Part 2 out of 4
"Nine o'clock!" he said briefly. "Time to be moving!"
Cautiously the four approached the cell door. Hal pressed his weight
against it, and slowly the huge door swung outward. Poking out his head,
Hal glanced up and down the corridor.
"No one in sight," he informed his companions, and softly the four
stepped outside, closing the door gently behind them.
Silently four shadows flitted along the corridor, out across the bridge
and to the wall beyond. They encountered no one.
"Your Uncle Billy is a jewel," declared the young Frenchman, in a
"He is for a fact," whispered back the lieutenant.
Chester crept silently through the gate and peered in all directions.
Then he crept back to his companions.
"All safe!" he whispered.
"Now to get to the place where Uncle Billy said friends would be
waiting," said Hal.
"I guess we had better make it at a run," spoke up the Frenchman.
"Yes," said the lieutenant; "some one might happen along and we would
have to make a fight for it."
Passing through the entrance to the old castle, the four broke into a
run, and turning to the right in accordance with their instructions,
increased their speed.
For a considerable distance they sped along under the shelter of the
castle wall. Just as they reached the end of the wall a whispered voice
brought them to a halt.
"Hyah, sah!" came the unmistakable voice of Uncle Billy.
Turning, they saw the old negro, who had been hidden from their sight,
standing under the far wall of the castle.
"Follow me!" he whispered, and led the way a short distance along the
wall, to where were picketed four horses.
Turning, he motioned the companions to mount.
"Which way?" asked the lieutenant, when all were in the saddle.
"Straight north, I suppose," said the captain.
"No, sah, no, sah," broke in Uncle Billy. "Yo'al can't get free
that-a-way. Since de Emp'ror declared wah on Belgin an' Englan' dun
declare wah on Germany, all de no'th coast am hev'ly guarded."
"What!" exclaimed the French captain. "War on Belgium!"
"England has declared war?" asked the young lieutenant, in surprise.
"Yassah, yassah. I jes' hearn erbout it."
"Then which way shall we go?"
"Yo'al must go that-a-way," came the answer, and Uncle Billy pointed
toward the southwest, in the direction of the faraway frontier of The
"But Holland is a long ways off, and the country between must be overrun
with troops," protested the Frenchman.
"Mos' all de troops am at de front," explained the old negro. "Dat am de
bes' way, sah."
"I believe we had better take Uncle Billy's word for it," declared Hal.
"I guess he is right," said the lieutenant. "Uncle Billy, we can never
thank you enough."
"No," agreed Captain Derevaux. "We can never thank you enough."
"Come," said the lieutenant, "let us ride," and he turned his horse's
head toward the southwest, and started off cautiously.
But Hal and Chester stopped for a further word with Uncle Billy.
"But how about you, Uncle Billy?" demanded Chester. "Won't you get in
trouble for aiding us to escape?"
"No, sah," replied the old negro. "There won't none o' dese hyah Germans
hurt ol' Uncle Billy!"
"Well, then, good-by," said the boys. "After the war is over we are
coming back to see you."
"After de wah am over," said the old negro slowly, "Ise gwine back ter
With another word of farewell the boys wheeled their horses and rode
after their companions, who were now some distance ahead.
"We shall have to go very slowly and feel our way until we have passed
the outposts of the town," said the lieutenant, as they rode along; and
for the first half hour their progress was slow.
Once they passed within a few yards of a German sentry, but so softly did
their horses step that the soldier did not turn in their direction.
Bearing well to the south, they passed the long line of huts where they
had been captured the night before, at a considerable distance; and now,
feeling sure they had passed the last of the outposts, they urged their
horses into a quick trot.
"We will try and avoid all towns this time," declared Lieutenant
Anderson, "going just close enough to them to keep our bearings."
"A good scheme," said the Frenchman. "We would better avoid the highways
as much as possible also."
In almost a straight line, the direction in which the companions were now
headed eventually would put them into Holland a few miles north of the
Belgian frontier. Following the highways, their way would lead through
Prenzlau, Brunswick, and Detmold. But upon Captain Derevaux's advice,
they decided to skirt these towns, staying just close enough to the roads
to keep their sense of direction.
As the four rode along through the open fields, Hal and Chester continued
to talk of Uncle Billy.
"After the war," said Chester, "we'll come back and get him and take him
home with us."
But such was not to be; nor was the old Southern negro ever again to see
his Virginia home.
And because of the assistance he rendered Hal and Chester and their two
friends, it is fitting that here be related the fate of this old
plantation slave, who had come so nobly to the aid of our boys.
As the four companions rode away from the old castle, Uncle Billy, with
bared head, gazed lovingly after them.
"Praise de Lawd!" he exclaimed. "May dey git home in safety."
The riders disappeared in the distance, and the old negro, after one
last glance, turned toward his quarters in a broken-down wing of the
There he threw himself to his knees, and for long minutes prayed in
silence. Then he arose, extinguished his light, and crawled into his
Before sun-up he arose, and was soon about his duties of carrying food to
others imprisoned in the castle. Upon the order of General Steinberg he
went to the vacant cell with the firing squad that was to put an end to
the lives of the four companions whom he had aided to escape.
He opened the door, and then threw up his hands in well-feigned surprise.
"Dere gone!" he exclaimed.
"What!" exclaimed the officer in charge of the firing squad.
He brushed the old negro aside and peered into the cell. Then he turned
to Uncle Billy and laid his hand on his shoulder. "You are under
arrest!" he said.
"What fo', sah?"
"For aiding the prisoners to escape."
"Silence! To the general's quarters!" he commanded his men.
Uncle Billy was led before General Steinberg.
"So!" thundered the latter, after the situation had been explained to
him. "A traitor, eh!"
Uncle Billy drew himself up proudly, and the years seemed to fall from
"I is no traitor, sah!" he said quietly, "Is I a traitor, sah, because I
is willin' ter die fer two li'l chillun, who is so like mah young massa?"
"What!" shouted the general. "You admit it?"
General Steinberg's face grew purple and he waved his arms about angrily.
"Then you shall die in their stead!" he shouted. "Sergeant! Take that
black hound out and shoot him! See that my order is carried out at once!"
The sergeant saluted and turned to Uncle Billy.
"Come!" he said.
With bowed head the old negro walked slowly from the hut. Outside the
squad of soldiers encircled him, and he was led away.
With his back to a wall and the line of soldiers facing him, their
rifles grounded by their sides, Uncle Billy's face turned chalky, and
But, as the sergeant approached with a bandage for his eyes, the old
negro regained his composure.
For the last time he drew himself to his full height; imperiously he
waved the sergeant away, and his eyes met the gaze of his executioners
"Ready!" came the voice of the sergeant.
Without a murmur, Uncle Billy slid gently to the ground, his body riddled
The sergeant hurried to his side, and placed a hand over his heart.
As he did so, the body of the old negro twitched, and he made an
effort to rise.
The sergeant caught the faint sound of his voice.
"I'se a-comin', massa; I'se a-co--" came the old voice in a low whisper;
and Uncle Billy's body fell back inert.
The sergeant straightened up, and lifted his cap from his head.
"He is dead!" he said softly.
IN TROUBLE AGAIN.
All night long the four companions continued their way without adventure.
Twice they saw lights of nearby towns, and upon each occasion they bore
farther away from these signs of habitation.
The first gray dawn streaked the eastern sky before they drew rein at a
little brook, where they sat down to rest for a few moments, and to allow
their horses to quench their thirst.
"How far do you suppose we have come?" asked Hal.
"I don't know," replied the Frenchman; "but we have covered
"Do you think we are out of danger?"
"We are never out of danger as long as we are in Germany," put in the
lieutenant. "We may be safe from pursuit, but we are not out of the woods
yet, by any means."
