Part 4 out of 4
Quickly he dropped to one knee, and leveling the revolver, took
careful aim at the remaining man, who was now some distance away and
A report, a flash of flame in the darkness.
An imprecation from Ivan, a second report and flash of flame, and the man
Ivan rose calmly. He surveyed the field of action with a critical eye.
Then, without a word, he turned on his heel and stalked back to the
house. As he came to where Chester and Helen stood, he said quietly:
"Any more of them in here?"
"None," returned Chester. "You finished the lot."
"Good," said the Cossack. "I thought they had me once."
He uttered no further word, but made his way to the parlor, where he sat
down as calmly as though nothing had happened.
"You go in there, too," said Chester to Helen. "I'll have a look at
But the girl refused to obey this command and accompanied the lad to
where the gallant Colonel lay, moaning feebly.
Chester dropped down and raised Colonel Anderson's head to his knee.
"How do you feel, old man?" he asked.
"Rather weak and dizzy," was the Colonel's mumbled response.
"Where did the bullet hit you?"
"Top of the head some place," and Colonel Anderson raised a feeble hand
and passed it over his head.
"Quiet now," said Chester. "I'll have you in the other room in a jiffy
and we'll have a look at the wound. Will you make a light in the parlor,
The girl hastened away to do as Chester requested and the lad assisted
Colonel Anderson to his feet.
"Put your arm around my neck," the lad commanded. "Lean all your
weight on me and I'll drag you into the other room. You're too big for
me to carry."
Colonel Anderson followed instructions and Chester dragged him to the
parlor, where he laid him on a couch. Then he bent over and examined
"Doesn't amount to much," he said finally, rising. "Will you get me some
water and a cloth. Miss Ellison? Also, if by any chance you can find it,
a piece of adhesive plaster."
"I can get them all," said the girl. "Miss Thatcher's kit is still here."
She hurried away and was back in a few minutes with the necessary things.
She lent Chester a hand and bathed the wound on the Colonel's head, while
Chester unrolled the adhesive plaster. Then they bound up the wound.
Colonel Anderson then insisted on sitting up. He passed a hand ruefully
across his bandaged head and smiled faintly.
"Hurts a little, but not much," he said in answer to Chester's question.
"But now, if you'll tell me--"
He paused suddenly and raised a warning hand.
"What's the matter now?" demanded Chester anxiously.
"Thought I heard voices without."
With a bound Ivan left his chair and darted toward the door. He
disappeared in the darkness.
"Ivan's fighting blood is up," said Chester. "I guess I'd better go after
him. You guard the wounded man here, Miss Ellison."
He hurried after Ivan.
Outside the door he came upon a strange sight--a sight that caused him to
cry out in merriment and thankfulness.
In his first gaze he saw four figures and the first he recognized as that
of Hal, the next that of Nikol. These two stood quietly gazing at two
other figures who were struggling nearby. Chester glanced at the other
figures. They were Ivan and Anthony Stubbs and they appeared to be locked
in a death grapple.
"Help! Help!" came Stubbs' voice.
Chester moved forward to interfere, for he reasoned that perhaps Ivan,
in his lust for battle, had been unable to distinguish between friend
and foe. But Hal stayed him with uplifted hand and Chester saw that his
chum was laughing quietly. He realized then that Ivan had recognized
He lined up with Hal and Nikol and watched the struggle.
Ivan had one huge arm around the little man and seemed to be making
strenuous efforts to throw him. Stubbs struggled valiantly, the while
sending out wails for help. Chester saw that Ivan was simply playing.
"Stick to him, Mr. Stubbs," cried Chester. "You'll have him down in
Stubbs twisted and squirmed like an eel. Once he slipped free of Ivan's
clutch and started to run. Ivan reached out quickly and grasped him by
the left shoulder and drew him back.
Stubbs let out a yell of fear, and as he turned face to face with the
Cossack, he struck out and upward with his clenched fist. The blow landed
squarely on Ivan's nose and brought a stream of blood.
Ivan let out a roar of rage. Apparently he had not bargained for this.
Then he lifted Stubbs high, in the air and tossed him away in the
darkness. The little man's yells were loud and long as he flew through
the air. He struck the hard earth with a grunt perhaps twenty feet away.
Slowly he got to his feet and came toward the others, who were now
talking to Ivan. In front of them, he stopped.
"Say!" he exclaimed. "What are you fellows trying to do, anyhow? Get me
killed off so you won't have to bother with me? Didn't you see that big
heathen tossing me around? What?"
Hal turned and eyed the little man suddenly.
"Why, there he is now," he said in a voice of surprise. "We were just
talking about you, Mr. Stubbs. Chester was asking about you. I told him
you were here a moment ago. Where did you go so suddenly?"
Stubbs glared at them.
"You mean to tell me you didn't see some big giant grab me a minute ago?"
he demanded. "You didn't see me fighting for my life?"
"Fighting?" exclaimed Hal. "You fighting, Mr. Stubbs. I didn't think you
would attack a man."
"I didn't attack a man," shouted the thoroughly aroused Stubbs. "I
didn't attack a man. A man attacked me. No, it wasn't a man, either. It
was a giant."
"Is that so, Mr. Stubbs?" asked Chester in well-feigned surprise. "And
where were the rest of us all that time?"
"Where--where were you?" echoed Stubbs. "You were right here, that's
where you were. You mean to tell me you didn't hear me call for help?"
"You don't say," said Hal. "Why didn't you call aloud, Mr. Stubbs?"
Stubbs sputtered angrily.
"By George! I did call out loud," he cried.
"And what has happened to the man who attacked you, Mr. Stubbs--the giant
you speak of?" inquired Hal civilly.
"Well, he, I--I don't know. He looked suspiciously like Ivan there to me,
though why he should jump me, I don't know. Yes, sir, I could have sworn
it was Ivan, but I must have been mistaken."
Stubbs glanced around on all sides.
"By George!" he exclaimed at last. "I know I had a fight, but I can't
seem to make any one believe it."
"Still sleepy, Mr. Stubbs?" asked Hal.
"Sleepy?" repeated the little man. "Sleepy? What do you mean?"
"Why, that fighting dream just now," said Hal. For a moment Stubbs stared
at the lad angrily; then turned on his heel and stalked into the house.
"Come," said Chester, with a laugh, "I'll take you into the house, Hal,
and introduce you to a real nice little girl. She's heard of you. She
told me so. Come on."
BETWEEN TWO FIRES.
At the door to the parlor, Chester stopped stock still. The others halted
"Now what do you think of that?" he demanded.
Inside, Stubbs was standing before Helen Ellison.
"Yes," he was saying, "I am Anthony Stubbs, war correspondent of the _New
York Gazette_. I am here on important business. But I have other worries
besides my work. I am burdened with the care of two young American boys.
I have to look after them and keep them out of trouble. Hal Paine and
Chester Crawford. Perhaps you know them?"
The little man paused expectantly.
"I have met Chester Crawford," was the reply. "He was here only a moment
ago. I do not know Hal Paine."
