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. March!”
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 whisper.
“If you speak again I’ll kill you instantly,” Prescott snapped back.
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.