Part 4 out of 4
The man peered at them closely, and still keeping them covered, raised
his voice for his superior. The latter came on a dead run.
He eyed the four in the darkness and then motioned the soldier to
"It's all right," he told him.
The soldier saluted and walked away. The officer spoke to Hal.
"You are out rather late," he said.
"Right," returned the lad, "but we thought we would take a short stroll
before turning in. We had no idea we had wandered so far from camp."
"Oh, it's all right," was the reply. "Who is that with you?" peering at
Uncle John in the darkness.
"Just a friend we have made," said Chester, a slight tremor in his voice,
for he had hoped that Uncle John's presence would be overlooked.
"I don't seem to know him," said the officer, still peering intently at
Uncle John. And then suddenly he exclaimed: "The prisoner!"
He raised his voice in a cry for help; and at the same moment Hal's
revolver butt crashed down upon his head!
A WILD DASH.
But the damage had been done; and in response to the single wild cry,
footsteps came hurrying toward them. Every sleepy outpost within hearing
was wide awake now; and the alarm was carried both ways down the long
"Run!" cried Hal.
The four took to their heels and dashed ahead--in the direction that
eventually would carry them into the heart of the Italian lines, were
they fortunate enough to escape the bullets that in a moment would be
sent whizzing after them.
"If we only had horses," thought Chester as he dashed over the ground.
The same thought struck the others, but they did not pause to give
voice to it.
Fifty yards, a hundred yards they covered in the darkness before the
first shot came whining after them; but this was wide, thanks to the
blackness of the night. But now came a volley, from the Austrian troops
behind. They could not see the running figures, but the volley was
scattered and the four heard the sound of the singing bullets as they
passed over their heads.
"Down!" cried Colonel Anderson, even as a second volley rang out, and
they dropped just in time; for this second volley was aimed low, and
would have riddled the four fugitives. A third volley passed over their
prostrate forms, and then, as another did not come immediately, Colonel
Anderson gave the command: "Up and on again."
This command was obeyed to the letter and again the four fugitives dashed
over the ground without a word. Two, three, four hundred yards they
dashed at top speed and then paused for a much needed breath and to take
stock of the situation.
"Anybody hit?" asked Hal anxiously.
"No," came the reply from the other three.
"Good. Now the question is what is best to do. Undoubtedly the Austrians
will send a force of cavalry out looking for our bodies, and when they
fail to find them, they will spread out and give chase. That way they are
bound to overtake us sooner or later. Shall we bear off to the left, with
a hope of losing them, or shall we go straight ahead as fast as we can
and trust to luck?"
"I think I can answer that," said Hal, suddenly. "As we came out I
remember passing an old shack of some kind, a short distance off our
left. I vote we make for that, and if we can reach it, we will attempt to
hold it until daylight, when we can expect some assistance from the
Italians. They will come to our aid when they see us besieged by the
"A good plan," declared Colonel Anderson. "Do you think you can lead the
way to the shack you speak of?"
"I can come pretty close to it," declared Hal. "My sense of direction is
still with me, I believe. Come on."
Bearing slightly off to the right, he broke into a run and the others
followed close behind him. For perhaps another five hundred yards, he ran
forward at fair speed and then paused.
"It should be about here some place," he said. "Spread out and we'll have
a look for it."
This plan was followed and a hunt for the shack began in the darkness.
After perhaps five minutes, Chester's voice rang out.
"I've found it. This way."
The others made their way in the direction of his voice and a few moments
later all stood before the shack.
"Is it open?" asked Chester.
Hal tried the doorknob. It was locked. Also it was barred on the outside.
He put the muzzle of his revolver to the lock and would have fired had
not Colonel Anderson stayed his hand.
"Hold on there," he commanded. "We don't want to open it that way if we
can help it. Look around. Maybe there is a window."
At the back of the shack they found one, but it was well out of reach.
"Give me a hand up, Hal," said Chester.
Hal obeyed and Chester climbed to his shoulders. His head came level with
the window. Chester pushed against it and it swung inward.
"All right," he called back. "I'm going in."
He pulled himself up and then dropped down inside. Those on the outside
heard a terrible rattle and clatter and stood suddenly silent, for they
did not know what had happened. Then Chester called out:
"It's all right. I jumped in the dishpan; that's all. Come on."
Hal and Colonel Anderson boosted Uncle John to the window sill, and then
Hal gave Colonel Anderson a hand up. The latter, perched in the window,
leaned down and pulled Hal up beside him. They dropped down inside.
At that moment a sudden beam of light flashed into the room.
The moon had come out, lighting up the outside and accentuating the
darkness in the old shack.
"Well, here we are," said Chester. "Now we'll keep quiet, so as not to
tell the enemy where we are."
For perhaps an hour they sat in silence; and then Hal's quick ears
detected the sound of approaching horses.
"Listen!" he whispered.
The others strained their ears to catch some sound; and directly it
came--the sound of many horses approaching.
"Better see to our guns," said Colonel Anderson quietly.
He examined his own brace of revolvers carefully, and Hal and Chester did
the same. Uncle John was unarmed.
"Too bad we didn't stop and get the guns of the officer I knocked down
back there," said Hal. "However, it's too late now. We'll have to get
along with these."
"Perhaps they won't find this place in the darkness," said Uncle John
"Don't fool yourself there," said Chester. "They'll find it all right.
That is their business, right now. Besides, it's not so dark as it was
when we arrived."
"Maybe they won't take the trouble to look in," persisted Uncle John.
"They'll look in, all right," replied Hal dryly.
"Whoa!" came a voice in Austrian from outside.
Other voices became audible.
"Maybe they are in this old shack," said one.
"Hardly possible they found it in the darkness," replied another.
"We'll have a look, anyhow," declared a third.
Footsteps advanced toward the front door and a hand tried the knob.
"Locked," said a voice, "and, as you see, barred from the outside. I
guess they are not in there."
"Any windows?" asked another voice.
The pursuers moved around the house.
"Here's one," exclaimed a voice, stopping before the window by which the
fugitives had entered the shack.
"Climb in and have a look around," came a command.
"And get shot in the darkness?" questioned the other. "What's the matter
with your doing that?"
"Afraid, eh," said the other. "Here, give me a hand up."
A moment later, in the moonlight that streamed through the window, the
four inside saw the face of the first of their pursuers; but in the
darkness within, the occupants of the shack were not visible.