"Well, if you know one of them you are just one better off than I am,"
was Stubbs' rejoinder. "I know them both, too well. Were it not that I am
continually giving up my time to getting them out of scrapes, I would be
able to give more attention to my own work. You should be glad that you
know but one of them."
"But I thought--" began the girl.
Stubbs interrupted her with a wave of his hand.
"Oh, I know what you thought," he said. "I thought so myself once. So
have lots of others. But if you knew them as well as I do you'd change
"Well, what do you think of it?" asked Chester of Hal, in a whisper.
"I think it's about time we went in," returned Hal.
Chester advanced into the room and the others followed. Stubbs
"Oh, there you are," he said. "I was just telling this young lady here
what great friends we all are. Yes, sir. I just remarked that if she were
in any kind of danger, to mention it to you and you boys would see that
no harm came to her."
"Are you sure that's what you were talking about, Mr. Stubbs?"
"Why, of course. What did you think?"
"Well, I thought perhaps you might have told Miss Ellison of all the
trouble we have caused you."
"I--I--" he stammered.
"Oh, we heard you, Mr. Stubbs," said Hal.
"Well," said Stubbs with ruffled dignity. "Eavesdroppers never hear any
good of themselves." But the little man soon recovered his poise. "I was
just joking," he said. "I knew you boys were listening. Ha! Ha!" He eyed
Chester. "The young lady here says she has met you," he said. "You young
rascal, so this is why you wanted to come on ahead, is it?"
"See here, Mr. Stubbs," he began, "I--"
"Ha! Ha!" laughed Stubbs. He approached Chester and gave him a dig in the
ribs with his thumb. "So," he exclaimed, and added, "well, I was young
He had successfully turned the tables on Chester and he was now very much
pleased with himself.
Chester decided that the best policy was to ignore the little man's
remarks, so he turned the conversation by introducing Hal and Nikol to
Helen. Then, when all were on speaking terms, he turned to Hal.
"Tell me how you happened to find us?" he asked.
"It's simple enough," was the reply. "As we were sailing along, I heard
shots below. I came down to investigate. The first thing I knew, after
coming in sight of this house, I saw a great hulk of a man come rushing
out. I drew my revolver and was about to fire when I recognized Ivan. At
first I wasn't sure whether Ivan knew us, but when he grabbed Stubbs
there and began to play with him, I knew he did. So Nikol and I stood
back and watched. Then you came out. That's all I have to tell."
"And so you admit it wasn't a dream," exclaimed Stubbs angrily. "A fine
lot of friends you are. How do you know what that untamed heathen might
have done to me?"
"Heathen, am I?" exclaimed Ivan, getting to his feet.
"No, no! I didn't mean that," said Stubbs, backing away. "I apologize."
Ivan resumed his seat and Stubbs continued:
"I just want to tell you I don't think much of such treatment. As I have
told you before, you rush to each other's aid fast enough, but when I get
in a tight place I am left to fight it out by myself."
"And you always come out on top, Mr. Stubbs," declared Chester. "We would
deprive you of none of the glory."
"Yes, but some of these times I won't come out on top and then what good
will glory do me, huh?"
"Think how proud Mrs. Stubbs--"
"I can tell you right now that Mrs. Stubbs is not looking for glory,"
shouted Stubbs. "What Mrs. Stubbs wants is me and if I fool around with
you much longer I'm mighty likely to disappoint her."
Stubbs stalked across the room and sat down in a corner.
"Tell me," said Hal to Chester, "what was all the shooting about?"
"Oh, it didn't amount to much," returned Chester. "Thirteen
Bulgarians attacked us. That's all. Anderson, Miss Ellison and I
disposed of a couple and Ivan here attended to the rest. They are all
dead now, I guess."
"And where is Anderson?" demanded Hal.
"Over there on the sofa," said Chester, pointing. "He's sleeping and I
didn't like to disturb him. He's got a hole in his head."
"Bad?" asked Hal anxiously.
"No; mere flesh wound. He'll be all right directly."
"And do you mean to tell me," demanded Hal, "that Ivan here did all
"Well, he did the greater part of it. It reminded me of the old days,
when we watched Alexis in action. Any one who had ever seen them both
fight would know they were brothers. Ivan is a powerful man and a
Ivan had hung his head modestly as Chester talked. Now he looked
up and said:
"It was nothing."
"And yet how unlike Alexis," muttered Hal. "Can you imagine what Alexis
would have said after a fight like that?"
"Rather," said Chester dryly. "He'd have sworn he had defeated a
"Well," said Hal. "It seems to me we have delayed here long enough. You
will remember your orders to hurry. My plane will carry us all, if Miss
Ellison cares to go."
"Certainly she cares to go," returned Chester. "We can't leave her here
alone. I'll wake Anderson now."
He did so. The Colonel announced that he was feeling perfectly fit and
ready to go at any time.
"Well, you people get ready and I'll go and have a look at the
plane," said Hal.
He left the house.
It had grown light by this time. Dawn had broken half an hour before and
there was every indication that the day would be bright and cheerful.
Helen was upstairs getting her things together, while the others sat
about in the parlor. Suddenly Hal dashed into the house. There was an
expression of alarm on his face. The others jumped to their feet
"Now what's the matter?" exclaimed Chester.
"Oh, nothing much," said Hal, "only that about fifty thousand Bulgarians
have nabbed my aeroplane."
"What?" exclaimed the others.
"Exactly," said Hal, "and that's not the worst of it."
"My goodness!" exclaimed Stubbs. "What can be worse than that?"
"Well," replied Hal, sinking into a chair. "On the other side of us I
made out about a million Serbians advancing."
"Great Scott!" exclaimed Chester. "You mean we are in between them?"
"Oh, my," groaned Stubbs. "This will be the last of us for sure."
"Quiet, Stubbs," said Hal sharply.
Now Ivan had a remark to make.
"There don't happen to be a million Serbians," he said calmly.
"Well, I wasn't talking literally," said Hal. "I don't know how many
there are, but they look like a million."
"And what are we going to do?" moaned Stubbs.
"It looks to me as though we should have to stop right here," said
"And be shot to pieces?" This from Stubbs.
"You might go outside and try running a bit," returned Chester. "I have
no doubt you would be killed a bit quicker."
"I'll stay here," said Stubbs.
At this moment Helen came into the room. She was heavily attired and
carried a small satchel.
"Well, I'm ready," she said, smiling. "Did you think it would take me all
day to dress?"
"You might just as well go back and get unready," said Stubbs in a
Helen gazed at the serious faces about her queerly.
"Why, what on earth is the matter?" she asked anxiously.
"Matter?" echoed Stubbs. "Everything is the matter. The Serbians and
Bulgarians are coming to shoot us full of holes."
Helen turned to Hal for an explanation.
"It's true, Miss Ellison, though not as Mr. Stubbs expresses it," said
Hal quietly. "We are between two fires. The Bulgarians are less than half
a mile from us and they have seized my airplane. The Serbians are
advancing. There will undoubtedly be a battle and we will be somewhere
about the middle of it."
"But can't we leave now and hurry toward the Serbians?" asked Helen.
