"All right. Then you had better see the general about a craft of some kind."
Chester hastened away, but was back a few moments later with the announcement that General Save would have a plane ready for them within the hour.
Hal and Chester then examined a map of the country carefully and laid out a course. It was agreed that Hal should follow the same course, for, as Chester said, there was little likelihood of anything going wrong, but coming along the same route the second craft would always have a chance of rendering aid should it be needed. The lads agreed to meet at Saloniki the following day.
It was nearly dark when the machine carrying Chester, Colonel Anderson and Ivan soared in the air and headed south over Macedonia—once the kingdom of Philip and Alexander the Great. Stubbs, Nikol and Hal watched their friends disappear in the distance with some misgiving, which was given expression by Stubbs.
"I hope they get there safely," he muttered, "but I have my doubts."
"See here, Mr. Stubbs," said Hal. "You've gone through a lot, but you are still here, aren't you?"
"I am," said Stubbs calmly, "but I wish I were some place else."
"Well, give me an hour or two to look over our machine and you will soon be some place else," said Hal.
"And the chances are I'd rather be some place than where I am likely to be if I keep monkeying around in the air," replied the little man.
Hal raised both hands in a gesture of hopelessness.
"There's no use talking to you," he said. "I'll leave you both here while I overhaul the plane."
He took himself off.
Chester, Colonel Anderson and Ivan sailed swiftly through the air. Darkness fell, but it was a bright night and Chester, at the wheel, could see without difficulty. The passengers were quite comfortable in spite of the cold.
"Aren't you getting a bit too low?" asked Colonel Anderson after a couple of hours flying in the darkness.
"Thousand feet," said Chester after a glance at the indicator.
"Doesn't seem like it to me," said the colonel. "Think I can see the ground below."
"You shouldn't at this altitude," said Chester.
"I know it. Guess I was mistaken."
Half an hour later the colonel spoke again. "Have you come down any, Chester?"
"I'm sure I can see the ground below," returned the colonel.
Chester glanced over the side of the plane.
"By Jove! So can I," he exclaimed. He glanced at the indicator again. It still read a trifle over a thousand feet. "Something wrong some place," he said to himself.
He tilted the elevating lever, but the plane did not answer by a sudden rush upward. Chester gave a long whistle.
"What's the matter?" demanded Colonel Anderson.
"I don't know," returned Chester. "We're going down gradually, I know that, but the indicator still reads a thousand feet and I can't move the plane any higher."
"And you don't know what is wrong?"
"Haven't the slightest idea. I'm no airship expert."
"Then you shouldn't try to run one," declared Ivan.
"Now don't get worried, Ivan," said Chester with a laugh. "We'll get down again all right."
"We'll probably get down," said Ivan, "but the thing that worries me is whether it will be all right or not. I want to die with my feet on the ground and not be dashed against the earth head first."
"I'm sure there is no danger," said Chester. "We're just sinking gently."
He cut off the engine and allowed the craft to volplane to earth more abruptly. It came to rest on the ground as lightly as a bird.
"Well, what will we do now?" demanded Ivan.
"You have as much idea as I have," returned Chester. "I can't fix this thing here in the darkness; in fact, I don't know whether I can fix it at all. We'll either have to walk or stay here until I can have a look at this craft in daylight—and maybe that won't do any good."
"I vote we walk," said Colonel Anderson. "There must be houses along here some place. Maybe we can commandeer three horses, or an automobile or something."
"Most likely what we'll commandeer will be trouble," grumbled Ivan.
"Now what are you kicking about?" demanded Chester. "You have been hunting trouble ever since I have known you. Maybe you'll be satisfied this time."
"Do you think so?" demanded Ivan eagerly.
"No, I don't," returned Chester. "If I did I'd sit right here. I don't want to run into any trouble now if I can help it. We've got business on hand, remember that. And we've got to hurry. Colonel Anderson, I guess your suggestion is a good one. We'll walk on a ways."
They set out without a word. Striking across what appeared in the darkness a large field, they eventually came to a road. They walked south along this.
Half an hour later, in the darkness, there loomed up a house ahead of them. A faint light glowed in the window.
"Told you there must be a house along here some place," said Colonel Anderson.
Chester produced his watch and succeeded in reading the face after some trouble.
"Lacks five minutes to midnight," he said. "Rather a late hour to be making a call."
"Necessity knows no law," responded Colonel Anderson. "We won't bother them much, if they can furnish us with some means of transportation."
"Hope they will be friendly," said Chester.
"No reason why they shouldn't be. I suppose we are still in Serbia."
"Well, I don't know whether we are or not. That's what worries me," said Chester.
"Why, where do you think we are?"
"I don't know. Might be Serbia, might be Greece, might be Bulgaria, or Turkey or any old place. If the elevating apparatus on our plane was out of whack, the steering apparatus may have been, too. Also I have mislaid my compass. I won't know north from south until morning."
"Hm-m-m," muttered the colonel. "Well, shall we try this house?"
"May as well, I guess," said Chester.
He led the way to the front door and rapped sharply with his knuckles.
There was a sound of some one stirring within, but no face appeared at the door in response to the lad's knock. He rapped sharply again. This time there was not a sound from within.
Chester walked a little ways from the house and glanced at the window through which a light had been visible a few moments before. It was perfectly dark now. Apparently the light had been extinguished the moment he had rapped on the door. All was dark within.
Chester moved toward the house again, thinking to rap on the door once more. As he did so, there came the sound of a shot and Chester felt something whistle by his ear.
"Wow!" he cried, and dashed toward the door where Colonel Anderson and Ivan stood.
"Hit?" cried Colonel Anderson, as the lad dashed up.
"No," replied Chester. "But that bullet didn't miss me much. What'll we do now?"
"I don't really know. We don't know where we are. Why not spend the night here?"
"For one reason," said Chester grimly, "because they won't let us in."
"Oh, we can fix that. Break in the door."
"And get shot for our pains."
"No, I don't think so. My impression is that there is no more than a single occupant of the house. That's the reason he was frightened when we knocked. We'll just go in where it's warm and pay no further attention to him."
"Well, whatever you say," said Chester. "Stand back there, till I blow the lock off that door." He drew his revolver.
"Hold on," said Ivan. "I'll open it"
He stepped back a pace, then rushed forward. His huge shoulder came into contact with the hard wood and there was a crash as the door gave way beneath his weight.
Ivan went in unhesitatingly and the others followed him.
Inside Chester struck a match.
"Look out!" cried Colonel Anderson. "Want to get us all shot?"
"We've got to see where we are going," said Chester.
The glare of a match showed them a room to the right of the hall. Chester led the way in, still holding the match above his head. On the stand in the center of the room was a big lamp. Chester lighted it.
"Evidently," he said, "this is the same light we saw when we came up."
The three now pulled themselves close to a fire that glowed softly in an open fireplace and made themselves comfortable.
"We might as well get a little sleep," said Chester. "Anderson, you take first watch. Call me in two hours. I'm going to sleep here."
He closed his eyes, then opened them suddenly again. He had heard a slight noise.
Stepping quickly across to a table at the far end of the room, he stooped down and, thrusting his revolver under the table, called:
There was a faint rustling and a sound as of some one crying. Then a figure, rumpled and fearful, came from beneath the table; and Chester cried:
Chester's exclamation was wrung from him in English. At the sound of his words the girl looked at him quickly and clasping her hands imploringly, cried out:
"Don't kill me!"
Her words were also in English and she spoke without the slightest accent. Chester and Colonel Anderson looked at her dumfounded.
"Are you English?" demanded Chester, taking a step toward her.
The girl staggered back.
"Keep away, please," she said.
"Are you English?" repeated Chester.
The girl recovered herself with an effort and forced herself to answer the lad's question calmly.
"No," she said, "I am an American."
"An American!" exclaimed Chester. "You are an American?"
"Yes," cried the girl, "and you will harm me at your peril. The United States—"
"Uncle Sam is a long ways off," said Chester quietly. "But I guess he can take care of you. I, too am an American."
"You!" exclaimed the girl eagerly, taking a step forward. Then, after a quick glance at his clothes, she shrank back.
"Don't judge me by these garments," he said. "I assure you I am an American, and my friend here," he indicated Colonel Anderson, "is a British officer. My other friend," pointing to Ivan, "is a Russian. So you see, you are among friends."
"Are you telling me the truth?" asked the girl fearfully, eying Chester searchingly.
"It is a habit I have," replied Chester quietly. "Yes, I am an American and if you have a mind to question me about anything American you will find that I am telling you the truth."
"What is your name?" asked the girl.
Again the girl looked at him searchingly.
At last she asked: "And do you know another young American named Hal Paine?"
"Hal!" exclaimed Chester, startled at hearing his friend's name from this girl whom he had, to his knowledge, never seen before. "Of course. He is my chum. But he has never told me he knew a girl answering your description."
"Oh, I don't know him," replied the girl. "But I have heard of you both from a friend—a girl friend; and if you can tell me her name, I will be sure that you are Chester Crawford."
"How can I tell you?" asked Chester. "I know several girls. Was it Mary—"
"This girl," was the reply, "you met in Belgium. If you are truly Chester Crawford you will know who I mean."
"Do you mean Miss Johnson—Edna Johnson?" inquired Chester.
A happy smile lighted up the girl's face.
"I do! I do!" she exclaimed. "It was Edna Johnson. She wrote me a letter, telling me how she met two young American boys in Belgium and giving me their names. I have heard from her often and each time she has mentioned your names. She wonders what has become of you."
