Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed
THE BOY ALLIES IN THE BALKAN CAMPAIGN
The Struggle to Save a Nation
By CLAIR W. HAYES
AUTHOR OF "The Boy Allies in Great Peril," "The Boy Allies at Liege,"
"The Boy Allies on the Firing Line," "The Boy Allies with the Cossacks,"
"The Boy Allies in the Trenches."
IN THE AIR.
"And how do you feel now, Mr. Stubbs?"
Hal Paine took his eyes from the distance ahead long enough to gaze
toward that part of the military aeroplane in which three other figures
were seated. It might rather be said, however, that two of the others
were seated, for the third figure was huddled up in a little ball, now
and then emitting feeble sounds.
In response to Hal's question, this huddled figure straightened itself up
long enough to make reply.
"I feel sick," came the answer in a low voice. "How long before we can
get back to earth, so that I may die peacefully?"
"Oh, I guess you won't die, Mr. Stubbs," said Hal, chuckling a bit
He turned his eyes ahead again and gave his entire attention to guiding
the swiftly flying craft.
The first streak of dawn had appeared in the east but a few moments
before and gradually now it was growing light. High in the air, it was
very chilly and those in the aeroplane had drawn their coats closely
"Where do you suppose we are now, Hal?"
This speaker was another of the passengers in the car, Chester Crawford,
chum and bosom companion of Hal.
"Somewhere over Central Austria," replied Hal, not taking his eyes
"I would rather that it were over Serbia, Montenegro or Greece," said the
fourth occupant of the airship, Colonel Harry Anderson of His British
Majesty's service. "I'm beginning to get a little cramped up here. I'd
like to stretch my legs a bit."
"You won't ever stretch them again, you may be sure of that," said a
hollow voice, none other than that of Anthony Stubbs, American war
correspondent, who now aroused himself enough to predict dire results.
"What?" said Colonel Anderson. "And why won't I ever stretch my
"The undertaker'll do it for you," groaned Stubbs. "This contraption is
bound to come down pretty quick and when it does it'll be all off."
"Can't see why that should worry you any," remarked the colonel
cheerfully. "It won't be your funeral."
"No, but I'll have one at about the same time," Stubbs moaned. "I go down
when you do."
He raised his voice a trifle. "Let's go down, Hal," he continued. "I'm
"Go down nothing," ejaculated Chester. "Think we want to give the
Austrians another chance at us, huh?"
"Better be shot by an Austrian than to die in this infernal machine,"
declared Stubbs in a feeble voice.
"This," said Chester calmly, "is an airship and not an infernal machine."
"Well, it's my idea of an infernal machine, all the same," Stubbs
groaned. "We'll all come down in pieces, as sure as you're a foot high."
"Oh, I guess not," said Chester. "We--whoa, there."
He broke off suddenly and seized the side of the machine, as did Colonel
Anderson, just as the craft tilted dangerously to one side.
"Help!" came a cry from Stubbs, as he went rolling toward the side of
There appeared to be no danger that the little man would be thrown out,
for the sides of the basket-like craft protected him, but he was plainly
frightened and Chester gave him a hand, now that the machine had righted
"It's all right, Stubbs," the lad said; "no danger at all. Sit up, now."
The little man shook off the hand.
"I don't want to sit up," he whimpered. "I want to jump overboard and end
all this suspense. I might as well die now as ten minutes from now. Oh
my, I wish--"
"Well, Mr. Stubbs," came Hal's voice, "unless I miss my guess, you are
likely to get your wish. Here comes one of the enemy to watch you die."
"What's that?" exclaimed Chester and Colonel Anderson in a single voice.
"Off to the right," replied Hal, quietly.
Glancing in that direction, Chester and Colonel Anderson saw a large air
craft headed in their direction.
"After us, do you think?" asked Chester.
"Can't tell," replied Hal, briefly.
"Hardly probable," said Colonel Anderson. "Chances are the fellow
believes we are one of his own kind and wants a word with us."
"Maybe you're right," said Hal. "I'll hold to my present course anyhow
and take a chance."
The aeroplane continued on as before.
Now Stubbs came to life once more.
"Well, why don't you get a little speed out of this thing?" he demanded.
"What are you going to do? Stand right here and let that fellow get us?
What's the matter with you, anyhow? Trying to get me killed?"
"Why, Mr. Stubbs," exclaimed Chester, in mock seriousness, "I thought
that you were simply dying to be killed. Here's an Austrian coming in
direct answer to your prayers. What's the difference whether he gets you
now or ten minutes from now? It'll be all the same in a hundred years."
"Think you're smart, don't you," snapped Stubbs. "Why should I want to be
killed? I ask you now, why should I want to be killed?"
"Well, really, I don't know," replied Chester, "unless it is because you
are so awfully sick."
"Sick!" shouted Stubbs. "Sick! Who said anything about being sick?"
"Why, I understood you to say--"
"Well, you understood wrong. Sick? No, I'm not sick, but we'll all be
worse than sick if Hal can't coax a little speed out of this machine.
Say!" this to Hal, "what are you waiting for, anyhow?"
"Now you just hold your horses, Stubbs," replied Hal. "I'm running this
party at this moment and I'm going to run it my own way. Colonel
Anderson, if you hear any more out of our war-corresponding friend,
kindly sit on him, will you?"
"With pleasure," replied the colonel briefly.
"Oh, you will, will you?" cried Stubbs. "Well, you won't. I--I'll--"
He subsided after muttering to himself for some moments.
The others now gave their undivided attention to the other craft, which
by this time had drawn close to them.
"Man wig-wagging forward, Hal," said Chester.
"I see him," replied Hal, "but I can't make out his signals. Can you,
"No, I can't. He evidently has something to say, though."
"Well," said Hal, "we'll have to hold a sudden council of war. What are
we going to do about it? Shall we stop and talk, trying to fool him, or
shall we run for it?"
"Well, if we were going to run, it would have been better before he got
so close," said Chester. "Guess we may as well see what he has to say.
These Austrian uniforms won't come in bad. You do the talking, Hal."
"All right," he said.
He reduced the speed of the machine and the Austrian came closer.
"Ahoy, there!" he said in German. "Who are you?"
"Lieutenant Drizladaz, attached to the Austrian army at Trieste," Hal
"What are you doing here?"
"Mission," Hal yelled.
Hal thought quickly.
"Greece," he said finally.
"That," said Hal, "is none of your business. I have my orders and I
haven't time to fool around here with you. I'm due back to-morrow night."
There was a moment's silence from the other machine and then a
"Has your mission anything to do with Greece's intervention in the war?"
"Well, I can't say anything about that," replied the lad, thinking to
give the other the impression that it was.
"I see," was the answer shouted back. "Well, I wish you luck. Sorry you
can't tell me all about it."
"You probably will know soon enough," replied Hal.
"Good. Don't want any company, do you?"
"No, I guess not."
"You want to be careful crossing the Balkans. I understand there are some
British and French aircraft with the Serbians and Montenegrins. Look out
"I'll be on guard," replied Hal. "Thanks for the information."
"Tell you what," said the Austrian, "I've been doing some scout duty
there myself. I'll just trail along. May be able to help you out a bit"
Hal didn't think much of this plan.
"I can make it all right myself," he declared.
"Suppose you can," was the reply, "but it is just as well to be on the
"Well, suit yourself," said Hal, "but don't expect me to wait for you."
"If you can distance me you will have to travel," returned the Austrian.
"I've the fastest craft in the service."
"I'm glad to hear that," replied Hal, and added to himself: "I
"Set your pace," continued the Austrian. "I'll trail along behind."
"No use talking any more, I guess," Hal muttered to his friends. "May as
well go along."
Chester and Colonel Anderson nodded their assent and the machine moved
Things might have gone well had it not been for Stubbs. Suddenly the
little man uttered a yell and sat up straight in his seat.
"Ouch!" he shouted. "I've got an awful pain!"