"I had thought of that," said Hal; "but the Bulgarians are too close. If
they saw us fleeing, they would probably shoot us down."
"Then cannot we seek the protection of the Bulgarians?"
This brought a growl from Ivan.
"Better keep as far from the Bulgarians as possible," he said in a harsh
voice. "I know something of the Bulgarians."
"Besides, we have other business," he added. "We do not want to fall into
the hands of the Bulgarians if we can possibly help it. We have a mission
to perform if it is humanly possible."
"Boom!" it was the sound of a big gun.
"The battle is on," said Hal. "Will any of you come to the roof with me?
We should be able to get a good view."
"Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!"
The battle was on in full blast.
IN GRAVE PERIL.
Helen led the way to the roof, the others following closely. As Hal had
predicted, it was possible from this height to obtain a fair view of the
To the north, as far as the eye could see, the army of King Ferdinand of
Bulgaria spread out, a mass of moving energy. Faint puffs of smoke dotted
the Bulgar line as far as the eye could see.
"Cannon!" said Hal briefly.
To the south, the Serbian line moved forward. It, too, spread out on
either side as far as the eye could reach and puffs of smoke rose
steadily, shutting out the view of the moving men.
"More cannon," said Chester.
"We seem to be safe enough for the moment," said Hal. "The shells are
passing over us. But if one side or the other should advance as far as
this house, we would be in imminent danger of being struck by shells from
the other side."
"Well, one side is bound to advance sooner or later," declared Chester;
"but I guess there is nothing for us to do but wait and watch the
progress of the battle."
"You fellows can watch all you want to," said Stubbs. "I'm going down
stairs where I won't be able to see a shell coming."
"It won't make much difference whether you are up here or down there if a
shell hits this house, Mr. Stubbs," said Chester.
"Maybe not; but I won't see it and that will help some."
Stubbs betook himself below.
"Don't know what is coming over Stubbs," said Chester. "He didn't use to
be as bad as that."
"He was when we first met him," Hal replied. "But he seemed to be getting
over it. He's worse than ever now."
From their position, those upon the roof of the house could witness
the effect of some of the great shells that were hurled into the
opposing lines. One, from the Serbians, struck squarely upon the
Bulgarian first line troops, doing terrible execution. Men were mowed
down in great numbers.
A few moments later the Bulgarians also found the range and the havoc was
frightful on each side.
"They can't stand that very long," said Hal. "One side or the other will
have to make a move."
The lad was right; and as it transpired the first move was to be made by
So suddenly that it appeared the work of magic, a great body of horsemen,
stretching out for perhaps half a mile, issued from the Serbian line in a
charge. On they came, their sabers flashing in the early morning sun,
straight for the distant Bulgarian line.
Chester gave an exclamation of dismay.
"They'll pass within a short distance of us," he ejaculated. "Then the
Bulgarians will turn their big guns on us." He turned to Helen. "You
would better go downstairs, Miss Ellison," he said quietly.
"But I want to see the battle," the girl protested.
"Chester is right," Hal agreed. "This is no place for you. Bullets are
likely to be flying about here before long now."
"But the rest of you are not coming down?"
"That's different," said Chester.
"I don't see how. A bullet is no more liable to hit me than it is
to hit you."
"Well, of course if you insist, I won't push you down," said Hal,
Helen Ellison tossed her head.
"Of course if you are going to be mean about it, I'll go down and sit
with Mr. Stubbs," she said.
Without another word she disappeared below.
Hal looked at Chester and smiled.
"Women and girls," he said, "are very peculiar. As soon as you agree with
them they change their minds."
"Well, she's down, anyhow," said Chester. "That's some relief."
"And here come the Serbians," said Hal.
A handsome body of men, these Serbian cavalrymen, as they charged
straight across the open field into the very jaws of death. Men fell on
all sides, but those who were left did not pause. The command had gone
forth that the Bulgarian guns must be silenced and the Serbians went
about the work as coolly as though they had been on dress parade.
But it appeared a few moments later that the battle was not to be between
horsemen and artillery, but rather between cavalry and cavalry.
From the Bulgarian lines now issued a large body of horsemen; and they
came toward the Serbians at a swift gallop, their officers riding in
front with swords flashing and urging their men on with words of
The Serbian cavalry, at a command, halted and braced to receive
"Great Scott! What did they stop for!" exclaimed Hal. "They are giving
the other fellows, all the advantage when they come together."
"Looks like bad generalship to me," Chester agreed.
Now, at a command from their officer, the Serbians resumed their charge;
but the damage had been done and when the long lines of opposing horsemen
came together the very impetus of the Bulgarian charge carried them
through. The Serbians reeled, staggered and their line broke.
The Bulgarian horse plowed in among them, cutting, slashing and stabbing.
Individually, the Serbians fought as bravely as their foe, but in spite
of the desperate work the Bulgarian cavalry retained its cohesion and
pushed steadily on.
The fighting was terrible to behold. Revolvers were brought into play and
their sharp crack, crack could be heard above the sound of the trampling
horses and yelling men. It became apparent to the onlookers that the
Serbians were getting the worst of the encounter.
Casting his eye toward the main Serbian line, Hal gave a short cheer. A
long, dense line of infantry was moving out to the support of the
cavalry. Slowly they came at first, then faster and still faster as the
men broke into a run. An imposing sight, indeed, and one to stir the
blood. The Serbian cavalry, at a command, fell back upon the infantry,
which separated into two sections to permit of the cavalry passing
through the center. Then the infantry closed in again.
But the Bulgarian cavalry, with victory apparently within its grasp, had
no intention of giving up now. With utter recklessness they charged the
Serbian infantry, dying bravely before the rifles and upon the bayonets
of their enemy when they chanced to escape the rifle fire.
The Serbian line held like a stone wall.
Then the Bulgarian cavalry drew off. A cheer, which arose from the
Serbian line, was quickly checked as the giant batteries of the
Bulgarians opened upon the unprotected Serbian line. The Serbians
wavered, broke and fled.
Then once more the Bulgarian cavalry wheeled and charged. Right into the
dense masses of Serbians rode the troopers, cutting and slashing to
right and left. The execution among the panic-stricken Serbians was
terrible to behold.
"They can't stand it long," Hal shouted, barely making himself heard
above the roar of battle.
"The day is lost already," Chester shouted back.
There seemed no doubt of that now.
What was left of the Serbian infantry staggered back to the main army
shattered and beaten. The big guns took up the battle again, but not with
the same vigor and confidence as before. The Serbian fire seemed even to
tell the spectators on the housetop that the Serbians had lost hope.
Half an hour later a general retreat began.
"Bad generalship, that's all," declared Hal.
"Without doubt," agreed Colonel Anderson. "A charge is a charge and
once begun must be finished. That was where the Bulgarians gained the
"The next step, I suppose, is an advance by the Bulgarians," said
"Very likely," Hal agreed, "and that means that we shall be caught in the
"It means worse than that," said Colonel Anderson. "We are all in
civilian attire and if our identities are discovered, it means that we'll
be stood up and shot."