"Well," said Chester with a smile. "I'm here and Hal is some place between here and Belgrade, I expect. Now will you tell me who you are?"
"I am Helen Ellison of St. Louis," replied the girl, extending her hand.
Chester took the hand and turned to the others.
"Allow me to present my friends to you," he said quietly. "Colonel Anderson, of His British Majesty's service."
Colonel Anderson bowed.
"And Ivan Vergoff,"—this in French. "Ivan, Mademoiselle Ellison."
The big Cossack also bowed and acknowledged the introduction.
The girl smiled at both of them, and Chester was glad to learn that she understood French.
"And now," he said, "if you will tell me exactly where we are, I shall be greatly obliged."
The girl looked at him in surprise.
"You don't know where you are?" she asked.
Chester shook his head.
"You are now," said Helen, "just across the Serbian border from Bulgaria. This house is the home of a friend of mine, Miss Thatcher, a Red Cross nurse. I met her in Belgrade where she was wounded. When it became evident that the Austrians were about to occupy the city, we came to the home of her friend here, a Serbian woman. That was before there was any talk of Bulgaria joining Germany. But now that war has been declared—"
"War declared!" exclaimed Chester.
"Why, I think so. Maybe there has been no declaration of war, but anyhow the Serbians and Bulgarians have been fighting across the frontier. That's why I was so afraid when you knocked at the door to-night."
"And it was you who shot at me?" asked Chester.
"Yes," replied the girl. "And, oh, I am so sorry. If—"
"Never mind," said Chester soothingly. "You didn't hit me."
"I know I didn't, but I—"
"There, there, now," said Chester. "And where is your friend now?"
"She went away this morning and she hasn't come back yet."
"Do you know where she went?"
"Yes; to the home of a peasant about six miles from here. His wife is sick and Miss Thatcher has been attending them since she has been well enough to do so."
"And you were left here all along?" said Chester.
"Yes, but I wasn't afraid until this afternoon, when half a dozen Bulgarians crossed the frontier and tried to get in the house."
"The did?" exclaimed Chester angrily. "I wish we had been here."
"So do I," said Helen. "They knocked on the door, but I wouldn't let them in. Then they threatened to break the door down, but an officer came up at that moment and ordered them away. They went sulkily and one of them called back that they would return. That's why I was afraid when you knocked a little while ago."
"And no wonder," replied Chester. "It must have been a terrible day for you."
"It has indeed," said the girl weakly.
Chester sprang toward her quickly and took her gently by the arms, just as it seemed she would fall over in a faint. He seated her in a chair, and poured her a glass of water from a pitcher on a nearby table.
After drinking the water the girl appeared refreshed.
"So foolish of me to get weak like that," she said, smiling.
"It's no wonder," returned Chester. "It's just the reaction. You'll be all right in a minute or two."
The lad was a good prophet; and five minutes later Helen was talking and laughing vivaciously. All four were having a good time, when Chester's ears caught a faint sound from without.
The lad paused as he was about to say something in reply to one of Helen's questions and listened intently.
"What's the matter?" asked Helen.
"Oh, nothing," said Chester, and continued his remarks.
A few moments later, however, he arose, and asking to be excused for a moment, stepped toward the door which Ivan had broken to permit their entrance; just beyond he caught sight of a dark shadow.
"As I thought," he muttered. "They have come back."
He returned to the door of the parlor and summoned the big Cossack.
"Oh, Ivan," he called. "Come out here a minute."
The Cossack came up to him and Chester led him toward the door.
"What can you see out there?" he asked.
Ivan poked his head out and looked around.
"Ho!" he exclaimed suddenly and leaped out.
A moment later Chester heard the sound of a brief struggle and then Ivan reappeared dragging a man after him.
"I've got him," said the giant, laughing loudly.
The laughter attracted the attention of Helen and Colonel Anderson, who came from the parlor to learn the cause of it.
Helen gave a cry of fear as her eyes fell upon Ivan's prisoner.
"Who is he?" she exclaimed.
"Oh, just some fellow who was spooking around outside," replied Chester.
But Helen was not to be fooled thus easily.
"It is one of the Bulgarians who were here this afternoon," she cried, and addressed the man in his own tongue. Then she turned to the others. "He says the others are coming," she cried. "He came on ahead of them."
"Oh, is that so?" said Chester quietly. "Well, they'll have a different reception this time."
He told the others what the girl had learned.
Colonel Anderson received the news quietly.
"We'll be ready for them," he said.
But Ivan was not so calm when he heard what Helen had told Chester.
"So there is going to be a fight at last, eh?" he cried in a loud voice. "What are a dozen or so of these Bulgarians? I know them of old. Cowards and traitors all. I have had an experience with more than one of them. We are good for a dozen or two of them, if we can keep them in front of us. Oh, yes, the Bulgarians are great fighters—from behind."
"Is there any way we can fix up that door?" asked Chester.
Colonel Anderson shook his head.
"I am afraid not. Ivan has shattered it beyond repair."
"Then it shall be my post to guard," cried Ivan. "No Bulgarian shall come through there."
"There are not many other places they can come through," said Helen. "Only two windows and a second door, in the rear of the house. I shall guard one of the windows myself."
"You are not afraid?" asked Chester.
"Not now, that I have friends with me."
"All right. Colonel Anderson, I'll take this other window here, near Miss Ellison. You shall guard the back door."
"The first thing to do is tie this fellow up," said Anderson, indicating the Bulgarian.
Ivan stepped forward, and taking a piece of rope that Helen gave him, tied the man up tightly.
"Now," said Chester, "to your posts. We don't want to be caught unguarded."
All took the places assigned them and examined their weapons. An hour passed. Then Chester, peering through the window, exclaimed:
"Here they come!"
THE FIGHT IN THE HOUSE.
"I'm ready for them!" shouted Ivan, from his position behind the broken door.
He stood well back in the darkness, out of sight from beyond the house.
All was quiet and dark within, for with the appearance of the first of the enemy Chester had extinguished the light. The figures of the approaching Bulgarians were plainly visible to Chester and Helen through the windows. Ivan and Colonel Anderson, of course, could not see them, although they would have been visible to the former had he a mind to take a chance and expose himself to their view.
As the men approached, Chester counted them. Then he announced:
"Thirteen, I make them."
"My count, too," agreed Helen from her window.
There was not a tremor in her voice now and she seemed totally unlike the frightened girl Chester had first seen. She held her revolver steadily in her right hand, a pile of ammunition heaped up in the window sill before her.
The men came on briskly, absolutely unaware of the rude welcome that awaited them.
"Let them get close enough so we can't miss, then I'll hold a parley with them," said Chester.
When the men were less than fifty yards from the house, Chester raised his voice and called out sternly in Russian:
The Bulgarians halted in their tracks and gazed about in surprise. To the best of their knowledge there could be no one in the house but the girl, and this sudden hail in a male voice made them pause.
"What do you want here?" demanded Chester from his shelter.
There was a hurried consultation among the enemy; then one man called:
"We want to get in."
"You can't get in," returned Chester calmly.
There was a roar of laughter from without.
"Did you hear that?" said one. "He says we can't get in." The man called to Chester: "And who is going to stop us?"
"You'll find there are enough of us here for that purpose," replied the lad evenly. "I warn you we'll shoot the next step forward you take."
Again those without held a consultation and Chester could barely make out the trend of the conversation.
"Perhaps they are too many for us," said one.
"Nonsense," was the reply of another. "He's simply trying to frighten us away. We'll rush the two windows and the doors at the same time. Some of us will get in."
"All right. Whatever you say—"
"Come on then."
The men split up suddenly into four separate bodies and rushed forward.
"Let 'em have it," said Chester quietly.
His revolver spoke at the same moment as did that of Helen and two men stumbled as they ran. One recovered himself instantly and came on, but the other pitched forward to the ground.
Colonel Anderson, at the rear door, remained at his post. There was nothing he could do until the enemy attempted to force the door.
Ivan, however, stepped quickly from his place of concealment and standing erect in the doorway fired point blank at the four men who came dashing toward him. One threw up his hands with a cry and a second muttered a fierce imprecation. Ivan emptied his revolver and then dashed back to safety even as a fusillade was fired at him. The Cossack was untouched. He smiled grimly to himself.
"Not so bad," he muttered.
He reloaded in haste and again stepped into the open. The men before his post, the three who remained upon their feet, were directly in front of the door and all fired simultaneously as Ivan showed himself. The big Cossack felt a stinging sensation in his left arm, but he did not pause to investigate the wound.
Again he raised his weapon quickly and fired its contents toward his foes. But Ivan's aim was poor—or he had fired without aiming—for not a bullet went home. Again Ivan dodged back just in time.
The men who had advanced toward the two windows had been driven off by Helen and Chester. Two of their number lay on the ground and two of the others were nursing wounded arms. Out of revolver-shot they stopped and discussed the situation.
In the rear, the men who had attacked there were even now knocking at the door with their revolver butts. Chester heard Colonel Anderson's voice:
"Get away from there, or I shall fire through the door."
There came a loud report and Chester believed for a moment the colonel had been as good as his word. But he was soon undeceived.
"They've blown the lock off the door," cried the colonel. "Guess they'll try to rush me now."
"You guard both these windows for a moment," said Chester. "I'll lend Anderson a hand."
He hurried back and arrived just in time to see the door swing inward. Colonel Anderson, across the room from the door, stood in the shadow, waiting for the first of the enemy to show himself.
The door swung back violently and the men appeared in the opening in a body. Chester and Colonel Anderson fired almost together. Came hoarse cries from the attackers and a moment later the doorway was cleared. Immediately Chester and the colonel hurled their weight against it, closing it again.
