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The Boy Allies in the Balkan Campaign by Clair W. Hayes

Part 3 out of 4

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witness the struggle," he said, "I do not know--"

"Oh, that will be all right," said Stubbs. "The king is a good friend of
ours. Why, only last night he said that if we desired anything all we had
to do was to call on him. Now, taking the king at his word, what we would
desire most is to be allowed to witness the battle from that eminence."

The Montenegrin officer hesitated; but only for a moment. Then he said:

"If those were the king's words, he no doubt will forgive me for leading
you thither."

"Most certainly he will," declared Stubbs; "in fact, he will thank you
for bringing us to him."

The officer, without further words, proceeded as desired, and ten minutes
later, having left the big army automobile, they climbed the eminence and
took their positions not far from where the king and the general staff
stood viewing the Austrian lines through their glasses.

Even as they settled themselves as comfortably as possible, the first big
gun of the enemy boomed. Other big guns from the Montenegrin lines took
up the action and soon the artillery engagement became general. The air
was filled with terrible din and it was next to impossible to make
oneself heard above the roar of battle.

Hidden batteries in the Montenegrin lines were making their fire felt.
Shielded from the enemy in front, they were also, in most cases, made
invisible to the Austrian air craft that continually hovered overhead,
sheltered as they were in dense clumps of trees and bushes.

From the Montenegrin lines now went a small fleet of aeroplanes, seeking
out the hiding places of the enemy artillery and signaling back the range
to the Montenegrin gunners.

For an hour the duel of big guns continued without other action of any
kind. Now and then the spectators were able to make out the effect of an
enemy shell as it struck within the Montenegrin line, but they were
unable to determine the result of the Montenegrin fire.

Came the sound of a bugle from the rear.

"Something up!" shouted Chester at the top of his voice.

Hal nodded but said nothing. He did not feel equal to making himself
heard above the terrible roar of battle.

From the Austrian line suddenly issued a squadron of cavalry, closely
followed by many other squadrons. It became apparent to the spectators
that the enemy had determined to silence the Montenegrin guns, or a
portion of them, at any rate, by a charge.

On they came in the very face of a hail of lead that cut great gaps in
their ranks, mowing men and riders down like chaff before a storm. But as
fast as the ranks were thinned, they filled up again as the Austrians
continued their charge, while from their rear the great Austrian guns
continued to hurl their messengers of death over their heads into the
ranks of the Montenegrins beyond.

Straight for a little woods in the center of the long battle line the
Austrian cavalry dashed, their intention apparently being to seek
temporary shelter there before charging some other part of the
Montenegrin line.

Now they were almost to the trees and it seemed that they must find
shelter there. This would mean that it would be a hard task for the
Montenegrins to dislodge them. They were less than a hundred yards away
when there came a fresh, terrible rumble and roar.

A Montenegrin masked battery had opened with its rapid-firers. Men
dropped in great heaps, but the others came on.

The Austrian officer in command, realizing that he was in a trap, took
the one chance left him. With what men he had, cut off from his infantry
support as he was, he must either capture that masked battery, die or
surrender. The only support he had now was from his own artillery, and a
moment later that, too, became silent, for the masked Montenegrin battery
could not be shelled without imminent risk of shooting down Austrian as
well as Montenegrin.

On came the Austrians in a desperate and spectacular charge. Of the
number that had sallied forth from the Austrian trench, less than half
remained when they came to the edge of the little woods. These few hurled
themselves forward with the utmost bravery and abandon, and for a moment
it seemed that they might reach the guns, which Hal and Chester, from the
eminence, could see.

But at that moment four squadrons of Montenegrin cavalry, fresh and eager
for the fray, were hurled forward. They dashed out with a yell, and the
two forces met just beyond the fringe of trees.

There was a terrific shock as they came together and in a moment all
was confusion. Men cursed, slashed, stabbed and discharged revolvers at
each other, while the horses of the opposing forces fought as well as
their riders.

The Montenegrin battery had now become silent, for to have fired would
have been to endanger the life of friend as well as foe. The horsemen
struggled desperately, hand-to-hand.

But the force of the Austrian charge had been spent. The few who remained
fought bravely, but they were no match for the fresher and more powerful
Montenegrin horsemen, among the best fighters in the whole world.

Slowly the Austrians were forced back. Then they gave ground faster and
faster, until finally those who were left turned their horses and fled
back toward their own lines. For perhaps a hundred yards the Montenegrins
pursued, then, at the call of a bugle, they halted and turned back.

A moment later the rapid-firers broke loose again, cutting great holes in
the ranks of the fleeing Austrians. The latter retreated even faster than
they had charged, but by the time they reached the shelter of their own
lines their number had been thinned by fully three-fourths.

All the way across the field dead and wounded strewed the ground. The
successful Montenegrins paused for a moment and cheered wildly; then they
took stock of their own dead and wounded, for they had not escaped
scot-free. The hand-to-hand struggle, though brief, had been severe while
it lasted, and the Austrians fought hard and well. The Montenegrin
losses, though comparatively light, had been severe.

While the cavalry action was being fought, the artillery fire had
slackened perceptibly; but now the cavalry of each side--what was left of
it--had returned to its own lines.

The big guns took up the duel anew with even greater vigor than before.



Hal, Chester and Colonel Anderson had watched the battle with the eyes of
veterans; Stubbs had taken in the scene with the eye of a newspaper man
in the search of news. Nikol, the dwarf, had gazed at the struggling knot
of horsemen in undisguised amazement.

As the Austrians, defeated, had withdrawn, each had drawn a deep breath.

"A terrible spectacle, when you stop to think of it," said Hal slowly.

"Terrible, indeed," agreed Colonel Anderson quietly; "and yet it must
go on and on until the power of the Teuton allies has been crushed
out forever."

"Which it will be," said Chester quietly.

All turned their eyes to the battlefield once more.

Even from where they stood they could discern a sudden activity in the
Austrian lines. The action of the big field pieces became more vigorous
than before. Hal, Chester and Colonel Anderson guessed the answer
immediately, as, probably, did the officers of King Nicholas' forces.

The next Austrian move was to be a grand assault under cover of artillery
fire. The problem to be solved was where it would be delivered--in the
center, on the right, or on the left flank.

For a brief instant Hal turned his eyes from the battlefield to the place
where King Nicholas and his staff stood. Officers were arriving and
departing in haste, carrying orders to the various commanders.

The fire of the Montenegrin guns also became more violent; but it was
evident that the Montenegrin staff had decided to take no action until
they were confident of just where the Austrians would strike.

The noise of the cannonading was tremendous. It was like the continual
roar of the loudest peal of thunder. The very ground trembled from the
vibrations of the big guns.

From the Austrian trenches now poured thousands of men at the
double--poured in dense masses toward the Montenegrin center, the while
the Austrian artillery shelled the Montenegrin center with greater energy
than at any time since the battle began.

Apparently the enemy had determined upon the Montenegrin center as the
objective of its grand assault.

In the open field, a small plateau, the Austrians reformed coolly, in
spite of the death-dealing fire from the Montenegrin lines. The field was
packed closely with the enemy, now less than half a mile away.

At this distance the fire of the Montenegrin artillery was terribly
effective, but the Austrian line did not waver.

Steadily forward it came; and now the Montenegrins moved to meet the
attack. Apparently satisfied that there was no question that the center
was to be the main objective of the enemy, the Montenegrin staff ordered
the bulk of the Balkan army massed there to beat back the foe.

Regiments and brigades were hurriedly drawn from the two flanks to
reinforce the center. The left wing was weakened badly.

A quarter of a mile from the first Montenegrin trench the Austrians
charged fiercely. All eyes were turned to that section of the field. The
shock was but a few moments away.

At that moment--almost the moment of impact--a second line of men issued
from the Austrian, trenches, this time on the Montenegrin left wing.
These, too, supported by artillery and strong bodies of cavalry, came
forward in a charge.

It seemed the Austrian commander had outgeneraled the Montenegrins, for
it did not seem possible that the Montenegrin left flank could be
reinforced in time to successfully withstand the shock of the Austrian
attack, and there could be no doubt now that the left flank was where the
main attack would be delivered.