"How long should it take us to get out of the country?" asked Chester.
"With luck, five days."
"Well, let's hope for luck, then," said Hal. "I have had enough
excitement to last me for a long time to come."
"Same here," declared Chester.
They remained in their retreat for some time, and then, mounting, moved
forward once more. An hour later they succeeded in purchasing breakfast
at a farmhouse. As all were draining their second cup of coffee there
came from without the sound of galloping. The four jumped to their feet.
"What's that?" cried Chester, in alarm.
"We'll see," replied the young lieutenant briefly, and stepped to a
window. The others also advanced and peered over his shoulder.
"Looks to me like a body of Black Hussars," remarked Captain Derevaux.
"And so it is," said the lieutenant, as the horsemen drew closer to the
"Do you suppose they are looking for us?" queried Chester.
"I do not think so. It's hardly likely they have heard of our escape
"Had we better remain here and trust to their passing by, or shall we
make a run for it?"
"I believe we had better stay here. They may not stop."
And, indeed, it seemed that the lieutenant's prophecy would prove
The squadron came on without checking their speed; but, just as they
swept by the farmhouse, a squad of a dozen men, headed by an officer,
detached themselves from the main body, and headed toward the house.
"We are in for it again," remarked Hal, and drew his revolver.
"Put that away!" exclaimed the young captain quickly. "One shot and the
whole troop will be on us!"
Hal dropped his weapon back into his pocket.
At that instant there came a loud knock at the front door.
The good housewife hastened forward to answer the knock, but was
intercepted by the Frenchman.
"Do not answer!" he commanded.
The woman stared at him aghast.
"Why," she exclaimed, "it is probably my husband. He is a cavalry
officer, you know," and she smiled, and made as if to pass.
But the captain again blocked her way.
"Nevertheless," he said, "I must ask you not to go to the door."
The woman gazed at him a moment in astonishment; then a queer look passed
over her face.
"I see!" she exclaimed. "You are spies!"
With a scream she evaded the captain and rushed to the door.
"Come!" cried Captain Derevaux, his effort having failed. "I guess we
shall have to make a run for it!"
"Out the back door!" exclaimed Lieutenant Anderson, and the four ran
through the house, went down the steps three at a time, and rushed toward
their horses in the stable nearby.
Hardly had they leaped into their saddles and dashed from the stable,
when the woman and a German officer appeared in the back door of the
farmhouse, while from around the house came the dozen troopers afoot.
With a shout the riders charged directly at them, bowling the soldiers
over on all sides, and for a moment it looked as though they might make
Then a shot rang out, and Chester's horse stumbled and went to his knees.
Chester was flung from his saddle, over his horse's head, and struck the
ground with stunning force. He lay still.
Hal leaped to the ground and stooped over Chester. The captain and the
young lieutenant pulled up their mounts.
As Hal tried to lift Chester to his feet, a second shot was heard, and a
bullet whistled over Hal's head. Hal dropped Chester to the ground, and
drew his revolver.
He turned his face toward the enemy.
"Come on!" he shouted, his eyes flashing, "I'll drop one or two of you
before you get me!"
But at that moment, the lieutenant's voice rang out.
"Don't shoot!" and Hal stayed his hand.
At the same instant, Captain Derevaux and Lieutenant Anderson raised
their hands in token of surrender; and it was well that they did so, for
by that time the entire body of troopers had their rifles leveled.
To have missed at that distance would have been impossible, and the
lieutenant had realized it.
"Throw your weapons on the ground," came a command, and the captain and
Hal made as if to raise his revolver again, and the rifles of the
troopers were turned on him.
Again the lieutenant called:
"Don't be a fool. Throw that gun down!"
The officer in command of the troop approached and spoke:
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"Travelers," replied Lieutenant Anderson.
"Where are you going?"
"Why did you run at our approach?"
The lieutenant made no reply.
"Well," said the German officer, after a pause, "if you are bound for
Brunswick you will get there all right That is our destination."
Captain Derevaux and Lieutenant Anderson had dismounted, and by this time
Chester had recovered consciousness.
Calling two of his men, the German officer ordered the four companions
bound. Then Chester's saddle was taken from his wounded horse and put
upon another, which was brought from the stable. The four companions were
assisted to the backs of their animals, and the troop proceeded forward,
the prisoners in the center.
The country through which they now traveled was rough and hilly, and
rapid progress was impossible. From time to time they passed detachments
of troops hurrying in the opposite direction. They did not overtake the
main body, of which their captors were a part, until they reached
Prenzlau, where the troop was quartered.
There the prisoners were led before the commanding officer, Colonel
Waldstein. Lieutenant Anderson spoke.
"Colonel," he said, "I am Lieutenant Anderson, of the British army, and
this," indicating the young captain, "is Captain Derevaux, of the
French army." Then, pointing to Hal and Chester: "These two boys are in
no way concerned in our affairs, and I hope that you will see fit to
"How do they come to be in your company, then?" asked the colonel.
The lieutenant explained the circumstances.
The German officer was silent for some moments, meditating. Then he
turned to an aide.
"Summon Lieutenant Schmidt!" he ordered.
Presently an old soldier entered the general's quarters and saluted.
"Lieutenant," said Colonel Waldstein, "take these two lads," indicating
Hal and Chester, "and quarter them in your home. You may remain here," he
told the boys, "until I have made inquiries and learned what to do with
you. You are so young that I can hardly believe you are spies."
"Thank you, colonel," said Lieutenant Anderson.
"But, as for you two," continued Colonel Waldstein, speaking to Captain
Derevaux and Lieutenant Anderson, and his voice grew grave, "the fact
that I have found you within our lines in civilian attire would justify
me in having you shot at once. But I shall not dispose of your cases
until we reach Brunswick, for which place we leave to-night by train. You
may have valuable information. I shall turn your cases over to my
Hal and Chester shook hands with their two friends.
"I don't know why you should do this for us," said Hal; "but we
appreciate your self-sacrifice more than we can tell you."
"Indeed we do," agreed Chester.
"That's all right, boys," replied the lieutenant. "Now, take my advice,
and make no further efforts to get out of the country until you are given
a safe escort, which, I am sure, will be within the course of a week."
"That is excellent advice," agreed the young captain. "To get through the
country now is practically impossible, as we have proved."
"But what will they do with you?" asked Hal.
The Frenchman shrugged his shoulders.
"Shoot us, I suppose."
Up to this moment the colonel had not interfered with the conversation,
but now he called a halt.
"That's talk enough," he declared. "Take the prisoners away."
Hal and Chester followed the old lieutenant from the tent.
"Good-by, good-by!" they called to their two friends, as they passed out.
"Good-by," was the response; "remember our advice."
The lieutenant escorted the boys some distance into the town, then
turning into a lane, marched them into a yard, in which, far back, sat a
large frame house.
"This is my home," he said; "and as long as you stay you will be welcome.
My wife is fond of boys, and will be glad to see you. You will have the
freedom of the grounds, but remember, any attempt to leave the town
without a permit probably will end in your being shot. Take my advice and
don't try it"
A NEW FRIEND.
"Frau Schmidt is certainly a nice old lady," said Chester.
"She certainly is," agreed Hal. "If it wasn't for the fact that I
wanted to get out of the country so badly, I wouldn't mind spending a
few weeks here."
"Nor I; and Fritz is a likable fellow."
"He sure is."
The boys had spent two days in the Schmidt home when this conversation
took place. In Frau Schmidt they had found a lovable and motherly woman,
well along in years.
She had made them welcome from the first, and had set before them the
best she had. Their room was next to that of her son, Fritz, a young man
probably six years older than Hal.
