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Title: Dave Dawson at Dunkirk
Author: Bowen, Robert Sydney
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 "Dave Dawson at Dunkirk" ***

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                          DAVE DAWSON
                              AT
                            DUNKIRK


                             _by_
                        R. SIDNEY BOWEN



                   THE WAR ADVENTURE SERIES



               THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY
                   AKRON, OHIO  *  NEW YORK



             COPYRIGHT, 1941, BY CROWN PUBLISHERS


            PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



                              CONTENTS


           CHAPTER                              PAGE

                 I HITLER GIVES THE ORDER!        11

                II DIVING DOOM                    21

               III DAVE MEETS FREDDY FARMER       34

                IV PRISONERS OF WAR!              45

                 V IN THE ENEMY'S CAMP            55

                VI THEY'LL NEVER BEAT US!         66

               VII SHOOT!                         77

              VIII ESCAPE!                        88

                IX A DESPERATE MISSION           102

                 X TRAPPED IN WAR SKIES!         115

                XI FIGHTING HEARTS               130

               XII IN THE NICK OF TIME           148

              XIII BOMBS FOR NAMUR               160

               XIV ORDERS FROM HEADQUARTERS      172

                XV BELGIUM GIVES UP!             186

               XVI FATE LAUGHS AT LAST           199

              XVII THUNDER IN THE WEST           215

             XVIII WINGS OF DOOM                 227

               XIX THE WHITE CLIFFS!             241



CHAPTER ONE

_Hitler Gives The Order!_


The first thing Dave Dawson saw when he woke up was the combination
clock and calendar on the little table beside his bed. He stared at it
sleepy eyed and tried to remember why he had put it where he would see
it the very first thing when he opened his eyes. He knew there was some
reason, an important one, but for the life of him he couldn't remember.

He struggled with the problem for a moment or two and then sat up in bed
and glanced about the room. For one brief second the unfamiliar sight
startled him. Then he realized where he was and grinned broadly. Sure
enough! This was his room in the Hotel de Ney in Paris, France. This was
just a little part of the wonderful dream that had really come true!

The "dream" had begun two weeks ago. It had begun with the thundering
roar of the _Dixie_ Clipper's four engines that had lifted Dave and his
father from the waters of Port Washington Bay, Long Island, on the first
leg of the flight across the Atlantic to Lisbon, Portugal. His father
had been sent to Europe on a government mission, and after much coaxing
and pleading had consented to take Dave along. The thrill of a lifetime,
and during every minute of these last two weeks Dave Dawson had been
living in a very special kind of Seventh Heaven.

To fly to a Europe at peace was something, but to fly to a Europe at war
was something extra special. It was a trip a fellow would remember all
the days of his life. It was an adventure that he'd tell his
grandchildren all about some day. The Clipper roaring to a landing at
Bermuda, then on to the Azores, and then farther eastward to Lisbon. The
train journey across Portugal to Spain, then up across Spain and over
the Pyrenees into France. Finally on to Paris and all the beautiful
things that beautiful city had to offer.

Not all of the things, however, had been beautiful. There were lots of
things that were grim looking and made a fellow think a lot. The things
of war. True, the war was a long, long ways from Paris. It was far
eastward between the great Maginot Line of the French and the Siegfried
Line of Adolf Hitler's Nazi legions. There it had remained for eight
months, now, and people were saying that there it would remain. Hitler
would never dare attack the Maginot Line, and eventually the war would
just peter out.

Yes, that was the talk you heard all over Paris, but the grim things
were there for you to see with your own eyes just the same. The
batteries of anti-aircraft guns strategically placed about the city. The
fat sausage balloons that could be sent up to great heights as a
barricade against raiding German bombers, should Hitler ever decide to
send them over. Then too there were the French Flying Corps planes that
patrolled almost constantly over the city day and night. The army
trucks, and small tanks that rumbled through the suburbs day after day.
The lorries filled with solemn eyed French troops going up to battle
stations. And at night ... the black out. No lights on the streets save
the tiny blue flashlights that the people carried. At first it made you
think of a crazy kind of fairyland. Then the faint _crump-crump_ of a
distant anti-aircraft battery going into action, and the long shafts of
brilliant light stabbing the black skies, would remind you that France
was at war, and that danger might come to Paris, though as yet it had
not even come close. But....

At that moment the musical chimes of the French alarm clock cut into his
thoughts. He glanced at the clock and saw that it was exactly fifteen
minutes of seven. He glanced at the calendar, too, and it told him that
the date was May 10th, 1940.

May Tenth! In a flash the elusive bit of memory came back to him. He let
out a whoop of joy and flung back the covers and leaped out of bed. May
Tenth, of course! Gee, to think that he had actually forgotten. Why,
today was doubly important, and how! For one thing, he was now exactly
seventeen years old. For the other, that swell French officer,
Lieutenant Defoe, of the 157th Infantry Regiment, was going to take Dad
and himself on a personally conducted tour of the famous Maginot Line!
The Lieutenant had said he would come by the hotel at seven thirty
sharp. That's why he had put the clock so close to his bed! To make sure
he would hear the alarm, in case his dad in the next room over-slept.
Heck, yes! Seventeen years old, and a trip to the Maginot Line!

He danced a jig across the room to the tall mirror that reached from the
floor to the ceiling and took the stance of a fighter coming out of his
corner for the knock-out round. For a couple of minutes he shadow boxed
the reflection in the glass, then whipped over a crushing, finishing
right and danced back.

"Boy oh boy, do I feel good!" he cried happily and tore off his pajamas.
"Bring on your Joe Louis. Hot diggity, the Maginot Line. Me! Oh boy!"

In almost less time than it takes to tell about it he was bathed and
fully dressed and ready to go. He started for the door leading into his
father's room but checked himself as he saw the camera on the bureau. He
took a step toward it, then snapped his fingers as he remembered
Lieutenant Defoe had said that the Maginot Line was one place where even
the President of France could not take a camera. For a second he was
tempted to take one anyway, but sober judgment quickly squelched that
idea. He knew that Lieutenant Defoe had gone to a lot of trouble to get
permission for him and his father to visit that great string of
fortresses, and it would be pretty cheap to do anything that would get
the Lieutenant in wrong.

So he left the camera where it was, caught up his hat, and went over to
the connecting door and knocked loudly.

"Rise and shine in there, Mister!" he called out. "Big doings today,
remember? Are you up, Dad?"

There was no sound save the echo of his own voice. He knocked again and
shouted, "Hey, Dad!" but there was still no sound from the room beyond.
He hesitated a moment, then grasped the knob and pushed the door open.

"Hey, Dad, get...!"

An empty room greeted his amazed gaze. The bed hadn't been slept in. As
a matter of fact there was not a single sign that the room had been
occupied. There were no clothes in the closet, no toilet articles and
stuff on the dresser, and not even any traveling bags. The sudden shock
made his heart contract slightly, and for a long moment he could do
nothing but stare wide eyed at the vacant room.

"Can I be dreaming?" he heard his own voice murmur. "This is Dad's room.
I said good night to him here last night. But, there's no one here.
Dad's gone, for cat's sake. _Hey, Dad!_"

All that he got for his extra loud shout was a muffled voice protesting
violently in French, and an angry pounding on the floor of the room
above. He closed his Dad's door and went down the stairs three at a time
and straight across the lobby floor to the desk.

"Have you seen my Father?" he asked the girlish looking man at the desk.

The girlish looking man didn't hear. He was talking on the telephone.
Talking a blue streak with his hands as well as his mouth. In fact, in
order to make full use of both his hands the clerk had dropped the
receiver and was giving all of his attention to the mouth piece. He
looked like he was trying to do the Australian Crawl right into it and
down the wire to whoever was at the other end of the line.

Dave grinned and stood watching the clerk. The words came out like a
string of machine gun bullets. Much, much too fast for Dave to line them
up in a sentence that made sense. He caught a word here and there,
however, and presently the grin faded from his face. He heard the name,
_Holland_, and _Belgium_. He heard _Nazi cows_. He heard _Maginot Line_,
and _Siegfried Line_. And a whole lot of the girlish looking clerk's
personal opinions of Hitler, and Goering, and Hess, and Goebbels, and
everybody else in Nazi Germany.

He did not hear a lot, but he heard enough, and his eyes widened, and
his heart began to thump against his ribs in wild excitement. He banged
on the desk and shouted at the clerk, but he might just as well have
shouted at the moon. The clerk was far, far too busy trying to swim down
the telephone cord.

Dave started to yell even louder but at that moment a hand took hold of
his arm and swung him around. He found himself staring into the flushed,
good looking face of Lieutenant Defoe. The French officer was breathing
hard and there was a strange look in his eyes that checked the happy
greeting on Dave's lips.

"Hey, what's wrong, Lieutenant?" he asked instead. "That clerk acts like
he's going nuts. And, say, Dad isn't in his room. Not even any of his
things."

"I know, _mon Capitaine_," Lieutenant Defoe said and held onto his arm.
"Come. First we shall have some breakfast, and then I will explain all."

The fact that Defoe was there, and that the French officer had called
him by the kidding title of My Captain soothed the tiny worry that was
beginning to grow inside Dave.

"Okay, Lieutenant, I am starved at that," he said as the officer led the
way to the breakfast room. "But, that clerk. He was shouting something
about the Germans in Holland and Belgium, and.... Hey, my gosh! Has
Hitler invaded the Lowlands?"

"Early this morning," Defoe said gravely. "Another of his promises
broken, but we expected it, of course. Yes, _mon Capitaine_, now France
will truly go to war. Here, sit there. Let me order. They are perhaps
excited a little this morning, and I will get better results."

Dave waited until the French officer had ordered for them both and put
the fear of the devil in the lumbering and thoroughly flustered
waitress. Then he leaned forward on the table.

"What about Dad, Lieutenant?" he asked. "Is anything wrong? I mean, is
he all right?"

The French officer nodded and wiped beads of sweat from his face with a
huge colored handkerchief. It was then Dave saw how tired and weary the
man looked. His eyes were drawn and haggard. His funny little mustache
seemed even to droop from fatigue. Despite his natty uniform, and the
two rows of shiny medals, the Lieutenant looked as though he had not
slept for days.

"Yes, your father is well, and safe," Defoe finally said through a
mouthful of hard roll. "He is in England."

Dave spilled some of the water he was drinking.

"England?" he gasped. "Dad is in England?"

"In London," Defoe said and crammed more roll into his mouth. "It was
all very sudden. Be patient, _mon Capitaine_, and I shall try to
explain. First, a thousand pardons for not arriving sooner, but I was
delayed at the War Ministry. And there was not one of those cursed taxis
we have in Paris, so I was forced to run all the way. You were surprised
and alarmed to find your father gone, eh?"

"I was knocked for a loop," Dave said with a grin. "But, look, tell me.
Why in thunder did Dad go to London? Because of the German invasion into
Holland and Belgium?"

"No," Defoe said. "Some business with your American Ambassador there.
What, I do not know. We were in the lounge having a good night glass of
wine just after you had gone to bed. A wireless message arrived. Your
father said that he had to leave for London at once. An Embassy car took
him to Calais where he could embark on a destroyer. He said that he
would be gone for three days. You were asleep and he did not wish to
wake you. He asked me to take his room, and to be your companion until
he returned. He said he would write you from London. He said it was just
a quick business trip and nothing for you to worry about."

"Yes, yes," Dave said, trying to keep his voice polite. "But what now?"

Lieutenant Defoe gestured expressively with a butter knife in one hand
and a piece of roll in the other.

"Now, everything is changed, _mon Capitaine_," he said. "In a few hours
you and I shall drive together to Calais. There I shall salute you and
bid you farewell. A British destroyer will take you to Dover. And from
there to London you shall travel by train. Your father will meet you at
the station in London. What you will do then, I do not know. Your father
did not honor me with the information."



CHAPTER TWO

_Diving Doom_


The small but speedy Renault car scooted along the broad dusty French
road like a grey-brown bug fleeing for its life. The ride out of Paris
had both thrilled Dave and depressed him. It was exciting to streak past
the long lines of army cars and troops on the march. It gave him a kick
the way the simple showing of Lieutenant Defoe's military papers cleared
the way through barrier after barrier thrown up across the road. Those
papers were as a magic charm that made officers and men alike spring to
attention and salute. And in a way they _were_ a magic charm. They had
not only been signed by the highest military authorities, but by the
President of France, himself.

Yet with all that it made him a little sad to leave Paris. He felt as
though he were running away in the face of danger. He had had lots of
fun with his Dad and Lieutenant Defoe in Paris. Swell times, and now he
was rushing away from the city. Running away because danger might come
to Paris. True, he was only obeying his father's instructions, yet he
could not rid himself of the feeling that he was running away.

From time to time he glanced at Lieutenant Defoe at the wheel of the
car. The laughter and gaiety had gone from the Frenchman's eyes. His
face was set and grim. He gripped the wheel tight with his big hands,
and every so often he flung an anxious look up into the sun filled blue
sky. Each time Dave followed his look but could see nothing. Eventually,
the question was forced from his lips.

"What's the matter, Lieutenant?" he asked. "You look worried. You think
something's going to happen?"

The French officer shrugged, and for the five hundredth time peered up
at the sky.

"Something going to happen?" he murmured. "Of course not. My neck, it is
a little stiff. It feels better when I move my head, so."

Lieutenant Defoe punctuated his words with a laugh, but that laugh did
not ring true in Dave's ears.

"You're looking for German airplanes, aren't you?" he said straight out.
"And you are worried, too, about how the army is getting along. I saw
you talking with a colonel just before we left. Did you get any news?"

"We are holding the German cows," Lieutenant Defoe said through clenched
teeth. "The English and our gallant troops are now pouring into Belgium
by the thousands. We will throw the Boche back. Yes, he shall be taught
a lesson he will not forget for a long time."

The French officer lifted one hand from the wheel, doubled it into a
rock hard fist and shook it savagely at an imaginary foe.

"This time we shall teach them a lesson, once and for all!" he cried.
"We...!"

The rest died on his lips. Rather it was changed into a cry of both
anger and surprise. At that moment the car had gone spinning around a
sharp bend in the road and there directly ahead was a scene that brought
both Defoe and Dave bolt upright in the seat. The road was black with
men, women, and children. A sea of people, and horses, and cows, and
goats, and dogs was sweeping toward them. There were wagons, and carts,
and even baby carriages piled high with household goods. And above it
all rose a constant unending babble of frightened tongues.

"Good gosh, look at them!" Dave exclaimed.

Lieutenant Defoe didn't say a word. He quickly slipped the car out of
gear and braked it to a stop. Then he climbed down onto the road and
Dave saw him slide his hand toward his holstered gun. The swarm of men,
women, and children advanced relentlessly toward them. Lieutenant Defoe
flung up one hand.

"Halt!" he bellowed at the top of his voice. "What is the meaning of
this?"

Ten thousand tongues answered his question all in the same voice.

"The Boche!" they screamed. "They have broken through. They have taken
everything. They are everywhere. They will slaughter us like cattle, if
they catch us. How far to Paris? We are tired. We have walked for hours.
Yes, for years!"

"Enough!" Lieutenant Defoe roared. "The Boche will not break through.
The soldiers of France will not permit it. You are but frightened fools,
all of you. Go back to your homes. I command you to! Go back to your
homes where you will be safe. The Boche will not harm you!"

An old, old woman clutching a bundle of clothing laughed wildly and
rushed up close to the French officer. She shook a gnarled fist in his
face and screamed at the top of her voice.

"Our soldiers? Where are they? I will tell you. They are in retreat.
There are too many of the Boche. And they have airplanes, and, tanks,
and guns. With my own eyes I have seen them shoot down anybody, and
everybody. I ask you, where is our army? And the English, where are
they? I will tell you, my Lieutenant, the Boche have killed them, killed
them all. Turn this thing around and flee for your lives. That is my
advice to you."

"Silence, old woman!" Lieutenant Defoe thundered. "Enough of such talk!
Spies have filled you with such lies. That is what they wish to do. To
scare you, and frighten you, and to make you leave your homes, and
clutter up the roads this way. Listen to me! I...."

The Frenchman roared with all the power of his lungs, but it was even
less than a faint cry in the wilderness. The long lines of terror
stricken refugees drowned him out. Like a gigantic black wave parted in
the middle they swept by on both sides of the car. The Frenchman's face
turned beet red with fury. He shouted, and ranted, and raved. But it was
all to no avail. His voice and his actions were but a waste of breath
and muscle energy. For a little while Dave tried to help him. He tried
to reason with the mass of terrified humanity sweeping by the car. He
begged, he pleaded, and he threatened, but it was as useless as
thundering at the sun to turn off its light. No one paid him any
attention. It is doubtful if anybody even heard him. Eventually he sank
down on the seat, his voice exhausted and his throat sore.

He looked helplessly at Lieutenant Defoe. The French officer was a
picture of misery, and of burning anger. Tears were in his eyes, and he
was working his mouth though no sound came off his lips. In time he got
back in the car and sank dejectedly behind the wheel.

"I am ashamed of my countrymen!" he shouted at Dave. "I am mortified
that you should see this. But this is the curse of war. The people are
like chickens when war comes. They do not stop to think or reason. They
think of nothing but fleeing for their lives. They ... they are like
children. I am ashamed."

The utter sadness and remorse in the officer's voice touched Dave
deeply. He reached over and took hold of the Lieutenant's arm and
pressed hard.

"That's okay, I understand, Lieutenant," he said. "Forget it. Look,
we'll be stuck here forever if we don't do something. Let's try and get
off to the side. I'll get out and push them aside, and you keep the car
in low gear. Okay, take it easy, Lieutenant."

Some of the anger faded from the Frenchman's eyes and the corners of his
mouth tilted in a faint smile.

"At your orders, _mon Capitaine_," he said. "Yes, you get out and warn
them away, and I shall drive the car to the side of the road."

Dave returned his smile and slid out of the car. No sooner had his feet
touched the road than he felt as though his body had been caught in the
roaring torrent of a rampaging river. Like a chip of wood he was picked
up and swept along, and it was several seconds before he was able to
regain his footing and force his way back and around to the front of the
car. There he put out both his hands and started waving the steady
stream of babbling refugees to the left and to the right.

It was tedious, heartbreaking effort, and a hundred times he came within
an ace of falling flat on the road under the crawling wheels of the
Renault. But for his young strong body pushing and shoving this way and
that Lieutenant Defoe would not have been able to move the car forward
an inch. As it was the car did not travel more than fifty yards in a
good half hour. By then Dave was drenched with his own sweat. His hat
was gone and his clothes were slowly but surely being torn from his
back.

Suddenly he saw Lieutenant Defoe at his shoulder and heard the
Frenchman's voice shouting in his ear.

"It is useless, _mon Capitaine_! It is madness. We will not get any
place with the car. The town of Beaumont is but a few _kilometres_
ahead. There is an army post there. I shall request a military car and
a driver. Ah me, I am desolate that this should happen. Here! Watch what
you are doing! You! Let go of me, my old one! _Attention!_"

At that moment the French officer had been caught in the river of
people. He struggled and he fought but he was relentlessly swept along
and away from Dave's clutching hands. In almost the same moment Dave,
himself, was caught up by the moving mass. It was either a case of
moving along with the stream or stumbling to his hands and knees and
being trampled under foot, or being run over by the heavy wheel of an ox
cart or wagon. It was absolutely impossible, and an act of sheer
suicide, to buck that packed throng.

And so Dave took the only course open to him. He moved along with the
stream of refugees and inch by inch worked his way to the edge of the
stream and into a clear space. There he paused for breath and strained
his eyes for a glimpse of Lieutenant Defoe, but the Frenchman was
nowhere to be seen. He had been virtually swallowed up by the stream of
humanity moving relentlessly and blindly forward. Dave thought of the
troops and the long lines of army cars he and Defoe had passed since
leaving Paris, and shuddered at the thought. When the army and the
populace met what would happen? Who would give way, or would anybody?
In his mind's eye he pictured other French officers like Defoe striving
to force the refugees to abandon their mad flight and return home. It
was not a pretty picture to imagine. It was not a nice situation to
contemplate. Troops with tanks and guns moving forward to meet the enemy
but instead meeting thousands and thousands of their own flesh and
blood.

"Please, God, put sense in the heads of these poor people!" Dave
breathed softly to himself. "Tell them what they should do for the sake
of France, and...."

Dave Dawson never finished that prayer. At that moment there came to his
ears a new and entirely different sound. At first he could think only of
tons of brick sliding down a slanting tin roof. Then suddenly he knew
what it was, and in that same instant the rising hysterical scream of
the passing throngs echoed his own thought.

"_Les Boches! Les Boches!_ Take cover at once!"

Like thousands upon thousands of stampeded cattle the refugees broke
ranks and went scattering madly and wildly in all directions. Carts and
wagons were left where they had come to a halt on the road with their
horses, or oxen, or dogs standing dumb eyed and drooping in their
tracks. Dave stayed where he was for an instant, not moving an inch, and
his eyes fixed upon the cluster of dots streaking down from the blue sky
high overhead. In the twinkling of an eye they ceased to be dots. They
became planes! German planes. Heinkels, and Messerschmitt 110's, and
Stuka dive bombers. Winged messengers of doom howling down upon the road
choked with wagons and carts, and countless numbers of helpless
refugees.

Even as Dave saw them the leading ships opened fire. Tongues of jetting
red flame spat downward, and the savage yammer of the aerial machine
guns echoed above the blood chilling thunder of the engines. Tearing his
eyes from that horrible sight Dave glanced back at the road. It was
still filled with frantic men, women, and children, and at the spot
directly under the diving planes bullets were cutting down human lives
as swiftly as a keen edged scythe cuts down wheat.

His feet rooted to the ground, Dave stared in horror. Then suddenly one
of the diving Stukas released its deadly bomb. The bomb struck the
ground no more than twenty feet from the edge of the road. Red, orange,
and yellow flame shot high into the air. A billowing cloud of smoke
filled with dirt, and dust, and stones fountained upward. Then a mighty
roar akin to the sound of worlds colliding seemed to hammer straight
into his face. The next thing he realized he was flat on his back on the
ground gasping and panting for air while from every direction came the
screams of the wounded and the dying.

The screams seemed to release a hidden spring inside of him and make it
possible for him to set himself into action. He scrambled to his feet,
stared wild eyed up at the diving planes and shook his fist in white
heat anger.

"You'll pay for this!" he shouted. "You'll pay for this if it takes the
Allies a thousand years. And I'll do my share in helping them too!"

As the last left his lips he suddenly saw an old woman, almost bowed
down by bundles, trying feebly to get away from the road and out from
under the roaring armada of diving death. She took a few faltering steps
and then stumbled to her knees. One withered hand was stretched out in
mute appeal to the others to help her up, but no one paused to give her
aid. Stark fear had them all in its grasp and none could be bothered
about the misfortunes of the other.

The old woman was only one in thousands and thousands, but Dave had
witnessed her sad plight and so his movements were instinctive. He
leaped forward and went dashing to her side. With one hand he grabbed
her bundles and the other hand he put under her arm.

"I'll help you, Madam," he said. "Just lean on me. I'll get you to a
safe place. Don't worry."

He had spoken in English and of course the old woman didn't understand
his words. She understood his actions, however, and there was deep
gratitude in the lined and tired face she turned toward him.

"_Merci, Monsieur, merci_," she whispered and started forward leaning
heavily on Dave's arm.

And then down out of the blue it came! Dave heard the eerie sound above
the general din but of course he didn't see the dropping bomb. He didn't
even taken the time to glance upward. He simply acted quickly. He
grabbed the old woman about the waist and hauled her to the scanty
protection of a standing wagon. There he pushed her down and bent over
her so that his body served as partial protection against what he knew
was coming.

It came! A terrific crash of sound that seemed to split the very earth
wide open. Every bone in Dave's body seemed to turn to jelly. The entire
universe became one huge ocean of flashing light and fire. The ground
rocked and trembled under his feet. Unseen hands seemed to grab hold of
him and lift him straight upward to hover motionless in a cloud of
licking tongues of colored flame. Then suddenly all became as dark as
the night, and as silent as a tomb, and he knew no more.



CHAPTER THREE

_Dave Meets Freddy Farmer_


When Dave again opened his eyes it was night. He was lying on his back
under some trees and staring up through bomb shattered branches at the
canopy of glittering and twinkling stars high overhead. For several
seconds he remained perfectly still, not moving a muscle. What had
happened? Where was he? Why was he out here under some trees in the
dark?

Those and countless other questions crowded through his brain. Then, as
though somebody had pulled a curtain aside, memory came back to him and
he knew all the answers. Of course! A Stuka bomb. It had dropped close.
He had been trying to shelter that old woman. Yet, that had been on the
road by a cart, and here he was under some trees. How come? Had the
exploding bomb blown him under the trees? Was he wounded but still too
dazed to feel any pain? Good gosh, it was night now, so he must have
been here for hours!

Thought and action became one. He put out his hands and pushed himself
up to a sitting position. Almost instantly he regretted the effort. A
hundred trip-hammers started going to work on the inside of his head.
The night and the stars began to whirl madly about him. He closed his
eyes tight, and clenched his teeth until things stopped spinning so
fast. That helped the pounding in his head, too. It simmered down to a
dull throbbing ache that he could stand without flinching.

For a few moments he sat there on the grass feeling over his body and
searching for broken bones or any wounds he might have received. There
was nothing broken, however, and his only wound was a nice big goose egg
on the left side of his head. Thankful for the miracle wrought, he got
slowly to his feet, braved a hand against a tree trunk and peered about
him in the darkness.

It was then one more little surprise came to him. He was in a field and
as far as he could tell there wasn't a road any place. No unending
stream of refugees, no wagons, no carts, and no road. It was as though
he had dropped down into the very middle of nowhere. Completely puzzled
by the strangeness of his surroundings, he glanced at the sky, found the
North Star and started walking northward. Way off in the distance there
was a faint rumbling, like thunder far far away, but he knew at once it
was the roar of heavy guns. If he needed any proof he had only to stare
toward the northeast. There the faint glow of flames made a horizon line
between the night sky and the earth.

"But where _am_ I?" he asked himself aloud. "I couldn't have just been
blown away. I haven't even got a sprained ankle. Gosh! I wonder where
the Lieutenant is? And those poor refugees. I sure hope French planes
caught those Germans and gave them some of their own medicine. And...."

He choked off the rest and started running. In the distance off to his
left he had suddenly seen a pair of moving lights. One look told him
that it must be some kind of a car on a road. He would stop it and at
least find out where he was. Perhaps he might even get a ride back to
Paris. He would be crazy to try and reach Calais, now. The best thing
for him to do was to get back to Paris as fast as he could and send word
to his father.

"But how can I?" he gasped as sudden truth dawned on him. "I don't even
know where Dad's staying in London. He was to meet me at the station. I
didn't bother to ask Lieutenant Defoe where Dad was staying!"

