Part 4 out of 4
"You know each other?" cried the old peasant, as he observed the
amazement of two young men. "You are enemies?"
As he saw the pair fairly hug each other he added hastily:
"But no! You are friends!"
Then he added, as if he were saying something new:
"Friends, quite certainly."
"You, Dick Prescott!" gasped the other young man.
"Tom Reade!" uttered the young captain delightedly.
The old peasant held the candle higher that he might see better
what was taking place. In that light Dick made another discovery.
"Tom, you're in uniform! Aviation service, at that!"
"What else did you expect?" Tom demanded. "Especially after I
wrote and told you all about it."
"Where did you send the letter?"
"To you at Camp Baker."
"It was in July that we left Camp Baker for Camp Berry. Your
letter must have gone astray. I heard from the old home town
of Gridley that you and Hazelton had gone across---something to
do with welfare work. I couldn't make it out," Dick hurried on,"
neither did I know where to address you."
"That's just it, though!" exclaimed Tom Reade, with a happy laugh.
"Welfare work explains it to a dot. We're working for the welfare
of the world by helping to kill as many Huns as possible!"
"But how came you to be here?"
"I might ask as much of you, Dick, as you and I appear to be in
exactly the same boat."
It looked rather ungrateful toward the old peasant who had brought
these old, old friends together, but for a few moments both forgot
him. When they remembered him they found that the old man had
gone, closing the door.
Then Dick told what had befallen him, after which Reade explained
that, three nights before, on a night flight over the German lines,
his plane had been damaged by a fragment of shell from an anti-aircraft
gun. Reade had been obliged to descend some forty miles behind
the German front lines. Fortunately he had come down in a field
near the house in which he now hid. He had cautiously come to
this house, and as cautiously aroused the inmates, reasoning that
they must be French and should befriend him. This the peasants
had cheerfully done.
"I've been hiding here since, and my machine was found, but I
wasn't," Tom wound up.
"You see, this room has no windows, and I keep very quiet, and
so, perhaps, I could remain here safely a month. But I won't.
I have plans for escape back to the French lines."
At this moment the door opened again. The old peasant came in
with a tray on which was a dish of smoking meat, dark bread and
potatoes and a pot of coffee.
"Now, since you are old friends I shall leave you," said the old
man smiling, as he patted both young Americans on the shoulder.
"But Monsieur Reade knows how to call me if I am wanted. Good
rest and stout hearts, young gentlemen!"
"We'll feast a bit!" cried Prescott eagerly.
"You will," Tom corrected. "I've had my evening meal and am not
hungry. Eat before the candle burns out, and while you do so
I will fix the ventilator for the night. When you have eaten
we can turn in on the bed, for we can talk there as well as when
sitting in the dark." Dick fell to ravenously on the food and
coffee, while Tom attended to ventilation by removing a loose
brick from a chimney, half of which was in this blind attic.
"We must pay this peasant well," Dick proposed, when he had nearly
finished the meal, "for I'll wager he is not rich."
"I can pay him all right," declared Reade, striking a hand against
his waist-line. "In my money belt I have a stock of American
gold. Gold is a money that is very popular in Europe in these
days of hardship."
Later the chums disrobed and turned in. There was abundance of
covering to the bed.
"Now," proposed Tom Reade, talking in whispers, "for my plan of
escape. It's dangerous, and it sounds impossible, fantastic.
But now that you're here, Dick Prescott, I feel equal to putting
anything through! So here's for the plan!"
It was dangerous enough, certainly, as Tom Reade outlined it.
It didn't even strike Captain Prescott as being possible of performance,
but he didn't say so. It was the only plan of escape that presented
itself, and Tom had evidently put in all his hopes on that idea.
From the plan the chums fell to talking of other days. In the
end, however, their whispers became more indistinct, then died
out. Both were asleep.
Dick, as he slumbered and tossed, still felt the motion of that
hideous prison train, but at last fell into deep slumber.
