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Air Service Boys Over The Enemy's Lines - The German Spy's Secret
by Charles Amory Beach
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He was heading in that quarter now, and looking for signs of a light in some upper window. This he discovered speedily, and pointed it out to his companion.

"Whoever was crying, Jack, must be up there," he said, close to the other's ear so as to insure safety.

"But how can we find out?" queried Jack. "If you say the word I'm willing to climb up, and learn what's wrong."

"Not yet. We must take a turn around, and pick up more knowledge of this place, as well as the people who live in the house."

"Then why not creep up and look in at that lower window?" suggested Jack, pointing as he spoke. "I've seen a shadow passing back and forth, as if some person were walking up and down like a caged tiger. It's a man, too, Tom, because I could easily make out his figure, a tall man to boot."

Tom led the way, with Jack at his heels. They managed to crawl through the bushes that cluttered the ground close to the wall of the stone building, and were at length in a position to raise themselves from their knees and peep under the drawn shade.

Jack was the first to look. Almost instantly he drew back with a low ejaculation of wonder. Tom, spurred on by this fact, also raised his head until his eyes were on a level with the small strip of open space just below the shade. He too had a thrill at what he saw.

"I feel as if I must be dreaming!" whispered Jack huskily. "Tell me, is that man in there really Carl Potzfeldt, the good-for-nothing guardian of little Bessie Gleason?"

"It's no other than our old acquaintance of the Atlantic liner," admitted Tom, though he himself had some difficulty in believing the startling fact.

This man, whom they felt sure was a German spy, had last been seen descending the gangway from the steamer at an English port, with Bessie Gleason, his pretty little ward, held by the hand, as though he feared she might try to run away from him.

Many times had Jack tried to picture the conditions under which he might run across Carl Potzfeldt again; but no matter what line of flight his imagination took he certainly had never dreamed of such a thing as this. Here in the heart of Lorraine, many miles back of the German front, on a moonlight night, and in a lonely country house, he once more beheld the object of his former detestation.

He clutched his chum by the arm almost fiercely.

"Well, that settles it, Tom!" he muttered savagely.

"Settles what?" whispered the other, for the window was closed, and there did not seem to be any chance of their low-voiced exchange of opinions being overheard.

"I don't leave here until I've seen her. For if he's at this place it stands to reason Bessie must be here also. Tom, that was Bessie we heard sobbing, I just know it now."

Tom had already jumped to the same conclusion. Nevertheless he did not mean to let it interfere with his customary caution. Nothing was to be gained through reckless and hurried action. They must go slowly and carefully. This house by the roadside on the way to Metz he concluded might be a nest of spies, perhaps the headquarters of a vast network of plotters.

"Hark! There's a car coming along the road and stopping at the gates here!" he told his chum, as he drew Jack down beside him. "We must be more careful how we look in lighted windows. If any one chanced to be abroad in the grounds we'd be seen, and perhaps fired on."

They crept from the vicinity of the window. Tom led the way toward the front of the house, as if he had an object in view. The car was now coming in along the crooked drive. They could see its one light, for economy in the use of all means for illumination was a cardinal feature of the German military orders in those days of scarcity.

The car stopped in front of the house, and a man jumped out. Tom saw that he wore a uniform of some sort, and judged that he might be a captain, at least. There was a second figure on the front seat, also in the dark-green garb of a soldier, but a private possibly.

The two young Americans crouched amidst the dense bushes and listened. So many thrilling things were happening in rapid succession that their pulses beat with unwonted speed.

Before this the sound of the approaching car must have reached the ears of the man they had seen pacing the floor in the spacious room that looked like a library. There were many books in cases and on shelves, while pictures and boars' heads decorated the walls.

Potzfeldt opened the door just as the officer alighted, and there was an exchange of stiff military salutations. Tom discovered that his guess was a true one, for the man of the house addressed the other as "Captain."

It was too bad that they spoke in German as they stood by the open door. Jack for once bitterly regretted the fact that he had never taken up the study of that language when at school, as he might have done easily enough. It would have paid him handsomely just then, he believed.

The two men talked rapidly. Apparently the officer was asking questions, and demanding something, for in another minute Carl Potzfeldt took an object out of a bill book and handed it to the other. As near as the watchers could make out this object was a slip of paper, very small, but handled as though it might be exceedingly precious.

Jack had a sudden recollection of a correspondingly minute slip of paper which he and Tom had found hidden in that little receptacle attached to the leg of the homing pigeon the latter had shot.

More talk followed between the two men. Presently the man turned and hastened inside again. He had left the door standing open, however, with the German officer waiting as if for something he had come after besides the scrap of paper.

Jack knew now that the man in uniform was from the headquarters of the Crown Prince. That accounted for the numerous marks of car tires which Tom had discovered on the drive. This lonely house by the roadside on the way to Metz was a nest of spies. Perhaps Carl Potzfeldt might be the chief, through whom negotiations were conducted and lesser agents sent forth.

Jack had got no further in his deduction when he saw the tall man returning. He carried a bundle that was wrapped in a cloth, and depended from his hand by means of a heavy cord, or some sort of handle.

This he set down on the landing, while he passed further words with the captain; and now it was Potzfeldt who asked the questions, as though he wished to learn how things were going at the front.

Between queries and guttural replies the hidden air service boys heard a series of sounds that gave them sudden light. Jack's hand pressed on Tom's arm, as though in this manner he wished to call the attention of the other to the noise.

Many times both of them had listened to similar sounds while watching some pigeon on the barn roof dare a rival to combat, or when wooing his mate. And as they could easily trace this to the covered package which Carl Potzfeldt had just brought out of the house, the meaning was obvious.

Of course there were pigeons in that cage, homing pigeons at that, like the one Tom had shot! Doubtless had that one escaped its tragic fate the message it carried would have been delivered to the owner of this lonely house, in turn to be handed over to one of the messengers from German headquarters.

And now the German captain, stooping over, took possession of the cage containing at least two of the trained birds. They would be carried to some point from which, on another night, a daring Boche airman would attempt to take them far back of the French front, to hand over to the agent who was in communication with the master spy, Carl Potzfeldt.

It was all very simple. Nevertheless it was also amazing to realize how by what might be called a freak of fate the air service boys had been enabled to discover these facts. But for the accident to the motor they would not have dreamed of making a landing short of the aviation field at Bar-le-Duc. Then, had they not caught that woeful sound of loud sobbing, the idea of looking around would never have occurred to them.

The officer was now starting back to his car, which would carry him post-haste to German headquarters, where the fresh message in a cipher code from beyond the French lines might be translated, and the valuable information it possibly contained be taken advantage of.

Presently the military chauffeur started to swing around a curve that would allow them to leave the grounds by the same gates through which they had entered. The car's course could be followed by the strong ray its one light threw ahead; and the boys were able to tell when it reached the road again.

As they expected it returned the same way it had come, probably heading for the headquarters of the Crown Prince.



CHAPTER XX

JACK CLIMBS A WALL

"What luck we're in to be here, Tom!" murmured Jack.

Carl Potzfeldt had again entered the house and closed the door; and the air service boys could no longer hear the car speeding along the road. Jack was quivering all over with excitement. The events that had just come to their attention filled him with a sensation of wonder approaching awe.

"It certainly is strange how we've stumbled on this nest of spies," admitted Tom.

