Part 3 out of 4
"Oh-o! I see," said the colonel. "I took your deed for an act of
bravery, and for that reason I had planned to have you particularly
cared for, so it was only an accident, eh? Orderly, have these fellows
locked up with the others."
"We're officers in the United States Army, sir," Hal protested, "and,
as such, are entitled to treatment as becomes our rank."
"You are American pigs!" was the angry response. "So American troops
are really in France, eh? I never believed they would come. America
is a nation of cowards."
Hal took a threatening step forward.
The German did not move from his chair, but called to his orderly:
"Take them away."
A moment later a file of soldiers entered and Hal and Chester were
escorted from the colonel's quarters. An hour later they found
themselves in a tent behind the German trenches together with the four
Canadians who, such a short time before, had formed the crew of the
tank that had advanced single-handed into the German lines.
"You went and spoiled it, Hal," Chester muttered when they were left to
"Well, I was just trying to be honest. They say 'honesty is the best
policy,' you know."
"That's all right," said Chester, "but you don't have to go around
telling how honest you are."
"I'll admit I put my foot in it," Hal a I greed. "But here we are, six
of us, captured by the enemy with the chances that our days of fighting
"Never say die," said Chester. "We've been in some ticklish places
before now and we're still alive and kicking."
"We'll hold a council of war," Hal decided. "I don't know your names,"
he said to the Canadians, "but I take it you'll all be glad to get out
of here if possible."
"You bet," said one. "I've no hankering for a German prison, sir."
"Good! Now what are your names?"
"Crean, sir," said the man who had spoken.
"Yours?" said Hal, turning to the next man.
The other two men admitted to the names of Jackson and Gregory.
Hal then introduced Chester and himself.
"This is not the first time we've been captured by the enemy," he
explained, "and we've found that because escape is looked upon as such
a remote possibility, it is much simpler than in days when wars did not
cover so much territory as the whole world."
"We're with you in anything you decide, sir," said Smith. I
"You can count upon us to the finish," Crean agreed.
"I was sure of it," said Hal quietly. "Now, we'll take stock. Of
course, we've no weapons."
"Nothing that looks like one," Chester agreed.
"The first thing, then," said Hal, "is to secure weapons. Makes a
fellow feel a bit more comfortable if he has a gun in his hand."
"Or even a sword, or a knife, sir," said Gregory.
"Well, I'm not much of a hand with a knife," Chester declared. "I have
been slashed a couple of times, but every time I think of a knife being
drawn through my flesh it makes me shudder. Now, a gun is another
"I agree with you, Chester," said Hal. "However, if we can't get guns
we won't turn down knives if we can get our hands on them."
"Right you are, sir," said Gregory. "Now, I've lived long enough in
the northwest to realize the value of a good knife when I get my hands
on it . A weapon is a weapon after all, sir."
"Only some are better than others," Smith interrupted.
"We won't argue about that," said Hal, "since we have decided that the
first thing we need are weapons. Of course, that means that first we
must have one weapon. One will mean others. Now, I'll suggest this:
I'm no pickpocket, but someone will come in here directly to give us
food or something, and I'm no good if I can't, relieve him of a gun or
a knife, providing I get close enough to him."
"And then what?" demanded Chester.
"One thing at a time, old man," said Hal. "We'll have to leave most of
this to chance."
"Anything suits me," Chester declared. "Listen, I think someone is
Chester was right. A moment later the officer to whom the lads had
surrendered entered the tent. He greeted the lads with a smile.
"I've heard of your treatment," be said. "I won't presume to criticize
my superior officer, but I just want to say that I admire your bravery
no matter what brought you into our lines."
"Thanks," said Hal. "We appreciate it. I suppose I should have kept my
mouth shut, but I guess it won't make any difference in the long run.
What will be done with us, do you suppose?"
"Well, you are prisoners of war, of course," was the reply. "You'll
probably be sent to a prison camp until peace is declared -- and nobody
knows when that will be."
"You're right on that score," said Hal. "Oh, well, I guess we should
consider ourselves fortunate that we are prisoners rather than dead
"And yet you don't," said the German with a smile.
"Well, no, that's true," Hal admitted. "'I just said we should."
"I must be going now," said the young German, "So I'll say good-bye. I
hope I may see you when the war is over."
"Thanks," said Chester.
He extended a hand, which the German grasped. Hal pressed close to the
man's side with extended hand, which he offered as the German grasped
As the ]ad stood close to the German, his left hand stole forth
cautiously, and dropped to the revolver which the German carried in a
holster at his side.
He removed the weapon so gently that the German did not feel his
touch. Quickly Hal slipped the revolver into his coat pocket, and then
grasped the man's hand as Chester released it.
"Good-bye," he said quietly. "I'm sure I second your wish."
The German bowed and left the tent.
Chester turned to Hal and said in a low voice:
"You bet!" said he.
A STRANGE PROCEEDING
"Lieutenant," said the Canadian named Gregory, "before I joined the
army I was considered somewhat of a detective in Montreal. I've had
some experience with pickpockets. It's a pleasure to see you work."
"That sounds like rather a left-handed compliment," said Chester with a
smile, while Hal and the others laughed.
"Nevertheless, it was very neatly done," said Gregory.
"Well, Hal," said Chester, "you've got one gun, what are you going to
do with it?"
"Hold your horses, old man," returned Hal. "Nothing was ever gained by
too great haste. Something will turn up."
Something did a moment later in the form of the German officer who so
recently had left the tent. He came in quickly, looked around, and
"Why, I thought you'd gone, captain," said Chester, though his heart
The lad realized the import of the other's return.
"I've lost something," said the German.
"What was it?" asked Hal.
"Well, it's my revolver," said the German. "I thought maybe I had
dropped it here."
"Hope you didn't expect to find it if you had?" said Hal.
The German laughed good-naturedly.
"Maybe not," he said. "However, I'm going to ask you if any of you
"If we had," said Hal quietly, "I'll guarantee we wouldn't stay here
half an hour."
The German looked at Hal keenly. Apparently he took the lad's answer
for a denial, for he said:
"Well, all right. I just thought I'd make sure. I know you wouldn't
lie about it."
He bowed again and was gone.
"Well, by George!" exclaimed Hal. "I didn't tell him I didn't have his
gun, did I?"
"You did not," said Chester, "but you seem to have convinced him that
you didn't have it."
"It's just as well," said Smith.
Five minutes later a German soldier entered, bearing a tray on which
was water and dry bread.
"Well, well," said Hal. "What a feast for the hungry, eh?"
He took the tray from the man's bands, while Chester edged closer to
him. When the man left the tent, Chester produced an object which he
"Something for you, Gregory," he said.
Gregory eyed the object in surprise. It was a long-handled knife.
"I just happened to see it sticking in his belt," said Chester.
"I believe that you two fellows have been fooling us," said Gregory
with evident sincerity. "Come, now. What was your occupation before
you joined the army?"
"Well, it wasn't picking pockets, if that's what you mean," said
Chester with a laugh.
"If this thing keeps up," said Crean, "we'll soon have weapons enough
to equip a first-class arsenal."
"And that's no joke," said the man called Jackson.
"We can't hope for any more such luck," said Hal quietly. "We'll have
to create what opportunities come to us now."
"You take this knife, Gregory," said Chester. "I wouldn't know what to
do with it."
Hal approached the canvas door to their prison and poked his head out.
"Get back there!" came a guttural command in German.
Hal spied a sentry standing before the tent.
"Hello," he said pleasantly. "Didn't know you were there. All by
yourself, too, eh?"