When he finally awoke he beheld Tom Reade, fully dressed in his
uniform, seated at some distance under a little opening in the
roof, reading a book.
"Awake, eh?" asked Tom, when he heard his chum stir. After glancing
at his wrist watch, he added:
"You've slept nine hours and a half, and I guess you needed it.
There is water for washing, and I'll consult our host about breakfast.
What do you think of this way of letting in daylight? Toward
night I shove this black cover over the hole in the roof, so that
candle light may not show through the roof and give us away to
Stepping to the chimney, from which the "ventilator" brick was
still absent, Reade put his hand inside, finding a cord and giving
it a gentle tug.
By the time that Prescott was partly dressed the door opened and
the old peasant looked in.
"We are wondering what you can give us for breakfast?" Tom said
in French. "Are eggs to be had to-day? Omelettes?"
"Yes, I can get eggs," nodded the old man.
"As you've not seen the color of my money yet," Tom continued,
"please take this on account."
At first the old peasant hung back from accepting the proffered
gold coin, though at last he took it, remarking:
"I will admit that I am poor, and yet it seems a crime to accept
money from an American."
Half an hour later their host returned, bringing two hot omelettes,
dark bread, potatoes and the inevitable pot of coffee.
"It is with difficulty that we keep food hidden," he murmured,
in a low voice. "A dozen times the Huns have appeared and have
taken from us all the food they could find. But we still have
flour, potatoes and coffee hidden where they cannot find them.
We shall hope to continue to exist until you Americans have helped
drive the Hun from our land."
From the nearby road came the sound of moving trucks. The old
man paused and shook his fist in the direction of the sound.
After he had served the breakfast he climbed upon a stool, putting
his eyes to the hole in the sloping roof and peering toward the
"Ah, the vermin!" he hissed. "A regiment of their accursed infantry
marching toward the front. Oh, that your men and ours might kill
them all this day!"
"Give us time, and we'll do it," Tom promised unconcernedly.
After breakfast the two chums talked almost without stopping until
it was time for luncheon. In the afternoon Tom stretched, then
walked toward the bed, declaring:
"When one has no chance to exercise I believe sleep to be the
next best thing, even extra sleep. I believe that I can sleep
until supper time. And after that---perhaps it will be tonight,
Dick, that we make our fantastic effort to place ourselves on
the other side of the German battle front!"
"The sooner the better," cried Dick, "only provided that speed
does not waste our chance to escape."
"If we must go down in defeat," yawned Reade, "I believe we may
at least look for the satisfaction of carrying a few Huns with
us. I believe I have forgotten to mention the fact that I have
my automatic pistol with me. It's hidden, but I could show it
"I'm glad you have it," murmured Dick, as he closed his eyes.
"I never before felt the desire to slay human beings, but since
I've struck the French front I've had a constant desire to kill
"To-night, then," said Reade drowsily, "we may find the chance
both to kill Huns and get back to the French lines."
THE DASH TO GET BACK TO PERSHING
"After dark, by a whole hour!" whispered Reade, after waking,
striking a match and looking at his wrist watch. "Hustle, Dick!"
Tom's next act was to light a candle. "Want supper?" he asked.
"I could eat it," Prescott replied. "But what's the use?"
"What do you mean?"
"Why waste time with eating when there's the slimmest chance to
get away?" Dick continued.
"It may be hours before we can really put our plan into execution."
"Our plan?" repeated Dick. "What on earth did I have to do with
making the plan? But, if you feel that we're not wasting time
over a supper I'll admit that I am ready to eat."
So Reade summoned their host, as before.
"Is the night good and foggy?" Tom asked, when the aged peasant
"There is not a trace of fog, monsieur," was the reply. "Still,
the sky is cloudy, and the night is dark."
"That's only second-best weather," grumbled Reade. "However,
I'm impatient to have a try to-night. I think we will try for
it. Can you help us?"
"Undoubtedly I can find out how clear the coast is," replied the
old man. "I would be glad to do far more than that for you."