The assault upon the center had been a feint--nothing more. The main
bodies of Austrians were to be hurled against the Montenegrin left, in an
effort to turn it before reinforcements could be hurried from the right
flank to support the threatened center and left.

But King Nicholas, taking matters in his own hands, acted quickly. In
spite of the protests of his officers, he ordered the reinforcements so
recently massed in his center back to strengthen his left; then ordered
that the center hold firm at all hazards and against all numbers.

He hurried reinforcements from his right to support his center, and
having taken these precautions, he was ready to give battle.

The Austrian attacking force and the Montenegrin center had come in
contact long before the king had made his other moves, but there was no
doubt in Nicholas' mind that his sturdy mountaineers could hold their
trenches against larger numbers of the enemy.

One, two, three times the Austrians charged the trenches in the
Montenegrin center. Three times they were driven back with terrible
losses. The Montenegrins, in the shelter of their trenches, fought
stubbornly and tenaciously. Once the first line of Austrians
succeeded in obtaining a foothold in the first trench and
hand-to-hand fighting ensued.

At this style of fighting the Austrians were no match for the sturdy
Balkan warriors, and they were soon forced out again.

Meanwhile the Austrian main attack had come in contact with the
Montenegrin left wing. Outnumbered two to one, sometimes more, the
defenders fought gallantly. But the Austrians, by the very weight of
numbers, swooped down upon the defenders of the first line trenches in
spite of the heavy Montenegrin artillery fire.

The Montenegrins were forced to fall back to their second line; but they
contested every inch of ground and by the time they had been forced out,
reinforcements began to arrive. The second line of trenches held in spite
of all attempts of the enemy to force them.

Reinforcements continued to arrive.

The Austrian artillery had now slackened its fire perceptibly, for there
was danger of mowing down its own men.

King Nicholas decided upon a bold stroke. Secure in the fact that the
Austrian guns could not be used at the moment, and having every
confidence in his stalwart troops, in spite of the fact that they were
heavily outnumbered, King Nicholas ordered a charge.

A cheer went up along the Montenegrin line.

With bayonets fixed and every nerve tense, the Montenegrins poured
suddenly from their trenches. They charged like wild men.

The advantage of the surprise was theirs--the advantage of their
impetuous devotion to the cause they served; and the force of their
charge was irresistible. It carried all before it.

In vain the Austrian officers tried to rally their men. The sight of
these determined, grim-faced men pouring from their trenches bewildered
the Austrian troops. They gave ground, slowly at first, then more
swiftly; and five minutes later they were in full retreat, with the
Montenegrins in close pursuit.

Once the Austrian commander succeeded in reforming his men for a stand;
but the Montenegrins rushed on as though they could have carried the Rock
of Gibraltar itself, and again the Austrians broke and fled.

The Montenegrins pursued them for probably a quarter of a mile, cutting
them down and bayoneting them as they ran. Then the bugle sounded a
recall and the Montenegrins drew off.

It was then, too, that the great Austrian guns opened on them again,
doing fearful havoc. The Montenegrins suffered greater losses on their
return to their trenches than they had during the entire engagement up to
that time.

In the center, the battle was still raging; but now that he had been
victorious on his left, King Nicholas immediately hurled his weary men
to the support of his center. Also he drew upon his already weakened
right wing; for the advantage was his and he was determined to make the
most of it.

The Austrians fell back in the center.

Now the Montenegrins opened with their heavy artillery, which was rushed
forward to shell the retreating foe. Again King Nicholas ordered a charge
along his entire front.

With the present morale among the enemy, King Nicholas decided it was
time to push his advantage further. He had determined to drive the foe
from its own trenches.

The Montenegrins advanced confidently all along the line, pursuing the
Austrians closely in the center. Cavalry and infantry, under the
protection of the giant batteries, were hurled forward and dashed upon
the Austrians with ferocity.

Rapidly they covered the open distance to the first Austrian trenches and
leaped into them without thought of death. The Austrians, brought to bay
at last, fought desperately, but the Montenegrins, once having gained the
whip hand, were not to be denied.

The fighting in the Austrian trenches continued for what seemed an
eternity; but finally the Austrians broke and fled.

The Montenegrins, flushed with victory, advanced again, and under cover
of their artillery, stormed the enemy's second line trenches. These, too,
were won after a desperate struggle and heavy losses on both sides, and
with these the Montenegrins, worn and spent, rested content.

The troops were for pushing on after the Austrians, but King Nicholas
called a halt.

"My brave men!" he exclaimed, with tears in his eyes. "They have done a
day's work to-day that will live in memory for generations to come. It is
a brilliant victory."

The duel of heavy guns continued, but the infantry fighting was over for
the day. The Montenegrins, in their newly won trenches, fell to preparing
them to resist the attack that they knew would come sooner or later,
while the Austrians were taking account of their losses and making ready
for a new assault.

Stubbs laid a hand on Chester's arm.

"Didn't I tell you they looked like real fighters?" he exclaimed.

"Certainly, I have never seen better," returned the lad.

Stubbs turned to Nikol.

"Well, Nikol," said he, "what do you think of these fellows as fighters?"

Nikol eyed him in silence for several moments. But at last he spoke.

"Mr. Stubbs," he said quietly, "they are better fighters than you or I."



"Come," said Colonel Anderson, "the battle is over. There will be no more
fighting to-day. Let us move."

Slowly all made their way back toward their quarters, talking over the
battle as they went.

It was late in the afternoon. The battle had raged all day, and now for
the first time the friends felt the need of food. Instead of taking camp
fare, to which they were invited by the Montenegrin officer who
accompanied them, they decided to go to a little village not far from the
camp, where the officer informed them they could get a substantial meal
at a certain, little restaurant.

Thither they made their way and to their satisfaction found the
information correct. Then, their appetites satisfied, they left the
restaurant and started back to the camp.

It was now after dark and as they walked slowly, discussing events of the
day, they came upon a knot of men engaged in some sort of an argument.

"My curiosity always gets the better of me," said Chester. "Let's have a
look," and he led the way toward the gesticulating group.

It was plain, as they drew nearer, that the argument was heated. Loud
voices broke the stillness of the night, and one of them, a deep bass,
had a familiar ring. One look at the faces in the crowd and they
recognized its owner.

It was none other than Ivan, whom they had last seen when he made his
dash for liberty in the mountains.

Ivan was in the very center of the crowd, and as Hal, Chester and the
others came close, in the glare of a dim light he could be seen
gesticulating violently.

"I tell you," he shouted, "I have no money."

"But you showed two bags of gold in the restaurant," said one of the men
pressing in on him.

"Well, what if I did?" demanded Ivan. "That gold is not mine. It belongs
to your king and I am taking it to him."

"A likely story," said one man in the crowd with a sneer. "You stole it
some place. We want a share."

"Oh, you do?" said Ivan, and he broke into a loud laugh. "Well, you won't
get it. First, however, I want to tell you again, that I did not steal
the money and that it is not mine."

"Then why," said another of the crowd, "why did you dip into one of the
bags to pay for a drink at the restaurant?"

"Why?" echoed Ivan in a loud voice. "I'll tell you. Because I was dry."

"But if the gold is not yours?"

For a moment Ivan appeared somewhat flustered. But he made answer
after a moment.

"I am entitled to the price of a glass of wine for carrying this gold for
the king. That's why."

"It's my belief you filled up on wine before you got the gold," said
another voice in the crowd.

"You may have any belief you choose," shouted Ivan angrily. "But now
stand aside. I am going on my way."

"Not until you give us a share of your spoils," said a voice close to

"Ho!" said Ivan. "You think so. Ho! Ho!"

He took a step forward and his merriment subsided.

"Stand aside there!" he commanded sternly.

For a moment it appeared that the crowd would give before him, but a man
in the back of the crowd cried:

"What! will you run from one man, a drunken man at that?"

Another, closer to the giant, reached out a hand and sought to clutch the
bag of gold Ivan held in his left hand.

With a sudden movement and a loud cry, Ivan stretched forth a hand
and seized the man by the throat. Then he lifted him high in the air
and hurled him through space. The man struck the ground with a loud
cry of pain.