"By Jove!" said Hal. "I hadn't thought of that."
"Oh, we've been in predicaments just as serious," said Chester, "and we
have always come through somehow. I guess we shall do so again."
"We'll get into one just once too often, I'm afraid," said Hal, "and this
is likely to be it."
"You're getting as bad as Stubbs, Hal," said Chester. "Just keep a stiff
upper lip and we'll come through this thing some way."
"I'm no quitter," said Hal. "But the best we can do now is let events
And now the Bulgarian advance began.
Apparently the Bulgarian commander had no thought of attempting to
overtake the Serbians and annihilate them. Apparently he figured that
ground gained was ground gained whether with or without a fight. The army
moved forward slowly.
A party of officers, following in the wake of the vanguard, rode suddenly
toward the house in which the friends had taken refuge.
"And here comes the trouble, as Stubbs would say," declared Hal. "Let's
go below and get ready to receive them."
He suited the action to the word and the others followed him silently.
Below, Hal acquainted Helen with what had transpired and announced that
the Bulgarians were approaching.
"And what of the bodies without?" asked the girl quietly.
"Whew!" Hal gave a long and expressive whistle. "I hadn't thought of
that. Wait a moment, though. We'll have to say they were here when the
Serbians advanced and were killed."
"But the Serbians were not so close to the house."
"I know that, but I cannot think of any better excuse."
"Besides," said Stubbs, "if the Bulgarians were killed here by the
Serbians, the chances are the Bulgarian commander will want to know how
it happens we weren't killed also."
"Stubbs," said Hal, "I told you you were always a kill-joy. You can pick
more flaws in things than any one I can think of. We'll tell the
Bulgarians that story and take a chance on its passing muster."
"Then we may as well say our prayers now," said Stubbs mournfully.
"But what will we tell them we are?" asked Chester.
"Americans," replied Hal. "Caught here by the retreat. We were just
making our way out of the country. I'll do the talking."
"All right," said Chester, and added: "Sh-h-h, here they come now!"
Came a knock at the door.
"You answer it, Miss Ellison, please," said Hal, adding: "If you are
questioned, tell the same story you told Chester."
The girl nodded and moved to the door without a sign of nervousness.
Directly she could be heard in conversation with one of the officers.
Then followed heavy footsteps approaching.
"You say they are in here? I'll have a look at them myself," said a
A moment later the scowling face of a Bulgarian colonel appeared in the
doorway. Helen stood just behind him and behind her were several other
Hal rose, as did the others, as the Bulgarian swept into the room.
"Who are you?" demanded the officer in a harsh voice.
"Hal Paine, an American," replied the lad, and indicated the others after
this fashion: "Chester Crawford, also an American; Harry Anderson, an
American; Nikol, an Albanian, the servant there of Anthony Stubbs,
American war correspondent; Ivan Vergoff, also an Albanian."
"Hm-m-m," muttered the Bulgarian. "You have quite a fluent tongue, young
man. And what are you doing here?"
"Three of us," said Hal, indicating Chester, Colonel Anderson and
himself, "were looking about Montenegro when the war broke out. We have
been there since, lending what aid we could to the wounded. There we
encountered Ivan Vergoff, who, for some reason, became attached to us.
There also we encountered Anthony Stubbs, war correspondent, and his
"Very plausible, very plausible," said the Bulgarian. "But how do I know
you speak the truth?"
Hal shrugged his shoulders.
"We can't very well offer proof of our identities," he said. "But were
the American consul here, I could very soon convince him."
The officer frowned at this remark. The mention of an American consul or
minister or ambassador always brought frowns to the faces of military
officers in the war zone. It boded trouble if American subjects were not
"And how do you happen to be here?" demanded the Bulgarian.
"Montenegro was becoming too warm," said Hal. "We thought we would get
into Bulgaria or Greece, neutral countries. We did not know Bulgaria had
The Bulgarian's face seemed to relax a trifle. Apparently Hal had made a
"Well," he said, "the best I can do is turn you over to my superior.
Still, if things are as you say, I have no doubt that you will be allowed
to proceed into Greece."
"Thank you, Colonel," said Hal.
The officer glanced around the room; and suddenly his eyes fell upon a
man lying in the corner of the room. It was the Bulgarian whom Ivan had
tied up the night before.
"What's that?" demanded the officer.
He commanded another of his officers to investigate. Hal's heart fell.
The other officer stepped quickly across the room and jerked the man to
his feet. Then he untied him and drew him before the Colonel. The latter,
after one glance at the Bulgarian uniform, ordered his other men to guard
all exits, and he addressed the man.
"What are you doing here, sir?" he asked sharply.
"I came here with some of my comrades last night," said the man. "I, a
little in advance of the others, was overpowered and tied up. All I know
of the others is that they arrived later and there was a fight. I have
heard these people say my comrades were killed."
"Search the house and make a careful examination without!" ordered the
Half a dozen of his men leaped to obey. The officer said nothing until
his men reported fifteen minutes later.
"The man speaks the truth," said one of the officers, indicating the
The colonel whirled upon Hal.
"So," he exclaimed, "you have been lying to me. Perhaps you are not
Americans, eh? Perhaps you are attached to the Anglo-French expedition at
"I--" began Hal, but the officer silenced him with a gesture.
Then he turned to one of his officers.
"Take a squad of ten men and escort these prisoners to General Blozle!"
he commanded shortly. "Search them for weapons first."
Hal and Chester realized the futility of resistance. They held their arms
high, as did the others, and were relieved of their weapons without a
word. Then, surrounded by a guard, they were marched away.
An hour later they stood before the Bulgarian commander, where the
officer who had captured them related his story. General Blozle eyed
"Have you anything to say?" he asked when the colonel had presented the
case against them.
Chester stepped forward.
"Just this, general," he said quietly. "Miss Ellison here is in no way
concerned in anything we may have done. We had never seen her until last
night, as she told the colonel. Also, I would like to speak a word for
Mr. Stubbs here. He is, as my friend has said, an American war
correspondent. That's all, sir."
The lad resumed his place.
"Bah!" exclaimed the general. "You as much as admit you are a spy. If you
are a spy, so are the others. You are a lot of spies. You English hounds!
If it were not for the English, Bulgaria would now have what was
rightfully hers. You shall all be shot at sunrise! Take them away!"
The prisoners were marched out with scant ceremony. They were taken to a
large tent, with ample room for all of them. There they were securely
bound and a guard stationed without.
"Well," said Stubbs quietly, with nothing of the fear of other days in
his manner, "I guess we have come to the finish line at last."
"It looks that way, Mr. Stubbs," said Chester sadly. "I am sorry that we
have implicated you in this."
"Oh, that's all right," replied the little man. "I'm not blaming you. But
I would have liked to go back to New York once more."
Chester turned to Helen.
"And you, Miss Ellison," he said. "I hardly know what to say. If it had
not been for me, you would not have been in this serious predicament."
Helen smiled at him.
"Say no more about it," she said quietly. "You saved me once. I am not
the girl to whine now."
"Now that you people have all decided you are going to die, I would like
to say a few words."
It was the voice of Nikol.
The others looked at him in surprise.
"What's the matter with you?" demanded Stubbs. "Want to berate us, I
suppose, for getting you into this fix."
Nikol eyed Stubbs somewhat scornfully.
"I," said Nikol, "wish to say that while there is life there is hope."
"Good for you, old man," cried Hal. "You have expressed my thoughts
"Suppose you tell us how, securely tied as we are, we are going to get
out of here?" Stubbs addressed Nikol.
"Very simple," said Nikol. "First I want to say this. I am no strategist.
I can unloosen us all, if some one else will show us the way out."
"You do your part, Nikol, and I'll try and do mine," said Hal quietly.
The dwarf eyed him approvingly.
"You are the one person in the crowd who seems to have sense," he said.
"As I say, I can break our bonds at any time. I can break the ropes that
bind me and I have no doubt that Ivan there can do the same."
Ivan nodded his head energetically.
"I had thought of it," he smiled. "Yes; I can do it."
"Then why haven't you done it a long while ago?" demanded Stubbs.
"Anything is better than remaining here like this."
"I haven't done it before for fear of discovery," said Nikol.
"My idea exactly," agreed Ivan.
"It would be better," Nikol continued, "to wait until we are sure we
shall not be disturbed again during the night. Then Ivan and I shall free
ourselves and release the others. I believe it would be unwise now."
"Good reasoning, Nikol," said Hal. "We shall wait, as you suggest."
Nikol became silent again. Ivan said nothing either.
"But it's awfully tiresome being trussed up like this," Stubbs protested.
"Better a little tiresomeness now than a bullet in the morning, Mr.
Stubbs," returned Chester.
"Right you are, Chester, I'll kick no more," said Stubbs.
He, too, became silent.
Hal, Chester and Colonel Anderson talked in low whispers.
"After we are freed of our bonds, then what?" questioned the Colonel.
Chester shrugged his shoulders as much as his bonds would permit.
"Ask Hal," he replied. "I don't seem to be able to think of anything."
"Well," said Hal, "our guards, knowing that we are apparently securely
bound, won't keep as strict guard as they should, I hope. Once freed,
perhaps we can tap one of them over the head and appropriate his uniform.
After that another uniform and so on until there are garments for all.
We'll climb into them. Then we'll crawl under the tent, and once outside,
we'll strike out boldly."
"And after that?" questioned Chester.
This time it was Hal who shrugged his shoulders.
"Who knows?" he said quietly. "We'll have to leave something to chance."
"And Miss Ellison?"
"A uniform for her also," said Hal decisively. "It's the only way."
"Oh, I know it is a desperate chance," exclaimed Hal. "But certainly
it is better than sitting down and awaiting the arrival of the
"You're right, Hal," said Chester. "But it's a ticklish business and one
that will require nerve."
"It's not a question of nerve, when you know what's in store in the
morning," said Hal. "But as this is my plan, I'll do the work, or what
part of it I may."
"You're the doctor," Chester agreed.
"Now," said Hal, "we'll try and get a little sleep. We can do nothing
until after dark, and the better our physical conditions, the better our
chances for escape."
THROUGH THE NIGHT.
Hal, Chester, Colonel Anderson, Nikol and Ivan slept. The first three,
veterans of many campaigns and hardships, had schooled themselves to
sleep under almost any conditions. The same might be said of Nikol and
Ivan because of days spent in the mountain fastness, where danger lurked
at all times.
Stubbs, however, although he bore up bravely under the death sentence,
was unable to sleep, try as he would. Nor could Helen gain a much needed
rest, though she was not conscious that she was at all afraid. So these
two talked during the long hours of the day as the others slept
peacefully and deeply.
With the coming of darkness a man entered bearing a tray with bread and
water. The others awakened now and all did full justice to the frugal
meal. Their hands were untied while they ate, but the meal over, they
were bound again.
Then all waited for what seemed hours, though in reality it could not
have been more than three. Then Hal addressed Nikol.
"Still think you can break your bonds?"
"I can," replied Nikol quietly.
"And you, Ivan?"
"Yes, although it won't make much difference. Nikol could release the
rest of us."
"I thought the second tying-up might have made it impossible," said Hal.
"I'm ready any time you give the word," said Nikol.
"Then do it now," said Hal.
The others gazed curiously as Nikol made his little form still smaller.
He drew in his chest as much as possible and then expanded suddenly, at
the same time thrusting out with his strong arms. There was a report as
of a revolver being discharged, though much fainter, and Nikol was free.
"Ha!" said Ivan. "He did it. Now watch me."
The mighty muscles of the giant strained once and the strong rope
snapped. Ivan did not seem to have exerted himself.
"Now for the rest of us," said Hal.
Quickly Ivan and Nikol released the others.
"Now what?" asked Ivan.
"Now comes my work," said Hal quietly.
He moved silently to the edge of the tent and lay down flat, feeling the
edges with his fingers.
"This will come up all right," he muttered to himself. "I can get
He went back to the center of the tent again and enjoined the others
"Don't make a sound on your lives," he commanded sternly. "Chester, you
remain right where I leave the tent and if I bring a man back with me you
drag him under and see that he doesn't make a sound."
Chester nodded his agreement and took his place at Hal's side.
Now the lad lifted the bottom of the canvas slightly and peered out. He
smiled a trifle to himself. It was as he hoped. The guard or guards, as
the case might be, was not as vigilant as the security of the prisoners
should have required. Hal wriggled into the open.
The huge camp slept. Here and there a sentinel stalked and it was upon
these guardians of the night that Hal must prey.
He moved toward the front of the prison tent, seeking the guard there.
And directly he came upon him, stretched at full length upon the ground,
his heavy military coat pulled closely about him, smoking a cigarette.
Hal moved toward him cautiously.
"I hate to do this," he muttered, "but--"
With a light leap he was upon the man and his right fist shot out hard
and true. It caught the Bulgarian just above the left ear and the man
never made a sound.
Quickly Hal dragged the body to where he knew Chester would be waiting.
Chester dragged it under the tent and Hal went under after it.
"This uniform is for me. I'll go after some more," he said.
Quickly he climbed into the Bulgarian uniform and disappeared again. But
this time, garbed in a Bulgarian uniform, he went more confidently. His
hand rested upon his revolver.
A short distance away he came upon an unsuspecting sentinel. A sharp
blow with his revolver butt placed the other _hors de combat_.
Supporting the unconscious figure with his arm, Hal moved back to the
prison tent. This figure also was pushed beneath the canvas and the
uniform donned by Chester.
"Now we can make a little better time," said Hal, "there are two of us."
Uniforms were still needed for Colonel Anderson, Ivan, Nikol, Stubbs and
Helen. Hal and Chester disappeared into the night.
Five minutes later Hal returned, this time with a uniform and no man. He
had found him in a deserted spot, and after knocking him down and tying
him up, had stripped him.
"Put this on, Anderson, and get out after one," he ordered.