"If you can supply us with supper," Tom proposed, "and then find
out the news, it will be a great service."
Later, while the chums ate, the old peasant went abroad. Tom
and Dick were waiting impatiently until he returned.
"All is as well as it will be any night," the Frenchman reported,
and added details.
"We'll try it, then," Reade decided, after glancing at Prescott,
"And may you succeed!" cried the old peasant fervently. "And
may you both come safely through the war, and have the good fortune
to slay Huns and Huns and Huns!"
"Promise me, my good old friend, to use your axe only for chopping
wood," Dick urged,
"And I will promise to think of you whenever I have the chance
to destroy a Hun."
"It is a bargain, then!" cried their host.
"It will be kept, on my side," Dick rejoined gravely.
"And on mine, too," agreed the old man.
It was quiet abroad when the three stealthily left the house.
The Americans had wished to leave a word of cheer with the peasant's
wife, but she had fallen asleep and they would not disturb her.
Through a wood and across fields their guide led the young Americans
until they neared the spot they sought.
"From here on one will have to be cautious," suggested the Frenchman.
"You are about to cross a road, and then, on the other side,
one comes to the aviation station."
"Then here is where you should leave us," Dick remarked considerately.
"Very likely we shall fail and be sent on to a prison camp, this
time in irons. Perhaps we shall be shot. But we do not care
to let an old man, and a Frenchman follow us to a death that he
should not invite."
"I would go with you until I see you safely in sight of the station,"
objected the Frenchman.
"It seems unnecessary, and contemptible in us to risk your life
along with our own. Do you understand the lay of the land, Tom?
Can you find our objective without risking the life of our good
old friend here?"
"I am sure that I can," Reade nodded. "Like yourself, Dick, I
feel that he should not come further with us. And see here, monsieur.
You have not asked our names, neither have we known yours. Some
day, when all around here is French territory again, and the beastly
German has gone forever, we shall want to look you up, or write
you. I am Lieutenant Tom Reade, of the American aviation service,
and my friend is Captain Richard Prescott, of the American Infantry."
"And I am Francois Prim. My neighbors call me Papa Prim."
"Show us the way we are to go, Monsieur Prim," Dick urged.
"It is simple," replied Papa Prim. "You see, without fail, the
little building to which I am pointing, over by the roadside?"
"That was our school-house. Now it is an office for the Prussians.
They have a battalion or more of infantry camped in the field
across from the building. They are a guard to keep us afraid.
Sometimes one will see three or four regiments camped further
along on that field, either regiments going to the front or coming
back for rest. Now, from that building you turn and go in that
direction"---Papa Prim made a motion with his crooked
forefinger---"and so you come to four sheds that are easily missed
in the night, for they are camouflaged so as not to attract the eye
of French flyers in the day time. From here it will be the first
shed that you come to that is more likely to be open at night.
In each shed are two airplanes. They are kept here for the purpose
of sending up at night when French planes pass over to bomb railways
or perhaps to bomb German towns. When our own French airmen come
then these airplanes shoot up into the sky and give battle. But
the Huns have lost twelve planes here in half that number of months,"
Papa Prim added proudly, "and only lately have enough new ones
arrived from Germany to make up the eight required for this station."
"Where do the airmen sleep?" Dick interjected.
"In the camp with the troops; in the hangars there are no sleeping
"And the hangars are at some distance from the troop camp?" Tom
"The troop camp begins over that way," Papa Prim continued, pointing,
"for, as you will understand, there must be ground on which the
airplanes may run before they rise. So there is some distance.
I came near forgetting to tell you that, behind the hangars, are
four tents in which the hangar guard sleeps."
"And how many sentries at a time walk post around the hangars?"
"I do not know," confessed Papa Prim, "but I do not believe there
are more than three or four sentries on duty at a time. Of course,
there are other sentries on post at the camp."
