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Air Service Boys in the Big Battle by Charles Amory Beach

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"The Zeps are coming!"

Tom and Jack, with others who were detailed to repel the raid,
rushed from their cats, hastily donned their fur garments, and ran
to their aeroplanes, which were a "tuned up" and waiting.

"There they are!" cried Torn, as he got into his single-seated
plane, an example followed on his part by Jack. "Look!"

Jack gazed aloft. There was a riot of fire from the anti-aircraft
guns of the French and British, but they were firing in vain, for
the Zeppelins flew high, knowing the danger from the ground
batteries.

Sharp, stabbing shafts of light from the powerful electric lanterns
shot aloft, and now and then one of them would rest for an instant
on a great silvery cigar-shape--the gas bag of the big German
airships that were beating their way toward Paris, there to deal
death and destruction.

"Come on!" cried Tom, as his mechanician started the motor. "I'm
going to get a Zep!"

"I'm with you!" yelled Jack, and they soared aloft side by side.

CHAPTER XIX

ON PATROL

Aloft with Tom and Jack were several other fighters, for it was not
only considered a great honor to bring down a Zeppelin, but it would
save many lives if one or more of the big gas machines could be
prevented from dropping bombs on Paris or its environs.

The machines which were used were all of the single type, though of
different makes and speeds. Each one was equipped with electric
launching tubes. These were a somewhat new device for use against
captive Hun balloons and Zeppelins and were installed in many of the
fighting scout craft of the Americans and Allies.

Between the knees of Toni and Jack, as well as each of the other
pilots, was a small metal tube. This went completely through the
floor of the cockpit, so that, had it been large enough to give good
vision, one could view through it the ground beneath.

In a little rack at the right of each scout were several small bombs
of various kinds. Some were intended to set on fire whatever they
came in contact with, being of phosphorus. Others were explosive
bombs, pure and simple, while some were flares, intended to light up
the scene at night and make getting a target easier.

Included in the rack of death and destruction was a simple stick;
not unlike a walking cane, and this seemed so comparatively harmless
that an uninitiated observer would almost invariably ask its use.

At the lower end of the launching tube, through which the bombs were
dropped, was a "trip," or sort of catch, that caught on a trigger
fastened to each bomb. The trip pulled the trigger, so to speak,
and set in operation the firing device.

In the early days, though doubtless the defect was afterwards
corrected, the bombs sometimes stuck in the launching tube, and as
they were likely to go off in this position at any moment, it was
the custom of the pilots to push them on their way with the cane if
the missiles jammed. Hence it was an essential part of each flying
machine's armament.

Higher and higher mounted the fighting scouts, with Tom and Jack
among their number. It was necessary to mount very high in order to
get above the Zeppelins, as in this position alone was it possible
for the aeroplanes to fight them to any advantage. The Zeppelins
carried many machine guns of long range, and for the pigmy planes to
attack them on the same level, meant destruction to the smaller
craft.

There were several German machines in the raid toward Paris, but Tom
and Jack caught sight of only two. The others were either at too
great a height to be observed, or else were farther off, lost in the
haze.

But the two silver shapes, resembling nothing so much as huge,
expensive cigars, wrapped in tinfoil, were flying on their way, now
and then dropping bombs, which exploded with dull, muffled reports -- an
earnest of what they would do when they got over Paris. They were
traveling fast, under the impulse of their own powerful motors and
propellers, and also aided by a stiff breeze.

Of course conversation was out of the question among Tom, Jack and
the other aviators, but they knew the general plan of the fight.
They were to get above the Zeppelins--as many of them as could--and
drop bombs on the gas envelope. They were also to attack with
machine guns if possible, aiming at the rudder controls and
machinery. It was the great desire of the Allied commanders to have
a Zeppelin brought down as nearly intact as possible.

Up and up climbed the speedy scout machines, and it was seen that
some of them would never get in a position to do any damage. The
German craft were traveling too speedily. But Tom and Jack managed
to get to a height of about twenty thousand feet, which was above
the Zeppelins, though by this time the Germans were in advance of
them, for they had climbed at rather a steep angle. However, they
knew their speed was many times that of the German machine on a
straight course.

On and on they went. Then came a mist which hid the enemy from
sight. The aviators railed at their luck, and Tom and Jack dropped
down a bit, hoping to get through the mist. It lay below them like
a great, gray blanket.

Suddenly they fairly plumped through it, and saw, not far away, the
two big silver shapes, shining in the searchlights which were now
giving good illumination. It was a moonlight night, which seemed a
favorite for a German bombing expedition.

Far below them, and beneath the Zepplins, Tom and Jack could see the
lights of other aeroplanes, which were flying low to observe
lanterns on the ground, set in the shape of arrows, to indicate in
which direction the German craft were traveling. Later, if
necessary, these observing machines could climb aloft and signal to
those higher up.

Nearer and nearer Jack and Tom came to one of the Zeppelins. And
now, in the semi-darkness, they became aware that they were being
fired at by a long-range gun on the German craft. The bullets sung
about them, but though their machines were hit several times, as
they learned later, they escaped injury.

Now the battle of the air was on in grim and deadly earnest.
Several scout planes flew at the big Zeppelin like hornets attacking
a bear. They fired their machine guns, and the Germans replied in
kind, but with more terrible effect, for two of the Allied planes
were shot down. It was a sad loss, but it was the fortune of war,
or, rather, misfortune, for the Zeppelin was not engaged in a fair
fight, but seeking to bomb an unfortified city.

Now Tom and Jack, though somewhat separated, were close above the
Zeppelin, and in a position where they could not be fired at. They
began to drop incendiary bombs through the tubes between their
knees.

These bombs were fitted with sharp hooks, so that if they touched
the gas bag they would cling fast, and bum until they bad ignited
the envelope and the vapor inside. And as they circled about,
dropping bomb after bomb, the two air service boys saw this happen.
Some at least of their bombs reached their target.

The great craft, now on fire in several places, was twisting and
turning like some wounded snake, endeavoring to escape. Tom glanced
toward the other Zeppelin and saw that this was fairly well
surrounded by aeroplanes, but was not, as yet, on fire.

The bees had fatally stung one great German bear, and, a little
later, it crashed to the ground where it was nearly all consumed,
and of its crew of thirty men, not one was left alive.

The other plane, though greatly damaged by machine gun fire, was not
set ablaze, but was forced to turn and sail for the German lines
again. So that two were prevented from bombing Paris.

Well satisfied with what they had accomplished, Torn, Jack and the
others who had set the Zeppelin on fire, descended. Later they
learned, by word from Paris, that on of the German machines was shot
down over that city and some of its crew captured. So that though
the Huns did considerable damage with their bombs, they paid dearly
for that unlawful expedition.

This was the beginning of a series of fierce aerial battles between
the German forces and the Allied airmen, though for a long dine no
more Zeppelins were seen. Sometimes fortune favored the side on
which Tom and Jack fought, and again they were forced to retire,
leaving some of their friends in the hands of the enemy.

Once Tom and Tack, keeping close together doing scout work, were cut
off from their companions. They had ventured too far over the Hun
lines, and were in danger of being shot down. But a squadron of
airmen from Pershing's forces made a sortie and drove the Germans to
cover, rescuing the two air service boys from an evil fate.

Then followed some weeks of rainy and misty weather, during which
there was very little air work on either side. But the fight on
land went on, with attacks and repulses, the Allies continually
advancing their lines, though ever so little. Slowly but surely
they were forcing the Germans back.

Now and then there were night raids, and once Tom and Jack, who had
not flown for a week because of rain, were just back of the lines
when a captured German patrol was brought in, covered with mud and
blood. There had been lively fighting.

