The horses of the two boys darted forward with the rest of the troop, their ears standing straight up, their manes bristling, their nostrils extended.
Now the troop came close upon the cavalry already engaged; and these men, despite their seeming confusion, parted as though by a prearranged plan, and the reinforcements passed through, and fell upon the enemy with an impact that was not to be denied. Behind, the first troop reformed and now came forward in support.
And once more Hal and Chester found themselves in the midst of battle.
Just before the impact, and as Colonel Anderson brandished his sword aloft and urged his men on with a shouted command, Hal discharged his revolver at a tall Austrian who had taken deliberate aim at Colonel Anderson. The man threw up his hands and with a wild yell toppled beneath the feet of the plunging horses, there to be trampled to death if Hal's bullet had not been enough.
One volley was poured into the Austrians at a command from Colonel Anderson, and then the Italians were upon the foe with drawn sabers. A single volley from the Austrians proved ineffective; Hal and Chester and the commander of the troop were unscathed and the Austrians had no time for another.
Chester parried a blow aimed at him by an Austrian cavalryman, and raising his pistol quickly, toppled him from his horse with a bullet. A second ploughed its way through the chest of another trooper and with his sword the lad caught a blow that at that moment would have descended upon Hal's head.
And so the fighting went, cut, thrust, parry and strike, with an occasional revolver shot in between; and Hal, Chester, and Colonel Anderson, in some miraculous manner, escaping injury.
The Austrians fought bravely, giving blow for blow, and in the center succeeded in breaking through. It was but a mere handful of men who succeeded in this venture, however, and they were immediately cut off from their friends. A demand to surrender went unheeded; and a moment later they had gone down.
A bugle sounded in the Austrian rear. The enemy drew off. It was first blood to the Italians and the troops raised a loud cheer as they dashed forward in pursuit of the foe, who now turned their horses about sharply and fled.
For a hundred yards the Italians pursued, doing great execution with their heavy cavalry swords; and then Colonel Anderson called a halt, for he feared he might be rushing into a trap.
When two hundred yards separated the opposing forces, the Austrian artillery suddenly broke loose again. A shell struck squarely in the center of the Italian horsemen, doing frightful execution. Colonel Anderson hurriedly gave the order to fall back.
The colonel turned to Hal and Chester.
"What are you two doing here?" he demanded. "I thought you told me your fighting days were over?"
"We thought so, too," replied Hal, with a smile, "but you fellows swooped down on us so suddenly that we didn't have a chance to get out of the way."
"And it seemed pretty good," said Chester, "just like old times."
"You both gave good accounts of yourselves," declared the colonel. "I'll have a word to say about you in my report."
"No use of—" began Chester and broke off with an ejaculation: "Hello!"
"What's up?" demanded Anderson.
For answer, Chester pointed to the left and slightly ahead. There, overlooked in some way, a small body of Italian troops was engaged silently with a larger number of Austrians and the Italians were getting the worst of the encounter.
Colonel Anderson made his decision in a moment, and in spite of the Austrian artillery shells that were flying overhead and dropping on all sides, the cavalry rushed to the aid of their countrymen.
But the Austrians didn't wait to receive this new attack. They turned and took to their heels; and as they hastened away, Hal caught the sound of a voice coming from their midst:
"Hal! Chester!" it came. "Help!"
"By George! it's Uncle John!" exclaimed Chester, and urged his horse forward faster than before.
"Uncle John—and a prisoner," ejaculated Hal, and also spurred forward.
But a heavy hand was laid on the bridle of each.
"Here! what's the matter with you fellows?" demanded Colonel Anderson's gruff voice. "Want to get yourselves killed?"
"But we've got to get Uncle John out of this mess," declared Chester.
"You won't get him out by getting yourselves killed," was the reply. "He's safe enough now. He's a prisoner and they won't hurt him."
"But they'll keep him prisoner," was Chester's exclamation.
"Well, what of it?" demanded the colonel.
"Well, I don't know," said Chester slowly.
"I'll speak to the general," said Colonel Anderson. "Perhaps he will see his way clear to making representations for his release."
"Do you think he will?" asked Hal eagerly.
"To tell you the truth, I don't, but I'll speak to him, anyhow."
With this the lads were forced to be content, for they realized that Colonel Anderson would not permit them to go forward by themselves; besides, they recognized the folly of such an act.
The battle was over for the moment. The Italian left wing retained the ground won despite several counter assaults and the right wing had also been pushed forward after vigorous fighting. The Italians held their dearly gained victory in the center.
"Come with me," said Colonel Anderson to Hal and Chester. "We'll have a talk with the general."
The two lads followed him.
OFF ON A MISSION.
"I regret to say that what you ask is impossible."
The speaker was General Ferrari, commander of the Italian army of the North—the army that later was to attempt an invasion of Austrian territory by way of the Alps.
Colonel Anderson had just put before the general the question of trying to gain the freedom of Uncle John. The general turned to Hal and Chester.
"I am not unmindful of the great help you rendered Italy in Rome," he said; "but, at the same time, I cannot grant your present request. I am sorry."
"Why, that's all right, sir," said Chester quietly. "The idea was Colonel Anderson's, and if it cannot be done, that settles it, of course. Uncle John will have to take his chances, the same as the rest of us."
"I am glad you are so sensible about it," replied the general. "Now," turning to Colonel Anderson, "I have a matter to discuss with you."
Hal and Chester took their departure, telling Colonel Anderson they would await him without. Half an hour later the colonel joined them.
"It's too bad you fellows are not in the fighting business any more," he said.
"Why?" demanded both lads in one voice.
"Because I am now confronted with a piece of work in which I should be glad to have your aid."
"What kind of work?" asked Chester.
"Oh, just a little mission that would take us into the Austrian lines. General Ferrari wants a little information, and he has selected me to go after it. I've got to have a couple of companions."
"By Jove, Chester! Here's a chance for us," declared Hal. "We'll go along, and who knows, perhaps we may have a chance to help Uncle John, too."
"Good!" agreed Chester. "What do you say, colonel?"
"I am afraid the general would not hear of it," replied the colonel, with a slight smile. "For my part, if you are willing I should be glad to have you with me. I know you are to be depended upon and I have great confidence in your resourcefulness."
"Let's go and see the general," said Chester.
Colonel Anderson offered no protest to this and a few moments later Chester put his request to General Ferrari.
"H-m-m," said the general, musing for a while. Then he gave his decision. "All right," he said; "but first, I want to impress one thing upon you. Your work of trying to release your Uncle John, as you call him, must be a secondary matter. The mission you are undertaking will permit of no delay. Do you agree to that?"
"Yes, sir," replied both lads, without an instant's hesitation.
"You say you hold commissions in the Belgian army?" asked the general.
"Yes, and I can vouch for the fact that they were both attached to the staff of General Sir John French," put in Colonel Anderson.
"Very well, then," returned the general. "You may go, and my only instructions are that the work be done with the greatest possible haste."
"It shall be done, sir," declared the colonel. "Come, boys."
The three saluted and made their way from the general's quarters.
In Colonel Anderson's tent they talked over their plans.
"Just what is it we are supposed to find out?" asked Hal.
"First, the enemy's strength at this point," replied the colonel. "The lay of the land, the strength of the enemy's position, how his army is laid out, and, lastly, the feasibility of a quick dash over the Alps."
"Not such a little job, after all," commented Hal dryly.
"And," said Chester, "just how do you figure we are going to get within the Austrian lines?"
"That's the problem," said the colonel. "We'll have to figure that out. One thing, we've got to get there, and at least one of us has got to get back again. Luckily, I speak German fluently. I don't believe Austrian will be necessary."
"Not much difference, is there?" asked Hal.
"Some. But German will do us."
"Well," said Chester, "one thing is certain; we shall have to discard our uniforms."
"In which event," said Hal, "we shall be shot if captured."
"That can't be helped," said the colonel. "We'll have to don civilian garb."
"But how to get across?"
"Say, look here, I've got a plan," said Chester.
"Let's have it," said Hal.
"Listen, then. We'll put on civilian clothes. We'll tell the Italian officer in command of the farthest outpost what we are about to do. We'll get horses and we'll have a squadron of Italian cavalry chase us, shooting—but over our heads. That will attract the enemy, and they'll come forward to help us. Then we'll get there."
"But what reason will we give for wanting to get into the Austrian lines?" asked Hal.
"I'm coming to that. Before we start, we'll draw up a couple of maps of supposed Italian positions—which, of course, will be directly the opposite of how things are here; we'll take down false figures of the Italian strength and other such things. We'll tell the Austrian commander, when we are taken before him, that we are German secret agents, and we'll get away with it. Fortunately, I think we know the phrase that will get us by."
"What do you mean?" asked Hal.
"Why, the one you used on Robard in Rome," said Chester. "'From the Wilhelmstrasse.'"
"By Jove! I believe you are right," declared Hal.
"I am certain of it," replied Chester. "So, you see, we will overcome suspicion, and will have freedom of the Austrian camp—practically. Now, what do you think of the plan?"
"Well, it has its advantages," replied Colonel Anderson, "and if we are careful and cautious, it may work. In lieu of a better, I guess we may as well act upon it. Now, who is going to draw these maps? A map I would draw wouldn't look like much."
"I guess that is up to me," said Chester. "I am rather handy with a pencil."
He set to work and an hour later produced the result of his labors.
"Fine," said the colonel, after gazing at the maps. "And you have laid them out, names and all. If the Austrians were to advance with the belief that these were authentic, we'd eat 'em alive."
"I hope they do it," said Chester. "Now it's up to you to get the other figures."