At the same instant a second man struck at Ivan with a club.

With a cry of anger, Ivan reached forth and seized the club; then,
whirling it about his head, brought it down on the man's skull. The man
toppled over like a log.

Now Ivan began to laugh in glee.

"Ho! Ho!" he cried. "Come on and take the gold," and he brandished it
aloft in his left hand. "What! Are you afraid of one man? Ho! Ho!"

The crowd gave back as Ivan moved forward.

A man from behind sprang forward and stabbed the giant between the
shoulders with a thin knife.

Ivan whirled about with a terrible cry. Then, raising his recently
acquired club, he dashed in among the crowd and laid about him right
and left. Men went down on all sides and in a moment the others
turned and fled.

One, from a distance, drew a revolver and fired. Whether the bullet came
close to the giant, Hal could not tell, but he drew his own revolver, and
springing forward, cried:

"That's enough of this! The next man to make a move I'll put a
bullet through."

Chester, Nikol and Colonel Anderson ranged themselves by Hal's side and
also produced their automatics. Seeing nothing else to do, Stubbs also
joined them and flourished a revolver.

The crowd gave back.

Ivan turned upon the newcomers in surprise. Then he cried in a
great voice:

"Well! Well! and where did you come from? I had made sure you had
deserted me."

"No, we haven't deserted you," said Hal. "We simply missed you,
that's all."

"Well, it's all right, anyhow," said Ivan. "Now come to the restaurant
with me and I shall buy wine for all of us."

"Thanks, Ivan, but we don't drink wine," said Hal quietly. "If you will
come with us to our quarters we will talk matters over."

"Not I, not until I have had wine," declared Ivan.

"But you have had enough wine," declared Chester.

"And how do you know I have had enough wine?" demanded Ivan, turning
upon the lad.

"The way you talk makes it plain enough," replied Chester quietly. "Come,
Ivan, let's get away from here."

"Well," said Ivan hesitatingly, "maybe you are right." Turning he caught
sight of Nikol.

"Why, there is my old friend Nikol," he shouted. "Nikol, you will join me
in a bottle of wine?"

"I shall be pleased," said Nikol, with a smile.

"Good. Come with me." He turned and made as though to move away, when
suddenly his eyes lighted upon Stubbs.

"Ho! Ho!" he laughed. "And my friend Stubbs here shall accompany us."

"Thanks; some other time," said Stubbs nervously.

For answer Ivan leaned down, picked the little man up in his arms and
walked away with him in spite of Stubbs' cries and struggles.

Nikol went along and for once he did not offer to take Stubbs' part.

"Great Scott! Hal, we can't stand for this," said Chester. "What
shall we do?"

"Go along, I should say," said Colonel Anderson.

"But we don't drink wine," protested Hal.

"There is no reason you should. If you can get Ivan seated and talk to
him he will be all right in a few minutes. Besides, he is likely to get
into more trouble this way."

"I guess you're right," said Hal. "Come on, Chester."

The three followed Nikol, Ivan and the latter's struggling burden in the
person of Stubbs.

They entered the restaurant right behind the others and took seats at the
same table. Ivan greeted them with a smile.

"Glad to see you came along," he said. He turned to Stubbs. "What will
you have?"

"Thanks, I don't drink," said Stubbs fearfully.

"Now, Mr. Stubbs!" said Ivan with a comical grin.

Hal now decided the affair had gone far enough.

"Listen to me, Ivan," he said quietly. "Stubbs doesn't want any wine and
neither do the rest of us. You have had enough."

"And what have you to do with it?" demanded Ivan loudly.

"Just this," said Hal, and produced a revolver. "Before I'll stand for
any more of this nonsense, I'll put a hole through you. Understand?"

Ivan looked at the lad, apparently bewildered, for some moments. Then he
said with a laugh:

"Don't you ever shoot at me with that gun. Not ever!"

He rose to his feet and faced Hal threateningly. The lad was nonplussed.
He had no idea that his bluff wouldn't work. He knew of course that he
could never shoot the Cossack.

It was Chester who saved the day.

"Ivan," he said quietly. "That's not your money."

"What--what's that?" said Ivan, turning to him suddenly.

"I said that's not your money. Surely you are not a thief?"

"A thief?" cried Ivan. "Who says I am a thief?"

"I do, if you touch the money in the bag you hold there," said
Chester quietly.

For a moment it seemed that the big Cossack would spring upon Chester;
but the lad stood his ground, and suddenly Ivan sank down in a chair.

"No, I'm not a thief," he mumbled. "I'm not going to be a thief."

He threw the bag of gold down heavily on the table and looked
thoughtfully into space.

Chester approached him and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"There," he said calmly, "I knew you wouldn't. This, you know, is the
king's money. You wouldn't touch that?"

"No," said Ivan, then added hastily: "but I have touched it. I bought
wine with it; and it wasn't my money."

His remorse was so apparent that Chester was forced to smile.

"Why, that's all right," he said. "You are going to pay him back. Now
come with us."

Again Ivan was silent for several moments.

"That's right," he said at last. "I'm going to pay him back." He rose
to his feet. "Come, I shall go with you," and they all passed out into
the night.



Two days later and we find our friends once more in the air and sailing
swiftly toward the rising sun.

"Seems to me we should be along about there some place," declared Hal,
taking his eyes from the distance ahead for a brief moment.

"Unless you have not gauged your course accurately," replied Chester.

"I'm sure I have made no mistake," said Hal.

"Then we should be about there."

"About where, that's what I want to know," put in Anthony Stubbs, from
his place in the rear of the large army plane, the same in which the four
friends had made their escape from the Austrians not so many days before.
"Where are we headed for, anyway?"

"That will be a little surprise for you, Mr. Stubbs," Chester returned.

"I'm getting too old to care much about surprises," declared Stubbs.
"In the first place, I have no business in this machine, anyhow. I
never was much good when my feet were not on the ground, and I feel
pretty sick up here."

"Oh, you'll get used to that, Stubbs," spoke up Colonel Anderson.

"Don't you believe it. I've tried it before and I haven't become used
to it yet. No, sir. In the first place, a man has got no business up
here. If he were meant to fly, he'd have wings, like a bird. I claim
it's tempting Providence to go floating about through space in one of
these things."

"Well, you didn't seem to hesitate much when we asked you to come,"
commented Chester.

"Of course not. Think I want to be left alone in this benighted land,
with a couple of million Austrians likely to swoop down on it at any
minute? I guess not. The air may not be safe, but it can't be any worse
than I would have been if I were left behind to await the arrival of the
invader. But where are we going?"

"Belgrade," said Chester briefly.

Anthony Stubbs half started to his feet.

"Great Scott!" he exclaimed, and sank back again. "Out of the frying
pan into the fire. Say!" and his voice rose a trifle, "What do we want
to go to Belgrade for? What's the use of sticking our heads into a
hornet's nest?"

"Look here, Mr. Stubbs," said Hal, again turning in his seat. "Don't you
want to go to Belgrade with us? If you don't, I'll go down and let you
off here."

He reduced the speed of the craft a trifle.

"No, no. Never mind," said Stubbs hurriedly. "I was just joking. Of
course I want to go to Belgrade. They tell me that the Germans are just
about to come in. But that won't make any difference, will it? No,
indeed. Not to us. I suppose we are going to be there to welcome them.
I'll bet they'll be glad to see us."

The others smiled, but they made no reply to this outburst. They had
known Stubbs long enough now not to pay much attention to him at times.
And this was one of those times.

Stubbs now turned a bit in his seat and spoke to another figure who was
close to him.

"How do you like this kind of travel, Ivan?" he asked.

"I belong on the ground," was the brief response.

Ivan's face was a chalky white, but he was sitting tight and saying
nothing except when it was absolutely necessary. Just behind him sat
Nikol, and the latter seemed to be in a condition similar to Ivan. Nor
did he make a sound.

Suddenly, as the aeroplane moved swiftly along, there came a loud
explosion. The machine rocked crazily and Hal's prompt action at the
wheel was all that saved the occupants from being pitched head-first into
space. He righted the craft with an effort.

