Painfully, in very broken German, and a word or two at a time, he tried to make his enemy understand that it was his, the German party, that must surrender, pointing out as an argument that they were nearer to the British than to the German lines. The German, however, discounted this argument by stating that he had one more man in his party than Ainsley had, and must therefore claim the privilege of being captor.
The voice of his own sergeant close behind him spoke in a hoarse undertone: “Shall I blow a blinkin’ ’ole in ’im, sir? I could do ’im in acrost your shoulder, as easy as kiss my ’and.”
“No, no!” said Ainsley hurriedly; “a shot here would raise the mischief.”
At the same time he heard some of the other Germans speak to the man in front of him and discovered that they were addressing him as “Sergeant.”
“Sie ein sergeant?” he questioned, and on the German admitting that he was a sergeant, Ainsley, with more fumbling after German words and phrases, explained that he was an officer, and that therefore his, an officer’s patrol, took precedence over that of a mere sergeant. He had a good deal of difficulty in making this clear to the German—either because the sergeant was particularly thick-witted or possibly because Ainsley’s German was particularly bad. Ainsley inclined to put it down to the German’s stupidity, and he began to grow exceedingly wroth over the business. Naturally it never occurred to him that he should surrender to the German, but it annoyed him exceedingly that the German should have any similar feelings about surrendering to him. Once more he bent his persuasive powers and indifferent German to the task of over-persuading the sergeant, and in return had to wait and slowly unravel some meaning from the odd words he could catch here and there in the sergeant’s endeavor to over-persuade him.
He began to think at last that there was no way out of it but that suggested by his own sergeant—namely, to “blow a blinkin’ ’ole in ’im,” and his sergeant spoke again with the rattle of his chattering teeth playing a castanet accompaniment to his words.
“If you don’t mind, sir, we’d all like to fight it out and make a run for it. We’re all about froze stiff.”
“I’m just about fed up with this fool, too,” said Ainsley disgustedly. “Look here, all of you! Watch me when the next light goes up. If you see me grab my pistol, pick your man and shoot.”
The voice of the German sergeant broke in:—
“Nein, nein!” and then in English: “You no shoot! You shoot, and uns shoot alzo!”
Ainsley listened to the stammering English in an amazement that gave way to overwhelming anger. “Here,” he said angrily, “can you speak English?”
“Ein leetle, just ein leetle,” replied the German.
But at that and at the memory of the long minutes spent there lying in the mud with chilled and frozen limbs trying to talk in German, at the time wasted, at his own stumbling German and the probable amusement his grammatical mistakes had given the others—the last, the Englishman’s dislike to being laughed at, being perhaps the strongest factor—Ainsley’s anger overcame him.