Hal drew a sharp breath and tightened his hold upon the steering wheel.
There was no question that Stubbs' voice had carried to the occupants of
the second craft, and as Stubbs had exclaimed aloud in English there was
little doubt in the minds of our three friends that the Austrians would
seek an explanation. Nor were they wrong.
Came a hail from the Austrian:
"Who've you got aboard, there?"
"Prisoner," replied Hal, thinking quickly.
"What are you doing with him?"
"We--" Hal began, but the Austrian interrupted.
"Spies, that's what you are! Down to the ground now, or I'll put a hole
"Guess it's no use fooling any longer," muttered Hal.
He threw over the elevating lever and the large craft soared rapidly. At
the same moment a shot rang out from aboard the Austrian, followed by a
cry of surprise, and then the Austrian gave chase.
"Get your guns and see if you can pick 'em off," Hal instructed Chester
and Colonel Anderson. "I'll run this thing, but you fellows will have to
do the fighting."
"Suits me," responded Chester, examining his revolver carefully.
Colonel Anderson also nodded his agreement to this plan.
Hal now changed his course and the airship headed toward the south,
bearing off a trifle to the east, in a direction that he believed,
eventually, would land them in Serbia.
It became apparent now that the Austrian had not boasted of the speed of
his craft without reason, for he gained perceptibly.
"We can't out-run him, Hal," shouted Chester.
"Then we shall have to try something else," was the reply.
Abruptly he reduced the speed of the craft and the Austrians dashed in
range of the revolvers of the fugitives almost before they could have
Chester and Colonel Anderson had fired. There came a scream of pain from
behind and the Austrian craft wobbled crazily. A moment later a man
sprang to his feet, sought to retain his footing, threw up his arms and
went hurtling into space.
"Got one, Hal!" said Chester, quietly.
Came a volley of small arm fire from behind and bullets whined about the
four friends. Again Chester and Colonel Anderson fired almost
simultaneously and again their efforts were rewarded. A second man was
put out of the fight, as they could see.
At this moment Stubbs came into action.
He arose from his seat and, grasping the side of the speeding craft with
his left hand for support, stood to his full height. His right arm drew
back, then flashed sharply forward again and a small object went spinning
through the air toward the Austrian airship.
It struck home and there was a terrible explosion, followed by several
sharp cries of pain, as the Austrian airship seemed to split into a
thousand pieces. A moment later these pieces disappeared.
The three friends turned upon Stubbs.
"What is this, magic?" asked Chester in surprise.
"No," replied Stubbs, quietly. "Melenite. I just happened to see a stick
of it here, so I threw it."
"Well, you did a pretty good job, Stubbs," said Colonel Anderson.
"I didn't pitch for my college team two years for nothing," returned
Stubbs modestly. "But now let's go down. I want to get my feet on the
"It won't be much longer, Stubbs," said Hal. "Another two hours at this
speed should put us across the Serbian frontier. Just be patient."
"I'll wait," replied Stubbs, "but I won't promise to be patient."
He sank back to his place and refused to talk further.
While the big army craft is speeding across Austria it will be a
good time to explain the presence of the four friends in their
present predicament and introduce them briefly to those who have not
met them before.
Hal Paine and Chester Crawford were both American lads. With the former's
mother, they had been in Berlin at the outbreak of the great war, and,
after a series of interesting and exciting adventures, they made their
way to Liege just in time to take part in the defense of that stronghold
with the Belgian army.
There they won distinction and lieutenancies in the Belgian service, the
latter bestowed upon them by King Albert himself. They had been in France
with the British troops that had stopped the German drive on Paris and
had gone with the Allied army on its advance. They had seen service on
all fronts and now considered themselves veteran campaigners.
Colonel Anderson they had met in Berlin just after the Kaiser had
declared war upon France. The colonel, lieutenant then, and Major
Derevaux, a Frenchman, had taken the boys with them on their flight and
the four had later encountered each other in many strange and
Stubbs they also had met while on one of their many missions and had
earned the little man's undying gratitude; but he had repaid whatever
they had done for him, with interest, more than once.
The boys, in their latest exploit, had been with the Italian army in
the Alps. Two of the four friends having fallen into the hands of the
enemy, the others had entered the enemy's lines in an effort to effect
It was a daring adventure, but after a fight and chase, the four had
managed to seize the airship in which we now find them and had at last
fought their way clear. They had then held a council of war and decided
that it was best to head for the Balkans, rather than to run the gauntlet
of the Austrian flying craft which kept constant vigil in the direction
of the Italian lines.
Hal and Chester, typical American lads, were large and strong for their
ages, which were within a year of each other, seventeen and eighteen now.
In the rough lumber camps of the north, the two had had considerable
experience in the use of firearms and the art of self-defense--fists.
Also, during the school term each had practiced the use of the sword
until, though by no means experts, they could give a fair account of
themselves with this weapon--as each had done more than once.
Fortunately, both lads had made a study of languages and spoke French and
German fluently. They never had trouble on that score.
The great war up to this point had not gone as successfully as the
Entente Allies had hoped in the early days. The German lines on all
fronts were seemingly stronger than ever before. Even the entrance of
Italy into the war on the side of the Allies had failed to turn the
balance, as it had been confidently expected it would. East and west, the
German lines held, while in the Balkans the enemy was even now advancing
against the heroic little Serbian army, which, before many days, was to
be forced to relinquish its country to the iron heel of the invader.
Montenegro, the smallest factor in the war, still was fighting hard--the
rugged and gigantic mountaineers giving a good account of themselves upon
This was the situation, then, as the airship containing Colonel Anderson,
British officer, Anthony Stubbs, American war correspondent, and Hal
Paine and Chester Crawford sped southward over Austria.
Several hours after the sinking of the Austrian aeroplane Chester spoke.
"Where do you suppose we are now, Hal?" he asked.
"I believe we must have crossed the frontier," replied Hal. "However,
we'll wait another half hour before descending to have a look."
The half hour up, Hal sent the airship lower and lower. Soon, a faint
gray speck below became visible, assuming larger and larger proportions,
until all aboard made out the ground beneath.
And then, half a mile ahead, a body of troops were seen. Hal checked the
speed of the craft immediately.
"Don't know who they are," he explained. "We'll be careful. They may be
all right and then again they may not be."
He sent the machine higher again and a few minutes later the craft hung
directly above the troops below.
"I can't make out those uniforms," declared Chester.
"Nor I," said Hal. "However, they are not Austrian, I can see that. We'll
take a chance and go down."
Again the machine moved closer toward the earth, and a few minutes later
came to rest upon the ground a short distance from the main body of
troops. A squad of men, let by an officer, came hurriedly forward,
covering the four friends with their rifles.
"By Jove!" exclaimed Colonel Anderson. "You must have miscalculated a
bit, Hal. I recognize them now."
"Well, who are they?" demanded the lad.
"Good," cried Chester. "Then we are among friends."
The four friends raised their hands in token of surrender as the officer
and his men came toward them. A few paces away, the officer halted and
Hal shook his head.
"Can't understand that lingo," he exclaimed.
He addressed the officer in English and the officer also indicated that
he could not understand.
"Don't want to tackle him in German if I can help it," said Hal. "It
might not suit him."
"Well, what's the matter with French?" Chester wanted to know.
"Nothing, I guess," returned Hal. "I'll try him. We are British
officers," he said, addressing the Montenegrin officer, "and we have just
escaped from the Austrians."
The Montenegrin understood and replied in broken French:
"How am I to know you are not of the enemy?"
"Well, I don't know, to tell the truth," Hal replied with a pleasant
smile. "I am afraid it does look a little bad for us, as we have nothing
to prove our identities. But if you have a British or French officer
about here, perhaps we can convince him."
The Montenegrin nodded.
"Fortunately, we have," he said. He ordered one of his men to summon
"By Jove!" said Anderson. "I know an Edwards. I wonder can it be
"No such luck, I am afraid," said Chester.