"And the paper he gave the captain—it must have been a message in cipher that an incoming pigeon brought from back of our lines, eh, Tom?"

"I guess it was, Jack. We could see it was only a small scrap of paper, thin paper at that; but both of them handled it as if it were pretty valuable."

Jack was chuckling, such a queer proceeding that Tom could not help noticing it, and commenting on it.

"What's struck you as funny now?" he asked, puzzled to account for this sudden freak on the part of his companion.

"I was wondering," explained Jack, "whether that mightn't be the doctored message we believed our commander meant to send through some time or other with one of the pigeons we got that day we went hunting."

"That's possible," Tom agreed, also amused at the thought. "But then, whether it is or not, it means nothing to us, you understand. We are here, and must decide on our movements. If that was a bogus message, and will coax the Germans to make an attack at a certain place where a trap has been laid, that's their lookout."

"Somewhere about here must be the pigeon loft where those homing birds have been bred," suggested Jack, following up a train of thought.

"Yes, it may be on the flat roof of the chateau, or in the barn at the rear," Tom admitted. "One thing is certain, they know only this place as home; and wherever they're set free their first instinct is to strike a bee-line for here. Some people are so foolish as to fancy homers can be sent anywhere; but that's silly. It's only home that they're able to head straight toward, even if hundreds of miles away."

"Oh Tom! how about Bessie?" inquired Jack eagerly.

His chum considered, while he rubbed his chin with thumb and finger in a thoughtful way he had when a little puzzled.

"It might be done in a pinch," he finally muttered.

"What, Tom?"

"She's such a little mite that her weight wouldn't amount to much, if only she had the nerve to do it, Jack."

"Do you mean that you'd be willing to carry Bessie off with us? To help her escape from her guardian? I'm sure he must be treating her badly, or else she wouldn't be sobbing her poor little heart out, as we heard her."

"That would have to depend a whole lot on Bessie."

"As far as that goes I know she's a gritty little person," Jack instantly remarked. "Many times she said to me she wished she were a boy so that she might also learn to fly and fight for France against the detested Kaiser. Why, she even told me she had gone up with an aviator who exhibited down at a Florida resort, one having a hydro-airplane in which he took people up. And Bessie declared she didn't have the least fear."

"That sounds good to me, Jack."

"Then let's get busy, and try to let her know we're here," continued Jack.

"First of all, we'll get under the open window where she must have been standing at the time we heard her crying. I think I saw a movement up there while the two men were conversing on the porch. Perhaps Bessie was listening to what they said."

Tom's words gave his chum a new thought.

"Oh, it would certainly be just like Bessie to do it! She seemed to be full of clever ideas."

Tom, being mystified by such words, he naturally sought further information.

"What would she do?" he demanded.

"Send me that mysterious message by the little hot-air balloon," Jack announced with a vein of pride in his voice, feeling delighted over having solved the puzzle that had baffled him for so long.

"It hardly seems probable," Tom answered softly. "At the same time it isn't altogether impossible."

"How far are we from the French front, do you think, Tom?" pursued his comrade, determined to sift the whole thing out.

"Twenty miles or so, I should imagine."

"That isn't very far. Once I caught just such a little balloon in a tree in our yard that had a tag on it, telling that it had been set free in a village that lay seventy miles off. The wind had carried it along furiously, so that it covered all that distance before losing buoyancy, and coming down in the heavy night air."

"Yes, I know of other circumstances where such balloons have traveled long distances before falling. Then again, Jack, this valley extends pretty much all the way to the Verdun front, and the current of air would carry a balloon along directly toward our home patch."

"Oh, Bessie sent it, believe me!" asserted Jack again, more confidently than ever. "And she'll tell us so too, when she gets the chance."

Thus whispering the air service boys arrived at that side of the house where the lighted window on the second floor seemed to indicate that the object of their present concern could be found.

Tom examined the building as well as the limited amount of light allowed. He could easily see that any agile young fellow, himself or Jack for instance, might scale the wall, making use of some projections, and a cement flower trellis as well, in carrying out the project.

"We might throw pebbles up, and bring her to the window," he suggested, though pretty confident at the time Jack would find fault with such an arrangement.

"That wouldn't help her get down here to us, Tom," protested the other. "And that's what we're planning, you remember; for you said she could accompany us if she felt equal to it. I must go up myself and help Bessie get down. There's nothing else to do, Tom."

It looked very much as though Jack was right. Tom admitted this to himself; at the same time he wished there were some other way by means of which the same end could be gained, or that he could undertake the thing, instead of his comrade.

But to this Jack would never agree. Bessie was his own particular friend; and they had been most "chummy" while aboard the Atlantic liner crossing the submarine infested ocean. Then again that warning had been addressed to him, and not to both, showing that the writer had only been concerned about the danger he, Jack, was running, should his plane be tampered with by some emissary of Carl Potzfeldt.

"All right then; you go, Jack! But be careful about your footing. If you fell it'd be a bad thing in many ways, for even if you escaped a broken neck or a fractured leg you'd arouse the house, and all sorts of trouble would drop down on us in a hurry."

"Don't worry about me, Tom. I'll show you I'm as nimble as any monkey. Besides, that isn't much of a climb. Why, I could nearly do it with one arm tied fast."

"Go to it!" Tom told him, settling back to watch the performance and give whispered advice if it seemed necessary.

Jack waited no longer. He was wild to find himself once more face to face with the pretty young girl in whom he had taken such an interest. Her recent sobs and cries still haunted his heart, and he felt certain she must be in great sorrow over something.

He commenced climbing. While his boast about being equal to any monkey that ever lived among the treetops may have been a bit of an exaggeration, all the same Jack was a very good athlete, and especially with regard to feats on the parallel bars or the ladders in a gymnasium.

He made his way nimbly upward, with Tom's eyes following every movement. It seemed an easy task for the climber. Just what he would discover when he had gained the open window was another question.

The light still remained, for which both boys felt glad. It afforded Jack a goal which he was striving to gain; and it told Tom further down that the inmate of the upper room was awake and still moving about, though her sobs had ceased.

Once Tom fancied he heard something stirring back of the house. He hoped it might not prove to be a servant attached to the Potzfeldt place or an attendant who had charge of the pigeon loft.

Jack was almost up now. He had only to cover another yard of space when he could look into the room of the lighted window. That was where fresh peril must lie, because his figure would be outlined in silhouette, and any one moving about the grounds might discover that uninvited guests had arrived.

Tom wished he had told his chum to insist that the light be immediately extinguished, if, as they believed, it proved to be Bessie who occupied that room. He hoped his chum would think of it without being told.

There! At last Jack had arrived, and without accident! Now he was cautiously thrusting his head up a little, to peer within.

Tom held his breath. So much depended on what would follow Jack's betrayal of his presence.

"Tell her to put out the light, first of all, Jack!" Tom gently called out, using both hands as a megaphone to carry the sounds.

It seemed that he must have been heard, and his directions understood, for immediately there was another movement above, after which the illumination ceased, as though Bessie had blown out the lamp.

Tom breathed easier, though he still continued to look, and wonder how his chum was going to get the girl safely down from her elevated apartment. Jack was not so fertile in expedients as his chum, and many times depended on Tom to suggest ways and means.

While Tom was still waiting, and hoping for the best, he heard his comrade whisper down to him as he hung suspended, clutching the sill of the open window.

