MoboReader > Literature > Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche


Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 15780

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

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 endure.

"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 regiment."

"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 discipline.

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 respect."

"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 the road.

"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 trunk."

"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 to that."

"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 German.

"Carl will tell you what to do," said time stoop-shouldered one.

"You men are in two different companies?" asked the man behind spectacles.

"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 a pocket.

"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 vial.

"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 your prisoners."

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 through Braun.

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 the Ninety-ninth.

No quiet days, however, were in store for the regiment.

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