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Title: The Boy Allies at Liege
Author: Hayes, Clair W. (Clair Wallace), 1887-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Boy Allies at Liege" ***

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THE BOY ALLIES AT LIÈGE

OR

Through Lines of Steel

By CLAIR W. HAYES

AUTHOR OF "The Boy Allies On the Firing Line" "The Boy Allies With the
Cossacks" "The Boy Allies In the Trenches"

1915



CHAPTER I.

THE TWO COMRADES.


"War has been declared, mother!" shouted Hal, as closely followed by his
friend, Chester Crawford, he dashed into the great hotel in Berlin, where
the three were stopping, and made his way through the crowd that thronged
the lobby to his mother's side.

"Yes, mother, it's true," continued Hal, seeing the look of consternation
on Mrs. Paine's face. "The Kaiser has declared war upon France!"

Mrs. Paine, who had risen to her feet at her son's entrance, put her hand
upon the back of her chair to steady herself, and her face grew pale.

"Can it be?" she said slowly. "After all these years, can it be possible
that millions of men will again fly at each other's throats? Is it
possible that Europe will again be turned into a battlefield?"

Overcome by her feelings, Mrs. Paine sank slowly into her chair. Hal and
Chester sprang to her side.

"It's all right, mother," cried Hal, dropping to his knees and putting
his arm about her. "We are in no danger. No one will harm an American. At
this crisis a citizen of the United States will not be molested."

Mrs. Paine smiled faintly.

"It was not of that I was thinking, my son," she said. "Your words
brought back to me the days gone by, and I pray that I shall not have to
go through them again. Then, too, I was thinking of the mothers and wives
whose hearts will be torn by the news you have just told me. But come,"
and Mrs. Paine shook off her memories, "tell me all about it."

"As you know, Mrs. Paine," spoke up Chester, who up to this time had
remained silent, "Hal and I went to the American Embassy immediately
after dinner to-night to learn, if possible, what difficulties we were
likely to encounter in leaving Germany. Since the Kaiser's declaration of
war against Russia all Americans have been preparing to get out of the
country at the earliest possible moment. But now that war has been
declared on France, we are likely to encounter many hardships."

"Is there any likelihood of our being detained?" asked Mrs. Paine in
alarm. "What did the ambassador say?"

"While the ambassador anticipates no danger for foreigners, he advises
that we leave the country immediately. He suggests that we take the early
morning train across the Belgian frontier."

"Why go to Belgium?"

"All railroad lines leading into France have been seized by German
soldiers. Passenger traffic has been cut off, mother," explained Hal.
"All trains are being used for the movement of troops."

"Yes, Mrs. Paine," continued Chester, "we shall have to go through
Belgium. Even now thousands of the Kaiser's best troops are marching upon
the French frontier, and fighting is only a question of hours."

"Very well, then," returned Mrs. Paine. "We shall go in the morning. So I
guess we would all better go upstairs and pack. Come along, boys."

While the packing is going on, it is a good time to describe the two
American lads, who will play the most important parts in our story.

Hal Paine was a lad some seventeen years of age. Following his graduation
from high school in a large Illinois city the previous June, his mother
had announced her intention of taking him on a tour through Europe.
Needless to say, Hal jumped at this chance to see something of the
foreign countries in whose histories he had always been deeply
interested. It was upon Hal's request that Mrs. Paine had invited his
chum, Chester Crawford, to accompany them.

Chester was naturally eager to take the trip across the water, and, after
some coaxing, in which Mrs. Paine's influence also was brought to bear,
his parents finally agreed to their son's going so far away from home.

Hal's father was dead. A colonel of infantry, he was killed leading a
charge at the battle of El Caney, in the Spanish-American war. Hal's
grandfather died of a bayonet wound in the last days of the Civil War.

But, if Hal's father's family was a family of fighters, so was that of
his mother. Her father, a Virginian, was killed at the head of his men
while leading one of Pickett's regiments in the famous charge at
Gettysburg. Three of her brothers also had been killed on the field of
battle, and another had died in prison.

From her own mother Mrs. Paine had learned of the horrors of war. Before
the war her father had been a wealthy man. After the war her mother was
almost in poverty. While too young then to remember these things herself,
Mrs. Paine knew what havoc had been wrought in the land of her birth by
the invasion of armed men, and it is not to be wondered at that, in view
of the events narrated, she should view the coming struggle with anguish,
despite the fact that her own country was not involved and that there was
no reason why her loved ones should be called upon to take up arms.

Chester's father was a prominent and wealthy lumberman, and Chester,
although nearly a year younger than Hal, had graduated in the same class
with his comrade. The two families lived next door to each other, and the
lads had always been the closest of chums.

For the last three years the boys had spent each summer vacation in one
of the lumber camps owned by Chester's father, in the great Northwest.
Always athletically inclined, the time thus spent among the rough
lumbermen had given the boys new prowess. Day after day they spent in the
woods, hunting big game, and both had become proficient in the use of
firearms; while to their boxing skill--learned under a veteran of the
prize-ring, who was employed by Chester's father in the town in which
they lived--they added that dexterity which comes only with hard
experience. Daily fencing lessons had made both proficient in the use of
sword and saber.

Among these woodsmen, composed of laborers from many nations, they had
also picked up a smattering of many European languages, which proved of
great help to them on their trip abroad.

Standing firmly upon their rights from first to last, the two lads never
allowed anyone to impose upon them, although they were neither naturally
pugnacious nor aggressive. However, there had been more than one
lumberjack who had found to his discomfort that he could not infringe
upon their good nature, which was at all times apparent.

Both boys were large and sturdy, and the months spent in the lumber camps
had given hardness to their muscles. Their ever-readiness for a
rough-and-tumble, the fact that neither had ever been known to dodge
trouble--although neither had ever sought it, and that where one was
involved in danger there was sure to be found the other also--had gained
for them among the rough men of the lumber camp the nickname of "The Boy
Allies," a name which had followed them to their city home.

It was by this name that the boys were most endearingly known to their
companions; and there was more than one small boy who owed his escape
from older tormentors to the "Boy Allies'" idea of what was right and
wrong, and to the power of their arms.

Both lads were keenly interested in history, so, in spite of the manner
in which they tried to reassure Mrs. Paine and set her mind at rest,
there is no cause for wonder in the fact that both were more concerned in
the movement of troops and warships than in the efforts the other powers
were making to prevent a general European war.

Staunch admirers of Napoleon and the French people, and, with a long line
of descendants among the English, the sympathies of both were naturally
with the Allies. As Chester had said to Hal, when first rumors of the
impending conflagration were heard:

"It's too bad we cannot take a hand in the fighting. The war will be the
greatest of all time, and both sides will need every man they can get
capable of bearing arms."

"You bet it's too bad," Hal had replied; "but we're still in Europe, and
you never can tell what will happen. We may have to play a part in the
affair whether we want to or not," and here the conversation had ended,
although such thoughts were still in the minds of both boys when they
accompanied Mrs. Paine to their apartment to pack up, preparatory to
their departure in the morning.

The packing completed, the lads announced their intention of walking out
and learning the latest war news.

"We won't be gone long, mother," said Hal.

"Very well, son," Mrs. Paine replied; "but, whatever you do, don't get
into any trouble. However, I do not suppose there is any danger to be
feared--yet."

For more than an hour the lads wandered about the streets, reading the
war bulletins in front of the various newspaper offices, and listening to
crowds of men discussing the latest reports, which became more grave
every minute.

As the boys started on their return to their hotel, they heard a shout
down a side street, followed immediately by more yells and cries; and
then a voice rang out in English:

"Help! Police!"

Breaking into a quick run, Hal and Chester soon were upon the scene of
confusion.

With their backs to a wall, two young men were attempting to beat back
with their fists a crowd of a dozen assailants, who beset them from three
directions.

As the two boys rounded the corner, the cry for help again went up.

"Come on, Chester!" shouted Hal. "We can't let that gang of hoodlums beat
up anyone who speaks the English language."

"Lead on!" cried Chester. "I am right with you!"

They were upon the crowd as he spoke, and Hal's right fist shot out with
stinging force, and the nearest assailant, struck on the side of the
neck, fell to the ground with a groan.

"Good work, Hal!" shouted Chester, at the same time wading into the crowd
of young ruffians, for such the attackers proved to be, and striking out
right and left.

Howls of anger and imprecations greeted the attack from this unexpected
source, and for a moment the ruffians fell back. In the time that it took
the crowd to return to the struggle, the boys forced their way to the
side of the victims of the attack, and the four, with their backs to the
wall, took a breathing spell.

"You didn't arrive a moment too soon," said one of the young men, with a
smile. "I had begun to think we were due for a trimming."

"There are four of us here," returned Hal, "and we ought to be good for
that crowd; but, instead of standing here, when they attack again, let's
make a break and fight our way through. There will be more of them along
in a minute, and it will be that much harder for us."

"Good!" returned the second stranger in French. "Here they come!"

"Are you ready?" asked Hal.

"All ready," came the reply from the other three.

"All right, then. Now!"

At the word the four rushed desperately into the throng, which was
pressing in on them from three sides. Taken by surprise, the enemy gave
way for a moment; then closed in again.

Blows fell thick and fast for the space of a couple of minutes. Then,
suddenly, Chester fell to the ground.

Turning, Hal fought his way to the other side of Chester's prostrate
body. Then, bending down, he lifted his chum to his feet.

"Hurt much?" he asked.

"No," replied Chester, shaking his head like an enraged bull. "Let me get
at them again!"

He rushed in among his assailants with even greater desperation than
before, and two young hoodlums fell before his blows.

In the meantime the strangers were giving a good account of themselves,
and the enemy were falling before their smashing fists.

Hal ducked a blow from the closest of his assailants, and, stepping in
close, struck him with all his power under the chin. The youth fell to
the ground.

As he did so the ruffian nearest him, with a hiss of rage, drew a knife,
with which he made a wicked slash at Hal. Hal did not see the movement,
being closely pressed elsewhere, but Chester, with a sudden cry, leaped
forward and seized the hand holding the knife, just as the weapon would
have been buried in Hal's back.

"You would, would you, you coward!" he cried, and struck the young German
in the face with all the strength of his right arm. The latter toppled
over like a log.

All this time the crowd of assailants continued to grow. Attracted by the
sounds of the scuffle, reinforcements arrived from all directions, and it
is hard to tell what would have happened had not the sudden blast of a
whistle interrupted the proceedings.

"The police!" yelled someone in the crowd. "Run!"

In less time than it takes to tell it, Hal, Chester, and the two other
young men were alone, while racing toward them, down the street, were
several figures in uniform.

"Run!" cried the young Frenchman. "If they catch us we will all go to
jail, and there is no telling when we'll get out. Run!"

The four took to their heels, and, dodging around corner after corner,
were soon safe from pursuit.

"Well, I guess we are safe now," said the Englishman, when they stopped
at last. Then, turning to Hal:

"I don't know how to thank you and your friend. If you had not arrived
when you did, I fear it would have fared badly with us."

"No thanks are due," replied Hal. "It's a poor American who would refuse
to help anyone in trouble. Shake hands and call it square!"

The Englishman smiled.

"As modest as you are bold, eh? Well, all right," and he extended his
hand, which Hal and Chester grasped in turn.

But the Frenchman was not to be put off so easily. He insisted on
embracing both of the boys, much to their embarrassment.

"I'm Lieutenant Harry Anderson, of the Tenth Dragoons, His Majesty's
service," explained the Englishman, and then, turning to his friend:
"This is Captain Raoul Derevaux, Tenth Regiment, French Rifle Corps. We
were strolling along the street when attacked by the gang from which you
saved us. In the morning we shall try to get out of Germany by way of the
Belgian frontier. If now, or at any other time, we may be of service to
you, command us."

"Yes, indeed," put in the Frenchman, "I consider myself your debtor
for life."

Hal and Chester thanked their newly-made friends for their good will,
and, after a little further conversation, left them to continue their
way, while they returned to the hotel, much to the relief of Mrs. Paine,
who had become very uneasy at their long absence.



CHAPTER II.

A PERILOUS SITUATION.


"Come on, Hal. Let's stroll about a few minutes. We've lots of time
before the train pulls out."

It was Chester who spoke. Mrs. Paine and the two boys were sitting in
their compartment of the Brussels express, in the station at Berlin. It
still lacked ten minutes of the time set for departure.

"You don't mind, do you, mother?" said Hal.

"No; if you do not go too far," was the answer.

The boys descended from the car, and wandered toward the entrance of the
station. Just as they were about to step on to the street, a German
military officer swung into the doorway. Hal, who was directly in his
path, stepped aside, but not quickly enough to entirely avoid him.

With one outstretched arm the officer shoved him violently to one side,
and then stopped.

"What do you mean by blocking my way?" he demanded. "Do you know
who I am?"

Hal's temper was aroused.

"No, I don't; and I don't care," was his reply.

"Well, I'll give you something to care about," and, raising his hand, the
officer made as though to strike Hal across the face.

"Don't you strike me," said Hal quietly. "I'm an American citizen, and I
give you warning."

"Warning!" sneered the officer. "You young American upstart! I'll have
you whipped!" and he turned as though to call someone.

At that moment there was a sudden cry of "All aboard!" and the officer,
after taking a threatening step toward Hal, made a dash for the train.

"I guess that is our train, Hal," said Chester. "We had better hurry."

The lads retraced their steps toward their train. Reaching the shed, they
saw the German officer disappearing into a compartment on the train.

"That looks like our compartment to me," said Hal. "I hope we don't have
to ride with him."

"I hope not," agreed Chester, and then broke into a run, as he shouted:

"Hurry! The train is moving!"

It was true. The boys had wasted too much time.

The door to one compartment was all that stood open, and that was the one
in which Mrs. Paine could be seen gesticulating to them.

"We just made it," panted Hal, as they reached the open door, and started
to climb aboard.

At that instant a uniformed arm appeared through the door and
pushed Hal away.

"Go away, you American puppy," came a voice.

Hal slipped, and but for the prompt action of Chester, who caught him by
the arm, would have fallen beneath the train.

The train gathered momentum, as the boys raced along beside it, in vain
seeking an open door by which they might climb aboard. There was none but
their own compartment, and that had passed them. It was impossible for
them to overtake it, and there was not a train guard in sight.

The boys stopped running and stood still as the remainder of the train
slipped past.

On ahead they could see Mrs. Paine and the big German officer, both
gazing back toward them, the former gesticulating violently.

Hal stamped his foot with rage.

"I'd like to get my hands on that big lout!" he shouted. "I'd--"

"Come, come, old fellow," interrupted Chester, "never mind that, now. I
don't blame you, but you can see it's impossible. You'll have to wait."

"You are right, of course," replied Hal. "The thing to do now is to send
mother a telegram to the first station and tell her not to worry, that we
shall be along on the next train. But, just the same, I'd like to get my
hands on that--"

"Come, now," Chester interrupted again, "let's send that telegram and
find out when the next train leaves."

They found the telegraph office, and Hal prepared a message, which he
handed through the window.

The clerk glanced at it, and then passed it back.

"Can't be sent," he informed Hal.

"Can't be sent! Why not?"

"Nothing can be sent over this wire but military messages from this time
on," said the clerk.

"But we missed the train, and I want to send this message to my mother,
so she won't worry," pleaded Hal.

"I'm sorry," the clerk returned kindly, "but it is impossible. I must
obey my orders."

Hal and Chester were nonplused.

"What shall we do?" questioned Chester.

"The only thing I know to do," replied Hal, "is to take the next train
without telegraphing. Mother is sure to be at the Brussels station. I
guess she knows we have enough sense to get there."

"All right Let's find out when the next train leaves."

On their way to the ticket window, Hal stopped suddenly.

"What's the matter" asked Chester.

"Matter!" exclaimed Hal. "The matter is I haven't any money. All I have
was enough to send that telegram, and that amount won't get us to
Brussels."

Chester reached in his pocket, and a startled expression came over his
face.

"Neither have I," he exclaimed, feeling first one pocket and then
another. "I have lost my pocketbook. All I have is a little change."

The lads looked at each other in silence for several minutes.

"What shall we do?" Chester asked finally.

"I don't know what to do," replied Hal; "but we have got to do something.
I guess the best thing is to go back to the embassy and see if we can't
raise the price of a couple of tickets. I am sure the ambassador will let
us have it."

"A good idea," said Chester. "I guess the sooner we get there the
better. Come on."

The ambassador received them immediately.

"I'm awfully sorry, boys," he said, after listening to their troubles,
"but I am afraid I can do nothing for you."

"Can't you lend us enough money to get to Brussels?" asked Hal in
surprise. "You'll get it back, all right."

"Yes, I can lend it to you, and I am not afraid of not getting it back."

"Then why can't you help us?"

"The reason is this," the ambassador explained, "this morning's train to
Brussels was the last upon which foreigners were allowed to depart. The
German government has given orders that all foreigners now in Germany
must remain until mobilization is completed. So you see you are up
against it"

Hal and Chester looked at each other, and both smiled faintly.

"I see we are," said Chester.

"Now, I'll tell you what I can do," continued the ambassador. "I can let
you have enough money to keep you until such a time as you will be
allowed to leave the country; or, better still, you can come and live
with me. What do you say?"

"I'm sure we appreciate your kindness very much," said Hal, "and we
may be forced to take advantage of it. We shall look about the city
this afternoon, and, if nothing else turns up, we shall be glad to
stay with you."

"Let me hear from you before night, anyhow," said the ambassador, rising.

"We certainly shall. Come, Chester, let's go out and look around a bit."

The boys left the embassy.

The streets of the city were even more densely thronged than they had
been the night before. Thousands and thousands of people paraded up and
down--war the sole topic of their conversation.

Late in the afternoon, as Hal and Chester were walking along Strassburga
Strasse, a hand was suddenly laid on the former's arm, and a voice
exclaimed:

"I thought you boys were on your way to Brussels. How does it happen you
are still in Berlin?"

Turning, Hal perceived that the person who had accosted him was none
other than Lieutenant Anderson, and with him was Captain Derevaux.

All four expressed their pleasure at this unexpected meeting, and the
boys explained their misfortune.

"How is it you and Captain Derevaux didn't get away?" Chester
finally asked.

Captain Derevaux smiled.

"We were so unfortunate as to be recognized by a member of the German
general staff at the station this morning," he explained, "and we were
detained. But," he added grimly, "we are not figuring upon remaining in
Berlin overnight."

"What do you propose to do?" asked Hal and Chester in a breath.

"Oh, Anderson and I have a little plan whereby we shall make ourselves
scarce on this side of the border," answered the captain. "We are
planning to get out of Berlin soon after nightfall."

"How?" asked Hal.

"Well," said Lieutenant Anderson, "we haven't perfected our plans yet,
but we have an idea that we believe will take us safely out of
Germany. It may be successful, and it may not. But we are going to
take a chance at it."

"Is it dangerous?" questioned Chester.

"That all depends upon how you look at it," replied the lieutenant, with
a smile. "It may mean a fight," he added seriously, "but we are prepared
for that," tapping the pocket of his civilian coat significantly.

"Yes, it may mean a fight," agreed the French captain, "but an officer of
the French army will not shirk an encounter with these German
aggressors."

"No, nor an English officer," declared the lieutenant. "War between
England and Germany has not been declared yet, but it seems only a
question of hours until it will be."

Hal was suddenly struck with an idea. He turned to the lieutenant.

"Why cannot we go with you?" he asked. "We must get to Brussels as soon
as possible. If we wait here until after the mobilization of all the
German forces, and are unable to send a message to mother, she will be
frantic. Why cannot we go with you?"

The lieutenant was taken aback.

"Why, I know no reason," he said, "except that your presence in our
company, if ill fortune should befall us, would probably mean your arrest
as enemies of Germany. You might even be convicted as spies, and shot."

"We are willing to take any chances necessary to get us to Brussels
and put an end to mother's worries," declared Hal stoutly. "Aren't
we, Chester?"

"You bet we are," replied Chester.

The lieutenant turned to Captain Derevaux. "What do you say?" he asked.

The captain shook his head.

"It's a bad business," he replied slowly. "If we are caught it will go
hard with our young friends, I am afraid. Of course, I am willing to do
anything in my power to aid them, but this--this, I fear, is impossible."

"Don't say no," implored Hal. "Just think how mother must be worrying.
Why, we would go through anything to save her pain. Besides, you don't
expect to be captured, do you?"

The captain shook his head.

"You have a good plan of escape, I am sure, or you would not tackle it.
Isn't that so?" continued Hal.

The captain admitted it.

"Would our presence make it more dangerous for you?"

"No."

"Then, I ask you again, if you won't allow us to go with you, sharing
whatever dangers may arise. Besides," and Hal smiled, "you know that four
are sometimes better than two."

The captain reflected.

"You are right," he said at length. "If Anderson is agreeable, I shall be
glad of your company; yes, and your aid," he added, after a pause.

"I agree with the boys," said the lieutenant. "Four are sometimes better
than two, and in an adventure, such as this promises to be, four are
always better than two. I say, let them come with us, by all means."

And so it was decided. A meeting-place was arranged for eight o'clock
that night, and, with this parting injunction, the officers left:

"Say nothing to anyone. Do not talk, even between yourselves, and, if you
can, buy a revolver apiece," for the purchase of which the lieutenant
tendered Hal a bill.



CHAPTER III.

TOWARD THE FRONTIER.


It was a long afternoon for Hal and Chester, and they waited impatiently
for the time when they were to meet the two young men who were to be
their companions on the journey.

After several futile attempts the lads finally gave up their attempt to
buy revolvers, as it caused too many questions, and, in spite of their
eagerness to get away, it was with no little anxiety that they made their
way to the rendezvous that night.

Captain Derevaux and Lieutenant Anderson were waiting when the
lads arrived.

"I am glad you are prompt," said the former. "We must hurry. Even now we
may be followed," and he glanced about furtively.

"Which way do we go?" asked Hal, of the young Englishman, as the four
moved along the street.

"North," was the reply. "We are heading for Kolberg, on the Baltic Sea.
From there we will try to get across into Denmark. The thing to do is to
get out of Germany at the earliest possible moment, and, with good luck
in getting a boat of some kind at Kolberg, that is the quickest route."

"Won't we have trouble getting a boat?"

"I am afraid we shall; but we must leave something to chance."

"Well, I guess we won't be any worse off in Kolberg than in Berlin," said
Hal. "How do you figure to get there?"

"Automobile! We have arranged for a car to pick us up on the northern
outskirts of the city, just inside the line."

"Won't the place be guarded?"

"Of course; but, by a little ingenuity and a bold dash, we should be able
to get through. If not--"

The lieutenant shrugged his shoulders expressively.

"Well," said Hal, "I won't object to a little excitement."

"Don't worry," replied the young officer; "you will have all the
excitement you want, and more, too, or I miss my guess."

They continued their walk in silence.

Beyond getting into Denmark, the young officers had formulated no plan.
But, once out of Germany, the rest would be easy. A ship to England,
and from there into France for the young Frenchman, and the two
American boys would telegraph to their mother, or continue their
journey alone. Lieutenant Anderson was bound direct for London, where
he would join his regiment.

The officers had decided to make their attempt at escape by way of
Denmark because, in all likelihood, the country between Berlin and
Kolberg would be less closely guarded than any other part of the German
Empire. Troops were being rushed to the French and Russian borders, and
they realized it was practically impossible for them to journey in those
directions without being captured. Also the southern route offered little
hope of success.

The streets became more and more deserted as the four friends continued
their walk toward the northern outskirts. They passed several detachments
of rapidly moving troops, but they were unchallenged.

Suddenly the young Englishman called a halt.

"The automobile is waiting at the next corner," he explained. "Just
beyond is the northern limit of the city. Go quietly and we may not be
molested."

Hal and Chester were greatly excited by this time, but they obeyed
instructions as well as they could, and climbed into the big car that was
waiting for them, without even being seen. The driver immediately started
the machine, and our boys were on their way at last.

On toward the city line the big car rushed, and it was just as the four
friends were breathing a sigh of relief at having passed the first danger
safely, that a harsh voice rang out:

"Halt!"

Almost directly ahead stood a squad of armed men, their rifles leveled
straight at the occupants of the oncoming car.

"The patrol!" exclaimed Captain Derevaux, as the auto came to a stop.

An officer approached the side of the machine.

"Give an account of yourselves," he demanded. "Your passports, please."

"We have none," replied Captain Anderson. "We are just taking a
little spin."

"You cannot pass here," said the officer. "Either return at once, or I
shall be forced to place you under arrest."

There was no use arguing.

"Home it is, then," said the young Englishman aloud, and then in a
whisper to the driver: "Ahead! Full speed!"

"To the bottom of the car!" he cried, as the machine jumped forward
with a lurch.

He dived to the floor of the car, the young Frenchman and Hal following
his example.

Chester, however, had been so surprised at the suddenness of this
maneuver, that for a moment he was unable to move; but, while his
momentary inaction placed him in great danger, it nevertheless saved his
companions from capture, or even death.

As the automobile lunged away, hurling the officer to the side of the
street, the latter shouted a command:

"Fire! Shoot the driver!"

One man only was in a position to obey. The others were forced to jump
for their lives, as the machine bore down on them. This one man, however,
raised his rifle and aimed at the driver, just as the car swept by.

The muzzle was right at the side of the car, and a miss would have been
almost impossible.

But, before he could fire, Chester sprang to his feet, and, leaning out,
grasped the barrel of the weapon in both hands. With a desperate effort,
he wrenched it from the soldier's hands, just as he was about to pull
the trigger.

Then, at a second command from Lieutenant Anderson, he dropped beside his
friends in the bottom of the car, and it was well that he did so.

A volley rang out from behind. The hum of bullets could be heard
overhead, and there was the sound of splintering wood, as others crashed
into the rear of the auto, but the machine sped on.

Then came a second volley, and the automobile swerved suddenly to one
side. The chauffeur groaned, but the car immediately righted itself and
continued on its way.

Unmindful of the bullets flying about, Hal sprang to his feet and
climbed into the front seat, where the chauffeur was making heroic
efforts to keep the car steady, a stream of blood the while pouring from
a wound in his head.

"Give me the wheel!" cried Hal, as the car lurched from one side of the
road to the other, at the imminent risk of turning over.

He climbed in front of the chauffeur and his strong hands grasped the
steering wheel just as the man's body relaxed and he fell back
unconscious.

Bullets were still flying thick and fast, but the range was too great now
for accurate shooting. Still, there was always the chance that one of the
leaden messengers would hit Hal and end disastrously the career of the
flying machine.

Without even checking the speed of the auto, Hal called to Chester:

"The chauffeur is badly wounded. Pull him into the rear of the car!"

"Slow down!" came the answer. "We can't pull him from beneath you while
going at this terrific speed."

"Slow down nothing!" shouted Hal. "We don't want to be captured after
this. You'll have to pull him out!"

It was no small task, this driving a flying automobile, while a man in
whose lap he was almost sitting was being pulled from under him by hands
from behind.

Once Hal lost his balance. Throwing out one hand, he grasped the side of
the car, and that alone saved him and his friends, too, for that matter.

The car swerved to one side of the road, and just at that instant a sharp
curve came into view.

With a desperate effort Hal regained his balance, steadied the
machine, and, without even trying to slacken his speed, took the curve
on two wheels.

"Whew!" he muttered to himself. "That was a close shave!"

By this time the body of the chauffeur had been pulled into the back of
the car, and Hal slid into his seat.

"Are you all right?" came Chester's voice from the rear.

"All right now," replied Hal.

"You can slow down a bit," shouted Lieutenant Anderson. "We are out of
range. We are safe enough now."

"We are safe from bullets, but we are not safe from pursuit," Hal called
back. "Do I keep to this road?"