"And airships leaving fly directly over the camp?" Tom wanted
"You have said truly," replied Papa Prim. "And are there anti-aircraft
guns in the camp?" Tom asked.
"In the troop camp, so I have heard, but I have not seen them,"
answered Papa Prim.
Removing his steel helmet and taking it in his left hand, Dick
bent over, seizing Papa Prim's hand.
"Good-bye for a little while, monsieur," he said earnestly. "We
go away with hearts full of gratitude to your own fine, loyal
heart. May you prosper and be happy, with your children safely
returned from Germany. May all good things in life be with you.
Our thanks will always be with you, and our thoughts often of
Tom Reade took leave of Papa Prim in equally hearty and grateful
The two Americans watched the slim, bent old figure plodding homeward.
After looking the ground over critically, they stole forward
on their way.
"I didn't want him to see what disagreeable business we may have
on our hands within a few minutes," Dick whispered. "But see
here, Tom, I've just remembered that you didn't pay Papa Prim
for all his trouble, as you had planned."
"Didn't I?" Reade chuckled. "I did it without any dispute from
him, either. Dick, I wrapped five twenty-dollar American gold
pieces in cloth, so they wouldn't jingle, and stuffed the whole
tightly into a small canvas bag. While you were talking I slipped
it into one of his blouse pockets. Papa Prim will find the money
there, and he'll know who put it there, but he won't be able to
"American gold?" Dick echoed. "If the Germans ever know of his
having American gold they'll think it reason enough for hanging
"No, they won't," Tom retorted, "though they would undoubtedly
think it reason enough for taking the money away from him. But
I've seen plenty of American gold in France, and plenty of English
gold, too. Anywhere in the world gold is gold, and having American
gold isn't proof, during this war, that the possessor got it from
an American. I'll wager that there is plenty of American gold
locked up even in Germany. But the Germans will never find Papa's
gold. Papa Prim will hide it until the day comes when, like the
good Frenchman that he is, he can turn that gold into a French
Nearing the former school-house that had been pointed out to them,
the two chums took their bearings afresh. Crossing the road one
at a time, with utmost stealth, they reached the other side without
having been challenged.
A little further on they espied a German sentry, pacing post.
Waiting until the fellow had gone to the furthest limit of his
post, the chums, flat on their stomachs, crawled forward until,
on looking backward, they judged it safe to rise and move on crouchingly.
Then they came in sight of the aviation station.
"Better crawl all the way now," Dick whispered. "We have reached
the point where any attempt at speed will be sure to place a few
bullets in our bodies."
Tom nodded, without speaking. It was trampled, withered grass
through which they now crawled. It offered fair concealment, but
there was danger of making a noise that might betray them to a
At last, near the first hangar, they reached a spot where two
trees stood close together. Crawling to this shelter, they still
remained lying down, though the tree trunks gave them greater
safety against being seen.
In front of the hangars paced a sentry; at the rear another soldier
walked post. At some distance from this latter sentry stood four
tents, in which, Papa Prim had declared, slept the reliefs of
"I see how we could get the sentry at the rear," Dick whispered,
after a few minutes' silent survey. "But it's at the front that
we want to get in, and I don't see any way of creeping up on the
front sentry without the rear sentry seeing us and firing. That
would give the alarm."
"Then we've got to 'get' the rear sentry first?" Tom asked, his
lips at his chum's ear.
"Nasty business, and double chance of losing the game."
"It's the only way, Tom, unless your head is working better than
For some minutes Tom Reade studied.
"I guess it will have to be the rear sentry first," he conceded.
At that moment a small door at the rear of the hangar opened.
The two friends heard the noise, and judged by sound more than sight.
"Sentry!" said the man who had stepped outside, in a low voice.
"Herr Lieutenant!" responded the man. "I am not locking the door,
sentry. I shall be back before long."
"Very good, Herr Lieutenant." Passing to the front of the hangar
this German aviation lieutenant waited until the sentry there
had reached him, then delivered the same information, after which
the aviation officer strode off briskly toward the troop camp
that could be only vaguely seen in the distance.