"Safe for a minute," said Chester.
He hastened back to where he had left Helen and arrived just in time to see the girl fire her revolver at a figure that dashed toward the house. The man did not falter. Apparently the girl's aim had been bad. The man dashed to the very side of the house and took his stand directly under the window.
Chester poked his head out to see if he could pick the man off and as he did so his cap leaped from his head. The lad heard something whiz by. He withdrew his head quickly.
"Just missed me," he said quietly.
Now three forms came dashing toward the house, running in a zig-zag course.
"See if you can get one of them," cried Chester to the girl.
He took deliberate aim himself and fired. One man dropped.
Helen also fired—twice, but the other two men came on and joined the first arrival under the edge of the window.
"Great Scott! This won't do," said Chester. "We can't have those fellows under there. We'll have to get them out some way."
At that moment Colonel Anderson's voice rang out:
"Here they come again."
Chester dashed back. Again the door swung inward and two faces appeared, revolvers leveled before them. They fired even as they came in sight and Colonel Anderson tumbled over with a sharp cry.
"They got me," he said in a faint voice.
"And I got one of them!" shouted Chester as one of the Bulgarians hit the floor with a thud.
The other withdrew his head before Chester could fire again.
Chester raised his voice and called to Helen:
"How are you making it?"
"All right," the girl called back. "Haven't seen any one since you left."
"Can you hold both windows?" demanded Chester.
"I think so. Why?"
"Anderson has been hit. I'll have to stand guard here. Pass the word to Ivan, will you? Tell him of the men under the window. He may be able to help you out."
The girl did as Chester ordered.
Helen, standing close to the window, allowed her revolver to rest on the sill. In the darkness, a hand appeared from below and grasped the weapon by the barrel and wrenched it from her grasp before she could pull the trigger.
"What's the matter?" cried Chester anxiously.
"I've lost my gun," said the girl. "And here they come in the window!"
"I'm coming!" cried Chester, and started forward.
But another figure beat him. It was the giant form of Ivan.
"You stand here," he said sternly. "Guard both doors and the windows as you value your lives. I'll attend to the others."
He moved toward the shattered door without another word.
"Where are you going?" demanded Chester anxiously.
Ivan disappeared without making reply.
At that moment one of the men who had succeeded in forcing the rear door came dashing through the house. He held his revolver ready, but he didn't see Chester quickly enough. Chester raised his own weapon and took a snapshot. The man threw up both arms and staggered back. Immediately Chester leaped forward and possessed himself of the other's revolver, which he passed to Helen.
A second form appeared in the doorway and fired at Chester. But the lad had perceived his opponent just in time to leap back and the bullet went wild. Bringing his own revolver forward in deliberate aim, Chester dropped the other with a single shot.
"Look!" cried Helen from the window at this moment.
Chester did so and saw the remainder of the Bulgarians coming toward the house at a dead run. He put his revolver out the window and fired twice. Helen did the same.
But both had fired too quickly and all the bullets went wide. The men pulled up under the window, out of the range of fire from within, safely enough, and Chester and Helen could hear them talking.
"We'll wait here," said one. "Somebody'll show his head pretty quick and when he does, we'll get him."
Chester motioned to Helen to move back from the window.
"What are you going to do?" she asked in some anxiety.
"Have you any hot water?" asked Chester suddenly.
"Why, yes," cried the girl and clapped her hands, "There is a kettle on the stove."
"You remain here while I get it," said Chester briefly.
He dashed into the kitchen and was back in a moment with the large kettle of hot water in both hands. He motioned the girl away from the window.
The lad lifted the kettle to the sill with an effort, and then gauging the position of the enemy by the sound of the voices without, he tilted it over.
Came furious cries of pain from without as the boiling water found its mark. Then there came a different sort of cry. Chester looked out quickly.
From the front door dashed Ivan and bore down upon the foe.
IVAN SHOWS HIS METAL.
Chester had poured the boiling water upon the foe at the psychological moment indeed—for Ivan had been ready to dash forward at that exact minute and Chester had diverted the attention of the Bulgarians long enough for Ivan to reach them without being discovered.
Had the men not been otherwise engaged when he dashed from his place of concealment, they would doubtless have shot him down before he reached them. But the kettle of hot water had prevented them from bringing their revolvers to bear until too late.
Ivan descended upon them with a wild cry, and at sight of him the Bulgarians gave back. Eight of them there were, but they recoiled as a single man from the great Cossack.
A single shot Ivan fired from his two revolvers and then they were empty. Quickly he reversed both weapons, and holding both by the barrels, he was among the enemy, striking right and left as fast as the eye could see.
Down went a man on the left with a cracked skull. A man on the right caught a glancing blow on the shoulder and also toppled over. Now the remaining six scattered and sought to get a position where they could shoot Ivan down without fear of injuring one of their own number. But Ivan prevented this by keeping close.
He at length seized one man by the neck—dropping the revolver he held in his left hand to do so—and held him before him as a shield.
Then he charged the others.
Ivan's eyes shone with a terrible fire as he darted forward. His hat was off and his long hair streamed in the wind. Holding his human shield as he did with his strong left hand, he raised his revolver aloft in his right, gripping it tightly by the barrel.
The nearest man of the enemy failed to skip aside quickly enough and the revolver crashed down on his head with a thud. That was the last of him. A second, thinking to take advantage of this action, slipped upon the giant from behind and leveled his revolver at Ivan's head. But once more Ivan was too quick for him, and, whirling suddenly, hurled his revolver at the man.
The Cossack's aim was true, and struck squarely in the face with the sharp revolver, the man dropped to the ground. Now, besides the man he still held aloft, there were but three of the enemy left. With a loud cry, they turned and ran.
But Ivan had no mind to be balked of his prey. He still held a weapon, and he made good use of it. The weapon was the man he had been using for a shield. Raising him high above his head with his right arm, he hurled him forward, as a man putting the shot.
The human catapult sailed through the air and struck two of the enemy as it fell, carrying them to the ground, knocking the breath from the bodies of all three.
Ivan leaped forward quickly. Stooping, he picked up two men, one in each hand, and brought their heads together with an audible crash. Then he hurled one down upon the third man with great force, and stooping, picked up a revolver.
Quickly he dropped to one knee, and leveling the revolver, took careful aim at the remaining man, who was now some distance away and running swiftly.
A report, a flash of flame in the darkness.
An imprecation from Ivan, a second report and flash of flame, and the man fell sprawling.
Ivan rose calmly. He surveyed the field of action with a critical eye. Then, without a word, he turned on his heel and stalked back to the house. As he came to where Chester and Helen stood, he said quietly:
"Any more of them in here?"
"None," returned Chester. "You finished the lot."
"Good," said the Cossack. "I thought they had me once."
He uttered no further word, but made his way to the parlor, where he sat down as calmly as though nothing had happened.
"You go in there, too," said Chester to Helen. "I'll have a look at Anderson."
But the girl refused to obey this command and accompanied the lad to where the gallant Colonel lay, moaning feebly.
Chester dropped down and raised Colonel Anderson's head to his knee.
"How do you feel, old man?" he asked.
"Rather weak and dizzy," was the Colonel's mumbled response.
"Where did the bullet hit you?"
"Top of the head some place," and Colonel Anderson raised a feeble hand and passed it over his head.
"Quiet now," said Chester. "I'll have you in the other room in a jiffy and we'll have a look at the wound. Will you make a light in the parlor, Miss Ellison?"
The girl hastened away to do as Chester requested and the lad assisted Colonel Anderson to his feet.
"Put your arm around my neck," the lad commanded. "Lean all your weight on me and I'll drag you into the other room. You're too big for me to carry."
Colonel Anderson followed instructions and Chester dragged him to the parlor, where he laid him on a couch. Then he bent over and examined the wound.
"Doesn't amount to much," he said finally, rising. "Will you get me some water and a cloth. Miss Ellison? Also, if by any chance you can find it, a piece of adhesive plaster."
"I can get them all," said the girl. "Miss Thatcher's kit is still here."
She hurried away and was back in a few minutes with the necessary things. She lent Chester a hand and bathed the wound on the Colonel's head, while Chester unrolled the adhesive plaster. Then they bound up the wound.
Colonel Anderson then insisted on sitting up. He passed a hand ruefully across his bandaged head and smiled faintly.
"Hurts a little, but not much," he said in answer to Chester's question. "But now, if you'll tell me—"
He paused suddenly and raised a warning hand.
"What's the matter now?" demanded Chester anxiously.
"Thought I heard voices without."
With a bound Ivan left his chair and darted toward the door. He disappeared in the darkness.
"Ivan's fighting blood is up," said Chester. "I guess I'd better go after him. You guard the wounded man here, Miss Ellison."
He hurried after Ivan.
Outside the door he came upon a strange sight—a sight that caused him to cry out in merriment and thankfulness.
In his first gaze he saw four figures and the first he recognized as that of Hal, the next that of Nikol. These two stood quietly gazing at two other figures who were struggling nearby. Chester glanced at the other figures. They were Ivan and Anthony Stubbs and they appeared to be locked in a death grapple.
"Help! Help!" came Stubbs' voice.
Chester moved forward to interfere, for he reasoned that perhaps Ivan, in his lust for battle, had been unable to distinguish between friend and foe. But Hal stayed him with uplifted hand and Chester saw that his chum was laughing quietly. He realized then that Ivan had recognized his opponent.
He lined up with Hal and Nikol and watched the struggle.