He was gone again a moment later. Soon also Chester returned successful
and he and Anderson departed almost together. There were now needed
uniforms for Nikol, Stubbs and Helen, for Chester had brought one for
Ivan. And these uniforms must necessarily be small uniforms, for they
were for small figures. Therefore, the hunt was longer and it was more
than an hour later until all three had returned to the tent.
"Well, here we are, all of us first class Bulgarians, now," said Hal.
"Now, we'll leave the tent one at a time, except that I shall take Miss
Ellison with me first. Now do exactly what I tell you, all of you.
Leaving the tent, walk two hundred paces to the left, then turn to the
right and walk a hundred and fifty more. Next fifty paces to the left
again. We shall wait for you there. I have covered the distance and it's
the best place to join forces I can imagine. It is in the shelter of a
great rock that overhangs a large tent--probably the quarters of the
commanding officer. Do you all understand?"
He had each repeat the directions several times, and then, taking Helen
by the arm, he helped her under the tent.
Outside, with caps drawn down, for the weather was cold, they hurried on.
And at the appointed place Hal stopped. There was nothing to do now but
wait for the others.
Stubbs was the next to arrive and he came shaking a trifle. The little
man was trying to bear up, but he was having a hard time. The next
arrival was Nikol and then came Ivan. Chester was next to arrive,
following Colonel Anderson by a few seconds.
"Now we're all here," said Hal. "We may as well move. I have no idea just
where we are, so we'll have to select a direction and stick to it."
"Wait a moment, please," said Helen. "Isn't that the house in which we
She pointed in the darkness. The others peered intently in the direction
indicated. A dark shadow loomed up some distance ahead.
"I believe it is," said Hal. "Why?"
"Then, if you want to get into Greece, the quickest way is to go
"But the question is, which is south?" said Hal.
"Oh, I can tell you that. You just follow the road that leads by
"So be it," said Hal. "March."
With Chester and Helen he led the way.
They were forced to go very slowly for they were still in the Bulgarian
lines, and all knew they would be for a considerable distance. How far
the Bulgarians had extended their lines following the retreat of the
Serbians they had of course no means of knowing, but Hal felt sure it
would be a good ways.
Tents dotted their line of march for an hour as they walked along keeping
parallel with the road, but some distance from the highway.
"This road will eventually lead across the Greek border," the girl
whispered as they walked along.
"Here's hoping we get across the border before the Bulgarians get after
us," said Chester.
"Second that motion," declared Hal.
They walked on in silence.
It had been more than an hour now since they had left their late prison
and Hal was beginning to hope their absence would not be noticed before
morning. He had just said as much to Chester.
"I am afraid that is too much to hope for," was the latter's reply.
And, as it turned out, it was.
The party had walked possibly five miles, when, from behind, they heard
the sudden booming of a great gun.
"Faster," said Hal, and broke into a trot. The others followed suit.
"Suppose they have discovered our flight, or the gun was some other
signal?" said Chester.
"I don't know," said Hal. "It's as likely to be one as the other. The
farther away we get the better."
More guns now shattered the stillness of the night, growing closer
"They are after us, all right," declared Hal.
Without pausing, he glanced quickly around. Then suddenly he swerved
sharply to the left.
"Why this change in course?" panted Chester.
"See that woods?" demanded Hal, pointing.
"Well, we may find safety there. It's a long chance."
They dashed into the shelter of the little woods a moment later.
Hal stopped and turned to Helen.
"Climb?" he asked.
"Why, yes, I guess so."
"Up in this tree with you then."
He lent her a hand as she grasped the lowest branch and soon clambered
higher up toward the top.
"You too, Stubbs," he commanded.
The little man did not hesitate, but also was soon among the branches.
"Colonel Anderson, you and Nikol get up there also. I want some
protection for Miss Ellison in case of trouble."
The others obeyed orders without question.
"All right," from each, and they moved toward him.
"Ivan, you come with me. You too, Chester."
Hal turned for a moment, to deliver a parting injunction to those in
"Don't any of you so much as move until I tell you to."
"And where are we bound?" asked Chester, as the three moved off.
"Apparently," said Hal, "we are Bulgarian officers. The bluff may work. I
want to tell all inquiring parties that we have just explored these
woods. Catch the idea?"
Chester and Ivan nodded.
MR. STUBBS PROVES HIMSELF.
"We'll stay in among the trees and won't show ourselves unless we have
to," Hal explained.
From the direction in which the fugitives had so recently come, there now
came the noise of a rapidly approaching body of horsemen. They halted a
short distance from where Hal, Chester and Ivan stood and dismounted.
"They may be hiding in here," said a voice. "We'll have a look."
The men, a dozen of them, came forward.
Making a slight detour, the three friends managed to get behind them.
Then, instead of continuing straight ahead, Hal turned sharply in his
tracks and followed in the wake of the Bulgarian searching party.
The Bulgarians proceeded slowly, exploring every nook and corner of the
woods, and firing their rifles into the densest of the trees. Hal,
Chester and Ivan came up with them at length and mingled among them
without being discovered.
"Off to the left farther," instructed the officer in command.
"No use," said Hal, in a gruff voice. "I've just come from there. There
is no one there. The fugitives must have gone farther."
"Are you sure?" asked the officer, looking at the lad searchingly.
"Positive. I fired my revolver into every tree in which I thought there
was a possible chance for them to hide."
"There is no use wasting more time, then," said the officer. "This
He led the way back toward the road. Hal, Chester and Ivan, still among
the Bulgarian troopers, were forced to go along with them or run the risk
of being detected. They all walked slowly and gradually were left behind.
The Bulgarians mounted and rode off down the road.
"Well, we are safe for a few minutes," said Chester, drawing a breath of
relief. "What now, Hal?"
"Well," was the reply. "We can't fool about in these woods long. We are
bound to be found sooner or later if we do. Also, there is little chance
that we could walk to the Greek frontier without being discovered. In
some way we must find a conveyance."
"Yes, but how?" questioned Chester.
"That's the question. But certainly some of these Bulgarian officers must
have motor cars. Surely they have some means of transportation besides
horses. I have an idea that if we will follow them, in their search, we
may come across an automobile."
"That's not a half bad idea," declared Chester. "We'll do it. Shall we
"Hold on," said Hal. "Either you or I must remain here. We can't both go.
One of us has to direct the actions of the others."
"True," said Chester. "Will you go or stay?"
"Whatever you say," said Hal.
"Then," said Chester, "we shall match to see who goes."
He produced a coin and Hal did likewise.
"If I match you, I go," said Hal. "If not, you go."
The two coins went spinning in the air and each lad caught his own as it
descended and covered it with his hand.
"Tails," said Chester.
"Tails," said Hal. "I go."
"All right," said Chester. "Then I'll be moving back toward the others.
Good luck, old man, and hurry back."
The two lads clasped hands and Chester turned on his heel and
"You shall go with me, Ivan," said Hal.
The big Cossack showed his pleasure.
"I was afraid I was going to be left behind," he said. "I thought you
might need me."
"I hope I won't," said Hal, "but you never can tell, you know. Let's
Again he led the way to the road and the two set out briskly.