"After all, you'll have to come up too, Tom," he was saying feverishly. "There are complications that'll need your judgment, knots to untangle that are beyond me."



CHAPTER XXI

IN THE OLD LORRAINE CHATEAU

What Jack said in his cautious fashion puzzled Tom. For the life of him he could not understand what had arisen, calling for any unusual display of generalship. Surely Jack should have been equal to the task of getting Bessie down from the window, even if he had to make use of knotted bed-clothes in lieu of a rope.

Still he had asked Tom to come up, and there was nothing to do but grant his request. "Complications," Jack said, had arisen. That was a suggestive word, and to Tom's mind seemed to hint at further mystery.

Accordingly he proceeded to imitate the example of his comrade. Jack had shown the way, and all his chum had to do was to follow. As Tom was also an all-around athlete, accustomed to much climbing from small boyhood, after nuts and birds' nests and all such things as take lads into tall trees, he found but little trouble in making the ascent.

When he drew himself alongside Jack, the other gave a sigh of relief.

"Whee! I'm glad you've come, I tell you, Tom," he said. "It was getting too big a job for me to tackle."

"What's happened, Jack?" asked the late arrival on the stone ledge under the window of the upper room.

"First, here's Bessie, Tom," Jack went on. "She wants to shake hands with you. Since we parted, when the steamer was docked, the poor girl has been having all sorts of trouble; and she's glad as can be to see us both again; aren't you, Bessie?"

Tom, feeling a small, trembling hand groping for his, immediately grasped it, and gave a squeeze that must have carried conviction to the heart of the girl.

"Oh, I'm shivering like everything!" she murmured, adding quickly: "But not with fear. It's because my prayers have been answered, and help has come at last, when everything looked so awfully dark—and I'm so very, very hungry."

"Hungry!" repeated Tom, starting, it seemed such a very strange word for the girl to use, even though they were in Germany, where all food he knew must be getting exceedingly scarce.

"Yes, what do you think, that rotten bounder of a spy is half starving the poor girl! He ought to be tarred and feathered, that's what!" growled the indignant Jack.

"Not so loud," warned Tom. "Some one may hear you, Jack. But tell me what you've learned."

"Why, first of all, Tom, it was Bessie who wrote that warning message I had, and attached it to that little balloon, hoping the favorable breeze would carry it over the front to the French lines. So that mystery is explained. Then, Tom, there are two we've got to take out of this place, instead of just one, as we thought."

"I don't get you!" Tom ejaculated. "What do you mean by two?"

"It's a story in itself, I guess," whispered Jack. "I don't wholly understand it myself. But it seems that Bessie's mother didn't drown after all when the Lusitania went down, as Potzfeldt reported she did."

"You surprise me, Jack! How could that be?" demanded the other youth, thrilled by the startling information.

"Oh, that slick rascal managed it somehow," came the soft if indignant reply. "We'll learn more about it later on. He was picked up by a fishing boat. The lady was temporarily out of her mind, so he gave it out later that she had gone down. How he ever got her over here in Germany beats me. But he managed to do it it seems. And she's been kept a prisoner in this old chateau of his ever since!"

"But what was his object?" asked the amazed Tom.

"It had a heap to do with finances," Jack told him. "While he held a paper that gave him charge over her daughter over in America, and a part of the big Gleason fortune also, there were valuable papers he had been unable to get his greedy hands on. She absolutely refused to tell him where they were hidden. As a last resort what did the wretch do but go all the way back to America."

"You mean to fetch his ward across with him, Jack?"

"Yes, just to use Bessie as a lever to compel her mother to give up those valuable papers. I always said, you remember, Tom, that man was hugging some secret to his heart. And so he was."

"He's been treating Bessie badly then, half starving her, I think you said?" continued Tom.

"Just what he has, poor girl," growled his chum, savagely. "It's an awful thing to be hungry! I don't see how any one can stand it. But he hasn't broken the spirit of either of them yet, though Bessie's getting so weak she finds herself crying every now and then, just as we heard her. And it was that which brought us over to find out what it meant. But Tom, tell her we mean to stand by, and see that both her mother and herself are taken to a place of safety."

This Tom readily did, though as yet he could hardly understand just how their promise could be fulfilled. One they might manage to take aloft with them, by crowding, but the Caudron was not capable of seating four; nor would it be safe to carry a couple of inexperienced passengers along with themselves.

"But we're losing valuable time," he observed. "The sooner we get in touch with Mrs. Gleason the better. There's a whole lot to be done before we can say we're on the safe side of the fence."

"Then first of all we'd better climb inside the room, hadn't we?" suggested Jack.

In answer Tom proceeded to get one leg over the sill, and then pass his entire body across. Jack quickly followed. In the semi-darkness, for the moon gave a dim light, they clustered there, and continued to map out their immediate plans in whispers that could not have been heard a dozen feet distant.

It appeared that Bessie knew where her mother was confined, though both doors were fastened on the outside to prevent their having communication. But the girl had found a way. Night after night she was accustomed to slipping from her window, when everything was quiet below and the lights all out, making her way along that narrow coping, or ledge, and tapping softly at the window of her mother's room.

They would remain together until toward morning, when the girl made it a practice to return by the same perilous route.

On this particular night it had seemed as though the lights below would never go out. Carl Potzfeldt, the master spy, expecting important news and a messenger from the headquarters of the Crown Prince, had been waiting up until long after midnight in order to fullfil the important duties entrusted to him.

Jack suggested that he creep along that coping and inform the lady of the golden chance for escape that had arrived. But as she would hardly be able to return by the same way, it seemed as though some other scheme must be considered.

Bessie herself had a brilliant thought bordering on an inspiration.

"Listen, and I will tell you," she said at this juncture. "All the time I have been here my one thought has been of escape. I dreamed nothing else save getting my poor mother away from the clutches of that coward who had hypnotized her in the past, and made her believe he was a good man as well as her cousin from Alsace-Lorraine. And I know of a way it can be done."

"Tell us your plan, please," begged Jack; though he would be sorry to learn that the honor of releasing Bessie's imprisoned mother was not to fall to his share in the undertaking.

"There is another window. It opens upon a hallway; and I can get through it, because I've tried it more than once. But the proper time hadn't come, for how were we to flee from this awful country? Wait for me here, both of you. I shall be able to open her barred door, and then my own. And it is better that I carry her the good news than some one who would be a stranger to my mother, however much I have told her about you."

Tom saw that her plan was the best, after all. He himself had been a little afraid that if Jack came tapping at the window of Mrs. Gleason's room she might take the alarm, thinking it but another twist to the odious schemes of Potzfeldt, and perhaps shrieking out in terror, which would cause an alarm, and ruin everything.

Bessie climbed nimbly out of the window, showing how accustomed she was to such athletic exercises. Jack held on to her to the last, and his whispers were all of an entreating character, as he begged her to be very careful, and not slip in her excitement.

Now she was gone, and the two air service boys, left by themselves in that room of the old Lorraine chateau, counted the seconds and the minutes until they should hear a gentle signal at the door, to signify that Bessie and her mother were there, about to enter.

Jack walked softly up and down, like a velvet-footed tiger in its cage. He was so worked up by the excitement of the occasion that Tom did not have the heart to ask him to stop his movements, though he certainly would have done so had not the other been keeping on his tiptoes all the while.

What a remarkable turn their venture into the country back of the enemy's lines had taken! And what astounding discoveries they had made in the bargain!

