Part 2 out of 4
"Explain, Hal," said Colonel Anderson.
"It's very simple. We'll have Ivan take us to Nicolas. He can tell him we
are Germans, or what you please. Being, apparently, friends of Ivan's, we
shall be received. Then Ivan can appear to fall in with his plans. At the
first opportune moment, we shall take charge of Mr. Nicolas and escape."
"H-m-m-m," mused Colonel Edwards. "You say all that easily enough, but
you can take my word for it, it will be no small job."
"Of course not," Chester agreed, "but still we should be able to do it.
And if we do, we shall have removed the cause of the Albanian enmity
toward Montenegro. There will be no such strong Austrian sentiment once
the supply of gold is cut off."
Ivan jumped to his feet and clapped the lad on the back.
"Good!" he exclaimed eagerly. "I'm with you; and if it comes to a fight,
you will find that you can use me to advantage."
"I am sure of it," smiled Hal.
Ivan, in turning, cast his eye upon the little dwarfed figure of Nikol.
He walked quickly toward him and extended a hand.
"We didn't finish our little argument awhile ago," he said simply. "I see
no reason why we should finish it. Why should we fight each other when
there are others to fight?" He turned to Hal. "I'll guarantee this man
will give a good account of himself," he said. "I doubt if there is
another man in the mountains, besides myself, who has his strength. He
will prove his worth."
He turned to Nikol again and the dwarf grinned at him, showing strong
"You are right," he said and gripped Ivan's hand hard.
"Well then," said Colonel Edwards, "the sooner we get started the sooner
we may get back again. When shall we start, Ivan?"
"Immediately," was the reply, and the giant moved toward the mouth of
"Now, look-a-here, you fellows," said the voice of Anthony Stubbs. "I've
been a whole lot of places with you and I hope to go with you a whole lot
more, but I claim it is downright foolishness to stick our heads into a
brigand's lair. What's the use? The best we can get is the worst of it."
"Stubbs," said Hal quietly, "you don't have to go along if you don't want
to. You can stay right here."
"What?" exclaimed the little man. "Stay here by myself? I should say not.
I don't want to stay here alone and I don't want to go hunting brigands.
What I want to do is get some place where it's safe. I don't like this
country, if you want to know it."
"It's a good country," said Nikol abruptly.
Stubbs looked at the dwarf in surprise. It was the first time the
Albanian had talked back to him.
"What do you know about it?" demanded Stubbs. "You never saw a
The dwarf bowed his head in some confusion. Apparently Stubbs' spell
still held good over him.
"Come, Stubbs, don't be stubborn," said Chester.
"Well, all right," said the little man, shaking his head sadly. "I'll go
if the rest of you do, but I want to tell you right now, I protest!"
"If I am not mistaken," said Ivan, "here comes Nicolas now."
He pointed to a large, bearded individual, who, surrounded by probably a
dozen other figures, was advancing toward them. The man swung along with
the free and easy stride of the mountaineer, looking neither to the right
nor to the left, his head erect and of haughty mien.
"Pompous sort of a looking customer," said Colonel Anderson to Hal.
"Rather," said the lad dryly. He glanced at the others, Colonel Edwards,
Stubbs, Nikol, Ivan and Chester, and muttered hurriedly: "After this we
must do all our talking in German."
The others nodded their understanding and all fell silent as the
Montenegrin traitor and his henchmen approached.
It was the morning following the night upon which they had left Ivan's
retreat. The journey had consumed the whole night, but in spite of
their fatigue, each member of the party of seven was on his mettle.
Now, as Nicolas drew closer, Ivan took a step in advance of the others
to greet him.
The traitor's face lighted with pleasure as he recognized the big
"Ah, Ivan," he said, "I am glad to see you."
He noticed the others, and a slight frown flitted across his face. He
swept his arm toward them in a comprehensive gesture. "Who are these?"
"One of them you probably know," said Ivan and he indicated Nikol.
Nikol nodded affirmatively.
"The others," Ivan continued, "I came across in the mountains last night.
They are Germans and were seeking you."
"Seeking me?" exclaimed Nicolas in astonishment. "And why should they be
"You will probably know," returned Ivan, "when I tell you they come
"Ah," said Nicolas. "Of course I know, Ivan. Will you have them
"One moment, Nicolas," said Ivan. "First I would have a word with
"Proceed," said the Montenegrin.
"Well, then," Ivan went on, "you may remember a certain proposal you have
made me upon several occasions?"
"I do," exclaimed Nicolas, with unfeigned eagerness. "Can it be that at
last you have decided to--"
"Accept?" interrupted Ivan. "Yes; I have decided to accept; and these
Germans here have had something to do with my decision. They have told me
how Germany and Austria combined will eventually win the great war and of
the good things that will be in store for all of us when that day comes.
You are right, Nicolas, it is well to be on the winning side."
"And I am glad you see it that way," declared Nicolas, extending a hand,
which Ivan grasped, much to his distaste. "I have long wanted a trusted
lieutenant, and you shall be he."
"Thanks, Nicolas," returned Ivan. "I had not expected that. Had you told
me before it might have influenced me sooner. But now I shall have the
others approach. By the way, you speak German?"
"Good; then there is no need of an interpreter."
He raised his hand and at the signal the others came forward. Ivan
presented each in turn, applying to each a German name that had been
agreed upon during the night's travel. Nicolas expressed his pleasure at
seeing them and after a few words of pleasantry, said:
"Now, gentlemen, if you will accompany me to my quarters, I shall try and
make you feel at home."
As they walked along Hal and Chester took stock of the Montenegrin. Big
he was, fully as tall and as broad as Ivan himself, and his great arms
hung below his knees. He was the personification of rugged strength and
brutality. From Nicolas the lads turned their eyes to Ivan. There was
scarcely a noticeable difference in the stature of the two men and from
casual observation it would have been hard to choose between them in the
matter of strength. But the one noticeable difference was in the eyes.
Ivan's eyes looked one straight in the face, while Nicolas' shifted
uneasily when he was observed closely. It was the difference in the eyes
that told the difference between the two men better than anything else.
Presently Nicolas stopped before an extremely large hut, built up close
beside a giant rock. He stood aside and motioned the others to enter.
They did so and Nicolas, after a word to his men, came in after them and
closed the door. Then he motioned them all to seats and sat down himself.
He eyed his guests in silence for a few moments, and finally remarked:
Hal took it upon himself to do the talking.
"First," he said, "we would like to know how you are progressing?"
"Beautifully," was Nicolas' reply. "I have distributed the gold given me
for that purpose, first, of course, taking out my own share. The
Albanians, knowing the poverty of the Montenegrins, have been convinced
by the gold that final success in this war must crown the Austrian arms.
Austrian sentiment is becoming greater each day. But I need more money."
"That is what we have come to see you about," said Hal. "You see,
that while you are well informed as to just what is going on here, we
have only your word for it. You may be telling the truth--and you may
Nicolas jumped to his feet, his fingers twitching.
"You dare--" he began.
"Nonsense," said Hal, remaining perfectly quiet. "This is no time for
heroics. I have come here to find out something and I am going to find it
out. Now how much of this gold have you given out as ordered, and how
much have you kept for yourself?"
"I--I--well, I have--" Nicholas began.
"As I thought," said Hal. "You have been holding out. We can't have
anything like that, you know. Where is the gold?"
Nicolas, for a moment, seemed about to make a denial, but Hal eyed him
steadily, and he said at last:
"It is under this floor here," and he tapped the floor with his foot.
"All right," said Hal. "In shape to be carried?"
"Why yes, I guess half a dozen men could carry it well enough."
"I am glad to hear that," said Hal, "because I want you to dig it out
Again Nicolas started to protest, but apparently thinking better of it,
changed his mind and said:
"It shall be as you say. But you will not hold this against me, my having
held some of the gold for my own?"
"Not if you do as I say."
"And I shall have more gold?"
"We shall see; perhaps."
"Then I shall uncover the other," said Nicolas.
He stooped to his knees and lifted a loose board in the floor.
"One moment," said Hal. "Your men outside. We can take no chances with
them. If they knew you had all this gold stored here there would be a
fight. Step outside and tell them to go away."