"I can see no one," said the Austrian.
"Get down and have a look," said the other.
The man in the window drew himself up to the sill and then turned and
dropped down inside; and even as he struck the floor Colonel Anderson
dealt him a terrific blow over the head with the butt of a revolver.
The man fell forward on his face without so much as a groan.
Then there was silence for some minutes.
"Well," came a voice from outside, "what's the matter with you in there?
Hal stepped close to the window, and mimicking the first Austrian's
"Don't see a thing. Nobody here."
"All right then; come on out."
"I'll have a better look first," replied Hal.
"Now what good is all that going to do?" demanded Chester of Hal. "They
won't go away and leave him here; and they'll discover his absence
"Just a little play for time," replied Hal. "Every minute helps, you
know. If we can hold out till daylight we will be all right."
"Right you are," whispered Colonel Anderson. "Minutes are precious things
There was silence for a few minutes; then the voice of the man without
"Say; what are you doing in there, anyhow? Are you coming out or not?"
"In a minute," mimicked Hal again.
"Find anything yet?"
"Then come on out of there, and let's go."
"All right, I'll be right out now."
Again there was silence.
A revolver butt tapped the side of the house.
"Come on out of there," said the Austrian outside.
"Coming," replied Hal.
Again silence; but this time broken from an unexpected source.
There came a sudden cry from the man on the floor--the man whom Colonel
Anderson had struck down as he jumped into the room:
Just that one word; that was all. Again a revolver butt crashed upon the
Austrian's head and he subsided without a murmur.
But the one word had given the warning.
The Austrian who had remained on the outside of the shack awaiting the
return of his friend, also raised his voice.
"The fugitives are in here!" he shouted. "This way, men!"
Came the sound of many running footsteps.
"We're in for it now," said Colonel Anderson quietly. "All ready?"
"All ready," replied Hal and Chester quietly.
"Good! Take your places in the corners of the room--as much out of the
line of fire as possible."
This was done.
"Surrender!" came a voice from without.
FOUR AGAINST MANY.
Chester could not resist the temptation to answer this demand.
"Come and get us!" he called back defiantly.
Uncle John created a slight diversion at this moment. He had been
stooping over the form of the unconscious German in the shack, and now
straightened up with an exclamation of satisfaction.
"Well, I've got these, anyway," he said.
He displayed a brace of revolvers and a cartridge belt which he had taken
from the fallen man.
"Good," said Colonel Anderson. "Now, Hal, you and I will guard the door,
and Chester and Uncle John will take care of the window. The chances are
they will attack from both directions at once. Stand as far back as
possible and out of the line of fire."
At that moment there came a crash against the door, as if several
men were pounding upon it with their rifle butts. And this, indeed,
was the case.
"Quick!" commanded Colonel Anderson. "Shove this table and these chairs
against the door. Brace it with anything you can find. We should have
done it sooner."
Chester and Uncle John gave up their posts guarding the window for a
minute and helped in the work of barricading the entrance. And all the
time the pounding continued.
As Chester stepped back after putting the last chair into place, there
came a report from behind him. There was a flash that lighted up the
shack like day, and the lad felt a bullet whiz past his ear.
He whirled quickly, and fired in the direction of the window, where he
saw a head bobbing down. The Austrian had dodged quickly after his shot,
but Chester had been quicker still; and the Austrian toppled down outside
at the feet of his companions. The fall was plainly audible.
"I got one of 'em!" shouted Chester gleefully.
"Good for you," replied Hal. "We'll get the rest of them as fast as
The pounding upon the door continued and the occupants of the shack kept
their eyes upon it anxiously.
"It gave a little that time," declared Hal, after an extraordinarily
furious blow. "It won't last much longer. Then we'll have to do some real
"They will hardly rush us," said the colonel. "We should be able to pick
them off as fast as they come through. They won't try that long."
At this juncture Chester grew tired of waiting. He motioned Uncle John to
give him a hand up and from the latter's shoulder raised his head
cautiously to the edge of the window. For the moment he was not seen. A
body of Austrians stood beneath the window, engaged in deep conversation.
Quickly Chester levelled his automatic and pressed the trigger. Ten shots
struck squarely in the little knot of the enemy, and several men fell.
A cry of anger rose on the night air, as Chester leaped down within the
"Think I got some more of 'em that time," he said with a grin. "They'll
find out we can take the initiative ourselves once in a while."
"Let them alone, unless they bother us," ordered Colonel Anderson. "The
longer they keep quiet and do nothing, the better for us. Time is the one
factor that will work to our advantage."
"I forgot about that," returned Chester a little sheepishly.
There came a terrible thundering upon the door now; and it was evident
that many men without had been called to force an entrance.
"It can't hold much longer," declared Hal quietly.
"About two more like that and it will give," agreed Colonel Anderson.
Another rain of blows was followed by a crash, as the bottom of the door
gave way. A moment later it tumbled inward against the table and chairs
stacked up to brace it.
And even as it did so, Colonel Anderson and Hal pressed the triggers of
their revolvers. Once, twice, each spoke, and the voices of the
automatics were rewarded by cries of pain from the outside.
"We must have done some damage," said Hal quietly.
Colonel Anderson did not reply; but stepping forward behind the
improvised barricade, again levelled his revolver and fired twice.
"Think I got a couple that trip," he remarked.
He glanced around the room quickly.
"Back in the corners," he instructed. "They'll probably try to rush us
He had predicted correctly.
For a moment there was silence without; but suddenly there came a wild
yell and a score of Austrians dashed forward to force an entrance to
"Make every shot count!" cried Hal.
The occupants of the cabin waited until the foe was in plain sight and
then four revolvers spoke once. As many men dropped in their tracks--for
at that distance a miss was practically impossible; but the other
Austrians came on.
Again four revolvers spoke; and this time only three men dropped. A third
volley from the occupants of the cabin accounted for two. The Austrians
"We're wasting bullets," declared Hal. "One is enough for each man. Uncle
John, you take the man on the far left, Chester, you the one next to him,
Colonel Anderson, the third is for you. I'll take the man on this side."
"A good idea," replied the colonel. "One bullet for one Austrian. That's
all each is worth."
As the Austrians, after a moment of hesitation, pressed forward once
more, the weapons of the four friends spoke twice in rapid succession
with greater effect.
This was enough for the enemy--for the time being, at least. They drew
off and the occupants of the shack had time for a breathing spell and an
opportunity to reload their weapons.