Jack was getting more and more impatient. Several times did he pause at the door, to lay his ear close to the heavy panel, and listen. He wondered what could be keeping Bessie. Surely she had had ample time to open the door of her mother's room and explain everything to the lady. In his excitement he pictured all sorts of fresh trouble as having befallen the girl. What if by accident she had run across the master German spy in the corridor? But then, in such a case, Bessie surely would have screamed in order to warn her two friends that they were in danger of being discovered, should Potzfeldt and some of his assistants burst into the room.

Of course Jack had magnified things wonderfully. Less than half the time had elapsed than he thought had passed when there came a soft scratching on the door to notify them Bessie was there. They next heard a slight creaking sound, and then the soft closing of the door.

"Bessie, is it you?" asked the eager Jack, softly.

A reply in the affirmative followed.

"And here is mother with me," added the girl, a note of joy in her voice, even though she spoke in a whisper.

So they came together. In the semi-darkness the boys could not see what Bessie's mother looked like. They did note, however, that she was small of stature; and this fact pleased Tom very much indeed. For already he had figured out just how the rescue must be carried out, since there seemed to be no other way.

His plans would entail some sacrifice on Jack's part, and also more or less exposure to peril; but then Tom knew his chum too well to imagine he would hesitate even a moment when called upon to take this additional burden on his shoulders.

Both of them squeezed the trembling hand of the woman, and as best they were able assured her that they meant to carry both Bessie and herself to a place of safety, provided they were courageous enough to trust themselves to the care of two air pilots.



CHAPTER XXII

FACING MORE DIFFICULTIES

"As for me," spoke up Bessie, immediately, just as Jack felt positive she would, "I'd like nothing better. I've been up once in a hydro-airplane, and would have gone many times if mother had allowed me."

The lady did not seem to anticipate having a very delightful time of it, for Tom felt her shudder; but she was courageous, and evidently ready to attempt any hazard in order to gain her freedom.

"If only there is some way to fasten me securely," she told them, "I am willing to do anything you say, my brave boys. So make your plans without regard to my feelings in the matter."

Jack about this time evidently began to scent something with regard to Tom's intuitions; at least his word implied a growing skepticism concerning their ability to find room for two passengers aboard a plane intended only for a pilot and an observer, or a gunner.

"Of course one could squeeze in alongside me, Tom," he mentioned hesitatingly; "but do you think it's wise to have anybody with you? Mightn't it interfere with the working of the controls, and add to the danger?"

"It certainly would, Jack; and that's why I'm forced to call on you to make a sacrifice."

"Go on and say what's on your mind, then," demanded Jack. "No matter what it's going to be, you'll find me ready and willing for anything."

"You'll have to wait for the second trip," Tom announced.

"All right, just as you say, Tom. When will that be, later on to-night?"

"If it's possible to get back, yes," said the other.

"But if you can't make it, then to-morrow night, Tom?"

Jack was not overcome with fear, even though the prospect did appear anything but cheerful. Bessie listened to this low talk, and gave evidence of growing anxiety.

"But why should this be necessary?" she put in at that juncture. "I can stay behind just as well as not. Then perhaps another night later on you could come again, and take me with you to the French lines, and safety."

Jack sniffed in disdain.

"Well, I guess not, Bessie!" he told her, almost sternly. "I'd just like to see myself sailing away, and leaving you here to stand the racket. No, both of you are going to accompany Tom. I can find a hiding place somewhere around; and besides, no one will suspect that an American flier is hanging out here. There's only one thing I hate like everything to think of."

"And I can guess what that is," Tom said, quickly. "You dread to contemplate a long eatless day before you. That's the worst punishment anyone could hand out to you, Jack."

"As far as that goes," interrupted Bessie; "I can tell Jack where the pantry window lies. As the catch is broken you can easily climb in through it later on to-night, and lay in a supply of food. There is always something there. Before that bad man shut me up he tried to starve me, and I stole food myself. Then he guessed what was happening, for he fastened my door, and only allowed me to walk in the grounds in company with a woman he has for a housekeeper."

Thereupon Bessie gave Jack minute directions how to find the window leading into the storeroom. Thus armed the young aviator felt that he ought to be able to stand it, in case his comrade found it impracticable to return on the same night.

"Since all that is fixed," remarked Tom, "it strikes me we had better get out of this place quickly. Can you lead us down by way of the stairs, Bessie?"

"Oh, yes; for I know every foot of the way," she told him without hesitation. "You see, I expected that some time we would have to slip away by stealth; and so I made myself familiar with everything, even to the fastenings of the great front door, with its chain and catch."

"Then we're in great luck," Jack observed, while Tom on his part went on to ask further.

"All seems dark outside now, Bessie; would that indicate your jailer has gone to his bed? And do you happen to know where his apartment is? That might mean a whole lot to us, you understand."

"I don't believe he ever does really go to bed," she replied. "Once I heard him complain that there were so many times during the night that messengers came from headquarters with demands, or after information expected from over the lines, that he had to secure his sleep while fully dressed, and by throwing himself down on a Turkish lounge he has in his room."

"Well, so long as his sleep is sound it's little we care how or when he gets it," announced Jack, flippantly. "And when you give the word, Tom, we'll all be ready to follow Bessie down the stairs."

Tom was even opening his mouth to say there was really nothing to detain them, if Bessie and her mother had secured what trifles they wished to take away, but after all he did not speak the words that were on his lips.

Through the open window they suddenly heard the sound of heavy, guttural voices. They seemed to come from the road near the entrance gates.

Tom stepped over to the window and looked out. What he saw gave him an unpleasant feeling. There were lights already on the crooked driveway, and a number of men seemed to be advancing in a group.

Jack at his elbow was also staring, and grinding his teeth with anger.

"Hang the luck, I say!" he gritted. "That fresh bunch of Boche officers is bound to knock our plans silly. They'll stir things up again, and we can't get away. Then perhaps some one will discover the doors of the two rooms are unfastened, and that'll start a hornet's nest about our ears."

"Get down, and keep hidden, Jack," urged his companion. "They have lights with them, and might see us as they come along. There's a general, at least, in the lot, that big stout man in the center, and I imagine those other officers belong to his staff."

"But what are they walking for?" whispered Jack, incredulously. "German officers in the High Command don't often tramp along the roads like that, do they?"

"They may have broken down in their car; and learning they were close to this house have come on here to wait till repairs are made. Lots of them know Potzfeldt, I suppose, and one of these men may have been here before on business. The worst of it all is we'll have to give up our scheme of going down by way of the stairs."

They crouched down and watched as best they could, while the half-dozen men in the gray-green uniforms of German officers, and with many decorations on the breast of the martial-looking commander, approached the chateau's front door.

Already lights had sprung up on the lower floor. Undoubtedly Potzfeldt had heard his unexpected guests coming, and was bestirring himself to welcome them, though inwardly raving over having his rest so frequently disturbed.

He met them at the door, and there ensued more or less talking, all of it in the choicest of German. Again Jack felt sorry that his education was so incomplete that he could only guess at what most of it meant.

Still, Tom could pick up a little of what was said. There was certainly mention made of an unfortunate accident to a car, that would necessitate a delay of some hours for repairs, possibly until morning. The general did not altogether fancy sitting in the car for hours in the cool night air. Especially was this the case after he had learned that there was a house half a mile or so further on where food and drink could be obtained in plenty, if only they chose to walk that far.