This time Nicolas obeyed without even hesitating.
While he was outside, Hal whispered quickly to the others:
"There is no use delaying. We'll give his men time to get out of hearing
and then we'll grab him."
"But the gold, what are you going to do with that?" Ivan wanted to know.
Hal smiled a bit.
"I don't know how I happened to think of that," he said, "but now that we
practically have it in our hands, I vote that we turn it over to the
impoverished little kingdom of Montenegro."
"By Jove! Good!" exclaimed Colonel Edwards. "My boy, you have a wonderful
head on your shoulders. I am proud to know you."
"Thanks," said Hal. "Now, as long as I have been doing the talking, I may
as well continue. We'll keep quiet until we are sure this traitor's men
are out of earshot and then we'll take possession of Mr. Nicolas and his
A few moments later Nicolas re-entered the hut.
"Get rid of them?" asked Hal, briefly.
"Good. Then get busy and bring your gold out."
"Look here," said Nicolas, eyeing Hal somewhat angrily. "I don't like
your tone exactly."
"I don't exactly care whether you do or not," returned Hal quietly. "You
are pretty small fry in this game, Nicolas, and I'm not afraid of you.
Remember, if anything should happen to me, you'll have the German
government on your trail, and then what would you do for gold?"
Nicolas opened his mouth to reply; then thought better of it and closed
his lips without uttering a sound.
"All right, now that we understand each other," said Hal. "Get to work
and produce the gold."
Nicolas waited no further, but did as commanded.
"One," counted Hal, as the man drew from beneath the board a little
sack of gold.
One after another Hal counted them as they were laid on the floor at his
feet, until in all there were seventeen little sacks, just small enough
to permit of being stowed away in outside coat pockets.
"Two for each of us to carry," said Hal, looking around, "and one over.
I'll carry the extra one in my hand."
"And don't I get any of this?" demanded Nicolas, looking at the bags of
"You do not," replied Hal, quietly. "This money is to be given where
it will do the most good. You have had your chance with it. Now it
is my turn."
"Very well," said Nicolas, with a shrug of his shoulders. "But I have
made my agreement with the Austrian government; and when the war has been
won, I shall get my pay."
"Perhaps," said Hal, with a double meaning, that was, of course, lost
upon Nicolas, "you shall receive your just pay before the war ends."
"Do you really think so?" asked Nicolas eagerly. "I hope so."
"But now," said Hal, "it is time to be moving. Pick up the gold, men, and
let's get away from here."
The others obeyed. Each stowed two sacks in his pocket and Hal carried
the seventeenth package in his hand. Then Hal motioned them out the door.
He emerged after them and his hand was on his automatic as he did so.
"Which way?" asked Chester.
"Straight ahead," said Nicolas.
"No," said Hal quietly. "About face. We are going the other way."
"Where to?" demanded Nicolas surlily.
"Right back to Cettinje," replied Hal, "where you shall be turned over to
the Montenegrin authorities to meet the fate you deserve!"
Nicolas stopped short in his tracks. His face went red, then white, then
flushed a dull red again. For a moment there was a deathly silence and
then the Montenegrin sprang toward Hal with a cry of fury. The boy stood
"I wouldn't if I were you," he said very quietly.
His automatic glistened in his hand at his hip. Nicolas gazed down
and then pulled himself up short as his eyes rested on the weapon. He
"I'm glad to see you're sensible," Hal continued. "Now you will take the
lead, and for your own sake, I advise you to take the shortest cut in the
general direction of Cettinje. Ivan, and you, Nikol, will see that he
goes in the proper direction."
The dwarf's face was covered by a comical grin and his long arms waved
about eagerly as he gave his assent. He turned to Stubbs.
"You will walk with me?" he asked.
For a moment Stubbs hesitated. He gazed first at the little man and
then at the great bulk of Nicolas. Then his eyes roved to the huge
form of Ivan.
"By Jove! I'd rather be alongside Ivan there," he muttered to himself,
"but it wouldn't do to let this little fellow think I'm afraid. You're
taking a long chance, Anthony, but I guess you had better do it. All
right," he said to Nikol, and ranged himself at the dwarf's side.
"I wouldn't try any tricks if I were you, Nicolas," said Ivan, as he
swung into step behind the traitor, Nickol and Stubbs, the prisoner in
Colonel Edwards and Colonel Anderson came next in line and Hal and
Chester brought up the rear.
"It's a good two days' journey back," said Hal to Chester, "and, the
chances are, we will encounter many of Nicolas' friends en route. We'll
have to be careful."
"We shall indeed," returned his chum. "One little slip and there is no
telling what may happen."
Night brought them to Ivan's cavern again and there they decided to spend
the night. It had now been more than twenty-four hours since they had
closed their eyes and all were tired out.
They experienced no difficulty getting Nicolas under the rock into the
cavern, nor did the Montenegrin seek to attack them as they crawled after
him, as Hal had half feared he would. He seemed completely dejected and
downcast. He had not spoken a word during the day's march.
"I'll put him in your erstwhile prison," Ivan said to Chester with a
grin. "I guess he'll be safe enough there for the night."
He did so.
"Well, I'm going to turn in," said Stubbs. "I'm dead for sleep. I tell
you, it's no fun hoofing it over these mountains, particularly when you
are guarding a prisoner like I have been all day, never knowing what
minute he may make a break for liberty. No, sir, it's no fun."
"Did you watch him pretty closely, Stubbs?" asked Chester.
"I did," replied Stubbs, briefly.
"Why?" continued Chester. "Afraid he might jump you? Hope you didn't
think he could catch you if you had a two-foot start."
Stubbs drew himself up majestically.
"What do you mean by that?" he demanded in a ruffled tone.
"Oh, nothing," said Chester, smiling.
"If you mean to insinuate that I was afraid--" began Stubbs in an
"What!" interrupted Chester. "You afraid, Mr. Stubbs? You do me an
injustice, I assure you. Why, I have seen you fight, Mr. Stubbs. Now, do
you, by any chance, remember your battle with three wildcats?"
"I do," said Stubbs, considerably pleased. He turned to Nikol. "Did I
ever tell you about that fight?" he asked.
Nikol shook his head and eyed the little war correspondent with interest.
"Well, I did," continued Stubbs. "It was in Belgium. Three of the beasts
attacked me in the dark and gave me a terrific struggle. But I killed
them all, as these two boys can tell you."
Nikol was all smiles. He was glad that the man who had conquered him was
such a royal gladiator.
"And you were not hurt?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing to speak of," said Stubbs, modestly. "A few scratches.
"They are bad beasts to fool with," said Nikol. "My brother had both
eyes scratched out in an encounter with a single wildcat. And you
"There wasn't much chance of your eyes being scratched out, was there,
Mr. Stubbs?" said Chester.
"And why not?" demanded the little man,
"Come now, Mr. Stubbs," said Chester, "you don't mean to tell me you have
forgotten you were lying flat on your face dodging bullets when the cats
"No, I hadn't forgotten," said Stubbs in an injured tone. "But was it my
fault that I had stumbled over a stone in the darkness a moment before?"
"Well, no, possibly not," Chester admitted. "But it's funny you didn't
think to mention that stone at the time."
"If you are determined to laugh at me," said Stubbs with an air of
ruffled dignity, "I have nothing more to say. Any man is likely to fall."
"So he is, Mr. Stubbs," agreed Chester, "and I don't know but I'd fall
myself if I saw three wildcats coming for me. Yes, I would, and I'd try
to get my head just as deep in the ground as possible, like an ostrich,
and then maybe they couldn't see me."
For a moment Mr. Stubbs glared at the lad angrily and seemed about to
speak; then turned on his heel angrily and strode to the far side of the
cavern, where was the pallet which had been assigned to him.
Chester broke into a little laugh, which died suddenly as he stared down
into the angry face of Nikol, which glared up at him.
There was a deep frown on the dwarf's face and he tapped himself upon the
breast with one finger as he said:
"Any man who insults my friend, insults me. You have cast reflections
upon my friend's courage. He, being your friend, overlooks it; but I, the
man whom he worsted in fair fight, cannot. You must apologize."