"They'll be back in a few minutes," declared Colonel Anderson. "Their
officers will not let them give up as long as we are here."
"Well, we'll be ready for them," said Chester grimly.
"So we will, Chester," declared Hal. He turned to Uncle John. "Well, what
do you think of this kind of a life, sir?" he asked.
Uncle John smiled faintly.
"It's not so bad," he replied. "It's a little strange to me, but
you notice I have been able to fire a gun. I guess I'll get used to
it in time."
"You are a brave and cool-headed man, sir," declared Colonel Anderson. "I
do not believe I was half so cool my first time under fire."
"If you really knew how scared I was, you wouldn't say that," was Uncle
A hail from outside interrupted further talk.
"What do you suppose they want now?" asked Hal.
"Don't know," replied the colonel briefly. "We'll see." He raised his
voice in a shout.
"What do you want?" he demanded in German.
"Want to have a talk with you," was the reply.
"Talk away," replied the colonel.
"We would give you a chance of life and to avoid further bloodshed,"
replied the Austrian.
"There has been no bloodshed in here," returned Colonel Anderson, "except
among your men. We are perfectly whole and ready to fight some more."
"Then you refuse to surrender?"
"We do; most decidedly."
There was no more talk from the Austrians; neither was there another
immediate attack. The quiet without became so pronounced that Hal
"What do you suppose they are doing?" he asked.
"Haven't any idea," replied Colonel Anderson.
"Well, you can take my word for it they are up to some mischief,"
declared Chester. "This silence bodes no good for us, I'll bet."
"Well, as long as they let us alone, it's a point in our favor," declared
Colonel Anderson. "It is less than an hour until daylight now. Then we
shall have help."
"The Austrians will have a whack at us before that," said Hal positively.
"But I would like to know what's up."
"So would I," declared Chester. "And I am positive that there's
"I guess we'll know soon enough," said Uncle John.
And they did learn--not fifteen minutes later.
"What's that funny noise out there?" asked Chester suddenly.
The others strained their ears.
"I don't hear anything," said Hal. "You must--Wait, though. What is
Again all listened intently. There was a faint "crack, crack," as though
some one were walking upon fallen twigs.
At that moment Chester detected another cause for alarm.
"I smell smoke," he said suddenly.
"By George! that's what's the matter," shouted Hal. "They are going to
smoke us out and shoot us down, or burn us here like rats in a trap. What
are we going to do?" he demanded anxiously.
"Don't get excited, in the first place," replied Colonel Anderson coolly,
"We are in a ticklish situation, and that's a fact, but there must be
some way out of it. Now let's see. We can't get out the front door
without being shot down. The same goes for the window as the house
undoubtedly is surrounded. Then what are we to do?"
"There is only one thing I can think of," declared Hal.
"As long as we are playing for time, stay here until we can stand it no
longer because of the heat. Then make a break for it. Perhaps we can take
them by surprise, grab four horses and get a good start."
"There is little chance of that," replied Colonel Anderson. "But it seems
to be the only way. We'll do it."
Their plans thus made, they waited patiently, conversing in low tones,
the while keeping their eyes open. The flames were crackling merrily now,
and the heat was becoming intense, while occasional clouds of smoke
rolled into the single room. It was too hot to remain still. Colonel
Anderson spoke. "We've stood it long enough," he said. "Guns ready, and
"Hold on there a minute," said Chester. "We are forgetting one thing."
"What's that?" demanded Colonel Anderson.
"Why," returned Chester, "that at least one of us must get back to
General Ferrari and give him the information we were sent after."
"But how can we?"
"Well, not by jumping out there and fighting and getting killed, all of
us. I've a plan."
"You'll have to hurry," said Hal. "It's getting too hot in here."
"Listen then," said Chester, speaking rapidly. "I'll climb up to this
window and drop out. They won't shoot at me at first, because they
naturally will think I am about to surrender. When I get to the bottom,
I'll wait for either you or Colonel Anderson, as you may decide. When one
of you reach my side, we'll both run. The Austrians will give chase. When
I yell, the two who remain here will make a break out the door, try to
find a couple of horses and head for the Italian lines. Come, now, let's
Without awaiting a reply, he crossed to the window.
"A hand up, Uncle John," he said quietly.
The latter hurried to his side, and making a step of his uncle's hand,
Chester pulled himself up. A moment later he disappeared.
"I'll be the other," declared Colonel Anderson and started toward the
window. Hal stretched out a hand and detained him.
"No, I'll go," he said.
"You forget," said Colonel Anderson, "that I am in command of this
expedition, sir. I command you to obey my orders."
Hal stepped back.
"Very well," he said slowly.
Uncle John gave the colonel a hand up, and then hurried to Hal's side,
and the two stood awaiting the word that would send them from their fiery
retreat in a wild dash through the Austrian troops without.
Suddenly the sound came. Hal heard it plainly--Chester's voice, raised in
a shout in English.
"All right! Go!"
With a low cry to Uncle John to follow him, Hal leaped through the
scattered heap of chairs, over the table and dead bodies that almost
blocked his progress, and into the open. Uncle John was right behind him.
The way seemed clear and Hal's heart beat with hope as he made out
directly ahead of him the shadowy form of what he knew to be a body of
horses. He dashed toward them silently.
He seized a bridle of the first horse and tossed it to Uncle John, who
leaped quickly to the saddle, and waited a moment for Hal. The lad was
astride a second horse a moment later and whirling the animals quickly,
they urged them forward in the darkness at top speed.
At that moment a form blocked their way.
With a quick movement Hal whipped out his automatic, and without pausing
to take aim, fired. The bullet went true, and the man toppled to one side
even as Hal's horse would have trampled him under foot.
There came a loud cry from behind and Hal realized that their ruse had
"Hurry," he called to Uncle John.
A volley of bullets was sent after the flying horsemen by the
Austrians, who realized for the first time that two of their quarry
were about to escape.
"Mount and after them," came a hoarse Austrian command.
Half a dozen troopers made a rush for their horses, while as many more
dropped to their knees, levelled their rifles and fired into the darkness
where the fugitives had been a moment before.
But the darkness was a blessing to the two fugitives. The Austrians were
aiming by mere guess and neither rider was touched.
Hal began to breathe easier. He checked the pace a trifle, as he realized
that Uncle John was lagging a little behind, his horse, apparently, not
being as fresh or as swift as the one the lad bestrode.
