Part 2 out of 4
"Well, nothing much," replied Uncle John in great confusion, "you see, I
had--I had a--"
"And were Hal and Chester with you?" asked Mrs. Paine.
"Yes, that is no. I mean--" stuttered Uncle John.
"Come now, John, no fibbing," said Mrs. Crawford. "You were in trouble,
and Hal and Chester were with you. Where are they now?"
"Well, to tell the truth, I don't know where they are," said Uncle John.
"I supposed they would be here by this time."
In a few words he explained what had transpired.
"They left the house without being hurt?" asked Mrs. Paine.
"Then where can they be now?" demanded Mrs. Crawford.
"I'm sure I don't know, unless they have stopped for a talk with the
general, and that's about the size of it."
"I guess you are right," replied Mrs. Paine with relief. "But why didn't
you tell us all this before you went out to-night?"
"Yes, why didn't you?" demanded Mrs. Crawford.
"Well," said Uncle John slowly, "we didn't want to worry you."
"You are getting too old for such foolishness," declared Mrs. Crawford.
"I thought so myself," replied Uncle John, "but I know better now. If you
had seen the licking I handed those four Austrians you would think I was
a boy again."
"I'll think you have reached your second childhood if you ever let me
hear of anything like it again," declared his sister.
Uncle John was growing tired of this conversation. He wanted to be
"I'll go out and see if I can find the boys," he said.
"Please do," said Mrs. Paine.
"And see that you keep out of mischief yourself," adjured Mrs. Crawford.
Uncle John shook his head as he walked away.
"These women are funny things," he said. "I wonder what can have happened
to those boys? They've probably gone back to look for me. Guess I had
better head that way myself. I may come in handy, you never can tell."
He patted the revolver, which still rested securely in his pocket.
"I may have use for this next time," he muttered, as he quickened his
steps toward the Austrian legation.
Chester rose to his feet, as he saw a figure hurrying toward him.
"Must be Hal," he said.
He was right. A moment later Hal came up to him.
"Did you give the general the paper?" asked Chester.
"Yes. Any one come out of the house?"
"I haven't seen any one, and I have been right here all the time you
"Hear any sounds from within?"
"Thought I did several times, but I couldn't be sure. Thought I heard a
"Well, we had better go and have a look. I don't believe they will harm
Uncle John, but he probably is beginning to be worried by this time."
He led the way and Chester followed him. Hal mounted the steps without
hesitancy and turned the knob of the door. The door opened and the lad
stepped inside, where he halted with a cry of surprise. Chester peered
over his shoulder.
"Looks like a cyclone had struck this place," Hal ejaculated.
It did indeed. Robard was lying upon the floor, with a man on either side
of him, and a fourth lay some distance away, his skull crushed in.
"Uncle John probably was the cyclone," said Chester briefly. "I have
heard that he used to be considerable of a fighter in his younger days."
"And still he could hardly have done all this," said Hal.
"Remember Alexis," said Chester sententiously.
"That's different," replied Hal.
"Well, maybe so, but--"
Chester broke off and grabbed Hal by the arm.
"Sh-h-h," he whispered.
Hal listened attentively for a few seconds. The faint sound of footsteps
could be heard approaching from further back in the house. At the same
moment Robard groaned, moved about and sat up. The hands of the two lads
dropped to their pockets.
But before they could draw their weapons, they were startled by a voice
"Hands up!" it said.
There was no mistaking the menace in the quiet tones and Hal and Chester
realized that the owner of the voice meant business.
"Good work, Fritz," came the voice of Robard, and he pulled himself to
his feet with some difficulty and advanced toward the boys. "I'll thank
you for your guns," he said. "No, I'll get them myself," he added as both
boys moved their hands toward the weapons.
He suited the action to the word and relieved the lads of their
"Now stand back there against the wall," he commanded.
The boys obeyed.
Robard now gave his attention to the injured men on the floor. Two of
them showed signs of returning consciousness and soon were able to get to
their feet. The other could not be revived, and at a command from Robard,
he was carried to another room.
"Well, I've got you this time," said Robard to Hal and Chester, "and this
time I'll guarantee you don't get away."
"I wouldn't be too sure of that," said Hal with a smile. "We are pretty
hard to hold on to."
"I'll hold on to you, never fear," was the response. "I'd like to get my
hands on the other."
"Then he has gotten away?" queried Chester.
"Oh, yes, he got away all right," said Robard with a frown. "He's as
strong as an ox, and a real fighter."
"Then he was responsible for all this human wreckage we found when we
came in?" demanded Hal.
"He was," was the grim reply, "but the next time I get my hands on him
there will be a different story to tell. Why, he's a madman when he
"Then I would advise you to keep away from him," said Hal.
The sound of footsteps outside the door prevented Robard from replying.
Levelling a revolver at the lads, he motioned them to be silent, and took
up a position at the side of the hall, where he would be concealed by the
door when it swung inward.
A hand turned the knob and the door swung back. Uncle John's face
appeared in the doorway. He saw Hal and Chester immediately and advanced
with a smile.
"So here you are," he said. "Your mothers--"
The sentence died on his lips as Robard, who had stepped quietly from
behind the door, brought the butt of his heavy revolver down upon his
head. Uncle John dropped to the floor like a log.
The action had been so sudden that neither Hal nor Chester had time to
give a cry of warning, though both would have done so, in spite of
Robard's command for them to remain quiet. As Uncle John fell, Chester
stepped forward, but he was confronted by the barrel of Robard's gun.
"Stand back," said the Austrian.
Chester obeyed. There was nothing else he could do in the face of certain
death should he refuse.
Now Robard called two of his men, and Uncle John was carried into an
adjoining room. Robard motioned Hal and Chester in also.
Uncle John was laid upon the bed, and at a command from Robard, was
tightly bound. Hal and Chester were also tied to chairs, after which
Robard took his leave, saying:
"I'll see you the first thing in the morning."
"What are you going to do with us?" demanded Chester.
"I haven't decided yet," was the reply. "But wait. If you will return me
the paper you took from me I shall let you all go now."
"It's too late," said Hal quietly. "I gave the paper to General Ferrari."
"I had surmised as much," said Robard. "Well, good-night."
He waved a hand airily and stepped from the room. Then he turned and
poked his head back through the door.
"A word more," he said. "In case you should unloose your bonds, I would
advise you not to try to escape. There will be a man on guard here in the
hall all night, and another outside, so you cannot leave by the window."
"Thanks," said Hal dryly.
Robard withdrew his head and a key grated in the lock.
"Well, now what are we going to do?" asked Hal.
"You've got me," replied Chester. "Say, do you know this reminds me of
old times--of the days in France, Belgium and Russia."
"You bet," agreed Hal, "and those were the good old days."
At this juncture Uncle John moaned feebly and his eyelids fluttered. A
moment later the lids opened and he gazed at Hal and Chester curiously.
Then the light of comprehension dawned upon his face and he spoke:
"So they have got us all, eh?"
"Yes, they've got us," replied Chester.
"The trouble will be to keep us," said Hal. "How do you feel, sir?"
"Not much," replied Uncle John. "What did he hit me with, a crowbar?"
"No, just a revolver butt," replied Chester, grinning.
"How did they happen to capture you boys?"
"We came back here looking for you, as soon as Hal had delivered the
paper to General Ferrari," Chester explained.
"Your mothers are worried almost to death," said Uncle John.
"I'm afraid they will worry a whole lot more before we get out of here,"
said Chester. "I don't know what Robard will do with us."
"Perhaps we may see the Austrian ambassador," said Hal hopefully.
"Certainly he would stand for no such work as this."
"I don't know about that," said Chester. "They are likely to all
"Well, we shall just have to make the best of it," said Hal.
"By the way, Uncle John," said Chester, "you must be considerable of a
fighter. You laid these fellows out in great shape a while ago."
