Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops
H. Irving Hancock
Part 3 out of 4
and range of division headquarters, for now a shell from a German
battery struck and exploded in the yard outside, killing a sentry
and wounding two orderlies. A second and a third shell followed.
A fourth shell tore away the corner of the house without injuring
"Your orders, my general, in case our observers can locate the
Hun battery?" asked a staff officer, coming in from the next room
and resting a hand on a telephone instrument.
"If the enemy battery can be located," replied General Bazain,
"let it be destroyed."
Rapidly the staff officer sent his message to the artillery post
"But surely you will go to a shelter?" asked the staff officer,
laying down the instrument when he had finished.
"It will be inconvenient," sighed the division commander. "The
light here is much better."
Yet General Bazain permitted himself to be persuaded to remove
from this now highly dangerous spot. As he and his staff, accompanied
by the visitors, stepped outside another shell exploded close at
hand, fortunately without doing harm.
Descending to the cellar of a wrecked house near by, in the wake
of their hosts, the Americans found the entrance to steps, cut
in the earth, leading to a secure shelter on a level much below
that of the cellar. Here were two rooms underground, both equipped
with desks, lights, chairs, telephones and all that was needed
for communicating with the ranking officers of the division at
their posts in the trenches.
"It is stupid to have to work under candlelight in the daytime,"
sighed the division commander. "However, Major Wells, as I was
explaining to you-----"
Here recourse was again had to the maps, which the officers of
the staff had brought along.
Before dark supper was served at division headquarters in this
dug-out reached through the cellar of a ruined house.
"If it were not that I expect an attack tonight, and must be at
my post, it would give me delight to go with you and show you
our trenches," said the division commander at parting.
Private Berger had been summoned to lead the party through the
intricate system of communication trenches to the front. Berger,
who was a short, squat fellow with a sallow face and uneasy black
eyes, took his seat beside the soldier chauffeur.
For only a little more than a mile the Americans proceeded in
the car, which then halted, and all hands stepped out into the
"From here on we must walk," announced Captain Ribaut. "Berger,
be sure that you take us by the most direct route. Do not take
us into the Hun trenches to-night."
"I know the way excellently, my captain," Berger replied briefly.
For some distance they walked over open country, made dangerous,
however, by the presence of gaping shell-holes. Runners, soldiers
and others passed them going to or from the trenches. The artillery
duel, save for an occasional stray shot, had ceased on both sides.
"The road is steeper here," said Berger, halting after he had led
his party half a mile through the darkness. "We now go up hill."
It was harder climbing, going up that incline. A quarter of a
mile of this, and Lieutenant Terry suddenly found himself following
the guide through a cut in between two walls of dirt higher than
"We are in the communication trenches," said Berger in French. Noll
gathered the meaning of the remark.
At every few yards there was a twist or a turn in the trench.
At times they came to points where two trenches crossed each
other. Had it been left to the Americans to find their own way
they would have been hopelessly confused in this network and maze
of intersecting ditches. Berger, however, proceeded with the
certainty of one long familiar with the locality.
"Here is one of our defence trenches," said Captain Ribaut, halting
at last and calling softly to Berger to stop. "This is our fifth
line trench, formerly our third line. We have no men here, you
will note, nor in the next line. In case of a heavy general attack
men would be rushed up from the rear to occupy these two lines
of trenches. We will proceed, Berger."
They were soon at the fourth line trench. At the third line trench
they found sentries of the reserves on duty.
"The rest of the reserves are sleeping," Ribaut explained. "You
will see their dug-out entrances as we pass along this trench,
for I am taking you to the quarters of the battalion commander."
It was necessary to proceed along this third line trench for nearly
a quarter of a mile before they came to a dug-out entrance before
which a sentry and two runners crouched on the ground.
"Captain Ribaut and American officers present their compliments,
and would see Major Ferrus," explained Ribaut.
A runner entered the underground shelter, speedily returning and
signing to the visitors to descend the steps. Dick and his friends
found themselves in an underground room of about eight by twelve.
Around the walls were several bunks. At a table, which held
a telephone instrument, sat Major Ferrus and two junior officers.
"It is quiet here, after the Hun assault of this afternoon," explained
the French major when the Americans had been presented. "Captain
Ribaut, you are taking our American comrades to the front line?"
"That is my instruction, Major."
"It is well, and I think you will find it quiet enough to-night
for a study of the Hun line. Still one can never say."
A brief conversation, and the visitors returned to the outer air,
where Private Berger awaited them. At the second line trench,
which held the supporting troops for the first line, Ribaut took
them to the captain of French infantry in command at that point.
"I will send Lieutenant De Verne with you," said the captain,
and passed the word for that officer.
"Show our American comrades everything that can possibly interest
them," was the captain's order.
"I shall do my best, my captain," replied the lieutenant. "But
I do not know. The Huns are as quiet, to-night, as though they
had tired themselves to death this afternoon."
Turning to Private Berger, Lieutenant De Verne added:
"You may find your way into one of the dugouts if you like, as you
will hardly be needed for hours."
"But my orders, my lieutenant, were to remain with the American
party," protested Private Berger mildly.
"Oh, very well, then," replied De Verne carelessly.
This time, instead of leading the way, Private Berger brought
up the rear.
"You will do well to talk in low tones," the French lieutenant
cautioned them in whispers, "for, when we enter the front line
trench we shall be only about a quarter of a kilometer from the
Huns' first line trench."
With that they started forward. A short stroll through a communication
trench brought them to the first line ditch. As the ground was
wet here duck-boards had been laid to walk on. The parapet was
piled high with bags of sand through which loop-holes had been
cunningly contrived for the French sentries who must watch through
the night for signs of Hun activity. Over the rear wall of the
trench was another built-up wall of sand-bags. This parados,
as it was called, is intended to give protection against shrapnel,
which often burst just after passing over a trench. Thus the
parados prevents a back-fire of the bullets carried in the shrapnel
shell, which otherwise might strike the trench's defenders.
"You may stand up here on the fire platform, if you wish," whispered
Lieutenant De Verne to Dick in English. "If you do not think
it too foolish to expose yourself, you will be able to look over
the top of the parapet. First of all you will see our lines of
barbed wire fencing and entanglements. Beyond the wire you will
see open ground, much torn by shell-holes. Further still you
will see the wire defenses of the German first trench, and then
the parapet that screens the enemy from your gaze."
Hardly had the French lieutenant finished when Dick was up and
peering with all his might and curiosity. Hardly an instant later
the bark of a field-gun was heard to the northward. A whining
thing whizzed through the air.
Then, into the trench in which the party stood something thudded,
with, at the same instant, a sharp report, a bright flash, and the
air was full of flying metal!
OUT IN NO MAN'S LAND
If there was a disgusted person present it was Captain Greg Holmes.
That angry young man spat out a mouthful of dirt, and then tried to
rid himself of more.
Major Wells felt more like standing on his head. A fragment of
shell had torn away the top of his tunic in back, without scratching
his skin, and at the same time had thrown a shower of sand down
inside his O.D. woolen shirt. Terry had been knocked over by
the concussion, but had sustained no wound and was quickly on
his feet, unhurt.
As for Prescott, he had turned, for an astounded second, then,
much disturbed over what he believed to have been his fault, he
had stepped down from the fire step.
Captain Ribaut and Lieutenant De Verne, neither of whom had been
touched, looked on and smiled.
As Prescott stepped down to the duck-boards he saw Private Berger
come back into the trench from the adjoining traverse, the latter
a jog in the trench line intended to prevent the enemy from raking
any great length of trench during an attack.
"I hadn't an idea that just raising my head over the parapet would
bring cannon fire so promptly," Dick murmured to Ribaut.
"Nor did that act of yours bring cannon fire," rejoined Captain
"Then what did?"
"It must have been that it just happened," replied the Frenchman.
Private Berger stood leaning with his right hand on top of the
"Shall I get back on the fire step for another look?" Dick inquired.
"Why not?" inquired Captain Ribaut, shrugging his shoulders.
"Why not, indeed, if there is anything you wish to see?"
Waiting for no more Dick again mounted to the fire step, raising
his head over the top, this time with greater caution.
"There it is again!" he cried, in a voice scarcely above a whisper,
his words causing his friends astonishment.
A moment later there came another sharp report, followed by the
same whining sound. This time a shell struck just behind the
parados. There was an avalanche of shell fragments, but none
flew into the trench, the parados preventing.