"Not much," was the reply. "There's a man in the rear, too."
"I just wondered," murmured Hal.
"Get back inside," commanded the guard.
"Oh, all right," said Hal, "if you are going to be nasty about it.
But, say, do you have a pack of cards you can lend us?"
"No, I don't," said the guard.
"Well, all right," and Hal would have withdrawn but the German halted
"I didn't say I didn't have a pack," he said.
"But I heard --"
"No, you didn't. I said I didn't have a pack to lend."
"Well, what's --?"'
"I've a pack to sell," said the guard.
"Oh, I see," said Hal. "Rather hard up, are you."
"If you mean I have no money, yes."
"I've a few German coins, I believe," said Hal, and explored his
pockets. "I'll give you these for the pack of cards."
He held forth two coins.
The German grunted.
"All right," he said.
He produced a pack of cards, and took the money Hal extended.
"Times must be getting hard in Germany," said Hal suggestively.
Again the German granted.
"We don't have any bread, and we don't have any meat," he declared. "I
haven't had a good meat for a year, it seems."
"It'll be worse before the war's over," said Hal pleasantly.
The German grounded his rifle with a thump. "Don't you think I know
it?" he demanded with some heat.
"Well, don't get angry," said Hal, struck with a sudden idea.
"You've got some money," he said.
"Not very much."
"Well, I'll tell you something. We're going to have a little card game
inside. I don't have any too much money, either, and I'd be glad to
win some. What's the matter with you sneaking in and getting in the
game? Your money's as good to me as anyone else's."
"And an officer'll come along, and I'll face a firing squad," grumbled
"Pshaw!" said Hal. "Nothing risked nothing gained, you know. Besides,
we're in an out of the way place here. When will you be relieved?"
"Not before 10 o'clock."
"And it's only a little after six now. However, if you won't, you
won't. You know your own business best."
The German smiled an evil smile.
"Have you any objection to my inviting another in the game?" he asked.
"Not a bit. Who?"
"The man who is guarding the tent in the rear. He will come in handy,
too. If you should try to escape, we'd do for you. We will be armed,
and you won't."
"Who said anything about trying to escape?" demanded Hal. "This is to
be a little friendly game of poker."
"Poker?" exclaimed the German.
Again his eyes gleamed.
"You go back in the tent," said the guard. "I'll probably be along
later with my friend. I need the money, and will take a chance."
"Good!" said Hal, and disappeared within.
Hal explained the situation to the others, and added:
"Of course, the man's idea is that he and his friend, by playing
together, will win by cheating. Well, that doesn't make any difference
to us. Let them have the money. All we want is to get out of here. I
don't know much about playing cards, anyhow. But let no man make a
move until I give the word."
The others nodded their understanding of this to him.
"We may as well get started, so it won't look bad," said Chester.
The six seated themselves on the ground, and Gregory dealt out the
"I can't understand how a man will take a chance like this guard," said
"He says he needs money," declared Hal.
"But even so," said Chester, "he should have sense enough --?"
"You haven't forgotten he is German, have you?" demanded Jackson. "I
was brought up among them to some extent. One idea is all a true
German's head will hold at one time. That's the truth. And if he gets
an idea in his head, you can't get it out.
"Shh-h!" said Hal. "Here comes someone."
A moment later the guard with whom the lad had conversed entered the
tent. A second man followed him.
"Quiet!" whispered the first guard.
The two men sat down among the others . Each laid his rifle within easy
reach of his hand, and each loosened a revolver in his belt.
"Go on with the game," said the first German in a low voice.
Gregory dealt out the cards.
It was not Hal's intention to attempt a break for liberty as soon as
the Germans entered the tent. He knew that the two men would be on
their guard at least until their interest in the game had overcome
Neither Hal nor Chester were proficient in card playing. The game of
poker had not been included in their education. Nevertheless, each
knew the value of the cards, and they felt that a situation like this
would justify their taking a hand, considering the ends in view.
The German with whom Hal had conversed just outside the tent had poor
luck from the start, but his companion won. So far the men had made
no, attempt to play together, thus taking advantage of their
prisoners. But it wasn't long before they did.
There came a time when Gregory noticed this. He grew angry.
"Here!" he exclaimed. "That kind of playing won't go. This is a
friendly game, and I don't stand for that kind of work."
The Germans looked up in well-simulated surprise. They indicated by
gestures that Gregory was doing them an injustice; the game proceeded.
As time passed both Germans won now, Naturally, both grew more and more
interested in the game. And at last the moment for which Hal had been
waiting presented itself.
The Germans still had their rifles close to their sides, and from time
to time their hands toyed with the revolvers in their belts.
Hal, after a hand had been played out, arose and stretched himself.
The German eyed him suspiciously for a moment, but, as he appeared
about to sit down again, they turned their attention to the cards,
which Chester dealt them.
Suddenly Hal whipped out the revolver be had taken from the German
officer earlier, and, taking a quick step forward, covered the two
"Hands up!" he exclaimed in German.
The cards fell, to the ground, as Chester and the Canadians got to
their feet. The Germans sat still. Then, slowly, their hands went
into the air.
"Quick, men!" said Hal. "Get their revolvers and guns."
This was the work of an instant. The six friends now were armed with
three revolvers, two rifles, and one long knife.
"What'll we do with these fellows?" demanded Chester.
"We'll tie 'em up and gag 'em," said Hal without hesitation. "We can't
afford to have them raise the alarm."
"We've no rope, nor anything that looks like rope," said Chester.
"What'll we tie 'em up with?"
"Their own clothing will have to serve the purpose then," said Hal.
Quickly the Germans were stripped to their underclothing. Their shirts
were torn in strips, and they were securely bound. Handkerchiefs were
used as gags.
"There," said Hal, when this was accomplished. "I guess that will hold
them safe enough."
"It'll have to hold them," said Chester. "Now what?"
"Now to get out of here," said Hal.
"Look here, Lieutenant," said Jackson, "we can't go far in these
uniforms, you know."
"Of course I know it," Hal declared. "We can go far enough to tap a
few Germans over the head, though, maybe, in which event there will be
uniforms enough of the proper kind to go around."
"Right you are, sir," agreed Crean. "Lead the way."
Making sure that the Germans who had been bound would be unable to
release the improvised ropes, Hal moved to the entrance of the tent and
looked out. It was very dark outside, and Hal could see nothing.
"Guess the way is clear," he whispered, "but it's so dark out there you
can't see a thing. However, we'll take a chance, and we'll head toward
the front, for that's the direction in which we want to go."
The others followed him from the tent.
For perhaps five minutes they walked along without interruption, but at
the end of that time Hal, still in advance, made out a form approaching
them. He stopped in his tracks, and the others also stood stock
Hal now perceived that there were two figures advancing instead of
one. He reached back a hand and pulled Chester to his side. The two
lads moved forward together.
In the darkness it was impossible for the men who moved toward them to
make out the lads' uniforms, so, though they perceived the approaching
figures, they naturally took Hal and Chester for their own kind.
They moved slightly to one side in order that Hal and Chester might
pass. Instead, the lads stepped quickly up to them and shoved their
guns in their faces.
"Silence!" said Chester quietly. "Silence or you are dead men!"
Chester's tone left no room for doubt, and the Germans stood still
without a word. Hal now made out that they were officers -- both
"Take off your clothes," said Hal briefly.
The Germans understood the lad's plan, but under the muzzle of two
guns, they did not protest, and quickly stripped to their
under-garments . Hal and Chester each took possession of one of the
officer's revolvers. Then, covering the two men, Hal said:
"Get into one of those uniforms while I keep them covered, Chester."