Here Hal interfered. He had had such an encounter with the dwarf himself
and he understood the situation.
"Hey, Stubbs!" he called. "Come back here, quick!"
Stubbs, just about to lie down upon his pallet, hurried back. He took in
the situation at a glance and turned upon Nikol angrily.
"Here," he cried. "You keep out of my quarrels. I was big enough to
attend to you, I can do the same with the rest of them."
"But he said--" protested the dwarf, pointing a finger at Chester.
"I don't care what he said," Stubbs said. "I can fight my own battles."
Nikol, deeply offended, drew back, and without another word, walked to
the pallet that had been assigned to him. Stubbs, feeling somewhat better
now that he had been able to berate some one and thus soothe his injured
feelings, also stalked away without another word and lay down on his
pallet. A moment later he was fast asleep.
"Do you suppose there is need for one of us to stand watch, Ivan?"
"I do not believe so," was the reply. "No one knows where my cavern is
and we are not likely to be disturbed."
"I vote we turn in immediately then," said Colonel Edwards.
"Second the motion," said Colonel Anderson. "We've got to be on the move
early and we've got to have some sleep first."
"Here goes, then," said Chester, and moved to his own place.
The others also sought their pallets and soon there was silence in the
cavern. Completely worn out, the travelers slept like logs.
Several hours later, had they not been so completely exhausted, the
sleepers undoubtedly would have heard strange noises from that part of
the cavern in which Nicolas had been confined.
Came a faint grinding sound, which gradually became louder and louder,
but which, after a time, ceased altogether. Then came a softer sound,
that of footsteps coming slowly from the dark passageway; and a moment
later Nicolas himself stepped into the glare of the fire.
His clothing was torn about the shoulders and his open hands dripped
little drops of blood. He rubbed them together tenderly.
"Had I been a weaker man it would have been impossible," he muttered.
For he had pushed aside the heavy rock that guarded his prison--a rock
that Ivan had believed not another man save himself could move.
Apparently Nicolas had been underestimated.
Now the Montenegrin moved softly toward the entrance to the cave, fearful
at every step that he would awaken the sleepers. It was dark within and
this fact probably is all that prevented his escape.
In moving toward the entrance he passed close to the pallet upon which
Stubbs slept. One of the little man's hands was stretched out across the
floor and Nicolas' heavy boot came down squarely upon it.
A sudden loud cry shattered the deathly stillness of the night, followed
by a more piercing cry.
Instantly every one was awake, though only half so, for the awakening had
come so suddenly.
At Stubbs' first outcry, Nicolas, with a muttered imprecation, had dashed
for the exit. He fell upon his knees and was about to crawl outside when
Nikol, more wide awake than the others, flung himself forward and clasped
his long arms about the Montenegrin's neck.
Nicolas drew back in the cave and pulled himself to his feet in spite of
the dwarf's frantic efforts to hold him down. Then, seeing the size of
his opponent, Nicolas laughed aloud and sought to fling the little man
from him. But Nikol held him firmly.
But in spite of the dwarf's great strength, Nicolas was too big and
powerful for him. The powerfulness the dwarf might have overcome, but the
size was too much.
Plucking away the arms that were tightened about his neck, Nicolas held
the dwarf away from him with his left hand, then struck him heavily in
the face with his right. Taking a step more toward the center of the
cavern, he hurled his opponent across the room.
Nikol struck the floor with a thud and lay still.
Now, realizing the need of haste, Nicolas turned quickly and made as
though to move toward the exit. But he had delayed too long. The dwarf's
efforts to hold him, though futile, had been enough to prevent the
A second huge form--the form of Ivan--barred the exit.
"Come on, have a try," said Ivan, with a grin.
Nicolas gave a loud cry--the cry of a cornered beast. Then he sprang.
"I'll kill you!" he yelled in a voice of thunder.
All the others in the cavern were on their feet now, all save Nikol, who
still lay unconscious where Nicolas had hurled him. Stubbs shrank back in
the dark, but Hal, Chester and the two British officers quickly produced
revolvers with which they covered Nicolas.
Ivan, out of the tail of his eye, caught sight of these movements. He let
out a roar even as Nicolas sprang upon him.
"Put up those guns!" he shouted. "I'll attend to this fellow with my bare
hands. Stand back!"
There was something in the voice of the big Cossack that impelled the
others to obey; and they drew back, circling about to watch the struggle.
Even Stubbs picked up courage enough to come forward; and hardly had the
fight begun when Nikol, too, pulled himself up and cast his eyes upon the
Nicolas sprang upon Ivan with outstretched arms, his fingers spread wide.
His object was to clasp one of his strong hands about Ivan's throat, thus
obtaining an advantage at the outset. But Ivan had divined his intention
at the moment he sprang, and ducking with remarkable agility for a man of
his size, he came up inside the other's arms and grasped his opponent
around the middle with both arms.
Then he squeezed; and the spectators drew their breaths audibly, for it
seemed that no man could stand such a strain. But Nicolas bore up under
it, and when Ivan, out of wind, was forced to relinquish his hold,
Nicolas whirled upon him quickly and the fingers of his left hand sank
into the Cossack's throat. Chester uttered a faint cry of alarm, for a
hold such as this, obtained by such a powerful man as Nicolas, was indeed
a thing to be feared. Ivan leaped quickly backward, carrying Nicolas with
him, but the latter retained his hold; and then he brought his right fist
up under Ivan's chin. It was a hard blow and Ivan staggered.
With his left hand, Nicolas jerked the big Cossack forward again, and
shot his right fist into Ivan's face as he did so. Then, apparently
thinking his opponent done for, he released his grip on Ivan's throat and
But he had counted without the endurance and courage of the giant
Cossack. The fingers about his throat gone, Ivan, his head reeling
dizzily from the effects of the hold and the two hard blows, staggered
back several paces; then, with a loud cry, sprang forward again.
Nicolas also cried aloud as he stepped forward to meet the antagonist he
considered all but beaten. Ivan came forward with arms outstretched, and
unheeding the two hard blows that Nicolas struck him, he again grasped
the Montenegrin in a tight embrace. Nicolas wrapped his arms about Ivan;
and there they stood for the space of several seconds, each vainly trying
to move the other.
Suddenly Ivan gave back a step and as Nicolas came forward with him, the
Cossack thrust a leg behind his opponent and pushed with all his might.
Nicolas was caught off his balance and before he could recover himself
Ivan twisted sharply with his leg. Nicolas went over backwards, with Ivan
on top of him.
The two men struck the floor with a terrible crash; a cry was wrung from
the spectators, for it seemed that a fall with such force could mean
nothing less than broken bones for one of the fighters. But apparently it
did not; for, still locked in each other's embrace, the men were
struggling furiously for advantage upon the floor.
Ivan was still on top, but the Montenegrin, with both arms around the
Cossack's neck, was making desperate efforts to roll his opponent over.
Nicolas lay squarely upon his back and Ivan's arms, wrapped around him at
the moment of encounter, were pinioned beneath the other. The big Cossack
was making strenuous attempts to free his right hand and still hold his
opponent down with his great bulk. And at last he succeeded.
At the same moment Nicolas also released his hold and flopped over on his
face. Apparently he had given up all hope of overcoming Ivan and was now
acting purely upon the defensive. Ivan acted too late to prevent his
opponent from turning over, but now he seized him by both shoulders, and
planting his feet firmly upon the ground, by a mighty effort, jerked
Nicolas to his feet.
It was a marvelous exhibition of strength and brought a cry from Stubbs,
than whom there was no more interested spectator of the struggle. Nicolas
now whirled suddenly and his right fist caught Ivan a terrible and
unexpected jolt on the point of the chin. Ivan reeled back several paces
and Nicolas followed him closely, shouting:
"I've got you!"
The words seemed to have a strange effect upon Ivan. He seemed to recover
himself with an effort and his right and left fists shot almost
simultaneously in mighty blows. The first went wild, but the second
caught Nicolas squarely upon the side of the neck and checked his rush.
Before he could give ground, Ivan brought his huge right fist forward
again to the point of Nicolas' chin. The Montenegrin reeled.