But it was; and a few moments later Colonel Edwards and Colonel Anderson
were shaking hands affectionately.
THE KING OF THE MONTENEGRINS.
With his hand upon Edwards' arm, Colonel Anderson approached Hal
"I want you to meet my two young friends," he said.
Colonel Edwards shook hands with each lad in turn and then turned to
Stubbs, who, during all this time, had been standing quietly, while he
cast a critical eye upon the Montenegrin troopers who stood near.
"A likely looking bunch of men," he muttered to himself. "I'll bet they
could give a good account of themselves in a--"
He faced about just in time to acknowledge Colonel Anderson's
introduction to Colonel Edwards; then turned again to survey the
"Good fighters, these," he said to himself, "or I miss my guess."
"Now," said Hal to Colonel Edwards, "there is really no use of our
standing here. I'd like to look up a place where I can turn in for a few
winks. I'm dead tired and I imagine the rest of you are, too."
Chester seconded Hal's motion and Colonel Anderson admitted his own
fatigue. Stubbs settled the matter.
"Where there are men there are beds," he said; "or at least cots, or
pallets, or something. I'm going to find one."
He moved toward a row of tents in the distance.
"Hold on there," said Chester. "We're all going, Stubbs."
In the meantime Colonel Edwards had been holding a consultation with the
Montenegrin officer who had first accosted the friends.
"I am sure that if you vouch for them they are all right," said the
"Thanks," said Edwards. "Then, with your permission, I shall conduct them
to my own quarters."
"And you may also make free with mine," said the other.
Again Colonel Edwards expressed his thanks, in which the others joined,
and then he led the way toward the distant tents.
Fifteen minutes later the four friends were sleeping soundly, with never
a care in the world, for it had been long since they had closed their
eyes and they were completely worn out.
Darkness shrouded the small tent when Hal opened his eyes. It was several
moments before the lad could gain his bearings, but when at last he
realized just where he was he bethought himself of the others.
"Still sleeping, I guess," he said.
He arose, moved to the door of the tent and passed out. A steady rumbling
sound fell upon his ears and Hal, momentarily, was unable to account for
it. But the solution soon came to him.
"Troops moving," he told himself.
He was right. Walking some distance from the tent, he made out, probably
half a mile away, the dark forms of many men as they marched swiftly on
in the darkness, their figures lighted up ever and anon by the gleam of a
flashlight. But the camp in which the lad stood was perfectly quiet.
"Now I wonder--" he muttered--gazed silently ahead a moment and then
turned back toward the tent, saying to himself: "Guess I'll wake the
Chester and Colonel Anderson were aroused without much trouble. Not
"What's the matter?" came the little man's query, when Hal prodded him
gently in the ribs with his foot.
"Time to get up," said Hal, briefly.
For a moment Stubbs opened his eyes and peered into the darkness--for Hal
had made no light.
"Get up?" he exclaimed. "What! Anthony Stubbs get up in the middle of the
night? Not much!"
"But we are going, Stubbs," said Hal. "We don't want to leave you here by
"Kind of you," said Stubbs sarcastically. "I can remember when you were
not so solicitious of my welfare. Don't worry about me. I'll just sleep
He turned over and a loud snore a few moments later told that he was
again in the land of dreams.
Again Hal prodded him with his foot.
"Stubbs! I say, Stubbs!" he called.
Directly Stubbs opened his eyes.
"And what's the matter this time?" he demanded aggrievedly.
"Hurry!" Hal exclaimed, thinking to get the little man up by a ruse. "The
Austrians are coming."
"Run, then!" replied Stubbs. "I'll hide here. They won't bother me."
"Now listen here, Stubs," said Chester, "just when do you want to get
Again Stubbs allowed his eyes to open and he peered into the
"What day is this?" he inquired mildly.
"Tuesday," replied Chester; "but what--"
"Then call me Saturday," said the little man gently, and closed his eyes
in sleep once more.
"Ha! Ha!" laughed Colonel Anderson. "He had you there, Chester."
Chester appeared somewhat flustered.
"Well, he'll have to get up out of there," he said wrathfully.
"Oh, come on and let him be, Chester," said Hal. "I guess nothing will
hurt him. We'll be back by daylight and I'll venture to say we will find
him here, still snoring."
"Well, all right," Chester agreed at length; "but to tell you the truth,
I don't just like that answer he gave me."
The three left the tent and Hal led the way toward where he had so
recently perceived the passing troops.
Infantry, cavalry and artillery were still passing in dense masses,
"I wonder where they are going?" said Chester.
"To the front, I suppose," replied Hal.
"Now do you really suppose they are?" asked Chester sarcastically. "I
thought perhaps they were on dress parade. Say, just where are we anyhow?
Do either of you know?"
"By Jove!" exclaimed Colonel Anderson. "I meant to ask Edwards, but I
forgot all about it. He told us, you remember, he would be in the tent
on our left. We'll go back and have him out. Perhaps we can learn a
"Suits me," Hal agreed. "We can't see anything here but troops, and we
have seen too many of them to be much interested. Come on."
Fifteen minutes later found them seated in the tent Colonel Edwards had
commandeered for his temporary headquarters and the colonel himself doing
"You are perhaps fifteen miles northwest of Cettinje, the capital of
Montenegro," he explained.
"And where are these troops going?" asked Hal.
"Reinforcements to the Austrian front," said Colonel Edwards. "Also some
of them, can they be spared, will be rushed to the aid of the Serbians,
who, from all accounts, are being sorely pressed by the new German
"New German offensive?" exclaimed Hal.
"Why, yes. Haven't you heard of it?"
"No. Will you explain?"
"I'll try," said Colonel Edwards. "I'll revert back to the start. On
Friday, August 13, news reached London, where I was then stationed, that
an Austro-German army of more than 300,000 men was massing at a point on
the Serbian frontier and it was asserted that the Kaiser was about to
strike a blow at Serbia in order to improve Teuton prospects in the
Balkans, where Roumania and Greece had been reported as waiting a
favorable opportunity to join the Allies.
"The great German victories in Russia, following the fall of Warsaw, had,
however, caused the Balkan kingdoms to waver, and Bulgaria was said to
have strong pro-German leanings. On August 16 the Austro-German army
crossed the frontier and began a bombardment of Belgrade, the capital.
This led to a crisis in the Greek parliament, where the Venizelos party
caused the downfall of the cabinet, which supported the king's attitude
of strict neutrality--a neutrality he had promised his consort, who is
the sister of the Kaiser, as you know.
"On August 21 Serbia made it known that in accordance with the advice of
the Allies, she was willing to grant the demands of Bulgaria for the
return of territory taken in the last Balkan war, and for a time it
seemed that Bulgaria would enter the war on the side of the Allies.
However, on September 19 it was said that Bulgaria would join the Central
Powers, thus permitting Germany to establish an unbroken line of allies
from the Baltic to the Bosporus.
"On October 5, the Allies, upon invitation of the Greek premier, began
the disembarkation of troops at Saloniki to go to the assistance of the
Serbians; and, so far as I know, they are still landing."
The three friends had listened attentively to this account of the Balkan
situation. They had heard some inkling of the seriousness of the Serbian
plight, but had not realized until now that Germany had at last set out
to crush the little Balkan kingdom as she had crushed Belgium in the
early days of the great war.
"And what is the latest on the Bulgarian attitude?" asked Colonel
"Well, I haven't heard anything later than I have told you, but my
personal opinion is that Bulgaria, sooner or later, will join the
"Fools," said Colonel Anderson, briefly.
"And Greece?" inquired Chester.
"I don't know, but I believe Greece will keep out of the war just as long
as she possibly can. Certainly, the Greek people will never consent to
aiding the Germans."
"You never can tell," said Colonel Anderson sententiously.
Outside the tent it was now growing light, for time had passed swiftly.
Hal noticed the light filtering in.
"Great Scott! I had no idea it was morning," he said. "It must have been
after midnight when we awoke. Let's get outside."