"I wish we were in on that!" exclaimed Tom. "I'm getting tired of
sitting around."'

"So am I!" agreed Jack. "Let's ask if we can't go out on patrol
some night. It will be better than waiting for it to stop raining."

To their delight their request was granted, as it had been in a
number of other cases of airmen. Temporarily they were allowed to
go with the infantry until the weather cleared.

The two air service boys were in the dugout one night, having served
their turns at listening post work and general scouting, when an
officer came in with a slip of paper. He began reading off some
names, and when he had finished, having mentioned Tom and Jack, he
said:

"Prepare for patrol duty at once."

"Good!" whispered Tom to his chum: "Now there'll be something
doing."

He little guessed what it was to be.

CHAPTER XX

CAPTURED

Silently, in the darkness of their trenches, the party of which Tom
and Jack were to be members, prepared to go over the top and
penetrate the German front line of defense, in the hope of taking
prisoners that information might be had of them. It was a risky
undertaking, but one frequently accomplished by the Allies, and it
often led to big results.

There were about a score in the patrol, and, to their delight,
though they rather regretted it later, Tom and Jack were given
positions well in front, two files removed, in fact, from the
lieutenant commanding.

"Now I suppose you all understand what you're to do," said the
lieutenant as he gathered his little party about him in one of the
larger dugouts, where a flickering candle gave light. "You'll all
provide yourselves with wire cutters, hand grenades and pistols.
Rifles will be in the way. Take your gas masks, of course. No
telling when Fritz may send over some of those shells. Blacken your
faces, as usual. A star shell makes a beautiful light on a white
countenance, so don't be afraid of smudging yourselves. And when we
start just try to imagine you are Indians, and make no noise. One
object is to come in contact with some German post, try to hear
what's going on from their talk, and make some captures if we can.
Do you all understand German?"

It developed that they did--at least no one would confess he did not
for fear of being turned back. But, as it developed, they all had
some, if slight, acquaintance with the language.

A little period of anxious waiting followed--a sort of zero hour
effect--until finally the word was received from some source,
unknown to Tom and Jack, to proceed. The night was black, and there
was a mist over everything which did not augur for clear weather on
the morrow.

"Forward!" whispered the lieutenant, for they were so near the
German lines that incautious talking was prohibited. Out of their
trenches they went, Tom and Jack well in front, and close to the
leader.

As carefully as might be, though, at that, making noise which the
members of the patrol thought surely must be heard clear to Berlin,
they made their way over the shell-torn and uncertain ground in the
darkness. They went down between their own lines of barbed wire to
where an opening had been made opposite what was considered a quiet
spot in the Hun defenses, and then they started across "No Man's
Land."

It was not without mingled feelings that Tom and Jack advanced, and,
doubtless, their feelings were common to all. There was great
uncertainty as to the outcome. Death or glory might await them.
They might all be killed by a single German shell, or they might run
into a German working party, out to repair the wire cut during the
day's firing. In the latter case there would be a fight--an even
chance, perhaps. They might capture or be captured.

On and on they went, treading close together and in single file,
making little noise. Straight across the desolate stretch of land
that lay between the two lines of trenches they went, and, when half
way, there came from the German side a sudden burst of star shells.
These are a sort of war fireworks that make a brilliant
illumination, and the enemy was in the habit of sending them up
every night at intervals, to reveal to his gunners any party of the
enemy approaching.

"Down! Down!" hissed the lieutenant. But he need not have uttered
the command. All had been told what to do, and fell on their faces
literally--their smoke-blackened faces. In this position they
resembled, as nearly as might be, some of the dead bodies scattered
about, and that was their intention.

Still each one had a nervous fear. The star shells were very
brilliant and made No Man's Land almost as bright as when bathed in
sunshine, a condition that had not prevailed of late. There was no
guarantee that the Germans would not, in their suspicious hate, turn
their rifles or machine guns on what they supposed were dead bodies.
In that case-well, Tom, Jack and the others did not like to think
about it.

But the brilliance of the star shells died away, and once more there
was darkness. The lieutenant cautiously raised his head and in a
whisper commanded:

"Forward! Is every one all right?"

"My mouth's full of mud and water--otherwise I'm all right," said
some one.

"Silence!" commanded the officer.

Once more he led them forward. They reached the first German wire,
and instantly the cutters were at work. Though the men tried to
make no noise, it was an impossibility. The wire would send forth
metallic janglings and tangs as it was cut. But an opening was
made, and the patrol party filed through. And then, almost
immediately, something happened.

There was another burst of star shells, but before the Americans had
an opportunity to throw themselves on their faces, they saw that
they were confronted by a large body of Germans who had come forward
as silently as themselves, and, doubtless, on the same sort of
errand.

"At 'em, boys! At 'em!" cried the lieutenant. "The Stars and
Stripes! At 'em!"

Instantly pandemonium broke loose. In the glaring light of the star
shells the two forces rushed forward. There was a burst of pistol
fire, and then the fight went on in the darkness.

"Where are you, Tom?"' yelled Jack, as he flung a grenade full at a
big, burly German who was rushing at him with uplifted gun.

"Here!" was the answer, and in the darkness Jack felt his chum
collide with him so forcefully that both almost went down in a heap.
"I jumped to get away from a Hun bayonet," pantingly explained Tom.

Jack's grenade exploded, blowing dirt and small stones in the faces
of the chums. There were shouts and cries, in English, French and
German. The American lieutenant tried to rally his men around him,
but, as was afterward learned, they were attacked by a much larger
party of Huns than their patrol.

"We must stick together!" cried Jack to Tom. "If we separate we're
lost! Where are the others?"

"Sam Zalbert was with me a second ago," answered Tom, naming a lad
with whom he and Jack had become quite friendly. "But I saw him
fall. I don't know whether he slipped or was hurt. Look out!" he
suddenly shouted.

He saw two Germans rushing at him and Jack, with leveled revolvers.
There was no time to get another grenade from their pockets, and Tom
did the next best thing. He made a tackle, football fashion, at the
legs of the Germans, which he could see very plainly in the light of
many star shells that were now being sent up.

Almost at the same instant Jack, seeing his chum's intention,
followed his example, and the two Huns went down in a heap, falling
over the heads of their antagonists with many a German imprecation.
Their weapons flew from their hands.

"Come on! This is getting too hot for us!" cried Jack, as he
scrambled to his feet, followed by Tom. "There'll be a barrage here
in a minute."

This seemed about to happen, for machine guns were spitting fire and
death all along that section of the German front, and the American
and French forces were replying. A general engagement might be
precipitated at any moment.

The American lieutenant tried to rally his men, but it was a
hopeless task. The Germans had overpowered them. Tom and Jack
started to run back toward their own lines, having made sure,
however, of putting beyond the power to fight any more the two
Germans who had attacked them.

"Come on!" cried Tom. "We've got to have reinforcements to tackle
this bunch!"

"I guess so!" agreed Jack.

They turned, not to retreat, but to better their positions, when
they both ran full into a body of men that seemed to spring up from
the very ground in the sudden darkness that followed an unusually
bright burst of star shells.

"What is it? Who are they? What's the matter?" cried Tom.

"Give it up!" answered Jack. "Who are you?" he asked.

Instantly a guttural German voice cried:

"Ah! The American swine! We have them!"

In another moment Tom and Jack felt themselves surrounded by an
overpowering number.

Hands plucked at them toughly from all sides, and their pistols and
few remaining grenades were taken from them.

"Turn back with the prisoners!" cried a voice in German.

The two air service boys found themselves being fairly-lifted from
their feet by the rush of their captors. Where they were going they
could not see, but they knew what had happened.

They had been captured by the Germans!

CHAPTER XXI

THE CLEW

For one wild instant Tom and Jack, as they admitted to one another
afterward, felt an insane desire to attempt to break away from their
captors, to rush at them, to attack if need be with their bare
hands, and so invite death in its quickest form. They even hoped
that they might escape this way rather than live to be taken behind
the German lines.

It was not only the disgrace of being captured--which really was no
disgrace considering the overwhelming numbers that attacked them--t
it was the fear of what they might have to suffer as prisoners.

Tom and Jack, as well as the others, might well regard with horror
the fate that lay before them. But to escape by even a desperate
struggle was out of the question. They were surrounded by a ring of
Germans, several files deep, and each was heavily armed. Then, too,
their captors were fairly rushing them along over the uneven ground
as though fearful of pursuit. The air service boys had no chance,
nor did any of their comrades of the patrol who might be left alive.
How many these were, Tom and Jack had no means of knowing. They did
not see any of their comrades near them. There were only the Huns
who were bubbling over with coarse joy in the delight of having
captured two "American pigs," as they brutally boasted.

Stumbling and half falling, Tom and Jack were dragged along. Now
and then they could see, by means of the star shells, groups of men,
some near and some farther off. There was firing all along the Hun
and Allied lines, and as the boys were dragged along the big guns
began to thunder. What had started as an ordinary night raid might
end in a general engagement before it was finished.

There seemed to be fierce lighting going on between the several
detached groups, and the air service boys did not doubt that some
word of the dispersing and virtual defeat of the party they were
with had reached their lines, resulting in the sending out of relief
parties.

"This sure is tough luck!" murmured Jack to Tom, as they stumbled
along in the midst of their captors.

"You said it! If our boys would only rush this bunch and get us
away."

"Silence, pigs!" cried a German officer, and with his sword he
struck at Tom, slightly injuring the lad and causing a hot wave of
fierce resentment.

"You wouldn't dare do that if I had my hands free, you dirty dog!"
rasped out Tom in fairly good German, and he tugged to free his arms
from the hold of a Hun soldier on either side.

The officer who had struck Tom seemed about to reply, for he surged
through the ranks of his men over toward the captive, but a command
from some one, evidently higher in authority halted him, and he
marched on, muttering.

There was sharp fighting between the Hun sentries and small parties,
and similar bodies from the American and Allied sides going on along
the lines now, and both armies were sending up rockets and other
illuminating devices.

The two Virginia lads felt themselves being hurried forward--or
back, whichever way you choose to look at it--and whither they were
being taken they did not know. The taunts of their captors had
ceased, though the men were talking together in low voices, and
suddenly, at something one of them said, Tom nudged Jack, beside
whom he was walking.

"Did you hear that?" he asked in so low a voice that it was not
heard by the Hun next him. Or if it was heard, no attention was
paid to it, for Torn spoke in English. The tramp of the heavy boots
of the Huns and the rattle of their arms and accoutrements made
noise enough, perhaps, to cover the sound of his voice.

"Did I hear what?" asked Jack.

"What that chap said. It was something about one of the German
prison camps having been burned by the prisoners, a lot of whom got
away. The rest were transferred to a place not far from here.
Listen!"

And the Americans listened to the extent of their ability.

Then it was they blessed their lucky stars that they understood
enough of German to know what was being said, for it was then and
there that they got a clew to the whereabouts of Harry Leroy, from
whom they had heard not a word since the dropping of his glove by
the German aviator. They did not even know whether or not their
packages had reached their chum.

The talk of the Germans who had captured Tom and Jack was, indeed,
concerning the burning of one of the prison camps. As the boys
learned later, the prisoners, unable to stand the terrible
treatment, had risen and set fire to the place. Many of them
perished in the blaze and by the fire of German rifles. The others
were transferred to a camp nearer the battle line as a punishment,
it being argued, perhaps, that they might be killed by the fire of
the guns of their own side.

"And there are some airmen, too, in the new prison camp," said one
of the Germans. "Our infantrymen claimed them as their meat, though
our airmen brought them down. But there was no room for them in the
prison camp with the other captured aviators, so The Butcher has
them in his charge."

Tom and Jack learned later that "The Butcher" was the title
bestowed, even by his own men, on a certain brutal German colonel
who had charge of this prison camp.

Then there came to Tom and Jack in the darkness a curious piece of
information, dropped by casual talk of the Huns. One of them said
to another:

"One of the transferred airmen tried to bribe me to-day."

"To bribe you? How and for what?"

"He is an accursed American pig, and when he heard we were opposite
some of them, he wanted me to throw a note from him over into the
American lines. He said I would be well paid, and he offered me a
piece of gold he had hidden in the sole of his shoe."

"Did you take it?"

"The gold? Of course I did! But I tore up the note he gave me to
toss into the American lines. First I looked at it, though. It was
signed with a French name, though the prisoner claimed to be from
the United States. It was the name Leroy which means, I have been
told, the king. Ha! I have his gold, and the note is scattered
over No Man's Land! But I will tell him I sent it into the trenches
of his friends. He may have more notes and gold!" and the brute
chuckled.

Tom and Jack, looked at one another in the darkness. Could it be
possible that it was their friend Harry Leroy who was so near to
them, since he had been transferred from a camp far behind the
lines?

It seemed so. There were not many American airmen captured, and
there could hardly be two of this same rather odd name.

"It must be Harry," murmured Tom.

"I think so," agreed Jack.

"Silence, American pigs!" commanded man officer.

He raised his sword to strike the lad. But just then occurred an
interruption so tremendous that all thought of punishing prisoners
who dared to speak was forgotten.

A big shell rose screaming and moaning from the Allied lines and
landed not far from the party of Germans which was leading along Tom
and Jack. It burst with a tremendous noise well inside the Hug
defenses, and this was followed by a terrific explosion. As the
boys learned later the shell had landed in the midst of a concealed
battery--a stroke of luck, and not due to any good aiming on the
part of the American gunner--and the supply of ammunition had gone
up.

There was great commotion behind the German lines, and two or three
of Tom's and Jack's captors were thrown down by the concussion. The
air service boys themselves were stunned.

And then there suddenly sounded a ringing American cheer, while a
voice, coming from a group of soldiers that confronted the German
patrol, cried:

"Halt! Who's there? Are there any of Uncle Sam's boys?"

"Yes! Yes!" eagerly cried Tom and Jack. "Come on! We're captured
by the Germans!"

There was another cheer, followed by a roar of rage, and then came a
rush of feet. Gleaming bayonets glistened in the light of star
shells and many guns, and the members of the German patrol, finding
themselves surrounded, threw down their arms and cried:

"Kamerad!"

The fortunes of war had unexpectedly turned, and Tom and Jack had
been rescued and saved by a party of Pershing's gallant boys.

CHAPTER XXII

NELLIE'S RESOLVE

"What happened?"

"How'd they get you?"

"Are you hurt?"

These were a few of the questions put to Tom and Jack as they were
surrounded by the rescuing party of their friends, led, it afterward
developed, by the very lieutenant with whom the two air service boys
had started in the patrol across No Man's Land.

The German captors had either all surrendered or been killed, and
the tables were most effectively switched around. At first Tom and
Jack were too surprised and overwhelmingly grateful to answer.

But they soon understood what had happened. And then they told the
story of their fight against odds until captured. They said nothing
just then of the unexpected information that had come to them about
Harry Leroy's presence in a German camp so comparatively near their
own lines. But they resolved, at the first opportunity, to make use
of the information.