"Captain Ribaut, a word with you," Dick urged, stepping down and
laying a hand on the French officer's arm. They stepped further
along the trench.
"Captain," Prescott whispered earnestly, "I do not want to arouse
any unfair suspicions, but I have something to tell you. When
I first looked over the parapet I noticed on the ground in front
three small but distinct glows. Then came the report and the
shell. Private Berger had stepped into the traverse at his right.
Immediately after the shell burst he came back into this trench.
When I looked over the top a second time I saw the same three
tiny glows of light on the ground ahead. Then came the second
shell. Each time, before the shell was started this way Berger
stood with his right hand resting above his head on the parapet.
Each time he stepped down and into the traverse. Each time,
after the shell burst, he stepped back into this trench. I may
be wrong to feel any suspicions, but is it possible-----"
"Wait!" interposed Captain Ribaut quickly, and stepped into the
traverse at the left. He came back with two French soldiers.
These started down the trench, pouncing upon Private Berger.
With them was Captain Ribaut.
"Oh, you scoundrel, Berger!" suddenly hissed the French captain.
He hurled the fellow to the ground, then held up a slim object,
some six inches in length.
"See!" he muttered to the others. "It is a tiny electric light,
supplied by a very small special battery. The scoundrel, Berger,
had it concealed up his right sleeve. Twice he rested his right
hand on the parapet. He flashed the lamp thrice each time, for
Captain Prescott saw it. Then the scoundrel stepped into the
traverse, where he would be safe from the shell he had invoked
from the enemy. We have known that there was a spy or a traitor
in this regiment, but we were unable to identify him. Gentlemen,
step into the traverses on either side and I will test my belief."
After the others had filed into the traverses Captain Ribaut rested
his right hand on the parapet, causing the little pencil of electric
light to glow three times in quick succession. Then he sprang
back into the nearer traverse.
Bang! A shell landed in the vacated length of trench, tearing
up the duck-boards and gouging the walls of the trench.
"Go for your corporal and tell him to send two men to take this
spy to the rear," Ribaut ordered one of the soldiers who stood
guarding Berger. "Captain Prescott, this regiment owes you a
debt that it will never be able to repay. Berger, your hours
of life will be short, but the story of your infamy will be
"And, Corporal," ordered Lieutenant De Verne, after Berger had
been started rearward under guard, "see to it that only the most
necessary sentries are posted along here for tonight. Keep the
rest of your men in shelters, for the Huns may feel disposed to
continue shelling this part of the line."
"Come, my American comrades," urged Captain Ribaut, "there is
much more to be seen at other points along this line."
Until within an hour of daylight the French captain and lieutenant
and their American pupils continued along the first line trench.
Save for occasional shell fire it proved to be a rather quiet
night. Leaving the front a sufficient time before dawn Major
Wells and his subordinates went back to the fifth line trench.
After breakfasting, they retired to bunks that had been bedded
in advance of their coming, and slept until late in the afternoon.
"There is one thing I like about the French trenches," declared
Greg Holmes, with enthusiasm, as soldiers entered with the beginnings
of a meal.
"And what is that?" inquired Captain Ribaut eagerly.
"The smell of the coffee when it comes in," grinned Greg.
"To-day's sleep, and the meals, I have found to be of the best,"
said Captain Dick quietly, as he sat down to eat. "I am still
more interested in the hope that to-night in the fire trenches
will be more exciting than last night."
"Perhaps it will be," suggested Captain Ribaut, "for I have received
word that patrols will be sent out into No Man's Land to-night,
and it has been suggested to me that one American officer should
go with the patrol. Which one of you shall it be?"
"I know that Captain Prescott wants to go," said Major Wells,
as he noted Dick's start of pleasure. "Therefore, Captain Ribaut,
suppose you send him with the patrol."
"Thank you, sir," came Dick's quick assent. "Nothing could please
me more. It will make to-night a time surely worth while to me."
Before the meal had been finished the German artillerymen began
the late afternoon "strafing," as a bombardment is called.
When the shell-fire had ceased Ribaut led his guests down to the
front or fire trench. Lieutenant De Verne had not been with them
since breakfast time in the morning.
"May I relieve one of your sentries, Captain, and take his post
until there is something else for me to do?" Dick asked.
"Yes, certainly," agreed Ribaut. "I will send for the corporal,
who will instruct you as the other sentries are instructed."
So Dick took the bayoneted rifle of a soldier who was much delighted
at having a brief opportunity for sleep thus thrust upon him.
Dick listened to the corporal's orders, then, for the next two
hours stood gazing patiently out over No Man's Land. At the end
of that time the sentries were changed and Dick stood down gladly
enough, for his task had become somewhat dull and irksome.
Half an hour after being relieved Prescott heard a sentry challenging
in low tones. Then Lieutenant De Verne came into the fire trench
with a sergeant and six men.
"This is the patrol," announced the younger Frenchman. "All my
men for to-night are veterans at the game. Captain Prescott, do you
wish to try your hand as a bomber tonight?"
"I am more expert, Lieutenant, with an automatic pistol."
"Very good, then; you may stick to that weapon," agreed the lieutenant.
"The sergeant and three men will carry their rifles; the other
three men will serve as bombers. You observe that our faces and
hands are blackened, as white faces betray one in No Man's Land.
We will now help you to black up."
There followed some quick instructions, to all of which Dick listened
attentively, for to him it was a new game.
"We have little gates cut through our own barbed wire," De Verne
whispered in explanation. "Do not be in a hurry, Captain, when
you leave the trench. Especially, take pains that you do not
catch your clothing on any of the barbed wire as we crawl through."
A few more whispered directions. While listening Dick studied
the faces of the waiting French soldiers, their bearing and their
equipment. Only the sergeant remained standing; the privates
disposed of themselves on the fire step for a seat. Two of them
even dozed, so far were they from any feeling of excitement.
"Ready, now, Sergeant," nodded the lieutenant.
"We are ready, Lieutenant," reported the sergeant.
First of all the sergeant went up over the top of the trench,
crawling noiselessly to the ground beyond. After him, one at a
time, went the French soldiers.
"You next, Captain, if you please," urged Lieutenant De Verne.
"And do not forget that any betraying sound causes the night to be
lighted with German flares and that the Huns are always ready to
turn their machine guns loose."
Dick's hands were instantly on the rungs of the ladder. Up he
went, cat-like. By the time that he had crawled over the parapet
and had reached the first fence of tangled barbed wire be found
a French soldier, prostrate on the ground, waiting, and holding
open a gate that had been ingeniously cut through the mantrap.
Then the soldier crawled on to the next line of wire defence,
repeating the service, as also at a third line.
The last wire had now been passed. Still lying nearly flat, Captain
Prescott raised his head, staring ahead into the nearly complete
blackness of the night. He was in No Man's Land!
THE TRIP THROUGH A GERMAN TRENCH
It was the sergeant who led the way. He and his detail moved,
except at special times, in a fan-shaped formation with the
noncommissioned officer ahead, three men on either side of him
formed lines obliquely back.
In the center, within these oblique flanks were the French lieutenant
and Captain Prescott.
It was a compact formation, useful in keeping all hands together
and in instant touch, yet likely to prove highly dangerous should
the enemy open on them with rifle or machine-gun fire.
In the center of No Man's Land was a wide, deep shell crater,
caused by the explosion at that point of one of the largest shells
used by the Germans.
Crawling down between friendly and hostile lines, the sergeant
made for this shell-hole. When still several feet away he held
up a hand, whereupon Lieutenant De Verne gripped Prescott's leg.
Leaving the others behind the noncommissioned officer moved silently
forward. It was his task to make sure that an enemy party had
not been first to reach the crater.
Only eyes trained to see in that darkness could make out the fact
that the sergeant had held up a hand once more. This was the
signal to advance. Now, as the men moved forward, the formation
was not kept. Each for himself reached the crater in his own
way and time. Down in this basin men could crouch without fear
of being seen should the night become lighted up.
When the others had entered, Prescott, being further from the
rim, signed to the French lieutenant to precede him. De Verne
had just gained the hole when---Click! Not far away something
was shot up into the air; then it broke, throwing down a beam
of light. Other clicks could be heard, until the land within
two hundred feet of the crater became at least half as bright
as daylight would have made it.
Dick Prescott was outside the crater! At the instant of hearing
the first click he found himself in a shallow furrow in the dirt.