They left the tent and Hal went into their own quarters a moment, where
he found Stubbs up and about to emerge. Together the five walked toward
the eastern extremity of the camp.
Came a sudden blaring of trumpets and a body of horse swept toward them.
The riders drew rein almost before the friends, dismounted and stood at
attention, while a figure who had been in the center also jumped to the
ground. This figure of huge stature, a man of advanced age, who
dismounted nimbly in spite of his years, walked toward the spot where
stood the five friends. Edwards came to attention, as did the others.
"The king!" said Colonel Edwards in a low voice.
INTO THE MOUNTAINS.
Nicholas, king of the Montenegrins, came forward slowly, his head bowed
as though in grief, and it seemed for a moment as though he would pass
Hal, Chester and the others without seeing them. But even as he drew
abreast of the five, he looked up suddenly. His gaze rested upon Colonel
Edwards and the Englishman bowed low. Colonel Anderson did likewise. Hal,
Chester and Stubbs remained erect.
The king smiled slightly at Colonel Edwards, whom he plainly knew, and
glanced inquiringly at the others.
Colonel Edwards approached him.
"Your majesty," he said, "I would crave your permission to present
another of my countrymen and three Americans, who have seen service with
your allies in the western theater of war."
The king nodded his head affirmatively and Colonel Edwards motioned the
others to approach. The king extended a hand to each and spoke a few
"I hope," he said, "that you will make yourselves perfectly at home in my
camp. I am sorry I have no better to offer you." He turned to Edwards. "I
have faith in you English," he said, "and for that reason I was about to
summon you this morning. I have a mission of importance, and some danger,
I would have you undertake."
"I shall be pleased, sire" replied Colonel Edwards with a bow.
The king smiled.
"I knew you would be," he said. "Now this mission will necessitate
probably more than a single man. You shall pick the others. It seems
simple, but I can assure you it is not. Among the Albanian tribesmen, I
am told, there is a disposition to doubt the justice of our cause and the
cause of our allies. A spirit of unrest is rife there. I would have it
looked into. I have faith in the majority of the Albanians, but a few
agitators could do much harm right now. The reason I say one man could
hardly undertake the task is that he would hardly have time to cover the
necessary ground. Two might do; even more would be better."
At this point Colonel Anderson stepped forward.
"If you please, your majesty," he said, and hesitated.
"Speak, sir," said the king.
"If you please, your majesty," Colonel Anderson repeated, "it would give
me, and my friends here, the utmost pleasure to be of some slight
service to you. With your permission, we shall offer our services to
A smile stole over the king's rugged face.
"I have always said," he declared, "that the British and the Americans
come nearer to being like my own people than any others. You have my
permission, sir, for yourself and your friends, and I have no doubt of
the success of the mission." He turned again to Colonel Edwards. "You
will make all possible haste?"
"What we may, with caution," was the reply.
"Good. Then I shall expect you back within the week."
Again all bowed before the king and after a few words of farewell the
Montenegrin monarch resumed his walk.
"Well, I feel better now," declared Hal. "We've got something to do, so
we won't feel as though we had no business here."
"My sentiments, exactly," agreed Chester.
"Well, they are not mine," declared Stubbs. "Say! what's the matter with
you fellows, anyhow? Look at all the trouble we had finding a safe place
to come down, and now you are running around looking for more trouble.
You are not going to get Anthony Stubbs into any Albanian mountains, I
can tell you that."
"You don't have to go if you don't want to, I'm sure," said Colonel
Anderson stiffly. "I had no idea you were afraid."
"Afraid!" echoed Stubbs. "And why shouldn't I be afraid, I ask you? Why
shouldn't I be afraid, eh? I don't know anything about mountains. I don't
know anything about mountaineers. I don't want to know anything about any
of them. All I want to do is--"
"Get a little news for the _New York Gazette_," Chester interrupted.
"Eh?" exclaimed Stubbs. "What's that? News? Sure, I've got to get some
news. By George! Might be a good feature story up in those mountains."
He turned to Colonel Edwards. "Count me in on this little trip, will
you?" he said.
Colonel Edwards hesitated. He didn't know Stubbs as well as the others.
"Well--" he began.
"Oh, he's all right, Colonel," said Hal. "It's just his way. He's no
coward. He is no more afraid than you are."
"Don't you believe it, Colonel," said Stubbs. "I assure you I am scared
to death. But I am more afraid of losing my job with the _New York
Gazette_ than I am of these Albanian mountaineers, so if I go I am just
choosing the lesser of two evils. I want to go with you fellows. But
please remember one thing: I'm no fighter. If it comes to a fight, you
can count me out; but if it's a question of run--well, you'll find me
with you, or far ahead."
"Then if the others have no objections, I am sure that I shall be pleased
to have you accompany us," said Colonel Edwards.
"And when shall we start?" asked Hal.
"Just as soon as we can."
"Walk, ride, or what?"
"Horses, until we reach the top of the mountains. Then we'll walk. Also,
we will discard our uniforms--anyhow, I don't imagine you like the cut of
those Austrian garments."
"I don't, and that's the truth," Hal agreed.
"Good. We'll change immediately. You go to my quarters and wait. I'll
rustle up some civilian clothes and have them sent you. Also I'll arrange
for our mounts and other details. I'll meet you here two hours from now."
With this Colonel Edwards betook himself away and the others returned to
Half an hour later the clothes arrived and the four friends hastened to
climb into them, Stubbs the while muttering to himself.
"Great Scott, Stubbs!" said Hal at last. "Quit your grumbling. Any one
would think you were going to a funeral."
"And so I am--maybe," returned the little man. "And what worries me is
that it is likely to be my own."
"You are a cheerful sort of a companion, I must say," declared Chester.
"What's the use of yelling before you are hurt?"
"Because I probably won't be able to afterwards," was the reply.
Colonel Edwards was waiting when the four made their way to the appointed
spot. The horses were picketed nearby.
"All ready?" asked the colonel. "Guns? Ammunition?"
"Then there is no use waiting longer. We may as well be moving."
He led the way to the horses and leaped lightly to the saddle. The others
followed suit. Edwards waited until all were mounted and then headed his
horse toward the north.
"Let us ride," he said.
All through the morning hours and well into the afternoon they rode
along without adventure. They were challenged several times by
Montenegrin outposts, but were allowed to proceed after an explanation
by Colonel Edwards.
It was four o'clock by Hal's watch when Colonel Edwards at last drew rein
in the far outskirts of a tiny mountain village.
"We'll leave our horses here," said the colonel, dismounting.
He led the way to a small barn near a smaller hut. Approaching the hut
he gave a loud whistle. A man emerged and Colonel Edwards engaged him
in conversation. At length the man nodded. Colonel Edwards turned to
"We'll turn our horses over to him," he said. "I told him we would be
back within seven days and wanted him to keep the animals here for us. He
"But will he?" asked Hal.
Colonel Edwards shrugged his shoulders.
"You know as much about it as I do," he replied. "However, we have
"Well, they might come in handy if we get back," declared Stubbs. "When
we return this far we are liable to be in considerable of a hurry, and if
the horses were not here it would be a terrible disappointment for us, at
least. If we come back, we'll probably come on the run."
"And why will we come on the run?" Chester wanted to know.
"Bayonets behind," returned Stubbs briefly. "Rifles, revolvers and
whatnots. Oh, yes, we'll--"
"Stubbs," said Hal severely, "you would be a kill-joy at any feast. When
it comes to plain, downright pessimism, you take the cake. Your equal
does not exist."
"I'm glad to hear you say I'm good for something," muttered Stubbs.
"Well, if a pessimist is good for anything, you come first always,"
By this time the mountaineer had stabled their horses. Colonel Edwards
gave him a piece of money, and mumbling his thanks, the man moved away.
"Which way?" asked Colonel Anderson.
Colonel Edwards drew a small map from his pocket, which he consulted for
"About five miles straight along this mountain road," he said at last.