All of the newcomers had by now stalked inside the house, and the coast seemed to be clear, so far as those above could see. But down below there was much hurrying to and fro, which would indicate that Potzfeldt must have aroused his retainers, and they were running up and down from wine-cellar to dining-room, bearing acceptable refreshments for the unbidden guests.

"Say, I wonder if that old stout chap could be Hindenburg himself?" Jack whispered in his chum's ear. "I noticed that Mr. Potzfeldt seemed mighty obsequious, as if he felt highly honored at having such a noble visitor, and nothing could be too good to set before him."

"Well, I wouldn't be surprised if you'd hit the nail on the head when you said that, Jack," the other told him. "He was a big, burly man, with a mighty important air about him; and he wore a mustache such as we've always seen in pictures of Hindenburg. But no matter, it doesn't concern us at all, if we can find a way to get down from here."

"Only," said Jack, whimsically, "I do hope if they've got their German appetites along, they don't clean out that pantry before I get my look-in, that's all. Twenty-four hours without a single bite would be the limit for me. I don't think I'd survive the ordeal. Now what, Tom?"

Tom was looking out again.

"That's lucky," Jack heard him mutter.

"Of course it is. But tell me what you're referring to, Tom."

"Some clouds have come along. One is right now covering the face of the moon, you notice. Well, if we are forced to lower Bessie and her mother from the window by means of a rope made from knotted bed-sheets, we stand a chance to avoid being discovered at work by any one who might happen to be abroad just then."

Jack chuckled as though pleased.

"Sure, that's the game, Tom! I knew you'd be equal to getting up some sort of clever scheme. And I'll start in right away making that rope. We want to be certain it's strong enough to bear their weight, that's all."

"I'll help you at the job," Tom told him, for he too wished to be positive about the twisted parts of the sheets, before trusting the girl and her mother to their care.

Fortunately they found that Carl Potzfeldt had some of the airs of a millionaire about him. The sheets were of stout linen, instead of the customary cotton to which the American boys were accustomed. When these were cut first with a sharp pocket-knife, and then torn into long strips about a foot or so in width, they could be twisted and knotted until the result was a novel rope of at least twenty feet in length.

Neither Bessie nor her mother said a single word. They seemed more than willing to be thus lowered to the ground. Such a novel experience might not be delightful, but it amounted to very little when compared with what they had suffered at the hands of their rude and cruel captor.

Soon the odd rope was ready for use.

"Let me be the first to go down," Bessie then said to Tom, in an authoritative voice.

As he had been about to propose the same thing he made not the least objection, but proceeded to secure one end of the strange rope around her body just below the arms, Bessie herself assisting in the operation.

Before attempting the task, Tom stood at the window listening for some little time. He wished to make sure that none of the German officers had remained outside. Tom also meant to satisfy himself that there was no lurking form among the bushes on that side of the chateau, since the light streaming from the lower windows dissipated some of the advantages gained by the temporary clouding of the moon.



CHAPTER XXIII

LEFT BEHIND IN THE ENEMY'S COUNTRY

Tom appeared finally to be satisfied, for he turned around to Bessie.

"Now if you're ready we'll lower you safely," he told her.

The girl showed considerable nimbleness in climbing over the window-sill. Jack insisted in having a hand in dropping her slowly down. It was not far, and in a few breaths the girl had reached the solid, ground. She understood what was expected of her, and immediately cast off the rude rope, so it might be drawn up and made to serve once more.

Mrs. Gleason showed just as much bravery as her daughter, and was also lowered without trouble.

"You go down next, Tom," whispered Jack. "Then I'll draw it up, and can join you easily enough without the help of the rope. A white thing like this dangling here would be sure to attract attention, if any one came around the corner of the house, and might cost us dearly in the end."

Tom understood. He preferred being the last to stay, but since Jack had taken that upon himself, and was moreover adept at scaling walls, it was folly to dispute his right.

So down Tom went. He had hardly landed when the sheet-rope was swiftly drawn up, and vanished within the room. After that Jack was seen making his way down over the same route he had taken while ascending.

Soon they were all together again, and their queer exit from the room seemed not to have been discovered, for which they felt very thankful indeed.

Tom led the way into the friendly bushes close by. It was his intention to skirt the carriage-drive, as it might contain elements of danger for them. Once they had passed out on the main road to Metz, it would not take them long to reach the field where the big Caudron airplane lay like an exhausted and enormous bat, awaiting their coming to spring into activity.

In passing along they were enabled to catch a glimpse of the interior of the dining-room where Carl Potzfeldt was entertaining his distinguished visitor to the best of his ability in those times when scarcity ruled.

Tom managed to get a better look at the general. He was more than ever convinced that the big man with the strong features and all these decorations on his uniform, was in fact Hindenburg, the head of the whole German army, whose opinion carried even more weight with the people just then than that of Kaiser Wilhelm.

It would be something worth while to be able to say they had been within a dozen feet of the famous commander, the Iron Man of Germany. Tom vaguely wished he had some means of capturing the general then and there, and carrying him over the lines to the French headquarters. That would indeed be a feat well worth praise from General Petain; but of course it was utterly impossible.

They gained the gate, and there Tom insisted on looking carefully around so as to make doubly certain that no sentinel had been left on duty while General Hindenburg remained within the house.

When this fact was made clear he led the way forth. The little party of four almost ran along the road, so eager were they to place as much ground as possible between themselves and the seat of danger.

There was always a chance that the flight of Bessie and her mother might be discovered by some one connected with the household, and communicated to Potzfeldt. He, of course, would exhaust every means in trying to overtake the fugitives.

But Tom chuckled while telling himself that they must needs have extraordinary and fleet steeds who could successfully pursue those who had trusted their safety to his care and that of the big Caudron airplane.

Jack hardly knew where the field lay, having become "rattled," as he called it, from the adventures at the chateau. So after all it was fortunate that Tom had taken his bearings as well as he had. He knew just when to leave the road, and start across the open space. Then the lone tree began to loom up, for the moon had once more thrust her face from behind the enveloping cloud.

"It's all right, Bessie," said Jack reassuringly. "Our plane lies close to the foot of that tree ahead there. If all goes well you'll be on your way before many minutes have passed."

"Thanks to you, Jack," murmured the girl admiringly.

"Shucks! that isn't a circumstance to what I'd be willing to do for you and your mother!" Jack boldly told her.

"But all the same it is very brave of you, Jack, and I can never forget your kindness to us," she insisted. "I hope and pray that nothing terrible will happen to you while we're gone, and that I'll soon see you again."

"I hope so too, Bessie," he chuckled, as if amused. "As to anything happening to me, I guess I know how to hide all right. The worst that can knock me is getting a little mite hungry, you know. If that big German general and his staff leave a bite in the pantry I'm going after it, believe me! Then I'll find a hole, and crawl in, somewhere close by here, so I can watch for Tom's return."

Apparently Jack had mapped his whole programme out; and it seemed that an adequate supply of provisions occupied the most prominent place in them.

They were now at the spot where the Caudron had been left. Tom's mind was eased of the secret fears he had entertained when he saw the machine was still where they had left it. So far as he could tell no one had been near to meddle with it.