The seriousness of his plight added wings to his feet. He raced at top
speed toward the pair of moving dim lights. And with every step he took,
fear that he would not get to the road in time mounted in his breast.
But he had been the star half miler on the Boston Latin High School
track team, and finally he reached the edge of the road a good fifty or
sixty yards in front of the advancing pair of lights. Disregarding the
danger of being run down in the dark he stepped to the center of the
road and waved both his arms and shouted at the top of his voice. The
sound of the car's engine died down, brakes complained, and the car came
to a halt.

"I say there, what's up?" shouted a voice from behind the lights. "I
jolly well came close to running you down, you know. Just spotted you in
the nick of time."

Dave gulped with relief at the sound of an English speaking voice. He
trotted toward the lights and then around them to the driver's seat. It
was then he saw that the car was an ambulance. It was a nice brand new
one, and only a little dusty. Painted under the red cross on the side
were the words ... British Volunteer Ambulance Service.

"I say, do you speak English?" the driver asked as Dave came close.

Dave looked at him. The driver wasn't in uniform. He wore civilian
clothes, and he was about Dave's age. Perhaps a few months younger. In
the faint glow of the dashboard light his face held a sort of cherubic
expression. He wore no hat and sandy hair fell down over his forehead.
His eyes were clear blue, and he had nice strong looking teeth. One look
and Dave knew instantly that he could like this friendly English boy a
lot.

"You bet I speak English," he said. "I'm an American. My name is Dave
Dawson."

"Mine's Freddy Farmer," said the English boy. "I'm very glad to meet
you, America, but what in the world are you doing here? Good grief, look
at your clothes! Did a bomb fall on you?"

"One came mighty close," Dave said with a grin. "I just came to a few
minutes ago, and saw your lights. I'm trying to get back to Paris. Is it
far?"

"Paris?" young Freddy Farmer exclaimed. "Why, it's over a hundred miles
back. This is a part of Belgium. Didn't you know that? What happened
anyway? You say you were bombed? A nasty business, bombing."

For a moment or so Dave was too surprised to speak. This was Belgium?
But it couldn't be! Freddy Farmer must be wrong. He was sure Defoe and
he had not been seventy miles from Paris when they'd met those
refugees. Belgium? Good gosh! Did that exploding bomb blow him over
thirty miles away? But that was crazy.

"Come, get in and ride with me," the English lad broke into his
thoughts. "I can't take you back to Paris but Courtrai is just up ahead.
That's where I'm delivering this ambulance. Perhaps you can get
something there to take you back to Paris. Right you are, America. Now,
tell me all about it."

As gears were shifted and the car moved forward Dave told of his
thrilling experiences since leaving Paris that morning. Young Freddy
Farmer didn't interrupt, but every now and then he took his eyes off the
road ahead to look at Dave in frank admiration.

"Say, you did have a bit of a go, didn't you?" Freddy Farmer said when
Dave had finished. "That was mighty decent of you to try and help that
old woman. I hope she got through, all right. We heard that the Germans
were shooting and bombing the refugees. A very nasty business, but
that's the way Hitler wages war."

"I hope he gets a good licking!" Dave exclaimed. "Those poor people
didn't have a chance. They were helpless. I don't see how he thinks he
can win the war that way."

"Hitler won't win the war," the English boy said quietly. "He may have
us on the run for a bit, but in the end we'll win. Just like we did the
last time. That's part of his plan, shooting civilians on the road. I
heard a major and a colonel talking about it. You see, if his airplanes
can get the civilians to leave their homes and clog up the roads, why
then our troops have a hard time passing through. I saw some of that
sort of thing myself, today. It was awful, I can tell you. I couldn't
make any more than five miles in six hours. And it was all I could do to
stop them from taking my ambulance and using it for a bus. I wouldn't
let them, though."

Dave looked sidewise and saw how tired the English lad was. His cheeks
were slightly pale from fatigue, and his eyelids were heavy. Dave
reached out and touched the wheel.

"I've just had a pretty good sleep," he said with a laugh, "and you look
pretty much all in, Freddy. Want me to take the wheel for a spell? You
can tell me which way to go."

The English boy turned his head and smiled at him, and somehow both
suddenly knew that a deep friendship between them had been cemented.

"Thanks, awfully much, Dave," Freddy Farmer said, "but I'm not really
tired at all. Besides, there isn't far to go now. Only a few more miles,
I fancy. It's nice of you to ask, though."

"It'll still be okay if you change your mind," Dave said. "Have you been
driving an ambulance long? Do you go out and help pick up the wounded,
and stuff? I guess you've seen a lot of battles, haven't you?"

"Oh, No, I'm not really an ambulance driver, Dave. You have to be
eighteen to get in this volunteer service, and I won't be seventeen
until next month. You see, I've been going to school just outside Paris
and my family decided I'd better come home to England. Well, yesterday
several of these ambulances arrived at the Paris headquarters of the
Service. They had been shipped clear to Paris through a mistake. The
French do funny things sometimes, you know. Anyway, they were needed in
Belgium and there were no regular drivers in Paris. Not enough, anyway.
I thought it would be good fun to drive one and then carry on to the
Channel and on home to England. We left Paris at midnight last night,
and soon lost track of each other. It's been fun, though. I'll be sorry
to have the trip end."

"Jeepers, you've been driving since midnight?" Dave exclaimed. "You sure
can take it, Freddy, and how!"

"Take it?" the English boy murmured with a puzzled frown. "I don't think
I know what you mean."

Dave laughed. "That's American slang, Freddy," he said. "It means that
you've got a lot of courage, and stuff. It means that you're okay."

"Thanks, Dave," Freddy Farmer said. "But it really doesn't take any
courage. I'm very glad to do my bit, if it helps the troops any. We've
got to beat the Germans, you know. And we jolly well will, I can tell
you!"

The two boys lapsed into silence and for the next two or three miles
neither of them spoke. During that time Dave stared at the dim red glow
of burning buildings in the distance and thought his thoughts about the
war that had apparently begun in earnest. He was an American and America
was neutral, of course. Yet after what he'd seen this day he was filled
with a burning desire to do something to help beat back Hitler and
defeat him. He knew that there had been a lot of boys his age who had
taken part in the last World War. He was big for his age, too, and
strong as an ox. He decided that when he got to London and found his
father he would ask Dad if there wasn't something he could do to help.
Nothing else seemed important, now. The important thing was to help stop
all this business that was taking place in Europe.

At that moment Freddy Farmer suddenly slipped the car out of gear and
braked it to a stop.

"Yes, Freddy?"

"I'm afraid I've got us into a bit of a mess, Dave," he said. "To be
truthful, we are lost. I really haven't the faintest where we are. You
must think me a fine mug for this. I'm frightfully sorry, really."

"Wait a minute!" Dave cried out. "Here comes a car. It sounds like a
truck. Gee, what a racket!"

A pair of headlights was rapidly approaching along the road that led off
to the right. They bounced up and down because of the uneven surface,
and the banging noise of the engine made Dave think of a threshing
machine. On impulse he and Freddy Farmer moved out into the glow of the
ambulance's lights and began waving their arms. The truck or car, or
whatever it was, bore down upon them and finally came to a halt with the
grinding and clashing of gears.

"Come on, Dave, we'll find out, now!" Freddy said and trotted into the
twin beams of light.

Dave dropped into step at his side, and they had traveled but a few
yards when a harsh voice suddenly stopped them in their tracks.

"Halt!"

The two boys stood motionless, their eyes blinking into the light. Dave
heard Freddy Farmer catch his breath in a sharp gasp. He suddenly
realized that for some unknown reason his own heart was pounding
furiously, and there was a peculiar dryness in his throat. At that
moment he heard hobnailed boots strike the surface of the road. The
figure of a soldier came into the light. On his head was a bucket shaped
helmet, and in his hands was a wicked looking portable machine gun. He
moved forward in a cautious way, and then Dave was able to see his
uniform. His heart seemed to turn to ice in his chest, and his hands
suddenly felt very cold and damp.

He was looking straight at a German soldier!



CHAPTER FOUR

_Prisoners Of War!_


"Good Grief, a German!"

Freddy Farmer's whispered exclamation served to jerk Dave out of his
stunned trance. He blinked and swallowed hard and tried to stop the
pounding of his heart.

"Hey, there, we're lost!" he suddenly called out. "Where are we anyway?"

The advancing German soldier pulled up short and stopped. He stuck his
head forward and stared hard. There was a sharp exclamation behind him
and then a second figure came into the light. The second figure was a
German infantry officer. He kept one hand on his holstered Luger
automatic and came up to Dave and Freddy.

"You are English?" he asked in a heavy nasal voice. "What are you doing
here? Ah, an ambulance, eh? So, you are trying to sneak back through our
advanced lines? It is good that I have found you just in time. Keep your
hands up, both of you! I will see if you have guns, yes!"

"We're not armed, Captain!" Dave exclaimed. "We're not soldiers. We're
just lost."

"I am not a captain, I am a lieutenant!" the German snapped and searched
Dave for a gun. "You will address me as such. Not soldiers, you tell me?
Then, why this ambulance? And why are you here?"

"As you were just told," Freddy Farmer spoke up in a calm voice,
"because we are lost. Now, if you will be good enough to tell us the way
to Courtrai we will be off."

The German officer snapped his head around.

"Ah, so _you_ are English, yes?" he demanded.

"And proud of it!" Freddy said stiffly. "And this chap, if you must
know, is an American friend of mine. Now, will you tell us the way to
Courtrai?"

The German said nothing for a moment or two. There was a look of
disappointment on his sharp featured face. It was as though he was very
sad he had not found a pistol or an automatic on either of them. He
moved back a step and stood straddle legged with his bunched fists
resting on his hips.

"American and English?" he finally muttered. "This is all very strange,
very unusual. You say you don't know where you are?"

"That's right, Lieutenant," Dave said and choked back a hot retort.
"Where are we anyway? And what are you doing here? My gosh! Is this
Germany?"

The German smiled and showed ugly teeth.

"It is now," he said. "But that is all you need to know. I think you
have lied to me. Yes, I am sure of it. I will take you to the
_Kommandant_. He will get you to talk, I'm sure. _Himmel!_ Our enemies
send out little boys to spy on us! The grown men must be too afraid.
But, you cannot fool us with your tricks!"

"Tricks, nothing!" Dave blurted out in a burst of anger. "We told you
the truth. I was on my way to join my father in London...."

"Don't waste your breath, Dave," Freddy Farmer said quietly. "I'm sure
he wouldn't understand, anyway."

"Silence, you Englisher!" the German snarled and whirled on the boy.
"You will make no slurs at a German officer. Come! We will go to see the
_Kommandant_ at once!"

"We'd better do as he orders, Freddy," Dave said swiftly. "After we've
told our story to his commanding officer they'll let us go. They can't
keep us very long. If they do, I'll appeal to the nearest American
Consul. He'll straighten things out for us."

"So?" the German muttered and gave Dave a piercing look. "Well, we shall
see. If you are spies it will go very hard with you, yes. Now, march
back to the car in front of me."

The officer half turned his head and snapped something at the soldier
who had been standing in back of him. The soldier immediately sprang
into action. He hurried past and climbed into the front seat of the
ambulance. Dave impulsively took hold of Freddy's arm again.

"Don't worry, Freddy!" he whispered. "Everything, will come out all
right. You wait and see. Don't let these fellows even guess that we're
worried."

"What's that?" the German suddenly thundered. "What's that you are
saying to him?"

The officer had half drawn his Luger and the movement chilled Dave's
heart. He forced himself, though, to look the German straight in the
eye.

"I was simply telling him the American Consul would fix things up for
us," he said evenly.

The German snorted.

"Perhaps," he growled. "We shall see."

Walking straight with their heads up and their shoulders back, the two
boys permitted themselves to be herded back to the car. When they passed
beyond the glow of the headlights they were plunged into darkness and
for a moment Dave could see nothing. Then his eyes became used to the
change and he saw that the car was a combination car and truck. It was
actually an armored troop transport. Steel sheets protected the back and
the driver's seat, and instead of heavy duty tires on the rear wheels
there were tractor treads instead so that the army vehicle could travel
across country and through mud as well as along a paved road.

In the back were some fifteen or twenty German soldiers each armed with
a small machine gun and completely fitted out for scouting work. They
peered down at Dave and Freddy as the officer motioned them to get into
the transport, but none of them spoke. They either did not understand
English, or else they were too afraid of the officer to speak. And so
Dave and Freddy climbed aboard in silence and sank down on the hard
plank that served as a seat. The officer got in beside the driver and
growled a short order.

The engine roared up, gears clanked and crashed, and the transport
lunged forward. It traveled a few yards and swung off the road and
around in the direction from which it had obviously come. That direction
was to the east, and that caused Dave to swallow hard and press his knee
against Freddy's. The pressure that was returned told him that the
English boy had a good hold on himself, and wasn't going to do anything
foolish.

Glad of that, Dave stared ahead over the shoulder of the driver at the
road. At various points the pavement had been torn up by a bomb or by a
shell and the transport's driver was forced to detour around such spots.
Presently, wrecked ammunition wagons, and light field artillery pieces
were to be seen, strewn along the side of the road. They were all
smashed almost beyond recognition, and close by them were the death
stilled figures of Belgian soldiers, and refugees who had been unable to
escape the swiftly advancing German hordes.

Suddenly the sound of airplane engines lifted Dave's eyes up to the
skies. He could not see the planes, they were too high. However the
pulsating beat of the engines told him they were Hitler's night bombers
out on patrol. Impulsively he clenched his two fists and wished very
much he was up there in a swift, deadly pursuit or fighter plane. He had
taken flying lessons back home, and had even made his first solo. But he
had not been granted his private pilot's license yet because of his age.

"But I'd like to be up there in a Curtis P-Forty!" he spoke aloud. "I
bet I could do something, or at least try!"

His words stiffened Freddy Farmer at his side. The English boy leaned
close.

"Are you a pilot, Dave?" he whispered. "Do you fly?"

"Some," Dave said. "I've gone solo, anyway. I hope some day to get
accepted for the Army Air Corps. I think flying is the best thing yet.
There's nothing like it. Hear those planes up there? Boy!"

"They're German," Freddy said. "Heinkel bombers, I think. Or perhaps
they are Dorniers, I can't tell by the sound. I'm crazy about flying,
too. I joined an aero club back in England. I've got a few hours solo to
my credit. When war broke out I tried to enlist in the Royal Air Force,
but they found out about my age and it was no go, worse luck. But, some
day I'm going to wear R.A.F. wings. At least, I hope and pray so. I...."

"Silence!" the German officer's harsh voice grated against their
eardrums once more. "You will not speak!"

"A rum chap, isn't he?" Freddy breathed out the corner of his mouth.

"Sure thinks he's a big shot," Dave breathed.

And then as the transport continued to rumble and roll eastward Nature
took charge of things as far as the boys were concerned. Strong and
healthy though they were, they had been through a lot since dawn. It had
been more than enough to wear down a full grown man. And soon they fell
sound asleep.

The rasping and clanging of gears and the shouting of voices in German
eventually dragged Dave out of his sound slumber. It was still dark but
he could see the first faint light of a new dawn low down in the east.
The motorized transport had come to a stop in the center of a small
village. Dave could see that here, too, shells and bombs had been at
work, but lots of the buildings remained untouched. There were German
soldiers in all kinds of uniforms all over the place. A hand was slapped
against his shoulder and he looked up to stare into the small bright
eyes of the German lieutenant.

"Wake up your friend!" the German snapped, "We are here. Get out, both
of you!"

"Where are we?" Dave asked and gently shook Freddy Farmer who was fast
asleep on his shoulder. "What town is this, Lieutenant?"

The German smiled slyly. Then annoyance flashed through his eyes. He
whipped out a hand and took a steel grip on Freddy's shoulder and shook
viciously.

"Wake up, Englander!" he barked. "You have had enough sleep for the
present. Wake up, I say!"

A smart slap across the cheek emphasized the last. The English lad woke
up instantly, and he would have lunged out with a clenched fist if Dave
had not caught hold of his arm.

"Take it easy, Freddy!" he exclaimed. "This is the end of the line.
Here's where we get off. How do you feel?"

Freddy shook his head and dug knuckles into his sleep filled eyes. That
seemed to do the trick. He was fully awake in an instant.

"Oh yes, I remember, now," he said. "Where are we, though? What's this
place?"

The German threw back his head and laughed.

"I will tell you," he said and waggled a finger in front of their faces.
"This is the Headquarters of the German Army Intelligence in the field.
I am taking you before the _Kommandant_. And now we shall learn all
about you two. Yes, you will be very wise to answer truthfully all the
questions _Herr Kommandant_ asks."

With a curt nod to show that he meant what he said the German climbed
down onto the street, and then motioned for Dave and Freddy to climb
down, too.

"That building, there," he said and pointed. "March! And do not be so
foolish as to try and run away. I warn you!"

Dave and Freddy simply shrugged and walked across the street to the
doorway of a solidly built stone building. A guard standing in front
clicked his heels and held his rifle at salute at the approach of the
officer.

"My compliments to _Herr Kommandant_," the officer said sharply.
"_Leutnant_ Mueller reporting with two prisoners for questioning."

The guard saluted again, then executed a smart about face and went in
through the door. Dave caught a flash glimpse of desks, and chairs, and
the part of a wall covered by a huge map, before the door was closed in
his face. He looked at Freddy and grinned, and then glanced up into the
small eyes of the German officer. Those small eyes seemed to bore right
back into his brain.

"You will do well to tell the whole truth!" the German said without
hardly moving his lips. "Remember that!"

At that moment the door was reopened and the guard was nodding at the
lieutenant.

"_Herr Kommandant_ will see you at once, _Herr Leutnant_," he said.

"Good!" the officer grunted, and pushed Dave and Freddy in the back.
"Inside, at once!"



CHAPTER FIVE

_In the Enemy's Camp_


The first thing Dave saw as the Lieutenant pushed him through the open
doorway was a desk bigger than any other desk he had ever seen. It was a
good nine feet long and at least five feet wide. It took up almost one
whole side of the room and upon it were piled books, official papers, a
couple of portable short-wave radio sets, and at least a dozen
telephones. And seated at the desk was a huge red faced, bull necked
German in the uniform of a staff colonel.

"My prisoners, _Herr Kommandant_ Stohl," the Lieutenant said. "_Heil
Hitler!_"

The big German Colonel lifted his gaze from some papers in front of him,
looked at Dave Dawson and Freddy Farmer and started violently. His eyes
widened and his jaw dropped in amazement. He got control of himself
almost instantly and whipped his eyes to the Lieutenant's face.

"Is this a joke, _Herr Leutnant_?" he demanded in a booming voice that
shook the thick walls of the room. "What is the charge against these two
peasant urchins? Look, the clothes of that one, there, are in rags!"

The high ranking officer lifted a finger the size of a banana and jabbed
it at Dave. The lieutenant flushed and made gurgling sounds in his
throat.

"They are not urchins, not peasants, _Herr Kommandant_," he explained
hastily. "This one of the brown hair claims he is an American. And this
one of the light hair is an Englisher. I caught them trying to sneak
past our advance units with an ambulance. They stated that they were
lost, and wanted to know the way to Courtrai. When I caught them they
were a good forty miles southeast of that city. I did not believe their
stories so I escorted them here at once."

"And the ambulance?" the German asked slowly. "There were wounded
soldiers in it, perhaps?"

"No, _Herr Kommandant_," the Lieutenant said with a shake of his head.
"There was nothing. It was completely empty. It has never been used.
That, also, added to my suspicions of these two. I shall give it a
better examination at your orders, sir."

"Do so at once, now," the senior officer said and made a wave of
dismissal with one hand.

"At once, _Herr Kommandant_," the Lieutenant said in a magpie voice.
"_Heil Hitler!_"

The German Colonel waited until he had left, then focussed his eyes on
Dave and Freddy, and smiled faintly.

"And now, boys," he said in a kindly voice, "what is all this about? How
did you happen to get so far behind our lines?"

"We told the lieutenant the truth, sir," Freddy Farmer spoke up. "I was
lost. It was all my fault. I had no idea where I was. You have no right
to hold us as prisoners. We have done nothing except get lost, and it
was all my fault."

The German's smile broadened and his shoulders shook.

"So, I have no right, eh?" he chuckled. "You are not in your England
now, my boy. But suppose you tell me all about it?"

"Very well, sir," Freddy said in a quiet dignified voice. "And you can
take my word for its being the truth, too."

The English youth paused a moment and then told the story of leaving the
Paris headquarters of the British Volunteer Ambulance Service, becoming
separated from the others, and after many hours picking up Dave Dawson.

"And so there you are, sir," he finished up. "A very unfortunate
incident, but I've already told you it was my fault."

The big German, shrugged, started to speak but checked himself and
swiveled around in his chair to peer at the well marked map that took up
most of the wall in back of him. Presently he turned front again and
fixed his eyes on Dave.

"And you?" he grunted. "Where were you forced to leave your car? And
where is this French Army lieutenant your friend mentioned?"

"I don't know where he is," Dave said. "When the German planes started
shooting and bombing those refugees I...."

"One moment!" the Colonel grated harshly. "Our pilots do not shoot or
bomb helpless civilians. Those were undoubtedly French planes, or
British ones, made to look like German planes. Go on."

Anger rose up in Dave Dawson. He had seen those planes with his own
eyes. And he knew enough about foreign planes to know that they were
neither French nor British. They were German, and there were no two ways
about that. He opened his mouth to hurl the lie back in the German's
face, but suddenly thought better of it.

"The spot was about seventy miles north of Paris, I think," he said. "I
know that a few minutes before, we had passed through a small village
named Roye. And I remember looking at my watch. It was a little after
one this afternoon."

"I see," murmured the German, and an odd look seeped into his eyes. "And
when you awoke it was night? You saw the ambulance of this English
boy's, and he picked you up?"

"That's right, sir," Dave said with a nod.

"And so?" the German said in the same murmuring tone. "So from a little
after one this afternoon until your friend picked you up you traveled
over thirty miles ... _while unconscious_? You expect me to believe
that?"

"I'm not telling a lie!" Dave said hotly. "You can believe what you darn
well like. It's still the truth, just the same. I don't know how I got
there. Maybe some passing car picked me up, and then dumped me out
thinking that I was dead. Maybe somebody took me along to rob me because
of my American clothes. They might have thought I had some money,
and...."

Dave slopped short at the sudden thought and started searching the
pockets of his torn clothes. All he could find was a handkerchief, a
broken pencil, and a bent American Lincoln penny that he carried as a
lucky piece. Everything else was gone. His wallet, his money, his
passport ... everything. He looked at the Colonel in angry triumph.

"That's what happened!" he cried. "Somebody picked me up and robbed me,
and then left me in that field under the trees. Good gosh! I'm broke,
and I'll need money to get to England. I...."

Dave stopped short again as he saw the smile on the Colonel's face. This
time it was a different kind of smile. There was nothing pleasant or
fatherly about it. It was a cold, tight lipped smile, and Dave shivered
a bit in spite of himself.

"You are not going to England ... yet!" the German said slowly. "There
is something very funny about all this, and I mean to find out what it
is. Yes, it is rather strange, I think."

"For cat's sake, why?" Dave blurted out. "We simply got lost in the
dark, and that's all there is to it!"

"Exactly!" Freddy Farmer spoke up. "It is the truth. We are not even old
enough to be soldiers ... unfortunately."

The German officer scowled so that his heavy black brows formed a solid
line across the lower part of his forehead.

"Your sharp tongue may get you into more trouble than you think, my
little Englisher!" he growled. "You had best take care. Now, we will ask
some more questions. You both left Paris this morning, eh? You saw
troops and tanks and things on the march?"

"Millions of them!" Freddy Farmer said quickly. "And airplanes, too. I
never saw so many soldiers, or so much military equipment."

"So?" the German breathed. "You saw which way they were heading, of
course?"

"Naturally," Freddy said. "They were going into Belgium, of course. And
not just French troops with tanks and guns, either. There were thousands
of British and Canadians. And there were more thousands from Australia
and New Zealand, and South Africa. And the sky was filled with R.A.F.
and French planes. And...."

The German's booming laughter stopped Freddy. The big man shook like
jelly and he was forced to blow his nose before he could speak.

"I must say I admire you, my young Englander," he said. "I suppose now
we should become very frightened and order a general retreat at once,
eh?"

"You will be forced to, shortly," Freddy said stiffly.

The laughter faded from the German's face and his eyes became brittle
and hard.

"Germans never hear such an order, for it is never given!" he snapped.
"But, I see you want to treat this all as a little joke, eh?"

"Do you expect us to give away military information?" Dave demanded.

"It would help you a lot, boys," the officer said slyly. "You two want
to get to England, don't you?"

"Not that way, we don't!" Dave said, standing up to him. "You'll get no
military information out of either of us, even if we had any to give."

"Good for you, Dave!" Freddy said in a low voice. "He can't make dirty
traitors out of us."

Heads up and shoulders back the two of them stared defiantly at the
officer. He glared back at them for a moment and then as quick as the
blink of an eye his big face broke out all smiles.

"Good, good, boys!" he cried. "I like you all the more for refusing. I
wouldn't tell anything either if I should happen to be captured. All
right, we will speak no more about that. But, I must make out a report.
Give me your names, and addresses. I will send word through the Red
Cross to your families so they will know where you are."

"But I live in America!" Dave cried. "I'm on a trip with my father. He's
in London, as I told you, but I don't know where!"

"What is his name?" the officer said and picked up a pencil. "I will
have word sent to the hotel where you stopped in Paris. It will be
forwarded to him wherever he is. Well?"

Dave hesitated a moment, then decided there wasn't anything else to be
done about it.

"Mr. Richard C. Dawson," he said. "My name is David. Hotel de Ney,
Twenty-One Rue Passey, Paris. But, wait! He went to see the American
Ambassador in London. You can send word there."

That bit of information seemed to startle the German. He gave Dave a
long piercing look, then nodded and scribbled on a piece of paper in
front of him. In a minute he glanced up at Freddy.

"And you, Englisher?" he grunted.

"My name is Frederick Covington Farmer," Freddy said. "I live at
Sixty-Four Baker Street, London, England. But, see here, sir! You don't
really intend to keep us prisoners, do you? I mean, after all, you
know!"

The officer laughed and shook his head.

"Keep you prisoners?" he echoed. "Of course not. But I can't very well
let you go until I get proof who you are, now can I? In a very short
time I shall learn if you've told me the truth. And then, if you have, I
will have you put in a car and passed through the Belgian lines. Just as
simple as that, see?"

"We have told you the truth," Freddy said grimly.

"You bet we have!" Dave said.

"Then there is nothing for you to worry about," the big German chuckled.
"And now, you must be hungry, eh? Well, I shall at once see that you are
taken care of and given something to eat."

The German reached out one of his big hands and jabbed a desk button
with a thick finger. As though by magic a side door swung open and a
German soldier with a Staff Orderly's arm band about his tunic sleeve
popped into the room. The officer fired words at him so fast that Dave
couldn't catch a single one of them. The orderly saluted and then
motioned for Dave and Freddy to walk out ahead of him. When he had
closed the door he pointed toward a flight of stairs, and then up. He
stopped them on the second landing, pushed open a door and waved them
inside. There were two army cots with a blanket for each, a couple of
broken chairs, and nothing else. A single window was at the rear of the
room and its sill was a good five feet up from the floor. It was thick
with dust and cobwebs and looked as if it hadn't been opened in years.

