“It was splendidly done,” he declared.
“And now, sir, on behalf of my friend, may I ask how far we are from the front line?” Tom inquired. “Captain Prescott wishes to return to the trenches immediately.”
“It is ten kilometers,” replied the commandant. “Yet speed shall not be impossible. Within five minutes I will have here a car that will take Captain Prescott to the communication trenches, and in that car will be a trench guide.”
“And I’m going, too, Dick,” Tom added, squeezing his chum’s arm. “We have a lot to talk over yet.”
As the German airplane had been turned over to Commandant Perrault, Reade had no further concern with that. He bounded into the motor car when it arrived. Later the trench guide conducted them into the front trenches, even to the section from which Prescott had been taken. Major Wells was now, with Captain Holmes and Lieutenant Terry, at a point about a third of a mile to the westward.
Thither Dick and Tom turned their steps, still with the trench guide showing the way. Unexpectedly this little party came upon Major Wells just as the latter was saying:
“The greatest blow to us was the loss of Captain Prescott. Of course he may be a prisoner, and unharmed, but we much fear that he was killed.”
“I beg to report, sir,” Dick broke in smilingly, as he saluted, “that I was not so indiscreet as to be killed.”
Like a flash Major Wells turned upon him. “Prescott!” he cried, “I can’t believe it.” But he did, just the same, and, coming to his senses, went on hastily:
“General, I have the great happiness of presenting Captain Prescott!”
Again Dick came to the salute, and when it was finished he stood very erect, hands straight at his sides, for he had caught sight, above the horizontal braid on the general’s coat, of four stars, instead of the two stars of a major-general. There was but one officer in the United States service who could wear four stars—–the American Commander-in-chief.
Under the general’s questioning Prescott and Reade, who was also presented, told their stories with soldierly brevity and directness.
“And how do you feel now, Captain?” inquired the Commander-in-chief smiling.
“Utterly happy, sir, for I’ve realized my sole ambition for months,” Captain Dick answered fervently.
“And what was that?”
“To be in France, with General Pershing, and at grips with mankind’s enemies.”
“You’ve made a gallant start, Captain,” smiled the Commander-in-chief. “And in that I include your friend, Lieutenant Reade. You are officers after my own heart.”
Captain Greg Holmes coming upon this scene, stood back as long as etiquette in the presence of a general demanded, then rushed forward to give joyous greeting to both chums.
Dick and his friends were destined to go even further in the realization of their fondest hopes. Up to this moment the United States was only in the infancy of her part in the great war. Greater days were coming, and did come, and what happened then will be found truthfully set forth in the next volume in this series, which will be published under the title: