Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed
The Boy Allies On The Firing Line
Twelve Days Battle Along the Marne
By CLAIR W. HAYES
AUTHOR OF "The Boy Allies at Liege" "The Boy Allies With the Cossacks"
"The Boy Allies In the Trenches"
"Feels pretty good to be back in harness, doesn't it, Hal?" asked
Chester, as, accompanied by a small body of men, they rode slowly along.
"Great!" replied his friend enthusiastically. "And it looks as if we were
to see action soon."
"Yes, it does look that way."
The little body of British troopers, only forty-eight of them all told,
with Hal Paine and Chester Crawford as their guides, were reconnoitering
ten miles in advance of the main army along the river Marne in the great
war between Germany and the allied armies. For several hours they had
been riding slowly without encountering the enemy, when, suddenly, as the
little squad topped a small hill and the two boys gained an unobstructed
view of the little plain below, Hal pulled up his horse with an
Quickly he threw up his right hand and the little troop came to an
"Germans!" he said laconically.
"And thousands of 'em," said Chester. "They haven't seen us yet. What is
best to be done?"
The answer to this question came from the enemy. Several flashes of fire
broke out along the German front, and the boys involuntarily ducked their
heads as bullets sped whizzing past them.
"Well, they have seen us now," said Hal; then turning to the men: "To the
woods," pointing with his sword to a dense forest on his right.
Rapidly the little body of men disappeared among the trees.
"Up in the trees," ordered Hal, "and pick them off as they come!"
Swiftly the troopers leaped from their horses and climbed up among
the branches. Here all could easily command a view of the oncoming
Rapidly the enemy advanced, firing volley after volley as they
approached; then, at a word from Hal, the British poured forth their
answer. And such an answer! Before the aim of these few British troopers,
accounted among the best marksmen in the world, the Teuton cavalry went
down in heaps.
There was a perceptible slackening in the speed of the approaching
horsemen. Then, as the English continued their work, firing with
machine-like precision and deadly accuracy, the Germans came to a halt.
"What are they stopping for?" cried Chester. "There are enough of them to
"I believe they fear a trap," replied Hal. "They are afraid we are trying
to ambush them with a larger force. We must keep up the delusion if we
expect to get away."
So saying, he ordered the men to the ground, and the little force
advanced to the extreme edge of the woods. So far not a man had been even
wounded, for the Germans, unable to see that their foe had climbed into
the trees, had aimed too low.
From the edge of the woods the British poured several volleys, and then,
as the enemy finally began an advance, they retreated slowly, firing as
they flitted from tree to tree.
Apparently, Hal had rightly guessed the cause of the enemy's indecision.
They advanced slowly and warily; and when they finally gained the edge of
the woods there was not a Briton in sight; but from further in among the
trees the leaden messengers of death still struck the Germans, and man
after man fell in his tracks.
Now the man nearest Chester threw up his arms and with a cry fell to the
ground. The lad made as if to go to his assistance, but Hal stayed him
with a word, and the little body of English continued their retreat,
firing as they went.
Suddenly the pursued emerged from the woods into the open. A distance of
half a mile lay between them and the next clump of trees. In this half a
mile there was nothing that would afford shelter; and the Germans were
approaching nearer every second.
Hal did not hesitate.
"We shall have to make a dash for it!" he cried. "One more volley, men,
and then run!"
One more death-dealing volley was delivered at close range, and then the
little troop of English turned and fled. But they had traversed scarcely
half the distance when the Germans reached the edge of the woods, and
poured a volley into them.
Hal groaned as men fell on all sides of him. But still those who were
left ran on. At length they reached the friendly shelter of the trees,
but half their number lay behind, either dead or dying.
Once more, screened from the enemy, Hal halted the men.
"We may as well fight it out here," he told them. "We will hold them off
if we can, and if not we must retreat slowly, keeping behind whatever
A faint cheer went up from the handful who were left, and they turned
determinedly to face their foes. They did not waste their fire. As the
Germans came again into view, the British rifles cracked. Their
marksmanship was superb, and rather than face this deadly fire the
Then began a game of hide and seek, with death the penalty for all who
were seen. The firing was only at intervals now. Wherever a German arm
or leg showed itself, a British rifle sounded and a German was
For almost half an hour the game continued; and it was kept up until
darkness fell. Fearing that it was the intent of the British to lure them
into the hands of a strong force, the Germans did not attempt a charge,
but contented themselves with trying to pick off their foes as they
flitted from one tree to another.
But if the Germans had suffered, so had the English. Of the little troop
of fifty, there now remained, besides Hal and Chester, but ten men. The
two boys seemed to bear charmed lives, for neither had been struck once.
They had exposed themselves to all dangers as well as had the troopers,
but fortunately no German bullets had reached them.
And still the few English fought on. Now that darkness had fallen and two
more men had dropped, Hal ordered those who were left to make a last dash
for life. He sprang from behind the tree which had sheltered him, and
Chester and the few remaining troopers joined him. Then they turned and
sped as rapidly as the darkness would permit in the direction of their
Now that the fire of the English had ceased entirely, the Germans halted,
puzzled. It was impossible for their officers to tell whether the enemy
had all been killed, or whether the silence heralded the approach of a
larger force. Their indecision undoubtedly saved the lives of Hal and
Chester and the eight troopers, for had the Germans advanced they would
have experienced little difficulty in killing or capturing them.
Silently but swiftly the ten forms dashed through the woods, and when at
length they once more emerged into the open country they were completely
"Well, I guess we are safe, what is left of us, at any rate," said
Chester as they halted to take a much needed rest. "It's terrible to
think of those poor fellows we left behind."
"It is, indeed," replied Hal; "but I don't think they would complain. The
British soldier is not that kind."
"You are right," agreed Chester. "And each accounted for more than one of
his country's foes before he went down. Were you hit, Hal?"
"No. Were you?"
"No. But come, we had better be pushing on again."
With the loss of their comrades still preying upon their minds, the
little troop continued on its way; and while they are hurrying onward we
shall take time to introduce Hal and Chester more fully to those who have
not met them before, and to relate how it came about that they were
serving in such an important capacity with the British army in France.
TWO YOUNG LIEUTENANTS.
Sturdy American lads, young though they were, Hal Paine and Chester
Crawford had, when this story opens, already seen considerable military
service. Each had received his baptism of fire during the heroic defense
of the Belgian city of Liege, which had held out for days against the
overwhelming horde of Teutons.
In Berlin with Hal's mother when the war broke out, they had been
separated from her and left behind. With Captain Raoul Derevaux, a
gallant French officer, and Lieutenant Harry Anderson of the British
army, they finally succeeded in making their way, after many desperate
experiences and daring adventures, over the Belgian frontier, as told
in the first book of this series, entitled "The Boy Allies at Liege."
They had reached Liege in time to take an active part in the defense of
In escaping from Germany, each had done his full share of fighting and
each had been wounded. They had finally reached Brussels, where they
remained some time, while Hal's wound healed sufficiently to continue his
homeward journey. As the result of their heroic actions, the Belgian
commander at Liege had mentioned them so favorably in his report to King
Albert, that he had bestowed upon them commissions as lieutenants in the
Belgian army as a mark of distinction for their bravery.
It was while waiting in Brussels that they again encountered Lieutenant
Anderson, from whom they had been separated, and it was through his
inducement that they now found themselves attached to the staff of Field
Marshal Sir John French, commander of the British forces on the
continent, engaged in scout duty.
At the time when this story opens they had been sent in advance of the
main army on a reconnaissance.
The German advance through Belgium into France, up to this time, had been
steady, although the Allies had contested every foot of the ground. Day
after day and night after night the hard pressed British troops, to which
Hal and Chester were attached, had borne the brunt of the fighting. But
for the heroism of these comparatively few English, slightly more than
one hundred thousand men, the Germans probably would have marched to the
very gates of Paris.
But the arrival of the British troops had been timely, and under the
gallant command of Sir John French, they had checked the overwhelming
numbers of Germans time after time. The bravery of these English troops
under a galling fire and against fearful odds is one of the greatest
military achievements of the world's history.
Slowly, but standing up to the enemy like the true sons of Great Britain
always have done, they were forced back. They stood for hours, without
sight of the enemy, men dropping on all sides under the fearful fire of
the great German guns miles away. While the French, farther south, gave
way more rapidly, these few English stood their ground.
Time after time they came to hand grips with the enemy, and at the point
of the bayonet drove them back with terrible losses. These bayonet
charges were things of wonder to Hal and Chester in spite of the fact
that they had been in the midst of similar actions before Liege.
As the French and Belgians advanced in a wild whirlwind of fury, the
English went about the business of a charge more deliberately, though
with the same savage determination. They charged swiftly, but more
coolly; gallantly, but more seriously, and the effect of their charges
was terrible. The Germans who came on in the face of the fierce rifle and
artillery fire, could not face the British bayonets, and time after time
were driven back in disorder.
And as the British charged, always the words of their battle-song,
fated for some unfathomed reason to become historic, rose above the
sounds of battle:
"It's a long way to Tipperary.
It's a long way to go;
It's a long way to Tipperary,
To the sweetest girl I know.
Farewell, Leicester square.
It's a long, long way to Tipperary,
But my heart's right there!"
Liege had fallen before the invading German hosts, though several of the
forts still held out; Louvain had been captured and its beautiful
buildings burned to the ground. Brussels had been invested by the
Teutons. In Alsace-Lorraine the French had been forced to relinquish the
spoils won in the first days of the war. General Pau, after a stubborn
resistance, had fallen back, and General Joffre, commander-in-chief of
the French army, also had been forced to retire.
So close to Paris were the Germans now that the seat of government, the
day before this story opens, had been removed to Bordeaux. Homes and
other buildings in the French capital were being razed, so that the great
French guns in the city could sweep the approach to the town
unobstructed. Paris, the most strongly fortified city in the world, was
being prepared to withstand a siege.
And still the Germans came on. Several of the enemy's war aviators flew
over Paris and dropped bombs in the streets. This occurred upon several
days, and then the French airmen put an end to these daring sky fighters.
After this, no more bombs were dropped on Paris.
But as the Allies fell back, it was always the few British troops that
time and again checked the Germans. The morale of the English was
In a final desperate charge, a small body of British cavalry had
succeeded in driving back the German vanguard, while the main body of
English retired still further. Then this little body of men returned,
their number much smaller than when they had charged.
For some time now there had been no sign of the enemy, and Hal and
Chester, with a small squad, had been sent toward the enemy's line to
reconnoiter. It was while on this reconnaissance that they had been
attacked by the Germans in force.
Slowly the two lads and the eight men, all that was left of the fifty who
had gone forth, continued their retreat. They had gone forth on horses;
they were returning afoot. Their mounts were in the hands of the enemy.
From the rear, in the darkness, still came the sounds of firing.
"Evidently they have not given up the pursuit," said Hal.
"No; and they are probably mounted. Let's turn off into this little
woods," replied Chester.
They did so, and followed by the remaining eight troopers continued on
As they came to the edge of the woods, Hal, who was slightly in advance,
stopped suddenly, and raised a warning hand. The little party halted.
"What's the matter?" asked Chester in a whisper.
"Germans!" replied Hal briefly.
Chester approached closer and peered over his friend's shoulder. Less
than three hundred yards ahead he could dimly make out moving forms.
"Perhaps they are not Germans," said Chester hopefully. "How did they
manage to get behind us?"
"I don't know," replied Hal. "But I am sure they are Germans. Some way, I
can feel it."
"Well, what are we going to do?"
"We shall have to try and go round them without letting them hear us.
Otherwise we are likely to be killed or captured."
Making a wide detour, the little party continued on their way. For an
hour they walked along unmolested, and then, suddenly, from almost
directly before them, came a cry, in German:
WITH THE ARMY AGAIN.
In the dimness of the little woods in which they stood, the boys, at
first, could not see the man who had accosted them.
At a word from Hal the little party came to a halt.
"Who goes there?" came the question from the darkness.
"Friends!" replied Hal in German, which he spoke like a native.
"Advance!" came the reply, and the shadow of a German soldier, with his
rifle raised, ready to fire, suddenly appeared before them.
It was too dark for the German soldier to make out their uniforms until
the English were upon him. Then he started back with a cry.
"English!" he exclaimed in surprise.
His amazement, slight though it was, proved his undoing. For as he
staggered back Hal sprang forward, and the butt of his upraised rifle
fell with stunning force upon the German's head. The soldier dropped to
the ground with a slight moan.
"We'll have to get away from here quick!" exclaimed Chester. "Come on,
men, follow us!"
Silently the little party, bearing off slightly to the right, went
forward. Suddenly Chester stopped and clutched Hal by the arm.
"Great Scott!" he whispered. "Look! We are right in the middle of them!"
It was true. Ahead of them, in a long line running in each direction, the
boys could see figures sprawled on the ground. It was a German force
sleeping. There was not the sign of a light, a tent, or a hut. Here and
there the boys could make out the dim form of a sentry flitting about.
"We have certainly got into a mess," whispered Hal.
"We have that," replied Chester. "Shall we make another detour?"
Hal thought for a few moments.
"I believe the best way is to try and go right through them without being
seen," he replied at length. "There is no telling how far this line
stretches out, and if we didn't get around them by daylight it would be
all off with us."
"But the sentries?" asked Chester.
"Well, we shall have to dispose of anyone who sees us without being
heard. That's all there is about it."
"All right, then," said Chester. "We might as well move at once."
The plan was outlined to the men and they went forward. A moment and they
were in the midst of the sleeping Germans. It was plain now that the line
of sleepers stretched out for some distance, but that it was not very
deep. Three minutes undiscovered and they would be through safely.
Silently they crept between the sleeping soldiers. There was a certain
amount of safety in the very boldness of the plan, for it was unlikely,
should a sentry see them moving about, he would take them for English;
and even if he did now, they would be able to make a dash with some hope
of success. The German soldiers, tired and completely exhausted, slept
heavily, and not one so much as moved in his sleep.
The little party was now at the last line of sleepers, and just as Hal,
believing they had accomplished their difficult task, drew a breath of
relief, a form suddenly appeared from the darkness before them. It was a
Before he could make an outcry Chester and Hal both leaped forward. The
former's hands grasped the German by the throat, stifling the sound of
his voice, and Hal quickly delivered two hard blows to the man's face.
The German fell limply into Chester's arms, and the boy laid him quietly
on the ground.
Then they moved forward again. The sounds of the scuffle had aroused no
one. But suddenly there was the sound of a fall behind. Turning his head
quickly, Hal perceived the cause of this commotion which caused such a
racket in the stillness of the night.
One of the English soldiers had tripped over the body of a sleeping
German and had fallen across him. He was up in a moment, but so was the
German, sleepily hurling imprecations at the disturber of his slumber.
Before the German soldier was able to arouse himself, the Englishman
dealt him a heavy blow over the head with his rifle butt. But the noise
had brought another to the scene. There was the sharp crack of a rifle,
and the English soldier who had caused all the trouble pitched to the
ground. To the right Hal and Chester saw another sentry, a smoking rifle
in his hands.
At the sound of the shot the whole German camp sprang to life as if by
magic; and at the same instant Hal shouted:
At full speed the little party, only nine now, dashed forward. The other
man lay dead in the German camp. There was a hoarse German cry of
command, and a hail of bullets followed the fugitives into the woods. No
man fell, though two groaned, and one dropped his rifle. The darkness
made accurate shooting by the Germans impossible.
Not pausing to return the fire of the enemy, the fugitives stumbled on
through the woods. Another and another volley came from the pursuing
Germans, but they were firing at random now, and the fact that Hal and
Chester had led the way well to the right augured well for their chance
But as the darkness made accurate shooting by the Germans impossible, so
it made speed by the fugitives impossible also. They stumbled along as
well as they could, now and then tripping over a fallen limb or tumbling
into a hole. Tired and almost exhausted, they at length emerged into the
open, and broke into a weary run.
"We have got to get under cover of some kind before they reach the edge
of the woods, or we are gone goslings," panted Hal.
Suddenly, in the darkness, they came upon another clump of trees, and as
they stumbled into their shelter another volley rang out. One man
groaned and stumbled. A comrade lent a supporting hand and dragged him
into the woods.
"We'll stop here a moment and pick off a few of 'em," said Hal grimly.
The Germans were now advancing across the open space. Lying upon the
ground, the nine opened fire. They aimed carefully and not a shot was
wasted, and so rapid was their fire that the Germans halted.
"They don't know how many of us there are," said Hal, "and they are
afraid to take a chance. One more volley, men, and then up and run for
A final volley was delivered with telling effect, and the English sprang
to their feet and darted through the woods. The Germans gave them a
parting shot, but there was no pursuit.
"That was pretty close," said Chester.
"It was, indeed," replied Hal, "and there is one more of our men gone.
"Was anyone wounded?" he asked, turning to the others.
"Shot in the shoulder, sir," replied a man named Brown.
"They got me in the arm," said another.
"Anyone else?" questioned Hal.
There was no reply, and Hal asked:
"Are you two men able to go on without assistance?"
"Yes," was the reply.
"Good! Then come on."
All night long the little party continued on their march, and it was not
until the first gray streak of dawn showed them, in the distance, the
first British line that the boys felt entirely safe.
Their report made, they were returning, later in the day, to their
quarters to seek a much needed rest, when a well known voice exclaimed:
"Well, boys, how are you?"
The lads turned quickly about; then each gave a cry of delight and
grabbed the man who had accosted them by the hand.
"Captain Derevaux!" they exclaimed in a single voice.
"No," replied the gallant Frenchman, with a smile. "Major Derevaux, if
THE GERMAN RETREAT BEGUN.
Hal and Chester stood for some minutes grasping their friend by the hand.
"Major, eh," ejaculated Hal. "I'm glad to hear that!"
"So am I," declared Chester. "I am sure no one deserved promotion more
"Thanks," laughed the major.
"Tell us," said Hal, "what are you doing here? I thought you were with
the Southern army."
"I am; but I carried dispatches to General French, and if I mistake not,
they are important ones. I believe that plans have been brought to a head
and that we shall take the offensive soon."
"Good!" cried Chester. "We have been retreating long enough."
"But," Hal protested, "we can hardly advance in the face of such odds; we
must have reinforcements."
"Well," said Major Derevaux, "strong reinforcements already are arriving,
and I believe that the advance will be general along our whole line."
"That will mean severe fighting," said Chester.
"Indeed it will," replied the major. "It will mean fighting such as the
world has never heard of before. It will mean death for thousands upon
thousands. But the Germans must be pushed back."
"And the Kaiser will find that he is not to have things all his own
way," said Hal.
"Exactly," returned the major. "But I must leave you now, boys. I must
return to my own regiment at once. Good luck to you!"
"Good luck!" exclaimed the boys as the major turned on his heel and
strode rapidly away.
The two lads returned to their own quarters and gave themselves up to
rest. So completely were they worn out that it was dark when they again
opened their eyes; and they probably would not have done so then had not
the clear notes of a bugle awakened them.
Rushing into the open, the lads saw that on all sides the troops were
ready to move--whether forward or backward they could not tell as yet. It
was evident, however, that something was afoot.
Hal and Chester made their way to the side of General French and joined
the members of his staff. The gallant British commander was sitting his
horse quietly, his staff grouped about him. Occasionally one went dashing
away with some order, as the general gave a laconic command.
The boys had hardly taken their places when General French said quietly:
"Order a general advance!"
A moment later and the small though mighty host of Britain was in motion,
and a loud cheer rang out on the still night air as the troops perceived
that they were going forward--that the retreat had ended.
Swiftly and silently the army advanced. Ahead could be heard the crack,
crack of rifle fire, indicating that the outposts were engaged with the
enemy. Also, from the distance, could be heard the booming of the great
German guns, and as the English advanced still further men began to fall
before the deadly German artillery fire.
But the British did not falter; they plodded on as steadily as before.
Then, after two hours of rapid marching, came the sudden command to halt.
A moment later and a squadron of British cavalry came into view,
retreating before a large force of Germans.
Just in front of the infantry the cavalry halted, and turned their faces
toward the enemy. The advance of the British so far had not been
discovered; but as the pursuing Germans came into view, the command to
fire rang out.
There was a deafening crash as the British infantry hurled their
messengers of death into the compact ranks of the foe; and under this
deadly fire the British cavalry dashed forward. Before the Germans could
recover from their surprise the English horsemen were upon them,
striking, cutting, slashing.
It was deadly and terrible work and the English did not go unscathed.
But struggling thus, hand to hand, the Germans were no match for the
English. Now there came from behind the Germans a large force of
infantry on the run, and before these reinforcements the British cavalry
was forced to retire.
All this was happening right before the eyes of Hal and Chester, in the
very center of the British line. On the right and left the engagement was
of the same fierce kind, and the deafening crashes of rifles and
artillery on either side gave conclusive evidence that the British were
engaged with the enemy all along their entire front.
Still the German cavalry pursued the British cavalry in the center. Then
General French turned suddenly to Hal:
"Tell General Mayo to advance in force!" he commanded.
The general turned to Chester:
"Ask General Samson to bring his artillery into instant action!"
The two lads dashed away on their respective missions; and almost
immediately the results of these two commands were apparent.
As the German infantry advanced in the wake of their cavalry, the British
came to sudden life. Flame burst out from all along the center and the
Germans recoiled. Volley after volley was poured into the wavering ranks
of the enemy, and they turned to flee.
A supporting column was rushed hurriedly to their assistance, and as they
advanced the British artillery opened fire. Great holes were cut in the
advancing German line, but their advance was unchecked. From their rear
reinforcements were coming continually.
The fire of the British artillery and infantry was deadly. Men fell by
the hundreds, were mowed down like chaff before the wind by the accuracy
of the British fire. In the English ranks men also were dropping on all
sides, but the gaps were filled up immediately and the British, singing
and cheering, continued their advance.
The roar of battle could be heard for miles around, but the men engaged
in the conflict were unconscious of it. They had but one sense left--that
of sight--and their rifles continued to deal out death.
At length the German advance was checked, and then they began to
There was a rousing cheer from the English, and the advance was more
rapid than before. The retreating Germans halted, turned to face the
English, made a last desperate stand, then fled in disorder.
But as the English broke into a run to pursue their advantage still
closer, they were met with a hail of bullets from a large force of the
enemy's infantry which at that moment advanced, in support of their
comrades, close enough to come into action.
The English reeled for a moment under this terrible fire, but they did
not waver. Support was hurried to them. It was time for prompt action.
General French took in the situation at a glance and gave a quick
command. A moment later the voices of the different officers rang out
along the British line:
"With the bayonet! Charge!"
For the smallest fraction of a second there was an awesome silence, and
then the British swept forward with a rush. Neither the bullets from the
thousands of rifles nor the steady fire from the great guns of the German
field batteries checked them.
The infantry covered the open space at a quick trot, and in almost less
time than it takes to tell, it was at hand grips with the enemy, who
stood braced to receive the shock of the charge.
The impact was terrific. The Germans stood gallantly to their work,
encouraged by the shouts of their officers, but they were no match for
the British troops in hand-to-hand fighting.
As the British closed upon them, the Germans poured in one fierce volley;
but they had no time for more. Down went Teutons and English in
struggling heaps, but the British poured over them and continued their
All along the line the Germans gave ground slowly, their enemies pursuing
them relentlessly and cutting them down as they retreated. The engagement
became a slaughter.
Now Hal and Chester found themselves in the midst of the battle, in the
fiercest of the fighting. Sent forward with orders, they found themselves
in the center of the sudden charge. Neither was minded to turn back, but
they managed to single each other out and soon were fighting side by
side. Blood streamed from a wound in Hal's cheek, where a German bayonet
had pricked him slightly. Chester was unwounded.
Suddenly Hal found himself engaged with a German officer. With a swift
move he swept aside his opponent's blade and felled him to the earth. At
the same moment a tall German soldier, thinking to deprive the lad of his
weapon, brought his rifle down upon Hal's sword.
But the boy's grip was firm and the sword snapped off near the hilt.
Quickly Hal sprang forward, and before the German soldier could recover
himself, the lad cut him down with his broken sword. Then, stooping, he
picked up the sword which had fallen from the hands of the German
officer, and sprang to the aid of Chester, who was fiercely engaged with
two of the enemy, one an officer, the other a trooper.
One swift stroke of the boy's sword and the soldier was laid low. At the
same instant Chester's sword slipped through his opponent's guard and the
latter went to the ground, a deep wound in his side.
"Good work!" Chester found time to pant to Hal, and a second later both
lads were once more too busy for speech.
Now Chester found himself engaged with a foeman worthy of his steel. The
latter, a German lieutenant, was pressing the lad severely. At sword play
the lad was clearly no match for him. Nevertheless Chester was giving a
good account of himself.
Suddenly his sword was sent spinning from his hand, and as the weapon
came down the point struck a German soldier squarely in the face.
Chester's opponent sprang forward, his blade raised for a death thrust.
But even as he thrust Chester dodged and the sword passed harmlessly
over his head.
From his stooping position Chester seized the German officer by the knees
before he could recover his balance and aim another thrust at him, and,
with a quick heave, sent the officer spinning over his head. The German
hit the ground with a thud, and as he was about to pick himself up an
English trooper ended his fighting days with a thrust of his bayonet.
Chester seized the officer's sword and sprang forward into the thick of
the conflict again. Side by side, Hal and Chester advanced with the
victorious British troops, striking, cutting and slashing their way
through the dense bodies of the enemy.
Suddenly Chester fell to the ground beneath the feet of the struggling
men. A descending rifle butt had struck him a glancing blow on the head.
Hal, engaged at that moment with another German officer, saw his friend's
plight, and jumped back.
With his sword he swept aside a German bayonet which at that instant
would have been buried in Chester's prostrate form, but as he did so a
heavy blow fell upon the lad's head and he was sent to his knees. Above
him, with poised bayonet, stood a German soldier.
Death stared him in the face and the boy realized it. It was impossible
for him to regain his feet in time to ward off the thrust. Quickly he
threw himself to one side, and as he did so the German toppled on top of
Hal scrambled to his feet and saw that the man who had thus saved his
life was none other than Lieutenant Harry Anderson.
"Just in time," said Hal briefly, and turned to where Chester was now
struggling to his feet; and as the battle raged fiercely about them,
unmindful of his own danger, he gave his entire attention to his friend.
Chester, shaking his head several times, announced that he was not
seriously hurt, and with Lieutenant Anderson by their side they again
plunged into the conflict.
But now the German retreat became more rapid. The enemy was unable to
stand under the fierce charge of the British and they were giving way on
all sides. The British pursued the foe rapidly and hundreds upon hundreds
of the enemy were cut down in their flight.
Unable to keep back the English and retreat orderly, the Germans broke
and fled. The retreat had become a rout. For some distance the British
pursued them, and then a halt was called.
The losses of the British troops had been extremely heavy, but not so
great as that of the enemy, who had suffered tremendously.
Now a thunderous roar broke out. The British artillery, unable to be used
while the hand to hand fighting was in progress, was in action again,
shelling the fleeing Germans.
The dead strewed the battlefield, and as Hal, Chester and Lieutenant
Anderson made their way toward the rear, they were forced to climb over
the dead and wounded, many with shattered limbs and maimed for life. But
the Red Cross was at work, and the wounded were being cared for with the
greatest possible haste and gentleness.
"That was some fight, if you ask me," said Hal to Chester, as they
continued their way to the part of the field where they could see General
French and his staff, Lieutenant Anderson having left them to rejoin his
own men, from whom he had become separated.
"It was all of that," replied Chester, "and I can't imagine how we
escaped with our lives."
"Nor I. It doesn't seem possible that anyone in the midst of such
terrible carnage could live, to say nothing of being only slightly
wounded. By the way, are you hurt much, Hal?"
"No; just a scratch on the face and a bump on the head. And you?"
"I was luckier than that, although a German did crack me with his
"Look at the dead and wounded lying about," said Hal. "It is a terrible
thing--this modern warfare."
"It is, indeed," returned Chester, and the two continued on their way
General French noticed their approach. The British commander was standing
as he had stood through the last part of the battle, exposed to the fire
of the enemy, calmly smoking a cigarette!
THE BRIDGE IS HELD.
At a sign from General French Hal and Chester approached and saluted.
"Where have you been, sirs?" demanded the British commander.
Hal stepped forward and explained their absence.
"And you were in the midst of the charge?" questioned General French,
when the lad concluded.
"And are not even badly wounded?"
"Wonderful!" exclaimed the general. Then, after a few moments'
silence: "You seem to bear charmed lives. I believe you are the two
for my mission."
"Yes, sir!" exclaimed Hal eagerly.
"Both of you report to me in an hour," ordered General French.
The two lads saluted again and moved away.
"Wonder what he wants?" said Chester.
"Too deep for me," was Hal's reply.
"He said something about a mission. I guess that means more
excitement for us."
"I guess you are right. However, I am sure we can go through with it, no
matter what it may be."
"We can try, anyhow. That's the best anyone can do."
At the appointed time the two boys made their way to General French's
"I have an important piece of work that must be done, and which will be
attended with grave danger; are you willing to undertake it?" asked the
British commander, coming to the point without preliminaries.
"We shall do our best, sir," replied Hal.
"Good! The enemy has retreated beyond Meaux. To-morrow I shall try and
drive him farther. It is absolutely necessary that our movements be not
anticipated. As you see we have lost many officers. I want you to lead
one hundred men to a position just this side of the bridge. The enemy
must not be allowed to cross. One hundred men can hold the bridge as well
as ten thousand. The men to go with you have been selected. They have
volunteered for this duty. Captain Lee will show you where to find them.
Hold the bridge! That is all!"
The two lads saluted and took their departure. They found Captain Lee,
and with him were soon at the head of the little band of men who had
volunteered to hold the bridge at Meaux against the whole German army, if
It was still dark, and it was a quiet little band that advanced through
the British lines to take up their positions at the extreme front. A long
range artillery duel was still in progress in spite of the darkness, but
little damage was being done by either side.
Having retreated beyond Meaux, the Germans had unlimbered their artillery
again and the British were replying. The little band of English, with Hal
and Chester in lead, advanced to the edge of the bridge described by
General French, and there took up their positions.
The bridge was very narrow, hardly wide enough for five men to walk
abreast. On the British end the approach curved, making it impossible for
one coming from the other direction to see what was at the other end. It
was indeed a strategic point for defense. The river was high and thus
precluded any attempt to ford it.
All night long the little band of men lay at the bridge, ready for battle
on a moment's notice. All night long the shells of both the Germans and
British flew screaming overhead; but none dropped near them.
With the first faint glow of the approaching day the little band of
British were awake. At Hal's suggestion they cut down trees, and
dragged them to the end of the bridge, forming a barricade. Behind this
they lay down.
It was almost noon before the man stationed to watch the approach to the
bridge dropped quickly over the barricade and reported:
"They are coming!"
"All right," replied Hal. "We're ready for 'em!"
Under Hal's direction, a single line of rifles, twenty-five in all,
appeared through the cracks of the barricade. The others had been divided
into three bodies--each containing twenty-five men--each body directly
behind the others. These were instructed to fill up the gaps made by the
German fire. Thus, as each man in the front rank fell, his place would
immediately be filled by another, the second by the third, the third by
the fourth, so providing twenty-five men fell the front line would be
still intact, although the fourth line would have disappeared.
Hal and Chester took their places just in the rear of the first line,
where they could see what was going on and direct the fighting.
"Do not fire until they come into sight around the turn," Capt. Lee
instructed his men. "Then mow them down, and make every shot count!"
Joking and humming to themselves, the men prepared for action. The first
line poked their rifles through the barricade and lay down behind them.
All was in readiness to repulse the attack.
Suddenly the first Germans appeared around the turn in the bridge,
marching five abreast.
"Fire!" cried the captain, and the British rifles broke into flame.
Five Germans tumbled to the bridge.
A sudden idea struck Hal.
"There's no use wasting five bullets on each German," he told his men.
"Let the five men on the left each pick out a man. The rest reserve your
fire unless one of our men go down, then the one nearest him take his
man, and so on!"
The second five Germans were too close behind their comrades, who had
just fallen, to arrest their steps in time to avoid the British fire.
Five shots rang out as they came into view, and again five Germans
fell. So far not a shot had been fired by the Germans. But now five
more came around the turn with a rush, followed by five more, and still
The first five dropped in a heap, but from the second five came a
burst of flame and the crack of rifles. Two men behind the barricade
dropped, one of whom was Capt. Lee. But the Germans paid dearly for
their rash attack.
In less time than it takes to tell it, ten more Germans had bitten the
dust. Then they drew off.
"Good work, men!" cried Chester. "We can hold them off indefinitely," he
added to Hal.
"Looks like it," was Hal's reply. "But if they make a concerted rush we
shall have our hands full. How is Capt. Lee?"
"Very bad," answered one of the men. "I am afraid he's done for."
And now the Germans came on again. The first five met the same fate that
had overtaken their comrades, but behind them came more, and still more.
As each German rounded the turn in the bridge his rifle cracked, and
continued to crack until he fell. Men inside the barricade also were
beginning to fall fast now, and the reserve lines were being drawn upon
more rapidly each minute.
Hal and Chester, crouching down, directed the defense. In spite of
the fearful havoc wrought by the British fire, the Germans came on.
The bridge was piled high with dead and wounded, but the enemy did
Their officers urged them on without regard for life, and bravely went to
death with them. Rifles cracked in a steady roar and men on both sides
fell rapidly. But each Englishman, sheltered as he was behind the
barricade, accounted for at least several of the enemy before he himself
went to his death.
Now the defenders had dwindled to fifty, and still there was no cessation
of the German assault. The heaped up bodies of dead now formed a
barricade for the Germans, and they advanced and fell behind them, using
their dead companions as shields. Ten or fifteen rows deep they stood
behind their dead, and poured volley after volley into the defenders.
The British reserved their fire as much as possible, but whenever a
German head showed above the barricade of bodies a rifle cracked and
almost every time a German fell.
All afternoon the fighting continued, the Germans, because of the fierce
fire of the remaining English and hampered by their own dead, being
unable to rush the defenders.
There were less than twenty-five of the British unwounded. Hal and
Chester had both been struck, Hal on the arm and Chester on the shoulder.
But neither was badly hurt.
"Hadn't we better retreat, sir?" asked one soldier of Hal, when there was
a let up in the firing.
"What chance would we have?" demanded Hal. "The minute we broke and ran
we would be shot down like dogs."
"Then we might surrender."
"Surrender! Never! We were ordered to hold the bridge and we will hold it
as long as we can."
The man subsided, and Hal turned his face toward the foe again. There was
a sudden silence. The Germans drew off.
"Wonder what that means?" demanded Hal of Chester. "They certainly are
not going to give up. I wonder what they are up to now?"
"I can't imagine," replied Chester. "But they have something up
"Well, well soon see," said Hal.
But he was mistaken; for just as the first German again appeared around
the turn, to be struck down by a British bullet, there was a sudden
deafening roar from the rear, and turning suddenly Hal and Chester and
the few brave soldiers who were left raised a feeble cheer.
Coming forward at a rapid trot were several squadrons of British
cavalry, and far behind could be seen columns upon columns of infantry,
"Hurrah!" shouted Hal. "Saved! Hurrah!"
"Hurrah!" repeated Chester, and completely worn out, he tumbled over
in a heap.
HAL MAKES AN ENEMY.
Hal bent over his friend and shook him gently.
"Chester! Chester!" he exclaimed anxiously. "Are you wounded?"
There was no reply from the unconscious boy, and Hal became greatly
alarmed. He turned to the few troopers who remained.
"Here, lend a hand some of you," he commanded. "One of you fetch
Two of the men bent over the unconscious lad and one raised his head
gently to his knee. A third dashed for the river, and a moment later
returned with his cap filled with water.
Hal sprinkled a few drops of water on his friend's face, and soon noticed
signs of returning consciousness. Finally Chester opened his eyes and
"Are you much hurt, old fellow?" asked Hal anxiously.
"No," came the feeble response. "I don't think so. A bullet just grazed
my side. I don't know how I came to topple over like that."
Quickly Hal unloosened his friend's coat, tore open his shirt and
examined his wound.
"It's only a scratch," he said, straightening up at last. "Here," pulling
out his handkerchief, "I'll fix it up until we can have a surgeon look at
it. You will be able to walk in a few minutes."
"I'm able right now," said Chester, struggling to his feet.
Leaning heavily on Hal's arm, Chester turned his eyes toward the river
bank, which now was lined with British troops, who were firing steadily
at forms disappearing on the opposite side of the stream. The approach of
the English in force had caused the Germans to beat a rapid retreat. From
the opposite shore, however, still came puffs of smoke, and bullets
continued to fall among the English troops, and here and there men fell
to the ground.
"They arrived just in time, didn't they, Hal?" said Chester.
"You bet they did," was the reply. "But come, we will try to make our way
back to our station."
With Chester still leaning on his shoulder, Hal led the way, going very
slowly because of his burden. Making his friend comfortable under an army
wagon, Hal went at once to Gen. French to make his report.
"You have done well," was the general's only comment when Hal had
concluded his recital.
Hal saluted and left.
"Guess I'll go back and keep Chester company," he said to himself.
He was walking slowly along with bowed head, musing, when he came
suddenly into contact with another figure. The man with whom he had
collided mumbled an imprecation and violently pushed the lad away, at the
same time exclaiming:
"What do you mean by bumping into me like that? Can't you see where you
are going? I have a notion to teach you better manners."
Hal's face flushed, and he turned a steady gaze on the other, who proved
to be a French lieutenant.
"I wouldn't try it if I were you," the lad advised him.
"What!" exclaimed the Frenchman. "You dare to talk to me like that?"
"Of course I dare," was the lad's heated response.
The Frenchman took a quick step forward and slapped Hal smartly
across the face.
Hal promptly sent his right fist crashing into the other's face and
knocked him down.
The Frenchman rose slowly to his feet, and with blood streaming from his
nose, approached Hal.
"I am Lieutenant Dupree," he said. "My friend shall call on you
"I am Hal Paine, attached to the staff of General French," Hal said
calmly, "and your friend may call any time he so desires."
The Frenchman bowed stiffly, and continued on his way. Hal returned
"Back so soon?" said Chester.
"Yes," was Hal's reply; "and back with more trouble."
"What's the matter?" demanded Chester in some consternation.
"Well, I am afraid I have a duel on my hands."
"Yes; on my way here I accidentally bumped into some fiery French
lieutenant. He slapped me across the face and I knocked him down. He then
informed me his friend would call on me this evening. That sounds like a
duel to me."
"Yes," said Chester, "unless it can be patched up."
"I am afraid it can't. You know these Frenchmen. As far as I am
concerned, there is nothing to fight about, but I am afraid the Frenchman
feels he has a grievance. He'll probably demand a fight or an apology."
"I have nothing to apologize for; therefore I am afraid it means a duel."
"Not if I can prevent it," exclaimed Chester, jumping to his feet.
"But you can't," replied Hal grimly. "And you had better lie down again.
You are liable to strain your wound."
"Oh, I am not worrying about the wound," exclaimed Chester. "The doctor
said there was no danger. It's you I am worrying about. Why, you are
likely to be killed."
"Oh, I guess I can give a good account of myself," returned Hal. "I've
been pretty fortunate thus far. I don't figure I am going to fall before
any Frenchman's sword or pistol. I'll probably be saved for a German
bullet some of these days."
Chester became silent. He knew that an argument was useless. Besides, he
knew that in Hal's position his own actions would be the same.
It was shortly after 6 o'clock that evening when two French officers made
their way to the quarters to which the boys had been assigned.
"Choose swords," said Hal laconically, as Chester rose to greet
"Mr. Paine," queried one of the Frenchmen politely.
"No," replied Chester; "but I shall act for him."
"Good," returned the Frenchman. "I am Lieutenant Mercer, and this,"
indicating his companion, "is Lieutenant Lamont."
"I am Chester Crawford," said the lad briefly.
"Then, to get down to business," said Lieutenant Mercer. "Mr. Paine has
insulted my friend, Lieutenant Dupree. My friend demands an apology."
"There'll be no apology," said Chester shortly.
"Ah! In that case my friend, Lieutenant Dupree, demands satisfaction from
"It seems to me he has had satisfaction," said Chester.
"Ah!" replied the Frenchman cheerfully. "You no doubt refer to the blow
passed by Mr. Paine? It is for that my friend demands satisfaction."
"He had that coming to him," declared Chester.
"So you may believe. Lieutenant Dupree thinks otherwise. Now, as to the
"Look here," said Chester, interrupting. "With the whole German army
lined up in front of us, it seems to me that our friend should be able to
find all the fighting he wants. This fighting among ourselves is all
"But my friend's honor--" began the Frenchman.
"Bosh!" declared Chester. "It wasn't your friend's honor that was hurt.
It was his face."
"Then am I to understand that your friend refuses to fight?"
"No!" shouted Chester. "He doesn't refuse to fight. He just doesn't see
the necessity of fighting. That's all. But if you insist, he will give
your friend all the satisfaction he wants."
"I must insist," replied Lieutenant Mercer.
"All right, then," said Chester. "I am not familiar with dueling
etiquette, but as the challenged party I believe the choice of weapons
lies with us."
The Frenchman bowed in assent.
"Then let it be swords!"
"Good! And the time and place?"
"I'll leave that to you."
"In the morning at half-past five--provided we are all alive--in the
little woods half a mile in the rear. Are these convenient for you?"
"Perfectly. We shall be there on time. Will you please bring weapons?"
"I shall be delighted," replied the Frenchman. "Until the morning, then,"
and the two French officers bowed themselves out.
"Well, you are into it now," said Chester to Hal, after their visitors
had gone. "Looks to me as though you had a fair chance of seeing the
Happy Hunting Grounds before six o'clock to-morrow."
Before Hal could reply another visitor poked his head through the door
of the tent.
"Am I intruding?" he asked.
"Lieutenant Anderson!" exclaimed Chester. "Just the man I wanted to see."
"What's the matter now?" demanded the lieutenant.
"Matter is that Hal's mixed up in a duel, to be pulled off in the
"What!" exclaimed Lieutenant Anderson in surprise.
"Fact," said Hal. "I bumped into some little whipper-snapper of a French
lieutenant a couple of hours ago. He slapped me and I knocked him down.
Now he demands satisfaction, and I am going to give it to him in the
morning, at half-past five."
The lieutenant sat down heavily.
"Well, you are the limit," he said. "You are always in a scrape of some
kind. I suppose it's up to me to prevent the duel."
"No chance," said Hal briefly.
"No," agreed Chester, "and it's up to you to make the third party on our
side. I suppose the other crowd will bring a surgeon."
"Do you know what will happen if you are found out?" demanded the
"No," said Hal.
"Well, it probably will mean strict confinement, at least. The
regulations in regard to dueling are very stringent."
"I can't help that," said Hal. "I can't back out now."
"Well, if that's the way you feel about it," replied the lieutenant,
"I'll help you as best I can. I'll stay here to-night and go along to see
that you get fair play."
It was hardly light when Chester, who had been unable to close his eyes,
aroused Lieutenant Anderson. The two finished dressing before rousing
Hal, thinking to give him all the rest possible before waking him up.
Finally Chester shook him by the shoulder.
"What's the matter," muttered Hal drowsily. "Time to get up already? I
just went to sleep. What's up? Oh, yes, I remember now. I'm to fight a
duel this morning. All right, I'll be ready in a jiffy."
"How did you sleep?" demanded Chester, as Hal was dressing.
"Fine. Never slept better in my life."
Lieutenant Anderson approached and laid his finger on Hal's pulse.
"You'll do," he said quietly.
"I haven't any nerves, if that is what you mean," said Hal with a smile.
Lieutenant Anderson smiled back at him.
"I believe it," he replied. "But come, we had better be on our way."
Quietly the three left the tent. There was a penetrating chill in the
early morning air. It was light now, but the sun had not yet appeared
above the horizon. Dense clouds obscured the sky.
"Not a very cheerful morning to die," commented Hal lightly, as they made
their way quietly along.
"You are not afraid, are you?" asked Chester anxiously.
"What, after yesterday? Not a little bit."
"I don't believe you know what fear is," declared Lieutenant Anderson.
Lieutenant Dupree, his two friends and a surgeon were already on the
ground when Hal, Chester and Lieutenant Anderson arrived. All raised
their caps as they came together. The seconds drew apart to discuss the
details of the duel, Hal and Lieutenant Dupree in the meantime discarding
their coats and rolling up their sleeves.
The details completed, Hal and the French lieutenant were at last
face to face.
"On guard!" came the command, given by Lieutenant Anderson.
The swords flashed aloft.
A moment later and they were at it. For a few moments both combatants
were wary, each feeling the other out. A few passes and Hal realized that
he was no match for the more experienced Frenchman.
"I must be very careful," he told himself. "Perhaps I can wear him down a
bit, and slip over a light thrust. I certainly don't want to kill him.
And I don't want to be killed myself."
The French lieutenant was pressing him sorely now. His sword darted in
and out with dazzling rapidity, and Hal thanked his stars that he had
been fortunate enough to have had some schooling in the use of the foil.
Hal contented himself with remaining on the defensive, and not an attempt
did he make to touch the Frenchman, although the latter left several
openings, only, Hal knew, to draw him on. The lieutenant at last began to
grow impatient, and with impatience came carelessness.
He had realized, as had Hal, with the first few passes, that the lad was
not an accomplished swordsman. And the fact now that he could not
penetrate the other's guard angered him.
Suddenly he aimed a fierce thrust at Hal, and the latter only escaped
being impaled on the other's sword by a quick leap aside. Before the
Frenchman could recover his balance, Hal stepped nimbly forward
again, his sword darted out, and the lieutenant dropped his weapon
with a muttered imprecation. Hal's point had pierced his arm just
below the shoulder.
The Frenchman's seconds immediately leaped forward, and Hal stepped over
to Chester and Lieutenant Anderson.
"I guess that ends it," he said. "I suppose his honor is appeased now."
"Don't be too sure," replied Lieutenant Anderson. "He is likely to be
more furious than ever, and demand that the fight continue until one
of you fall. He must realize that you are no match for him, and he
counts on that to give him victory. However, I must say that you have
handled yourself well, and, if you keep your head, you may succeed in
The lieutenant's predictions proved correct. Lieutenant Dupree had had
his wound bandaged, and now demanded that the fight be resumed. Hal was
not the lad to protest, so the two were soon at swords' points again.
But now both Hal and Lieutenant Dupree fought more warily. Hal could read
in his opponent's eyes that he had made up his mind to kill him. Touched
once because of his carelessness, Hal knew that the Frenchman would be
In stepping back before a fierce thrust of his opponent's sword, Hal's
foot slipped. He threw up his arm, and for a moment was off his guard.
Before he could recover his balance, the Frenchman's sword flashed up
under his guard and pierced him through the left shoulder.
The lad staggered back, and the Frenchman, unheeding the accident and the
calls of Lieutenant Anderson and Chester, pressed his advantage. With a
grim smile he started a thrust that would have ended Hal's days; but,
with a sudden lurch, Hal staggered forward, threw up his sword, and, with
a terrific stroke, swept the sword from the Frenchman's hand. Lieutenant
Dupree was at his mercy.
The Frenchman stepped back and folded his arms, as Hal took a step
"Kill me," he said quietly.
"Run him through!" shouted Lieutenant Anderson. "He tried to kill you
Slowly Hal lowered his sword.
"No," he said, "I can't do it. Neither will I continue the fight." He
turned to his late opponent. "I hope your honor is satisfied," he said.
The Frenchman turned, and, with bowed head, replaced his coat; then with
his two friends he walked away.
The surgeon hurried to Hal's side and peered at his wound.
"Not serious," he said, after an examination. "I'll have it fixed all
right in a moment."
The wound dressed, the surgeon offered Hal his hand.
"You are a gallant youngster," he said, "and I am proud to know you. Many
a man in your place would have killed his opponent. Your coolness is a
thing to be admired."
Hal shook hands with the surgeon, and the latter then took himself off.
Lieutenant Anderson approached Hal and grasped him by both arms.
"You are all right," he said, emphasizing each word. "I was afraid it was
all up with you."
"And so was I," said Chester. "But, if you had fallen unfairly, I would
have killed him myself."
The three made their way back to the boys' quarters, where they sat down
and talked the duel over.
"The best thing you can do now," said Lieutenant Anderson to Hal finally,
"is to get a little rest. Both of you are wounded, and will not have to
report for duty. I shall tell General French that you will be all right
in a day or two."
"Tell him we shall be all right in an hour or two, that will be much
better," said Hal.
"Great Scott!" exclaimed the lieutenant. "Can't you even keep still
for a day?"
"Well," said Hal, "there is likely to be some real fighting to-day, and
we don't want to miss anything, do we Chester?"
"I should say not," was Chester's reply.
TO THE RESCUE.
"It looks rather awesome, doesn't it?" said Chester.
"It certainly does," was Hal's reply.
The object of the boys' conversation was a long armored train, which
stood on a siding. It was late in the afternoon, and the two lads, after
having taken a long rest, and being relieved from active duty by the
express command of General French, had strolled up to the temporary
siding, where the huge engine now stood puffing and snorting.
It was the first time either of the two boys had ever seen this
rapidly moving vehicle of warfare. The open flat cars were protected
by thick sheets of steel, behind which were mounted many small guns
and rapid firers.
These armored trains already had given good accounts of themselves in
other parts of the long line of battle, particularly in Belgium, in
the earlier days of the struggle, and were things of terror to the
The train beside which the two lads now stood was ready for instant
action. The gunners were at their posts, ready to go forward at a
moment's notice. The engineer and firemen stood beside the huge engine.
In the distance the sound of firing could be heard, and occasionally a
shell burst close to where the boys were standing. But they had been
through their baptism of fire, and paid little heed to these
messengers of death.
"They say that these trains have proven immense factors in sudden raids
on the enemy," said Chester.
"Yes," agreed Hal, "and it is easy to see that among light armed troops
they could do great execution. It would even take very heavy artillery
fire to make an impression on those steel sides. Besides--"
He broke off with a sudden exclamation.
"Look out," he cried, and leaped back, pulling Chester forcibly along.
A second later and there was a terrific explosion. A German shell had
burst within a few feet of where the two lads had been standing.
A crowd of troopers, who had been idling about a few yards from the
train, disappeared with the deafening report, and when the smoke had
cleared away they were nowhere to be seen. They had been blown to atoms.
The boys rushed forward, but, even as they did so, they halted at the
sound of a sudden cry, and, turning their faces up the track, they beheld
a mounted officer galloping swiftly toward them. An officer dropped off
one of the cars of the train, which, fortunately, had not been touched by
the explosion, and hurried to meet the newcomer.
"Who is in charge of this train?" demanded the horseman, throwing himself
from his mount without waiting for the animal to come to a stop.
"I am," was the officer's brief response.
"You are ordered to proceed forward at once under full speed," was the
command. "The Tenth Royal Dragoons are hemmed in by at least 10,000
Germans two miles ahead, and unless you arrive in time they will all be
The officer in command of the train looked hurriedly about.
"Hicks!" he called loudly. "Hicks!"
There was no reply, and the officer shouted again. Then Hal
"If Hicks was your engineer," he said, "there is no use calling him.
He is dead."
"Dead?" exclaimed the officer.
"Yes; that shell struck right beside him. The fireman also was killed."
"Great Scott!" exclaimed the officer. "Then what am I to do? Hicks was
the only engineer with us right now. The others have gone to their
quarters, and by the time I could get them here it would be too late."
"Well," said Hal quietly, "if you want a volunteer, I am willing to
tackle it for you."
"Yes; I have made some slight study of a locomotive, and, while I have
never run one any great distance, I have ridden many miles in the cab of
an engine in lumber camps in the United States."
"And I can fire the engine," Chester broke in.
"Well," said the officer, "something has to be done at once; and, if you
are willing to take a chance, so am I. Get aboard."
He turned and rushed hurriedly back to his car, while Hal and Chester
leaped aboard the locomotive. In response to a signal, Hal released the
brakes, gently opened the throttle, and the great engine began to forge
Gradually the lad opened the throttle wider, and the huge locomotive
commenced to gain momentum, until at last it was rushing along like some
mad thing. Chester, in the meantime, was busy with a shovel.
A moment, it seemed to the two lads, and the sound of firing rose above
the roar of the locomotive, and the spat spat of bullets against the
armored sides could be heard. But Hal did not falter. Rather, the engine
seemed to leap ahead with even greater speed.
From the rear came the signal to slow down, and, under Hal's firm hand,
the terrific speed of the train was checked. Then also from the rear
there came the sound of firing. The rapid-firers on the train had been
unloosed, and their leaden messengers were spelling death in the ranks of
the Germans, of whom the train was now in the middle.
Chester poked his head out the window of the cab, only to withdraw it
quickly, as a bullet struck a quarter of an inch from his ear. But in
that one brief glance he had taken in the situation.
A short distance ahead he could make out a small knot of British, almost
surrounded by Germans. The British had taken their stand directly on the
railroad track, the most strategic point for miles. A clump of small
trees screened them from the enemy on one side, but from the other three
directions the Germans were pouring in their deadly fire.
The British troops stood gallantly to their work, and returned volley
for volley. They fought on doggedly. Suddenly the armored train shot up
the line which the British were holding, and Hal brought it to an
Right and left the train poured in broadsides of machine-gun fire,
mowing down the Germans at every yard. The Germans fell in heaps, and,
as if by a miracle, both sides of the track were suddenly lined with
high piles of the dead.
The little troop of British received this unexpected aid with a great
cheer, broke from cover and dashed in pursuit of the great mass of
Germans, who now were fleeing on all sides.
But the success of the British was destined to be short-lived. Hal and
Chester, in the cab of the locomotive, had just raised a loud cheer when
there was a terrific explosion, followed by a thundering crash, and both
lads were hurled violently to the floor of the cab.
Chester, with blood flowing from a gash in his forehead, was the first
to pick himself up. In falling his head had come in contact with a
sharp projection of some kind. He was terribly dizzy, but his head was
He stooped over Hal, and at that moment the latter raised himself on his
elbow and then got to his feet unsteadily.
"Great Scott! What was that?" he gasped.
Chester did not reply. Instead he swung out from the cab and glanced
back over the train--or rather where the train had been. And what a
sight met his gaze!
The train of armored cars was gone. Alongside the track lay pieces of
wreckage, and many bodies and pieces of what had once been machine guns.
Hal peered over Chester's shoulder.
"Another shell," he said slowly. "But how does it happen we were not
"I don't know," said Chester, "but I judge the shell must have struck in
the middle of the train. Look, there is nothing left but the engine."
It was true. In some unaccountable manner the engine had escaped scot
free. At that moment Hal, who had glanced out from the other side of the
cab, made a startling discovery.
"Wow!" he shouted. "Here come the Germans again--thousands of 'em. We are
goners, now, sure."
But, before Chester could reply, Hal jumped forward. With one hand he
released the brakes and threw the throttle wide--and the huge locomotive
leaped suddenly forward.
"It's our only chance," Hal shouted to Chester. "The track behind is
covered with wreckage, and it is impossible to go that way."
That the Germans understood their ruse was soon apparent. There was a
shout from the oncoming horde, and the sharp crack of rifles and bullets
began to spatter against the side of the engine.
"Well, we'll give 'em a chase, anyhow," said Hal grimly.
He opened the throttle even wider.
A WILD RIDE.
The engine rocked crazily as it dashed along, and the boys hung on to
whatever offered for dear life. Around curve after curve they shot with a
lurch, the locomotive threatening at every turn to leave the rails.
"Where is the end of this road?" asked Chester of Hal, raising his voice
to a shout to make himself heard above the roar of the speeding
"I don't know," Hal shouted back.
"Then you had better slow down. The tracks in front may be torn up and we
would certainly be killed."
"You are right," shouted Hal.
Quickly he closed the throttle and applied the brakes. The huge mogul
trembled violently and shook all over, but its speed was soon slackened.
Looking behind, the two lads saw that they had left their pursuers far in
the rear, and both breathed more freely.
"How far are we going on this thing, anyhow?" Chester demanded. "Don't
you think we had better get off and walk back?"
"What! and leave the engine in the hands of the enemy? Not much. Besides,
I am certain the British must control this road at the other end or it
would have been destroyed by this time. We'll just keep on going and see
"Well, something will happen, all right," said Chester. "I can feel it in
my bones. However, you are the doctor. Forward it is, then."