To have sprung into the crater would have been to betray the
presence of the party to the enemy. While German machine-gun
fire could not reach the French men below him Dick knew that a
shell could reach them readily enough.
So he flattened himself in the furrow, his heart beating faster
than usual. There followed moments of tight suspense. Would
this flattened figure be espied by any enemy observer?
Even when the flares died down Dick did not move. He knew that
more flares might be sent up instantly.
A quarter of a mile down the line he could hear a machine gun
rouse itself into sudden fury, though none of the missiles came
"I've a chance yet," Dick thought grimly. Yet when blackness
came down over the scene again he did not move. No matter what
happened to himself he did not intend that harm should come to
his French comrades through any act of his.
As Dick still lay there a pebble touched the dirt lightly just
before his face. Raising his head a couple of inches he saw a
hand, dimly outlined at the edge of the crater, beckoning.
"That means that I'm to go ahead," Dick told himself. "I'll follow
He took considerable time about it, moving an inch or two at a
time. This, however, soon brought him to the edge of the basin-like
depression. In going down the inside he moved a bit more rapidly,
but did not rise until he found himself among the others. Then
he rose to his knees in the middle of the group.
"You are wonderful!" whispered the French lieutenant, placing
his lips at Prescott's ear. "You Americans must have learned
your stealth from your own Indians. We are clumsy when we try
to equal you in moving without noise."
One of the soldiers had taken station at the edge of the crater
nearest the German line. Here, with helmet off, and showing not
a fraction of an inch more of his head above ground than was necessary,
this sentry watched in the dark.
Again De Verne's lips sought Dick's ear as he whispered:
"What we would like most to do is to find out what is going on
in the Hun trenches. Next to that, the thing we like best is
to ambush a German patrol, capture or kill the men, and get back
with our prisoners."
"French patrols must often be captured, also," Dick whispered
"But yes!" replied the French lieutenant, with a shrug of his
shoulders. "It is a game of give-and-take, and all the luck cannot
Still nearer the enemy's wire defenses lay a smaller shell-hole.
By creeping up beside the sentry Prescott was able to see it.
He remained where he was while a soldier of the French party,
holding a bomb in his right hand, crept out of the crater, moving
Arrived at the edge of the smaller shell-hole the soldier sent
back a hand signal, then crept down into concealment.
Up out of the crater started the sergeant without delay. As he
passed Prescott the noncommissioned officer gripped him, pointing
backward. There knelt De Verne, signaling to the American to
accompany the sergeant. Side by side the pair made the smaller
shell-hole, which proved of just sufficient size to screen three
For three or four minutes the trio crouched here, listening intently,
though no sounds came from the nearby German trench.
After waiting, as he thought, long enough, the French sergeant
made an expressive gesture or two before the face of the soldier
with him, who, after examining his bombs, crept out and forward,
toward the barbed wire defenses of the enemy.
Short though the distance was, the man was gone more than five
minutes. Prescott, who at first could see the soldier as he moved,
was not so sure of it later. It was strange how that sky-blue
uniform of the poilu merged into the dark shades of the night.
At last the soldier came back, reporting to his sergeant, though
using only the language of hand signs.
With a nudge for Prescott the sergeant crept out of the hole,
Dick following. There was no thought of haste, yet at last they
reached the first of the wire obstructions. Now Dick was able
to guess the meaning of the soldier's recent hand signs. He had
discovered that the Huns had left narrow passages through their
own wires, presumably for the use of German patrols.
This time it was the sergeant who went forward first. Dick thrilled
with admiration when he saw the French non-com pass the last of
the barbed wire and creep up to the top of the German parapet,
flattening himself and peering over and down.
Following closely Dick and the French soldier at his side saw
the sergeant kick up slightly with one foot, a signal that caused
the soldier to move to the top of the parapet; Prescott, therefore
did the same thing.
It was his first look down into a German trench! Not that there
was much to be seen. On the contrary there was nothing to be
seen save the trench itself. Dick had heard that often the German
first-line trenches are deserted during parts of quiet nights
on the front.
A slight sense of motion caused Prescott to look around. He was
in time to see the French private wriggling backward. The sergeant
withdrew his head to a point below the outer edge of the parapet,
seeing which the American captain followed suit.
Minutes passed before the departed soldier returned with Lieutenant
De Verne and the remainder of the patrol. Only a glance did the
French lieutenant take down into the trench. Next he quietly
let himself down into the enemy ditch, followed by the others.
Moving softly the patrol examined that length of trench, also
the traverses at either end. Still no German had been encountered.
"We will go further," announced Lieutenant De Verne. "Sergeant,
you will take three men and go west until you come in contact
with the enemy. Then return with your report. The rest of us
will go east."
Carrying a bomb in his right hand, a pistol in his left the young
French officer led the way. Just behind him was one of his own
infantrymen, Prescott coming third and carrying his automatic
pistol ready for instant use.
Counting the number of trench sections and traverses through which
they passed Dick estimated that they moved east fully two hundred
yards. In all that distance they did not encounter a German soldier.
"The Huns who sent up the flares," De Verne paused to whisper
to Dick, "must have been the last of the enemy in these trenches.
It made them appear to be on guard, and vigilantly so, and right
after sending up the flares they withdrew to lines at the rear.
It is, I suspect, an old trick of theirs when they wish to leave
the front to rest or feed. I shall so report it."
At last the lieutenant halted his men. He had penetrated as far
as he deemed necessary.
"We will go back and pick up the sergeant," he said. "But first
I shall send a man down one of the communication trenches to learn
if the enemy are numerous in the second-line trenches."
"How long will that take?" Dick whispered.
"At least ten minutes."
"Then may I try to penetrate a little further east along this line?"
"I will try to be back soon," Dick promised. Even in the darkness
these Allied officers exchanged salutes smartly. Then, gripping
his automatic tightly, and realizing that he was now "on his
own," as the British Tommies put it, he disappeared into the nearest
Prescott did not hurry. He had nothing to expect from his own little
prowl, and his purpose in going alone had been to develop his
knowledge of this new kind of soldier's work.
Sixty or seventy yards Dick had progressed when, in a traverse,
he thought he heard low voices ahead.
"The enemy, if any one!" he thought, with a start, halting quickly.
Straining his ears, he listened. Undoubtedly there were voices
somewhere ahead, though he could distinguish no word that was
"As I haven't seen an enemy yet, I'm going to do so if I can," the
young captain instantly resolved.
Stepping to the end of the traverse, he peered around the jog.
That next length of trench appeared to be deserted, yet certainly
the voices sounded nearer.
"I've got to have that look!" Dick told himself, exulting in the
Softly he strode forward, then halted all in a flash. And no
wonder! For he found himself standing close to the entrance to
a frontline dug-out that sloped down into the earth. And the
voices came from this dug-out.
Inside, as Dick peered down, he made out two figures. Yet he
pinched himself with his unoccupied hand, so certain did it seem
that he must be dreaming.
Of the pair below, while the older man wore the uniform of a German
colonel of infantry, the younger man wore the garb of a French
sub-lieutenant of the same arm. What could this infernal mystery
DICK PRESCOTT'S PRIZE CATCH
It was the older man, he of the German uniform who now spoke.
"So Berger was really caught in the act of signaling us?"
"Yes, excellenz (Your excellency)," replied the younger man.
"And he is to be shot for treason?"
"It is so, Excellenz!"
The language used by both was German, but Dick followed every
"Too bad! And our commander will regret the loss of Berger much,"
sighed the German colonel, "for Berger has served us long and
usefully. Strange that he should be caught, when he has so long
and safely used that electric light pencil of his. I suppose
Berger grew careless."
"It was an American officer who caught him at it and denounced
him," said the younger man.
"Ah, well! At least we have you still in that regiment, and you
are more cautious. You will not be caught."
"Not alive, at any rate, Excellenz," the younger man assured the
"Wrong, there!" spoke a low, firm voice.
Both men started violently, with good excuse, for before them
stood Captain Dick Prescott, a cocked automatic pistol held out
to cover both.
"You will both put your hands up!" Dick ordered them sharply,
in German. "You will be shot at the first sign of resistance,
or even reluctance. This trench is no longer German!"
Dully both men raised their hands. Quietly as Prescott spoke
there was that in his tone, as in his eye, which assured them
that their lives would not outlast their obedience.