First of all Bessie and her mother must be fastened securely to the seat where Jack had sat on the trip to Metz. Tom, like a wise general, had provided himself with plenty of the strips of linen from the torn sheets. This he utilized in tying the passengers, so that there would not be the slightest chance of their falling out.

Even if Mrs. Gleason should faint through terror on finding herself a mile up in the air, she could not fall out of the machine. But Tom entertained high hopes that both of his passengers were going to display extraordinary courage, and give him no cause at all for anxiety.

Jack tried to assist in the operation, but his hands were trembling so with the excitement that Tom pushed him away.

"Leave the job to me, Jack," he told the other. "Too many cooks spoil the broth, you know. I'll make everything secure, depend on it."

"Of course I know you will, Tom," the other hastened to assure him. "Perhaps it is better only one handled the business. And Bessie—"

"Yes, Jack," said the girl, slipping a hand out toward him, which Jack took in his, and pressed reassuringly.

"Don't bother your head for a single minute about me, mind. I'll be all right, and perhaps able to join you again this very night. It's a great lark for me, and I wouldn't miss it for a heap. But oh, if only we could kidnap that big commander, and carry him over to have an interview with General Petain, how proud I'd be!"

Tom smiled on realizing that the same idea had occurred to Jack that had flashed through his own mind.

"Here, take my automatic, Jack," Tom said. "You may find occasion to use it before I come back."

The other complied, and apparently he felt more confidence, once he knew he had in his possession the means for defending himself should any ordinary danger threaten. Tom was loath to depart, once he had everything arranged. The truth of the matter was he hated to leave his chum in the enemy country; it seemed as though he were deserting him.

So he "fiddled" around, testing this wire guy, and using his electric hand torch to give him light, so he could once more run his eye over the motor on which he had been working.

"Come, Tom, it's no use hanging around here a minute longer," Jack had finally to tell him. "Get aboard and I'll spin your wheel for you and give you a boost for a start. Then I'll drop out of sight, because some of them may run this way when they hear the clatter and guess the cause."

Tom climbed to his seat and settled himself according to his customary thorough manner. He tried the controls, and was not satisfied until he had tested everything within reach.

"Say when, Tom!" Jack remarked, having finally left Bessie's side and gone to the propellers of the big plane.

Tom drew in a long breath. He knew he had a risky venture ahead, taking those two inexperienced passengers over the hostile lines, possibly amidst showers of exploding shrapnel shells. But it was not this that weighed so heavily on his spirits. He felt almost like a criminal at leaving Jack behind.

"All right; let her go!" he announced grimly.

There came a sudden whirring sound. Then the loud hum of the motors chimed in, and the big Caudron machine started off.

"Good-bye, Tom! Good-bye, Bessie!" Jack was heard saying, although the noise of the plane almost drowned his voice.

Faster they went now, as the machine gained momentum. Tom paid strict attention to his business of pilot. At just the proper time he must elevate the forward rudder which would cause the plane to leave the ground and start upward at a sharp angle.

Jack stood gazing after the object that was quickly growing more and more indistinct in the dim moonlight, gazing with a strange heaviness in the region of his heart. He had to shut his teeth firmly together to conquer the momentary weakness that threatened to overpower him. But his resolution remained master of the field.

"If only he gets them safely across," Jack muttered to himself, when he could no longer see the airplane, though its noisy working came plainly to his ears, "it'll be all right. But they've heard the racket over at the house, too, I guess, because men are shouting, and I can see lights flashing this way and that."

When he discovered that men with lanterns were actually looking around as if to learn where the departing airplane could have been resting, and what it all meant, Jack concluded it was time to conceal himself.



CHAPTER XXIV

TROUBLOUS TIMES FOR JACK

The men bearing the lanterns came closer, Jack saw, as he himself scurried amidst the bushes seeking a hiding-place.

"Guess that Potzfeldt must know that planes can drop down on his big open field," the youth muttered to himself. Then as a new idea flashed through his brain he continued: "Whee! I warrant you now that ours wasn't the first airplane to land there. Sometimes maybe the spy he wants to send back of the French lines gets aboard right here, with his little cage of homers."

Presently loud exclamations told that the men had discovered the marks of the arriving and departing Caudron machine. Jack could hear them exchanging remarks about it, in German of course. Then he saw one of the trio start back toward the house. He was half running, as though much excited. Jack jumped to a conclusion.

"Say," he said to himself, in a whisper, as though even the sound of his own voice might be company for him, "now that must have been Carl Potzfeldt himself. What's he making for the house with a hop, skip and jump for? Perhaps one of his sharp-eyed men has told him there are marks of small shoes around; and old Carl got a sudden suspicion something tremendous has happened."

The master-spy came back again. He was now accompanied by two others, and Jack saw by their uniforms that they were members of the general's staff.

All were talking earnestly, Potzfeldt, Jack imagined, telling them some story concerning Bessie and her mother, in which he figured as a noble man, trying to save Mrs. Gleason from the wiles of some American fortune hunter, into whose hands he now feared she and her daughter had fallen.

"My! but he's wild!" chuckled the hidden observer. "He realizes that the two American boys have been too much for his scheming after all. Guess he must have had a suspicion all along we'd break up his game. That'd account for his plotting with the other spy to have our planes meddled with, so we'd meet with some terrible accident that would remove us from his path."

Jack was really enjoying himself. It did him good to hear Potzfeldt raging around, and spluttering as though his rage half choked him.

What Bessie had said concerning the cruel treatment she had received at the hands of her mother's relative had fired Jack's blood. He detested a man who in order to accumulate money could treat a helpless woman and girl as Potzfeldt had those who were in his power.

"I'd just like," he was telling himself as he listened, "to be one of three fellows who had that villain in their power, with a nice big kettle of hot tar handy, ditto three feather pillows. Oh, wouldn't we make him a queer bird, though! The extinct dodo'd have nothing on him, believe me! But it's fine to hear him raging around like that. I only wish Bessie could listen."

After a time Potzfeldt and his men went away. They knew they could do nothing, as the big enemy plane had long since departed, and must by then be many miles on the return journey to the French lines.

An hour went by and all seemed quiet in the region of the big house by the side of the road. Jack had not forgotten the promise made to himself. It might mean additional danger, to be sure; but when he thought of a long day ahead, in all probability, with an empty stomach constantly reproaching him, he felt equal to the task.

He had no trouble in finding the entrance to the grounds. Everything seemed quiet, as though the general and his staff were endeavoring to get a little sleep before resuming their journey to the fighting front.

Jack was soon under the window that had been described to him by Bessie. It gave light to the pantry during the daytime. Also he had been assured, the catch that secured it was broken, so that if he were bold enough he could easily gain entrance and take his pick of what the housekeeper had stored there.

Such a nimble chap as Jack had no difficulty whatever in making an entrance. Finding himself within the big closet, he listened, and, hearing no sound, struck a match.

By the light thus afforded he could see what lay within his reach. Trust one with an empty stomach for knowing what he wants under such conditions. Jack immediately commenced to gather together a supply of food of various kinds, such as could be eaten without need for a fire.

Quantity rather than quality seemed to rule his actions. At any rate, when he gathered his spoils together he had quite enough to last an ordinary man several days.

"Well," he told himself, when lifting the bundle he had made. "I may be marooned around here a long time, and never get another chance at this supply station. I believe in striking while the iron's hot. Now to get it outside without raising a crowd."