The two boys glanced at the room in dismay. Then the click of the door
latch, and the grating sound of a bolt being shot home, spun them both
around. Dave leaped for the door and grasped hold of the knob. It
turned in his hand, but the door refused to open. He gulped and glanced
back at Freddy. The English youth's face had paled a bit, but his eyes
were grimly defiant.



CHAPTER SIX

_They'll Never Beat Us!_


"Keep the old chin up, Freddy," said Dave. "They can't do anything to
us. They wouldn't dare! Don't let it get you, fellow."

Freddy lifted his face and smiled wryly. There was the faintest
suggestion of tears in his eyes.

"I'm not afraid of them!" he said scornfully. "I'm mad at myself. I
could kick me all around this room. Through my own stupidity I've gone
and lost our boys a perfectly good ambulance. That's what I can't get
over. I could chew nails when I think of it falling into the hands of
the blasted Germans. I'm just no good, Dave."

Dave laughed and doubled up a fist and put it under the other's chin.

"Hey, none of that!" he cried. "You're my pal, and I don't let people
say crazy things about my pals. Gee whiz, you were swell downstairs,
Freddy. You talked right up to him when I was all the time quaking in my
boots. You bet! Don't worry about that ambulance. Maybe we'll get it
back. Heck! Maybe we can figure out some way to steal it back."

Bright hope flickered in the English youth's eyes.

"You think so, Dave?" he whispered. "You think there's a chance we might
steal it away from them?"

"We can sure try," Dave replied with a vigorous nod. "You just keep
everything under control, and.... Sh-h-h! I think somebody's coming up
the stairs. Come on, Freddy! Let's not let them get the idea we're
worried at all."

"Right-o!" Freddy whispered back and gave Dave's hand a quick squeeze.
"Count on me to hold up my end, Dave!"

Footsteps were now just outside the door. They heard the outside bolt
slap back and then the door was pushed open. The German guard stood in
the hallway outside. In one hand he carried a battered tray containing
food, and tucked under the other arm was a bundle of old clothes. Just
behind him stood Colonel Stohl. The big German's face was beaming like a
full moon.

"Did you think I had forgotten you, boys?" he boomed and strode into the
room. "But of course not. Here is food for you. And take off your
clothes and put on these things. I will have what you're wearing mended
and cleaned up. So!"

"That's very kind of you, Colonel," Freddy said in a faintly mocking
tone. "You're going to be frightfully disappointed, you know."

"Disappointed?" the German officer mumbled and gave him a puzzled look.

"Quite so," Freddy said and started peeling off his dust and dirt caked
clothes. "I can assure you you'll find no secret messages or maps sewed
into the lining. No matter what you suspect, we really aren't spies, you
know."

The German laughed loudly but there was a look in his eye that did not
mean laughter to Dave. The Intelligence officer didn't like the idea of
a sixteen year old English boy seeing right through him as though he
were made of glass.

"Why that's ridiculous!" the Colonel cried. "Of course you aren't spies.
I just want to have your clothes cleaned. We Germans take good care of
the people we have to protect. You will do well to think of that when
you return to your homelands. Now, get into these clean clothes and then
eat your food. There, that is better, yes!"

The officer waited until the guard had gathered up the boys' clothes,
then he smiled at them and went out the door followed by the guard. Dave
and Freddy waited until the bolt was jammed home and then, being half
starved, they fell upon the tray of food. The very first mouthful was a
delightful surprise to them both. The food was excellent and there was a
lot of it. They wolfed it down for a moment or so and then Dave put a
restraining hand on Freddy's.

"Wait a minute!" he said in a low voice. "I think this is another part
of the trick he thinks he's playing on us."

"What do you mean?" Freddy whispered and stopped eating at once. "Good
grief! You think there is something in this food? I once heard a story
about the Germans using some kind of a drug that makes a prisoner talk.
But I'm starved, Dave!"

"Me, too," Dave nodded. "I don't mean that. I'm sure the food's okay.
That's the point. It's swell! I bet the troops don't get this kind of
food. Look, Freddy! I've got a hunch he wants to make a hit with us.
Feed us up good and then get us to talk about the French and British
military units we saw yesterday. You know, they're always after
information that will give them a line on what's in front of them."

"Then he is a fool, if he thinks filling my stomach with good food will
make me tell him anything!" Freddy snorted in disgust.

"Check and double check for both of us!" Dave agreed. "But here's what I
mean. I think we'd be wise not to eat all of this. Let's save some.
This bread, at least. We might need it later, and bad."

"You're right, Dave!" Freddy said, realizing instantly what his American
friend had in mind. "When we do escape from here we'll certainly need
some food to take along. And I think that's what we'll have to do ...
escape somehow."

Dave nodded but didn't speak. There was a queer feeling inside of him,
and the back of his neck was beginning to tingle a little. That was a
sure sign with him that there was trouble ahead. And it had proven to be
true more than a couple of times during his young life. No, the German
colonel wasn't fooling him at all. Perhaps they puzzled the Intelligence
officer, but Dave felt pretty sure he didn't really believe they were
spies. Yet, you never could tell. One thing seemed certain, however. The
German hoped to pump them for what little they could tell him. He was
going to keep them prisoners until he was satisfied. And perhaps he
would keep them prisoners even after that. This thing worked two ways.
Would the Intelligence officer let them pass safely through the Belgian
lines knowing full well they'd tell the authorities what they'd seen on
the German side?

No, that wasn't at all likely, and Dave suddenly didn't feel very
hungry. He got up and walked over to the rear window. The sill came
only to his chin for he was close to six feet tall, so he could see out
without any trouble. That is, after he had wiped away some of the dust
and cobwebs. What he saw, however, brought no joy to his heart. The
window looked out on a tree studded hill that blocked out everything
beyond. Another fine day was well on its way and as Dave screwed his
head around so that he could look high up into the blue sky he saw
cluster after cluster of planes in line and in V formation. And all of
them were moving swiftly westward. By straining his ears he could just
barely catch the throbbing beat of German engines. Even as their sound
came to him he heard louder and more thunderous sounds farther to the
west. He did not need two guesses to know that German bombers were once
again dropping their loads of death and destruction upon the soldiers
and civilians of the countries Adolf Hitler desired to crush under his
iron heel.

He turned from the window and stood staring flint eyed at nothing at
all. Yesterday he had reached seventeen years of age. But today? Today
he somehow felt a dozen years older than that. What he had seen since
leaving Paris had added years to his way of thinking, if not to his
body. A fierce anger at the injustices wrought had sprung up within him.
He wanted to do something about it. What, he did not know. But today
there had been born in him a blazing desire to do what he could to spare
Europe, and perhaps the whole world, from the bullets and bombs and the
tyranny of the Nazi legions.

"What are you thinking of, Dave?"

Freddy's quiet voice at his elbow jerked him from his thought trance. He
turned and stared into the clear blue eyes of his new found friend and
ally in the face of danger.

"A lot of things, Freddy," he said. "Maybe I'm crazy, but I want nothing
better than the chance to do something. A chance to get back at these
Germans for what I've seen them do. We may be kids and not old enough to
enlist, Freddy, but there must be _something_ we can do to help. And,
believe me, I sure want to do it. Listen, Freddy, have you any idea
where we are? I've never been in Belgium in my life. And I guess this is
still Belgium, isn't it?"

"Yes, I could tell from the looks of the buildings, and some of the
townsfolk I saw when we arrived," the English youth said. "But what town
this is, I haven't the faintest idea. I ... Wait!"

"What's the matter?" Dave asked.

"That map in the colonel's office downstairs!" Freddy whispered
excitedly. "Did you see it, and see how it was marked with those little
pins and tiny flags?"

"Sure, I saw it," Dave said with a nod. "But I didn't pay much attention
to it."

"Nor I," Freddy said. "But I'll bet you something, Dave. This is an
Intelligence headquarters, and I'll bet those little pins and flags mark
the points of advance by the German forces. Do you see what I mean,
Dave? If we could get a good look at that map, and remember some of the
things it tells, and then get away from here, why...."

The English youth stopped. He was shaking too much from eager excitement
to continue. Dave nodded and gripped him by both arms.

"You're right, Freddy!" he whispered. "It might help a lot if we could
tell the Allied commanders where some of the German units are, and what
places they seem to be heading for. Let me think. How in heck can we get
another look at that map?"

"We could pound on the door," Freddy said, "and tell him we're willing
to tell all that we know, if he'll let us go. He'd probably take us down
to his office to hear what we have to say."

"Maybe," Dave said with a frown. "But I think it's a little too soon to
make him think we're scared and giving in. And, besides, he may not be
tricking us. Maybe he really is going to just check on us and then let
us go."

"Let us go back and tell what we've seen behind the German lines?"
Freddy scoffed. "Not a bit of it, Dave. You must be off your topper!"

"Yeah, I'd thought of that, myself," Dave said sadly. "It's a cinch he's
not going to let us go no matter what he thinks about us. Well, the way
I see it there's only one thing we can do. We can't try an escape now in
broad daylight, so we've got to wait. Let's put on these clothes and
catch up on some sleep. The only thing we can do is wait for awhile.
Wait to see if he makes any move."

"I hate waiting," Freddy said and started pulling on the old clothes the
guard had brought with their breakfast. "But of course you're right,
Dave. There's nothing else we can do, right now."

"But plenty later on!" Dave said determinedly and flung himself down on
one of the cots. "You wait and see, Freddy. It's a promise!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Later that afternoon, the Colonel did make the next move. A guard came
up to the boys' cell, woke them from a deep sleep and ushered them down
to the Colonel's office.

"Sit down, boys," he said and circled around to in back of his huge
desk. "I want to have a talk with you."

Dave and Freddy exchanged quick looks, then sat down as ordered.

"Now," the Colonel said and clasped his big hands together on the edge
of his desk. "Our Leader is a man of peace. He _loves_ peace, and would
gladly give his life for peace among nations. You, my little Englisher!
Did the Fuehrer declare war on your country, or on France? No! They
declared war on him, on Germany. Listen to me! Don't you want peace?"

"Certainly,"' Freddy replied. Then he added, "At the right time."

"No, peace as soon as possible," the German said. "Now is the best time.
Before there is more bloodshed. You two boys can help bring this war to
an early end. You will be doing a favor to Germany's foes. Now, why not
be good boys and tell me the truth? Then everything will be fine."

Neither of the boys said a word. As for Dave, it all sounded as though
he were listening to a broken phonograph record. "Tell me the truth....
Tell me the truth.... Tell me the truth!" It was like the title of a
song. He sat silent and kept his eyes fixed on the huge map on the wall.
He stared at it hard and tried to memorize the dates he could read
there, and the names of the towns and cities, and the locations of the
pins and flags. One town on the map was well smudged by finger and thumb
marks. It was named Estalle and was close to the Belgian-German
frontier. He suddenly had a hunch that that was where they were. At
Estalle, close to the German frontier, but how far behind the advanced
German lines? He thought of the long ride in the motored transport last
night and his heart sank down toward his boots.

"Well, for the last time!" the German Colonel suddenly thundered. "Do
you tell me the truth?"

"For Heaven's sakes, we already have!" Freddy shouted at him. "We've
told you nothing but the truth a dozen times. What must we do to get you
to believe us?"

The German didn't answer at once. He slammed both hands down flat on the
desk, hoisted his huge bulk forward, and glared at them.

"Very well," he said. "I have tried to be gentle and kind with you,
because you are only young boys. But, you refuse my kindness. So, I
shall treat you as grown men. I shall have you both _shot_!"



CHAPTER SEVEN

_Shoot!_


If the roof had suddenly fallen down on top of his head Dave Dawson
could have not been more astonished or surprised. Shot? He gaped at the
German officer half expecting to see the man burst out laughing. Colonel
Stohl did not laugh, however. He remained leaning forward over the desk
and raking them with eyes that looked like twin cubes of ice.

"Shot?" Dave heard himself speak the word. "You can't shoot us. We
haven't done anything! Gee whiz, why do you want to shoot us?"

"Of course we haven't done anything!" Freddy Farmer spoke up loudly. "I
think this is all just a bluff!"

"A bluff?" the German snarled. "Do you take me for a fool? I do not
bluff at a time like this. Take a look at this that I hold in my hand,
so! Ah, you recognize it, eh?"

The officer had suddenly whipped up something off the desk. Dave took a
good look and saw that it was a rolled up map.

"It's a map," he said, "but I never saw it before."

"Nor have I," Freddy said stoutly.

"It was found hidden under the seat of the ambulance," the German said
in a flat voice that made Dave shiver inwardly. "There are certain marks
on it. Numbers and figures written in pencil near the names of towns you
passed through before you were caught. So you told me the truth, eh? No,
you lied. This map contains information that would be very useful to
Germany's enemies. You thought you could protect yourselves by driving
an ambulance ... but you can't. But ... and listen to what I say ... you
_can_ save your lives!"

Dave tried to speak but his tongue was sticking to the roof of his
mouth. He felt his knees go weak, and it was all he could do to force
himself to stand upright. He had the feeling that this was all a crazy
dream, a nightmare. In a few moments he would probably wake up and find
himself safe and sound in bed in his room at the Hotel de Ney. He didn't
know anything about a map. He'd never even seen it before.

He half turned and looked at Freddy Farmer. The English youth's face was
a little paler, but his chin was firm, and his eyes were filled with
scornful defiance.

"I haven't any idea what you are talking about, sir," Freddy said to
the colonel. "I was not trying to protect myself, or my friend, from
anything. I was simply delivering the ambulance to Courtrai. And, for
the hundredth time, _I lost my way_!"

The German made a movement with his hand as though brushing the words to
one side.

"Enough of that!" he said. "This is a serious business. I am not saying
that you collected the information about our advance units I find here
on this map. Perhaps you were only taking it to somebody else. Yes,
perhaps you did not even know you were being used for such work. Let us
say that is the truth. We Germans do not make war with boys, but.... But
this information _was found on you_, and that is most serious. Answer
the questions I ask you, and I promise that you will not be treated as
spies. I also promise you that you will be made comfortable until
arrangements can be made to send you home. Now!"

"What are the questions?" Freddy asked.

The stern look fled the German's face, and he smiled.

"Ah, that is better!" he said and spread the map on the desk. "Now, here
you have marked a line showing the route you traveled from Paris. Each
town you passed through is marked. Those towns are French troop and
equipment garrisons. This town here, close to the Belgian border, what
did you see there? French troops? British troops? And what was their
equipment? Tanks? Big ones, or small ones? Were there motorized
anti-aircraft batteries? Were...?"

The German suddenly stopped and looked up from the map.

"You are not listening?" he said softly.

Freddy's face seemed actually to grow thin as Dave looked at him. The
English boy licked his lips just once and then put his shoulders back a
little more.

"Certainly I'm listening," he said. "But I won't answer a single one of
your questions even though you do shoot me!"

Dave felt like throwing his arms about young Farmer and hugging him.
Here was the kind of cool, calm courage for which the British were
famous the world over. Instead, Dave turned his head and looked at the
German.

"We're not saying a thing!" he shouted. "I demand that we be permitted
to see the nearest American Consul!"

The German officer ignored Dave's outburst as though he had not spoken.
He looked steadily at Freddy for a moment and then sighed heavily and
raised both hands in a gesture of despair.

"Very well," he said. "That is all for now. I will give you until
tomorrow morning to think it over ... and change your mind. Guard!"

The side door popped open and in popped the guard. Colonel Stohl pointed
a finger.

"Take them back," he said, "and stand guard outside the door. If either
of them attempts to escape ... _shoot!_"

The Colonel gave them an angry stare and a curt nod, and then busied
himself with some papers on the desk. Two minutes later the boys were
back in their prison room. The door was closed and bolted, and they
could hear the boots of the guard pacing up and down the hallway
outside. Freddy sat down on a cot and started to shiver violently. Dave
went over to him instantly and put a friendly arm about his shoulders.

"Steady, Freddy!" he whispered. "We'll get out somehow. He was only
bluffing. He wouldn't dare shoot us. I'll make him let me see the
nearest American Consul. I'll ... I'll make him let me telephone the
American Ambassador in Brussels."

"I hope you do for your sake, Dave," Freddy whispered. "But England is
at war, and I'm an Englishman. And, Dave ... that map was mine. I used
it and marked my route until it got too dark."

Fingers of ice clutched at Dave's heart and pressed hard. He sucked air
sharply into his lungs.

"Holy smokes!" he breathed. "Then you did put down all that stuff he was
talking about?"

"Oh no, not that!" the English youth said and shook his head vigorously.
"I just penciled in the route I had taken until it got too dark.
Besides, I lost my pencil when I tried to do it in the glow of the dash
light. The rest of the things he must have marked in."

Dave gave a shake of his head and looked puzzled.

"I don't get it!" he murmured. "Why?"

"Don't you see?" Freddy said. "It's really very simple, Dave. They did
it to frighten me, to make me answer their questions. They'll hold a
military court and use that map as evidence. There'll be an awful row.
They'll make one, hoping to scare me into talking. I knew a Jewish boy
in England who escaped with his family from the German Gestapo and he
told me about the tricks they play to scare you into telling them
things. That's what he plans to do with me. But, I won't tell him a
thing, not a thing! It's my map all right, but they're not going to
frighten me into telling anything that would hurt the Allies. They can't
make me!"

"You bet they can't, pal!" Dave said. "And they won't get anything out
of me, either."

"I don't think he means any harm toward you, Dave," Freddy said after a
long pause. "You just insist on seeing the American Consul and I think
he'll let you. When you spoke of your father's trip to London he seemed
surprised. You're an American, Dave. You'll be all right."

"But what about you, Freddy?" Dave exclaimed.

"I won't tell them a thing, no matter what they do," the English youth
said determinedly. "Never!"

Dave started to speak, checked himself, and stepped back a pace.

"So that's the kind of a pal you are, huh?" he grunted. "You just up and
let me down!"

Freddy jerked his head up in blank amazement. Tears were dangerously
close to his eyes.

"Let you down, Dave?" he gasped. "But, Dave...!"

"Sure, let me down," Dave snapped at him. "I thought we were pals? I
thought we were going to see this through together?"

"But, Dave, you...!"

"Me walk out and leave you behind?" Dave interrupted the English youth's
speech. "Quit a pal just because I'm American and he's English? Not a
chance. We're sticking together. You can't toss me off like that!"

"But I was only thinking of you, Dave," Freddy protested. "After all I
really got you into this, you know."

Dave suddenly stopped acting hurt and angry. He bent down and grinned
broadly.

"So what?" he whispered. "So I'll get you _out_. We've got until
tomorrow morning to think things over. That's what he said. Well, we're
not going to think things, we're going to _do_ things. Are you game,
Freddy?"

For an answer Freddy put out his hand, and the two clasped hands warmly.
The color came back into the English youth's face, and that made Dave
feel almost happy.

"Okay, Freddy," he whispered. "I saw something besides airplanes out the
window awhile ago. Come over and I'll show you."

For a couple of seconds Dave stood still listening to the footsteps of
the guard outside, then he motioned to Freddy and tiptoed over to the
window.

"Look out, and down," he breathed in Freddy's ear. "See? The bottom half
of this building sticks out. See the roof? It's not more than six feet
below this window. And it's not more than ten feet from the edge of the
roof to the back yard. Think you could jump it?"

"Easy!" Freddy whispered. "But what about this window, here? It's
screwed in."

"Got that all figured, too," Dave said and pulled an army canteen spoon
from the pocket of the old clothes he wore. "Swiped this from the
breakfast tray," he said. "A hunch made me stick it in my pocket. A
spoon makes a swell screw driver sometimes. I found that out once when I
was a kid. I used one of my Mother's to open an old chest I found up in
the attic. I got a licking for it because I marked up the wood pretty
bad. But the spoon did the trick. Now, here's what you do."

Dave paused and slipped the tip of the spoon handle into the groove of
the nearest screw head and applied pressure with both hands. He turned
the screw a sixteenth of an inch or so and then stopped.

"Hot dog!" he whispered. "I was scared for a minute the darn things
would be so rusted with age they wouldn't budge. But, it's okay. Now,
you go over to the door and start talking to me. Talk about anything.
Sure, let's talk about baseball."

"But I don't know anything about baseball!" Freddy whispered.

"That's swell!" Dave said. "You can ask me questions and I'll give you
the answers. But keep an ear open for that guard. If he starts to open
the door you ask me, What's a home run? See? That'll give me time to get
away from this window. Okay, got it?"

"Yes, I understand," Freddy said and nodded eagerly. "Gee, you're a
great friend, Dave!"

"You too, Freddy," Dave said and gave him a push. "Now, get over there
and start asking questions. Thank goodness this window is dirty and
nobody can see me from outside."

The instant Freddy went over near the door Dave gave his attention to
the first screw. The English youth asked question after question and
Dave answered them without half thinking. Every second of the time he
worked feverishly with the spoon on the screws. There were eight of them
and he guessed it was well over an hour before he had seven of them out
and the eighth well loosened. That one he let stay partly in so that the
window would remain in place. The last thing he did was to cover the
screw holes with bits of cobweb so they wouldn't be noticed. Then he
walked over to the cot and sat down.

"Okay, that's enough baseball talk!" he said in a loud voice and winked
at Freddy. "Gee, how you can ask questions. Well, it looks like we're
not going to get anything to eat. So I'm going to try and get some
sleep."

Stretching out on the cot Dave pointed at the window and grinned. Then
clasping his hands together he put them over his head and shook them
like a prize fighter being introduced to the fight fans. Freddy looked
puzzled for a moment, then realized what Dave meant, and went through
the hand-shaking motions himself.

"Well, I guess I might as well try to get a little sleep, myself," he
said loudly and walked to the other cot.

A moment later the two boys listened to the sound of the guard's
footsteps outside and looked at the gradually fading light of day
outside the dust and cobweb smeared window.



CHAPTER EIGHT

_Escape!_


Somewhere in the distance a church clock tolled the hour of ten. Dave
absently counted the strokes, and then slowly sat up on the army cot.
All was pitch dark inside as well as outside. For a couple of minutes he
sat perfectly still listening to the various sounds that came to him
faintly. He heard the guard outside in the hallway cough and then strike
a match. He heard the muffled sounds of hobnailed boots marching along
in the street outside, and the clanking sound of tank and scout car
tractor treads on the stones. Somewhere in the distance a whistle was
blown. He heard the occasional dull boom of heavy guns, or of bombs
exploding. And once a flight of planes droned by high up in the night
sky.

He held his breath and listened to all those various sounds. He listened
to another sound, too, A sound he could feel as well as hear. It was the
pounding of his own heart. His chest ached from the pounding, and his
throat and mouth were bone dry from the excitement and the suspense.
For almost five hours he and Freddy had remained stretched out
motionless on the cots. Every second had seemed like a minute, every
minute like an hour, and every hour like an eternity. A hundred times it
had been all he could do to restrain himself from leaping to his feet
and shouting at the top of his voice. Anything to give release to the
charged emotion pent up within him.

Four times the guard had opened the door and played the beam of his
flashlight on them. The first time Colonel Stohl had been with the
guard, for Dave had heard the German officer's voice. He had muttered
something about "making them sing a different tune in the morning," and
then had gone clumping down the stairs.

Five long hours, and now Dave couldn't stand the waiting any more. Every
fiber of his entire being screamed for action. He had waited long enough
to make their captors believe they were done in for the night. The guard
had taken another look at them only a couple of minutes ago. It would be
awhile before he looked in again. It was now, or never. It had to be!

He slipped silently off the cot and crept over to Freddy's cot. He held
one hand ready to clap it over the English boy's mouth in case he woke
up with a startled yell, and put his lips close to Freddy's ear.

"Freddy, wake up!" he breathed, and shook the youth gently with his
other hand.

"I'm awake, Dave," came the whispered reply. "Shall we try it now?"

"Yes," Dave said. "The guard just took another look at us. He won't
again for awhile. Have you been asleep?"

"Not a wink, Dave. I couldn't, possibly. Look, Dave. You don't want to
change your mind and have a go at it alone? I'll understand. You might
get to an American Consul before they caught you. They'll come looking,
you know."

"That's out!" Dave hissed. "Pipe down! Take off your shoes. We can't
risk making a single sound. That guard may have big ears. Okay, Freddy,
let's go!"

Taking hold of the English youth's hand Dave led the way across the room
to the window. There he let go, and took out his spoon screw driver and
went to work on the one remaining screw. The instant it was out he
started to pry out the frame with his fingers. It wouldn't budge. He
sucked air into his aching lungs and then worked the end of the spoon
into the side crack and used it as a lever. The window still didn't
move, and Dave's heart sank as he felt the spoon bending under his hand.
He groaned softly.

"The darn thing's stuck!" he whispered. "Swollen tight by the weather, I
guess. But.... Gee!"

"What's the matter, Dave?" Freddy asked in a tight whisper.

Dave fumbled for his arm in the darkness and pressed it reassuringly.

"There's a nail, here at the bottom," he said. "I didn't see it, but I
can feel it, now. Am I dumb! Hold everything while I bend it down flat.
It's a thin one. Then I think the window will slide over it."

Two long minutes later Dave had the nail pressed flat on the base board
of the sill. Then he applied pressure with the spoon again, and the
window began to move. His face was wet with nervous sweat, and his whole
body was trembling. He fought back his rising fear and nervousness and
stuck doggedly to his task. Eventually he had worked the window out
enough so that he could get his fingers under one corner. After that it
was simple. But, as he finally pulled the whole frame clear a corner of
it caught on a splintered sliver of the sill. The sliver snapped off
with a sound that was as loud as a pistol shot in Dave's ears. He froze
stiff, ears straining for sounds of the guard in the hallway.

There was no click of the bolt or rattling of the latch. The sliver of
wood snapping had not been heard. Dave slowly released the cramped air
from his lungs and gently lowered the window frame down onto the floor
and to the side where they would be sure not to hit it when they climbed
out the window. Then he took hold of Freddy in the dark.

"You first, because you're shorter, Freddy," he whispered. "I'll make a
fireman's step with my hands. Put your foot in it and I'll boost you up.
But for Pete's sake, be careful. If we make any sound we're sunk. Okay,
give me your foot."

Dave crouched slightly and laced the fingers of his two hands together
with the palms facing upward to form a step. Freddy put one stockinged
foot on it, and one hand on Dave's shoulder to steady himself.

"Okay," he whispered.

Bracing his feet Dave slowly boosted the English youth up the wall. As
soon as Freddy had half his body through the open window he released the
pressure of his foot on Dave's locked hands and squirmed the rest of the
way up like a snake.

"Get your feet out and then let yourself down by your hands," Dave
cautioned. "The roof shouldn't be more than a few inches under your
toes. But, watch out. The darn thing slants down a bit, you know."

"I'll make it, all right," Freddy said and twisted around on the sill so
that he was hanging on his stomach. "Can you make it alone, though?"