And now the boy caught the sound of hoofbeats hurrying after them.
"Hurry, Uncle John!" he called anxiously. "They are after us."
Uncle John urged his horse to greater effort and the animal responded
nobly. For a moment he kept pace with Hal's swifter mount.
Hal dropped the reins to his horse's neck, and drew his second revolver.
Then he slackened the pace of his horse even more.
"Go ahead!" he cried as Uncle John flashed by. "I'll hold 'em back a
minute or two."
The pursuers gained upon him. Hal stopped his horse.
A moment later the Austrians became visible in the now semi-darkness--for
dawn was breaking. Hal raised both weapons and fired three times in rapid
His effort was rewarded by several cries of pain from the pursuers, and
the others checked their horses abruptly. Again Hal fired twice; and
then, turning his horse quickly, rode swiftly after Uncle John.
The Austrians hesitated a moment before again taking up the chase, and
this brief moment was the time the fugitives needed.
As they galloped along, Hal still somewhat in the rear, it grew light and
less than a half a mile ahead the riders made out the first Italian
outpost. They headed toward it with loud cries, the Austrians now again
Their cries were heard in the Italian lines, and quicker than it takes to
tell it, Hal's heart was made glad by the sight of a mounted squadron of
Italian troops dashing toward them.
He slowed his horse down to a walk, and turning in the saddle, took a
parting shot at the Austrians, who now had turned to flee. One threw up
his arms, and dropped to the ground, and the horse went on riderless.
The Italian horsemen pulled up when they reached Hal's side, and the lad
explained the situation in a few words.
"If you are quick," he told the officer, "you may take them unaware and
rescue my two companions."
The officer wasted no time in words; a quick command to his men, and the
troop went on in pursuit of the foe.
Hal turned to Uncle John.
"There is nothing we can do for them," he said. "We shall go to General
Ferrari and make our report."
He led the way, more slowly now.
The Italian commander received them immediately and Hal gave him the
information they had gained in as few words as possible. After receiving
the thanks of the general, the boy, followed by Uncle John, again made
his way to the front; and at the extreme outpost, saw the Italians who
had pursued the Austrians returning--empty-handed.
The officer greeted him with a gesture of sorrow.
"It was no use," he said. "They had started when we reached there. We
pursued them as far as advisable, and fell back only when a strong force
of the enemy came out to meet us."
Hal thanked him and with Uncle John returned to his quarters, seeking to
think of some way by which he could be of service to his chum and to
Meanwhile, what of the other two?
When Chester leaped from the burning shack, he awaited the arrival of the
next, who proved to be Colonel Anderson, even as he had planned. As
Chester had figured, the Austrians did not attack him when he reached the
ground, evidently believing he was about to surrender.
A moment later Colonel Anderson stood beside him, and as the latter
raised himself to his feet, Chester shouted the words that had set Hal
and Uncle John on their dash for life:
"All right! Go!"
At these words, he and Colonel Anderson also dashed ahead. Taken by the
surprise, the Austrians hesitated a moment and then dashed after them
with cries. The men who had been guarding the door by which Hal and Uncle
John later escaped, also joined in the chase.
For a couple of seconds the Austrians did not fire at the fugitives,
evidently believing they could catch them. But as the two gradually drew
away from them an officer gave the command:
A score of rifles cracked, but fortunately for Chester and Colonel
Anderson, none of the soldiers had taken time to aim carefully. But one
bullet whistled close to Chester's head.
"I can't see any use getting killed," he muttered to himself.
Colonel Anderson also came to a stop, and both raised their hands in
token of surrender.
An Austrian officer advanced toward them--and he proved to be the same
man with whom they had talked just before making their dash from the
Austrian lines--the man whom they had knocked unconscious as he gave
"So we have you at last, eh?" he said harshly.
"Yes, we're here," agreed Chester with a smile.
"And this time you will not get away," was the response. "Spies, eh?"
"Well, what of it?" demanded Chester.
"Nothing," replied the officer, "except that you will be shot some
"Oh, well, that's the chance we all take," replied Chester calmly.
At this moment a subordinate approached the officer.
"The other two fugitives, sir, have taken two horses and fled," he said.
"What?" shouted the Austrian.
The officer whirled upon Chester and Colonel Anderson.
"So," he exclaimed. "This is some more of your work. You shall pay for
"Perhaps," said Chester.
The officer made no reply to this. Instead he motioned them to move ahead
of him, which they did. A moment later they found themselves in the
saddle and headed back toward the Austrian lines, closely surrounded by
"And now," said Chester, "for another call on our friend, the general."
MR. STUBBS ONCE MORE.
A hearty hand slapped Hal on the back, and he looked up from a moody
reverie into the face of Anthony Stubbs.
"Well, well, what's the matter now?" demanded the little war
"Matter enough," replied Hal. "The Austrians have nabbed Chester."
"You don't say!" exclaimed Stubbs. "I thought you fellows had finished
your fighting days."
"So we had," returned the lad; "but we took one little fling, and this is
"And what are you going to do about it?"
"That's what I have been trying to figure out."
"Well, I guess they won't hurt Chester any," said Stubbs.
"That's where you are wrong," declared Hal, getting to his feet. "They'll
just about stand him up and shoot him as a spy."
Stubbs became more serious at once; for before he had not realized that
Chester was in any immediate danger.
"As serious as all that?" he questioned. "Tell me about it. What have you
fellows been up to?"
Rapidly Hal laid the facts before him.
"H-m-m," muttered Stubbs, when the lad concluded. "Chester certainly has
got himself into a mess. And Anderson is with him, eh? Well, we will have
to do something--and that at once."
"Yes; but what?" demanded Hal anxiously.
"Well, now, that's the question, but you'll have to give me time. I'll
find a way. A newspaper man always finds a way."
Hal felt a little relieved. He couldn't see that there was the slightest
chance to be of assistance to his chum, but the little war
correspondent's words cheered him.
"Yep, you'll have to give me a little time," said Stubbs. "Now you wait
here until I come back, and if I don't come back with a first class plan
I hope to never write another story for the _Gazette_."
He walked rapidly away, leaving Hal alone with his thoughts. Fifteen
minutes later the little man returned.
"All right," he said. "Let's go."
"Go?" exclaimed Hal. "Go where?"
"Why, go and get Chester and Anderson out of the hole. Are you ready?"