The shooting of the big guns gradually ceased when it was made
manifest that neither side was ready for a general engagement. The
pop-pop of the machine weapons, too, died away and the star shells
ceased rising.

"Come on you Fritzies--what's left of you," cried the lieutenant,
when he had made sure that there were no others of his party whom he
could rescue.

Then with Tom and Jack the center of a happy, tumultuous throng of
their own comrades, the trip back to the American lines was begun.
It was without incident save that on the way a wounded British
soldier was found lying in a shell hole and carried in, ultimately
to recover.

Tom and Jack told what had happened to them, how they had been
surrounded and led away; and then, came the story of the lieutenant
who had led the patrol party which had turned defeat into victory
with the aid of reinforcements which were sent to him.

He had seen his hopes blasted when rushed by the big crowd of the
Hun patrol, and, though slightly wounded, he realized that absolute
defeat would come to him and his men unless he could get help. He
sent a runner back with word to send relief, and then, surrounding
himself with what few men remained alive and uncaptured, the fight
went on.

It was bitter and sanguinary, and at last, with only two men left
beside him, the lieutenant heard the rush of the relief guard. He
was placed in charge, as he knew the lay of the land, and the party
hurried to and fro, wiping up little knots of Germans here and
there, until the main body encountered the squad having in charge
the two air service boys.

"You began to think it was all up with you, didn't you?" asked the
lieutenant, when they were all once more safely in the dugout.

"We certainly did!" admitted Tom.

"We had visions of watery soup and wheatless bread for the rest of
the war," observed Jack.

He and Tom were slightly wounded--mere scratches they dubbed the
hurts--but they were sent to the rear to be looked over and
bandaged, as were some of the others who were more severely hurt.
There were some who could not be sent back--who were left in No
Man's Land silent figures who would never take part in a battle
again. They had paid their price toward making the world a better
place to live in, and their names were on the Honor Roll.

"Well, what do you think about it?" asked Tom of Jack.

"I don't know what to think. It seems hardly possible that Harry
can be so near to us, and yet we can't do a thing to help him."

"I'm not so sure about that," returned Tom. "That's what I want to
talk about."

It was a week after the patrol raid, and clear weather had succeeded
the rain and mist, so that it was possible for the aeroplanes to
operate. And their services were much needed.

There were preparations going on back of the German lines of which
General Pershing and the Allied commanders needed to be informed.
And only the "eyes" of the armies could see them and report--the
eyes being the aeroplanes.

So it came about that, having been relieved of their temporary
transfer to the infantry, Tom and Jack were once more with their
comrades of the air.

"Well, let's think it over, and talk about it when we come down,"
suggested Jack. "We've got to go upstairs for our usual tour of
duty now."

This would last three hours. They were to do scout work--report any
unusual activity back of the German lines, or give warning of the
approach of any hostile aeroplanes. After their tour of duty was
ended they would have the rest of the day to themselves, provided
there was no general attack. Of course if, while they were up, they
were attacked, they must fight.

Each lad had a plane to himself, since the young "huns" had all
pretty well passed their novitiate, and were now in the regular
flying squad. Later some other new aviators would report for
instruction on the battle front.

Up and up climbed Tom and Jack, and eagerly they scanned the German
lines for any signs of activity. But though there were some Hun
planes in the air, they did not approach to give battle. Possibly
some other plans were afoot. Afterward Tom and Jack admitted to one
another that there was a great temptation to fly over the German
trenches to try to get a sight of the prison that had been spoken
of--the camp where Harry Leroy might be held.

But to do this would be in direct violation of their orders, and
they dared not take any risks. For to do so might involve not only
themselves in danger, but others as well. And that view of the
matter determined them. They would have to await their opportunity
for rescuing their chum--if it could be accomplished.

Their tour of duty aloft that day was without incident. This is not
an usual condition at times along the long battle front. Men can
not go on fighting without stop, and there come lulls in even the
fiercest battle. Flesh and blood can stand only a certain amount of
torture, and then even the soul rebels.

So Tom and Jack drifted peacefully down to their aerodrome, noting
that it was being newly camouflaged, for the recent rain had played
havoc with some of the concealments.

As far as possible both the Germans and the Allies tried to conceal
the location of their flying camps. The aeroplanes and balloons
needed large buildings to house them, and such structures made
excellent and, of course, fair war-marks for bombing parties in
aeroplanes hovering aloft. So it was the custom to put up trees and
bushes or to stretch canvas over the aerodromes and paint it to
resemble woods and fields in an effort to conceal, or camouflage,
the depots where the airships were stationed. But this work was
done by a special detail of men, and with it Tom and Jack had
nothing to do.

They turned their machines over to the mechanics, who would go
carefully over them and have the craft in readiness for the next
flight. Then, being free for several hours, the two young airmen
could do as they pleased, within certain limits.

"Well, did anything occur to you?" asked Jack, as he and Tom, having
divested themselves of their heavy fur-lined garments, went to the
mess hall, which was in an old stable, from which the horses had
long since been removed.

"You mean a plan to rescue Harry?"

"That's it."

"No, I'm sorry to say I can't think of a thing," Tom answered. "I
thought I would, but I didn't. Have you anything to say?"

"Yes. Let's go to Paris."

"You mean to see--er--?"

"Yes!" interrupted Jack with a smile. "This is their day off, and
we might as well have a little enjoyment when we can. From the easy
time we had to-day we'll have some hard fighting to-morrow. This
was too good to last. Heinie is up to some mischief, I think."

"Same here."

So, having received permission, they went to Paris, and soon found
their way to the lodgings of Mrs. Gleason, where the air service
boys were welcomed by Bessie and Nellie.

Of course the first question had to do with the captive Harry, and
to the delight of Nellie Tom was able to say:

"We have news of him, anyhow."

"News? You mean he is all right?"

"Well, as all right as he ever can be while the Boches have him, I
suppose," was the answer.

"But the news didn't come direct from him. He's in another camp.
I'll tell you about it."

Tom and Jack, by turns, related what had happened on the night
patrol, and explained how they had overheard talk of Harry.

"Then he is nearer than he has been?" asked Nellie.

"Yes," admitted Tom.

"Won't it be easier to rescue him then?" Bessie queried.

"Well, that doesn't follow," said Jack. "Of course if we could
rescue him, we'd have a shorter distance to bring him, to get him
inside our lines. But it's just as difficult getting beyond the
German lines now as it was before. Tom and I thought we'd come and
talk it over, and see if you girls have anything to suggest. We'll
do the rescue work if we only get a chance, and can find some plan.
Have you any?"

He asked that question, though he hardly expected an answer. And
both he and Tom, as well as Bessie and her mother, were greatly
surprised when Nellie exclaimed:

"Yes, I have!"

"You have?" cried Tom. "What is it? Tell us, quick!"

"I am going to save my brother by offering myself as a prisoner in
his place," said Nellie with quiet resolve. "That's how I'll save
him! I'll exchange myself for him!"

CHAPTER XXIII

THE BIG BATTLE

Nellie Leroy rose from, the chair where she had been sitting, and
stood before the little party of her friends, gathered in the little
Paris apartment where Bessie Gleason and her mother made their home
when they were not actively engaged in Red Cross work. The sister
of the captive airman had a quiet but very determined air about her.

"That is what I am going to do," she said, as no one at first
answered what had been a dramatic outbreak. "Perhaps you will tell
me best how to go about it," and she turned to Tom and Jack. "You
know something of the German lines, and where I can best go to give
myself up."

"Why--why, you can't go at all!" burst out Tom.

"I can't go?"