"We've prepared those," said the colonel, and produced the result of an hour's work.
"Now we'll have to hide them, so it will look right," said Chester.
"Right; but first crumple them up and rub a little dirt on 'em," said Hal.
This was done.
Then the three went in search of the necessary clothing. This they obtained without much difficulty.
"Now, about the starting time?" said Chester.
"My idea," said Hal, "is that we go to the front at once, but that we do not start toward the enemy's lines until just after the break of day."
"Why?" asked Colonel Anderson.
"For several reasons, but one will suffice. If we go at night the whole thing is likely to go wrong, and they'll shoot us without taking any chances. They won't see our apparently serious predicament in the darkness."
"You are right, as usual," replied the colonel.
"Now about weapons," said Chester. "We ought to carry a couple of guns apiece."
"And a good supply of ammunition," agreed Hal.
"We've got the guns, but not the ammunition," said Chester.
"I'll rustle that up for you in a few minutes," said the colonel.
He was as good as his word.
An hour later they set out for the front, still in uniform, for they did not wish to don their civilian attire until it became necessary, for fear they would arouse suspicion in the breast of the Italian officer in command and necessitate a loss of time.
The Italian colonel in command of the outpost at the extreme northern front listened to their plan and pronounced it a good one.
"I'll have you chased good and properly," he said, with a grin.
"Guess we had better turn in," said Colonel Anderson. "We'll leave it to you to have us called half an hour before daybreak," he said to the officer.
"I'll have you up if I have to pull you out by the heels myself," was the reply.
The three friends turned in in the officer's own tent and soon were fast asleep, their desperate mission of the morrow weighing not at all upon their minds. They were too seasoned veterans for that.
Half an hour before daybreak they were aroused. All were perfectly wide awake in a moment and donned their civilian clothes. Then they left the tent and joined the Italian officer, where he awaited their coming and explained to the officer of a squadron of cavalry what was expected of him.
The latter nodded his understanding of the order and repeated it to his men.
It was cool in the early morning air, close to the mountains as they were, and the boys shivered a bit. Both were anxious for the time for action.
A faint tinge of gray streaked the eastern sky; and gradually it grew brighter.
"Well, guess we may as well be on our way," said the colonel. "Have you got our horses?"
The animals were led up at a command from the Italian officer. The three swung themselves to the saddles.
"Ready?" queried the colonel, gazing carefully around.
"All ready," came the reply.
"Good! Here we go then," and the colonel set off at a gallop, his revolver in his hand. Hal and Chester spurred after him.
WITHIN THE ENEMY'S LINES.
Revolvers clasped tightly in both hands, the reins hanging loose on their horses' necks, while they guided the animals by the pressure of the knees, the friends dashed forward toward the Austrian lines, probably three miles ahead.
When they had gone some two hundred yards, there came behind them, with loud shouts, a squadron of Italian cavalry, firing as they urged their mounts on.
A hundred yards farther on the three saw signs of excitement in the Austrian ranks, now visible in the distance. A moment and a troop sallied forth to protect the flight of the apparent fugitives, and to drive back the Italians.
Hal, thinking to help the illusion along, pulled his horse up sharply, and as the animal staggered and lost his stride, the lad tumbled off. He was up in a moment, however, and raising his revolver, emptied it at the Italian horsemen bearing down on him. He was careful to aim high, however.
Chester and Colonel Anderson checked their mounts and the former leaped to the ground and helped Hal back to his saddle. Then, with a last volley in the direction of the Italians, they urged their horses on again.
Meanwhile they could hear the whine of the Italian bullets above their head, some so close that Chester feared for a moment the Italian cavalrymen had misunderstood their orders. But none touched them.
Straight toward the onrushing Austrians they spurred their horses; and the Austrians parted to let them through. At this juncture the Italians gave up the chase and retired; and the Austrians did not pursue them.
"Pretty narrow escape you fellows had," said the Austrian officer, speaking in German.
"Rather," replied Hal dryly. "When my horse stumbled back there, I was afraid it was all over."
"I thought so myself," returned the Austrian. "But what is the matter? Who are you?"
Hal gazed about sharply, and then leaning close to the Austrian, whispered:
"From the Wilhelmstrasse."
The Austrian never moved a muscle, but whispered back again:
"Good! Then you desire to see General Brentz?"
"At once, if you please," replied Hal.
The Austrian nodded.
Back within his own lines the officer volunteered to conduct the three to the general himself.
"It will avoid delay," he explained.
The three friends followed him.
Before the quarters of the Austrian commander, the officer whispered to the orderly stationed at the entrance. The latter saluted and disappeared. He came out a moment later and motioned for all to enter.
A large man, both tall and stout, was General Brentz, and he eyed the three with a close gaze. All gave the stiff German military salute.
"You come from—" said the general, and paused.
"The Wilhelmstrasse," said Colonel Anderson, leaning slightly forward.
"And how did you get here?"
"Well, not without some trouble," replied the colonel. "And we almost failed. But, fortunately, we remembered that the Wilhelmstrasse never fails, and with the aid of your cavalry, sir, we escaped. This officer," pointing to the man who had conducted them there, "can perhaps tell you better than I. I was too busy with my horse."
The officer, at the general's command, gave an account of the chase.
"Very well," said the general, when he had concluded. He turned again to Colonel Anderson. "I take it you have valuable information for me, then?"
"Yes, sir, but for you only," replied the colonel, nodding toward the other officer.
General Brentz took the hint. He motioned the subordinate to withdraw.
Colonel Anderson leaned down and unloosened his boot. He took it off, and drawing a knife from his pocket, slit the sole. Then he withdrew several sheets of dirty, crumpled paper, which he extended to General Brentz. The latter took them eagerly, and turned quickly to his desk.
For almost an hour he poured over the papers and at last a slow smile spread itself over his face. He turned to the others.
"This," he said, "will prove the very link for which I have been wishing. I may need more information from you, sirs."
The three friends were afraid to look at each other for fear they would betray themselves, so all stood silent.
"I take it you know something of my position here," said General Brentz to Colonel Anderson.
"Very little, sir," was the reply.
"I'll show you," said the general. "Draw up chairs, gentlemen; you may be able to help me."
The three did as requested and then the Austrian commander spread a big map on the desk.
"Here," he said, "are the positions of my troops. Now, having in mind the lay of the enemy forces, can you not see that a feint on the enemy left wing, followed by an attack in force on the center, is the key to the whole situation?"
Colonel Anderson nodded his head slowly. In the meantime he was looking carefully at the map before him, impressing it upon his memory, as were Hal and Chester also.
The colonel put a finger on the map.
"Then the bulk of your men are massed here?" he asked, indicating the center.
"No, that's the beauty of it," was the reply. "My strength is on my left wing. But an attack in force in the center, after a feint with my right, will call such Italian troops to the center that a second assault in force on our left will be almost certain of success."
"I see," said the colonel slowly. "You are right, sir. And what is the strength, approximately, of your left wing?"
"One hundred and fifty thousand men. Fifty to seventy-five thousand in the center and somewhat under fifty thousand in the right wing."
"Enough to make a show of force at any given point," commented the colonel.
"Exactly; and with these maps and plans you have brought me, there can be no reason for failure."
"Have you ever considered, general," said Hal, "that a raid by the enemy in force of say fifty thousand men, through your right wing, would give them a commanding position in the mountains, a position from which they could not be dislodged without a deal of trouble?"
"It has been one of my worries," was the quiet reply. "But, because of the strategic position of the ground, I cannot afford to weaken my left wing or my center to strengthen it. But if this new plan of mine goes through, it will obviate all danger of such an attack."
"And how long would it take you to prepare for such an attack?" asked Chester.
"I would not attempt it under three days," was the reply. "Besides, feeling sure of success as I do, I will wait for another reason. The Emperor of Germany will be here within the next day or two and I would have him see my troops in action. I trust you will stay here until he arrives. I shall take pleasure in commending you to his Majesty."
"We shall be glad to accept your hospitality until that time," said the colonel, "if you can provide us with suitable quarters."
"It shall be done," said the general and clapped his hands.
An orderly entered and to him the general gave the necessary instructions. As the three would have followed the orderly out, the general stayed them.
"One moment," he said. "I had forgotten you are not in uniform and would be annoyed without a paper giving you the freedom of our lines."
He turned and scribbled for a few moments, and gave each a paper.
"Make yourselves entirely at home," he said. "I shall always be ready to give you an interview providing the press of other work does not interfere."
Again the three gave the stiff German military salute and the general rose to his feet as he returned it.
Then the three friends followed the orderly from the tent.
An hour later found them established in large and pretentious quarters—a handsomely appointed tent not far from the first-line troops, but still far enough back to be safe from the Italian artillery shells that ever and anon came hurtling across the open.
"Well," said Chester, in a low voice, "we were fortunate."
"We were, indeed," returned the colonel. "I can't imagine yet what possessed the general to let us have a look at that map."
"Nor I," said Hal.
"Well, I've got a picture of it in my mind that will keep for a week," said Chester. "I don't need to draw it."
"And it would be well not to," declared the colonel. "For if anything should happen and you had such a map, you would be shot without a moment's notice."
"There is one thing sure," said Hal. "We'll have to get out of here before the Kaiser arrives. He'll naturally want to have a look at his secret agents and then it would be good night."
"Rather," replied Chester dryly. "Besides, it seems to me that we know enough right now."
"Well, we'll look about another day, anyhow," said the colonel. "We may be able to gather a few more details."
"It won't hurt anything," said Hal. "That's sure."