"I did do a pretty fair job," admitted his uncle, "but they made me mad."
"I vote that we try to get a little sleep," said Hal. "It won't be very
comfortable here in these chairs, but we shall have to make the best of
it. Perhaps with the coming of daylight something will turn up."
Chester tugged at his bonds in vain.
"Can't budge 'em," he said.
Hal closed his eyes.
"I'm going to try to get forty winks," he said. "Good night."
Chester followed his friend's example, and Uncle John also composed
himself to sleep. And in spite of their uncomfortable positions,
presently all slumbered.
Hal was the first to awaken. The key turning in the lock of the door
aroused him. Sunlight streamed in through the closed window. The face of
Robard appeared in the door, and he entered the room.
"Good morning," he said.
At the sound of his voice, Chester and Uncle John opened their eyes.
"Good morning," replied Hal. "I trust you have come to liberate us."
"Of your bonds, yes," was the reply; "but I regret to say that I cannot
set you free."
"What are you going to do with us?"
"Take you to Austria."
"To Austria! Great Scott! What for?"
"For no particular reason," said Robard, and his face suddenly took on
a savage look, "except that you have thwarted me, and for that you
shall pay. I shall probably lose my rank for my failure to obtain the
papers, and if I do I want some one to take my spite out on. Do I make
"Perfectly," replied Hal quietly. "It is very like a coward."
Robard took a threatening step forward.
"A coward, am I?" he cried in a loud voice.
He made as though to strike the lad, then suddenly changed his mind.
"I'll wait," he said. "I promise you shall regret those words before I am
through with you."
"And when do we start?" asked Chester.
"To-night; after dark. A special train will be ready for the Austrian
ambassador and his suite. You shall go with us. Of course the ambassador
shall know nothing of your presence, for he would not permit me to work
out a personal grudge in this way. I shall keep you out of his sight."
"The ambassador has been given his passports then?" asked Chester.
"He has, to Italy's sorrow. We shall wipe her off the map."
"Don't forget you have a pretty sizable job on your hands
already," said Hal.
Robard made no reply, but turning on his heel, strode from the room.
As the boys had feared, they were given no opportunity to make a personal
appeal to the Austrian ambassador. All day long they were kept in their
improvised prison. They slept a little and talked a little, but try as
they would they were unable to so much as loosen their bonds. But they
all agreed on one thing, as expressed by Chester:
"We'll make a break for freedom at the first opportunity, no matter what
the odds against us."
One of Robard's hirelings brought them a bite to eat about noon and again
shortly after 6 o'clock. Darkness fell and still Robard himself had
failed to appear.
"Maybe the time for departure has been postponed," said Chester.
"Hardly," replied Uncle John. "If the ambassador has been given his
passports and has made arrangements to leave Italy he'll probably go at
the appointed time."
It was at this juncture that footsteps were heard without. The key turned
in the lock and a moment later Robard stood before them.
"Well," he said cheerfully, "all ready for your little trip?"
"We're not what you would call ready," replied Hal, with an attempt
at levity, "but if you say it's time to move, we may as well agree
"Your reasoning is to be commended," said Robard. He stepped to the door
and raised his voice in a shout. A moment later a second man stood beside
him. "Untie these fellows while I keep them covered," he ordered, at the
same time producing a brace of automatics.
The man stepped forward and with a few quick movements relieved the
prisoners of their bonds. He stepped back.
"Stand up!" commanded Robard, levelling his revolvers, "and mind,
Hal, Chester and Uncle John obeyed. It was a wonderful relief to be on
their feet again and be able to stretch their cramped muscles.
"By George! this feels better," said Chester.
"Rather," agreed Hal dryly.
Robard moved to one side of the room.
"Out you go," he said, motioning toward the door with his revolver, but
still keeping the three covered.
"Which way?" asked Hal, playing for time.
"Out the door is all you need to know," was the reply. "You'll find
pleasant company there."
One of the revolvers covered Hal threateningly.
Hal walked toward the door, followed by Chester and then Uncle John.
Robard followed close behind, with his man at his heels.
Outside the door Hal led the way down the hall toward the front door,
where he saw perhaps half a dozen other figures standing about. These
proved to be more Austrians. Near the door Hal halted at a word of
command from Robard and the three prisoners soon were surrounded.
Their captors were all dressed in civilian attire, but from their
military bearings, Hal and Chester concluded that they were Austrian
Robard turned to one who stood somewhat apart from the others.
"Everything ready?" he asked.
"All ready," was the reply. "The baggage has been sent on ahead of us and
the train to Venice will leave within the hour."
"Good! And the ambassador?"
"Will be here within half an hour," was the answer.
Hal's heart leaped. Here, he thought, would be a chance to demand his
freedom, and that of his companions. He was loath to believe that a man
in the capacity of an ambassador would countenance such proceedings. But
his hopes were doomed to disappointment.
Within the half hour mentioned, the door was flung suddenly open
and a small man hurried in. He gazed quickly about him and then
spoke to Robard.
"Everything ready?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," was Robard's answer.
The ambassador--for such the newcomer was--gazed rapidly about him. His
eyes rested on Hal, Chester and Uncle John.
"Who are these?" he demanded with a wave of his hand in their direction.
"These," said Robard, taking a step forward, and throwing a warning look
at the three prisoners, "are a trio who have too much knowledge of some
of our plans. I thought it best to take them along, sir."
Hal took a quick step forward, but even as he opened his mouth to speak,
he felt something cold pressed against the back of his neck by a hand
from behind. He closed his lips and fell back.
The ambassador was silent a moment before replying. Then he said:
"You are sure you are not taking too much upon yourself? You are certain
you are right in your surmise?"
"It is not a surmise, sir; it is a fact," returned Robard.
For another moment the ambassador hesitated. Then he said with a shrug of
"Very well then. Come; let us go."
He led the way out the door, the others following. Hal, Chester and Uncle
John were kept closely in the center of the little knot of men as all
made their way down the steps to where three large automobiles stood
waiting at the curb. The ambassador and Robard climbed into the first,
and Hal found himself separated from his friends as he was pushed into
the second machine; Chester and Uncle John were in the third.
Twenty minutes later the three prisoners found themselves in a first
class section on the special express for Venice, vigilantly guarded by
two Austrians, who had been placed in charge of them after they had been
securely tied up at Robard's command. Robard himself had entered another
compartment with the ambassador.
"You'll be safer this way," the Austrian had said with a smile, after
testing their bonds to make sure they were secure.
"Looks like we were pretty safe any way you might put us," replied
"You Americans are pretty slippery customers; I won't take any chances
with you," was the rejoinder, and Robard took his leave.
A few moments later a slight motion told the prisoners that the train
"Well, here we go," said Chester with a laugh. "We've been started for
the enemy's country in this manner before."
"Only on previous occasions our destination was Berlin instead of
Venice," replied Hal.
"Which is not our destination after all," said Uncle John. "Our true
destination is back to the hotel where we left your mothers."
"And I am sure we shall reach it eventually," said Hal hopefully.
"How long does it take to get to Venice?" asked Chester.
"I don't know exactly," replied Uncle John. "But we shall be there by
"Perhaps we may get a chance to make a break for liberty," said Chester.
"Don't bank on that, Chester," replied Hal. "It looks as though these
fellows do things a little more thoroughly than their German cousins.
Still there is always a chance."
"While there's life there's hope, eh?" said Uncle John. "We'll see."
"In the meantime," said Hal, "we may as well try to get a little sleep."
"A good idea," agreed Chester. "Here goes."
He closed his eyes and was soon in the land of dreams. Hal and Uncle John
How long they slept they did not know, but they were awakened by rough
hands shaking them and the sound of gruff voices. Hal opened his eyes.
Daylight streamed in through the windows of the compartment.
"Get up!" commanded a harsh voice.
Hal rubbed his eyes and called to Chester and Uncle John.
"What's the matter?" asked the latter sleepily.
