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The Boy Allies At Verdun by Clair W. Hayes

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"Now, I guess you will be safe here until morning; after that you will be
safe for all time."

"Thanks," said Chester, dryly.

The German left the tent.

Chester now took stock of his surroundings. Outside he could hear his
guards pacing up and down.

"If I could get one of them in here at a time," the lad told himself,
"perhaps I could dispose of them. I'll try it."

Approaching the entrance, he poked his head out.

"Get back inside there," a gruff voice exclaimed, and Chester beheld a
large German soldier with his rifle pointed squarely at his head.

"Look here," said Chester. "I want a drink of water."

"Get back inside," was the sharp reply. "I'll get it for you."

Chester moved back in the tent. Five minutes later the German soldier
stuck his head inside.

"Here's your water," he said, holding forth a tin cup.

Chester's right hand rested on his belt as he extended his left to take
the cup. The German had lowered his gun at that moment; and he paid
dearly for his carelessness.

Chester made a sudden movement and the cup of water went clattering to
the ground. At the same moment Chester brought the butt of his revolver
down on the head of the German soldier with a crunch. The man fell to
the ground.

Hastily now Chester seized the man by the feet and dragged him inside.
Then the lad quickly stripped him of his clothes and donned them himself.
They were large, but Chester made them fit by turning up the trousers and
drawing his belt tight. Then he picked up the German's gun and stepped
from the tent.

The lad had intended to move away from the tent immediately, but even as
he would have walked off a second of the guards approached and engaged
him in conversation. Chester muffled his voice as well as possible and
imitated the hoarse tones of the man he had disposed of.

"Nice night," said the German.

"Nice night," Chester agreed.

"What is to be done with the prisoner inside?"

"Hang him in the morning," said Chester.

"Good! It's the way all spies should be treated."

"Of course; unless they chance to be German spies."

"That's different," muttered the guard.

"Of course it is," Chester agreed and added: "You'd better get back to
your place. The prisoner might escape under your nose."

"Not much chance," was the reply. "I wouldn't care if he did try, though.
I'd like to have a shot at him."

"Nice pleasant sort of a customer," Chester muttered to himself. Aloud,
he said: "Well, I was just giving you a word of warning. You can't tell
about these fellows. They're pretty slippery customers."

"Well, this one won't slip out of our clutches," declared the guard. "I
wonder if I hadn't better go in and have a look at him?"

"Can't be done," said Chester. "My instructions are to let no one pass."

"So are mine, but what has that to do with it?"

"A whole lot. I'm on guard in front here and I say you can't go in."

"Come now, be a good fellow, I want to have a look at the prisoner."

"Can't be done," returned Chester.

"You are a deucedly uncivil sort of a fellow," said the guard. "I don't
seem to know you. What's your name?"

"None of your business," returned Chester.

"Is that so? Suppose I make it some of my business," and the guard took a
threatening step forward.

"You'll be sorry, that's all."

"Think so, do you? Let me tell you something. I'm going to hunt you up in
the morning and have it out with you."

"All right," said Chester. "You can suit yourself about that. But wait
until morning. Remember we're guarding this prisoner now."

"Well, I've a notion to settle with you right now, prisoner or no
prisoner. I don't like you."

"To tell the truth, I don't think a whole lot of you," said Chester. "I
would a great deal rather be without your company. You had better get
back where you belong."

"Think so, do you? Well, I'll show you."

With these words the German guard forgot all about the prisoner
supposed to be inside and everything else save that he wanted to get at
Chester. He dropped his rifle with a clatter and struck at Chester with
his right fist.

"Well, if you must have it," Chester muttered to himself.

He, too, dropped his gun and his right fist shot forth. The German
staggered back with a grunt; but Chester's blow had not reached a vital
spot and the guard leaped forward again.

This time Chester timed his blow a little more carefully.

"Smack!"

The lad's fist landed flush on the guard's jaw. The man rolled over
like a log.

Chester looked around quickly.

"Now to get out of this," he muttered.

He picked up his rifle and turned to move away. But even as he would have
started the sound of hurrying footsteps halted him; and he began to pace
up and down in front of the tent.

Two figures dashed toward him; behind them came the sound of shots.

"Hello!" said Chester to himself. "More trouble in camp. Wonder
what's up now?"

The answer was to come sooner than he could have expected. As the two
figures came closer, other figures appeared in the distance. There came
the sound of revolver shots.

"This way!" cried a voice.

Chester raised his rifle, ready to take a hand in the proceedings himself
should the occasion demand.

"This thing is getting rather complicated," he told himself.

The two approaching figures came closer rapidly. Chester gave an
exclamation of pure astonishment.

CHAPTER XXVI

RUNNING THE GAUNTLET

When Hal and Stubbs took to their heels after the former had relieved the
German officer of his papers, they had run some distance before coming
across anyone in the darkness. Then they came upon another figure so
suddenly that it almost resulted in their capture.

Hal, in the lead, had been just about to slacken his pace, when, rounding
a corner suddenly, he had crashed into a form in the night. The two went
down in a heap; and Stubbs, turning a moment later, had stumbled over the
pair of struggling forms before he could check himself. In a moment he
found himself mixed up in the struggling mass.

A fist struck Stubbs squarely upon the nose.

"Hey! Quit that," said Stubbs, and struck out with his right.

This blow came almost ending the fight right there and in a manner not at
all advantageous to Stubbs and Hal. In the darkness the little war
correspondent had been unable to distinguish friend from foe and his fist
caught Hal just above the right eye.

Now Anthony Stubbs had considerable power in his right arm and for a
moment Hal was dazed by the blow. Before he could clear his head, his
opponent had struck him a heavy blow on the other side of the neck and
leaped to his feet.

At that instant Stubbs realized what he had done and a sickening
sensation struck him in the pit of the stomach; but the little man
determined to give the best that was in him to undo his work.