"What's the matter?" demanded Chester in no little alarm.

"It's all over now," mumbled Stubbs with a groan. "Pray, Ivan."

The big Cossack seemed to have no doubt that it was all over and while he
clung to the side of the machine with both hands, he mumbled strange
words in his native tongue. Apparently he was following Stubbs'

"I don't know," replied Hal, answering Chester's question. "Something
seems to have gone wrong with the engine. Guess we had better go down."

He tilted the elevating levers and the plane descended gradually
and swiftly.

Under Hal's firm hand it settled gently upon the ground and all
immediately climbed out. Stubbs drew a great breath of relief.

"I never expected to reach here alive," he declared.

Ivan and Nikol also were plainly relieved. They said nothing, but the
expression upon both their faces spoke plainer than words.

Hal bent over the engine. As he straightened up, Chester asked:

"Anything serious?"

"Believe I can fix it within an hour," replied Hal. "I'll have a try at
it, anyhow."

"Need any assistance?" asked Colonel Anderson.

Hal shook his head.

"Nothing you can do, I guess," he replied.

"Then I am going to take a little prowl into these woods here," said the
colonel, indicating a small clump of trees that stood perhaps a quarter
of a mile to the east.

"I'll go along," said Chester. "I feel like stretching my legs a bit."

The two walked away together. Ivan and Nikol remained behind and watched
Hal tinker with the engine.

Chester and the colonel prowled about among the trees for the better part
of half an hour and then turned to make their way back to the machine. As
they walked along, Chester suddenly caught Colonel Anderson by the arm,
stopping him in his stride.

"Sh-h-h," muttered the lad and listened intently.

"What's the matter?" demanded Colonel Anderson, in a low voice.

"Thought I heard voices," replied Chester. "Listen."

Both became silent; and directly they caught the sound of a low voice off
to the right. Then there came a second and a third voice.

"Don't see what they can be doing here, whoever they are," declared
Chester in a whisper. "We'll see if we can get a look at them."

He led the way softly in the direction from which the voices had come.
The voices became louder; and directly, parting two large bushes, Chester
made out the forms of three figures not ten yards away.

He turned quickly to Colonel Anderson and laid a finger to his lips. The
colonel approached cautiously.

From the spot where the two stood it was possible to see the three men in
front of them without danger of being seen themselves, for they were
screened from sight by the large bushes. One of the men was attired in
what Chester took to be a Serbian uniform, but the others were in
civilian attire.

"We'll do a little eavesdropping," whispered Chester.

Colonel Anderson nodded and they became silent.

"So you say that everything is ready for Bulgaria's entrance into the
war?" spoke the man with the uniform.

"Yes," replied one of the others, a man of perhaps forty years of age,
with a long flowing beard.

"And she will strike when?"

"The moment Belgrade has fallen before the Germans," replied the third
man, who, the watchers saw now, was little more than a boy, smooth of
face and bright of eye.

"And they will strike where?"

"At the Anglo-French force being rushed from Saloniki to the aid of the

"Why wasn't I kept posted on all this? How was I expected to do my part
here, being left in ignorance of diplomatic affairs?"

"I don't know anything about that. All I know is that we were
ordered here to learn what success you have had in undermining the
Serbian officials. Also to get your views upon which way the
Serbians will retreat."

"Well, I can tell you that in a few words. I have had very little success
with the Serbians. They are loyal to their cause and seem determined to
fight to the last ditch. But I did get close enough to one man--a member
of the general staff--to learn that in the event of reverses to Serbian
arms, the Serbian army will retreat into Greece."

"So? I had deemed it most likely they would fall back and join the

"Such is not the plan of the general staff. Their reasons I cannot tell
you; but at a guess I should say it is because they hope that, by a
juncture with the Anglo-French forces, they may hope to show an effective
front until Italy can throw an army to their support, or possibly until
the long expected Russian offensive materializes."

"Then we shall have to bring some pressure to bear upon Greece," said the
younger man. "We cannot permit that. Bulgaria must get in the game sooner
and thus foil such a plan."

"Well, you probably know best," said the officer, "but remember one
thing. To all intents and purposes, Bulgaria is still neutral.
Announcement that she has decided to cast her lot with the Central
Powers, if premature, undoubtedly would spoil many plans. Particularly,
if it came to the ears of the Anglo-French commander at Saloniki."

"Exactly," replied the young man. "Our plans now are to permit the Allies
to advance a considerable distance toward Belgrade, and then to have
Bulgaria declare war at the psychological moment."

"A good plan, that," returned the officer. "But I must get back now. My
absence will be noticed and I do not care to arouse suspicion."

The men moved off.

Chester and Colonel Anderson gazed at each other.

"Rather neat little play," said Colonel Anderson.

"Rather," repeated Chester dryly.

"And to think," continued Colonel Anderson, "how leniently Bulgaria has
been treated by the Allies. Well, her day of reckoning will come."

"We'll have to get word of this to the Serbian commander in Belgrade,"
said Chester.

"So we will," said the colonel. "And also to the commander of the
Anglo-French forces in Saloniki."

"Let's get back then and see if Hal has the machine fixed so she'll fly."

They retraced their footsteps; and even as they arrived, Hal arose from
his position above the aeroplane.

"She'll go now all right," he said. "All aboard!"

Stubbs, Nikol and Ivan hesitated and Stubbs protested. Chester drew Hal
aside for a moment and told him what he and the colonel had learned. Hal
wasted no further time.

"In here with all of you," he commanded gruffly. "We're going right now."

The others hesitated no longer, and a few moments later the big machine
was flying swiftly toward the Serbian capital.



It was two years after the outbreak of the great war that the
Austro-German armies were hurled forward in a great and final effort to
crush Serbia. Since the early days of the struggle, heavy battles had
been fought upon the Austro-Serbian frontier, with success first to one
side and then to the other.

Belgrade, the Serbian capital, had been bombarded time after time by the
great Austrian guns and once the city had been occupied by the foe.
Later, however, the Serbians had driven out the invader and reoccupied
the capital. And now, the Austrian army, reinforced by a hundred thousand
Germans, bringing the total number of troops to half a million, was again
knocking at the gates of Belgrade; and the Serbians, realizing the utter
hopelessness of their cause unless aid arrived from the Anglo-French
troops at Saloniki, were preparing to flee.

This was the situation when the aeroplane bearing Hal, Chester and their
friends descended just outside the city.

Hardly had they alighted when they were taken in charge by a squad of
Serbian troops. Colonel Anderson, acting as spokesman for the party,
explained their presence in a few well-chosen words and asked to be taken
to the commanding officer. There was considerable red tape to go through
before the friends finally were ushered into the presence of the Serbian
commander, and that worthy immediately informed them he had but a few
moments to give them.

Colonel Anderson, therefore, came to the point at once. He told him of
the conversation he and Chester had overheard a short time before.

"And you say one of the men wore a Serbian uniform?" asked the general.

"Yes, sir."

"You don't know who he is--you didn't hear his name mentioned?"

"No, sir; but I would know him again if I saw him."

"Good. You shall have the chance. Now, how far from the city do you say
this conversation took place?"

"Must have been all of ten miles, sir."

"Then the men have hardly returned to the city yet. And you say you did
not hear the name of the member of the general staff, the first traitor,
or spy mentioned as having divulged information?"

"No, sir."

"Very well. Now I will leave all of you here for an hour or so. I have
some matters to attend to. When I come back we'll see if you can identify
the man you speak of."

The general bowed to them and took his departure, leaving them alone in
his quarters.

From without a heavy cannonading could be heard.

"I guess the last advance has begun," said Chester slowly.

"You probably are right," agreed Hal. "And I feel sorry for these
Serbians. If the British and French could only get here in time."

"Well, I don't see why they don't," declared Chester. "England has
promised more than once since the war began that she would not permit
Serbia to be crushed. Seems to me she should have taken some decisive
action before now."

"You forget," said Colonel Anderson, "that England has her hands full in
other parts of the great war theater--France, Belgium, the Dardanelles,
Egypt, India and Africa."