"Venice, I guess," was the reply.
Again their bonds were removed, and under cover of the revolvers of their
captors, which the latter kept concealed in their coats but which the
three prisoners knew were ever ready, Hal, Chester and Uncle John stepped
from the car.
The Austrian ambassador and Robard had alighted before them, and Hal
could see them talking and gesticulating excitedly.
"Wonder what's up?" he muttered.
"Which way from here, do you suppose?" asked Chester.
"Trieste, I should say," replied Uncle John. "They will want to get over
the border as soon as possible, and I guess they will head in that
"My idea, too," agreed Hal.
What was their surprise, then, when, instead of boarding another train,
as Hal had confidently believed would be done, the ambassador led the way
into the station and then to the street beyond. Here Robard disappeared
for a brief moment, and returning, motioned the ambassador and others to
Again the prisoners found themselves shoved into a large touring car,
which started immediately in the wake of the one which bore Robard and
"Some funny business here, as sure as you're born," said Chester
"Must be," declared Hal grimly. "Robard and the ambassador have something
up their sleeves. Wonder if the Italian authorities are not on their
guard. There is no telling what these fellows may do."
"I don't imagine the Italian authorities are watching them any too
closely," remarked Uncle John. "You know men in such positions are
supposed to be men of honor."
"Which the ambassador undoubtedly is," said Chester. "If there is
anything wrong, you can take my word that Robard is the gentleman who is
responsible for it."
"You have hit the nail on the head there, old fellow," agreed Hal.
After a ten-minute drive the machine came to an abrupt stop.
"Out you go," said a gruff voice in very poor English.
It was the voice of one of their captors and the prisoners obeyed.
Ahead, the ambassador and Robard were walking down the steps to the
canal, and a few moments later a large closed gondola came toward them.
The ambassador entered, followed by Robard, and the prisoners found
themselves aboard also a moment later. The gondola moved off.
"Well, what next?" demanded Chester.
"It's too deep for me," was the reply. "But we are going to learn
something; that's sure. Perhaps it's a good thing we were captured and
brought along. Who knows? we may be able to avert some mischief."
"Let us sincerely hope so," said Uncle John earnestly. "I know that you
boys are experienced in this line of work, but you can count on me to the
"You didn't need to tell us that, Uncle John," said Chester. "We knew
The gondola stopped.
A PLOT IS FOILED.
"Out with you," commanded one of their captors, when he saw that the
ambassador and Robard had made their way up the short flight of steps.
No urging was necessary. The prisoners, closely followed by their guards,
made their way in the same direction. A hundred yards ahead, they were
suddenly turned to the left, where they caught sight of a small house.
Into this they were marched and then on into a room at the far end of the
"Guess you'll be safe enough in there. No need to tie you up," said the
voice of Robard, who came up at this moment.
The door slammed, a key grated harshly and the prisoners were left alone.
"Now what in the name of all that's wonderful do you suppose this means?"
asked Chester. "Think they are going to leave us here to starve or perish
"No, I guess not," was the reply. "My opinion is that Robard is up to
something funny, and that he has enticed the ambassador here on some
pretext or another."
"What do you think he is up to?" demanded Chester.
"If I knew I'd have told you a long while ago," said Hal. "Now, if we--"
He paused as Chester held up a warning hand. The latter moved toward the
wall at the far end of the room as Hal eyed him curiously. The lad placed
his ear against the wall, and listened intently for a moment; then he
motioned Hal and Uncle John to approach.
"The ambassador and Robard are in the next room," he whispered. "I can
hear them talking. Listen."
Hal and Uncle John also laid their ears to the wall.
"But," and the ambassador's voice came faintly to them, "such a thing as
you suggest is dishonorable."
"What has that to do with it, sir?" came Robard's reply. "Our enemies
would do the same thing had they the opportunity. All's fair in war, you
"Not that," said the ambassador. "You must remember that until I have
crossed the frontier I am still the ambassador to Italy. I am upon my
honor to leave the country peaceably."
"But no one would know you had a hand in the matter, sir."
"That is not the point," was the reply.
"But I have made all arrangements," protested Robard. "Everything is
ready. The chief of the Italian general staff is in Venice at this
moment, and at noon will inspect the large stores of ammunition at the
northern outskirts of the city. A word from you and ammunition, chief of
staff and all will be destroyed."
"I will give no such word," was the angry response. "Besides," and the
ambassador considered a moment, "why do you wish a word from me in this
matter? It could have been done without my consent."
"Well, sir, I--we--I," stammered Robard, evidently at a loss for a
There came the sound of a blow, as though a hand had struck a table and
the ambassador's voice rose angrily.
"Robard," he said sternly, "I can see through your plot. You would have
me stand sponsor for this crime, that you might disqualify me upon my
return to Vienna."
"I assure you, sir--" began Robard.
"Enough," replied the ambassador. "I have not forgotten that you were
ever my enemy--at least until this war brought us closer together and put
an end to all our disputes--at least, so I believed. Now I know better."
"Sir--" Robard began again.
"I have told you I would have no hand in it," declared the ambassador.
"What is more, I forbid it! Do you understand, I forbid it!"
Now Robard's voice rose angrily.
"You forbid it!" he exclaimed. "You forbid it! Well, little good will
that do. I will see that the work is carried out if I have to do it
myself. And what is more, I will see that the blame falls on you. You are
right. I have plotted to discredit you, and I shall do it, or my name is
"I shall see that your actions are brought to the attention of the
emperor," declared the ambassador. "And more than that, I shall
immediately notify the Italian authorities of your plans, that they may
be on their guard."
"You will never do that," replied Robard, and his voice was so low that
the listeners could scarcely catch the words.
"Robard," said the ambassador sternly, "you may consider yourself
There was the sound of a scraping chair and heavy footsteps moving in the
"Another move and I shall fire," came Robard's voice.
"Man, you don't know what you are doing," came the surprised voice of the
"Don't?" said Robard, with a sneer in his voice. "I'll show you."
Again there came to the listeners' ears the sounds of heavy footsteps,
followed by the noise of a struggle.
"Great Scott! They are fighting!" exclaimed Hal. "What can we do? He
might kill the Ambassador."
"There is nothing we can do, old man," replied Chester quietly. "We'll
have to let them fight it out."
They listened intently.
The struggle continued, and occasionally the listeners could catch the
sound of fierce ejaculations. Then, suddenly, there came the sound of a
shot. Then silence, followed a moment later by a voice:
"There! I guess now you will know better than to interfere with me."
"Robard," said the voice of the ambassador, very weak now, "you shall pay
"I don't know whether I have done for you or not," came Robard's voice
after a pause, "and I don't care. In fact, I hope I have. Now, just to
blacken your reputation a bit, if I have killed you, I shall go through
with my plan."
The boys could hear him stalk heavily across the room. A moment later a
Hal rose to his feet and passed a hand across a moist brow.
"And to think that we were unable to lend a hand," he muttered.
"He's a black villain," declared Uncle John.
"And now," said Chester, "he is on his errand of mischief. Can we do
nothing to thwart him?"
"I can't see how," declared Uncle John.
"Nor I," said Hal.
"Wait a moment, though," said Chester.
"Well?" queried Hal anxiously.
"I think it can be done," replied Chester quietly. "At least there is
"Let's have it," demanded Hal eagerly.
"Well, here is the idea. We'll stir up a racket in here. Naturally some
of our captors will come to see what it is all about. We won't quiet down
until he opens the door. Now you will notice that the door swings inward.
That will help. Also that from outside it is impossible to see this side
of the room. I'll stand behind the door. You and Uncle John remain on
this side and stay here until the man comes into the room. Then I'll jump
him, or them, as the case may be."
"But they'll get you, Chester," said Uncle John.