Ivan had one huge arm around the little man and seemed to be making strenuous efforts to throw him. Stubbs struggled valiantly, the while sending out wails for help. Chester saw that Ivan was simply playing.
"Stick to him, Mr. Stubbs," cried Chester. "You'll have him down in a minute."
Stubbs twisted and squirmed like an eel. Once he slipped free of Ivan's clutch and started to run. Ivan reached out quickly and grasped him by the left shoulder and drew him back.
Stubbs let out a yell of fear, and as he turned face to face with the Cossack, he struck out and upward with his clenched fist. The blow landed squarely on Ivan's nose and brought a stream of blood.
Ivan let out a roar of rage. Apparently he had not bargained for this. Then he lifted Stubbs high, in the air and tossed him away in the darkness. The little man's yells were loud and long as he flew through the air. He struck the hard earth with a grunt perhaps twenty feet away.
Slowly he got to his feet and came toward the others, who were now talking to Ivan. In front of them, he stopped.
"Say!" he exclaimed. "What are you fellows trying to do, anyhow? Get me killed off so you won't have to bother with me? Didn't you see that big heathen tossing me around? What?"
Hal turned and eyed the little man suddenly.
"Why, there he is now," he said in a voice of surprise. "We were just talking about you, Mr. Stubbs. Chester was asking about you. I told him you were here a moment ago. Where did you go so suddenly?"
Stubbs glared at them.
"You mean to tell me you didn't see some big giant grab me a minute ago?" he demanded. "You didn't see me fighting for my life?"
"Fighting?" exclaimed Hal. "You fighting, Mr. Stubbs. I didn't think you would attack a man."
"I didn't attack a man," shouted the thoroughly aroused Stubbs. "I didn't attack a man. A man attacked me. No, it wasn't a man, either. It was a giant."
"Is that so, Mr. Stubbs?" asked Chester in well-feigned surprise. "And where were the rest of us all that time?"
"Where—where were you?" echoed Stubbs. "You were right here, that's where you were. You mean to tell me you didn't hear me call for help?"
"You don't say," said Hal. "Why didn't you call aloud, Mr. Stubbs?"
Stubbs sputtered angrily.
"By George! I did call out loud," he cried.
"And what has happened to the man who attacked you, Mr. Stubbs—the giant you speak of?" inquired Hal civilly.
"Well, he, I—I don't know. He looked suspiciously like Ivan there to me, though why he should jump me, I don't know. Yes, sir, I could have sworn it was Ivan, but I must have been mistaken."
Stubbs glanced around on all sides.
"By George!" he exclaimed at last. "I know I had a fight, but I can't seem to make any one believe it."
"Still sleepy, Mr. Stubbs?" asked Hal.
"Sleepy?" repeated the little man. "Sleepy? What do you mean?"
"Why, that fighting dream just now," said Hal. For a moment Stubbs stared at the lad angrily; then turned on his heel and stalked into the house.
"Come," said Chester, with a laugh, "I'll take you into the house, Hal, and introduce you to a real nice little girl. She's heard of you. She told me so. Come on."
BETWEEN TWO FIRES.
At the door to the parlor, Chester stopped stock still. The others halted behind him.
"Now what do you think of that?" he demanded.
Inside, Stubbs was standing before Helen Ellison.
"Yes," he was saying, "I am Anthony Stubbs, war correspondent of the New York Gazette. I am here on important business. But I have other worries besides my work. I am burdened with the care of two young American boys. I have to look after them and keep them out of trouble. Hal Paine and Chester Crawford. Perhaps you know them?"
The little man paused expectantly.
"I have met Chester Crawford," was the reply. "He was here only a moment ago. I do not know Hal Paine."
"Well, if you know one of them you are just one better off than I am," was Stubbs' rejoinder. "I know them both, too well. Were it not that I am continually giving up my time to getting them out of scrapes, I would be able to give more attention to my own work. You should be glad that you know but one of them."
"But I thought—" began the girl.
Stubbs interrupted her with a wave of his hand.
"Oh, I know what you thought," he said. "I thought so myself once. So have lots of others. But if you knew them as well as I do you'd change your mind."
"Well, what do you think of it?" asked Chester of Hal, in a whisper.
"I think it's about time we went in," returned Hal.
Chester advanced into the room and the others followed. Stubbs turned guiltily.
"Oh, there you are," he said. "I was just telling this young lady here what great friends we all are. Yes, sir. I just remarked that if she were in any kind of danger, to mention it to you and you boys would see that no harm came to her."
"Are you sure that's what you were talking about, Mr. Stubbs?" asked Chester.
"Why, of course. What did you think?"
"Well, I thought perhaps you might have told Miss Ellison of all the trouble we have caused you."
"I—I—" he stammered.
"Oh, we heard you, Mr. Stubbs," said Hal.
"Well," said Stubbs with ruffled dignity. "Eavesdroppers never hear any good of themselves." But the little man soon recovered his poise. "I was just joking," he said. "I knew you boys were listening. Ha! Ha!" He eyed Chester. "The young lady here says she has met you," he said. "You young rascal, so this is why you wanted to come on ahead, is it?"
"See here, Mr. Stubbs," he began, "I—"
"Ha! Ha!" laughed Stubbs. He approached Chester and gave him a dig in the ribs with his thumb. "So," he exclaimed, and added, "well, I was young myself once."
He had successfully turned the tables on Chester and he was now very much pleased with himself.
Chester decided that the best policy was to ignore the little man's remarks, so he turned the conversation by introducing Hal and Nikol to Helen. Then, when all were on speaking terms, he turned to Hal.
"Tell me how you happened to find us?" he asked.
"It's simple enough," was the reply. "As we were sailing along, I heard shots below. I came down to investigate. The first thing I knew, after coming in sight of this house, I saw a great hulk of a man come rushing out. I drew my revolver and was about to fire when I recognized Ivan. At first I wasn't sure whether Ivan knew us, but when he grabbed Stubbs there and began to play with him, I knew he did. So Nikol and I stood back and watched. Then you came out. That's all I have to tell."
"And so you admit it wasn't a dream," exclaimed Stubbs angrily. "A fine lot of friends you are. How do you know what that untamed heathen might have done to me?"
"Heathen, am I?" exclaimed Ivan, getting to his feet.
"No, no! I didn't mean that," said Stubbs, backing away. "I apologize."
Ivan resumed his seat and Stubbs continued:
"I just want to tell you I don't think much of such treatment. As I have told you before, you rush to each other's aid fast enough, but when I get in a tight place I am left to fight it out by myself."
"And you always come out on top, Mr. Stubbs," declared Chester. "We would deprive you of none of the glory."
"Yes, but some of these times I won't come out on top and then what good will glory do me, huh?"
"Think how proud Mrs. Stubbs—"
"I can tell you right now that Mrs. Stubbs is not looking for glory," shouted Stubbs. "What Mrs. Stubbs wants is me and if I fool around with you much longer I'm mighty likely to disappoint her."
Stubbs stalked across the room and sat down in a corner.
"Tell me," said Hal to Chester, "what was all the shooting about?"
"Oh, it didn't amount to much," returned Chester. "Thirteen Bulgarians attacked us. That's all. Anderson, Miss Ellison and I disposed of a couple and Ivan here attended to the rest. They are all dead now, I guess."
"And where is Anderson?" demanded Hal.
"Over there on the sofa," said Chester, pointing. "He's sleeping and I didn't like to disturb him. He's got a hole in his head."
"Bad?" asked Hal anxiously.
"No; mere flesh wound. He'll be all right directly."
"And do you mean to tell me," demanded Hal, "that Ivan here did all this work?"
"Well, he did the greater part of it. It reminded me of the old days, when we watched Alexis in action. Any one who had ever seen them both fight would know they were brothers. Ivan is a powerful man and a great fighter."
Ivan had hung his head modestly as Chester talked. Now he looked up and said:
"It was nothing."
"And yet how unlike Alexis," muttered Hal. "Can you imagine what Alexis would have said after a fight like that?"
"Rather," said Chester dryly. "He'd have sworn he had defeated a regiment."
"Well," said Hal. "It seems to me we have delayed here long enough. You will remember your orders to hurry. My plane will carry us all, if Miss Ellison cares to go."
"Certainly she cares to go," returned Chester. "We can't leave her here alone. I'll wake Anderson now."
He did so. The Colonel announced that he was feeling perfectly fit and ready to go at any time.
"Well, you people get ready and I'll go and have a look at the plane," said Hal.
He left the house.
It had grown light by this time. Dawn had broken half an hour before and there was every indication that the day would be bright and cheerful.
Helen was upstairs getting her things together, while the others sat about in the parlor. Suddenly Hal dashed into the house. There was an expression of alarm on his face. The others jumped to their feet excitedly.
"Now what's the matter?" exclaimed Chester.
"Oh, nothing much," said Hal, "only that about fifty thousand Bulgarians have nabbed my aeroplane."
"What?" exclaimed the others.
"Exactly," said Hal, "and that's not the worst of it."
"My goodness!" exclaimed Stubbs. "What can be worse than that?"
"Well," replied Hal, sinking into a chair. "On the other side of us I made out about a million Serbians advancing."
"Great Scott!" exclaimed Chester. "You mean we are in between them?"
"Oh, my," groaned Stubbs. "This will be the last of us for sure."
"Quiet, Stubbs," said Hal sharply.
Now Ivan had a remark to make.
"There don't happen to be a million Serbians," he said calmly.
"Well, I wasn't talking literally," said Hal. "I don't know how many there are, but they look like a million."
