Part 3 out of 4
like you owned the place. Can you swagger a bit?"
"Well, some," said Chester hesitatingly.
"So can I," said Stubbs, "which is the reason I get along so well.
His usual manner--the one to which Chester had become accustomed when he
had been with the little man in the French theater of war, left him as he
entered the door, and he swaggered in like a true bravo. Chester threw
out his shoulders and did likewise.
Straight up to the desk walked Stubbs, where a clerk came courteously
forward to see what was desired.
"My friend here," said Stubbs, with a wave of his hand, "will share my
room to-night. Have us called at six o'clock and send a man to help me
with my things at that hour. Understand?"
"Yes, Herr Stubbs," replied the clerk, rubbing his hands together, though
why Chester did not know. "It shall be done."
"All right," said Stubbs. "My key!"
The clerk hastened to get it.
"Now that's the way to get by in this benighted land," said Stubbs to
Chester as they made their way to the little man's room. "Make 'em think
you own the place. It never hurts anything."
"So I see," said Chester dryly. "Now, about the morning. How do we get
out of this country?"
"Simple," said Stubbs. "We take an automobile from here to a little
town called Gorz, to the north. And then we circle around the little
neck of Italy to Trent, again in Austria. Of course there are quicker
ways out, but I have made these arrangements already and it would look
suspicious to change now. Until we get to Trent there will be no
trouble. There we shall have to do a little figuring, but the best way
is this: I have a safe conduct, given me by the Austrian commander
here. It will pass me into Italy. What I shall do is give it to you and
you can cross the border."
"But you--" began Chester.
"I'm coming to that. They will stop me, of course. Then I'll raise a
holler. I'll demand that they wire the commander here and give a
description of me, saying I have lost my papers. They will identify me,
all right, because there are no more like me. A second safe conduct will
come along and I'll move into Italy. Simple little thing, isn't it?"
"Quite simple--if it works," said Chester.
"Oh, it'll work all right!"
"I hope so," declared Chester.
"It's got to work," replied Stubbs. "I can't afford to have it fail. My
paper will be expecting something out of Italy from me within a few days
and I've got to be there to give it to them. Otherwise, I'm liable to be
"I guess that won't happen," said Chester, with a smile.
"Not if I can help it," agreed Stubbs. "Now let's climb between
BACK INTO ITALY.
"Now here," said Stubbs, "are my papers. You just take them, and for the
moment you will be Anthony Stubbs, war correspondent of the New York
_Gazette_. You are a little young looking, so put on all the airs you
can, for they'll think you must be awful good to have such a job."
Chester and the little war correspondent had left Trieste without trouble
and had arrived in Trent without adventure of any kind. True to his word,
Stubbs had arranged for Chester's departure with him and now the time for
parting had come.
Chester took the papers Stubbs held out to him and thrust them into
"And when will you be across?" he asked.
"Oh, I'll be there before the day is over," was the reply. "When you once
get within the Italian lines, you demand to be taken to the nearest
general commanding a division and explain matters to him. Then wait for
me, if it is until to-morrow. I'll be there."
"All right," agreed Chester.
"I'll walk as far as the outposts with you," said Stubbs. "No, I won't
either," on second thought. "I'll be wanting to get out myself directly
and it wouldn't do for us to be seen together."
He held out his hand.
"Good-bye, and good luck," he said. "You just do as I tell you and you'll
have no trouble. Remember, you are just as big as any of these fellows,
and a whole lot bigger, if it comes to that."
Chester gripped the hand hard.
"Good-bye," he said, "and thanks."
The little man gazed after the boy as the latter strode away with
shoulders squared and head held high.
"He'll do," he muttered to himself.
Chester disappeared, and Stubbs turned and strode in the opposite
"Now for my holler--and my new papers," he told himself.
Chester was halted at the extreme Austrian front. He produced Stubbs'
papers, which he gave the man without a word. Luckily, as Stubbs had
explained, the safe conduct was simply made out to "Anthony Stubbs, war
correspondent," without description.
The officer scanned the papers closely, looked Chester over from head to
foot and seemed about to speak. Chester gazed at him sternly and the
Austrian closed his lips without uttering a word. He shrugged his
shoulders, summoned an orderly and commanded:
"Take a flag of truce and conduct this gentleman to the Italian lines."
Two hours later Chester was safe.
To the Italian officer who approached him, he demanded to be taken to the
general commanding the division, and this was done without protest.
Chester explained the circumstances to the general, and the latter
believed him. He turned him over to an orderly, with instructions that he
be taken care of; and in a tent of his own, Chester sat down to await the
arrival of Stubbs.
Stubbs, after Chester had left him, immediately betook himself to the
commander of the Austrian forces at this point. The latter received him,
although he didn't know Stubbs from any one else.
"General," said Stubbs, "somebody stole my papers, among them a safe
conduct to the Italian lines. I want to get there."
"No papers, no safe conduct," replied the general briefly.
This was what Stubbs had expected.
"Look here now, general," he said familiarly, "that's no way for you to
talk. I want to get into Italy, and I had safe conduct from General
Oberlatz at Trieste."
The Austrian commander got to his feet.
"I have told you, sir," he said, "that without papers you cannot leave
"I heard you," replied Stubbs, "but you don't seem to understand the
answer to my being here. I've got to get into the Italian lines. You
can't blame me. The fellow you want is the one who stole my papers; he's
probably a spy."
"And you may be one, too," said the officer.
"Sure, I may be," said Stubbs; "only I'm not. Now, I'll tell you, you
just push through a little wire to General Oberlatz and he'll straighten
this thing out."
"Can't be done," replied the general.
"But it's got to be done," declared Stubbs. "I can't stay around here
when I have orders to go elsewhere. I don't want to have to take this
matter up with my friend, the archduke."
The Austrian commander looked up in surprise at this last remark.
"You know the archduke?" he questioned.
"Well, rather," said Stubbs. "He and I are pretty good friends."
"Then," said the general, "it would do no harm for you to appeal to him
"You're right, there, general," declared Stubbs. "My friend, the
archduke, would fix this thing up in a minute. The only trouble on that
score is the matter of time. Time is precious, you know, general, and
"Fortunately for you," said the officer, "the archduke happens to be in
the next room at this moment. If you will be seated, I shall call him."
Stubbs sat down abruptly. A slight whistle escaped him, though it did not
carry to the general's ears.
"Good night!" muttered the little man to himself. "I've sure enough gone
and done it this time."
But Stubbs didn't betray himself. To the general he said:
"The archduke here? By Jove! This is what I call luck. Have him come out
and talk to me."
With a bow, the Austrian commander turned and passed from the room. The
moment he crossed the threshold, Stubbs sprang to his feet and dashed to
the door through which he had entered a few moments before.
"This," he said, as he came again into the open, "is no place for
He disappeared from within view of the general's quarters with
"Wasn't much use of me patting the archduke on the back," he told
himself. "Never having seen me before, I guess he wouldn't have
remembered me. I don't want to be shot."
Half a mile from the scene of his trouble, he entered a little
restaurant and sat down to have something to eat and to figure out what
he should do.
"This place is going to be too small to hold me," he said to himself over
a second cup of coffee. "They'll have all the natives on my trail. I've
got to get over the frontier some way. The question before me is how?"
He meditated for some moments, then rose, paid his check and left the
restaurant. In front of the door he stopped and looked toward the south,
where, in the distance, he knew heavy Austrian patrols faced the Italian
pickets only a few miles beyond.
"That's the way I want to go," he told himself. "So I may as well be
starting in that direction."
He moved off.
Possibly half a mile from the utmost Austrian line he stopped and sat
down. So far he had been unchallenged and now, as he sat there, a plan
came to him. He took his revolver from his pocket and examined it.
"I'll try it," he said briefly to himself. "If Chester knew what I was
about to do, he would be greatly surprised. But the thing is I am more
afraid to stay here than I am to take this chance."
He arose and moved on. As he expected, probably five minutes later, a
mounted officer came toward him. There was no one else near. He halted
"Where are you going?" he asked sharply.