"You will pass up before me," Dick continued, "and neither will
attempt any treachery. I assure you, gentlemen, that I shall
be glad of the slightest excuse for killing you!"
It was the German colonel who came first, for he was the nearer
one. There was no visible sign of his being armed, but the younger
man in the sky-blue uniform carried an automatic in a holster
at his belt. Dick deftly took the pistol from the holster and
was now doubly armed.
"Not the lightest outcry, nor the least attempt at treachery!"
Dick warned them sternly. "Face west! March!"
Though both prisoners obeyed promptly Captain Prescott was not
simple enough to imagine that they had no plan or hope of rescue
or escape. In making this double arrest Dick had realized fully
that he was probably throwing his life away, yet he had deemed
possible success worth all the risk.
After going thirty or forty yards the older prisoner halted squarely.
"Proceed!" Dick ordered in a stern whisper, aiming one of the
pistols at the defiant one's breast.
"I do not care about being killed needlessly; neither do you,"
said the colonel. "I can save my life, and give you some chance
for yours by informing you that, at the moment you appeared in
the dug-out, I pressed one foot against a signal apparatus that
calls our men back to these trenches. Just now I heard them entering
a trench section ahead. Others have entered behind us. Your
chance, your only one, will be to climb over this parapet and
do your best to reach the French lines. If you decide to do that,
I give you my word that I will not allow our men to fire upon
you as you withdraw."
"A German's word!" mocked Dick. "Who would accept that?"
"It is your last chance for life."
"And you are throwing away your last chance, both of you!" Dick
uttered in a low voice. "Each of you is within a second of death.
With an exclamation that sounded like an oath the German colonel
obeyed, followed by the younger man and Prescott. Neither of
the prisoners had dared risk lowering his hands.
"You are foolish---life-tired!" warned the colonel, in a hoarse
"If you speak again I'll kill you instantly," Prescott snapped
After that the prisoners proceeded in moody silence, until, at
last, they rounded out a traverse and ran into several soldiers.
But these soldiers wore the French uniform. In a word, they
were Lieutenant De Verne's party.
"Prisoners!" cried De Verne, in a hoarse whisper. "Captain Prescott,
you are indeed wonderful! But no, you bring only one prisoner,
this German, for the other is Lieutenant Noyez. Noyez, my dear
fellow, how do you happen to have your hands up?"
"Because of the idiocy of this American," hissed Noyez.
"Lieutenant De Verne, from the conversation that I overheard I
learned that Noyez is a spy, and that he was reporting to his
chief, this enemy colonel," Dick stated. "Now that I have brought
them to you, both are naturally in your hands."
"It is a stupid lie that you, De Verne, must set straight," Noyez
"Since Captain Prescott has made the charge, it must stand, of
course, until you have been taken before competent authority,"
De Verne said coldly. "Pirot! Grugny! I turn Lieutenant Noyez
over into your charge. You will give him no chance to get out
of your hands. And now, we must find our way home."
Two men were sent up over the parapet, then the prisoners were
ordered up and held there at the muzzles of rifles. The rest
of the patrol followed.
"We will make fast time back," ordered Lieutenant De Verne, "as
we know there are no enemy hereabouts in the first-line trenches."
Crossing rapidly, though softly, the patrol was challenged by
a sentry in the French trench. De Verne went forward to answer
and to establish the identity of his patrol. Then they were allowed
to pass in by the wire defenses, and next descended to the trench.
Officers and men hurriedly cleansed the black from their hands
"We will now march to Captain Cartier," said De Verne, "and he
shall give us our further orders."
"You are looking for your friends, Captain?" spoke up a French
soldier in the trench, in his own tongue. "Captain Ribaut has
taken them west along the line."
"Thank you. If they return, you will tell them where I have gone."
By this time the German colonel was cursing volubly. He felt
that he could talk, at last, without danger of being killed for
his audacity. Noyez, pallid as in death, was silent, his eyes
Back to the third line of trenches De Verne led the party, then
down into the dug-out of his company commander, Captain Cartier.
"A German colonel and Lieutenant Noyez, prisoners!" announced
the patrol leader.
"The German colonel I can understand truly," replied the French
captain. "But why Lieutenant Noyez?"
"Captain Prescott, of the American Army, arrested both and made
the charges against Noyez," De Verne responded. "You will hear
As it was their first meeting Captain Cartier shook hands with
Dick, who then told what he had overheard.
"Noyez, a German spy!" exclaimed Captain Cartier. "Truly, it
"It is worse! It is an infamous charge!" cried Noyez passionately.
"Yet our American comrade must be truthful, a man of honor," said
Captain Cartier, in a bewildered tone.
"May I suggest, sir," Dick interposed, "that it will be easy to
decide. If Lieutenant Noyez was in the German trenches by orders
of his superiors, or with their knowledge, then that would establish
a first point in his favor. But if he was there without either
orders or permission, then plainly he must have gone there on
"That is absolutely fair!" declared Captain Cartier. "I will
send at once for Noyez's captain, and we shall hear what he says."
In dejected silence Noyez awaited the arrival of Captain Gaulte,
who promptly declared that he had no knowledge of any authority
for his lieutenant to visit the enemy's lines. Gaulte had, in
fact, supposed that Noyez was back of the lines on over-night
leave, for which he had applied.
"The business looks bad!" cried Captain Cartier, with troubled
"Quite!" agreed Captain Gaulte more calmly.
"I must telephone for instructions," Cartier continued. "It may
require a long wait. Gentlemen, you will find seats."
First Cartier called up his regimental commander and reported
"It will be passed on to division headquarters," reported Captain
Cartier, turning from the telephone instrument.
By and by the telephone bell tinkled softly. Orders came over
the wire that the arresting party should take the prisoners to
"These are your instructions, then, Lieutenant De Verne. Of course
it is expected that Captain Prescott will accompany you as complaining
In the darkness of the night it was a toilsome march back through
the communication trenches. This time, when they were left behind,
there was no limousine to pick up the members of the party.
"It is a relief to be at last where we can talk," said De Verne,
"You may speak for yourself," retorted the German colonel gruffly,
betraying the fact that he understood the language.
Halted four times by sentries, the party at last reached division
headquarters. Outside a young staff officer awaited them.
"General Bazain has risen and dressed," stated the staff officer.
"He had undertaken to snatch two hours' sleep, but this cannot
be his night to sleep. The general awaits you, and you are to
enter. Through to his office."
As they entered the division commander's office they found that
fine old man pacing his room in evident agitation.
"And you, too, Noyez?" he called, in a tone of astounded reproach.
"It was bad enough that we should find Berger a spy! But to find
one of our trusted officers---it is too much!"
"I am neither spy nor traitor, my general!" declared Noyez furiously,
"and my record should remove the least suspicion from my name."
"But you were in the enemy's trenches this night, without knowledge
or leave of your superiors, Lieutenant. Have you a plausible
way to account for it?"
"All in good time, my general, when my head has had time to clear,"
promised the young sub-lieutenant.
"It is but fair that we give you time," assented General Bazain.
"It can give France no joy to find one of her officers a traitor."
It was now the German's turn to be questioned. He gave his name
as Pernim. As he was an ordinary prisoner of war he was led from
the room to be turned over to the military prison authorities.
"And it was you, my dear Captain Prescott, who captured one spy
who has since admitted his guilt. And now you bring in another
whom you accuse."
"Berger has confessed, sir," Dick asked, "may I inquire if he
implicated Lieutenant Noyez?"
"He did not."
"Yet, sir, from what I heard, Berger and Noyez worked together.
If Berger be informed that Noyez has been captured is it not
likely that Berger will then tell of this accused man's work?"
"Excellent suggestion! We shall soon know!" exclaimed General
Bazain, touching a bell.
A LOT MORE OF THE REAL THING
Through the orderly who answered, three staff officers were summoned.
To these the general gave his orders in undertones in a corner
of the room. As the three hastened out not one of them sent as
much as a glance in the direction of the unhappy Noyez.
Seating himself in his chair General Bazain, after courteously
excusing himself, closed his eyes as though to sleep. The arresting
party and Noyez withdrew to the adjoining room.
More than an hour passed ere the three staff officers returned
and hastened into the division commander's office. Fifteen minutes
after that Dick and his friends, with the prisoner, were again
"It has been simpler than we thought," General Bazain announced
wearily. "Berger, when questioned and informed of Noyez's arrest,
confessed that Noyez was the superior spy under whom he worked."