Now, Fritz was of a mechanical turn of mind, and all day and well into
the night he was at work in his shop behind the house. From bits of
conversation, the boys gathered that Fritz was engaged in the task of
building an aeroplane, and they were greatly interested.
The fact that no one was allowed in Fritz's workshop unless he
accompanied them, and the additional fact that at night two soldiers were
stationed at the door at first caused the boys some surprise. However,
Fritz had explained:
"You see, the government has taken over all aircraft in process of
construction, no matter how crude and amateurish, and has appointed a
commission to investigate all patents. Of course, it was known that I
was building an airship, and, as a result, I am working under
"If my craft should come up to expectations it will mean a great deal to
me, and I probably shall either be put to work building more, or, better
still, be made a member of one of the aeroplane corps."
"Yes," said Chester again, "Fritz is a fine fellow. Do you suppose his
aeroplane will be a success?"
"I don't know. For his sake, I hope so. As he says, it means a whole
lot to him."
"So do I. And I will bet Fritz would be of great help to his country. He
is a pretty shrewd chap."
"You bet he--Hello! What's that?"
A sudden cry had come from the direction of the kitchen, and the sounds
of a struggle followed.
"Come on!" shouted Chester. "Somebody is in trouble!"
The two boys ran madly around the house.
Dashing through the door into the kitchen, a terrible sight met
Huddled into a corner was Frau Schmidt, and over her, with a naked
knife, stood a man, ragged and unkempt. A second man was ransacking the
drawers of a dresser in the room beyond. The boys could see him through
the open door.
Just as they dashed in the door, the man with the knife snarled in a
"Give me the key to the workshop, I tell you. We mean business!"
"You mean business, do you!" shouted Hal, striding toward him.
"Well, so do I!"
The man turned at the sound of Hal's voice, and, with upraised knife,
awaited the lad's attack.
"You cowardly ruffian!" cried Hal, "to attack a defenseless old woman!"
As he spoke, he leaped upon the man, dodging the blow the latter aimed at
him with the wicked-looking knife. Before the latter could recover his
balance, Hal seized the arm that held the knife.
A sharp twist and the knife went spinning across the floor. Both leaped
for it, but Hal was quicker than his opponent, and placed his foot upon
the weapon. With a snarl the man sprang upon him.
Chester had entered the room upon Hal's heels; and, as his friend jumped
for the first intruder, Chester rushed at the man in the next room. The
latter heard him advance, and, stepping back, picked up a chair, which he
brandished over his head. Taking a rapid stride forward, he swung his
improvised weapon at Chester's head.
Chester avoided the blow with a quick, backward leap, and the chair was
smashed to fragments against the door. Then Chester jumped forward and
closed with his opponent.
With a rapid movement he placed his knee behind the other's leg and
pushed suddenly. The man went over backward, with Chester on top of him.
As the intruder fell, his head came into contact with the sharp
projection of the bureau, and when he struck the floor he lay still.
Chester rose to his feet.
As Hal's opponent sprang toward him, the lad stepped in close and
delivered a stinging short-arm blow over the other's heart. He staggered
back, and, as Hal took another step forward, Chester, having disposed of
his adversary, threw his arms about the man from behind, and bore him to
the floor, where both boys piled on top of him.
While the three were struggling on the floor, a voice from the doorway
"What is going on here?" and Fritz rushed into the room.
He took in the situation at a glance, and, rushing forward, lent a hand
in subduing the boys' opponent.
The struggle was over quickly, and, seizing a strong rope, which hung
from the wall, Fritz soon had the two men safely bound. Then he turned to
his mother, who still sat huddled on the chair, where she had been when
the boys entered the room. The excitement had been too much for her, and
she had fainted.
She was soon revived, however, and, when she was strong enough to sit up,
jumped to her feet, and, throwing her arms around Hal, kissed him loudly.
Then she turned her attention to Chester, and repeated the operation.
"My preservers!" she cried, laughing and crying at the same time. "Fritz,
but for these two boys your old mother would now be dead."
Rapidly and somewhat incoherently she related what had occurred, and
Fritz was no less warm in his praise for the actions of the two boys.
"Those men are undoubtedly spies," he declared. "They most certainly had
designs upon my biplane, which they evidently knew had been completed. I
shall turn them over to the military authorities."
He left the house, and in a few moments returned with a squad of
soldiers, who took the assailants in charge. Fritz explained to the
officer how the two men had been captured, and the German officer
complimented the boys highly for their prompt action.
After the two prisoners had been led away, Hal bethought himself of the
remark Fritz had made concerning his biplane.
"Do you mean to say your aeroplane is ready for use?" he asked.
"Yes; I am going to make a short flight this afternoon. Would you care to
"Would we!" exclaimed Hal. "You can just bet we would!"
"All right, then; come on."
The two lads followed Fritz to his workshop. Inside the boys approached
the large aircraft, which rested lightly on its wheels at the end of the
speedway. The huge planes which served as wings stretched out on either
side like two great box kites, while underneath the aviator's seat the
gearing could be plainly seen.
The aviator looked at the machine with great pride, and spoke of the
improvements he had made in the propellers and in the system of power
transmission. He explained to the boys that, by this direct system, he
had gained twenty per cent more velocity; and, now that the war had
begun, he hoped to be able to prove this to the army experts.
The boys helped Fritz push the machine out into the open, and watched
intently while he tested the steering gear and tried the ignition. After
some further tinkering, Fritz finally took his seat, pulled a lever, and,
after skimming the ground for a few rods, the machine rose gracefully
into the air.
"By George!" said Hal to Chester, as the craft rose from the ground.
"That looks easy. I believe I could do it myself."
"It looks easy," Chester admitted. "But how do you suppose a fellow would
feel sailing along up there?"
"I guess it would scare me a little at first, but, just the same, I
should like to try it."
After circling around for several minutes, Fritz brought the machine back
to its starting point and, lightly as a bird it dropped to the ground.
"Would you like to take a short flight?" he asked the boys.
Chester backed away.
"Not for me," he declared. "I would lose my head sure, if I got up
"You don't want to pay any attention to him when he talks like that," he
told Fritz. "I never saw anything yet he was afraid to do."
"After what I saw in the house to-day, I can well believe that," replied
the young German. "Would you like to go up?" to Hal. "You know the
machine will only carry two."
"Why, yes," answered Hal; "I would like it."
"Climb in, then," ordered Fritz.
Not without some misgiving Hal obeyed.
Once more the huge machine skimmed gracefully over the ground, and again
went sailing into space.
As the plane rose from the ground, Hal grabbed the side of the seat and
hung on for dear life. Looking down and seeing the ground dropping
rapidly away, he experienced a choking sensation in his throat.
As the machine stopped rising, however, and stretched itself out for a
straight flight, Hal's composure came back to him, and he looked around
Then Fritz explained the mechanism of the machine to him. He showed him
how to stop, how to increase the speed of the plane; how to rise and how
to glide to earth. He also showed him how to work the steering wheel.
While they were sailing about in the air he told Hal that, if necessary,
his craft could make a speed of one hundred miles an hour for hours. He
declared it could attain an altitude of a mile. Practically the only
danger, he said, came from conflicting air currents.
After sailing around for nearly half an hour, Fritz again brought the
machine to the ground a few feet from where Chester stood.
"Great!" exclaimed Hal, as he alighted and helped Fritz roll the machine
back into the shop. "No more automobiling for me. When I get home I am
going to get an airship."
"Wouldn't you like to go up with me to-morrow, Chester?" asked Fritz, as
he locked the door to the shop.
"I believe I would," was the reply. "I guess I can stand it if Hal can."
"Then you shall," said Fritz, and the three turned toward the house,
where Frau Schmidt stood in the doorway, calling to them that supper
IN THE AIR.