"Then we'll make our dash for the Italian lines to-morrow night," said Chester.
"Agreed," said Colonel Anderson and Hal.
There was a call from without and a moment later a pleasant, dapper little officer stuck his head in the tent.
"General Brentz has told me to put myself at your service," he said. "Perhaps you would like me to conduct you through the camp?"
The three friends were glad of this chance and followed him.
UNCLE JOHN "BUTTS IN."
"Well," said Chester to the young Austrian officer, as they were returning to their quarters an hour later, "you hold a remarkably strong position here. And still, if you are forced to fall back, then what?"
The Austrian smiled.
"We have considered all possibilities," he replied. "Back there," sweeping his arm about in a comprehensive gesture, "lies Gorizia, the key to Trieste, which naturally is the Italian goal in this section. Gorizia is exceptionally well fortified, as you well know. We could defend ourselves there indefinitely in the face of overwhelming numbers."
"But," interrupted Hal, "it is not necessary to capture Gorizia to take Trieste?"
"No," said the Austrian with a smile, "but it is necessary to take Gorizia to hold Trieste. The mountains that overhang the city are fortified with our great guns, which could rain shells upon the city without danger of a successful reply. The Italians know this, which is the reason they have not struck at Trieste before. The same goes for Trent, the other point coveted by the enemy."
The party had stopped during this discussion, but now moved on again. In this part of the camp the tents were laid out in little streets and avenues, and down these they walked slowly.
And suddenly the three friends were treated to a disagreeable shock.
Closely followed by a guard, Uncle John suddenly stepped from a tent and stood directly in their path. He seemed stricken dumb with amazement for a moment and then hurried up to them with a glad cry.
"Chester! Hal!" he exclaimed in English.
For a moment the two lads were dumbfounded. Then, realizing their perilous situation, Hal pushed Uncle John away and frowned at him. He whirled upon the Austrian officer.
"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded sternly. "I did not know you had lunatics here."
Now Uncle John knew something of German himself, and he caught this remark. He glared angrily at Hal and then spoke to Chester.
"What's the meaning of this, Chester?" he asked.
Chester did not reply, pretending that he did not understand English. Uncle John grew more angry.
"You young scalawags," he shouted, "what are you trying to do? Have some fun with me? I want to tell you this is no place nor time for fun. I want to get out of here."
Hal and Chester each was afraid to give Uncle John a signal for fear it might be seen and Colonel Anderson made no move to interfere. The Austrian officer turned a suspicious gaze upon the three friends.
"Do you know this man?" he asked.
Hal shook his head.
"He evidently has mistaken us for some one else," he said. "Do you understand what he says? It sounds like it was English he spoke."
"So it is," replied the Austrian. "He called you Hal and Chester and also scalawags, whatever that means."
Chester shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't know him," he said.
"Nor I," said Hal.
"I've never seen him before, to my knowledge," declared Colonel Anderson.
The Austrian officer glared down at Uncle John.
"What's the meaning of this?" he demanded in broken English. "Why do you accost these gentlemen?"
"Why?" exclaimed Uncle John, dancing up and down in his rage, "why? Because one of them is my nephew. What does he want to deny he knows me for?"
"He says one of you is his nephew," said the Austrian turning to the others.
"Well, he's wrong," declared Chester. "I'm sure none of us ever saw him before. Let us go."
The Austrian signified his readiness and they moved off; and as they went along Uncle John, glaring after them, shook a finger violently, and shouted time after time:
"You young rascals. You'll be sorry for this."
He was still raging when the others disappeared from sight among the tents.
"I wonder why?" he asked himself repeatedly, when he was back in his prison tent. And then suddenly it dawned upon him. "What a fool I was," he muttered. "Of course they are here to get me out of this and I came almost spoiling the whole thing, if I have not done so. I ought to be licked."
Meanwhile, the three friends followed the Austrian officer back to their quarters, where he left them.
"By Jove! that was a pretty close shave," remarked Hal, after the officer had taken his leave.
"Rather," replied Chester dryly. "You would think a man of Uncle John's age would have more sense. I'll tell him about it good and strong when I see him again."
"But great Scott! wasn't he mad," said Hal with a laugh. "Did you see how he glared at us? Wonder what he thinks of us, anyhow?"
"Maybe he thinks he has made a mistake," put in the colonel.
"No, he doesn't," declared Chester. "He knows us when he sees us, all right, and I'll bet he is doing some tall thinking about now."
"Well," said the colonel, "we have done about enough for to-day. I vote we accept the officer's invitation to have dinner with him."
"Same here," agreed the others.
The evening and night passed quickly, as did another day, and with the coming of darkness on the second day, the friends began to think of a method of making their way back to their own lines.
"We'll have to make an effort to take Uncle John with us," said Chester.
"Sure," agreed Hal and the colonel, and the latter added: "I guess we will manage it some way. Now, as to the matter of getting by the outposts."
"I can't see as there will be any difficulty about that," said Chester. "Fortunately we are known to most of the officers around here by sight. They will think nothing strange of the fact that we are making a tour of the outposts. Then, if we can manage to catch a sentinel off guard, we can nab him and run."
"Sounds all right," remarked Hal. "We'll try it. But first we must get Uncle John."
"Of course," said the colonel. "We'll get him, all right. In an hour, then, we shall move."
The hour passed slowly, and it seemed to all that the time for action would never come. But at last Colonel Anderson, after a glance at his watch, rose to his feet.
"Let's go," he said briefly.
The others followed him from the tent and he led the way quickly to where Uncle John was confined. In the distance they saw that a sentinel stood on guard and that to enter by that way would arouse suspicion.
"You fellows engage the guard in conversation," said Chester, "and keep talking to him until I rejoin you."
The others asked no questions, but signified that they understood. Chester let them walk on ahead of him, and then made his way to the rear of the row of tents.
He produced a knife when he stood behind Uncle John's tent and slit the canvas silently. Inside Uncle John was reading by candle light. Chester whistled softly, the old whistle of his boyhood days at home, which he felt sure Uncle John would recognize.
Nor was he wrong. Uncle John looked around quickly and beheld Chester's face peering into the tent. Chester laid a finger to his lips and Uncle John nodded. Then Chester beckoned Uncle John to come toward him and the latter did so. Chester enlarged the opening in the tent with his knife and Uncle John stepped into the open.
"Follow me," whispered the lad.
Uncle John asked no questions, but obeyed. Two hundred yards from the tent, Chester halted.
"Now you stay right here till I come back," he said.
He hastened away to join his friends, who were still talking to Uncle John's guard.
He joined in the conversation for a moment and then announced that they might as well turn in. They told the guard good night and walked back to where Chester had left Uncle John. The latter greeted them with silent joy; he realized that to make a sound might betray them, and he was tired of standing there by himself.
Colonel Anderson motioned to the others to follow and led the way forward.
Swiftly and silently the four shadowy forms made their way along in the shelter of the innumerable tents; and finally they passed beyond the farthest row and into the open. Rapidly they covered the ground toward the outposts, and nearing them, slowed down.
Then they walked forward, talking quietly among themselves, as though they were just out for an evening stroll. And then—
"Halt!" came a hoarse command.
The four obeyed. A soldier confronted them with levelled rifle.
"Who goes there?" he continued.
"Friends," was the reply.
The man peered at them closely, and still keeping them covered, raised his voice for his superior. The latter came on a dead run.
He eyed the four in the darkness and then motioned the soldier to stand back.
"It's all right," he told him.
The soldier saluted and walked away. The officer spoke to Hal.
"You are out rather late," he said.
"Right," returned the lad, "but we thought we would take a short stroll before turning in. We had no idea we had wandered so far from camp."
"Oh, it's all right," was the reply. "Who is that with you?" peering at Uncle John in the darkness.
"Just a friend we have made," said Chester, a slight tremor in his voice, for he had hoped that Uncle John's presence would be overlooked.
"I don't seem to know him," said the officer, still peering intently at Uncle John. And then suddenly he exclaimed: "The prisoner!"
He raised his voice in a cry for help; and at the same moment Hal's revolver butt crashed down upon his head!
A WILD DASH.
But the damage had been done; and in response to the single wild cry, footsteps came hurrying toward them. Every sleepy outpost within hearing was wide awake now; and the alarm was carried both ways down the long battle line.
"Run!" cried Hal.
The four took to their heels and dashed ahead—in the direction that eventually would carry them into the heart of the Italian lines, were they fortunate enough to escape the bullets that in a moment would be sent whizzing after them.
"If we only had horses," thought Chester as he dashed over the ground.
The same thought struck the others, but they did not pause to give voice to it.
Fifty yards, a hundred yards they covered in the darkness before the first shot came whining after them; but this was wide, thanks to the blackness of the night. But now came a volley, from the Austrian troops behind. They could not see the running figures, but the volley was scattered and the four heard the sound of the singing bullets as they passed over their heads.
"Down!" cried Colonel Anderson, even as a second volley rang out, and they dropped just in time; for this second volley was aimed low, and would have riddled the four fugitives. A third volley passed over their prostrate forms, and then, as another did not come immediately, Colonel Anderson gave the command: "Up and on again."
This command was obeyed to the letter and again the four fugitives dashed over the ground without a word. Two, three, four hundred yards they dashed at top speed and then paused for a much needed breath and to take stock of the situation.
"Anybody hit?" asked Hal anxiously.
"No," came the reply from the other three.
"Good. Now the question is what is best to do. Undoubtedly the Austrians will send a force of cavalry out looking for our bodies, and when they fail to find them, they will spread out and give chase. That way they are bound to overtake us sooner or later. Shall we bear off to the left, with a hope of losing them, or shall we go straight ahead as fast as we can and trust to luck?"