"I'll tell you," was the reply. "I am a war correspondent and I am just
looking about a bit. Am I going too far? If so, I shall turn back."
"Well, I can permit you to go no farther," said the Austrian, with a
"Oh, all right," said Stubbs.
He drew a cigar from his pocket, bit off the end, struck a match and
lighted it. Then, with a start, he produced a second cigar.
"Beg pardon," he said. "Have a smoke?"
The Austrian signified that he would. Stubbs gave him the cigar and
struck a second match. The Austrian leaned from his horse and put the
cigar to the flame. At that moment Stubbs drew his revolver with his free
hand and, dropping the match, seized the Austrian by the leg with the
other. The latter came tumbling from his horse, and when he looked up, he
gazed squarely into the mouth of Stubbs' revolver.
"Quiet," said the little man briefly. "I want you to change
clothes with me."
The Austrian appeared about to protest, but changed his mind and
signified his willingness to comply with the command.
"Stand off there and remove your clothes," ordered Stubbs, pointing.
The man obeyed, Stubbs the while keeping him covered with his revolver.
The man's clothes removed, Stubbs approached him.
"I'll have to tie you up minus your outer garments," he told him. "I
can't take any chances on you while I am donning your robes."
He tied him up in most approved fashion and then gagged him with his
"Just to keep you from giving an alarm," he said.
Rapidly he donned the Austrian's clothes and then walked over to his
horse. This he mounted and turned the animal's head southward. He waved a
hand at the Austrian.
"_Auf Wiedersehen_," he said, and rode away.
He kept as far as possible from the Austrian troops that patrolled the
outposts and half an hour later was beyond the Austrian lines. Out of
sight he halted and discarded the Austrian uniform he had drawn on over
his civilian attire and then rode on more confidently.
And the little man welcomed a command that broke upon his ears a short
He drew rein. A soldier in Italian uniform advanced toward him.
"Thank the Lord," said the little man.
He drew a hand across a moist brow and gave a whistle of pure relief.
"No one will ever know how scared I was," he muttered. "Now to
He turned to the soldier who had accosted him.
"Take me immediately to your commanding officer," he ordered.
HAL AND UNCLE JOHN.
While Chester and his old friend, Anthony Stubbs, war correspondent, are
resting at ease for the moment with the Italian troops at the extreme
northern front, it behooves us to go back and see what has happened to
Hal and Uncle John.
When the two were led away from the headquarters of the Italian
commander, under guard, Uncle John's rage had by no means subsided; but
he cooled down somewhat after Hal had, to the best of his ability,
attempted to show him the viewpoint of the general.
"It's a contemptible trick," Uncle John protested.
"Well, let it go at that, then," said Hal helplessly.
And Uncle John did.
Now the thoughts of the two turned to Chester, for both were greatly
worried about him, and their anxiety increased as the long hours passed.
So darkness came, and they lay down to sleep. They were awake with the
morning light and the first thought of each was whether any word had been
received from the Italian commander in Rome.
And two hours after daylight they knew. An orderly entered and informed
them that the commander desired their presence immediately. They
"Everything all right, general?" Hal greeted him, with a smile.
The Italian commander frowned.
"The answer to my wire will hardly gain you your freedom," he replied.
"What, sir?" demanded Hal, in great surprise.
"Exactly," replied the commander, this time smiling a little himself.
"What did General Ferrari say?" inquired Hal anxiously.
"Well, he didn't say anything," replied the Italian. "He is no longer in
Rome, but has gone to the front. My wire did not reach him. Consequently,
I shall have to turn you over to the civil authorities here for
safe-keeping. I cannot be bothered with you."
Hal gazed at Uncle John in dismay.
"What did I tell you?" the latter broke out. "And you sided with him,
too. Tried to show me where he was right, didn't you? Well, what do you
think of him now?"
In spite of the seriousness of their situation, Hal was forced to smile
at Uncle John's righteous wrath.
"It will turn out all right," he said quietly.
"I'm glad somebody thinks so," declared Uncle John. "I don't."
Hal addressed the commander:
"General, I can assure you that all we have said has been the truth. You
will learn so in time. I, sir, have seen active service. I have fought
with the Belgians, the British in France and the Russians in the eastern
"From your own accounts you must have had quite a time," said the Italian
commander dryly. "Now, I may as well tell you that I do not believe a
single word of your story and protests will avail you nothing. Were I to
follow my own inclinations, I would order you both shot as spies within
the hour. However, there is always a chance that my convictions may be
wrong, which is the only thing that is saving you now. I shall wait until
I have word from General Ferrari. Orderly!"
A subordinate entered.
"Turn these prisoners over to Colonel Brunoli. Colonel Brunoli," he
continued, addressing Hal, "is the chief of police. I can guarantee that
you will be safe in his keeping."
Hal would have protested, but the orderly signalled him to march out
ahead, of him. Hal took Uncle John by the arm, and they left, but not
before Uncle John had hurled a final remark over his shoulder to the
"You will hear of me again, sir," he thundered. "I'm an American citizen
and we have an ambassador over in this benighted country. He'll warm
things up for you when he learns of this outrage."
"March!" commanded the orderly and Uncle John heeded the order.
Before an imposing building a short distance away, the orderly called a
halt and then motioned them up the short flight of steps. Through a long
hall they were marched and into a room at the far end. Here a man in
uniform with much lace and gold facings sat at a large desk. Hal didn't
need to be told that he was the chief of police.
"What have we here?" he demanded, swinging about in his chair and eyeing
the two severely.
"Prisoners, sir, whom I am instructed to turn over to you," was the
orderly's reply. "You are to hold them until you receive further
"Very good," said the chief. "You may go."
The orderly saluted, turned on his heel and departed.
"You may sit there until I have completed this piece of work," said the
chief, motioning the prisoners to chairs behind him.
Hal and Uncle John sat down and the chief turned again to his desk and
was soon busy writing.
Hal's eyes roved about the room. An idea struck him like a flash. They
sat between the chief of police and the door by which they had entered.
What would be more easy than to tip-toe to the door, which stood slightly
ajar, and disappear unbeknown to the chief?
With Hal to think was to act. Fearing to lift his voice in a whisper, he
at last managed to catch Uncle John's eye. Then he laid a warning finger
to his lips and beckoned Uncle John to follow him. Uncle John manifested
some surprise, but he signified that he understood.
Carefully Hal got to his feet and Uncle John followed suit. Then Hal,
stepping very softly, moved toward the door. Now it was five, now four,
now three paces away--and then the boy laid his hand on the knob. Uncle
John was right behind him.
The door swung open without so much as a creak, and Hal stepped out.
Uncle John followed him. Hal motioned Uncle John to lead the way down the
hall, while he remained behind to close the door. The order was obeyed.
Hal took the precaution to close the door tightly and then hurried after
Uncle John. "Well--" began Uncle John, just as they stepped from the
building, "I guess we--"
Came a sudden roar from behind them--the roar of a human voice.
"The chief!" exclaimed Hal. "Run!"
Uncle John needed no urging and the two went down the steps four and five
at a time. Hal led the way and Uncle John followed close at his heels.
Around the corner they darted even as the chief of police appeared in the
doorway--too late to see in which direction his erstwhile prisoners had
flown. But the two fugitives could hear his voice raised in another roar,
as he thundered out a call for his men to give chase.
"Come on, Uncle John!" shouted Hal, and the latter, although he had long
since come to believe that his bones had stiffened with age, surprised
himself by the manner in which he flew over the ground.
Fortunately, the street at the moment was deserted. Around one, two, then
three corners Hal doubled, and then slowed down.
"Guess we are all right for a few minutes," he gasped.
Uncle John stopped and gasped for breath.
"I'm not as young as I used to be, Hal," he said. "Don't forget that. I
can't go a hundred yards in eleven seconds any more."
"Well, you didn't miss it much," said Hal, with a chuckle. "But come on,
we must get away from here. If we are caught now, the chances are they
will stand us up against a wall and have a shot at us."