"A cinch!" Dave whispered. "Don't wait for me. Sneak down the roof and
drop to the ground. I'll be right behind you. Go ahead, Freddy."

Dave waited until he heard the soft thud of the English boy's feet
touching the roof, then he grabbed hold of the sill with his hands and
swiftly and silently hoisted his body upward. For a brief instant he sat
poised on the sill grinning back into the darkened room. Then he
swiveled over and lowered himself down. In almost no time he had
cat-crawled down the gently sloping roof to its lip. He pressed flat on
his stomach and stuck his head over the edge of the roof. Below him was
nothing but a sea of inky darkness. For some crazy reason a twinge of
panic shot through him.

"Freddy!" he whispered.

"Here, Dave," came the welcomed reply. "I'm on the ground and to your
left. It's all clear down here. The ground's soft. Come on down."

"Here I come!" Dave said, and twisted over and let himself lightly down
onto the ground.

No sooner had his feet touched than Freddy had a hand on his arm.

"Well, that's the first part!" the English youth breathed excitedly.
"Now, what's the next move?"

"Our shoes," Dave said and pulled the other down onto the ground. "Then
we head straight up that hill, there, and keep going north."

"North?" Freddy said in a puzzled whisper. "Why not west toward the
Belgian lines? We want to get there as fast as we can. I got a good look
at that map, Dave. I think this town, here, is called Estalle. And...."

Freddy cut off his words and both boys froze back against the rear wall
of the building as a shaft of yellow light suddenly cut the darkness of
night. Dave's heart rose up to clog in his throat as he waited with fear
in his heart for the shaft of light to sweep over to reveal them in its
glow.

Then suddenly truth dawned and he was almost overcome with an insane,
crazy desire to burst out with hysterical laughter. His taut nerves
twanged like plucked fiddle strings and his whole body seemed to melt
with relief. A light had suddenly been turned on in the building against
which they crouched, and the shaft of light had simply been the inside
light flooding out through a rear window. When it didn't move where it
struck the bottom of the hill slope a dozen yards or so away Dave
realized the truth. And so did Freddy a moment later.

"Good grief, that scared me!" the English boy breathed.

"We'll talk later," Dave said. "Right now we're making tracks away from
here. Got your shoes on?"

"Yes," Freddy replied. "You lead, Dave. I'll stick right at your heels.
Mind your step, though."

"You're telling me!" Dave grunted and started creeping along the rear of
the building to the right.

When he reached the corner he stopped and cautiously peered around it.
Luck was with him. He had half expected to find himself looking down an
alley to the street out in front. But it wasn't an alley. It was just a
small court that connected with the next building. A high fence at the
front blocked off a view of the street. He couldn't see the street, but
the point was that when they started up the hill slope no passing
soldiers in the street could see them and give chase if for no other
reason than curiosity.

"Stick close, Freddy!" Dave whispered over his shoulder. "First stop is
the top of the hill. Here we go!"

Bent over low Dave turned sharp left and went scuttling across some
thirty feet of bare ground, and then into the scrub brush that fringed
the base of the hill. Hands out in front of him to prevent barging
straight into a tree, he started up the slope as fast as caution would
permit. By the time he was half way up his breath was coming in sobbing
gasps, and his legs felt like two withered sticks that might snap in two
at most any second.

He gritted his teeth and called upon every ounce of strength in his
strong young body. It was mighty hard going. From the prison room window
the hill slope had looked not at all steep, but now climbing up it in
the dark, dodging around tree trunks and jutting rocks, it seemed almost
to rise right straight up in front of him. Every so often he half
twisted around to make sure Freddy was still with him. And each time
that was exactly the case. Freddy was right there at his heels, puffing
and panting, but sticking like glue.

The English youth's courage and stick-to-itiveness made Dave doggedly
refuse to permit himself to rest even for a moment. Freddy wasn't
complaining, and if Freddy could take it then he could, too. Freddy
might be younger, and a bit shorter, and weigh less, but there was no
difference in the quality of his fighting spirit, or of the courage in
his heart. And so Dave kept on climbing upward, and upward through the
black night until finally ... and it seemed as though a thousand years
had passed by ... he finally reached the crest. He staggered along the
flat crest for a few yards and then sank wearily down on the soft earth.
Freddy dropped down beside him, and for a long time there was no sound
between them save the sounds of their labored breathing.

Eventually, Dave pushed himself up to a sitting position, wiped his
dripping face on the sleeve of his shirt, and let out a long sigh.

"Gee, am I out of condition for track!" he breathed. "That was plenty
tough. I thought we'd never make it. You okay, Freddy?"

The English youth groaned softly as he sat up.

"I guess so," he murmured and sucked in great gulps of cool night air.
"But I certainly hope we don't have to do that often. You can't see very
much from here, can you? I guess they're not taking chances on showing
many lights in case our bombers come over. I'd like very much to see a
big bomb drop on that Colonel Stohl, though. He deserves one!"

Dave chuckled and instantly felt much better. Freddy might be dead on
his feet, but he still had the old fight.

"Two, one for me," he said and stared down at the town.

In all there were not more than two dozen lights showing, and at least
half of them were the shaded lights of army cars and trucks moving along
the one main street of the town. If there were others they were blotted
out by the trees.

"About that map, Freddy," Dave said presently in a low voice. "I think
this is Estalle, myself, but that's not much of a help. I mean, I
couldn't figure how far we are from the Belgian lines. I guess it can't
be very far, though. They only started the invasion yesterday morning,
so they can't have gone very deep into the country."

"I don't agree with that, Dave," Freddy said. "The German blitzkrieg in
Poland made as much as eighty and ninety miles in a day. Besides, my
father taught me a lot about marking army maps. Of course I don't know
what _all_ of those markings meant on the Colonel's map, but I'm pretty
sure those little yellow pins represented their advanced armored
scouting units."

"But good gosh, they were as far west as Brussels and Charleroi!" Dave
gasped. "That's miles away. What about the Belgian frontier forts, and
the forts of Liege, and such big places? Wouldn't they hold them back?"

"I don't know," Freddy said. "But I suspect the Germans are doing the
same thing they did in the Polish campaign. Their light fast mobile
units scoot right on past the heavily fortified centers and capture
small positions in the rear. Then the bombers and the heavy attack
tanks, and such, go at the big forts. It's as I heard my father say
shortly after the Polish invasion. You don't have trench warfare any
more. It's blitzkrieg nowadays. Lightning attack with small fast units,
with the main body moving up behind and concentrating on main points of
defense. And don't forget Hitler's air force, Dave. It cleared the way
for him in Poland, and in Denmark, and Norway. They're probably doing
the same against the Belgians. At least until the British stop them. And
we'll jolly well stop them, don't worry."

"Gee, you talk like a regular military expert," Dave said in admiration.
"I guess your Dad taught you a lot. War certainly isn't what it used to
be, I guess. But, look, there were some blue pins on that map, and
beside each one was a date. I saw dates a week and two weeks from now.
And there were blue pins all the way across Belgium to the English
Channel. I ... Holy smokes! It just struck me. The yellow pins show
where the Germans are today, and the blue pins mark places they expect
to capture on certain days! Could that be true, do you think?"

"Yes, I do," Freddy said. "I'm pretty sure, Dave, that we've seen
something the Allied High Command would give a million pounds to see.
Five million, or more! That was an Intelligence map of the whole German
plan of invasion, Dave. I'm sure of it!"

"My gosh, then let's get going!" Dave cried, and leaped to his feet.
"We've got to get through to Allied High Command, wherever it is. We
can't show them the map, but between us we should be able to remember
enough about it to help them plenty. We...."

A wild yell from down at the base of the hill, and three pistol shots in
rapid succession, cut off Dave's words like a knife. He shot a quick
look down the hill and saw a cluster of lights suddenly spring into
being. He wasn't sure but he felt pretty certain they were from the
building where he and Freddy had been held prisoners.

A second later when more shots and more shouting drifted up to him, he
was sure. The guard had probably taken another look, and found out they
had escaped. Now the alarm was being given. Bitter anger for wasting
time talking flashed through him and was gone. He reached down quickly
and pulled Freddy up onto his feet.

"They've discovered our escape!" he cried. "We've got to start moving,
and fast. Stick close to me. We'll still head north."

"But why north?" Freddy protested. "We should go west if we want to
reach the Belgian outposts as soon as possible, and get them to take us
to Allied G.H.Q., Dave!"

"No, north!" Dave said. "They'll guess we're trying to get to the
Belgians, you see? So they'll start hunting toward the west, and sending
word ahead. If we go north we'll be fooling them for awhile ... I hope.
Anyway, it's our best bet. See? There go a couple of their cars racing
down the road toward the west. Come on!"



CHAPTER NINE

_A Desperate Mission_


Dawn was a little over an hour away and Dave Dawson couldn't drag his
body forward another step. For hours he and Freddy Farmer had trudged
across strange country through the darkness striving to put more and
more ground between them and the pursuing Germans. A dozen times they
had almost stumbled headlong into roving German mop-up patrols. And once
they had crouched for a solid hour in a road ditch while a long line of
tanks, and motorized artillery units had rumbled by heading westward.

But now he just couldn't go another step. He didn't care if the whole
German Army was right at their heels. He had to stop and rest. There is
a limit to the endurance of even the strongest of men, and Dave and
Freddy had most certainly proved themselves to be men, not just mere
boys, during those hours of mad flight across enemy held ground. Where
they were Dave didn't know, nor did he care much right at the moment.
The North Star had been his guide all the way, but they had been forced
to change their direction in order to skirt bomb blasted villages filled
with German troops, and roads clogged with parts of the mighty Nazi war
machine, so it was impossible even to guess how far they had traveled,
or in what general direction.

Now, though, as he came to the outer edge of some woods and saw the
shadowy shapes of barren fields beyond, Dave flung himself down under
some bushes and gave his body over to the utter fatigue and weariness
which had been trying to drag him down for the last several miles. His
throat was dry and craving for water, and his stomach was screaming for
some of the bread and the hunk of cheese he and Freddy had so wisely
saved from that huge breakfast, and had stuffed inside their shirts
before crawling out the window. Yes, food and water would go fine, but
later. He was too dead tired now to so much as move a muscle. In a dull
sort of way he was conscious of Freddy flopping down beside him, and
then a moment later he felt himself slip away into blissful peace.

A soothing warmth on his back eventually woke him up. He started to move
but the sudden aches and pains in his body brought a stifled groan to
his lips. He stayed where he was for a moment with his face buried in
his crossed over arms, soaking up the soothing warmth on his back. Then
he rolled over on his back and stared up through the bush branches at
the sky. It was another perfect spring day and the sun was well up on
high. That realization finally filtered into his tired brain and brought
him sitting bolt upright.

"Gee, it must be close to noon!" he heard his own voice whisper. "And
we've still got a heck of a ways to go. But where, and in what
direction, I wonder?"

He turned and put out his hand to shake Freddy sleeping close beside
him. But when he saw the pale drawn face of his friend he let his hand
drop back into his lap. He just didn't have the heart to wake up Freddy.
The English youth was positively dead to the world, and one look at the
completely exhausted expression on Freddy's face told Dave the youth
wouldn't be fit to travel even if he were awakened. True, it might be
very dangerous for them to remain where they are. German soldiers might
stumble about them at 'most any moment. Just the same a strange sense of
responsibility took possession of Dave. He was the older of the two, and
the stronger. By more or less mutual consent he had become the leader.
As the leader he should use his head. And it would _not_ be using his
head to wake up Freddy and force the poor kid to continue on.

"No, it's best to stick here, at least until dark," he argued with
himself. "We're pretty well hidden under these bushes. And ... and,
gosh, I just haven't the heart to wake him up!"

His decision made, he put his hand inside his shirt and pulled out the
very much crushed half loaf of bread and the hunk of cheese. He ate a
little of each and then made himself put the rest back inside his shirt.
It helped his stomach a little, but it only served to aggravate his
thirst. He'd rather have a glass of water right now than be standing in
the middle of Piccadilly Circus, in London, with his father.

He lay back on the ground again and started thinking about his father in
an effort to forget his thirst. But after no more than five or six
seconds it just wasn't any use. He sat up again and peered around. It
was then he saw the farm house and the sheds about half a mile away.
Smoke was coming from the farm house chimney, and he could see figures
moving about in the yard. Because of the sun in his eyes he couldn't
tell if they were German troops or not. Off to the right he suddenly saw
a moving cloud of dust. He knew at once it was a car traveling along a
road. And presently the car came into view from behind a string of
trees. It traveled up to the farm house and came to a stop. Four
figures climbed out and hurried into the farm house. A faint hope that
had been flowering in Dave died out at once. His straining eyes had made
out the bucket shaped helmets and the tight-fitting field-grey uniforms
of German officers.

Approaching the farm house was out of the question, now. He had hoped
there might just be peasant farmers there, passed by by the Germans. But
that obviously wasn't so. The place was alive with Hitler's soldiers.
Fighting back his momentary defeat, he got slowly to his feet, took a
make-sure look at the sleeping Freddy Farmer, and then crept off into
the woods in search of a brook or a small pond.

Remembering his Boy Scout training, he broke branches off bushes every
now and then so that he would be sure to find his way back to the
sleeping Freddy. As a matter of fact, though, there really wasn't any
need of his doing that. At the end of a quarter of a mile the ground
sloped down into a shallow valley, and there was a small brook trickling
through the middle. With a low cry of joy Dave rushed down to it, flung
himself flat, and buried his face in the icy cold water. Never, never in
all his life had anything felt so good, so completely satisfying as the
coolness of that brook. Cupping his hands he drank until he couldn't
hold another drop. Then tearing off part of his shirt sleeve he used it
to wash his face and his neck. Finally, feeling almost like a new man,
he got up and retraced his steps to his hiding place.

Freddy was awake when he got back, and when the English youth spotted
him a look of fear and utter misery was instantly banished by joyful
relief.

"Phew, what a fright you gave me!" Freddy choked out. "When I woke up I
couldn't remember if we'd come to this spot together, or if we'd lost
each other last night. I came jolly close to yelling for you and then I
sighted those German blighters over at that farm house. Where have you
been, and I wonder where we are?"

"I wish I knew," Dave said. "But I've got some good news, anyway. Go
straight back about a quarter of a mile and you'll find a brook. Bet you
could do with a nice long drink of water, couldn't you?"

"I should say so!" Freddy cried and sprang to his feet. "My throat feels
completely filled up with dust."

"Then hop to it," Dave grinned and pointed. "Straight back. You'll see
branches broken off the bushes. I'll wait here and try to figure our
next move."

"Be right back," Freddy said and hurried off into the woods.

When the English youth left Dave sat down on the ground and fixed
frowning eyes on the farm house. Last night in that prison room his
brain had concentrated on but one problem. The problem of getting out of
the room. Well, they had done that, and they had put considerable
distance behind them. That was all, however. Now, there were more
problems to confront, and consider. Number one, was to find out where
they were. Number two, was to decide whether or not it was safe yet to
start heading west, or to continue north, and number three, was the
problem of food. Whether they went north, south, east, or west they had
a long road facing them, and their bread and cheese was not going to
last forever. They would have to get food some place. And that farm
house....

Dave let his thoughts trail off and stop as Freddy came up and sat down
beside him. The English boy looked like an entirely different person.
His eyes were clear and not heavy with fatigue. There was a lot of color
back in his face, and there was a happy and contented smile on his lips.

"I'll remember that brook all the rest of my life," he said. "Gee,
nothing ever seemed so good. Well, have you thought up a plan? I fancy,
though, we'd better stay here until it's dark. We're bound to be
stopped in daylight. That colonel chap has probably radioed a
description of us all over the place."

"Gee whiz, you think so?" Dave ejaculated. "Just to catch a couple of
fellows like us?"

"I fancy so," Freddy said in a sober adult voice. "He'll be hopping mad
that we escaped. And besides pricking his pride it will probably add to
his silly ideas about us. Yes, I think the blighter will go to all ends
to catch us. So, we'd better keep a watchful eye out even if we are in a
hurry. What do you make of that farm house?"

"I've been thinking about it," Dave grunted. "There are Germans there,
of course, but there must be food, too. If we could only manage to swipe
some food I'd feel a lot better about starting out again. It's going to
be a long walk, and it's a cinch we won't be able to do any hitch-hiking
with German tanks and armored cars all over the place."

"True," Freddy murmured. "But we might have to walk for days, and days.
Then the information we have might not be of any use to the Allied High
Command. We've got to get back quickly, Dave, and I'm afraid we can't do
that by walking all the way."

"No, I guess not," Dave said unhappily. "But we'd be taking a heck of a
chance trying to thumb a ride. Maybe, though, if we moved over close to
that road over there, an empty truck or something might come by and we
could slip aboard it for a little ways, anyway. Gosh, it seems a hundred
years since I left Paris!"

"Two hundred," Freddy said with a sigh. "I certainly never even dreamed
that anything like this would ever happen to me."

"Me, too," Dave said and gave a little half shake of his head. "Boy,
what I'll have to tell the fellows when I get back home!"

"We're not back home, yet," Freddy said grimly. "Let's talk some more
about what we should do."

It was as though Lady Luck or the Good Fairy had been waiting for that
exact moment. From up in the sky to the east came the throbbing drone of
a German plane. The two boys swiveled around at once, shielded their
eyes with their hands and peered upward. The plane was down fairly low
and coming straight toward them. A moment of panic seized hold of Dave
and he unconsciously grabbed hold of Freddy and pulled them both down
under the bushes.

"Gosh!" he exclaimed excitedly. "Maybe they've got planes out looking
for us. Don't move a muscle and they won't see us. Gee, it's a biplane,
but it's got the swastika marking on the tail. I thought all the German
ships were monoplane design."

Freddy didn't answer for a moment. He sat crouched low under the
protecting bush branches and squinting his eyes up at the plane.

"That's a German plane, right enough," he said presently. "I recognize
it, now. It's an Arado AR-95. It's a two seater, and was built as a
torpedo plane. They use it off airplane carriers, but it's a pretty old
type. Look, Dave! The pilot has cut his engine. He's gliding down. I
say, let's get out of here! The observer in back has probably spotted
us!"

"Now, wait!" Dave hissed and shot out a hand to stop Freddy from leaping
to his feet and dashing back into the woods. "If they have spotted us
we'd not get far before we'd be caught. Besides, I don't think they've
seen us. Look! He's going into a gliding turn. Freddy! I'll bet you a
million dollars he's going to land in that smooth field over there. Yes,
sir, that's what he's going to do!"

"You're right, Dave!" Freddy breathed. "And some of the Germans in that
farm house are running out to meet them. But I don't like this, Dave.
They may be landing to tell them where we are."

"Nope," Dave said doggedly. "They wouldn't land. They'd either drop a
message, or use their radio If they have one. They'd stay up to see
which way we headed. Nope. That's some kind of a headquarters over
there, Freddy. I bet the plane is bringing them a message."

"I hope you're right," Freddy said in an uncertain voice, as his clear
blue eyes clouded with doubt. "There! He's down on the ground, now, and
braking to a stop."

"That sure is a sweet looking ship!" Dave breathed softly. "An Arado
AR-95, huh? Oh, sure, now I remember seeing pictures of that design. It
has a B.M.W. radial engine. (_Bavarian Motor Works_). The Germans used
it a lot in training their pilots. It's not so fast as the other war
planes, and it's a cinch to fly, they say. _Freddy!_"

Dave almost shouted the name, and his fingers still gripping the English
youth's arm bit deep into the flesh.

"Ouch, my arm!" Freddy protested, "What's the matter, Dave? What's up?"

Dave didn't reply. He watched the German plane come to a stop. The pilot
and observer jumped down onto the ground and walked toward the group of
Germans advancing from the farm house. They met and appeared to talk for
a moment or two. Then all of them turned and went back to the farm
house. When they passed inside Dave took a quick look over at the Arado
with its prop ticking over, then swung around to face Freddy.

"Maybe that solves our problem, Freddy!" he said in a strained whisper.
"That plane!"

"The plane?" Freddy echoed with a frown. "What about it? Good grief, you
surely don't mean...."

"Why not?" Dave countered. "I made my first solo on a better ship than
that. I'll bet you anything you like I can handle it. What do you say,
Freddy?"

The English youth gulped and looked most undecided. Dave took the moment
of silence to press home his point.

"It's the best bet we could possibly have!" he argued. "Gee, in that
ship we could be behind the Allied defenses in no time. I say let's try
it, anyway. Gee whiz, Freddy, we might be stuck here for months. There's
no telling what we might run into. What do you say? Are you game to try
it with me?"

The English youth was already smiling and nodding his head.

"Right you are, Dave, I'm game," he said quietly. "Anything's better
than just sitting here. And between us we ought to make a go of it.
Right-o, Dave, if you like."

"That's the stuff!" Dave said and slapped him on the back. "They're all
inside the farm house now, and if we keep back of that field wall,
there, we can get right up close without being seen. When I give you the
sign, run like the dickens for the ship. Gee! We've got to make it,
Freddy. _We've just got to!_"

The two boys looked at each other, nodded, and then started crawling out
from under the bushes on all fours.



CHAPTER TEN

_Trapped In War Skies!_


Hugging the ground at the extreme end of the field wall, Dave and Freddy
stared at the German plane not thirty yards away. The idling propeller
filled the air with a purring sound that struck right to their hearts
and sent the blood surging through their veins in wild excitement. The
feeling of fatigue and body weariness had completely fled them, now. The
thrill of the dangerous adventure ahead filled them with a renewed sense
of strength, and fired them with grim determination.

Dave slowly rose up onto one knee like a track star on his mark at the
starting line. He cast a quick glance back over his shoulder at Freddy,
and nodded.

"Now!" he whispered sharply, and went streaking around the end of the
field wall.

He reached the plane a dozen steps ahead of the English boy, and
practically leaped into the pilot's cockpit forward. No sooner was he
seated and snapping the safety belt buckle than Freddy was scrambling
into the observer's cockpit.

"I'm in!" he heard the English youth sing out.

Shooting out a foot Dave kicked off the wheel brake release. Then he
grabbed hold of the "Dep" wheel control stick with his right hand and
reached for the throttle with his left and gingerly eased it forward.
The B.M.W. engine instantly started to roar up in a song of power. Dave
opened the throttle more and pushed the Dep stick forward to get the
tail up as the Arado started forward.

"Hurry up, Dave!" came Freddy's wild yell above the roar of the engine.
"They've seen us! They're running out of the house. They're shooting at
us with rifles, Dave!"

Freddy could have saved his breath on the last. The sharp bark of rifle
fire came plainly to Dave's ears as he hunched forward over the
controls. And almost in the same instant he heard the blood chilling
whine of nickel-jacketed lead messengers of death streaking past not
very high above his head. Impulsively he ducked lower in the pit, and
shoved the throttle wide open. The plane was already bouncing over the
ground on its wheels, with the tail up, and then added gas fed to the
engine caused the ship practically to leap forward like a high strung
race horse quitting the barrier.

The sudden burst of speed flung Dave back in the seat, and for one
horrible instant his hands were almost torn from the Dep wheel, and his
feet yanked free of the rudder pedals. He caught himself in the nick of
time, however, swerved the plane clear of a sudden dip in the surface of
the field, and then gently hauled the Dep wheel back toward his stomach.

For a long moment the wheels of the plane seemed to cling to the ground.
Then they lifted clear and the Arado went nosing up toward the golden
washed blue sky. Clamped air burst from Dave's lungs like an exploding
shell. He coughed, and shook sweat from his face, and held the ship at
the correct angle of climb. The engine in the nose sang such a sweet
song of power that for a moment or so it was in tune with the song of
wild joy in Dave's heart. The Arado, as he had rightly guessed, was a
cinch to handle. It was light as a feather and responded instantly to a
touch on the control wheel, or on the rudder pedals.

As the plane climbed upward he twisted around in the seat and looked at
Freddy. The English youth was staring down back at the field they had
just left. Dave followed his look and saw the twenty or thirty figures
garbed in German military uniforms on the field. At least half of them
were firing furiously with rifles. The others were shaking their fists,
and making angry gestures for the plane to return and land. Dave grinned
and shook his head.

"You can just bet we won't come back!" he shouted into the roar of the
engine. "We're not _that_ crazy!"

Freddy heard him and turned front. The English youth's eyes danced with
excitement. He grinned at Dave, and then suddenly seemed to remember the
little scene last night after Dave had removed the screws from the
window frame. He clasped both hands above his head and shook them
vigorously. His lips moved, and Dave just barely heard the words.

"Well done!"

Dave returned the grin and then twisted around front. The dash
instruments, of course, were all marked in German, but he knew enough of
that language to read them. The altimeter needle was quivering close to
the six thousand foot mark. He decided that was high enough and leveled
off the climb onto even keel. Then he took a moment or so to glance down
at the ground below to try and get his bearings. The first thing he saw
was a small village off to his left. One look at it and his heart leaped
over in his chest. He saw the hill and the single main street along
which trucks and armored cars and motorized units of artillery were
passing in a steady, endless stream. The town of Estalle? It seemed to
be almost directly under him. The truth made him shiver and lick his
lower lip.

If that was Estalle and he was positive it was, he and Freddy couldn't
have traveled more than eight or nine miles toward the north during
their wild flight last night. Maybe twice that number of miles going
around in circles, but certainly not more than ten miles in the
direction they wanted to go.

A rap on his shoulder turned him around in the seat. Freddy was pointing
at the village of Estalle and pursing his lips in a silent whistle. Dave
got the idea and nodded, and wiped make believe sweat from his forehead
with his free hand. Then he turned front and glanced at the sun in an
effort to decide which direction was due west. Of course there was a
compass on the instrument panel but something was obviously wrong with
it. The needle was spinning around the balanced card dial.

That fact didn't worry him in the slightest, though. He remembered a tip
a First World War flying ace had once given him about finding your
direction in Europe when you were lost and your compass was out of
whack. It was very simple, too. In the morning, if you could see the
sun, all you had to do was keep the sun on your tail and you would be
sure to be flying west. And so Dave applied the rudder until the sun
was mostly on his tail, and gave his attention to the spread of ground
ahead.

What he saw made him suck air sharply into his lungs. Rather, it was a
case of what he didn't see. The entire western horizon seemed to be one
huge cloud of dirty grey smoke streaked here and there with tongues of
livid red and orange and yellow flame. It was as though the whole of
Belgium was on fire. Closer to him was a long even-banked river that cut
down across the countryside from the northwest to the southeast. He was
staring hard at it thinking it was a very peculiar looking river when he
suddenly felt Freddy hitting him on the shoulder again.

"That's the famous Prince Albert Canal!" the English youth shouted above
the roar of the engine. "It's very strongly fortified. A sort of Belgian
Maginot Line. The Germans can't possibly have crossed it, yet. If we can
just get by there, Brussels is not very far off. We could land there."

"Germans not crossing it?" Dave yelled and pointed. "Look down there to
the left. They're swarming across it like bees. Gee, there must be a
million pontoon bridges thrown across that canal. And, gosh, look at all
those Stuka dive bombers!"