With an angry bellow he charged his German opponent. The latter stepped
back a pace and sought to draw his revolver, but Stubbs was too quick
for him. Almost at the moment that Stubbs crashed into his foe he
lowered his head, as would a steer, and his head caught the German in
the region of the belt.

Came a gasp from the German as he doubled up and collapsed. He rolled
over upon the ground several times in a vain attempt to gain his breath;
then lay still.

The victory was with Stubbs!

Hal had now regained consciousness and sat up just in time to see the
effect of Stubbs' charge.

"Good work, Stubbs!" the lad cried. "Now lend me a hand and we'll get
away from here!"

Stubbs did as requested and a moment later Hal was on his feet. The lad
felt the bump over his eye tenderly.

"Stubbs," he said, "it was rather dark and we were so mixed up on the
ground that I couldn't see, but I would be willing to wager a whole lot
that it wasn't a German who gave me this crack over the eye. Now was it?"

"Well," said Stubbs, "I--I--"

"Just as I thought," declared Hal. "So you tried to do me up as well as
the German, eh?"

"It was an accident," declared Stubbs. "You know I wouldn't have done it
on purpose, Hal."

"It came very near being a costly accident, Stubbs. Suppose the German
had laid you out? Then what? We would have been nabbed, sure."

"I'll be more careful next time," said Stubbs, apologetically.

"You won't have to be," said Hal. "Next time I'm going to get in the
first blow. Then we'll see how you like it. But come. We must be moving
away from here. See. The German is regaining consciousness. I don't want
to kill him, and we mustn't be here when he comes to. Come now."

Hal led the way rapidly along the row of tents.

"Looks as though we should be safe enough now," the lad said, after they
had walked for perhaps fifteen minutes.

The lad produced his watch, and by the soft light of the moon, took note
of the time.

"By Jove! half past one o'clock," he said. "We shall have to hurry back
or Chester will be worried."

"Let's hope Chester will be there when we arrive," said Stubbs.

"Oh, he'll be there, all right. Come on."

"Say," said Stubbs as they walked along, "what I want to know is how you
knew the German officer you knocked down had any valuable papers?"

"That's easy," was Hal's response. "Before entering the tent where your
little game was in progress, I overheard one of the officers without
mention the fact that an aide of General Ludwig's was in the tent and
that he carried important papers. The rest was very simple."

"I see," said Stubbs. "Now what--look there, Hal."

The little man broke off suddenly and pointed directly ahead. Advancing
toward them were perhaps a dozen German soldiers, with an officer at
their head.

"We'll have to get out of the way," said Hal, quietly. "We haven't time
to answer questions now."

He turned between the rows of tents and hurried on, with Stubbs close
behind him. And from the German officer came the command to halt.

Instead, Hal increased his speed and a moment later he and Stubbs were
running quietly between the rows of German tents. Behind came the sound
of pursuing footsteps.

"We're in for it now, Stubbs," panted Hal. "I was a fool to run. They
know now that there is something wrong and they won't rest until they
have scoured the entire camp."

"Then we are done for!" exclaimed Anthony Stubbs.

"Not yet!" replied Hal. "While there's life there's hope. Never say
die, Stubbs."

The little man did not reply. He saved all the breath he had left for
running purposes, for he felt that he was likely to have to run the rest
of the night.

Suddenly, making another short turn, Hal pulled up. Stubbs did likewise
and both listened attentively.

The footsteps were some distance back.

"We've gained a bit, Stubbs," said Hal.

"Well, what's the use of waiting here then?" demanded the war
correspondent. "Let's gain a bit more."

"Hold on!" exclaimed Hal, as Stubbs would have taken to his heels again.
"We can't run clear through the German camp like this, you know. We're
bound to be caught if we try it. It must be strategy rather than
fleetness of foot if we hope to get out of this situation safely."

"All right," Stubbs agreed. "Whatever you say suits me. But if it is
strategy that is going to get us out of this, tell me some strategy
real quick."

Hal considered a moment. Every second the pursuing footsteps were coming
closer. Stubbs squirmed about uneasily.

"Say," he said at last; "hear those fellows coming? I'm going to get away
from here."

Again he took to his heels; and there was nothing for Hal to do but
follow, for he did not wish to lose sight of the little man. Besides, in
that moment's pause, Hal had decided upon a plan that he believed had a
fair chance of success.

For perhaps five minutes more they ran on, Hal fearful at every moment
that German soldiers would pour from their tents and interrupt their
flight. Fortunately, this did not happen, however.

Hal, fleet of foot as he was, was hard pressed to catch up with
Stubbs, who had gained a slight lead and was covering the ground with
rapid strides. But at last the lad overtook him and laid a hand on
his shoulder.

"Slow down, there," he commanded. "First thing you know you'll have the
whole camp after us. Those shoes of yours must be at least number
elevens. They shake the whole earth when you run."

"Well, they have come in pretty handy to-night," said Stubbs. "What are
you stopping here for?"

"Because I don't want to arouse every German in the camp. I'll tell you
about that strategy now."

"Well, let's hear it real quick," said Stubbs, impatiently. "I want to
get away from here."

"So do I," said Hal, "but I want to get away all in one piece. Here's
my plan: We can't hope to get away by running. Sooner or later, before
we are clear of the German lines, we are certain to bump into some one.
That would settle it. We'll go ahead a little more, then we'll enter
one of these tents, tap the occupants on the head with our revolver
butts and crawl into their cots. Then when our pursuers have gone by
we'll go back."

"By Jove!" said Stubbs, "that's not half bad. Wonder why I can't think of
things like that?"

"Because you're too busy running," returned Hal.

The first of the pursuers came into sight at that moment and uttered a
cry. This told the others following that the prey had been sighted and
they dashed forward.

"Come as fast as you can, Stubbs," shouted Hal. "We've got to get out
of sight."

