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

   Chapter 18 A LOT MORE OF THE REAL THING

Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 8969

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


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 summoned.

"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!"

"Here, sir!"

"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 grateful--always!"

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 li

fe 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 his rest.

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 trenches nearby.

"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!

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