"I think I can answer that," said Hal, suddenly. "As we came out I remember passing an old shack of some kind, a short distance off our left. I vote we make for that, and if we can reach it, we will attempt to hold it until daylight, when we can expect some assistance from the Italians. They will come to our aid when they see us besieged by the Austrians."
"A good plan," declared Colonel Anderson. "Do you think you can lead the way to the shack you speak of?"
"I can come pretty close to it," declared Hal. "My sense of direction is still with me, I believe. Come on."
Bearing slightly off to the right, he broke into a run and the others followed close behind him. For perhaps another five hundred yards, he ran forward at fair speed and then paused.
"It should be about here some place," he said. "Spread out and we'll have a look for it."
This plan was followed and a hunt for the shack began in the darkness. After perhaps five minutes, Chester's voice rang out.
"I've found it. This way."
The others made their way in the direction of his voice and a few moments later all stood before the shack.
"Is it open?" asked Chester.
Hal tried the doorknob. It was locked. Also it was barred on the outside. He put the muzzle of his revolver to the lock and would have fired had not Colonel Anderson stayed his hand.
"Hold on there," he commanded. "We don't want to open it that way if we can help it. Look around. Maybe there is a window."
At the back of the shack they found one, but it was well out of reach.
"Give me a hand up, Hal," said Chester.
Hal obeyed and Chester climbed to his shoulders. His head came level with the window. Chester pushed against it and it swung inward.
"All right," he called back. "I'm going in."
He pulled himself up and then dropped down inside. Those on the outside heard a terrible rattle and clatter and stood suddenly silent, for they did not know what had happened. Then Chester called out:
"It's all right. I jumped in the dishpan; that's all. Come on."
Hal and Colonel Anderson boosted Uncle John to the window sill, and then Hal gave Colonel Anderson a hand up. The latter, perched in the window, leaned down and pulled Hal up beside him. They dropped down inside.
At that moment a sudden beam of light flashed into the room.
The moon had come out, lighting up the outside and accentuating the darkness in the old shack.
"Well, here we are," said Chester. "Now we'll keep quiet, so as not to tell the enemy where we are."
For perhaps an hour they sat in silence; and then Hal's quick ears detected the sound of approaching horses.
"Listen!" he whispered.
The others strained their ears to catch some sound; and directly it came—the sound of many horses approaching.
"Better see to our guns," said Colonel Anderson quietly.
He examined his own brace of revolvers carefully, and Hal and Chester did the same. Uncle John was unarmed.
"Too bad we didn't stop and get the guns of the officer I knocked down back there," said Hal. "However, it's too late now. We'll have to get along with these."
"Perhaps they won't find this place in the darkness," said Uncle John hopefully.
"Don't fool yourself there," said Chester. "They'll find it all right. That is their business, right now. Besides, it's not so dark as it was when we arrived."
"Maybe they won't take the trouble to look in," persisted Uncle John.
"They'll look in, all right," replied Hal dryly.
"Whoa!" came a voice in Austrian from outside.
Other voices became audible.
"Maybe they are in this old shack," said one.
"Hardly possible they found it in the darkness," replied another.
"We'll have a look, anyhow," declared a third.
Footsteps advanced toward the front door and a hand tried the knob.
"Locked," said a voice, "and, as you see, barred from the outside. I guess they are not in there."
"Any windows?" asked another voice.
The pursuers moved around the house.
"Here's one," exclaimed a voice, stopping before the window by which the fugitives had entered the shack.
"Climb in and have a look around," came a command.
"And get shot in the darkness?" questioned the other. "What's the matter with your doing that?"
"Afraid, eh," said the other. "Here, give me a hand up."
A moment later, in the moonlight that streamed through the window, the four inside saw the face of the first of their pursuers; but in the darkness within, the occupants of the shack were not visible.
"I can see no one," said the Austrian.
"Get down and have a look," said the other.
The man in the window drew himself up to the sill and then turned and dropped down inside; and even as he struck the floor Colonel Anderson dealt him a terrific blow over the head with the butt of a revolver.
The man fell forward on his face without so much as a groan.
Then there was silence for some minutes.
"Well," came a voice from outside, "what's the matter with you in there? Find anything?"
Hal stepped close to the window, and mimicking the first Austrian's voice, replied:
"Don't see a thing. Nobody here."
"All right then; come on out."
"I'll have a better look first," replied Hal.
"Now what good is all that going to do?" demanded Chester of Hal. "They won't go away and leave him here; and they'll discover his absence before long."
"Just a little play for time," replied Hal. "Every minute helps, you know. If we can hold out till daylight we will be all right."
"Right you are," whispered Colonel Anderson. "Minutes are precious things right now."
There was silence for a few minutes; then the voice of the man without came again:
"Say; what are you doing in there, anyhow? Are you coming out or not?"
"In a minute," mimicked Hal again.
"Find anything yet?"
"Then come on out of there, and let's go."
"All right, I'll be right out now."
Again there was silence.
A revolver butt tapped the side of the house.
"Come on out of there," said the Austrian outside.
"Coming," replied Hal.
Again silence; but this time broken from an unexpected source.
There came a sudden cry from the man on the floor—the man whom Colonel Anderson had struck down as he jumped into the room:
Just that one word; that was all. Again a revolver butt crashed upon the Austrian's head and he subsided without a murmur.
But the one word had given the warning.
The Austrian who had remained on the outside of the shack awaiting the return of his friend, also raised his voice.
"The fugitives are in here!" he shouted. "This way, men!"
Came the sound of many running footsteps.
"We're in for it now," said Colonel Anderson quietly. "All ready?"
"All ready," replied Hal and Chester quietly.
"Good! Take your places in the corners of the room—as much out of the line of fire as possible."
This was done.
"Surrender!" came a voice from without.
FOUR AGAINST MANY.
Chester could not resist the temptation to answer this demand.
"Come and get us!" he called back defiantly.
Uncle John created a slight diversion at this moment. He had been stooping over the form of the unconscious German in the shack, and now straightened up with an exclamation of satisfaction.
"Well, I've got these, anyway," he said.
He displayed a brace of revolvers and a cartridge belt which he had taken from the fallen man.
"Good," said Colonel Anderson. "Now, Hal, you and I will guard the door, and Chester and Uncle John will take care of the window. The chances are they will attack from both directions at once. Stand as far back as possible and out of the line of fire."
At that moment there came a crash against the door, as if several men were pounding upon it with their rifle butts. And this, indeed, was the case.
"Quick!" commanded Colonel Anderson. "Shove this table and these chairs against the door. Brace it with anything you can find. We should have done it sooner."
Chester and Uncle John gave up their posts guarding the window for a minute and helped in the work of barricading the entrance. And all the time the pounding continued.
As Chester stepped back after putting the last chair into place, there came a report from behind him. There was a flash that lighted up the shack like day, and the lad felt a bullet whiz past his ear.
He whirled quickly, and fired in the direction of the window, where he saw a head bobbing down. The Austrian had dodged quickly after his shot, but Chester had been quicker still; and the Austrian toppled down outside at the feet of his companions. The fall was plainly audible.
"I got one of 'em!" shouted Chester gleefully.
"Good for you," replied Hal. "We'll get the rest of them as fast as they come."
The pounding upon the door continued and the occupants of the shack kept their eyes upon it anxiously.
"It gave a little that time," declared Hal, after an extraordinarily furious blow. "It won't last much longer. Then we'll have to do some real fighting."
"They will hardly rush us," said the colonel. "We should be able to pick them off as fast as they come through. They won't try that long."
At this juncture Chester grew tired of waiting. He motioned Uncle John to give him a hand up and from the latter's shoulder raised his head cautiously to the edge of the window. For the moment he was not seen. A body of Austrians stood beneath the window, engaged in deep conversation.
Quickly Chester levelled his automatic and pressed the trigger. Ten shots struck squarely in the little knot of the enemy, and several men fell.
A cry of anger rose on the night air, as Chester leaped down within the little cabin.
"Think I got some more of 'em that time," he said with a grin. "They'll find out we can take the initiative ourselves once in a while."
"Let them alone, unless they bother us," ordered Colonel Anderson. "The longer they keep quiet and do nothing, the better for us. Time is the one factor that will work to our advantage."
"I forgot about that," returned Chester a little sheepishly.
There came a terrible thundering upon the door now; and it was evident that many men without had been called to force an entrance.
"It can't hold much longer," declared Hal quietly.
"About two more like that and it will give," agreed Colonel Anderson.
Another rain of blows was followed by a crash, as the bottom of the door gave way. A moment later it tumbled inward against the table and chairs stacked up to brace it.
And even as it did so, Colonel Anderson and Hal pressed the triggers of their revolvers. Once, twice, each spoke, and the voices of the automatics were rewarded by cries of pain from the outside.
"We must have done some damage," said Hal quietly.
Colonel Anderson did not reply; but stepping forward behind the improvised barricade, again levelled his revolver and fired twice.
"Think I got a couple that trip," he remarked.
He glanced around the room quickly.
"Back in the corners," he instructed. "They'll probably try to rush us this time."
He had predicted correctly.
For a moment there was silence without; but suddenly there came a wild yell and a score of Austrians dashed forward to force an entrance to the shack.
"Make every shot count!" cried Hal.
The occupants of the cabin waited until the foe was in plain sight and then four revolvers spoke once. As many men dropped in their tracks—for at that distance a miss was practically impossible; but the other Austrians came on.