In the distance Hal saw a solitary figure standing before a tent. He knew
that this figure had seen him and decided that the man must be disposed
of before he could give the alarm, Therefore, he headed straight for him.

As he ran, Hal expected every moment that the figure before the tent
would open fire on him and his own revolver was held ready should the
man's first shot go wild. Hal did not wish to fire if he could
possibly avoid it.

Close behind Hal, Stubbs panted and puffed along. Once Hal was forced to
reduce his speed in order that Stubbs might keep up with him. The little
man was doing his best, but his short legs were not built to maintain a
pace that Hal could set. Besides, he had long since lost his youthfulness
and he could not run as he had done in his earlier days.

"I can't go much farther, Hal," he gasped.

"Just a little ways, Stubbs," Hal urged him on. "See that man in the tent
there? That's where we'll hide. I'll knock him out if he doesn't get me
first. The fool! He is taking a long chance. He should fire."

At that moment there came a fusillade of shots from behind.

In his anxiousness to get the man in the door of the tent out of the way,
Hal had continued a straight course longer than he had realized; and this
had allowed the pursuers to come within sight again. There was nothing to
do but make the best of it now.

Hal dashed straight for the figure in the tent.

Drawing close, Hal raised his revolver, reversed, and held it ready to
bring down on the figure's head the moment they should come together.
There was a sudden exclamation from the figure in the tent; and with it
Hal dropped his arm; the exclamation was a single word:

"Hal!"

CHAPTER XXVII

A HARD BLOW TO THE ENEMY

It was the voice of Chester.

Hal stopped abruptly. Stubbs also panted up and came to a halt.

"What on earth are you doing here, Chester?" asked Hal.

For answer Chester pointed to the men who were pursuing his friends.

"Are those fellows after you?" he asked.

"Yes," was Hal's answer.

"Then let's get away from here," said Chester. "Come on."

He took to his heels and Hal and Stubbs followed him. Gaining his
friend's side, Hal, in a few quick words, explained his plan as he had
outlined it to Stubbs only a few moments before.

"Then we shall have to get out of sight of our pursuers," said Chester.
"Come, Stubbs," he called back over his shoulder, "a little spurt now and
we shall be safe."

Stubbs tried to respond to this command; and he did succeed in getting up
a little more speed as he turned about a tent after Hal and Chester.
Twice more the three doubled on their tracks and then Hal pulled up
before a tent.

"This will do as well as another, I guess," he said.

"Waste no time," said Chester. "Revolvers ready and come on."

With weapons reversed the three entered the tent quietly. Deep snores
within led the friends to the cots of the occupants of the tent.

"I hate to do this," said Chester, as he stood over a German soldier,
"but there is no help for it."

His arm rose and fell.

Across the tent Hal performed a similar operation. Then they explored
carefully in the darkness for signs of another figure.

There was none.

"Only two cots, Hal," whispered Chester. "Now let's get to bed until
things have quieted down."

Quickly the three threw off their clothes and clambered into the cots,
first throwing the men they had overcome beneath them. Stubbs had a cot
to himself, while Hal and Chester climbed in together.

"When they fail to find trace of us they likely will come back and ask if
we have been seen," said Hal. "We must pretend to be asleep."

A few moments later the sound of their pursuers' feet were audible as
they passed the tent on the run. Then they died away in the distance.

"Had we better wait or try to get out before they come back?"
asked Chester.

Hal was undecided, but the question was answered for him.

Only a few minutes had passed when there came the sound of returning
footsteps. The boys could hear them stop before the different tents and
also the sound of voices. Directly a man poked his head into the tent.

"Awake in here?" he asked.

There was no answer.

The man advanced into the tent and approached Stubbs' cot which was
nearest the entrance. He laid a hand on Stubbs' shoulder and shook him.

"Hello," said the little man sleepily. "What's the matter. Time to get
up already?"

"No," was the reply. "Have you seen anything of three men, whose
appearance would indicate they had been running?"

"I've been asleep," protested Stubbs. "I had a dream. But I guess the men
I saw in my dreams are not the ones you want."

"These are not dream men," was the response. "I thought possibly you
might have heard them run by this tent."

"No," said Stubbs, truthfully, "I didn't hear them run by this tent."

"All right," said the German and withdrew.

For perhaps an hour the three fugitives lay in the shelter of the German
tent. From time to time they heard voices without but after awhile these
died away. After there had been absolute silence without for perhaps
fifteen minutes, Chester slipped from the cot.

"May as well move, I guess," he whispered.

Hal also arose.

"All right," he said. "Come, Stubbs."

There was no reply from Stubbs' cot. Hal walked quickly across the tent,
laid a hand on Stubbs' shoulder and shook him vigorously.

"Come, Stubbs!" he exclaimed. "Time to get out of here."

Stubbs muttered something unintelligible and turned over.

"By Jove! if he isn't asleep," said Chester, who came to Hal's side now.

"That's what he is," agreed Hal. "Well, we've got to get him up. Grab
hold of his feet."

Chester did so and together the boys picked the little man up bodily.

"I say!" said Stubbs, sleepily, "let me alone, will you? I want to sleep
a little more."

"You'll find an eternal sleep if you don't get out of here, Stubbs," said
Hal. "Don't you know you are in a German tent and that you'll be shot if
you're found here?"

This awoke Stubbs instantly. He stood up and rubbed his eyes.

"Great Scott!" he ejaculated. "How on earth did I go to sleep in a
predicament like this?"

"I don't know how you did it," returned Hal, "but you did. Come on,
Chester, let's get out of here while we have a chance."

He led the way cautiously to the door of the tent and poked his head
carefully outside.

"Coast seems to be clear," he announced. "Come on and walk quietly."

The others followed him.

Hal made a direct line for the place where they had hidden the large army
aeroplane. Fortunately, the lad was blessed with an almost uncanny sense
of direction and he knew the course he laid out would take them to the
hiding spot of the plane as directly as if he could see the huge machine
from where he stood.