"Yes," came the reply, "if you don't run into a ditch or a
telegraph pole."

"Oh, I'll run it, all right; and I'll run it on the road, too," Hal
answered grimly. "I've made a record on a worse road than this."

"Is the chauffeur badly hurt?" he called back after a few minutes.

"No, I don't think so," replied the French captain's voice. "Just a
scalp wound. He has lost a lot of blood, and is still unconscious, but I
think he will come around all right presently."

Hal settled back in his seat and gave his entire attention to the
road ahead.

The big car flashed through several small towns, and the dim lights in
the homes looked like a string of brilliant spots, so swiftly did they go
by. For almost half an hour the terrific speed was continued, and then,
at a shouted command from Lieutenant Anderson, Hal slowed down.

"We should be nearing Angermunde by this time," the lieutenant explained,
"and it will never do to go through there at this speed."

"Do you suppose our would-be captors have communicated with the
authorities at Angermunde?" asked the Frenchman.

"I would not be surprised," replied the lieutenant; "but we must risk it.
One thing I am sure of, however, is that our pursuers are not far behind.
They will never rest till we are caught. And, for that reason, we cannot
afford to waste much time."

"You are right," said the captain. "We must get through Angermunde as
quickly and as quietly as possible."

Then to Hal he shouted: "Don't lose your nerve, and keep cool. Be ready
to make a dash if you get the word."

"Don't you worry about my nerve," Hal replied grimly. "I'll run right
through a thousand Germans, if you say so."

"I guess that will not be necessary," broke in the lieutenant, with a
laugh, "but you never can tell what may happen."

Hal reduced the speed of the machine even more, and slowly approached the
town, the lights of which could be seen in the distance.

It was now nearly midnight, and, as Captain Derevaux suggested, it would
be wise to go through the town without attracting attention, if possible.

But this was not to be.

The automobile entered the town, and had proceeded some distance, when
Hal called back:

"I guess we will get through without any trouble, all right."

"Don't be too sure," replied the Englishman. "Always be ready for the
unexpected."

The words were hardly out of his mouth, when, rounding a sharp turn, Hal
saw a line of cavalrymen blocking the street some distance ahead.

"The road is blocked with troops," he called back to his friends, as he
reduced his speed. "Their rifles seem pointed right at us. Shall I speed
up and run through them?"

His three companions arose and peered over his shoulder. The cavalrymen
were plainly discernible in the glare of an electric street light.

"It's impossible," replied the lieutenant. "We shall have to stop. They
would shoot us to pieces before we could get through. Here," turning to
Chester and Captain Derevaux, "cover up the chauffeur with these rugs
and lay him in the bottom of the car. It would never do for an officer
to see him. It may be that our friends behind have not tipped off our
present enemy, but the sight of this wounded chauffeur would give it all
away." The car was slowly nearing the line of troops. "Halt!" came the
command. "Halt, or we fire!" The car came to a stop within a few feet of
the soldiers.



CHAPTER IV.

IN DANGER STILL.


It was with no small trepidation that the occupants of the automobile saw
the officer in command approach.

"Keep your wits and say nothing unless you have to," was the young
lieutenant's whispered advice. "Leave the talking to me."

"Where are you from?" asked the officer.

"Berlin," replied the Englishman.

"Where are you bound?"

"Stettin."

"Your business?"

"Our business is purely private. Two of my companions are young American
lads and the third is a Belgian gentleman. I am an Englishman. You will
interfere with us at your peril."

"In times of war we interfere with whom we choose. A state of war exists
in Germany, as you know."

"There is no state of war between your country and ours."

"Perhaps not, but I am not sure of it; there may be by this time. You
have no passports, I take it?"

"We have not."

"Then I must ask you to leave your machine and come with me."

"For what reason?"

"Because I command it. You are my prisoners."

Turning to an aide, the German officer commanded:

"Call a guard of four men!"

The aide saluted and did as he was ordered. Four of the troopers who
blocked the road dismounted and ranged themselves beside the car.

"Order Lieutenant Myers to take his men and report to Major Von Volk,"
commanded the German officer of his aide.

The troopers, with the exception of the four who guarded the car, wheeled
and rode away.

The officer turned again to the automobile.

"Leave the car," he ordered the four occupants.

"He evidently hasn't been tipped off," whispered Lieutenant Anderson to
his companions, as they left the machine.

"No," Hal whispered back, "but the others are likely to be along in a
few minutes."

"Right," came the reply. "We must watch our chance, and, if one comes,
make the most of it."

The four stepped from the automobile, and were immediately surrounded by
their guards.

"See what they have in the machine," the officer ordered one of the men.

"Great Scott!" ejaculated Chester. "We are in for it now!"

Exploring the front of the auto first, the soldier found nothing. Then he
turned his attention to the back. He lifted up the rugs that had been
thrown over the chauffeur, and started back with a cry.

"A dead man!" he exclaimed, and added: "At least he appears to be dead.
He has a bullet hole in the back of his head."

"What!" demanded the officer, and hurried to the side of the car.

He drew his sword and waved it at his men.

"Guard them closely!" he exclaimed, indicating his four prisoners.

"Pretty ticklish situation," whispered Hal to Chester, who stood beside
him. "We have got to do something."

"You bet," replied Chester, "and we've got to do it now."

He took off his cap, twirled it about a few seconds, and let it fall to
the ground.

Chester stooped to pick it up. Rising suddenly, he came up under the
guard of his nearest captor, and with his head butted him with all his
force under the chin.

The blow was more than flesh and blood could stand. The soldier fell to
the ground with a groan of pain, his tongue almost bitten off. Without a
pause, Chester turned upon another of his captors, and, with two
well-directed blows of his fist, sent him staggering.

The suddenness of Chester's attack had not taken Hal by surprise. When
Chester dropped his cap, Hal divined his purpose, and, as his friend
butted his first victim, Hal acted. Turning upon his nearest guard, he
seized the latter's rifle, at the same time delivering a well-directed
kick at his enemy's shin. The man released his hold on the rifle, and, as
he stooped unconsciously to rub his shin, the pain of which was almost
unbearable, he met Hal's right fist, which, sent into his face with
stunning force, knocked him cold.

All this happened in the smallest fraction of the time it takes to tell
it, and, before the German officer and the soldier who were exploring the
interior of the automobile could realize what was happening and go to the
aid of their companions.

Captain Derevaux and Lieutenant Anderson had acted with almost as much
celerity as had Hal, in spite of the fact that Chester's attack had taken
them by surprise. Almost at the same moment Hal seized the weapon of his
guard Captain Derevaux closed with the third man, and, with his fingers
at his throat, was attempting to choke him into unconsciousness.

At the same moment the German commanding officer and his troops ran to
the aid of their fellows.

"Shoot them!" shouted the officer, drawing his revolver and rushing to
take part in the fray. He already held his sword in his hand.

The soldier drew a revolver.

Hal, having disposed of one enemy, clubbed the rifle he had wrenched
from him, and, before either the German officer or his man could fire,
was in the thick of the mêlée. Lieutenant Anderson, having picked up a
rifle dropped by one of the German soldiers, was already there, his
weapon also clubbed.

The officer and the trooper were unable to bring their revolvers to bear,
and rushed into the fight with their weapons clubbed.

With a single blow Hal crushed the skull of the soldier, and then turned
upon the officer who was engaging Anderson.

Lieutenant Anderson and his opponent were still battling desperately for
the possession of the latter's gun, and Captain Derevaux and the
remaining German trooper were rolling about upon the ground, the
captain's finger still pressed into his enemy's throat. Chester had gone
to the captain's aid.

Warding off the officer's sword, Anderson suddenly dropped his rifle,
and, stepping inside the other's guard, placed the officer hors de combat
with several well-directed and lightning-like blows to the face and jaw.

At that moment Captain Derevaux's opponent succeeded in shaking off the
captain's grip, and, springing to his feet, leveled his rifle, which he
snatched from the ground as he arose, squarely at the young Frenchman.

With a shout Chester sprang forward, picking up a rifle as he leaped, and
aimed a smashing blow at the man's head. The clubbed weapon found its
mark with a crushing impact, and the man threw up his arms, spun around
two or three times, and then fell in a heap.

And it was not a moment too soon. For, as the last German measured his
length upon the ground, there was a sudden shout, and a body of cavalry,
attracted by the sounds of the conflict, bore down upon the victors.

"Quick!" shouted the lieutenant. "To the machine!" And, with Hal and
Captain Derevaux, he made a rush for the auto.

Chester had stopped to gather up the two revolvers that lay on the
ground.

"Go ahead!" he shouted. "I'm coming!" And, picking up the last revolver,
he ran up to the automobile and swung himself aboard, just as Hal, who
had climbed into the driver's seat, threw in the clutch, and the machine
leaped forward.

At that moment a volley of shots rang out. The whizzing bullets again
flew around the car, and there was again the sound of splintering wood,
as they smashed into the rear of the auto.

All but Hal dived into the bottom of the car, and he bent as low as
possible over the steering wheel.

Soon the sound of firing became less audible, and finally ceased
altogether.

Chester, Lieutenant Anderson and Captain Derevaux arose from the bottom
of the car and resumed their seats.

"That's what I call great work, boys," declared the lieutenant, putting
his hand on Hal's shoulder. "If it hadn't been for you, I guess the
captain and I would be locked up by this time. Isn't that so, captain?"

"It certainly is," was the reply. "And had it not been for the prompt
action of Chester in that encounter, France would have lost a captain
of rifles."

Hal and Chester were embarrassed by all this praise.

"That's all right," Hal called over his shoulder. "You would have done
the same for us."

At this moment the chauffeur, who had been almost forgotten in the
excitement, stirred.

"Hello," ejaculated the captain. "Our friend is getting better. Guess we
had better see what we can do for him."

He raised the head of the wounded man to his lap, and wiped the blood
stains from his face, while the lieutenant prepared a bandage. In a few
minutes the chauffeur had recovered sufficiently to drink a little water
and to eat several sandwiches the lieutenant produced from a small but
well-filled hamper.

"Well, I guess we are safe for a little while, at any rate,"
remarked Hal.

"It looks like it," replied the lieutenant; "but, as I said before, you
never can tell."

They rode cautiously along in silence for a long time; in fact, until the
first streak of dawn appeared in the east. Then, suddenly, the sound of
chug-chugging came from behind.

Chester turned his head and jumped to his feet with a cry:

"We are pursued! Speed up, Hal! Speed up!"

It was true. Far back could be seen a pursuing automobile, and, even from
that distance, it was apparent it was gaining.

Hal "speeded up" and in a short time the pursuing car was out of sight.
Nevertheless, the speed was not diminished.

"I guess they have learned that we can travel some, anyhow," remarked
Hal happily.

And just at that moment there was a loud explosion--the car rocked
crazily, and Hal brought it to a stop.

"Tire blown out," exclaimed the French captain, in despair. "Now we are
up against it. What shall we do?"

"Fix it," retained Chester briefly.

He got out, and the rest, including the wounded chauffeur, followed suit.

At that moment Chester bethought himself of the pursuing machine, and
said:

"We haven't time. Our pursuers will be upon us."

"You are right," said the captain, "but I have an idea."

The place in which they had stopped was shaded upon both sides by great
trees. As far as could be seen the woods continued. A hundred yards back
over the road they had traversed was a sharp curve, hiding any
approaching vehicle from sight. Ahead, the road stretched out in a
straight line for a considerable distance.

"I figure this way," said the captain hurriedly, "the machine as it is is
doing us no good, is it?"

"It certainly is not," replied the lieutenant.

"And, if we wait here long enough to fix it it won't do us any good
either, will it?"

"Certainly not."

"Then my idea is this: Head the machine straight down the road, lash
the wheel fast and start her off. If I am not mistaken, it will run
along the road at least to the next curve. Even from here you can see
the steep embankment at the curve. When the machine hits that curve it
will go over.

"Now, if that embankment is as steep as it looks, the car, when it hits
the bottom, will be out of sight. In the meantime, we hide here until our
pursuers pass. The chances are they will continue past the curve, never
seeing the wreckage at the bottom of the embankment, believing we are
still ahead of them. Then we can continue our journey afoot. What do you
think of that idea?"

"I think it is first-rate," declared Hal, and the others agreed with him.

"But won't they discover, when they reach the next town, that we haven't
passed through?" asked Chester.

"They probably will," was the reply; "but we will cross that bridge when
we come to it. Besides, there is little doubt in my mind that the
authorities in the next town know of our coming. We couldn't be so
fortunate a second time."

Accordingly the plan suggested was carried out. Hal elected to get in the
car and start it, and, as it took a flying leap forward, he hurled
himself from the machine to the soft grass beside the road. He was
considerably shaken up, but not badly hurt.

Then the five stood and watched the car in its mad flight down the road.

"I hope that the fact of a tire being bursted won't stop it's sticking to
the road," said Chester.

Fortunately the car continued its journey in as straight a line as the
best chauffeur in the world could have driven, and the five companions
strained their eyes as it neared the distant curve.

"It's almost there!" cried Hal. "I hope it makes a good jump; and I hope
that embankment is steep."

"And I hope that she makes her leap before our pursuers heave in sight,
which is more to the point," declared Chester.

Again they strained their eyes, watching the flight of the mad car. And
then the car reached the embankment.

"There she goes!" cried Chester, and the big machine, as though making a
desperate leap, hurled itself into space, where it soared for a moment
like a huge bird, and then disappeared from sight.

"Well, it's gone," said the lieutenant sorrowfully; "and now it's up to
us to hoof it, to the next town, at least."

The five moved into the woods and just as they gained the first dense
covering there was a sound from the road over which they had come.

Dropping to the ground, they peered between the trees. Presently a second
huge car, in which could be caught a glimpse of uniforms, rounded the
curve, flashed by, and disappeared down the road.

"Let's go farther into the woods," urged Chester. "We might be
seen here."

Going deeper and deeper in among the trees the five continued their
journey; and, when they felt sure they had penetrated far enough to avoid
any chance of detection, they turned their faces northward and set out at
a brisk pace.



CHAPTER V.

CAPTURED.


All morning the journey through the woods continued. At intervals the big
trees became more sparse, and the party took all precautions against
being seen, as they flitted through the open places.

About noon, Lieutenant Anderson made a foraging expedition, and returned
with a basket of food, which he had purchased from a nearby farmhouse.
Hungrily the five disposed of it, quenching their thirst from a sparkling
brook of cool water. Then they resumed their march.

Night was falling when the travelers at length emerged from the woods.
Half a mile ahead could be seen the lights of a town.

Lieutenant Anderson called a consultation.

"If I mistake not," he said, "those lights indicate the town of
Stettin. We shall have to be very careful. They are bound to be on the
lookout for us."

"Has anyone a plan?" he asked, after some further talk.

"I think I have one," returned Hal. "It might work out all right"

"Let's hear it," demanded Chester.

"Yes," chorused the others, "what is it?"

"Well," said Hal, "my idea is that it would be much better for us to
separate. If we all approach together we are sure to be recognized. Our
number alone would give us away. But, if we go singly, or by twos, from
different directions, we stand a chance of gaining the city without being
challenged."

"A good idea," exclaimed Captain Derevaux; "I heartily approve of it."

"And I, too," declared the young lieutenant; "and I recommend that we put
the plan into execution at once."

The lone dissenting voice came from the wounded chauffeur.

"I don't know your plans, gentlemen," he said; "and I don't want to know
them. I have had trouble enough. I am a German, and, from what I have
heard, although I know I should look upon you as enemies of my country,
I do not believe you mean any harm. Besides, you have treated me well,
and I will not betray you. But I must ask that you leave me here. I will
make my way into the town some time during the night I shall be
perfectly safe."

"Had we not better make him go with us?" questioned Chester. "Is he not
likely to betray us?"

"No; I am sure he would not," said Hal.

"And I," agreed the French captain.

"I am a little inclined to doubt the advisability of leaving him behind,"
said Lieutenant Anderson, "but--"

"Sir!" broke in the chauffeur. "I am just as much a gentleman as you are,
and my word is my bond!"

The young Englishman's face flushed.

"Forgive me!" he exclaimed, extending his hand. "I am sorry for my
unreasonable doubts. I am sure that you can be trusted."

"I believe that our friend's decision simplifies matters exceedingly,"
declared Hal.

"In what way?" demanded the lieutenant.

"In the first place, it makes one less of us. And, again, it does away
with the necessity of one of us approaching the town alone, which is
also a good thing. While for two to approach the town is much better
than four, under the circumstances, two are also better than one, for
the reason that they can give a good account of themselves should
occasion arise."

"Which is good reasoning," declared Captain Derevaux. "I agree with you."

"I suggest," said Lieutenant Anderson, "that one of the boys go with you,
captain, and the other with me. I shall go back a short distance into the
woods, make a detour, and enter the town from the west."

"Another good idea," replied the captain. "Hal and I will wait here half
an hour after you have gone, and will reach the town from this side at
about the time you and Chester arrive."

"Where shall we meet?"

"I believe the best plan would be to meet in the hotel. Whichever of us
arrives first will wait for the others."

"Good," said the lieutenant. "The best part of that idea is that,
providing we get into the town safely, the hotel will be the least likely
place our pursuers will look for us. They probably will figure we will
sneak along the outskirts."

"Sure," broke in Chester. "But how are we to get out of the town? Won't
the other side be so closely guarded that we can't get through?"

"Yes, I suppose they will be laying for us, all right, but we shall have
to leave that to luck. The thing to do now is to get in. We will get out
as best we may."

"Right," declared Hal; "and I guess that, as long as we are going, we
might as well go now. The sooner we start the better, is the way I
look at it."

Chester and the lieutenant said good-by to the chauffeur, and then
Chester turned to Hal and held out his hand.

"In case--" he said, as they gripped, and a moment later he and the young
lieutenant were gone.

Hal, Captain Derevaux and the chauffeur reentered the woods, where they
sat down to wait the half hour agreed upon.

As his chum's form disappeared from sight, striding rapidly along beside
the gallant lieutenant, Hal experienced a peculiar sinking sensation in
the region of his stomach, while his heart throbbed jerkily, and he
turned faint. For almost the first time he realized the real seriousness
of the situation.

"Good old Chester!" he said to himself. "I hope nothing happens to him. I
wish I could take all the danger upon my own shoulders."

In vain did he try to shake off the feeling of uneasiness that oppressed
him; and it was with a heavy heart at the absence of his friend that he
found himself bidding the chauffeur good-by, when Captain Derevaux roused
him from his reverie and announced that it was time for them to be on
their way.

Striking out from their shelter, the two approached the town boldly. They
walked silently and swiftly.

It was now quite dark, but the gleam of a full moon made their figures
plainly discernible. At the edge of the town they unconsciously breathed
easier and quickened their step.

Just passing the first house inside the city, they heard the sound of
running footsteps behind them. Hal looked over his shoulder. A uniformed
figure was hurrying after them.

"Run!" cried Hal to his companion, and he suited the action to the word.

The captain also broke into a quick run.

A command of "Halt!" behind them went unheeded, and the two friends sped
over the ground, heading for the friendly shelter of the first cross
street that was now but a few yards away.

Slackening their speed but a trifle, they rounded the corner just as the
sharp crack of a rifle rang out. Around a second corner they dodged, and
another, and still another.

Stopping a moment to gain a much-needed breath, they could hear the
sounds of great confusion, and again they broke into a quick run.

"The whole town will be aroused and on our track in a few minutes,"
panted Hal. "We will have to lose ourselves some way awfully quick."

Luckily, the streets they had traversed so far had been deserted. But as
they rounded another corner they saw a crowd of men coming rapidly
toward them.

"I guess it's all up," exclaimed Hal, and the two slowed to a walk.

The crowd moved rapidly, and they advanced to meet it.

"No use running," said the captain. "We will try to bluff it out."

The first man of the crowd to reach them stopped.

"What's the row back there?" he asked.

"Just a street fight, I guess," replied Hal. "We didn't stop to see."

"More than likely some Frenchman has been rounded up," said the man.
"Better come along and see the fun," and he broke into a trot again.

"We had better make a bluff at going," said Hal to the captain, as he
noticed that some of the crowd eyed them queerly.

Turning, they joined the crowd, and began to retrace their steps. They
went slowly, however, and the crowd gradually drew away from them. At
last, finding themselves behind the last man, they turned suddenly into a
side street and broke into a run again.

Turning another corner, they slowed down to a walk.

"We had better get away from here," exclaimed the Frenchman. "They will
be back after us in a minute."

They continued their walk, still stepping along at a rapid pace, and at
length emerged, without further difficulty, into a brilliantly lighted
street, which, they learned, was the main thoroughfare of the town.
Mingling with the crowd, they were soon comparatively safe.

"The thing to do now is to find out where the hotel is," said the
Frenchman.

Stopping in an open shop, Hal made an inquiry.

"Two blocks ahead," was the reply, and following directions, Hal and the
captain soon came upon a large, though unpretentious, hotel. They went in
and sat down in the rotunda. Chester and the lieutenant had not arrived,
and once more Hal felt that queer sinking sensation in his stomach.

"If anything has happened to Chester," he mused, "I don't know what I
shall do."

But his anxiety was soon set at rest, for a few moments later Chester and
Lieutenant Anderson appeared in the doorway.

Hal jumped to his feet and seized Chester by the hand.

"I was afraid--" he began in a queer voice, but the lieutenant silenced
him with a gesture.

"Careful!" he whispered.

Hal returned to his seat and Chester and the lieutenant also sat down.

Hal recounted the experience he and the captain had had, and the
lieutenant said:

"Then we have no time to waste. We must leave here at once."

Rising, the four companions left the hotel.

"We must get something to eat before we go," declared the Frenchman, and
accordingly they dropped into a little restaurant, where they treated the
inner man to his entire satisfaction. Then they went to the street again.

"The best thing we can do is to go straight through the town and out on
the other side--if we can," said the lieutenant, and they turned their
steps toward the north once more.

They reached the northern extremity of the town without difficulty and
just as they were congratulating themselves on their good fortune, Hal
gripped lieutenant Anderson by the arm and whispered:

"Look!"

Not two hundred yards ahead could be seen a line of army huts, extending
on either side as far as the eye could see.

"Ummm," grunted the lieutenant. Then: "Doesn't look like much chance of
getting through here."

At the same instant there came from the rear the sound of the footsteps
of a large body of men approaching with confusion.

"The crowd!" cried Hal.

The lieutenant was a man of action, as already has been seen.

"Follow me!" he exclaimed, and dashed to the right. His three companions
ran after him.

Suddenly the lieutenant stopped and pointed ahead.

"Horses!" he whispered. "Good!"

He advanced more slowly, the others closely behind him.

"If we can cut out four horses," explained the lieutenant, "we will have
a chance. We'll make a dash and trust to luck and the darkness."

Silently they approached the horses, which stood quietly a few yards
away. A sentry passed nearby, and the four companions dropped to the
ground. Fortunately, the sentry did not look in their direction.

"That's what I call luck," whispered Hal.

From behind the sounds of confusion became more audible, indicating the
rapid approach of the crowd. At the same time lights flared up in the
huts, and an officer stepped to the entrance of one only a few feet from
the four friends.

He espied them on the instant, and then the lieutenant acted.

"Quick!" he cried, and jumped toward the horses.

A revolver cracked, and a bullet whined over Hal's head even as he
leaped forward.

With a bound all four fugitives were among the horses, and almost with a
single movement each threw himself into a saddle.

But at that moment the camp came to life. Armed men sprang up on
all sides.

In the very act of digging his heel into his horse's flank, the
lieutenant pulled up.

"It's no use," he said quietly to his friends. "To move is certain
death."

Then came a voice from right before them.

"Surrender!" it cried. "Surrender or you are dead men!"



CHAPTER VI.

THE OLD CASTLE.


Lieutenant Anderson raised a hand.

"We surrender," he said quietly.

The officer approached, a revolver held ready for instant use.

"Dismount!" he ordered shortly.

The four companions slid to the ground. A squad of soldiers
surrounded them.

"Search them for arms," was the next command, and they were relieved of
their weapons.

"To the castle!" ordered their captor. "Forward, march!"

With the four prisoners in the center, the soldiers moved away.

"Looks like we were into it pretty steep this time," said Hal, as they
were being led away.

"Silence!" came the sharp command of the German officer.

They moved along for several minutes without a word except for an
occasional command from the officer.

At length a grim, gray wall loomed before them in the darkness, and
without a stop the prisoners were hurried across a little bridge, led
across a courtyard and escorted within the structure.

A fear-inspiring place it was, but the four captives entered without a
tremor, their heads held high and their step firm. Any spirit of
foreboding they may have felt was not manifested in their carriage.

Down dark and dirty corridors they were led, and after many sharp turns,
their guards stopped before what appeared to be a hole in the side of the
wall. Into this opening the prisoners were thrust without ceremony, and a
door behind them was closed with a bang.

It was several minutes before the four companions could accustom their
eyes to the semi-darkness, but finally they were able to make out the few
objects that furnished the cell, for such it proved to be.

There were three broken chairs and two dirty-looking mattresses, one of
the latter at each end of the cell. Also there was a small table.

"Pretty dismal looking place, this," remarked the doughty French captain,
after a hasty glance about.

"Dismal and dirty it certainly is," said Hal.

"How long do you suppose we shall have to stay here?" asked Chester.

"Until they get ready to let us out," replied the young English
lieutenant dryly. "Which may not be a very satisfactory answer, but it's
the best I can do."

"What do you suppose they will do with us?" queried Hal.

"You've got me. If they don't take us out and shoot us as spies, we are
likely to lie here till we rot."

"Surely they would be afraid to do that."

"Don't fool yourself that they are afraid to do anything."

"But we can prove we are not spies."

"Can we? How? With the trouble we have made, they won't be able to kill
us off quick enough."

"Well," said Hal hopefully, "maybe something will turn up that will
enable us to convince them."

"I hope so. But if it doesn't turn up soon, we are gone goslings, just as
sure as you're a foot high," and Lieutenant Anderson threw himself down
on one of the evil-looking mattresses, remarking: "Might as well take a
little snooze, anyhow."

"This doesn't look to me like a time to sleep," remarked Hal to Chester,
although he almost envied the coolness with which the young Englishman
accepted his perilous situation.

"Looks to me more like the time to try and find a way out," agreed
Chester.

Captain Derevaux, however, also flung himself upon one of the mattresses
and he and the lieutenant soon were fast asleep.

In spite of the fact that they had been more than twenty-four hours
without sleep, the two boys were in no mood to close their eyes. As Hal
said, now seemed to be the proper time to expend whatever energies they
had in getting out of their prison.

The boys looked around. There were two small windows to their cell, but
it was plain they were too small to permit of a human body being squeezed
through. Besides, they were barred. Beyond, across a courtyard, could be
seen another wing of the castle. It appeared to be almost in ruins.

Looking from the other window, the boys could discern the bridge which
they had been led across. The bridge spanned a moat, which at one time
had been filled with water. Now it was a mass of growing weeds.

Hal shook the bars at the window through which he was peering, and one
came away in his hand. It had grown loose through age. Still, however,
it was impossible for a man to pass through the window. The opening was
too small.

"No chance of getting out here," remarked Hal, turning to Chester, who
stood at the other window.

"Nor here," was the answer. "I couldn't squeeze through to save my life."

"What are we to do, then? I certainly won't let them take me out and
shoot me without a fight."

"No more will I," declared Chester. "I would rather be killed fighting
than to be taken out and stood up against a wall."

"Then if it comes to the worst we will pitch into the guards when they
come to take us out and fight until the end," said Hal.

"We will," agreed Chester. "It would be a much more pleasant death. I
don't think much of walking out and standing over my own grave and
letting somebody shoot at me without a chance to fight back."