"That's the trouble," said Hal. "England has too many irons in the fire.
That's where the Germans and Austrians have the edge, as we say in the
United States. Their armies are not scattered all over the world."

"That's true enough," replied Colonel Anderson, "and it is, without
doubt, the reason the Central Powers have not been crushed long ago."

Ivan now took a hand in the conversation.

"These wonderful tales you told me of my brother Alexis," he began.

"Well, what of them?" asked Hal.

"Why," said Ivan. "When I came with you I thought I should see some
fighting. All I have done is fly through the air, like a bird, and hear a
thousand miles of talk. I want to see some fighting, like Alexis saw."

"You probably will see it soon enough," returned Chester quietly. "Even
now you can hear the booming of the great guns without. The
Austro-Germans are moving on Belgrade and it will only be hours before
the Serbian retreat begins."

The conversation continued along various lines until the return of the
Serbian commander, General Save.

"If you will come with me," he said to Colonel Anderson, "I will see if
you can identify the traitor. Which of your friends here was with you?"

Colonel Anderson nodded toward Chester.

"Then he shall come, too. The others may remain here until we return."

Hal, Ivan and Nikol were undeniably disappointed at this turn of affairs.
Not so Stubbs.

"This comes nearer being what I call comfort than anything I have enjoyed
since coming across to Europe," he said, settling himself in the
commander's easy chair and drawing exhilarating puffs from his pipe. "I
don't care how long we stay here."

"Mr. Stubbs," said Hal, "I am afraid you are lazy."

"Mr. Paine," said Stubbs, "I know I'm lazy."

Leaving the general's quarters, Colonel Anderson and Chester accompanied
the Serbian commander toward the front.

"The enemy has begun his advance," General Save explained, as they walked
along. "He is attacking in force all along the line. We are resisting as
well as we may. That is why every available man has been sent forward. We
will find the traitor there some place."

"And do you have any hope of holding back the enemy, sir?" Chester asked.

"None," returned the general quietly. "We will resist to the last, but
even now preparations are being made for evacuating the capital. With
the coming of darkness, the retreat will begin. We shall fall back to
Nish, which, I trust, we shall be able to hold until Anglo-French
assistance arrives."

"I hope so, sir," declared Chester.

"And as soon as you have picked out this traitor for me," said General
Save, "I will ask you to undertake a mission for me."

"We shall be glad to be of service, sir," replied Colonel Anderson. "And
the nature of the mission?"

"Why," said the commander. "I have information to the effect that the
Anglo-French troops are already on the way from Saloniki. They may not
know of the real seriousness of our position. Communication has been
hampered for the last few days. I will send word to them by you."

"Very well, sir," said Colonel Anderson. "We shall be glad to go."

"Now keep your eyes open," said General Save, as they came for the first
time among the Serbian troops, the men farthest from the front, men being
held in reserve.

Among the regiments the three passed slowly, scanning the face of every
officer; and they came upon their man sooner than they could reasonably
have hoped.

Chester suddenly touched General Save on the arm.

"Look! There he is!" the lad said in a low voice.

The general glanced in the direction indicated. Perhaps twenty yards to
the left, engaged in conversation with an officer who wore colonel's
stripes, and a man whom General Save immediately recognized as one of the
general staff, stood the person the lads had seen in the woods a few
hours earlier. "Are you sure that is he?" demanded the Serbian commander.

Chester nodded his head vigorously.

"Certain, sir," Colonel Anderson agreed.

"Very good. Then come with me."

The general approached the group of officers, who stood respectfully at
attention when they perceived his approach.

"Captain Dellse!" said the General.

"Sir," replied the officer, stepping toward the Serbian commander.

The older officer looked squarely into the man's eyes for several
moments without saying a word. The traitor tried his best to return the
general's steady gaze and for a moment he succeeded. Then his eyes
wavered slightly.

General Save extended his right hand.

"Your sword, sir!" he commanded.

The other staggered back and his face turned a ghastly white.

"Wha--what, sir?" he stammered.

"Your sword," repeated the general calmly, his hand still extended.

With a visible effort the other pulled himself together.

"I do not understand you, sir," he said, with a subdued air of insolence,
glancing quickly about at the others who now surrounded him.

General Save lost all patience now. He took a step forward.

"Give me your sword, you traitor!" he commanded angrily. "You are under
arrest. You shall be shot in ten minutes."

The face of the accused officer turned livid. There was no pretending to
misunderstand now.

Quickly he glanced about him. Chester and Colonel Anderson, in their
civilian clothes, stood each with a hand in his right coat pocket, and in
the hand of each rested a little automatic.

An ever increasing group of Serbian officers also surrounded him. The man
with whom the traitor had been engaged in conversation moved gradually
toward the rear of the circle. General Save caught sight of him out of
the corner of his eye.

"Colonel Breyold!" he commanded.

The other halted.

"Come here, sir," commanded the general.

Glancing furtively about him, the other obeyed. The Serbian commander
turned to another of his officers.

"Relieve Colonel Breyold of his sword," he commanded.

Without waiting to see that his command was carried out, he stepped close
to Dellse. The other gave way before him and with a sudden movement
produced a revolver.

Before those nearby could interfere, he had raised the weapon and pulled
the trigger. There was a sharp report, a flash of fire, and when the
smoke had cleared away, Dellse and General Save were locked in each
other's embrace, struggling furiously.

With loud cries other Serbian officers jumped forward and separated the
combatants. Dellse's weapon was wrested from his grasp and in a moment he
was powerless.

"Are you hurt, sir?" asked one of the officers anxiously of the general.

"No," was the reply.

With a gesture of his arm, he indicated the two traitors. "Take them out
and shoot them immediately!" he ordered.



"No," said Hal, "I am afraid to take a chance with our old airplane. It
hasn't been gone over thoroughly yet. If General Save is anxious for us
to go at once, Chester, you and Colonel Anderson go on ahead. I'll look
our machine over and follow you."

"Well, whatever you say," said Chester. "The general is anxious
that we start at once and perhaps the way you suggest will do as
well as another."

"I'm going with the first party," declared Ivan at this juncture. "I'm
tired of sitting about doing nothing. I want to be on the move. If
something doesn't happen pretty soon, I'm going back to the Albanian

"I'll be glad to have you go with me," said Chester. "Hal, you can bring
Stubbs and Nikol with you."

Hal nodded.

"All right. Then you had better see the general about a craft of
some kind."

Chester hastened away, but was back a few moments later with the
announcement that General Save would have a plane ready for them
within the hour.

Hal and Chester then examined a map of the country carefully and laid out
a course. It was agreed that Hal should follow the same course, for, as
Chester said, there was little likelihood of anything going wrong, but
coming along the same route the second craft would always have a chance
of rendering aid should it be needed. The lads agreed to meet at Saloniki
the following day.

It was nearly dark when the machine carrying Chester, Colonel Anderson
and Ivan soared in the air and headed south over Macedonia--once the
kingdom of Philip and Alexander the Great. Stubbs, Nikol and Hal watched
their friends disappear in the distance with some misgiving, which was
given expression by Stubbs.

"I hope they get there safely," he muttered, "but I have my doubts."

"See here, Mr. Stubbs," said Hal. "You've gone through a lot, but you are
still here, aren't you?"

"I am," said Stubbs calmly, "but I wish I were some place else."

"Well, give me an hour or two to look over our machine and you will soon
be some place else," said Hal.

"And the chances are I'd rather be some place than where I am likely to
be if I keep monkeying around in the air," replied the little man.

Hal raised both hands in a gesture of hopelessness.

"There's no use talking to you," he said. "I'll leave you both here while
I overhaul the plane."

He took himself off.

Chester, Colonel Anderson and Ivan sailed swiftly through the air.
Darkness fell, but it was a bright night and Chester, at the wheel,
could see without difficulty. The passengers were quite comfortable in
spite of the cold.

"Aren't you getting a bit too low?" asked Colonel Anderson after a couple
of hours flying in the darkness.

"Thousand feet," said Chester after a glance at the indicator.

"Doesn't seem like it to me," said the colonel. "Think I can see the
ground below."