"It is a lie, my general!" exclaimed Noyez, in a choking voice,
as he strode forward, only to be seized and thrust back.
"It is the truth!" retorted General Bazain, rising and glaring
at the accused man. "Berger not only confessed, but he told where,
in your dug-out, Noyez, could be found the secret compartment
in which you hid the book containing the key to the code you sometimes
employed in sending written reports to the enemy. And here is
the code book!"
General Bazain tossed the accusing little notebook on the desk.
At sight of that Noyez fell back three steps, then sank cowering
into a chair, covering his eyes with his hands.
"You comprehend that further lying will avail you nothing!" the
division commander went on sternly. "Lieutenant De Verne!"
"Noyez, stand up. Lieutenant De Verne, I instruct you to remove
from the uniform of Noyez the insignia of his rank and every emblem
that stands for France! That done, you will next cut the buttons
from Noyez's tunic!"
Standing so weakly that it looked as if he must fall, Noyez submitted
to the indignity, silent save for the sobs that choked his voice.
"Call in the guard, and have the wretch removed from my sight!"
General Bazain ordered. "Yet, Noyez, I will say that it seems
to me incredible that any Frenchman could have been so ignoble
as you have proved yourself to he."
"A Frenchman?" repeated Noyez disdainfully. "No Frenchman am
I. Already I am condemned, so I no longer need even pretend that
I am French. No! Though I was born in Alsace, my father's name
was Bamberger. Twenty years ago he moved to Paris, to serve the
German Kaiser. He fooled even your boasted police into believing
him French, and his name Noyez. My father is dead, so I may tell
the truth, that he served the Kaiser like a loyal subject. And
he made a spy of me. I was called to the French colors, and I
went, under a French name, but a loyal German at heart! I became
a French sub-lieutenant, but I was still a German, and the Kaiser's
officers paid me, knew where to find me and how to use me. I
must die, but there are yet other agents of the Kaiser distributed
through your Army. The Fatherland shall still be served from
the French trenches. You will kill me? Bah! My work has already
killed at least a regiment of Frenchmen. And since Berger has
weakened and betrayed me, I will tell you that he, too, is and
always has been a German subject. Remember, there are many more
of us wearing the hated uniform of France."
"Noyez! Bamberger!" retorted General Bazain, "I can almost find
it in my heart to feel grateful to you, for you have told me that
you are not French. Since you are a German I can understand anything.
I thank you for assuring me that you are not French."
With a gesture General Bazain ordered the prisoner's removal. Then,
his eyes moist, the division commander turned to beckon Dick to him.
"Captain, I have to thank you for finding and helping to remove
two dangerous enemies from my command. You will find me
Once more outside Lieutenant De Verne turned to Dick to ask:
"You intend returning to the trenches?"
"By all means, for I feel as though the night had but begun,"
Dick cried. "It has gone well so far, and I am ready for whatever
the remaining hours can give me."
"I had hoped that, at the most, you would ask me to find you a
bunk in a dug-out where you might sleep," confessed De Verne.
"When you have been longer in the trenches, Captain, you will
be glad to sleep whenever the chance comes your way."
"But that will not be until I have learned more of the ways of
your trench life than I know yet," Dick rejoined. "At present
I would rather sleep during the daylight, for it appears to be
at night that the real things happen."
De Verne accompanied him back to the fire trench, where Dick was
glad to find Captain Ribaut with the other three American officers,
that party having returned from a trip down the line.
De Verne soon after took his leave, hastening rearward to begin
Bang! sounded a field-piece back of the German line.
Between the French first-line and second-line trenches the shell
exploded. On the heels of the explosion came a furious burst
of discharging artillery.
"This must be what you have been expecting, Major," shouted Ribaut
over the racket. "A barrage!"
Down the line ran the noise of bombardment, the thing becoming
more furious every instant. Then some shells landed in first-line
"Take shelter!" shouted Captain Ribaut. "Now! At once!"
French soldiers were scurrying to dug-out shelters. Ribaut led
the officer party to a dugout reached by eight descending steps
cut in the earth. The apartment in which they found themselves
led out some fifteen feet under the barbed wire defenses.
"How long is this likely to last?" demanded Major Wells, eyeing
the Frenchman keenly by the light of the one slim candle that
burned in the dug-out.
"Perhaps fifteen minutes; maybe until after daylight," Ribaut
replied, with a shrug.
"What is the object?"
"Who can say? But a barrage fire is being laid down between our
first and second lines. That means that no reinforcements can
reach us from the support trenches. And our own trench is being
shelled furiously, to drive all into shelters. My friends, it
is likely that the Germans, enraged by the capture of Colonel
Pernim, who must be missed by now, are paying us back with a raid."
"More of your strenuous doings then, Dick," laughed Greg.
"At least a raid will be highly interesting," Dick retorted. "So
far we haven't been in one, and we're here for experience, you know."
"And you really hope that this turns out to be a German raid?"
asked Captain Ribaut.
"Yes; don't you, Captain?" challenged Major Wells.
"An, but we French have seen so many of these raids, and they
are dull, ugly affairs, sometimes with much killing. After you
have seen many you will not hunger for more."
It was not long before conversation was drowned out wholly by
the racket of exploding shells in and around the fire trenches.
Occasionally one of these drove a jet of sand down the stairs
of the dug-out, but this room was too far underground for the
dug-out roof to be driven in on them.
Half an hour later the shell-fire against the front-line trenches
abated, though the barrage fire still continued to fall between
the first and second lines.
Greg whistled softly, unable to hear a note that he emitted.
Noll Terry occasionally fingered one of the two gas-masks with
which he had been provided before entering the trenches. Major
Wells's attitude suggested that he had his ears set to note every
difference in sound that came from outside.
A French soldier shouted down the steps in his own tongue:
"Stand by! The Huns are coming!"
At a single bound Captain Ribaut gained the steps and darted up,
followed promptly by the American officers.
In the section in which they found themselves four French soldiers,
rifles resting over the parapet, stood awaiting the onslaught.
Two more men, equipped with hand bombs, stood awaiting the moment
to begin casting.
All the while the curtain of shell-fire, the barrage laid down
by the Germans between them and the second-line trenches, continued
to fall. It effectually prevented French reinforcements from
coming up to the first line.
His automatic pistol ready, Dick Prescott found elbow-room on
the fire step. Cautiously he looked over the parapet.
For a moment he could see nothing, save that German shell-fire
had blown the barbed wire defenses to pieces, clearing the way
for the German invaders to reach them.
In the near distance Dick made out the shadowy figures of the
men in the first wave of the German assault.
Rifle-fire began to roll out from the French soldiers. From somewhere
at the rear, perhaps from emplacements in or near the French support
trenches, the steady drumming of machine-gun fire began. The
air was filled with death.
Dick Prescott's blood thrilled with the realization that he was at
earnest grip with the Boches!
A "GUEST" IN PRISON CAMP
In the terrific din of the barrage-fire the men of the first German
wave came on like so many silent specters.
They did not run forward, but moved at a fast walk. It was necessary
that they save their breath to use in the hand-to-hand struggle
that must follow.
Suddenly a French bomb left the trench, striking the ground just
in advance of the oncoming Germans. The pink flash of the explosion
lighted the set faces of three or four men of the enemy, one of
whom went to earth as a fragment from the bomb struck him.
Then bombs fell fast, all along the line. Prescott, singling
out an enemy while the flash lasted, let drive at him with a shot
from his automatic.
Though several of the Huns fell, the advancing line continued
unhesitatingly. The last few steps, past what was left of the
barbed wire, the Germans hurled themselves at greater speed.
Then invaders and defenders clashed. German bayonets thrust viciously
down into the trench, while French bayonets reached up to dispute
Dick had backed away from the fire step. His back against the
further wall he was using his automatic pistol to the best advantage.
The first German to leap into the trench landed almost at the
feet of Captain Greg Holmes, who had crouched to receive him.
Rising, in one of his best old-time football tackles, Greg threw
the Hun backward with fearful force, then sat on his chest.
"You're my prisoner!" Holmes shouted at the prostrate. "Try to
rise if you dare!"
So hot had been the reception of the first wave that those of
the Germans who did not manage to leap down into the trenches,
recoiled in dismay.