They continued their conversation well into the night.

As the first rays of sunlight filtered into their cell a key turned
gratingly in the rusty lock of the door. Captain Derevaux and Lieutenant
Anderson, who now appeared to have been sleeping with one eye open, were
on their feet immediately, and the four friends faced the door.

Slowly the huge door swung outward and a grinning apparition appeared in
the doorway, carrying a vessel of water and a loaf of bread. It was an
old, old negro, and he shuffled forward haltingly. Just outside the door
could be seen half a dozen German soldiers.

Hal and Chester stared at the old negro in speechless amazement. The
sight of the old darky carried them back across the sea to the home of
Hal's Virginia uncle. They forgot their danger for a moment, gazed at
each other and broke into a laugh.

The old negro looked at them in surprise, and with ruffled dignity. He
placed the water and bread upon the table, and drawing himself up,
pointed to them and then commanded:

"Essen!"

It was too much for the two lads and they broke into another loud guffaw.

"Well, what do you think of that!" exclaimed Chester. "Here's what looks
like an old plantation negro, and he speaks German."

"Funniest thing I ever heard," gasped Hal between bursts of laughter.

At their words, an expression of amazement passed over the old
negro's face.

"Lawdy! Lawdy!" he exclaimed, a wide grin spreading itself over his
features; "if dese two chilluns ain't 'Mericans," and advancing toward
them he demanded:

"What yo'al doin' hyah? Dey tol' me dey dun captured fo' spies!"

Hal explained briefly.

The old negro rolled his eyes in gaping wonder at the recital.

"Can't you help us, uncle?" asked Chester, as Hal completed his story.

Frightened, the old darky looked around; then began slowly to back toward
the door of the cell, just beyond which stood the line of soldiers.

"Yo'al jes' wait," he spoke in a hoarse whisper. "Ol' Uncle Billy'll see
what he c'n do."

He backed out of the cell as he finished and the door clanged behind him.

"It seems that we have at least one friend," remarked Hal, after Uncle
Billy had gone.

"But what can he do to help us?" demanded the young French captain.

"I don't know," replied Hal; "but you may be sure he will do anything he
can. He will not desert us. He is that kind, and I know the kind well."

"You can bet on that," Chester agreed. "He'll be back before long."

It was nearing the hour of noon when the cell door again swung open.
Believing that Uncle Billy had returned, the two boys jumped to their
feet. But they were disappointed. An officer, whose shoulder straps
proclaimed him a lieutenant, entered. Behind him stood the inevitable
line of soldiers.

He beckoned the prisoners. "Follow me!" he commanded.

"Where to?" demanded Lieutenant Anderson.

"General Steinberg desires your presence."

He stood aside as the captives filed from the cell. Outside the line of
soldiers fell in step behind them.

Our four friends were marched out of the castle and across the field to
the army camp. They were led to a hut rather larger than the rest, which
proclaimed it the headquarters of the commanding officer. They were
ushered inside and their military escort fell back.

General Steinberg sat at a table surrounded by several officers of his
staff. He looked up as the prisoners entered, and unconsciously Captain
Derevaux saluted.

General Steinberg jumped to his feet.

"So!" he exclaimed. "A soldier, eh? And an officer, besides. I thought
so! What rank, and to what command are you attached?"

Captain Derevaux drew himself up to his full height.

"Captain of French Rifles!" he said defiantly.

"And what are you doing within our lines in civilian clothes, may I ask?"
demanded the general, with a sneer. "Spying, eh?" he continued without
waiting for a reply. "I thought so. Are your companions also spies?"

"We are not spies," declared the captain vehemently. "I was stranded in
Berlin and was trying to make my way out of the country so as to join my
regiment."

"And why should we allow you to leave the country and join our foes? Did
you report yourself to the authorities in Berlin when war was declared?"

"No."

"And why, may I ask?"

"Because I had already received orders to join my regiment, and I did not
propose to be detained."

The general waved him aside and turned to Lieutenant Anderson.

"And you are also an officer, perhaps, eh?" he questioned.

"I am," replied the lieutenant boldly. "I hold his British majesty's
commission as a lieutenant of Dragoons."

"Another spy, eh?"

"No; I am no spy, and you do not dare treat me as one."

"I don't? You shall see. Stand aside!"

The general turned to Hal and Chester.

"And you," he said, "you both look over young to be taking the risk of
spies. How do you come to be mixed up in this business?"

Hal explained.

"Why did you not submit to arrest in Angermunde?"

"Because we feared we would be detained."

"And is that a sufficient cause for attacking a squad of German troops?"

"We considered it so," replied Hal.

"Enough!" exclaimed General Steinberg. "It is my belief you are all
spies. You shall be shot to-morrow at sunrise!"

Turning to the officer who had escorted them to his hut, he commanded:

"Return them to their cell and see that they are well guarded!"

"But, general," the young captain spoke up, "these boys are in no way to
blame. They are perfectly innocent!"

"Shoot us if you like, but spare them," pleaded the lieutenant.

"Bah!" exclaimed the general. "One is as guilty as the other!"

With a wave of his hand he signified that the interview was ended.

"Take them away!" he ordered.

"It's all my fault!" exclaimed Captain Derevaux when they were back
in the cell once more. "I should not have permitted you boys to
accompany us."

"It is not!" denied Hal and Chester together. "Whatever may befall us is
no discredit to you. Had we not come with you, we probably should have
tried to escape the country alone."

"But if you had not been captured in our company you would be in no
danger of being shot," declared Lieutenant Anderson. "I cannot forgive
myself that I consented to your coming."

"Never mind that," said Hal. "You tried to help us, and that we go to our
deaths to-morrow morning is not due to you."

"Fool that I was!" cried the Frenchman. "Had I kept my presence of mind
in Steinberg's hut our position would not be so desperate. It was my
salute that caused all this trouble."

"Come, come, never mind that," soothed Chester. "It couldn't be helped.
Besides, I am sure he had his mind made up to shoot us, anyhow. Let's not
think about it."

It was perhaps an hour later that the huge cell door once more swung
slowly open. Uncle Billy stepped quickly inside and closed the door
after him.

"Sh-h!" he whispered, holding up a warning finger and coming close.

Silently he went to the table and, one after another, produced from some
place about his person four revolvers.

"When I brung yo'al yo' dinnah t'night," he explained, "I'se gwine ter
leave de' door open. I'se gwine ter p'tend ter lock it, but it ain't
gwine ter be locked.

"At nine o'clock t'night de' watch am changed, an' fer five minutes there
ain't no guard in de' hall. That am when yo'al slip out an' sneak down
de' hall. When yo'al gits out o' de cas'le, jes' yo'al sneak roun' to de
right, an' dere'll be frien's dere."

Uncle Billy again put a warning finger to his lips.

Hal opened his mouth to ask a question, but with a soft "sh-h" Uncle
Billy silenced him.

Then, after several furtive glances about, the old negro stole quickly
from the cell, closing the door softly behind him.



CHAPTER VII.

THE ESCAPE.


"What did I tell you!" shouted Hal, when the old negro had taken his
departure. "Didn't I tell you old Uncle Billy wouldn't leave us in
the lurch?"

"What do you suppose his plan is?" asked Chester.

"I haven't any idea, but you can depend upon its being a good one."

Captain Derevaux and Lieutenant Anderson were examining the revolvers
Uncle Billy had laid on the table.

"Loaded, all right," remarked the latter.

"At least they won't stand us up against a wall without a fight,"
declared the captain.

"I don't know what Uncle Billy's plan of escape is," said Hal, "but I
am sure it will be successful. I have a lot of confidence in these
old-time negroes."

"And I, too," declared Chester.

"Well," interrupted the Frenchman, "all we can do now is to wait and hope
for the best."

"We at least have a fighting chance," spoke up the lieutenant, "and
that's more than I ever expected to have again."

"It's a long time between now and nine o'clock," said Chester. "I think
we all had better get some sleep. We are likely to need it before we
get through."

"Right," replied the lieutenant. "I guess we had better turn in."

The four lay down upon the dirty mattresses, and with their minds more at
ease were soon asleep.

It was after six o'clock when Uncle Billy once more entered the cell with
their "dinner," which consisted of another vessel of water and a second
loaf of bread.

Hal made a grimace.

"Is that what you call dinner, Uncle Billy?" he demanded. "Why, I'm so
hungry I could eat a fence rail."

Uncle Billy grinned widely.

"Yo'al will git a shore 'nuff dinnah 'fore long," he replied.

"Is everything all right?" asked Chester.

"Yassah, yassah. Everyt'ing am all right. Yo'al jes' do like I tell you,"
and the old darky hastened from the cell.

The four prisoners fell upon the single loaf of bread and devoured
it hungrily. Thirstily they gulped down the water, and then sat
down to wait.

The long hours passed slowly.

"Great Scott!" exclaimed Chester finally. "Won't nine o'clock ever come?"

"Hold your horses and don't get excited," ordered Lieutenant Anderson.
"Impatience won't get us anything."

Chester subsided, and for a time the four sat in silence.

Suddenly the stillness was broken by the faint sound of a distant bell.

The young lieutenant pulled his watch from his pocket. Then he closed the
case with a snap and rose to his feet.

"Nine o'clock!" he said briefly. "Time to be moving!"

Cautiously the four approached the cell door. Hal pressed his weight
against it, and slowly the huge door swung outward. Poking out his head,
Hal glanced up and down the corridor.

"No one in sight," he informed his companions, and softly the four
stepped outside, closing the door gently behind them.

Silently four shadows flitted along the corridor, out across the bridge
and to the wall beyond. They encountered no one.

"Your Uncle Billy is a jewel," declared the young Frenchman, in a
whisper.

"He is for a fact," whispered back the lieutenant.

Chester crept silently through the gate and peered in all directions.
Then he crept back to his companions.

"All safe!" he whispered.

"Now to get to the place where Uncle Billy said friends would be
waiting," said Hal.

"I guess we had better make it at a run," spoke up the Frenchman.

"Yes," said the lieutenant; "some one might happen along and we would
have to make a fight for it."

Passing through the entrance to the old castle, the four broke into a
run, and turning to the right in accordance with their instructions,
increased their speed.

For a considerable distance they sped along under the shelter of the
castle wall. Just as they reached the end of the wall a whispered voice
brought them to a halt.

"Hyah, sah!" came the unmistakable voice of Uncle Billy.

Turning, they saw the old negro, who had been hidden from their sight,
standing under the far wall of the castle.

"Follow me!" he whispered, and led the way a short distance along the
wall, to where were picketed four horses.

Turning, he motioned the companions to mount.

"Which way?" asked the lieutenant, when all were in the saddle.

"Straight north, I suppose," said the captain.

"No, sah, no, sah," broke in Uncle Billy. "Yo'al can't get free
that-a-way. Since de Emp'ror declared wah on Belgin an' Englan' dun
declare wah on Germany, all de no'th coast am hev'ly guarded."

"What!" exclaimed the French captain. "War on Belgium!"

"England has declared war?" asked the young lieutenant, in surprise.

"Yassah, yassah. I jes' hearn erbout it."

"Then which way shall we go?"

"Yo'al must go that-a-way," came the answer, and Uncle Billy pointed
toward the southwest, in the direction of the faraway frontier of The
Netherlands.

"But Holland is a long ways off, and the country between must be overrun
with troops," protested the Frenchman.

"Mos' all de troops am at de front," explained the old negro. "Dat am de
bes' way, sah."

"I believe we had better take Uncle Billy's word for it," declared Hal.

"I guess he is right," said the lieutenant. "Uncle Billy, we can never
thank you enough."

"No," agreed Captain Derevaux. "We can never thank you enough."

"Come," said the lieutenant, "let us ride," and he turned his horse's
head toward the southwest, and started off cautiously.

But Hal and Chester stopped for a further word with Uncle Billy.

"But how about you, Uncle Billy?" demanded Chester. "Won't you get in
trouble for aiding us to escape?"

"No, sah," replied the old negro. "There won't none o' dese hyah Germans
hurt ol' Uncle Billy!"

"Well, then, good-by," said the boys. "After the war is over we are
coming back to see you."

"After de wah am over," said the old negro slowly, "Ise gwine back ter
ol' Virginy!"

With another word of farewell the boys wheeled their horses and rode
after their companions, who were now some distance ahead.

"We shall have to go very slowly and feel our way until we have passed
the outposts of the town," said the lieutenant, as they rode along; and
for the first half hour their progress was slow.

Once they passed within a few yards of a German sentry, but so softly did
their horses step that the soldier did not turn in their direction.

Bearing well to the south, they passed the long line of huts where they
had been captured the night before, at a considerable distance; and now,
feeling sure they had passed the last of the outposts, they urged their
horses into a quick trot.

"We will try and avoid all towns this time," declared Lieutenant
Anderson, "going just close enough to them to keep our bearings."

"A good scheme," said the Frenchman. "We would better avoid the highways
as much as possible also."

In almost a straight line, the direction in which the companions were now
headed eventually would put them into Holland a few miles north of the
Belgian frontier. Following the highways, their way would lead through
Prenzlau, Brunswick, and Detmold. But upon Captain Derevaux's advice,
they decided to skirt these towns, staying just close enough to the roads
to keep their sense of direction.

As the four rode along through the open fields, Hal and Chester continued
to talk of Uncle Billy.

"After the war," said Chester, "we'll come back and get him and take him
home with us."

But such was not to be; nor was the old Southern negro ever again to see
his Virginia home.

And because of the assistance he rendered Hal and Chester and their two
friends, it is fitting that here be related the fate of this old
plantation slave, who had come so nobly to the aid of our boys.

As the four companions rode away from the old castle, Uncle Billy, with
bared head, gazed lovingly after them.

"Praise de Lawd!" he exclaimed. "May dey git home in safety."

The riders disappeared in the distance, and the old negro, after one
last glance, turned toward his quarters in a broken-down wing of the
old castle.

There he threw himself to his knees, and for long minutes prayed in
silence. Then he arose, extinguished his light, and crawled into his
dirty cot.

Before sun-up he arose, and was soon about his duties of carrying food to
others imprisoned in the castle. Upon the order of General Steinberg he
went to the vacant cell with the firing squad that was to put an end to
the lives of the four companions whom he had aided to escape.

He opened the door, and then threw up his hands in well-feigned surprise.

"Dere gone!" he exclaimed.

"What!" exclaimed the officer in charge of the firing squad.
"Impossible!"

He brushed the old negro aside and peered into the cell. Then he turned
to Uncle Billy and laid his hand on his shoulder. "You are under
arrest!" he said.

"What fo', sah?"

"For aiding the prisoners to escape."

"But, but--"

"Silence! To the general's quarters!" he commanded his men.

Uncle Billy was led before General Steinberg.

"So!" thundered the latter, after the situation had been explained to
him. "A traitor, eh!"

Uncle Billy drew himself up proudly, and the years seemed to fall from
his shoulders.

"I is no traitor, sah!" he said quietly, "Is I a traitor, sah, because I
is willin' ter die fer two li'l chillun, who is so like mah young massa?"

"What!" shouted the general. "You admit it?"

"Yassah!"

General Steinberg's face grew purple and he waved his arms about angrily.

"Then you shall die in their stead!" he shouted. "Sergeant! Take that
black hound out and shoot him! See that my order is carried out at once!"

The sergeant saluted and turned to Uncle Billy.

"Come!" he said.

With bowed head the old negro walked slowly from the hut. Outside the
squad of soldiers encircled him, and he was led away.

With his back to a wall and the line of soldiers facing him, their
rifles grounded by their sides, Uncle Billy's face turned chalky, and
he trembled.

But, as the sergeant approached with a bandage for his eyes, the old
negro regained his composure.

For the last time he drew himself to his full height; imperiously he
waved the sergeant away, and his eyes met the gaze of his executioners
unflinchingly.

"Ready!" came the voice of the sergeant.

"Take aim!"

"Fire!"

Without a murmur, Uncle Billy slid gently to the ground, his body riddled
with bullets.

The sergeant hurried to his side, and placed a hand over his heart.
As he did so, the body of the old negro twitched, and he made an
effort to rise.

The sergeant caught the faint sound of his voice.

"I'se a-comin', massa; I'se a-co--" came the old voice in a low whisper;
and Uncle Billy's body fell back inert.

The sergeant straightened up, and lifted his cap from his head.

"He is dead!" he said softly.



CHAPTER VIII.

IN TROUBLE AGAIN.


All night long the four companions continued their way without adventure.
Twice they saw lights of nearby towns, and upon each occasion they bore
farther away from these signs of habitation.

The first gray dawn streaked the eastern sky before they drew rein at a
little brook, where they sat down to rest for a few moments, and to allow
their horses to quench their thirst.

"How far do you suppose we have come?" asked Hal.

"I don't know," replied the Frenchman; "but we have covered
considerable ground."

"Do you think we are out of danger?"

"We are never out of danger as long as we are in Germany," put in the
lieutenant. "We may be safe from pursuit, but we are not out of the woods
yet, by any means."

"How long should it take us to get out of the country?" asked Chester.

"With luck, five days."

"Well, let's hope for luck, then," said Hal. "I have had enough
excitement to last me for a long time to come."

"Same here," declared Chester.

They remained in their retreat for some time, and then, mounting, moved
forward once more. An hour later they succeeded in purchasing breakfast
at a farmhouse. As all were draining their second cup of coffee there
came from without the sound of galloping. The four jumped to their feet.

"What's that?" cried Chester, in alarm.

"We'll see," replied the young lieutenant briefly, and stepped to a
window. The others also advanced and peered over his shoulder.

"Looks to me like a body of Black Hussars," remarked Captain Derevaux.

"And so it is," said the lieutenant, as the horsemen drew closer to the
farmhouse.

"Do you suppose they are looking for us?" queried Chester.

"I do not think so. It's hardly likely they have heard of our escape
from Stettin."

"Had we better remain here and trust to their passing by, or shall we
make a run for it?"

"I believe we had better stay here. They may not stop."

And, indeed, it seemed that the lieutenant's prophecy would prove
correct.

The squadron came on without checking their speed; but, just as they
swept by the farmhouse, a squad of a dozen men, headed by an officer,
detached themselves from the main body, and headed toward the house.

"We are in for it again," remarked Hal, and drew his revolver.

"Put that away!" exclaimed the young captain quickly. "One shot and the
whole troop will be on us!"

Hal dropped his weapon back into his pocket.

At that instant there came a loud knock at the front door.

The good housewife hastened forward to answer the knock, but was
intercepted by the Frenchman.

"Do not answer!" he commanded.

The woman stared at him aghast.

"Why," she exclaimed, "it is probably my husband. He is a cavalry
officer, you know," and she smiled, and made as if to pass.

But the captain again blocked her way.

"Nevertheless," he said, "I must ask you not to go to the door."

The woman gazed at him a moment in astonishment; then a queer look passed
over her face.

"I see!" she exclaimed. "You are spies!"

With a scream she evaded the captain and rushed to the door.

"Come!" cried Captain Derevaux, his effort having failed. "I guess we
shall have to make a run for it!"

"Out the back door!" exclaimed Lieutenant Anderson, and the four ran
through the house, went down the steps three at a time, and rushed toward
their horses in the stable nearby.

Hardly had they leaped into their saddles and dashed from the stable,
when the woman and a German officer appeared in the back door of the
farmhouse, while from around the house came the dozen troopers afoot.

With a shout the riders charged directly at them, bowling the soldiers
over on all sides, and for a moment it looked as though they might make
their escape.

Then a shot rang out, and Chester's horse stumbled and went to his knees.
Chester was flung from his saddle, over his horse's head, and struck the
ground with stunning force. He lay still.

Hal leaped to the ground and stooped over Chester. The captain and the
young lieutenant pulled up their mounts.

As Hal tried to lift Chester to his feet, a second shot was heard, and a
bullet whistled over Hal's head. Hal dropped Chester to the ground, and
drew his revolver.

He turned his face toward the enemy.

"Come on!" he shouted, his eyes flashing, "I'll drop one or two of you
before you get me!"

But at that moment, the lieutenant's voice rang out.

"Don't shoot!" and Hal stayed his hand.

At the same instant, Captain Derevaux and Lieutenant Anderson raised
their hands in token of surrender; and it was well that they did so, for
by that time the entire body of troopers had their rifles leveled.

To have missed at that distance would have been impossible, and the
lieutenant had realized it.

"Throw your weapons on the ground," came a command, and the captain and
lieutenant obeyed.

Hal made as if to raise his revolver again, and the rifles of the
troopers were turned on him.

Again the lieutenant called:

"Don't be a fool. Throw that gun down!"

Hal obeyed.

The officer in command of the troop approached and spoke:

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"Travelers," replied Lieutenant Anderson.

"Where are you going?"

"Brunswick."

"Why did you run at our approach?"

The lieutenant made no reply.

"Well," said the German officer, after a pause, "if you are bound for
Brunswick you will get there all right That is our destination."

Captain Derevaux and Lieutenant Anderson had dismounted, and by this time
Chester had recovered consciousness.

Calling two of his men, the German officer ordered the four companions
bound. Then Chester's saddle was taken from his wounded horse and put
upon another, which was brought from the stable. The four companions were
assisted to the backs of their animals, and the troop proceeded forward,
the prisoners in the center.

The country through which they now traveled was rough and hilly, and
rapid progress was impossible. From time to time they passed detachments
of troops hurrying in the opposite direction. They did not overtake the
main body, of which their captors were a part, until they reached
Prenzlau, where the troop was quartered.

There the prisoners were led before the commanding officer, Colonel
Waldstein. Lieutenant Anderson spoke.

"Colonel," he said, "I am Lieutenant Anderson, of the British army, and
this," indicating the young captain, "is Captain Derevaux, of the
French army." Then, pointing to Hal and Chester: "These two boys are in
no way concerned in our affairs, and I hope that you will see fit to
release them."

"How do they come to be in your company, then?" asked the colonel.

The lieutenant explained the circumstances.

The German officer was silent for some moments, meditating. Then he
turned to an aide.

"Summon Lieutenant Schmidt!" he ordered.

Presently an old soldier entered the general's quarters and saluted.

"Lieutenant," said Colonel Waldstein, "take these two lads," indicating
Hal and Chester, "and quarter them in your home. You may remain here," he
told the boys, "until I have made inquiries and learned what to do with
you. You are so young that I can hardly believe you are spies."

"Thank you, colonel," said Lieutenant Anderson.

"But, as for you two," continued Colonel Waldstein, speaking to Captain
Derevaux and Lieutenant Anderson, and his voice grew grave, "the fact
that I have found you within our lines in civilian attire would justify
me in having you shot at once. But I shall not dispose of your cases
until we reach Brunswick, for which place we leave to-night by train. You
may have valuable information. I shall turn your cases over to my
superiors."

Hal and Chester shook hands with their two friends.

"I don't know why you should do this for us," said Hal; "but we
appreciate your self-sacrifice more than we can tell you."

"Indeed we do," agreed Chester.

"That's all right, boys," replied the lieutenant. "Now, take my advice,
and make no further efforts to get out of the country until you are given
a safe escort, which, I am sure, will be within the course of a week."

"That is excellent advice," agreed the young captain. "To get through the
country now is practically impossible, as we have proved."

"But what will they do with you?" asked Hal.

The Frenchman shrugged his shoulders.

"Shoot us, I suppose."

Up to this moment the colonel had not interfered with the conversation,
but now he called a halt.

"That's talk enough," he declared. "Take the prisoners away."

Hal and Chester followed the old lieutenant from the tent.

"Good-by, good-by!" they called to their two friends, as they passed out.

"Good-by," was the response; "remember our advice."

The lieutenant escorted the boys some distance into the town, then
turning into a lane, marched them into a yard, in which, far back, sat a
large frame house.

"This is my home," he said; "and as long as you stay you will be welcome.
My wife is fond of boys, and will be glad to see you. You will have the
freedom of the grounds, but remember, any attempt to leave the town
without a permit probably will end in your being shot. Take my advice and
don't try it"



CHAPTER IX.

A NEW FRIEND.


"Frau Schmidt is certainly a nice old lady," said Chester.

"She certainly is," agreed Hal. "If it wasn't for the fact that I
wanted to get out of the country so badly, I wouldn't mind spending a
few weeks here."

"Nor I; and Fritz is a likable fellow."

"He sure is."

The boys had spent two days in the Schmidt home when this conversation
took place. In Frau Schmidt they had found a lovable and motherly woman,
well along in years.

She had made them welcome from the first, and had set before them the
best she had. Their room was next to that of her son, Fritz, a young man
probably six years older than Hal.

Now, Fritz was of a mechanical turn of mind, and all day and well into
the night he was at work in his shop behind the house. From bits of
conversation, the boys gathered that Fritz was engaged in the task of
building an aeroplane, and they were greatly interested.

The fact that no one was allowed in Fritz's workshop unless he
accompanied them, and the additional fact that at night two soldiers were
stationed at the door at first caused the boys some surprise. However,
Fritz had explained:

"You see, the government has taken over all aircraft in process of
construction, no matter how crude and amateurish, and has appointed a
commission to investigate all patents. Of course, it was known that I
was building an airship, and, as a result, I am working under
government orders.

"If my craft should come up to expectations it will mean a great deal to
me, and I probably shall either be put to work building more, or, better
still, be made a member of one of the aeroplane corps."

"Yes," said Chester again, "Fritz is a fine fellow. Do you suppose his
aeroplane will be a success?"

"I don't know. For his sake, I hope so. As he says, it means a whole
lot to him."

"So do I. And I will bet Fritz would be of great help to his country. He
is a pretty shrewd chap."

"You bet he--Hello! What's that?"

A sudden cry had come from the direction of the kitchen, and the sounds
of a struggle followed.

"Come on!" shouted Chester. "Somebody is in trouble!"

The two boys ran madly around the house.

Dashing through the door into the kitchen, a terrible sight met
their eyes.

Huddled into a corner was Frau Schmidt, and over her, with a naked
knife, stood a man, ragged and unkempt. A second man was ransacking the
drawers of a dresser in the room beyond. The boys could see him through
the open door.

Just as they dashed in the door, the man with the knife snarled in a
low voice:

"Give me the key to the workshop, I tell you. We mean business!"

"You mean business, do you!" shouted Hal, striding toward him.
"Well, so do I!"

The man turned at the sound of Hal's voice, and, with upraised knife,
awaited the lad's attack.

"You cowardly ruffian!" cried Hal, "to attack a defenseless old woman!"

As he spoke, he leaped upon the man, dodging the blow the latter aimed at
him with the wicked-looking knife. Before the latter could recover his
balance, Hal seized the arm that held the knife.

A sharp twist and the knife went spinning across the floor. Both leaped
for it, but Hal was quicker than his opponent, and placed his foot upon
the weapon. With a snarl the man sprang upon him.

Chester had entered the room upon Hal's heels; and, as his friend jumped
for the first intruder, Chester rushed at the man in the next room. The
latter heard him advance, and, stepping back, picked up a chair, which he
brandished over his head. Taking a rapid stride forward, he swung his
improvised weapon at Chester's head.

Chester avoided the blow with a quick, backward leap, and the chair was
smashed to fragments against the door. Then Chester jumped forward and
closed with his opponent.

With a rapid movement he placed his knee behind the other's leg and
pushed suddenly. The man went over backward, with Chester on top of him.
As the intruder fell, his head came into contact with the sharp
projection of the bureau, and when he struck the floor he lay still.
Chester rose to his feet.

As Hal's opponent sprang toward him, the lad stepped in close and
delivered a stinging short-arm blow over the other's heart. He staggered
back, and, as Hal took another step forward, Chester, having disposed of
his adversary, threw his arms about the man from behind, and bore him to
the floor, where both boys piled on top of him.