"You shouldn't at this altitude," said Chester.

"I know it. Guess I was mistaken."

Half an hour later the colonel spoke again. "Have you come down
any, Chester?"

"No; why?"

"I'm sure I can see the ground below," returned the colonel.

Chester glanced over the side of the plane.

"By Jove! So can I," he exclaimed. He glanced at the indicator again. It
still read a trifle over a thousand feet. "Something wrong some place,"
he said to himself.

He tilted the elevating lever, but the plane did not answer by a sudden
rush upward. Chester gave a long whistle.

"What's the matter?" demanded Colonel Anderson.

"I don't know," returned Chester. "We're going down gradually, I know
that, but the indicator still reads a thousand feet and I can't move the
plane any higher."

"And you don't know what is wrong?"

"Haven't the slightest idea. I'm no airship expert."

"Then you shouldn't try to run one," declared Ivan.

"Now don't get worried, Ivan," said Chester with a laugh. "We'll get down
again all right."

"We'll probably get down," said Ivan, "but the thing that worries me is
whether it will be all right or not. I want to die with my feet on the
ground and not be dashed against the earth head first."

"I'm sure there is no danger," said Chester. "We're just sinking gently."

He cut off the engine and allowed the craft to volplane to earth more
abruptly. It came to rest on the ground as lightly as a bird.

"Well, what will we do now?" demanded Ivan.

"You have as much idea as I have," returned Chester. "I can't fix this
thing here in the darkness; in fact, I don't know whether I can fix it at
all. We'll either have to walk or stay here until I can have a look at
this craft in daylight--and maybe that won't do any good."

"I vote we walk," said Colonel Anderson. "There must be houses along here
some place. Maybe we can commandeer three horses, or an automobile or

"Most likely what we'll commandeer will be trouble," grumbled Ivan.

"Now what are you kicking about?" demanded Chester. "You have been
hunting trouble ever since I have known you. Maybe you'll be satisfied
this time."

"Do you think so?" demanded Ivan eagerly.

"No, I don't," returned Chester. "If I did I'd sit right here. I don't
want to run into any trouble now if I can help it. We've got business on
hand, remember that. And we've got to hurry. Colonel Anderson, I guess
your suggestion is a good one. We'll walk on a ways."

They set out without a word. Striking across what appeared in the
darkness a large field, they eventually came to a road. They walked south
along this.

Half an hour later, in the darkness, there loomed up a house ahead of
them. A faint light glowed in the window.

"Told you there must be a house along here some place," said
Colonel Anderson.

Chester produced his watch and succeeded in reading the face after
some trouble.

"Lacks five minutes to midnight," he said. "Rather a late hour to be
making a call."

"Necessity knows no law," responded Colonel Anderson. "We won't bother
them much, if they can furnish us with some means of transportation."

"Hope they will be friendly," said Chester.

"No reason why they shouldn't be. I suppose we are still in Serbia."

"Well, I don't know whether we are or not. That's what worries me,"
said Chester.

"Why, where do you think we are?"

"I don't know. Might be Serbia, might be Greece, might be Bulgaria, or
Turkey or any old place. If the elevating apparatus on our plane was out
of whack, the steering apparatus may have been, too. Also I have mislaid
my compass. I won't know north from south until morning."

"Hm-m-m," muttered the colonel. "Well, shall we try this house?"

"May as well, I guess," said Chester.

He led the way to the front door and rapped sharply with his knuckles.

There was a sound of some one stirring within, but no face appeared at
the door in response to the lad's knock. He rapped sharply again. This
time there was not a sound from within.

Chester walked a little ways from the house and glanced at the window
through which a light had been visible a few moments before. It was
perfectly dark now. Apparently the light had been extinguished the moment
he had rapped on the door. All was dark within.

Chester moved toward the house again, thinking to rap on the door once
more. As he did so, there came the sound of a shot and Chester felt
something whistle by his ear.

"Wow!" he cried, and dashed toward the door where Colonel Anderson and
Ivan stood.

"Hit?" cried Colonel Anderson, as the lad dashed up.

"No," replied Chester. "But that bullet didn't miss me much. What'll
we do now?"

"I don't really know. We don't know where we are. Why not spend the
night here?"

"For one reason," said Chester grimly, "because they won't let us in."

"Oh, we can fix that. Break in the door."

"And get shot for our pains."

"No, I don't think so. My impression is that there is no more than a
single occupant of the house. That's the reason he was frightened when
we knocked. We'll just go in where it's warm and pay no further
attention to him."

"Well, whatever you say," said Chester. "Stand back there, till I blow
the lock off that door." He drew his revolver.

"Hold on," said Ivan. "I'll open it"

He stepped back a pace, then rushed forward. His huge shoulder came into
contact with the hard wood and there was a crash as the door gave way
beneath his weight.

Ivan went in unhesitatingly and the others followed him.

Inside Chester struck a match.

"Look out!" cried Colonel Anderson. "Want to get us all shot?"

"We've got to see where we are going," said Chester.

The glare of a match showed them a room to the right of the hall. Chester
led the way in, still holding the match above his head. On the stand in
the center of the room was a big lamp. Chester lighted it.

"Evidently," he said, "this is the same light we saw when we came up."

The three now pulled themselves close to a fire that glowed softly in an
open fireplace and made themselves comfortable.

"We might as well get a little sleep," said Chester. "Anderson, you take
first watch. Call me in two hours. I'm going to sleep here."

He closed his eyes, then opened them suddenly again. He had heard a
slight noise.

Stepping quickly across to a table at the far end of the room, he stooped
down and, thrusting his revolver under the table, called:

"Come out!"

There was a faint rustling and a sound as of some one crying. Then a
figure, rumpled and fearful, came from beneath the table; and
Chester cried:

"A girl!"



Chester's exclamation was wrung from him in English. At the sound of his
words the girl looked at him quickly and clasping her hands imploringly,
cried out:

"Don't kill me!"

Her words were also in English and she spoke without the slightest
accent. Chester and Colonel Anderson looked at her dumfounded.

"Are you English?" demanded Chester, taking a step toward her.

The girl staggered back.

"Keep away, please," she said.

"Are you English?" repeated Chester.

The girl recovered herself with an effort and forced herself to answer
the lad's question calmly.

"No," she said, "I am an American."

"An American!" exclaimed Chester. "You are an American?"

"Yes," cried the girl, "and you will harm me at your peril. The
United States--"

"Uncle Sam is a long ways off," said Chester quietly. "But I guess he can
take care of you. I, too am an American."

"You!" exclaimed the girl eagerly, taking a step forward. Then, after a
quick glance at his clothes, she shrank back.

Chester smiled.

"Don't judge me by these garments," he said. "I assure you I am an
American, and my friend here," he indicated Colonel Anderson, "is a
British officer. My other friend," pointing to Ivan, "is a Russian. So
you see, you are among friends."

"Are you telling me the truth?" asked the girl fearfully, eying Chester

"It is a habit I have," replied Chester quietly. "Yes, I am an American
and if you have a mind to question me about anything American you will
find that I am telling you the truth."

"What is your name?" asked the girl.

"Chester Crawford."

"Chester Crawford!"

Again the girl looked at him searchingly.

At last she asked: "And do you know another young American named
Hal Paine?"

"Hal!" exclaimed Chester, startled at hearing his friend's name from this
girl whom he had, to his knowledge, never seen before. "Of course. He is
my chum. But he has never told me he knew a girl answering your

"Oh, I don't know him," replied the girl. "But I have heard of you both
from a friend--a girl friend; and if you can tell me her name, I will be
sure that you are Chester Crawford."

"How can I tell you?" asked Chester. "I know several girls. Was it

"This girl," was the reply, "you met in Belgium. If you are truly Chester
Crawford you will know who I mean."

"Do you mean Miss Johnson--Edna Johnson?" inquired Chester.

A happy smile lighted up the girl's face.

"I do! I do!" she exclaimed. "It was Edna Johnson. She wrote me a letter,
telling me how she met two young American boys in Belgium and giving me
their names. I have heard from her often and each time she has mentioned
your names. She wonders what has become of you."