All was silence in the big camp as the lads walked cautiously along,
stopping now and then and straining their ears for a sound that would
indicate the presence of a watchful German sentry. No such sound came and
the three had almost reached the outskirts of the camp when Hal, who was
leading, stopped and pointed to an object that loomed up large in the
darkness a short distance away.

"What is it?" asked Stubbs in a hoarse whisper.

"Looks to me like a place where ammunition might be stored," said Hal,
quietly. "I shall have a look."

"Let it alone, Hal," said Stubbs, anxiously. "Don't go fooling around
there. You're likely to blow us all up."

"I guess not," returned Hal, "but I wouldn't mind blowing all the
ammunition up that the place may contain."

"By Jove!" said Chester. "A good idea! I'm with you."

"Well, I'm not," declared Stubbs. "I know where our aeroplane is and
that's where I'm going right this minute. I don't know how to fly the
thing, and if you fellows go fooling around that ammunition depot I'll
probably have to hunt another pilot; but Anthony Stubbs is not going to
be blown up with his eyes open when he can help it."

"Better wait here, Stubbs," said Chester.

"Not me," returned the little man, decisively. "You'll find me at the
plane when you get there; or if you get there, I should say."

"But there is nothing sure that the building contains ammunition," said
Hal. "I just guessed at it, Stubbs. Come and have a look."

"Oh, it contains ammunition, all right."

"How do you know?" demanded Chester.

"Well, if it didn't you fellows wouldn't have spied it. You call it good
luck. I call it hard luck. I tell you that every time I go any place with
you I risk my neck. Sure the building contains ammunition! It was put
there for the sole purpose of having you blow it up. That's the way it
looks to me. But I can see all the fireworks I want to from a distance.
Good-bye."

"All right, Stubbs, if you are such a coward," said Chester,
somewhat nettled.

"I'd rather be a live coward than a dead fool," was Stubbs' reply.

He walked off.

"Come on, Chester," said Hal. "We'll have a look at this place."

He led the way close to the building. Going slowly and cautiously they
advanced to within a short distance of the building without being
observed, although they could see an occasional dark shape as it moved
about in front of the building.

"Guards there," said Hal, briefly.

"Sure," said Chester. "I believe you have guessed right. I am sure the
place is filled with ammunition. Now if we could just dispose of the
guards and place a time fuse--"

"It would be a hard blow to the Germans," Hal agreed. "We'll try it."

Still cautiously they approached. A guard arose from in front of the
building. He stretched his arms. Apparently he had been asleep. Then he
sat down again.

"We'll wait a minute," Hal whispered. "Perhaps he'll doze again."

Fortune was with the boys. A few moments later there came the sound of a
gentle snore. The man was asleep. Immediately the lads sprang to action.
Quickly they dashed across the open space to the side of the large
building, which was made of wood and seemed to be nothing more than a
huge barn.

Chester stopped beside the guard and raised his revolver. He hesitated a
moment and then lowered the weapon.

"Let him be," he muttered. "He won't be with us long anyhow."

Hal, in the meantime, had been exploring the barn. Coming back he picked
up the guard's rifle.

"I can pry a board loose with this," he told Chester, in a whisper.

This proved easier work than it looked. The board came loose without much
trouble. Hal disappeared inside.

"Ammunition?" Chester asked, as he poked his head in.

"Yes," Hal whispered back.

"Find a fuse?" asked Chester.

Again Hal's reply was in the affirmative.

"Stretch it out here then, and hurry," ordered Chester.

Hal appeared on the outside a moment later, carrying a fuse. One end
still remained in the barn. The other Hal carried some distance.

"Guess you'd better dispose of that guard first," he said. "He might wake
up and extinguish the fuse."

It was the work of but a moment, much as Chester hated to perform it.

Then Hal struck a light, shielding the match with his cap. He applied the
match to the fuse. Then he sprang to his feet and called to Chester:

"Run!"

CHAPTER XXVIII

FLIGHT

Both lads fled through the night knowing that their lives depended upon
it. For safety's sake it was absolutely necessary that they put as great
a distance as possible between them and the barn.

According to Hal's calculations, the spot where the aeroplane was hidden
was far enough away so that the machine would not be disabled by the
force of the explosion; and it was for this point that the lads made at
full speed.

They reached there safely; and still there had been no explosion.

"How much time did you allow, Hal?" asked Chester.

"Ten minutes, as nearly as I could judge," was the reply.

"Then we still have a few minutes, I guess. Had we better wait here until
after the blast, or shall we run out the machine and get up in the air."

"We'd better stay here," returned Hal, positively, "I don't know how much
ammunition there is in that barn. It's going to kick up a terrible fuss.
My advice is that we lay flat on the ground, hold our ears and bury our
faces. Immediately after the blast we'll run the machine out and get up
as swiftly as possible."

"I can imagine the effect of the explosion," said Chester.

"Well, I can't," returned Hal; "nor can you. How many men it may kill,
how many it may maim and what damage it will do cannot be estimated. But
one thing sure, immediately afterwards every sleepy German soldier within
fifty miles will be on the alert. The Germans will know it was not an
accident. They will attribute the explosion to a bomb dropped from the
air. We may have trouble reaching our lines."

"I wish you hadn't done it, Hal," mumbled Stubbs, whom the lads had
found hiding beside the aeroplane. "It will dig a hole a mile deep in
the ground. Rocks, guns and everything will come down like hail. We may
be killed."

"Quiet, Stubbs!" ordered Hal. "Flat on the ground with you now. Hold your
ears and bury your faces until I tell you to get up."

He suited the action to the word. Chester and Stubbs followed his
example.

For long moments, it seemed to them, they waited for the sound of the
blast that would shake the country. Each was anxious, for there was no
telling what the result of the explosion might be. Stubbs squirmed
uneasily as he burrowed in the ground, while Chester and Hal were by no
means easy in their minds.