"Perhaps," was the reply. "That's the chance I must take. But we can't
let a little thing like that stand in the way. As soon as I tackle them,
or him, you two can rush out and lend a hand. There'll be a hard fight,
of course, and the first fellow that gets a chance to make a break
through the door will do so. Do I make myself clear?"
"Perfectly," said Hal. "And the plan is not so bad. There is a certain
chance of success."
"Well, it doesn't look good to me," replied Uncle John. "One of you boys
is almost sure to get killed."
"You are taking the same chance, sir," replied Chester.
"Oh, I'm not worrying about myself," returned Uncle John. "But you must
remember that I am to some extent responsible for you and I shall have to
answer to your mothers for your safety."
"If you wish," said Chester dryly, "we'll each write you a little note
exonerating you of all blame should either of us be hurt."
Uncle John was forced to smile.
"Oh, never mind," he said. "Well, boys, if you have decided upon your
plan, I guess I shall have to agree to it."
"I believe it will succeed," said Chester. "But at all events, we can't
remain here inactive while that villain Robard is about his work."
"You're right there, Chester," said Hal. "Something must be done, and as
there is no one else aware of this plot, I guess it is up to us."
"As I said before, you can count on me to the limit," said Uncle John.
"I'm counting on you, Uncle John," replied Chester. "I know you will do
"Thanks," was the quiet response.
"Any more suggestions?" asked Chester.
There were none.
"What time is it?" asked Hal.
Chester glanced quickly at his watch.
"Great Scott!" he ejaculated. "Ten o'clock! I had no idea it was so
"Nor I," declared Uncle John.
"Time to get busy, then," said Hal.
"Right," Chester agreed. "We haven't a whole lot of time."
He gazed quickly about the room and then took his position at one side of
the door, where he would not be seen by one entering the room. Hal and
Uncle John also took their places.
"Everything ship-shape?" asked Chester.
"Guess so," replied Uncle John, somewhat nervously--he was not used to
this kind of work, although each lad knew there was no question of his
nerve and courage.
"All set," replied Hal quietly.
"Good!" said Chester. "Now for the disturbance. You fellows will have to
help me out a little."
He raised his voice in a loud shout.
Hal and Uncle John followed suit.
"A terrible racket," said Chester, drawing a long breath a moment later.
"It should raise the dead."
"It should," agreed Hal.
"But it didn't," said Chester. "Again. All together now, and keep it up."
Again the room rang with a horrible noise. Came footsteps running
"All ready now," called Chester in a hoarse whisper. "Here comes
The others made no reply, but stood silently waiting.
The footsteps paused just outside the door.
"What's the matter in there?" asked a voice.
Chester made no reply; instead, he raised his voice in another
The man outside wasted no more time in parley. Evidently he believed
there was something serious the matter within. A key grated in the lock
and the door swung inward.
Chester held himself tense--ready to spring upon the man the moment he
should come within reach. Just inside the door the man paused and again
sought to determine the cause of the commotion.
"What on earth is the matter in here?" he demanded loudly.
Seeking to help matters along, Hal gave vent to a sepulchral groan.
"Somebody must be sick," muttered the man to himself, and advanced into
the room, casting discretion to the winds. One, two, three forward steps
he took, and then whirled suddenly as Chester's hands closed about his
throat from behind.
Now the Austrian was a big man, and in spite of Chester's strength, the
lad realized in a moment that he was no match for his opponent.
"Quick, Hal, while I am able to hold him," he panted.
Hal wasted no time in words, for he realized it was time for action. He
sprang from his place of concealment and darted toward the door, calling
over his shoulder to Uncle John:
"Lend Chester a hand!"
But even as Hal would have darted through the door, the Austrian
succeeded in freeing himself of Chester's hold, and hurling the lad from
him with a swift backward kick, he turned just in time to encounter Hal.
Hal's right fist shot out sharply, and the Austrian staggered back as the
blow caught him upon the point of the chin. But the blow had been
delivered too quickly to have the desired effect, and the Austrian
recovered himself in a moment, and, crouching low, advanced upon Hal. At
the same time he raised his voice in a call for help.
"We'll have to dispose of this fellow pretty quick or it's all off," said
Hal to the others. "Jump him from behind, Chester, while I keep him
Chester needed no urging. He stepped aside quickly, and then jumped
behind the Austrian, before the latter had time to back into a corner,
had such been his intention. Uncle John circled about a bit and moved on
him from the other side.
The Austrian took a quick look at his foes, threatening him from three
sides. He realized he was no match for all, and his thoughts turned to
escape. There was just one way by which he could get away--through the
door by which he had entered the room--and this would give the prisoners
a chance to make a break for liberty.
Hal struck out savagely with his right fist, and the Austrian hesitated
no longer. With a quick backward leap, he passed from the room, making no
effort to close the door behind him.
"After him!" cried Hal, also jumping forward.
The Austrian turned and took to his heels, and Hal, Chester and Uncle
John gave chase. Down the hall ran the man, with Hal but a few paces
And then, suddenly, the Austrian turned in his tracks. Hal was quite
unprepared for this maneuver, and before he could check himself, he had
bumped squarely into his opponent, who seized him in close embrace. The
man's hands closed about the boy's throat, and Hal gasped for breath.
Chester and Uncle John, seeing Hal's predicament, charged forward with a
shout; and then the reason that the Austrian had turned to give battle
A second and a third figure stepped around the two who were struggling in
the center of the hall, and faced Uncle John and Chester. One held a
drawn revolver and the other was in the act of drawing a weapon.
It was no time to hesitate, and Chester realized it.
"Come on!" he cried, and leaped forward.
There came a flash and a loud report; but Chester was unwounded. He had
stooped at the moment the man's hand pressed the trigger, and now came up
beneath the other's guard. Before the latter could fire again, Chester
drove him back with a hard right-handed blow to the jaw. The man uttered
a low imprecation and at that instant Chester's left fist reached his
opponent's stomach. The latter doubled up like a knife, and his revolver
fell to the floor with a clatter.
Chester stooped quickly and his hand found the weapon. As he straightened
up again, his eyes unconsciously took in the scene about him. He saw Hal
make a last futile effort to free himself from the grasp of the first
Austrian, and then fall to the floor with the man on top of him; and he
saw Uncle John crumple up as a flash of flame came from the revolver of
the third Austrian.
Chester gave a cry, and turning his newly acquired weapon in the
direction of the man who had just fired at Uncle John, he pulled the
trigger almost without taking aim. There came a cry, and the latter threw
up his arms and fell to the floor. At the same moment the first Austrian
rose from above Hal's prostrate form, and his revolver and Chester's
spoke simultaneously. Chester felt a sharp tinge in his left arm and
realized that he was not seriously hurt. He dropped quickly to the floor,
even as the Austrian's revolver spoke again.
A bullet whizzed over his head. Chester now took deliberate aim and
fired. The Austrian's weapon fell to the floor with a clatter, the man
himself staggered and tried to retain his feet. He reeled forward toward
Chester and then, just as the boy would have pressed the trigger again,
collapsed almost at the lad's feet.
"I guess that settles the whole lot of you," Chester muttered to himself.
He ran quickly to where Hal lay and raised his chum's head to his knee.
Hal made no move. Chester laid his hand over Hal's heart, and drew a
breath of relief as he felt a faint beating. He stroked his friend's
head, and rubbed his hands, and presently was rewarded by a sigh of
Then Hal opened his eyes.
"Wow! A terrible dream I just had, Chester," he said.
Chester smiled in spite of himself.
"It came almost being your last dream," he replied quietly.
Without waiting for a reply, he laid Hal gently down again and hurried to
Uncle John. The latter raised himself on one elbow even as Chester bent
down beside him.
"Careless of me to get in the way of a bullet like that," he said with a
faint smile. "I'll know better next time."
"Where are you hit, sir?" asked Chester anxiously.
"Caught me in the left side, some place," replied Uncle John, and with
Chester's aid, got to his feet.
Chester made a quick examination.
