose the destroyers had been half a minute longer in sighting
the tell-tale periscopes?" Prescott suggested.
"But they weren't tardy, and it wouldn't be like the Navy to be
slow," rejoined Major Wells. "I still contend that there is nothing
very exciting in passing through the danger zone on a troopship."
"And I hope, sir," Greg put in, "that nothing will happen to change
your mind about the danger. For my part, I have been eating in
momentary expectation of feeling a big smash against the side
of the ship."
"What is happening now?" demanded Lieutenant Noll Terry, half-rising
from his chair.
All could feel that the big ship had suddenly changed her course
to a violent oblique movement to starboard. Yet, as no alarm had
been sounded no officer cared to rise and hurry to deck. It might
make him look timid or nervous.
"There we go again, in the opposite direction. We're zig-zagging.
What do you make of that, Captain?" Lieutenant Terry asked.
"The enemy craft must be around and sending torpedoes our way,"
Dick guessed, dropping a lump of sugar in his coffee and stirring
"In a merry throng like this the suspicion that you're being dogged
by a hostile submarine doesn't strike one as very terrifying,
does it?" Greg inquired as he took a piece of cake from the plate
held out to him.
At this moment the adjutant, Captain Craig, who had been eating
with Colonel Cleaves in the latter's quarters above, entered the
dining-room briskly, stepping to a nearby table and rapping for
"Gentlemen," he announced, "the sea appears to be infested, at
this point, with unseen enemy craft. Ours, among other transports,
has narrowly dodged two torpedoes. It is quite within the limits
of possibility that we may be struck at any moment. The commanding
officer therefore requests me to ask that company officers,
especially second lieutenants, finish their meal as quickly as
possible and station themselves near their men. This is not to be
done hurriedly, or with any sign of excitement, but merely in order
that, if we should be struck, discipline may be preserved
There was no excitement. Second lieutenants finished the morsels
on which they were engaged, some of them washing down the food
with a final gulp of coffee. Then, without undue haste, they left
the dining-room by twos or threes.
Adjutant Craig watched them with nods of satisfaction.
"That was the right way for them to leave," he told Dick. "We
do not want to throw any extra excitement in among the enlisted
men, but we want them to feel that their officers are standing
by, and that, at need, there will be disciplined rescue work."
Soon after the last of the platoon leaders had vanished the captains
and first lieutenants made their way to the decks above.
Contrary to German reports that American soldiers are kept mostly
between decks while transports are in the danger zone, the decks
fore and aft were crowded with men of the Ninety-ninth. Those
who stood nearest to the rails felt that they had the best vantage
points from which to see what was going on. It was with eager
interest, not fear, that the soldiers took in all that was visible
of the fleet's progress and the work of the destroyers to protect
the troopships from disaster.
From northward and slightly ahead of the course of the troopship
of the Ninety-ninth a swift destroyer could be seen darting
over the waves. As she came closer it seemed to the Army beholders
that she traveled with the speed of an express train.
"Worth watching, and every officer and man visible on her looks
and acts like a piece of the machinery," commented Major Wells,
passing Prescott an extended field glass. "Want to take a look
"Why, I'd know that tall officer on her bridge anywhere in the
world if I had as good a view of him as I have now," uttered Dick
"Old Darry?" inquired Greg Holmes.
"No one else. Take a look at him. Next to the last officer on the
port side of the bridge."
The instant that the glass gave him a sight of the familiar face
Captain Holmes uttered a whoop.
"Darry himself, and sure enough!" Greg exclaimed. "Wonder what
he's heading in so close for?"
"He knows what he's doing," Prescott returned. "Don't worry about
"I don't," Greg retorted cheerfully. With a rounding sweep the
destroyer commanded by Dave Darrin turned out of the way of the
troopship, then came up close, on the same course, scooting by.
"Good old Darry!" Prescott yelled through a megaphone that Greg
thrust into his unoccupied hand.
For a wonder Dave heard, just as the destroyer darted in at her
closest point to the transport.
For just an instant Darrin turned to wave his hand. Then, between
both hands, placed over his mouth, he shouted:
"Hullo, Dick! 'Lo, Greg!"
Dave waved his hand, then turned to give an order to his watch
officer. A brief greeting, but it meant a world to the three chums
who had had a part in it.