"And what are we going to do?" moaned Stubbs.
"It looks to me as though we should have to stop right here," said Hal quietly.
"And be shot to pieces?" This from Stubbs.
"You might go outside and try running a bit," returned Chester. "I have no doubt you would be killed a bit quicker."
"I'll stay here," said Stubbs.
At this moment Helen came into the room. She was heavily attired and carried a small satchel.
"Well, I'm ready," she said, smiling. "Did you think it would take me all day to dress?"
"You might just as well go back and get unready," said Stubbs in a faint voice.
Helen gazed at the serious faces about her queerly.
"Why, what on earth is the matter?" she asked anxiously.
"Matter?" echoed Stubbs. "Everything is the matter. The Serbians and Bulgarians are coming to shoot us full of holes."
Helen turned to Hal for an explanation.
"It's true, Miss Ellison, though not as Mr. Stubbs expresses it," said Hal quietly. "We are between two fires. The Bulgarians are less than half a mile from us and they have seized my airplane. The Serbians are advancing. There will undoubtedly be a battle and we will be somewhere about the middle of it."
"But can't we leave now and hurry toward the Serbians?" asked Helen.
"I had thought of that," said Hal; "but the Bulgarians are too close. If they saw us fleeing, they would probably shoot us down."
"Then cannot we seek the protection of the Bulgarians?"
This brought a growl from Ivan.
"Better keep as far from the Bulgarians as possible," he said in a harsh voice. "I know something of the Bulgarians."
"Besides, we have other business," he added. "We do not want to fall into the hands of the Bulgarians if we can possibly help it. We have a mission to perform if it is humanly possible."
"Boom!" it was the sound of a big gun.
"The battle is on," said Hal. "Will any of you come to the roof with me? We should be able to get a good view."
"Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!"
The battle was on in full blast.
IN GRAVE PERIL.
Helen led the way to the roof, the others following closely. As Hal had predicted, it was possible from this height to obtain a fair view of the opposing armies.
To the north, as far as the eye could see, the army of King Ferdinand of Bulgaria spread out, a mass of moving energy. Faint puffs of smoke dotted the Bulgar line as far as the eye could see.
"Cannon!" said Hal briefly.
To the south, the Serbian line moved forward. It, too, spread out on either side as far as the eye could reach and puffs of smoke rose steadily, shutting out the view of the moving men.
"More cannon," said Chester.
"We seem to be safe enough for the moment," said Hal. "The shells are passing over us. But if one side or the other should advance as far as this house, we would be in imminent danger of being struck by shells from the other side."
"Well, one side is bound to advance sooner or later," declared Chester; "but I guess there is nothing for us to do but wait and watch the progress of the battle."
"You fellows can watch all you want to," said Stubbs. "I'm going down stairs where I won't be able to see a shell coming."
"It won't make much difference whether you are up here or down there if a shell hits this house, Mr. Stubbs," said Chester.
"Maybe not; but I won't see it and that will help some."
Stubbs betook himself below.
"Don't know what is coming over Stubbs," said Chester. "He didn't use to be as bad as that."
"He was when we first met him," Hal replied. "But he seemed to be getting over it. He's worse than ever now."
From their position, those upon the roof of the house could witness the effect of some of the great shells that were hurled into the opposing lines. One, from the Serbians, struck squarely upon the Bulgarian first line troops, doing terrible execution. Men were mowed down in great numbers.
A few moments later the Bulgarians also found the range and the havoc was frightful on each side.
"They can't stand that very long," said Hal. "One side or the other will have to make a move."
The lad was right; and as it transpired the first move was to be made by the Serbians.
So suddenly that it appeared the work of magic, a great body of horsemen, stretching out for perhaps half a mile, issued from the Serbian line in a charge. On they came, their sabers flashing in the early morning sun, straight for the distant Bulgarian line.
Chester gave an exclamation of dismay.
"They'll pass within a short distance of us," he ejaculated. "Then the Bulgarians will turn their big guns on us." He turned to Helen. "You would better go downstairs, Miss Ellison," he said quietly.
"But I want to see the battle," the girl protested.
"Chester is right," Hal agreed. "This is no place for you. Bullets are likely to be flying about here before long now."
"But the rest of you are not coming down?"
"That's different," said Chester.
"I don't see how. A bullet is no more liable to hit me than it is to hit you."
"Well, of course if you insist, I won't push you down," said Hal, somewhat nettled.
Helen Ellison tossed her head.
"Of course if you are going to be mean about it, I'll go down and sit with Mr. Stubbs," she said.
Without another word she disappeared below.
Hal looked at Chester and smiled.
"Women and girls," he said, "are very peculiar. As soon as you agree with them they change their minds."
"Well, she's down, anyhow," said Chester. "That's some relief."
"And here come the Serbians," said Hal.
A handsome body of men, these Serbian cavalrymen, as they charged straight across the open field into the very jaws of death. Men fell on all sides, but those who were left did not pause. The command had gone forth that the Bulgarian guns must be silenced and the Serbians went about the work as coolly as though they had been on dress parade.
But it appeared a few moments later that the battle was not to be between horsemen and artillery, but rather between cavalry and cavalry.
From the Bulgarian lines now issued a large body of horsemen; and they came toward the Serbians at a swift gallop, their officers riding in front with swords flashing and urging their men on with words of encouragement.
The Serbian cavalry, at a command, halted and braced to receive the shock.
"Great Scott! What did they stop for!" exclaimed Hal. "They are giving the other fellows, all the advantage when they come together."
"Looks like bad generalship to me," Chester agreed.
Now, at a command from their officer, the Serbians resumed their charge; but the damage had been done and when the long lines of opposing horsemen came together the very impetus of the Bulgarian charge carried them through. The Serbians reeled, staggered and their line broke.
The Bulgarian horse plowed in among them, cutting, slashing and stabbing. Individually, the Serbians fought as bravely as their foe, but in spite of the desperate work the Bulgarian cavalry retained its cohesion and pushed steadily on.
The fighting was terrible to behold. Revolvers were brought into play and their sharp crack, crack could be heard above the sound of the trampling horses and yelling men. It became apparent to the onlookers that the Serbians were getting the worst of the encounter.
Casting his eye toward the main Serbian line, Hal gave a short cheer. A long, dense line of infantry was moving out to the support of the cavalry. Slowly they came at first, then faster and still faster as the men broke into a run. An imposing sight, indeed, and one to stir the blood. The Serbian cavalry, at a command, fell back upon the infantry, which separated into two sections to permit of the cavalry passing through the center. Then the infantry closed in again.
But the Bulgarian cavalry, with victory apparently within its grasp, had no intention of giving up now. With utter recklessness they charged the Serbian infantry, dying bravely before the rifles and upon the bayonets of their enemy when they chanced to escape the rifle fire.
The Serbian line held like a stone wall.
Then the Bulgarian cavalry drew off. A cheer, which arose from the Serbian line, was quickly checked as the giant batteries of the Bulgarians opened upon the unprotected Serbian line. The Serbians wavered, broke and fled.
Then once more the Bulgarian cavalry wheeled and charged. Right into the dense masses of Serbians rode the troopers, cutting and slashing to right and left. The execution among the panic-stricken Serbians was terrible to behold.
"They can't stand it long," Hal shouted, barely making himself heard above the roar of battle.
"The day is lost already," Chester shouted back.
There seemed no doubt of that now.
What was left of the Serbian infantry staggered back to the main army shattered and beaten. The big guns took up the battle again, but not with the same vigor and confidence as before. The Serbian fire seemed even to tell the spectators on the housetop that the Serbians had lost hope.
Half an hour later a general retreat began.
"Bad generalship, that's all," declared Hal.
"Without doubt," agreed Colonel Anderson. "A charge is a charge and once begun must be finished. That was where the Bulgarians gained the whip hand."
"The next step, I suppose, is an advance by the Bulgarians," said Chester.
"Very likely," Hal agreed, "and that means that we shall be caught in the Bulgarian lines."
"It means worse than that," said Colonel Anderson. "We are all in civilian attire and if our identities are discovered, it means that we'll be stood up and shot."
"By Jove!" said Hal. "I hadn't thought of that."
"Oh, we've been in predicaments just as serious," said Chester, "and we have always come through somehow. I guess we shall do so again."
"We'll get into one just once too often, I'm afraid," said Hal, "and this is likely to be it."
"You're getting as bad as Stubbs, Hal," said Chester. "Just keep a stiff upper lip and we'll come through this thing some way."
"I'm no quitter," said Hal. "But the best we can do now is let events shape themselves."
And now the Bulgarian advance began.
Apparently the Bulgarian commander had no thought of attempting to overtake the Serbians and annihilate them. Apparently he figured that ground gained was ground gained whether with or without a fight. The army moved forward slowly.
A party of officers, following in the wake of the vanguard, rode suddenly toward the house in which the friends had taken refuge.
"And here comes the trouble, as Stubbs would say," declared Hal. "Let's go below and get ready to receive them."
He suited the action to the word and the others followed him silently. Below, Hal acquainted Helen with what had transpired and announced that the Bulgarians were approaching.
"And what of the bodies without?" asked the girl quietly.
"Whew!" Hal gave a long and expressive whistle. "I hadn't thought of that. Wait a moment, though. We'll have to say they were here when the Serbians advanced and were killed."
"But the Serbians were not so close to the house."
"I know that, but I cannot think of any better excuse."
"Besides," said Stubbs, "if the Bulgarians were killed here by the Serbians, the chances are the Bulgarian commander will want to know how it happens we weren't killed also."