"There we cross the Albanian frontier, and there, also, we part company,
or some of us do. Some of us will strike off to the right and the others
to the left. You know what his majesty said. We would not learn much if
we all went together."
"True," returned Hal. "Well, let's be moving."
They trudged along the rough, hilly road at a fair gait; but the walking
was difficult and it was almost two hours later that Colonel Edwards
again called a halt at what appeared to be a fork in the mountain pass.
"We'll split up here," he said briefly.
"And how?" asked Chester.
"That's up to you fellows. Of course, I'll take charge of one party, and
I suppose Colonel Anderson should be entrusted with the other."
"Of course," said Chester. "I'll go with Colonel Anderson. Hal and Stubbs
can go with you."
"One way as well as another," was the reply.
And so it was decided. There was a last handshake all around and the two
parties went their separate ways--Colonel Anderson and Chester taking the
more level trail to the right, and Colonel Edwards, Hal and Stubbs moving
off along the rough pass to the left, leading more abruptly upward.
A SHOT FROM AMBUSH.
Up, up and still up the road that Colonel Edwards, Hal and Stubbs had
selected continued, winding first to the right and then to the left
until all three had practically lost all sense of direction. Hal
"Don't know just where we are," he said.
"No," agreed Colonel Edwards. "However, it doesn't make much difference.
We'll be around here for several days. Chances are the sun will come out
before we get ready to leave and then we can get our bearings."
"Maybe there won't be any sun," said Stubbs.
"There you go again," said Hal. "Of course there'll be a sun. What's the
use of hunting trouble?"
"I'm not hunting trouble," Stubbs disclaimed. "I just said maybe there
won't be any sun."
Hal threw up both hands in a gesture of dismay.
"You're beyond hope," he declared.
After what seemed like hours of climbing, though in reality it was not
more than two at the most, the three reached what apparently was the top
of the mountain, and the road stretched out level ahead of them, heavily
shaded on both sides with trees.
"Nice place for a fellow to hide and shoot a man," said Stubbs almost
Hal just looked at the little man but said nothing. Edwards grinned.
"Real cheerful little fellow, aren't you?" he said dryly.
Stubbs grinned back at him.
"I just said--" he began.
"We heard you," interrupted Hal.
The three trudged along silently for a few moments. Then, coming to a
place where the trees crowded the road even closer and the branches hung
low across their path, Stubbs again broke the silence.
"An assassin--" he began.
The interruption this time came from another source.
The little man's hat suddenly leaped from his head. There was the low
whine of a bullet and a rifle cracked from the woods on the left.
Stubbs threw himself to the ground almost before his hat settled near him
and he gave a loud cry.
Startled though they were by the unexpectedness of the attack, Colonel
Edwards and Hal acted promptly. A revolver flashed in the hand of each
and both fired into the woods toward the point from which the shot had
come. Then they leaped for shelter among the trees that lined the road on
the right. Stubbs, for the moment forgotten, still lay in the road and
seemed to be attempting to bury his head in the dirt.
Hal, now sheltered by trees, perceived the little man's plight.
"Can't leave him there," he called to Edwards. "Cover me if you can."
Edwards nodded and held his revolver ready.
Hal dashed quickly from his shelter, grasped Stubbs by the right arm,
jerked him violently to his feet and turned his face toward the woods on
Stubbs seemed too frightened to realize in what direction lay safety, and
breaking from Hal's hold, whirled about and dashed across the road,
almost directly toward the spot from whence had come the shot a few
Hal gave a cry of dismay and dashed after him. But even as he would
have given chase, there came a second rifle shot from the trees and
Hal felt the breeze as a bullet sped by his ear. At the same moment
Hal wasted no time in thought. He obeyed Edwards' command and dashed back
to shelter with all speed.
"Whew!" he muttered. "That was pretty close."
"Rather," agreed Edwards dryly. "Where did the little man get to?"
"Oh, he's over there with our unseen enemy some place. He got away from
"I saw him," said Edwards grimly. "He's likely to have a warm time on the
other side of the road."
Hal grinned in spite of himself, as he replied:
"He is that. I suppose we should do something to help him, but I am frank
to say I don't know just what."
"We'll have to figure some way to get rid of that fellow," said Edwards.
"He's dangerous. Apparently there is only one."
"Tell you what," said Hal, "you stick here. I'll sneak through the trees
here for a quarter of a mile, cross the road and double back. If I can go
quietly enough perhaps I can catch him off his guard."
Edwards considered this plan.
"Might be done," he said finally. "I don't think of anything else. Off
with you then."
Hal walked still deeper into the woods and then turned to his left.
Keeping himself well screened from the road he made his way carefully and
silently along. At last, when he felt sure that he could no longer be
seen by their unexpected foe, he approached the road again.
The lad poked his head out cautiously and, after a quick glance back to
make sure there was no one in sight, crossed the road at a bound, almost
expecting as he did so to hear a bullet whiz near.
No bullet came.
Once safe on the other side, the lad turned again to his left and doubled
back. He went more cautiously now, making sure of each footstep that he
might not warn the unseen foe of his approach.
In the woods there was the silence of death.
Hal, moving slowly forward, now felt that he must have reached the point
from which the two shots had been fired and stopped and listened
intently. Once he thought he heard the sound of a snapping twig and
became perfectly quiet, waiting for the sound to be repeated; but it did
not come again.
"Guess I must have been mistaken," the lad told himself, as he moved
Five minutes later Hal stopped suddenly in his tracks. He had heard a
sound close at hand and knew he was not mistaken this time. A twig had
snapped perhaps twenty yards to his right and as far ahead.
Hal grasped his automatic more firmly.
"Hope I get the first shot," he muttered.
Suddenly he caught sight of a form as it flitted from one tree to
another. Quickly the lad raised his revolver and fired.
There was no outcry, and looking again, the lad saw no one.
"Missed him," he muttered. "Well, I've betrayed myself! Now I'll have to
be more careful."
He lay down upon the ground behind the tree where he had taken shelter
and waited patiently. Ten minutes later he thought he saw an object move
behind a tree a scant fifteen yards away.
Again the lad fired.
This shot was followed by a startled cry as a figure leaped to its feet
and started off through the woods at full speed.
Hal sprang to his feet.
"Halt!" he cried.
The figure seemed to run faster than before.
Hal paused and leveled his revolver in deliberate aim. His finger
tightened on the trigger--then, suddenly he let his arm fall.
"Stubbs!" he cried in amazement.
The running figure was indeed the little war correspondent.
"By Jove!" muttered Hal. "Another moment and I would have shot him." He
raised his voice in a shout: "Hey, Stubbs!"
But the little man ran on, unheeding.
"He'll run right smack into that other fellow if he doesn't watch out,"
Hal told himself. "Well, I suppose I'll have to stop him."
Still holding his revolver in his right hand, he also broke into a run
and made after the fleeing Stubbs.
Several times he called, but Stubbs paid no heed. Then Hal grew angry.
"I'll get you if I have to chase you right back to the door of the _New
York Gazette_" he muttered to himself.
He gained at every stride and was rapidly overtaking the war
correspondent, although Stubbs, with head lowered, looking neither to the
right nor to the left, his arms working like pistons, ran blindly on.
Suddenly Hal stopped almost in his tracks and his heart leaped into
From behind a tree directly in Stubbs' path, stepped a short squat
figure, with great long arms dangling at its side. A revolver was
clasped in the right hand and the weapon was slowly raised until it
Hal gave a loud cry of warning, raised his own revolver and fired. But
even as his finger tightened on the trigger he knew he had missed. Stubbs
was so close to the other figure that the lad had been afraid of hitting
him. Consequently the bullet went wild.
But though it missed its mark, Hal's bullet undoubtedly saved Stubbs'
life, for it attracted the attention of the enemy for a brief moment; and
in that moment, Anthony Stubbs, still unaware of the danger that
confronted him, dashed head first into his would-be slayer.