Chester obeyed promptly, and then he, in turn, covered the men while
Hal changed clothes.
The lads now escorted their prisoners back to where the four Canadians
still stood in the darkness. There they explained the situation.
Willing hands tore the clothes that the two boys had discarded, and the
Germans, still in their underclothing, were hastily bound and gagged.
The party of British moved on again.
"Four more uniforms and a couple of more guns, and we are 0. K.," said
Fortune again smiled on them a few moments later. A party of three
German soldiers approached. These were quickly covered, and the same
procedure gone through with. A few moments later all except Gregory
were attired in German uniforms.
"Don't worry, old man," said Chester with a laugh. "We'll soon have
one for you, too."
"It's not that I am fond of a German uniform," said Gregory, "but I
just like to be in style."
The friends now passed several groups of Germans, but the latter were
in such large numbers that they did not accost them.
"What we want is just one man, or possibly two or three," said Chester.
"We don't want to tackle so many that there may be a fight."
At length their patience was rewarded. A solitary figure came toward
them. Hal stepped forward and accosted him.
With a gun poked under his nose, the German gave back a step.
"What's the matter?" he demanded. "Are you crazy?"
"Not a bit of it," said Hal, "but I want your clothes."
"Well," said the German, "you won't get them. This is no time of the
year for a man to be walking around with no clothes."
"Nevertheless, I must have yours," said Hal.
Chester came up at that moment, and his revolver, glistening in the
darkness, lent added weight to Hal's words.
"Oh, well, of course, if you insist," said the German.
He quickly stepped from his uniform, which Chester tossed back to
Gregory, who donned it hastily. As hastily the German was bound and
gagged, and Hal, Chester and the four Canadians moved forward again.
"We're safe enough for the moment," said Hal, as they walked along.
"The enemy will have no suspicion that we are other than we pretend to
daylight, when one look at your Canadian faces will give the whole
"That means," said Chester, "that we should be beyond the German lines
"Exactly," said Hal, "though how we shall do it is still the question."
"We've come along pretty well so far," said Gregory. "We won't give up
"Who said anything about giving up?" Chester wanted to know. "Of
course, we won't give up. Have you any idea where we are, Hal?"
"Well, I should judge we are pretty close to the town of Cambrai.
Personally, I believe the best plan would be to head in that
direction. I judge it to be directly south."
"But it is within the German lines," Chester protested.
"True, but once there we may be able to find a hiding place. In the
open we wouldn't have much chance if we failed to get beyond the lines
before daylight overtook us."
"You may be right," said Chester. "Once in Cambrai, providing we can
find a hiding place, we can figure out a means of leaving the German
"Exactly," said Hal, "and with a better chance of success."
"Suit you, men?" asked Chester.
"You're the doctor," said Gregory. "Lead the way. We'll follow." Hal
and Chester turned abruptly to the left. "South it is, then," said
As it developed, the distance to Cambrai, one of the chief points in
the German line of communications, was comparatively short.
As the six plodded along through the darkness there was no
conversation. None of the Canadians spoke German, and Hal and Chester
had instructed them to be silent, for the sound of a few English words
would have done more to destroy the success of their venture than any
other possible thing. As for Hal and Chester, both of whom spoke
German fluently, neither felt like talk.
It was almost midnight when the lads saw before them what appeared to
be the lights of a small town. Approaching closer, they saw that they
were, indeed, approaching a settlement of some kind.
"Cambrai, do you suppose?" asked Chester.
"Don't know," returned Hal. "Probably is. I understand that Cambrai
is about the largest place around here, and this seems to be quite a
Half an hour later they set foot in the streets of the little French
city, in German hands now for more than three years.
"We'll hunt a house with a light and see if they'll put us up for the
night," said Hal.
Down a side street they saw a house somewhat larger than the others.
Several lights showed from the windows.
"Somebody up, at all events," said Chester.
"Trouble is, Germans may already be quartered there," said Hal.
"Well, we'll have to take a chance," said Chester grimly.
"Right. So the sooner we try the better."
Hal led the way, and knocked on the door. Came the sound of hurried
footsteps within, and a moment later the door was thrown open. An old
woman poked her head out.
"What do you want?" she demanded.
"A place to sleep," replied Hal, in excellent German, although the
woman had spoken in French.
"There is no place here for you!" exclaimed the woman, and would have
shut the door.
But Hal was too quick for her. He shoved a foot in the door, and thus
prevented its closing.
"Come, my good woman," he said. "We mean you no harm, but we must have
a place to spend the night."
"How many of you are there?" asked the woman.
"Six," replied Hal briefly.
The woman threw up her hands in a gesture of dismay.
"I can't possibly take care of so many!" she exclaimed.
"But we are all coming in," declared Hal, who realized that the sooner
they were off the streets the better.
He pushed the door open and went inside. Chester and the four
Canadians followed him.
"Which way, madam?" asked Hal. "Upstairs?"
The old woman nodded, and led the way up a flight of winding steps.
"I've only one room," she said, "so you will have to make the most of
"That will be satisfactory," said Hal. "We don't like to inconvenience
"You don't, eh?" exclaimed the woman. "You're the first who wear that
uniform who haven't gone out of their way to inconvenience me, and all
other French women."
"Come, come," said Hal. "I'm afraid you are too hard on us."
"I'm not half as hard on you as the French and British will be when
they get hold of you!" exclaimed the woman angrily.
Hal looked at her in surprise. He supposed that all women in territory
conquered by the Germans had long since realized the value of keeping a
silent tongue in their head. Aloud he said:
"I would advise you to be more careful of your speech. If words like
those came to the ears of the general staff, you probably would be
"You can't frighten me," declared their hostess. "'I say what I
please, Germans or no Germans."
"Well, suit yourself," said Hal, "but don't forget that I have warned
"Thank you," sneered the woman. "Here's your room," kicking open the
door at the top of the stairs. "You can sleep there if you wish, but I
hope the British have arrived when you wake up again."
She waited for no reply, but descended the stairs hastily.
"By Jove!" muttered Hal. "The Germans snared a Tartar when they caught
"They certainly did," Chester agreed with a smile. "Great Scott!
Seems to me she could have given us a candle or something. It's as
dark as pitch in this room."
"You fellows stay here," said Hal. "I'll go down and remind her that
she has been negligent in her duty as hostess."
Hal descended the stairs quietly. As quietly he passed through the
room that in days of peace apparently had served as a parlor, and moved
toward a door beyond, under which a light streamed.
"Guess she's in there," said Hal.
He laid a hand on the knob and opened the door.
As he did so there was an exclamation of alarm. Hal, in the light
beyond, saw a form disappear into another room. The old woman ran
"What do you mean by coming in here without knocking?" she exclaimed
"Why --why, I didn't know --" Hal began.
"Of course you didn't know," shouted the woman. "But I'll have you
understand that you can't make free of my house, though you be the
From the folds of her skirt she suddenly produced a large revolver,
which she leveled squarely at the lad. Hal stepped back.
"Here, my good woman," he said. "Put down that gun. Don't you know
that a single shot will arouse the whole German army. You couldn't
The woman hesitated, and the revolver wavered. Before she could bring
it to bear again, had such been her intention, Hal seized her arm,
twisted sharply, and the revolver fell to the floor with a clatter.
"I'm afraid you're not to be trusted with that gun," the lad said
He stooped, picked up the weapon, and stowed it away in his own pocket
with this mental comment:
"One more weapon for our own little army."
"You're a brute," gasped the woman. "You're just like all Germans."