While the three were struggling on the floor, a voice from the doorway
exclaimed:

"What is going on here?" and Fritz rushed into the room.

He took in the situation at a glance, and, rushing forward, lent a hand
in subduing the boys' opponent.

The struggle was over quickly, and, seizing a strong rope, which hung
from the wall, Fritz soon had the two men safely bound. Then he turned to
his mother, who still sat huddled on the chair, where she had been when
the boys entered the room. The excitement had been too much for her, and
she had fainted.

She was soon revived, however, and, when she was strong enough to sit up,
jumped to her feet, and, throwing her arms around Hal, kissed him loudly.
Then she turned her attention to Chester, and repeated the operation.

"My preservers!" she cried, laughing and crying at the same time. "Fritz,
but for these two boys your old mother would now be dead."

Rapidly and somewhat incoherently she related what had occurred, and
Fritz was no less warm in his praise for the actions of the two boys.

"Those men are undoubtedly spies," he declared. "They most certainly had
designs upon my biplane, which they evidently knew had been completed. I
shall turn them over to the military authorities."

He left the house, and in a few moments returned with a squad of
soldiers, who took the assailants in charge. Fritz explained to the
officer how the two men had been captured, and the German officer
complimented the boys highly for their prompt action.

After the two prisoners had been led away, Hal bethought himself of the
remark Fritz had made concerning his biplane.

"Do you mean to say your aeroplane is ready for use?" he asked.

"Yes; I am going to make a short flight this afternoon. Would you care to
watch me?"

"Would we!" exclaimed Hal. "You can just bet we would!"

"All right, then; come on."

The two lads followed Fritz to his workshop. Inside the boys approached
the large aircraft, which rested lightly on its wheels at the end of the
speedway. The huge planes which served as wings stretched out on either
side like two great box kites, while underneath the aviator's seat the
gearing could be plainly seen.

The aviator looked at the machine with great pride, and spoke of the
improvements he had made in the propellers and in the system of power
transmission. He explained to the boys that, by this direct system, he
had gained twenty per cent more velocity; and, now that the war had
begun, he hoped to be able to prove this to the army experts.

The boys helped Fritz push the machine out into the open, and watched
intently while he tested the steering gear and tried the ignition. After
some further tinkering, Fritz finally took his seat, pulled a lever, and,
after skimming the ground for a few rods, the machine rose gracefully
into the air.

"By George!" said Hal to Chester, as the craft rose from the ground.
"That looks easy. I believe I could do it myself."

"It looks easy," Chester admitted. "But how do you suppose a fellow would
feel sailing along up there?"

"I guess it would scare me a little at first, but, just the same, I
should like to try it."

After circling around for several minutes, Fritz brought the machine back
to its starting point and, lightly as a bird it dropped to the ground.

"Would you like to take a short flight?" he asked the boys.

Chester backed away.

"Not for me," he declared. "I would lose my head sure, if I got up
there."

Hal laughed.

"You don't want to pay any attention to him when he talks like that," he
told Fritz. "I never saw anything yet he was afraid to do."

"After what I saw in the house to-day, I can well believe that," replied
the young German. "Would you like to go up?" to Hal. "You know the
machine will only carry two."

"Why, yes," answered Hal; "I would like it."

"Climb in, then," ordered Fritz.

Not without some misgiving Hal obeyed.

Once more the huge machine skimmed gracefully over the ground, and again
went sailing into space.

As the plane rose from the ground, Hal grabbed the side of the seat and
hung on for dear life. Looking down and seeing the ground dropping
rapidly away, he experienced a choking sensation in his throat.

As the machine stopped rising, however, and stretched itself out for a
straight flight, Hal's composure came back to him, and he looked around
with interest.

Then Fritz explained the mechanism of the machine to him. He showed him
how to stop, how to increase the speed of the plane; how to rise and how
to glide to earth. He also showed him how to work the steering wheel.

While they were sailing about in the air he told Hal that, if necessary,
his craft could make a speed of one hundred miles an hour for hours. He
declared it could attain an altitude of a mile. Practically the only
danger, he said, came from conflicting air currents.

After sailing around for nearly half an hour, Fritz again brought the
machine to the ground a few feet from where Chester stood.

"Great!" exclaimed Hal, as he alighted and helped Fritz roll the machine
back into the shop. "No more automobiling for me. When I get home I am
going to get an airship."

"Wouldn't you like to go up with me to-morrow, Chester?" asked Fritz, as
he locked the door to the shop.

"I believe I would," was the reply. "I guess I can stand it if Hal can."

"Then you shall," said Fritz, and the three turned toward the house,
where Frau Schmidt stood in the doorway, calling to them that supper
was ready.



CHAPTER X.

IN THE AIR.


The boys were busily engaged in disposing of a hearty supper when there
came a knock at the door. Frau Schmidt answered the knock, and, returning
a few moments later, placed before Hal an important-looking letter,
bearing the official seal of the German government.

Hal opened the document and read.

"Great Scott!" he exploded, after a hasty perusal.

"What's the matter?" demanded Chester anxiously.

"Why, here is an order, commanding us to report to the commanding
officer the first thing in the morning, so that we may be transported
back to Berlin!"

"Berlin! What in the world do we want to go back to Berlin for?"

"We don't; but it looks as though there were no help for it. The letter
says that, after an investigation of our case, it has been decided that
we shall be sent back to Berlin and that, if we are to be allowed to
leave the country, such arrangements must be made by the United States
ambassador."

"Well, what do you think of that!"

"It's too bad," declared Fritz; "but an order is an order. I am afraid
you must go!"

"You poor boys!" exclaimed Frau Schmidt "I can't see why they won't let
you stay here."

"No more do I," declared Hal. "But I guess this letter means business."

"It sure looks like it," said Chester.

"That's what I call pretty tough luck," declared Hal, when the two boys
were alone in their room that night, Fritz and his mother having retired.

"Tough? I should say it is tough," returned Chester. "After all the
trouble we have had getting away from Berlin, then to have to go back.
Tough is no name for it."

"Well," said Hal, "I guess there is no use kicking. We ran a good race,
but we lost. It's back to Berlin for us."

Suddenly Chester sat bolt upright

"By George!" he exclaimed.

"What's the matter now?" asked Hal in surprise.

"I've an idea."

"Strange," replied Hal, with a smile; "but let's hear it."

"Well, in the first place, you took an airship ride to-day. How did
you like it?"

"Like it? Oh, I liked it all right. Why?"

"You saw Fritz work the thing. Did you get the hang of it?"

Hal jumped to his feet with a subdued exclamation.

"I see what you are getting at!" he declared. "An airship! Why didn't I
think of it myself?"

"There are only two objections I can see to the plan," said Chester.

"What are they?"

"Well, the first is, can you run the thing without spilling us out?"

"I am willing to take a chance if you are. Fritz explained the workings
of the machine while we were aloft to-day. I am sure I can do it. What is
the second reason?"

"The second reason is that it seems a shabby trick to play on Fritz,
particularly after the way he has treated us."

"So it does," agreed Hal slowly, but, after a pause, he added:
"However, I believe we had better do it. To me it looks like the
survival of the fittest."

For a long time the boys debated this point, but the matter was finally
settled when Hal said:

"Well, if we don't, we are likely to be stuck in Germany until the war is
over; and there is no telling when that will be."

"As long as we are going to do it, then," returned Chester, "the sooner
we start the better."

"Right," replied Hal. "Let's get busy."

"How are we to get the aeroplane out of the shop? You know the door
is locked."

"Yes, but I know something else, too. I noticed it to-day, and wondered
why those men who came after the key didn't take advantage of it."

"What is it?"

"The bolts in the hinges of the door can be lifted out easily, and we can
take the doors off."

"But we must get rid of the two soldiers who keep guard at night."

"We will do that some way, all right."

"Come on, then; let's get started."

Chester opened the door of their room and peered out.

"Coast clear," he announced.

Softly the two boys stole from the room and crept along the hall. They
tip-toed down the stairs, opened the door, and went out with scarcely a
sound. Outside they stopped. In front of the workshop they could see the
two guards in conversation.

"We must get to the rear of the shop without being seen," whispered
Hal. "When one guard makes his rounds, we must grab him and prevent him
from making an outcry. We can then dispose of the other. You wait here
a minute, while I go back and get a piece of clothes-line, so we can
tie them up."

He returned almost immediately with two pieces of rope.

"Careful, now," whispered Hal, as, keeping in the shadow of the house,
they made a short detour.

Out of sight of the guards, they made a silent dash for the rear of the
workshop, where they stood, silently awaiting the approach of the guard.

"I hate to do this," whispered Hal, as he heard the footsteps of the
guard; "but it has to be done."

As the guard rounded the corner of the shop, Hal struck out. Swift and
true was the blow; and struck upon the point of the chin, the man
crumpled up without a sound.

The boys bound and gagged him quickly, using their handkerchiefs to stuff
into his mouth. Then silently they ran to the opposite side of the shop
and waited the approach of the second guard.

A moment later his footsteps were heard approaching. As he turned the
corner, Hal again struck out swift and true, and the second man went to
the ground. The boys bound and gagged him, and then hastened to the front
of the shop.

As Hal had predicted, the doors were removed with little difficulty, and
silently the lads rolled the huge machine into the open. Hal's experience
with automobiles had taught him something of engines, so he had little
trouble starting this one. Finding everything in working order, Hal
climbed into the driver's seat, and Chester, not without a tremor, took
his place beside him.

Hal's afternoon experience and his natural aptitude for mechanics now
stood him in good stead. Reaching out he threw over a lever and the
machine moved forward. There was a whirring sound as the plane skimmed
over the ground. As the machine began to rise, Hal pressed another lever,
and they shot into the air rapidly.

So swiftly did they go up that their breath was almost taken away.

"Great Scott!" gasped Chester. "This is more than I bargained for!"

With the lights of the village like pin points below him, Hal, who had
not for a moment lost his presence of mind, checked the rise of the
machine, and headed toward the southwest, gauging his direction by a
compass before him, the moonlight luckily permitting him to see.

As the machine settled down to its flight, Chester regained his
composure.

"This is more like it," he said. "For a moment I was afraid it was all
up with us."

"I was scared for a minute myself," replied Hal. "But you must remember
this is not my first trip aloft."

"I guess it's all right after you get used to it," was the answer, "but
the way I feel right now, if I ever get my foot on terra firma again I am
going to stay there."

Hal laughed.

"Oh, you will be all right directly," he said. "For my part, I like it."

"How fast do you suppose we are going?"

"About fifty miles an hour."

"Great Scott! That's going some!"

The machine was skimming at great speed through the air, flying low, as
Hal did not wish to lose sight of the ground entirely.

"This is high enough for me," he explained. "I might want to go down
suddenly, and I want to see where I am going. Of course, if it is
necessary, we will go higher."

"I guess we might as well fall ten miles as to fall from here," remarked
Chester. "If anything went wrong it would be good night for us."

For a time they flew along in silence.

Suddenly there was the sound of a shot from below, and a bullet whizzed
by the flying aeroplane.

Hal sent the machine higher into the air with a jump, and Chester let out
an exclamation as he was almost thrown from his seat.

"That was too close for comfort!" cried Hal.

"Well, the next time you decide to shoot up like that, let me know
first!" exclaimed Chester. "You almost lost me that time!"

"Hang on tight!" shouted Hal. "You never can tell what will happen with
me running this thing, so don't take any chances."

"I'll hang on tight in the future, never fear," was the reply. "What do
you suppose that shot was?"

"Some sentry, I suppose. I guess he knew no machine was supposed to be
flying around here. That's probably why he took a shot at us. We were
flying too low, anyhow. We will stay up here, where we can't be so easily
seen or heard."

For some time the boys sailed along without a word, and then, just as
Chester opened his mouth to ask Hal where he supposed they were, there
was the sound of rushing wings, and, turning in his seat, Chester beheld
a huge shape rushing after them.

"Speed up, Hal!" cried Chester. "We are pursued!"

Without stopping to ask questions, Hal threw the speed lever over, and
the machine leaped forward like some live thing.

At the same moment there came the crack of a rifle, and, as Hal dropped
one arm from the steering wheel the aeroplane rocked crazily and dived
toward the ground.

The bullet had grazed Hal's left shoulder.

With a desperate effort, the lad righted the machine with his one good
arm, and it shot upward again.

"What's the matter?" gasped Chester. "Are you hurt?"

"Hit in the shoulder," replied Hal briefly. "I suppose whoever fired
aimed at the machine. I just happened to be in the way, that's all."

"But you can't drive with one arm! Hadn't we better--"

"Can't!" exclaimed Hal. "I've got to!"

At that moment both boys were almost blinded by the glare of a dazzling
light directly ahead!



CHAPTER XI.

OVER THE FRONTIER.


"What's that?" cried Chester, in consternation.

"I haven't any idea," replied Hal; "but it looks like a searchlight."

"Hadn't you better slow down?"

"With our pursuers just behind? I guess not."

And, with a touch of the lever, Hal sent the machine forward even faster
than before.

For a moment they were in the center of the blinding glare, and then they
had passed beyond it. Then Hal spoke.

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

"What?"

"A lighthouse."

"Lighthouse? What do you mean?"

"Why, that brilliant light we just passed through came from the ground.
The powerful flares are used for the guidance of war aviators, or airship
men, during the night. They prevent the aviator from getting lost, and
denote a safe landing,"

"I see what you mean; but it gave me a scare for a minute."

"And me; at first I thought it was the searchlight of another airship."

"But why should such lighthouses be in use here? I should imagine they
would be used only in places of danger."

"Maybe that is the reason."

"Surely there can be no danger for a German airship around here."

"I don't know about that. We have traveled a considerable distance.
Perhaps we are closer to the border than we think."

"Well, we can't get across it any too soon to suit me," declared Chester.

Hal did not reply, and the flight was continued in silence. For more
than an hour the huge machine sailed swiftly through the air. At
length Hal said:

"I guess we had better drop down a bit. Perhaps we may be able to see
something."

Suiting the action to the word, he let the machine glide slowly downward,
until the distant shadow of the earth could once more be seen. Then the
craft sped out on its straightaway course again.

The twinkling of faraway lights drew the boys' attention.

"I wonder what that is?" asked Chester.

"We'll see," was the brief reply.

The machine dropped still lower.

"An army camp!" exclaimed Hal, when he was at last able to make out the
objects below. He shut off his engine, and for a few moments both boys
gave their attention to the awe-inspiring sight.

Dimly they could discern the outlines of the great camp. With its
thousands upon thousands of huts, it spread out like a great fan,
extending almost as far as the eye could see.

"Great Scott!" exclaimed Chester. "There must be a million men
down there!"

"Hardly that many," laughed Hal; "but there are a few. I guess we had
better go a little higher. We might be seen, and a chance bullet might
bring us down in the middle of them."

The machine rose gently again; but, as the airship headed once more upon
its course, there was a muffled explosion, and the machine rocked
dangerously.

"What on earth is the matter now?" demanded Chester.

Hal bent over his engine.

"I don't know what has blown out," he replied. "But the engine has
gone dead."

"Dead!" exclaimed Chester.

"Yes."

"Can you fix it?"

"Not up here. It is impossible. I am not familiar enough with it."

"What shall we do, then?" cried Chester, in alarm.

"We shall have to go down."

"What! And land right in the middle of the German camp?"

"I am afraid so. There is no help for it. However, I shall sail just as
far as possible before we hit the earth."

Slowly the machine dropped, its strong planes still holding it on its
forward course. So gentle was the fall that it was almost
imperceptible; but presently the distant earth below could be seen; and
then Chester cried:

"Look! We are almost beyond the camp. We shall clear it when we hit
the ground."

Hal glanced down.

"So we shall," he agreed, and there was hope in his voice.... "Maybe I
will be able to fix the engine before we are discovered."

Nearer and nearer to the ground glided the huge machine. They were now
well beyond the farthest outposts of the camp, and consequently had
recovered their good spirits.

The airship came gently to earth, and the boys jumped out. As they did
so, there came the faint sound of a command and a rifle cracked.

"We are discovered!" shouted Hal. "Quick! To the woods!" And the boys
made a dash toward a clump of trees that could be seen in the distance.

Desperately the two lads ran toward the woods, and, as they ran, the
first single rifle shot was followed by a volley; but, thanks to the
semi-darkness, the boys gained the shelter of the woods unscathed.

Once under the friendly shelter of the trees the boys did not diminish
their speed. Rather, if possible, they ran faster. Then, suddenly they
stopped; and the cause of their abrupt halt was this:

A heavy crashing in front of them gave evidence of the approach of a
large body of men. For a moment the lads stood as if frozen to the spot;
then Hal cried:

"Up in this tree, quick! It's our only chance!"

Acting upon the instant, the two lads swung themselves into the crotch of
the great tree under which they stood; then climbed noiselessly higher up
among the branches. Just as they had succeeded in screening themselves
from possible discovery, a body of horsemen burst in among the trees.

"Caught right in between them," whispered Hal.

"Yes; and, if we get out of this fix alive, we are in luck," Chester
whispered back.

The horsemen below them did not pause in their march, but continued on
through the woods.

"Evidently a scouting party returning," whispered Hal.

And still the long line of horsemen pressed on beneath them.

Suddenly there came the sharp crack, crack, of many rifles; and from
beneath the two lads came the hoarse command of an officer:

"Forward!"

The line of horsemen quickened their pace; and then the firing ahead
broke into a loud and steady roar.

For many minutes, it seemed to the two lads, the stream of horsemen
poured on beneath them. Then the sound of firing became less distinct,
and Hal and Chester dropped to the ground.

"At last! At last we are safe!" cried Hal.

"Safe?" repeated Chester. "How do you mean we are safe?"

"Why, you chump, doesn't that fighting going on there mean
anything to you?"

"Do you mean that you believe the troop that just passed us are French?"

"Yes; French, Belgians, or English, I don't know which. But, anyhow, they
are friends. Hurrah!"

"Hurrah!" repeated Chester, throwing his cap in the air with delight.

Suddenly the beat of the feet of many horses was heard and the sound of
firing became more audible. Several riderless horses broke into the
woods, followed by the cavalry.

"Grab one of those horses, Chester!" cried Hal, as he jumped forward and
seized the bridle of the one nearest him. Chester followed suit, and both
lads were soon in the saddle.

At that moment a large body of horsemen broke through the woods from the
direction in which they had so recently gone, retiring slowly, turning
every now and then to fire.

"It's a retreat!" cried Chester. "They have been driven back! Let us get
away from here or we shall be shot down!"

But, even as they turned to flee, a mounted officer laid his hand upon
the bridle of Hal's horse.

"Who are you?" he demanded in French. "What do you here?"

Briefly Hal explained that they had just escaped through the German
lines, and then asked:

"Where are we? What troops are these?"

"This is a troop of Belgian light cavalry," came the reply, "a
reconnoitering force. We were attacked by a strong force of the enemy,
and are falling back upon our lines."

"But where are we?"

"About five miles from Liège."

"Liège!"

"Yes; where did you think you were?"

"We had not the faintest idea, other than that we were beyond the
German lines."

All this time the troop had been retreating slowly, firing as they went,
the boys being led along by the officer.

"It will be necessary for me to place you under arrest," declared the
Belgian officer. "I shall turn you over to the commanding general when we
regain our lines."

Hal and Chester were stricken almost speechless.

"Great Scott!" Chester finally exclaimed. "After all the trouble we have
had getting out of Germany, then to be arrested at the end!"

"I am sorry," replied the officer, "but I can do nothing else. You are
sure to be looked upon with suspicion, having been found as you were,
and, unless you can give a good account of yourselves, I fear you are in
a serious predicament."

Fighting every inch of the way, the Belgian cavalry continued its
retreat, being hard pressed by the Germans, who were continually
reinforced. From the rear the firing became heavier, and then there was
heard the sound of a galloping body of horsemen.

"Halt!" cried the Belgian officer in command, and the retreating horsemen
came to a stand.

"About face!" And at the command they wheeled to meet the charge of a
force of Uhlans.

The Germans came on bravely; but, just as they hurled themselves upon
their foe, there came from the Belgian rear a fierce hail of rifle shots.
Reinforcements had arrived.

The Germans halted in their fierce charge, and then drew off, shooting as
they went. At the same instant a regiment of Belgian infantry rushed
forward on the run. They pursued the flying Germans for some distance,
and then turned back.

Then the Belgians resumed their retreat to their own lines.

Hal and Chester bore up bravely during this--their first time--under
fire. Unable to take part in the fighting themselves, being without
weapons, they watched with interest the maneuvers of the officers and the
gallantry with which the Belgian cavalry stood up against what at first
were plainly overwhelming odds.

Once in the Belgian lines the boys breathed easier.

"Well, here we are at last," said Hal. "I guess we will be able to
explain our presence in the woods satisfactorily."

"I hope so," replied Chester.

At this moment the officer who had placed them under arrest approached.

"Come with me," he ordered.

The boys accompanied him to the headquarters of the commanding officer,
where their position was explained to the latter.

He listened quietly to Hal's account of their adventures since leaving
Berlin, and it was plain to both boys that as he listened he became more
and more incredulous.

Hal finished his recital, and for some minutes the general sat silent.
Finally he said:

"You have told me a strange story--one that I find it very hard to
believe. I must have proof. It must be substantiated. You will consider
yourselves prisoners until the matter has been investigated, unless in
the meantime there should be someone here who will vouch for your honesty
and the truth of this remarkable tale."

"I will vouch for it, general," came a voice.

Turning, the boys beheld in the entrance to the general's hut the smiling
face of Captain Raoul Derevaux.



CHAPTER XII.

LIÈGE.


Hal and Chester started forward.

"Captain Derevaux!" they exclaimed simultaneously.

The gallant captain smiled.

"Even so," he returned. Then turning to the general: "I will vouch for
the truth of the story told by these boys, sir," he said.

"You know them, then?" questioned the general.

"Yes, sir." And the young captain recounted his first meeting with Hal
and Chester and their subsequent adventures. Concluding, he said:

"And I wish to say, sir, that two braver and more resourceful lads it has
never been my fortune to encounter."

"Very well, then," said the general. "They are free. I leave them in your
charge, captain."

The captain and the two boys left the hut.

"I will take you to my quarters," said the captain, leading the way.

In the captain's hut, seated on a camp-stool, Hal demanded:

"How did you escape? I was sure you and Lieutenant Anderson were doomed
to die. And where is the lieutenant?"

"He has returned to England," replied the captain, answering the last
question first. "But my story can wait. Tell me about yourselves."

Chester related their experiences after the four had been separated.

"You are certainly a pair of wonderful youngsters," remarked the captain,
when Chester had concluded.

"But how did you escape?" demanded Hal again.

"Practically the same as you did," replied the captain. "Airship.
Believing that we could not possibly escape, we were left too loosely
guarded. Condemned to be shot as spies, we were placed under guard near
one of the outposts.

"It was along in the evening that an airship descended within a few yards
of us. It had been disabled, and the aviator had alighted to make
repairs. When the aviator had thoroughly overhauled the machine, he made
his way to the quarters of the commanding general to report.

"As I said, our hut was but a short distance away, and, believing there
could be no possibility of our escape, our guards had relaxed their
vigilance. Anderson and I stepped to the entrance and looked out. The
guards paid no attention.

"Suddenly Anderson shouted: 'Come on!' and we went. There was no one
about the machine, and we started it quickly. But, just as the machine
was skimming over the ground, the guards noticed our absence, and,
running to the open, took a shot at us.

"I had taken the aviator's place, having had some experience with
aeroplanes. Anderson was winged at the first shot, but was not badly
wounded. By the time the second volley was fired we were high in the air,
and the rapidity with which we traveled made accurate shooting
impossible. We reached the Belgian frontier without trouble."

"But how does it happen you have not returned to France?" asked Chester.

"When I arrived at Liège I communicated with my government, and was
ordered to remain here. I am attached to the Royal French Lancers, the
only body of French troops yet in Belgium. The Lancers were ordered here
immediately war was declared, to help check the advance of the invader."

"I suppose the best thing for us to do," said Hal, "is to go on to
Brussels and try and find mother."

"It is impossible," declared the lieutenant. "Right now you would not
be allowed to go. And, in the second place, I took the trouble to
inquire, when I first reached Liège, whether your mother was in
Brussels. Your ambassador, Mr. Brand Whitlock, informed me that she had
left the country."

"What? Gone and left us behind?"

"Yes; but not because she wanted to. It was either a case of leave
Brussels then, or run a chance of being held there indefinitely."

"Then what are we going to do? There is no use going to Brussels."

Chester clapped his hands.

"I have it!" he exclaimed.

Hal looked at him in surprise.

"What?" he demanded.

"Why, what we are going to do."

"Well, what is it?"

"Fight!"

"Fight? What do you mean?"

"Join the army!"

Captain Derevaux leaped to his feet.

"I will not hear of it!" he exclaimed.

But the idea caught Hal's fancy.

"Good boy, Chester!" he exclaimed. "That's just what we will do!"

"It is impossible," exclaimed the young captain. "In the first place, it
would not be possible, at your age, to enlist. But I will tell you what I
will do for you."

"What is it?" asked the two lads eagerly.

"In times such as these," explained the captain, "young fellows like you
may be useful in many ways without running the risk of going into
battle--scouting expeditions and the like. I will speak to the general
about you and see what I can do. Understand, I wouldn't do this did I not
know that if I didn't you would get mixed up in trouble in some other
way, and in a way that would be much more dangerous."

"We are willing to take our chances," replied Hal.

"Of course we are," agreed Chester.

"Oh, I know that," replied the captain, "and what I am proposing is not
without danger. But what I have in mind calls for quick wits rather than
for strong arms, although I know you have both. I will go now and speak
to the general."

"All right," replied Hal. "In the meantime, Chester and I will go out and
look around the town."

Everywhere, as the boys strolled about the streets, preparations to
withstand a siege were being made; but everything was being done quietly
and without confusion. The great steel forts, some of them practically
isolated, were subjects of great interest to the lads.

"I'll bet the Germans have a hard time capturing this place," remarked
Hal, as they examined one of the forts.

"Yes," agreed Chester, "as the battle of the _Monitor_ and the
_Merrimac_, in Hampton Roads, in our own civil war was the first battle
between iron ships, so will an attack on these forts be the first in
which such impregnable defenses will be tried out. I was reading about
them long before war was declared."

"And I believe the Germans are making a sad mistake when they say the
Belgians can't fight," said Hal.

"You bet they are. They will fight till the last. Do they look like
people who would give up without a struggle? Look at the way those
fellows who captured us turned to face the Uhlans, knowing that, unless
reinforced, they were bound to be slaughtered."

"Right. Which reminds me we were in a ticklish position ourselves for a
few minutes."

"You bet we were."

As the boys continued their walk, almost on every hand they were mistaken
for English, and time after time they were accosted with the question:

"When are the English coming?"

Suddenly the lads were attracted by the sounds of great confusion down a
side street.

"Let's see what is going on," cried Hal, and, quickening their pace, they
were soon in the midst of an excited crowd.

In the center of the mob a lone man struggled desperately to shake off
the many hands that grasped him.

"Hang him!" came a voice from the crowd.

Other voices took up the cry immediately.

"Hang him! Hang him!"

Hal turned to a man in the crowd.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"Matter? Why, the man was caught spying near one of the forts."

"How do you know he was spying?"

"He is a German. Why else should he be prowling around, if not to spy?"
And their informant rushed into the thick of the crowd, gesticulating
violently, and adding his voice to the din.

"Great Scott! We can't stand for this!" exclaimed Chester. "Come on!"