"Now, if Danny Grin's craft would only come in that close!" sighed
But it didn't. Once in a while Prescott and Holmes could make
out the craft commanded by Dan Dalzell, but it didn't come in
close enough for a hail.
Bang! sounded a destroyer's gun, far ahead.
Bang! came as if in answer from the bowgun of the leading transport.
"There are the Huns, and here is the scrap coming!" yelled a corporal
perched up in the bow of the ship.
"Hurrah! Hurrah!" Cheers went up in such volume as to be deafening.
"Tell the men to stop that cheering," shouted Major Wells, in
order to make Dick and Greg hear him. "And tell them that no
more men are to crowd the rail on either side. No noise, and
nothing to make the ship list!"
Going down three steps at a time, Dick and Greg descended the
companionway forward of the pilot house.
"No cheering!" shouted Prescott, pushing his way through the throng.
With Dick moving through the masses of soldiers on the port side
of the deck, and Greg performing a similar office on the starboard
side, quiet was soon restored. Then Captain Prescott's voice
was heard announcing:
"You men must remain quiet, or how can the ship's officers make
their orders heard? Remember, not a cheer after this. And no
more men are to crowd to the rails."
"It's a pity that the rest of us cannot see what is going on!"
half-grumbled a soldier, so close that Prescott heard him.
"I know just how you feel about that," the young captain admitted,
wheeling and regarding the soldier. "But this is war, not sport.
Absolute, uncomplaining discipline is the surest means of bringing
this ship and its human cargo through safely."
Another captain and Lieutenants Terry and Overton had joined the
first two officers on the deck, and order was maintained without
Bang! bang! bang! bang!
"This sounds like a full-fledged naval battle!" Greg Holmes called
to his chum, his eyes dancing.
"And we cannot see a bit of it!" sighed a soldier complainingly.
"You're in a position to see as much of it as I'm seeing, my man,"
Prescott retorted, with an indulgent smile. "You and I are both
obeying orders instead of pleasing ourselves."
Watching some of the officers at the rail on the deck above, Captain
Prescott was able to discover that the fight was being brought close
to his own ship.
Then there came another sign. From up forward the port bow gun
of the troopship turned itself loose with a sharp report.
"Did you note how that gun's muzzle is depressed?" Greg asked
Dick, in a low voice.
"I did," Dick answered with a nod.
Bang! The port gun had been turned loose again. Up on the saloon
deck the officers at the port rail were waving their campaign
hats as though what they saw filled them with liveliest interest.
"I'd like to be up there!" murmured Greg in his chum's ear.
"And I'm glad I'm down here," Prescott retorted. "It shows our
men that captains of the regiment are shut out from the view as
much as they are. I'd like to see what is going on, but so would
I like to have all these men who cannot be near the rails see what
Bang! went the starboard bow gun of the transport, her nose pointing
"Only one thing is plain to me," Holmes declared. "We're in the
midst of a pack of the sea wolves, and they're doing their best
to hit us with torpedoes!"
THE BEST OF DETAILS
Boom! It was a dull sound, off to port. Then even the men who
stood in the middle of the spar deck were able to see the top
of a broad column of water that rose out of the ocean.
Major Wells so far forgot himself as to give vent to a yell of joy,
then suddenly clapped a restraining hand over his own mouth.
"Sorry you men couldn't have seen that," the major called, leaning
over the rail above and addressing the men on the spar deck.
"A destroyer let go a depth charge, which exploded under water
and threw up a geyser that would make hot water feel tired."
"Look at that now, Major," urged Captain Cartwright, pulling at
his superior's sleeve. Major Wells walked to the side rail, looked
out over the water, and had all he could do to keep back another
yell of glee.
"There's something out there that's worth seeing, men, and it's
visible," the major called down. "A great blot of oil on the
water, and it's spreading. That shows that a submarine was knocked
to flinders by that depth charge!"
In spite of orders a low, surging cheer started.
"Shade off on that noise, men!" Dick ordered briskly, holding up
his hand and moving again through the crowd. "Remember that we
cannot have any racket except what the guns make."
A few more guns were fired, and the racket died down.