"It sounds as if he intended to make a flight," whispered Dick
"That wouldn't be so bad," Reade replied. "It will be worse if
his machine is out of order and he is coming back to fuss over it."
"We must make our break now," Prescott whispered.
"Lead the way," answered Reade. Fortunately, at this moment,
the sentries were at the outer ends of their posts. Bending low,
keeping his gaze on the sentries, Dick scurried noiselessly over
the ground until he paused, erect and panting, under the shadow
of the building near the rear.
So far safe, for Reade was with him an instant later. While the
rear sentry finished his post at this end just beyond the hangar,
the front sentry, as far as had been observed, came only as far
as the sliding doors of the hangar.
"Get your automatic ready!" Dick whispered. Then they heard the
rear sentry coming toward them.
There came that tense instant when the sentry's passing form loomed
up within three feet of Captain Prescott. Losing not an instant
Dick sprang upon him with the bound of a panther.
There was no outcry, for Dick's fingers sought and found the fellow's
throat, encircling it. Wrenching the enemy soldier off his balance,
Prescott laid him low, the man's bayoneted rifle falling across
It was Dick's eyes that said, "Ready, Tom!" Reade hesitated for
a second or so, then struck the prostrate, choking enemy between
the eyes. It was a fearful blow, and the man collapsed.
"One down, but we must get the other!" Dick whispered sternly.
They stole forward along the side of the building, Dick in the
lead. Peeping around the corner he saw the sentry almost finishing
the nearer end of his post. Back came Prescott's head like a
shot. He waited until he knew by the tread that the sentry had
turned and was going back over his post. Then it was that Dick
stole upon him from behind. Another leap, a grip around the man's
throat, and sentry number two was on his back, where Reade gave
him the grace blow.
Without a word the chums picked up this sentry, carrying him around
to the rear. Then Dick sought the small rear door of the hangar.
It opened softly, and they entered, closing it behind them.
All was darkness in here until Reade, producing his pocket electric
torch, threw a beam of light over the scene.
While Dick stood still, now holding the automatic pistol, Tom
took a rapid look over each of the two air machines.
"This nearer one looks like the newer, better one," Reade declared.
"I'll look over the machinery to make sure that the engine is
all right and that I understand the engine and the controls.
Her machine-gun is ready for business and we may need it."
Dick stood patiently by, wondering how soon the guard was due
to be relieved. If that happened soon, and the knocked-out sentries
were discovered, the chance for escape looked like three less
"All right," whispered Tom at last. "I can handle her, and there
is water enough in the radiator and the gas tanks are filled.
Now, then, we must open the doors as noiselessly as possible."
Dick taking the left-hand one, Tom the right, they rolled the
doors back. These moved almost noiselessly.
"Here's the way you turn the engine on," Tom whispered, holding
the torch and getting Dick up into the cockpit of the craft.
"Turn it on as soon as I say, but not a second before."
Placing himself in front of the propeller Tom gave it a few brisk
"Now!" cried Tom, leaping back. The ignition caught at once.
Tom clambered over into the cockpit, Prescott now being in the
observer's seat forward.
With the wheel in his hands and his feet resting against the controls
Tom Reade suddenly dropped all apprehension. He was as much at
home now as Prescott was with an automatic pistol in his hand.
Waiting only until the engine had gained its speed without missing,
Out through the open doorway Reade sent the airplane "taxying"
or running along the ground.
Across the field toward them came racing a German aviator with
a startled look on his face. He had to jump out of the way as
the "taxying" airplane bore down on him. But he reached for his
automatic and brought it forth.
"Stop!" he roared. "Turn out the guard!" Bang! bang!
Two bullets whizzed by Tom's head. Prescott fired three shots
instantly, one of them taking effect, for the German officer went
to earth and lay there, his pistol now silent.