After half an hour's walk they came upon a party of searchers. An officer
hailed them as they approached.
"Seen anything of the fugitives?" he demanded.
Hal shook his head negatively.
"Did you?" he asked.
"Not a sign. It's a mystery what can have happened to them. Colonel Roth
is a short distance ahead. I heard him say he believed they were still in
the main camp."
"That so?" replied Hal. "How is the colonel traveling? Automobile?"
"Of course. He's too dainty for any other kind of travel, you know."
"Well, we'll move on ahead a bit," said Hal.
They continued their journey.
Fifteen minutes later they came upon a large touring car in the road.
"Here is the thing we want," said Hal quietly. "Now if it were just
turned around, I would take a chance and grab it. But by the time I
turned in this narrow road, I'd have the whole Bulgarian army on me.
We'll have to do a little figuring."
They continued on their way until they came up with Colonel Roth's
searching party. As they approached, an idea suddenly came to Hal. He
sought out the man he knew must be Colonel Roth by his haughty air and
"Colonel," he said, saluting. "I know it would be a feather in your cap
if you could land these fugitives, and I have come to show you where
"What's that?" exclaimed the dapper little man.
"I said I've come to show you where they are," said Hal quietly. "All I
ask for turning them over to you is a thousand German marks."
"H-m-m-m," muttered the colonel, eyeing the lad keenly. "Even if you can
do what you say, the price is rather high. I'll give you five hundred."
Hal seemed to consider.
"All right," he said at length. "It's a bargain. Turn your car about and
I'll take you to their hiding place at once."
The colonel stepped into his automobile, and, after a series of attempts,
finally succeeded in turning it. Then to the others:
"Climb in," he said briefly.
Ivan climbed into the rear seat, while Hal took his place beside the
"Straight ahead until I tell you to stop," the lad instructed.
The Bulgarian officer asked no questions.
A few minutes later the machine drew up in response to Hal's command. All
"They are all back here a little ways," said Hal.
The Bulgarian officer followed Hal toward where the lad knew the others
were in hiding. Under the tree where he had left Helen, Hal paused. Then
he raised his voice a trifle and called aloud, at the same time drawing
his revolver and presenting it squarely at the Bulgarian's head:
"Chester! Oh, Chester! You can all come down now."
In response to this hail, Chester, Helen, Mr. Stubbs and Nikol soon stood
When Hal drew his revolver, the Bulgarian officer staggered back.
"A traitor, eh?" he exclaimed.
"Why, no," said Hal, and he removed his heavy cap.
The Bulgarian gave a long whistle and ejaculated: "One of the
"So you know me?" said Hal. "Well, then you should know me well enough to
do as I say."
"What is it you want?" demanded the Bulgarian.
"Nothing very difficult," declared Hal. "First we want to borrow your
automobile for a few hours."
"So?" exclaimed the Bulgarian. "Well, you can't have it."
"We'll see," said Hal quietly. "Here, Ivan! You guard this fellow, while
I have a look at the car."
He examined the machine carefully.
"All right for a quick dash, I guess," he said finally, rising from his
inspection. "All aboard!"
Every one obeyed, and soon all were seated in the car save Hal and
Chester, who were to occupy the front seat. Hal also motioned the
Bulgarian into the front seat.
"He may come in handy after awhile," he declared.
Everything in readiness at last, Hal and Chester climbed in and Hal took
his place at the wheel.
"I'll do the chauffeuring," he said, with a smile. "I may have to do some
talking later and I want to be running this animal, so I can know what to
do without having to talk. Keep your eye on our friend, there, Chester."
"I'll hang on to him, all right," replied Chester grimly. "He'll not get
away from me. Have no fear of that."
"All right," called Hal. "Everybody ready?"
He glanced around quickly.
"All ready," came in Colonel Anderson's voice.
The others nodded their assent and an instant later the machine darted
southward at a rapid gait.
Two miles down the road, Hal was forced to stop by the presence in
the road of a single man armed with a rifle, which he aimed straight
at the car.
"What do you want?" demanded Hal, anxiously.
"You'll have to get out," was the man's reply. "I have orders to let no
Helen looked at Hal hopelessly and the lad was moved to action.
Gently he stirred the Colonel with his toe as he commanded under
"Speak for us or I'll put a bullet through you."
The officer did as commanded.
"Why are you barring our way?" he demanded in a harsh voice.
"Orders, sir," was the reply.
"Do you know who I am?"
"No, sir, and it will make no difference."
This conversation was put to an end in a sudden and unexpected manner.
Anthony Stubbs rose in his place.
"Will you permit us to proceed?" he demanded.
The man in the road shook his head.
"All right," said Stubbs.
He climbed to the front seat, and before any one could realize what he
was up to, sprang head-first at the Bulgarian.
"GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN."
Stubbs' action was so entirely unexpected that for a moment the other
occupants of the automobile were stunned. Then Hal and Chester leaped to
their feet, as did Nikol, Ivan and Colonel Anderson.
"Little man's gone off his head," muttered Ivan, as he leaped from the
car to go to Stubbs' assistance.
Stubbs, in his headlong leap, struck exactly where he had intended--right
upon the Bulgarian's shoulders, and the force of the impact bore the man
to the ground. Again, the action was so unexpected that the man did not
have time to discharge his rifle.
As the soldier went to the ground beneath his weight, Stubbs' hands
gripped him by the throat and he squeezed as hard as his weak muscles
But the Bulgarian had recovered himself now and hurled Stubbs to one
side. He pulled himself to his feet, and with an angry growl, half raised
It was at that moment that Ivan, quicker than the others, seized the
rifle in his two hands. He gave a quick twist and jerked the weapon from
the hands of his opponent. The latter staggered back and his hand dropped
to his belt. But before he could draw a revolver, Ivan had raised his
newly won rifle and brought it down on the Bulgarian's head. The man
dropped inert without a sound.
Then Ivan picked Stubbs up bodily, deposited him in the tonneau of the
car and climbed in himself.
"We'd better get away from here," he said.
Quickly Hal resumed his seat and threw off the clutch. The automobile
dashed forward again.
Ivan turned to Stubbs.
"Why all this bloodthirstiness, Mr. Stubbs?" he demanded in surprise.
"I'm getting tired of all this nonsense," replied Stubbs. "I want to get
out of this country. I want to get back home where there is no
war--where men are not killing each other off by the thousands. I'm a
peaceable man and I'm going back to a peaceable country if I have to
fight to get there."
Nikol the dwarf now extended a hand to Stubbs.
"You are a brave man, sir," he exclaimed. "Not many are there who would
have attacked a man who held a rifle pointed at his breast. You are a
brave man, sir."
Unthinkingly, Stubbs clasped the hand and a moment later gave a
howl of pain.
"Hey! Leggo my hand!" he cried. "Ouch!"
Nikol released Stubbs' hand with a murmured apology, while Stubbs felt
the injured right member tenderly with his left and turned an aggrieved
eye on Nikol, but he said nothing.
Suddenly the car slowed down. Those in the rear seat glanced ahead and
the reason for the abrupt slackening of speed became apparent.