"Oh, I'm ready enough," replied Hal, as he fell in step and hurried along
beside Stubbs, "but tell me--"
"Now hold on there," interrupted Stubbs. "I'll tell you, but I am a-going
to do it in my own way. Don't hurry me."
Hal made no reply, and after a few moments the war correspondent
"Yep, we'll get 'em all right--that is, if the Austrians don't beat us to
it. Sure we'll get 'em."
He grew silent again, and although Hal could hardly restrain his
impatience, he pressed his lips close together and said nothing. Stubbs
gazed at him and smiled.
"You'll do," he said. "Now that you have managed to get a tight rein on
your impatience I'll tell you. In the first place, we'll have to hurry;
but first we'll turn in here a minute."
He turned abruptly to the right, and a moment later led the way into his
own temporary quarters.
"My diggings, as the British say," he declared with a wave of his hands.
"I'll have you fixed up in a minute."
"Fixed up?" questioned Hal.
"Sure. You didn't expect to go back to the Austrian side looking like
that, did you? They'd nab you in a minute."
He rummaged among some things in a corner, and directly produced an extra
suit of clothes.
"Climb into these," he ordered.
Hal did as commanded and awaited further instructions.
Stubbs opened a little box, which gave forth a peculiar smell and had a
queer blackish appearance. Stubbs dipped his fingers in the box, and then
passed them over Hal's face.
"Lucky I had a little experience in the art of stagecraft," he remarked
as he continued the operation.
He stepped back and surveyed Hal critically.
"There," he exclaimed. "Your own mother wouldn't know you. You look all
of ten years older. Got your guns?"
Hal picked them up from where he had thrown them when he had
"All ready," he said quietly.
"Wait till I fix myself up a little," said Stubbs. "You must remember I
was within the Austrian lines not so long ago myself. They may be looking
for me, too."
He again delved into the little box, and Hal, as he watched, was
surprised at the change in the appearance of the man. He, too, seemed to
have aged greatly, and he bore slight resemblance to the old Stubbs.
"All ready to move now," he said at last.
He led the way from his quarters, and perhaps a hundred yards away,
indicated a pair of horses.
"Ours--for the journey," he said.
A moment later both were in the saddle and were riding toward the front.
"Now," said Stubbs, "I'll resume my little talk."
"One minute," broke in Hal. "How do you figure we are going to be
allowed the freedom of the Austrian camp? What'll they do with us when
we get there?"
"True," said Stubbs. He reached in his pocket and produced two papers,
one of which he passed to Hal. "This may help a little," he explained.
Hal looked at the paper. He found it was made out in the name of John
Lawrence and that it purported to be an identification of John Lawrence
as an accredited correspondent of the New York _Gazette_.
"I've got two or three more back there," said Stubbs, waving an arm in
the general direction of his quarters. "They have often come in handy."
"I see," said Hal. "Then these papers are what you are figuring on to
gain us the freedom of the Austrian lines."
"Freedom to a certain extent, yes," replied Stubbs. "Now for the other
part of my plan. To be perfectly frank, you know just as much about it as
I do. I have no plan beside getting in the Austrian lines. Events must
shape themselves after that."
"But do you suppose these papers will satisfy the Austrian commander?"
"They will after I have talked to him for five minutes."
"I hope so," said Hal.
They had now passed the Italian outposts, unmolested, and rode across the
open toward the Austrian lines. Some time later they were halted by an
"Take us to the general," commanded Stubbs.
The sentinel eyed the little man aggressively, but, evidently being
impressed with his manner, called a superior. To him Stubbs gave the same
command, and he gave it in such a way that the officer, after a slight
hesitation, turned on his heel and motioned Hal and Stubbs to follow him.
Five minutes later they stood again in the presence of General Brentz.
Stubbs produced his paper and Hal did likewise. The general scanned
"How do I know you are what you represent yourselves to be?" he
"For one reason, general," said Stubbs, "because we wouldn't be here
otherwise. Of course we don't expect the freedom of your lines, but we
would like to know a little about the Austrian troops--whether they can
fight, how they stand up under fire--what kind of men they are. The
people of America want to know, and that's what we are here for."
The general hesitated.
"I've had some trouble with spies here lately," he said at length, "and I
have become wary." He scrutinized them closely. "But you look honest.
I'll take a chance on you. Besides, it would be well for the people of
America to know something of the Austrians besides what they read from an
"Thank you, general," said Stubbs, "and you will provide us with papers
so that we will not be molested?"
"Yes, I'll do that."
The general scribbled a few lines on two sheets of paper, which he passed
to Stubbs. The latter gave one to Hal, and turned to go, Hal following
him. At the entrance Stubbs turned quickly.
"Oh, by the way, general, about these spies--are they Italians?"
"No, they are British," was the reply.
"And there is no doubt they are spies?"
"None; they aided a prisoner to escape and were only captured after great
trouble. There were two more whom we did not get."
"Oh! In that case, I suppose you will have to shoot them," Stubbs stated
as a matter of fact.
"Exactly. They will be executed at sunrise to-morrow."
"In the meantime they are likely to escape again," said Stubbs.
"Not much," declared the general. He walked to the window, and pointed to
a large tent a short distance away.
"See that tent?" he questioned.
Hal and Stubbs indicated that they did.
"They are confined in there," said the general, "and they are heavily
guarded. I have stationed a guard of five armed men, with instructions
never to leave them alone. I shall take no chances; and in the morning
they shall be shot. This is no place for spies."
"I can see that, general," replied Stubbs. "Well, we are obliged to you
for your courtesy, and we shall make it clear to the American people that
the Austrians are not as black as they have been painted."
The general bowed courteously, and Hal and Stubbs left his quarters.
"You see," said Stubbs when they were outside, "it wasn't such a hard
matter after all."
"And to think," said Hal, "that, in view of his recent experiences, he
was so unwary as to betray where Chester and Colonel Anderson are
"Which was lucky for us," declared Stubbs. "It will save us a lot of
worry and search."
"Now what?" demanded Hal.
"Well," was the reply, "I should say that there is nothing that can be
done before dark. However, we might as well take a look at the prison
tent from the outside. It is always well to know the lay of the land."
Accordingly they turned their footsteps in that direction, and walked by
the tent slowly. And from the inside they heard the sound of Chester's
laugh, as he talked to Colonel Anderson.
"He's not worrying any, that boy," said Stubbs with a smile. "We'll get
them out safely."