Again four revolvers spoke; and this time only three men dropped. A third volley from the occupants of the cabin accounted for two. The Austrians hesitated.
"We're wasting bullets," declared Hal. "One is enough for each man. Uncle John, you take the man on the far left, Chester, you the one next to him, Colonel Anderson, the third is for you. I'll take the man on this side."
"A good idea," replied the colonel. "One bullet for one Austrian. That's all each is worth."
As the Austrians, after a moment of hesitation, pressed forward once more, the weapons of the four friends spoke twice in rapid succession with greater effect.
This was enough for the enemy—for the time being, at least. They drew off and the occupants of the shack had time for a breathing spell and an opportunity to reload their weapons.
"They'll be back in a few minutes," declared Colonel Anderson. "Their officers will not let them give up as long as we are here."
"Well, we'll be ready for them," said Chester grimly.
"So we will, Chester," declared Hal. He turned to Uncle John. "Well, what do you think of this kind of a life, sir?" he asked.
Uncle John smiled faintly.
"It's not so bad," he replied. "It's a little strange to me, but you notice I have been able to fire a gun. I guess I'll get used to it in time."
"You are a brave and cool-headed man, sir," declared Colonel Anderson. "I do not believe I was half so cool my first time under fire."
"If you really knew how scared I was, you wouldn't say that," was Uncle John's reply.
A hail from outside interrupted further talk.
"What do you suppose they want now?" asked Hal.
"Don't know," replied the colonel briefly. "We'll see." He raised his voice in a shout.
"What do you want?" he demanded in German.
"Want to have a talk with you," was the reply.
"Talk away," replied the colonel.
"We would give you a chance of life and to avoid further bloodshed," replied the Austrian.
"There has been no bloodshed in here," returned Colonel Anderson, "except among your men. We are perfectly whole and ready to fight some more."
"Then you refuse to surrender?"
"We do; most decidedly."
There was no more talk from the Austrians; neither was there another immediate attack. The quiet without became so pronounced that Hal became uneasy.
"What do you suppose they are doing?" he asked.
"Haven't any idea," replied Colonel Anderson.
"Well, you can take my word for it they are up to some mischief," declared Chester. "This silence bodes no good for us, I'll bet."
"Well, as long as they let us alone, it's a point in our favor," declared Colonel Anderson. "It is less than an hour until daylight now. Then we shall have help."
"The Austrians will have a whack at us before that," said Hal positively. "But I would like to know what's up."
"So would I," declared Chester. "And I am positive that there's something."
"I guess we'll know soon enough," said Uncle John.
And they did learn—not fifteen minutes later.
"What's that funny noise out there?" asked Chester suddenly.
The others strained their ears.
"I don't hear anything," said Hal. "You must—Wait, though. What is that noise?"
Again all listened intently. There was a faint "crack, crack," as though some one were walking upon fallen twigs.
At that moment Chester detected another cause for alarm.
"I smell smoke," he said suddenly.
"By George! that's what's the matter," shouted Hal. "They are going to smoke us out and shoot us down, or burn us here like rats in a trap. What are we going to do?" he demanded anxiously.
"Don't get excited, in the first place," replied Colonel Anderson coolly, "We are in a ticklish situation, and that's a fact, but there must be some way out of it. Now let's see. We can't get out the front door without being shot down. The same goes for the window as the house undoubtedly is surrounded. Then what are we to do?"
"There is only one thing I can think of," declared Hal.
"As long as we are playing for time, stay here until we can stand it no longer because of the heat. Then make a break for it. Perhaps we can take them by surprise, grab four horses and get a good start."
"There is little chance of that," replied Colonel Anderson. "But it seems to be the only way. We'll do it."
Their plans thus made, they waited patiently, conversing in low tones, the while keeping their eyes open. The flames were crackling merrily now, and the heat was becoming intense, while occasional clouds of smoke rolled into the single room. It was too hot to remain still. Colonel Anderson spoke. "We've stood it long enough," he said. "Guns ready, and let's go!"
"Hold on there a minute," said Chester. "We are forgetting one thing."
"What's that?" demanded Colonel Anderson.
"Why," returned Chester, "that at least one of us must get back to General Ferrari and give him the information we were sent after."
"But how can we?"
"Well, not by jumping out there and fighting and getting killed, all of us. I've a plan."
"You'll have to hurry," said Hal. "It's getting too hot in here."
"Listen then," said Chester, speaking rapidly. "I'll climb up to this window and drop out. They won't shoot at me at first, because they naturally will think I am about to surrender. When I get to the bottom, I'll wait for either you or Colonel Anderson, as you may decide. When one of you reach my side, we'll both run. The Austrians will give chase. When I yell, the two who remain here will make a break out the door, try to find a couple of horses and head for the Italian lines. Come, now, let's get busy."
Without awaiting a reply, he crossed to the window.
"A hand up, Uncle John," he said quietly.
The latter hurried to his side, and making a step of his uncle's hand, Chester pulled himself up. A moment later he disappeared.
"I'll be the other," declared Colonel Anderson and started toward the window. Hal stretched out a hand and detained him.
"No, I'll go," he said.
"You forget," said Colonel Anderson, "that I am in command of this expedition, sir. I command you to obey my orders."
Hal stepped back.
"Very well," he said slowly.
Uncle John gave the colonel a hand up, and then hurried to Hal's side, and the two stood awaiting the word that would send them from their fiery retreat in a wild dash through the Austrian troops without.
Suddenly the sound came. Hal heard it plainly—Chester's voice, raised in a shout in English.
"All right! Go!"
With a low cry to Uncle John to follow him, Hal leaped through the scattered heap of chairs, over the table and dead bodies that almost blocked his progress, and into the open. Uncle John was right behind him.
The way seemed clear and Hal's heart beat with hope as he made out directly ahead of him the shadowy form of what he knew to be a body of horses. He dashed toward them silently.
He seized a bridle of the first horse and tossed it to Uncle John, who leaped quickly to the saddle, and waited a moment for Hal. The lad was astride a second horse a moment later and whirling the animals quickly, they urged them forward in the darkness at top speed.
At that moment a form blocked their way.
With a quick movement Hal whipped out his automatic, and without pausing to take aim, fired. The bullet went true, and the man toppled to one side even as Hal's horse would have trampled him under foot.
There came a loud cry from behind and Hal realized that their ruse had been discovered.
"Hurry," he called to Uncle John.
A volley of bullets was sent after the flying horsemen by the Austrians, who realized for the first time that two of their quarry were about to escape.
"Mount and after them," came a hoarse Austrian command.
Half a dozen troopers made a rush for their horses, while as many more dropped to their knees, levelled their rifles and fired into the darkness where the fugitives had been a moment before.
But the darkness was a blessing to the two fugitives. The Austrians were aiming by mere guess and neither rider was touched.
Hal began to breathe easier. He checked the pace a trifle, as he realized that Uncle John was lagging a little behind, his horse, apparently, not being as fresh or as swift as the one the lad bestrode.
And now the boy caught the sound of hoofbeats hurrying after them.
"Hurry, Uncle John!" he called anxiously. "They are after us."
Uncle John urged his horse to greater effort and the animal responded nobly. For a moment he kept pace with Hal's swifter mount.
Hal dropped the reins to his horse's neck, and drew his second revolver. Then he slackened the pace of his horse even more.
"Go ahead!" he cried as Uncle John flashed by. "I'll hold 'em back a minute or two."
The pursuers gained upon him. Hal stopped his horse.
A moment later the Austrians became visible in the now semi-darkness—for dawn was breaking. Hal raised both weapons and fired three times in rapid succession.
His effort was rewarded by several cries of pain from the pursuers, and the others checked their horses abruptly. Again Hal fired twice; and then, turning his horse quickly, rode swiftly after Uncle John.
The Austrians hesitated a moment before again taking up the chase, and this brief moment was the time the fugitives needed.
As they galloped along, Hal still somewhat in the rear, it grew light and less than a half a mile ahead the riders made out the first Italian outpost. They headed toward it with loud cries, the Austrians now again in pursuit.
Their cries were heard in the Italian lines, and quicker than it takes to tell it, Hal's heart was made glad by the sight of a mounted squadron of Italian troops dashing toward them.
He slowed his horse down to a walk, and turning in the saddle, took a parting shot at the Austrians, who now had turned to flee. One threw up his arms, and dropped to the ground, and the horse went on riderless.
The Italian horsemen pulled up when they reached Hal's side, and the lad explained the situation in a few words.
"If you are quick," he told the officer, "you may take them unaware and rescue my two companions."
The officer wasted no time in words; a quick command to his men, and the troop went on in pursuit of the foe.
Hal turned to Uncle John.
"There is nothing we can do for them," he said. "We shall go to General Ferrari and make our report."
He led the way, more slowly now.
The Italian commander received them immediately and Hal gave him the information they had gained in as few words as possible. After receiving the thanks of the general, the boy, followed by Uncle John, again made his way to the front; and at the extreme outpost, saw the Italians who had pursued the Austrians returning—empty-handed.
The officer greeted him with a gesture of sorrow.
"It was no use," he said. "They had started when we reached there. We pursued them as far as advisable, and fell back only when a strong force of the enemy came out to meet us."
Hal thanked him and with Uncle John returned to his quarters, seeking to think of some way by which he could be of service to his chum and to Colonel Anderson.
Meanwhile, what of the other two?
When Chester leaped from the burning shack, he awaited the arrival of the next, who proved to be Colonel Anderson, even as he had planned. As Chester had figured, the Austrians did not attack him when he reached the ground, evidently believing he was about to surrender.