The boys were busily engaged in disposing of a hearty supper when there
came a knock at the door. Frau Schmidt answered the knock, and, returning
a few moments later, placed before Hal an important-looking letter,
bearing the official seal of the German government.
Hal opened the document and read.
"Great Scott!" he exploded, after a hasty perusal.
"What's the matter?" demanded Chester anxiously.
"Why, here is an order, commanding us to report to the commanding
officer the first thing in the morning, so that we may be transported
back to Berlin!"
"Berlin! What in the world do we want to go back to Berlin for?"
"We don't; but it looks as though there were no help for it. The letter
says that, after an investigation of our case, it has been decided that
we shall be sent back to Berlin and that, if we are to be allowed to
leave the country, such arrangements must be made by the United States
"Well, what do you think of that!"
"It's too bad," declared Fritz; "but an order is an order. I am afraid
you must go!"
"You poor boys!" exclaimed Frau Schmidt "I can't see why they won't let
you stay here."
"No more do I," declared Hal. "But I guess this letter means business."
"It sure looks like it," said Chester.
"That's what I call pretty tough luck," declared Hal, when the two boys
were alone in their room that night, Fritz and his mother having retired.
"Tough? I should say it is tough," returned Chester. "After all the
trouble we have had getting away from Berlin, then to have to go back.
Tough is no name for it."
"Well," said Hal, "I guess there is no use kicking. We ran a good race,
but we lost. It's back to Berlin for us."
Suddenly Chester sat bolt upright
"By George!" he exclaimed.
"What's the matter now?" asked Hal in surprise.
"I've an idea."
"Strange," replied Hal, with a smile; "but let's hear it."
"Well, in the first place, you took an airship ride to-day. How did
you like it?"
"Like it? Oh, I liked it all right. Why?"
"You saw Fritz work the thing. Did you get the hang of it?"
Hal jumped to his feet with a subdued exclamation.
"I see what you are getting at!" he declared. "An airship! Why didn't I
think of it myself?"
"There are only two objections I can see to the plan," said Chester.
"What are they?"
"Well, the first is, can you run the thing without spilling us out?"
"I am willing to take a chance if you are. Fritz explained the workings
of the machine while we were aloft to-day. I am sure I can do it. What is
the second reason?"
"The second reason is that it seems a shabby trick to play on Fritz,
particularly after the way he has treated us."
"So it does," agreed Hal slowly, but, after a pause, he added:
"However, I believe we had better do it. To me it looks like the
survival of the fittest."
For a long time the boys debated this point, but the matter was finally
settled when Hal said:
"Well, if we don't, we are likely to be stuck in Germany until the war is
over; and there is no telling when that will be."
"As long as we are going to do it, then," returned Chester, "the sooner
we start the better."
"Right," replied Hal. "Let's get busy."
"How are we to get the aeroplane out of the shop? You know the door
"Yes, but I know something else, too. I noticed it to-day, and wondered
why those men who came after the key didn't take advantage of it."
"What is it?"
"The bolts in the hinges of the door can be lifted out easily, and we can
take the doors off."
"But we must get rid of the two soldiers who keep guard at night."
"We will do that some way, all right."
"Come on, then; let's get started."
Chester opened the door of their room and peered out.
"Coast clear," he announced.
Softly the two boys stole from the room and crept along the hall. They
tip-toed down the stairs, opened the door, and went out with scarcely a
sound. Outside they stopped. In front of the workshop they could see the
two guards in conversation.
"We must get to the rear of the shop without being seen," whispered
Hal. "When one guard makes his rounds, we must grab him and prevent him
from making an outcry. We can then dispose of the other. You wait here
a minute, while I go back and get a piece of clothes-line, so we can
tie them up."
He returned almost immediately with two pieces of rope.
"Careful, now," whispered Hal, as, keeping in the shadow of the house,
they made a short detour.
Out of sight of the guards, they made a silent dash for the rear of the
workshop, where they stood, silently awaiting the approach of the guard.
"I hate to do this," whispered Hal, as he heard the footsteps of the
guard; "but it has to be done."
As the guard rounded the corner of the shop, Hal struck out. Swift and
true was the blow; and struck upon the point of the chin, the man
crumpled up without a sound.
The boys bound and gagged him quickly, using their handkerchiefs to stuff
into his mouth. Then silently they ran to the opposite side of the shop
and waited the approach of the second guard.
A moment later his footsteps were heard approaching. As he turned the
corner, Hal again struck out swift and true, and the second man went to
the ground. The boys bound and gagged him, and then hastened to the front
of the shop.
As Hal had predicted, the doors were removed with little difficulty, and
silently the lads rolled the huge machine into the open. Hal's experience
with automobiles had taught him something of engines, so he had little
trouble starting this one. Finding everything in working order, Hal
climbed into the driver's seat, and Chester, not without a tremor, took
his place beside him.
Hal's afternoon experience and his natural aptitude for mechanics now
stood him in good stead. Reaching out he threw over a lever and the
machine moved forward. There was a whirring sound as the plane skimmed
over the ground. As the machine began to rise, Hal pressed another lever,
and they shot into the air rapidly.
So swiftly did they go up that their breath was almost taken away.
"Great Scott!" gasped Chester. "This is more than I bargained for!"
With the lights of the village like pin points below him, Hal, who had
not for a moment lost his presence of mind, checked the rise of the
machine, and headed toward the southwest, gauging his direction by a
compass before him, the moonlight luckily permitting him to see.
As the machine settled down to its flight, Chester regained his
"This is more like it," he said. "For a moment I was afraid it was all
up with us."
"I was scared for a minute myself," replied Hal. "But you must remember
this is not my first trip aloft."
"I guess it's all right after you get used to it," was the answer, "but
the way I feel right now, if I ever get my foot on terra firma again I am
going to stay there."
"Oh, you will be all right directly," he said. "For my part, I like it."
"How fast do you suppose we are going?"
"About fifty miles an hour."
"Great Scott! That's going some!"
The machine was skimming at great speed through the air, flying low, as
Hal did not wish to lose sight of the ground entirely.
"This is high enough for me," he explained. "I might want to go down
suddenly, and I want to see where I am going. Of course, if it is
necessary, we will go higher."
"I guess we might as well fall ten miles as to fall from here," remarked
Chester. "If anything went wrong it would be good night for us."
For a time they flew along in silence.
Suddenly there was the sound of a shot from below, and a bullet whizzed
by the flying aeroplane.
Hal sent the machine higher into the air with a jump, and Chester let out
an exclamation as he was almost thrown from his seat.
"That was too close for comfort!" cried Hal.
"Well, the next time you decide to shoot up like that, let me know
first!" exclaimed Chester. "You almost lost me that time!"
"Hang on tight!" shouted Hal. "You never can tell what will happen with
me running this thing, so don't take any chances."
"I'll hang on tight in the future, never fear," was the reply. "What do
you suppose that shot was?"
"Some sentry, I suppose. I guess he knew no machine was supposed to be
flying around here. That's probably why he took a shot at us. We were
flying too low, anyhow. We will stay up here, where we can't be so easily
seen or heard."
For some time the boys sailed along without a word, and then, just as
Chester opened his mouth to ask Hal where he supposed they were, there
was the sound of rushing wings, and, turning in his seat, Chester beheld
a huge shape rushing after them.
"Speed up, Hal!" cried Chester. "We are pursued!"
Without stopping to ask questions, Hal threw the speed lever over, and
the machine leaped forward like some live thing.
At the same moment there came the crack of a rifle, and, as Hal dropped
one arm from the steering wheel the aeroplane rocked crazily and dived
toward the ground.
The bullet had grazed Hal's left shoulder.