It was all too true. Hitler's relentlessly advancing forces had smashed
the Albert Canal defenses to smoking rubble, thus forcing the Belgian
army to retreat to the south side of the Canal. And now as German
troops, and their swiftly striking Panzer division were rushing across
pontoon bridges to strike more blows at the Belgians, hundreds of Stuka
dive bombers were blasting death and destruction into the ranks of the
enemy. The sight of it all made Dave's heart turn to ice in his chest.
History, terrible History was being written down there by the Albert
Canal, and his heart was on fire with an even more blazing desire to do
something for the cause of justice and civilization.

But first he had another job to do, and he lifted his gaze and peered at
the smoke and flame filled sky ahead. Besides smoke and flame there were
countless numbers of planes streaking and darting around in all
directions. The air was practically filled with them. There was layer
after layer of planes reaching from low down over the battle grounds
right up to the sun. And insofar as he could tell at the distance not a
single one of them was of Allied design. They were all German.

At that moment Freddy pounded on his shoulder for the third time. And
the voice that screamed in his ear rang with fright and alarm.

"More speed, Dave! Look behind us. There's a plane, a Messerschmitt. I
think it's chasing us. They might even try to shoot us down. What'll we
do, Dave?"

"What'll we do?" Dave echoed and glanced back at the sleek needle shaped
plane with its low monoplane wing. "We'll keep on going. They may not
try to shoot at us. Once we get on the other side of the Canal, we'll be
safe. We'll go down and land."

But even as Dave spoke the words to give good cheer to Freddy his own
heart was pounding with fear. The other plane was drawing up on them as
an express train overtakes a slow freight. He could see now that it was
a Messerschmitt One-Ten. A moment later he saw the gunner-observer in
the rear pit shove back his bullet proof glass cockpit hatch and stand
up and wave signals with both his arms. Those signals plainly said for
them to go down and land at once, but Dave pretended that he hadn't
seen. He rammed the palm of his free hand hard against the already wide
open throttle, as though if in so doing he might get increased speed out
of the plane.

It was no more than a futile gesture, however. In the matter of seconds
the Messerschmitt had pulled right up along side them. Dave turned and
looked across the air space that separated the two planes. His heart
zoomed up his throat so fast it almost bumped up against his back
teeth. The German observer was still sending signals to land, but not
with his arms and hands, now. He was doing it with the aerial machine
gun fixed to the swivel mounting that circled the rim of his cockpit. He
was pointing the gun at them and then tilting it down toward the ground
as he nodded his helmeted head vigorously.

Dave stared at the gun as though hypnotized. The blood pounded in his
temples, and his whole body was on fire one instant and icy cold the
next. There was death staring straight at him, and he could hardly force
his brain to think. He knew he couldn't just keep on flying. He had to
do something or the German would open fire and turn their plane into a
blazing inferno. On the other hand, his fighting heart refused to
surrender and go back and face the ugly wrath of that Colonel Stohl. For
this Messerschmitt had unquestionably been sent out after them at the
Colonel's orders. Who knew? Perhaps Colonel Stohl had been the German he
had seen climb out of the observer's pit of this very Arado he was now
trying to fly to safety behind the Belgian lines. It would have been
very easy for the German to phone the nearest air field and have a plane
sent out after them.

_Tac-a-tac-a-tac-a-tac!_

Jetting tongues of flame leaped out from the muzzle of the machine gun
in the other plane. The savage yammer sound smashed against Dave's ears
even as he saw the wavy trails of tracer smoke cut across in front of
the nose of his plane. The yammer of the gun snapped him into action and
sent his eyes darting to the cowled nose of the Arado. His heart seemed
to cry out when he saw that the plane carried no guns. On impulse he
twisted his head around to Freddy's pit, but there, too, disappointment
mocked him. The plane was not armed! It was probably just a courier
plane used far behind the lines on safe missions only.

As he looked into Freddy's eyes he saw reflected there his own bitter
thoughts. They were completely at the mercy of that Messerschmitt flying
along wing to wing with them. Unskilled and untrained though they were
in aerial combat, it was heartrending not to be able to put up some kind
of a battle for their lives.

"It was a good try, Dave!" he heard Freddy call out. "But I guess it's
no use, now. The beggars have us on the spike for fair. There's nothing
we can do but go down and land, as they want us to."

As though the German in the other plane had actually heard the English
youth's words, a second warning burst of shots rattled out to streak
across in front of the Arado's nose. Unconsciously Dave nodded his head,
and reached out his hand to haul back the throttle. His hand froze in
mid air, instead. At that moment he had glanced down at the ground below
and ahead. What he saw made fierce, frenzied determination explode in
his heart!

They were almost directly over the Albert Canal. He could clearly see
the Belgian troops digging in on the south side, wheeling guns into
position, and throwing out rear guard action units. Not a mile, not even
a half mile from safety. It was too much for Dave. The fighting American
spirit of Lexington and Concord flamed up in his chest. He wouldn't do
it! He wouldn't give in without a try. He'd fool those Germans in the
Messerschmitt One-Ten even if it was the last thing he ever did. Let
them try to shoot him down. Just let them try! There were German planes
all around, now. And that fact alone was to his advantage. The
Messerschmitt gunner would have to take care not to hit one of his own.

"Dave! He means it this time! We've got to turn back!"

He heard Freddy's voice as though it came from a thousand miles away.
But he didn't pay the slightest bit of attention. Didn't so much as
shake his head. His whole body was cold and numb with fear of what he
was about to attempt. But in his brain there was but one thought; one
great overwhelming determination of purpose.

He whipped out his hand and eased back the throttle and let the nose
drop. At the same time he applied stick and rudder as though he was
going to send the plane around and down in a gliding turn that would
take them back east. As the plane started to turn he shot a quick side
glance at the Messerschmitt. His heart was ready to explode with joy.
The German observer had seen the movement of the Arado and wrongly
guessed its meaning! The man nodded his head, and let go of his gun and
sank down on his seat.

The instant Dave saw the German sink down on the seat he belted the
throttle wide open again and shoved the stick forward until the Arado
was prop howling down in an almost vertical dive.

"Hold fast!" he shouted at Freddy without turning his head. "They
haven't got us yet, and they won't get us if I've got anything to say
about it."

Bracing himself against the speed of the dive, and keeping his mouth
open so that his eardrums would not snap and perhaps break, he held
himself hunched forward over the controls, and fixed both eyes on the
flame and smoke smeared ground below. The smoke and flames seemed to
leap up toward him at rocket speed. Out of the corner of his eye he
caught flash glimpses of Stuka dive bombers cutting through the air at
terrific speed. Then from up in back of him he heard the deadly chatter
of German aerial machine guns.

He didn't bother to look back to see if the Messerschmitt was on his
tail. That would be but a waste of effort. Instead he jammed hard on the
left rudder and sent the Arado swerving crazily off to the side. The
guns above him continued to hammer and snarl, but he heard no bullets
snicking past his ears. He could hear only the thunderous roar of his
own B.M.W. engine.

Then suddenly the Prince Albert Canal flashed by under his nose and was
gone from view. He was safely across it and right over the Belgian
troops! However, it was simply a case of roaring out of one danger zone
into another. He completely forgot he was flying a plane with German
markings. Naturally, when the Belgian soldiers saw the Swastika painted
plane streaking down at them they let go at it with everything they had.

Perhaps it was one of those freak things of war, or perhaps the gods
were truly smiling upon Dave Dawson and Freddy Farmer. At any rate not
a single Belgian bullet hit the diving Arado, and a moment later Dave
hauled the ship out of its mad dive and went streaking along to the rear
of the Belgian lines. But before he had traveled more than a couple of
miles he once more heard the snarl of aerial machine gun fire behind
him. And this time there was more to it than just the sound!

The Arado suddenly bucked and quivered as though it had been smashed by
the fist of some huge invisible giant of the skies. The vicious movement
of the plane tore Dave's hands from the controls and flung him over so
hard he cracked his head on the cockpit rim and saw stars for a brief
instant or so. Then as his senses cleared again and he grabbed hold of
the controls once more, the engine in the nose coughed and sputtered and
shot out a cloud of black smoke ... and died cold.

Realization and action were one for Dave, and so the first thing he did
was to yank back the throttle and cut off the ignition. When that was
done he shoved the nose down and peered hopefully at the ground no more
than five hundred feet below him. A groan of despair rose out of his
throat to spill off his lips. He couldn't see a smooth patch of ground
down there big enough for a fly to sit down on. True there were lots of
fields, but they were pock marked from one end to the other with shell
and bomb craters. There was one spot where he might possibly land
without crashing too badly. But crash he would. That was certain. There
was nothing to do but try it ... and pray!

"A crash coming, Freddy!" he yelled back over his shoulder. "Hold
everything, and hang on hard!"



CHAPTER ELEVEN

_Fighting Hearts_


As Dave glided the crippled Arado down toward the bomb and shell marked
field the icy fingers of fear were curled tightly about his heart. He
had made one or two forced landings in his short flying career, but they
had been like setting down a plane on a gigantic billiard table compared
to the task he now faced. If he under-shot the patch of ground he was
aiming at he would go plowing straight into a battery of Belgian
artillery guns hurling shells across the Albert Canal into the
on-rushing German hordes. And if he over-shot the field or swerved too
much to the right or left he would go crashing into a maze of shell
blasted tree stumps which would tear the plane to shreds and snuff out
his life, and Freddy's, as easily as one snuffs out the flame of a
candle.

His only hope lay in hitting the field in the center and checking the
forward roll of the plane so that when it did slide over and down into
one of the bomb craters the crash impact wouldn't be too violent. In
his heart he knew that he stood but one chance in a thousand of coming
out of the crash uninjured. But there was no other way out, the die had
been cast. The engine had been hit and was dead. There was only one way
to go, and that was down.

On impulse he jerked his head around and looked back. It seemed as
though he had not heard Freddy's voice in a year or more, and sudden
panic swept through him. Was Freddy all right? Had he been hit, and was
that why he had not spoken? In the brief instant it took to jerk his
head around and look back, Dave died a hundred agonizing deaths.

Luck, however, was still riding the cockpits with them. The English
youth was still alive, and very much so, too. His lips were drawn back
in a tight grin even though his face was white, and there was a sort of
glazed, glassy look in his eyes. Being a pilot, himself, Freddy knew
exactly what it was all about. He had sense enough not to try any back
seat driving in the emergency. He was leaving everything to Dave, and
trusting in his friend's judgment. He sat perfectly still in the seat,
his arms half raised and ready to throw them across his face when they
hit in order to protect himself as much as possible.

Sitting still and showing his faith in Dave by the tight grin on his
lips. That realization gave Dave new courage as he turned front again.
The ground was just under his wheels, now. He would not under-shoot the
field, nor would he over-shoot it either. He had proved his flying skill
thus far. The rest was ... was in the lap of the gods!

Ten feet off! Nine feet, eight ... seven ... six! He was hugging the Dep
wheel now all the way back against his stomach to bring the nose up just
a few more inches before the ship stalled and dropped. His whole body
sensed that moment of stalling; that moment when the lift of the wings
was absolutely nil. He sensed it now and instantly let go of the stick,
buried his head in his arms, and let his whole body go limp.

For two seconds, or perhaps it was for two long years, the Arado seemed
to hang motionless in the air. Then suddenly it dropped belly first like
a rock. The wheels hit hard and the ship was bounced back up into the
air again. It hit again, and bounced again. It hit once more and Dave
felt the tail wheel catch on something and send the ship plunging
crazily off to the right. He jammed hard on the left rudder to
counteract the movement, but it was too late. Fate had placed a huge
German bomb crater in the way. The plane slithered over the lip of the
crater and charged dizzily downward.

Memory of a wild ride on a Coney Island roller coaster streaked through
Dave's brain. And then the plane careened up on its side, and half up on
its nose. It swayed there with its tail pointing up at the sky. It
twisted twice around and then fell over on its back with a jarring thud.
An invisible giant reached out a fist and punched Dave hard on the
chest. The air in his lungs whistled out through his mouth, and for
horrible seconds colored lights whirled around in his brain, and the
entire universe was filled with roaring, crashing thunder.

The spell passed in a moment, and he found himself hanging head downward
on his safety harness. His first thought was for Freddy, and he
struggled to twist around and look back, but he couldn't make it.

"Freddy!" he yelled in a choking voice. "Are you all right?"

A heart chilling instant of silence greeted his question, and then came
Freddy's faint reply.

"Not hurt a bit, Dave! But the blasted safety harness broke, and I'm
down here in a beastly puddle of mud. Can you give me a hand?"

Reaction set in and Dave laughed hysterically, and tore at his safety
belt buckles. He got them unfastened and grabbed hold of the sides of
the cockpit before he went plunging down into the muddy bottom of the
bomb crater, himself. He twisted over and landed feet first. It was
then he had his first look at Freddy. The English lad was plopped down
on the seat of his pants in a good eight inches of mud. And there was
mud from the top of his head all the way down. He had obviously landed
square on his head but had managed to squirm around and sit up before
the sticky yellow ooze suffocated him. Right at the moment he was pawing
the stuff off his face so he could see.

Dave plowed around to him and caught him under the armpits, and heaved.
Freddy's body coming up out of the mud sounded like somebody pulling a
cork from a bottle. Still hanging onto him, Dave ducked under a section
of the crumpled wing and hauled and tugged them both up out of the
crater on to firm dry ground. Then he dug a handkerchief from his pocket
and started wiping off Freddy's face.

"Boy, do you look a sight, Freddy!" he chuckled. Then in a more serious
tone, "I'm darn sorry, Freddy. That sure was a rotten landing. I guess I
thought I was too good. I should have let you do the flying."

Freddy snorted and squinted at him out of one eye.

"Rotten landing?" he gasped. "Good grief, they can't fly any better than
that in the R.A.F., Dave. I thought sure we'd both be killed. And
neither of us has so much as a scratch. You couldn't have done it any
better, Dave. Honest!"

"Thanks," Dave grinned. "But it was all luck. And I was scared stiff.
Thank goodness those Messerschmitt guys were such punk shots. Now, wipe
some more off, and we'll...."

Dave cut off the rest short and spun around. A squad of Belgian infantry
men was racing across the field toward them. The bayonets on their
rifles glistened in the sun, and the cries of wild men were bursting
from their lips. The truth hit Dave in the flick of an eye. Those
Belgians took them for two members of the Nazi Air Force, and they were
racing over to get vengeance for what those Stuka dive bombers had been
doing to them. Even as the truth came to Dave one of the running
soldiers threw his rifle up to his shoulder and fired. The bullet cut
past Dave's face so close he could almost feel its heat. He leaped in
front of Freddy who was still wiping his face and flung up both hands.

"Don't shoot, don't shoot!" he yelled in French. "We're not Germans!
America! England! Don't shoot! _Vive les Alliés!_"

The Belgian soldiers rushed up to him and leveled their rifles at his
stomach. They were a vicious looking lot, but they had been made that
way by the fury of war hurled down on them for the last seventy-two
hours or more. Their eyes were bloodshot, and their faces were caked
with dried blood and dirt. Their beards were sodden messes, and their
uniforms were torn and ripped to rags. Their rifles were the only clean
thing about them.

One of them with corporal chevrons on his tattered tunic sleeve stepped
forward until the tip of his wicked looking bayonet was within an inch
of Dave's neck.

"You are Boches!" he shouted and nodded at the wrecked plane. "We saw
you dive down on us. Well, you will not dive again. We shall...."

"Wait, wait!" Dave shouted in wild alarm. "I tell you we are not German.
He's English, and I'm an American. We have just escaped from Germany. We
were prisoners there. We have to get to Allied Headquarters at once. We
have valuable information."

The Belgian corporal hesitated and looked puzzled. His men obviously did
not believe Dave. They made snarling sounds in their throats and
shuffled forward a bit. Dave opened his mouth to explain some more, but
Freddy beat him to the punch. The young English boy suddenly stepped
forward and a stream of words poured from his thin lips. He had lived
many years on the Continent and he knew how to deal with either the
French or the Belgians.

"Listen to me, you lugger heads!" he ranted at them. "My friend speaks
the truth. We have just escaped from Germany, and we have important
information. Take us to your commanding officer at once, do you hear? Do
we look like Germans? Of course not! Where are your heads, your brains?
Have you not seen us risk our lives trying to reach this side of the
lines? Take us to your commanding officer. He may even recommend you for
a medal. You hear me? Take us to your commanding officer or I shall make
a personal complaint to the Commander in Chief of British Army Staff,
General Caldwell. Attention, at once! Take us to your commanding
officer, _now!_"

Grins slowly appeared on the faces of the battle wearied Belgian
soldiers. The corporal chuckled and lowered his bayonet from Dave's
throat.

"The little one spits fire when he speaks," he murmured and nodded his
head. "No, I do not believe now that you are Germans. But you had a very
lucky escape, my two little ones. We do not feel very pleased today. Nor
will we be happy for a long time to come, I am afraid. It looks bad,
very bad. Come! I will take you to my Lieutenant."

"It looks bad?" Freddy asked quickly. "Can't you hold them? Aren't the
British and the French helping?"

The Belgian corporal shrugged and wiped his tired eyes with a dirt and
mud smeared hand.

"It is possible," he grunted. "I do not know. We hear very little except
the guns and those cursed bombs. But, there are no British or French
here. Only Belgians. And we cannot stop them. We have not the men, or
the guns, or the tanks. And planes? Where are all our planes? Look at
the sky! It is filled with nothing but Boche planes. Yes, my little one,
it looks very bad. But we are not afraid to die. No!"

The soldier shrugged again, then nodded with his head and started
trudging back across the field, trailing his rifle as though it weighed
a ton instead of a few pounds or so. Freddy and Dave dropped into step
with the others and went along. Nobody spoke. Nobody but the bombs and
the shells but a few miles away, and rapidly drawing closer. Dave leaned
toward Freddy.

"Boy, can you dish out their language!" he breathed. "But I don't blame
them. They must have been through something terrible. It's a wonder they
didn't shoot and ask questions afterward."

"Yes," Freddy said in a dull voice. "I wonder where the French and the
British are? I hope they can get here in time."

Dave didn't attempt to answer the question. He suddenly felt very tired,
and old. His strength had been sapped to the limit, and his spirits were
staggering under a crushing weight. The picture of those German hordes
pouring across the Albert Canal and virtually beating the Belgians right
down into the ground was still clear as crystal in his brain. It was
like a mighty tidal wave hurtling forward with nothing but a picket
fence in the way to stop it.

At the far end of the field the Belgians turned left on a winding narrow
dirt road. They went down this for some fifty yards or so, then left the
road and entered some woods. In the heart of the woods several companies
of Belgian troops were frantically building up machine gun emplacements,
stringing out barbwire, and moving light field pieces into place to bear
on the winding dirt road. The corporal stopped before a young lieutenant
and saluted smartly. Dave and Freddy stopped and waited while the
corporal spoke to the officer.

In a moment or so the lieutenant came over and stared at them both out
of bleak, dead tired eyes.

"What is all this?" he demanded briskly.

Dave let Freddy do the talking as he had the language down perfect. The
young Englishman talked a steady stream for two or three moments, giving
a brief account of their movements since the day the Nazi armies broke
through into Belgium and the Low Countries. The Belgian officer listened
in silence, and when Freddy finished he took a map from his pocket and
spread it out on the ground.

"Where were some of those pins and flags you saw on that map?" he asked.

Dave still let Freddy do the talking, and simply watched while the
English youth pointed out various points on the map. The Belgian nodded
his head from time to time, and presently folded the map and got quickly
to his feet.

"I am positive you have seen a map of great importance!" he said. "I
will see that you are taken to Belgian G.H.Q. at once. You will tell
them all you know, and they will communicate with the Allied High
Command. You are very brave boys, you know?"

Freddy flushed and looked uncomfortable.

"We only want to do everything we can to help," he said quietly.

The Lieutenant's tired lips twisted back in a wistful smile as he
glanced from Freddy to Dave.

"I would feel very happy if I had a million like you under my command,"
he murmured. "If only half what you say is true, it is enough.
Sergeant!"

A huge bearded non-com putting a machine gun in working order got to his
feet and lumbered over. He ran his bloodshot eyes over Freddy and Dave,
and then fixed them on his officer.

"My Lieutenant?" he grunted.

"These two, Sergeant," the Lieutenant said with a jerk of his head.
"They are to be taken to General Boulard's headquarters at once. You
will take one of the light scouting cars and drive them there. That is
all."

The big sergeant blinked and looked dubious.

"I will try, of course, my Lieutenant," he said. "But we may meet with
difficulty. A runner has arrived only a moment ago at the Fortieth
Company. The Boche tanks have cut the road to Namur. They seek to get
around in back of us. The Boche planes are also bombing the entire road.
It will be difficult but I will attempt it, my Lieutenant."

Dave saw the Belgian officer's face pale under its coating of blood and
dirt. The man clenched his fists in a helpless gesture, and something
akin to tears of bitter rage glistened in his haggard eyes. At that
exact moment the whole world was filled with a terrifying eerie scream.
The Belgians fell flat on their faces. The Lieutenant dragged Freddy and
Dave down with him, and tried to cover them with his own body.

Dave knew the meaning of that awful sound. He had heard it along that
road packed with terror stricken refugees. He had heard it as he dragged
an old woman to the flimsy protection of an ox cart. His heart stood
still in his chest. The blood ceased to surge through his veins. His
lungs became locked with air, and his brain became numb and useless as
he waited those terrible few seconds. The diving Stuka's death load hit
on the far side of the road. Half of Belgium seemed to fountain up into
the sky, and what was left rocked and swayed crazily. Thunderous sound
swept over Dave and seemed actually to shove him down into the ground.
In a crazy sort of way he wondered if he was dead. Then the next thing
he realized the Belgian lieutenant was helping him up onto his feet.

"It is only the direct hits that matter," the officer said in a gentle
voice, and smiled.

"That was plenty direct enough for me!" Dave said and gulped.

"Yes, quite!" Freddy breathed and clenched his hands to stop his fingers
trembling.

"When they dive several at a time, then it is not pleasant," the Belgian
infantry officer said. "But one can only pray. That is the way with
war. But, about this trip to General Boulard's headquarters. You heard
what the Sergeant said? It may be very dangerous. Perhaps you would care
to wait awhile, and rest?"

Something in the officer's tone made Dave jerk his head up.

"Hey, I wasn't _that_ scared!" he blurted out. "We're ready to start
right now. Okay, Freddy?"

"Of course," the English youth replied instantly. "Let's start at once.
The sooner we get there, the better."

"You are good soldiers, and I salute you," the officer murmured. "Very
well, then. And all my good wishes. After all, perhaps it is not best to
wait here. Soon we shall be very busy, here. Yes, very busy. Sergeant!
You have your orders."

The tired Belgian officer clicked his heels and saluted the two boys.
They returned the salute and as Dave looked into the Belgian's eyes he
saw a look there he would never forget as long as he lived. That officer
knew what was coming toward him from the Albert Canal. He knew that he
would stay where he was and face it. And he also knew that he would
probably never live to see another sunrise. In a few words he had told
of all that was in his thoughts. He had simply said, "Soon we shall be
very busy, here."

The Belgian's loyalty and great courage stirred Dave to the depths of
his soul. He impulsively reached out and grasped the officer's hand and
shook it.

"I hope you beat the stuffing out of them. Lieutenant," he said in a
rush of words. "Freddy and I will be rooting for you, and how!"

"You bet we will!" the English youth echoed. "I jolly well hope you
chase them all the way back to Berlin!"

The Belgian officer made no reply. He smiled at them sadly and saluted
again. The boys turned away and followed the big Sergeant through the
patch of woods to the far side where a unit of small tanks and scouting
cars was parked in under the trees. The Sergeant climbed in behind the
wheel of the nearest scouting car and motioned the two youths to get in
back. A couple of moments later the engine was doing its work and the
Sergeant was skillfully tooling the car across open fields toward the
southwest.

For a few moments Dave stared at the frenzied activity of the Belgian
troops that were all around them. Inexperienced though he was in
military technique, and so forth, he instinctively knew that the brave
Belgians were making feverish preparations for a last ditch stand
against the Germans. And with the picture of the Albert Canal crossing
still fresh in his memory he knew in his heart that all he saw would be
just a waste of gallant effort. Those German hordes, protected by their
swarms of planes, would go right through as though the Belgians weren't
there at all. It actually made his heart hurt to watch them and so he
slumped down in the seat of the car, and let his body sway with the
bumps, and stared moodily at the back of the driver's neck.

Presently Freddy reached over and placed a hand on his knee and pressed
it.

"Chin up, Dave!" he heard Freddy say. "We'll get through all right, you
wait and see."

Dave shook his head and sat up a bit and grinned.

"Sure we'll make it," he said. "I'm not worrying about that. I was just
thinking."

"About what?" Freddy asked.

"Well, just then I was thinking about that Arado I cracked up," Dave
said. "I sure feel rotten about that. I wish I could have brought it
down all in one piece."

"Good grief, forget it!" Freddy gasped. "It was wonderful of you to get
it down at all. I would have killed us both, for fair. I can tell you,
now, that I was very scared when you took off. I didn't know then how
well you could fly, but I do, now. You're a little bit of all right,
Dave. I mean that, really!"

"You're swell to say that, anyway," Dave grinned. "I'm still sorry,
though, I had to go and crack it up. I don't know ... Well, I guess
a plane to me is something like what his horse is to a cow puncher.
It's ... it's almost something human."

"I know what you mean, Dave."

"Do you, Freddy?" Dave echoed. "Well, that's the way it is. And I'll
tell you something, but you'll probably think I'm nuts. I made an awful
punk landing when I made my first solo. Cracked up the ship. I busted a
wing and wiped the undercarriage right off, and didn't get a scratch.
But do you know? I felt so bad about it I busted right out bawling like
a kid. My instructor was scared stiff. He thought something awful had
happened to me. But when I finally cut it out he was swell about the
whole thing. He said it was the normal reaction of a fellow who could
really go for flying. It made me feel better anyway. Yeah, I sure feel
pretty punk for busting up that Arado, even though it was a German
crate."

Freddy started to speak but Dave didn't even hear the first word. The
car had bounced out of a field and was being swung onto a road when the
landscape on all four sides suddenly blossomed up with spouting geysers
of brilliant red flame and towering columns of oily black smoke.
Thunderous sound rushed at them and seemed to lift the small scouting
car straight up into the air.

"Shrapnel barrage!" the Sergeant screamed and slammed on the brakes.
"Take cover under the car at once!"



CHAPTER TWELVE

_In the Nick of Time_


Huddled together like sardines under the car, the Belgian Sergeant and
the two boys pressed fingers to their ears while all about them a whole
world went mad with shot and shell. Never in all his life had Dave heard
such a bellowing roar of crashing sound. For the first few seconds his
entire body had been paralyzed with fear, but when he didn't die at once
his brain grew kind of numb, and the roaring thunder didn't seem to have
so much effect upon him. It wasn't because of a greater courage coming
to his rescue. And it wasn't a lack of fear, either. It was simply that
in the midst of a furious bombardment the minds of human beings are too
stunned by the sound to register any kind of emotion.