"Well," said Chester with a smile. "I'm here and Hal is some place
between here and Belgrade, I expect. Now will you tell me who you are?"

"I am Helen Ellison of St. Louis," replied the girl, extending her hand.

Chester took the hand and turned to the others.

"Allow me to present my friends to you," he said quietly. "Colonel
Anderson, of His British Majesty's service."

Colonel Anderson bowed.

"And Ivan Vergoff,"--this in French. "Ivan, Mademoiselle Ellison."

The big Cossack also bowed and acknowledged the introduction.

The girl smiled at both of them, and Chester was glad to learn that she
understood French.

"And now," he said, "if you will tell me exactly where we are, I shall be
greatly obliged."

The girl looked at him in surprise.

"You don't know where you are?" she asked.

Chester shook his head.

"You are now," said Helen, "just across the Serbian border from Bulgaria.
This house is the home of a friend of mine, Miss Thatcher, a Red Cross
nurse. I met her in Belgrade where she was wounded. When it became
evident that the Austrians were about to occupy the city, we came to the
home of her friend here, a Serbian woman. That was before there was any
talk of Bulgaria joining Germany. But now that war has been declared--"

"War declared!" exclaimed Chester.

"Why, I think so. Maybe there has been no declaration of war, but anyhow
the Serbians and Bulgarians have been fighting across the frontier.
That's why I was so afraid when you knocked at the door to-night."

"And it was you who shot at me?" asked Chester.

"Yes," replied the girl. "And, oh, I am so sorry. If--"

"Never mind," said Chester soothingly. "You didn't hit me."

"I know I didn't, but I--"

"There, there, now," said Chester. "And where is your friend now?"

"She went away this morning and she hasn't come back yet."

"Do you know where she went?"

"Yes; to the home of a peasant about six miles from here. His wife is
sick and Miss Thatcher has been attending them since she has been well
enough to do so."

"And you were left here all along?" said Chester.

"Yes, but I wasn't afraid until this afternoon, when half a dozen
Bulgarians crossed the frontier and tried to get in the house."

"The did?" exclaimed Chester angrily. "I wish we had been here."

"So do I," said Helen. "They knocked on the door, but I wouldn't let them
in. Then they threatened to break the door down, but an officer came up
at that moment and ordered them away. They went sulkily and one of them
called back that they would return. That's why I was afraid when you
knocked a little while ago."

"And no wonder," replied Chester. "It must have been a terrible
day for you."

"It has indeed," said the girl weakly.

Chester sprang toward her quickly and took her gently by the arms, just
as it seemed she would fall over in a faint. He seated her in a chair,
and poured her a glass of water from a pitcher on a nearby table.

After drinking the water the girl appeared refreshed.

"So foolish of me to get weak like that," she said, smiling.

"It's no wonder," returned Chester. "It's just the reaction. You'll be
all right in a minute or two."

The lad was a good prophet; and five minutes later Helen was talking and
laughing vivaciously. All four were having a good time, when Chester's
ears caught a faint sound from without.

The lad paused as he was about to say something in reply to one of
Helen's questions and listened intently.

"What's the matter?" asked Helen.

"Oh, nothing," said Chester, and continued his remarks.

A few moments later, however, he arose, and asking to be excused for a
moment, stepped toward the door which Ivan had broken to permit their
entrance; just beyond he caught sight of a dark shadow.

"As I thought," he muttered. "They have come back."

He returned to the door of the parlor and summoned the big Cossack.

"Oh, Ivan," he called. "Come out here a minute."

The Cossack came up to him and Chester led him toward the door.

"What can you see out there?" he asked.

Ivan poked his head out and looked around.

"Ho!" he exclaimed suddenly and leaped out.

A moment later Chester heard the sound of a brief struggle and then Ivan
reappeared dragging a man after him.

"I've got him," said the giant, laughing loudly.

The laughter attracted the attention of Helen and Colonel Anderson, who
came from the parlor to learn the cause of it.

Helen gave a cry of fear as her eyes fell upon Ivan's prisoner.

"Who is he?" she exclaimed.

"Oh, just some fellow who was spooking around outside," replied Chester.

But Helen was not to be fooled thus easily.

"It is one of the Bulgarians who were here this afternoon," she cried,
and addressed the man in his own tongue. Then she turned to the others.
"He says the others are coming," she cried. "He came on ahead of them."

"Oh, is that so?" said Chester quietly. "Well, they'll have a different
reception this time."

He told the others what the girl had learned.

Colonel Anderson received the news quietly.

"We'll be ready for them," he said.

But Ivan was not so calm when he heard what Helen had told Chester.

"So there is going to be a fight at last, eh?" he cried in a loud voice.
"What are a dozen or so of these Bulgarians? I know them of old. Cowards
and traitors all. I have had an experience with more than one of them. We
are good for a dozen or two of them, if we can keep them in front of us.
Oh, yes, the Bulgarians are great fighters--from behind."

"Is there any way we can fix up that door?" asked Chester.

Colonel Anderson shook his head.

"I am afraid not. Ivan has shattered it beyond repair."

"Then it shall be my post to guard," cried Ivan. "No Bulgarian shall come
through there."

"There are not many other places they can come through," said Helen.
"Only two windows and a second door, in the rear of the house. I shall
guard one of the windows myself."

"You are not afraid?" asked Chester.

"Not now, that I have friends with me."

"All right. Colonel Anderson, I'll take this other window here, near Miss
Ellison. You shall guard the back door."

"The first thing to do is tie this fellow up," said Anderson, indicating
the Bulgarian.

Ivan stepped forward, and taking a piece of rope that Helen gave him,
tied the man up tightly.

"Now," said Chester, "to your posts. We don't want to be caught

All took the places assigned them and examined their weapons. An hour
passed. Then Chester, peering through the window, exclaimed:

"Here they come!"



"I'm ready for them!" shouted Ivan, from his position behind the
broken door.

He stood well back in the darkness, out of sight from beyond the house.

All was quiet and dark within, for with the appearance of the first of
the enemy Chester had extinguished the light. The figures of the
approaching Bulgarians were plainly visible to Chester and Helen through
the windows. Ivan and Colonel Anderson, of course, could not see them,
although they would have been visible to the former had he a mind to take
a chance and expose himself to their view.

As the men approached, Chester counted them. Then he announced:

"Thirteen, I make them."

"My count, too," agreed Helen from her window.

There was not a tremor in her voice now and she seemed totally unlike
the frightened girl Chester had first seen. She held her revolver
steadily in her right hand, a pile of ammunition heaped up in the window
sill before her.

The men came on briskly, absolutely unaware of the rude welcome that
awaited them.

"Let them get close enough so we can't miss, then I'll hold a parley with
them," said Chester.

When the men were less than fifty yards from the house, Chester raised
his voice and called out sternly in Russian:

"Halt there!"

The Bulgarians halted in their tracks and gazed about in surprise. To the
best of their knowledge there could be no one in the house but the girl,
and this sudden hail in a male voice made them pause.

"What do you want here?" demanded Chester from his shelter.

There was a hurried consultation among the enemy; then one man called:

"We want to get in."

"You can't get in," returned Chester calmly.

There was a roar of laughter from without.

"Did you hear that?" said one. "He says we can't get in." The man called
to Chester: "And who is going to stop us?"

"You'll find there are enough of us here for that purpose," replied the
lad evenly. "I warn you we'll shoot the next step forward you take."

Again those without held a consultation and Chester could barely make out
the trend of the conversation.

"Perhaps they are too many for us," said one.

"Nonsense," was the reply of another. "He's simply trying to frighten us
away. We'll rush the two windows and the doors at the same time. Some of
us will get in."

"All right. Whatever you say--"

"Come on then."

The men split up suddenly into four separate bodies and rushed forward.

"Let 'em have it," said Chester quietly.

His revolver spoke at the same moment as did that of Helen and two men
stumbled as they ran. One recovered himself instantly and came on, but
the other pitched forward to the ground.

Colonel Anderson, at the rear door, remained at his post. There was
nothing he could do until the enemy attempted to force the door.