From behind the hangar several members of the guard came rushing
from their tents. By the time they were in front of the hangar
they could shoot only by guess, and might hit their own comrades
in the troop camp. So they fired into the air, wildly, rapidly.
So much shooting was bound to rouse the troop camp, and did.
The sentries came out on the jump. While some fired star shells
that lighted the sky, others took quick aim with their rifles.
Aiming at the figures on the ground as best he could, just as
Reade left the ground for the air, Prescott fired, loaded and
fired, jamming in a fresh magazine whenever the automatic became
Twenty feet up in the air, fifty, a hundred! Tom Reade rose as
fast as he could make the machine move. More star shells, and
now the anti-aircraft guns came into action.
At three hundred feet above the ground shells exploded about the
fugitives. One lucky shot of the enemy would be enough to bring
them to earth.
The pistol was now too hot to use further. Dick sat back, closing
his eyes, while Reade drove at all the speed he could compel,
ever rising higher. Both Americans knew that other anti-aircraft
guns further south would be turned upon them.
Finally Tom, after a glance at the barograph, roared at Prescott:
"Five thousand feet up on a dark night, and we're going to fifteen
thousand feet. All we now have to fear will be other German aircraft,
but there'll be fleets of them sent out to look for us!" Prescott
nodded, though he could not hear in the roar of the motors and
the rush of the air past him.
A mile below them the blackness of the night was punctured by
a lively little volcano of red and yellow jets. A dozen anti-aircraft
guns opened fire on the fugitive airplane, whose course must have
been telephoned along the line. Some of the shells burst so close
that fragments of metal whizzed about the ears of both Americans;
some of the shells went far wide of the mark, but at least two
of the gunners followed the moving craft for the distance of a
mile with an accuracy that caused the two fugitives in the sky
the liveliest uneasiness. The gunners were aiming by the sound
of the engines.
"Give us fifteen minutes more at this speed,"
Tom roared, "and we'll be back over our own French lines!"
They were soon going at terrific speed, fifteen thousand feet up
in the air, when a terrifying peril beset them.
Out of the blackness ahead, bearing straight at them, came a dozen
German airplanes in splendid formation!
"Hurrah!" yelled Tom Reade. "Sink or swim---but never say die!
Now we'll give it to 'em, real Yankee Doodle, 'over there' style!"
It sounded like sheer bravado, but Reade was fired with the new
genius of the war.
Tom headed straight for the nearest plane, and Dick turned the
machine gun loose. Almost immediately he had the great good luck
to cripple that enemy and send the craft fluttering down to earth.
But another plane had attempted to go under them with a view to
shooting up. It came too near, in the maneuver shot too badly,
and Dick let loose with the machine gun again. Down came the
enemy plane while Reade took a wide swerve to the right.
So swift and daring had been Reade's tactics that he was through
and past the opposing fleet ere the German aviators realized their
failure. Now the survivors wheeled and gave chase, though they
soon abandoned it, for the plane that Reade drove was a new one
and faster than any of his pursuers. For a minute or so more
the two Americans survived by sheer good luck. Then they were
out of enemy range.
Higher Tom mounted in the air. Dick fairly chattered with the
cold, but he kept the machine gun ready for instant use.
A few minutes more, then Tom, shutting off the power for a glide,
inquired, at the top of his voice:
"Where do you want to be put down?"
"For choice," Captain Prescott answered, "as close as possible
to General Bazain's divisional headquarters."
"I know the place," Tom nodded. "There's an aviation station
about three miles beyond there."
Tom threw on the power, straightened away, and three minutes later
began to glide again until he was not more than six thousand feet
"Keep your eyes turned low," Tom counseled. "Soon we ought to
Nor was that "something" long in appearing. Not far ahead, yet
so much below them as to look tiny, hundreds of flashes were seen.
"German artillery," Dick told himself.
Another minute, and he beheld flashes turned against the Germans.
"Between the two lines of artillery are the fire trenches of the
opposing armies," Prescott realized with a thrill.
Next he found himself, at lower altitude, going squarely over a
line of French batteries.