"No, of course not. You mean all right, Nellie," went on the young
man, "but it simply can't be done. To give yourself up to the
Germans would mean for yourself not only--Oh, it couldn't be done!"
as he thought of the cruelty of the Huns, not only to the soldiers
of the Allied armies but to helpless women and children. "You
couldn't give yourself up to those brutes!' he cried.

"To save my brother I could," said Nellie simply. "I would do
anything for him!"

"I know you would," murmured Bessie.

"But it would just be throwing yourself away!" exclaimed Jack,
coming to the help of his chum, who was gazing helplessly at him in
this new crisis. "Tell her, Mrs. Gleason," he went on, "that it is
utterly impossible, even if the army authorities would let her.
Even if she should give herself up to the Germans, they wouldn't
keep any agreement they made to exchange her brother. They'd simply
keep both of them."

"Yes, I think they would," said Mrs. Gleason. "It is out of the
question, my dear," and gently she laid her hand on the girl's
shoulder. "That is very fine and noble of you, but it would be
wrong, for it would not save your brother, and you would certainly
be made a prisoner yourself. And of the horrors of the German
prison--at least some where the infantrymen have been kept, I dare
not tell you. I imagine it must be better where the airmen are
captured," she went on, for she feared that if she painted too black
a picture of what Harry might suffer his sister would not be held
back by anything, and might sacrifice herself uselessly.

"But what am I do?" asked Nellie, helplessly. "I want Harry so
much! We all want him! Oh, isn't there something? Can't you save
him?" and she held out her hands appealingly to Torn and Jack.

There was a moment of silence, and then Tom burst out with:

"Well, I may as well speak now as later, and I'll tell you what I've
made up my mind to do. Yes, it's a new plan I've worked out," he
went on, as Jack looked at him curiously. "I haven't told even you,
old man, as it wasn't quite ready yet. But it's a scheme that may
succeed, now that we know definitely where Harry is, from what the
German patrol said. He isn't so far away as when we dropped the
packages in the prison camp, though we don't yet know that he was
there at the time we did our stunt. However, if this new plan
succeeds we may have a chance to find out."

"How?" asked Nellie, eagerly.

"By talking to Harry himself."

"How are you going to do that?" demanded Bessie.

"What kind of game have you been cooking up behind my back?" asked
Jack.

"As desperate as the other, I guess you'll call it," answered Tom.
"But something has to be done."

"Yes, something has to be done," agreed Jack. "Now what is it?"

Tom arose and went to the door. He opened it, looked carefully up
and down the hall, evidently to make sure no one was listening, and
then came back to join the circle of his friends.

"I'm going to speak of something that very few know, as yet," he
said, "and I don't want to take any chances of its getting out.
There may be German spies in Paris, though I guess by this time
they're few and scattering.

"I'm not going to tell you how I know," he said, "but I do know that
soon there is to take place a big battle--that is, it will be big
for the American forces that are to have part in it. There has been
a conference among the Allied commanders, and it has been decided
that it's time to teach the Germans a lesson. They've been
despising the American troops, as they despised General French's
'contemptible little army,' and General Pershing is going to show
Fritz that we have a soldier or two that can fight."

"You mean there's to be a big offensive?" asked Jack.

"No, I wouldn't go so far as to call it a general engagement like
that. It's to be kept within the limits, of the sector where the
United States troops are at present," said Tom. "That is where you
and I are located, Jack, and that, as you know, is almost opposite
the prison where Harry and the others are confined."

"I begin to see what you are driving at!" cried Nellie, her eyes
shining. "But are you sure of this?"

"Yes," went on Jack, "how did you bear of this when it's supposed to
be such a secret?"

"It came to me by accident," said Torn, "and I wouldn't speak of it
to any one but you. Soon, however, it will be more or less public
on our side, as it will have to be when we start to get ready. But
it's to be kept a secret from Fritz as long as possible. It's to be
a surprise attack, and if it doesn't develop into a big battle it
won't be the fault of Uncle Sam's boys."

"Will the air service have any part in it?" asked Jack eagerly, as
if fearing he might be left out.

"I don't see how they can get along without us," said Tom. "Not
that we're the whole works, but it is well established now that an
army can't fight without the use of aeroplanes, to tell not only
what the other side is doing, but also how our own guns are
shooting. Oh, we'll be in it all right!"

"When?" asked Jack.

"That I can't say," replied his chum. "But now to get down to the
thing that concerns us, or rather, Harry. I have a scheme--and you
can call it wild if you like--that when the battle is going on, you
and I, Jack, and some other airmen if we can induce them to do it,
and I think we can, may be able to drop bombs near the prison camp.
We'll have to judge our distances pretty carefully, or we'll do more
harm than good. Then, if all goes well, and we can blow down some
of the camp walls or fences, and if the battle favors our side, we
can make a descent on enemy territory and rescue Harry and any
others that are with him. What do you think of that plan?"

"It's wonderful!" exclaimed Nellie, glaring at Tom with a strange,
new light in her eyes.

"It's very daring," said Bessie, more calmly.

"It's crazy!" burst out Jack

"I thought you'd say that," commented Tom calmly, "and I'd have been
disappointed if you hadn't. And just because it is crazy it may
succeed. But it's the only thing I can think of. Daring will get
you further in this war then anything else. You've got to take big
chances anyhow, and the bigger the better, I say."

"I'm with you there all right," agreed Jack. "But to land in
hostile territory--it hasn't been done ten times since the war
began, and have the aviator live to get away with it!"

"I know it," said Tom, quietly. "But this may be the eleventh
successful time. Now that's my plan for rescuing Harry Leroy. If
any of you have a better one let's hear it."

No one answered, and finally Nellie spoke.

"No," she said, with a shake of her head, "it's very fine and noble
of you boys, but I can't allow it. If you wouldn't let me give
myself up--exchange myself for Harry, I can't let you give your
lives for him this way. It wouldn't be fair. It would be depriving
the Allies of two valuable fighters, to possibly get back one, and
the possibility is so slim that--well, it's suicidal!" she
exclaimed.

"Not so much so as you think," said Tom. "I've got it all figured
out as far as possible. And as for landing in hostile territory, if
all goes well, and the big battle progresses as Pershing and his
aides think it will, maybe we won't have to land in hostile
territory at all. We may drive the Germans back, and then the
prison will be within our lines."

"That's so!" cried Jack. "I didn't think of feat. Tom, old man,
maybe your scheme isn't as crazy as I thought! Anyhow, I'm in it
with you. The only thing is--will this big battle take place?"

"'It will unless the Germans decide to surrender between now and the
day set," Tom answered grimly, "and I hardly believe they'll do
that. It's a going to be some fight!"

"Glad of it!" cried Jack. "Now we've got something to live for!"
As if he and Tom did not risk their lives every day to make life in
the civilized world something worth living for.

"Well, we must be getting back!" exclaimed Tom, as he looked at his
watch. "All leaves will be stopped in a few days--just before we
start preparations for the big battle. If we can we'll see you once
more before then."

"And afterward?" inquired Nellie, softly and pleadingly.

"Yes, and afterward, too!" exclaimed Tom. "And we'll bring Harry
back with us. Now good-bye!"

It was a more solemn farewell than the friends had taken in some
time, for all felt the impending events, and Tom and Jack talked but
little during the return trip from Paris to their headquarters.

What Tom had said about the big battle was strictly true. It had
been decided in high quarters that it was time the newly arrived
American soldiers showed what they could do. That they could fight
fiercely and well was not a question, it was only a matter of
getting them familiar with the different conditions to be met with
on the European battlefields, against a ruthless foe.