Coming toward them at a rapid trot was a squadron of Bulgarian cavalry,
blocking the road.
Hal turned to the Bulgarian officer between him and Chester and
"Now it's up to you. Remember, I've got my gun ready and at the first
false move I'll put a bullet through you."
The captain in command of the cavalry squadron gave a sharp command and
his men drew rein while the officer came forward. He glanced at the
colonel in the automobile and saluted.
"Oh, it's you, sir," he said. "Have you seen anything of the fugitives?"
The Bulgarian felt the pressure of Hal's revolver in his back.
"No," he said.
The captain saluted and would have passed on, but Hal instructed his
prisoner to ask:
"How far are we from the Greek frontier?"
"Less than a mile," was the answer. "There is but one more body of our
troops between here and a strong force of Greeks, which is patrolling
The two Bulgarians saluted each other and the troop separated to make a
path for the automobile.
"Another close shave for all of us," said Chester, when they had passed
by. "You, too," he said to the Bulgarian. "You'd have been a goner if you
had sought to give the alarm."
A few minutes later Hal made out another body of troops blocking the
road. He reduced the speed of the car and spoke to the others.
"The last barrier to freedom," he said. "Be ready to duck down in the
car. I am going to take no more chances with our prisoner here. He is
likely to take this last chance to betray us. The troops are drawn up on
both sides of the road. I am going to make a dash for it."
There was no reply, but Hal had expected none.
The car approached the troops slowly and seemed about to stop.
The Bulgarians moved to one side, thinking to surround the machine when
it had come to a halt.
Less than fifty feet from the nearest soldiers, and a scant two hundred
yards from where Hal could make out a large body of Greek troops, the car
suddenly leaped ahead and Hal threw the gear into high.
All save Hal ducked instinctively.
The Bulgarians, taken completely by surprise, stood stock still for a
moment and then the cry of in officer rang out:
Instantly fifty rifles were leveled at the automobile, now fast eating up
the short distance to the Greek frontier, and a score of bullets struck
the car in the rear.
Bullets flew all about Hal's head and he felt a stinging sensation in his
left shoulder. There came a second volley and then the car flashed among
the body of Greek troops.
Quickly Hal brought the car to a stop. Heads bobbed up from the back of
the car and it was Anthony Stubbs who breathed the relief that all felt.
"Safe at last!" he cried.
Now all alighted from the car, the Bulgarian officer, Hal's prisoner,
Greek troops approached.
Hal spoke hurriedly to the Bulgarian.
"Quick now!" he cried. "If you make a dash you can get back over the
border before these fellows can stop you."
The Bulgarian wasted no time in talk. He took to his heels and made
record time for his own country, which he reached in safety, in spite of
a volley fired by the Greek troops.
A Greek officer now came hurriedly up to Hal.
"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded harshly. "Do you not know that
this is a neutral country?"
"And we thank Heaven for that," said Stubbs fervently. "We have had a
hard enough time getting here."
"I shall have to turn you over to my superior," said the officer. "He
will dispose of your cases. In the meantime, you may consider yourselves
Neither Hal nor Chester paid much attention to what the Greek officer was
saying. They were too busily engaged watching the antics of their
erstwhile prisoner, who, now safe on his own side of the line, was
shaking his fist in their direction and making other fierce gestures.
Now Hal turned to the Greek officer.
"Will you accompany us back close to the line," he said, "that we may
hear what yonder little fellow is talking about? He seems to be greatly
put out about something."
"First tell me what you are doing here?" was the command.
Hal explained as rapidly as possible and then repeated his request that
they be allowed to go back toward the border a few moments.
At last the officer gave his permission.
Chester, Hal, Colonel Anderson, Ivan and Nikol, each grinning, moved back
toward the border. Stubbs hung back, and seeing this, Hal called:
"Come along, Mr. Stubbs. Here is one time you may look at an enemy with
The Bulgarian officer was still angrily waving hit arms about when they
"Look at him rave, will you?" said Hal, with a laugh.
"Ha! Ha!" laughed Ivan.
"He should think himself lucky that we allowed him to go back,"
The friends were less than fifty feet from the Bulgarian now, but they
ventured no closer for fear they might inadvertently cross the line.
They stood in this order: Hal, Chester, Nikol, Stubbs, Ivan and
"Poor little fellow," said Stubbs at this juncture. "Poor little fellow.
He looks so awfully mad!"
The Bulgarian officer, who had been growing angrier with each taunt from
across the Greek line, now became suddenly infuriated. Forgetting all
prudence, forgetting all laws of neutrality, forgetting everything except
the smiling face of Anthony Stubbs, American war correspondent, he
suddenly drew his revolver and fired pointblank at the little man.
Stubbs' face blanched at the movement and the others were too surprised
to move--all except one; and this one, quick as a flash, leaped forward
with the agility of a cat and thrust his body protectingly before
When the smoke of the revolver had cleared away Stubbs stood erect,
unharmed--but at his feet lay the twitching body of Nikol, the dwarf.
There was a sudden hush, prolonged for several minutes; then Stubbs
dropped to his knee with an inarticulate cry and threw his arms around
the neck of Nikol.
Quickly the others gathered about and Hal shouted:
"A surgeon, quick!"
But Nikol, raising his head to Stubbs' knee, stopped him with a gesture.
"It's no use," he said quietly. "It got me here," and he raised a hand
slowly and touched a spot just above the heart. "A surgeon can do no
good. Besides, I would not have a stranger near me when I die. To me you
are all strangers and yet for days I have not looked upon you as such. I
am glad to have known you all and I know the day will come when I shall
see you all again. Now, if I could see the young lady for just a moment
Hal hastened back to the automobile where Helen Ellison still sat,
wondering at the cause of the trouble, and repeated the dwarf's request.
"Of course I'll go," said the girl, and there was a catch in her voice,
for this was the first time death had come so close to her.
She ran forward and knelt over the little dwarf and took his hand. He
smiled at her.
"I just wanted to tell you good-bye," he said. "I have never seen a young
lady like you before."
For a space of several seconds he looked at her. Then he dropped her
hand and said:
"Now if the rest of you will just shake hands with me once--"
Silently the others grasped Nikol's hand, one after another, and at the
last came Stubbs.
To the latter's hand the dwarf clung tenaciously.
"You, sir, are a brave man," said Nikol. "I am glad I was able to save
you. You may be of some use in the world."
The pressure upon Stubbs' hand tightened and tightened until the little
man winced with the pain of it; but he made no outcry--only smiled as he
exclaimed in a broken voice:
"Well, good-bye, all," said Nikol faintly, after a moment's pause.
The pressure on Stubbs' hand relaxed and the little dwarf of the Albanian
hills fell back, dead.
Stubbs rose and brushed the tears from his eyes. Then, after one look at
the still form on the ground, he turned and walked away. The others said
nothing, for they knew his grief was great.
And now, while the others--all good friends and true--are gathered about
the body of little Nikol, the dwarf, we shall leave them once more,
knowing that, after days and weeks of strenuous adventures and grave
perils, they are, for the moment at least, in a land of peace.