"The show's over!" shouted Major Wells. "Evidently we got out
of that meeting with less damage than the enemy sustained. We
lost no craft, while Fritz has one pirate boat less. Our destroyers
of the escort are now moving along straight courses once more."
On the saloon deck many of the officers turned and stepped inside.
That set the fashion, for hundreds of enlisted men left their
own decks and went below, either to sleep, read or write letters.
Then, a minute later, Major Wells once more appeared at the rail
forward, calling down:
"For the benefit of those who like exact statistics I will say
that the commanding officer has just received a signaled message
to the effect that the navies of two countries got an enemy submarine
apiece. You may omit the cheers!"
Those who remained on deck saw, a couple of hours later, several
specks off on the water which, they were told, were British and
American patrol boats out to give aid to victims of submarine
Then night came on, dark, hazy, a bit chilling, so that officers
and men alike were glad enough to seek their berths and get in
under olive drab blankets.
"The haze and mist will hinder submarines anyway, so the weather
is in our favor," was the word passed around.
Save for the guard, and those on other active duty, the passengers
on the troopship slept soundly. They might be sunk in the night,
but American fighting men do not always dwell on danger.
When first call sounded in the morning the men rubbed their eyes,
then realized that the ship was proceeding at very slow speed.
"Get up, you lubbers!" called a man going down to one of the berth
decks. "Do you realize that the ship is at the entrance of a
Then a cheer went up that no officer could have stopped until
it had spent its first force.
At last! France! "Over there!"
Never had men dressed faster. How the soldiers piled up the
companionways! Yet a few bethought themselves to kick their
now discarded life belts with a show of resentment and contempt.
However, the first glimpses had from the decks were bound to be
disappointing. It was just after daylight. The mist of the night
had thickened instead of vanishing. Here and there patchy bits
of land could be seen through the haze, but for the most part
France was invisible behind a curtain of early winter fog.
One at a time, under the guidance of local pilots, transports
moved slowly into the harbor, moved slowly some more, then docked.
Here at last, made fast to a French pier constructed by American
engineer troops! But where were the cheering crowds of French?
Absent, for two reasons. The French had already seen many regiments
of American troops arrive in former months, and the novelty of
such a sight had worn off. Besides, most of the French who lived
in this same port were now just about quitting their own beds.
"Who'll be first ashore from this regiment?" demanded a laughing
soldier as he witnessed the work of bringing the first gangway
aboard from the pier.
"The guard!" tersely replied Captain Cartwright, as he appeared
with a sergeant and a detachment from the guard. As soon as the
gangway had been made fast sentries were thrown out, two of them
being stationed at the foot of the gangway itself.
Then came a call the soldier never ignores. The buglers sounded
the first mess-call of the day.
After the meal came inspection, after which, a company at a time,
the men were sent over the side to the pier. A short distance
up a street the men were halted, forming in two ranks at the side
of the street. The reasons for all that followed were not clear
to the newer men in the ranks.
While the men had been eating between decks the officers of the
regiment had gone to their last ship's meal in the dining saloon.
Before the meal was half over the adjutant had entered to call
"At the conclusion of the meal Major Wells, Captains Prescott
and Holmes and First Lieutenant Terry will report at my office
for instructions from the colonel."
"That's more interesting than clear," declared Greg, as soon as
he had swallowed the food in his mouth. "I wonder why we four
are wanted? What have we been doing and why are we the goats?"
"Probably," smiled Dick, "it is something to do with either praise
or promotion---the two things that come most regularly to a soldier,
Captain Holmes's curiosity reached such a high point that he would
have bolted his food in order to get more quickly to the adjutant's
office, but he noted that the battalion commander was not hurrying
"Confound Wells!" the irrepressible Greg whispered to his chum.
"I believe he knows what it's all about, and he knows that we
cannot report before he's ready to do the same, so he's tormenting
us by taking twice his usual amount of time to finish breakfast!"
"Keep cool," Dick returned dryly.
At last Major Wells finished his meal. He waited until he saw that
the other three officers concerned with him in the orders had
done the same. Then he inquired:
"Are you ready, gentlemen?"
Rising, Major Wells led the way above. When they entered the
adjutant's office they found Colonel Cleaves standing there, chatting
with a French major and two captains. Colonel Cleaves introduced
his own officers, then added:
"Gentlemen, it is intended that as many as possible of the officers
of this regiment shall go to the fighting front and spend some time
there studying the actual war conditions. You four have been chosen
for the first detail. Captain Ribaut is going to take you there.