With a desperate effort, the lad righted the machine with his one good
arm, and it shot upward again.
"What's the matter?" gasped Chester. "Are you hurt?"
"Hit in the shoulder," replied Hal briefly. "I suppose whoever fired
aimed at the machine. I just happened to be in the way, that's all."
"But you can't drive with one arm! Hadn't we better--"
"Can't!" exclaimed Hal. "I've got to!"
At that moment both boys were almost blinded by the glare of a dazzling
light directly ahead!
OVER THE FRONTIER.
"What's that?" cried Chester, in consternation.
"I haven't any idea," replied Hal; "but it looks like a searchlight."
"Hadn't you better slow down?"
"With our pursuers just behind? I guess not."
And, with a touch of the lever, Hal sent the machine forward even faster
For a moment they were in the center of the blinding glare, and then they
had passed beyond it. Then Hal spoke.
"I can tell you now what it is," he said.
"Lighthouse? What do you mean?"
"Why, that brilliant light we just passed through came from the ground.
The powerful flares are used for the guidance of war aviators, or airship
men, during the night. They prevent the aviator from getting lost, and
denote a safe landing,"
"I see what you mean; but it gave me a scare for a minute."
"And me; at first I thought it was the searchlight of another airship."
"But why should such lighthouses be in use here? I should imagine they
would be used only in places of danger."
"Maybe that is the reason."
"Surely there can be no danger for a German airship around here."
"I don't know about that. We have traveled a considerable distance.
Perhaps we are closer to the border than we think."
"Well, we can't get across it any too soon to suit me," declared Chester.
Hal did not reply, and the flight was continued in silence. For more
than an hour the huge machine sailed swiftly through the air. At
length Hal said:
"I guess we had better drop down a bit. Perhaps we may be able to see
Suiting the action to the word, he let the machine glide slowly downward,
until the distant shadow of the earth could once more be seen. Then the
craft sped out on its straightaway course again.
The twinkling of faraway lights drew the boys' attention.
"I wonder what that is?" asked Chester.
"We'll see," was the brief reply.
The machine dropped still lower.
"An army camp!" exclaimed Hal, when he was at last able to make out the
objects below. He shut off his engine, and for a few moments both boys
gave their attention to the awe-inspiring sight.
Dimly they could discern the outlines of the great camp. With its
thousands upon thousands of huts, it spread out like a great fan,
extending almost as far as the eye could see.
"Great Scott!" exclaimed Chester. "There must be a million men
"Hardly that many," laughed Hal; "but there are a few. I guess we had
better go a little higher. We might be seen, and a chance bullet might
bring us down in the middle of them."
The machine rose gently again; but, as the airship headed once more upon
its course, there was a muffled explosion, and the machine rocked
"What on earth is the matter now?" demanded Chester.
Hal bent over his engine.
"I don't know what has blown out," he replied. "But the engine has
"Dead!" exclaimed Chester.
"Can you fix it?"
"Not up here. It is impossible. I am not familiar enough with it."
"What shall we do, then?" cried Chester, in alarm.
"We shall have to go down."
"What! And land right in the middle of the German camp?"
"I am afraid so. There is no help for it. However, I shall sail just as
far as possible before we hit the earth."
Slowly the machine dropped, its strong planes still holding it on its
forward course. So gentle was the fall that it was almost
imperceptible; but presently the distant earth below could be seen; and
then Chester cried:
"Look! We are almost beyond the camp. We shall clear it when we hit
Hal glanced down.
"So we shall," he agreed, and there was hope in his voice.... "Maybe I
will be able to fix the engine before we are discovered."
Nearer and nearer to the ground glided the huge machine. They were now
well beyond the farthest outposts of the camp, and consequently had
recovered their good spirits.
The airship came gently to earth, and the boys jumped out. As they did
so, there came the faint sound of a command and a rifle cracked.
"We are discovered!" shouted Hal. "Quick! To the woods!" And the boys
made a dash toward a clump of trees that could be seen in the distance.
Desperately the two lads ran toward the woods, and, as they ran, the
first single rifle shot was followed by a volley; but, thanks to the
semi-darkness, the boys gained the shelter of the woods unscathed.
Once under the friendly shelter of the trees the boys did not diminish
their speed. Rather, if possible, they ran faster. Then, suddenly they
stopped; and the cause of their abrupt halt was this:
A heavy crashing in front of them gave evidence of the approach of a
large body of men. For a moment the lads stood as if frozen to the spot;
then Hal cried:
"Up in this tree, quick! It's our only chance!"
Acting upon the instant, the two lads swung themselves into the crotch of
the great tree under which they stood; then climbed noiselessly higher up
among the branches. Just as they had succeeded in screening themselves
from possible discovery, a body of horsemen burst in among the trees.
"Caught right in between them," whispered Hal.
"Yes; and, if we get out of this fix alive, we are in luck," Chester
The horsemen below them did not pause in their march, but continued on
through the woods.
"Evidently a scouting party returning," whispered Hal.
And still the long line of horsemen pressed on beneath them.
Suddenly there came the sharp crack, crack, of many rifles; and from
beneath the two lads came the hoarse command of an officer:
The line of horsemen quickened their pace; and then the firing ahead
broke into a loud and steady roar.
For many minutes, it seemed to the two lads, the stream of horsemen
poured on beneath them. Then the sound of firing became less distinct,
and Hal and Chester dropped to the ground.
"At last! At last we are safe!" cried Hal.
"Safe?" repeated Chester. "How do you mean we are safe?"
"Why, you chump, doesn't that fighting going on there mean
anything to you?"
"Do you mean that you believe the troop that just passed us are French?"
"Yes; French, Belgians, or English, I don't know which. But, anyhow, they
are friends. Hurrah!"
"Hurrah!" repeated Chester, throwing his cap in the air with delight.
Suddenly the beat of the feet of many horses was heard and the sound of
firing became more audible. Several riderless horses broke into the
woods, followed by the cavalry.
"Grab one of those horses, Chester!" cried Hal, as he jumped forward and
seized the bridle of the one nearest him. Chester followed suit, and both
lads were soon in the saddle.
At that moment a large body of horsemen broke through the woods from the
direction in which they had so recently gone, retiring slowly, turning
every now and then to fire.
"It's a retreat!" cried Chester. "They have been driven back! Let us get
away from here or we shall be shot down!"
But, even as they turned to flee, a mounted officer laid his hand upon
the bridle of Hal's horse.
"Who are you?" he demanded in French. "What do you here?"
Briefly Hal explained that they had just escaped through the German
lines, and then asked:
"Where are we? What troops are these?"
"This is a troop of Belgian light cavalry," came the reply, "a
reconnoitering force. We were attacked by a strong force of the enemy,
and are falling back upon our lines."
"But where are we?"
"About five miles from Liege."
"Yes; where did you think you were?"
"We had not the faintest idea, other than that we were beyond the
All this time the troop had been retreating slowly, firing as they went,
the boys being led along by the officer.
"It will be necessary for me to place you under arrest," declared the
Belgian officer. "I shall turn you over to the commanding general when we
regain our lines."
Hal and Chester were stricken almost speechless.
"Great Scott!" Chester finally exclaimed. "After all the trouble we have
had getting out of Germany, then to be arrested at the end!"
"I am sorry," replied the officer, "but I can do nothing else. You are
sure to be looked upon with suspicion, having been found as you were,
and, unless you can give a good account of yourselves, I fear you are in
a serious predicament."
Fighting every inch of the way, the Belgian cavalry continued its
retreat, being hard pressed by the Germans, who were continually
reinforced. From the rear the firing became heavier, and then there was
heard the sound of a galloping body of horsemen.