"Silence," said Hal. "I have heard enough from you. What I came here
for was to tell you that you had neglected to furnish us with a light.
Now I shall have to look in yonder closet, where I saw a man secret
himself as I came in."
The old woman flew across the room and stood defiantly in front of the
"You can't go in there! "she exclaimed.
"I can't, eh?" said Hal. "Why can't I?"
"Because I say you can't."
"That is a very poor reason," said Hal. "Either you will stand aside
now, or I shall call my men."
The woman realized the force of this reasoning. With a gesture of
resignation she stepped aside. Hal advanced.
"I hope he shoots you through the door," said the woman to Hal.
"Thanks for the hint," said Hal dryly. "I'll keep out of the line of
He approached the door from the side, and, standing close, called:
"Whoever you are in there, come out."
There was no response, and Hal called again.
"I've got the door covered," the lad shouted, and if you don't come out
I shall fire through it."
Slowly the door moved open. Hal stepped quickly aside, for he did not
wish to be taken unaware. He seized a chair and sent it spinning
across the floor. The ruse succeeded, for the man inside, taking the
noise made by the chair for the sound of Hal's feet, stepped quickly
forward and pointed a revolver in that direction.
This meant that Hal stood directly behind the newcomer. Smiling to
himself, Hal raised his revolver and said quietly:
"Drop that gun or I'll bore a hole through you. No, don't bother to
Realizing that he was absolutely in the other's power, the newcomer
obeyed. The revolver fell clattering to the floor.
"Now," said Hal, "I'd like to have a look at you. Please turn around."
Slowly the other turned, and, as Hal caught sight of the man's face,
his own revolver dropped to the floor and he sprang forward with
"Major Derevaux!" he cried.
THE MAJOR EXPLAINS
The man who had emerged from the closet gazed at Hal in amazement.
"Who are you?" he exclaimed, taking a step forward.
"What! Don't you know me?" exclaimed Hal.
The other peered at him intently. Then he uttered an exclamation of
"Hal Paine!" he cried. "Is it really you? And what are you doing in
"I might ask you, major, what you are doing out of uniform?" laughed
Hal, as he grasped his old friend's hand.
"Well, I'm here on business," explained the major.
"And I'm here trying to get out of the German lines," said Hal.
"And where is Chester?" asked the major.
"He's upstairs, waiting for me to bring up a candle that he may have
light," said Hal. "By George! It's good to see you again. Let me
see, it has been almost two years since I last saw you in France."
"Yes, it's been all of that," agreed the major.
"And what of our old friend Anderson? Do you know what has happened to
"No," said Hal, "the last indirect word I had of him he had been sent
to Mesopotamia. I have not seen him for many months. But, tell me,
what are you doing here?"
"It isn't a very long story," said Major Derevaux. "As you perhaps
know, General Byng's drive against the Germans has been one of the
greatest successes since the Battle of the Marne."
"Well," the major continued, "I have been stationed with General Pitain
at Verdun, where I last saw you. Now we know that the Germans have
drawn heavily from other fronts to make possible the Italian invasion.
Other fronts now will have to be weakened to hold back General Byng --
even to launch a counter- offensive, for we all know that Hindenburg
will strike back. That leaves the Verdun situation somewhat in the
"I see," said Hal. "If you can make sure that the Verdun front of the
enemy has been weakened, the French will strike there."
"Exactly," said the major. "Then there is another possibility. It may
be the plan of the German general staff to make a show of force here
and then, when we are feeling secure before Verdun, to deliver a
lightning-like blow there. Those are the things I am commissioned to
"I see," said Hal again. "But how does it happen I find you here?"
"It's very simple. This woman here is a distant relative of mine. She
is a patriot to the soul. Under the gruff exterior which you have seen
she is the most kindly soul in the world. She is risking her life
every minute she remains here, for she is accounted one of the most
successful of French spies."
"Great Scott!" exclaimed Hal. "You don't mean it. Why, her very
actions toward us, if used toward other Germans, it strikes me, would
mean a firing squad for her."
"That," laughed Major Derevaux, "has been her greatest asset. The
Germans are not particularly fond of her, that's a fact. She attacks
them with a sharp tongue, but for that very reason she is looked upon
as harmless. Come, I'll introduce you."
Major Derevaux led the way across the room to where the woman had been
eyeing the two in the utmost astonishment.
"Lieutenant Paine," said the Major,. "I take pleasure in presenting you
to Mademoiselle Vaubaun. Mademoiselle, this is Lieutenant Paine, of
His British Majesty's service."
"I must correct you, major," said Hal, smiling and acknowledging the
introduction. "Lieutenant Paine, U. S.A."
"Oh -- o!" said the, major. "So you are fighting with your own
countrymen at last, eh?"
"I am, thank goodness," said Hal. "But can this indeed be Mademoiselle
Vaubaun? I have heard of her before, but I judged that she was a young
Major Derevaux smiled.
"And a consummate actress," he said. "Mademoiselle, will you grant my
friend the lieutenant a look at your true self?"
"If this young man is a friend of yours, Raoul, he is a friend of
mine," said the woman.
She removed a cap from her head, straightened herself up and shook down
her hair. Then she passed a hand several times over her face, and when
Hal looked again there stood before him a girl in her teens.
"Great Scott!" exclaimed Hal, and started back.
In a few words he now explained his own presence in the German lines,
together with that of Chester and the four Canadians.
Mademoiselle Vaubaun, in turn, told the lad how she had been left in
Cambrai when German troops had swept across Belgium and France in the
early days of the war, and how, from time to time, she had found it
possible to send word to the French and British staffs of impending
"But how about me and my friends?" inquired Hal.
"I can hide you all, too. Beyond the room in which your friends are
now is a second room and beyond that a false wall. It is there, I will
hide the major. I was about to take him there when you came to the
door tonight. There is room for all."
"Then I shall return to my friends," said Hal. "I have been gone so
long Chester will fear something has happened to me. Will you go with
"To be sure. I shall be glad to see Chester again. May we have a
"I will lead the way myself," said the girl. "It will be as well that
you go to your hiding places now."
She lighted the way upstairs with a candle.
In the darkened room above, Chester and the Canadians had been waiting
impatiently. Chester had come to the conclusion that something had
happened to Hal and was about to go down and hunt for him. As the
light came upstairs, however, he drew back.
"It's all right, Chester," Hal called. "Here is the light and an old
friend to greet you."
"Old friend," said Chester in surprise. "I didn't know I had any
friends on this side of the line."
"Well, have a look at this man and see if you recognize him," said Hal,
and pushed Major Derevaux forward.
Chester took one look at the major and then dashed forward with hand
"Major Derevaux!" he cried.
The two clasped hands warmly.
"Now, Chester," said Hal, "I want you to meet our hostess, Mademoiselle
Chester bowed in acknowledgment of the introduction, then added: "I
suppose it was your mother who admitted us some time since?"
The girl laughed lightly.
"Why, no," she said. "I admitted you myself."'
"But - but --" said Chester, nonplussed.
"I'm not surprised at you, Chester," said Hal. "Cannot a woman or a
girl wear a disguise as well as you?"
"By Jove!" said Chester. "I hadn't thought of that. So that was it,
"Yes, that was it," said the girl.
The Canadians now were introduced around, after which the young girl
"Come. I may as well show you to your hiding places. It is as well
for you to be there as here.
There is no telling when some of the Germans may arrive."
"But aren't you afraid to be among them alone?" asked Hal.
"Pshaw!" exclaimed the girl. "Who would hurt a harmless old woman?"