"Lucky, sir. Just a flesh wound," he said. "I'll have it fixed up
in a jiffy."
Making a bandage of his handkerchief, he soon had the wound tied up as
well as could be done under the circumstances. Then the lad lent Hal a
hand as the latter staggered to his feet.
"How do you feel?" asked Chester.
"Well, I don't feel very chipper, and that's a fact," replied Hal with a
grimace. "That fellow had powerfully strong fingers."
"I guess we are lucky at that," remarked Chester.
"Lucky?" exclaimed Uncle John. "I'd like to know how you make that out,
and me with a bullet hole in my side."
"Why," Chester explained, "the best we figured on was for one of us to
get away, and now we are all at liberty."
"Perhaps we are," said Uncle John dryly. "I'll feel a whole lot safer
when I once get outside of this house."
"Then we had better be moving," said Hal. "Come on."
He led the way to the end of the hall and into the room beyond.
"I guess we can get out this way," he said.
He examined a window at the far end of the room.
"Quite a drop down there," he said, "but I guess it can be done."
Chester and Uncle John also surveyed the distance to the ground.
"It's got to be done," said Uncle John. "I'll go first, if you
"Go ahead, sir," said Hal.
Uncle John climbed to the sill, and then lowered himself until he hung by
"Here I go," he said.
"He's safe enough," said Chester, peering down, as Uncle John got to his
feet and brushed himself off. "You next, Hal."
Hal climbed into the sill, lowered himself and dropped.
"All right," he called up to Chester.
Chester climbed to the sill.
"Here I come," he called; and just as he was about to lower himself a
figure dashed suddenly into the room and seized him by the leg.
Chester gave vent to a cry of vexation.
"Hey," he called to Hal and Uncle John, "one of the big Austrians has
grabbed me by the leg."
"Kick him in the face," cried Hal, dancing excitedly about, and making
vain attempts to jump up so he could reach the sill.
Chester attempted to follow Hal's advice, but it was no use. Slowly he
was dragged back through the window, and landed on the floor with a thud.
When he was able to get to his feet, he faced a revolver held in a steady
hand. He was caught and he knew it.
"He's got me, Hal," he shouted. "Hurry! Never mind me! Give the warning!"
For a single moment Hal hesitated after hearing Chester's voice. Then he
took Uncle John by the arm.
"Chester is right," he muttered hoarsely. "Come on, sir, or we shall be
Uncle John seemed about to protest, but Hal led him down the street at a
"What is one to many?" he asked.
CHESTER MISSES A CHANCE.
Chester surveyed his captor with a slight smile on his face, although the
bitterness of disappointment had touched his heart.
"Well, you've got me," he said quietly. "Now what are you going to
do with me?"
The Austrian returned his look with a sour scowl.
"That is not for me to decide," he said. "Come with me."
He waved his revolver in the general direction of the door, and Chester
walked out of the room. The Austrian followed closely, keeping his
revolver close to the back of the lad's head. Evidently he had decided to
take no further chances with him.
Chester smiled faintly to himself.
"Guess he'll hang on to me pretty tight this time," he muttered.
A moment later he found himself back in the same room the three had been
locked in when first brought to the house. The lad threw himself down
dejectedly when the captor left the room and locked the door behind him.
"Well, I'm in for it now," he told himself. "Hal and Uncle John will warn
the Italian general in time, and when Robard fails in his plot he'll come
back to deal with me. I hope I am able to give a good account of myself.
However, a fellow can never tell what is going to happen, so in order to
be prepared, I'll try and get a little sleep."
He lay down and closed his eyes; and in spite of the seriousness of his
situation, and the hard floor upon which he lay, he was soon asleep.
Meanwhile, Hal and Uncle John made all haste toward the headquarters
of the Italian general staff, which at the moment were in Venice. It
took Hal some moments to convince several subordinate officers that it
was essential he see the commander himself, but after some
explanations the lad, accompanied by Uncle John, was ushered into the
presence of the general.
Hal laid bare the details of the plot in a few words, and the Italian
commander eyed him incredulously.
"How am I to know you are telling the truth?" he demanded.
"For one reason, because I don't lie," replied Hal. "Besides, if you
doubt me, sir, it would be well to be on the safe side, anyhow. It can do
no harm to take the necessary precautions."
"What you say is true," replied the general.
"A wire to General Ferrari might tell you we are to be relied upon,"
continued Hal. "We were so fortunate as to be of some slight service to
The Italian commander glanced at his watch.
"It is best to be on the safe side," he said. "I shall take the necessary
precautions, meanwhile wiring to General Ferrari, as you suggest. In the
meantime, I fear I shall have to detain you, at least, until I receive a
reply to my wire."
"But, sir," Hal protested, "I would like to go back and find my friend."
"I cannot permit that," was the reply. "How do I know that you are not
spies yourselves and have concocted this story for some reason of your
own--a reason that precautions I might take against the plot you have
outlined might throw my troops into more serious difficulties? No, I
shall keep you under guard. That is final."
Hal realized the futility of further protest and subsided. Not so
"This is an outrage, sir," he exploded. "I repeat, this is an outrage.
Here we are, three of us, who have gone out of our way, to do the Italian
army a service, and the best we get is trouble, fights and insults. I--"
The Italian commander raised a hand.
"I trust that you are telling the truth," he said turning to Hal, and
ignoring Uncle John. "But I must make sure. You say you are a soldier.
You can appreciate my position."
Hal nodded affirmatively. But Uncle John refused to be appeased.
"I think you are a lot of savages," he declared. "I wish the Austrians
would blow up your whole army and drop bombs on every spot in the
country. I'd help 'em do it if I had a good chance. I wouldn't turn my
hand over to help you again."
The commander began to grow angry, and Hal realized it.
"That's enough, Uncle John," he remonstrated. "You'll get us in worse
trouble than ever if you are not careful."
"Worse?" exclaimed Uncle John. "What can be worse than being in the same
room with a bunch like this? I--"
Again the Italian commander raised a hand.
"Enough!" he said sharply. "I am convinced you have come here for no
good. I shall send the wire I promised, but I am confident of the reply I
shall receive. Orderly!"
An orderly approached.
"Keep these fellows safe," said the general.
"At least, sir, you will still take the precautions," said Hal.
The general hesitated a moment.
"Yes," he said finally, "you may at least have the satisfaction of
knowing you have caused me to change my plans. All precautions shall
Hal and Uncle John were led away.
"I wonder what they have done with Chester?" said Uncle John.
"Whatever they have done will not be a circumstance to what they will do
when Robard's plot fails," replied Hal. "That's why I was anxious not to
antagonize the general. If the wire goes through we will possibly be in
time to save him, if not--"
He broke off with a shrug.
"You mean--" began Uncle John.
"I don't know just what I mean," replied Hal. "I'm afraid. That's all."
Both lapsed into silence.
When Chester opened his eyes in his improvised prison the evil
face of Robard bent over him. Chester sat up, stretched and then
rose to his feet.
"Hello," he said. "Back again, I see."
Robard scowled fiercely, but made no reply.
"Well, did you blow up the whole Italian army?" asked Chester with a
Robard stretched out a hand suddenly and seized Chester by the wrist and
with his other hand struck the lad heavily in the face. Chester reeled
back, but, recovering, promptly sent his right first into Robard's face.
The lad thought for a moment of following up his advantage and attempting
to escape, but before he could act, Robard whipped out a revolver and
"Stand back!" he ordered.
Chester stood still.
"I've a notion to kill you right here," cried the Austrian furiously.
"What do you mean by hitting me?"
"What do you mean by hitting me?" demanded Chester.
"You young American upstart!" shouted the enraged Austrian. "I'll--"
"I wouldn't if I were you," said Chester calmly, as Robard raised a heavy
fist. "You may be able to fight with a gun or a knife, but don't come at
me with your fists or I'll spank you."