But Ivan, having the advantage for really the first time, gave his
man no time to recover. He leaped forward and for a third time seized
his opponent in a close embrace. This time Nicolas had been unable to
draw a deep breath before the great arms closed about him and he
In fact, he weakened so suddenly, that Ivan, believing victory his,
released his hold; and this overconfidence almost proved the Cossack's
undoing. Nicolas, realizing that he could not again free himself from
Ivan's embrace, had decided upon a bold stroke, and by apparently giving
up the struggle had placed himself in Ivan's power absolutely.
Then, when Ivan released his hold, Nicolas dropped suddenly to his knees
and seized Ivan by the legs and pulled sharply. Caught completely off his
guard, Ivan toppled over backwards. Nicolas jumped upon the prostrate
form and again his fingers sought Ivan's throat.
But Ivan was too quick for him and the fingers failed to find their mark.
Ivan doubled up his knees suddenly and thus prevented Nicolas from
obtaining his hold; then, straightening out his legs, he hurled Nicolas
from him. Instantly the Cossack was on his feet and after his opponent.
Nicolas also sprang to his feet and as the two men came together again
they threw wrestling tactics to the winds and brought their fists into
play. It was plainly apparent that neither had ever been schooled in
the art of self-defense and there was nothing skillful about the fight
The attempts of each to ward off the blows of the other were ludicrous
and of little avail. Almost every blow started went home and it became
apparent to the spectators that in this kind of fighting the man who
could withstand the most punishment and land the hardest blows must be
Several hard jolts had found their way to Ivan's face, but he did not
show any symptoms of being unable to continue the battle. His face was a
sight, but so was the face of Nicolas, for the matter of that. Both men
swung hard and often, and nine out of every ten times each landed.
Also both were panting heavily now and it was perfectly plain that the
fight must come to an end soon. And it did, but more suddenly than could
have been expected.
Nicolas, swinging wildly for Ivan's chin, had left an opening as large as
a house. The merest novice must have taken advantage of it. To Hal and
Chester, both skillful boxers, it was the best opening that had been
presented during the entire fight, and Hal cried out:
But his words were not needed. Ivan had seen the opening and had
"Smack!" his right fist landed heavily between Nicolas' eyes.
"Smack!" it was his left landing on the point of Nicolas' jaw.
"Crash!" It sounded like the breaking of bones. There was a brief
silence, followed by another crash. The first was Ivan's right over
Nicolas' mouth and the second was the sound caused as Nicolas tumbled to
the ground, unconscious.
There was a twinkle in Ivan's eye as he surveyed his fallen foe.
"Some fighter, that fellow," he said. "I didn't believe he had it in him.
But I would have had him sooner if he hadn't fooled me."
"You certainly would," said Hal. "You see, Ivan, that's your trouble. You
know nothing of boxing. Had you been, a boxer you could have polished him
"There is no science to using your fists," said Ivan decidedly. "The only
thing is to hit your opponent before he hits you."
"True enough," said Chester, "and that's where skill plays a part. For
instance now, I suppose I could keep you from ever touching me, big as
you are, and I venture to say I could land upon you almost at will,
though possibly not hard enough to put you out. You're too big for that."
"Ho! Ho!" laughed Ivan gleefully. "Hear the little fellow talk. Why, you
couldn't even lay a finger on me. I would just hold out one of my long
arms and you couldn't get near me."
"It sounds easy enough," he said. "But take my word for it, I know what I
am talking about."
"Well, show me," said Ivan.
"I will some time," was the reply. "Right now we'll have to tie Nicolas
up and finish our sleep."
But when Nicolas had been safely secured, Ivan declared that he would not
go to sleep until he had proven to Chester just how easy it would be to
"Well, all right, then," said Chester, "I'll show you. But remember,
don't you crack me too hard if you do happen to land."
Chester placed himself quickly in an attitude of defense, left arm
extended slightly, right arm well back. Crouching slightly and treading
on his toes, he stepped lightly around Ivan, who, with arms wide, waited
for him to come in.
Chester feinted quickly with his left and brought his right forward as he
stepped in close. The right fist bumped the giant's chin gently, for
Chester had not struck hard. A moment later his left landed almost in the
same spot, a trifle harder, and he escaped Ivan's rush and wild swing by
There was a puzzled expression on Ivan's face as he followed the lad
about the cavern, Chester dancing nimbly first to this side and then
that. Once the lad let the giant come close, and when he swung, Chester
jerked his head aside sharply and the blow passed over his shoulder.
Quickly then Chester stepped forward and with his open left palm smacked
Ivan smartly across the left cheek. He performed a similar operation with
his right; then stepped back and dropped his hands.
"Well?" he said, eying Ivan inquiringly.
"Well, you did it," said Ivan, greatly crestfallen. "How, I don't know.
Will you teach me?"
"Some time," said Chester. "Now, let's finish that sleep."
"We ought to be pretty close to the place we left our horses,"
"I was just thinking that, myself," agreed Colonel Anderson. "Must be
around here some place."
"We shall be there within the hour," said Nikol, to whom the situation
had been explained. He had declared he could lead them straight to the
place they had left the animals.
"So you see, Mr. Stubbs, we are not coming back in such a hurry after
all," said Hal.
"We're not there yet," mumbled Stubbs. "An hour is an hour. We've been
altogether too lucky, if you ask me. It's about time something happened."
"Croaking again, eh?" said Chester. "I never saw a fellow like you
before. You see trouble in everything."
"So I do--when I'm with you," declared Stubbs. "It's been my experience
that wherever you and Hal happen to be, there also is trouble. I'm a
peaceable man, I am. I believe in taking all precautions. But here we go,
walking along as though we were on your uncle's farm. No thought of
danger among any of you. But I've got a hunch--"
"You've always got a hunch," Hal interrupted.
"Well, all right," said Stubbs. "Just remember I've warned you."
They continued on their way in silence.
"To tell the truth, we have been remarkably fortunate," declared Colonel
Edwards. "I had expected to bump into some of Nicolas' friends before
this. It's funny."
"It's not too late yet," said Stubbs.
"Mr. Stubbs," said Chester, with some exasperation, "if you--"
"Hold on," said Stubbs. He pointed ahead and slightly to the left. "Here
comes a gang after us now."
The others glanced in the direction indicated. A body of men afoot,
perhaps a dozen all told, were approaching.
"Yes," said Chester, "here comes a gang, but that's no sign they
"Everybody is an enemy in these parts," said Stubbs sententiously.
"By George, you are the limit, Stubbs!" declared Chester. "Now, I'll
tell you what I'll do. I'll just bet you something pretty you're wrong
in this case."
"Well, I ain't wrong," returned Stubbs, forgetting his grammar. "I'll
take that bet. But in the meantime you fellows have a look at your guns.
I may need protection."
This was good advice and the others realized it. They acted on it and the
chamber of Colonel Anderson's revolver snapped with a click that
emphasized his next remark:
"Can't trust them," he said.
The men were close now, and they appeared to be friendly enough. At sight
of the prisoner in the center, one of them cried:
"Ho, Nicolas! where are you going?"
Quickly Hal stepped behind the prisoner and out of sight of the
strangers, his revolver was pressed into Nicolas' back.
"No foolishness," he said in a low voice.
"Rather risky for you in these parts, isn't it, Nicolas?" said another of
Nicolas heeded Hal's advice.
"I'm with friends," he returned. "There are enough of us here to look out
"Where are you bound?"
"Not far. I have a little business a couple of miles farther on."
"Want any company?"
Nicolas hesitated a moment and there came a queer gleam into his eye. And
before Hal could say a word, he replied:
"Well, you can come along if you want to."
This reply staggered the others a bit, but it was too late now. Hal saw
that he had not acted promptly enough, but to order Nicolas to change his
decision would have aroused the suspicion of the others. There was
nothing for it but to make the best of a bad situation.
"All right, we'll come along then, Nicolas," said the man who
appeared to be the leader of the newcomers. "Might be a little gold
in it for us, eh?"
"There might be," agreed Nicolas, with an evil smile.
Hal held a whispered consultation with the others and it was agreed it
would be foolish to bring matters to a climax now.
"Wait until we get our horses," was Chester's advice.
The augmented party now continued on its way.
Half an hour later they came to the place where they had left their
horses some days before. The man who had taken care of them advanced to
meet the party.
"Horses still here?" asked Colonel Edwards.
The man nodded.
"And can you spare us three extra ones?"
The man considered.
"Do you wish to buy?" he asked at last.
Colonel Edwards indicated that he did.
"Then I can accommodate you," was the reply. "I have a dozen of my own
animals, but times are hard and I need the money."
He named a sum and Colonel Edwards agreed to pay it.
"Have them all brought out immediately," the Colonel instructed.
The man bowed and departed after pocketing the money the Colonel gave
him. Colonel Edwards returned to the others.
"It's all right," he said in a low voice. "Our horses are still here and
I have bought three more--one each for Nikol, Ivan and Nicolas."
"Good," said Hal.
He gathered his friends about him, Nicolas in the center, and in a few
brief words explained a plan he had hit upon:
"We'll walk slowly toward the barn," he said. "Nicolas will tell the
others to remain where they are." He eyed the traitor coldly. "Then we'll
dash into the barn and mount. When we are all ready, we'll make a dash
for it, shooting as we do so."
"As good a plan as any, I guess," said Colonel Edwards, after a moment's
hesitation. "Let's get started."
Slowly they moved toward the barn. Nicolas' friends, seeing him moving
away, followed, but still kept at some distance.
The friends entered the barn without being molested. The mountaineer had
just finished with the last horse and Hal gave the word for all to mount.
"Keep Nicolas in the center," he said, "and if he makes a false move,
shoot him. He's too dangerous a man to be running around loose."
While the others mounted, Hal moved to the door to watch the men without.
He arrived there just in time to meet a man who would have entered. Hal
produced his automatic.
"Get back there!" he commanded.
The man took one look at the revolver and leaped back in a hurry. A
moment later a voice called:
"What's the matter in there, Nicolas?"
"Answer him," said Chester, prodding Nicolas with his revolver. "Tell him
everything is all right."
Nicolas did so.
Came the voice from without again:
"Trying to give us the slip, eh? Don't want to divide up the gold with
us, I guess? Well, we're coming in after you."
"All ready?" asked Hal at this juncture.
Chester glanced around quickly.
"Ready, as soon as you mount," he replied quietly. "Hurry!"
Hal took one more look out the door and saw that the men were
approaching, separated widely.
"They're coming!" he cried, and leaped astride his horse. Then he called
to the mountaineer,
"Open the door wide!"
For a moment the mountaineer hesitated. He saw that there was trouble
coming and he knew that it was none of his business.
Hal aimed his automatic at him.
"Open it wide, quick!" he commanded.
The man hesitated no longer. He threw wide the door.
Again Hal glanced quickly about him; then gave the command in a
Out the door they charged at a gallop--Hal and Chester in the lead, next
Colonel Anderson and Nicole, then Nicolas and Stubbs, with Ivan and
Colonel Edwards bringing up the rear.
Outside the door the enemy had drawn somewhat closer together and they
stood with drawn revolvers as the riders charged.
There was no time for flight, and in spite of the fact that the charge
was a distinct surprise, the foe opened with their revolvers.
Without checking their wild speed, Hal and Chester fired point blank into
the faces of the men who barred their way. Whether they hit or not it was
impossible to tell, but two men who were unable to jump out of the way in
time, were knocked down by the foremost horses and the rest of the little
troop passed over their prostrate forms.
But now beyond the enemy, Hal and Chester, leading, did not check the
speed of their horses, for Colonel Edwards had mentioned the fact
that there were more horses in the barn, and all knew that there
would be pursuit.
Behind, some of the men had fallen to their knees and taken
deliberate aim at the flying riders, and the sharp crack, crack of
the weapons continued for several seconds. Bullets flew near, but not
one struck home.
Out of revolver shot, Hal and Chester drew up their horses to take stock.
"Any one hit?" demanded Hal.
There was no reply.
"All right," said Hal, "we'll move on again."
Colonel Edwards, glancing to the rear at that moment, called:
"Here they come!"
The others looked back.
It was true. With loud shouts and waving their revolvers aloft, almost a
dozen men galloped forward.
There came a cry of alarm from Stubbs, in the center of the little troop.
"Hey! Let's get away from here."
He dug his heels into his horse's ribs and dashed through the others.
"Spread out!" ordered Hal. "We make too good a mark this way."
The others obeyed this order, Ivan still keeping close behind Nicolas,
and then Hal commanded:
They went forward at a rapid gallop. The pursuers gave chase with wild
yells, firing wildly as they did so.
A SAD LOSS.
The leader of the flight was Anthony Stubbs. He had covered considerable
distance when the others started and was now well in advance. The little
man's heels continued to dig at the ribs of the horse he bestrode, and
the animal, snorting and with ears laid back, covered the ground in
Hal and Chester, riding close to each other, kept an eye on the others;
and after they had ridden perhaps half a mile, they perceived that
Nicolas and Ivan were lagging behind.
"Nicolas is holding back!" shouted Chester.
Hal shook his head.
"His weight is too great for the horse," Hal shouted back. "Same
This was plainly true and the lads saw that the pursuers were
gaining on them.
Hal headed his horse diagonally across the road and slowed down a bit.
Chester followed suit. Perceiving this movement, the others also checked
the speed of their horses, all save Stubbs, who was now far ahead.
As Nicolas came abreast of Hal he suddenly leaned over his horse, and
before the lad could realize what was up, he seized Hal's revolver, which
was in a holster at his side. Hal grabbed for it too late.
With an evil light in his eye, the Montenegrin leveled the revolver
directly at Hal and his finger tightened on the trigger. But another
brain had acted more quickly than Nicolas'.
Two sharp reports came almost together. Hal felt a bullet brush past his
ear. Nicolas dropped suddenly from his horse. Turning, Hal gazed into the
calm face of Nikol and in the dwarf's hand was a smoking revolver. He had
whipped out his revolver and fired in the nick of time.
Hal realized that he owed his life to the dwarf and he smiled at
A quick look at the prostrate form of Nicolas showed that he was beyond
human aid, and Hal also realized the need of haste, as the pursuers were
even now within range and bullets whined about the fugitives.
"Forward!" he cried.
Again they set off at a gallop.
Ten minutes later Hal again noticed that Ivan was lagging behind. He drew
his horse down until Ivan came up with him. A moment later Colonel
Edwards also dropped back on even terms with them.
"Go ahead. Don't wait for me," shouted Ivan.
Hal shook his head slightly, as did Colonel Edwards.
"I tell you, it's no use," said Ivan. "This horse can't carry me much
farther. Ride on!"
The others paid no heed.
Suddenly Ivan drew rein, pulling his horse back on his haunches, and
leaped lightly to the ground. Then, before the others realized his
intention, he drew his revolvers and faced the pursuers.
Quickly Hal and Colonel Edwards checked their horses, wheeled about and
hurried back to him.
"You are fools!" said Ivan hoarsely. "There is no need for all of us to
die. I could have held them off until the rest of you were safe. It is
not too late yet. Ride on!"
For answer Hal leaped lightly to the ground and Colonel Edwards followed
suit. The latter produced two revolvers and Hal one, for his other still
lay beside the body of Nicolas.
"Into the woods here, quick!" Hal commanded.
The others obeyed him; and they moved from their perilous positions not a
moment too soon, for the pursuers had found the range and revolver
bullets whistled about them as they darted for shelter.
Ahead, Chester now discovered that the others had stopped. He checked his
own horse, and calling to Colonel Anderson and Nikol, wheeled about and
dashed down the road, the others following.
Chester allowed the reins to fall loose on his horse's neck and in each
hand glistened a revolver. Colonel Anderson and Nikol were also prepared.
Some distance beyond where Hal, Colonel Edwards and Ivan had dismounted,
the pursuers had drawn rein; and now Chester, Colonel Anderson and Nikol
charged right at them.
In spite of their numbers, the pursuers, after one hasty volley,
turned and fled as the three charged down upon them. The three fired
once each at the foe and one man dropped. Then they checked their
horses, dismounted and made their way into the woods, where they
joined the others.
"Well," said Chester. "Here we are. Now what?"
"I don't know," said Hal. "We might push on through the woods, leaving
the horses here, or we might wait until dark and make another break. We
can probably lose our pursuers some way."
"I should say the latter is the better plan," said Colonel Edwards. "If
Ivan will start first, we can come on an hour later. We can protect his
flight. Because of his great weight his horse cannot keep up with the
rest of us."
Ivan protested. He didn't want to go and leave the others behind. But at
last he agreed.
"Then I can see no reason for waiting until dark," said Chester. "Let
Ivan mount now and make a break for it. We can cover him. They won't get
by us. An hour later we can start."
After some further discussion, this plan was adopted; and grumbling
somewhat, Ivan mounted in the shelter of the trees. When the Cossack was
ready, Hal peered out. A short distance back he could see the pursuers
and his appearance drew a shot. But the men were too far away to aim with
any degree of accuracy and the shot went wild.
"All right, Ivan," the lad said. "Go!"
The big Cossack dug his heels into his horse's ribs and with a shout
dashed out into the road.
There was an answering shout from behind and the thundering of horses'
hoofs told those among the trees that the enemy was on the advance.
"We'll have to stop 'em!" cried Hal. "Aim carefully now."
They waited until the riders were close and then stepped into the open.
"Crack! Crack! Crack! Crack!"
The revolvers of the six friends spoke as one. Two of the approaching
horsemen reeled in their saddles, then toppled to the ground. Two more
dropped their weapons and uttered loud cries. The pursuers beat a
"Guess that will give Ivan a chance to get away," said Hal briefly. "Now,
all we have to do is to wait until he has a good start."
But the mountaineers had no mind to remain idle and let the fugitives
make all the plans. Even now they were in deep consultation. There were
many gestures and noddings of heads. And at last the mountaineers seemed
to have hit upon a plan of action.
The men split up into small groups, and leaving their horses, picketed
by the side of the road, plunged in among the trees. Hal, glancing from
his place of concealment at that moment, took account of the activities
of the foe.
"Something up," he whispered to the others. "They probably will attempt
to surprise us. We'll have to look sharp now."
"My advice," said Colonel Edwards, "is that we split up a bit, to return
here at a given signal. If we all remain here, it will be simple for them
to surround us. Scattered, we may catch them at a disadvantage."
"A good plan," Hal agreed. "We'll scatter a hundred yards in each
direction. And the signal to return?"
"I'll whistle," said Colonel Edwards.
"Good! Let's move."
Five minutes later, in the spot where the five had been, there remained
only the five horses.
With revolvers in hands, the five friends were scattered near by, eyes
wide open for the first enemy to show himself.
And the first chanced to be a scant twenty yards from Chester. He came
crawling along the ground, glancing furtively about. He spied Chester at
the same moment the lad saw him. The two revolvers spoke almost as one.
Chester felt a slight pain in his left arm. His opponent gave a loud cry
and toppled over.
"Guess he won't bother us any more," muttered the lad grimly.
He kept his eyes peeled for sign of another of the foes. And in other
parts of the woods the others did likewise.
Hal saw no sign of an enemy and after the one whom he had accounted
for, neither did Chester. They kept careful watch, the while awaiting
the signal that was to call them back to their horses in a final dash
From their places of concealment the lads heard a shot. There was not a
second. Each was greatly worried, for neither knew who had fired it or
whether friend or foe had been hit. All they could do was wait.
At last the whistle came, the signal agreed upon. It came so faintly as
to be scarcely audible to those who had been awaiting it. Hal and Chester
moved toward the spot where stood the horses. There they saw Colonel
Edwards holding the bridle of his own animal. A moment later Colonel
Anderson and Nikol appeared.
"All right. No use waiting longer," said Colonel Edwards. "Mount and
we'll run for it!"
All suited the action to the word.
"Go!" commanded Colonel Edwards.
There was a strange catch in the colonel's voice and Hal glanced at him
sharply before touching his horse. He saw Colonel Edwards reel suddenly
in his saddle, then fall heavily to the ground.
With a cry to the others, Hal leaped quickly to the ground, ran to the
fallen figure of the colonel and bent over him anxiously.
The others, at Hal's cry, also dismounted and returned to the fallen man.
"Stand guard there till I see what's wrong!" Hal commanded.
Colonel Anderson, Chester and Nikol stood with drawn revolvers.
Gently Hal lifted Colonel Edwards' head to his knee. The eyes were
closed. The lad put a hand over the officer's heart. There was a
A moment later Colonel Edwards opened his eyes. He smiled feebly.
"Guess I'm done for," he said quietly.
Hal did not reply, for the little wound just above the heart showed where
the bullet had gone home.
Now Colonel Anderson knelt down beside his old friend.
"What's the matter, old man?" he said. "Did they get you?"
"They got me," replied Colonel Edwards. "You fellows go on. You can do
nothing for me. It's too late."
A sudden shudder shook him and he burst into a fit of coughing. His eyes
closed, but he reached forth a hand and his fingers clasped Colonel
"Tell the folks at home--" he said feebly, then became still.
Quickly Colonel Anderson placed a hand over the other's heart. Then he
looked at Hal.
"Dead!" he said simply.
For long minutes all stood there silently, their hats off. How long they
would have remained, it is hard to tell, but the sound of a shot close at
hand awakened them to their own danger.
"We can do no good here," said Colonel Anderson quietly. "We may
as well go."
"First," said Hal, "we shall move his body to a little hole in the ground
I saw back here. We'll cover him up and then we'll go."
Under the very revolvers of the enemy this was done; and the four
returned to their horses.
"Mount!" ordered Colonel Anderson.
The order was obeyed. Colonel Anderson gazed lingeringly toward the spot
where lay the body of Colonel Edwards, and there were tears in his eyes
as he did so. He drew a hand sharply across his eyes, shook himself a bit
Away they went at a gallop, only four of them now. The horses, once upon
the road again, let themselves out nobly and sped on like the wind.
There was a single volley from the foe as the four came into the open,
but all the bullets went wild, and before a second could be fired they
were out of range.
Then the pursuers hurried for their own horses, mounted and again
But if the ranks of the pursued had been thinned, so had those of the
pursuers. Back in the woods lay four bodies cold in death. Of the
survivors who still pursued there were seven.
The horses ridden by the four friends had benefited by the brief rest and
were in condition for a long run; and all might have gone well had it not
been for an unlooked-for occurrence.
As they were dashing swiftly along, Chester's horse stumbled and emitted
a groan. Instantly the lad checked the animal, jumped to the ground and
ran to its head. There was a look of pain in the horse's eyes and he held
up one foot. Chester glanced down.
"He can't go on," the lad said; "the leg is broken."
He drew his revolver.
"Here! What are you going to do?" demanded Colonel Anderson.
"Shoot him," replied Chester quietly. "Put him out of his misery."
"Wait a moment," said the colonel, dismounting. "I know something about
horses. Maybe it's not as bad as all that."
He examined the leg carefully. When he straightened up he looked at
Chester and nodded.
"It's the best way," he said quietly. "There is nothing that can be
done for him."
Chester stroked the horse's head gently and the animal whinnied in pain.
"I'm awfully sorry, old fellow," said the lad, "but it will be
best for you."
The horse seemed to understand. Chester took aim and fired quickly.
"And now what are we going to do?" he asked.
"Climb up behind me," said Hal. "We've got a pretty fair start. May be
they will not overtake us."
Chester did as Hal suggested, and the party moved on again, but more
It was perhaps half an hour later, when hoofbeats were heard behind.
"Here they come!" cried Hal, and dug his heels into his horse's side.
The animal responded nobly, but five minutes later it became apparent
that they would be unable to distance their pursuers at this speed. The
hoofbeats became plainer.
Hal drew rein.
"Dismount!" he cried.
His command was obeyed instantly.
Taking his horse by the head, Hal led him in among the trees. The others
followed his lead.
"When they get by, we'll go forward again," said Hal.
They waited silently.
A few moments later the pursuers flashed by, going at a rapid gallop.
When they were out of sight, Hal led his horse to the road, as did the
others, and all mounted.