So great was the force of the impact that both were hurled to the ground.
With rare presence of mind, Stubbs, recovering his breath before his
unexpected opponent realized what had happened, reached out and procured
the other's revolver and hurled it aside.
Then he attempted to get to his feet, but at this point the other came
back to life and seized him by the legs.
"Hey! Leggo my legs!" shouted Stubbs.
The other held him tightly.
"Let me up!" cried Stubbs again.
Still the other clung fast, while Stubbs raised a cry for help.
At this juncture Hal reached the combatants. He was about to lend a hand,
when he saw that Stubbs' opponent was unarmed, and drew back.
Stubbs did not see him, and apparently believing that he was to get no
help, he turned to give battle. He kicked out with his left foot and the
foot came free. He followed suit with the right foot and felt it strike
something soft. At the same moment there came a cry of pain from Stubbs'
opponent and the grasp upon his other leg relaxed.
Quickly the little man leaped to his feet and darted toward the spot
where he had thrown the revolver. He snatched it up and leveled it at his
"Hands up there!" he called.
There came a choking cry from the queer figure and the long arms were
raised high in the air.
"Good for you, Stubbs!" cried Hal at this juncture.
Stubbs gazed about sharply.
"About time you were getting here," he said. "I had a terrible fight with
A STRANGE ENCOUNTER.
Hal laughed aloud.
"Terrible fight, eh?" he exclaimed. "Of course you did. What else could
you do? You had to fight. Pretty lucky, Stubbs."
"Lucky!" echoed Stubbs. "What do you mean, lucky? If you had been here
in time to see me tackle this fellow you would have known what a hard
time I had."
"I saw you," replied Hal. "You can put down your gun, now. I'll take care
of this fellow."
He leveled his own revolver at the queer-looking creature before him and
Stubbs placed his newly-acquired revolver in his coat pocket.
Hal motioned to his prisoner to approach. The latter did so with an ugly
scowl on his face. He seemed not to have the slightest fear and came up
to the lad unflinchingly.
"Speak English?" asked Hal.
There was no reply.
The man nodded.
"Who are you?" demanded Hal.
The man did not reply, and Hal surveyed him critically. He was at least
thirty-five years of age, could not have been an inch more than four feet
in height, and his long, knotted arms, apparently as strong as a
gorilla's, reached almost to the ground, where his huge hand clasped and
unclasped nervously. Involuntarily Hal shuddered.
"Must be as strong as an ox," the lad muttered. "Lucky for Stubbs he
kicked at the right time and happened to land."
"What's your last name?" the lad demanded again.
"Haven't any," was the reply.
"What are you, an Albanian?"
"What are you doing here?"
The man did not reply.
Stubbs had been an interesting listener to the conversation and became
decidedly impatient when the dwarf refused to answer Hal's questions.
"Why don't you speak?" he demanded aggressively, taking a step forward.
He felt perfectly safe now that Hal had the man covered.
Instantly there was an unexpected change in the dwarf's manner. He
stepped back a pace and bowed his head before the angry Stubbs.
"I did not know that you wished me to answer," he replied civilly. "I
will talk to you, for you are the first man who has ever conquered me;
and you are a small man, too--a dwarf."
"What's that?" exclaimed Stubbs still more angrily, for "the dwarf" had
touched upon a tender spot. "Dwarf, am I? What do you mean by talking to
me like that?"
Again he took a step forward and the Albanian drew back.
"You will please excuse me," he said humbly. "I did not mean to offend.
For myself I am proud that I am a dwarf and I was glad that it was one of
my own kind who conquered me."
Stubbs, greatly flattered, threw out his chest and turned to Hal.
"You see," he exclaimed, "if you have any doubts as to how I overcame
this man, he will tell you himself. Won't you, Nik--Nikol?"
"I will, sir," he replied.
"Well, you seem to have done a good job," Hal replied. "I don't believe I
could have overcome him. In fact, I am sure of it. Now if you will kindly
order your newly made slave to answer my questions, perhaps we may learn
Stubbs gave the order in the tone of a man born to command and the dwarf
nodded his understanding.
"If my boss knew I could give orders like that, I'd have a better job,"
was Stubbs' comment as Hal turned to Nikol.
"What are your sympathies in this war?" asked the lad quietly.
"My sympathies," was the reply, "I have kept locked up here," and Nikol
tapped his breast with one of his huge fingers. "But, now that my
conqueror requests me to talk, I will tell you. My sympathies are with
Montenegro; always have been and always will be."
"Good!" exclaimed Hal. "Then perhaps you can tell me something of the
Austrian sentiment in these mountains."
"The Austrian sympathy is very strong," was the reply. "Not so much here
as further north. Thousands of tribesmen there are only awaiting the
arrival of the Austrians to join their ranks. Some have joined already."
"And is there not danger for a man of your sympathies in these parts?"
The Albanian shrugged his shoulders.
"I have said," he replied, "that I keep my sympathies locked up here,"
and again he tapped his breast.
Hal was silent for a few moments, considering a plan that had come to
him. At length he turned to Stubbs.
"Will you ask your newly made friend," he said, "if he will join us? He
will be invaluable. He can lead us where we would go without question."
Stubbs grasped the situation instantly.
He put the question to the Albanian. For long minutes the man hesitated,
and then he, in turn, asked a question.
"You say that you are working in the interests of Montenegro?" he asked.
"I can give you my word," replied Stubbs soberly.
The dwarf extended a hand to Stubbs and looked him in the eye.
"Such men as you, such fighters as you, do not lie," he said gravely.
Stubbs blushed like a schoolboy as he extended a hand, which was
seized in a grip that brought tears to the little man's eyes. But he
bore the pain bravely, for he did not wish to lose caste in the eyes
of his new admirer.
"Come then," said Hal. "We'll pick up Colonel Edwards again and be
He led the way back to where the first shot had been fired and raised his
voice in a shout:
"All right, Edwards?"
"All right," was the reply.
"I've caught the enemy," explained Hal. "You can come from under cover."
He led the way to the road and a moment later Colonel Edwards
"What have we here?" he exclaimed, after a glance at the dwarf.
"A guide," replied Hal; "the same being the man who fired at us, and also
Stubbs' own prisoner."
"Exactly. He captured him single-handed."
Colonel Edwards eyed Stubbs in the greatest surprise, until Hal explained
in a low voice, so that neither Stubbs nor the dwarf might hear.
"Well, we may as well be moving then," said Colonel Edwards. "Have your
guide take the lead, Stubbs."
Stubbs, undeniably proud at the honor now being bestowed upon him, did as
requested, and the dwarf led the way down the road at a rapid gait.
Hour after hour they walked along encountering no one, until shortly
before nightfall when they drew up near a small hut. Here Nikol went
forward and secured food, which he brought back in his hands. This they
devoured hungrily, drank from a little brook, and moved forward again.
Now Nikol deserted the beaten path and struck off through the mountains
proper, climbing steep hills, leaping ruts and gullies, rocks and brooks,
but making such good progress that the others were hard pressed to keep
up with him.
Darkness fell suddenly and Stubbs shuddered.
"Nice place for an assassin here, too," he muttered gloomily.
"Back at it, are you?" said Hal. "What will your friend Nikol say?"
Stubbs did not reply.
Suddenly the dwarf halted and motioned the others to silence. All
listened intently and directly made out what the sharp ears of Nikol had
caught first--the sound of approaching footsteps.
Nikol motioned the others back into the shadow of a great rock and
stepped boldly forward. Then he hesitated a moment, came back and spoke
to Stubbs in a low voice, yet loud enough for the others to hear.
"If I should chance to be outmatched," he said, "you will come to my
assistance? The others," he snapped his fingers, "are no good. You
Taken wholly off his guard, Stubbs stuttered and stammered.
"You will come?" Nikol repeated again.
"Ye-e-s, I'll come," Stubbs articulated at last.