A moment later Colonel Anderson stood beside him, and as the latter raised himself to his feet, Chester shouted the words that had set Hal and Uncle John on their dash for life:
"All right! Go!"
At these words, he and Colonel Anderson also dashed ahead. Taken by the surprise, the Austrians hesitated a moment and then dashed after them with cries. The men who had been guarding the door by which Hal and Uncle John later escaped, also joined in the chase.
For a couple of seconds the Austrians did not fire at the fugitives, evidently believing they could catch them. But as the two gradually drew away from them an officer gave the command:
A score of rifles cracked, but fortunately for Chester and Colonel Anderson, none of the soldiers had taken time to aim carefully. But one bullet whistled close to Chester's head.
"I can't see any use getting killed," he muttered to himself.
Colonel Anderson also came to a stop, and both raised their hands in token of surrender.
An Austrian officer advanced toward them—and he proved to be the same man with whom they had talked just before making their dash from the Austrian lines—the man whom they had knocked unconscious as he gave the alarm.
"So we have you at last, eh?" he said harshly.
"Yes, we're here," agreed Chester with a smile.
"And this time you will not get away," was the response. "Spies, eh?"
"Well, what of it?" demanded Chester.
"Nothing," replied the officer, "except that you will be shot some time to-day."
"Oh, well, that's the chance we all take," replied Chester calmly.
At this moment a subordinate approached the officer.
"The other two fugitives, sir, have taken two horses and fled," he said.
"What?" shouted the Austrian.
The officer whirled upon Chester and Colonel Anderson.
"So," he exclaimed. "This is some more of your work. You shall pay for it."
"Perhaps," said Chester.
The officer made no reply to this. Instead he motioned them to move ahead of him, which they did. A moment later they found themselves in the saddle and headed back toward the Austrian lines, closely surrounded by their guards.
"And now," said Chester, "for another call on our friend, the general."
MR. STUBBS ONCE MORE.
A hearty hand slapped Hal on the back, and he looked up from a moody reverie into the face of Anthony Stubbs.
"Well, well, what's the matter now?" demanded the little war correspondent.
"Matter enough," replied Hal. "The Austrians have nabbed Chester."
"You don't say!" exclaimed Stubbs. "I thought you fellows had finished your fighting days."
"So we had," returned the lad; "but we took one little fling, and this is the result."
"And what are you going to do about it?"
"That's what I have been trying to figure out."
"Well, I guess they won't hurt Chester any," said Stubbs.
"That's where you are wrong," declared Hal, getting to his feet. "They'll just about stand him up and shoot him as a spy."
Stubbs became more serious at once; for before he had not realized that Chester was in any immediate danger.
"As serious as all that?" he questioned. "Tell me about it. What have you fellows been up to?"
Rapidly Hal laid the facts before him.
"H-m-m," muttered Stubbs, when the lad concluded. "Chester certainly has got himself into a mess. And Anderson is with him, eh? Well, we will have to do something—and that at once."
"Yes; but what?" demanded Hal anxiously.
"Well, now, that's the question, but you'll have to give me time. I'll find a way. A newspaper man always finds a way."
Hal felt a little relieved. He couldn't see that there was the slightest chance to be of assistance to his chum, but the little war correspondent's words cheered him.
"Yep, you'll have to give me a little time," said Stubbs. "Now you wait here until I come back, and if I don't come back with a first class plan I hope to never write another story for the Gazette."
He walked rapidly away, leaving Hal alone with his thoughts. Fifteen minutes later the little man returned.
"All right," he said. "Let's go."
"Go?" exclaimed Hal. "Go where?"
"Why, go and get Chester and Anderson out of the hole. Are you ready?"
"Oh, I'm ready enough," replied Hal, as he fell in step and hurried along beside Stubbs, "but tell me—"
"Now hold on there," interrupted Stubbs. "I'll tell you, but I am a-going to do it in my own way. Don't hurry me."
Hal made no reply, and after a few moments the war correspondent continued:
"Yep, we'll get 'em all right—that is, if the Austrians don't beat us to it. Sure we'll get 'em."
He grew silent again, and although Hal could hardly restrain his impatience, he pressed his lips close together and said nothing. Stubbs gazed at him and smiled.
"You'll do," he said. "Now that you have managed to get a tight rein on your impatience I'll tell you. In the first place, we'll have to hurry; but first we'll turn in here a minute."
He turned abruptly to the right, and a moment later led the way into his own temporary quarters.
"My diggings, as the British say," he declared with a wave of his hands. "I'll have you fixed up in a minute."
"Fixed up?" questioned Hal.
"Sure. You didn't expect to go back to the Austrian side looking like that, did you? They'd nab you in a minute."
He rummaged among some things in a corner, and directly produced an extra suit of clothes.
"Climb into these," he ordered.
Hal did as commanded and awaited further instructions.
Stubbs opened a little box, which gave forth a peculiar smell and had a queer blackish appearance. Stubbs dipped his fingers in the box, and then passed them over Hal's face.
"Lucky I had a little experience in the art of stagecraft," he remarked as he continued the operation.
He stepped back and surveyed Hal critically.
"There," he exclaimed. "Your own mother wouldn't know you. You look all of ten years older. Got your guns?"
Hal picked them up from where he had thrown them when he had changed clothes.
"All ready," he said quietly.
"Wait till I fix myself up a little," said Stubbs. "You must remember I was within the Austrian lines not so long ago myself. They may be looking for me, too."
He again delved into the little box, and Hal, as he watched, was surprised at the change in the appearance of the man. He, too, seemed to have aged greatly, and he bore slight resemblance to the old Stubbs.
"All ready to move now," he said at last.
He led the way from his quarters, and perhaps a hundred yards away, indicated a pair of horses.
"Ours—for the journey," he said.
A moment later both were in the saddle and were riding toward the front.
"Now," said Stubbs, "I'll resume my little talk."
"One minute," broke in Hal. "How do you figure we are going to be allowed the freedom of the Austrian camp? What'll they do with us when we get there?"
"True," said Stubbs. He reached in his pocket and produced two papers, one of which he passed to Hal. "This may help a little," he explained.
Hal looked at the paper. He found it was made out in the name of John Lawrence and that it purported to be an identification of John Lawrence as an accredited correspondent of the New York Gazette.
"I've got two or three more back there," said Stubbs, waving an arm in the general direction of his quarters. "They have often come in handy."
"I see," said Hal. "Then these papers are what you are figuring on to gain us the freedom of the Austrian lines."
"Freedom to a certain extent, yes," replied Stubbs. "Now for the other part of my plan. To be perfectly frank, you know just as much about it as I do. I have no plan beside getting in the Austrian lines. Events must shape themselves after that."
"But do you suppose these papers will satisfy the Austrian commander?"
"They will after I have talked to him for five minutes."
"I hope so," said Hal.
They had now passed the Italian outposts, unmolested, and rode across the open toward the Austrian lines. Some time later they were halted by an Austrian sentinel.
"Take us to the general," commanded Stubbs.
The sentinel eyed the little man aggressively, but, evidently being impressed with his manner, called a superior. To him Stubbs gave the same command, and he gave it in such a way that the officer, after a slight hesitation, turned on his heel and motioned Hal and Stubbs to follow him.
Five minutes later they stood again in the presence of General Brentz. Stubbs produced his paper and Hal did likewise. The general scanned them closely.
"How do I know you are what you represent yourselves to be?" he demanded gruffly.
"For one reason, general," said Stubbs, "because we wouldn't be here otherwise. Of course we don't expect the freedom of your lines, but we would like to know a little about the Austrian troops—whether they can fight, how they stand up under fire—what kind of men they are. The people of America want to know, and that's what we are here for."
The general hesitated.
"I've had some trouble with spies here lately," he said at length, "and I have become wary." He scrutinized them closely. "But you look honest. I'll take a chance on you. Besides, it would be well for the people of America to know something of the Austrians besides what they read from an enemy source."
"Thank you, general," said Stubbs, "and you will provide us with papers so that we will not be molested?"
"Yes, I'll do that."
The general scribbled a few lines on two sheets of paper, which he passed to Stubbs. The latter gave one to Hal, and turned to go, Hal following him. At the entrance Stubbs turned quickly.
"Oh, by the way, general, about these spies—are they Italians?"
"No, they are British," was the reply.
"And there is no doubt they are spies?"
"None; they aided a prisoner to escape and were only captured after great trouble. There were two more whom we did not get."
"Oh! In that case, I suppose you will have to shoot them," Stubbs stated as a matter of fact.
"Exactly. They will be executed at sunrise to-morrow."
"In the meantime they are likely to escape again," said Stubbs.
"Not much," declared the general. He walked to the window, and pointed to a large tent a short distance away.
"See that tent?" he questioned.
Hal and Stubbs indicated that they did.
"They are confined in there," said the general, "and they are heavily guarded. I have stationed a guard of five armed men, with instructions never to leave them alone. I shall take no chances; and in the morning they shall be shot. This is no place for spies."
"I can see that, general," replied Stubbs. "Well, we are obliged to you for your courtesy, and we shall make it clear to the American people that the Austrians are not as black as they have been painted."
The general bowed courteously, and Hal and Stubbs left his quarters.
"You see," said Stubbs when they were outside, "it wasn't such a hard matter after all."
"And to think," said Hal, "that, in view of his recent experiences, he was so unwary as to betray where Chester and Colonel Anderson are confined."
"Which was lucky for us," declared Stubbs. "It will save us a lot of worry and search."
"Now what?" demanded Hal.