The locomotive was going more slowly now, Hal always keeping a keen eye
ahead. For perhaps five minutes they rode along without incident; then
suddenly Hal, without even a word to Chester, "opened her up" again.
Once more the huge locomotive jumped forward.
"What's the matter now?" cried Chester, springing to Hal's side.
"Matter!" shouted Hal. "Look ahead."
Chester peered out, and drew his head back with an exclamation.
"More Germans, eh!" he muttered, and then shouted. "You do the driving
and I'll keep her hot."
"Good!" Hal called back, never taking his eyes from the road ahead.
Apparently the Germans were unconscious of the approach of the
locomotive, for they did not even glance in its direction. Troopers stood
beside either side of the track, and several groups were standing between
Closer and closer the engine approached, and still they did not move. A
moment later and the great steel monster was upon them. There was a
sudden shout, but it was too late--for some, at any rate.
The great locomotive caught them as they attempted to jump from the
track, and hurled them in all directions. Hal and Chester ducked low
inside the cab, and it was well that they did so; for, as the engine shot
past, hundreds of bullets sped through the cab, and hundreds more
flattened themselves against the steel-protected sides. It was close
work, and no mistake.
"Whew!" breathed Chester, after they had safely run the gauntlet of the
German fire and Hal had once more reduced the speed of the locomotive.
"That was close."
"Too close for comfort," Hal agreed.
"I wonder how many we killed back there," said Chester.
"I don't know, but I am sure it was enough. It seemed to be their
lives or ours."
"It's only a few more gone to the Happy Hunting Ground in a mistaken
cause," said Chester slowly. "But, as you say, it was either they or us.
There was nothing else we could do."
"No," said Hal, "there wasn't; but, just the same, it gave me a cold
chill as they went flying through the air. It was terrible."
Both lads were silent for a time, as the locomotive continued on its way.
It was getting dusk now, and Hal was forced to reduce the speed of the
engine even more. They went slowly along, both lads keeping a wary eye
ahead for Germans.
Darkness came on, and still they rode along. Their speed was little
better than a walk, and it was well that Hal had decided to discontinue
his reckless driving.
From ahead, a sudden red glare went up to the sky, followed almost
instantly by a report like that of a thousand cannons. The locomotive
came to a stop with a jolt as Hal applied the brakes.
"What's up now?" demanded Chester.
"I don't know; but that explosion sounded to me as if there were
something wrong ahead. I wouldn't be surprised if the Germans had
dynamited the bridge."
"By George! I believe you are right," exclaimed Chester. "I wouldn't have
thought of it, and if I had been in your place at the throttle the
chances are we would have gone over if such is the case."
"Well," said Hal, "I'll climb down, take a walk ahead and investigate."
"I'll go with you," declared Chester.
"No, you won't. You stay here and watch the engine."
"You are right, as usual," said Chester. "But don't be any longer than
you can help."
Hal agreed, and a moment later Chester lost sight of him in the darkness.
Slowly and cautiously Hal made his way along the track. As he moved
stealthily around a curve in the road the cause of the explosion became
apparent. It was even as he had feared. His quick wit had detected the
meaning of the explosion and none too soon.
Just ahead, where a short time before had been a bridge spanning a deep
chasm, there was now nothing but space. The bridge had been blown up. Had
Hal applied the brakes to the engine one minute later, in spite of the
fact that it was traveling very slowly, both boys probably would have
been carried over the embankment to certain death; for it is doubtful
that either, in the darkness, would have noticed the absence of the
bridge in time to leap to safety.
And now Hal could make out a number of rapidly moving figures. To his
dismay, he saw that they were moving in his direction. He turned
quickly and ran back to the locomotive, where Chester was anxiously
awaiting his return.
"Out here, quick!" he cried, and Chester, in response to his command,
leaped to the ground.
Hal once more jumped aboard the locomotive, unheeding Chester's cry of
wonder, released the brakes, and threw the throttle wide open. Then he
dropped sprawling to the ground, while the engine dashed madly down
Hal was not badly hurt and was quickly on his feet.
"What's the matter?" asked Chester in alarm.
"Matter is that the Germans are coming this way," answered Hal. "Come,
let's get away from here while we have a chance. We may be able to escape
in the darkness."
"But why did you start that engine down the track like that?"
"Well, I couldn't see that it was any use to us any longer, and it may
dispose of a few more Germans. They are walking up the track in force."
This appealed to Chester.
"Good!" he cried, and both stopped in their tracks to listen.
A second and there came to their ears a sudden startled shout, followed
by a fearful yell, a moment of silence, and then a crash.
"Good-by engine," said Hal. "That's a good job done. You perished nobly.
Now," to Chester, "let's get away from this spot as fast as we can."
They turned their faces in the direction from which they had come, and
set out at a brisk pace. They plodded along for an hour through the open
country, finally coming to a dense woods.
"Guess we had better try and lose ourselves in here," said Chester.
"Right you are," agreed Hal.
They entered the friendly shelter of the trees. Here they were forced to
travel more slowly. They made good progress, however, and at the end of
another hour had covered considerable distance.
"I guess we are safe enough as long as we can stay in the woods,"
"Don't be too sure," declared Hal. "It's the unexpected that
The words were hardly out of his mouth when the truth of them was proved.
As they emerged from where the trees were thickest into a little clearing
a sudden, guttural command brought them to an abrupt stop.
"Halt!" came a voice. "Halt, or I fire!"
Caught thus unexpectedly Hal immediately threw his hands above his head;
Chester followed his example. It was plain to both lads that there was
not a chance in a thousand to escape, for the German soldier had his
rifle pointed squarely at them.
Of course there was a possibility that by a sudden spring one of the lads
might have succeeded in knocking the man down; but this probably would
have meant the death of the other. Hal and Chester both realized that it
was no time to take such a chance.
"We surrender," called Hal in German, and immediately the soldier lowered
his weapon and approached them.
He passed his hands around their waists and then felt in the pockets of
their coats and relieved them of their weapons. Then he ordered:
"Right about; forward, march!"
The lads obeyed this command, and the German stalked after them,
keeping his rifle in readiness for a quick shot should his prisoners
attempt to escape.
But the lads had no thought of taking to their heels, for they were fully
aware that a bullet would stop one of them at least should they make even
one false move.
They continued their walk, and presently came in view of what appeared to
be a large German camp. Here their captor marched them directly to the
tent of the commanding officer.
"What are you doing within our lines?" was the latter's first question
after the soldier had related how he had made his capture.
"Well," said Hal, "we were accidentally carried through your lines by a
locomotive which we happened to be running when the rest of the train was
blown up. We couldn't get back, so we went ahead. We finally lost the
engine, so we were making our way back to our own lines."
"Lost the engine? What do you mean?" asked the officer.
"Why," Chester broke in, "we sent it over a precipice that it might not
fall into the hands of the Germans."
"You did, eh?" said the German officer. "Well, I shall attend to your
case in the morning. Orderly! See that these prisoners are carefully
guarded, and have them brought to me the first thing in the morning.
Perhaps they may be induced to give me the information I require."
"You won't get any information out of us," said Chester angrily.
"Won't I?" replied the officer, with a sneer. "We shall see. Take
The two lads were led to a small field tent and thrust inside, with a
guard on the outside.
"Well, here we are again," said Chester, with a faint smile. "What do you
suppose will be done with us if we refuse to divulge what the general
wants to know?"
"I'm sure I don't know," was Hal's reply, "but I am afraid we are in for
it this time. I have never taken much stock in the tales I have heard of
the barbarous treatment of the Germans toward their prisoners, but one
look at the general's face was enough to convince me that he would stop
at nothing to gain his end."
"The same thought struck me, too," agreed Chester. "But, one thing is
certain, he'll get no information out of me."
"Nor out of me, either," declared Hal.
Chester rose and started to walk around the tent. In the darkness, he
stumbled over something and fell to the ground. Arising he reached in his
pocket and produced a match. A tiny flame lighted up the dark interior of
the tent, and the lad stepped back with an ejaculation.
"Bicycles," he muttered.
"What?" demanded Hal.
"Bicycles. I wonder why they are here?"
"Probably dumped in here by a couple of men who have returned from a
scouting expedition," said Hal.