"Stubbs," said Hal, "I told you you were always a kill-joy. You can pick more flaws in things than any one I can think of. We'll tell the Bulgarians that story and take a chance on its passing muster."
"Then we may as well say our prayers now," said Stubbs mournfully.
"But what will we tell them we are?" asked Chester.
"Americans," replied Hal. "Caught here by the retreat. We were just making our way out of the country. I'll do the talking."
"All right," said Chester, and added: "Sh-h-h, here they come now!"
Came a knock at the door.
"You answer it, Miss Ellison, please," said Hal, adding: "If you are questioned, tell the same story you told Chester."
The girl nodded and moved to the door without a sign of nervousness. Directly she could be heard in conversation with one of the officers. Then followed heavy footsteps approaching.
"You say they are in here? I'll have a look at them myself," said a voice.
A moment later the scowling face of a Bulgarian colonel appeared in the doorway. Helen stood just behind him and behind her were several other Bulgarian officers.
Hal rose, as did the others, as the Bulgarian swept into the room.
"Who are you?" demanded the officer in a harsh voice.
"Hal Paine, an American," replied the lad, and indicated the others after this fashion: "Chester Crawford, also an American; Harry Anderson, an American; Nikol, an Albanian, the servant there of Anthony Stubbs, American war correspondent; Ivan Vergoff, also an Albanian."
"Hm-m-m," muttered the Bulgarian. "You have quite a fluent tongue, young man. And what are you doing here?"
"Three of us," said Hal, indicating Chester, Colonel Anderson and himself, "were looking about Montenegro when the war broke out. We have been there since, lending what aid we could to the wounded. There we encountered Ivan Vergoff, who, for some reason, became attached to us. There also we encountered Anthony Stubbs, war correspondent, and his man, Nikol."
"Very plausible, very plausible," said the Bulgarian. "But how do I know you speak the truth?"
Hal shrugged his shoulders.
"We can't very well offer proof of our identities," he said. "But were the American consul here, I could very soon convince him."
The officer frowned at this remark. The mention of an American consul or minister or ambassador always brought frowns to the faces of military officers in the war zone. It boded trouble if American subjects were not well treated.
"And how do you happen to be here?" demanded the Bulgarian.
"Montenegro was becoming too warm," said Hal. "We thought we would get into Bulgaria or Greece, neutral countries. We did not know Bulgaria had declared war."
The Bulgarian's face seemed to relax a trifle. Apparently Hal had made a favorable impression.
"Well," he said, "the best I can do is turn you over to my superior. Still, if things are as you say, I have no doubt that you will be allowed to proceed into Greece."
"Thank you, Colonel," said Hal.
The officer glanced around the room; and suddenly his eyes fell upon a man lying in the corner of the room. It was the Bulgarian whom Ivan had tied up the night before.
"What's that?" demanded the officer.
He commanded another of his officers to investigate. Hal's heart fell.
The other officer stepped quickly across the room and jerked the man to his feet. Then he untied him and drew him before the Colonel. The latter, after one glance at the Bulgarian uniform, ordered his other men to guard all exits, and he addressed the man.
"What are you doing here, sir?" he asked sharply.
"I came here with some of my comrades last night," said the man. "I, a little in advance of the others, was overpowered and tied up. All I know of the others is that they arrived later and there was a fight. I have heard these people say my comrades were killed."
"Search the house and make a careful examination without!" ordered the Bulgarian officer.
Half a dozen of his men leaped to obey. The officer said nothing until his men reported fifteen minutes later.
"The man speaks the truth," said one of the officers, indicating the Bulgarian.
The colonel whirled upon Hal.
"So," he exclaimed, "you have been lying to me. Perhaps you are not Americans, eh? Perhaps you are attached to the Anglo-French expedition at Saloniki?"
"I—" began Hal, but the officer silenced him with a gesture.
Then he turned to one of his officers.
"Take a squad of ten men and escort these prisoners to General Blozle!" he commanded shortly. "Search them for weapons first."
Hal and Chester realized the futility of resistance. They held their arms high, as did the others, and were relieved of their weapons without a word. Then, surrounded by a guard, they were marched away.
An hour later they stood before the Bulgarian commander, where the officer who had captured them related his story. General Blozle eyed them keenly.
"Have you anything to say?" he asked when the colonel had presented the case against them.
Chester stepped forward.
"Just this, general," he said quietly. "Miss Ellison here is in no way concerned in anything we may have done. We had never seen her until last night, as she told the colonel. Also, I would like to speak a word for Mr. Stubbs here. He is, as my friend has said, an American war correspondent. That's all, sir."
The lad resumed his place.
"Bah!" exclaimed the general. "You as much as admit you are a spy. If you are a spy, so are the others. You are a lot of spies. You English hounds! If it were not for the English, Bulgaria would now have what was rightfully hers. You shall all be shot at sunrise! Take them away!"
The prisoners were marched out with scant ceremony. They were taken to a large tent, with ample room for all of them. There they were securely bound and a guard stationed without.
"Well," said Stubbs quietly, with nothing of the fear of other days in his manner, "I guess we have come to the finish line at last."
"It looks that way, Mr. Stubbs," said Chester sadly. "I am sorry that we have implicated you in this."
"Oh, that's all right," replied the little man. "I'm not blaming you. But I would have liked to go back to New York once more."
Chester turned to Helen.
"And you, Miss Ellison," he said. "I hardly know what to say. If it had not been for me, you would not have been in this serious predicament."
Helen smiled at him.
"Say no more about it," she said quietly. "You saved me once. I am not the girl to whine now."
"Now that you people have all decided you are going to die, I would like to say a few words."
It was the voice of Nikol.
The others looked at him in surprise.
"What's the matter with you?" demanded Stubbs. "Want to berate us, I suppose, for getting you into this fix."
Nikol eyed Stubbs somewhat scornfully.
"I," said Nikol, "wish to say that while there is life there is hope."
"Good for you, old man," cried Hal. "You have expressed my thoughts exactly."
"Suppose you tell us how, securely tied as we are, we are going to get out of here?" Stubbs addressed Nikol.
"Very simple," said Nikol. "First I want to say this. I am no strategist. I can unloosen us all, if some one else will show us the way out."
"You do your part, Nikol, and I'll try and do mine," said Hal quietly.
The dwarf eyed him approvingly.
"You are the one person in the crowd who seems to have sense," he said. "As I say, I can break our bonds at any time. I can break the ropes that bind me and I have no doubt that Ivan there can do the same."
Ivan nodded his head energetically.
"I had thought of it," he smiled. "Yes; I can do it."
"Then why haven't you done it a long while ago?" demanded Stubbs. "Anything is better than remaining here like this."
"I haven't done it before for fear of discovery," said Nikol.
"My idea exactly," agreed Ivan.
"It would be better," Nikol continued, "to wait until we are sure we shall not be disturbed again during the night. Then Ivan and I shall free ourselves and release the others. I believe it would be unwise now."
"Good reasoning, Nikol," said Hal. "We shall wait, as you suggest."
Nikol became silent again. Ivan said nothing either.
"But it's awfully tiresome being trussed up like this," Stubbs protested.
"Better a little tiresomeness now than a bullet in the morning, Mr. Stubbs," returned Chester.
"Right you are, Chester, I'll kick no more," said Stubbs.
He, too, became silent.
Hal, Chester and Colonel Anderson talked in low whispers.
"After we are freed of our bonds, then what?" questioned the Colonel.
Chester shrugged his shoulders as much as his bonds would permit.
"Ask Hal," he replied. "I don't seem to be able to think of anything."
"Well," said Hal, "our guards, knowing that we are apparently securely bound, won't keep as strict guard as they should, I hope. Once freed, perhaps we can tap one of them over the head and appropriate his uniform. After that another uniform and so on until there are garments for all. We'll climb into them. Then we'll crawl under the tent, and once outside, we'll strike out boldly."
"And after that?" questioned Chester.
This time it was Hal who shrugged his shoulders.
"Who knows?" he said quietly. "We'll have to leave something to chance."
"And Miss Ellison?"
"A uniform for her also," said Hal decisively. "It's the only way."
"Oh, I know it is a desperate chance," exclaimed Hal. "But certainly it is better than sitting down and awaiting the arrival of the firing squad."
"You're right, Hal," said Chester. "But it's a ticklish business and one that will require nerve."
"It's not a question of nerve, when you know what's in store in the morning," said Hal. "But as this is my plan, I'll do the work, or what part of it I may."
"You're the doctor," Chester agreed.
"Now," said Hal, "we'll try and get a little sleep. We can do nothing until after dark, and the better our physical conditions, the better our chances for escape."
THROUGH THE NIGHT.
Hal, Chester, Colonel Anderson, Nikol and Ivan slept. The first three, veterans of many campaigns and hardships, had schooled themselves to sleep under almost any conditions. The same might be said of Nikol and Ivan because of days spent in the mountain fastness, where danger lurked at all times.
Stubbs, however, although he bore up bravely under the death sentence, was unable to sleep, try as he would. Nor could Helen gain a much needed rest, though she was not conscious that she was at all afraid. So these two talked during the long hours of the day as the others slept peacefully and deeply.
With the coming of darkness a man entered bearing a tray with bread and water. The others awakened now and all did full justice to the frugal meal. Their hands were untied while they ate, but the meal over, they were bound again.
Then all waited for what seemed hours, though in reality it could not have been more than three. Then Hal addressed Nikol.
"Still think you can break your bonds?"
"I can," replied Nikol quietly.
"And you, Ivan?"
"Yes, although it won't make much difference. Nikol could release the rest of us."