So long did they wait that it seemed to Chester something must have gone
wrong. Perhaps the fuse had gone out. Perhaps another German guard had
discovered it in time and pinched out the fire. There were many
possibilities, and the lad considered them all as he lay prostrate on
the ground.

He was about to raise his head and ask Hal a question, when, suddenly,
the blast came.

There was, at first, a long grumbling roar, which, it seemed, would never
end. Gradually the roar increased until it reached such proportions as to
be beyond all description; it was a roar the like of which neither of the
three figures who lay there had ever heard before--probably never would
hear again.

Louder and louder it grew and then ended in a final blast that was louder
than many thousand times the loudest peal of thunder--louder than the
simultaneous firing of thousands of guns.

Then it became suddenly quiet--so quiet that Hal, Chester and Stubbs, who
had now leaped to their feet, felt a queer sensation hovering all about
them; so quiet that it was, for the moment, impossible to hear.

Then something descended not five yards from where the three stood with a
terrible roar. Instinctively, all fell to the ground again, crowding
themselves into the smallest possible space.

For the rain of debris had begun. And for several minutes it continued.
Pieces of guns, of rocks and of all objects imaginable fell upon all
sides of the three; but, fortunately, none struck them. Then the rain of
debris ceased.

In the great German camp all was hideous confusion. Thousands of lives
had been snuffed out by the force of the titanic blast; thousands of
others had perished in the rain of steel and iron and rock that followed.
It was the greatest catastrophe that had befallen the Germans for many a
long day. The effect of the explosion was appalling.

Hal's first thought after the rain of steel and iron had ceased was for
the aeroplane. If it had been smashed they were, indeed, in a serious
situation. If it had gone through the storm safely they were
comparatively safe.

Together the three friends rushed toward the machine. Quickly they rolled
it out into the open. Hal examined the engine and steering apparatus
carefully.

"All right, Hal?" asked Chester, anxiously.

Hal shook his head.

"Something wrong with the engine."

"Can you fix it?"

"I haven't been able to determine just what's wrong yet."

Hal worked rapidly; and at last he gave an exclamation of satisfaction.

"Find it?" asked Chester.

"Yes; I'll have it fixed in a quarter of an hour."

"If we're not away from here in five minutes we're likely to be dead,"
said Stubbs, plaintively.

"Don't croak, Stubbs," said Chester. "We've done a good day's work and
you should be proud to have a hand in it."

"Should I?" said Stubbs. "Well, all right, if you say so; but I would be
a whole lot more proud if I could get back and tell somebody about it."

"A man deserves no particular credit for doing his duty," said
Chester, quietly.

"Maybe not," agreed Stubbs. "But I haven't done mine yet."

"Why--"

"My duty," said Stubbs, "is to get back to some place where I can send an
account of this feat to the New York _Gazette_. Believe me, it will be
some scoop."

"Scoop?"

"Yes. I mean no other paper will have the facts as I have them."

"All right, Stubbs," said Chester. "I hope you get your scoop."

"I'm going to get it," said Stubbs, excitedly, "if I have to walk over
the body of the Kaiser himself to do it."

"That's the way to talk," said Chester. "Confidence is the greatest asset
in the world."

"It's not confidence," said Stubbs. "I've just got to do it. Why, if my
boss knew I had something like this in my hands and I didn't get it to
him I'd lose my job."

Chester made no reply to this; instead, he bent over Hal who was still
tinkering with the engine of the aeroplane.

"How are you making it?" he asked.

"I don't seem to be able to fix it," returned Hal. "Say! you two fellows
walk away a bit and keep an eye open for possible enemies. We don't want
to be caught off our guard here."

Chester and Stubbs did as Hal directed, though the latter mumbled to
himself as he took his position some distance away.

"That's the trouble with these contraptions," he said. "Always out of
whack. If a man had a good horse now--"

He broke off and continued to mumble something unintelligible to himself.

"I've found it," cried Hal now, from the aeroplane. "I was working on the
wrong part. I'll have it fixed in a jiffy."

Chester made no reply, but Stubbs brightened up wonderfully.

"That's the talk!" he cried. "Fix her up, Hal, and get a move on."

Hal smiled to himself as he tinkered with the engine.

Hal was deep in his work when his attention was attracted by a sudden cry
of alarm from Stubbs.

"Germans!" cried the little man, and without stopping to look again, he
dashed toward Hal.

At almost the same moment Chester saw a force of the enemy advancing
toward him. He, too, uttered a cry of alarm and dashed toward the place
where Hal still bent over the aeroplane.

Stubbs danced up and down and chanted excitedly:

"Hurry up, Hal! Hurry up! Here they come!"

"Shut up, Stubbs!" exclaimed Hal, straining all his energies to fix the
break in the plane. "I'll have it in a minute."

"A minute will be too late!" cried Stubbs.

"Be still, Stubbs!" said Chester, quietly. "Give Hal a chance. There is
still time to run if it's necessary."

And at that moment Hal sprang to his feet.

"Fixed!" he cried joyfully. "Climb in here, quickly!"

The others needed no urging and soon all were in their places. It was now
that Hal thanked his stars that the plane was one of the few that could
rise from the ground.

Slowly the large army plane gathered headway as he moved along the
ground. Hal increased the speed slowly in spite of the close proximity,
for he realized that too great haste might spell disaster, and he wished
to test the engine carefully before soaring into the air.

"Up, Hal!" cried Stubbs. "Here they come!"

Hal paid no heed to this frantic exclamation. Instead, for a moment, he
reduced the speed of the craft as something seemed not to be working
exactly right. Calmly he bent over the engine and tinkered with it a
moment later. Then he sat straight and exclaimed:

"All right now!"

Stubbs gave a great sigh of relief.

Hal increased the speed of the machine until it fairly flew over the
ground. And then his hand touched the elevating lever.

Immediately the plane soared in the air like a big bird.

