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   Chapter 17 DICK PRESCOTT'S PRIZE CATCH

Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 10638

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


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 word easily.

"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 enemy colonel.

"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. March!"

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 whisper.

"If you speak again I'll kill you instantly," Prescott snapped back.

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 insisted angrily.

"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 and faces.

"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 cast down.

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 him now?"

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 seems incredible."

"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 treasonable business."

"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 face.

"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 the matter.

"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 division headquarters.

"These are your instructions, then, Lieutenant De Verne. Of course it is expected that Captain Prescott will accompany you as complaining witness."

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, in English.

"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.

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