Then the second wave of raiders came up, only to find that the
French had recovered their second wind. Great as the odds were
the French held their own, thrusting, shooting and clubbing with
From his position on his prisoner Greg fired coolly as often as
he could do so without endangering a French comrade. He longed
to rush in closer, but did not intend to let his prisoner get
away. Only one German got close enough to thrust at Holmes, who
shot him through the heart before the bayonet lunge could be made.
What was left of the first and second waves was being beaten back.
Major Wells, Prescott and Noll Terry leaped to the parapet with
two French soldiers in their section to beat back the foe.
Just then a third wave arrived. The fighting became brisker.
Dick Prescott felt a weight against his head. He staggered dizzily,
felt arms clutch at him, and had only a hazy notion of what followed.
The Germans went back, carrying a few prisoners with them. A
minute later the enemy barrage lifted.
"You may get up now," Greg admonished his captive, as he leaped
to his feet.
"You've accounted for one of the enemy," smiled Captain Ribaut,
as he came up.
"Captured him at the first pop out of the box," Holmes declared
proudly. "I told him to lie still, and he surely did. I'd have
hurt him if he had tried to get away."
"How did you take him?" Ribaut asked, kneeling beside the still man.
"Threw him with an old football tackle."
"The Hun's neck is broken," reported the French captain, raising
the enemy's head and letting it fall.
"What's that?" Greg demanded astonished. "Say, you're right,
aren't you? And to think of all the good fighting I missed through
holding on to that 'prisoner'! Dick will tease the life out of
me! By the way, where is he?"
"I thought he went this way," Ribaut answered. "We must find
him. I hope he wasn't hurt."
Thoroughly alarmed Greg wheeled and darted along the trench, looking
for his chum. Then he raced back, going off in the opposite direction.
"Prescott isn't here!" he gasped, and sprang up at the parapet.
"Here! Don't do that," Major Wells called to him, in a low voice.
But there was no stopping Holmes. Bending low he raced along in
front of the trench, looking for the body, dead or alive, of his chum.
Dick, however, was not to be found. Greg continued the search
Had the Germans sent up flares just then, and turned on their
machine guns, Greg would have made an inevitable mark.
Captain Ribaut, more practical, sent a French corporal through
the nearby sections for word of Captain Prescott.
"Captain Holmes, return to the trench," Major Wells ordered, in
a hoarse whisper.
So Greg obeyed, in time almost to bump into Captain Ribaut.
"Four men from this platoon are missing, and presumably were captured
by the enemy," said that officer. "I much fear that Captain Prescott
was also taken away by the enemy."
"What? Captured by the Huns?" Greg demanded, divided between
amazement and consternation. "Dick captured? Let me lead a force
over to the enemy line to bring him back!"
"Only the division commander could sanction that," replied Captain
Ribaut, with grave sympathy. "And it is never done, Captain."
"Oh, I wish I had B company at my back, with A company thrown
in for good measure!" quivered Greg. "But say, can't there be
a mistake? Didn't Prescott go back wounded?"
"No; I have sent to the dressing station, and he was not seen
there," Captain Ribaut replied.
At first Greg couldn't believe that his chum had been captured.
When the probability of it did dawn on him nothing but his position
as an officer kept him from sitting down on the fire step and
"I'd sooner know he was killed than that he had fallen into Hun
hands," Holmes sputtered. "But, if they have got him, then I'll
make a business of mistreating Germans after this!"
Capture was precisely what had happened to Dick Prescott. It
was not for long that he had remained dazed. Two German soldiers
fairly dragged him across No Man's Land, his heels bumping over
the rough ground.
Dick vaguely knew when the same men lifted him slightly and dropped
him, feet first, into the German trench. He fell forward to his
knees, and a German non-com raised him to his feet.
"What place is this?" Dick demanded. But he knew as soon as he
heard laughing German voices around him.
"Well, if I'm captured, I gave a good account of myself first,"
Prescott muttered as he shook himself together, "I first captured
two German spies and a German colonel and turned them over to
the French. But poor old Greg! I'd almost sooner be in my present
boots than in his, for he'll be frantic when he finds this out."
The same two German soldiers who had dragged him across No Man's
Land were now permitted the honor of piloting their distinguished
captive back from the line. Leading him into a communication
trench, they started with him for the rear.
Though he still felt dizzy, Dick found his head clearing as he
moved along. He was able to judge that he had walked half a mile
through the communication trench, then at least another half-mile
along a road before he was halted at a hole in the ground.
"Go down here," said one of the men in German, and pushed Dick
down a long flight of steps, leading to a large, electrically
lighted dug-out at least twenty-five feet below the earth's surface.
"Only prisoners of rank received here, without orders," said a
sergeant near the foot of the stairs.
"But this man is a captain," returned one of the captors.
"Of what army?"
"Bring the prisoner here!" ordered a voice from the further end
of the underground room.
Dick was hustled along, bringing up at last in front of a long
table, behind which sat three German officers.
"You are an American?" asked the officer who sat between the other
two. He spoke in English.
"Yes," Dick admitted.
"Of what regiment?" demanded the questioner.
"Infantry regiment," Dick replied.
"Yes, but how is your regiment known?"
"As an infantry regiment," Dick answered, though he knew well what
was wanted of him.
"Are your American regiments numbered?"
"How is yours numbered?"
"Numbered among the best, I believe," Dick returned, with a smile.
"You are a captain?"
"Then you know what I mean to ask, and you must not try to trifle
with me. How is your regiment numbered? What is the number of
"Numbered among the best, as I told you."
"How long have you been in France?"
"Long enough to like its people, meaning those who belong here, not
those who have come into France by force of arms."
"Captain, is your regiment on the line yet?"
"It's a line regiment, of course," Prescott replied dumbly.
"Captain," spoke the questioner angrily, "you must not try to
make game of us! If you do not answer our questions you will
"And if I did answer them I'd feel ashamed of myself," Dick smiled
blandly. "I'm going to take the liberty of asking you a question.
If you were captured and questioned, how much would you tell that
would injure Germany?"
"I'd tell nothing," replied the German officer stiffly.
"Same here," Dick went on smilingly. "I'm as strong for my country
as you are for yours."
"But, Captain, you will have to tell us your name and rank, also
the designation of your organization. That has to be entered
on our records."
"I am Captain Richard Prescott, captain of infantry, United States
Army," Dick returned, in a business-like way. "But when you go
further, and ask me for information about the American Army, you
need expect no sensible answers."
"Take this man to the temporary prisoners' camp, and see that
he is put in the officers' section," said the questioner to the
two guards who had brought Dick in.
So Dick was led out again, and once more escorted along a road.
He judged that the walk from dug-out to camp must have been at
least two miles in length. The "prison" to which he found himself
taken consisted of a high barbed wire enclosure, with a small
wooden building at one end, and another end of the enclosure fenced
off for officers.
Into the building Dick was taken first. It contained only one
room and was evidently used as a booking and record office.
Again he was asked his name by an officer behind a desk. As before
Prescott refused to state anything further than that his name was
Richard Prescott, and that he was a captain of infantry in the
"But you will have to tell us more than that," objected the German
"I'll answer any questions you may put to me," promised Dick,
"but I won't agree, in advance, to answer them truthfully."
Another bald effort was made to force him to answer questions,
but Dick gave evasive replies that carried no information.
"Take the fellow to the officers' section," ordered the man at
the desk, at last.
So through a dark yard Prescott was led between rows of prisoners
sleeping on the ground. Some of them, too cold and miserable
to sleep, stirred uneasily as the newcomers passed by.
It was the same in the officers' section. Though the night was
cold, all prisoners were sleeping on bare ground in the open.
There were some four hundred prisoners in this lot, all French
In the officers' section he found some twenty men, also all French.
Two of them sat up as Dick entered.
"Hola!" cried one of them in his own tongue. "You are an American?"
"Yes," Prescott admitted.
"Come and join us. We have the best bed in this camp."
"It looks as if it might be hard," smiled Dick, glancing down
at the men.
"Hard, but not so bad, after all," replied the other officer.
"See, we have removed our overcoats and spread them on the ground.
And we have two blankets over us. Come under the blankets with
us, and we shall all be warmer."
Dick hesitated. He wondered if he wouldn't be crowding them out
of their none too good protection against the night air.
"If you get in with us," urged the first, "it will make us all
On the face of it that looked reasonable, provided he did not
crowd either out under the edge of the blankets.
"Oh, there will be plenty of room," one of them assured him.