And from the ground came exclamations of surprise; for it was not until
that moment that the Germans who had been advancing toward the friends
had discovered their presence; although they had been espied by Chester
and Stubbs some moments before.

A volley of rifle bullets was fired at the rapidly rising machine.

One flew by Stubbs' ear and he dropped to the bottom of the car with a
howl of fright.

A moment later, however, the machine was beyond reach of the rifles of
the German troops, and Hal laid the craft out on a straightaway course,
heading directly west.

"Nothing can stop us now but enemy aeroplanes," he said quietly.

He increased his speed. The big army plane flew toward the distant French
lines with a speed greater than that of the fastest express train.

CHAPTER XXIX

THE END OF MATIN

"You have done well, sirs. President Poincare shall hear of this."

The speaker was General Petain. Before him stood Hal, Chester and Anthony
Stubbs. Hal, acting as spokesman, had just concluded an account of their
adventures within the enemy lines, a venture from which they had returned
successfully and safely only an hour before.

For, after the aeroplane had descended above the French lines and headed
for the French positions, the journey had been without important event.
True, there had been a brush with one enemy aircraft; but this had been
worsted. A second, which had given chase, was distanced with ease and the
three friends had returned to the French lines unscathed.

"So!" said General Petain, "you blew up the enemy's ammunition depot, eh?
The explosion was felt even here. We knew the foe had suffered some hard
blow, but I had no idea that it had been delivered by your hand."

Both lads flushed at the praise of General Petain. Stubbs was pleased.

"Now tell me what else you did, if anything," said the general. "Did you
get the information after which you went?"

"We did, sir," returned Hal.

He passed to the general the documents he had taken from the young German
aide. General Petain scanned them carefully.

"These will be invaluable to me," he said quietly.

Then Chester told the French commander of the conversation he had
overheard in the quarters of the German Crown Prince.

"Now that I have escaped," the lad concluded, "it may be possible, of
course, that the German plans will be altered."

"You have done well," said the general again, "and as I have said, your
work shall be brought to the personal attention of the President." He
turned to Stubbs. "You, sir," he said, "are not a soldier, yet I have to
thank you for your part in this mission."

Stubbs blushed like a school boy.

"I didn't do anything deserving of credit, sir," he said. "My young
friends here were the directing heads and performed all the
dangerous work."

"Nevertheless," returned the general, "you are deserving of praise and if
there is anything I can do for you, you have but to ask it."

Stubbs hesitated. There was something he wanted very much but he did not
know whether to make the request or not. General Petain saw the little
man's indecision, and said with a smile:

"You have something on your mind, sir. Come, out with it. Be sure it will
be granted if it lies in my power."

Still Stubbs hesitated. Chester stepped forward, smiling.

"I believe I can tell you what it is, sir," he said.

"Speak," said the general.

"Why, sir," said Chester, "Mr. Stubbs would have your permission to send
an account of the great explosion to his newspaper uncensored. He would
have the people of the United States know, through his paper, of the
severe blow the enemy has suffered."

"H-m-m-m," muttered the general. "The United States will hear of the
disaster, of course. Mr. Stubbs, with the other correspondents, will be
allowed to file his despatches after the official report has been made."

"But that's the point, sir," said Stubbs, stepping forward. "I would like
to have my paper get the news first."

"Oho! I see," exclaimed General Petain. "You want for your paper what you
Americans' call a--a--a--"

"Scoop."

Chester supplied the word.

"Exactly," said Stubbs.

The general considered the matter for a moment. Then he threw wide his
arms in a gesture of consent.

"It shall be done," he said.

"Thank you, General," said Stubbs. "Then, with your permission, I will
retire to my own quarters to prepare my despatches."

"One minute, Stubbs," said Chester. "You may perhaps remember that until
a short time ago you shared quarters with Hal and me. We would like to
have you come back."

Stubbs grinned.

"That was before the discovery of the great conspiracy," he said. "By the
way, General, may I make so bold as to ask what has been done toward
crushing the move?"

"It has been crushed, sir," replied General Petain, quietly. "That shall
have to suffice. And, by the way, Mr. Stubbs, I must tell you that if you
refer to that matter in your despatches they will be strictly censored."

"I shall not mention the matter, General."

Stubbs bowed and took his departure, first stopping to say to Hal
and Chester:

"You'll find me back in our old quarters when you arrive."

"Now, boys," said General Petain, after Stubbs had gone, "you are
relieved of duty for the rest of the day. To-morrow morning, however, I
shall have need of you; for to-morrow--and I am telling you something few
know--we shall launch a new drive, basing our attacks upon the
information which you have just now furnished me. Good-bye until
to-morrow."

The general walked to the door of the tent with the two boys and waved a
hand to them as they turned away.

"Well," said Hal, as they walked along, "we apparently have accomplished
something worth while."

"To hear the general talk you would think we had," agreed Chester, "and
still we didn't do so much, after all."

"That's what I think."

"By the way," said Chester, "I'm going to hunt up Stubbs' old quarters.
Perhaps he hasn't moved his things yet. I'll lend a hand."

"All right," said Hal. "I'll go along without you. I'll probably be
taking a nap when you reach our quarters. Don't awaken me. I'm tired."

The lads parted and Hal continued on his way to his quarters.

Stubbs had not yet arrived. Hal sat down on the edge of his cot to remove
his shoes. As he did so he thought he heard a sound from behind him. He
whirled suddenly and there, a few feet away, his revolver trained right
upon Hal's heart, stood Matin, the French soldier who already had tried
once to kill him.

"A visitor, I see," said Hal, quietly. "You will pardon me a moment while
I remove my shoes. That is what I started to do and when I start a thing
I always like to finish it."

"Take them off if you want to," returned Matin, grinning evilly. "You
won't need to put them on again."

"Think not?" said Hal. "You never can tell about those things, Matin."