It was indeed a lucky thing that there was no watch-dog at the Potzfeldt place. Undoubtedly this was because of the many visitors coming and going at all times, who might be bothered by a savage beast.

Jack managed to get back safely to the nest where he had hidden at the time of the excitement, when Potzfeldt and his men were in the field. He gave a sigh of relief after it was all over.

Soon the young aviator settled down to try to get some sleep, as some time still remained before dawn would break. He meant to be early astir. There was danger in the air, as he might be discovered unless he arranged for a better hiding place than the covert of bushes where he now lay.

Whether his sleep was worth while, or rendered uneasy by dreams, Jack never told. He was awake though, when the sun peeped above the horizon, and began to bestir himself. Presently people would be moving about. Some of the men might even come out to the open field again, to look at the telltale marks. And if they chanced to suspect that one of the crew of the Caudron had been left behind, a hasty search was apt to reveal his presence.

Accordingly Jack commenced to retire deeper into the wood, and managed by great care to cover his tracks fairly well in so doing. Finally he found a place that seemed to him about as good as anything he might expect to run across; and so he crawled into the bushes again.

Then he had a most pleasing task to start upon, which was nothing more nor less than that of appeasing his appetite, never more voracious, he fancied, than just then. Without a twinge of conscience regarding the fact that it was stolen food he disposed of, Jack commenced his morning meal.

"I'm only enjoying some of the good stuff that scoundrel deprived Bessie of," he told himself, with a grin of contentment, after he had eaten until he could not take another bite. "Besides, everything is fair in war-times. When you're raiding through the enemy's country it's supposed you'll live on the spoils around you. Well, I'm going to live, and Carl Potzfeldt is my enemy, all right. He's proved that in a dozen different ways."

That idea set him to thinking about Bessie again, how she had taken such a queer way to try to warn him, after overhearing her guardian plotting with one of his men the injury to one or both of the young Americans.

"Now I wonder," Jack mused, as he lay in perfect peace with the world, for he had eaten his fill, "how he knew we had joined the Lafayette Escadrille. But then those German spies learn a lot of things, and he may have been keeping tabs on Tom and me right along. Deep down in his heart he suspected we'd bother him, and so he wanted to get us before we had a chance to strike. Well, the shoe is on the other foot, it seems."

The morning advanced. Fortunately it proved to be a fair day for so early in April. Had a storm arisen Jack might have found it hard to find shelter. As it was, all he had to do was to lie under the bushes and doze from time to time.

Whenever he got to thinking of Tom a queer feeling came over him. It made him uneasy, though he could not explain why that should be so; and from time to time he took himself to task for being worried.

"Of course Tom got back safe and sound," he would muse. "He's too clever a pilot to make a bad job of such a business. And yet, if he doesn't come to-night I'll be terribly anxious. Oh, forget all that! will you, Jack Parmly? Think of something pleasant now. For instance, that it's nearly high noon, and most folks lunch then."

He had just calmed down again, when he had a sudden chill. Men were working in a field about three hundred yards away, for he could hear them calling to one another in German.

Suddenly there came a series of snappy barks. Jack looking around was horrified to discover a small dog. It was a dachschund, long of body, and with crooked, bandy legs. It was standing before the hidden boy and evidently bent on telling everybody by his barks that some suspicious person was hiding in the bushes.

It was a crisis that made Jack's blood run cold!



CHAPTER XXV

BACK TO SAFETY—CONCLUSION

Jack hardly knew what to do. He made threatening gestures at the dog, but they, of course, only added to the trouble, for the animal renewed his barking more briskly than ever.

Then Jack had an inspiration, such as sometimes comes when all seems lost. If the dog continued his barking, sooner or later one of the men working in the field not far off would have his curiosity aroused, and come to ascertain what sort of wild animal the dog had treed.

Jack unfastened his package of food. Since stern tactics had no effect he meant to try to make friends with the dachschund. Dogs are always more or less hungry, he argued; and this must be especially true at that time in every part of Germany, Alsace-Lorraine not excepted, since the pinch of two-and-a-half years of war had made terrible inroads on all kinds of food.

Jack commenced to eat. The dog kept on barking, though not quite so savagely now. The smell of the food had reached him, and he would occasionally give a little imploring whine between his barks.

So Jack spoke to him in a soft, wheedling tone. Then he held up a scrap of meat, and caught the eager attention of the little beast; after which he tossed it to him. It vanished like a flash. The dog even wagged his tail, as if to let the man know his animosity was quickly giving way to interest. Surely any one who had all that food along with him could not be a suspicious personage.

The next scrap fell a little short, and the dog advanced to get it. So by degrees Jack tempted him, until in the end he was patting the squatty animal on the back, and still feeding him. They were now the best of friends. Kindness had accomplished what all the threatening gestures, supplemented with many sticks hurled at the beast, could never have brought about.

Jack believed he had saved himself from discovery. He could easily understand what hardships must have awaited him had he ever fallen into the hands of Carl Potzfeldt.

The afternoon went by very tediously. The dog came and went, staying for short periods with Jack. The vast store of food was a magnet that held the little beast fast. It had doubtless been a long time since he had had his full.

By degrees the day waned, and evening came along.

Jack never saw the sun set with less regret than he did on that occasion. Still he knew that long hours must pass before the moon would peep in view above the eastern horizon.

As he sat, he allowed his thoughts to roam backward. Once more in imagination he could see his friends who were on the other side of the ocean. Then for a change he would take another "snack," as he called it, for lack of anything else to occupy his attention.

Several times also he dozed, but always arousing with a start at some sound, under the impression that it might be Tom who had come, and, not finding him, gone away again.

Finally he began to believe it must surely be past midnight; and the late moon would presently be making an appearance. On looking closely toward the east he became aware that the heavens were betraying such a fact, for a distinct silvery glow was beginning to appear, low down.

Then came a streak of light. It was the moon. Slowly she mounted higher, as if more or less ashamed of the dilapidated appearance of her usually smiling face.

Jack had earlier in the night changed his place of lodging. He again occupied his former quarters close to the spot where he and Tom had landed when they wished to overhaul the motor that was acting so badly.

The minutes dragged.

Then once more Jack bent his head, and put a hand up to his ear to listen. He laughed to himself with glee.

"That's Tom coming!" he muttered joyously. "I knew Tom wouldn't fail me. All the same I'll be mighty glad when I'm aboard the plane and on the air route to Bar-le-Duc and my own cot."

Louder grew the sounds. There could not be the slightest doubt about it now, Jack decided. A plane was coming at top speed, and keeping not a great distance above the treetops of the little valley in which the house of Carl Potzfeldt and the road to Metz lay.

Louder grew the insistent drumming. Jack wondered whether some of those at the chateau might not also hear the racket, and, guessing what it would mean, hasten out to the field in time to give Tom and himself a volley of shots.

Now the plane was coming, like a great condor of the Andes about to alight on a mountain peak. Jack gauged full well where it would land. He ran with all his might to be close to the spot. The less time wasted in getting him aboard the better for their safety, he believed, remembering what cause Carl Potzfeldt now had for being suspicious when a plane visited his meadow.

Then the big Caudron ran along the ground and came to a full stop.

"Jack!"

"Yes, Tom, I'm here, and mighty glad to see you!" cried the lad who had counted the minutes until his brain seemed to reel with the strain.

"Get aboard in a hurry, Jack. We've no time to waste here."