"In which event," said Uncle John dryly, "I can still do a hundred yards
in ten flat."
Side by side the two walked on.
"The question that now arises," said Uncle John, "is how we are going to
get away from here?"
"First," said Hal, "we must go back and see if Chester is still where we
"Like looking for a needle in a haystack," said Uncle John. "This is a
pretty good-sized town."
"Not at all," replied Hal. "I have a pretty keen sense of direction;
besides, I always make it a point to look at the names of the streets. I
can find it in half an hour. Come on."
The lad had not boasted and less than an hour later they stood again in
the house where so lately they had been prisoners.
"Well, he's gone," said Hal quietly. "We cannot help him here. The best
thing for us to do is to return to Rome and lay the case before the
ambassador, who can take the matter up with Ambassador Penfield at
Vienna, or through Washington."
"The thing to do, then, is to hunt the railroad station," declared Uncle
John. "Do you think you can find it?"
"If I can't, I can ask," replied Hal.
Thirty minutes later saw Hal at the ticket window asking what time the
next train left for Rome.
"In an hour," was the reply.
Hal purchased two tickets. Then with Uncle John he strolled about
Suddenly the boy halted in his tracks and grabbed Uncle John by the arm,
pulling him into a corner. And it was well that he did so, for a moment
later there brushed by the spot where they had stood none other than the
chief of police and several other men in uniform.
"He may not be looking for us, but the chances are he is," said Hal.
The chief went straight to the ticket office, where he engaged the agent
"No Rome for us now," declared Hal. "Come on."
He led the way out of the station and directly stood in the train
shed. The boy heard a cry of "All aboard" and saw that a train was
about to pull out.
"Don't know where it is going, but we'll get it!" he cried, and Uncle
John followed him in his mad dash. By a hard run they succeeded in
climbing into an unoccupied compartment even as the guard would have
closed the door.
"Where do you suppose we are bound?" asked Uncle John, as he sat
"Don't know," was Hal's reply. "We'll find out directly."
A few minutes later the conductor enlightened them.
"Milan," he said.
WITH THE ARMY.
"Milan!" echoed Hal. "Good night!"
"Oh, well," said Uncle John, with rare optimism for him, "I guess we can
double back from there, can't we?"
"I suppose it can be done," agreed Hal. "But we haven't any business
wandering all over this country. We want to get to Rome."
"We'll get there, all right," said Uncle John.
"Yes; but if they happen to nab us we are likely not to get there whole,"
When the train arrived in Milan, Hal and Uncle John were among the first
"Well, here we are; now what?" demanded Uncle John.
"You've got me," declared Hal.
They made their way to the street and there they halted suddenly, for a
wonderful sight had met their gaze.
Passing along the street were thousands and thousands of soldiers,
mounted and afoot, fully equipped for the field. They passed by in a
steady stream. For an hour Hal and Uncle John watched the imposing sight
and still the long line wended its way along. Hal's heart beat faster as
his eyes rested upon this imposing array of fighting strength.
"By Jove! I'd like to go along," he muttered to himself.
And it was to be so, even sooner that he could possibly have hoped. But
the suggestion came from an altogether unexpected source.
"Tell you what, Hal," said Uncle John suddenly. "As long as we are here
we might as well see a little something. What do you think?"
"Just what do you mean?" asked Hal.
"Well, let's go along to the front with these fellows; that is, if we
can make it. We may see something that we will never have another
chance to see."
"Suits me," declared Hal. "Let's see if we can get a couple of
horses--it's pretty tough walking and we don't know how far we may
have to go."
This was easier than could have been expected; and an hour later found
them riding slowly along in the direction taken by the Italian troops.
"Don't suppose the authorities here have been apprised of our escape from
Milan," said Hal. "I guess we are safe enough."
Hour after hour they rode along, passing regiment after regiment of
infantry as it moved toward the front. Uncle John was greatly impressed
by the military carriage and bearing of the troops, but in spite of their
impressiveness Hal could not help thinking that they did not have the
businesslike appearance of the British troops.
Now, in the distance, they made out what they could see was a great camp,
stretching out as far as the eye could see on both sides.
"This," said Hal, pointing, "will be the end of our tour of inspection.
Beyond those lines they will not let us go."
"We'll go as far as we can," declared Uncle John.
Suddenly from directly ahead came the heavy thunder of a single gun,
followed almost immediately by another giant voice. Other big guns began
to speak, and soon the roaring of thousands filled the air.
"A battle!" exclaimed Hal.
Other voices now, more faint but sharper of note, took up the
fighting--rapid firers and the rifles of the infantry coming into play.
From their present position Hal and Uncle John could not tell just where
the fighting was in progress, the numbers engaged, or whether the
Italians had taken the offensive, or the Austrians, or how the battle was
progressing. All they could hear was the terrible din and roar. They
could see nothing. They were at present far from the battle line.
Still they advanced.
Now they were suddenly in the center of the Italian troops, still
stationary, awaiting the word to move forward in support of the second
line or the first line as the case might be.
An officer rode up to them.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded.
"Nothing particularly," replied Hal. "I am a British officer and, being
in this neighborhood, thought I would look around a bit."
"Your papers?" was the next command.
"Unfortunately, I have none with me," returned the lad.
The officer hesitated.
"I'll tell you," he said finally, "there is a British officer commanding
a regiment here. Perhaps he will know you. I shall conduct you to him. He
has arrived from France only recently."
"I don't know all the British officers in France," said Hal, "but there
is always the possibility I may know this one."
"Follow me," commanded the Italian.
The two did so. To the far left wing their guide led the way, and finally
stopped before a tent somewhat larger than the rest.
An orderly came forth.
"Tell the colonel I have a man here who claims to be a British officer,"
said the Italian.
A moment later there stepped from the tent a long, tall Englishman,
attired in British uniform, youngish of face, and at sight of him Hal
started forward with a glad cry.
"Major Anderson!" he exclaimed.
The officer gazed at him in surprise, then came forward with
"Bless my soul," he exclaimed. "What in the name of all that's wonderful
are you doing here? I thought you were dead. And where is Chester?"
"I don't know," answered Hal, answering the last question first.
Upon Colonel Anderson's--he was no longer major--request, Hal plunged
into an account of what had transpired since they had last seen the
gallant Englishman. Now the Italian officer stepped forward.
"Then they are all right?" he questioned, indicating Hal and Uncle John.
"This one is," replied Anderson, laying a hand on Hal's shoulder. "I
don't know the other."
He hastened to introduce the two men.
Anderson turned to the Italian.
"It's all right," he said.
The latter saluted and moved away.
"While you are here," said Anderson, "you will make yourselves at home in
my quarters. I am now called to the front."
"Can't we go with you?" asked Hal anxiously.
The colonel hesitated.
"Well, I guess it can be done," he said at length. "You have your horses;
wait until I get mine."
A command to his orderly and the horse was soon waiting. The three rode
forward and as they went the colonel explained something of the situation
and his reason for being with the Italian army.
"I was sent here immediately Italy declared war," he said, "at the
request of the Italian government. Of course, they didn't ask for me
personally, but they did ask for a British officer who had seen active
service. General French selected me, with the rank of colonel. That's why
"And this fighting now?" questioned Hal. "Who is on the offensive?"
"The Austrians, at the moment," was the reply. "They have massed
thousands of men to the north, and at the far side of the Alps. We have
let it be known that we were in insufficient strength here and the
Austrians evidently hope, by a quick drive, to gain a foothold on Italian
soil. Fortunately, however, our lines were strengthened no later than
yesterday and reinforcements still are arriving. The Austrians have
delayed too long.
"Now our troops are falling back slowly and in good order. The Austrians,
feeling sure of a quick victory, will follow them too far. Then for our
coup. First the artillery, then the infantry and cavalry, and let me tell
you something, this Italian artillery fire is going to be one of the
wonders of the war. Its effect will be terrific. Watch and see."