"Trying to be funny, are you?" returned Matin. "Well, go ahead. You won't
lie funny long--not to anyone but me. I'm going to shoot you."

"Don't suppose you would let me draw my own gun first, would you?"
asked Hal.

"No. What do you think I am?"

"Just a coward; that's all," said Hal, quietly.

"Coward, am I?" exclaimed Matin, taking a quick step forward.

"Correct," replied Hal. "It's about your size to shoot a man in the
back. I have had dealings with your kind before. You're afraid to take
an even chance."

"It's not that I'm afraid," said Matin. "It's just that I want to make
sure. I failed twice before."

"Then it was you who tried to shoot me in here one night, eh?" asked Hal.

"Yes; and I would have succeeded had it not been for your friend. When I
have disposed of you I shall settle with him also."

"I don't think so, Matin."

"You don't? What's to prevent me?"

"Why," said Hal, "when I am through with you, you will be in no condition
to settle with anyone. Now, if you will take my advice, you'll put that
gun in your pocket and leave this tent."

"Talk pretty big, don't you?" said Matin, with a sneer. "Well, I'll
show you!"

He raised his revolver so that the muzzle pointed squarely between Hal's
eyes. His finger tightened on the trigger.

"One moment, Matin," said Hal, quietly. "Don't you know that before you
can pull the trigger my friend in the doorway will kill you?"

A look of fright and disappointment passed over Matin's face. Slowly he
lowered his revolver and turned toward the doorway. It was the moment for
which Hal had been waiting.

With a bound he leaped upon Matin and with his left hand seized Matin's
right wrist. Matin uttered a snarl of rage.

"Tricked me, did you?" he shouted. "You shall pay for it."

It had been Hal's intention at first simply to wrest the revolver
from his opponent's hands and then turn the man over to the officer
of the guard.

But Matin's strength was greater than the lad had imagined; also he was
wild with rage. With his free hand he struck viciously at Hal, while he
kicked with his feet and sought to bury his teeth in Hal's arm.

But Hal held him back.

Vainly, Matin sought to move his right arm around so as to bring the
muzzle upon Hal's heart. With a quick move Hal suddenly released his hold
upon Matin's pistol wrist and seized the pistol hand. His finger covered
Matin's finger on the trigger.

Matin's hand at that moment was extended straight from him. Slowly now,
as Hal exerted his utmost pressure, the arm described a semicircle. Now
it pointed almost straight forward. Then, as Hal brought more strength
into play, the arm curved inward; and directly the revolver pointed
squarely at Matin's heart.

The perspiration stood out in great beads on Matin's forehead. He was
panting and gasping for breath. Hal was breathing easily, though the
manner in which the sinews on his forehead and arms stood out showed to
what extent he had extended himself.

When the mouth of the revolver pointed at Matin's heart, Hal said
quietly:

"Now, Matin, if you will release your hold on this gun I will let
you go free."

Matin's answer was a snarl of rage.

Whether the man went suddenly insane or whether he knew fully what he was
about, Hal can not say to this day; but under his own finger, the finger
on the trigger tightened. There was a flash, a muffled report and the
form of Matin fell limp in the lad's arms. Hal stepped back and Matin
slid to the floor. Hal stooped over and laid a hand over the man's heart.

"Dead!" the lad exclaimed, and added: "but not by my hand. He pressed the
trigger himself!"

CHAPTER XXX

THE ADVANCE

A bugle sounded.

The sleeping French camp sprang suddenly to life. Men, half dressed,
sprang from their cots--they had not disrobed entirely the night
before--and hurried to their positions, adjusting their clothing as they
did so. Regiments formed hurriedly in the darkness that is always more
intense just before dawn. Officers shouted and swore; horses whinnied
from the distance, indicating that the French cavalry, as well as the
infantry was forming.

A second bugle sounded; then many more. More commands from the various
officers. Aides rushed hither and yon delivering sharp orders to division
commanders. The men stood quietly in line. Came other sharp commands all
down the line:

"_En avant_!"

The troops began to move.

Overhead, screaming French shells from the big guns in the rear flew as
they raced for the distant German lines. This was no new sound. For
more than twenty-four hours now these big guns had been hurling shells
into the German ranks; and the men had become so used to the sounds of
their voices that they would have been almost unable to sleep had they
become silent.

This bombardment, continuing for more than twenty-four hours as it had,
was the opening of the greatest offensive by the French at Verdun--an
offensive by which General Petain, the French commander, hoped to drive
back the foe that for months had pressed on so hard, and thus to insure
the safety of Verdun, "The gateway to France," against the German invader
for all time to come.

Each move of this gigantic effort had been thought out well in advance.
All contingencies had been provided for and against. The blow was to be
struck at the psychological moment, when it would be deemed by the French
general staff that it was sure of success.

And now this moment had come.

The information placed in the hands of General Petain days before by Hal
and Chester had been the one link in the chain that had been missing. Now
the general staff felt sure of the success of this great effort, though
there was not a man who had taken part in the preparations who did not
know that the victory--if victory there should be--would be won at
tremendous cost.

But, with the fate of Verdun in the balance, it had been the opinion of
each member of the general staff that now was no time to hesitate.

So, upon this morning in June, just before dawn, the French advanced all
along their entire front.

Under the protection of their big guns they would be able to progress for
some time; and as they attacked the German first line trenches in a
charge, the fire of the big guns would continue, firing overhead at the
German second and third line trenches beyond.

And it was in this manner that the advance was made.

The day dawned while the French were still some distance from the German
first line trenches; and the German guns, far to the east, and the German
defenders in the trenches opened on them with a vengeance. But the French
were prepared for this. There had been no thought of a surprise attack in
the plans of the general staff. It was known that the Germans would
realize what was about to happen when the duel of big guns began more
than twenty-four hours before.

Before sun-up the French infantry sprang forward in its first charge. It
was thrown back. Immediately a second charge was ordered. This met the
same fate as had the first. A third brought no better results.