Together the two lads rushed into the thick of the mob. Elbowing and
pushing men to right and left they made their way through the mass
of humanity.

The cause of all the confusion had now freed himself from the clutches of
the angry mob, and was laying about him furiously with his cane. He
cleared a space before him. But those in front were pushed forward by the
men in the rear of the crowd, and once more surged to the attack, just as
Hal and Chester, with a final effort, burst through.

The lads took their places, one on each side of the fighting German, and
Chester raised a hand to check the mob.

"Get back!" he shouted. "Shame upon you to attack a single man like this.
Is this Belgian bravery?"

For a moment the crowd hung back, then rushed forward again, and the
three were soon fighting desperately against fearful odds.

But the boys this time had tackled a task that was beyond them. They
struck out rapidly, as did the man to whose aid they had rushed, but the
sheer weight of numbers finally told.

Chester, Hal and the stranger all went down at last, and were in imminent
danger of being beaten into insensibility.

But at that moment the sound of a bugle rang out, and the crowd scattered
in all directions. A troop of cavalry was hurrying to the scene.

Hal, Chester and the stranger picked themselves up and brushed the dirt
from their clothes. A cavalry officer dismounted and came up to them.

"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded.

Chester explained.

The officer turned to the German.

"Come with me," he ordered.

The German obeyed and the troop continued on their journey.

Hal and Chester returned to the captain's quarters. The captain was
already there.

"Did you see the general?" asked Hal.

"Yes."

"What did he say?"

"It's all fixed, boys," replied the captain, smiling at their eagerness.

"You mean that the general has consented to the plan?" asked Hal.

"Yes."

"Hurrah!" shouted Chester.

"Hurrah!" cried Hal.

"Yes," continued the captain, "you are ordered to hold yourselves subject
to the command of your superior officer," and he concluded smilingly,
"which is me."

"And we couldn't have a better!" exclaimed both lads in a single voice.



CHAPTER XIII.

CHESTER SAVES THE DAY.


The day was at its noon!

From the first break of dawn the battle had raged; now, at mid-day, it
was at its height. Hour after hour the fighting had continued under a
shadowless sky, blue as steel, hard as a sheet of brass. The Germans had
attacked the Belgians and French with the first streak of light.

Circling, sweeping, silently, swiftly, a marvelous whirlwind of force,
the Germans had rushed on. Swift, as though wind-driven, they moved. An
instant, and the Allies broke into violent movement. Half-clothed
sleepers poured out. Perfect discipline did the rest.

With marvelous and matchless swiftness and precision they got under arms.
There were but fifteen hundred or so in all--six squadrons of French
Lancers, the only French troops yet to reach Belgian soil, and a small
body of infantry, without artillery.

Yet, rapid as the action of the Allies was, it was not as rapid as the
downward sweep of the German horde that rushed to meet them.

There was a crash, as if rock were hurled upon rock, as the Lancers, the
flower of the French cavalry, scarce seated in the saddle, rushed forward
to save the pickets, to encounter the first blind ford of the attack and
to give the Belgian infantry, farther in, time to prepare for defense.

The hoofs of rearing chargers struck each other's breasts, and these bit
and tore at each other's throats and manes, while their riders reeled
down dead. The outer wings of the Germans were spared the shock, and
swept on to meet the bayonets of the infantry.

The cavalry was enveloped in the overwhelming numbers of the center. It
was a frightful tangling of men and brutes.

The Lancers could not charge; they were hemmed in, packed between bodies
of horsemen that pressed them together as between iron plates; now and
then they cut their way through clear enough to reach their comrades, but
as often as they did so, so often the overwhelming numbers of the Germans
surged in on them afresh like a flood, and closed upon them, and drove
them back.

It was bitter, stifling, cruel work; with their mouths choked with dust,
with their throats caked with thirst, with their eyes blind with smoke;
while the steel was thrust through nerve and sinew, or the shot plowed
through bone and flesh.

The answering fire of the infantry kept the Germans farther at bay, and
mowed them down faster--but in the Lancers' quarter of the field--parted
from the rest of their comrades, as they had been by the rush of that
broken charge with which they had sought to save the town and arrest the
foe--the worst pressure of the attack was felt, and the fiercest of the
slaughter fell.

The general in command of the cavalry had been shot dead as they had
first swept out to encounter the advance of the German horsemen; one by
one the officers had been cut down, singled out by the keen eyes of their
enemy, and throwing themselves into the deadliest of the carnage with
impetuous self-devotion characteristic of their service.

At the last there remained but a bare handful of the brilliant squadrons
of 600 men that had galloped down in the gray of dawn to meet the
whirlwind of German fury. At their head was Captain Derevaux, and beside
him rode Hal.

It was not the gallant captain's fault that Hal was thus in the thick of
the battle. This had been an accident, and had come about in this manner:

Late the night before Hal and Chester had been called to the quarters of
the commanding general and dispatched on separate missions. Their ways
led past the outposts--even beyond the farthest--where the six squadrons
of French Lancers and a small body of infantry had been thrown out, under
orders, to make a reconnaissance in force in the morning. Advancing
beyond this line, Hal had turned east and Chester west.

His mission accomplished, Hal had just reached the Allies' line upon his
return, when the Germans bore down on them. Hal saw that his one chance
for safety lay in throwing in his fortunes with the troops.

Accordingly he turned his horse, just as the Lancers swept past on their
first charge, and reined in beside Captain Derevaux. The latter had
recognized the danger and realized that the boy's keen wit had detected
his one hope of life. He had greeted him with a smile; nor had he blamed
him for his choice.

And so Hal had swept forward in the charge. Seizing a sword from a
falling trooper, Hal, riding at the captain's side, was soon in the thick
of the terrible carnage, and, in spite of the terrible fighting, had
escaped injury.

Two horses had been killed under Captain Derevaux. Twice he had thrown
himself across fresh, unwounded chargers, whose riders had fallen in the
fray, and at whose bridles he caught as he shook himself free of the dead
animal's stirrups. His head was uncovered; his uniform, hurriedly thrown
on, had been torn aside, and his chest was bare; he was drenched with
blood, not his own, that had rained on him as he fought, and his face and
hands were black with smoke and with powder.

Hal could not see a yard in front of him; he could not tell how the day
went anywhere save in that corner where the Lancers were hemmed in. As
fast as they beat the enemy back, and forced themselves to some clearer
space, the Germans closed in afresh.

No orders reached the little troop, and Hal could not tell whether the
Belgian battalions were holding their own or had been cut utterly to
pieces under the immense numerical superiority of their foes.

Glancing about the field, Captain Derevaux could see that every officer
of the Lancers save himself was down, and that, unless he took the vacant
place and rallied them, the few troopers still left would scatter.

With Hal at his side, he spurred the horse he had just mounted against
the dense crowd opposing him--against the hard black wall of dust and
smoke and steel and savage faces, which were all that either could
see. He thrust his horse against the mob, while he waved his sword
above his head:

"_En avant_!" he shouted.

His voice reached the troopers, clear and ringing in its appeal. Hal,
turning in his saddle at this moment, caught from the hands of a reeling
trooper the Eagle of France, and as he raised it aloft, the light,
flashing upon the golden wings, brought an answering shout from those
that remained of the troop.

"_En avant_!" came the rallying cry.

The young French captain glanced back on this little troop, guarding
his head the while from the blows that were rained on him, and his
voice rang out:

"Charge!"

Like arrows launched from a hundred bows they charged, Hal and the young
captain still slightly in advance, Hal striking aside the steel aimed at
him, as they pushed on, and with the other hand holding high the Eagle
of France.

The effort was superb.

Dense bodies of Germans parted them in the front from the part of the
field where the infantry still was engaged, harassed them in the rear
with flying shots and forced down on them on either side, like the
closing jaws of a trap.

Their fierce charge was, for a moment, irresistible; it bore headlong all
before it. For a moment the Germans gave way, shaken and confused. For a
moment they recoiled under the shock of that desperate charge.

As Captain Derevaux spurred his horse against the enemy, twenty blades
glittered against him. The first would have pierced his chest had not Hal
struck up the blade with a quick move.

To pause was impossible. Though the French horses were forced through a
bristling forest of steel, the charge availed little.

Hal waved the Eagle aloft, as the captain looked around at the few who
were left and shouted:

"You are the sons of the Old Guard! Die like them!"

"Surrender!" came a cry from in front.

Hal looked back once more on the fragment of the troop, and raised the
flag higher aloft, as he muttered to himself:

"This will be the end. I wish I could have seen Chester once more; good
old Chester!"

Hot and blinded, with an open gash in his shoulder where a sword had
struck a moment before, but with his eyes flashing and a smile on his
lips, the young captain cried his reply to the command to surrender:

"Have we fought so poorly that you think we shall give up now?"

Then, with upraised swords, the troop awaited the onward rush of
the Germans; and, as they waited the young captain found time to
murmur to Hal:

"I am sorry to see you here now, but you are a fighter after my
own heart."

Hal was unable to speak. He put out his hand and the young Frenchman
grasped it warmly.

"I guess it is good-by," he said quietly.

Then came the shock. With a yell the Germans threw themselves
forward. A moment more and the onrushing horde would have massacred
them like cattle. But, even at the moment of impact a voice rang out
over the field:

"Forward! Charge!"

Above the din of shouting and rifle shots it came; and from behind came
a full troop of Belgian light cavalry; and in front, with drawn sword,
rode Chester.

The troop came on at a whirlwind rush; and, even as they did so, Captain
Derevaux urged his men into another charge, and pressed forward into the
thickest of the conflict. And Hal rode by his side.

Blow after blow was aimed at them, but none found its mark. Parrying and
striking, they pushed on; and then a German bugle sounded a recall, and
the enemy drew off.

Panting, Chester rode to Hal's side.

"I was afraid we would be too late!" he exclaimed.

"I am not even scratched," returned Hal, grasping his friend's hand.

A Belgian officer hurried up to Captain Derevaux.

"You have this lad to thank for our opportune arrival," he declared,
indicating Chester. "He told us of your plight, or we would not have
arrived in time."

The captain grasped Chester's hand.

"You saved the day!" he said simply.



CHAPTER XIV.

A DANGEROUS MISSION.


Chester was embarrassed.

"I did nothing," he said. "I only rode fast."

The hurrahs of the men who heard him drowned his words.

"The general will think differently," returned the captain.

"How does it happen you arrived so opportunely, Chester?" asked Hal.

"It's very simple. I was returning from my mission, and was riding
between you and the outposts. I heard firing and rode forward to see what
was going on. I saw how things were with you. Even from where I was I
thought I could recognize you in the front rank.

"At first I thought I would ride directly toward you, but then I knew
that I could be of greater service by hurrying back and summoning aid.
When I told the general of your perilous position, he acted at once, and
I came with the reinforcements. That's all there is to it. You, Hal, are
the one deserving of praise."

"And I shall see that he is rewarded for it!" exclaimed the captain. "But
your gallant conduct also shall be made known. Certainly I made two good
friends when I met you two boys. At some time I hope to be able to repay
you in some slight measure, although I know I can never entirely cancel
my indebtedness to you both."

In the hut of the officer commanding the division Captain Derevaux went
into detail concerning the gallant actions of our two boys.

The general congratulated them.

"I shall see that your conduct is brought to the personal attention of
the King," he declared. "You shall both be rewarded if I live long enough
to write out my report."

"Thank you, general," both lads replied, and then accompanied Captain
Derevaux to his quarters, where his wound, which was found to be slight,
was attended to.

It was the next afternoon that the general again summoned the lads
to his hut.

"I have a mission of importance," he said, "and I am seeking
volunteers. It is somewhat dangerous, and I am loath to order anyone to
go. But in view of your gallant conduct, I thought I would give you the
first chance."

"We shall gladly undertake it, general, no matter what it is,"
replied Hal.

"Yes, sir," agreed Chester, "we shall always be glad to aid the cause of
the Allies, no matter what the dangers."

"Well, then," replied the general, taking a paper from his desk. "I want
this paper put into the hands of General Givet, at Louvain. If there is
any danger of your being captured, destroy it. It contains information
that would be invaluable to the enemy.

"In view of your past resourcefulness, I am putting great confidence in
your ability to get through. The country between here and Louvain,
while not precisely in the hands of the Germans, is being constantly
overrun with parties of raiders. You will bring General Givet's reply
to me here."

The lads saluted and departed.

"You certainly have made a great impression upon the general," said
Captain Derevaux, when the boys informed him of their mission. "Just keep
as cool as you have been in the past, and I am sure you will get through
without trouble."

It was late that night when the lads made their way from the young
captain's quarters, passed beyond the outposts, and made their way into
the forest beyond, following the road, but keeping well within the shadow
of the trees.

"This is the best summer vacation we have ever had," declared Hal, as
they went slowly along.

"You are right, there," replied Chester. "Of course, war is a terrible
thing, but as long as there is a war I would rather be over here where I
can see what is going on than to be sitting home reading about it in the
newspapers."

"Yes; and then you couldn't be exactly sure you were getting the facts."

Shortly after sunrise the boys came upon a large farmhouse.

"It's pretty early," remarked Hal, "but perhaps we can find some one and
get a bite to eat."

They approached and found the household already astir. As they
ascended the steps, a young girl, probably sixteen years of age, came
out on the porch.

"Can you provide us with a little something to eat?" asked Hal politely
in French, doffing his cap.

The girl glanced at him, a puzzled expression coming over her face.

"I don't understand French very well," she said, in English.

"By George!" exclaimed Hal. "I thought so. That is," he apologized for
his exclamation, "I was sure you were not French."

This time Hal had spoken in English, and a look of surprise had come over
her face, followed by an expression of delight.

"I was sure you were Americans!" she exclaimed, and then added
hesitatingly, "or are you--can it be you are English?"

"No; we are Americans, all right," Chester broke in; "but we certainly
didn't expect to run into an American girl in this corner of the world."

"No; particularly at a time like this," agreed Hal.

"Oh, I am perfectly safe here," replied the girl "Uncle, who is a Belgian
officer, has joined his regiment, and I am here with only two servants.
He wanted me to go to Liège with him, but I preferred to remain here. No
one will harm me."

"But the Germans may come through here at any time, and then you would be
in danger."

"Oh, no. Several German regiments already have passed by, and some of the
officers were here. They assured me I would not be molested."

"Nevertheless, you are likely to be. You can't tell what may happen."

"I am not afraid," replied the girl. "The Germans won't bother an
American."

Remembering their own experiences, Hal and Chester looked at each other
and smiled.

"I am not so sure," replied Hal; "but if you have decided to stay,
I suppose you will. You see," smiling, "I know something of
American girls."

The girl also smiled.

"I suppose you wonder who I am," she said. "I am Edna Johnson, and I live
in Chicago. Mother was here with me, but she went home just before war
was declared. I suppose she is worried to death about me, but I believe
it is safer here than elsewhere, and I have heard Americans are having
great difficulties getting home."

Hal and Chester introduced themselves.

After a few minutes Edna suddenly exclaimed:

"Here I am, keeping you chatting, when I know you must be awfully hungry.
Come with me and we shall have some breakfast."

The boys followed her into the house, where a hearty meal was soon set in
the dining-room, and the three fell to with a will.

Hardly had they satisfied their appetites when there was the sound of
many feet upon the porch. Miss Johnson glanced through the door.

"Germans," she said, with a smile; "but they won't bother us."

Hal and Chester jumped to their feet.

"We must hide, Miss Johnson," exclaimed Hal. "If we fall into the hands
of the Germans it may mean death to us."

"What!" exclaimed the girl.

"Exactly. I neglected to tell you that we are attached to the Belgian
forces and our capture would not only mean trouble for us, but would be a
blow to the cause of the Allies."

The girl looked at the lads in amazement, but there was no time for
words. There was a loud knock at the door, followed almost immediately by
the tramp of feet within the house.

Edna acted promptly. Rushing to the side of the room, she pulled open a
door to what appeared to be a closet and motioned to the boys.

"In here, quick!" she cried, and closed the door tightly.

As they passed through the door the boys saw a flight of steps leading
apparently to the cellar. Hardly had the door closed behind them ere the
steps of the Germans were heard in the room they had just left.

They also heard the girl greet them pleasantly, and the gruff demand for
breakfast. Edna called one of her servants, and gave an order that
breakfast for the Germans be prepared immediately.

"It is too cramped here," whispered Chester. "Let's go down these stairs.
If we were to make a move here, they would surely hear us."

The boys descended the steps. At the bottom they emerged into what, upon
inspection, proved to be a wine cellar. At the far side they saw another
passageway and moved toward it.

As they did so, they heard the door to the closet through which they had
recently passed open again, and a voice exclaim:

"I know these high and mighty Belgian gentlemen too well. There is always
wine in the cellar. Come, Franz, we shall explore."

Heavy footsteps descended the stairs, and two German officers hove in
sight. The boys, in the dimness of the cellar, were not seen.

"Quick!" whispered Chester, "into the passageway."

As Hal followed Chester into the darkness of the passageway, he tripped
over some obstacle in the dark, which gave forth the sound of tinkling
glass. The boys stopped stock still.

"What was that?" demanded one of the officers.

"I didn't hear anything," was the reply.

"I thought I heard something moving in the cellar."

"Probably a rat. Here is what we came after. Let's go back upstairs."

The boys heard the sound of retreating footsteps, and presently the door
above slammed once more.

Hal and Chester breathed easier.

"Pretty close," remarked Chester, in a low tone.

"You bet it was close," was the reply. "For a minute I thought it
was all off."

"Well, I guess we are safe enough now."

"Yes, I guess so. But we must wait here until the Germans have left
the house."

"I suppose they will go as soon as they have finished their breakfast."

"I hope so; we haven't any time to waste."

The boys sat down and waited.

What seemed like hours later, the door to the closet above again opened,
and the voice of the girl floated down the stairway.

"It's all right, now," she exclaimed. "They have gone. You can come up."



CHAPTER XV.

THE FIGHT IN THE FARMHOUSE.


The boys ascended the stairs and followed the girl back into the
dining-room.

"Well," said Chester, after the three had talked for some minutes. "I
guess we had better be moving. We have wasted too much time already."

They turned toward the door, and, as they did so, Hal uttered a low
exclamation.

"Look!" he whispered.

Turning to where Hal pointed, Chester and Edna beheld a face pressed
against the window pane.

"It is one of the German officers!" cried the girl. "He has returned for
something."

It was apparent that the officer had seen the two boys. He turned from
the window, and the lads saw him making violent gestures to someone in
the distance. A moment later two soldiers joined him, and the trio turned
toward the door.

There came a loud knock, followed by the sound of footsteps in the hall,
as one of the servants went to open the door.

"Do not open the door, Bento!" called the girl.

The footsteps halted.

"Open that door at once!" came a voice of command from outside.

Again came the sound of footsteps, as the servant, evidently frightened,
moved toward the door.

"Bento! Do as I command you! Do not open the door!" cried the girl again,
and the servant stopped.

"Break down the door!" came the command from outside.

"What shall we do?" cried the girl, clasping her hands nervously.

"Fight!" was Hal's brief reply.

His eyes roved about the room. His gaze fell upon a pair of old dueling
swords hung upon the wall. Stepping on a chair, he took them down, and
passed one to Chester.

At that instant there came the sound of a crash, as the door gave way,
followed by a command from the officer:

"Follow me!"

Edna and the two boys retreated to the far end of the room, as the three
Germans rushed through the door.

"Surrender!" cried the officer.

"Come and take us!" replied Hal, his lips set grimly.

The officer covered the lads with his two pistols.

"Stun them with your rifle butts, my lads!" he cried to his soldiers.
"Take the spies alive!"

Reversing their weapons, the two soldiers strode forward. As one raised
his rifle preparatory to bringing it down upon his head, Chester leaped
forward between them, thinking to take the officer, who stood behind
them, unprepared, and cut him down.

But, even as he stepped forward, the officer's revolver spoke, and
Chester fell to the floor with a groan, a bullet in his chest. But, at
that instant, and before the officer could fire again, Hal, who also had
avoided the attack of the two soldiers, sprang forward and aimed a
slashing blow at the officer.

The latter warded off the blow with his arm, but one of his pistols was
sent flying from his grasp. As he raised his other revolver, his arm
was suddenly seized from behind, and Edna attempted to wrench the
revolver from him. He turned on her, and as he did so the revolver came
away in her hand.

Pointing the weapon straight at the officer, the girl pulled the trigger;
but the revolver missed fire. Stepping back, as the officer advanced, the
girl grasped the pistol by the muzzle and hurled it squarely in his face.
With blood gushing from his mouth and nose, the man fell to the floor.

In the meantime Hal had turned swiftly once more to face the second
attack of the two soldiers. As they again raised their rifles to strike
him down, he leaped between them, thrusting with his sword.

Pierced through the shoulder, one of the soldiers threw up his arm and
staggered back. In doing so he struck the arm of his companion, and the
latter's blow was deflected; and Hal was unharmed.

Turning, Hal dashed into the next room--the parlor--closely followed by
the two soldiers, the wounded man not being seriously hurt. At the same
time the German officer sat up on the floor, looked around dazedly, then
picked up one of his revolvers, drew his sword, and followed his men.

"Shoot the dog in the legs!" he commanded, and the soldiers brought their
rifles to their shoulders.

An instant before they fired Hal sprang upon the piano stool, which was
just behind him, and the bullets went low. Hal jumped to the top of the
piano, and then dropped behind it. As the soldiers again prepared to
fire, Hal put his shoulder to the piano, and sent it tumbling over, and
the bullets were imbedded in the soft wood.

Hal ducked as the officer raised his revolver and fired at him, and then,
stepping around the piano, made a sweeping slash at the officer. The
sword struck the latter on his pistol hand, and, with a groan, the
officer dropped his revolver.

Hal turned to the two soldiers, who had leaped on the overturned piano to
get at him before he stepped from behind it, and again his sword darted
out. The thrust went true, and one soldier fell to the floor, blood
streaming from a deep wound in his chest.

Before the second soldier could bring his rifle to bear, Hal ran from the
room into the hall. The soldier followed. In the hall, dimly lighted by a
single chandelier over the stairway, Hal sprang up the steps.

At the bottom of the steps the soldier stopped and took aim at the lad.
With a backward sweep of his sword, Hal knocked the chandelier crashing
to the floor, throwing the hall into inky darkness, and with a quick leap
was several steps higher up.

There came the sharp crack of a rifle, and the hall was lighted for a
second by a flash, as a bullet sped past Hal. With a light leap the lad
dropped over the railing into the hall, and, taking a step forward,
lunged swiftly in the darkness from where came the sound of a muttered
imprecation. There was a stifled groan, and the second soldier dropped to
the floor.

Hal made his way back to the parlor, where the German officer still
stood, trying to bind up his injured hand with a handkerchief. He saw Hal
approach, and raised his sword, taking a step forward. At the same
moment, Edna, who had in the meantime dragged Chester's inert body out of
harm's way, stepped into the room.

His face red with fury, the German officer took another stride forward,
and thrust. The blade passed through Hal's guard and through the side of
his open coat, grazing his body.

As the sword went through the boy's coat, it looked to Edna as though the
lad must have met his death; and she screamed. The German officer laughed
gleefully, but, even as he did so, Hal, smiling, took a step forward.

With a quick stroke, he sent the German's sword flying from his grasp,
and the officer was at his mercy.

The German's rage burst like a bubble.

"Kill me!" he said quietly to Hal.

"No," replied the lad; "I cannot kill a man in cold blood. Pick up
your sword."

The officer obeyed, and Hal placed himself on guard. But, taking the
weapon by the blade, the German extended the hilt to Hal.

"I surrender," he said.

The lad took the extended sword, and then passed it back to the officer.

"Keep your sword, sir," he said.

The German glanced at him a moment in silence; then took the sword.

"You are a generous enemy, sir," he said. "You will have no occasion to
regret your confidence in me."

"I am sure of it, sir," was the lad's answer. "You are at liberty to
leave at any time you choose."

The officer scrutinized Hal closely.

"You are a gallant lad," he said finally. "There are few men who could
have done what you have. I hope that we may meet again."

Turning, with a polite bow, first to Edna and then to Hal, he made his
way from the house and was gone.

"How is Chester?" was Hal's first question, after the German had
departed.

"He has recovered consciousness," replied the girl. "He is badly wounded,
but I believe he will be all right in a few days. Bento, who has some
knowledge of medicine, is attending him."

Hal hurried to the room upstairs where Chester had been carried. Chester,
lying in bed, greeted him with a smile.

"You certainly have all the luck!" he exclaimed. "Here I was unable to
walk while you were doing all the fighting."

"Never mind that," replied Hal. "How do you feel? Are you in pain?"

"Not much, now," was the reply. "Bento is quite a surgeon. He has
fixed me up to the queen's taste. It appears the ball glanced off my
third rib."

"But you won't be able to travel!"

"I am afraid not. I am so weak I cannot stand. But you must go on just
the same."

"What! And leave you here?"

"Of course. I shall be perfectly safe here, more so than you will be on
the road. I wish I could go with you, but I am afraid it will be a day or
two before I can walk."

"Then I shall wait for you."

"What! Then how about the letter to General Givet, at Louvain?"

"It will have to wait."

Chester raised himself feebly on one elbow and looked at Hal in surprise.

"A fellow like you to say a thing like that?" he exclaimed. "That letter
must be delivered at once. You and I are of secondary importance. If you
had been wounded instead of me I should have gone on without you, much as
I should have hated to do so. The letter must be delivered immediately."

"You are right, as usual," replied Hal, after a pause. "The letter must
come first. But I hate to leave you here alone."

"Alone?" exclaimed Edna, who up to this time had remained silent. "Do not
I count for something?"

"I beg your pardon," said Hal. "I spoke thoughtlessly. I am sure he will
receive the best of attention at your hands."

"There is no question about that," replied Chester.

"Well, I must be going, then," said Hal. "I have delayed too long
already."

"You will stop by on your return, will you not?" asked the girl.

"Yes, if I come this way; and I see no reason why I should not."

"I shall be ready to travel when you return," said Chester.

"All right," replied Hal. "But, if I have not returned in three days, you
will know something has happened to me, and you will make your way back
to Liège alone."

Chester agreed to this, the two lads shook hands, and Hal left the house
and set out upon his journey to Louvain.



CHAPTER XVI.

IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY.


Although it had been a trying morning for Hal, and he was very tired, the
lad continued on his way as swiftly as possible. From time to time, as he
hastened along, he heard the sound of distant firing, and he proceeded
with the greatest caution; but he encountered no more of the enemy.

It was late afternoon when he made out in the distance the town of
Louvain. He quickened his pace, and soon came upon the outposts.

"I have a communication for General Givet," he told the soldier who
stopped him.

The soldier lowered the weapon, with which he had barred the lad's
progress, and called a nearby officer. The latter led Hal to the
general's quarters.

Hal gave General Givet the letter, and stood at attention. The general
read in silence. Then he turned to Hal.

"All right," he said briefly, signifying that Hal might go.

"But, general," said the lad, "I was ordered to bring back your answer."

The general looked at him in surprise.

"Do you mean you intend to go back to-night?" he demanded.

"I thought I would start along about midnight," replied Hal. "I would
sleep until that time."

The general was silent for some moments, musing.

"You are a brave lad," he said, at last. "I had figured on sending my
answer by another courier; but perhaps your plan is better. You may
report to me at midnight, and I shall have the answer ready."

Hal saluted and turned to leave the hut.

"Wait a minute," commanded the general. "Tell me something of yourself.
How comes it that you, an American, I take it, have been selected for
such perilous work? Why, you cannot be more than eighteen years old."

"Seventeen, general," replied Hal, with a smile; and then he told the
Belgian officer of his experiences since leaving Berlin.

