The German swore.
“Now! Now!” said Hal. “That’s no way for a nice German officer to do. What would the emperor say?”
The duel was interrupted at this point by a sudden cry from the farmhouse.
“Never mind him, Lieutenant! Back into the house quickly!”
It was the voice of Captain Leroux and the tone told Hal how urgent was the call. Taking a quick step forward, he caused the German officer to retreat a few paces. Then Hal lowered his sword, and calling to his men to follow him, dashed toward the front of the house.
Behind, the German officer broke into a torrent of abuse and would have continued it had not a French soldier, who cared nothing for the etiquette of duelling, put an end to him with a rifle bullet.
To the half score of men who had thrown down their arms, Hal cried:
“Back to your own lines quickly or you shall be shot down! No,” pausing and levelling his revolver as one of the Germans sought to stoop and pick up his discarded rifle, “never mind the gun. Another move like that and you’ll all be shot down. Move, now!”
The Germans wasted no further time and made for the shelter of their own lines at top speed.
And their own lines were advancing rapidly to meet them.
“Quick, men!” cried Hal. “Into the house!”
They had now reached the front door again and Hal stood to one side that his men might enter first.
Above, the fire of the defenders had broken out afresh, but the Germans rushed forward in spite of it. Bullets hummed close about Hal’s head as he stood beside the doorway, but none struck him; and at last all the men were inside.
Hal went in after them.
From without came a cry of rage as the advancing Germans realized that, for the moment, at least, they had been deprived of their prey.
“Guard the door there, men!” shouted Hal. “Get back and to one side out of the line of fire. Save your bullets until they cross the threshold, then shoot them down.”
The men moved into position. Hal glanced quickly around to make sure that all was in readiness and at that moment Captain Leroux descended the stairs.
“Good work, Mr. Paine,” he said quietly. “If I live, I shall report this piece of work. I will take command here now. Return to your post above.”
Hal saluted and did as commanded.
Hardly had he reached position above when he heard Captain Leroux below give the command:
The Germans had drawn off again.
The last assault had met with no better success than had the attacks that had gone before. True, the defenders had suffered considerably, for the German fire had been accurate; but the losses of the French had been as nothing compared with those of the Teutons.