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Army Boys in the French Trenches by Homer Randall

Still the rider remained silent


"Get

down!" commanded Frank. "We've got you covered. Surrender."

Still the rider remained silent.

Frank having quieted the horse went alongside and put his hand on the man's arm.

"Come----" he began, then stopped suddenly.

There was a moment of utter silence, and Frank for the first time in his life could feel the hair rising on his head. Then he controlled himself.

"Put up your rifles boys," he commanded. "The man is dead!"

CHAPTER XI

WITH THE TANKS

"Dead!" exclaimed Frank's comrades in voices that shook with surprise and horror.

"That's what I said," replied Frank. "Touch him and see for yourselves."

All did so and found that the body was rigid. How long the horse had borne his lifeless burden they could not tell. The legs were set stiffly in the stirrups and the hands had a death grip on the reins.

The boys had seen death in many forms. Scarcely a day had passed since their arrival at the front without that sad experience. But it had never seemed so ghastly or uncanny as at this moment. That silent, colossal figure, seated bolt upright, worked fearfully on their imaginations

and seemed far more formidable than any living enemy would have seemed.

"One of those bullets that the sentries sent after him must have reached him," said Bart in an awed voice.

"I suppose so," replied Frank. "But it doesn't matter now. Our search is over."

"What are we going to do with the body?" asked Billy soberly.

"I guess we can't do anything just now," replied Frank. "I don't think we could get those reins out of his hands anyway, and I for one don't want to try. Besides, this is the proof for the officers that the prisoner hasn't escaped. They're anxious, because they don't know what information he might have been carrying back to the German lines. The only thing to do is for one of us to lead the horse--with its rider-- back to camp."

This seemed to the others the solution of the problem, although the task was a gruesome one and they would have gladly evaded it if they could. It made chills run down the spine to trudge along leading the horse with that huge figure towering behind them in the darkness, mocking at them because he had escaped to the silent land from which they could never bring him back.

But there was comfort in numbers, and what no one of them could perhaps have done singly they finally accomplished by taking turns, keeping close together all the while as the ghostly cavalcade wound its way through the woods.

It was with a sigh of heartfelt relief that they finally drew up before the friendly lights of the regimental headquarters that had never before seemed so welcome.

Their coming caused a great sensation, and there was soon a dense crowd around them, for the uncanny circumstances of their return spread through the camp like wildfire. The reins were cut from the dead hands and the body lifted to the ground. Then after making a full report the boys went to their quarters. They were besieged with inquiries by curious comrades, but they shook them off as soon as possible. Their experience had been one that they were only too anxious to forget.


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