"We can lie very close together. And you have no blanket if you
sleep by yourself."
So Dick allowed himself to be persuaded. Then, to his surprise,
they insisted that he get in the middle between them. This, too,
he finally accepted, but repaid them in part by taking off his
trench coat and spreading it over the blankets in such a way that
all three gained added warmth from it.
"How long have you been here?" Dick asked.
"Two weeks," replied one of the pair. "It is a wretched life. Had
I known how bad it was I would have forced my captors to kill me."
That was cheering news, indeed!
"We must sleep now," spoke the other officer. "There is little
sleep be to had here in the daytime, and then we can talk."
Dick lay awake a long time. A prisoner in the hands of the Huns!
All he had heard of the wretched treatment accorded prisoners
by the Germans came back to him. At least he had the satisfaction
of knowing that he was not a prisoner through any act of his own.
ON A GERMAN PRISONER TRAIN
At last he fell asleep. When he awoke the sun was shining in his
face. He was alone, for his bed-fellows of the night were already
astir. They had tucked him in as warmly as possible before leaving
Closing his eyes, Dick slumbered again. When he next opened his
eyes he sat up.
"Good morning, comrade!" called one of the two between whom he
"Ah, good morning," Prescott answered in French, and stood up.
"My, but the mattress in this bed is a beastly one."
The officer who addressed him, a young man of twenty-five or so,
"What time is breakfast to be had here?" Dick asked.
"I fear, comrade, that we shall not have any this morning, for
the news is that we are to be entrained to-day and sent away."
"It must be. And on embarkation mornings no food is served."
"They start us away hungry?" Dick asked.
"Always, so I have been told. But you are not missing much, comrade,
for you are not yet accustomed to the food the Germans feed their
prisoners, and no one eats much of it until he has been hungry
for a few days. Then something like an appetite for the stuff comes
Finding himself somewhat chilled and cramped Prescott began to go
briskly through some of the Army setting-up exercises.
"That is a fine thing to warm the blood," said one of the French
officers, "but I warn you that it will make you hungry."
The other French officers now came forward to make themselves
known to the only American officer in this prison camp.
"We are moving to-day," said one. "Will it be better in the new
prison than here, do you think?" Prescott asked.
"In some ways at least. We shall undoubtedly be housed in a wooden
building, and that should be warmer at night. Besides, I hear
we are permitted straw mattresses when in Germany."
"That begins to sound like luxury," laughed Dick.
"And there our friends can send us food through neutral agencies."
"Do you suppose, if they do, we shall be allowed to have some
of the food?" Dick asked.
"Some of it, at least, or our friends would quickly stop sending
it to us when they heard from us that we did not get it."
"It will be a dog's life," broke in another, "even with such better
treatment as may be accorded to officers."
Dick Prescott's heart was as stout as any American's heart could
be, but as he listened to the talk of his French brothers in arms
he could not help feeling glum.
For one thing, it was hardly for this that he had sailed from
America to be taken at the outset and to be shut off from all
service with the men of his own country!
A German under-officer who spoke French came to the wire to call
"You officers will march from here soon. Begin to get your packs
ready. There must be no delay."
"It won't take me long," Dick told his new friends. "When captured
I had only my uniform and my pistol. The latter was taken."
He turned to, however, to help his French brothers who possessed
blankets, water bottles and other small belongings, for some of
them appeared almost too weak to prepare for the march.
The same order had been given to the enlisted men in the next
enclosure. For a few minutes there was some bustle over getting
petty belongings together and marshaling them into a pack that
could be slung over the back.
"Officers ready!" ordered the under-officer, returning. "Fall
in by twos and march after me to the office."
He marched the little detachment through the larger enclosure,
and in through the rear of the office building. Here there was
a roll-call. Then the officers, again in twos, were marched outside,
where a corporal and four soldiers fell in with them as guard.
Down the road the captured officers were marched for something
like a quarter of a mile.
"Halt, but keep your places in the ranks," ordered the corporal.
"Any prisoner disobeying will be shot."
"There is something that promises!" cried Captain Lescault, pointing
to the sky.
Southward, over the lines, appeared a squadron of swift French
airplanes, coming over the German lines. Almost instantly German
aircraft began to rise from the ground, going to meet the invaders
of the air.
Over the purring of the engines sounded the sharp, continuous
rapping of machine guns as the opposing craft fought each other.
Two German planes came crashing down to earth. More appeared
in the air, until the French flyers, outnumbered, turned and flew
back over the French lines.
"I believe our flyers got what they wanted," whispered the same
French officer to Prescott.
Five minutes later the Frenchman whispered exultingly:
"Ah, I was sure of it! Our airmen were spying for the artillery.
Now you shall see things happen."
In the air sounded a screech. Then, less than three hundred yards
further down the road a French shell exploded, overturning a motor
truck and killing both Germans on its seat. The truck itself was
Crash! Another shell landed in the road, bowling over two officers
at the head of a body of oncoming soldiers. The next shell landed
in a mass of marching German infantry, killing and wounding several.
Then, for five minutes a hurricane of shells descended on that
road, wrecking trucks, killing and wounding more than a hundred
men in German marching detachments, and chasing all troops from
"That does not win the war!" growled the German corporal in charge
of the officer-prisoners. "It is only French mischief!"
Hardly had the shell hurricane ceased when some hundred men, under
guard, came marching down from the prison camp. These were halted,
at the edge of the field, just behind the officers.
An hour passed before another detachment of prisoners was marched
down the road and halted. Later more came. Noon had passed before
the final detachment arrived.
It was wearisome, but Dick Prescott did not feel that he had wasted
his time. Full of the hope of escaping, some day, he had watched
covertly everything that he could see of German army life and
movements behind the fighting line. Also, from several incidents
that he witnessed, he gained a new idea of German military brutality.
One scene that made his blood boil was when a French officer, a
wounded man, and suffering also from hunger, let himself slide to
a sitting posture on the ground.
"Here, you!" ordered the German corporal advancing threateningly.
"You have been told that you must stand in line."
"But our comrade is weak from loss of blood," interposed another
French officer who spoke German.
"Take that for your meddling," retorted the corporal, landing
the back of his hand stingingly on his informant's face. It was
a humiliating blow, that a prisoner could not resent in kind.
"Get up," ordered the corporal, "or I shall aid you with my bayonet."
Though the words were not understood by the sufferer, the gesture
was. He tried to obey, but did not rise fast enough to suit the
"Here," mocked the fellow. "That will help you!"
His bayonet point passed through the seat of the victim's trousers,
more than pricking the flesh inside.
"Coward!" hissed Prescott and three of four of the French officers.
"If you don't like it, and are not civil," raged the corporal
hoarsely, "I shall beat some of you with the butt of my gun."
Subsequently a French officer who had stepped a foot further than
he was supposed to stand was rebuked by the corporal's gun-butt
striking him on the knee-cap. After that the prisoner limped.
"These brutes ought to be killed---every one of them!" Dick muttered
disgustedly to a French officer near him.
"Most of them will be, before this long war is over," nodded the
Frenchman, "but a soldier's death is too fine for such beasts."
Finally a German officer arrived. Under his crisp orders the
now long column of prisoners moved out into the road, forming
compactly and guarded by at least forty infantrymen. The order
to march was given. With only two halts the prisoners were marched
some eight miles, arriving late in the afternoon at a railway
Here the column was halted again for an hour, while the German
officer was absent, presumably, in search of his orders. When
the march was taken up again its course led across a network of
tracks to a long train.
"Why, these are cattle cars," uttered Prescott, disgustedly, when
the column had been halted along the length of the foremost part
of the train. "And, judging by the odor, these cars haven't been
"They won't be until we are through riding in them," returned
the French officer at his side. "This is what comes to soldiers
who surrender to the German dogs!"
Only one car was given over to the officer-prisoners, who were
forced to climb into the unsavory car through a side door. No
seats had been provided, but there was not more than room to stand
up in the stuffy car. Fortunately the spaces between the timbers
of the car sides gave abundant ventilation.
Into cars to the rear the enlisted prisoners were packed. To
stomachs that had been empty of food all day the odors were
As the officer in charge of the prisoners came to the side door
of the first car Dick made bold to prefer a request.
"We have had no water all day. May we have a bucket of it in
here before the train starts?"
"There will not be time," replied the German officer coldly, and
moved away. Yet two hours passed, and the train did not start.
