“An escaped prisoner,” Dick supplied in a whisper. “I have just escaped from the Germans.”
“If you are quick then, they shall not find you,” promised the old man, seizing Dick by the arm. “Come! I can guide you even through this fog.”
There was something so sincere about the old peasant, despite his wildness, that Prescott went with him without objection. Both moving softly, they stepped into another field, the guide going forward as one who knew every inch of the way.
Presently buildings appeared faintly in the fog.
“Wait here,” whispered the peasant, and was gone. He soon came back.
“There are no German soldiers about the place,” the old man informed Dick. “I will take you into the house—–hide you. You shall have food and drink!”
Food and something to drink! To Dick Prescott, at that moment, this sounded like a promise of bliss.
To a rear door the old man led the American, and inside, closing and bolting the door after him. Here the man struck a light, and a candle shed its rays over a well-kept kitchen.
As Dick laid the axe down in a corner he heard a sobbing sound from a room nearby.
“It is the dear old wife,” said the peasant, in an awed tone. “To-day the German monsters took our son and our daughter, and marched them off with other young people from the village. They have been taken to Germany to toil as slaves of the wild beasts. Do you wonder, monsieur, that the good wife sobs and that I haunted the road hoping to find a German soldier alone and to slay him? But I must hide you, for Germans might come here at any moment.”
Throwing open a door the old man revealed a flight of stairs. He led the way to a room above. Here a door cunningly concealed behind a dresser was opened after the guide had moved the dresser. At a sign Dick entered the other room, only to find himself confronted by another man, whose face, revealed by the candle light, caused Captain Dick Prescott to recoil as though from a ghost.
Can it be the old chum?
“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.”