They reached the water safely, near a small clump of trees. They drank, and though the fluid seemed half mud never was there a sweeter draught to parched throats and dry mouths. Then, as they were about to open their rude packets of food. Bob clutched Jimmy’s arm.
“Look!” he exclaimed, pointing off to the left.
“A searching party!” gasped Jimmy. Then Roger saw at what his chums were gazing—a squad of German soldiers under the command of an officer, and they were marching straight toward the clump of trees where our heroes hoped to stay and eat!
“Quick!” cried Jimmy. “Burrow down in the leaves and dirt! If they see us we’ll be shot on sight as escaping prisoners! No chance for quarter! Burrow down!”
And amid the dirt and dead leaves of the little patch of woods the boys scratched shallow hiding places for themselves, stuffing their food inside their shirts.
They were only just in time, for no sooner were they as well covered as they could manage in the hurry than the Germans came tramping into the little grove.
However, they did not seem to be acting on any precise information, as presently, after a cursory search in the grove, they left, and the boys breathed easier again.
“Shall we chance it now?” whispered Bob to Jimmy, cautiously raising his head from the hole amid the leaves.
“Wait a bit,” advised his chum. And, in ten minutes more, when it seemed that the party of Huns must be far enough away, the lads emerged.
“Close call!” murmured Bob, brushing off some of the dirt. “But I guess we can eat now—such stuff as we have! Say, Roger, did you—”
He paused, to gaze in the direction where Roger was looking. And Jimmy, attracted by the attitude, gazed also. And they saw a strange sight.
Marching away, for which the three Brothers felt great relief, was the searching part of Germans. But this was not at what Roger was looking. It was the sight of a man, in a German uniform, seated on a fallen log at the edge of the clump of trees. The man was looking over some papers, and he must have been there when the searching party passed. Perhaps he had been with them.
“Look! Look!” murmured Roger. “It’s the captain again. Captain Frank Dickerson—the officer who saved our lives at the red mill; and he’s in a German uniform!”
BACK WITH FRIENDS
There was no doubt of it. So dramatic had been the circumstances under which they had first seen this strange man that the boys would never forget his face. He was dressed differently now—in an unmistakable uniform of the Germans—but it was the same man.
“What in the world is he doing here?” demanded Bob.
“There can be only one answer to that question,” said Jimmy, and his voice was low and intense.
“And what is the answer?” Roger wanted to know.