If Chester's object had been to enrage the Austrian he had succeeded.
Robard cast discretion to the winds, and, lowering his revolver, struck
at the lad.
It was the chance for which Chester had been waiting and hoping.
He ducked under the heavy blow, and instead of returning it, he kicked
out with his left foot. His aim was true and Robard's revolver fell to
the floor with a clatter. Chester pounced on it, beating the Austrian by
the fraction of a second. A moment later the Austrian struck him a heavy
blow on the side of the face.
Chester became suddenly very angry--not furiously and excitedly so, but
his temper blazed up and his anger was quiet and deadly. Calmly he
blocked a second blow from his opponent and took the time to put the
revolver hastily in his pocket.
"Now," he said, "I am going to give you a first class licking. I didn't
take boxing lessons for nothing, and if you have anything to say when I
get through I'll be willing to listen."
At that moment the Austrian rushed. Chester side-stepped neatly, and his
left fist crashed to the side of the Austrian's jaw as the latter brushed
past. Before Robard could turn, Chester planted his right fist upon the
back of the other's neck, sending him staggering.
Then he waited for Robard to come at him again.
Turning, Robard advanced more cautiously this time. Chester feinted with
his right, and sent his left to Robard's nose. Blood flowed. Chester
danced about the big Austrian, raining blows upon him almost at will.
"Take that, and that, and that," he said gleefully, skipping first this
way and then that, skillfully evading the heavy blows launched wildly
This continued for perhaps five minutes, and then Chester grew tired.
"Well, we'll end it now," he told the Austrian with a smile. "Watch, here
comes the finish."
He stiffened a bit, took a backward step, then danced suddenly forward.
He feinted with dazzling rapidity once, twice, three times, and then, his
opponent completely bewildered, planted his right fist squarely upon the
point of Robard's chin. Robard staggered back, but a second terrific
blow, delivered to the stomach, brought him forward again, and Chester
straightened him up with another terrific drive to the point of the chin.
The lad stepped back and dropped his hands, watching the big Austrian
with a smile on his face.
Clear across the room the man staggered and then crumpled up in a heap.
"That settles him," said Chester. "Now to get out of here."
He turned toward the door, and stopped, a cry of dismay on his lips.
In the doorway stood three figures. As Chester turned, one of them
advanced toward him.
"You did a pretty job," he said, eyeing the lad appreciatively, "and we
are glad to have seen it. But, we cannot let you escape."
Chester groaned and sat down.
"There're too many of them," he said to himself. "So near and yet so far.
If I hadn't let my temper get the best of me I would have been safely out
of here. I'll never waste another second on an Austrian. This is what I
get for not shooting him like a dog, and using my fists on him, like I
would on a gentleman. Never again."
THE AMBASSADOR AGAIN.
While Hal, Chester and Uncle John were having their troubles with members
of the Austrian diplomatic corps on Italian soil, the Italian army itself
already had taken the field against the enemy. War having been declared,
the Italian general staff had wasted no time.
Along the Austrian frontier, at the head of the Adriatic, clear north to
the Swiss border, the troops of King Emmanuel had intrenched themselves
against a possible attack of the foe; big guns even now were roaring and
raining the messengers of death upon the fortified positions of the
Austrians in their front.
Skirmishes between isolated forces of the two armies, some of which
reached the proportions of real battles, had taken place, and upon the
southern border some slight success already had crowned the efforts of
the Italian troops.
The Italian fleet had been set in motion; giant battleships and other
vessels of war had joined other craft of the quadruple entente in an
effective blockade of Austrian ports in the Adriatic; and the Austrians
were keeping well behind the shelter of their own mines.
In one or two cases they had ventured forth to give battle, but each
expedition of this nature had resulted disastrously--at the bottom of the
sea. Apparently, now, they had given up attempts to run the blockade and
were content to lie snug in their well-fortified harbors, even as their
German allies were doing in their ports.
Several Austrian aircraft had left their bases and flown over Genoa,
dropping bombs, killing and wounding a score of non-combatants, but
doing little damage to fortified positions or to munition plants and
provision camps, which were presumed to be their goal. Also several had
been brought to earth by the accurate fire from the anti-air craft guns
of the Italians.
Unlike England, France, Russia and Belgium, Italy entered the war
prepared. She was not taken by surprise, as had been her allies. She went
into the war with her eyes open and a full realization of her
responsibilities. Also mobilization had been completed before she had
finally decided to take the plunge into the maelstrom. Again, she was
better prepared than her allies for the reason that she had recently
emerged from a successful struggle against the Turks in Tripoli and her
army was an army of veterans.
There was no doubt that Italy would be the first to take the offensive.
The question was, where would she strike? It was an established fact that
she would not await the attacks of the Austrians, but where would she
deliver her first blow? Would it be by sea, hurling her fleet upon the
enemy's base across the Adriatic? Would it be across the southern
boundary of Austria, or would it be farther north--through the Alps?
There was little to choose between the latter methods; but the first was
given little thought. It was well known that the Austrians had mined the
Adriatic thoroughly near their ports, and to attempt an expedition there
threatened destruction for the attackers.
An advance through the Alps also presented its difficulties. In spite of
the fact that the weather was still warm, it was anything but warm in the
mountain fastnesses. True, a passage of the Alps had been forced before
now--one by the Carthaginian General Hannibal in the middle ages, and
again by Napoleon. But it was still a desperate undertaking.
The world waited to see.
Chester Crawford, still in the hands of his captors, took no thought of
these things now. His one absorbing thought at the moment was of hitting
upon some plan whereby he could elude his guards and make his escape. At
the same time, he realized that he had a hard problem before him; for now
that he had almost made his get-away twice, he knew he would be guarded
with more vigilance than before. Still, he determined to bide his time
and take advantage of the first opportunity that presented itself.
The two Austrians who had arrived in time to prevent his escape after his
tussle with Robard now stood guard over the lad, waiting for Robard to
return to consciousness. Presently the fallen man stirred, rolled over,
gasped a bit, and sat up. He gazed about and took in his surroundings. An
ugly look passed over his face as his eyes fell upon Chester.
"I'll get even with you for this," he said harshly, as he scrambled
to his feet.
"Oh, I don't know," returned Chester with a smile. "I might only increase
my indebtedness the next time we meet."
The Austrian took a threatening step forward. Chester did not flinch and
the man paused and dropped the arm he had raised.
"I'll wait till we get to Vienna, and then I'll guarantee to make you
whine for mercy," growled Robard.
"We shall see," said Chester.
Robard turned to his men.
"We'll go at once," he said.
"By the way," interrupted Chester, "what has happened to the ambassador?"
Robard gave a start, and looked quickly at his two men, who had turned at
"You'll find him in the next room, I think," said Chester, pointing.
"Shut up!" commanded Robard, again taking a step forward.
Chester smiled and stepped back a bit.
"Where you shot him," he continued pleasantly.
With a cry Robard leaped upon him. Chester struck out quickly with both
fists, one after the other, and the Austrian staggered back. Chester
turned to the others.
"What I say is true," he said quietly, as he noted the look of
uncertainty on their faces. "You can easily tell by investigating."
"It's a lie!" shouted Robard.
The men hesitated.
"Look and see," said Chester.
"The boy is right," said one of them. "I'll look."
He stepped toward the door.
"Stand where you are!" cried Robard.
He moved upon the other and clenched his fists. The man gazed at him a
moment without a word; then, suddenly, he seized his superior by the arms
and held him as though he had been in a vise.
"You have a look, Fritz," he said to his companion. "I'll hold him
The latter wasted no time. He hurried from the room.
"You'll pay for this!" screamed Robard.
"Perhaps," said his subordinate, "but I believe the boy has told the
truth. I never did trust you, with your shifty eyes."
At that moment the third man came back into the room, dragging a heavy
body after him.
"The ambassador!" cried the other.
"You see, I was right," said Chester.