"Well," was the reply, "I should say that there is nothing that can be done before dark. However, we might as well take a look at the prison tent from the outside. It is always well to know the lay of the land."
Accordingly they turned their footsteps in that direction, and walked by the tent slowly. And from the inside they heard the sound of Chester's laugh, as he talked to Colonel Anderson.
"He's not worrying any, that boy," said Stubbs with a smile. "We'll get them out safely."
All the afternoon the two prowled about the camp; and at last darkness fell. It was time to get busy, for whatever was done must be accomplished before the break of day, when a firing squad would snuff out the lives of the two prisoners.
"Well, here we go," said Stubbs.
He led the way slowly toward the prison tent.
SENTENCED TO DIE.
Chester's and Lieutenant Anderson's interview with General Brentz was far from being the pleasant few minutes that Hal and Stubbs had experienced. Hal now considered the general a pleasant middle-aged man and a courteous gentleman; Chester looked upon him almost as a barbarian.
General Brentz was striding wrathfully up and down his quarters when Chester and Colonel Anderson were taken before him. He greeted their arrival with a fierce scowl and motioned the guards outside the door with an angry gesture.
"So!" he exclaimed. "You are British spies instead of German secret agents, eh? Well, we know how to treat all such here. What have you to say for yourselves?"
"Nothing," said Colonel Anderson, replying for both.
"'Twould do you no good," responded the officer. "But there is one thing I would know. How does it come that you are familiar with the password of the Wilhelmstrasse?"
"I can't see where it would do any good to tell you, general," replied Chester.
"But I demand to know."
"You'll never learn from me," declared the lad.
Colonel Anderson smiled.
"That goes for me, too," he said quietly.
The general glared wrathfully at first one and then the other.
"Very well," he said, controlling his anger. "You shall both be shot at sunrise."
He gazed at the two closely to see what effect his words had; but if he expected to find an expression of fear upon either face, he was disappointed. Colonel Anderson and Chester eyed him steadily, though neither spoke.
It was what they had expected.
After a few moments the general spoke again, this time more kindly, with his eyes full upon Chester.
"You," he said, "appear to be too young for this sort of business. How do you happen to be mixed up in such desperate work?"
"It's too long a story to go into, general," replied Chester quietly. "Besides, as we have not much longer to live, Colonel Anderson and I would rather be left to ourselves."
The general seemed about to make an angry reply; then changed his mind, and asked:
"Are you English?"
"No, I am not," replied Chester. "I am an American."
"I thought so," declared the general. "Well, it's too bad, but if you will mix up in business that does not concern you, you must pay the penalty. Orderly!"
His orderly entered and came to attention.
"Have these prisoners closely confined," was the command. "Station a detail of five men and see that they are not unguarded a single moment. Then present my compliments to Colonel Frestung and tell him to have a firing squad ready at sunrise. These men are spies and must die."
Again the orderly saluted and motioned the prisoners to precede him from the general's quarters.
With heads erect and shoulders squared, Chester and Colonel Anderson marched out ahead of him. Each realized the futility of a break for liberty and each was determined to live his last moments and die the death of a soldier.
Outside a squad of soldiers surrounded them and they were led to a large tent, which was to be their last prison. Inside they found comfortable chairs, a table and several books.
"They seem to take pains to make it pleasant for a man about to die," remarked Colonel Anderson. "We should be able to spend a profitable day."
"So we should," was the reply. "I wonder if Hal and Uncle John got through safely?" he remarked somewhat irrelevantly.
"I guess we can bank on that," said the colonel. "They got through if there was a possible chance."
"I hope that Hal does not venture into the Austrian lines in an attempt to rescue us," declared Chester. "It would be sticking his head into the lion's mouth."
"Nevertheless, that is what he is likely to do," asserted Colonel Anderson. "It is not like him to keep quiet when some one is in danger."
"That's what worries me," confessed Chester. "There is no use of his being killed, too."
"Oh, well," said the colonel, "whatever happens is beyond our power to remedy. Let's talk about something pleasant."
And so they did, whiling away the rapidly flying hours with stories and reminiscences; and the shadows deepened as darkness approached.
"It seems to me that we could get out of this place some way," declared Chester suddenly.
"It seems to me that you are wrong," said, the colonel grimly. "There are five guards outside, each armed to the teeth. What chance would we have?"
"Well, I don't know," confessed Chester. "I was just thinking."
"Think while you have a chance," said the colonel with a slight grin. "Looks like our thinking days were about over."
Chester's eyes roamed about the tent. His eyes sparkled.
"We might as well have a little fun, anyhow," he remarked. "How hard do you think you could hit a man with that chair you are sitting on?"
Colonel Anderson felt the chair carefully with his fingers.
"Well, pretty hard, I guess," was his reply. "What's the idea?"
"Think you could hit him so hard he wouldn't have time to cry out?"
"Yes; if I was particular how I handled it."
"Well, we'll have a try at it then," declared Chester.
"Try at what? What do you mean?"
"I'll tell you. I'll step out of the tent. The first guard in sight will order me to get back inside. I'll protest. Then he'll put me in. When he lets loose of me, you whack him over the head with that chair, and be careful how you do it."
"Yes, but the other guards?"
"I guess we can work that all right. I have noticed that no two of the guards are in front of the tent at the same time—they are walking around all the time. When you have disposed of the first man, we'll work the same trick on the other."
"And then what?"
"Why then," said Chester simply, "we'll put on their uniforms and walk out of here."
"By Jove!" ejaculated the colonel. "Now I wonder—"
He broke off and for some moments was lost in thought. Then he got quietly to his feet, determination written upon his strong features.
"It may work," he said. "We'll try it. But we'll have to move quickly and silently; and we shall have to don the uniforms almost in a single jump."
"All right," said Chester. "Ready?"
"All ready," replied the colonel with a nod.
He picked up the heavy chair and swung it once about his head. Then he took up a position at the side of the tent, just out of view from the entrance.
Chester walked boldly from the tent.
"Get back in there," came a harsh command in Austrian.
Chester paid no heed and continued to gaze straight ahead into the rapidly descending darkness.
"Get back in there," came the command, and still Chester made no move.
The Austrian soldier came up to the lad, and taking him by the shoulders, thrust him within the tent. Chester threw out an arm and succeeded in drawing the man in after him. Then he released his own hold, and with an effort shook off the grip of his captor. At the same moment he jumped lightly aside and called in a hoarse whisper:
There was a rush of air as the heavy chair descended, followed by a dull thud, and a second impact as the soldier fell to the ground with a crushed skull. Colonel Anderson was over the unconscious form in a moment, ready to choke an outcry should his blow not have been true. But there was no need for this. His aim had been true, and the man was unconscious before he fell.
"All right," whispered the colonel hoarsely. "Rip off your clothes while I get him out of this uniform."
Chester flung off his clothes hurriedly, and stepped quickly into the uniform Colonel Anderson gave him. Then he deprived the man of his gun and revolvers.
"All ready for the next one," he said. He moved toward the door.
"Hold on there," called the colonel. "You can't go in that uniform."
"By George! you're right," declared Chester. "What now?"
"You'll have to wield the chair," was the reply. "There is no time to change again."
He walked out of the tent and Chester picked up the chair and stepped into position.
This time, therefore, it was Colonel Anderson who engaged in a heated altercation with a second Austrian soldier. The plan worked as well as before and the man pushed the colonel back into the tent. The latter dragged the man in after him and stepped hurriedly aside, just as Chester brought the chair down upon the Austrian's defenseless head with all his power. The man dropped like a log.
Hurriedly Colonel Anderson stripped off his outer garments and climbed into the Austrian's uniform. Then he seized the man's gun and revolvers and led the way from the tent.
"If you see another of them, keep your back toward him if possible," whispered the colonel.
And just as Chester emerged from the tent a third guard stepped around the side. Chester turned his back, as did Colonel Anderson, and the man paid no heed to them. The fugitives walked away quickly.
Out of sight of the tent they slowed down and breathed with relief.
"Which way now?" asked Chester.
"As straight toward the front as we can go," was the reply. "We'll have to trust to luck to get through."
They made off with all speed.
And suddenly, from the direction in which they had come, there came a loud cry, followed by several pistol shots and the sound of footsteps running after them.
"They have discovered our escape!" shouted Colonel Anderson. "Run."
He suited the action to the word and Chester ran after him.
"We'd better double back and try to throw them off our track," called the colonel over his shoulder.
He swerved to the right, ran a few rods, and turned to the right again.
And then, abruptly, he came to a pause. Chester, a step behind, crashed into him. He stumbled, and uttered an exclamation of dismay, as he heard Colonel Anderson say:
As Hal and Anthony Stubbs approached the tent in which Chester and Colonel Anderson had been so recently confined, they discussed their plan of action; and after several plans had been advanced and rejected, Hal decided that caution must be thrown to the winds.
"A quick dash—and a fight if necessary," he declared.
And Stubbs had agreed, peaceful man though he was; and although Hal did not know it, the little man was literally shaking in his boots. However, like many men of his kind, he had a certain manner of concealing his nervousness, and he now followed Hal coolly enough.
Fifty yards from the tent Hal paused, as he saw two figures emerge from the prison and walk quickly away.
"Strange. Wonder what that means?" he said to himself. He turned to Stubbs. "All right now," he said quietly. "Follow me and be quick."
He ran lightly forward and dashed into the tent. And in the darkness he stumbled over a prostrate form. Quickly he drew a match from his pocket and struck, it. The face of the man on the floor was not that of Chester nor Colonel Anderson. The flare of the match showed him a second prostrate form, and he saw that this, too, was a stranger to him. Then he saw the discarded clothing and realized what had transpired.