The old general was amazed.

"Remarkable! remarkable!" he repeated, time after time.

Finally he called an officer, and commanded that the latter find Hal a
place to sleep.

"Remember, midnight," called the general, as Hal was leaving the hut.

Hal saluted again.

"Yes, general," he replied, and followed the young officer.

Promptly at midnight Hal, greatly refreshed by a sound sleep and hearty
meal, once more entered the general's quarters and came to attention.

"The answer you are to carry back is simply: 'I shall act upon your
plan,'" said General Givet. "Good luck to you on your journey, and I have
only one command: Make all possible haste."

Hal saluted and set out on his return, journey to Liège.

It was early morning when he came once more to the farmhouse where he had
fought so nobly the day before. His fear for Chester's safety increased
as he approached, and it was not without some misgiving that he ascended
the porch steps and knocked softly at the door.

He heard a light footstep within, the door swung open, and Edna peered
forth at him.

"What! Back so soon?" she exclaimed gladly.

"Yes, I made pretty good time. How is Chester?"

Hal's doubts were soon set at rest.

"He is much better this morning than could have been expected," replied
the girl. "He ate a hearty breakfast, and says he is feeling fine."

Hal followed her up the steps to where Chester lay, impatiently
awaiting his coming. Edna went downstairs to see about getting him
something to eat.

"Will you be able to leave to-day?" asked Hal, of Chester.

"I am ready to go right now. I am still weak, but I am sure I can make it
all right. I'm bandaged up fine."

"You are sure you are feeling fit?"

"Certainly. Besides, I don't want to be left behind again. You are having
all the fun. I want to get in on a little of it myself."

And so it was arranged that the boys should leave immediately after
luncheon. They sought long and earnestly during the morning to prevail
upon Edna to accompany them, or to make her way to Louvain; but she
declared her intention of remaining where she was.

"I am much safer here than I should be on the road," she said. "No one
will harm me. Besides, I must take care of the house."

Unable to shake her determination, the boys gave up the attempt, and for
the rest of the morning the three chatted pleasantly.

Luncheon over, the boys immediately prepared to fare forth again. Edna
accompanied them to the bottom of the steps, where they said good-by.

"Come and see me again," she urged, as they shook hands with her. "You
are always welcome here."

"We certainly shall," cried both lads together, as they started upon
their way.

Chester was still weak, but he walked along wonderfully well, considering
the nature of his wound. Still, it was plain to Hal that every step cost
him an effort, and their progress was necessarily slow.

All afternoon they plodded onward without encountering the enemy, and
soon after nightfall came upon the place where the Belgian outposts
had been stationed the night before. The signs of a struggle were
plainly evident.

"There has been a battle here," remarked Hal, after inspecting the
ground.

"There is no doubt about that," returned Chester, "and the Belgians have
been driven back. We shall have to be careful."

They were proceeding on their way more cautiously than before, when from
ahead there suddenly came the sound of trampling hoofs.

"A Belgian reconnoitering party, I guess," said Hal. "We are safe
enough now."

Presently a body of horsemen came into view. The lads continued
toward them, and the horsemen were but a few yards away, when Chester
cried suddenly:

"They're Germans!"

It was true. It was a squadron of Uhlans, returning from a reconnaissance
of the Belgian position.

It was too late for the boys to run. The cavalry was upon them. The lads
stepped to the side of the road, and continued on their way apparently
unconcerned. A German officer stopped them.

"Who are you?" he demanded. "What are you doing here?"

"We are American boys," replied Hal, "and are making our way to Liège."

"Well, you won't get to Liège to-night. Turn about and march the
other way."

There was nothing to do but obey. With a sinking sensation in their
hearts the lads about-faced and headed toward the great German camp. For
a long time, it seemed to them, they were marched along slowly, and
finally the first huts of the German army came into view.

"I am afraid our mission is a failure," whispered Hal, as the two lads
were led to a hut and placed under heavy guard.

"It looks that way," Chester agreed; "but we must hope for the best. It
may be lucky for us that we have no papers on us."

"What are they going to do with us?" Hal asked one of their guards.

"Shoot you in the morning, I suppose," was the answer. "Persons found
between the two armies in civilian clothes cannot hope for mercy."

"But we are not spies!" cried Chester.

"Perhaps not; but I don't believe that will make any difference."

The guard would talk no more.

"Our only chance is that they believe we were trying to get to Liège
simply to get out of the country," whispered Chester. "If they knew we
were just returning from a mission, we would be bound to die."

"Looks to me as though we were bound to die, no matter what they know,"
was the reply.

The boys got little sleep that night. They realized just how near they
were to death, and, while their courage never faltered, they nevertheless
had practically given up all hope.

At the first streak of dawn they were led to the quarters of the
division commander, and their case was disposed of with remarkable
rapidity. Their protests availed nothing, and they were sentenced to be
taken out and shot.

With a firm step the two lads walked to the place of execution,
surrounded by their guards. But the hearts of both were heavy.

"I wish I could have seen mother once more," said Hal softly.

Chester gave his chum's hand a slight squeeze.

"Well, it can't be helped now," he replied, with an attempt to appear
cheerful. "But come, brace up; if we must die, we will die bravely."

"You are right," said Hal, brushing the tears from his eyes with a
rapid movement.

With heads erect, the two lads marched on.

At that moment a group of German officers approached on horseback. They
eyed the two captives, and suddenly one left his companions and rode over
to the firing squad. The officer in command of the squad halted his men
and saluted.

"What have we here?" demanded the newcomer.

"Two spies, sir," was the reply. "They were taken between the lines, and
have been ordered shot."

"These two boys are my business," declared the mounted officer, a note of
authority in his voice. "Their execution is stayed. Take them to my
headquarters."

"But, general--" began the officer in charge of the squad.

The general raised a hand imperiously.

"There are no 'buts,'" he said. "You have heard my command. Obey it."

Hal and Chester were dumfounded. As their guards turned and marched them
in the direction of the general's quarters, Hal asked of Chester:

"Do you remember him?"

Chester nodded in the affirmative.

For the German officer who had thus saved them from death before a firing
squad was none other than the officer whom they had encountered in the
station at Berlin, the man who had threatened to have Hal whipped for
accidentally bumping into him, and had pushed him from the train.



CHAPTER XVII.

A FRIEND IN NEED.


"What do you suppose is going to happen now?" asked Chester breathlessly.

"It's too deep for me," replied Hal. "I can't imagine what he
wants with us."

"But who is he? That's what I would like to know," demanded Chester.

"I haven't the faintest idea, but he must be someone of importance."

"Oh, he's important enough, all right. You noticed his command was
obeyed."

"Well, I guess we shall find out in good time who he is," returned Hal.

The lads were taken to a large hut in the center of a great camp. The hut
was luxuriously appointed, and it was plainly evident that the man who
had saved them was one of the foremost of the huge German host.

The general himself had not arrived yet. But, after a long wait, he came
in, alone. He motioned their guards away, and then turned on the boys
with a scowl.

"Do you remember me?" he demanded.

The two lads nodded affirmatively. They were, for the moment,
beyond speech.

"And I remember you," went on the general. "You," he continued, pointing
to Hal, "are the American upstart who almost knocked me over in the
station at Berlin. I said I would have you whipped. Well, my time has
come. Now, you just sit quiet," he said loudly, as Hal and Chester took a
step forward. "I will write out your sentence right now," and he turned
toward a table.

"I won't be whipped!" cried Hal to Chester. "They will have to kill
me first!"

The general paid no attention to this remark, but continued to write in
silence. Finally he arose, with a paper in his hand.

"Here is your sentence," he said, turning to Hal. "Read, and see what you
think of it."

Hal took the paper the general extended to him. As he read an expression
of amazement passed over his face.

Hal passed the paper to Chester without a word, and, as Chester read, he
also grew amazed. And no wonder.

For what the general had written was a safe-conduct for both lads to the
Belgian lines; and the signature at the bottom was that of General Count
Von Moltke, commander-in-chief of all the German armies!

Hal stepped forward.

"General," he stammered, "we--I--we don't know how to thank you."

The general raised a hand and said gruffly:

"Never mind that." The faint shadow of a smile flitted over his stern
countenance. "I suppose," he continued, "that you are wondering why I do
this, after what occurred in the station at Berlin. It is so, is it not?"

"It is very strange," muttered Chester, and Hal nodded his head in
assent.

"Well, I'll tell you," said the general. "You remember when I pushed you
away from the train?" he queried, turning to Hal.

Hal nodded.

"When I turned round after that, feeling greatly pleased with myself, I
noticed, for the first time, the presence of a lady in my compartment.
She looked at me in the greatest contempt. It confused me; and I am not
easily confused.

"Then she told me that she was your mother, and, you may believe, berated
me most wonderfully. She didn't cry, nor go into hysterics, which made a
great impression on me. Most mothers would. I felt decidedly
uncomfortable.

"I realized that I had acted like a boor. We had gone some distance, but
I had the train stopped and backed into the station. You were not there.
I telephoned your ambassador. You had been there and gone. We were unable
to find you.

"I prevailed upon your mother to continue her journey to Brussels. I
issued an order to all my generals to keep a lookout for you and give you
safe-conduct into Belgium. It seems, however, that none of them
recognized you, or that you kept out of sight.

"I promised your mother I would get you out of the country in some way,
and she was greatly relieved. She knew I would do it. That's all there is
to the story. Now, I don't know what you lads were doing when you were
captured, and I don't want to know. If you are mixed up in this war in
any way, I don't want to know anything about it; but, if you are, take my
advice and go home to America. As I say, I don't want to know what you
have been doing since you left Berlin. It might force me to change my
attitude. I promised your mother I would get you out of Germany, and I
shall do it."

Hal and Chester were greatly surprised by this recital, and both boys
thanked the general as well as they could.

The general stepped to the entrance of his hut, and raised his hand. An
officer entered and came to a salute.

"I have given these two lads safe-conduct into the Belgian lines," said
the general. "See that they get there in safety."

"Yes, general," said the officer.

The general turned to the two boys.

"You would better go now," he said.

He extended his hand, and both boys grasped it heartily.

"Good luck to you," he called, as they followed the officer from the hut;
"my regards to your mother."

And that was the last the boys saw of the commander-in-chief of all the
armed hosts of Germany.

Straight through the great German camp the officer led the boys swiftly.
At the farthest outposts he halted, and signaled another officer.

"Lieutenant," he commanded, "take a flag of truce and escort these
boys to the Belgian lines. They have been given safe-conduct by
General Von Moltke."

The officer saluted, and the boys followed him. Under a flag of truce
they traversed the distance between the Belgian lines.

Out of danger at last, the two lads hastened to the quarters of
the commanding general, and reported. The general was genuinely
glad to see them.

"I had about given you up for lost," he said. "But you have arrived in
the nick of time. A concerted German advance is expected momentarily, and
without the reply you have brought we would have been at a great
disadvantage."

Their mission successfully completed, the lads now hunted up Captain
Derevaux. They found the young captain in his quarters. He jumped up as
the two boys entered, ran hurriedly forward and greeted them effusively.

"Believe me, I am glad to see you again," he exclaimed. "I had made
certain I would never see you alive."

"Oh, we are hard to get rid of," replied Hal, with a smile. "I guess
we'll continue to stick around for some time yet."

"Well, you don't know how glad I am to see you back safely," continued
the Frenchman. "But come in and tell me all about your journey."

For a long time the three talked; and then Hal bethought himself to ask
concerning the situation in Liège.

"We are expecting an attack in force at almost any minute," explained the
young captain; "and we are prepared to give a good account of ourselves.
In spite of the fact that we are sure to be greatly outnumbered, there is
no doubt that we can hold the forts. Of the city itself, I am not so
certain, although these Belgians will fight to the last.

"Everything that can be done to strengthen our position has already been
done, and all we can do now is to wait for the attack that must come
soon. Already the German forces have delayed longer than had been
anticipated, but every hour of delay makes our position that much
stronger.

"British troops have been landed in France, and French and English both
are hurrying to the support of the Belgians. It is impossible for them to
arrive in time to take part in the coming fight, but it is the plan of
the Belgians to delay the German advance as long as possible. Believe me,
the Germans will find the Belgian defense such a stumbling-block as they
have not counted upon."

"There is no question that they will fight to the last?" asked Hal.

"Not the slightest," was the reply, "Their resentment of the violation of
Belgian neutrality knows no bounds. They will fight to the last drop of
blood in them."

"Then I suppose the battle of Liège will be one of the bloodiest in
history," declared Chester.

"Undoubtedly," replied the captain; "and, if I mistake not, it is only a
matter of hours until it begins. The troops are sleeping on their arms,
and at the first word of a German advance the entire Belgian army will be
hurled into the battle."

"Do you really believe the Belgians will be able to check the
German advance?"

"I do. These great steel forts are practically impregnable. They can
successfully withstand the fire of the big German guns for weeks; and for
the Germans to try and take them by storm will mean annihilation. But a
successful charge would put the city proper into their hands."

"But in that event is there any likelihood of the forts surrendering?"

"I think not. In fact, I am positive of it. But come, boys, we have
talked enough, and it is getting late. I guess we would better turn in.
There is no telling when we may get to sleep again."

Accordingly, almost fully dressed, the three threw themselves down, and
soon were fast asleep.

To Hal and Chester it seemed they had hardly closed their eyes when they
were rudely awakened. It was the sound of a cannon that had aroused them,
but for the moment they could not tell what it was.

The boys sat up and rubbed their eyes sleepily. Outside it was light. The
gray dawn crept through the entrance, dispelling the shadows of the
darkened hut.

"What was it?" cried Chester.

And, even as he spoke, it came again, the heavy boom of a single huge
cannon, followed almost immediately by the crash of thousands upon
thousands of rifles. The machine and rapid-fire guns broke loose with
their leaden messengers of death, and a bugle sounded:

"To arms!"



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE BATTLE.


Captain Derevaux, who had been sleeping soundly, sprang to his feet,
picked up his sword and pistols, and, without even a word to Hal and
Chester, dashed from the hut.

"The battle has begun!" cried Hal.

"Come!" exclaimed Chester. "Let's get to some place where we can see. I
can't stay here!"

"Nor I!" cried Hal. "Come on!"

The two lads hurried from the hut. As they emerged, a troop of Belgian
cavalry swept past them, on the way to the front. The boys followed as
rapidly as possible in its wake. Presently they came to a small hill.
Climbing to the top, they found they could command a good view of the
advancing German columns, which they could see in the distance, and which
were even now almost close enough to grapple hand-to-hand with the
horsemen swooping down on them.

All along the German front the Belgian cavalry hurled itself upon the
advancing foe. They met with a crash, and horses and riders went down in
heaps. For a moment the Germans gave way. For a moment they recoiled, and
then they sprang forward again.

The charge of the Belgian cavalry was magnificent, but it was in vain.
The German forces pressed onward, and the cavalry was forced back,
cutting and slashing as it slowly retreated. Under a withering fire, that
suddenly broke out all along the German front, the horsemen fell by
hundreds. It was more than flesh and blood could stand. A retreat was
sounded, and the cavalry fell back upon its support. But, even as they
drew off, there burst from the German front the sharp roar of the
mitrailleuse. The German maxims had opened fire. The Belgians fell faster
than before.

And now the Germans were ordered to charge. Squadron upon squadron raced
over the open ground in a mad dash toward the Belgian line; and as they
charged, the rapid-fire guns of the great forts poured forth their
answer. Great holes were cut in the German columns, and men and horses
were mowed down like chaff.

And still the Germans came on.

Suddenly a fierce rifle fire broke out all along the Belgian front, even
as the rapid-firers continued to belch forth their messengers of death.
Men reeled and fell in masses. The Germans wavered, halted, then
retreated. A great shout went up from the Belgian lines.

Under the support of their own field batteries, the Germans reformed for
a second charge. As before, the defenders waited until they were close,
then poured in a deadly fire. The Germans staggered, then sprang forward.
A second volley greeted them, and a second time the Germans wavered,
halted and retreated. A third time they charged, with the same result.

All this time a long-range artillery duel was in progress, whatever
advantage there was resting with the Belgians. Shot and shell poured into
the oncoming solid ranks of the German infantry, cutting great gaps in
their ranks; but these quickly filled up again, and the Germans continued
their steady advance.

All this Hal and Chester saw, and more. For they could see, to the left,
the successful advance of the enemy, as it moved upon the town of Liège.
In vain the Belgians charged upon the advancing line and poured in shot
and shell. The Germans came on. To the right the Germans also were
pushing slowly, but surely, forward.

"It is terrible! terrible!" said Chester, with a shudder, as he watched
men fall right and left.

"Horrible!" agreed Hal. "But come. We must move. It is as Captain
Derevaux said. The Belgians will be unable to hold the town. They must
retire upon the forts; and we had better retire before them."

The boys descended from their position of vantage and made their way to
the nearest fort, which they were allowed to enter upon informing an
officer of their connection with the Belgian army, just as the Belgian
troops withdrew from their positions in front of the city and fell back
upon the forts.

Liège was left at the mercy of the Germans.

For some minutes thereafter there was a lull, as when a great storm dies
down, only to begin again with greater fury. The enemy's left wing, which
was nearest the fort in which the boys had taken refuge, could be seen
forming for a charge, while from the fort a rain of lead continued to
fall upon them. Although men were falling on every hand, the Germans
formed without the least confusion.

Then came the order for the charge. From five different points the enemy
hurled itself forward upon the fort; nor did the hail of lead stop them.
Closer and closer they approached, the five sections of cavalry drawing
nearer together as they did so, so that when they were within striking
distance they were almost in solid formation. In their rear the infantry,
supported by field guns, already had formed for an advance.

The Uhlans must be driven back at all hazards, and an order rang out from
the Belgian commander.

There sallied forth a body of Belgian cavalry and the few French that
remained of the French Lancers who had borne the brunt of the fighting in
the battle in which Hal and Chester had distinguished themselves. In the
center of these Hal and Chester recognized Captain Derevaux, his sword
flashing aloft.

"He is a grand soldier!" whispered Hal to Chester softly. "A brave man,
indeed. France may well be proud of him!"

"There can be none better," answered Chester. "May he come through the
battle safely!"

Now the Belgians and French charged, and the fighting was hand-to-hand,
while over the struggling horsemen the guns from the fort poured death
into the ranks of the advancing German infantry.

The cavalry of the two armies had met so close to the fort that, with a
glass he picked up, Hal could distinguish the faces of the combatants.
And again, so close was the fighting that the guns of the fort could not
be brought to bear on the German cavalry for fear of killing friend as
well as foe; but they continued to deal death to the infantry.

Looking through his glass, Hal sought out the form of Captain Derevaux.
Finally he espied him, right where the fighting was fiercest and men
dropped fastest.

Hither and thither rode the gallant young Frenchman, striking,
thrusting, parrying, now raising his revolver for a snap shot, the while
urging his men on.

"If he gets out alive it will be a miracle!" cried Hal, passing the glass
to Chester.

Chester put the glass to his eyes and looked toward the field of battle.

"By Jove!" he muttered. "He is magnificent!"

At that moment the captain's horse went down, but, with a quick movement
of his arm, guarding his head from a saber stroke, the young Frenchman
seized the bridle of a riderless animal, and with a single movement swung
himself to the back of his new charger. In another moment he was once
more in the middle of the fighting, dealing out death on every hand.

The Germans gave way, slowly at first, then faster; and at length they
turned and fled. As they did so, the guns from the fort poured a hail of
lead into them, mowing them down as they retreated. The Belgian cavalry
retired to the support of the fort. The German charge had failed!

And now messages filtered in from other parts of the field. The
Belgians had been successful all along the line, with the exception of
one point, which had permitted the Germans to enter the city of Liège.
The losses of the Germans had been appalling; those of the Belgians
comparatively light.

"Can the Belgians fight?" asked Hal, when the Germans had withdrawn. "Can
they fight? Well--"

His silence was more expressive than words.

"It's too bad we were unable to take part in the battle," declared
Chester. "It certainly gives me a restless feeling to sit here and look
on while others are doing all the fighting."

"It does make a fellow feel a little queer," Hal replied. "But, supposing
we had been in that charge--where would we be now?"

Chester shrugged his shoulders.

"Perhaps here, and then again--perhaps, some place else," he answered.
"Who knows?"

"Neither you nor I, surely," replied Hal. "But think of the dead and
dying on the field out there. War is a terrible thing!"

"It is," declared Chester; "and the more I see of it the more I realize
that fact. But come. Let us see if we can find the captain."

It was almost an hour later before they accidentally ran across him, and
the young Frenchman carried his arm in a sling.

"It looks as though I am likely to be on the hospital list for a few
days," said the captain, smilingly.

"It's a wonder to me your name is not on the death list," replied
Chester.

"Indeed it is," agreed Hal. "We watched you through a glass from the
fort. Your action was magnificent. France can well be proud of you.
Believe me, you will not remain a captain long."

"As for that," replied the young Frenchman, "I have just learned that I
have been recommended for promotion."

The boys congratulated him, but he waved them aside laughingly.

"It is no more than you would do for your own America," he declared; "no,
nor no more than you both did only the other day. Whatever I do," he
added softly, "I do for France!"



CHAPTER XIX.

THE DEATH OF A HERO.


For almost a week now the strong Liège fortresses had withstood the
fierce bombardment of the great German guns. Attack after attack had been
beaten back, with heavy losses to both sides. Time after time the German
cavalry had charged, only to be hurled back by the fierce and deadly fire
of the Belgians.

But the forts had not gone unscathed. The heavy German guns had done
great damage to the fortifications behind which Hal and Chester had taken
shelter, and the possibility was now being seriously considered as to
whether the fort could withstand another assault.

General Simon, the commander of the fort, had decided in his own mind to
blow it up rather than surrender it to the enemy. Many prisoners had
been captured by the defenders, and these crowded the fort, occupying
every inch of available space. And now the next assault of the Germans
was at hand.

Day and night the bombardment of the fort had continued. Under the
protection of the heavy cannonading, the Germans moved once more to the
attack. Three times did the enemy charge heroically, and as many times
were they driven back, with fearful losses. With the fall of darkness
they had given up the attempt to take the fort by storm.

But the Belgian commander knew that the Germans would come again on the
morrow; and he also knew that he could not hold forth against them. He
made his plans accordingly.

Under cover of the darkness he had his prisoners marched to the nearest
fort, more than a mile away. Then he ordered all civilians to the safety
of the other fortifications.

His plans for keeping his fortifications from falling into the hands of
the enemy already made, he set about fulfilling them. He examined the
magazine and had everything in readiness. Then he ordered all his troops
to report to the general commanding the nearest fortress, placed a fuse
to the magazine, lighted it, and sat down to wait.

Hal and Chester, strolling about the fort, in some unaccountable manner
had been left behind. Suddenly, for the first time, they noted the utter
desolation of the place.

"Strange," muttered Hal. "Where has everyone gone?"

"You've got me," declared Chester, "but there must be someone around some
place. Let's go up to the general's quarters."

Now, when the soldiers and civilians had been ordered to leave the fort,
no one knew it was General Simon's intention of blowing it up. They
thought he was abandoning it because he believed it no longer capable of
resistance. But the commander had planned more deeply and heroically. He
did not intend the fort to fall into the hands of the enemy, that they
might repair it and turn its guns against his countrymen.

"A German flag shall never wave over this fort," he had muttered
to himself.

The general was sitting calmly at his desk, awaiting the end, when the
lads entered his room. He sprang to his feet with an exclamation.

"Leave the fort instantly!" he commanded. "Waste a moment and you are as
good as dead!"

Hal and Chester stared at him in surprise.

"I have fired the magazine, and the fort will be blown to pieces in a few
minutes," said the general hastily. "Fly for your lives!"

"But you, general?" demanded Hal, quietly.

"I? I shall die at my post! But go, instantly! You have not a
moment to lose!"

"We shall go when you do, general!" said Chester.

The old commander whipped a revolver from the table before him. He
leveled the weapon at Hal.

"If you do not go immediately, I shall fire!" he threatened.

Hal smiled.

"The result would be no different than that of the explosion," he said
quietly. "Come with us. We have still a chance of escape."

The general lowered his pistol.

"You are right," he said. "But here," a sudden thought having come to
him. "I have still a message for the Belgian people."

He sat down and wrote rapidly. Rising, he handed Hal a paper.

"See that this reaches the commander of Fort No. 5!" he ordered. "You
have my command! See that it is carried out! Go!"

"That is simply a ruse to get rid of us, general," said Chester.

The general whirled upon him.

"I am still the commander of this fort!" he cried. "Obey my command!"

The boys saluted the gallant old general for the last time; then they
turned on their heels and left him, alone.

Once out of his room, they ran for the outer wall of the fortification
with all speed; and they did not pause until they were far beyond the
fort. Still there was no explosion.

"Perhaps when General Simon finds something has gone wrong, he will
follow us," said Hal hopefully.

"He is a brave old man," replied Chester. "Let us hope he thinks better
of his decision while there is yet time."

But, hardly had the words left his mouth, when there was a terrific
roar, followed by a great flash of light. Turning, the boys saw the
fort leap into the air as though it were some live thing. High in the
air it burst and spread like a huge skyrocket; and then for miles
around there descended pieces of iron, great lumps of steel, like rain
from the heavens.

Great pieces of these fell on all sides of the boys, but, as though by a
miracle, they were unharmed.

Hal lifted his cap from his head, and looked for a long time toward the
spot where the great fort had stood.

"A brave soldier and a gallant gentleman!" he said finally. "May he rest
in peace!"

"Aye!" replied Chester softly. "He has given his life for his country!"

Slowly the boys resumed their walk to the other fortress. Great
excitement prevailed. The appalling loss of the great fort, and the
unaccountable absence of General Simon were causing great anxiety and
speculation. The general belief was that the fort had been destroyed by a
German shell.

In Fort No. 5 the boys made their way at once to the quarters of the
commander. They were admitted into his presence almost immediately.
Silently Hal handed him the last words written by the heroic general.
Gravely the commander glanced over the paper; then read aloud to the
members of his staff, who surrounded him:

"I regret I have but one life to give for my country!"

Every officer in the room rose and bared his head. There was silence for
some minutes; then the commander of the fort said quietly:

"Peace be with him! On the next roll call he shall be marked: 'Absent but
accounted for.' He is with the heroes!"



CHAPTER XX.

A RACE FOR LIFE.


Hal and Chester walked slowly along the road. It was just beginning to
grow light and the lads were tired out. All night they had been on their
journey toward Louvain, carrying a second communication to General Givet
from the Belgian commander at Liège.

Unlike their previous trip, the country now was known to be overrun by
Germans, and their second mission was much more perilous than had been
their first. For this reason they had taken a different route, and so did
not pass the farmhouse where Chester had been wounded some days before.

"What is that ahead?" asked Chester suddenly.

Hal strained his eyes, peering into the distance.

"I don't know," he replied.

They continued their advance, and suddenly Chester exclaimed:

"Why, it looks like an old-time provision wagon."

"So it is," replied Hal; "I wonder what it can be doing here?"

As the boys drew nearer they perceived their surmise had been correct. A
dilapidated old wagon it was, standing beside the road. To it were
hitched two mules. There was not a soul about.

"I thought these things had gone out of date," said Hal, indicating the
wagon. "It looks like an old prairie schooner."

"It certainly does," answered Chester. "The only reason I can account for
such a relic being in use is that every available vehicle has been
impressed into service."

"I suppose that is the reason, but it certainly reminds me of the wild
and woolly days we have read about in America. If this is not a
regulation prairie schooner, I never saw one."

And indeed it seemed that the lads were right. The wagon was covered
with a canvas top, which came down over the back, leaving a little
opening in the rear.