"Halt!" cried the Belgian officer in command, and the retreating horsemen
came to a stand.
"About face!" And at the command they wheeled to meet the charge of a
force of Uhlans.
The Germans came on bravely; but, just as they hurled themselves upon
their foe, there came from the Belgian rear a fierce hail of rifle shots.
Reinforcements had arrived.
The Germans halted in their fierce charge, and then drew off, shooting as
they went. At the same instant a regiment of Belgian infantry rushed
forward on the run. They pursued the flying Germans for some distance,
and then turned back.
Then the Belgians resumed their retreat to their own lines.
Hal and Chester bore up bravely during this--their first time--under
fire. Unable to take part in the fighting themselves, being without
weapons, they watched with interest the maneuvers of the officers and the
gallantry with which the Belgian cavalry stood up against what at first
were plainly overwhelming odds.
Once in the Belgian lines the boys breathed easier.
"Well, here we are at last," said Hal. "I guess we will be able to
explain our presence in the woods satisfactorily."
"I hope so," replied Chester.
At this moment the officer who had placed them under arrest approached.
"Come with me," he ordered.
The boys accompanied him to the headquarters of the commanding officer,
where their position was explained to the latter.
He listened quietly to Hal's account of their adventures since leaving
Berlin, and it was plain to both boys that as he listened he became more
and more incredulous.
Hal finished his recital, and for some minutes the general sat silent.
Finally he said:
"You have told me a strange story--one that I find it very hard to
believe. I must have proof. It must be substantiated. You will consider
yourselves prisoners until the matter has been investigated, unless in
the meantime there should be someone here who will vouch for your honesty
and the truth of this remarkable tale."
"I will vouch for it, general," came a voice.
Turning, the boys beheld in the entrance to the general's hut the smiling
face of Captain Raoul Derevaux.
Hal and Chester started forward.
"Captain Derevaux!" they exclaimed simultaneously.
The gallant captain smiled.
"Even so," he returned. Then turning to the general: "I will vouch for
the truth of the story told by these boys, sir," he said.
"You know them, then?" questioned the general.
"Yes, sir." And the young captain recounted his first meeting with Hal
and Chester and their subsequent adventures. Concluding, he said:
"And I wish to say, sir, that two braver and more resourceful lads it has
never been my fortune to encounter."
"Very well, then," said the general. "They are free. I leave them in your
The captain and the two boys left the hut.
"I will take you to my quarters," said the captain, leading the way.
In the captain's hut, seated on a camp-stool, Hal demanded:
"How did you escape? I was sure you and Lieutenant Anderson were doomed
to die. And where is the lieutenant?"
"He has returned to England," replied the captain, answering the last
question first. "But my story can wait. Tell me about yourselves."
Chester related their experiences after the four had been separated.
"You are certainly a pair of wonderful youngsters," remarked the captain,
when Chester had concluded.
"But how did you escape?" demanded Hal again.
"Practically the same as you did," replied the captain. "Airship.
Believing that we could not possibly escape, we were left too loosely
guarded. Condemned to be shot as spies, we were placed under guard near
one of the outposts.
"It was along in the evening that an airship descended within a few yards
of us. It had been disabled, and the aviator had alighted to make
repairs. When the aviator had thoroughly overhauled the machine, he made
his way to the quarters of the commanding general to report.
"As I said, our hut was but a short distance away, and, believing there
could be no possibility of our escape, our guards had relaxed their
vigilance. Anderson and I stepped to the entrance and looked out. The
guards paid no attention.
"Suddenly Anderson shouted: 'Come on!' and we went. There was no one
about the machine, and we started it quickly. But, just as the machine
was skimming over the ground, the guards noticed our absence, and,
running to the open, took a shot at us.
"I had taken the aviator's place, having had some experience with
aeroplanes. Anderson was winged at the first shot, but was not badly
wounded. By the time the second volley was fired we were high in the air,
and the rapidity with which we traveled made accurate shooting
impossible. We reached the Belgian frontier without trouble."
"But how does it happen you have not returned to France?" asked Chester.
"When I arrived at Liege I communicated with my government, and was
ordered to remain here. I am attached to the Royal French Lancers, the
only body of French troops yet in Belgium. The Lancers were ordered here
immediately war was declared, to help check the advance of the invader."
"I suppose the best thing for us to do," said Hal, "is to go on to
Brussels and try and find mother."
"It is impossible," declared the lieutenant. "Right now you would not
be allowed to go. And, in the second place, I took the trouble to
inquire, when I first reached Liege, whether your mother was in
Brussels. Your ambassador, Mr. Brand Whitlock, informed me that she had
left the country."
"What? Gone and left us behind?"
"Yes; but not because she wanted to. It was either a case of leave
Brussels then, or run a chance of being held there indefinitely."
"Then what are we going to do? There is no use going to Brussels."
Chester clapped his hands.
"I have it!" he exclaimed.
Hal looked at him in surprise.
"What?" he demanded.
"Why, what we are going to do."
"Well, what is it?"
"Fight? What do you mean?"
"Join the army!"
Captain Derevaux leaped to his feet.
"I will not hear of it!" he exclaimed.
But the idea caught Hal's fancy.
"Good boy, Chester!" he exclaimed. "That's just what we will do!"
"It is impossible," exclaimed the young captain. "In the first place, it
would not be possible, at your age, to enlist. But I will tell you what I
will do for you."
"What is it?" asked the two lads eagerly.
"In times such as these," explained the captain, "young fellows like you
may be useful in many ways without running the risk of going into
battle--scouting expeditions and the like. I will speak to the general
about you and see what I can do. Understand, I wouldn't do this did I not
know that if I didn't you would get mixed up in trouble in some other
way, and in a way that would be much more dangerous."
"We are willing to take our chances," replied Hal.
"Of course we are," agreed Chester.
"Oh, I know that," replied the captain, "and what I am proposing is not
without danger. But what I have in mind calls for quick wits rather than
for strong arms, although I know you have both. I will go now and speak
to the general."
"All right," replied Hal. "In the meantime, Chester and I will go out and
look around the town."
Everywhere, as the boys strolled about the streets, preparations to
withstand a siege were being made; but everything was being done quietly
and without confusion. The great steel forts, some of them practically
isolated, were subjects of great interest to the lads.
"I'll bet the Germans have a hard time capturing this place," remarked
Hal, as they examined one of the forts.
"Yes," agreed Chester, "as the battle of the _Monitor_ and the
_Merrimac_, in Hampton Roads, in our own civil war was the first battle
between iron ships, so will an attack on these forts be the first in
which such impregnable defenses will be tried out. I was reading about
them long before war was declared."
"And I believe the Germans are making a sad mistake when they say the
Belgians can't fight," said Hal.
"You bet they are. They will fight till the last. Do they look like
people who would give up without a struggle? Look at the way those
fellows who captured us turned to face the Uhlans, knowing that, unless
reinforced, they were bound to be slaughtered."
"Right. Which reminds me we were in a ticklish position ourselves for a
"You bet we were."
As the boys continued their walk, almost on every hand they were mistaken
for English, and time after time they were accosted with the question:
"When are the English coming?"
Suddenly the lads were attracted by the sounds of great confusion down a
"Let's see what is going on," cried Hal, and, quickening their pace, they
were soon in the midst of an excited crowd.
In the center of the mob a lone man struggled desperately to shake off
the many hands that grasped him.
"Hang him!" came a voice from the crowd.
Other voices took up the cry immediately.
"Hang him! Hang him!"
Hal turned to a man in the crowd.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
"Matter? Why, the man was caught spying near one of the forts."
"How do you know he was spying?"
"He is a German. Why else should he be prowling around, if not to spy?"