Ivan, however, stepped quickly from his place of concealment and standing
erect in the doorway fired point blank at the four men who came dashing
toward him. One threw up his hands with a cry and a second muttered a
fierce imprecation. Ivan emptied his revolver and then dashed back to
safety even as a fusillade was fired at him. The Cossack was untouched.
He smiled grimly to himself.

"Not so bad," he muttered.

He reloaded in haste and again stepped into the open. The men before his
post, the three who remained upon their feet, were directly in front of
the door and all fired simultaneously as Ivan showed himself. The big
Cossack felt a stinging sensation in his left arm, but he did not pause
to investigate the wound.

Again he raised his weapon quickly and fired its contents toward his
foes. But Ivan's aim was poor--or he had fired without aiming--for not a
bullet went home. Again Ivan dodged back just in time.

The men who had advanced toward the two windows had been driven off by
Helen and Chester. Two of their number lay on the ground and two of the
others were nursing wounded arms. Out of revolver-shot they stopped and
discussed the situation.

In the rear, the men who had attacked there were even now knocking at the
door with their revolver butts. Chester heard Colonel Anderson's voice:

"Get away from there, or I shall fire through the door."

There came a loud report and Chester believed for a moment the colonel
had been as good as his word. But he was soon undeceived.

"They've blown the lock off the door," cried the colonel. "Guess they'll
try to rush me now."

"You guard both these windows for a moment," said Chester. "I'll lend
Anderson a hand."

He hurried back and arrived just in time to see the door swing inward.
Colonel Anderson, across the room from the door, stood in the shadow,
waiting for the first of the enemy to show himself.

The door swung back violently and the men appeared in the opening in a
body. Chester and Colonel Anderson fired almost together. Came hoarse
cries from the attackers and a moment later the doorway was cleared.
Immediately Chester and the colonel hurled their weight against it,
closing it again.

"Safe for a minute," said Chester.

He hastened back to where he had left Helen and arrived just in time to
see the girl fire her revolver at a figure that dashed toward the house.
The man did not falter. Apparently the girl's aim had been bad. The man
dashed to the very side of the house and took his stand directly under
the window.

Chester poked his head out to see if he could pick the man off and as he
did so his cap leaped from his head. The lad heard something whiz by. He
withdrew his head quickly.

"Just missed me," he said quietly.

Now three forms came dashing toward the house, running in a
zig-zag course.

"See if you can get one of them," cried Chester to the girl.

He took deliberate aim himself and fired. One man dropped.

Helen also fired--twice, but the other two men came on and joined the
first arrival under the edge of the window.

"Great Scott! This won't do," said Chester. "We can't have those fellows
under there. We'll have to get them out some way."

At that moment Colonel Anderson's voice rang out:

"Here they come again."

Chester dashed back. Again the door swung inward and two faces appeared,
revolvers leveled before them. They fired even as they came in sight and
Colonel Anderson tumbled over with a sharp cry.

"They got me," he said in a faint voice.

"And I got one of them!" shouted Chester as one of the Bulgarians hit the
floor with a thud.

The other withdrew his head before Chester could fire again.

Chester raised his voice and called to Helen:

"How are you making it?"

"All right," the girl called back. "Haven't seen any one since you left."

"Can you hold both windows?" demanded Chester.

"I think so. Why?"

"Anderson has been hit. I'll have to stand guard here. Pass the word to
Ivan, will you? Tell him of the men under the window. He may be able to
help you out."

The girl did as Chester ordered.

Helen, standing close to the window, allowed her revolver to rest on
the sill. In the darkness, a hand appeared from below and grasped the
weapon by the barrel and wrenched it from her grasp before she could
pull the trigger.

Helen screamed.

"What's the matter?" cried Chester anxiously.

"I've lost my gun," said the girl. "And here they come in the window!"

"I'm coming!" cried Chester, and started forward.

But another figure beat him. It was the giant form of Ivan.

"You stand here," he said sternly. "Guard both doors and the windows as
you value your lives. I'll attend to the others."

He moved toward the shattered door without another word.

"Where are you going?" demanded Chester anxiously.

Ivan disappeared without making reply.

At that moment one of the men who had succeeded in forcing the rear door
came dashing through the house. He held his revolver ready, but he didn't
see Chester quickly enough. Chester raised his own weapon and took a
snapshot. The man threw up both arms and staggered back. Immediately
Chester leaped forward and possessed himself of the other's revolver,
which he passed to Helen.

A second form appeared in the doorway and fired at Chester. But the lad
had perceived his opponent just in time to leap back and the bullet went
wild. Bringing his own revolver forward in deliberate aim, Chester
dropped the other with a single shot.

"Look!" cried Helen from the window at this moment.

Chester did so and saw the remainder of the Bulgarians coming toward the
house at a dead run. He put his revolver out the window and fired twice.
Helen did the same.

But both had fired too quickly and all the bullets went wide. The men
pulled up under the window, out of the range of fire from within, safely
enough, and Chester and Helen could hear them talking.

"We'll wait here," said one. "Somebody'll show his head pretty quick and
when he does, we'll get him."

Chester motioned to Helen to move back from the window.

"What are you going to do?" she asked in some anxiety.

"Have you any hot water?" asked Chester suddenly.

"Why, yes," cried the girl and clapped her hands, "There is a kettle on
the stove."

"You remain here while I get it," said Chester briefly.

He dashed into the kitchen and was back in a moment with the large kettle
of hot water in both hands. He motioned the girl away from the window.

The lad lifted the kettle to the sill with an effort, and then gauging
the position of the enemy by the sound of the voices without, he
tilted it over.

Came furious cries of pain from without as the boiling water found
its mark. Then there came a different sort of cry. Chester looked
out quickly.

From the front door dashed Ivan and bore down upon the foe.



Chester had poured the boiling water upon the foe at the psychological
moment indeed--for Ivan had been ready to dash forward at that exact
minute and Chester had diverted the attention of the Bulgarians long
enough for Ivan to reach them without being discovered.

Had the men not been otherwise engaged when he dashed from his place of
concealment, they would doubtless have shot him down before he reached
them. But the kettle of hot water had prevented them from bringing their
revolvers to bear until too late.

Ivan descended upon them with a wild cry, and at sight of him the
Bulgarians gave back. Eight of them there were, but they recoiled as a
single man from the great Cossack.

A single shot Ivan fired from his two revolvers and then they were empty.
Quickly he reversed both weapons, and holding both by the barrels, he was
among the enemy, striking right and left as fast as the eye could see.

Down went a man on the left with a cracked skull. A man on the right
caught a glancing blow on the shoulder and also toppled over. Now the
remaining six scattered and sought to get a position where they could
shoot Ivan down without fear of injuring one of their own number. But
Ivan prevented this by keeping close.

He at length seized one man by the neck--dropping the revolver he held in
his left hand to do so--and held him before him as a shield.

Then he charged the others.

Ivan's eyes shone with a terrible fire as he darted forward. His hat was
off and his long hair streamed in the wind. Holding his human shield as
he did with his strong left hand, he raised his revolver aloft in his
right, gripping it tightly by the barrel.

The nearest man of the enemy failed to skip aside quickly enough and the
revolver crashed down on his head with a thud. That was the last of him.
A second, thinking to take advantage of this action, slipped upon the
giant from behind and leveled his revolver at Ivan's head. But once more
Ivan was too quick for him, and, whirling suddenly, hurled his revolver
at the man.

The Cossack's aim was true, and struck squarely in the face with the
sharp revolver, the man dropped to the ground. Now, besides the man he
still held aloft, there were but three of the enemy left. With a loud
cry, they turned and ran.

But Ivan had no mind to be balked of his prey. He still held a weapon,
and he made good use of it. The weapon was the man he had been using for
a shield. Raising him high above his head with his right arm, he hurled
him forward, as a man putting the shot.

The human catapult sailed through the air and struck two of the enemy as
it fell, carrying them to the ground, knocking the breath from the bodies
of all three.

Ivan leaped forward quickly. Stooping, he picked up two men, one in each
hand, and brought their heads together with an audible crash. Then he
hurled one down upon the third man with great force, and stooping, picked
up a revolver.

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