In the distance now the three made out a squad of a dozen men advancing
toward them, with what appeared to be two prisoners in their midst.
"We'll have a look and see what's up," declared Colonel Anderson.
They rode forward.
As at last they were able to make out the faces of the two apparent
prisoners, Hal uttered a loud shout and spurred his horse forward. Uncle
John took a second look and did likewise. Colonel Anderson rode rapidly
At the side of the squad, Hal leaped quickly from his horse, and plunging
directly into the squad, threw his arms about one of the prisoners.
"Chester!" he cried.
And Chester it was.
The latter returned his friend's embrace with gusto, and then freeing
himself, fell into the bear hug of Uncle John.
The latter was sniffling with joy; but at last released, Chester caught
sight of Colonel Anderson.
Again there was an affectionate greeting and then Hal heard a voice
in his ear.
"And haven't you anything to say to me, young man?"
Hal whirled about and caught sight of the smiling face of Anthony Stubbs,
war correspondent of the New York _Gazette_.
"Stubbs!" he cried, and his delight was so evident that the little man
flushed with pleasure.
Introductions followed all around now and then Colonel Anderson addressed
the officer in charge of the squad.
"Are these men prisoners?" he asked.
"No, sir," was the reply, "but General Ferrari instructed me to have them
taken to a place of safety."
"Then you can turn them over to me without question?"
"Good! Then I shall relieve you of further responsibility."
The Italian saluted, ordered his men to "'Bout face" and marched off
toward the front.
The shrill, clear voice of a single bugle broke the stillness of the
early morning. There was a second of intense silence, and the call came
again. A second took it up, and a third, and many more, each less
distinct than the first, for they were farther away.
Hal, Chester, Uncle John and Anthony Stubbs, three of them accustomed as
they were to the life of the military camps, were upon their feet almost
before the sound of the first bugle had died away, and strained their
ears to catch a repetition.
They had spent the night in a large tent assigned them by Colonel
Anderson, not far from his own quarters, and had retired completely
exhausted as the result of the strenuous time they had gone through. But
they were all perfectly wide awake now and rushed from their tent with
the sound of the second call.
"A call to arms!" exclaimed Hal.
"Probably means an advance," said Chester quietly.
"I guess you are right," returned his chum. "And here we are, nothing but
spectators at the best."
"And that's where you are lucky," chimed in Stubbs. "Now take me, I've
got to get out among all this fighting and maybe I'll be killed. But I've
got to do it. You fellows can stay here where it is perfectly safe."
"Well, I'd much rather be in your place, then," said Chester.
"Same here," declared Hal.
The Italian camp had sprung to life as if by magic. Half-clothed sleepers
poured from the tents and formed into ranks in the darkness. Officers ran
hither and thither shouting hoarse orders. For a moment confusion
reigned, but this gave place almost immediately to perfect order. The
discipline of the Italian troops was remarkable. In almost less time than
it takes to tell it, the whole Italian army of the North, stretching out
as it did for mile after mile and mile after mile, was under arms,
eagerly awaiting the word that would send it against the strongly
entrenched Austrian columns ahead.
Less than a hundred rods away Hal made out the form of Colonel Anderson,
as he now stood at the head of his men; gazing steadily ahead except when
he turned to give an order to one of his subordinates. Far back, just
distinguishable in the now half light, could be seen the dense masses of
cavalry, unmounted as yet, but ready to leap to the saddle and dash
forward at command.
A gun boomed, shattering the almost oppressive stillness. Another
followed suit. More took up the work and the air was filled with their
thundering. It became apparent to Hal and Chester, to whom this was
nothing new, that the infantry would make the first advance, under the
support of the artillery.
"A good-sized job, if you ask me," declared the latter.
"Rather," replied Hal dryly. "Hey," breaking off suddenly, "where are
"To the front," replied Stubbs, to whom the lad had addressed his remark,
pausing for a moment and glancing back over his shoulder. "Got to get a
little news, you know."
"You'd better look out or you are likely to get a little bullet,"
remarked Uncle John.
"Well, I'll have to take a chance," replied the little man.
With a wave of his hand he disappeared in the darkness.
"Forward!" came a clear voice from their rear.
Came the heavy tramp, tramp of marching feet, as the First Infantry
moved forward. Steadily they marched ahead, silently and with an air of
determination. They made an imposing appearance in the dim light of
"A gallant body of men," muttered Hal. "They'll give a good account of
Came a word of command from Colonel Anderson--the boys recognized his
voice--and more troops moved forward. As far as the eye could see dense
masses of men were marching rapidly toward the front. It became apparent
that this was to be no mere skirmish--no mere feeling-out process. It was
to be a battle, and as both lads realized, it might well last for days.
"We may as well go forward a bit," said Hal.
Accordingly the three started out. Half an hour later they were suddenly
surrounded by a body of infantry, and, in some unaccountable manner, were
separated from Uncle John. In vain they looked, called and whistled for
him. He had disappeared.
"Well, I guess he will be able to find the way back," said Chester. "We'd
better see if we can find him."
They retraced their steps. For an hour and more they waited, but Uncle
John failed to put in an appearance. And all the time, from ahead, came
the dull roar of battle.
"Well, what shall we do?" asked Chester at length.
Hal shrugged his shoulders.
"Guess your peaceful Uncle John has gone on to the front," he said. "We
may as well do the same. He'll turn up sooner or later."
Chester was struck with a sudden idea.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed.
"What's the matter now?" demanded Hal, eyeing his chum in some surprise.
"I was just thinking," said Chester. "Say, let's see if we can't find a
couple of spare uniforms around here."
"H-m-m," muttered Hal, who knew what Chester meant. "Maybe we shouldn't
do anything like that."
"Maybe we shouldn't," agreed Chester, "but there is no one here to tell
us not to. Come on."
Hal followed him.
They looked into several tents, but their search met with no success, but
in the sixth tent they were more fortunate. Chester, rummaging around in
a corner, produced a lieutenant's uniform.
"Looks like it might fit," he said. "I'll try it on."
"Fits well enough," he said.
"All right," said Hal. "But where is mine?"
"Oh, we'll find you one, all right," said Chester.
And, after half an hour's further search, they did--a second lieutenant's
uniform. Hal donned it hurriedly.
"Might as well hunt up our horses," he said.
"Ours?" queried Chester.
"Well, mine and Uncle John's, or anybody else's, for that matter. It's a
long walk to the front."
They were fortunate enough to find two mounts without much trouble, and,
leaping to the saddles, they rode forward.
"Got a gun?" asked Chester.
"No," replied Hal. "Have you?"
"No such luck. Maybe we can find one further on."
This hope was realized.
As they rode forward the sights of battle became evident. Here and there
were fallen men, some dead and some dying, struck down by the long-range
artillery of the Austrians. Red Cross nurses and physicians were busy
attending to the wounded.
Hal leaped to the ground, and from the fingers of a dead officer took a
revolver. A second he removed from his holster. Then he unstrapped the
officer's sword belt and put it on himself.
"Well, I'm fixed," he said, leaning down and producing the unfortunate
officer's supply of ammunition.
"My turn next," said Chester.
Half a mile further along he relieved a second fallen officer of his
sword, revolvers and ammunition.
"Now," said he, "we are ready to go into battle?"
"We're ready," agreed Hal, "but we have no business there."
"Well, we won't do any fighting unless we have to," said Chester, "but
we'll go as far to the front as we can."
They rode forward more rapidly.
Meanwhile, the Italians pressed forward to the attack. With the first
shell hurled within their lines by the enemy's artillery, the Austrians
came to life. Weak spots in the long battle line were strengthened,
reinforcements were hurried forward all along the entire front. The
Austrian artillery opened fire and for an hour the long-range artillery
But now the Austrian officers grew greatly excited. From the shelter of
the distant Italian trenches rose a long line of men. Coolly they formed
under the Austrian fire, and stood awaiting the signal to advance. And a
moment later it came.