"What is the reason we can't get in this thing and ride?" asked Chester.

"I can see none," was Hal's reply. "We might as well do it. Then, too, we
can make better time."

Accordingly the lads climbed in, and soon were riding slowly along the
road. When about five or six miles from Louvain, Hal, glancing behind,
saw three horsemen approaching.

He grabbed Chester by the arm.

"Look there!" he said, pointing.

"Germans, by George!" exclaimed Chester, who was driving, and he
immediately started the mules on a dead run.

"Hold on," said Hal; "maybe they are Belgians."

"No, no," replied Chester. "I know they are Germans!"

"Well," replied Hal, "I am going to see," and, stepping out on the
footboard and holding to the side of the wagon, he looked back over the
top of the wagon. The horsemen were closer now, and Hal could make out
their uniforms.

"They are Germans, aren't they?" asked Chester.

"Yes," replied Hal, "and they are coming like the wind!"

"Well," said Chester, "maybe we can get away. You do what fighting is
necessary, and I'll do the driving."

"All right," said Hal. Crawling back in the wagon, he drew his two
revolvers, and in response to his command, Chester turned his two pistols
over to him also.

Hal had hardly reached his place at the back of the wagon when Chester,
between yells to the mules, cried out:

"How far off are they now, Hal?"

Hal answered him as well as he could, and Chester renewed his lashing of
the mules and his yelling.

Once more Chester inquired the distance between pursued and pursuing,
but, before Hal could answer, two shots were fired from behind,
accompanied by a shouted command to halt. The bullets from the rifles
passed through the wagon between the two lads, but did no damage; and
almost instantly the Germans charged down on them. Three shots rang out
as they passed the wagon, but the boys were not touched.

The Germans passed on, and then, circling back, prepared for another
charge. Hal had fired at them several times, but, owing to the bumping of
the wagon, his shots had not found a mark. But, if the bumping of the
wagon had spoiled his aim, it had probably saved the lads' lives, for it
made accurate shooting by the Germans impossible.

Down came the Germans again, shooting as they passed by. And again the
boys were unharmed. Hal and Chester were now yelling at the top of their
voices--why, they never knew.

Hal, crawling to the back end of the wagon and, looking out, saw the
Germans ready to charge down on them again. One man, however, was jogging
along close behind the wagon, his revolver held in his hand.

As Hal looked out, the German stopped his horse and fired. Hal dodged
back sideways. The bullet whizzed through the hole in the canvas in the
rear, grazed Hal's head, and struck the back of the seat near Chester.
Chester did not even turn, but, with cries and blows, continued to urge
the mules on.

As quick as he could, Hal rushed to the hole and fired at his opponent,
but failed to hit him. At the same instant another bullet came through
the side of the wagon, and struck his revolver, and the weapon fell to
the road. Hal dodged back inside.

Then the Germans bore down on them again, firing into the wagon as they
passed it. Hal sprang to the front of the wagon. One German had stopped
and was taking aim at Chester. Hal raised his revolver, and, taking a
snap shot, fired. The bullet went true, and the German fell to the road.

"I've hit one of them, Chester!" called Hal.

"Bully for you!" came back the response, and Chester continued to ply his
whip on the backs of the galloping mules.

Once more the remaining two Germans turned and came back, but this time
they did not fire as they passed the wagon. Hal rushed back to the rear
of the wagon and looked out.... One German rode close behind and to the
right of the wagon.

Bracing himself, Hal quickly stuck his revolver through the hole, but
before he could fire, the German flopped over on one side of his horse,
and all that could be seen of him was his arm around the animal's neck,
and from the knee down, one leg.

Hal did not fire, but waited for him to come up--he could almost hit the
horse's head with his hand, so closely was he running. Suddenly he saw
his enemy's hand move, and he dodged back just in time. A bullet sped
past his head.

Up came the German, and Hal stuck his revolver through the hole, and,
without taking aim, fired. The ball struck the German in the breast, and,
with a cry, he threw up his hands, and toppled from his horse.

"I got another one, Chester!" cried Hal.

"Good!" came the reply, but Chester was too busy to say more.

The bullet with which Hal had disposed of the second German had been his
last, and the boys were now without firearms.

Along they bowled, and once more the last German passed the wagon. He had
learned the boys were without weapons. But the German now had also
disposed of his last cartridge, so the lads were on even terms.

Suddenly Chester called:

"He is crowding the mules off the road!"

It was true. The pursuer was riding close to the mules, trying to push
them from the road. The animal on the near side was jumping frantically
and gradually pushing the other mule toward the edge of the road.

The German kept close to the mule, in spite of several attempts Hal made
to scare him off by pointing his empty revolver at him. The German
refused to scare.

Grasping the side of the wagon, Hal took the revolver by the barrel and
hurled it at the German. The latter tried to dodge, but it was too late.
The revolver struck him in the face, and he fell to the ground.

He was up in a moment, however, and, picking up his sword, was soon in
the saddle again; and a moment later the mules again were being crowded
off the road.

The German was within striking distance, but Hal had nothing with which
to hit him. His other empty revolvers had already been thrown.

"Hit him with the whip!" he cried to Chester. "Hit him with the whip!"

Chester, suiting the action to the word, simply diverted one of the blows
intended for the mules, and struck the German fair across the face.

The whip had a knot on the end of it, to keep it from unraveling, and
this knot hit the German in the eye. The German dropped his sword, put
his hands to his face, and rubbed his eyes; then, putting spurs to his
horse, he made off rapidly over the road which they had come.

The boys now caught the first glimpse of the town of Louvain, and the
glad sight of Belgian troops could be discerned--the outposts
guarding the town.

Chester let the mules slow down.

"That was some ride," he declared.

"You bet," was Hal's answer. "I thought we were gone that time, sure."

"Well, let's get out and walk the rest of the way," said Chester. "I have
had enough of this riding to last me a lifetime. The wagon jolted so much
I must be black and blue all over."

Chester stopped the mules, and the boys climbed to the ground; and, just
as they started to resume their walk, Hal sank suddenly to the ground!



CHAPTER XXI.

THROUGH WALLS OF FIRE.


Quickly Chester bent over his friend.

"Hal! Hal!" he cried in alarm, shaking him gently. "Tell me where you
are hurt!"

He laid his friend's body back gently; then for the first time he noticed
that blood flowed from a wound in Hal's side.

In vain did Chester try to bring his chum back to consciousness. The boy
lay like one dead. Finally, seeing that his efforts to revive his
companion were useless, Chester picked him up in his arms, and in this
manner started for the town.

By pure grit Chester succeeded in carrying his burden to the Belgian
outposts, where he turned him over to a Red Cross surgeon.

"Is he badly hurt?" the boy demanded, as the surgeon arose from examining
his chum's wound. "Will he live?"

"It is dangerous," was the reply. "But I think he will come around all
right presently. But he has had a narrow escape. One inch higher up and
the bullet would have pierced his heart. He must be taken to the
hospital. He must have proper attention."

Leaving his chum in good hands, Chester made his way to General Givet's
tent, where he gave him the message the boys had gone through so much to
deliver safely. Then he went to the hospital. He was permitted to see his
friend at once.

Deathly pale, but with a smile on his face, Hal greeted his friend.
Chester sprang forward and grasped his hand.

"Are you all right, old fellow?" he asked eagerly.

"Fit as a fiddle," was the faint reply.

"Why didn't you tell me you were wounded?"

"To tell the truth, I didn't know it myself until just as I stepped from
the wagon. I can't remember when the bullet hit me, but I suppose it was
when the Germans fired through the side of the wagon. But it was weak of
me to give way as I did."

"Weak! Great Scott! Even the surgeon is unable to see how you held out as
long as you did. You have had a mighty narrow escape, I can tell you!"

"I guess I have," replied Hal feebly. "But anyhow it's an escape. Did you
deliver the letter to General Givet?"

"Yes."

At this juncture, a nurse approached.

"You must go now," she told Chester. "Your friend must have perfect quiet
for the remainder of the day."

"All right," replied Chester, and then turning to Hal:

"Well, good-by, old man. I'll be here the first thing in the morning."

"Good-by," replied Hal. "Now, don't you worry about me. I shall be
all right."

Chester made his way from the hospital.

"By George!" he muttered, as he walked down the street. "I wish it had
been me that was wounded instead of good old Hal. It's certainly tough on
him, but he sure does bear up bravely."

As Chester continued down the street, he was brought to a sudden halt by
the sound of firing from the outskirts of the city; and a moment later a
mounted officer dashed through the street, shouting:

"The Germans! The Germans are approaching!"

People along the street took up the cry and the air was filled with the
sound of startled voices:

"The Germans! The Germans!"

Dashing squadrons of cavalry swept through the streets on their way to
the front; people jumped out of the way as the artillery was hurried by;
and then came columns upon columns of infantry on a quick run.

It was plainly evident that an attack by the Germans had not been
anticipated; but now that the enemy was close at hand, everything
possible was being done for the defense of the city.

Chester hurried in the wake of the troops, and, as he did so, the first
screaming shell burst over his head. He was hurled to the ground, but
escaped injury. The crowds that had thronged the streets a moment before
vanished as if by magic.

The flying shells now screamed incessantly overhead. From the front
came the deafening roar of many guns, and the crash of thousands
upon thousands of rifles. Suddenly the screams of many voices rose,
as a building, not far from where Chester stood, was blown into a
million pieces.

For a moment Chester was awe-stricken and stood still.

"This is terrible!" he muttered to himself. "Terrible!"

He was struck by a sudden thought.

"Suppose one of those shells should strike the hospital?" he said to
himself. "What would happen then? What would happen to Hal?"

Turning, he hurried back in the direction from which he had come. Was it
a premonition, or what?

As he turned the corner and the hospital came into view, a horrible scene
met his eyes.

The hospital was afire! A brilliant flame shot high into the air, and the
smoke poured forth in a dense volume. Even from where he stood Chester
could see that one wall of the hospital had fallen. It had crumbled under
the shock of a German shell.

Chester dashed forward; nor did he pause or falter at the thought of
the dangers he would encounter in the burning building, but ran
rapidly up the steps and plunged into the dense cloud of smoke and the
sheet of flame.

His sense of direction stood him in good stead now. Almost stifled, his
hands and face scorched by the intense heat, he ran up the stairs. At the
top, where the air was somewhat clearer, he paused for a moment for
breath, then dashed for the room where he knew Hal lay.

Hal was sitting on the edge of the bed when Chester burst into the room.
He had noted the first signs of smoke, and had attempted to rise, but the
effort was beyond him. There was not another soul in the room.

He looked up as Chester rushed in.

"I am afraid I can't make it," he said, in a faint voice.

"We have got to make it," replied Chester quickly. "Can you walk at all?"

Hal shook his head.

"I tried to," he said, "but I can hardly stand on my feet."

"Put your arm about my shoulder!" commanded Chester.

"It's no use," said Hal. "You can't possibly carry me out, and we shall
both perish. Save yourself while you have time!"

"No more talk like that," commanded Chester, in a stern voice. "We go or
stay together."

"But we cannot do it," replied Hal. "Alone you may make it; but with me
you are certain to perish. Go!"

"Will you do as I tell you peaceably, or must I use force?" demanded
Chester. "If you don't obey me, so help me, I will knock you cold and
then carry you out. Come, which shall it be?"

"Have your own way, then," said Hal.

Chester stooped over and Hal put his arm about his neck; then, lifting
him up in his arms, Chester staggered through the doorway, and to the
staircase.

But, as he was about to put his foot on the first step, there was a
terrible rumble and roar, and the steps crashed downward. The supports
had been burned away.

By a mighty effort Chester regained his balance, and the two lads were
saved from death in the smoking ruins below by a hair's breadth. Turning,
Chester rushed toward a window and looked out. It was a long drop to the
ground below, and he saw no help in sight.

"I told you it was no use," said Hal. "Let me go, and save yourself!"

Chester did not reply, but laid his chum gently on the floor. Then he
dashed into the next room, returning in a moment with several sheets.

Quickly he tore these into strips and tied them together. Then he
approached Hal and tied one end under his arms.

"We will get out yet," he said quietly, and assisted Hal to the window.

"Put no more strain upon your wound than necessary," he instructed
Hal. "Hold to the sheets with your hands, and it will relieve some of
the strain."

So saying, Chester lifted Hal to the window sill, and gently lowered him
over the edge. With his feet braced against the wall, he paid out the
improvised rope slowly.

Now the flames burst into the room in which Chester stood, but it did not
hasten the lad in his desperate work. Slowly he let the sheets slip
through his hands, that Hal's wound might not be opened afresh by any
sudden jerks; and presently the slack of the rope told him that his chum
had reached the ground. At the same moment he heard Hal's voice:

"All right! Pull up the rope!"

Rapidly now Chester set about saving himself. The room was a seething
mass of flames, which burned him terribly. Tying one end of his
improvised rope to a bedpost, Chester leaped to the window sill, and
began his descent.

So fierce were the flames that the sheets lasted but a second; but, in
that time Chester had slid halfway to the ground. Then the rope broke and
he fell with a crash. He picked himself up immediately, however, and,
turning to Hal, said swiftly:

"Quick! We must get away from here at once. The building is likely to
fall at any moment and we shall be buried beneath it."

He stooped down.

"Put your arms around my neck again!" he commanded.

Hal obeyed, this time without question.

Raising up with Hal in his arms, Chester staggered forward at a run, and
it was well that he did so.

For at the moment he had reached a place of safety, the great building
caved in with a deafening crash. There was a roar like the roar of a
thousand guns, and, a moment later, on the spot where the hospital had
stood there was only a mass of smoking and blazing débris.

More slowly, now, Chester continued on his way. Before him he could still
hear the thundering of many cannons as the battle progressed, but he kept
his face turned in that direction.

In spite of the heavy burden in his arms, he made good progress; nor did
the bursting of an occasional shell nearby deter him, nor turn him from
his course. As he staggered along he passed many tumbled-down buildings
that gave evidence of the accuracy of the fire of the German gunners; and
in some places the bodies of non-combatants littered the streets.

Straight toward the front went Chester, his face set in grim
determination. He realized that in that direction lay whatever chance
there was of safety; for even now his keen ears detected the sound of
firing from the rear, as the Germans made their attack from that
direction.

But, even as Chester neared the outskirts of the city a great cheer rang
out from in front, and the sound of firing grew less distinct. Presently
troops began to come toward them. Victorious in front, they were now
hurrying through the city to drive off the enemy attacking from the
other side.

Chester stopped and laid Hal down in a doorway. There the two lads
remained in silence for some time. Soon the sound of firing from the
other directions grew more faint; then ceased altogether.

Chester put Hal in the care of a pleasant-faced Belgian woman, who came
to the door now that the battle was over, and went forth in search of
General Givet. The latter was about ready to give himself up to a
much-needed rest, but permitted Chester to enter his hut.

"General," said Chester, passing over how he had saved Hal's life in the
hospital fire, "my friend is badly wounded, and is in a bad way. It will
be long before he recovers. I have come to ask if there is not some way
in which he can be sent out of the country, at least until he has
entirely recovered."

The general considered.

"There is a party leaving for Brussels to-morrow," he said finally. "You
both may go with them."

"But it is not necessary for me to go," returned Chester. "I might be of
use to you here."

"Would you not like to be with your friend?" asked the general.

"I would like nothing better," replied Chester.

"Then it shall be so," said the general. "You are both brave lads. I
shall make the necessary arrangements myself."

Chester was in the best of spirits as he made his way from the general's
quarters and started down the street to where he had left his wounded
chum. The lad was walking slowly along, when his arm was seized from
behind. Turning, Chester beheld the face of Edna Johnson.

"Why, how do you do!" exclaimed Chester, raising his cap. "This certainly
is a surprise. What are you doing in Louvain? I thought you had decided
to remain at the farmhouse. But what is the matter?"

This last was called forth by the signs of distress and excitement
plainly visible on the girl's face, which Chester, in his pleasure at
seeing her again, had not perceived at first.

"I am staying here with a friend," the girl explained rapidly. "My uncle
ordered me to leave the farmhouse and come here. I am indeed fortunate to
have encountered you."

"Why?" demanded Chester.

"Listen," said the girl. And, taking Chester by the arm, she bent close
to him and whispered:

"In my friend's home there are two men, presumably civilians. But I know
better. I heard them plotting. They are going to send word to the German
commander, telling him the exact position of the Belgian troops, the weak
spots in the defense, and all other details."

"What!" exclaimed Chester. "Spies right here in the midst of the
Belgian army?"

"Yes," replied the girl. "I overheard them talking in the room next to
mine. I didn't stop to hear any more. I ran out of the house, and was on
my way to the general, when I saw you. Then I thought I had better tell
you what I had learned."

"And I am glad you told me!" said Chester. "Come, lead me to the house
and I shall try and gather fuller details before reporting to the
general. It may be that there are other spies in the city, and that, by
listening, I can learn something concerning them."

Chester for the moment put aside all thoughts of Hal. He considered it
his first duty to serve the country for which he had already gone through
so much. Hal was in good hands. So, walking slowly, Chester and Edna made
their way to the house where the girl was living.

"I am not particularly fond of playing eavesdropper," Chester told the
girl, as he stealthily followed her up the stairs; "but it is all in the
line of duty, so I guess it is up to me."

From Miss Johnson's room could be heard the subdued sounds of voices in
the next room.

"Rather unthoughtful of them to discuss such business in such a place, to
say the least," remarked Chester. "Apparently they forget that even the
walls have ears."

The lad laid his ear to the door between the two rooms. Edna stood close
behind him, and the two listened eagerly.

"Well, then it is all settled," came a low voice from the room beyond.
"You report to the chief immediately. I'll remain here an hour, so that
we shall not arouse suspicion by going together. But tell the chief I
shall be on hand in time."

"Good!" came the reply. "I suppose all other details have been attended
to and that the thing will be pulled off smoothly. To-morrow night should
see the end of Louvain."

Chester straightened up.

"I must get out of the house before he does," he told the girl. "I must
follow him."

"But won't you be in danger?" protested Edna. "Why not report to the
general at once?"

"No," the lad declared. "I must at least find the rendezvous."

Quickly he slipped from the room, and stepped outside the front door just
as a door on the upper floor slammed to.

Chester walked slowly down the street, whistling.

"I hope he comes this way," he told himself. "Otherwise, I shall have to
do some fast walking."

Fortune favored the boy. As he walked slowly along, a man brushed swiftly
past him. Taking care to avoid all pretense of pursuit, Chester followed.



CHAPTER XXII.

CHESTER DISCOVERS A PLOT.


For half an hour the lad stalked his prey through the streets of the
city, winding about here and there until Chester had absolutely lost his
sense of direction. Several times the man turned round and glanced
furtively about, but apparently he took no notice of his shadow.

Finally he turned into a crooked little street near the outskirts of the
city. Chester also turned the corner, just in time to see the man
descend a pair of steps into the basement of what was apparently an
unoccupied house.

The lad hurried up and arrived in time to hear the man give a peculiar
knock at the door--one loud tap, followed by three soft taps, then
another loud one.

Chester walked back around the corner, where he stopped to think.

"If only I could get in there," he said to himself. "I wonder--"

He stopped, struck by a sudden idea.

"By Jove! I believe it can be done," he said.

He continued to pace up and down, apparently deep in thought.
Occasionally he stopped to look in the direction from which he had
followed his prey to the rendezvous.

After nearly an hour the lad, after a glance down the street, slipped
quietly into a doorway. Apparently the thing for which he had been
waiting was about to come to pass.

Footsteps sounded on the street, coming closer. Save for the one lone
pedestrian, the street was deserted. The footsteps approached closer, and
Chester gathered himself for a spring. As the man came abreast of the
doorway in which the lad was hiding, Chester hurled himself upon him.
With one hand the lad clutched his victim about the throat, and with the
other he struck out heavily. There was a stifled groan, and the man fell
limp in the boy's arms.

Glancing hurriedly about to see that there was no one in sight--no
witness to his deed--Chester dragged the man into the doorway. Here he
quickly discarded his own clothes, stripped the stranger of his outer
garments and donned them himself.

Then tearing his own clothes into strips, he bound his victim and gagged
him, after which, now attired in his victim's clothes, he stood up and
made a search of the pockets.

"If my surmise is correct," he said to himself, "I shall be all right."

The hand which was exploring the inside breast pocket came forth with a
little piece of cloth.

"Good!" the lad exclaimed. "I thought as much. I didn't believe they
would take too many chances. A stranger might get in and betray them."

For the little piece of cloth the lad had taken from the pocket of his
newly acquired apparel was a black mask.

"Now," said the boy to himself, "to see if I cannot find out who I am
supposed to be."

He continued the search of the pockets. Several pieces of paper and one
or two documents he glanced at hurriedly, and restored. Finally he drew
out a paper that seemed to please him, for his face lighted up with a
smile. He glanced at the slip of paper and read aloud:

"This is to certify that the bearer is an accredited agent of the
One King."

At the bottom was a seal of peculiar design, but there was no signature.

"Evidently," said the lad, "members of this gang are not known to one
another, at least all of them. They may spot me and they may not.
However, I've got to take a chance. Nothing risked, nothing gained."

The lad stepped quickly from his place of concealment and approached
where the man he had followed had turned in more than an hour before. He
descended the steps into the basement and knocked upon the door--once
loudly, three times softly, and once loudly again.

The door swung open before him, and a masked man peered out. Taking a
deep breath, and feeling in his pocket to make sure that his revolver was
in readiness, the lad stepped inside. The door swung to behind him.

Chester followed the man who had opened the door down a dark hallway, and
into a dimly lighted room. Masked as he was, the boy had little fear of
being discovered, but his hand rested on his automatic in his right-hand
coat pocket.

Inside the room Chester perceived a circle of dark faces, stretching
almost around the room. At one side, facing the circle, was a raised
platform, and on this sat a huge bulk of a man, masked, as were all
the others.

They all rose as Chester entered the room, and without a word the boy
made his way to the one vacant seat. The conspirators then resumed their
seats, and Chester sat down also, four chairs away from where the chief
himself sat.

"Number One," called the chief, and the man nearest him on Chester's side
arose. "What have you to report?"

"Everything is ready, sir. As you know, I am on the staff of the Belgian
commander. With the information I shall impart to him at the proper time
to-morrow, the main force of Belgian troops will be withdrawn from the
northern part of the city and the surprise will be complete."

"You are sure? There is no chance of failure?"

"Not the slightest, sir."

"Good!" said the chief, and the first man resumed his seat.

"Number Two," called the chief, and the second man arose.

By his first words Chester recognized the man who had first spoken at the
home of Edna Johnson.

"And what have you to report?" demanded the chief.

"That word has been sent to attack at five o'clock," was the reply.
"I have received an answer, showing that my message was delivered
without mishap."

"Good!" boomed the chief again. "That is all."

Number Two resumed his seat.

"Number Three!" called the chief.

The man next to Chester rose to his feet.

"Your report," commanded the chief.

"I have to report, sir, that the thousand men sent to me have all
arrived. They came singly, and the last one arrived shortly before I
came here. They are all armed and are quartered in vacant houses on
Brussels Street, at the southern extremity of the city. They are
awaiting the word."

The chief nodded, and the third man sat down.

"Number Four!" called the chief.

Chester rose to his feet, as had the others.

"And you, sir?" demanded the chief. "Is your report satisfactory?"

Chester was thinking rapidly. He was in the most ticklish situation he
had ever faced, and he was fully aware of it. He knew now that there was
not one chance in a thousand of his escaping detection. But the lad did
not falter, and his right hand grasped the handle of his automatic more
firmly, as he made reply:

"Entirely so, sir," and then paused.

"Well, well!" shouted the chief. "Explain!"

Chester drew a deep breath, and took a haphazard shot:

"My men are ready to seize the entire Belgian staff, at a moment's
notice, sir."

The confusion that broke out immediately following his words told Chester
that his shot had missed. But the boy stood his ground. There was nothing
else he could do.

From the opposite side of the room came a cry:

"That was the work assigned to me."

"That is not true," was Chester's quick reply. "I was the man selected
for that work."

The man on the other side of the room made a spring toward Chester, but
he was arrested by the commanding voice of the chief, who now stood up to
his full height, a revolver barrel gleaming in his outstretched hand.

"There is a traitor here," said the chief calmly. "I shall be the one to
decide who it is, for you are all known to me. Unmask!"

Every person in the room save Chester obeyed this command, and for the
fraction of a second he stood alone, his face still covered. But he stood
for a fraction of a second only.

Then with a quick move his revolver leaped from his pocket, and there was
the sound of a shot. The chief toppled over to the floor.

Chester leaped to one side, and with a backward sweep of his left arm
knocked the single lamp from the wall and plunged the room into darkness.

Then he dropped to his knees. And none too soon, for twenty pistols
cracked and as many bullets went hurtling by the spot where he had stood
a moment before.

Ten feet behind Chester was a door. He had noticed it when he first
entered the room, and had decided that there lay whatever chance he had
for safety should he be discovered. Quickly, and still stooping, he ran
toward the door.

And even as he reached it a match flared up and a bullet whistled by his
ear. But the door was unlocked and gave before the boy's weight, and as,
after passing safely through it, he turned to close it in the faces of
his enemies, one man blocked him, his arm raised to fire.

But Chester's revolver rang out first. The lad had fired from his hip,
and the man went sprawling.

The lad turned his weapon on the others who now rushed toward him, and
fired three rapid shots. Then he slammed the door shut, bolted it with a
single movement, and, turning, ran along the dark passageway, at the end
of which he could discern a dim light.

Chester wiped his brow with his hand, and his hand came away wet. Holding
it close to his eyes as he ran, Chester saw blood. A bullet had struck
him a glancing blow on the side of the head, but in the excitement of the
moment he had not realized that he was wounded.

At the end of the passageway the lad emerged into another room. There was
not a window in the room, and, glancing hurriedly about, Chester espied a
pair of stairs. Quickly he leaped up these, and came into what apparently
at one time had been a kitchen.

The boy's gaze roved hastily about for a means of exit. He tried the
door, but it was locked. Twice he threw his whole weight against it, but
it did not budge. He looked at the windows. For some reason, they were
heavily barred.

Chester put the muzzle of his automatic to the keyhole of the door and
fired. The lock was blown entirely away, and the door flew open beneath
the lad's weight.

Not hesitating, the lad leaped through the next room and sped into the
hall beyond. He could clearly see that his way now led to the front door,
and he made for it at a run. He grasped the knob and gave a quick wrench,
but the door would not open.

He sought for the key to turn it, but there was no key. Evidently the
family, upon going away, had barred it from the outside. From behind, the
boy could hear the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps, and he knew
that every moment's delay spelled disaster and almost certain death.

He picked up a chair, and with a single blow shattered the glass front of
the door. He drew the leg of the chair across the ragged pieces of glass
left at the bottom, and then, dropping the chair, drew himself up.

Just as he was about to tumble out on the far side, four men dashed up
the steps with drawn revolvers. Chester took in the situation at a
glance. He was between two fires, and escape was impossible.

"Well," he told himself quietly, "I guess it's all up with me this time."

He dropped back inside and faced his pursuers. Throwing his now useless
revolver to the floor, he raised both hands.

"I surrender," he said quietly.



CHAPTER XXIII.

AT THE POINT OF DEATH.


Two of Chester's pursuers approached him warily with leveled revolvers,
apparently fearing a trick. Coming within striking distance, one of them
dealt the lad a heavy blow with his fist. Chester fell to the floor
without so much as a groan, unconscious.

When the lad again opened his eyes he was once more in the council
chamber of the conspirators. In the dim light he could discern the masked
circle of faces that had gazed at him when he had entered the room for
the first time. The only difference being that there was here and there a
vacant chair.