And so the three of them just lay there under the car while the German
gunners far back expended their wrath in the form of screaming steel,
and mountains of flame and rolling thunder. In ten minutes it was all
over. The range of the guns was changed and the barrage moved onward to
some other objective. Yet neither of the three moved a muscle. It was as
though each was waiting for the other to make the first move.

Eventually Dave could stand the suspense no longer. He jerked up his
head without thinking and cracked it hard on the underside of the car.
He let out a yelp of pain, and the sound of his voice seemed to release
whatever was holding Freddy Farmer and the Belgian Sergeant. All three
of them crawled out from under the car and got to their feet and looked
around. Dave and Freddy gasped aloud. The Belgian Sergeant shrugged
indifferently and muttered through his teeth. There just wasn't any road
any more. It was completely lost in a vast area of smoking shell holes
that seemed to stretch out in all directions as far as the eye could
see. Blackened jagged stumps marked what had once been trees. Fields
where spring grass had been growing up were now brown acres of piled up
dirt and stones. And a spot where Dave had last seen a farm house was as
bare as the palm of his hand.

"By the Saints, you two are a lucky charm!" the Sergeant suddenly
exploded and bobbed his big head up and down vigorously. "If you could
stay by my side always I would come out of this war alive without any
trouble at all. By the Saints of Notre Dame, yes! Look at the car. It
has not even been scratched! It is a miracle, nothing else!"

It was true! The small scouting car was bathed in dust and dirt but
there wasn't so much as a scratch on it. The engine was even idling as
smooth as could be. The Belgian Sergeant stared at it almost as though
he were staring at a ghost. Then shaking his head and muttering through
his big buck teeth, he climbed in behind the wheel.

"Nothing can possibly be as bad as that," he said. "Let us proceed at
once while the Good Lady still smiles upon us. Name of all things
wonderful, I can hardly believe I am still alive. _En avant, mes
enfants!_"

With a sudden contempt for the shell blasted ground, that made Dave and
Freddy grin in spite of the harrowing experience through which they had
just past, the Sergeant sent the car scooting in and out around the
craters with the careless ease of driving along a wide boulevard. In
less time than it takes to tell about it he had driven clear out of the
barrage area and was skirting around a patch of woods toward another and
as yet untouched road. And to show the kind of stuff he was made of the
man began singing joyfully at the top of his voice.

For the next half hour the war seemed to fade far away. True there were
signs of it on all sides, and above their heads, but a certain feeling
of security came to the boys as the Sergeant bumped them along roads and
across fields skirting around shell holes, artillery batteries, and
reserve troops being rushed up to the Front. Yet somehow all that didn't
touch them, now. A few hours ago they had been hiding in enemy
territory, two hunted prisoners of war. But now they were well behind
the Belgian lines and speeding toward headquarters where they would
deliver enemy position information that would be of great value to the
Allies. Two youths, sixteen and seventeen, had beaten the Germans at
their own game. Instead of revealing information of value to the
Germans, they had escaped with German information valuable to the
Allies.

Dave leaned his head back and sighed restfully. It sure made a fellow
feel good to have been of some help. And it made him feel twice as good
to have a pal like Freddy Farmer along with him. Freddy had certainly
proved his mettle in the tight corners. And regardless of what he'd
said, Freddy probably would have done a better job of flying that Arado,
too. At every turn the English youth popped up with a new side to him.
He sure was glad Freddy and his ambulance had come along when they had.
And, gee, just how long ago was that, anyway? Three days, or three
years? It had been plenty long ago anyway.

At that moment Freddy suddenly sat forward and tapped the Sergeant on
the shoulder.

"Why are we heading east?" he asked and pointed at the last rays of the
setting sun. "If you're trying to get to Namur, you're going in the
wrong direction."

"That is so," the Sergeant called back. "But, it is necessary. The
Boches have cut the road, and we must go around them. Soon it will be
dark. It will not be so hard when it is dark. Do not worry, my little
one, we shall get there."

Freddy started to argue but seemed to think better of it. He sank back
on the seat scowling thoughtfully at the setting sun. Dave looked at him
a moment, and then spoke.

"What gives, Freddy?" he asked. "Do you think the Sergeant doesn't know
what he's doing?"

"No, he's probably right," the English youth said. "If the Namur road
has been cut by the Germans we've got to go around them, of course. But
I've spent several summers in this part of Belgium, and...."

Freddy stopped short and leaned forward once more.

"Why can't we circle around them on the west, Sergeant?" he shouted.
"Can't you cut over and take the road leading south from Wavre?"

The Belgian let out a yell of consternation and stopped the car so
suddenly he almost pitched the two boys right over the back of the front
seat.

"The brain of a cat I have!" he shouted and thumped a big fist against
his forehead. "But, of course, of course, my little one! Those bombs and
shells! They must have made scrambled eggs out of what I have in my
head!"

Taking his foot off the brake the Belgian shifted back into low gear and
got the car underway again. At a crossroads some hundred yards ahead he
turned sharp right and fed gas to the engine. A moment later a machine
gun yammered savagely behind them. Dave twisted around in the seat and
saw an armored car bearing German army insignia racing for the turn-off
they had taken, but from the opposite direction. There was a machine gun
mounted on the car and a helmeted German soldier was striving to get
them in his range.

The Belgian Sergeant took one quick glance back over his shoulder and
instantly gave the engine all the gas it could take.

"A lucky charm you are indeed!" he shouted and hunched forward over the
wheel. "If you had not put sense in my head, and I had not turned off
on to this road, we would have run right into them. And that would have
been bad, very bad. Name of the Saints, the Lieutenant will reduce me to
a corporal when he hears of this!"

Neither Dave nor Freddy bothered to make any comment. To tell the truth
they were too busy hanging on tight and trying to stay in the car as it
rocketed forward seeming virtually to leap across shell holes in the
road. The Sergeant perhaps did not have very many brains but he
certainly knew how to handle that small scouting car. He skipped across
shell holes, dodged and twisted about trees blown down across it, and
roared right through scattered wreckage of bombed supply trucks and the
like as though they weren't even there. And all the time the machine gun
farther back snarled and yammered out its song of death.

The pursuing Germans had swung on to their road and were now striving
desperately to overtake them. Dave stuck his head up to see if they had
gained, but before he could see anything Freddy grabbed him around the
waist and practically threw him down onto the floor of the car.

"Stay down, Dave!" the English youth shouted above the roar of the
little car's powerful engine. "We've ducked enough bullets for one day.
Don't be crazy!"

Dave grinned sheepishly and nodded.

"That was dumb!" he said. "You're right, and thanks!"

As the last left his lips a burst of bullets whined low over the car.
Dave gulped and ducked his head.

"Thanks, and how!" he yelled. "Boy, those were close. If I'd been
looking back they might ... _Hey!_"

At that moment the little car turned sharply to the right and seemed to
zoom right up into the air. It came down with a crashing jolt. A shower
of bush branches slithered down on the boys and they were tossed around
in the back of the car like two peas in a pod. Puffing and panting, they
struggled to brace themselves before they were pitched out head over
heels. No sooner would they get a firm hold on something than the scout
car would careen up on its side and go darting off in another direction,
and they would be bounced around again.

For a good ten minutes they tore through the darkening twilight first
this way and then that way. Then suddenly the violent jolting ceased
abruptly, and the car ran along on an even keel. Covered with bumps and
bruises from head to toe, the two boys scrambled up off the floor of
the car and flopped down on the seat. The Belgian Sergeant pushed on the
brake and brought the car to a halt under the shelter of over-hanging
tree branches. He switched the engine off and turned around and smiled
at them triumphantly.

"We have lost the Boches!" he announced. "Everything is all right, now.
When it gets dark we will continue. You, my little lucky charm, I must
thank you for putting sense in my head."

"That's quite, all right," Freddy said and fingered a lump behind his
right ear. "That was a fine bit of driving, Sergeant, even though you
came close to breaking our necks. Next time, though, please let us know
in time."

"You said it!" Dave gasped and nursed a barked shin. "And when you do,
I'm going to jump out. Boy, talk about your wild rides!"

The Belgian Sergeant laughed and gestured with his big hands.

"But that was nothing!" he protested, "These little cars, they can go up
the side of a cliff. That German thing? Bah! It creeps along like a
snail. You should have been with me and the Lieutenant yesterday. Ah,
that was a ride! For a whole hour, mind you. And they were shooting at
us from all sides. But we got through without a scratch. It was
wonderful. You should have been there!"

"I think I'm glad I wasn't," Freddy said, and smiled so the Belgian
would not feel hurt. "But what, now? Where are we?"

Before he would reply the Belgian stuck a dirty cigarette between his
lips and lighted up.

"We wait for the darkness, and that will not be long," he finally said.
Then pointing across the field to the left, he continued, "One mile in
that direction and we strike a road that will lead us straight into the
Wavre-Namur road. Two hours at the most and we shall be there."

"Unless the Germans have cut it, too," Freddy murmured.

The Belgian looked at him and snorted.

"Impossible!" he said in a decisive voice. "They cannot have advanced
that far. Don't worry, _mes enfants_, I will get you to Namur in no time
at all. I ... _Sacré!_ Those are German tank guns!"

The pounding of guns had suddenly broken out from behind them and to the
left. Not the deep booming sound of long range pieces, but the sharp
bark of small caliber guns. The sergeant pinched out his cigarette and
stuck it in his pocket and slid out of the car. He stood motionless for
a moment, head cocked on one side and listening intently to the guns.
Dave listened, too, trying to tell if they were coming closer. A strip
of woods broke up the sound, and it was impossible for him to tell.

He glanced at the sergeant and was startled to see the worried look on
the man's face. Worry and astonishment, as though the Belgian was trying
to convince himself that the truth was false. In the fast fading light
the lines of his face deepened until it became a face of shadows.
Suddenly he muttered something under his breath and pulled a Belgian
army pistol from the holster at his side.

"Remain here!" he ordered in a hard voice. "This is most strange, and I
must investigate. Those cannot be German guns, but perhaps so. I will go
and look, and return at once. Remain here, and wait!"

Without waiting for either of them to say a word, the Belgian glided
swiftly away from the car and was almost at once swallowed up in the
shadows cast by the trees. Dave looked at Freddy.

"What do you think?" he asked. "If that's Germans coming this way, we're
crazy to stick around. Don't you think so?"

"Yes, I do," the English youth said bluntly. "But let's wait a little
bit. They may not be, and it wouldn't be quite fair dashing off and
leaving the Sergeant to walk back, you know."

"Okay, we'll wait, then," Dave agreed. "Boy, but wasn't that some wild
ride! And it sure was lucky you spoke to him when you did. What I mean,
you saved us from a tough spot. Hey, what's that?"

The tank guns had gone silent, but the yammer of a machine gun took up
the song. It sang a few notes and then became suddenly silent. Freddy
jumped out of the car and beckoned to Dave.

"We'd better take a look, Dave," he said in a worried voice. "If they
are really close we wouldn't have a chance in the car. Our best bet
would be to hide out in the woods until they've passed."

Dave jumped down and looked into Freddy's eyes.

"You mean?" he asked in a strained voice. "You think the Sergeant bumped
into them, and they killed him?"

"I'm afraid so," Freddy nodded and swallowed. "We'd better make sure,
though. Don't you think so?"

"Okay by me," Dave said, though he didn't feel so inside. "Lead on,
Freddy. I'm right with you."



CHAPTER THIRTEEN

_Bombs For Namur_


With the English youth picking the way, the two boys crept forward
through the woods toward the spot from whence had come the sharp burst
of machine gun fire. Before they had traveled a hundred yards a shout in
German stopped them in their tracks.

"Just a Belgian dog!" the voice called out. "He was probably deserting,
so it is well that we shot him!"

Dave's heart became icy cold in his chest yet at the same time bitter
resentment toward the Nazis flamed up in his brain. Then he suddenly
realized that Freddy was creeping forward on all fours, so he dropped to
the ground himself and followed. At the end of a few yards they came to
a break in the trees that gave them a view of a large field in the
distance. Three light German tanks were parked in the field. A helmeted
figure, probably an officer, was standing up in the gun turret of each.
Some sixty yards in front of the tanks two German soldiers were bending
over a motionless figure on the ground. It was now too dark for Dave to
get a good view of the crumpled figure on the ground. But he knew he
didn't need a clear view. That Belgian Sergeant would never drive them
to Namur, now.

"The dirty rotters, the swine!" he heard Freddy's hoarse whisper at his
side. "Three light tanks against one poor Belgian sergeant. He was a
decent chap, too. Blast Hitler, I say!"

"The same for the whole bunch of them!" Dave breathed angrily. "Boy, I
wish I had a machine gun right now. I'd give them plenty!"

"Not against tanks, I fancy," Freddy said. "Well, that cooks it. We've
got to go it alone. Look! They're starting off again. Now, if they just
head...!"

The English youth let his voice trail off, but he didn't have to finish
the sentence as far as Dave was concerned. He had the same thought. If
the tanks turned off to the right the scouting car would not be
discovered and they could continue their journey in it. But if the tanks
turned to the left, toward the woods in which they crouched, it would be
good-bye scouting car. The tanks would spot it for sure, and blow it to
bits with their armor piercing guns if they didn't take it for their own
use.

Dave's heart seemed to stop beating, and he held his breath, as the
tank engines clattered up into life and the metal clad ground bugs
started to move forward. Then suddenly he wanted to yell with relief.
The farthest tank from them wheeled around on its treads to the right.
The second tank in line followed suit, and then the third. Making a
racket that echoed and reechoed back and forth across the war swept
countryside, the squadron of tanks moved out of the field, rumbled down
over the lip of a slope in the ground and were soon lost to view. Dave
let the air out of his lungs and whistled softly.

"Boy, is that a break for us!" he grunted. "We can use that scouting
car, now."

"You're jolly well right we can!" Freddy cried and leaped to his feet.
"It's a Renault, too, and I've driven Renaults lots."

"Then you're elected," Dave said. "So let's go!"

In less than a minute they were back in the scouting car and Freddy was
kicking the engine into life. The instant it roared up he shifted into
gear and sent the car rolling around to the left in the direction the
dead Belgian Sergeant had indicated.

"I hope he knew what he was talking about!" Freddy yelled above the
sound of the clashing of gears. "After that crazy ride I'm not sure at
all where we are. But, I'll recognize that Namur road when we come to
it. One of the few decent roads in Belgium. Well, we're off!"

The English youth punctuated the last by ramming the car into high and
stepping on the gas. Dave's head snapped back and he grabbed wildly for
a hold and found one.

"Gosh, you and that Sergeant!" he gasped. "But, it's okay, now. Let her
rip, Freddy. Say! It's plenty different riding in the front seat of one
of these things, isn't it?"

It was different, too. It was much easier on the bones and tender spots
of the human body. Though the car was racing across a rough uneven
surface, Dave didn't get half the bouncing around sitting up front. But
suddenly when a group of trees came rushing at them and Freddy yanked
down on the wheel and swerved past with but a couple of feet to spare,
Dave felt his hair stand up straight on his head.

"It's fun driving one of these things!" he heard Freddy shout. "A
Renault's a good bus. My father has one."

"Sure, but I'm the passenger, don't forget!" Dave shouted back. "How
about some lights? It's getting pretty dark."

"I guess we'd better," Freddy replied and flicked up a switch on the
dashboard.

Two pale beams of light swept out in front of the car. They helped some,
but they were considerably dimmed so as not to be easily spotted from
the air. And they most certainly didn't put Dave much at ease. Dark
objects continued to whip into view and then go slipping by as Freddy
skillfully wrenched the wheel this way or that. And then suddenly they
bounced out of a field onto a dirt road. They had actually turned on to
the road and were tearing along it toward the west before Dave realized
they were on it.

"Holy smokes, you're good, and no fooling!" he cried. "You sure know how
to drive. Well, the Sergeant was right about this road anyway. Wonder
how far it is to the main road? Hey, what's the idea of stopping?"

Freddy had suddenly slammed on the brakes, swung to the side of the
road, and switched off the lights.

"Planes," he said. "Hear them? They might see our lights. Thought so.
They're German, and low, too!"

"And coming right toward us!" Dave said as he twisted around in the
seat. "Gee, you've got ears, too!"

Throbbing, pulsating thunder was rolling toward them out of the sky. The
planes were not more than a couple of thousand feet up in the sky, and
from the sound there were at least a couple of squadrons of them. The
two boys squinted up at the now dark sky, and then suddenly they saw
the armada of wings sweeping forward against the stars. They showed no
lights, but it was easy to pick them out by the bluish glow of the
engine exhaust plumes trailing backward.

"Gee, there's a hundred of them, at least!" Dave breathed. "They look
like Heinkels to me. Wonder where they're headed? Gosh, look at them,
Freddy. Aren't they something?"

Freddy didn't reply. He sat peering up at the death armada as it winged
by, and Dave suddenly saw the frown on his friend's face.

"What are you frowning about?" he asked.

"I'm wondering," Freddy replied. "Unless I'm mistaken those chaps are
heading for the same place we are. Namur. Yes, I'm almost sure of it!"

"So what?" Dave murmured.

"So I fancy there'll be very little of it left," Freddy said. "I'll bet
you five pounds they know Belgian G.H.Q. is at Namur, and they're going
over there to knock it out. Well, all we can do is keep on going, I
guess."

The roar of the bombers was fading away to the south. Freddy started the
car again and switched on the lights. At the end of five minutes or so
they suddenly came upon a well paved broad highway.

"That poor Belgian Sergeant was right, bless him!" Freddy shouted
happily and turned south on the road.

"Yes, but look!" Dave yelled and pointed ahead. "Look at that red glow
way down there. Gee, it looks like the whole horizon is on fire. And,
hey! Hear that? Hear those sounds. I bet that's those planes dropping
bombs."

"And I bet that's Namur!" Freddy cried and speeded up the car. "Blast
it, we're too late I'm afraid, Dave. Belgian H.Q. has probably cleared
out long ago. We'll never find them there, if that's Namur!"

For the next few minutes neither of the boys spoke. They both sat tense
in the seat staring at the ever increasing red glow that mounted higher
and higher up into the horizon sky. A red glow that was mixed with
streaks of yellow, and flashes of vivid orange. And all the time the
_br-r-ump! br-r-ump! br-r-ump_ of detonating high explosive bombs came
to them above the roar of the scouting car's engine. In a weird sort of
way it reminded Dave of a movie he had once seen. He couldn't remember
the title but it was a movie about the world coming to an end. The
scenic effects had been like what he was witnessing now. Only they
hadn't been half so vivid nor so heart chilling as this. That had been a
movie. This was real war. Way off there in the distance a city was
probably dying. The bombs of war-making maniacs were smashing a living
city into powdery ruins. It was like a horrible nightmare. And it was,
because it was true!

Freddy suddenly slowing down the car made Dave tear his eyes from the
terrifying spectacle in the distance. He looked at his friend in sudden
alarm.

"What's the matter, Freddy?" he asked.

The English youth pointed down the highway.

"Lights coming our way," he said. "We'd better pull over and see what's
what. I was going to stop, anyway. There's something strange about this,
Dave."

"Yes, and I know what you mean, too!" Dave said as he suddenly realized.
"The highway's been empty ever since we came onto it. We haven't passed
a thing, or met anything."

"Right you are," Freddy nodded. "I've been wondering about that. But,
we're meeting something, now. I say, that's not a car. The lights aren't
together. They must be motorcycles."

"They are!" Dave said. "Hear their motors? Boy, are they stepping
along."

"Phew!" Freddy suddenly cried out. "Supposing they're German? We'd
better hop out and...."

"Too late, now!" Dave cried as the lights swerved toward their side of
the road. "They've seen our lights. And, here they are, too!"

The last word had no more than left Dave's lips than two army
motorcycles roared up beside the car and brakes screamed to a halt. Dave
saw two shadowy figures vault from the saddles and then the white beam
of a flashlight flung straight into his face blinded him. The blood
running out of his face felt like cold water. He tried to shout that
they were not soldiers but the words would not come. Then he almost
sobbed aloud as a sharp voice spoke in French.

"Who are you? What is this? _Nom de Dieu!_ Two boys in a scouting car.
Well, have you lost your tongues? What is all this, I ask?"

"We are trying to reach General Boulard's headquarters," Freddy said
before Dave could open his mouth. "We have important information. Will
you please take that light out of my eyes? We are not armed, as you can
see."

The bright light was lowered but it was several seconds before the boys
could adjust their eyes to the sudden change from brilliant light to
almost pitch darkness. Then they saw two Belgian corporals with dispatch
rider brassards fastened about the left sleeve of their tunics. Each had
his army pistol drawn and held ready for use.

"General Boulard?" one of them grunted. "Why do you wish to see him,
eh? And what are you doing in this scouting car? So you stole it, yes?
And I suppose you were planning to take it to your family and fill it
with your family's furniture? Well...."

"Nuts!" Dave suddenly yelled at them. "We're not Belgians. He's English,
and I'm American. We've escaped from Germany with valuable information.
A Belgian lieutenant gave us this car, and with a sergeant to drive it.
He's back there dead. We almost bumped into three German tanks, and...."

"German tanks?" one of the dispatch riders broke in excitedly. "Where?"

"Back over there a ways," Dave said and pointed in the general direction
from whence they had come. "Is General Boulard's headquarters still in
Namur?"

The dispatch riders didn't answer at once. They looked at each other,
shrugged, and looked quite alarmed.

"If these infants saw Boche tanks," one of them murmured, "then it must
be a flanking movement to cut us off from Brussels. We must continue on
at once!"

"At once!" his partner agreed and turned to his motorcycle.

"I say there, wait!" Freddy shouted angrily. "Is General Boulard at
Namur?"

"There is nothing at Namur, except death and the cursed Boches!" one of
the dispatch riders shouted. "We go to the General's new headquarters,
now. Follow us and we will show you the way. But, hurry! If you did see
tanks where you say, then we are practically surrounded by the swine.
There is not a moment to lose, unless you care to be shot or at best
taken prisoner by the butchers!"

As though to give emphasis to their words the dispatch riders vaulted
onto their saddles and opened up their motorcycle engines in a roar of
sound that seemed to bounce clear up to the stars and back again. They
were off like a shot and over a hundred yards ahead before Freddy could
turn the small scouting car around. But once he had it turned around the
young English youth didn't waste any time. He fairly flew after the two
motorcycles while Dave clung fast to the side of the car and silently
marveled some more at Freddy's masterful driving.

The Belgians roared a mile up the road, then swerved off to the left
onto a road that led toward the northwest.

"They're heading for Brussels, I'm pretty sure!" Freddy shouted as the
wind howled past the car. "That Sergeant was right when he said it looks
bad. It not only looks, but _is_!"

"The Germans sure must be pretty deep into the country," Dave agreed.
"They.... Hey, Freddy! Gosh ... look! The whole road is exploding!
_Freddy_...!"

The road ahead had suddenly burst open to spout a sea of blinding light
and crashing sound. The two dispatch riders seemed to melt into it and
disappear. Invisible hands grabbed hold of the small scouting car and
tossed it straight up into the air. From a million miles away Dave heard
Freddy screaming his name. Then he had the feeling of spinning end over
end off through space that was filled with white hot fire and billowing
thick black smoke. A hundred million wild, crazy thoughts whirled around
in his brain, and then everything turned black, and became as silent as
the grave.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN

_Orders From Headquarters_


It was a kindly face, and the smile was warm and friendly, yet somehow
Dave Dawson couldn't keep it in focus. It would be close to him one
moment and seem very real. Then a cloud would pass across in front of it
and the face would fade out completely. He felt as though he had been
trying to hold that face in his vision for years and years. He knew that
the mouth was talking to him, too, but he couldn't hear a word.

Everything was so still and quiet about him, and so white. Everything
that his eyes could see was white ... except that kind looking face.
He'd stare at it hard, trying to bold it in focus, and then his eyes
would become so heavy, and his brain would become so sleepy. He guessed
that was the trouble; why he couldn't keep seeing that face for very
long at a time. He'd fall off to sleep.

Or was he actually asleep all the time and was this a dream? But why was
he sleeping? He shouldn't be sleeping. He remembered, now! He and
Freddy were following those two Belgian dispatch riders toward General
Boulard's headquarters. Something funny, though, had happened. What
could it have been? Surely he hadn't just fallen off to sleep while
Freddy stuck to the wheel. _No_, of course not! More of it was coming
back! There had been a terrific explosion in the road ahead, and the two
dispatch riders had disappeared right into it. Yes, he remembered now
what had happened. But, where was he? Why was everything white? Why was
that kind looking, smiling face fading away from him so often? And why
couldn't he hear those words the moving lips were saying? Was he dead?
Was this what it was like when you died? And Freddy! Where was his pal,
Freddy Farmer? He tried to find suitable answers in his brain, but his
head ached so, and looking at that fading face made him so sleepy ... so
sleepy....

And then after a long time the face suddenly stopped fading away into
the depths of foggy mist. It stayed right where it was, and when the
lips moved he actually heard what they said.

"How do you feel, my lad?" they said. "Does your head hurt very much?"

His head? Why should those lips ask if his head hurt? His head didn't
hurt at all! As a matter, of fact, nothing about him hurt. He felt
fine. He felt swell. What was going on, anyway? Holy smokes! He was in a
bed. Under sheets and blankets, and everything. He pushed himself up on
his elbow as easy as pie, and looked around. He saw that he was in a
hospital. There was a long line of beds down each side of the huge room
painted so white it almost hurt your eyes. And there was a man, a
soldier in every bed because he could see the uniforms hanging on the
hooks on the wall. And that face! It belonged to a captain in the
British Army. The medical corps! The insignia was on the lapels of his
tunic.

"Steady, my lad!" the officer cautioned in a soothing voice. "Tell me,
how's the head feel? The pain gone, sonny?"

Dave blinked and was somehow a little startled to realize that he could
talk. He vaguely remembered something about trying to talk a little
while ago but being unable to utter a word.

"My head's okay, sir," he said. "I feel great. Where am I, anyway? And
what's it all about? This is a hospital, isn't it?"

The medical officer let out a great sigh as though he had been holding
his breath for a long time.

"Good, splendid!" he finally said. "You're out of it at last. You'll be
all right, now, my lad. But you jolly well had a close one, I can tell
you! Might have remained in a coma for weeks, and months. A ticklish
thing, concussion shock. Want something to eat?"

"Sure, sure," Dave replied absently. "But, hey, I remember, now. Where's
my pal? Where's Freddy Farmer? He was with me when that road exploded!"

"Road exploded, eh?" the medical officer said and raised an eyebrow. "A
land mine, probably. So your friend's name is Freddy Farmer? An English
lad, isn't he?"

"And the very best!" Dave said with feeling. "But where is he? Gosh,
sir, please tell me! I've got to know. He's ... he's all right?"

The officer leaned down and patted his shoulder.

