H. Irving Hancock.

Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche online

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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!



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
his way.

"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
be ours."

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
noiselessly ahead.

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?"

"Why not?"

"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



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.

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
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,

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