"Quick, Stubbs! They have escaped!" he shouted, and darted from the tent.
And in the entrance he met an Austrian guard, whose attention had been attracted by the sound of Hal stumbling within. The man uttered a low exclamation and sought to bring his gun to bear.
But Hal was too quick for him. In spite of the fact that he keenly realized the need of caution, he also realized the value of time. His hand slipped quickly to his revolver, and without raising it he fired from his hip. The Austrian staggered back and tumbled over.
"We're in for it!" cried Hal. "Follow me and hurry!"
He dashed forward in the direction recently taken by the two figures he had seen leave the tent, for he felt sure the forms were those of Chester and Colonel Anderson.
Stubbs was right behind him. Fear lent wings to the little man's legs, and Hal, despite his longer strides, did not forge ahead of him. Both ran at full speed.
And suddenly Hal made out figures in front, and before he could swerve aside, he heard Colonel Anderson's well-known voice exclaim:
With a stifled shout, Hal put forth an extra burst of speed, as he realized that the men who held the drop on Chester and Colonel Anderson numbered but three, although from beyond he could see others rushing toward them.
Again his revolver spoke and a bullet whizzed close to Colonel Anderson's head; but an Austrian soldier dropped. The others were taken by surprise, and relaxed their vigilance for a moment. And then Colonel Anderson and Chester, who had now recovered his balance, fired.
Chester started as he recognized Hal's voice, which now called out:
"Quick, Chester! To the right."
Colonel Anderson was no less surprised, but he did not hesitate; and closely bunched the four turned to the right and ran for their lives.
Men sprang up on all sides now; and it seemed impossible that the four could escape. But fortune favored them.
Swerving suddenly again, Hal, who was in the lead, stopped short, and uttered a cry of pure dismay. The way ahead was blocked. There seemed no way out; and then Chester cried:
"An aeroplane hangar!"
It was true. Fortune had guided their footsteps to possibly the only place in the whole Austrian camp where there was a chance of escape.
Hal wasted no time. Rapidly he mounted the hangar, the others following him closely. The lad uttered a short prayer as he climbed and then gave a great sigh of relief. He had feared there would be no air craft there, but, and Hal cried his relief aloud, there was.
He glanced at the machine quickly and uttered another cry of joy as he made out that the craft was exceptionally large, capable of seating at least ten men, and the additional fact that it was a self starter.
"Climb in quick!" he shouted, leaping into the pilot's seat and taking the wheel.
The others followed this command with all despatch, and Chester took his place at the motor.
"Let 'er go, Chester!" shouted Hal.
There came a faint buzz at first, followed by a louder noise as the motor began to whir; there was the sound of the whizzing propellers, and the machine shot from the hangar with a lurch.
And at the same moment there came from all sides volleys of rifle and pistol shots. Chester felt a sharp tinge in his left arm, and Hal felt the breeze of a bullet as it flew by his ear. Colonel Anderson was untouched, but Stubbs sent up a howl of anguish.
"I'm shot!" he cried and started to his feet.
The machine rocked crazily as he attempted to rise and Colonel Anderson reached quickly up and seized him by the arm.
"Sit down, you fool!" he commanded. "Do you want to spill us all out?"
Hal threw over the elevating lever and the huge air craft soared into the sky. And not until they had reached an altitude of a thousand feet did Hal straighten the machine out for a level flight.
Then he slowed down a moment to take stock of injuries.
"Hit, Colonel Anderson?" he asked.
"No," was the reply.
"Scratch, I guess," answered Chester. "Bullet touched me on the arm. Doesn't amount to much."
"Stubbs?" queried Hal.
"I'm killed!" exclaimed the little man, and there was the trace of a quaver in his voice. "Shot through the heart."
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Hal. "If you had been shot through the heart you wouldn't be talking about it now."
"But I was," protested Stubbs.
"Look him over, Colonel Anderson," instructed Hal. "If it's as bad as all that, throw him out. We can't be bothered with excess now."
"No! No! I'm all right!" declared Stubbs, drawing away as Colonel Anderson extended an exploring hand. "I don't think the bullet touched me."
"All right then," declared Hal, smiling to himself, for his ruse had worked. "We'll go ahead then."
"Which way?" demanded Chester.
"Back to the Italian lines; and it behooves us to hurry. There will be a squadron of the enemy after us in a minute."
"Right," declared Chester briefly.
But, much as they would have liked it, they were not to get back within the heart of the Italian army for many a long day; and strenuous times were to befall them before they again saw their mothers, and Uncle John, who was to put in many weary days searching for them.
As Hal headed the huge machine southward, a blinding glare caught his eyes. It cut off his view entirely, and only for the lad's quick wit, might have ended the lives of all.
But the moment the light blinded him Hal acted. He knew in an instant from whence it came, and he swerved to the right so quickly as almost to upset the plane; but it was in time to avoid the forward sweep of an enemy plane.
"Wow!" cried Stubbs. "Don't throw me out!"
"Keep quiet," ordered Hal, when he had slowed down a bit, so as to ease his dazzled eyes and gain his bearings.
"What was the matter?" demanded Chester.
"Matter?" echoed Hal. "You mean to tell me you didn't see that other airship flash by?"
"I didn't," replied Chester.
"Well, I did," declared Hal. "We'll have to get away from here pretty quick. There'll be more of them along in a minute."
He threw over the elevating lever and the craft soared higher into the heavens. And again Hal turned south.
Once more he caught the flash of a hostile craft in time to avoid being run down. Again and again it happened. And at last Hal said:
"Evidently there is no use trying to get back that way. They must be on the lookout for us. What shall we do?"
"Whatever you say," replied Chester.
"We'll take a vote on it," Hal decided. "I'll make my suggestion first."
"All right," was the reply.
"Then I'll suggest that we head in some other direction and keep going until we have passed out of the enemy's territory."
"Which way?" asked Colonel Anderson.
Hal considered a few minutes before replying.
"Well," he said finally, "I should say east."
"What!" exclaimed Chester. "Right into the heart of Austria?"
"And why not?" Hal wanted to know. "We'll be safer there than any place else. Besides, if we go far enough we'll eventually land in Greece or perhaps Servia or Montenegro. They won't be expecting a foe that far from Italian soil. What do you say, Colonel Anderson?"
"I'm with you," was the quiet response. "I believe that is good reasoning."
"My only objection," said Chester, "is that we must get back to Uncle John, and then to Rome, where mother is."
"True," replied Hal. "But mother would a great deal rather have us safe in Greece or Servia, than dead in Italy."
"Which is more good reasoning," declared Colonel Anderson.
"I guess you are right," replied Chester. "I'm with you then."
"And you, Stubbs?" questioned Hal. "You have a vote on this."
"Oh my, I don't care where you go," was the answer in a weak voice, "just so you let me put my feet on the ground once more. I'm so sick."
"Poor fellow," said Chester, in a low voice, "he's frightened."
"What's that?" demanded Stubbs in a shrill voice.
"Frightened? Me frightened? I'll leave it to Hal there if I am frightened. Who was it found the way to get here and help you fellows, anyhow? Who was it, I ask you? I'll tell you who it was. It was me, Anthony Stubbs, war correspondent of the New York Gazette. Yes, sir, it was—Oh, let's go down. I'm so sick."
"Stubbs, you are all right," declared Hal, and added to the others: "What he says is perfectly true. Had it not been for him, we would not be here now. He conceived the plan that admitted us to the Austrian lines, and if it were light enough you would see that it was a good plan. I'll venture to say you would know neither one of us but for our voices," and he explained in detail.
"By George, Mr. Stubbs, I didn't think you had it in you!" exclaimed Chester. He stretched forth a hand. "Shake!" he said.
"Oh, please let me alone," moaned Stubbs. "I'm terribly sick. How long before we can go down?"
"Not for some hours, I'm afraid," replied Hal. "If we were to descend now we would fall into the hands of the Austrians."
"I don't care whose hands we fall into," mumbled Stubbs, "if we could only fall, that's all I ask."
"He must be sick," declared Chester. "Funny it never affected me that way."
"No, it's not," declared Stubbs, suddenly taking an interest in things. "Nothing would affect you like it does me. Nor any of the rest of you. You are hardened to these things. I'm a man of peace, and sympathetic, and kind. You are a lot of hard-hearted brutes."
The other three occupants of the machine smiled to themselves. Not for the world would they have laughed at the little man, for he was very close to them all. And at last Hal said:
"Tell you what, Stubbs. I'll put on a little extra speed, just for your benefit. We'll get you back on terra firma just as soon as we can."
Stubbs' only reply was another moan.
"Well, Chester," said Hal, "here we are again, flying over an enemy's country. May we be as fortunate as we have been before."
"Which we shall be," was Chester's quiet response. "We have had our share of bad luck in the last few days. Fortune must smile on us at last."
And Chester proved himself a true prophet; for, before another sun had risen and set, the huge air craft had carried its four occupants safely across the Austrian empire and beyond the Montenegrin border. And here, among these hardy mountaineers, among the best fighters in the world—among the people of this little Balkan kingdom—the smallest to declare war against the Teuton oppressor—the lads were to see more of the horrors of war—were again to play active parts in the struggle. And also they were to see service with the heroic Servian troops, than whom there are none braver.
But these adventures must come in their proper place; and so, for the time, we must again take leave of these two lads and their brave companions and friends, but only to meet them again in a succeeding volume, entitled: "The Boy Allies in the Balkan Campaign; or The Struggle to Save a Nation."