All the afternoon the two prowled about the camp; and at last darkness
fell. It was time to get busy, for whatever was done must be accomplished
before the break of day, when a firing squad would snuff out the lives of
the two prisoners.
"Well, here we go," said Stubbs.
He led the way slowly toward the prison tent.
SENTENCED TO DIE.
Chester's and Lieutenant Anderson's interview with General Brentz was far
from being the pleasant few minutes that Hal and Stubbs had experienced.
Hal now considered the general a pleasant middle-aged man and a courteous
gentleman; Chester looked upon him almost as a barbarian.
General Brentz was striding wrathfully up and down his quarters when
Chester and Colonel Anderson were taken before him. He greeted their
arrival with a fierce scowl and motioned the guards outside the door with
an angry gesture.
"So!" he exclaimed. "You are British spies instead of German secret
agents, eh? Well, we know how to treat all such here. What have you to
say for yourselves?"
"Nothing," said Colonel Anderson, replying for both.
"'Twould do you no good," responded the officer. "But there is one thing
I would know. How does it come that you are familiar with the password of
"I can't see where it would do any good to tell you, general,"
"But I demand to know."
"You'll never learn from me," declared the lad.
Colonel Anderson smiled.
"That goes for me, too," he said quietly.
The general glared wrathfully at first one and then the other.
"Very well," he said, controlling his anger. "You shall both be shot
He gazed at the two closely to see what effect his words had; but if he
expected to find an expression of fear upon either face, he was
disappointed. Colonel Anderson and Chester eyed him steadily, though
It was what they had expected.
After a few moments the general spoke again, this time more kindly, with
his eyes full upon Chester.
"You," he said, "appear to be too young for this sort of business. How do
you happen to be mixed up in such desperate work?"
"It's too long a story to go into, general," replied Chester quietly.
"Besides, as we have not much longer to live, Colonel Anderson and I
would rather be left to ourselves."
The general seemed about to make an angry reply; then changed his mind,
"Are you English?"
"No, I am not," replied Chester. "I am an American."
"I thought so," declared the general. "Well, it's too bad, but if you
will mix up in business that does not concern you, you must pay the
His orderly entered and came to attention.
"Have these prisoners closely confined," was the command. "Station a
detail of five men and see that they are not unguarded a single moment.
Then present my compliments to Colonel Frestung and tell him to have a
firing squad ready at sunrise. These men are spies and must die."
Again the orderly saluted and motioned the prisoners to precede him from
the general's quarters.
With heads erect and shoulders squared, Chester and Colonel Anderson
marched out ahead of him. Each realized the futility of a break for
liberty and each was determined to live his last moments and die the
death of a soldier.
Outside a squad of soldiers surrounded them and they were led to a large
tent, which was to be their last prison. Inside they found comfortable
chairs, a table and several books.
"They seem to take pains to make it pleasant for a man about to die,"
remarked Colonel Anderson. "We should be able to spend a profitable day."
"So we should," was the reply. "I wonder if Hal and Uncle John got
through safely?" he remarked somewhat irrelevantly.
"I guess we can bank on that," said the colonel. "They got through if
there was a possible chance."
"I hope that Hal does not venture into the Austrian lines in an attempt
to rescue us," declared Chester. "It would be sticking his head into the
"Nevertheless, that is what he is likely to do," asserted Colonel
Anderson. "It is not like him to keep quiet when some one is in danger."
"That's what worries me," confessed Chester. "There is no use of his
being killed, too."
"Oh, well," said the colonel, "whatever happens is beyond our power to
remedy. Let's talk about something pleasant."
And so they did, whiling away the rapidly flying hours with stories and
reminiscences; and the shadows deepened as darkness approached.
"It seems to me that we could get out of this place some way," declared
"It seems to me that you are wrong," said, the colonel grimly. "There are
five guards outside, each armed to the teeth. What chance would we have?"
"Well, I don't know," confessed Chester. "I was just thinking."
"Think while you have a chance," said the colonel with a slight grin.
"Looks like our thinking days were about over."
Chester's eyes roamed about the tent. His eyes sparkled.
"We might as well have a little fun, anyhow," he remarked. "How hard do
you think you could hit a man with that chair you are sitting on?"
Colonel Anderson felt the chair carefully with his fingers.
"Well, pretty hard, I guess," was his reply. "What's the idea?"
"Think you could hit him so hard he wouldn't have time to cry out?"
"Yes; if I was particular how I handled it."
"Well, we'll have a try at it then," declared Chester.
"Try at what? What do you mean?"
"I'll tell you. I'll step out of the tent. The first guard in sight will
order me to get back inside. I'll protest. Then he'll put me in. When he
lets loose of me, you whack him over the head with that chair, and be
careful how you do it."
"Yes, but the other guards?"
"I guess we can work that all right. I have noticed that no two of the
guards are in front of the tent at the same time--they are walking around
all the time. When you have disposed of the first man, we'll work the
same trick on the other."
"And then what?"
"Why then," said Chester simply, "we'll put on their uniforms and walk
out of here."
"By Jove!" ejaculated the colonel. "Now I wonder--"
He broke off and for some moments was lost in thought. Then he got
quietly to his feet, determination written upon his strong features.
"It may work," he said. "We'll try it. But we'll have to move quickly and
silently; and we shall have to don the uniforms almost in a single jump."
"All right," said Chester. "Ready?"
"All ready," replied the colonel with a nod.
He picked up the heavy chair and swung it once about his head. Then
he took up a position at the side of the tent, just out of view from
Chester walked boldly from the tent.
"Get back in there," came a harsh command in Austrian.
Chester paid no heed and continued to gaze straight ahead into the
rapidly descending darkness.
"Get back in there," came the command, and still Chester made no move.
The Austrian soldier came up to the lad, and taking him by the shoulders,
thrust him within the tent. Chester threw out an arm and succeeded in
drawing the man in after him. Then he released his own hold, and with an
effort shook off the grip of his captor. At the same moment he jumped
lightly aside and called in a hoarse whisper:
There was a rush of air as the heavy chair descended, followed by a dull
thud, and a second impact as the soldier fell to the ground with a
crushed skull. Colonel Anderson was over the unconscious form in a
moment, ready to choke an outcry should his blow not have been true. But
there was no need for this. His aim had been true, and the man was
unconscious before he fell.