She led the way into the room beyond, walked across and pressed a
hidden spring in the side of the wall. Instantly a secret door moved
"It can be opened from within as well," said the girl. "You may have a
light here if you wish. The door is so constructed that the rays
cannot be seen from without. I shall leave you now. My only
injunction is, do not talk too loud. I'll bring you food and water in
She bade them good-night and took her leave.
The friends talked in low tones for some moments, then stretched out on
the floor and soon were fast asleep.
ANTOINETTE "MAKES GOOD"
True to her word, Antoinette appeared with food and drink early the
following morning. She was again disguised as an old woman, and Hal
and Chester could scarcely believe that a wig and a few dabs of paint
could possibly conceal the girlish face they had seen the night
"I have had word to prepare a big dinner for a dozen officers of the
general, staff," the girl informed Major Derevaux, "so it may be that I
shall have the necessary information by nightfall."
"Let us hope so," said the major devoutly.
"And let us hope that you are not risking your life in getting it,"
"Thank you," said Antoinette. "I assure you I shall be very careful.
Now, you must all remain here quietly today. You may be able to leave
soon after dark."
She left the hiding place and closed the secret door behind her.
"And after we leave the house, then what?" asked Hal of Major
"Don't you worry," said the major with a smile. "All that has been
taken care of. Ten minutes' walk from here is a large army airplane.
It brought me here and it will take us all back again."
"All of us?" exclaimed Hal.
"Yes," the major replied. "I have made trips in it before. The
machine will carry ten passengers beside a pilot."
"And you do the driving, eh?" said Hal.
"No," said the major. "I have never learned the art. The pilot is
with the craft."
"You mean he is in hiding in the woods?"
"Great Scott!" cried Hal. "I wouldn't care about his job. Your job
now isn't so bad, because you've a chance of action. But just think of
sitting in a woods and waiting - waiting -- never knowing what minute
you are likely to be discovered."
"It is hard," agreed the major. "And here I am refreshed by a night's
sleep, while he must remain there in the cold with his eyes open every
"If he is discovered, then what?" asked Chester.
"His instructions, if discovered," said the major, "are to attempt to
escape, leaving me behind."
"In which event," said Chester, "you'd have a hard time getting away."
"That's true. But nothing risked nothing gained, you know."
"True enough," said Hal. "Well, we must take what comes, but I hope
Mademoiselle Vaubaun does not get mixed up in any trouble."
"You seem to take rather a great deal of interest in the fair
Antoinette," said Chester slyly.
Hal's face turned red.
"Well, why shouldn't I?" he demanded. "No one likes to see a girl or a
woman mixed up in this kind of business."
"Are you sure that is it?" demanded Chester. "Or is it just because it
chanced to be Mademoiselle Vaubaun?"
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Hal angrily.
"Oh, no offense, no offense," declared Chester. "I was just talking to
hear myself talk -- maybe."
Major Derevaux smiled.
"Antoinette is a very nice girl," he said. "I'm sure she would
appreciate Hal's interest in her. I'll tell her about it."
"I say! Don't do that!" exclaimed Hal in some confusion.
"Ha, ha!" laughed Chester.
Hal sat down again, his face still burning.
Even the Canadians joined in the general laugh, and Hal himself
smiled. The joke was on him, and he was not the lad to get angry.
"Oh, well, have it your own way," he said. "It does no good to deny
The day passed slowly.
Antoinette did not appear at noon with food and water, as the others
had expected she would.
"Probably busy serving the German officers," said Hal. "What's the
difference, though. We can get along very well without one meal."
Night came, though to those in the little secret room it was not
apparent that darkness had fallen. Hal glanced at his watch. It was
after 7 o'clock.
"It's funny she hasn't come yet," he declared.
"Who do you mean by she?" asked Chester.
"Why, Antoinette," said Hal. "I --"
"Oh, sure," said Chester. "I know who you meant, all right. So you
are calling her by her first name already, eh?"
"Look here," said Hal, "I don't think that is a bit funny."
"I apologize, old man," said Chester quickly. "I shouldn't have said
"Say no more about it then," said Hal. "I am afraid, though, that
there is something wrong downstairs."
"I am beginning to think the same thing," declared Major Derevaux. "I
wonder if it would not be well for one of us to sneak out and have a
"I don't believe it would do any harm," declared Hal. "I'll go."
Chester was about to joke Hal again, but he changed his mind and held
"I agree," he said. "If you want to go, Hal, we'll wait here."
"Good. If I have not returned in fifteen minutes you will know
something has happened. In that event, I would advise that you all
come down together, lend me a hand if I'm still in the house and in
condition to be helped, and we'll all make a break for the airship."
"That is satisfactory," said Major Derevaux.
"And if I'm not in condition to be helped," said Hal, "go along without
me. You will not have time to be burdened with excess baggage."
The others nodded and Hal gently slid open the secret door.
"Remember," he whispered back, "fifteen minutes."
The door closed behind him.
Hal made his way quietly through the two rooms that led to the stairs,
and as quietly descended. As he passed through the parlor and
approached the room in which he had met Major Derevaux the night before
he heard the sound of voices. He paused and listened.
One he made out was a male voice, which he took to belong to a German
officer. The second was that of Mademoiselle Vaubaun. Then a third
voice boomed out. This, Hal knew, was that of a second German.
Hal approached the door and put his eye to the key-hole. Then he
started back and whipped out his revolver.
In the center of the room sat Antoinette Vaubaun. She was no longer
attired as an old woman. She was the girl that Hal had seen the night
before. Her hair hung down her back. It was perfectly plain to the
lad that she had been discovered. Her face, though pale, was set
sternly. Hal listened to the conversation that ensued.
"So you are a spy, eh?" said a big German officer who sat on her
The girl made no response.
"Why don't you answer?" demanded the third occupant of the room, a
heavily bearded man, and shook his fist threateningly in her face.
"I'll answer only what I choose to answer," returned Antoinette
quietly. "Neither you nor the whole German army can make me talk."
"Is that so?" sneered the first man. "I suppose you've heard of the
fate that came to an English nurse called Edith Cavell, eh?"
"I have," replied the girl angrily, "and it was crime for which Germany
will have to pay some day. But you can't frighten me."
"You, too, will be shot as a spy," declared the larger German.
"And do you think that frightens me? I have done a whole lot for my
country. Many times I warned my countrymen of an impending German
attack. I am only sorry that I shall no longer have the opportunity."
"What!" exclaimed the German. "You admit it!"
"Of course I admit it. Why not?"
The German took a step toward the girl and raised a hand as though he
This was more than Hal could stand. He sent the door crashing in with
a swift kick and dashed into the room.
It would have been possible for Hal to have shot the German where he
stood, but the lad was so angry that he wanted a word with him first.
"You big, hulking coward!" he cried.
Both Germans dropped their hands to their revolvers.
Hal's revolver flashed fire.
The German nearest the young French girl clapped a hand to his forehead
and sank to the floor.
There was a flash as the second German fired.
A FIGHT FOR FREEDOM
Hal felt a stinging sensation in his left side. He paid no attention
to this however, but, dropping suddenly to the floor, turned to face
his adversary. He saw in that instant the reason the German's bullet
had not penetrated a vital spot.
As the German had fired, Antoinette, with a quick movement, had grasped
at his arm. She had not succeeded in turning the revolver from its
victim, but she did manage to spoil the man's aim. Therefore, the
bullet had glanced off one of Hal's ribs.
He now held the advantage, and yet it was not an advantage, for,
realizing that he was facing almost certain death, the German had swung
the girl in front of him and was using her as a shield.
