He gave another pressure on Mock’s arm as he finished. Without a word Mock walked with him to where the horse was tied.
“Untie that bridle and buckle the ends together,” Dick ordered.
This done, the captain mounted, taking the bridle in his left hand, retaining the automatic pistol in his right.
“March ahead, Mock. Don’t try to bolt unless you want me to shoot.”
In this manner they proceeded back over the road. Mile after mile they covered, meeting no one until they had come in sight of the camp, nestling in the broad valley below.
At this point such an extensive view could be had that Dick felt sure there was no eavesdropper. So he dismounted, calling the soldier to him and asking in a whisper:
“Mock, you were simply a poor, shirking soldier, weren’t you? You are, at heart, loyal to your country’s Flag, aren’t you?”
“I’d die for the Stars and Stripes, sir!” Mock declared, in a voice choked with emotion.
“But I felt tired, the other day, and I got a notion Captain Holmes was down on me. So I went bad and got busted. Then I hated Captain Holmes, sir, and ached for a chance to get square with him. Then that accursed carpenter fellow hunted me out, talked with me, and made me think he was my friend. If I had known he was a Kaiser-hound I’d have split his head open at the first crack out of the box.”
“I didn’t doubt you as a loyal man, Mock,” Dick continued, in a whisper. “I spoke to you the way I did back on the road because I was sure the fellow was near and listening. I didn’t care much about catching him to-night because I hope to catch him later on, and get him even more red-handed. Mock, you’re loyal, and I’m going to put your loyalty, if you consent, to a hard, bitter test.”
Dick went on in an even lower tone, Mock listening in growing astonishment, without replying a word, though he nodded understandingly.
“So, now,” Prescott wound up, “I’m going to continue into camp with you still a prisoner and be mighty hard on you. However, I won’t hold the pistol on you any longer.”
Into camp Dick marched the soldier, then over toward the buildings of the Ninety-ninth, and thence along to the bull-pen.
“Sergeant of the guard!” Prescott called briskly, and that non-commissioned officer appeared.
“Take charge of Private Mock as a prisoner, charged with being absent from camp without leave or pass,” Dick ordered. “I will report my action to Captain Holmes, who will dispose of his case.”
From there Dick led the horse back to B company barracks, turned the animal over to an orderly and went into the company office, where, as he had expected, he found Greg immersed in a grind of paper work. For a few minutes Dick talked earnestly with his chum in low tones, Captain Holmes frequently nodding.
“And now, I think I had better go down to the adjutant’s office, to see if he’s still at his desk,” Dick finished, “and, if so, make my report.”