"We'll follow them," said the lad. "We'll have to keep our ears open,
though, for they are likely to turn almost any time."
An hour later, rounding a turn in the road, Colonel Anderson, who was in
advance, checked his horse suddenly. The others also drew up sharply.
"What's the matter?" asked Hal.
For answer Colonel Anderson pointed down the road.
There, probably half a mile away, were their pursuers, stationary.
"What do you suppose they are waiting for?" demanded Chester.
The answer came from an unexpected source.
From beyond the pursuers arose a puff of smoke, followed by a faint
report. It was the sound of a revolver.
"They've bumped into another enemy of some kind," said Chester. "Wonder
how strong this new force is?"
"Can't be very strong or those fellows would be heading this way,"
declared Hal. "Maybe they think it's us."
"That's about the size of it," declared Colonel Anderson.
There was another puff of smoke at this moment, and one of the
"Bully for you, whoever you are," shouted Chester. "Say!" he added,
"what's the matter with taking them in the rear? They haven't
spotted us yet."
"I was thinking of that," said Colonel Anderson. "Guess it can be done
all right. Will your horse carry double that far, Hal?"
"He'll have to," replied the lad grimly.
"Good. Are you ready?"
"When you give the word."
Down the road at a rapid gallop went the three horses, carrying the
Hal, Colonel Anderson and Nikol each guided their mounts with their left
hands, flourishing their revolvers in the right. Chester held fast to Hal
with his left and also flourished a revolver with his free hand.
Nearer and nearer they came upon their unsuspecting enemies, who still
stood where they had been when first discovered. Occasionally one fired
his revolver at the spot from which shots came at frequent intervals now.
"Wonder why those fellows beyond don't charge, now that they must see us
coming," muttered Hal to himself.
He watched the puffs of smoke as they came at intervals, and he was
suddenly struck by an idea.
"By Jove!" he shouted, to make himself heard, "I'll bet there is only one
man there. That's why the shots are so far apart."
"Well, we're pretty evenly matched," said Chester. "There are only six of
them in condition to fight."
"Five," said Hal suddenly, as another of the enemy pitched suddenly to
the ground, a shot from beyond having struck him.
"See! they are going to charge him!" cried Chester, peering over his
It was true. The enemy had spread out as much as the road would permit
and the man who appeared to be the leader raised his hand.
"We'll have to stop that," muttered Hal.
He raised his voice in a shout, which carried plainly to the foe.
The five men wheeled about suddenly and for the first time saw they were
beset in the rear as well as in front. For a moment they hesitated, then
turned and charged the new arrivals.
"Keep going!" shouted Hal. "And don't miss!"
The enemy fired first, but all the shots went wild. Suddenly Nikol
checked his horse, took deliberate aim and fired. A rider fell to the
ground. The range was still great, but Nikol's aim was true. A second man
dropped at his second bullet.
Now Colonel Anderson and Hal fired simultaneously. Another man
dropped--it was impossible to tell whether Hal or Colonel Anderson had
scored a hit.
The two remaining riders drew their horses upon their haunches, and
headed them for the friendly protection of the trees. Hal and Colonel
Anderson fired a parting shot, but they were unable to tell whether the
bullets had gone home.
Chester, behind Hal, had been unable to get into the battle, Hal's figure
interfering with his aim.
"Well, I don't think the two of them will bother us," said Hal.
"No," Chester agreed. "And there are two loose horses. I'm going to get
one of them."
"Better make it two," said Colonel Anderson. "Our ally beyond, whoever he
may be, may need one."
"He deserves one," he said. "He knocked off three of these fellows."
He secured the two horses without much trouble, mounted one and led
"Now we'll have an interview with our friend," he said.
They rode forward slowly.
"Funny he doesn't come out and show himself," said Hal.
"Guess he thinks we are enemies, too," suggested Colonel Anderson.
He broke off suddenly and ducked his head, for a bullet had whistled just
above him. He raised his voice in a shout:
"Hey!" he cried in English, forgetting just where he was, "what do you
mean shooting at us? Quit it. We're friends."
"That you, Hal?" came a familiar voice.
Hal, Chester and Colonel Anderson gazed into each other's eyes almost
"Well, what do you think of that?" exclaimed Hal.
There came a pleased chuckle from one member of the party, who rushed
It was Nikol.
"Now where is he going?" demanded Chester anxiously.
"Going to greet his friend Stubbs," returned Hal. "To Nikol, Stubbs is a
brave man and a grand fighter; and what has happened just now will only
increase his admiration. Come on, let's go and have a look for
"Is that you, Hal, Chester?" came Stubbs' voice again.
"Yes," Hal shouted back.
They rode forward.
Anthony Stubbs, now that he had found his friends again, came forward as
fast as his queer stature would permit. He was puffing and blowing so
hard by the time he reached them that he could hardly talk. Of Nikol, who
stuck close to his side, eyeing him admiringly, he took no notice.
"By George! It's good to see you fellows again," declared Stubbs. "I
thought my days were numbered when that gang of ruffians set upon me.
I didn't want to fight, but I had to. It seems to me I got seven or
eight of them."
"Well, how do you happen to be here, anyhow?" demanded Chester.
"My horse threw me and went away by himself," said Stubbs
mournfully. "If I ever see him again I'll tell him about it. He
might have got me killed."
Nikol now forced himself in front of Stubbs and extended a hand.
"Mr. Stubbs," he said quietly, "you are a brave and gallant man."
Stubbs was pleased. He made as though to take the hand; then thought
better of it. He remembered the grip of those powerful fingers.
"I know it, Nikol," he said gravely.
He put out his hand and patted the dwarf on the head.
MR. STUBBS EASES HIS MIND.
The remainder of the journey to Cettinje was without incident. After the
defeat of the mountaineers the lads felt safe, for they were once more
within the borders of Montenegro and were unlikely, they knew, to
encounter other enemies.
Stubbs, when informed of the death of Colonel Edwards, was greatly
"Poor fellow," he said, and added after a pause: "There is no use
talking, Hal, this is no life for any one. He's likely to be snuffed out
at a moment's notice. I'm going to be careful where I go in the future."
Besides the three bags of gold he had carried when he left the Albanian
mountains, Hal now had the two he had taken from the body of Colonel
Edwards. The two Nicolas had carried had been left with him, for there
had been no time to get them. Stubbs had held on to the two entrusted to
him, and Ivan, wherever he was, had two more.
It was while speaking of the gold that Hal's thoughts turned to Ivan.
"I wonder what can have happened to him?" he said.
Chester shrugged his shoulders.
"No telling," he replied. "However, I guess he'll turn up sooner
And the lad was right.
It was dark when the little party came again within the first line of
Montenegrin troops. Colonel Anderson announced that he would seek an
audience of King Nicholas immediately. He made his wants known to the
officer of the guard, and after he had explained the situation, the
officer departed to learn whether the king would see the returned
travelers. He returned fifteen minutes later with the announcement that
the king would receive them in his field quarters immediately.
As they started for the monarch's quarters, Stubbs and Nikol both
"Come on now, Mr. Stubbs," said Chester. "The king will be as glad to see
you as any of the rest of us."
"I'm not much used to kings," Stubbs protested. "Besides, this is none of
my expedition. You're the fellows he wants to see."
"Nonsense," said Hal, and struck with a sudden thought, he added:
"Perhaps the king will give you an interview. It would be a good thing
for the _New York Gazette_."
"By Jove! you're right there," Stubbs agreed. "I must be a great
newspaper man to have overlooked a thing like that. If my boss knew it
I'd get fired. I'll go along."
Still Nikol hung back, and it took considerable coaxing before he
consented to go; and then it took Stubbs to clinch matters.
"Look here, now," he said, eyeing Nikol sternly, "I took you for a brave
man. You're not afraid of a king, are you?"
Nikol shook his head negatively.
"Well, if you don't come along I'll think you are," declared Stubbs.
"Look at me now. I don't care particularly about going, but I want to
show King Nicholas I'm not afraid of him. Come on."
He took the dwarf by the arm and the latter moved along grumbling
The king received the party in his private quarters--a large field tent.