"I thought the second tying-up might have made it impossible," said Hal.
"I'm ready any time you give the word," said Nikol.
"Then do it now," said Hal.
The others gazed curiously as Nikol made his little form still smaller. He drew in his chest as much as possible and then expanded suddenly, at the same time thrusting out with his strong arms. There was a report as of a revolver being discharged, though much fainter, and Nikol was free.
"Ha!" said Ivan. "He did it. Now watch me."
The mighty muscles of the giant strained once and the strong rope snapped. Ivan did not seem to have exerted himself.
"Now for the rest of us," said Hal.
Quickly Ivan and Nikol released the others.
"Now what?" asked Ivan.
"Now comes my work," said Hal quietly.
He moved silently to the edge of the tent and lay down flat, feeling the edges with his fingers.
"This will come up all right," he muttered to himself. "I can get out here."
He went back to the center of the tent again and enjoined the others to silence.
"Don't make a sound on your lives," he commanded sternly. "Chester, you remain right where I leave the tent and if I bring a man back with me you drag him under and see that he doesn't make a sound."
Chester nodded his agreement and took his place at Hal's side.
Now the lad lifted the bottom of the canvas slightly and peered out. He smiled a trifle to himself. It was as he hoped. The guard or guards, as the case might be, was not as vigilant as the security of the prisoners should have required. Hal wriggled into the open.
The huge camp slept. Here and there a sentinel stalked and it was upon these guardians of the night that Hal must prey.
He moved toward the front of the prison tent, seeking the guard there. And directly he came upon him, stretched at full length upon the ground, his heavy military coat pulled closely about him, smoking a cigarette. Hal moved toward him cautiously.
"I hate to do this," he muttered, "but—"
With a light leap he was upon the man and his right fist shot out hard and true. It caught the Bulgarian just above the left ear and the man never made a sound.
Quickly Hal dragged the body to where he knew Chester would be waiting. Chester dragged it under the tent and Hal went under after it.
"This uniform is for me. I'll go after some more," he said.
Quickly he climbed into the Bulgarian uniform and disappeared again. But this time, garbed in a Bulgarian uniform, he went more confidently. His hand rested upon his revolver.
A short distance away he came upon an unsuspecting sentinel. A sharp blow with his revolver butt placed the other hors de combat. Supporting the unconscious figure with his arm, Hal moved back to the prison tent. This figure also was pushed beneath the canvas and the uniform donned by Chester.
"Now we can make a little better time," said Hal, "there are two of us."
Uniforms were still needed for Colonel Anderson, Ivan, Nikol, Stubbs and Helen. Hal and Chester disappeared into the night.
Five minutes later Hal returned, this time with a uniform and no man. He had found him in a deserted spot, and after knocking him down and tying him up, had stripped him.
"Put this on, Anderson, and get out after one," he ordered.
He was gone again a moment later. Soon also Chester returned successful and he and Anderson departed almost together. There were now needed uniforms for Nikol, Stubbs and Helen, for Chester had brought one for Ivan. And these uniforms must necessarily be small uniforms, for they were for small figures. Therefore, the hunt was longer and it was more than an hour later until all three had returned to the tent.
"Well, here we are, all of us first class Bulgarians, now," said Hal. "Now, we'll leave the tent one at a time, except that I shall take Miss Ellison with me first. Now do exactly what I tell you, all of you. Leaving the tent, walk two hundred paces to the left, then turn to the right and walk a hundred and fifty more. Next fifty paces to the left again. We shall wait for you there. I have covered the distance and it's the best place to join forces I can imagine. It is in the shelter of a great rock that overhangs a large tent—probably the quarters of the commanding officer. Do you all understand?"
He had each repeat the directions several times, and then, taking Helen by the arm, he helped her under the tent.
Outside, with caps drawn down, for the weather was cold, they hurried on. And at the appointed place Hal stopped. There was nothing to do now but wait for the others.
Stubbs was the next to arrive and he came shaking a trifle. The little man was trying to bear up, but he was having a hard time. The next arrival was Nikol and then came Ivan. Chester was next to arrive, following Colonel Anderson by a few seconds.
"Now we're all here," said Hal. "We may as well move. I have no idea just where we are, so we'll have to select a direction and stick to it."
"Wait a moment, please," said Helen. "Isn't that the house in which we were captured?"
She pointed in the darkness. The others peered intently in the direction indicated. A dark shadow loomed up some distance ahead.
"I believe it is," said Hal. "Why?"
"Then, if you want to get into Greece, the quickest way is to go due south."
"But the question is, which is south?" said Hal.
"Oh, I can tell you that. You just follow the road that leads by the house."
"So be it," said Hal. "March."
With Chester and Helen he led the way.
They were forced to go very slowly for they were still in the Bulgarian lines, and all knew they would be for a considerable distance. How far the Bulgarians had extended their lines following the retreat of the Serbians they had of course no means of knowing, but Hal felt sure it would be a good ways.
Tents dotted their line of march for an hour as they walked along keeping parallel with the road, but some distance from the highway.
"This road will eventually lead across the Greek border," the girl whispered as they walked along.
"Here's hoping we get across the border before the Bulgarians get after us," said Chester.
"Second that motion," declared Hal.
They walked on in silence.
It had been more than an hour now since they had left their late prison and Hal was beginning to hope their absence would not be noticed before morning. He had just said as much to Chester.
"I am afraid that is too much to hope for," was the latter's reply.
And, as it turned out, it was.
The party had walked possibly five miles, when, from behind, they heard the sudden booming of a great gun.
"Faster," said Hal, and broke into a trot. The others followed suit.
"Suppose they have discovered our flight, or the gun was some other signal?" said Chester.
"I don't know," said Hal. "It's as likely to be one as the other. The farther away we get the better."
More guns now shattered the stillness of the night, growing closer and closer.
"They are after us, all right," declared Hal.
Without pausing, he glanced quickly around. Then suddenly he swerved sharply to the left.
"Why this change in course?" panted Chester.
"See that woods?" demanded Hal, pointing.
"Well, we may find safety there. It's a long chance."
They dashed into the shelter of the little woods a moment later.
Hal stopped and turned to Helen.
"Climb?" he asked.
"Why, yes, I guess so."
"Up in this tree with you then."
He lent her a hand as she grasped the lowest branch and soon clambered higher up toward the top.
"You too, Stubbs," he commanded.
The little man did not hesitate, but also was soon among the branches.
"Colonel Anderson, you and Nikol get up there also. I want some protection for Miss Ellison in case of trouble."
The others obeyed orders without question.
"All right," from each, and they moved toward him.
"Ivan, you come with me. You too, Chester."
Hal turned for a moment, to deliver a parting injunction to those in the trees:
"Don't any of you so much as move until I tell you to."
"And where are we bound?" asked Chester, as the three moved off.
"Apparently," said Hal, "we are Bulgarian officers. The bluff may work. I want to tell all inquiring parties that we have just explored these woods. Catch the idea?"
Chester and Ivan nodded.
MR. STUBBS PROVES HIMSELF.
"We'll stay in among the trees and won't show ourselves unless we have to," Hal explained.
From the direction in which the fugitives had so recently come, there now came the noise of a rapidly approaching body of horsemen. They halted a short distance from where Hal, Chester and Ivan stood and dismounted.
"They may be hiding in here," said a voice. "We'll have a look."
The men, a dozen of them, came forward.
Making a slight detour, the three friends managed to get behind them. Then, instead of continuing straight ahead, Hal turned sharply in his tracks and followed in the wake of the Bulgarian searching party.
The Bulgarians proceeded slowly, exploring every nook and corner of the woods, and firing their rifles into the densest of the trees. Hal, Chester and Ivan came up with them at length and mingled among them without being discovered.
"Off to the left farther," instructed the officer in command.
"No use," said Hal, in a gruff voice. "I've just come from there. There is no one there. The fugitives must have gone farther."
"Are you sure?" asked the officer, looking at the lad searchingly.
"Positive. I fired my revolver into every tree in which I thought there was a possible chance for them to hide."
"There is no use wasting more time, then," said the officer. "This way, men."
He led the way back toward the road. Hal, Chester and Ivan, still among the Bulgarian troopers, were forced to go along with them or run the risk of being detected. They all walked slowly and gradually were left behind.
The Bulgarians mounted and rode off down the road.
"Well, we are safe for a few minutes," said Chester, drawing a breath of relief. "What now, Hal?"
"Well," was the reply. "We can't fool about in these woods long. We are bound to be found sooner or later if we do. Also, there is little chance that we could walk to the Greek frontier without being discovered. In some way we must find a conveyance."
"Yes, but how?" questioned Chester.
"That's the question. But certainly some of these Bulgarian officers must have motor cars. Surely they have some means of transportation besides horses. I have an idea that if we will follow them, in their search, we may come across an automobile."
"That's not a half bad idea," declared Chester. "We'll do it. Shall we start now?"
"Hold on," said Hal. "Either you or I must remain here. We can't both go. One of us has to direct the actions of the others."
"True," said Chester. "Will you go or stay?"
"Whatever you say," said Hal.
"Then," said Chester, "we shall match to see who goes."
He produced a coin and Hal did likewise.
"If I match you, I go," said Hal. "If not, you go."
The two coins went spinning in the air and each lad caught his own as it descended and covered it with his hand.
"Tails," said Chester.
"Tails," said Hal. "I go."
"All right," said Chester. "Then I'll be moving back toward the others. Good luck, old man, and hurry back."
The two lads clasped hands and Chester turned on his heel and strode away.