Tom and Jack had a chance for one more hasty, flying visit to Paris,
and then all leave was withdrawn, and there began in and about the
American camp such a period of tense and intensive work as bore out
what Tom had said. The big battle was impending.

Great stores were accumulated of rations and munitions. Great guns
were brought up into position and skillfully camouflaged. Machine
guns in great numbers were prepared and a number of aeroplanes were
brought from other sectors and made ready for the flying fight.

"How are your plans coming on?" asked Jack of Tom, at the close of a
day when it seemed that every one's nerves were on edge from the
strain of preparing.

"All right," was the answer. "I've spoken to a number of the boys,
and they're with me. You know we're pretty much 'on our own,' when
we're flying, and I think that we can drop the bombs and make a
descent long enough to pick up Harry and other refugees if we break
open the prison."

"But suppose we land, stall the engines and the Germans surround
us?"

"That mustn't happen," said Tom. "We won't stall the engines for
one thing. We'll just have to drop down, and taxi around as well as
we can until we pick up Harry, or until he sees us. The machines
will carry three as well as two, and even if we have, by some
mischance to go up in singles, they'll carry double. But I figured
on your being with me. Harry knows enough of the game to be on the
lookout when he hears the bombs drop and sees the planes hovering
over him, and he'll tip off the others to be ready for a rescue.

"Of course I don't say we can get 'em all, and maybe something will
happen that we can't get Harry away. But I think we'll teach Fritz
a lesson, and I think we can break up the prison camp so some of the
poor fellows can get away. As I said, it's a desperate chance, but
one we've got to take."

"And I'm with you!" exclaimed Jack. "And now when does the big
battle take place?"

He was answered a moment later, for an orderly arrived with
instructions to the air service boys to report at their hangars at
once.

There they were told something of the impending attack--the first
public mention of it, though more than one had guessed something
unusual was in the air from the tenseness of the last few days.

The attack was to start at dawn the next morning, preceded by an
intense artillery fire. It was to be the fiercest rain of shells
since the Americans had come to the front lines. Then the infantry,
supported by tanks and aeroplanes, would follow, going over in waves
which it was hoped would overwhelm the Germans.

That night was a tense one. Suppose the enemy had guessed, or a spy
had given word of the impending battle? Then success would be
jeopardized. But the night passed with only the usual exchange of
shots and the sending up of star shells over No Man's Land.

And so, as the hour of dawn approached, the tense and nervous
feeling grew. Tom and Jack, with their comrades in their hangars,
were dressed in their fur garments and ready. Their machines had
received the last touches from the hands of the mechanics, and each
one was well equipped with bombs and machine gun ammunition. Tom
and Jack were to be allowed to go up together in a big double
bombing plane.

The night passed. The hour approached. Anxious eyes watched the
hands of watches slowly revolve.

Then suddenly, as if the very earth had been blasted away from
beneath them, the batteries of big guns belched forth fire, smoke
and shell.

The great battle was on!

CHAPTER XXIV

SILENCING THE GERMAN GUNS

Engagements in the World War were on such a vast scale that it was
difficult for a single observer to give a word picture of them. All
he could see, stationed behind the lines, was a vast cataclysm of
smoke and fire, and his ears were deafened by so vast a sound that
it was comparable to nothing on this earth ever heard before.

An observer in the air was little better off, save for that portion
directly beneath him, and even that he could not see very much of,
on account of the smoke and dust. If he looked to the left or the
right, or backward or forward, he was at the disadvantage of
distance.

To him, then, great columns of infantry appeared only as crawling
worms, and batteries of artillery merely patches of woods whence
belched fire and smoke. That he must keep high in the air when over
the enemy's lines went without saying, for he would be fired at if
he came too low. So then, even an airman's vision was limited when
it came to describing a great battle.

Of course he always did what he was assigned to do. He kept in
contact, or in communication, with his own certain batteries, or his
infantry division, directing the shots of the former and the advance
of the latter. So, really, he had little time to observe anything
save the effect of the firing of his own side on a certain limited
objective.

As for the soldiers in battle, they are, of course, unable to
observe anything except that which goes on immediately in their
neighborhood. The artilleryman fires his gun under the direction of
some observer, often far away, who telephones to him to lower or
elevate his piece, or deflect it to the tight or left. The
infantryman advances as the barrage lifts, and rushes forward
according to orders, firing or using his bayonet as the case may be,
digging in when halted, and waiting for another rush forward. The
machine gunner and his squad aim to put as many of the advancing,
retreating, or standing enemy out of the fighting as possible, and
to save themselves.

The truck men hasten up with loads of ammunition, fortunate if they
are not sent to their death in the drive. The stretcher bearers
look for the wounded and hasten back with them.

So, all in all, no single person can observe more than a very small
part of the great battle. It is really like looking through a
microscope at some organism, while the whole great body lies beyond
the field of vision.

Only the general staff-the officers in their headquarters far behind
the lines, who receive reports as to how this division or corps is
retreating or advancing--can have any real conception of the big
battle, and these persons may see it only at a distance.

So the usual process of things in general is reversed, and the
person farthest removed from the fighting may really see, or rather
know, most about it.

And so with a storm of shot and shell, manmade thunders and
lightnings, and bolts of death from the earth below and the air
above, the great battle opened and advanced.

It progressed just as other battles had progressed. There was a
terrific artillery preparation, which took the Germans evidently by
surprise, for the response was long in coming, and then it was not
in proportion. After the great cannon had done their best to level
the big guns on the German side, a barrage, or curtain of fire was
started, and behind this, which was in reality a falling hail of
bullets, the Americans and their supporting French and British
comrades advanced. The curtain of steel was to kill or push back
the Germans, and to make it safe for the Americans to go forward.
By elevating the small guns the curtain fell farther and farther
into the enemy's territory, thus making it possible for the Allies
to go on farther and farther across No Man's Land.

The infantry rushed forward, fighting and dying nobly in a noble
cause. Position after position was consolidated as the Germans fell
back before the rain of shot and shell. It is always this way in an
offensive, small or large. The first rush of the attacking side, be
it German, French, British, or American, carries everything before
it. It is the counter attack that tells. If the attackers are
strong enough to hold what they gain, well and good. If not--the
attack is a failure.

But this one--the first great attack of the Americans--was not
destined to fail, though once it trembled in the balance.

Tom and Jack, with their companions, had flown aloft, and, taking
the stations assigned to them, did their part in the battle. As the
light grew with the break of day, they could see the effect of the
American big guns. It was devastating. And yet some German
batteries lived through it. Several times Tom and Jack, by means of
their wireless, sent back corrections so that the American pieces
might be aimed more effectively. Below them was a maelstrom--an
indescribable chaos of death and destruction. They only had
glimpses of it--glimpses of a seemingly inextricable mixture of men
and guns.

And through it all, though they did not for a moment neglect their
duty, bearing in mind their instructions to keep in contact with the
batteries they served, Tom Raymond and Jack Parmly were eagerly
seeking for a sight of the prison where Harry Leroy might be held.
At one time after they had dropped bombs on some German positions,
thereby demolishing them, Tom, who was acting as pilot, signaled to
his chum that he was going far over the enemy's lines to try to
locate the prison.

Jack nodded an acquiescence. It was not entirely against orders
what they were about to do. They might obtain valuable information,
and it would take only a short time, so speedy was their machine.
Then too, they had used up all their bombs, and must return for
more. Before doing this they wished to make an observation.

Luck was with them. They managed to pass over a comparatively quiet
sector of the lines where the German resistance had been wiped out,
and where, even as they looked down, Americans were digging in and
guns were being brought up to support them.