"Your little friend's quite all right," he said and pointed to Freddy
Farmer asleep in the next bed. "He came out of it for the last time a
few hours ago, but he started raving about a lot of crazy things, so I
gave him something to make him sleep some more. He'll be fit as a fiddle
when he wakes up. Now, what about this land mine ... or the road
exploding, as you say?"

"I don't know exactly," Dave said. "Freddy was driving the Belgian
scouting car, and we were following a couple of dispatch riders to
General Boulard's headquarters. We had just turned off the Wavre-Namur
road, I guess it was, when _blamm_! Everything went dark. But how'd we
get here? Somebody picked us up last night? Hey, what's so funny about
that?"

The officer wiped a broad smile from his lips.

"I wasn't laughing at you, my lad," he said. "It's amusing, though, to
witness the final effects of concussion shock. My boy, you weren't
picked up last night. You've been here in this British military
hospital, at Lille, for eight days!"

Dave was speechless. His eyes widened in blank amazement. He just
couldn't believe he had heard correctly. Surely his ears must be playing
him tricks. _Eight days?_

"That's right, my lad," the medical officer said, reading Dave's
bewildered thoughts. "It's exactly eight days this morning, since they
brought you two in here."

"But eight days?" Dave cried. "But ... but I'm not even hurt! There are
no bandages on me, and I don't ache any place. How could I have been
here for eight days?"

"I'll not give you the medical explanation, because you wouldn't
understand, probably," the officer said with a smile. "But what
happened, was something like this. The concussion shock of that
explosion, whatever it was, temporarily paralyzed certain nerve centers
in your body and in your head. Why you didn't receive physical injury
is just one of those mysterious things that happen often in war. A shell
can blow every strip of clothing off a soldier's back, blow off his
shoes, and toss him fifty yards, but not mark him with a single scratch.
That's what must have happened to you and your friend. Perhaps, too,
being in the scouting car protected you from things flying around. But,
certain nerve centers were paralyzed. There's little we can do for that
outside of a few injections. It's up to the patient's make-up, his
constitution, and such. You probably don't remember waking up several
times, do you?"

Dave shook his head.

"No sir," he said. "But I sort of half remember something about seeing a
face that kept fading out, and seeing lips move, but I couldn't hear the
words."

"Yes, that's the way it is usually," the medical officer said and
nodded. "That was just parts of the nerve system returning to normal.
You could see a little but you couldn't hear. Or you could feel but
still not have the power to speak. The medical term for that has
thirty-six letters, I believe. I don't even think I could pronounce it
correctly now, anyway. But, you're fit now, my lad. I'll have the nurse
bring you in something to eat."

"Gosh!" Dave gasped as a sudden thought struck him. "Have I gone eight
days without eating?"

"Hardly," the other said with a laugh. "No, several times you both woke
up enough to take food, though of course you don't remember it. The rest
of the time we gave you injections. But, my word, the things you two
raved about! You insisted, rather your friend insisted on seeing General
Caldwell, Chief of Staff. You claimed you had been prisoners in Germany,
and had seen a very important map. Your friend was very annoyed when we
refused to summon the General at once, and gave him something to put him
to sleep, instead. Really...!"

"But that's true, that's true!" Dave burst out. "We were prisoners, and
we saw a map of the German plan of invasion. We escaped to the Belgian
lines in a plane we stole. Then the sergeant driving us to Namur was
killed. We met some Belgian dispatch riders and they were showing us the
way to General Boulard's headquarters when the whole road exploded. It's
true, sir!"

The medical captain's eyes were now the size of saucers. He stood
staring down at Dave in confounded amazement.

"I say, my lad, go a bit easy," he began. "I guess you're not yet out of
that coma. Now, just lie back, and...."

"I'm fine, I'm okay!" Dave shouted excitedly. "Honest! It's all true,
sir."

The officer continued to stare at him in puzzled bewilderment, and then
Freddy's voice from the next bed caused them both to look his way.

"I say, hello, Dave!" the English youth cried. "They said you were all
right, and then I guess I fell asleep again. Good grief, this is a
hospital, isn't it? By George, it all comes back to me now! That road
blowing up. But how in the world did we get here?"

The medical officer didn't bother to answer the question. He hurried
over to Freddy's bedside and took a good look at him. Freddy gave him a
puzzled frown, then his face suddenly lighted up.

"I say, I've seen you before, haven't I, sir?" he asked.

"This morning," the medical man nodded. "Then you're all ship shape,
too? But, listen, my lad, do you two still insist upon seeing General
Caldwell, Chief of British Staff?"

Asking the question was like turning a magic key in Freddy. The English
youth became very excited at once, and breathlessly explained everything
in more detail than had Dave.

"Yes sir," he finished up. "We have some valuable information, I'm
sure. If you could loan us a car, sir, and tell us where we can find the
General, we'll go at once."

"You two will go nowhere just now!" the officer said sternly. "Bless my
soul, after what you've been through? Certainly not! However, there may
be something to all this. I'll get the General on the wire and tell him
about you two. His headquarters are not far away. He'll send one of his
Staff, or perhaps come himself. This whole thing is almost fantastic!
You're sure you're not trying to pull my leg, fool me?"

"Word of honor, sir," Freddy said solemnly.

The medical officer scowled and hesitated a moment. Then he shrugged and
hurried out of the ward.

Dave looked at Freddy and grinned happily.

"Boy, am I glad to see you!" he exclaimed. "According to the Doc we
should be dead, by rights, or something. Instead, we just got our nerve
centers knocked haywire. Say, do you know how long we've been here? Did
he tell you when you woke up last time?"

"I guess he didn't have the chance," the English youth said with a wry
grin. "I started yelling for them to take us to the General, and they
thought I was completely off my topper. Stuck a needle in me and I
popped off like a kitten. We've been here last night or since this
morning, haven't we? And where the dickens are we, anyway?"

"Hold your hat, Freddy, here it comes," Dave said with a chuckle. "We've
been here eight days, he told me."

Freddy's jaw dropped and his eyes bugged out so far you could have
knocked them off like marbles on sticks. Then he flushed and laughed
scornfully.

"Come off it, Dave!" he protested. "Don't give me any of that kind of
tosh. My word! Eight days, my hat!"

"No kidding, that's what he said," Dave insisted. And then he started to
give Freddy the medical officer's description of what had happened to
them, and their unknown, to them, actions during the eight day period.

He had almost finished when the medical captain came hurrying back into
the ward. At his heels were two male orderlies in hospital white. Dave
broke off what he was saying and stared questioningly. The medical
officer looked very much excited, and also very much impressed.

"Take them to my receiving office," he said to the orderlies and stepped
to the side.

Neither Dave nor Freddy had the chance to ask the questions that hovered
on their lips. The orderlies took hold of their beds and started
wheeling them down the aisle to the double doors at the end. They passed
through another ward and then were wheeled into a fair sized room that
was fitted up more as an office than a hospital room.

"That's fine," the captain said. "Return to your wards now."

The orderlies retreated and the captain looked at Dave and Freddy in
surprise and admiration.

"Well, bless me!" he exclaimed. "I certainly didn't know I had two young
heroes under my charge. I had thought you were just two lads caught up
in the rush of things. General Caldwell is rushing over here, now, by
car. He has heard about you two."

"About us?" Dave gasped. "But, heck, how could he have heard about us?"

"Yes!" Freddy exclaimed in a tone of awed wonder. "How could he have
heard of us?"

"Through the Belgian High Command, I believe," the captain said. "It
seems that Belgian infantry lieutenant reported your little flying
incident to his commander. Also what you had told him. It was passed on
up until it reached General Boulard. General Boulard, it seems,
contacted General Caldwell to see if you lads had gotten through to him.
The lieutenant, of course, did not know what had happened to you after
you drove off in the scouting car with the Sergeant. But, I can tell
you, General Caldwell is most anxious to meet you. By jove, he almost
broke my ear drums with his shouting. Yes, I fancy that you two chaps
are rather famous, now, you know?"

"Rot, sir," Freddy said with true British modesty. "I fancy any one
could have done it. And a much better job of it, too. Is it true, sir,
that we've been here eight days?"

"And nights, as well," the medical officer nodded. "But don't look
alarmed, my lad. That sort of thing is not unusual. And you're both
safely out of it, now. A day or two of rest, and all the food you can
eat, and you'll be like new again."

"I'm okay, right now," Dave said stoutly. "But there's something you
didn't explain, sir, How did we get here? Who found us, and what?"

"It's a bit sketchy," the medical officer said with a frown. "As far as
I could learn a Belgian ambulance driver came across you and saw that
you both weren't dead, and put you in his bus. His own hospital was
being evacuated because of shell fire, and so he continued on westward.
He reached a receiving station of ours and dumped his load there. You
two, and three Belgian gunners. Anyway, from that point you were brought
here to me. And here you are. It was something like that, anyway.
Doubtless you'll never know the real facts. But, I certainly shouldn't
worry about that, if I were you. Simply bless your lucky stars, and let
it go at that."

"Jeepers!" Dave breathed softly. "Lucky stars? I must have a million of
them, I guess. You, too, Freddy. Right?"

"Quite!" The English youth nodded. "Dashed if it isn't like some fairy
tale one of those writer chaps would think up."

"And how!" Dave grunted and shook his head. "My gosh! A Stuka bomb drops
on me and I wake up hours later and miles away. Then a land mine, or
something, blows up in my face, and I wake up _eight days_ later, and
gosh knows _how_ far away. I sure do get around."

"Well, better not make a habit of it, my lad," the medical officer
chuckled. "The third time, you know?"

"Hey, those eight days!" Dave suddenly exclaimed. "What's been
happening? Who's winning? Are the Allies beating up the Germans? Gee, I
sure hope so!"

The smile fled from the medical officer's face and he became very grave.
He opened his mouth to speak, but closed it abruptly. At that moment the
office door swung open and a group of five tired eyed British officers
entered the room. A big man, with coal black hair and steel grey eyes,
led the party. Even without looking at his uniform with its rows of
decoration ribbons, and high rank insignia, Dave knew at once that the
man was General Caldwell, chief of British Staff. The captain swung
around and clicked his heels.

"Ah, there you are, sir," he greeted the General. "And here, sir, are
your two young lads. This is the American chap, Dave Dawson. And this is
one of our own lads. Freddy Farmer. Boys, General Caldwell, chief of
British Staff. You'd like me to retire, sir?"

"No, no, of course not, Captain," General Caldwell said in a brisk tone.
Then turning his steel grey eyes on the boys he smiled faintly. "So, you
are the two, eh?" he said. "I've heard quite a bit about you. Now, who
wants to talk first? I want to hear everything."

"You tell him about it, Freddy," Dave said promptly. "You remembered
more things on that map than I did, anyway."

Freddy flushed and looked embarrassed. The General smiled and perched
himself on a corner of the bed, while his officers gathered around.

"All right, Freddy," he said. "Freddy Farmer, isn't it? Oh yes, of
course. All right, Freddy, let's have it, eh?"

"Yes sir," the English youth said, and began talking in a low but clear
voice.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN

_Belgium Gives Up!_


As Freddy recounted their experiences one by one Dave checked them in
his own mind. Presently, though, he only half listened to his pal. He
became fascinated looking at the British Chief of Staff. Many times he
had seen General Caldwell's picture in the papers back home. And he had
read a lot of the General's reputation as a fighter and leader of men.
It thrilled him through and through to see the great man sitting just a
few feet from him. It was another great experience he would remember
always.

The one thing that pleased Dave most about the famous general was that
he looked exactly like what Dave had always believed a general should
look like. Tall, strong looking, and a face that could be stern and hard
as rock. Right now the General could indeed be made entirely of solid
rock. He didn't so much as blink an eye as Freddy talked. Not a muscle
in his face moved. And his steel grey eyes instead of looking into
Freddy's, looked at Freddy's lips as though to draw the words out. He
remained that way right up until Freddy had spoken his last word. Then
General Caldwell took his eyes off Freddy's lips and stared unblinkingly
at the opposite wall.

"Well done, lads," he suddenly said, speaking in a soft voice that
seemed strange coming from his stern looking face. "I'll certainly see
that others hear of this, you can mark my words. And you, America! Dave
Dawson, can you add anything to the story?"

Dave furrowed his brows in thought for a moment, then shook his head.

"No, guess not, General," he said. "Except that Freddy didn't tell you
half of the things he did to get us out of jams. He...."

"Rot!" Freddy snorted. "Who got us out of that room? And who flew that
plane and didn't break our necks, I'd like to know?"

"Yeah?" Dave grinned at him. "Well, who stopped the sergeant from
running us smack into those Germans? And who stopped those wild Belgians
from stabbing us with their bayonets? And who drove that scouting car
when the sergeant had been killed? And who...?"

"All right, all right, boys!" General Caldwell broke it up. "You both
did splendid jobs, and that's fine. And now, about that map. Let's go
back to that. Just a minute."

The General turned and looked at one of his officers.

"Let's have that map, Saunders," he said.

A major whipped a rolled map from under his arm and passed it over.
Another officer got a table and moved it between the two beds. A third
officer dug up thumb tacks some place, and the General unrolled the map
and tacked it flat on the table.

"Now," he said in his soft voice and leaned over the map. "This little
town here. It's named Spontin. Do you remember if there was a colored
pin there?"

The boys bent over and peered at the place on the map where the General
had put a finger tip. Freddy answered first.

"Yes sir," he said. "There was a blue pin there. In fact, sir, there
were three blue pins all in a line. About a quarter of an inch apart. I
remember that distinctly."

"I see," the General murmured. "And do you recall if there was a date
printed under those pins?"

"Yes, there was!" Dave cried. "Wait a minute. Yes, it was May Sixteenth.
I'll bet on it!"

"No need of that, my boy," General Caldwell said quietly, and moved his
finger. "Now, here. At Vervins, in France. What about that?"

"A blue pin also, sir," Freddy spoke up. "And the date marked under it
was May Eighteenth."

"And here at Guise?" General Caldwell asked and moved his finger across
the map again.

"Check on the blue pin!" Dave said.

"And I'm pretty sure that date was May Nineteenth, sir," Freddy said.

General Caldwell didn't move his finger any more. He straightened up and
looked around at his officers. They all nodded together and looked very
grave. A little bit of panic raced through Dave.

"We're all wet, General?" he blurted out. "You think we've just made all
this up? So help me, honest, we...."

Dave cut himself off short as the Chief of Staff shook his head and gave
him the ghost of a smile.

"On the contrary, not at all, my boy," he said. "As they would say in
the States, I was just checking up. You two most certainly saw the
German plan of invasion attack and execution."

"We could be a bit mistaken about the dates, sir," Freddy said in a
hesitating voice. "But I'm pretty sure those we gave you were correct."

"They were," the General said, and there was a faint ironic edge to his
voice. "You saw what the Germans _planned_ to do. We saw them _do_ it!
They occupied Spontin on the Sixteenth, Vervins on the Eighteenth, and
Guise on the Nineteenth. That's a matter of history, now."

"Good grief!" Freddy exclaimed with a sob in his voice. "They've gained
that much, sir?"

"And much more," General Caldwell said grimly and took a little box from
his tunic pocket. "Now, I have a very important job for you two. Very
important! A whole lot depends on your memories, so sharpen them up
well. Here is a box of pins. I want you two lads to try and put a pin in
this map for every pin you saw in that Intelligence map. Colors don't
matter. These here are all the same. All white, as you see. Now, study
this map and shake up your memories well. And here's a couple of
pencils, too. Write down all the dates you can remember. And put them
under the right pins, of course."

"Gosh, there must have been a couple of hundred pins on that map, sir!"
Dave said in a weak voice.

"Just stick in the pins you remember," General Caldwell said quietly.
"And the dates, too. All right, let's get at it, shall we?"

It was well over an hour later when Freddy and Dave leaned back from the
map well nigh mentally exhausted.

"Anything else would be just a wild guess, sir," Freddy said. "I
wouldn't be sure of it at all."

"Me too," Dave said. "I'd just get all balled up. Those are all I can
remember."

General Caldwell seemed not even to hear them. Once again he was like
something made out of solid rock. He sat forward a little, an elbow on
the edge of the table and his broad chin cupped in the palm of his hand.
His eyes were fixed on the map, moving from pin to pin. The other
officers, and the medical captain stood like statues, almost not daring
to breathe. The silence that hung over the office was so charged that
Dave was filled with the crazy desire to let out a yell, just to see
what would happen. But, of course, he didn't so much as let out a peep.
Like the others, he waited motionless for the General to speak.

Presently the General raised his head and smiled at them.

"Yes, I most certainly will make it a point that others be told about
you two," he said. "I know His Majesty King George will certainly be
interested to hear it. You have done a splendid job, boys. I'm proud of
you. All England will be proud of you, too. And, as you know, Freddy,
England never forgets."

"But, sir," Freddy began as his face got red with embarrassment. "But,
sir, if the Germans have advanced so far what good is the information
we've given you? We've given it to you too late."

"In war it's never too late," General Caldwell said quietly. "True, if I
could have seen the map the day you did, why, perhaps things might now
be different. But even at that you can't tell. No, lad, the information
has not come to me too late. In fact, it has come to me just in time. I
think, boys, that this information will save a considerable part of the
British Army in France and Belgium."

The General suddenly got to his feet, and Dave gulped as he saw the
fiery look that leaped into the officer's eyes.

"It depends a lot on the King of the Belgians," he said as though he
were talking to himself. "If he lets us down, exposes our left flank, it
will be bad. But, without this information I have now, it could well be
twice as bad."

"Then there's something to that rumor, sir?" the medical officer spoke
up. "The Belgians may quit?"

"It's more than rumor," General Caldwell said in a hard voice. "But I
pray to God they don't. Saunders! Bring this map along, will you? And
Freddy, and you, Dave, it was a job well done. I'm proud of you. Very
proud. You'll hear more of this, later, mark you."

As the two boys stared wide eyed and open mouthed, General Caldwell and
his Staff officers clicked their heels and saluted smartly. The boys
were still in their Seventh Heaven trance when the medical officer
returned after seeing the General and his officers to their cars
outside.

"A red letter day for you two, what?" he beamed.

Dave gulped for air and slowly came back to earth.

"Boy oh boy!" he breathed. "What do you know! A salute from a General!
Gosh! Say, Captain, could we have some food, and our clothes, now,
maybe?"

"All the food you can put in your stomachs," the medical officer said.
"But jolly well no clothes. You two young heroes stay in bed for a few
more days, at least. Mind you, now, that's an order. I may not be a
general, but I'm jolly well in charge of this hospital!"

And the medical captain meant exactly what he said. Both Dave and Freddy
begged and pleaded to be allowed to get up. They had found that the
hospital was terribly short handed, and they were both anxious to do
what they could to help. Besides, staying in bed thinking and talking,
and talking and thinking was slowly driving them crazy. Regardless of
what the General had said each nursed the tiny fear that they had
arrived too late with their information. They now knew how far the
German hordes really had smashed through toward the coast of France and
Belgium, and even to their untrained minds it held horrible and terrible
significance.

But the medical captain stuck to his order, and would not let them go.
On the second day after the visit by General Caldwell they were allowed
to get up and wander about the hospital wards at will. It was then they
discovered that every one in the hospital had learned of their brave and
courageous work, and the wounded soldiers heaped praises upon them from
all sides. Yet, underneath the praise and the attempts by the soldiers
to be cheerful, there was a note of worry, and strain, and a sort of
breathless waiting. Dave and Freddy caught the feeling at once and it
served to add to the doubt and fears in their own minds that all they
had done, and all they had suffered had gone for nought.

Everybody was waiting, waiting. Waiting for what, they did not know. Or
if they did they kept it to themselves. News of the battles sifted
gradually into the hospital wards. Some of it was true, and a lot of it
was false. But all of it rasped nerves and cut deep into the tortured
minds of men.

And then, on the third day, it happened!

The news flew from lip to lip, and a pall of misery and bitterness hung
over the entire hospital. Belgium has quit! The Belgians have thrown
down their guns and given up! The whole left side of the British Army is
now exposed to the Germans racing down out of Holland! On the south the
French and the British have been split by a German wedge driven straight
across France to Abbeville on the Channel coast. The entire British
Army, and part of the French, is surrounded on three sides. There is
only one door of escape left open. That door is Dunkirk!

The instant they heard the news Dave and Freddy rushed to the office of
the medical captain. They found there a very worried and very harassed
man. He was just hanging up on the telephone when they burst in. He saw
them, started to wave them outside, but suddenly checked the motion.

"Come in, you two," he called to them. "How do you feel?"

"Swell," Dave said.

"Very fit, sir," Freddy said.

The medical officer nodded and then stared at them a moment or two and
drummed nervous fingers on the top of his desk.

"You've heard the news?" he suddenly asked.

They nodded, and waited.

"It puts us in a tight corner," the officer said. "And it puts me in a
_very_ tight corner. I've just received orders from G.H.Q. to evacuate
this hospital at once. There are over five hundred wounded men here, and
only a dozen ambulances. We're to evacuate to the Base Hospital at St.
Omer. Now ... You chaps told me the truth, eh? You _do_ feel fit?"

"Gee, yes!" Dave exclaimed. "We came in here to see if there wasn't
something we could do to help. We feel swell, honest."

"That's right, sir," Freddy nodded. "And there _is_ something we can
do?"

"There is," the medical officer said. "I haven't enough ambulance
drivers, and we've got to get these wounded men out of here at once.
Before tonight, in fact. I'll tell you the truth, boys. At the speed the
Germans are advancing, now that the Belgians have given up, they'll be
here in Lille, tonight!"

"Gee!" Dave breathed softly. "Right here in this place, tonight?"

The medical officer nodded and held up a hand.

"Hear those guns?" he said gravely. "They are not more than twenty miles
away, and they are German. We've got to work fast, boys. Every man we
have to leave here will become a German prisoner of war. I wouldn't ask
you, except that the situation is desperate. By rights, you two should
go along with the wounded, instead of driving them. But it is a grave
emergency, and every one who can, _must_ help."

"We're ready, sir," Freddy said quietly. "What are your orders?"

A smile of deep gratitude flickered across the officer's face.

"Get into your regular clothes, first," he said with a smile. "Then
report to Lieutenant Baker in the ambulance parking lot by the south
wing. And, thank you, boys. We'll meet again at St. Omer."

The two boys grinned, then turned on their heels and raced back to the
ward for their clothes. The wounded soldiers suspected that something
was up, and a hundred questions were hurled at them. They didn't bother
to answer any of them. They simply piled into their clothes and hurried
outside and around to the parking lot by the south wing.

"Gee, Freddy!" Dave panted as they raced along side by side. "I was
afraid I was going to stay in that hospital for the rest of the war, and
not get another chance to do anything."

"A bit worried, myself," Freddy said. "I was afraid that we'd done our
job, and that it was all over as far as we were concerned. But, I have a
feeling, Dave, that perhaps it's really just beginning for us."

And Freddy Farmer never spoke a truer word in his life, as they were
both soon to realize!



CHAPTER SIXTEEN

_Fate Laughs At Last_


"Right you are, lad, off you go, and good luck!"

The voice of the Lille hospital orderly came to Dave as though from a
thousand miles away. It came to him like a voice awakening him from a
sound sleep. He lifted his head and mechanically reached for the brake
lever of the Daimler built ambulance and stared out of bloodshot eyes at
a scene that had become as familiar to him as his own face when he
looked into a mirror. It was the dirt road that wound away from the
Lille Hospital, curved about the small pond and then disappeared from
view in some woods a half mile to the east.

How many times had he driven over that road today? He didn't know, and
he didn't even bother to guess. Probably a hundred. Fifty at least. His
brain had stopped thinking about things hours ago. For hours his actions
had all been mechanical. A mechanical routine over and over again. Help
fill the ambulance at the Lille Hospital. Get in behind the wheel and
start the engine, and take off the brake, and shift into first. Start
down the winding road and shift into second, and then into high. A
stretch of brown road always in front of him. Driving, driving, always
driving forward. Skirting shell and bomb craters. Pulling in under the
nearest group of trees whenever he heard the deadly drone of Stuka dive
bombers. Sitting crouched at the wheel while death whistled down from
the sky to explode in the ground and spray slivers of screaming steel
into all directions.

Climbing in back to put a slipping bandage back in place. Lighting a
cigarette for some poor wounded soldier who couldn't use his hands.
Giving them all a grin to cheer them up. Saying, "We'll be there in a
couple of shakes," a million times. Starting on again. Stopping again.
And then finally pulling into the St. Omer Hospital court. Helping to
unload, and then the wild ride alone back to Lille for another load of
wounded. Fifty trips? A hundred trips? He had no idea. Maybe this was
his one thousandth trip. Was he asleep or awake? He wasn't sure of that,
either. His body had stopped protesting against the aches and pains long
ago. He simply didn't feel anything any more; didn't think anything. He
only acted. He drove ... and drove ... and drove. Nothing else
mattered. Nothing else mattered but doing his share to make sure that
not a single helpless wounded soldier was captured by the hordes of Nazi
troops streaming across northern France and Belgium in a mad race to cut
off the British from the last open Channel port, Dunkirk.

As he took off the emergency brake he became conscious of somebody
climbing into the seat beside him. He turned his head to stare into
Freddy Farmer's haggard, dirt streaked face.

"What's the matter, Freddy?" he mumbled. "What are you doing here?"

"Start her off, Dave," came the dull answer. "This is the last load. I'm
riding with you. The Captain and his staff are using my ambulance. Man,
but I'm tired!"

"Check," Dave grunted and shifted into first. "The last load, huh? And
it's just getting dark. Well, anyway, we licked 'em. The Nazis won't
find anything there. Lean back and try to get a nap, Freddy."

"And you perhaps fall asleep at that wheel, and tip us into a ditch?"
Freddy said with a forced chuckle. "No thanks. I'll stay awake and try
to keep you that way, too. By the by, though, Dave. You've made more
trips than anybody. Want me to drive this one?"

"Not a chance!" Dave said and suddenly realized that he was laughing
for the first time in hours. "I still remember that ride you gave me in
that Belgian scouting car. Nix. I'll do the driving. You just relax,
Freddy. But, boy, will I be glad when this trip is over!"

"I'll be jolly well pleased, myself, you can bet!" Freddy murmured and
stretched out his legs. "I think I shall sleep for another eight days,
and not care a darn what the blasted Nazis do about it."

For the next twenty minutes that was the last spoken between the two.
They were both too tired even to talk. Besides, there was little to talk
about save the experiences they had had on the road. Those they could
save until another day. And after all there was still this trip to
complete. And so they rode along in silence. The sun slid down over the
western lip of the world, and night and the Germans came sweeping up
from the east. Dave kept his head lights switched off until it was too
dangerous to continue further without them. Perhaps it had just been
chance, or perhaps Goering's pilots had found out that the Lille
Hospital cases were being evacuated over that road. Anyway, the Stukas
and the light Heinkels had given it a terrific pounding all day long,
and it was now well spotted with craters. To try to drive along it in
the dark would be exactly the same as driving the ambulance over the
edge of a cliff. It would be suicide, to say the least.