When the party was ushered into his presence, he was attended by a single
orderly. He arose at their entrance. His eyes surveyed the group quickly,
and he demanded:
"Where is my friend, Colonel Edwards?"
Colonel Anderson, delegated spokesman for the party by reason of his
superior rank, stepped forward and replied quietly:
"He is dead, sire."
The king took a step backward and passed a trembling hand across his
brow. He was silent for some moments before replying.
"Dead! One more victim of the Kaiser's militarism. Tell me, how
did he die?"
Colonel Anderson explained quietly and briefly. Then, at the king's
request, he went into the details of the journey; and when he had
concluded, King Nicholas expressed his deep thanks for the service each
member of the party had rendered him.
"And you say Nicolas, the traitor, is dead?" he questioned.
"Yes, your majesty. Nikol here," and Colonel Anderson indicated the
dwarf, "saw to that."
The king turned to Nikol. Then he commanded:
Trembling, in spite of his denial that he was afraid of a king, Nikol
approached. The king extended a hand, and Nikol bent one knee and put his
lips to the hand.
"I thank you," said King Nicholas.
Nikol, with flushed face, muttered something unintelligible and backed
Then the king thanked each member of the party separately. Even Stubbs
seemed somewhat abashed by the king's manner.
Later Colonel Anderson mentioned the gold they had brought and it was all
deposited--fifteen bags of the precious metal--before the king.
"Again I thank you," said the monarch. "You may make sure that this gold
will be used where it will do the most good."
A few moments later the king signified that the audience was at an end.
As they passed out he spoke a final word:
"If, at any time, there is anything I am able to do for any of you, you
have but to command me."
All bowed low.
"One moment," said the king as they were about to withdraw, "have you
"No, sire," returned Colonel Anderson.
The king spoke to the officer who attended him.
"You will see that these gentlemen are provided with suitable quarters at
once," he commanded. "They are my guests."
The officer saluted and motioned the others to follow him. Outside they
were turned over to a second officer, who escorted them to a tent
somewhat larger than the rest.
"You will make this your quarters," said the officer. "I shall send you
an orderly, and if at any time there is anything you require, you have
but to mention it to him."
He saluted and departed.
Left to themselves at last, Hal, Chester and the others looked about.
The tent was fitted up comfortably, almost luxuriously. There were seven
or eight cots within and the tent had the appearance of having sheltered
men of note.
"Style to this place, if you ask me," said Stubbs, "Makes a fellow want
to turn in and sleep a bit."
"And that is just what we'll do," said Chester. "I'm tired out myself."
"Same here," agreed Hal.
Colonel Anderson and Nikol also announced that they were ready to seek
repose at any time, and after some further talk, all lay down and soon
were fast asleep.
The sun was high in the heavens when Chester opened his eyes. He was up
and dressed quickly. Glancing around, he saw that the others, with the
exception of Stubbs, who had one eye open, were still fast asleep.
"Guess I'll take a little trip by myself," the lad muttered.
He moved toward the exit.
"Wait a minute, there," Stubbs called, hopping out of his cot. "I'll go
"How's that, Mr. Stubbs?" said Chester, pausing. "Why do you arise so
early? Thought you always stayed until last."
"Don't you believe it," said the little man. "I like to sleep the same as
the next fellow, but when I have business on hand I attend to it first."
"Business?" repeated Chester. "And what business have you on hand
"Got to get busy and get some news," was the reply. "I'm going to have a
look about this camp, ask some questions, then do a little writing; after
which I'll hunt up the official censor and the rest of the gang and see
what arrangements I can make toward getting my stuff sent through."
"Then I'll go with you on your hunt," Chester decided. "Maybe I can get
a few pointers. I might want to get into the newspaper business myself
"Don't," said Stubbs. "Take my advice and do anything else. Look at me
now, I'm a fair example. Here I've been in this business for fifteen
years, and what has it got me, eh? I'll tell you. It's got me a chance to
get out and get shot so that people over in the good old U.S.A. can read,
with their morning cup of coffee, what is going on in this benighted
land. And what do I get for it? Nothing."
"And still, the excitement," said Chester.
"Excitement?" echoed Stubbs. "Now I ask you, what do I want with
excitement? I can get all the excitement I want right back in New York.
This is a long way to come looking for excitement."
"Well, perhaps so," Chester admitted, "but when you get back home you
will be able to tell people who want to know, more about this war than
they could read in the _Gazette_."
"So I can," Stubbs agreed, "but I wouldn't if these two by four censors
didn't stick to their jobs so closely."
The little man slapped on his hat and stalked from the tent, calling over
Chester followed him.
Outside, Stubbs made a straight line for the first line troops.
"If you want to find out anything, you have got to get right where it
is," he declared. "I could stay back here and ask questions, but I want
to see things for myself."
Chester offered no objections.
Suddenly the camp seemed to spring to life. Bugles blew shrilly, men came
pouring out of the tents to form into ranks. Officers darted hither and
thither, shouting hoarse commands. For a moment all seemed to be
confusion, but a moment later, in response to sharp commands, all became
quiet and orderly.
"Something up," said Chester.
"An advance, I imagine," he said. "We'll see."
He approached a gruff-looking officer of forbidding aspect and addressed
him in French.
"Where to?" he asked.
"To the attack," was the reply.
At the same moment a bugle rang out. Others took it up. It was the
command to advance.
Right, left, front and rear of where Stubbs and Chester stood the troops
began to move. In front they could make out the heavy guns being dragged
forward, officers dashing about and gesticulating excitedly, but order
reigning in the midst of apparent confusion.
From the rear now dashed a squadron of cavalry, a handsome appearing body
of men. A second squadron came into sight and disappeared ahead, to be
followed a moment later by a third. Other squadrons passed in rapid
Chester and Stubbs kept their positions.
Half an hour passed and still the mounted horsemen swept by. Then came
the infantry. Column upon column came swinging along at a dog trot, their
officers urging them on. They moved silently and swiftly, apparently all
ready for the terrible business in hand.
"A handsome body of men," said Stubbs. "I have never seen better."
"And the size of them," exclaimed Chester. "Must all be over six feet."
It did seem so. Great, big, husky-looking fellows they were, strong as
gorillas--heavily bearded, most of them, and warmly and snugly dressed.
"They'll make these Austrians move around some, with an even break,"
And still the troops passed, seemingly without end.
"Must be an attack in some force," said Chester.
"Or reinforcements to check an enemy's advance," declared Stubbs.
"Well," said Chester, "if there is going to be a battle, we ought to try
and see something of it."
"They'll arrest us if we go fooling around here," declared Stubbs.
Chester thought quickly.
"I'll tell you," he said at length, "you saw the orderly stationed
outside our tent?"
"We'll go back and get him. Also we'll take Hal and Colonel Anderson.
They wouldn't want to miss this."
"Don't forget my old friend Nikol," said Stubbs. "Remember he is
something of a fighter, too. He'll want to have a look."
They made their way back to the tent quickly and aroused the others. The
orderly placed at their disposal, once their wants were made known,
volunteered to conduct them to the front.
"I'll get an automobile," he said, and departed.
Five minutes later he was back with a big car and all climbed aboard. A
moment later they were being driven rapidly toward the extreme front.
There, just behind the first line troops, Hal and Chester made out that
the movement was in reality a defensive one. Apparently the men rushed
forward so early in the morning were reinforcements.
The troops had entrenched themselves hurriedly and were preparing to
resist an attack, which, the orderly informed his charges, was expected
momentarily. It appeared that the Austrians had made some slight gains
the day before and the Montenegrin general staff had reason to believe
the offensive would be continued to-day. Accordingly, steps had been
taken to resist the invader.
As the orderly explained the situation, the battle would probably be
fought along a twenty-five-mile front; and he announced that at this
particular moment the party was somewhere between the center and the left
wing of the Montenegrin army.
"Well, we can't see much from here," said Chester.
He gazed across the hills. Then he pointed to his right, toward a not far
distant elevation, somewhat higher than the others nearby, and also
somewhat closer to the Montenegrin center.
"Now, if we were up there," he said, "we might be able to see something."
The orderly seemed nonplussed.
"It is from that eminence that the king and the general staff will