The ambassador was unconscious still, although it was hours after he had
"He's alive," said one of the Austrians, after an examination.
"Get some water," commanded the other.
At this moment Robard took a step forward, and seemed about to wrench
himself free from his captor's arms.
"If you gentlemen will allow me," said Chester, "I shall make a
suggestion that may save us all time and bother."
"Well?" demanded one of the men.
"If you'll give me the gun you deprived me of," said the boy, "I'll give
my word to hold our friend here safe until the ambassador is brought back
to consciousness. Also, I give my word not to attempt to escape."
The others eyed him closely for a brief moment.
"All right," said the man who had gone after the ambassador. "Here." He
passed over his automatic.
Chester took it and covered Robard.
"You can release him now," he said to the big Austrian's captor. "He'll
make no break while I have him covered. He knows me too well by this
time, don't you, Robard?"
The latter's reply was a low growl.
The other Austrian released his hold, and stood back. For an instant it
seemed that Robard would spring forward and give battle to all three,
but as Chester's revolver covered him steadily, he changed his mind and
Immediately the others began the work of reviving the ambassador, and
five minutes later their efforts were rewarded. The ambassador moaned
feebly, and a few seconds later sat up. His eyes fell on Robard, and he
jumped quickly to his feet.
"So!" he exclaimed. "Guard him carefully, boy. He's a dangerous man."
"I'll guard him," replied Chester briefly.
Suddenly the Austrian smote himself on the breast.
"The plot!" he cried. "Robard's plot!"
"Has failed," interrupted Chester. Then noticing the look of surprise on
the ambassador's face, he explained.
"We overheard the conversation in the room where we were locked, sir. My
friends managed to escape and give the warning. The plot has failed.
Robard told me as much."
"I'm glad," said the ambassador simply. "And now, what am I to do
"Let me go, sir," was the lad's reply.
The ambassador considered the matter.
"I'll tell you," he said at length, "I would like for you to go to Vienna
with me and substantiate my story to the emperor. You will say that my
story should need no proof, as I am the ambassador, but Robard has
influential friends there. He would easily discredit the stories of these
two men here. With you it would be different. Will you go?"
"I would rather not, sir," replied Chester quietly.
"I must insist," urged the ambassador.
For some reason that Chester was never afterwards able to explain to
himself, he suddenly grew terribly angry.
"No, I won't go!" he shouted, and waved a fist in the very face of the
The latter looked at him in amazement; then took his decision.
"You shall go anyhow," he said softly. "Seize him, men!"
"Any time," said the ambassador gently, "that you are ready to give me
your parole, I shall have your bonds removed."
"I wouldn't give my parole to you or any other of your kind," declared
"I'm sorry you feel that way about it," declared the ambassador, with a
deprecating gesture. "I assure you, I shall see that you are given safe
conduct back to Italy. But in the meantime, I can take no chances upon
"Do as you please," said Chester.
Again a captive, Chester left Venice.
In a first class compartment of the special train that was bearing the
Austrian ambassador and his staff rapidly toward Trieste was also
Chester, nursing a sore head, the result of trying to vanquish the
ambassador and the two other Austrians when the diplomat had ordered him
seized. The lad put up such a battle that one of his opponents had found
it necessary to tap him gently on top of the head with the butt of his
revolver. That had settled the argument, and when Chester returned to
consciousness he was aboard the special train, bound, and seated across
from the ambassador.
"Sorry we had to give you that crack on the head," the ambassador
continued, "but you wouldn't behave without it. Does it pain you much?"
"Not so much as the fact that you are a race lacking in all sense of
gratitude," replied Chester. "I wish now I had let you lie where you
were. The next time I shall keep my mouth shut, you can bet on that."
"Well, anyhow, here you are," said the ambassador, "and I promise that
you shall remain with me until I see the emperor in Vienna, if I have to
drug you. After that, I promise you safe conduct to the Italian border.
Come, why not be sensible?"
But Chester was in no mood to be sensible, and there is little wonder.
Twice he had almost regained his liberty, and a third time, after he had
come to the assistance of the ambassador, he felt certain he would be set
free. He was far from cheerful now.
"We are now in Austria," said the ambassador, an hour later.
"It won't be so long before it will be Italy, I guess," said Chester,
with something like a sneer in his voice.
"Come, come, my friend," said the ambassador. "Don't let your feelings
run away with you. You are simply talking to hear yourself talk."
"Don't you believe it," declared Chester. "I know what I am talking
about. Say! You fellows don't think you can whip the world, do you?"
"Well, we seem to have been whipping a pretty good part of it," replied
the ambassador sententiously.
"That's it! That's it!" cried Chester. "That's your Teutonic air of
conquerors. Don't forget that some of these days, however, you will be
sorry for all this trouble and bloodshed you have caused."
"We have caused?" echoed the ambassador. "You mean that England
"No, I don't mean England," replied Chester.
"Why," exclaimed the ambassador, "if it had not been for England, this
war would never have happened."
Chester looked at the ambassador sharply for a moment.
"Good night," he said at last, and fell back in his seat.
It was dusk when the train pulled into Trieste, and the party alighted.
"We shall spend the night here," the ambassador decided. "I have some
work to do."
"One place suits me as well as another, if I have to stay in this kind of
a country," said Chester.
At a hotel where they were driven in a taxi, Chester was locked in a room
on the fifth floor. It was a handsomely appointed room, and Chester would
have been content to spend the night there had he been in other
circumstances. But right now he wasn't content to spend the night in
Austria, no matter how well he was treated.
"I want to get out of this country," he told himself repeatedly. "I guess
it's a good enough country, so far as it goes, but I can plainly see it's
no place for me."
Left alone, Chester made a tour of inspection. The door was heavily
barred. He looked out the window.
"A long way to the ground," he muttered.
There was no other means of egress.
"Looks like I was safe enough," he muttered.
Again he examined the window carefully. A slight whistle escaped him.
"A little risky," he told himself, "but I believe it can be done."
He walked to the door, laid his ear against it and listened intently. No
sound came from without.
"Well," he said, straightening up, "if I am going to do it, the sooner I
get busy the better."
Quickly he stripped the covering from the bed, and with his knife
slit it lengthwise. Each strip he tied to another, until he had a
strong improvised rope. He stretched it out on the floor, and
measured it carefully with his eye. Then he again walked to the
window and peered out.
"Pretty close," he muttered, "but I believe it will reach. The trouble is
some one in one of the rooms below is liable to see me."
Now he pushed the bed close to the window, and securely knotted one end
of his improvised rope to the heavy iron bars. Then he walked across the
room to the door again and listened.
It was now dark outside and Chester realized that he could not have a
better moment for his desperate attempt. Quickly he recrossed the room,
and dropped the other end of the rope out the window. He glanced down.
"O.K.," he said. "Here goes."
He leaped quickly to the sill, and a moment later was lowering himself
hand over hand. And at length he came to the end of the rope.
The ground was still far below him, but Chester had not figured the rope
would reach to the ground. Clinging tightly to the rope, he gazed
He was now even with the window on the third floor, and he succeeded by
clever work in getting a foothold on the sill; and, still clinging to the
rope, he stood erect. Inside, Chester saw the figure of a man.
Inadvertently, the lad's foot crashed against the window pane, shattering
the glass. There was a crash, followed by a guttural exclamation from
inside the room.
"I've got to move now!" exclaimed the lad.
Taking a firm hold on the rope, he swung himself outward, giving his
flight through space an added impetus by pushing with his right foot. He
went sailing through the air, even as a pistol shot rang out behind him.
Chester had calculated truly. Headfirst he crashed among the branches of
a tree, at the far side of the walk. Instantly he released his hold upon
the rope and was safe in the tree.
"I thought I could do it," he muttered. "Now to get down before some of
these fellows get after me."