Nikol wasted no further time in words, but moved forward perhaps a
hundred yards. Then he halted and stood still, waiting.
The sound of footsteps drew nearer and still nearer, and then suddenly
Nikol sprang forward, silently and swiftly.
There came a sudden startled cry from ahead and then a great,
"Ho! Ho!" exclaimed a voice in French. "Look what has attacked
For some reason that he could not explain, Hal left his place of
concealment and moved toward the combatants. The others followed him.
"Ho! Ho!" came the great voice again. "Ivan Vergoff, the greatest of the
Cossacks, attacked by this puny pygmy."
Hal had now approached close enough to see the gigantic figure of Nikol's
antagonist and to witness the struggle.
The giant had stooped over and seized Nikol by one arm. He pulled, but
the dwarf, his feet firmly planted on the ground, did not budge. It was a
great exhibition of strength, for Hal knew that the stranger must be a
This time the giant did not laugh.
"A strong man," he muttered aloud. "A strong man, though he be a pygmy."
He now extended another arm, seized the dwarf around the middle and
lifted him high above his head. With his right arm the dwarf struck the
face that gazed up at him as he was suspended high in the air.
The big man gave a roar like that of an angry bull, hurled the dwarf from
him and then jumped after the flying figure with remarkable agility for a
man of his huge size.
But even as he would have seized Nikol again, Hal stepped forward.
"Wait!" cried the lad, who had been doing some quick thinking. "Your name
is Ivan Vergoff and you are a Cossack?"
The big man paused suddenly and glanced about him.
"Yes!" he shouted. "What of it?"
"Only," replied Hal quietly, "that I bring you word of your
The big man paused and turned an enquiring eye upon Hal, whom he could
dimly perceive in the darkness.
"Alexis!" he echoed. "What of him? How do you know I have a
Hal replied rapidly in the Russian dialect which he had picked up during
his service with the Cossacks, as told in the story of "The Boy Allies
With the Cossacks," while the man listened intently. Then the giant set
the dwarf upon his feet remarking:
"Now, you just stay there a little while. I may have more to say to you
later, but right now I would know something of my brother Alexis, whom I
have not seen in years. And my brother Stephan, also, what do you know of
him?" he demanded of Hal.
The lad shook his head.
"Not much," he said. "But come, we'll find some spot where we can make a
fire and I'll tell you what I know of Alexis."
"Good," boomed the big man. "Follow me."
Without another word he turned on his heel and strode away whence he
had come. The other four followed him, Nikol the while muttering
angrily to himself.
Stubbs turned upon him suddenly.
"What's the matter with you?" he demanded. "Don't you know it's cold
here? I want to sit by the fire awhile. Keep still."
The dwarf made no reply, but became silent. It was plain enough that he
stood very much in awe of Stubbs.
After a five-minute walk through the dark woods, the big Cossack wheeled
sharply to the left, and walking swiftly for perhaps fifty yards drew up
before what appeared to be a solid rock.
Looking closer in the darkness, however, Hal saw a slight opening at the
bottom, the space between the rock and the ground being perhaps three
feet. The rock, apparently, rested upon more solid ground farther back.
"Follow me," said the big man again.
He dropped on his hands and knees and wriggled through the opening.
At this point Stubbs manifested a desire to leave the others in
"Say!" he exclaimed. "You're not going to get me under there. How do you
know what he may have in mind to do to us?"
"Come, Stubbs," said Hal. "Don't be a quitter all the time. Nothing is
going to hurt--"
Before he could finish his sentence he felt himself seized in a powerful
grip from behind. He twisted about with an effort and looked down upon
the scowling face of Nikol.
"Here! What's the matter?" he cried.
The dwarf grinned at him evilly, and still retaining his hold, gazed
"He insulted you," he said. "What shall I do with him?"
"Great Scott! Let him down!" exclaimed the little man, anxiously. "He
didn't do anything to me."
"But he insulted you," protested Nikol. "I heard him say--"
"Oh, that was just in fun," cried Stubbs. "Let him go."
The dwarf's hold relaxed and Hal jumped away.
"Don't try any of that on me again," he said, facing Nikol angrily. He
turned to Stubbs. "You just instruct this fellow to keep his hands off
me, or I shall have to take my gun to him."
"Oh, he didn't mean any harm," Stubbs protested.
"Maybe he didn't and maybe he did," replied Hal. "At any rate, I don't
like that kind of treatment. You tell him what I said."
"He was just sticking up for me," said Stubbs, aggrievedly. "But I'll
He did so, but the dwarf said nothing.
At this juncture the big Cossack poked his head from beneath the rock.
"Are you coming in here or not?" he demanded in a gruff voice.
"Coming," said Hal, dropping to his knees.
"Look here, Hal," said Stubbs, "I don't like the looks of this place.
Maybe we had better stay outside."
"Nonsense," Edwards spoke up at this point. "The man means us no harm."
Hal had disappeared beneath the rock and Edwards dropped to his knees and
crawled after him.
"Well," said Stubbs to himself, "I don't like this, but I guess I might
as well go along."
Motioning Nikol to follow him, he, too, dropped to all fours and crawled
slowly beneath the big rock.
Beyond the rock, a brisk fire made dimly visible what appeared to be a
large cavern. The fire seemed to be in the exact center of a large
underground room and beyond it Hal thought he could make out the mouths
of dark passageways that led off in several directions.
"Come up to the fire and get warm," the big Cossack invited.
The others accepted the invitation, first discarding their heavy outer
garments. When all appeared comfortable, the big Cossack spoke.
"Now," he said, addressing Hal, "tell me of Alexis. He is--"
"Dead," Hal interrupted quietly.
Ivan sprang to his feet.
"Dead!" he shouted. "And you dare to tell it to me? You, no doubt, had a
hand in his death!"
"On the contrary," returned the lad quietly, "I tried to save him, as
did my chum; but it was too late. But he died like a brave man and a
Ivan was silent for several moments, and then said sneeringly:
"And what do you know of the Cossacks?"
"Well, very little, to be sure," Hal confessed, "though, for a short
time, I had the honor of serving in a Cossack regiment."
"What, you?" exclaimed Ivan incredulously. "Impossible."
"No; what I say is true," said Hal. "And it was there that I met your
brother Alexis, than whom I have never seen a braver man."
"'Tis true," muttered Ivan. "Alexis was ever a brave man, though much
given to boasting. Also, barring perhaps myself, he was the most powerful
man I have ever seen."
"He was indeed," replied Hal, "and it will give me pleasure at some time
to relate to you some of the remarkable feats I have seen him
"Alexis has related enough," returned Ivan dryly. "But come, now, tell me
what you know of him."
"Well," Hal began, "I met Alexis first--"
He stopped suddenly and listened attentively.
"What was that?" he demanded.
"What?" asked Edwards.
"I thought I heard a voice calling. Sounded like a cry for help."
Ivan broke into a loud laugh.
"Ho! Ho!" he cried. "Guess you heard my prisoners."
"Prisoners?" Hal repeated inquiringly.
"Yes. I came across them this afternoon. They sought to ply me with
questions. I treated them respectfully enough, but when they continued to
plague me, I just picked them up and brought them here. I have a
suspicion they may be Austrian spies and if there is one race of men for
whom I have no use, it is the Austrians. But they do not annoy you, do
they? If so, I shall go back and have a word with them. After that I
assure you they will annoy you no more."
"Oh, no," Hal hastened to say. "They do not annoy me in the slightest.
But what do you intend to do with them?"
"Well, I don't know exactly," returned Ivan. "You know I have read
somewhat, and I remember the things I have read. For instance now, I
would like to be like one of the old kings, or say even a present-day
American, of whom I have heard much. They have slaves and things. Why not
make my prisoners my slaves?"
"I assure you you are wrong about the Americans," said Hal. "I chance to
be one myself, so I know. Of kings, I cannot say."
"Never mind," said Ivan. "We'll attend to them later on. Right now I have
a desire to hear your story. Proceed."