"Shoot! Don't mind me!" Antoinette called.
But Hal would not fire without first making sure that he would not hit
the girl. The German had succeeded now in freeing his hand, and,
pointing the revolver over the girl's shoulder, pulled the trigger
Hal escaped this bullet by a quick spring aside, and, before the German
could fire again, he had skipped forward, darted back of his opponent,
and gripped him with his left hand by the throat.
Antoinette clawed so furiously at her captor that the German suddenly
released her with a cry of anger, and swung about to confront Hal. He
struck out so viciously that Hal stepped back to avoid the blow. The
German again raised his revolver, but Hal, moving quickly forward,
again struck at the German's revolver with his own -- he had no time to
raise it to fire. The German's revolver was knocked from his grasp,
but Hal also lost his grip on his weapon and both went clattering to
the floor together.
Realizing that he was no match for his heavier opponent if they came to
hand grips, Hal stepped quickly back and threw himself into an attitude
of defense. It was the lad's plan to stand off, if possible, and
But the German had no mind to indulge in this kind of fighting, of
which he had not the slightest knowledge. He came forward with a
rush. Hal side-stepped and planted his right fist with great force
above his opponent's left ear. The German staggered, but he did not go
down. Before he could recover, Hal struck twice again -- right and
left, but neither blow found a vulnerable spot.
The German uttered a terrible roar of anger and charged again. This
time Hal was not successful in avoiding the rush and the man's arms
went about him. Hal felt his breath leaving his body as the German
In vain the lad struck out right and left . Several times he felt his
blows land, but there was no power behind them now.
As Hal struggled with the German, Antoinette had picked up one of the
revolvers and circled around behind the struggling figures, trying to
find an opening that she might fire without risk of hitting Hal. None
Hal was gasping for breath. His mouth was open and his tongue hung
out. Suddenly the lad's struggle relaxed and he became limp in the
German's arms. The latter threw the boy's inert body from him roughly,
and as he did so Antoinette fired. The German staggered as the bullet
struck him in the side. As he turned to face her the girl fired
The German dropped to the floor and the bullet passed over him. Before
the girl could aim again, the man had seized a revolver from the floor
and covered her.
"Drop that gun!" he cried.
There was nothing for Antoinette to do but obey. She dropped the
"Sit down!" the German commanded.
Again the girl obeyed.
Her captor now saw signs of returning consciousness in Hal. He walked
across the room, and, still keeping his revolver ready in one hand,
stooped and picked Hal up with the other.
He deposited the lad on a sofa near the girl.
"Now I've got you both, so there'll be a double execution," he
growled. "I'll just sit here and guard you till some of my men turn
Meanwhile, upstairs, Chester, Major Derevaux and the four Canadians had
waited impatiently. The sound of revolver shots below had not carried
to their ears. Chester closed his watch with a snap.
"Time's up," he said quietly. "They must have nabbed Hal. Let's go
There were no objections offered, so Chester led the way.
The American lad, the French officer and the four Canadian. troopers
descended the stairs as quietly as had Hal, and as quietly approached
the door to the room where the German officer now guarded his
captives. Chester peered through the key-hole and took in the
situation at a glance.
Chester, however, used more caution than had Hal. Also he chose to
proceed with strategy rather than force. Now, the lad realized, was a
time when his German uniform would stand him in good stead. He
explained his plan in whispers, and as the others stood back out of the
way, Chester walked calmly into the room.
The German officer rose to his feet. He did not know Chester from
Adam, of course, but he recognized the uniform.
"Glad you've come, lieutenant," he said. "I've had a deuced hard time
here. As you may see, I have been shot in the side. Colonel
Brewsterberg has been killed. I'll ask you to take charge of my
"Very well, sir," said Chester, and produced a revolver.
The German officer returned his revolver to his holster and made as
though to leave the room.
"One moment," said Chester sharply.
The German stopped in his tracks and eyed him in surprise.
"I'll thank you for your gun," said Chester.
A great light broke upon the German.
"I see! I see!" he exclaimed. "Another one!"
His hand groped for his revolver.
"Be sure you keep your finger off the trigger," said Chester
For a moment the German hesitated and it was apparent to Chester that
he was considering resistance.
"I wouldn't if I were you," said the lad quietly.
The German shrugged his shoulders, then took out his revolver and
passed it to Chester, holding it by the muzzle.
"Thanks," said Chester. "Now sit down over there."
He motioned to a chair and the German sat down.
"All right, major," called Chester. "You can come in now."
Major Derevaux entered the room, followed by the four Canadians. The
German prisoner looked at them in amazement. Apparently he thought the
whole Allied army was about to follow them in.
"Major," said Chester, "you stand guard over that fellow. I'll have a
look at Hal."
"I'm all right," said Hal, as Chester approached him. "Bullet struck
me in the side, but it is nothing dangerous, I guess. That big German
there nearly choked the life out of me, though. He's a hard customer."
Chester staunched the flow of blood in Hal's wound, and the latter
announced that he was fit as a fiddle.
"The thing to do now is to get out of here," he said.
Under Major Derevaux's direction, Gregory and Crean had securely bound
and gagged the prisoner.
The major now approached Antoinette.
"Have you learned anything?" he asked.
"Yes," replied the girl quietly. "The next German attack will be made
day after tomorrow on this front, in an effort to recapture ground won
by General Byng. There will be no activity now in the Verdun sector."
"But will the enemy weaken his lines there?"
"Such is not the plan. The general staff believes that there are
enough men on this front to go through."
"Good!" said the major. "That's what I came all this way to learn.
But how were you discovered, Antoinette?"
"My wig came off," replied the girl. "One of the Germans tapped me
playfully on the head, and his ring caught in my hair. The next thing
I knew I was a prisoner."
"It's too bad," said the major. "We have lost a valuable assistant
now. Of course, there is no use in your remaining here longer. You
must go with us."
"But I would so like to stay," murmured the girl.
"But you can't," said Hal eagerly. "You can see that, can't you?"
Antoinette nodded her head.
"Yes, I must go," she said quietly.
"Then let's be moving," said the major.
The girl got to her feet. Chester led the way to the back door. But
as he would have thrown open the door and stepped out, he moved back
inside with an exclamation.
"What's the matter?" demanded Hal in some alarm.
"Matter?" exclaimed Chester. "The yard is full of Germans!"
Hal gave a long whistle.
"Now, that's what I call hard luck," he said. "Do they know we're in
"I judge not," replied Chester. "They seem, to be waiting for
"Maybe they're waiting for our friend, whom we have tied up here, said
"By Jove! I hadn't thought of that," said Hal. "We may be able to
make use of him."
The lad stepped quickly across the room and lifted the German to his
"I'm going to remove your gag," he said quietly, "but I want you to
understand that if you make an outcry you'll never live to make a
second. Do you understand?"
The German signified that he did.
"All right, then," said Hal, "out comes the gag. Chester, keep your
gun in the middle of his back. We can afford to take no chances."
"Now," said Hal, "I want you to show yourself at the door and order
your men there away."
The German eyed the lad angrily.
"So you want me to help you escape, eh?" he said. "Well, I won't do
"We're desperate," said Hal quietly. "If you don't I give you my word
you shall be shot."
"Pooh!" sneered the German. "One shot and you will all be killed."
"But you won't be here to see it done," returned Hal. "Now I am not
going to waste time with you. I shall count three, and if you have not
decided by that time to do as I order, you will die. Chester, do you
"You bet I do," declared Chester.
"Very well," said Hal. "One! Two!" Still the German made no move.
"Three!" said Hal.
