“Yes, I know it,” said Hal with a nod of his head. “They have never kept faith in this war, save in individual cases. It doesn’t seem to be in them.”
“Exactly,” agreed Chester. “Then, if for no other reason than to save these deluded French and British soldiers, the matter must be brought to the attention of General Petain, that he may act promptly and not only save them, but the whole army of France; and the cause of the Allies.”
“Good!” Hal agreed. “Then we shall see that it’s brought to his attention.”
“The first thing in the morning,” said Chester.
“Right you are, Chester. The first thing in the morning.”
It was morning. Hal and Chester, refreshed by a good night’s rest, had just completed their toilets and were about to repair to the quarters of General Petain, there to report for the day’s duty and also to inform the French commander of what they had learned the night before. But, as it transpired, their good intentions were to go for naught and they were to be ushered into the presence of General Petain in a manner that neither would have believed possible.
Came the sound of many footsteps approaching without. They stopped before the boys’ tent. A French officer thrust his head in the entrance.
“Lieutenant Crawford! Lieutenant Paine!” he said sharply.
“Sir!” exclaimed both lads in a single breath.
They stepped from the tent.
“You are under arrest!” were the French officer’s next words.
Hal and Chester stepped back in complete bewilderment.
“Wha—what’s that, sir?” asked Hal, believing that he could not have heard aright.
“You are under arrest,” was the sharp reply. “I am ordered to conduct you before General Petain at once.”
Both lads had recovered themselves by this time; they stepped forward coolly enough, in spite of the fact that their hearts were fluttering strangely.
“The general might have spared himself the trouble of sending for us,” said Hal, quietly. “Even now we were about to report to him.”
The French officer said nothing. He motioned to the file of soldiers whom he commanded and Hal and Chester stepped in between the men.
“One moment,” said the French soldier.
He approached the lads.
“I must ask for your swords and revolvers,” he said.
Without a word the lads surrendered their weapons.
“Good!” said the French officer. Then to his men: “Forward, march!”
And in this manner Hal and Chester came before the French commander at Verdun. The latter was busy with a pile of papers when they entered his quarters and did not look up immediately. For perhaps fifteen minutes the lads stood there, firmly erect, their eyes upon the general.
Suddenly General Petain wheeled about.