Hal did so. He related his and Chester's first meeting with Alexis, the
big brave-hearted man who had once played an important part in their
lives, as related in "The Boy Allies With the Cossacks." He told of the
many exciting adventures the three had gone through together.
And as the lad progressed with his narrative, Ivan became more interested
with each word; and by the time Hal had come to an account of his
brother's last great fight, Ivan was on his feet, his face glowing.
"By St. George!" he cried. "I knew he could do it. Boaster or not, he was
a brave man. But go on. And after he had killed the three Germans there
on the sand, then what?"
"Why, then," said Hal, "a German bullet struck him in the right
shoulder; a moment later another lodged in his right side. But Alexis
did not pause. He rushed right into the thick of them, using his now
empty pistols and at last striking out with his bare fists. Men tumbled
on all sides.
"From behind and from both sides, the Germans darted at him, firing their
revolvers and stabbing him with the swords. By this time, we had finished
repairing our machine and we rushed to his aid, and for a moment the
Germans gave back. Then they closed in and we were all hard pressed.
Alexis was bleeding in a dozen places but he fought on. And then aid came
from an unexpected source."
"Where?" demanded Ivan excitedly.
"Troops," replied Hal. "Troops sent to protect the neutrality of the
country; and with their approach the Germans who were still upon their
feet fled. Chester and I dragged Alexis to our own craft and we also
ascended. There we did what we could for him, but he realized that he was
past aid, and he died as a brave man should. We buried him in England
with honor, and with him the Cross of St. George, personally bestowed
upon him by the Czar."
For a long time after the lad had finished, Ivan was silent. Then he
said, his fists clenching:
"I would I had been there! There would have been a different story to
Hal was about to reply, but a voice sounded suddenly. Hal pricked up his
ears. Surely he recognized that voice. The cry came again.
"Chester!" shouted Hal, and sprang to his feet.
A DESPERATE VENTURE.
Before Ivan could raise a hand to stay him, had such been his intention,
Hal had darted across the cavern in the direction from which had come the
sound he had recognized as Chester's voice. It was very dark there and
the lad could not make out his surroundings, but he seemed to have
brought up against a solid wall. He explored the smooth surface with his
hands, but could find no opening in that particular spot. Then he came
upon one of the narrow passageways and entered it without hesitation, for
he believed it was in that direction he would find Chester.
Now heavy footsteps sounded behind him and Ivan's voice roared:
"Where are you going?"
"It is Chester--my friend who was with me when Alexis died," returned
Hal. "I heard his voice. He must be near some place and in trouble."
"Ho!" said Ivan. "He will be one of my prisoners, I expect. I remember
that one was rather young."
"Well, let him out, will you?" exclaimed Hal.
"Certainly," returned Ivan.
He passed Hal and led the way down the dark passage. Presently Hal heard
a huge rock move and then footsteps came toward him.
"Who is it?" he asked.
There came a cry of surprise.
"That you, Hal?" came in Chester's voice. "How on earth did you
"That's rather a long story," replied Hal, "but it seems that it's a good
thing I did get here. I thought a heard a sound awhile back. It must have
"Anderson and I have been yelling for the last week, it seems," said
Chester ruefully. "We didn't hope to be fortunate enough to raise you,
but we thought some one might hear us."
"Well, come on out here to the fire--and you, too, Colonel," his last to
Colonel Anderson, who now came forward, closely followed by Ivan.
They needed no urging, for they had been shut up in the cold so long
that they were almost frozen. Introductions now followed all around and
Ivan seemed genuinely pleased to meet Chester. He was profuse in his
apologies for his rough treatment, while Chester was dumbfounded to
learn that his captor was the brother of his old friend Alexis. They
shook hands heartily.
"If you had not pestered me with so many questions, I would not have
bothered you," Ivan explained. "To tell the truth, I took you for a
couple of Austrian spies."
"Tell us, Chester," said Hal, "what have you learned?"
"Learned?" echoed Chester. "We haven't learned anything, except that it
is awfully cold in these mountains. I'm going to tell you right now, it's
no fun being locked up in an icebox."
"It is not," Colonel Anderson agreed dryly, stretching his feet out
to the fire.
"I'll tell you how it came about," said Chester, smiling at Ivan.
"Colonel Anderson and I had just completed a most terrible climb. Coming
once again to a level spot we sat down to rest. We saw a man coming
along--a big man, none other than Ivan here. I suggested that we ask him
a few questions."
"You asked them, all right," said Ivan.
"Well," Chester continued, "he didn't tell us much. In fact, he was as
mum as an oyster. Colonel Anderson took a hand with no better luck. It
seems that between us we talked too much. Ivan here didn't like it. He
said he guessed he'd have to take us along with him. We said we were
satisfied to stay where we were. This didn't suit Ivan. He reached for
me and I dodged; but with his other hand he grabbed Anderson and held
"I drew my gun but I was afraid to fire for fear of hitting the Colonel.
I thought I would rap the big man over the head with the butt of the
weapon. I ventured a trifle too close and he nailed me, too. He shook me
so hard that I dropped my gun. Anderson hadn't been able to get at his.
Then Ivan relieved him of it, and still holding us each by an arm, he
brought us here.
"When he shoved us under the rock ahead of him, we decided to jump him if
he came in. We jumped him. It didn't do much good, did it, Colonel?"
Chester turned to Colonel Anderson with a smile.
"Not much," was the Colonel's dry response.
Ivan grinned sheepishly.
"I didn't mean to hurt you too much," he said. "You see, sometimes I
don't realize my own strength. I guess maybe I squeezed your arms
"Well, now tell us about yourself, Hal," said Chester, "and who is this
little fellow who hangs so close to Stubbs?"
"This little fellow," returned Hal, "has appointed himself Stubbs' best
friend. Stubbs overcame him in fair fight this afternoon and he thinks
Stubbs is a great man."
"Well, what's the matter?" Stubbs broke in. "Don't you?"
"Of course," Hal hastened to assure him.
Stubbs subsided grumbling.
"The question now is," Colonel Edwards declared, "what are we going to
do? There is no use staying here longer than we can possibly help. We had
better be moving."
"Hold on," shouted Ivan, jumping suddenly to his feet. "Tell me what it
is you are going to do? Perhaps I may lend a hand. I know something of
Colonel Edwards glanced at Hal. The boy nodded.
"Might be a good idea," he said.
Then Colonel Edwards explained. Ivan heard him patiently.
"Well," he said at length, "nothing would please me more than to join
this expedition." He spoke to Hal. "You have told me of the service
rendered the Czar by my brother Alexis. I am ashamed that I have been
idling here in these mountains while my country needs me. I shall try
and make up for it in the future. Now, I believe I can tell you what you
want to know."
"Then," asked Colonel Edwards, "is there a strong Austrian sentiment
among the Albanians?"
"Until a month ago there was little Austrian sentiment," returned Ivan,
"But recently there has been a change, and the change I lay at the door
of a single man."
"It is even worse than that. The man is a Montenegrin. And still worse.
He bears the same name as the king of Montenegro, Nicolas. He has, most
likely, another name, but I do not know it."
"But why should a Montenegrin seek to raise the enmity of the Albanians
against his own people?" Chester demanded.
"There is but one reason--gold," said Ivan simply.
"And his methods?" inquired Colonel Anderson.
"More gold," was the reply.
"I see," said Colonel Anderson. "Furnished by the Austrians, eh?"
"How else? I have had several interviews with this Nicolas. He seems to
think I could be of use to him. In fact, he has made me offers. But while
I have taken no part in active fighting, although I admit I have
neglected my own country, I have not fallen low enough for that sort of
work. However, I did not tell Nicolas that. I temporized with him and I
suppose he believes he can win me over if he cares to make his offer
"All this," said Hal slowly, "suggests a plan."
"Well?" said Chester, expectantly.
"And by this plan of mine," Hal continued, "we may accomplish even more
than we set out to do."