The hammer on Chester's revolver clicked.
"Hold on!" cried the German. "I give in!"
Chester drew a breath of relief. He couldn't have shot the man down in
cold blood and he knew it. He lowered his revolver a trifle, but still
kept the man covered.
"Go to the door and order your men away from here," Hal ordered the
The German strode toward the door.
"Careful," said Chester in a low voice. "One false move and it will be
Again he pressed his revolver against the German's back.
"Do you think I'm a fool?" exclaimed the prisoner. "I'm not going to
be killed if I can help it. Take that gun away."
"Not until you have done as commanded," returned Chester quietly.
The German opened the door and stepped outside. Chester, still feeling
perfectly safe in his German uniform, accompanied him.
"Men," said the German, addressing the soldiers, "I find that I shall
not have need of you tonight. You will a return to your quarters."
The soldiers, who had stood at attention as the officer addressed them,
at command from a minor officer, wheeled and marched away.
Chester marched his captive back inside.
"There," said the latter. "That's done; now what are you going to do
"We'll have to tie and gag you again," said Chester. "You will be
found and released in the morning."
"And probably court-martialed and shot if this night's proceedings ever
leaks out," muttered the German. "However, there is no help for it."
He suffered himself to be bound and gagged without opposition, and Hal
then stretched him out on the floor again.
"Now," said the lad, "I guess our way is clear once more."
He moved toward the door, with the others following. Glancing out, he
raised a hand suddenly and motioned the others to silence.
Outside two figures approached the house cautiously.
Hal called Chester to his side and the two watched the approaching
figures. It was too dark outside to distinguish the features of the
men who approached, but there was no room for doubt that they were
"Back inside and put out the light," whispered Hal. "They're coming
in." The light was extinguished promptly. Then Hal added: "Be ready
to grab them and stifle their cries the minute they are inside and I
have closed the door behind them."
Those in the house stood silent.
A moment later the door moved cautiously inward. Then two shadowy
forms stepped inside. Immediately Hal kicked shut the door behind them
and sprang forward to lend a hand to Chester and Major Derevaux, who
had pounced upon the strangers as they entered.
"Don't let them cry out and don't kill them if you can help it," the
The struggle raged furiously in the darkened room for some moments.
Then Hal and Chester found themselves sitting upon one of the
intruders, the latter with a revolver pressed to the man's forehead.
Gregory and Crean also had taken a hand in the struggle, and, with
Major Derevaux, now held the other man helpless.
"Strike a light, Antoinette," called the major.
The girl obeyed, and then for the first time the lads were able to get
a look at their prisoners.
"By the great Horn Spoon!" ejaculated Chester, after one look at his
prisoner. "I'll take my oath that this man is Stubbs."
At the same moment a cry of astonishment was wrung from Major
"Anderson!" he cried.
Chester and Hal got to their feet. The former twisted his hand in the
collar of his prisoner and lifted him to his feet.
"Stubbs!" he said severely, "you should know better than sneak upon a
fellow in the dark. You are liable to get hurt."
"I wouldn't have sneaked up, if I had known you were here," growled
Stubbs. "I would have come up openly and with my gun shooting."
"My, my!" said Chester. "Little man's getting bloodthirsty. But
didn't I hear someone mention the name of Anderson."
"You did," replied a voice, and Chester found his hand gripped by none
other than his old friend, the British colonel. "By George! I'm glad
to see you again," continued Anderson, "though I must say that this is
rather a strenuous reception for a couple of old friends."
He also shook hands with Hal. Major Derevaux and Stubbs expressed
pleasure at seeing each other again. Then Hal demanded:
"Where did you get hold of Stubbs, Anderson?"
"I found him back in the British lines," said the colonel. "I was
detailed to come here to see a woman who lives in this house and to
bring a companion for the journey. I asked Stubbs to accompany me, and
he was glad of the chance."
"What!" exclaimed Hal. "You mean you brought Stubbs where there was
danger and he didn't protest."
"No, I didn't protest," declared the little war correspondent. "But I
protest now. I didn't sign up for any adventures in your party, and
neither will I; you can bet on that."
"If you didn't know him, you'd think he was afraid," laughed Colonel
"I am afraid," declared Stubbs. "I'm afraid to go fooling around with
these two," and he indicated Hal and Chester with a sweeping gesture.
"I'd rather fool around with dynamite."
"Well, we can't stay here any longer," said Major Derevaux, and in a
few words explained to Colonel Anderson what had happened. "What was
the nature of your business here?" he asked.
"About. the same as yours," returned the colonel with a laugh. "But,
as you say, there is no need to linger now. You have learned what I
Came to find out. We may as well be moving."
"How'd you come, an airship?" asked the major. "Yes; and you?"
"Then we may as well get both machines back. I'll take half of your
party. My plane is only about a hundred yards from here."
"My plane is not much farther -- in a little woods there."
"By Jove! So is mine. Wouldn't be surprised if they were near the
same spot. Well, let's be moving."
Colonel Anderson led the way from the house, and the others followed
him through the darkness.
A NEW VENTURE
It was three days later and Hal and Chester sat in their own quarters
in the shelter of the American lines. The flight from the German lines
had been made safely. The aeroplanes had been found where Colonel
Anderson and Major Derevaux had left them.
These had ascended without knowledge of the Germans, and had started on
their homeward flight before being discovered. Then there had been
pursuit, but they had landed without being so much as scratched.
"Well," said Hal, rising and picking up a pile of papers, "I've studied
these maps until I know them by heart. Now if someone can tell me what
it's all about, I'll be obliged."
"Same here," Chester agreed. "Funny, when you stop to think about it.
Here they give us these maps and tell us to stuff our heads full of
them. Well, my head is full, all right."
"And mine -- Hello, here comes someone."
"It's Captain O'Neill. Maybe he'll, be ready to explain now," said
A moment later the American captain entered the tent. The boys
saluted. The captain came to the point at once.
"You are both familiar with airplanes?" he asked.
The lads nodded.
"So I understand," said the captain. "Also I hear that several times
you have landed upon unfamiliar ground, and in the dark. I am
informed, too, that you are always willing to take desperate risks. Am
"We are glad to do what we can," returned Chester quietly.
"Understand," said the captain, "you will be asked to land not only in
the dark but behind the enemy lines, not knowing who or what is below."
"We understand," said Hal quietly.
"I have come to offer you this opportunity," said Captain O'Neill
quietly. "Tonight -- the exact time is 10 o'clock -- we attack in
force. In comparison, the assaults before this have been as nothing.
I say we, but I mean chiefly, of course, the French. There will be
some American troops in the advance, however. The mission I am now
offering you was turned over to us by the French general staff."
"We shall be glad of the opportunity to aid, sir," said Hal.
"Good!" said Captain O'Neill, and continued: "One element alone is
uncertain; one only is to be ascertained. The force and disposition
of the defending troops in shell holes, in their concrete 'pill-boxes,'
in their flanking trenches all have been ascertained. They will be
blasted out by our artillery. But they have additional forces below
the ground, in great caverns too far down to be reached by our shells;
they are tremendous underground works concealing whole battalions, many
thousands of men, whose presence is known; but the entrances and the
means of egress from those great caverns have so far eluded us.
"We have discovered some of these entrances," he continued, "but
immediately they have changed. At present we do not know them. But at
10 o'clock tonight the points from which the German reserves will
emerge must be instantly and accurately marked. When our infantry goes
over the top and the Germans order their shock troops out from the safe
underground refuges to meet our men, we must know the points where the
enemy battalions are coming up. Some of these points will be cared for
by French already in position to inform us. I offer to you the
opportunity of marking others of those points."