On came the Italians in spite of the withering fire of the Austrian
infantry and the still more deadly execution of the great guns, which
mowed them down by the hundreds.
But as fast as these gaps appeared, they were filled by others, and the
Italians continued to forge ahead.
An Austrian bugle spoke sharply, and there sallied forth from the
Austrian entrenchments masses of infantry at the double, closely followed
Evidently the Austrian commander had determined not to put his entire
dependence upon his artillery.
The Italians sprang forward to meet the foe. They rushed as though hurled
from a catapult.
The solid lines of infantry met with a shock. Rifles flashed and
revolvers spoke sharply. Steel flashed in the air and hand grenades added
their deadly execution to the terrible work.
And now the Italian infantry parted suddenly in the center and from
behind at a furious pace came squadron upon squadron of cavalry,
possibly, all told, five thousand men.
With impetuous bravery they dashed forward, throwing themselves upon the
bayonets of the Austrian infantry, which had braced to receive the shock.
But the enemy could not withstand this desperate charge. They faltered,
hesitated, broke and fled. In vain their officers sought to bring order
out of chaos. It was beyond their effort.
Straight in among the broken infantry plunged the Italian cavalry. Sabers
whirled in the air and descended with terrible effect. Horses trampled
fallen men, and bit at those who stood in their way, stamping and
striking at others with their feet.
Realizing that his infantry was completely demoralized, the Austrian
commander gave the word to send his own cavalry into the fray.
With a shout the horsemen charged. The Italians drew up their horses
sharply and braced themselves to meet this new attack.
Chester and Hal, who came within view of this deadly work at this moment,
Then Chester spoke.
"Now," he said, "you will see what I call real fighting. Look!"
The two bodies of horsemen met with a crash.
THE BOYS GO INTO BATTLE.
Sitting their horses quietly, their lives endangered every moment by shot
and shell that dropped around them and whistled by their heads, Hal and
Chester watched keenly the hand-to-hand struggle that ensued.
The two bodies of horsemen met with a crash less than a quarter of a
mile from where the two lads had taken their places. With swords and
sabers flashing aloft, the Austrians had charged with a wild yell. The
Italian cavalry, stationary and braced for the shock, received their
Hal and Chester could see that the opposing bodies of horse were about
evenly matched; and they realized that skill, horsemanship and fighting
prowess would play important parts in the encounter.
The very fierceness of the Austrian charge swept away the front rank of
the Italian cavalry; and, over the fallen bodies of men and horses the
foe pressed on, taking no count of their own dead and injured that reeled
and fell from the saddles. The horses themselves became imbued with the
spirit of battle, and bit and struck at each other as their riders fought
with sword, saber and pistol.
It was a terrible sight, and the lads shuddered unconsciously. It was
more frightful to the spectator than it was to the struggling men
themselves, who, in the heat of battle, took no thought of the dead and
the dying and pressed forward bent only upon protecting themselves while
they sought the lives of their foes.
For an hour the fierce hand-to-hand struggle raged, with advantage
apparently first to one side and then to the other. In other sections of
the field, at least where Hal and Chester could see, operations had
ceased for the moment, each commander evidently loath to hurl forward
additional troops until the cavalry action had been decided. However, the
troops were engaged in other quarters of the field. Upon the right the
Italians had made no impression on the Austrian, but the Italian left
wing had had better success. The first line of trenches of the enemy had
fallen to the attacking forces after a fierce bayonet charge by the
infantry, and the left wing had now taken shelter in the trenches and was
preparing to beat off a counter attack which the Austrian commander even
now was about to make.
And in the center the cavalry still fought sullenly and fiercely.
Suddenly Hal uttered an exclamation of dismay.
From a quarter of a mile to the left of the struggling cavalry, a second
body of Austrian horsemen appeared. These men had been ordered to make a
detour and fall upon the Italian horse from the left. They now charged
with a shout.
Apparently this had taken the Italian commander by surprise, for no
additional Italian troops were for the moment hurled forward to the
support of the cavalry. Beset by this new foe, the Italians were forced
back slowly, fighting every minute, however, and contesting every foot of
ground as they retreated.
Hal and Chester now realized for the first time that they were directly
in the line of retreat.
"We'd better move, Hal," said Chester, "or we shall have to fight whether
we want to or not."
Hal signified his assent with a nod of his head, and they turned their
horses' heads to ride out of harm's way.
But they had delayed too long.
From behind them came a loud, terrible, blood-curdling shout, and gazing
quickly about, the lads saw that they were directly in the road of large
cavalry reinforcements that were being rushed forward to the support of
the hard-pressed men in front.
"Quick, Chester!" cried Hal, and put spurs to his horse.
But it was too late.
The Italian cavalry was upon them, and rather than be thrown down and
trampled, the lads were forced to turn their horses in with the troop;
and thus they were carried along like a whirlwind in the very front rank
of the charge, and Hal, glancing to his left, felt a sudden sense of
satisfaction as he saw that the man who led this desperate charge was
none other than Colonel Harry Anderson, his old companion in arms, the
man by whose side both he and Chester had faced death more than once.
Hal's hand dropped to his belt, and his revolver came forth in his left
hand. The reins he allowed to fall loose upon his horse's neck, while
with his right hand he drew his sword. Chester, with the light of battle
in his eyes, was already prepared.
The horses of the two boys darted forward with the rest of the troop,
their ears standing straight up, their manes bristling, their
Now the troop came close upon the cavalry already engaged; and these men,
despite their seeming confusion, parted as though by a prearranged plan,
and the reinforcements passed through, and fell upon the enemy with an
impact that was not to be denied. Behind, the first troop reformed and
now came forward in support.
And once more Hal and Chester found themselves in the midst of battle.
Just before the impact, and as Colonel Anderson brandished his sword
aloft and urged his men on with a shouted command, Hal discharged his
revolver at a tall Austrian who had taken deliberate aim at Colonel
Anderson. The man threw up his hands and with a wild yell toppled beneath
the feet of the plunging horses, there to be trampled to death if Hal's
bullet had not been enough.
One volley was poured into the Austrians at a command from Colonel
Anderson, and then the Italians were upon the foe with drawn sabers. A
single volley from the Austrians proved ineffective; Hal and Chester and
the commander of the troop were unscathed and the Austrians had no time
Chester parried a blow aimed at him by an Austrian cavalryman, and
raising his pistol quickly, toppled him from his horse with a bullet. A
second ploughed its way through the chest of another trooper and with his
sword the lad caught a blow that at that moment would have descended upon
And so the fighting went, cut, thrust, parry and strike, with an
occasional revolver shot in between; and Hal, Chester, and Colonel
Anderson, in some miraculous manner, escaping injury.
The Austrians fought bravely, giving blow for blow, and in the center
succeeded in breaking through. It was but a mere handful of men who
succeeded in this venture, however, and they were immediately cut off
from their friends. A demand to surrender went unheeded; and a moment
later they had gone down.
A bugle sounded in the Austrian rear. The enemy drew off. It was first
blood to the Italians and the troops raised a loud cheer as they dashed
forward in pursuit of the foe, who now turned their horses about
sharply and fled.
For a hundred yards the Italians pursued, doing great execution with
their heavy cavalry swords; and then Colonel Anderson called a halt, for
he feared he might be rushing into a trap.
When two hundred yards separated the opposing forces, the Austrian
artillery suddenly broke loose again. A shell struck squarely in the
center of the Italian horsemen, doing frightful execution. Colonel
Anderson hurriedly gave the order to fall back.
The colonel turned to Hal and Chester.
"What are you two doing here?" he demanded. "I thought you told me your
fighting days were over?"
"We thought so, too," replied Hal, with a smile, "but you fellows
swooped down on us so suddenly that we didn't have a chance to get out
of the way."
"And it seemed pretty good," said Chester, "just like old times."
"You both gave good accounts of yourselves," declared the colonel. "I'll
have a word to say about you in my report."
"No use of--" began Chester and broke off with an ejaculation: "Hello!"
"What's up?" demanded Anderson.