"All right," whispered the colonel hoarsely. "Rip off your clothes while
I get him out of this uniform."
Chester flung off his clothes hurriedly, and stepped quickly into the
uniform Colonel Anderson gave him. Then he deprived the man of his gun
"All ready for the next one," he said. He moved toward the door.
"Hold on there," called the colonel. "You can't go in that uniform."
"By George! you're right," declared Chester. "What now?"
"You'll have to wield the chair," was the reply. "There is no time to
He walked out of the tent and Chester picked up the chair and stepped
This time, therefore, it was Colonel Anderson who engaged in a heated
altercation with a second Austrian soldier. The plan worked as well as
before and the man pushed the colonel back into the tent. The latter
dragged the man in after him and stepped hurriedly aside, just as Chester
brought the chair down upon the Austrian's defenseless head with all his
power. The man dropped like a log.
Hurriedly Colonel Anderson stripped off his outer garments and climbed
into the Austrian's uniform. Then he seized the man's gun and revolvers
and led the way from the tent.
"If you see another of them, keep your back toward him if possible,"
whispered the colonel.
And just as Chester emerged from the tent a third guard stepped around
the side. Chester turned his back, as did Colonel Anderson, and the man
paid no heed to them. The fugitives walked away quickly.
Out of sight of the tent they slowed down and breathed with relief.
"Which way now?" asked Chester.
"As straight toward the front as we can go," was the reply. "We'll have
to trust to luck to get through."
They made off with all speed.
And suddenly, from the direction in which they had come, there came a
loud cry, followed by several pistol shots and the sound of footsteps
running after them.
"They have discovered our escape!" shouted Colonel Anderson. "Run."
He suited the action to the word and Chester ran after him.
"We'd better double back and try to throw them off our track," called the
colonel over his shoulder.
He swerved to the right, ran a few rods, and turned to the right again.
And then, abruptly, he came to a pause. Chester, a step behind, crashed
into him. He stumbled, and uttered an exclamation of dismay, as he heard
Colonel Anderson say:
As Hal and Anthony Stubbs approached the tent in which Chester and
Colonel Anderson had been so recently confined, they discussed their plan
of action; and after several plans had been advanced and rejected, Hal
decided that caution must be thrown to the winds.
"A quick dash--and a fight if necessary," he declared.
And Stubbs had agreed, peaceful man though he was; and although Hal did
not know it, the little man was literally shaking in his boots. However,
like many men of his kind, he had a certain manner of concealing his
nervousness, and he now followed Hal coolly enough.
Fifty yards from the tent Hal paused, as he saw two figures emerge from
the prison and walk quickly away.
"Strange. Wonder what that means?" he said to himself. He turned to
Stubbs. "All right now," he said quietly. "Follow me and be quick."
He ran lightly forward and dashed into the tent. And in the darkness he
stumbled over a prostrate form. Quickly he drew a match from his pocket
and struck, it. The face of the man on the floor was not that of Chester
nor Colonel Anderson. The flare of the match showed him a second
prostrate form, and he saw that this, too, was a stranger to him. Then he
saw the discarded clothing and realized what had transpired.
"Quick, Stubbs! They have escaped!" he shouted, and darted from the tent.
And in the entrance he met an Austrian guard, whose attention had been
attracted by the sound of Hal stumbling within. The man uttered a low
exclamation and sought to bring his gun to bear.
But Hal was too quick for him. In spite of the fact that he keenly
realized the need of caution, he also realized the value of time. His
hand slipped quickly to his revolver, and without raising it he fired
from his hip. The Austrian staggered back and tumbled over.
"We're in for it!" cried Hal. "Follow me and hurry!"
He dashed forward in the direction recently taken by the two figures he
had seen leave the tent, for he felt sure the forms were those of Chester
and Colonel Anderson.
Stubbs was right behind him. Fear lent wings to the little man's legs,
and Hal, despite his longer strides, did not forge ahead of him. Both ran
at full speed.
And suddenly Hal made out figures in front, and before he could swerve
aside, he heard Colonel Anderson's well-known voice exclaim:
With a stifled shout, Hal put forth an extra burst of speed, as he
realized that the men who held the drop on Chester and Colonel Anderson
numbered but three, although from beyond he could see others rushing
Again his revolver spoke and a bullet whizzed close to Colonel Anderson's
head; but an Austrian soldier dropped. The others were taken by surprise,
and relaxed their vigilance for a moment. And then Colonel Anderson and
Chester, who had now recovered his balance, fired.
Chester started as he recognized Hal's voice, which now called out:
"Quick, Chester! To the right."
Colonel Anderson was no less surprised, but he did not hesitate; and
closely bunched the four turned to the right and ran for their lives.
Men sprang up on all sides now; and it seemed impossible that the four
could escape. But fortune favored them.
Swerving suddenly again, Hal, who was in the lead, stopped short, and
uttered a cry of pure dismay. The way ahead was blocked. There seemed no
way out; and then Chester cried:
"An aeroplane hangar!"
It was true. Fortune had guided their footsteps to possibly the only
place in the whole Austrian camp where there was a chance of escape.
Hal wasted no time. Rapidly he mounted the hangar, the others following
him closely. The lad uttered a short prayer as he climbed and then gave a
great sigh of relief. He had feared there would be no air craft there,
but, and Hal cried his relief aloud, there was.
He glanced at the machine quickly and uttered another cry of joy as he
made out that the craft was exceptionally large, capable of seating at
least ten men, and the additional fact that it was a self starter.
"Climb in quick!" he shouted, leaping into the pilot's seat and taking
The others followed this command with all despatch, and Chester took his
place at the motor.
"Let 'er go, Chester!" shouted Hal.
There came a faint buzz at first, followed by a louder noise as the motor
began to whir; there was the sound of the whizzing propellers, and the
machine shot from the hangar with a lurch.
And at the same moment there came from all sides volleys of rifle and
pistol shots. Chester felt a sharp tinge in his left arm, and Hal felt
the breeze of a bullet as it flew by his ear. Colonel Anderson was
untouched, but Stubbs sent up a howl of anguish.
"I'm shot!" he cried and started to his feet.
The machine rocked crazily as he attempted to rise and Colonel Anderson
reached quickly up and seized him by the arm.
"Sit down, you fool!" he commanded. "Do you want to spill us all out?"
Hal threw over the elevating lever and the huge air craft soared into the
sky. And not until they had reached an altitude of a thousand feet did
Hal straighten the machine out for a level flight.