"Now comes the really ticklish work of the night!" Reade shouted
back. "When we try for a landing we'll endeavor to make our own
crowd understand that, though this is a German machine, it comes
on no hostile errand. If we can't make the Frenchmen understand
that, then they'll blow us back into the sky as soon as we range
Guided by that instinct which is the aviator's best compass at
night, Reade steered toward the landing field.
Bang! came the report of a gun below, and a shell exploded dangerously
close to the aircraft. Tom switched on an electric light signal
beneath the craft to show that a friendly craft sought safe landing.
At the same time Dick leaned as far over as he could and waved
an arm slowly. Then just ahead a flare began on the ground, next
burned up brightly---a can of gasoline lighted and allowed to burn
to indicate the neighborhood in which to come down.
Going past and turning, Reade volplaned gracefully earthward,
landing just beyond the blazing gasoline.
Instantly they were surrounded by two-score French aviators and
"It is all right!" the cry went up. "They are Americans, though
the machine is German."
M. le Commandant Perrault, chief of squadron, stepped rapidly
forward, receiving the salute of the two American officers and
asking questions at volley-fire speed. His face betrayed amazement,
but when the brief narrative had been finished he grasped the hands
"It was splendidly done," he declared.
"And now, sir, on behalf of my friend, may I ask how far we are
from the front line?" Tom inquired. "Captain Prescott wishes
to return to the trenches immediately."
"It is ten kilometers," replied the commandant. "Yet speed shall
not be impossible. Within five minutes I will have here a car
that will take Captain Prescott to the communication trenches,
and in that car will be a trench guide."
"And I'm going, too, Dick," Tom added, squeezing his chum's arm.
"We have a lot to talk over yet."
As the German airplane had been turned over to Commandant Perrault,
Reade had no further concern with that. He bounded into the motor
car when it arrived. Later the trench guide conducted them into
the front trenches, even to the section from which Prescott had
been taken. Major Wells was now, with Captain Holmes and Lieutenant
Terry, at a point about a third of a mile to the westward.
Thither Dick and Tom turned their steps, still with the trench
guide showing the way. Unexpectedly this little party came upon
Major Wells just as the latter was saying:
"The greatest blow to us was the loss of Captain Prescott. Of
course he may be a prisoner, and unharmed, but we much fear that
he was killed."
"I beg to report, sir," Dick broke in smilingly, as he saluted,
"that I was not so indiscreet as to be killed."
Like a flash Major Wells turned upon him. "Prescott!" he cried,
"I can't believe it." But he did, just the same, and, coming
to his senses, went on hastily:
"General, I have the great happiness of presenting Captain Prescott!"
Again Dick came to the salute, and when it was finished he stood
very erect, hands straight at his sides, for he had caught sight,
above the horizontal braid on the general's coat, of four stars,
instead of the two stars of a major-general. There was but one
officer in the United States service who could wear four stars---the
Under the general's questioning Prescott and Reade, who was also
presented, told their stories with soldierly brevity and directness.
"And how do you feel now, Captain?" inquired the Commander-in-chief
"Utterly happy, sir, for I've realized my sole ambition for months,"
Captain Dick answered fervently.
"And what was that?"
"To be in France, with General Pershing, and at grips with mankind's
"You've made a gallant start, Captain," smiled the Commander-in-chief.
"And in that I include your friend, Lieutenant Reade. You are
officers after my own heart."
Captain Greg Holmes coming upon this scene, stood back as long
as etiquette in the presence of a general demanded, then rushed
forward to give joyous greeting to both chums.
Dick and his friends were destined to go even further in the
realization of their fondest hopes. Up to this moment the United
States was only in the infancy of her part in the great war.
Greater days were coming, and did come, and what happened then will
be found truthfully set forth in the next volume in this series,
which will be published under the title:
"_Uncle Sam's Bogs Smash The Germans; Or, Helping the Allies Wind
Up the Great World War_."