For answer, Chester pointed to the left and slightly ahead. There,
overlooked in some way, a small body of Italian troops was engaged
silently with a larger number of Austrians and the Italians were getting
the worst of the encounter.
Colonel Anderson made his decision in a moment, and in spite of the
Austrian artillery shells that were flying overhead and dropping on all
sides, the cavalry rushed to the aid of their countrymen.
But the Austrians didn't wait to receive this new attack. They turned and
took to their heels; and as they hastened away, Hal caught the sound of a
voice coming from their midst:
"Hal! Chester!" it came. "Help!"
"By George! it's Uncle John!" exclaimed Chester, and urged his horse
forward faster than before.
"Uncle John--and a prisoner," ejaculated Hal, and also spurred forward.
But a heavy hand was laid on the bridle of each.
"Here! what's the matter with you fellows?" demanded Colonel Anderson's
gruff voice. "Want to get yourselves killed?"
"But we've got to get Uncle John out of this mess," declared Chester.
"You won't get him out by getting yourselves killed," was the reply.
"He's safe enough now. He's a prisoner and they won't hurt him."
"But they'll keep him prisoner," was Chester's exclamation.
"Well, what of it?" demanded the colonel.
"Well, I don't know," said Chester slowly.
"I'll speak to the general," said Colonel Anderson. "Perhaps he will see
his way clear to making representations for his release."
"Do you think he will?" asked Hal eagerly.
"To tell you the truth, I don't, but I'll speak to him, anyhow."
With this the lads were forced to be content, for they realized that
Colonel Anderson would not permit them to go forward by themselves;
besides, they recognized the folly of such an act.
The battle was over for the moment. The Italian left wing retained the
ground won despite several counter assaults and the right wing had also
been pushed forward after vigorous fighting. The Italians held their
dearly gained victory in the center.
"Come with me," said Colonel Anderson to Hal and Chester. "We'll have a
talk with the general."
The two lads followed him.
OFF ON A MISSION.
"I regret to say that what you ask is impossible."
The speaker was General Ferrari, commander of the Italian army of the
North--the army that later was to attempt an invasion of Austrian
territory by way of the Alps.
Colonel Anderson had just put before the general the question of trying
to gain the freedom of Uncle John. The general turned to Hal and Chester.
"I am not unmindful of the great help you rendered Italy in Rome," he
said; "but, at the same time, I cannot grant your present request. I
"Why, that's all right, sir," said Chester quietly. "The idea was Colonel
Anderson's, and if it cannot be done, that settles it, of course. Uncle
John will have to take his chances, the same as the rest of us."
"I am glad you are so sensible about it," replied the general. "Now,"
turning to Colonel Anderson, "I have a matter to discuss with you."
Hal and Chester took their departure, telling Colonel Anderson they would
await him without. Half an hour later the colonel joined them.
"It's too bad you fellows are not in the fighting business any
more," he said.
"Why?" demanded both lads in one voice.
"Because I am now confronted with a piece of work in which I should be
glad to have your aid."
"What kind of work?" asked Chester.
"Oh, just a little mission that would take us into the Austrian lines.
General Ferrari wants a little information, and he has selected me to go
after it. I've got to have a couple of companions."
"By Jove, Chester! Here's a chance for us," declared Hal. "We'll go
along, and who knows, perhaps we may have a chance to help Uncle
"Good!" agreed Chester. "What do you say, colonel?"
"I am afraid the general would not hear of it," replied the colonel, with
a slight smile. "For my part, if you are willing I should be glad to have
you with me. I know you are to be depended upon and I have great
confidence in your resourcefulness."
"Let's go and see the general," said Chester.
Colonel Anderson offered no protest to this and a few moments later
Chester put his request to General Ferrari.
"H-m-m," said the general, musing for a while. Then he gave his decision.
"All right," he said; "but first, I want to impress one thing upon you.
Your work of trying to release your Uncle John, as you call him, must be
a secondary matter. The mission you are undertaking will permit of no
delay. Do you agree to that?"
"Yes, sir," replied both lads, without an instant's hesitation.
"You say you hold commissions in the Belgian army?" asked the general.
"Yes, and I can vouch for the fact that they were both attached to the
staff of General Sir John French," put in Colonel Anderson.
"Very well, then," returned the general. "You may go, and my only
instructions are that the work be done with the greatest possible haste."
"It shall be done, sir," declared the colonel. "Come, boys."
The three saluted and made their way from the general's quarters.
In Colonel Anderson's tent they talked over their plans.
"Just what is it we are supposed to find out?" asked Hal.
"First, the enemy's strength at this point," replied the colonel. "The
lay of the land, the strength of the enemy's position, how his army is
laid out, and, lastly, the feasibility of a quick dash over the Alps."
"Not such a little job, after all," commented Hal dryly.
"And," said Chester, "just how do you figure we are going to get within
the Austrian lines?"
"That's the problem," said the colonel. "We'll have to figure that out.
One thing, we've got to get there, and at least one of us has got to get
back again. Luckily, I speak German fluently. I don't believe Austrian
will be necessary."
"Not much difference, is there?" asked Hal.
"Some. But German will do us."
"Well," said Chester, "one thing is certain; we shall have to discard our
"In which event," said Hal, "we shall be shot if captured."
"That can't be helped," said the colonel. "We'll have to don
"But how to get across?"
"Say, look here, I've got a plan," said Chester.
"Let's have it," said Hal.
"Listen, then. We'll put on civilian clothes. We'll tell the Italian
officer in command of the farthest outpost what we are about to do. We'll
get horses and we'll have a squadron of Italian cavalry chase us,
shooting--but over our heads. That will attract the enemy, and they'll
come forward to help us. Then we'll get there."
"But what reason will we give for wanting to get into the Austrian
lines?" asked Hal.
"I'm coming to that. Before we start, we'll draw up a couple of maps of
supposed Italian positions--which, of course, will be directly the
opposite of how things are here; we'll take down false figures of the
Italian strength and other such things. We'll tell the Austrian
commander, when we are taken before him, that we are German secret
agents, and we'll get away with it. Fortunately, I think we know the
phrase that will get us by."
"What do you mean?" asked Hal.
"Why, the one you used on Robard in Rome," said Chester. "'From the
"By Jove! I believe you are right," declared Hal.
"I am certain of it," replied Chester. "So, you see, we will overcome
suspicion, and will have freedom of the Austrian camp--practically. Now,
what do you think of the plan?"
"Well, it has its advantages," replied Colonel Anderson, "and if we are
careful and cautious, it may work. In lieu of a better, I guess we may as
well act upon it. Now, who is going to draw these maps? A map I would
draw wouldn't look like much."
"I guess that is up to me," said Chester. "I am rather handy with
He set to work and an hour later produced the result of his labors.
"Fine," said the colonel, after gazing at the maps. "And you have laid
them out, names and all. If the Austrians were to advance with the belief
that these were authentic, we'd eat 'em alive."
"I hope they do it," said Chester. "Now it's up to you to get the
"We've prepared those," said the colonel, and produced the result of an
"Now we'll have to hide them, so it will look right," said Chester.
"Right; but first crumple them up and rub a little dirt on 'em," said
This was done.
Then the three went in search of the necessary clothing. This they
obtained without much difficulty.
"Now, about the starting time?" said Chester.
"My idea," said Hal, "is that we go to the front at once, but that we do
not start toward the enemy's lines until just after the break of day."
"Why?" asked Colonel Anderson.
"For several reasons, but one will suffice. If we go at night the whole
thing is likely to go wrong, and they'll shoot us without taking any
chances. They won't see our apparently serious predicament in the
"You are right, as usual," replied the colonel.
"Now about weapons," said Chester. "We ought to carry a couple of
"And a good supply of ammunition," agreed Hal.
"We've got the guns, but not the ammunition," said Chester.
"I'll rustle that up for you in a few minutes," said the colonel.
He was as good as his word.