Then he slowed down a moment to take stock of injuries.
"Hit, Colonel Anderson?" he asked.
"No," was the reply.
"Scratch, I guess," answered Chester. "Bullet touched me on the arm.
Doesn't amount to much."
"Stubbs?" queried Hal.
"I'm killed!" exclaimed the little man, and there was the trace of a
quaver in his voice. "Shot through the heart."
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Hal. "If you had been shot through the heart you
wouldn't be talking about it now."
"But I was," protested Stubbs.
"Look him over, Colonel Anderson," instructed Hal. "If it's as bad as all
that, throw him out. We can't be bothered with excess now."
"No! No! I'm all right!" declared Stubbs, drawing away as Colonel
Anderson extended an exploring hand. "I don't think the bullet
"All right then," declared Hal, smiling to himself, for his ruse had
worked. "We'll go ahead then."
"Which way?" demanded Chester.
"Back to the Italian lines; and it behooves us to hurry. There will be a
squadron of the enemy after us in a minute."
"Right," declared Chester briefly.
But, much as they would have liked it, they were not to get back within
the heart of the Italian army for many a long day; and strenuous times
were to befall them before they again saw their mothers, and Uncle John,
who was to put in many weary days searching for them.
As Hal headed the huge machine southward, a blinding glare caught his
eyes. It cut off his view entirely, and only for the lad's quick wit,
might have ended the lives of all.
But the moment the light blinded him Hal acted. He knew in an instant
from whence it came, and he swerved to the right so quickly as almost to
upset the plane; but it was in time to avoid the forward sweep of an
"Wow!" cried Stubbs. "Don't throw me out!"
"Keep quiet," ordered Hal, when he had slowed down a bit, so as to ease
his dazzled eyes and gain his bearings.
"What was the matter?" demanded Chester.
"Matter?" echoed Hal. "You mean to tell me you didn't see that other
airship flash by?"
"I didn't," replied Chester.
"Well, I did," declared Hal. "We'll have to get away from here pretty
quick. There'll be more of them along in a minute."
He threw over the elevating lever and the craft soared higher into the
heavens. And again Hal turned south.
Once more he caught the flash of a hostile craft in time to avoid being
run down. Again and again it happened. And at last Hal said:
"Evidently there is no use trying to get back that way. They must be on
the lookout for us. What shall we do?"
"Whatever you say," replied Chester.
"We'll take a vote on it," Hal decided. "I'll make my suggestion first."
"All right," was the reply.
"Then I'll suggest that we head in some other direction and keep going
until we have passed out of the enemy's territory."
"Which way?" asked Colonel Anderson.
Hal considered a few minutes before replying.
"Well," he said finally, "I should say east."
"What!" exclaimed Chester. "Right into the heart of Austria?"
"And why not?" Hal wanted to know. "We'll be safer there than any place
else. Besides, if we go far enough we'll eventually land in Greece or
perhaps Servia or Montenegro. They won't be expecting a foe that far from
Italian soil. What do you say, Colonel Anderson?"
"I'm with you," was the quiet response. "I believe that is good
"My only objection," said Chester, "is that we must get back to Uncle
John, and then to Rome, where mother is."
"True," replied Hal. "But mother would a great deal rather have us safe
in Greece or Servia, than dead in Italy."
"Which is more good reasoning," declared Colonel Anderson.
"I guess you are right," replied Chester. "I'm with you then."
"And you, Stubbs?" questioned Hal. "You have a vote on this."
"Oh my, I don't care where you go," was the answer in a weak voice, "just
so you let me put my feet on the ground once more. I'm so sick."
"Poor fellow," said Chester, in a low voice, "he's frightened."
"What's that?" demanded Stubbs in a shrill voice.
"Frightened? Me frightened? I'll leave it to Hal there if I am
frightened. Who was it found the way to get here and help you fellows,
anyhow? Who was it, I ask you? I'll tell you who it was. It was me,
Anthony Stubbs, war correspondent of the New York _Gazette_. Yes, sir, it
was--Oh, let's go down. I'm so sick."
"Stubbs, you are all right," declared Hal, and added to the others: "What
he says is perfectly true. Had it not been for him, we would not be here
now. He conceived the plan that admitted us to the Austrian lines, and if
it were light enough you would see that it was a good plan. I'll venture
to say you would know neither one of us but for our voices," and he
explained in detail.
"By George, Mr. Stubbs, I didn't think you had it in you!" exclaimed
Chester. He stretched forth a hand. "Shake!" he said.
"Oh, please let me alone," moaned Stubbs. "I'm terribly sick. How long
before we can go down?"
"Not for some hours, I'm afraid," replied Hal. "If we were to descend now
we would fall into the hands of the Austrians."
"I don't care whose hands we fall into," mumbled Stubbs, "if we could
only fall, that's all I ask."
"He must be sick," declared Chester. "Funny it never affected me
"No, it's not," declared Stubbs, suddenly taking an interest in things.
"Nothing would affect you like it does me. Nor any of the rest of you.
You are hardened to these things. I'm a man of peace, and sympathetic,
and kind. You are a lot of hard-hearted brutes."
The other three occupants of the machine smiled to themselves. Not for
the world would they have laughed at the little man, for he was very
close to them all. And at last Hal said:
"Tell you what, Stubbs. I'll put on a little extra speed, just for your
benefit. We'll get you back on terra firma just as soon as we can."
Stubbs' only reply was another moan.
"Well, Chester," said Hal, "here we are again, flying over an enemy's
country. May we be as fortunate as we have been before."
"Which we shall be," was Chester's quiet response. "We have had our share
of bad luck in the last few days. Fortune must smile on us at last."
And Chester proved himself a true prophet; for, before another sun had
risen and set, the huge air craft had carried its four occupants safely
across the Austrian empire and beyond the Montenegrin border. And here,
among these hardy mountaineers, among the best fighters in the
world--among the people of this little Balkan kingdom--the smallest to
declare war against the Teuton oppressor--the lads were to see more of
the horrors of war--were again to play active parts in the struggle. And
also they were to see service with the heroic Servian troops, than whom
there are none braver.
But these adventures must come in their proper place; and so, for the
time, we must again take leave of these two lads and their brave
companions and friends, but only to meet them again in a succeeding
volume, entitled: "The Boy Allies in the Balkan Campaign; or The Struggle
to Save a Nation."