Suddenly German guns behind the front, along a stretch of miles,
opened a heavy bombardment. Dick and his French friends gazed
out at a sky made violently lurid by the reflection of the flashes
of these great pieces. Then the French guns answered furiously,
nor did all the French shells fall upon the German trenches or
batteries. The French knew the location of this railway yard.
Within twenty minutes five hundred large caliber shells had fallen
in or near this yard. Freight and passenger coaches were struck
Into the forward cattle car bounded the corporal who had tormented
them that day. Behind him, in the doorway, appeared the German
"Count the prisoners," ordered the latter, "and make sure that
all are there. We are going to pull out of here before those
crazy French yonder destroy all our rolling stock."
Fifteen minutes later, though the French shell-fire had ceased
coming this way, the train crawled out of the yard. It ran along
slowly, though sometime in the night it increased its speed.
Dick Prescott will never forget the misery of that night. When
the train was under way the cold was intense in these half-open
cattle cars. No appeal for water to drink was heeded.
Despite their discomforts, most of the prisoners managed to sleep
some, though standing up.
In the middle of the night Prescott awoke, stiff, nauseated, hungry
and parched with tormenting thirst. Though he did not know it
at that moment, the train had halted because of a breakdown in a
Along the track came that tormenting corporal. While a soldier
held up a dim lantern the corporal unlocked the padlock, sliding
the side door back.
At that moment an order was bawled lustily in German.
"Will you be good enough to repeat, Herr Lieutenant?" called the
corporal, glancing backward down the length of train.
Heavy footsteps were heard approaching. Corporal and private
turned to take a few steps back to meet their officer. Dick,
standing in the open doorway, saw that a fog had settled down
over the night.
Acting on a sudden impulse, without an instant's hesitation, he
leaped down, striking softly on the balls of his feet. Without
even turning sideways to see if German eyes had observed him,
Prescott stole across another track, and down to the foot of an
"They'll shoot me for this!" he muttered. "Let them! Death is
better than being a German prisoner!"
SEEKING DEATH MORE THAN ESCAPE
In another instant the French officer who had been standing next
to Dick attempted the same trick. He had just gained the ground
when the German lieutenant, turning his gaze from the corporal's
face, and glancing ahead, broke off in the middle of his instructions
to cry out:
"There's a prisoner escaping! Halt him or shoot him!"
Realizing that he was hopelessly caught, and trusting to better
luck next time, the Frenchman held up his hands.
"Get back into the car," ordered the German lieutenant. "Corporal,
take the lantern and see that all the prisoners are in there."
As the corporal obeyed, the lieutenant looked in and nodded.
"There was no time for any to escape," he remarked. "We nipped
the first one. You are scoundrels when you try to disgrace me
by escaping. Just for the attempt of this comrade of yours, gentlemen,
you shall have no breakfast in the morning."
The door was moved quickly into place, the padlock snapped, and
then the guard turned to other matters.
Not a French officer in that car but would sooner have died than
betray the fact that Dick had slipped out of sight. Though they
themselves were still in the car, they prayed that he might find
either safety from the Germans, or that better thing than captivity,
As for Captain Prescott, he had slipped into a field beyond.
When he halted to peer about he was perhaps sixty feet from the
train. Moving cautiously he made the distance another hundred
feet. Yet he did not dare to go far at present, nor rapidly.
"I'm out of the car, if nothing more," Dick reflected, inhaling
a deep breath of the foggy air. "I shall always feel grateful
to that German engineer. His blowing off steam made noise enough
so that my jump and my footsteps weren't heard."
One of Dick's feet, moving exploringly, touched a stone. Bending
over and groping, he found three fair-sized stones.
"Good enough!" he thought, picking them up. "Sooner or later,
to-night, wandering around in an American uniform, I'm going to
be heard and halted. I'll throw these stones at the sentry who
tries to halt me, and then he'll fire. After he shoots there'll
be no German prison ahead for me!"
This wasn't exactly a thought in the cheerful class, yet Prescott
smiled. More contented with his prospects he moved softly away.
For the first hundred feet from the embankment his shoes touched
grass. Then he came to the edge of a ploughed field. Here he
felt that he must proceed with even greater caution, for now most
of the train noises had ceased and he feared to slip or stumble,
and thus make a noise that might be carried on the still night
air to the ears of the train guard.
However, he soon struck a smooth path leading through the ploughed
ground, and now moved along a little faster.
"This is just where caution ought to pay big dividends," he told
himself. "A path is usually made to lead to where human beings
live and congregate. I'll stop every few feet and listen."
The first sound that came to his ears from out of the veiled distance
ahead made the young American officer almost laugh aloud. It was
the crowing of a rooster.
"If you know how hungry I am, my bird, I doubt if you'd make any
noise to draw me your way."
However, the crowing had given him a valuable clew, for he reasoned
that the barnyard home of Mr. Rooster must be near the general
buildings of a farm. These buildings he decided to avoid. So,
when he came to a fork in the path he chose the direction that
led him further from what he believed to be the location of the
By this time he was moving more rapidly, though striving to make
no noise in moving. Suddenly he came to a road and stopped, gasping.
"I don't want anything as public as this," Dick told himself.
"Troops use roads. However, as I've reached the road, and want
to get as far from the train as possible, I believe I'll take
a look from the other side of the road. There may be a field
there better suited to my needs."
Directly opposite, at the other edge of the road, two tree trunks
reared themselves close together, looking tall and gaunt against
the white of the fog. After listening a moment Dick started to
cross the road to them.
Just as he reached the trunks he saw something move around the
further one, and drew back quickly. It was well that he did so,
for the moving thing was a man armed with an axe which he had
swung high and now tried to bring down relentlessly on Prescott's
But Dick's arms shot up, his hands catching the haft and wrenching
the ugly weapon away from its wielder.
"No, you don't!" Dick muttered in English, taking another step
backward from the wild-looking old peasant who had attempted to
"But a thousand pardons, monsieur!" cried the old man hoarsely
in French, and now shaking from head to foot. "I did not see
well in the fog, and I mistook you for a German. You are a British
"An American soldier," Dick replied in the same tongue.
"Then, had I killed you, grief would have killed me, too, as it
has already sent my wits scattering. For I am a Frenchman and
hate only Germans."
"Is this a safe place to stand and discuss the Germans?" asked
Dick mildly, in a voice barely above a whisper. "This road-----"
"No, no! It is not safe here," protested the peasant. "Soldiers
and wagons move over this road. That was why I was here. I hoped
to find some German soldier alone, to leap on him and kill him---and
I thought you a German until after I had swung at you. Heaven
is good, and I have not to reproach myself for having struck at
the American uniform. But you are in danger here. You are-----"
"An escaped prisoner," Dick supplied in a whisper. "I have just
escaped from the Germans."
"If you are quick then, they shall not find you," promised the
old man, seizing Dick by the arm. "Come! I can guide you even
through this fog."
There was something so sincere about the old peasant, despite
his wildness, that Prescott went with him without objection.
Both moving softly, they stepped into another field, the guide
going forward as one who knew every inch of the way.
Presently buildings appeared faintly in the fog.
"Wait here," whispered the peasant, and was gone. He soon came
"There are no German soldiers about the place," the old man informed
Dick. "I will take you into the house---hide you. You shall
have food and drink!"
Food and something to drink! To Dick Prescott, at that moment,
this sounded like a promise of bliss.
To a rear door the old man led the American, and inside, closing
and bolting the door after him. Here the man struck a light,
and a candle shed its rays over a well-kept kitchen.
As Dick laid the axe down in a corner he heard a sobbing sound
from a room nearby.
"It is the dear old wife," said the peasant, in an awed tone.
"To-day the German monsters took our son and our daughter, and
marched them off with other young people from the village. They
have been taken to Germany to toil as slaves of the wild beasts.
Do you wonder, monsieur, that the good wife sobs and that I haunted
the road hoping to find a German soldier alone and to slay him?
But I must hide you, for Germans might come here at any moment."
Throwing open a door the old man revealed a flight of stairs.
He led the way to a room above. Here a door cunningly concealed
behind a dresser was opened after the guide had moved the dresser.
At a sign Dick entered the other room, only to find himself confronted
by another man, whose face, revealed by the candle light, caused
Captain Dick Prescott to recoil as though from a ghost.
CAN IT BE THE OLD CHUM?
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