And their informant rushed into the thick of the crowd, gesticulating
violently, and adding his voice to the din.
"Great Scott! We can't stand for this!" exclaimed Chester. "Come on!"
Together the two lads rushed into the thick of the mob. Elbowing and
pushing men to right and left they made their way through the mass
The cause of all the confusion had now freed himself from the clutches of
the angry mob, and was laying about him furiously with his cane. He
cleared a space before him. But those in front were pushed forward by the
men in the rear of the crowd, and once more surged to the attack, just as
Hal and Chester, with a final effort, burst through.
The lads took their places, one on each side of the fighting German, and
Chester raised a hand to check the mob.
"Get back!" he shouted. "Shame upon you to attack a single man like this.
Is this Belgian bravery?"
For a moment the crowd hung back, then rushed forward again, and the
three were soon fighting desperately against fearful odds.
But the boys this time had tackled a task that was beyond them. They
struck out rapidly, as did the man to whose aid they had rushed, but the
sheer weight of numbers finally told.
Chester, Hal and the stranger all went down at last, and were in imminent
danger of being beaten into insensibility.
But at that moment the sound of a bugle rang out, and the crowd scattered
in all directions. A troop of cavalry was hurrying to the scene.
Hal, Chester and the stranger picked themselves up and brushed the dirt
from their clothes. A cavalry officer dismounted and came up to them.
"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded.
The officer turned to the German.
"Come with me," he ordered.
The German obeyed and the troop continued on their journey.
Hal and Chester returned to the captain's quarters. The captain was
"Did you see the general?" asked Hal.
"What did he say?"
"It's all fixed, boys," replied the captain, smiling at their eagerness.
"You mean that the general has consented to the plan?" asked Hal.
"Hurrah!" shouted Chester.
"Hurrah!" cried Hal.
"Yes," continued the captain, "you are ordered to hold yourselves subject
to the command of your superior officer," and he concluded smilingly,
"which is me."
"And we couldn't have a better!" exclaimed both lads in a single voice.
CHESTER SAVES THE DAY.
The day was at its noon!
From the first break of dawn the battle had raged; now, at mid-day, it
was at its height. Hour after hour the fighting had continued under a
shadowless sky, blue as steel, hard as a sheet of brass. The Germans had
attacked the Belgians and French with the first streak of light.
Circling, sweeping, silently, swiftly, a marvelous whirlwind of force,
the Germans had rushed on. Swift, as though wind-driven, they moved. An
instant, and the Allies broke into violent movement. Half-clothed
sleepers poured out. Perfect discipline did the rest.
With marvelous and matchless swiftness and precision they got under arms.
There were but fifteen hundred or so in all--six squadrons of French
Lancers, the only French troops yet to reach Belgian soil, and a small
body of infantry, without artillery.
Yet, rapid as the action of the Allies was, it was not as rapid as the
downward sweep of the German horde that rushed to meet them.
There was a crash, as if rock were hurled upon rock, as the Lancers, the
flower of the French cavalry, scarce seated in the saddle, rushed forward
to save the pickets, to encounter the first blind ford of the attack and
to give the Belgian infantry, farther in, time to prepare for defense.
The hoofs of rearing chargers struck each other's breasts, and these bit
and tore at each other's throats and manes, while their riders reeled
down dead. The outer wings of the Germans were spared the shock, and
swept on to meet the bayonets of the infantry.
The cavalry was enveloped in the overwhelming numbers of the center. It
was a frightful tangling of men and brutes.
The Lancers could not charge; they were hemmed in, packed between bodies
of horsemen that pressed them together as between iron plates; now and
then they cut their way through clear enough to reach their comrades, but
as often as they did so, so often the overwhelming numbers of the Germans
surged in on them afresh like a flood, and closed upon them, and drove
It was bitter, stifling, cruel work; with their mouths choked with dust,
with their throats caked with thirst, with their eyes blind with smoke;
while the steel was thrust through nerve and sinew, or the shot plowed
through bone and flesh.
The answering fire of the infantry kept the Germans farther at bay, and
mowed them down faster--but in the Lancers' quarter of the field--parted
from the rest of their comrades, as they had been by the rush of that
broken charge with which they had sought to save the town and arrest the
foe--the worst pressure of the attack was felt, and the fiercest of the
The general in command of the cavalry had been shot dead as they had
first swept out to encounter the advance of the German horsemen; one by
one the officers had been cut down, singled out by the keen eyes of their
enemy, and throwing themselves into the deadliest of the carnage with
impetuous self-devotion characteristic of their service.
At the last there remained but a bare handful of the brilliant squadrons
of 600 men that had galloped down in the gray of dawn to meet the
whirlwind of German fury. At their head was Captain Derevaux, and beside
him rode Hal.
It was not the gallant captain's fault that Hal was thus in the thick of
the battle. This had been an accident, and had come about in this manner:
Late the night before Hal and Chester had been called to the quarters of
the commanding general and dispatched on separate missions. Their ways
led past the outposts--even beyond the farthest--where the six squadrons
of French Lancers and a small body of infantry had been thrown out, under
orders, to make a reconnaissance in force in the morning. Advancing
beyond this line, Hal had turned east and Chester west.
His mission accomplished, Hal had just reached the Allies' line upon his
return, when the Germans bore down on them. Hal saw that his one chance
for safety lay in throwing in his fortunes with the troops.
Accordingly he turned his horse, just as the Lancers swept past on their
first charge, and reined in beside Captain Derevaux. The latter had
recognized the danger and realized that the boy's keen wit had detected
his one hope of life. He had greeted him with a smile; nor had he blamed
him for his choice.
And so Hal had swept forward in the charge. Seizing a sword from a
falling trooper, Hal, riding at the captain's side, was soon in the thick
of the terrible carnage, and, in spite of the terrible fighting, had
Two horses had been killed under Captain Derevaux. Twice he had thrown
himself across fresh, unwounded chargers, whose riders had fallen in the
fray, and at whose bridles he caught as he shook himself free of the dead
animal's stirrups. His head was uncovered; his uniform, hurriedly thrown
on, had been torn aside, and his chest was bare; he was drenched with
blood, not his own, that had rained on him as he fought, and his face and
hands were black with smoke and with powder.
Hal could not see a yard in front of him; he could not tell how the day
went anywhere save in that corner where the Lancers were hemmed in. As
fast as they beat the enemy back, and forced themselves to some clearer
space, the Germans closed in afresh.
No orders reached the little troop, and Hal could not tell whether the
Belgian battalions were holding their own or had been cut utterly to
pieces under the immense numerical superiority of their foes.
Glancing about the field, Captain Derevaux could see that every officer
of the Lancers save himself was down, and that, unless he took the vacant
place and rallied them, the few troopers still left would scatter.
With Hal at his side, he spurred the horse he had just mounted against
the dense crowd opposing him--against the hard black wall of dust and
smoke and steel and savage faces, which were all that either could
see. He thrust his horse against the mob, while he waved his sword
above his head:
"_En avant_!" he shouted.
His voice reached the troopers, clear and ringing in its appeal. Hal,
turning in his saddle at this moment, caught from the hands of a reeling
trooper the Eagle of France, and as he raised it aloft, the light,
flashing upon the golden wings, brought an answering shout from those
that remained of the troop.
"_En avant_!" came the rallying cry.
The young French captain glanced back on this little troop, guarding
his head the while from the blows that were rained on him, and his
voice rang out:
Like arrows launched from a hundred bows they charged, Hal and the young
captain still slightly in advance, Hal striking aside the steel aimed at
him, as they pushed on, and with the other hand holding high the Eagle
The effort was superb.
Dense bodies of Germans parted them in the front from the part of the
field where the infantry still was engaged, harassed them in the rear
with flying shots and forced down on them on either side, like the
closing jaws of a trap.