He will act as your guide and your mentor for the length of your
visit to the front trenches."
Even the steady, unexcitable Major Wells showed his delight very
plainly. To a soldier this was unexpected good luck, to start
immediately, with the surety of finding himself speedily in the
thick of things in the greatest war in the world's history!
"I have informed Captain Ribaut," Colonel Cleaves continued, "that
you will be ready to leave the ship in an hour."
OFF TO SEE FRITZ IN HIS WILD STATE
By the time that Dick and his brother officers left the ship in
the wake of Captain Ribaut, the infantrymen massed along the nearby
street had been gladdened by the sight of a few score of French
women and children who came to the water front to look on.
Half of the regiment was now ashore and the rest were going over
the side slowly.
At the head of the pier Captain Cartwright saluted Major Wells
and Captain Ribaut, and found chance to say to Prescott in a low
"You're always one of the lucky ones! How do you manage it?"
"I don't know that there is any system possible in inviting luck,"
"You're going right up to the actual front. You'll see Fritz in
his wild state. I envy you!"
"Your turn will come, Cartwright."
"It can't come too soon then. For to-day, and the next few days,
I can't see anything ahead of me but drudgery."
Ever since that quarrel at Camp Berry, Cartwright had kept mostly
away from Prescott and Holmes. Dick, who knew the captain for
an indolent chap, didn't know whether, in other respects, he liked
him. To most of the officers of the Ninety-ninth Cartwright appeared
to be more unfortunate than worthless.
"Gentlemen," said Captain Ribaut, when they had passed the head of
the pier, "I think that I can obtain a car if you wish it. What
is your pleasure?"
"Thank you, but we've been on shipboard for so many days that
we'll enjoy the chance to stretch our legs," replied Major Wells.
"A walk of a few miles would do us a lot of good this morning."
"It is not that far," replied the French captain, who spoke excellent
English. "The distance is, I should say, about two kilometers."
As that meant a little more than a mile the party walked off briskly.
"Why, this doesn't look really like a French town," declared Major
"You Americans have been coming here for so many months that you
have made the city American," explained Captain Ribaut. "See,
even the shops display signs in English, and very few in French.
It is on American money that these shops thrive. Here comes
one of our own poilus, a sight you will not see many times in this
American town on French soil."
Poilus is a French word meaning "shaggy," and is commonly applied
to the French enlisted man. As this French soldier drew close
he brought up his hand in smart salute to his own officer and
the Americans. Greg turned to look back, but the French soldier
was no longer looking their way.
Up the street, away from where the Ninety-ninth American sentries
were posted, soldiers of the American military police patrolled.
"You see how American this city has become," said Captain Ribaut.
"Here French law runs only for citizens of France. Your American
military authorities look after your own men."
French shopkeepers, speaking a quaint, broken English, came to
their shop doors to greet the Americans, even to urge the newcomers
to enter and buy, but Captain Ribaut waved all such aside with a
Further on they passed through a public square. By this time
many French people were about, but Dick noted that they betrayed
no curiosity over the appearance of newly arrived American officers.
The sight had become an old story to these people who, however,
bowed courteously as they passed.
Down other streets Ribaut led the way, and so they arrived at last
at a railway station.
"We are about in time," remarked the Frenchman, after glancing
at his wrist watch. "We shall get our seats in the train, and
then we shall not wait long."
Past French guards and saluting railway employees the little party
went. As the train was already made up the Frenchman led them to
a first-class coach, a train guard throwing open the door. They
entered and seated themselves.
"You will see that none others are shown into this compartment,"
said Captain Ribaut to the guard in French. The door was closed.
"After we leave the station there will be something to see," explained
their guide. "Yet France is not very attractive in such weather.
Up at the front, though, there is nothing at all of France left.
There is nothing but bare ground, full of shell-holes. The whole
face of nature has been denuded and blackened by the atrocious enemy."
When the train had been under way a couple of minutes Captain
Ribaut leaned forward.
"Look over there," he said, "and you will see where your regiment
will he housed for the next two or three days. After that the
regiment will entrain and will go to one of the regular training
camps, where you will find it on your return from the front."