Chester recovered consciousness fully alert to what was going on about
him. He took in the situation at a glance, and a grim smile lighted up
his face as his eyes fell upon the vacant chairs.

"Looks like I had done a fair job, at any rate," he told himself.

His gaze turned toward the chief's platform. The chief was there, but his
head was swathed in bandages.

"Too bad I missed him!" Chester muttered. "He is evidently the
ring-leader, and to have downed him would have been the proper thing."

Any further reflections the lad might have had were interrupted by the
booming voice of the chief, who now rose to his feet.

"Prisoner, stand up!" he commanded.

Chester arose from the chair in which he had been seated. His arms were
bound behind him and his feet had been tied together; still he found that
he could stand.

"Prisoner," continued the chief, "your name!"

"Chester Crawford," was the lad's firm reply.

"And what are you doing in Belgium in these troublous days?"

"I am attached to the staff of the Belgian commander at Liège," was the
boy's prompt response.

"But what are you doing in Louvain?"

"I came here with dispatches."

"So? And yet you are not a Belgian, I take it; nor yet, French. What,
then? An Englishman?"

"No; I am an American," said Chester proudly.

"An American! Then how comes it that you are fighting for the enemies
of Germany?"

"I am proud to be fighting for what I consider the right," said
Chester simply.

"The right!" exclaimed the chief, in a loud voice. "Well, you shall soon
see that you would have been better off had you stayed on the other side
of the Atlantic."

Chester did not reply.

"Do you know what we are going to do with you?" continued the chief.

"No, and I don't care," was the lad's reply.

"We are going to kill you," said the chief calmly. "But first you will
be given a hearing. We do not put even our enemies to death without a
fair trial."

Chester laughed mockingly.

"A fair trial by such as you?" he exclaimed. "That is a joke. But go
ahead with the farce, and let's have it over with as soon as possible."

The reply was a subdued growl.

"Why are you here, in this room?" he demanded, at length.

"To learn the details of a plot that would deliver Louvain into the hands
of its enemies," replied Chester calmly.

"How did you learn our rendezvous?"

"By listening to the conversation of two of your members who were so
indiscreet as not to remember that the walls of their room might
have ears."

"So? That shall be looked into. Such indiscretion is not to be tolerated.
But how comes it that you were able to discover the knock of admittance;
how comes it that you have a mask exactly like the rest of us?"

"You are asking a good many questions," said Chester, "but as this
probably is my finish, I don't mind telling you. I followed one of your
members here, and overheard him knock. Then I waylaid the other and took
his mask, clothes, and credentials away from him."

The chief looked at him in surprise.

"And you a mere boy," he exclaimed. "You are a bold lad and 'tis a pity
you have fallen into our hands. But that is enough. You admit, then, that
you entered here to spy upon us?"

"Certainly, with the greatest of pleasure," said Chester. "Why shouldn't
I admit it?"

"Enough!" cried the chief, and turned to his men.

"You have heard the confession of the prisoner," he said. "Number One,
what is your verdict?"

"Guilty!" replied Number One, in a solemn voice.

"Number Two?" called the chief.

"Guilty!" was the reply.

And so on all down the line. Each answer was the same. And when each
plotter had given his verdict, the chief addressed them all in a
loud voice.

"And the penalty?" he questioned. "What shall the penalty be?"

And each man answered as with one voice:

"Death!"

"Good!" said the chief. "So be it."

He turned to Chester.

"Prisoner," he said, "you have heard the verdict. Have you anything
further to say?"

"Nothing," said Chester quietly. "What's the use?"

"Then," said the chief, turning to the rest of the conspirators, "you
shall draw lots to determine the executioner."

He opened a small box that was on the table, rose to his feet, and held
the box out at arm's length.

"You will come forward, one at a time," he told his fellow-plotters, "and
let not one of you look at the ball you have drawn until each man has
taken a ball and returned to his seat. Number One!"

Number One stepped forward, reached in the box and extracted a ball,
which he carefully concealed in his hand, and returned to his seat. Each
man stepped forward in turn, and then returned to his chair, with a ball
in his hand. Then the chief spoke again.

"Who has the red ball?" he demanded.

Each man looked at the ball he had drawn, and then a voice at the
opposite end of the room from Chester rang out:

"I have it!"

"Good!" exclaimed the chief once more. "Then the prisoner's fate shall be
left in your hands. You may dispose of him in whatever manner you desire.
But"--and he raised a warning finger--"see that you make no slip." He
turned to the rest of the conspirators. "The rest of you may go."

Slowly the conspirators, at intervals of perhaps a minute each, filed
from the room, and soon there was no one left save Chester, his
executioner, and the chief.

"Remember," said the chief to the one remaining conspirator, as he
prepared to take his departure, "remember that a failure to carry out the
command of the court-martial means your own death."

"Have no fear," replied the executioner. "He shall not escape."

The chief nodded and left without another word.

A moment the executioner stood, looking after the chief's retreating
figure. Then he drew a revolver from his pocket and approached Chester.

Chester's heart began to thump loudly, and, try as he would, he could not
but tremble.

"This is the finish, all right," he told himself.

He closed his eyes and uttered a short prayer.

A hand fell on his shoulder and shook him, The lad opened his eyes. The
executioner stood over him, revolver in hand.

"You are an enemy of my country," said the executioner, "and I should
kill you. But I can't do it. You spared my life once, and it is
impossible that I kill you now."

Chester's heart beat rapidly. Could it be that he was once again to
escape death when he was sure that his last moment had come? But he
replied in a steady voice:

"I saved your life? Where? When?"

With a quick move the man lifted his mask from his face.

"Do you remember now?" he demanded.

The face was that of the man with whom Hal had fought in the
farmhouse--the home of Edna Johnson--some days before. Chester recognized
him immediately as the German officer who had led his men to the attack
in the farmhouse.

But Chester had not spared the man's life. He had not even fought with
him. It was Hal who had refused to give the German his death-thrust when
the latter was at his mercy. Chester thought quickly.

"He has mistaken me for Hal," he told himself, "and if he knew it he
would probably kill me at once. I must keep up the game."

He replied to the German's question:

"Yes, I do remember you now."

"Then you see why it is I cannot kill you," said the German; "but neither
can I let you go free. For if I did you would consider it your duty to
inform the Belgian commander of what you have learned and thus frustrate
our plans. I don't know what to do with you."

Chester made no reply, and the captain continued:

"I can think of but one thing, and that is to keep you with me until the
Germans have taken Louvain, after which, in some manner, I shall see that
you reach the Belgian lines safely. But we shall have to be very careful
as we leave here. The chief may have stationed a guard, and if he should
learn that I have not killed you, my own life would pay the forfeit. But
come, we must act quickly."

So saying, the German stooped over Chester and cut his bonds. The lad
rose to his feet and stretched himself. For a moment he considered the
advisability of leaping upon his captor-friend, wrenching his revolver
from him, and making his escape. But this plan he immediately put aside
as unwise, for his captor still held the weapon ready, and the boy knew
that a single false move and the German would fire. Therefore, he did as
his captor bade him.

The German raised his revolver in the air and fired a single shot.

"If anyone remained to see whether the execution was carried out, that
will probably convince him," he said. "Now I will go out the door, and do
you follow in sixty seconds. I shall be watching, and if you try to
escape I shall kill you."

The German peered out through the door, and a moment later was on the
outside. For a moment Chester debated whether he should make a dash in
the other direction. A little reflection, however, and he decided he had
better not. His limbs were cramped from being tightly bound, and he knew
that should he not make his appearance as commanded by the German within
sixty seconds, the latter would come after him--and the latter was armed
and Chester was not.

Slowly he counted off the sixty seconds, and then stepped through the
door.



CHAPTER XXIV.

"OUT OF THE FRYING PAN--"


"This way," came a low voice, as the lad reached the top of the steps.

It was now after nightfall, and the street was very dark, but Chester
could dimly make out the form of the officer a few yards ahead of him.

"Follow me," came the voice again, "and remember that I have my gun
ready. Just so surely as you make a false move I will kill you."

Chester made no reply, but followed his captor down the street. At the
first corner the officer stopped and allowed Chester to come up with him.

"I guess we can walk along together now," he said, as they turned the
corner. "It is hardly likely that they suspect me."

"I am sure I can never thank you enough," said Chester fervently.

"Never mind that," said the German. "I don't want any thanks. But it is a
poor gentleman who cannot return a favor."

The two continued their way in silence. They came at length to a little
house, setting well back on a dimly lighted street, and here the German
turned in, Chester accompanying him. The officer let himself into the
house with a night key, and the two ascended the stairs, at the top of
which the officer led the lad into a small but comfortable room.

"Just make yourself at home," he told Chester, "It isn't much, but it's
the best I can offer. Here you will have to stay till after to-morrow
night, or at least until we have occupied the city."

From a little cupboard the officer produced some sandwiches and two
bottles of beer.

"Help yourself," he said.

"Thanks," said Chester. "I'll try one of the sandwiches, but I don't
believe I care for any of the beer."

"What's the matter?" demanded his host. "Don't you drink beer?"

"No," said Chester, "and I don't want to start now."

"Suit yourself," said the German, pouring himself a glass. "Have one of
these sandwiches, anyhow."

Chester ate hungrily, for it had been many hours since he had tasted
food. The light meal disposed of, the German lighted a cigarette, and the
two leaned back for a talk. They discussed various topics for several
hours, and then the German said:

"Well, I guess it is time for me to turn in. You will bunk in the
corner there," pointing, "and I'll sleep in the other corner. But first
I must tie you up. It wouldn't do to have you escape, you know, for in
spite of the fact that I am your friend, I am first of all a servant of
the Kaiser."

He produced some rope, and soon Chester was once more bound securely, but
not uncomfortably. The lad lay down and closed his eyes, and a moment
later the German also turned in.

Chester was in no mood for sleep. He had too much on his mind to think of
slumber. Several moments more and the deep regular breathing of the
officer gave evidence that he was sound asleep.

Chester squirmed and twisted quietly in his bunk, trying to release his
hands. Minute after minute he continued with untiring energy. A clock
somewhere in the house struck the hour of twelve, and still Chester
squirmed and twisted.

As he turned this way and that, straining at his bonds, his left hand
suddenly came free. Chester could hardly believe his own senses. A moment
later and he had released his feet. Cautiously he arose and peered into
the darkness. He could not see an inch before him. The room was
absolutely black.

But Chester's sense of direction stood him in good stead now. Slowly and
cautiously he tip-toed toward the spot where he knew the door to be. His
outstretched hand touched the wood, and a moment later his exploring
fingers found the knob. He found the key and turned it, then slowly and
silently turned the knob.

The door swung open without even a creak and in a second more the lad was
on the outside and the door was closed behind him. Stealthily he
descended the stairs, opened and went out the front door, closing it
softly behind him. Then he darted down the street as fast as his legs
could carry him.

After rounding several corners, he finally slowed down to a walk. He felt
now that he was safe from pursuit, and he set about finding his way to
the headquarters of General Givet. He continued his walk for several
blocks, and then he was suddenly challenged by a sentry.

The lad explained his mission, received the proper directions, and was
soon making all haste toward the general's quarters. Once more before the
general's hut, the lad informed the soldier standing guard that he must
see the general immediately.

"It is impossible," was the reply. "The general is taking a much-needed
rest. He gave orders that he must not be disturbed on any account. But
here," suddenly, "here comes Captain Bassil. He will see that any
information you may have reaches the general."

Chester turned to greet the newcomer. He saluted as the latter came up to
him. As the officer drew close, he gave one startled look at the boy's
face, and then drew back with an exclamation.

"You here?" he exclaimed.

"Why, yes, sir," replied the lad, "and I have important information." To
himself he added:

"Where have I heard that voice before?"

"What is your information?" demanded the officer harshly.

Briefly and quietly Chester told him what he had learned.

"Impossible!" was the officer's exclamation, when Chester had concluded
his recital. "It is my belief that you have come here to spy." He turned
to the soldier. "Send Lieutenant Armand to me at once," he said.

The man saluted and disappeared. At the last words of the officer it
suddenly came to Chester where he had heard the voice before. He
approached the officer and peered more closely into his face.

"I wasn't sure, until I heard your last words," he told him, "but I know
you now. You are a German spy."

"Hold your tongue," said the officer harshly, "or I will shoot you down
where you stand."

At that moment another officer hurried up and saluted the captain.

"You sent for me, sir?" he asked.

"Yes; this boy is a German spy. I have positive proof. Have him shot
at sunrise."

"Very well, sir," replied the lieutenant; then to Chester: "Come!"

"But--" began the lad.

"No words," said the lieutenant. "Forward--march!"

Chester saw it was no use to protest, so he marched ahead of the
lieutenant without another word. He was taken to a small tent, thrust in,
and a trooper ordered to mount guard over him. Wearily the lad threw
himself down, and, in spite of his predicament, was soon asleep.

It was just beginning to grow light when he was rudely awakened by
someone shaking him by the arm. Five minutes later and he was marched
from his tent between a file of soldiers.

As he walked rapidly along between his captors, he suddenly espied an
officer approaching on horseback. Even from where he was, in the dim
light Chester recognized the horseman, and his spirits rose. It was
plainly apparent that the rider would pass within a few feet of him.

A moment more, and he was close enough to the mounted officer to touch
his horse. Suddenly the lad sprang forward and cried:

"General Givet! General Givet!"

The mounted officer pulled up his horse sharply. At the same moment the
officer in charge of the squad sprang forward and grasped Chester roughly
by the arm.

"Get back there!" he commanded sharply, but the boy paid no heed.

"General Givet!" he called again, and laughed happily aloud as the
general turned his horse and came squarely up to him.

"Why, by my soul!" exclaimed the Belgian commander after a sharp look at
the boy, "if it isn't young Crawford! What are you doing here?"

"They are going to shoot me as a spy, general," said Chester.

"What!" exclaimed the commander. "You a spy!"

He turned to the lieutenant in command of the squad.

"By whose order, sir?" he demanded.

"Captain Bassil's order, sir," was the reply.

"Captain Bassil, eh? Well, you will conduct your prisoner to my quarters.
Then you will inform Captain Bassil that I desire his presence
immediately."

The lieutenant saluted, and the general rode off.

Ten minutes later, in the general's quarters, Chester was face to face
with his accuser.

"Well, sir," said General Givet to Captain Bassil, "what was your reason
for ordering this lad shot? You will please explain yourself at once."

The captain shifted uneasily from one foot to another.

"I was sure he was a spy, sir," he made reply. "Why else should he be
spooking about your tent at such an hour in the morning? But if I have
made a mistake--"

"You have, sir," interrupted the general, "a very serious one--one that
will require a more satisfactory explanation than the one you have just
given. This lad"--and the general laid his hand on Chester's
shoulder--"already has proven himself invaluable to our cause. Had I not
fortunately arrived in time, he would now be dead. And in that event it
would have fared badly with you. But I must investigate this case
farther. Captain Bassil, you will go immediately to your quarters and
consider yourself under arrest."

As the captain saluted and turned to leave the tent, Chester, who had
been silent thus far, exclaimed:

"One moment, please, Captain Bassil," and then turned to General Givet.
"I will explain, sir," he, added, "if you will have Captain Bassil remain
a moment longer."

The general nodded and Captain Bassil remained. Chester walked up to him
and looked him steadily in the eye for several moments. Then he turned to
General Givet and said calmly:

"I accuse Captain Bassil, sir, of being a German spy!"

"What!" exclaimed the Belgian commander, starting back. "Do you realize
what you are saying?"

"Perfectly, sir, and I am prepared to prove what I say."

Captain Bassil smiled sneeringly.

"I won't believe you will take any stock in such a wild story, sir," he
said to General Givet. "With your permission, I shall go to my own
quarters."

"One moment," said the general, raising a detaining hand, and then turned
to Chester. "Explain yourself," he added shortly.

In a few well-chosen words Chester recounted his experiences of the
day before.

"And I am positive," he concluded, "that if you will have Captain Bassil
searched, you will find in his possession a paper similar to this," and
he handed the commander the document he had taken from one of the
conspirators before he entered their council chamber.

The commander ran his eye over the paper hurriedly, and turned sternly
toward Captain Bassil.

"What have you to say to this charge, sir?" he demanded.

"That it is a lie!" shouted the accused officer. "He is accusing me to
save himself."

The general looked at him in silence for some moments, apparently
undecided as to how to act.

"Well," he said at length, "it will do no harm to find out."

He stepped to the door of his tent and spoke to the sentinel on duty
just outside:

"Ask Lieutenant Armand to step this way at once."

As General Givet turned from giving this command, Captain Bassil suddenly
uttered a loud cry and leaped upon the commander.

"At least you shall never live to thwart our plans!" he cried, as
he sprang.

Taken completely off his guard, General Givet was hurled heavily to the
ground by the force of the traitor's spring. The commander's head struck
the ground with a crash, and he lay still. A revolver barrel gleamed in
the sunlight that filtered through the half-closed opening in the tent.
But even as it was brought to bear Chester leaped forward.

With one strong hand he seized the traitor by the wrist, and deflected
the revolver just as the traitor's hand pressed the trigger, and the
bullet whistled harmlessly through the top of the tent.

The captain turned upon Chester with the fury of a madman, and so sudden
and fierce was his attack that the lad was borne to the ground. But in
spite of the fact that he was underneath, one hand still grasped the hand
in which the spy held the revolver; and, try as he would, the latter was
unable to break the boy's grip.

His teeth bared in a snarl, the traitor suddenly released his grip on the
revolver, drew back and drove his fist at the lad's face. But if Captain
Bassil was quick, Chester was quick also. With a rapid movement, he
rolled over, the revolver still in his hand, and thus escaped the
terrific blow aimed at him.

But before he could rise or bring the revolver to bear, the traitor was
upon him again, and two hands seized him by the throat. In vain the lad
tried to shake himself free, and he was slowly being choked into
unconsciousness.

But with a last desperate effort, he succeeded in bringing the
revolver, which he still held firmly, between him and his enemy, and
pressed the trigger.

There was the sound of an explosion, and for a moment the grip on the
boy's throat seemed to grow even tighter. But for a moment only, and then
the hands relaxed, Chester heard a faint moan, and, drawing in great
gasps of fresh air, the boy fell into unconsciousness, just as the flap
to the tent was jerked hurriedly aside and many men rushed in.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE END OF THE CONSPIRACY.


When Chester opened his eyes to the world again he was propped up on
General Givet's own bed, and the Belgian commander and a Belgian surgeon
were leaning over him.

"Awake at last, eh?" said General Givet, with a smile, as Chester opened
his lips to speak. "You had a narrow squeak, and no mistake. And to think
that a young lad like you should be the means of saving my life!"

"You have indeed rendered a great service to Belgium," broke in the
surgeon. "But how do you feel?"

"A little weak," replied Chester, with a faint smile. "But Captain
Bassil? Where is the traitor?"

"Dead," was the Belgian commander's laconic response.

Chester shuddered involuntarily.

"Never mind," said the general; "it was his life or yours, and mine too,
for that matter."

"But it makes a fellow feel awfully queer," said Chester. "In battle it
would have been different. But to shoot--"

He broke off and was silent.

"And the conspiracy?" he asked, after a brief pause. "You have taken
steps to catch the Germans in their own trap?"

"I have," said the general grimly. "They will wish they had attempted to
take Louvain in some other manner. Thinking us unprepared, they will be
too confident. If they fall into our trap--and I am positive they
will--they will be annihilated."

Chester was struck with a sudden idea.

"General," he said, "why can't we round up all the conspirators that are
in the city?"

"In what way?" asked the commander.

Chester's reply was another question:

"Has your attempted assassination been kept a secret, or is it
generally known?"

"It has been kept quiet," was the general's reply. "Were it generally
known our coup might fail."

"Exactly as I thought," said Chester. "Now I am almost positive that the
conspirators will gather for one more session before the German advance,
if only to make sure that nothing has gone amiss. We can surround the
house and capture them red-handed."

"An excellent idea!" exclaimed the general. "It shall be acted upon.
I will give orders to that effect immediately," and he turned to
leave the tent.

But before he should step outside, Chester jumped out of bed and ran
after him.

"And how about me, sir?" he demanded. "Am I not to be allowed to take
part in the capture?"

"You!" exclaimed the general. "You are in no condition to move about. You
shall stay here in bed."

"Please, general," pleaded Chester. "This is my discovery; it should be
my capture, too."

The general stood wrapped in thought for some moments.

"So it should," he said at length, "and so it shall be, if you feel equal
to the task."

"I am perfectly strong again," said Chester eagerly.

"So be it, then," replied General Givet. "How many of the conspirators
did you say there are?"

"About twenty-five, I should judge."

"Good! I shall place one hundred men at your disposal, and leave entirely
to you the manner in which you make the capture."

Chester was jubilant. So great was his eagerness to be at his work that
he could hardly wait for his men to be selected. But at last everything
was ready and it was time to start.

A short distance from the rendezvous of the conspirators, Chester divided
his men into four groups of twenty-five each, so that they could approach
from all directions at once.

With his men concealed from view, Chester bethought himself of the best
manner to entice the conspirators out into the open. Finally he hit
upon a plan. Calling three of his men, he walked with them to a spot
directly in front of the conspirators' rendezvous. Here the four
started a heated argument.

Suddenly there was the sound of a door opening, and a moment later the
well-known voice of the chief of the conspirators exclaimed:

"It is the spy! Come, men, we must capture him. Shoot down the soldiers!"

A moment later and the entire number of masked conspirators were in
the street. Then, at a signal from Chester, the Belgian troops sprang
upon them.

There was the sound of a pistol shot, followed by many more, and a bullet
whistled by Chester's ear. Two of the Belgian troopers fell, and several
others groaned. It was plain that the conspirators, trapped as they were,
would not give up without a fight.

"Fire!" cried Chester, and a death-dealing volley was poured into the
little knot of men huddled together in the street, surrounded by
Belgian soldiers.

The fighting became desperate. The conspirators were giving a good
account of themselves, and here and there Belgian soldiers were falling.

Now the conspirators turned and made a dash toward their retreat. But
five Belgian troopers sprang forward and barred the door, firing as they
did so. The ranks of the conspirators were considerably thinner now, and
to continue the fight would mean slaughter. This fact the chief
recognized.

He hurled his revolver at his foes with a fierce imprecation, and then
raised his hands above his head. His followers did the same.

"I surrender!" said the chief.

Chester went up to him.

"The tables are turned, I see," the chief greeted him. "Well, a man can't
be on top all the time. But I was a fool not to have stayed and seen you
properly shot."

"I am glad you didn't," was Chester's reply, "for I guess you would have
made a good job of it. But enough of this. I am commanded to take you
before General Givet."

Surrounded by Belgian troopers, the conspirators were marched to the
headquarters of the commanding general. There a court-martial was called
to sit at once. Its work was brief. The prisoners were ordered taken out
and shot as spies and traitors to Belgium.

Upon orders issued by General Givet, the Belgian troops soon began to
move in accordance with the plan by which the Belgian leader hoped to
trap the Germans. Their movements were such as to lead the German
outposts to believe that they were retreating.

But instead of weakening his line where the Germans had planned to
attack, General Givet strengthened it heavily. The troops were ordered to
fallback a short distance, so that the German leader might believe the
force in front of him had been sent to another part of the field to repel
an attack that was believed imminent.

But the expected fall of Louvain by this piece of treachery was to prove
a bitter disappointment to the German commander. Instead of the weak
Belgian line he believed he was to encounter, he was sending his men
against a force that had been heavily reinforced and that was determined
to wipe out the insult.

As the Belgians gradually drew back, the Germans advanced, not too
swiftly, so as to indicate an attack in force, but gradually and slowly.
But continually larger and still larger bodies of Germans were sent
forward, until suddenly it was apparent to General Givet that the time
for the German surprise had come.

But when it did come the Belgian commander was ready. As the Teutons came
forward in a headlong charge, the Belgians checked their backward
movement and rushed forward.

A terrific volley greeted the charging Germans, and from the ambush, into
which the enemy had been lured, the artillery opened upon them. They
wavered slightly, but still they came on. But even as they sprang forward
once more, the Belgian cavalry swooped down on them, dealing out death on
every hand.

Stubbornly the Germans held their ground. Reinforcements were rushed to
their aid, and the battle became general all along the line.

It was evident by this time that the German commander realized
something had gone wrong with his plans; but now that the attack had
been made he was not the man to give up without doing all in his power
to go ahead. Now the Germans broke and began to retreat. With a wild
yell, squadron after squadron of Belgian horsemen charged down upon the
retreating Teutons.

Three times the German officers, bravely exposing themselves to the
leaden hail of death, succeeded in checking their straggling troops, and
three times the Germans coolly reformed under a terrific artillery and
rifle fire.

But it was no use. For now the Belgians began a concerted advance all
along the line. The German charge had spent itself, and the Teutons
gradually drew off.

But the retreat did not become a rout. The Germans fell back slowly,
contesting every inch of the ground. The aim of the Belgian gunners and
infantrymen was excellent, and the havoc wrought in the German lines was
terrible. The field was strewn with dead, but over these the Belgian
troops pushed on, pressing their advantage to the utmost.

Finally General Givet called a halt. The Germans were still retreating,
but the Belgian commander did not feel that he could afford to pursue
them farther. The danger of a surprise was over, and he did not wish to
risk another battle, particularly as he was unable to see the necessity
of extending his own lines.

Therefore, the Belgian troops fell back upon their line of defense and
the battle was over.

Chester, upon the express command of General Givet, had not been allowed
to take part in the battle. The Belgian commander had kept the lad close
to him, occasionally dispatching him to some near portion of the field
with some order. And now that the fighting was over, General Givet
announced that he would be pleased if Chester would dine with him.

But his work over and all his duties properly attended to, Chester
bethought himself of his wounded chum. He was anxious to see Hal and
relate what had happened and to make sure that his friend was being
properly taken care of.

He reminded the general of the latter's promise to have Hal sent to
Brussels, and received the commander's renewed assurances that he would
not forget. Then he set out for the place where he had left Hal.

He stopped on the way, however, to see Edna Johnson, knowing that she
would be interested in what had occurred since he last saw her and
learning that but for her the Belgian army in Louvain might have suffered
a terrible calamity.

Chester did not linger long with Edna, however, after relating his
experiences and a brief chat on other subjects, made his way to the house
where he had left his wounded chum, to whom he gave a detailed account of
all that he had done, and of the arrangements he had made for their
reaching Brussels.

"I would have been all right here," protested Hal.

"Maybe you would," replied Chester, "but there is likely to be more
fighting at any time, and you are in no condition to move about. You will
be better off in Brussels."

"I guess you are right," said Hal.

"I know I am right. I understand there are no German troops between here
and Brussels, so there will be no danger on the way."

Hal was silent for some moments, musing.

"We have had some fun here, haven't we, Chester?" he asked at length.

"We have," was the reply. "I wouldn't have missed it for the world."

"Nor I," returned Hal. "And, when I am well, we shall see more fighting.
The war has just begun."

Four days later Chester and Hal arrived in Brussels, where Chester
procured the services of a good physician for his friend, who had stood
the trip remarkably well, and the physician, after an examination,
announced that Hal would be able to get about in a short time.

"Quiet for a few days is all that is necessary," he declared.

And so Hal and Chester, comfortably housed in the Belgian capital, sat
down to await the time when they could again give their services to the
allied armies.

And here properly ends the story of "The Boy Allies at Liège," though not
the story of "The Boy Allies." Their subsequent adventures in the
greatest war of all history will be found in a sequel, "The Boy Allies on
the Firing Line; or Twelve Days' Battle on the Marne."





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