An hour later they set out for the front, still in uniform, for they did
not wish to don their civilian attire until it became necessary, for fear
they would arouse suspicion in the breast of the Italian officer in
command and necessitate a loss of time.
The Italian colonel in command of the outpost at the extreme northern
front listened to their plan and pronounced it a good one.
"I'll have you chased good and properly," he said, with a grin.
"Guess we had better turn in," said Colonel Anderson. "We'll leave it
to you to have us called half an hour before daybreak," he said to
"I'll have you up if I have to pull you out by the heels myself," was
The three friends turned in in the officer's own tent and soon were fast
asleep, their desperate mission of the morrow weighing not at all upon
their minds. They were too seasoned veterans for that.
Half an hour before daybreak they were aroused. All were perfectly
wide awake in a moment and donned their civilian clothes. Then they
left the tent and joined the Italian officer, where he awaited their
coming and explained to the officer of a squadron of cavalry what was
expected of him.
The latter nodded his understanding of the order and repeated it
to his men.
It was cool in the early morning air, close to the mountains as they
were, and the boys shivered a bit. Both were anxious for the time
A faint tinge of gray streaked the eastern sky; and gradually it
"Well, guess we may as well be on our way," said the colonel. "Have you
got our horses?"
The animals were led up at a command from the Italian officer. The three
swung themselves to the saddles.
"Ready?" queried the colonel, gazing carefully around.
"All ready," came the reply.
"Good! Here we go then," and the colonel set off at a gallop, his
revolver in his hand. Hal and Chester spurred after him.
WITHIN THE ENEMY'S LINES.
Revolvers clasped tightly in both hands, the reins hanging loose on their
horses' necks, while they guided the animals by the pressure of the
knees, the friends dashed forward toward the Austrian lines, probably
three miles ahead.
When they had gone some two hundred yards, there came behind them, with
loud shouts, a squadron of Italian cavalry, firing as they urged their
A hundred yards farther on the three saw signs of excitement in the
Austrian ranks, now visible in the distance. A moment and a troop sallied
forth to protect the flight of the apparent fugitives, and to drive back
Hal, thinking to help the illusion along, pulled his horse up sharply,
and as the animal staggered and lost his stride, the lad tumbled off.
He was up in a moment, however, and raising his revolver, emptied it
at the Italian horsemen bearing down on him. He was careful to aim
Chester and Colonel Anderson checked their mounts and the former leaped
to the ground and helped Hal back to his saddle. Then, with a last volley
in the direction of the Italians, they urged their horses on again.
Meanwhile they could hear the whine of the Italian bullets above their
head, some so close that Chester feared for a moment the Italian
cavalrymen had misunderstood their orders. But none touched them.
Straight toward the onrushing Austrians they spurred their horses; and
the Austrians parted to let them through. At this juncture the Italians
gave up the chase and retired; and the Austrians did not pursue them.
"Pretty narrow escape you fellows had," said the Austrian officer,
speaking in German.
"Rather," replied Hal dryly. "When my horse stumbled back there, I was
afraid it was all over."
"I thought so myself," returned the Austrian. "But what is the matter?
Who are you?"
Hal gazed about sharply, and then leaning close to the Austrian,
"From the Wilhelmstrasse."
The Austrian never moved a muscle, but whispered back again:
"Good! Then you desire to see General Brentz?"
"At once, if you please," replied Hal.
The Austrian nodded.
Back within his own lines the officer volunteered to conduct the three to
the general himself.
"It will avoid delay," he explained.
The three friends followed him.
Before the quarters of the Austrian commander, the officer whispered to
the orderly stationed at the entrance. The latter saluted and
disappeared. He came out a moment later and motioned for all to enter.
A large man, both tall and stout, was General Brentz, and he eyed the
three with a close gaze. All gave the stiff German military salute.
"You come from--" said the general, and paused.
"The Wilhelmstrasse," said Colonel Anderson, leaning slightly forward.
"And how did you get here?"
"Well, not without some trouble," replied the colonel. "And we almost
failed. But, fortunately, we remembered that the Wilhelmstrasse never
fails, and with the aid of your cavalry, sir, we escaped. This officer,"
pointing to the man who had conducted them there, "can perhaps tell you
better than I. I was too busy with my horse."
The officer, at the general's command, gave an account of the chase.
"Very well," said the general, when he had concluded. He turned again to
Colonel Anderson. "I take it you have valuable information for me, then?"
"Yes, sir, but for you only," replied the colonel, nodding toward the
General Brentz took the hint. He motioned the subordinate to withdraw.
Colonel Anderson leaned down and unloosened his boot. He took it off, and
drawing a knife from his pocket, slit the sole. Then he withdrew several
sheets of dirty, crumpled paper, which he extended to General Brentz. The
latter took them eagerly, and turned quickly to his desk.
For almost an hour he poured over the papers and at last a slow smile
spread itself over his face. He turned to the others.
"This," he said, "will prove the very link for which I have been wishing.
I may need more information from you, sirs."
The three friends were afraid to look at each other for fear they would
betray themselves, so all stood silent.
"I take it you know something of my position here," said General Brentz
to Colonel Anderson.
"Very little, sir," was the reply.
"I'll show you," said the general. "Draw up chairs, gentlemen; you may be
able to help me."
The three did as requested and then the Austrian commander spread a big
map on the desk.
"Here," he said, "are the positions of my troops. Now, having in mind the
lay of the enemy forces, can you not see that a feint on the enemy left
wing, followed by an attack in force on the center, is the key to the
Colonel Anderson nodded his head slowly. In the meantime he was looking
carefully at the map before him, impressing it upon his memory, as were
Hal and Chester also.
The colonel put a finger on the map.
"Then the bulk of your men are massed here?" he asked, indicating
"No, that's the beauty of it," was the reply. "My strength is on my left
wing. But an attack in force in the center, after a feint with my right,
will call such Italian troops to the center that a second assault in
force on our left will be almost certain of success."
"I see," said the colonel slowly. "You are right, sir. And what is the
strength, approximately, of your left wing?"
"One hundred and fifty thousand men. Fifty to seventy-five thousand in
the center and somewhat under fifty thousand in the right wing."
"Enough to make a show of force at any given point," commented the
"Exactly; and with these maps and plans you have brought me, there can be
no reason for failure."
"Have you ever considered, general," said Hal, "that a raid by the enemy
in force of say fifty thousand men, through your right wing, would give
them a commanding position in the mountains, a position from which they
could not be dislodged without a deal of trouble?"
"It has been one of my worries," was the quiet reply. "But, because of
the strategic position of the ground, I cannot afford to weaken my left
wing or my center to strengthen it. But if this new plan of mine goes
through, it will obviate all danger of such an attack."
"And how long would it take you to prepare for such an attack?"
"I would not attempt it under three days," was the reply. "Besides,
feeling sure of success as I do, I will wait for another reason. The
Emperor of Germany will be here within the next day or two and I would
have him see my troops in action. I trust you will stay here until he
arrives. I shall take pleasure in commending you to his Majesty."
"We shall be glad to accept your hospitality until that time," said the
colonel, "if you can provide us with suitable quarters."
"It shall be done," said the general and clapped his hands.
An orderly entered and to him the general gave the necessary
instructions. As the three would have followed the orderly out, the
general stayed them.
"One moment," he said. "I had forgotten you are not in uniform and would
be annoyed without a paper giving you the freedom of our lines."
He turned and scribbled for a few moments, and gave each a paper.
"Make yourselves entirely at home," he said. "I shall always be ready to
give you an interview providing the press of other work does not
Again the three gave the stiff German military salute and the general
rose to his feet as he returned it.
Then the three friends followed the orderly from the tent.
An hour later found them established in large and pretentious quarters--a
handsomely appointed tent not far from the first-line troops, but still
far enough back to be safe from the Italian artillery shells that ever
and anon came hurtling across the open.
"Well," said Chester, in a low voice, "we were fortunate."
"We were, indeed," returned the colonel. "I can't imagine yet what
possessed the general to let us have a look at that map."
"Nor I," said Hal.