His American hearers looked out on a large village of unpainted pine
"That is a rest camp for troops when first they come from the
transport," explained Captain Ribaut. "Even the barracks are
American, built in sections in your country, then shipped over
here and set up. The village you are passing will shelter two
regiments of American infantry."
Before long the Americans found themselves much more interested
in the French officer's conversation than in the glimpses of his
country that were obtainable. Captain Ribaut had served from
the beginning of the war and was familiar with every trick of
fighting practiced at the front. He had a wealth of information
to give them---so much, in fact, that before long Dick Prescott
began to jot down information in a notebook.
Toward the end of the forenoon a soldier came aboard at one station
with an outfit of dishes on two long trays. He was followed by
two others bearing food and coffee. These were set out and the
soldiers departed, the travelers falling to with a relish. At
a station beyond, the dishes were removed by other soldiers.
Then the train rolled slowly on its way.
"There is much in our travel facilities that I shall have to beg
you to excuse," said Captain Ribaut rather wistfully. "France
is not what it was, not even in the matter of its railways."
"France is not what she was," retorted Major Wells quickly, "because,
glorious as she, was, she has gone up infinitely higher in the
human scale. Could any other country in the world have stood
the ravages of war so long and still live and contain so brave
and resolute a people? Never mind your railways, Captain. It
is the people, not the railways, who make a country. Your French
people compel our constant and most willing admiration."
At another railway station, as the train halted, and the guard
opened the door briefly, a low, sullen rumbling could be heard.
"Do you have thunderstorms at this time of the year, Captain?"
asked Lieutenant Terry.
"Ah, but yes," replied the Frenchman. "It is a German thunderstorm
that you hear in the distance---artillery."
"I feel like a fool!" exclaimed Noll Terry flushing. "Of course
I should have recognized the sound of distant cannon-fire."
"Don't feel badly about it, Mr. Terry," said Major Wells. "In
all your career in the American Army you have never heard as much
cannon-fire as you can hear in a single hour on the battle-front
At the next station the rumbling was much louder. French soldiers
were becoming more numerous. At times an entire French regiment
could be seen marching along a road.
"At the next station," announced Captain Ribaut, "we shall find
ourselves at the end of our rail journey. We are nearing the
front. If you are interested, gentlemen, there goes one of our
French airplane squadrons on its way to the front."
Instantly all four Americans were craning their necks at the windows.
High in the air, the French aircraft in flight looked as graceful
as swallows on the wing.
"They are battleplanes," explained Captain Ribaut further. "Some
of the Hun flyers are almost sure of a tumble this afternoon."
When the American party alighted at the last station on the line,
and looked back, they beheld long trains of freight cars coming
slowly along. The train from which they had descended was hauled
out and quickly shunted out of the way on a siding. The freight
trains pulled in, going to various sidings before huge warehouses
in which the food and fighting supplies were stored until wanted
closer to the front. It was a scene of deafening noise and what
looked like indescribable confusion. Yet everything moved according
to a plan.
"Let us come where we can hear our own voices!" shouted Captain
Ribaut in the major's ear, and led the way. Behind the station
they found a limousine car awaiting them. As there were seats
for five inside, the travelers soon found themselves vastly more
comfortable than they had been on the train.
"We will drive slowly," said Captain Ribaut, after he had given
his orders to a soldier chauffeur, "for one does not usually go
into the trenches until after dark. There will be plenty to see
on the way, and enough to talk about."
At one point Captain Ribaut directed the soldier-driver to turn
the machine into a field. Here the Americans alighted to see
seemingly endless streams of French "camions" go by. These are
heavy motor trucks that carry supplies to the front.
"And here come some vehicles from the front that tell their own
story," spoke Captain Ribaut rather sadly.
In another moment the first of a string of at least half a hundred
small cars went by at rapid speed toward the rear. Each car bore
the device of the Red Cross.
"There has been disagreeable work, and our wounded are going back,"
explained Captain Ribaut. "But my friends," he cried suddenly,
"I congratulate you on what you are privileged to see. These
are not our French ambulances, but some of your own cars, given
to France, and young men from America are driving them."
That these were American ambulance sections in French service
there could be no doubt, for as the drivers caught sight of the
American uniforms they offered informal salutes in high glee.