And not many kilometers inside the German positions from this point,
they sailed over a prison camp. They, knew it in an instant, and
felt sure it must be the one spoken of by the German who had taken
Leroy's gold and then betrayed him.

"That's the place!" cried Tom, though of course Jack could not hear
him. "Now to bomb it and set Harry free!"

But they must return for more ammunition, and this they set about
doing. They wished they might drop some word to the prisoners
confined there, stating that help might soon be on its way to them,
but they had no chance to send this cheering word.

Back they rushed to their own lines, and no sooner had they landed
than an orderly rushed up to them and instructed them to report
immediately to their commanding officer.

"Boys, you're just in time!" he cried, all dignity or formality
having been set aside in the excitement of the great battle.

"What is it?" asked Tom.

"We want you to silence some big German guns--a nasty battery of
them that's playing havoc with our boys. The artillery hasn't been
able to locate 'em--probably they're too well camouflaged. And we
can't advance against 'em. Will you go up and try to put them out
of business?"

Of course there could be but one answer to this. Tom and Jack
hurried off to see to the loading of their machine with bombs--an
extra large number of very powerful ones being taken.

Once more they were off on their dangerous mission, for it was
dangerous, since many American planes were brought down by German
fire that day, and by attacks from other Hun machines.

But Tom and Jack never faltered. Up and up they went, the probable
location of the guns having been made known to them on the map they
carried. Up and onward they went. For a time they must forego the
chance of rescuing their friend.

Straight for the indicated place they went, and just as they reached
it there came a burst of fire and smoke. It appeared to roll out
from a little ravine well wooded on both sides, and that accounted
for the failure of the Americans to locate it. Chance had played
into the hands of the air service boys.

There was no need of word between Tom and Jack. The former headed
the plane for the place whence the German guns had fired upon the
Americans, killing and wounding many.

Over it, for an instant, hovered the aeroplane. Then Jack touched
the bomb releasing device. Down dropped the powerful explosive.

There was a great upward blast of air which rocked the machine in
which sat the two aviators. There was a burst of smoke and flame
beneath them, tongues of fire seeming to reach up as though to pull
them down.

Then came a terrific explosion which almost deafened the boys, even
though their ears were covered with the fur caps, and though their
own engine made a pandemonium of sound.

The air was filled with flying debris--debris of the German guns and
men. The bombs dropped by Tom and Jack had accomplished their
mission. The harassing battery was destroyed. The German guns were
silenced.

CHAPTER XXV

THE RESCUE

Tom and Jack circled around slowly over the place where the German
battery had been. It was now no more--it could work no more havoc
to the American ranks. It did not need the wireless news to this
effect, which the aviators sent back, to apprise the Allies of what
had happened. They had seen the harassing guns blown up.

Now out swarmed the Americans, charging with savage yells over the
place that had been such a hindrance to their advance. Tom and
Jack had done their work well.

There was no need for the one to tell the other what was in his
mind. There were still two of the powerful bombs left, and there
was but one thought on this matter. They must be used to blow up, if
possible, the camp near the German prison. Doing that would create
havoc and consternation enough, the air service boys thought, to
drive the captors away, and enable Leroy and his fellow prisoners to
be saved.

Jack punched Tom in the back and motioned for him to shut off the
motor a moment so that talking would be possible. Tom did this, and
Jack cried:

"Shall we take a chance?"

"Yes!" Tom answered in return.

Strictly speaking, having accomplished the mission they were sent
out on, they should have returned to their base for orders. But the
airmen were given more liberty of action and decision than any other
branch of the Allied service.

"Go to it!" cried Jack, and once more Tom started the motor and
headed the craft for the Hun prison.

Again the air service boys were hovering over the prison camp. They
could now see that there was much more activity around it than there
had been before the big battery was destroyed. The fight was coming
closer, and the Germans evidently knew it. Whether they were trying
to arrange to take their captives farther back, or merely seeking to
escape themselves from a trap, was not then evident.

And, having reached a position where they could see below them what
looked to be a concentration of German guns, perhaps to fire on any
force that might advance against the prison. Jack let fall one of
his two remaining bombs.

It swerved to one side, and though it exploded with great force, and
created havoc and consternation among the Huns, it did not fall
where it was intended. The second battery was still intact.

"My last shot!" grimly mused Jack, as he looked at the other bomb.

Tom maneuvered the aeroplane until he had it about where he thought
Jack would want it. The latter pressed the releasing lever and the
bomb descended. It was the most powerful of the lot, and when it
struck and exploded it not only demolished the defensive battery,
making a hole in the place where it had stood, but it tore down part
of the prison fence, and made such destruction generally that the
Germans were stunned.

Instantly, seeing that all had been accomplished that was possible,
and noting that hovering around him were other Allied airmen who had
agreed to help in the rescue, Tom sent his craft down. There was a
burst of shrapnel around him and Jack, but though the latter was
grazed by a bullet, neither was seriously hurt. A Hun plane darted
down out of the sky to attack the bold Americans, but quickly it was
engaged by a supporting Allied craft. However, the Hun was a good
fighter, and won the battle against this antagonist. But when two
other Allied planes closed in, that was the last of the enemy. He
was sent crashing down to satisfy the vengeance in toll for the life
of the birdman ho had taken.

Now Tom and Jack could see that their plan had worked better than
they had dared to hope. The boldness of the attack from the air,
coupled with the advance of the American army, started a panic in
the German ranks. They began a retreat and the regiments near the
prison camp were included in the rout.

By this time either some of the prisoners saw that there was a break
in the cordon around them, or they realized that a great battle was
putting their guards to flight, for some of them made a rush toward
a side where there were no Germans, and succeeded in breaking out--
no hard task since part of the fence was shattered by the explosion.

"Now's our chance," cried Tom, though of course Jack could not hear
this. "Harry may be among that bunch, and we want to get him and
any others we can save."

He started the aeroplane on its downward path, while Jack, guessing
the object, got the machine gun ready for action, since there might
be a squad of Germans ready to give battle on the ground.

Several other planes of the Allies, seeing what was going on,
swooped to the aid of the two Americans, for there were no other of
the Hun craft within sight now. All had been sent crashing down, or
had drawn off.

On either side of the immediate sector which included the prison
camp, the battle was still raging fiercely, mostly with success on
the side of the Americans, though in places they suffered a
temporary setback.

In the vicinity of the prison itself wild scenes were now being
enacted. The prisoners were beginning to rise in force, for they
saw freedom looming before them. There were fights between them and
the guards, and terrible happenings took place, for the guards were
armed and the prisoners were not. But as fast as some of the
Germans fell they were stripped of their guns and ammunition, and
the weapons turned by the prisoners against their former captors.

All this while Tom and Jack were descending in their plane. As yet
they were uncertain whether they were to be able to rescue Leroy or
not. They could not distinguish him at that height, though from the
enthusiastic manner in which several of the newly liberated ones
waved at the on-coming aeroplanes, it would seem that they were of
that arm of the service, and appreciated what was about to happen.

Nearer and nearer to the ground flew Tom and Jack. And then, to
their horror, they saw that several Germans had set up two machine
guns to rake the prison yard, which was still filled with excited
captives. The Germans were determined that as few as possible of
their late captives should find freedom.

Tom acted on the instant, by sending the plane in a different
direction, to enable Jack to use his machine gun. And Jack
understood this, for, with a shout of defiance, he turned his weapon
on the closely packed Germans around their machine guns.

For a moment they stood and some even tried to swerve the guns about
to shatter the dropping aeroplane. But Jack's fire was too fierce.
He wiped out the nest, and this danger was averted.