Their fierce charge was, for a moment, irresistible; it bore headlong all
before it. For a moment the Germans gave way, shaken and confused. For a
moment they recoiled under the shock of that desperate charge.
As Captain Derevaux spurred his horse against the enemy, twenty blades
glittered against him. The first would have pierced his chest had not Hal
struck up the blade with a quick move.
To pause was impossible. Though the French horses were forced through a
bristling forest of steel, the charge availed little.
Hal waved the Eagle aloft, as the captain looked around at the few who
were left and shouted:
"You are the sons of the Old Guard! Die like them!"
"Surrender!" came a cry from in front.
Hal looked back once more on the fragment of the troop, and raised the
flag higher aloft, as he muttered to himself:
"This will be the end. I wish I could have seen Chester once more; good
Hot and blinded, with an open gash in his shoulder where a sword had
struck a moment before, but with his eyes flashing and a smile on his
lips, the young captain cried his reply to the command to surrender:
"Have we fought so poorly that you think we shall give up now?"
Then, with upraised swords, the troop awaited the onward rush of
the Germans; and, as they waited the young captain found time to
murmur to Hal:
"I am sorry to see you here now, but you are a fighter after my
Hal was unable to speak. He put out his hand and the young Frenchman
grasped it warmly.
"I guess it is good-by," he said quietly.
Then came the shock. With a yell the Germans threw themselves
forward. A moment more and the onrushing horde would have massacred
them like cattle. But, even at the moment of impact a voice rang out
over the field:
Above the din of shouting and rifle shots it came; and from behind came
a full troop of Belgian light cavalry; and in front, with drawn sword,
The troop came on at a whirlwind rush; and, even as they did so, Captain
Derevaux urged his men into another charge, and pressed forward into the
thickest of the conflict. And Hal rode by his side.
Blow after blow was aimed at them, but none found its mark. Parrying and
striking, they pushed on; and then a German bugle sounded a recall, and
the enemy drew off.
Panting, Chester rode to Hal's side.
"I was afraid we would be too late!" he exclaimed.
"I am not even scratched," returned Hal, grasping his friend's hand.
A Belgian officer hurried up to Captain Derevaux.
"You have this lad to thank for our opportune arrival," he declared,
indicating Chester. "He told us of your plight, or we would not have
arrived in time."
The captain grasped Chester's hand.
"You saved the day!" he said simply.
A DANGEROUS MISSION.
Chester was embarrassed.
"I did nothing," he said. "I only rode fast."
The hurrahs of the men who heard him drowned his words.
"The general will think differently," returned the captain.
"How does it happen you arrived so opportunely, Chester?" asked Hal.
"It's very simple. I was returning from my mission, and was riding
between you and the outposts. I heard firing and rode forward to see what
was going on. I saw how things were with you. Even from where I was I
thought I could recognize you in the front rank.
"At first I thought I would ride directly toward you, but then I knew
that I could be of greater service by hurrying back and summoning aid.
When I told the general of your perilous position, he acted at once, and
I came with the reinforcements. That's all there is to it. You, Hal, are
the one deserving of praise."
"And I shall see that he is rewarded for it!" exclaimed the captain. "But
your gallant conduct also shall be made known. Certainly I made two good
friends when I met you two boys. At some time I hope to be able to repay
you in some slight measure, although I know I can never entirely cancel
my indebtedness to you both."
In the hut of the officer commanding the division Captain Derevaux went
into detail concerning the gallant actions of our two boys.
The general congratulated them.
"I shall see that your conduct is brought to the personal attention of
the King," he declared. "You shall both be rewarded if I live long enough
to write out my report."
"Thank you, general," both lads replied, and then accompanied Captain
Derevaux to his quarters, where his wound, which was found to be slight,
was attended to.
It was the next afternoon that the general again summoned the lads
to his hut.
"I have a mission of importance," he said, "and I am seeking
volunteers. It is somewhat dangerous, and I am loath to order anyone to
go. But in view of your gallant conduct, I thought I would give you the
"We shall gladly undertake it, general, no matter what it is,"
"Yes, sir," agreed Chester, "we shall always be glad to aid the cause of
the Allies, no matter what the dangers."
"Well, then," replied the general, taking a paper from his desk. "I want
this paper put into the hands of General Givet, at Louvain. If there is
any danger of your being captured, destroy it. It contains information
that would be invaluable to the enemy.
"In view of your past resourcefulness, I am putting great confidence in
your ability to get through. The country between here and Louvain,
while not precisely in the hands of the Germans, is being constantly
overrun with parties of raiders. You will bring General Givet's reply
to me here."
The lads saluted and departed.
"You certainly have made a great impression upon the general," said
Captain Derevaux, when the boys informed him of their mission. "Just keep
as cool as you have been in the past, and I am sure you will get through
It was late that night when the lads made their way from the young
captain's quarters, passed beyond the outposts, and made their way into
the forest beyond, following the road, but keeping well within the shadow
of the trees.
"This is the best summer vacation we have ever had," declared Hal, as
they went slowly along.
"You are right, there," replied Chester. "Of course, war is a terrible
thing, but as long as there is a war I would rather be over here where I
can see what is going on than to be sitting home reading about it in the
"Yes; and then you couldn't be exactly sure you were getting the facts."
Shortly after sunrise the boys came upon a large farmhouse.
"It's pretty early," remarked Hal, "but perhaps we can find some one and
get a bite to eat."
They approached and found the household already astir. As they
ascended the steps, a young girl, probably sixteen years of age, came
out on the porch.
"Can you provide us with a little something to eat?" asked Hal politely
in French, doffing his cap.
The girl glanced at him, a puzzled expression coming over her face.
"I don't understand French very well," she said, in English.
"By George!" exclaimed Hal. "I thought so. That is," he apologized for
his exclamation, "I was sure you were not French."
This time Hal had spoken in English, and a look of surprise had come over
her face, followed by an expression of delight.
"I was sure you were Americans!" she exclaimed, and then added
hesitatingly, "or are you--can it be you are English?"
"No; we are Americans, all right," Chester broke in; "but we certainly
didn't expect to run into an American girl in this corner of the world."
"No; particularly at a time like this," agreed Hal.
"Oh, I am perfectly safe here," replied the girl "Uncle, who is a Belgian
officer, has joined his regiment, and I am here with only two servants.
He wanted me to go to Liege with him, but I preferred to remain here. No
one will harm me."
"But the Germans may come through here at any time, and then you would be
"Oh, no. Several German regiments already have passed by, and some of the
officers were here. They assured me I would not be molested."
"Nevertheless, you are likely to be. You can't tell what may happen."
"I am not afraid," replied the girl. "The Germans won't bother an
Remembering their own experiences, Hal and Chester looked at each other
"I am not so sure," replied Hal; "but if you have decided to stay,
I suppose you will. You see," smiling, "I know something of
The girl also smiled.
"I suppose you wonder who I am," she said. "I am Edna Johnson, and I live
in Chicago. Mother was here with me, but she went home just before war
was declared. I suppose she is worried to death about me, but I believe
it is safer here than elsewhere, and I have heard Americans are having
great difficulties getting home."
Hal and Chester introduced themselves.
After a few minutes Edna suddenly exclaimed:
"Here I am, keeping you chatting, when I know you must be awfully hungry.
Come with me and we shall have some breakfast."
The boys followed her into the house, where a hearty meal was soon set in
the dining-room, and the three fell to with a will.
Hardly had they satisfied their appetites when there was the sound of
many feet upon the porch. Miss Johnson glanced through the door.
"Germans," she said, with a smile; "but they won't bother us."
Hal and Chester jumped to their feet.