"You shall go with me, Ivan," said Hal.
The big Cossack showed his pleasure.
"I was afraid I was going to be left behind," he said. "I thought you might need me."
"I hope I won't," said Hal, "but you never can tell, you know. Let's be moving."
Again he led the way to the road and the two set out briskly.
After half an hour's walk they came upon a party of searchers. An officer hailed them as they approached.
"Seen anything of the fugitives?" he demanded.
Hal shook his head negatively.
"Did you?" he asked.
"Not a sign. It's a mystery what can have happened to them. Colonel Roth is a short distance ahead. I heard him say he believed they were still in the main camp."
"That so?" replied Hal. "How is the colonel traveling? Automobile?"
"Of course. He's too dainty for any other kind of travel, you know."
"Well, we'll move on ahead a bit," said Hal.
They continued their journey.
Fifteen minutes later they came upon a large touring car in the road.
"Here is the thing we want," said Hal quietly. "Now if it were just turned around, I would take a chance and grab it. But by the time I turned in this narrow road, I'd have the whole Bulgarian army on me. We'll have to do a little figuring."
They continued on their way until they came up with Colonel Roth's searching party. As they approached, an idea suddenly came to Hal. He sought out the man he knew must be Colonel Roth by his haughty air and his stripes.
"Colonel," he said, saluting. "I know it would be a feather in your cap if you could land these fugitives, and I have come to show you where they are."
"What's that?" exclaimed the dapper little man.
"I said I've come to show you where they are," said Hal quietly. "All I ask for turning them over to you is a thousand German marks."
"H-m-m-m," muttered the colonel, eyeing the lad keenly. "Even if you can do what you say, the price is rather high. I'll give you five hundred."
Hal seemed to consider.
"All right," he said at length. "It's a bargain. Turn your car about and I'll take you to their hiding place at once."
The colonel stepped into his automobile, and, after a series of attempts, finally succeeded in turning it. Then to the others:
"Climb in," he said briefly.
Ivan climbed into the rear seat, while Hal took his place beside the Bulgarian.
"Straight ahead until I tell you to stop," the lad instructed.
The Bulgarian officer asked no questions.
A few minutes later the machine drew up in response to Hal's command. All dismounted.
"They are all back here a little ways," said Hal.
The Bulgarian officer followed Hal toward where the lad knew the others were in hiding. Under the tree where he had left Helen, Hal paused. Then he raised his voice a trifle and called aloud, at the same time drawing his revolver and presenting it squarely at the Bulgarian's head:
"Chester! Oh, Chester! You can all come down now."
In response to this hail, Chester, Helen, Mr. Stubbs and Nikol soon stood before them.
When Hal drew his revolver, the Bulgarian officer staggered back.
"A traitor, eh?" he exclaimed.
"Why, no," said Hal, and he removed his heavy cap.
The Bulgarian gave a long whistle and ejaculated: "One of the fugitives himself."
"So you know me?" said Hal. "Well, then you should know me well enough to do as I say."
"What is it you want?" demanded the Bulgarian.
"Nothing very difficult," declared Hal. "First we want to borrow your automobile for a few hours."
"So?" exclaimed the Bulgarian. "Well, you can't have it."
"We'll see," said Hal quietly. "Here, Ivan! You guard this fellow, while I have a look at the car."
He examined the machine carefully.
"All right for a quick dash, I guess," he said finally, rising from his inspection. "All aboard!"
Every one obeyed, and soon all were seated in the car save Hal and Chester, who were to occupy the front seat. Hal also motioned the Bulgarian into the front seat.
"He may come in handy after awhile," he declared.
Everything in readiness at last, Hal and Chester climbed in and Hal took his place at the wheel.
"I'll do the chauffeuring," he said, with a smile. "I may have to do some talking later and I want to be running this animal, so I can know what to do without having to talk. Keep your eye on our friend, there, Chester."
"I'll hang on to him, all right," replied Chester grimly. "He'll not get away from me. Have no fear of that."
"All right," called Hal. "Everybody ready?"
He glanced around quickly.
"All ready," came in Colonel Anderson's voice.
The others nodded their assent and an instant later the machine darted southward at a rapid gait.
Two miles down the road, Hal was forced to stop by the presence in the road of a single man armed with a rifle, which he aimed straight at the car.
"What do you want?" demanded Hal, anxiously.
"You'll have to get out," was the man's reply. "I have orders to let no one pass."
Helen looked at Hal hopelessly and the lad was moved to action.
Gently he stirred the Colonel with his toe as he commanded under his breath:
"Speak for us or I'll put a bullet through you."
The officer did as commanded.
"Why are you barring our way?" he demanded in a harsh voice.
"Orders, sir," was the reply.
"Do you know who I am?"
"No, sir, and it will make no difference."
This conversation was put to an end in a sudden and unexpected manner.
Anthony Stubbs rose in his place.
"Will you permit us to proceed?" he demanded.
The man in the road shook his head.
"All right," said Stubbs.
He climbed to the front seat, and before any one could realize what he was up to, sprang head-first at the Bulgarian.
"GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN."
Stubbs' action was so entirely unexpected that for a moment the other occupants of the automobile were stunned. Then Hal and Chester leaped to their feet, as did Nikol, Ivan and Colonel Anderson.
"Little man's gone off his head," muttered Ivan, as he leaped from the car to go to Stubbs' assistance.
Stubbs, in his headlong leap, struck exactly where he had intended—right upon the Bulgarian's shoulders, and the force of the impact bore the man to the ground. Again, the action was so unexpected that the man did not have time to discharge his rifle.
As the soldier went to the ground beneath his weight, Stubbs' hands gripped him by the throat and he squeezed as hard as his weak muscles would permit.
But the Bulgarian had recovered himself now and hurled Stubbs to one side. He pulled himself to his feet, and with an angry growl, half raised his rifle.
It was at that moment that Ivan, quicker than the others, seized the rifle in his two hands. He gave a quick twist and jerked the weapon from the hands of his opponent. The latter staggered back and his hand dropped to his belt. But before he could draw a revolver, Ivan had raised his newly won rifle and brought it down on the Bulgarian's head. The man dropped inert without a sound.
Then Ivan picked Stubbs up bodily, deposited him in the tonneau of the car and climbed in himself.
"We'd better get away from here," he said.
Quickly Hal resumed his seat and threw off the clutch. The automobile dashed forward again.
Ivan turned to Stubbs.
"Why all this bloodthirstiness, Mr. Stubbs?" he demanded in surprise.
"I'm getting tired of all this nonsense," replied Stubbs. "I want to get out of this country. I want to get back home where there is no war—where men are not killing each other off by the thousands. I'm a peaceable man and I'm going back to a peaceable country if I have to fight to get there."
Nikol the dwarf now extended a hand to Stubbs.
"You are a brave man, sir," he exclaimed. "Not many are there who would have attacked a man who held a rifle pointed at his breast. You are a brave man, sir."
Unthinkingly, Stubbs clasped the hand and a moment later gave a howl of pain.
"Hey! Leggo my hand!" he cried. "Ouch!"
Nikol released Stubbs' hand with a murmured apology, while Stubbs felt the injured right member tenderly with his left and turned an aggrieved eye on Nikol, but he said nothing.
Suddenly the car slowed down. Those in the rear seat glanced ahead and the reason for the abrupt slackening of speed became apparent.
Coming toward them at a rapid trot was a squadron of Bulgarian cavalry, blocking the road.
Hal turned to the Bulgarian officer between him and Chester and said quietly:
"Now it's up to you. Remember, I've got my gun ready and at the first false move I'll put a bullet through you."
The captain in command of the cavalry squadron gave a sharp command and his men drew rein while the officer came forward. He glanced at the colonel in the automobile and saluted.
"Oh, it's you, sir," he said. "Have you seen anything of the fugitives?"
The Bulgarian felt the pressure of Hal's revolver in his back.
"No," he said.
The captain saluted and would have passed on, but Hal instructed his prisoner to ask:
"How far are we from the Greek frontier?"
"Less than a mile," was the answer. "There is but one more body of our troops between here and a strong force of Greeks, which is patrolling the border."
The two Bulgarians saluted each other and the troop separated to make a path for the automobile.
"Another close shave for all of us," said Chester, when they had passed by. "You, too," he said to the Bulgarian. "You'd have been a goner if you had sought to give the alarm."
A few minutes later Hal made out another body of troops blocking the road. He reduced the speed of the car and spoke to the others.
"The last barrier to freedom," he said. "Be ready to duck down in the car. I am going to take no more chances with our prisoner here. He is likely to take this last chance to betray us. The troops are drawn up on both sides of the road. I am going to make a dash for it."
There was no reply, but Hal had expected none.
The car approached the troops slowly and seemed about to stop.
The Bulgarians moved to one side, thinking to surround the machine when it had come to a halt.
Less than fifty feet from the nearest soldiers, and a scant two hundred yards from where Hal could make out a large body of Greek troops, the car suddenly leaped ahead and Hal threw the gear into high.
All save Hal ducked instinctively.
The Bulgarians, taken completely by surprise, stood stock still for a moment and then the cry of in officer rang out:
Instantly fifty rifles were leveled at the automobile, now fast eating up the short distance to the Greek frontier, and a score of bullets struck the car in the rear.
Bullets flew all about Hal's head and he felt a stinging sensation in his left shoulder. There came a second volley and then the car flashed among the body of Greek troops.
Quickly Hal brought the car to a stop. Heads bobbed up from the back of the car and it was Anthony Stubbs who breathed the relief that all felt.