I felt a hot breath in my ear. Sapper Maggs stood by my side.
“There be a feller a-watching for us up there?” he whispered.
“If us could drar his ’tention away, yew could slip by, next time the patrols is past, couldn’t ’ee?”
Again I nodded.
“It’d be worse for yew than for me, supposin’ yew’d be ca-art, that’s what t’other officer said, warn’t it?”
And once more I nodded.
The hot whisper came again.
“I’ll drar ‘un off for ee, zur, nex’ time the patrols pass. When I holler, yew and the others, yew run. Thirty-one forty-three Sapper Maggs, R.E., from Chewton Mendip ... that’s me... maybe yew’ll let us have a bit o’ writing to the camp.”
I stretched out my hand in the darkness to stop him. He had gone.
I leant forward and whispered to Francis:
“When you hear a shout, we make a dash for it!”
I felt him look at me in surprise—it was too dark to see his face.
“Right!” he whispered back.
Now to the left we heard voices shouting and saw torches gleaming red among the trees. To right and rear answering shouts resounded.
Again the patrols met at the plank above our heads, and again their departing footsteps rustled in the leaves.
The murmur of voices grew nearer. We could faintly smell the burning resin of the torches.
Then a wild yell rent the forest. The voice above us shouted “Halt!” but the echo was lost in the deafening report of a rifle.
Francis caught Monica by the wrist and dragged her forward. We went plunging and crashing through the tangle of the ravine. We heard a second shot and a third, commands were shouted, the red glare deepened in the sky....
Monica collapsed quite suddenly at my feet. She never uttered a sound, but fell prone, her face as white as paper. Without a word we picked her up between us and went on, stumbling, gasping, coughing, our clothes rent and torn, the blood oozing from the deep scratches on our faces and hands.
At length our strength gave out. We laid Monica down in the ravine and drew the under growth over her, then we crawled in under the brambles exhausted, beat.
Dawn was streaking the sky with lemon when a dog jumped sniffing down into our hiding-place. Francis and Monica were asleep.
A man stood at the top of the ravine looking down on us. He carried a gun over his shoulder.
“Have you had an accident?” he said kindly.
He spoke in Dutch.
RED TABS EXPLAINS