A moment later Tom had the machine to earth, and it ran along the
uneven and shell-torn ground, coming to a rest not far from what had
been the outer fence of the prison camp. A group of Allied
captives, newly freed, rushed forward. Tom and Jack, removing their
goggles, looked eagerly for a sight of Harry Leroy. They did not
see him, but they saw that which rejoiced them, and this was more
aeroplanes coming to their aid, and also a column of infantry on the
march across a distant valley. The stars and stripes were in the
van, and at this the rescuers and the prisoners set up a cheer. It
meant that the Germans were beaten at that point.

"Where's Harry Leroy? Is he among the prisoners ?" cried Jack to
several of the liberated ones who crowded around the machine. There
would be no question now of trying to save some one, a rush by
mounting to the air with him. The advance of the Americans and the
Allies was sufficiently strong to hold the prison position wrested
from the Germans.

"Was Harry Leroy among you?" asked Tom, of the joy-crazed prisoners.
Many were Americans, but there were French, Italian, Russian,
Belgian and British among the motley throng.

Before any one could answer him there was a hoarse shout, and from
some place where they had been hiding a squad of German soldiers
rushed at the group of recent prisoners about Tom and Jack. Their
guns had bayonets fixed, and it was the evident purpose of the Huns
to make one last rush on the prisoners near the aeroplane to kill as
many as possible.

The Germans were a sufficiently strong force, and none of these
prisoners was armed. They began to scatter and run for shelter, and
Torn and Jack became aware that matters were not to be as easy as
they had expected.

But fortunately the fixed machine gun on the aeroplane, which was
near the pilot's seat, pointed straight at the oncoming Huns. With
a cry Tom sprang to the cockpit and quickly had the weapon spitting
bullets at the foe. Then Jack saw his chance, and, climbing up to
his seat, he swung his gun about so that it, too, raked the Germans.

They came on with the desperation and courage of despair, but the
steady firing was at last too much for them. They broke and
ran--what were left of them alive--in what was a veritable rout, and
this ended the last danger for that immediate time and place.

Other aeroplanes dropped down to help consolidate the victory, and
the explosion of some American shells at a point beyond the prison
camp told its own story. The artillery had moved up to keep pace
with the advancing infantry. The big battle had been won by
Pershing's men, and the air service boys had not only done their
share, but they had been instrumental in delivering a number of
prisoners.

As the last of the Germans fled and Tom and Jack leaned back, well
nigh exhausted by the strain of the fighting, a voice cried:

"Good work, old scouts! I knew you'd come for me sooner or later.
At least I hoped you would!"

They turned to see Harry Leroy walking slowly toward them.

Harry Leroy it was, but wounds, illness, and imprisonment had worked
a terrible change in him. He was but the ghost of his former sturdy
self. Still it was their chum and the brother of Nellie Leroy, and
Tom and Jack knew they had kept the promise made to the sister.
They had effected the rescue which the offensive made possible.

"Hurray!" cried Tom. "It's really you then, old scout!"

"What's left of me--yes. Oh, but it's good to see the flag again!"
and he pointed to the colors on the aeroplane and on the advancing
banners of the infantry. "And it's good to see you again! I'd
about given up, and so had most of us, when we heard the shooting
and knew something was going on. But how did it happen? How did
you get here, and how did you know I was here?"

"Go easy!" advised Tom with a grin. "One question at a time. Can
you ride in our bus? If you can we'll take you back with us. The
others will be taken care of soon, I fancy, for our boys will soon
be in permanent occupation here. Will you come back with us?"

"Will I? Say, I'll come if I have to hitch on behind, like a can to
a dog's tail!" cried Leroy, and, weak and ill-nourished as he was,
it was evident that the sight of his former comrades had already
done him much good.

So now that the position was well won by the Americans and the
Allies, Tom and Jack turned their machine about, wheeled it to a
good taking off place, and with Harry Leroy as a passenger, though
it made the place rather crowded, they flew back over the recent
battleground, and to their own aerodrome, where Harry and some other
prisoners, brought through the air by other birdmen, were well taken
care of.

The great battle was not yet over, for there was fighting up and
down the line, and in distant sectors. But it was going well for
Pershing's forces.

"And now," remarked Harry, when he had had food and had washed and
had begun to smoke, "tell me all about it." He was in the quarters
assigned to Tom Raymond and Jack Parmly, being their guest.

"Well, there isn't an awful lot to tell," Tom said, modestly enough.
"We heard you were in trouble, and came after you; that's all. How
did you like your German boarding house?"

"It was fierce! Terrible! I can't tell you what it means to be
free. But I'd like to send word to my folks that I'm all right. I
suppose they have heard I was a prisoner."

"Yes," answered Tom. "In fact, you can talk to one of the family
soon. That is, as soon as you can go to Paris."

"Talk to a member of the family? Go to Paris? What do you mean?"
Harry fairly shouted the words.

"Your sister Nellie is staying with friends of ours," said Tom.
"We'll take you to her."

"Nellie here? Great Scott! She said she was coming to the front,
but I didn't believe her! Say, she is some sister!"

"You said it!" exclaimed Tom, with as great fervor as Harry used.

"Didn't you get the bundles we dropped?" asked Jack. "The notes and
the packages of chocolate?"

"Not a one," 'replied Harry. "I was looking for some word, but none
came, after one of the airmen told me he had dropped my glove. But
I knew how it was--you didn't get a chance to send any word."

"Oh, but we did!" cried Tom, and then he told of the dropping of the
packages.

But, as Leroy related, he had been transferred from that camp a few
days before.

Two of the packets fell among the prisoners, who, after trying in
vain to send them to Harry, partook of the good things to eat, which
they much needed themselves. They were given to the ill prisoners,
and the notes were carefully hidden away. Some time after the war
Harry received them, and treasured them greatly as souvenirs.

"But we didn't make any mistake this time," said Tom. "We have you
now."

"Yes," agreed Harry with a smile, "you have me now, and mighty glad
I am of it."

A few days later, when Harry was better able to travel, he went to
see Nellie in Paris, a message having been sent soon after the big
battle, to tell her that he was rescued and as well as could be
expected.

"But if it hadn't been for Tom and Jack I don't believe I'd be there
now," said Harry to his sister, as he sat in the homelike apartment
of the Gleasons.

"I know you wouldn't," said Nellie. "They said they'd rescue you
and they did. We shall never be able to thank them enough--but we
can try!"

She looked at Tom, and he--well, I shall firmly but kindly have to
insist that what followed is neither your affair nor mine.

And now, though you know it as well as I do, my story has come to an
end. At least the present chronicle of the doings of the air
service boys has nothing further to offer. Their further adventures
will be related in another volume to be entitled: "Air Service Boys
Flying for Victory."

But it was not the end of the fighting, and Tom and Jack did not
cease their efforts. Harry Leroy, too, was eager to get back into
the contest again, and he did, as soon as he had sufficiently
recovered.

He told some of his experiences while a prisoner among the Germans,
and some things he did not tell. They were better left untold.

However, I should like to close my story with a more pleasant scene
than that, and so I invite your attention, one beautiful Sunday
morning to Paris, when the sun was shining and war seemed very far
away, though it was not. Two couples are going down a street which
is gay with flower stands. There are two young men and two girls,
the young men wear the aviation uniforms of the Americans. They
walk along, chatting and laughing, and, as an aeroplane passes high
overhead, its motors droning out a song of progress, they all look
up.

"That's what we'll be doing to-morrow," observed Tom Raymond.

"Yes," agreed Jack Parmly.

"Oh, hush!" laughed one of the girls. "Can't you stay on earth one
day?"

And there on earth, in such pleasant company, we will leave the Air
Service Boys.

THE END

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