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Action Front Boyd Cable

In Enemy Hands

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"Now," he said, "you will kneel, or they will thrust you through."

Macalister stood without a sign of movement; but behind his back his hands were straining furiously at the lashings upon his wrist. They stretched and gave ever so little, and he worked on at them with a desperate hope dawning in his heart.

"Still obstinate," sneered the officer. "Well, it is rather early to kill you yet, so we must find some other way."

At a sentence from him one of the men threw his weight on the prisoner's shoulders, while the other struck him savagely across the tendons behind the knees. Whether he would or no, his knees had to give, and Macalister dropped to them. But he was not beaten yet. He simply allowed himself to collapse, and fell over on his side. The officer cursed angrily, commanding him to rise to his knees again; the men kicked him and pricked him with their bayonet points, hauled him at last to his knees, and held him there by main force.

"And now you will beg my pardon," the officer continued. Macalister said nothing, but continued to stretch at his bonds and twist gently with his hands and wrists.

The officer spent the next ten minutes trying to force his prisoner to beg his pardon. They were long and humiliating and painful minutes for Macalister, but he endured them doggedly and in silence. The officer's temper rose minute by minute. The forward wall of the firing trench was built up with wicker-work facings and the officer drew out a thick switch.

"You will speak," he said, "or I shall flay you in strips and then shoot you."

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Macalister said nothing, and was slashed so heavily across the face that the stick broke in the striker's hands. The blood rose to his head, and deep in his heart he prayed, prayed only for ten seconds with his hands loose; but still he did not speak.

At the end of ten minutes the officer's patience was exhausted. Macalister was thrust back against the trench wall, and the officer drew out a pistol.

"In five minutes from now," he gritted, "I'm going to shoot you. I give you the five minutes that you may enjoy some pleasant thoughts in the interval."

Macalister made no answer, but worked industriously at the lashings on his wrists. The bandage stretched and loosened, and at last, at long last, he succeeded in slipping one turn off his hand. He had no hope now for anything but death, and the only wish left to him in life was to get his hands free to wreak vengeance on the dapper little monster opposite him, to die with his hands free and fighting.

The minutes slipped one by one, and one by one the loosened turns of the bandage were uncoiled. The trenches at this point were apparently very close, for Macalister could hear the crack of the British rifles, the clack-clack-clack of a machine gun at close range, and the thought flitted through his mind that over there in his own trenches his own fellows would hear presently the crack of the officer's pistol with no understanding of what it meant. But with luck and his loosened hands he would give them a squeal or two to listen to as well.

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Action Front
Boyd Cable

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