On the next charge, as the French advanced the Germans left their
trenches and sprang forward to meet them. The big German guns became
still as the infantry struggled hand to hand.

There issued from the French left at this juncture, heavy bodies of
French cavalry. Into the thick of the struggling mass the horsemen
charged. This attack had been a surprise. The Germans were cut down in
large numbers. As they scrambled back to the protection of their
trenches, French troops scrambled over with them. Again the infantry
alone was engaged, but this time in the enemy trenches.

Whole squadrons of cavalry were ordered from their horses and also sprang
into the German trenches. Reinforcements were hurried up. The Germans
also rushed up supports; but they had delayed too long.

The Germans broke and fled for safety to the second line trenches.

Immediately the French turned the field pieces captured with the German
trenches upon the fleeing enemy and mowed them down in great numbers.
Others of the French troops fell to work consolidating the newly won
trenches. The big German guns opened again; but by this time the French
were pretty well secured against this arm of fire.

More French reinforcements were rushed up to hold the captured trenches.
Batteries of field guns braved the German shell fire and dashed across
the open to the captured trenches. Immediately these guns were brought
into position, they opened upon the German second line of defense.

From their posts of vantage, mounted upon slight elevations, and from
behind trees and other secure places, the great French guns protected the
advance of the cavalry and infantry.

Hal and Chester, who had stood close to General Petain during most of
this battling, had watched the conflict with the greatest interest.

"Look at them fall!" exclaimed Chester, as through his glasses, he
witnessed the last desperate attack of the French.

"It's a terrible sight," agreed Hal, "and yet there will be many more
just as terrible before this war is won."

"Indeed there will," agreed Chester.

"Lieutenant Crawford! Lieutenant Paine!"

It was General Petain who spoke.

"My compliments to General Bordeaux, Lieutenant Paine, and tell him that
the left of the newly won trenches must be held at all hazzards!"

Hal sprang upon a nearby motorcycle and soon was speeding toward
the front.

"Lieutenant Crawford! The same instructions to General Ducal on
the right!"

A moment later Chester was speeding forward.

His message delivered, Hal stopped for a moment to gaze about the
trenches won at such terrible cost.

There had been no time to bury the dead, or even to have the bodies
removed; and the trenches were piled high with French and German dead. In
between the rows of corpses, which had hurriedly been pushed to one side,
the other troops worked, apparently without thought of their fallen
comrades. Red Cross physicians and nurses were working among the wounded,
lightening the suffering.

Hal looked at his watch.

"Twelve o'clock!" he muttered. "It seems as if this single battle had
been going on for days!"

He made his way slowly back to General Petain.

Chester, his message delivered, also had taken account of the French
position on the right. There the fighting had been particularly severe,
and the newly won positions presented ghastly spectacles. Chester
shuddered:

"And this is war!" he said.

He made his way back to headquarters and rejoined Hal.

"Wonder if we shall try for the second line defenses to-day?" Hal said
to his chum.

"I don't know; but I wouldn't be surprised to hear the order at any
minute now. Look at the masses of reinforcements being rushed forward.
Surely, they are not being sent there just to hold the trenches. No; I
believe that to-day General Petain hopes to carry at least the second and
third line of trenches on our whole front."

And, as it transpired, Chester was right.

At four o'clock in the afternoon the French had established
themselves firmly in the German second line trenches, although at
great cost. Dense masses of reinforcements were immediately rushed
forward. To Hal and Chester this signified that there was still to be
another effort that day.

And at five o'clock in the evening the effort was made.

Under a sun that beat down with terrific force, despite the lateness of
the hour, the French infantry again advanced to the attack. Flushed with
two victories earlier in the day, they went forward confidently and with
eagerness and enthusiasm. Cheers broke out along the whole line as they
advanced. Farther back, a band--many bands--played "The Marseillaise."

The German troops, twice driven back before the victorious French,
nevertheless stood firm in their trenches. They had learned a dear lesson
at the hands of their enemy this day; and while they realized fully that
they were getting the worst of the battle, they still stuck bravely to
their task.

Terrible as it was, it was an awe-inspiring sight that Hal and Chester,
far back with General Petain and staff, witnessed through their glasses
that late afternoon.

In dense masses the French hurled themselves against the German trenches;
and in great masses they were hurled back again--those of them who did
not lie upon the ground. Time after time the French charged what appeared
to be impregnable trenches. Then, on their fifth effort, they reached
their goal and surged into the trenches.

Immediately all was confusion there. An unguarded moment meant a man's
death. Struggling as they were, it was, at times, almost impossible to
tell friend from foe. But the troops distinguished somehow, and for what
seemed ages they battled there, hand-to-hand.

German reinforcements rushed up in a valiant effort to save the day.
General Petain threw out supports for his own infantry. All these surged
into the trenches and added their quota to the terrible din.

Several times the German cavalry charged, their riders dismounting when
they reached the struggling mass of humanity and plunging into the fray
with sabres and revolvers. But each time they were beaten off.

Gradually the French cleared the trenches. The Germans gave slowly at
first; then more swiftly. The French pursued them with loud cries. The
enemy broke and fled.

Again German reinforcements rushed to the attack. The French met them in
the open, beyond the third line German trenches. The fighting was
something terrible; but flushed with victory as they were, there could be
but one ending.

A German bugle sounded a recall; and at almost the same moment the
evening sun settled beyond the distant eastern hills.

The French had won the day!

Hal and Chester looked at each other. Then, even as the entire French
staff broke into a loud cheer, the two lads grasped hands.

"We've won!" said Hal.

"Verdun is saved!" exclaimed Chester.

So there, upon this historic field, we shall take our leave of these two
friends for the time; but we shall renew our acquaintance later, in a
succeeding volume, entitled: "The Boy Allies on the Somme; or, Courage
and Bravery Rewarded."

THE END

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