"Well, I've got a picture of it in my mind that will keep for a week,"
said Chester. "I don't need to draw it."
"And it would be well not to," declared the colonel. "For if anything
should happen and you had such a map, you would be shot without a
"There is one thing sure," said Hal. "We'll have to get out of here
before the Kaiser arrives. He'll naturally want to have a look at his
secret agents and then it would be good night."
"Rather," replied Chester dryly. "Besides, it seems to me that we know
enough right now."
"Well, we'll look about another day, anyhow," said the colonel. "We may
be able to gather a few more details."
"It won't hurt anything," said Hal. "That's sure."
"Then we'll make our dash for the Italian lines to-morrow night,"
"Agreed," said Colonel Anderson and Hal.
There was a call from without and a moment later a pleasant, dapper
little officer stuck his head in the tent.
"General Brentz has told me to put myself at your service," he said.
"Perhaps you would like me to conduct you through the camp?"
The three friends were glad of this chance and followed him.
UNCLE JOHN "BUTTS IN."
"Well," said Chester to the young Austrian officer, as they were
returning to their quarters an hour later, "you hold a remarkably strong
position here. And still, if you are forced to fall back, then what?"
The Austrian smiled.
"We have considered all possibilities," he replied. "Back there,"
sweeping his arm about in a comprehensive gesture, "lies Gorizia, the key
to Trieste, which naturally is the Italian goal in this section. Gorizia
is exceptionally well fortified, as you well know. We could defend
ourselves there indefinitely in the face of overwhelming numbers."
"But," interrupted Hal, "it is not necessary to capture Gorizia to
"No," said the Austrian with a smile, "but it is necessary to take
Gorizia to hold Trieste. The mountains that overhang the city are
fortified with our great guns, which could rain shells upon the city
without danger of a successful reply. The Italians know this, which is
the reason they have not struck at Trieste before. The same goes for
Trent, the other point coveted by the enemy."
The party had stopped during this discussion, but now moved on again. In
this part of the camp the tents were laid out in little streets and
avenues, and down these they walked slowly.
And suddenly the three friends were treated to a disagreeable shock.
Closely followed by a guard, Uncle John suddenly stepped from a tent and
stood directly in their path. He seemed stricken dumb with amazement for
a moment and then hurried up to them with a glad cry.
"Chester! Hal!" he exclaimed in English.
For a moment the two lads were dumbfounded. Then, realizing their
perilous situation, Hal pushed Uncle John away and frowned at him. He
whirled upon the Austrian officer.
"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded sternly. "I did not know you
had lunatics here."
Now Uncle John knew something of German himself, and he caught this
remark. He glared angrily at Hal and then spoke to Chester.
"What's the meaning of this, Chester?" he asked.
Chester did not reply, pretending that he did not understand English.
Uncle John grew more angry.
"You young scalawags," he shouted, "what are you trying to do? Have some
fun with me? I want to tell you this is no place nor time for fun. I want
to get out of here."
Hal and Chester each was afraid to give Uncle John a signal for fear it
might be seen and Colonel Anderson made no move to interfere. The
Austrian officer turned a suspicious gaze upon the three friends.
"Do you know this man?" he asked.
Hal shook his head.
"He evidently has mistaken us for some one else," he said. "Do you
understand what he says? It sounds like it was English he spoke."
"So it is," replied the Austrian. "He called you Hal and Chester and also
scalawags, whatever that means."
Chester shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't know him," he said.
"Nor I," said Hal.
"I've never seen him before, to my knowledge," declared Colonel Anderson.
The Austrian officer glared down at Uncle John.
"What's the meaning of this?" he demanded in broken English. "Why do you
accost these gentlemen?"
"Why?" exclaimed Uncle John, dancing up and down in his rage, "why?
Because one of them is my nephew. What does he want to deny he
knows me for?"
"He says one of you is his nephew," said the Austrian turning to
"Well, he's wrong," declared Chester. "I'm sure none of us ever saw him
before. Let us go."
The Austrian signified his readiness and they moved off; and as they went
along Uncle John, glaring after them, shook a finger violently, and
shouted time after time:
"You young rascals. You'll be sorry for this."
He was still raging when the others disappeared from sight among
"I wonder why?" he asked himself repeatedly, when he was back in his
prison tent. And then suddenly it dawned upon him. "What a fool I
was," he muttered. "Of course they are here to get me out of this and
I came almost spoiling the whole thing, if I have not done so. I ought
to be licked."
Meanwhile, the three friends followed the Austrian officer back to their
quarters, where he left them.
"By Jove! that was a pretty close shave," remarked Hal, after the officer
had taken his leave.
"Rather," replied Chester dryly. "You would think a man of Uncle John's
age would have more sense. I'll tell him about it good and strong when I
see him again."
"But great Scott! wasn't he mad," said Hal with a laugh. "Did you see how
he glared at us? Wonder what he thinks of us, anyhow?"
"Maybe he thinks he has made a mistake," put in the colonel.
"No, he doesn't," declared Chester. "He knows us when he sees us, all
right, and I'll bet he is doing some tall thinking about now."
"Well," said the colonel, "we have done about enough for to-day. I vote
we accept the officer's invitation to have dinner with him."
"Same here," agreed the others.
The evening and night passed quickly, as did another day, and with the
coming of darkness on the second day, the friends began to think of a
method of making their way back to their own lines.
"We'll have to make an effort to take Uncle John with us," said Chester.
"Sure," agreed Hal and the colonel, and the latter added: "I guess we
will manage it some way. Now, as to the matter of getting by the
"I can't see as there will be any difficulty about that," said Chester.
"Fortunately we are known to most of the officers around here by sight.
They will think nothing strange of the fact that we are making a tour of
the outposts. Then, if we can manage to catch a sentinel off guard, we
can nab him and run."
"Sounds all right," remarked Hal. "We'll try it. But first we must get
"Of course," said the colonel. "We'll get him, all right. In an hour,
then, we shall move."
The hour passed slowly, and it seemed to all that the time for action
would never come. But at last Colonel Anderson, after a glance at his
watch, rose to his feet.
"Let's go," he said briefly.
The others followed him from the tent and he led the way quickly to where
Uncle John was confined. In the distance they saw that a sentinel stood
on guard and that to enter by that way would arouse suspicion.
"You fellows engage the guard in conversation," said Chester, "and keep
talking to him until I rejoin you."
The others asked no questions, but signified that they understood.
Chester let them walk on ahead of him, and then made his way to the rear
of the row of tents.
He produced a knife when he stood behind Uncle John's tent and slit the
canvas silently. Inside Uncle John was reading by candle light. Chester
whistled softly, the old whistle of his boyhood days at home, which he
felt sure Uncle John would recognize.
Nor was he wrong. Uncle John looked around quickly and beheld Chester's
face peering into the tent. Chester laid a finger to his lips and Uncle
John nodded. Then Chester beckoned Uncle John to come toward him and the
latter did so. Chester enlarged the opening in the tent with his knife
and Uncle John stepped into the open.
"Follow me," whispered the lad.
Uncle John asked no questions, but obeyed. Two hundred yards from the
tent, Chester halted.
"Now you stay right here till I come back," he said.
He hastened away to join his friends, who were still talking to Uncle
He joined in the conversation for a moment and then announced that they
might as well turn in. They told the guard good night and walked back to
where Chester had left Uncle John. The latter greeted them with silent
joy; he realized that to make a sound might betray them, and he was tired
of standing there by himself.
Colonel Anderson motioned to the others to follow and led the way
Swiftly and silently the four shadowy forms made their way along in the
shelter of the innumerable tents; and finally they passed beyond the
farthest row and into the open. Rapidly they covered the ground toward
the outposts, and nearing them, slowed down.
Then they walked forward, talking quietly among themselves, as though
they were just out for an evening stroll. And then--
"Halt!" came a hoarse command.
The four obeyed. A soldier confronted them with levelled rifle.
"Who goes there?" he continued.
"Friends," was the reply.