"I know that even better than you do," returned the other.

There was indeed need of haste. The air service boys could hear voices from where the chateau was located. Someone had heard the humming of the oncoming airplane. It was Potzfeldt himself, and now he and two of his men came hurrying out on the field, all armed with pistols.

Jack only waited to give the propellers a whirl, and then, as the motor took up its work, he made a leap for his seat. Oh, how good it seemed to be once more in that airplane!

"Stop! Stop!" roared a guttural voice in German. "Stop, or we fire!"

Now the airplane was moving along the ground, bumping and rocking considerably. But Tom knew how to manage, and presently the plane commenced to soar slowly upward.

Loud and angry voices announced the fact that Carl Potzfeldt had arrived close enough to get a view of the rising plane in the misty light of the moon.

"Stop! I command you! Stop!" roared the German. And then came the crack! crack! crack! of firearms.

The air service boys, because of the noise of the motor, did not hear the discharge of the pistols, but suddenly Jack heard the spatter of a bullet as it struck the machine close beside him. Then he ducked and made a motion to Tom to let his chum know that they were under fire.

But the machine was gaining headway rapidly, and presently they were so high that those below could no longer reach them. Up and up they went until they were thousands of feet above the valley that had been the scene of this remarkable adventure.

Tom headed back along the course he had just come. It was now easy to pick up one landmark after another, and in due course of time they passed over the lines once more. Of course, the sound of the plane's propellers was heard by the Germans, and some shrapnel was sent after them; but as Tom was careful to keep high in the air, this did not reach them, and soon they were out of the danger belt.

Fifteen minutes later they made a landing, this time on the well remembered aviation field of Bar-le-Duc. Here there were attendants on hand ready to care for the machines.

"Glad to see you got back," said one of the attendants, grinning. He knew that Tom had gone off on the second trip to bring Jack.

The two air service boys found a car to take them to the villa. The long ride through the night air had made both of them very sleepy, and yet neither felt just then like retiring.

"It's a lucky thing, Tom," said Jack, between yawns, "that I had this fur-lined pilot's coat along with me. Only for that I'd have been mighty cold out there in the open last night, with no chance for a fire."

"Well, it's all past now, Jack. Tell me what happened to you during my absence."

Jack, was nothing loath, and as quickly as possible gave his chum the particulars of how he had gone into hiding and almost been betrayed by the dog.

Tom had already told Jack about what had become of Mrs. Gleason and Bessie. They had been taken to a house some miles back of the lines, and were to be made comfortable there for the night.

"And early in the morning they are to start for Paris," Tom said with satisfaction. "I managed through our captain to get them passage aboard a train that is to take some wounded back to the base hospitals. Mrs. Gleason says she means to stay in Paris and help all she can as a Red Cross nurse, for she has had some experience in nursing."

"That's fine!" was Jack's comment. And then for the time being he became somewhat silent.

Tom could easily understand that his chum was cherishing a hope that some time or other when they were taking a vacation from their arduous duties while flying for France, the pair of them might visit the French metropolis, and if so they would certainly try to see Bessie and her mother again.

"And I've got more news to tell," remarked Tom, when the pair were about to turn in for their much-needed sleep. "You'll remember about that message we found in the capsule on the leg of the homing pigeon. Well, one of the other pigeons we found was used to send a false message to the Germans, telling them that a certain part of the French line was very weak. A short while later the Germans made a furious attack on that part of the line, and, believe me, they caught it for fair—the plucky French soldiers, aided by the artillery, literally wiped up the ground with them."

"That's great news!" cried Jack. "Then it paid to bring down that pigeon, didn't it?"

"It sure did, Jack!"

Two days later came a most important announcement, especially to the American airmen.

"Things are coming our way at last," the valiant commander announced, as they crowded about him. "The papers this morning say that Uncle Sam has at last got his back up. Any day may now bring the glorious news from across the Atlantic, telling that the United States has taken the steps that will put her in this World War against the Central Powers. Then it will be all over but the shouting."

"That's right!" cried Jack.

"You just leave it to Uncle Sam to do it!" added Tom.

Many more adventures were in store for the young aviators, and what some of them were will be related in the next volume of this series, to be entitled "Air Service Boys Over the Rhine; Or, Fighting Above the Clouds."

And here for the present let us leave the air service boys and say good-bye.

THE END



THE DICK HAMILTON SERIES

BY HOWARD R. GARIS

A NEW LINE OF CLEVER TALES FOR BOYS

DICK HAMILTON'S FORTUNE or The Stirring: Doings of a Millionaire's Son

Dick, the son of a millionaire, has a fortune left to him by his mother. But before he can touch the bulk of this money it is stipulated in his mother's will that he must do certain things, in order to prove that he is worthy of possessing such a fortune. The doings of Dick and his chums make the liveliest kind of reading.

DICK HAMILTON'S CADET DAYS or The Handicap of a Millionaire's Son

The hero, a very rich young man, is sent to a military academy to make his way without the use of money. A fine picture of life at an up-to-date military academy is given, with target shooting, broad-sword exercise, trick riding, sham battles, and all. Dick proves himself a hero in the best sense of the word.

DICK HAMILTON'S STEAM YACHT or A Young Millionaire and the Kidnappers

A series of adventures while yachting in which our hero's wealth plays a part. Dick is marooned on an island, recovers his yacht and foils the kidnappers. The wrong young man is spirited away, Dick gives chase and there is a surprising rescue at sea.

DICK HAMILTON'S AIRSHIP or A Young Millionaire in the Clouds

This new book is just brimming over with hair-raising adventures of Dick Hamilton in his new airship.

DICK HAMILTON'S TOURING CAR or A Young Millionaire's Race for Fortune

A series of thrilling adventures. Dick and his friends see the country in a huge touring car. Their exciting trip across the country, how they saved a young man's fortune and other exciting incidents are very cleverly told.

DICK HAMILTON'S FOOTBALL TEAM or A Young Millionaire on the Gridiron

A thrilling story of how Dick made a real football team for his school—the team that was laughed at by other military schools until Dick took charge.



THE BOY-SCOUTS BANNER SERIES

By GEORGE A. WARREN

Author of the "Revolutionary Series"

The Boy Scouts movement has swept over our country like wildfire, and is endorsed by our greatest men and leading educators. No author is better qualified to write such a series as this than Professor Warren, who has watched the movement closely since its inception in England some years ago.

THE BANNER BOY SCOUTS or The Struggle for Leadership

This initial volume tells how the news of the scout movement reached the boys and how they determined to act on it. They organized the Fox Patrol, and some rivals organized another patrol. More patrols were formed in neighboring towns and a prize was put up for the patrol scoring the most points in a many-sided contest.

THE BANNER BOY SCOUTS ON A TOUR or The Mystery of Rattlesnake Mountain

This story begins with a mystery that is most unusual. There is a good deal of fun and adventure, camping, fishing, and swimming, and the young heroes more than once prove their worth.

THE BANNER BOY SCOUTS AFLOAT or The Secret of Cedar Island

Here is another tale of life in the open, of jolly times on river and lake and around the camp fire, told by one who has camped out for many years.

THE BANNER BOY SCOUTS SNOWBOUND or A Tour on Skates and Iceboats

The boys take a trip into the mountains, where they are caught in a big snowstorm and are snowbound. A series of stirring adventures which will hold the interest of every reader.

THE END

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