It was reserved for one gleeful young American, however, to call
out, as his ambulance whizzed by:
"Hullo, buddies! Welcome to our city!"
"If that young man were in the American Army I would feel obliged
to try to have him stopped," said Major Wells good-humoredly.
"That was not the real American form of salutation to officers,
but I know the youngster felt genuinely glad to see us so close
to the front."
"They are a happy lot, perhaps sometimes a trifle too merry,"
said Captain Ribaut half-apologetically. "But they are splendid,
these young Americans of yours who drive ambulances for us. They
never know the meaning of fear, and after a great battle they
are devotion itself to duty. They will drive as long as they
can sit and hold the wheel. There would have been many more aching
hearts in France to-day had it not been for the fine young Americans
who came over here with American cars to help us look after our
Presently the party entered the car again. Every mile that they
covered took them closer to the Inferno of shell-fire. More ambulance
cars whizzed by.
Then the visitors' car drew up before an unpretentious looking house
just off the main road.
"If you will come inside," invited Captain Ribaut, "I know that
our general of division will be delighted to meet you."
THE THRILL OF THE FIRE TRENCH
Passing the two sentries at the front door the officers found
themselves in a small ante-room.
Excusing himself, Captain Ribaut left the Americans briefly, but
was speedily back.
"General Bazain is most eager to meet you, and has the leisure
at this moment," the Frenchman announced.
He led his guests through the adjoining room, where half a dozen
younger French officers rose hastily, standing at salute. Then
on into a third room, just over the sill of which Captain Ribaut
halted, bringing his heels quickly together as he called out:
"General Bazain, I have the honor to present to you four American
And so on, through the list of names. The French divisional commander
bowed courteously four separate times, taking each American officer
by the hand with both his own, and finding something wholly courteous
to say. He spoke in French, a tongue that only Major Wells and
Captain Prescott understood well.
"My division is greatly honored, _Messieurs les Officers_," General
Bazain continued when he had seen to the seating of his callers
and had resumed his own chair behind a desk on which were spread
many maps and documents.
"You have been having a smart fight this afternoon, sir?" inquired
"Ah, yes, for some reason, the Huns have been trying to break
through my division this afternoon, but they have not yet succeeded,
nor will they," General Bazain added, his eyes flashing grimly.
He was a little man, short and thin, his hair well sprinkled with
gray. He looked like one whom more than three years of war had
borne down with cares, yet his eyes were bright and his shoulders
squared splendidly whenever he stood.
"Here is a map of the divisional front, gentlemen, if you care
to draw your chairs closer and look it over," proposed the general.
"This shows not only our lines, but as much as we know of the
enemy lines facing us. And I believe," he added, with another
flash of pride, "that we know all there is to know of their lines
for a kilometer back, except whatever may have been added since
dark yesterday. We-----"
He was interrupted by an explosion that shook the house. It sounded
over their heads on the floor above.
"We have excellent air service at this point," General Bazain
went on, his attention not wavering from the map. "And at this
point, as you will see, we have five lines of trenches, one behind
another, instead of three. It would take the Hun an uncommonly
long time to drive my brave fellows back out of our five lines
There followed a rapid description of the work of the division
on that sector during the last four months. The two present first
lines of trench had been taken from the Germans. Plans were now
under way to stage a series of assaults which, it was hoped, would
drive the Huns out of their three present first lines of trench
and add them to the French system.
An officer wearing the emblem of the French medical service opened
the door and glanced in.
"My general, you were not hurt by that bomb?" he cried anxiously.
"I had forgotten it," replied the French divisional commander.
"What was it?"
"A Hun airman dropped a bomb on the roof. It blew a hole in the
roof and worked some damage in your bedroom overhead."
"It does not matter," said General Bazain simply.
Bang! bang! smashed overhead.
"It must be the same rascal, returning in his flight!" cried the
medical officer, darting out into the yard to look up at the sky.
A moment later anti-aircraft guns began to bark. Two minutes
after the medical officer again looked into the room.
"We are fortunate to-day, my general!" cried the doctor. "That
scoundrel will not bother you again. One of our shots wrecked
his plane and brought the Hun down---dead."
Evidently, however, that airman of the enemy had given the location
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