“Then,” said Macalister, “the ither guard gave me a swipe across the back o’ the knees.”
The “swipe” followed quickly and neatly, and the German went down with a jerk.
“That’s it exactly,” said Macalister, with a pleasantly reminiscent smile. The German’s temper broke, and he spat forth a torrent of abuse in mixed English and German.
Macalister listened a moment. “I said nothing; so I think he shouldna’ be allowed to say anything,” he remarked judicially. His comment met with emphatic approval from his listeners.
“I think I could gag him,” said one of his guards; “or if ye preferred it I could just throttle his windpipe a wee bit, just enough to stop his tongue and no to hurt him much.”
With an effort the German regained his control. “There is no need,” he said sullenly; “I shall be silent.”
“Weel,” resumed Macalister, “there was a bit o’ chaff back and forrit between us, and next thing he did was to slap me across the face wi’ his hand. Do ye think,” he appealed to his audience, “it would brak’ his jaw if I gave him a bit lick across it?”
He advanced a huge hand for inspection, and listened to the free advice given to try it, and the earnest assurances that it did not matter much if the jaw did break.
“Ye’ll feenish him off presently onyway, I suppose?” said one, and winked at Macalister.
“Just bide a wee,” answered Macalister, “I’m coming to that. I think maybe I’ll no brak his jaw, for fair’s fair, and I want to give as near as I can to what I got.”
He leant forward and dealt a mild but tingling slap on the German’s cheek.
“I think,” he went on, “the next thing I got was a slash wi’ a bit switch he pulled out from the trench wall. We’ve no sticks like it here, so I maun just do the best I can instead.”
He leant forward and fastened a huge hand on the prisoner’s coat-collar, jerked him to him, and, despite his frantic struggles and raging tongue, placed him face down across his knees and administered punishment.
“I think that’s about enough,” he said, and returned the choking and spluttering prisoner to his place between the guards.
“He kept me,” he said, “on my knees, so I think he ought ... thank ye,” as the German went down again none too gently. “After that he went on saying some things it would be waste o’ time to repeat. Swine dog was about the prettiest name he had any use for. But there was another thing he did; ye’ll see some muck on my face and on my jacket. It came there like this; he took hold o’ me by the hair—this way.” And Macalister proceeded to demonstrate as he explained.
“Then—my hands being tied behind my back you will remember, like this—it was easy enough for him to pull me over on my face—like this... and rub my face in the mud.... The bottom o’ this trench is in no such a state a’ filth as theirs, but it’ll just have to do.” He hoisted the German back to his knees. “Then I think it was after that the pistol and the killing bit came in.” And Macalister put his hand to his pocket and drew out the officer’s pistol which he had thrust there.