Rapidly he made his descent, and a few moments later stood upon the
sidewalk, unhurt. For a moment he paused to gain a much-needed breath,
and then, turning, he stalked quickly away. And as he did so there came
cries from within the hotel, and men rushed out and after him.
Chester took to his heels.
"I don't know whether they saw me on the street or not," he told himself,
"but the safest place for me is a long way from that hotel."
He doubled around several corners, and at last, as he turned into a more
traveled street, he slowed down to a walk. He drew a long breath.
"Guess I have shaken them," he said. "Now, if I only knew where I was,
I might manage to get out of here. Guess I had better pick one
direction and keep going that way. I'll trust to luck that it is either
north or west."
He turned down the next street and set out resolutely, having determined
in his mind to stick to the direction he had selected. Fortunately,
although the lad could not be sure of it, he was heading northward,
where, eventually, he would reach the Italian frontier, although it was
much further away than was the western border.
Chester walked along for an hour without even being challenged.
"Funny, too," he muttered. "It's a wonder every street corner doesn't
spout soldiers and police at me. I must be getting to be rather a lucky
He had now reached a less thickly populated district. There were few
pedestrians upon the streets, houses became farther and farther apart. An
occasional automobile passed him, but no attention was paid to the
Chester slowed down a trifle as he made out a form approaching. As
it drew closer Chester noticed it was a uniformed figure. He drew a
"Looks like there was liable to be something doing here," he muttered.
He continued his way. The officer, for such Chester perceived the man to
be, drew closer. As Chester would have passed him, he suddenly stopped in
his tracks, and commanded:
Chester did so.
"Who are you?" demanded the man, "and where are you going?"
To Chester's great relief, he spoke in German, and the lad replied in the
same language, which he spoke without an accent.
"I am on an errand for the ambassador, sir. A prisoner has
recently escaped, and I am bearing word to the outposts to be on
the watch for him."
"Hm-m-m," muttered the officer. "Why didn't the ambassador make use of
the wireless 'phone?"
"I don't know, sir," replied Chester.
The officer laid a heavy hand on the lad's arm, and peered into his face
in the dim light. Then the hand tightened.
"You are no German!" was his quiet comment. "You are probably a spy. You
are my prisoner!"
Chester's heart sank.
A FRIEND IN NEED.
Many thoughts ran through Chester's head as he stood there for a brief
moment with the hand of the man who had accosted him on his shoulder. He
thought of flight and he thought of fight, but most of all he thought of
the ill fortune he had encountered in the past few days.
"This is the limit," he told himself ruefully. Aloud he said: "You are
"No, I'm not mistaken," returned the officer, "and I suppose most would
take you at your word. You speak German without an accent, but your face
betrays you. At a guess, I would say you are English."
"You are wrong," declared Chester.
"Nevertheless, I shall have to ask you to accompany me," said the
For a moment Chester hesitated; he was tempted to leap upon his captor
and make a fight for it, but he had hesitated too long now. The officer
produced a revolver, which he held carelessly in his right hand.
"I have a little persuader here, in case you should think of disobeying
my order," he said quietly.
"Oh, all right," said Chester. "I'll go along."
"I thought you would," replied his captor, with a smile.
He motioned for Chester to walk on ahead of him, which the boy did, the
while grumbling to himself.
"I should have run when I saw him coming," he muttered.
There was little doubt in Chester's mind now that he was due for his trip
to Vienna with the ambassador. After that, in view of his attempt to
escape, he wasn't sure what might happen, for he believed the ambassador
would recall his offer of a safe conduct after this.
"Yes, it looks like Vienna to me," he told himself.
And so it probably would have been but for one thing--or rather, for one
person; and Chester had no more idea of seeing him than he had of
encountering Hal at the next cross street.
As the two walked along, Chester slightly in front, his captor following
him closely with drawn revolver, a figure left the shadow of a nearby
building, and with a whistle of amazement, crept silently in their wake.
"Well! Well!" muttered this figure to himself. "What do you think of
that? I can't stand for this. I'm liable to get killed or hurt, but I've
just got to take a hand."
As Chester and his captor turned into another street and disappeared
from sight, the man broke into a run, stepping lightly on his toes. When
he rounded the corner he was only a few feet behind the other two.
Silently as a cat, he closed up the distance, drawing a weapon from his
pocket as he ran.
He took the revolver by the barrel, and with a sudden leap, sprang
upon the officer who had captured Chester. A quick blow and the
officer staggered. He seemed about to cry out, but even as he opened
his mouth, the newcomer repeated the blow and the man fell to the
sidewalk without a word.
"It's all right, Chester," said the newcomer.
Chester, who had stood as if petrified during the struggle--he was so
surprised at this sudden and unexpected aid--uttered an exclamation
"Who are you?" he asked, in vain trying to pierce the darkness
with his eyes.
The stranger chuckled.
"You don't know, eh?" he asked.
Again Chester peered at him intently. It was so dark he could not make
out the man's features, but there was something very familiar about the
short, rotund figure that stood before him.
"By Jove!" cried the lad at last. "It is--it can't be--yes, it must be--"
"Anthony Stubbs, war correspondent of the New York _Gazette_, sir, and
very much at your service," came the now well-known voice.
Chester sprang forward and seized the extended hand.
"And what in the name of all that's wonderful are you doing here?" he
asked in amazement.
"Getting some red-hot news for the New York _Gazette_," was Stubbs'
laconic response. "You are liable to find me most any place. As I told
you before, there is no place a newspaper man cannot go. Now, what's all
this mess I find you in?"
Chester explained and Stubbs listened attentively.
"Hm-m-m," he said, when the lad had concluded, "I guess the best thing
for you to do is to hop back into Italy as fast as the law allows."
"My idea," said Chester dryly. "The trouble is it's a pretty long hop,
and in the next place the Austrian law doesn't allow it."
"That's so," agreed Stubbs. "However, you just leave these little things
to Anthony. He'll get you through or the New York _Gazette_ will lose its
"Well, I hope the _Gazette_ doesn't lose him," said Chester; "but I would
like to get back into civilization."
"Civilization?" echoed the little man. "And what do you call this? Let
one of these uniformed gentleman on this side of the border hear you say
that and you won't ever get any place except under the sod. This, take
the Austrian word for it, is the last word in civilization. Therefore,
what you mean is that you want to get out of civilization."
"Whichever way suits you," agreed Chester.
"All right. Then you come with me. It's time to be moving, anyhow. This
fellow is getting about ready to get up and there is no use of our being
here to greet him when he opens his eyes. Let's go."
He led the way back toward the heart of the city and Chester followed,
though not without a protest.
"What's the use of going back there?" he wanted to know. "That's the
place I have been trying to get away from."
"Now listen here, young man," said Stubbs, "you didn't have much luck
getting away by yourself, did you?"
"No," replied Chester, "but--"
"And you won't have any better now, if you don't do as I say," declared
Stubbs. "But I'll tell you. I am leaving here myself in the morning. I am
going to Italy. I've dug up all the stuff I can get around here and now
I'm going to have a look at the Italian army in action. If you wish, you
can come along."
"Of course I'll come," said Chester. "That is, if they will let me."
"Oh, they'll let you, all right," replied Stubbs. "Say, I guess you
don't know who I am! I'll tell you: I'm the war correspondent of the New
York _Gazette_, and these fellows over here are glad to show me what
favors they can. It doesn't do them any harm, and it might do them some
"I see," agreed Chester briefly.
"All right, then. I'll take you to my lodgings and you can spend the
night there with me. We'll leave early in the morning."
Chester followed the little man, though not without some misgivings.
Apparently Stubbs had not spoken without reason. Along the way they
passed several officers, each of whom, after recognizing the war
correspondent, gave him a formal military salute.
"You see," said Stubbs, "I am some pumpkins around these parts."
"So I see," replied Chester.
"Here is where we put up," said Stubbs presently, turning into a large
and well-lighted hotel. "Put your best foot foremost now, and walk in