"We shall be glad," said Hal simply.
"Very well. You understand, of course, that you will be killed if
discovered. Both of you come with me."
He arose, and Hal and Chester followed the captain to his motor-car,
which they entered and drove to the main road, over which German
prisoners captured early in the day were still streaming to the rear.
Overhead a few aeroplanes still buzzed -- combat and fire control and
staff "observation" machines seeking out their aerodromes in the
dark. It grew dark so quickly now that Hal, looking up, saw the
colored flash of the signal lights from a pilot's pistol; they burned
an instant red and blue and red again as they dropped through the air;
and, in response to the signal, greenish white flares gleamed from the
ground to the right, outlining the aviation field; then the flying
machine, which had signaled, began to come down.
From far beyond the drum fire of artillery rumbled and rattled.
The car ran up a side road and halted before a little hut. Captain
"We bad the misfortune, in the attack this morning," he said, "to lose
one of our most useful people. The enemy had employed him, recently,
in excavating certain of their great underground stations, which I have
mentioned; but last night they had him in a front-line trench, which we
took this morning. He has volunteered to return to his post, if we can
place him behind the lines, but, I regret, he is in no condition for
further service. Therefore, we must send a substitute."
Captain O'Neill led the way into a candle lighted room, where a man was
lying in bed. Civilian clothes -- the rags of a French refugee from
the other side of the lines -- hung on the wall beside him. The man
was very weak, with hands which drooped from the wrist as he half sat
up as the captain entered. The man's name, the captain informed the
lads, was Jean Brosseau.
Captain O'Neill produced a map, a duplicate of the ones which the lads
had been given several days before. The man in bed now detailed to
them the exact nature and purpose of the markings and spots. It was
all lined off into little squares and oblongs, each described with a
letter and number. These were for the guiding of the guns -- because,
for each tiny square on the German side of the lines, there was a
battery or a couple of batteries behind the French front, whose
business was solely to sweep that square with high explosive shells,
gas shells and shrapnel, when the battle was on.
To escape those shells, the Germans again were burrowing, Brosseau
pointed out. Some places they had burrowed far too deep to be
endangered by shells; but their ways of egress were not known. These
were covered with camouflage.
Hal took down the shirt from the wall; vermin crawled in it. Captain
O'Neill had not made the mistake of having it steamed or washed or
disinfected; vermin and filth of underground communications soiled the
rags of Jean Brosseau's jacket, his trousers, his cap. Hal, without
ceremony, stripped off his uniform and underclothes. His body was
clean and without calluses; the cleanliness was soon remedied. Then he
dressed, to give him all the time possible to become accustomed to the
garments of a French citizen in the hands of the enemy.
The reverberations of the guns outside had increased mightily; they
seemed to double again to topmost intensity. Captain O'Neill frowned a
little as he heard them and glanced at his watch. A motorcycle
clattered up and stopped outside; a man knocked at the door, delivered
a message to Captain O'Neill, and departed. Captain O'Neill read the
message and tore it to bits. Hal and Chester waited without question;
but the sick man had to ask:
"We have lost ground, sir?"
"No, no! All goes well -- very well, except for us here," Captain
O'Neill replied. "The time is moved forward; that is all."
He bent again over the map.
"There will not be time now if you are taken far back of the German
lines where an aeroplane may come down unobserved. There will not be
time," he repeated to Hal, "for you to work forward to the position
where you must be."
"What's the matter with coming down near the position where we're
wanted?" asked Hal.
"Near their lines?" Captain O'Neill questioned. "There will be men all
about, of course; you will be observed."
"What's the matter with coming down observed sir?" said Chester.
"Observed," repeated the captain. "How do you mean?"
"It is something we have talked of before," said Hal. "We have often
considered this method of getting a man down inside the German lines,
even in a section where discovery is certain. A machine goes up
carrying bombs, perhaps; it drops them and attracts anti-aircraft
fire. It appears to fall, sir, and comes down in that way."
Captain O'Neill's brows drew together, puzzled, but he was patient.
"But I do not see the advantage," he said.
"It falls in flames, sir," said Hal. "The pilot ignites it when it
begins to drop."
"Proceed," Captain O'Neill bade.
"The men found in it are killed," continued Hal "'killed by the
shrapnel fire -- also, of course, they burn with the aeroplane. It is,
to all observers, a bombing biplane shot down in flames."
"And you think such a plan will succeed?" asked the captain.
"I feel sure of it, sir."
"Well," said Captain O'Neill, "you are the two who must take the
chances. You have my permission to adopt your own plans."
OVER THE LINES
"You will carry these with you, of course," said Captain O'Neill,
"those who will be found in, the plane?"
"Yes, sir," said Hal. "They need not be aviators, but merely in
"You drop from the machine as she strikes, I suppose?" said the
captain. "She will run after that, of course."
"Certainly it will leave us unsuspected," said Chester. "It will aid
our escape. Certainly no one would suspect a man had planned to fall
"You have suggested enough," said the captain. "Your idea alters
much. Meet me in half an hour. Everything will be prepared."
He named a place and left the hut.
Jean Brosseau bent forward in bed, his eyes burning.
"When Captain O'Neill gives you final instructions he may tell you to
employ certain people on the other side. Here!" he motioned for the
map again, "I shall point out to you where they are."
He took a pencil and made a dot toward the corner of one of the
"In the old military maps a house stood there," he said. "My father's
house it was. There was also a stable; there was also a cellar, which
the Germans have discovered, but beyond it was an old cellar quite
concealed. Our people, at different times, have hidden there. There
are both men and women there now. They will help you if they can.
Jean Brosseau fell back on the bed and closed his eyes.
An hour later Hal climbed into the pilot seat of the biplane that
Captain O'Neill had placed at their disposal. He felt somewhat
uncomfortable in his ragged attire, but he knew that he could not be
attired in better costume for the undertaking. Chester also had
discarded his civilian clothes and donned rags.
The big "bus," as the airplanes were called, with propeller whirling,
lumbered over the ground; the smoothness of flying came to it and,
deafened to everything but the clatter of the motor and the thrash of
the air-screw, Hal gazed down. Points of light, yellow and red and
some almost white, glowed on the ground. Some of these marked
villages, encampments; others signified nothing at all -- decoys to
attract the "eggs" of the German night flying falcons.
They neared the lines, and the strip of "No Man's Land," with the
pocked and pitted streaks of defenses on both sides, gleamed white and
spectral green under the star-dashed shells. An infantry attack was
going on; Hal could see the shapes of men as they flattened; they were
pinched to dots when they jumped up and then they spread out again.
Before them burst the frightful fireworks of their own barrage; behind
them, and above, that of the enemy.
Hal shivered in the cold; it was very chill there flying high above the
lines, and he wore but the rags of Jean Brosseau. Directly below them
the land had become black again, specked only by little points of
light, yellow, ruddy, white; some of these, like the lights behind the
French lines, perhaps marked hamlets, encampments; others were mere
decoy-lights; others -- they showed but for the briefest second when
the biplane passed overhead were the guiding lights for the French and
American pilots. These were set in chimneys by the French behind the
German lines; any light, if seen by Germans and recognized, might cost
the annihilation of a family, or a neighborhood; many times such lights
had cost such savage penalty. Still, they were set.
Hal and Chester warmed at sight of them this night as never before.
They were going to the people who had set those lights.
The biplane banked and circled. Below was the square where the
airplane was to be shot down. Troops were moving through those fields,
undoubtedly, advancing in single file through communication trenches or