Dave hesitated a moment, though, with his hand on the switch and
listened intently. Behind him there was the incessant dull rumble of the
guns, punctuated every now and then by the loud thunder of a land mine
going off. In the sky there was the drone of wings, but the droning was
not close.

"Keep an eye peeled, will you, Freddy?" Dave said and turned the switch.
"I've got to have lights or we'll go right into a shell hole. If you
hear something coming, yell, and I'll switch off these things."

"Right-o!" Freddy called wearily and stuck his head out the door window
and looked up. "All clear, now, though. None of the blighters near us. I
say, what's up, now?"

Dave didn't bother to answer. He, too, had spotted the waving flashlight
just up the road. He slipped the car out of gear, steered it around the
rim of a yawning bomb crater and let it roll to a stop. A British
infantry officer, with a Military Police band on his tunic sleeve, ran
up to Dave's side of the ambulance and flashed his light in Dave's eyes
for a second.

"Where are you headed, lad?" he asked.

"St. Omer," Dave said. "We've got the last load of wounded from the
Lille hospital."

"Well, you can't take them to St. Omer," the officer said. "A mile up
ahead there's a road to the right. Take it and keep going until you're
stopped. Whoever stops you will give you further directions. All right,
off with you. Good luck."

"But, hey, why not St. Omer?" Dave blurted out. "We've been taking them
there all day."

"I know," the officer said in a half angry and half bored voice. "But
they've all been evacuated again. To Dunkirk. Hitler's lads are in St.
Omer, now. Better hop it. They may be here, soon."

Dave slammed the ambulance into gear and started off. Raging anger
surged up within him. He gripped the bucking wheel until his hands hurt.
Nazis are here! Nazis are there! Nazis are every place! Even thinking of
the name made him want to start screaming and shouting at the top of his
voice. He turned his head slightly and took a quick side glance at
Freddy. The English youth's chin was firm, and there was the same
defiant look in his eyes. However, the droop of his shoulders spoke
plainly of the bitter thoughts that were sweeping through his mind.
Impulsively Dave let go a hand from the wheel for a second and slapped
Freddy on the knee.

"Don't let it get you down, Freddy," he said. "They'll trim the
stuffing out of Hitler before it's over."

"Of course," Freddy said in a heavy voice. "I wasn't thinking of that.
If we could only have reached General Caldwell sooner."

"Gosh, we did our best!" Dave exploded. "And, besides, the General told
us it helped plenty. Gee, I hope he just wasn't kidding us. I don't
think so, though. A man like General Caldwell doesn't kid, I bet. Well,
here's the road. Wonder where it'll take us."

They had reached the turn off. So had some Stukas a couple of hours
before and they had marked it well with a cluster of bomb craters. Dave
had to detour through a field to make the turn but he managed to get
back onto the road. To his vast relief he found it hardly touched by
bombs and he was able to speed up the ambulance. The good road helped
his spirits, too. It boosted them up considerably and a lot of his
fatigue fell away from him. The same was true with Freddy. The English
youth continued to stare fixedly through the windshield at the glow of
the headlights on the road, but his body seemed to straighten up, and
there was a less depressed air about him.

However, it was as though it all had been planned by the fates
controlling the war and the immediate destinies of these two brave
gallant youths. It was as though it was planned for them to be lifted
up in spirit, and in strength, so that they might have something left
with which to face the next misfortune of the conflict to befall them.

The first indication that there was more trouble ahead came as they
roared around a bend in the road, and then the road straightened out
like an arrow.

"My gosh, look!" Dave cried and pointed. "Like an earthquake had hit it
or something!"

Both sides of the road, as far as they could see in the glow of the
headlights, were strewn with heaped up piles of war equipment wreckage.
Guns from machine gun size to heavy howitzers lay scattered about.
Ammunition wagons were over on their sides, their contents spilled on
the ground like sand from a box. Shell blasted tanks rested in soft
ground at crazy angles, some of them blown wide open, and all of them of
no more use to anybody.

"Gosh, like driving through a junk yard!" Dave grunted and unconsciously
slowed down the ambulance. "What do you suppose happened? Gee, that's
English stuff, too. See the markings?"

"Yes," Freddy replied. "And I think I can guess what happened. A
retreating British column was caught here by the bombers, I think. You
can see where the craters were filled in so the rest of them could carry
on. What equipment they couldn't take, they destroyed so that the
Germans wouldn't get it. Look, Dave! There's another flashlight chap up
ahead. And he's English! I can see him clearly, now."

"Right," Dave nodded as he too caught sight of the khaki clad figure,
with an M.P. band on his arm, standing in the middle of the road.

He slipped the ambulance out of gear and let it roll to a stop and stuck
his head out the door window.

"We've got wounded here!" he said as the officer moved forward. "They
turned us off onto this road, back a few miles. Said the next officer we
met would give us instructions."

"More wounded?" the officer echoed in an exasperated voice. "I seriously
doubt if there'll be room. But get along. First turn left, and two miles
straight. A railroad junction there, and still working, I certainly
hope! They'll take your men. Now, chase along with you!"

"What happened here?" Dave asked and reached for the gear shift lever.

"The worst!" the officer snapped, and gestured with his hand. "Stukas
caught a whole battalion. Nasty business! Now, chase, do you hear?"

Dave didn't wait to argue about that. He sent the car rolling forward
and kept his eyes open for the turn to the left. He came to it presently
and turned off. It was also more or less untouched by bombs so he could
keep his speed steady. In almost no time they came upon a whole army of
British soldiers. They jammed the road and overflowed on both sides.
Hundreds of pairs of eyes were turned their way as their headlights cut
through the night. A soldier with sergeant's chevrons on his sleeves
rushed up to them.

"Shut off those blasted lights, you fool!" he roared. "You want the
Jerry planes to ... Good grief, a couple of _kids!_ What's this?"

"Ambulance with wounded from Lille, Sergeant," Freddy called out to him.
"The officer back there told us to take them to the rail junction. How
far is it?"

"Wounded, eh?" the sergeant grunted. "Well, that's a sight different.
Keep going. You're practically there, mates."

The sergeant stepped back and cupped big hands to his mouth.

"Make way!" he thundered at the road choked mass of British troops.
"Ambulance! Make way there, you chaps! Ambulance! Give them the horn,
lad. That'll make 'em jump."

The sergeant barked the last at Dave as the ambulance started forward.
Dave got the car in high then held his hand on the horn. Freddy got out
on the running board and started shouting, "Make way for an ambulance!"
at the top of his voice. For two or three awful seconds Dave was afraid
that the soldiers were going to refuse to move. But the shouted word,
"Ambulance!" finally did the trick. They shuffled off to both sides and
left a path down the middle of the road. Driving with one hand and
keeping his other on the horn, Dave steered the ambulance down that path
until a bomb shattered railroad bridge stopped him. There was no need of
going farther anyway.

They had reached the rail junction, or at least what was left of it.
Eastward from the bridge the track was just so much twisted steel, but
westward from the bridge it had not been touched, by some strange
miracle. There was a long train of some twenty cars on the track with an
engine at the far end. Dimmed lights were moving around all over the
place like fire-flies on a muggy night. The murmur of many voices filled
the air, and as Dave got his eyes accustomed to the scene he saw that
long lines of battle weary soldiers were climbing into the cars. And
then out of nowhere a squad of soldiers with white bands on their tunic
sleeves swooped down on the ambulance.

"Shut off your motor, mate!" a voice shouted. "You won't be needing it
any more. Step lively, you lads. Easy with the poor blighters, now.
That's the way."

Before Dave and Freddy could climb stiff legged down from the ambulance
the white banded group of soldiers had the rear doors open and were
gently but swiftly lifting out the wounded on stretchers and carrying
them to the train. Nobody talked. Even the wounded made no sound.
Everybody seemed to realize that all that counted was speed, and they
were concentrating on that alone. Dave watched for a minute or so and
then went up to the soldier who had given the orders.

"Where's the train going?" he asked.

"Dunkirk, unless the Jerry fliers stop us," the soldier replied without
looking at him. "Any more of these chaps coming along in back of you?"

"This is the last load from Lille," Dave said. "I don't know about any
others."

"Lille?" the soldier gasped and seemed startled. "I thought the Jerries
were there!"

"I fancy they are, now," Freddy spoke up. "I say, will there be room
enough for us on that train, do you think?"

"Always room for two more on anything," the soldier grunted and watched
the stretchers disappear into the maze of moving lights. "You chaps
just follow me, and I'll...."

The soldier never finished the rest of that sentence. At any rate, if he
did, the boys didn't hear him. At that moment there came the faint drone
of engines high in the sky and to the east. Instantly it seemed as
though a thousand men put whistles to their lips and all blew them at
the same time.

"Bombers!" roared one fog horn voice.

"Everybody aboard!" bellowed another.

"Never mind your kit, you men, get aboard!" thundered a third.

"All lights out!" a fourth voice carried above all the others.

In the wink of an eye the moving lights stopped moving and went out. All
was plunged into darkness. A darkness filled with grunting sounds on the
ground, and the throbbing beat of approaching airplanes overhead.
Instinctively Dave and Freddy grabbed hands and started moving toward
the train. No sooner had they taken a dozen steps than they ran smack
into a wall of solid flesh. They tried to force their way through but it
was as futile as trying to push a tidal wave to one side. They alone
were not the only ones trying to get aboard that train. A few hundred
others had the same idea.

Suddenly the shrill whistle of the engine cut through all other sound. A
moment later the angry roar from hundreds of throats told Dave and
Freddy that the train was moving. They stopped trying to push forward,
and simply stood there listening to the angry shouting of the troops who
could not get aboard, and the sound of the train as it picked up speed
and went racing off toward the east.

"Here they are! Everybody scatter!"

Perhaps it was the same fog horn voice, and perhaps it wasn't. Anyway,
everybody heard the command and started moving. A moment later the air
became filled with the howl of diving wings. Further orders were not
necessary. In a flash Dave thought of the bomb blasted bridge. The road
had once dipped down under it, but now it was no more than a cave made
out of jagged chunks of stone with twisted steel rails and splintered
ties for roof shingling. He grabbed Freddy by the arm and spun them both
around.

"That busted bridge!" he shouted in his friend's ear. "We can crawl down
under it. We should be safe."

"Just thinking of that, myself!" Freddy shouted back as they both broke
into a run. "Those blasted Stukas! Will we never hear the last of them!"

As though to punctuate that sentence the leading bomber swooped low,
dumped its load and went screaming up into the night sky. Its bomb
struck a hundred yards away but the concussion seemed to lift both of
the boys off their feet. It put wings on their feet as well. They dashed
madly through the roaring darkness, missed turned-over trucks and hunks
of the bombed station by inches, and finally scrambled down under the
bridge and into the cave-like hole blown out of one of the supporting
walls. They crawled back over the broken stones as far as they could and
sat huddled together listening to the world blow apart over their heads.

"Well, at least we got our load of wounded aboard!" Dave shouted as
there came a lull in the bedlam of thunderous sound. "That's something,
I guess."

"Yes, we didn't let them down," Freddy's voice came faintly. "Phew, but
I'm tired. Stukas or no Stukas, I don't think I can keep awake another
minute."

The words seemed to touch something inside Dave. He too became suddenly
listless in both mind and body. He felt Freddy sagged against him and he
battled to keep his eyes open; to keep a look-out in case they might
have to change their place of shelter. But ton weights hung on his eye
lids, and it was impossible to keep them open any longer. Above them
worlds exploded sound and flame. Underneath them worlds shook and
trembled as each devastating blow was struck. None of it, however,
reached the two boys. Young strong bodies had taken an awful beating for
hours on end, and they needed rest. Time might cease, and the world
could come to an end, but it would have no effect on Dave Dawson and
Freddy Farmer, for they were both sound asleep.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

_Thunder In The West_


The cold, clammy air of early dawn finally pried Dave's eye lids open
and brought him back to the conscious world. For a moment he stared
dully at the mass of grey shadows all around him. Then gradually he
realized that the shadows, most of them, were rocks and huge chunks of
cement, and that light was filtering down through cracks and holes
between them. That realization brought back memory of where he was. Then
swiftly followed recollection of all that had happened and why he was
there. He started to get to his feet, and his movements awakened Freddy
Farmer slumped against him. The English youth groaned, opened his eyes
and stared blankly around for a moment. Then they cleared as fragments
of memory came racing back to him, too. He sat up and gingerly flexed
his arms and legs.

"Gee, it's morning!" he exclaimed.

"And the Stukas have gone, thank goodness," Dave said. "Lets get out of
here. Maybe the train's back and we can get aboard it this time. Gosh!
I'm stiff as a board."

"I can hardly move!" Freddy moaned and got slowly to his feet. "Man, I
never thought a chap could fall asleep while bombs were falling. My
father told me that he once slept through a ten hour bombardment in
front of Amiens, in Nineteen Seventeen. I aways thought he was pulling
my leg, but now blessed if I don't believe him. I say, what's that?"

Dave cocked his head and listened to the sudden strange sound.

"Troops marching!" he breathed. "That's what it is. Troops marching. The
train must be back. Come on, Freddy!"

Dave scrambled forward and started crawling up out of the cave and
between the rocks to firm ground. He suddenly stopped short as he
glanced through a crack that gave him a clear view of the road that ran
along in back of the bomb shattered station. His heart leaped up into
his throat, and for a second or two he couldn't utter a word. Freddy,
scrambling up behind, bumped into him and started an exclamation. Dave
whirled and put a silencing hand to his lips.

"Pipe down!" he hissed. "Freddy! For gosh sakes, take a look through
that crack. Gee! What do you know about that?"

The English youth squirmed past him and peered out through the crack.
His young body stiffened, and there was the sharp sound of sucking air
into his lungs. He turned around and stared wide eyed at Dave and licked
his lower lip.

"Germans!" he whispered. "The beggars are all over the place. We've been
left behind, Dave. Our boys must have moved on when the Stukas went
away. But we were asleep."

"Yeah, I guess that was it," Dave said and nodded. "Holy smokes, Freddy,
what shall we do?"

"I don't know, except to stay where we are," the English youth replied
in a tight voice. "If we show our heads they're sure to grab us. There
must be thousands of them!"

"Millions, it looks like!" Dave said with a gulp. "Yes, the best thing
to do is stay right here and hope they don't find us. Maybe they'll move
off after awhile, then we can beat it. Gosh! I had all I want of a being
a German prisoner. Sure, let's stay right here."

"At least we won't starve, no matter how long they take marching
through," Freddy said. "We both have plenty of chocolate bars we got at
the hospital. And I didn't have to give any of the water in my canteen
to the wounded I carried. Did you?"

"Not a drop, it's full," Dave said, and patted the canteen at the end of
the strap hooked over his shoulder. "You're right, we won't go hungry or
thirsty. But gosh, I hope they don't stick around too long, or we'll
never get out of this place. Maybe we were crazy to duck in here, huh?"

"And maybe we would have been crazier to have gone some place else,"
Freddy murmured and pulled a bar of chocolate from his pocket. "At least
no bombs hit us here."

"That's right," Dave agreed. Then with a stiff grin, "And it's a cinch
that none are going to hit us, either, while those Germans are out
there. But I sure hope all those British troops got away. I guess they
did, though, or we'd hear fighting right now. Gee! Can you beat it?"

"Beat what?" Freddy asked through a mouthful of crunched chocolate bar.
"What's the matter?"

"I was just thinking, and maybe it isn't so funny," Dave said. "We sort
of started all this business behind the German lines, and here we are
again. I sure hope we don't end it that way! Wonder how long we'll have
to wait? Until it's dark, I guess."

Freddy didn't answer. He crawled up the stones and peered through the
crack again. When he came down his dust and dirt smeared face looked
most unhappy.

"Until it's dark, at least," he said with a sad shake of his head. "And
more war music, too. I just saw them wheeling some guns into position in
back of the railroad station. Yes, I'm afraid the blasted beggars are
planning to stay here a bit, too."

"Well, when it gets dark we get out of here," Dave said grimly. "Guns or
no guns."

"You bet," Freddy said and fell silent.

As though their silence was a signal to the gunners above, the earth and
the sky once more began to shake and tremble as the gun muzzles belched
out their sheets of flame and steel-clad missiles of death and
destruction that went screaming far off to the east. To get away from
the shuddering, hammering pounding as much as possible, the two boys
crawled far back into the wall cave and tried to make themselves
comfortable.

Seconds clicked by to add up to minutes, and minutes ticked by to add up
to an hour. Then eventually it was two hours, then three, then four. And
still the guns hammered and snarled and pounded away at their distant
objectives. It seemed as though it would never end. Try as they did to
steel themselves against the perpetual thunder, and the constant shaking
and heaving of the earth under them, it was right there with them every
second of the time. Their eardrums ached, and seemed ready to snap
apart. They tore off little pieces of their shirts and used them as
plugs to stuff in their ears. That helped some, but it made speech
between them impossible.

Roaring, barking thunder all morning, and all afternoon. But along
toward evening it died down considerably. And when the shadows of night
started creeping up it ceased altogether. The two boys crawled forward
and up the bomb-made rock steps and peered through the crack between the
stones. The hopes that had been born in them when the guns stopped
seemed to explode in their brains. The guns were not being hooked onto
the tractors. Nor were the swarms of troops climbing into the long lines
of motorized Panzer trucks. On the contrary, mess wagons were being
rolled forward, and flare lights were being set about all over the
place. Even as Dave and Freddy crouched there watching with sinking
spirits two flare lights sputtered into being directly above their
heads. With sudden terror gripping their hearts they scuttled back deep
into their hiding place.

"No soap, I guess," Dave said bitterly. "We'd stick out like a couple of
sore thumbs. What do you think, Freddy?"

"The same as you," the English youth said unhappily. "We'd be fools to
budge an inch. I most certainly wish we had blankets. These are the
hardest rocks I ever felt."

"You said it," Dave muttered and ran his hand over the hard surface that
was unquestionably going to serve as his bed for another night of
terror. "Maybe, though, they'll pull out before dawn. Or maybe in the
morning, for sure."

If the gods of war heard Dave Dawson's words they must have laughed loud
and with fiendish glee, for they knew how false his hopes were. The
Germans did not leave during the night. Nor did they leave in the
morning. As soon as it was dawn they started their devastating
bombardment again. And for another whole day the boys huddled together
in their hiding place and struggled with every bit of their will power
to stop from going stark, raving mad from the thunder of the guns.

Then, suddenly, when there was still an hour of daylight left, the guns
went silent for keeps, and instead there were all kinds of sounds of
feverish activity. Harsh orders flew thick and fast. Men shouted and
cursed. Tractor engines roared into life. Truck transport gears were
meshed in nerve rasping grinding sound, and as the boys watched through
their look-out crack they saw the Germans move slowly off down a road
leading toward the southwest. Neither of them spoke until the last truck
had passed out of view. And by then it was pitch dark, save for a
shimmering red glow to the east and to the south.

"Boy, I thought it would never happen!" Dave said in a shaky voice.
"Come on! Let's get going before others arrive here. Which way do you
think we'd better head?"

"The railroad track, I think," Freddy said after a moment of silence.
"It must have been blown all to bits by those Stukas, or else there
would have been a train come up to take those Germans away. Instead,
though, they headed down the road to the southwest."

"Check," Dave said. "And that track is supposed to lead to Dunkirk.
Gosh, I hope the British are still there."

"They must be there," Freddy said firmly. "You can still hear the guns
up ahead, so there must be somebody besides Germans around. I say, look
at that fog, or is it fog? Yes, it is. And it's beginning to rain, too.
Well, thank goodness for that. We won't be seen or heard so easily.
Right-o, Dave. Let's get on with it. Like the chaps in the R.A.F. say,
Tally-ho!"

"Tally-ho!" Dave echoed happily and started scrambling up out of the
cave.

Walking side by side, and gripping hands to hold up the other fellow in
case he slipped and started tumbling into a bomb crater, the two boys
struck out boldly along the single line of track. Before they had
traveled a hundred yards the railroad tracks stopped being what they
were supposed to be. They became a long stretch of twisted steel and
pulverized ties. But though the road bed was constantly pock marked with
bomb craters it served as a guide eastward for their crunching
footsteps.

Layers of fog came rolling in from the east, and with every step a fine
chilling rain sprayed down upon them. But rather than being annoyed and
uncomfortable, they were buoyed up by the miserable weather. It gave
them added protection from any German patrols in the neighborhood. It
hid them from the rest of the world of dull constant sound, and the
shimmering glow of red to the east and to the south. There was more
sound, and a more brilliant glow of red to the south, and as they heard
it and saw it their hearts became even lighter. If there was all that
sound to the south it must mean that the Germans had not been able to
cut off the retreating armies at Dunkirk. And of course that was true,
for as they trudged and stumbled along the bomb blasted strip of spur
railroad track some fifty thousand do or die British soldiers were
holding back the savagely attacking German hordes at Douai, and at the
Canal de Bergues, so that some three hundred and thirty thousand of
their comrades might escape the trap from Dunkirk and reach England in
safety.

Of course Dave and Freddy didn't know _that_ at the time. Yet, perhaps
they sensed it unconsciously, for their step did become faster, their
hearts lighter, and the hope they would get through somehow mounted
higher and higher in their thoughts. And so on and on they went. A
thousand times they stumbled over things in the darkness; went pitching
together down into bomb craters, or barked their shins and raised lumps
on their tough bodies. Always forward, though. They stopped talking to
conserve their energy, for they had no idea how many miles of bomb
blasted roadbed lay ahead of them. The fog and the rain dulled the sound
of the guns so that they couldn't tell if they were drawing nearer or
actually heading away from them. And although they looked at it a
million times apiece the dull red glow ahead of them seemed always to
remain the same. It never once brightened up or faded down. It got so
that it seemed as though they were walking on a treadmill. Walking,
walking, yet never seeming to get any place. Never seeing anything
different to give them proof they had covered ground. Every piece of
twisted track they stumbled over was the same as the last. A bomb crater
into which they fell sprawling was no different from all the others. And
the darkness, the fog, the rain, the boom of the guns, and the
shimmering red glow were always the same in the next second, in the next
minute, and in the next hour.

Grit, courage, and a fighting spirit resolved never to give up, forced
them forward foot after foot, yard after yard, and mile after mile. Even
thoughts ceased to stir in their brains, and there was nothing there but
the fierce burning flame that drove their tired legs and bodies forward.

Then, suddenly, their separate worlds seemed to shatter before their
eyes in an explosion of sound. To Dave it seemed close to an eternity
before the sound made sense in his dulled brain. Then in a flash he
realized that nothing had exploded. A loud voice not three feet in front
of them had bellowed out the challenge.

"_Halt!_"

Even then neither of the boys could grasp its true meaning. The voice
shattered their hopes, gripped their hearts with fingers of ice, and
seemed to drain every drop of blood from their bodies. Fate was having
the big laugh on them at last. The worst, the one thing they had
dreaded had come to pass. They had stumbled headlong into a nest of
Germans!

"Halt, you blighters, 'fore I run this through your bellies!"

Then truth crashed home, and the boys let out a gurgling cry of relief
as they realized the voice was _speaking in English!_



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

_Wings Of Doom_


"Hold it!" Dave heard his own voice cry out in the darkness. "We're not
Germans!"

"No!" Freddy choked out. "We're English and American! Are we near
Dunkirk?"

There was a startled exclamation in the rain and fog, then the tiny beam
of a buglight caught them in its glow. The light shook and there was a
gasp of dumbfounded amazement.

"Strike me pink!" exclaimed the voice in back of the light. "What are
you two young nippers doing here? And where'd you come from?"

The buglight was lowered and the two boys saw the dim outline of a
British Tommie. His gas mask and ration kit were slung over his
shoulder, and in his hands he carried a rifle with a wicked looking
bayonet.

"We're trying to reach Dunkirk," Freddy spoke up. "We've been hiding for
the last two days at a railway junction called, Niort, I think it was.
Part of the sign had been blown away but I think that's what it was."

"Niort?" the British soldier gasped. "Come off it, now, me lad! If you
were at Niort how'd you get here? I suppose by a blinking train, eh?"

"No, we walked," Dave said. "Along what was left of the railroad. We
missed the last train two nights ago. It pulled out when some Stukas
arrived."

The British soldier whistled through his teeth, and flashed his buglight
on them just to make sure he wasn't talking to a couple of ghosts.

"Well, can you beat that!" he ejaculated. "So you were left behind with
the others, eh? I was on that blinking train, thank my lucky stars! The
lads that were left had to march it all the way, and with Jerry throwing
everything he had at them, too. Strike me pink! You know what you two
nippers have done?"

"Sure," Dave said. "Walked about a million miles, the way we feel."

"It's closer to eighteen or nineteen, lad," the Tommie said. "But that
ain't the half of it. You've walked _right through_ the blessed German
line, that's what you've done! Right through their blinking lines, and
them not knowing about it! By George, will I have a tale to tell the
lads at the pub if I ever get back home!"

"But how far are we from Dunkirk?" Freddy asked. "And is there any way
to get there besides walking? I don't think I can go another step."

The soldier jerked a thumb over his shoulder.

"See them flames?" he said. "That's Dunkirk. About two miles it is. And
it's time for me to go in from my patrol anyway. I got a motor-bike and
sidecar over there, yonder. You two can ride in the car. But we'd better
hop it. It's getting toward dawn and the Stukas will be coming over to
raise merry Ned. But, wait a minute, mates. Who are you and what were
you doing at Niort? Why, you ain't even in uniform."

"This is Dave Dawson, an American," Freddy said. "And my name is Freddy
Farmer. We've been trying to get back to England for days, and...."

"_What's that?_" the soldier cut in excitedly. "Dawson and Farmer? The
couple of American and English nippers, that stole a plane and all the
rest of it? Blimey! Why didn't you say so? Why you lads are heroes! The
whole blinking army's been talking of what you nippers did. Come along!
If there's two lads that's going to get a boat ride back home, it's
you. Yes, by George! I'm that anxious to get back home so's to tell the
lads, I'm fair ready to swim the blinking Channel, orders or no orders.
Come along!"

Without waiting for either of the boys to so much as open their mouths
the soldier grabbed them each by the arm and hurried them off through
the dark to the right. He must have known the way well, for they didn't
bump into a single thing. Presently he let go of them and dived into
some bushes. He was out in almost no time pushing an army motorcycle and
sidecar. He slung his rifle over his shoulder and straddled the seat.

"Hop in, lads!" he barked as he kicked his engine into life. "And hang
on for your lives. The beach where they're taking them off onto the
ships ... and man, they're bringing over anything that can float ... is
on the far side of town. But the blinking town's afire, and we have to
go right through it. Here we go, and a double-double to the blasted
Jerries!"

Though the two boys had wedged themselves down tight in the sidecar, the
soldier tore off in such a rush that he practically rode right out from
under them. Yelling any complaints would have been just a waste of
breath. Besides, the soldier wouldn't have heard them in the roar of his
engine. So the boys simply concentrated on trying to stay in the
sidecar, and breathed a prayerful hope that the soldier was an expert
driver.

He was more than that. He was a miracle man on a motorcycle. He raced
through the darkness without slackening his speed the fraction of a
mile. The rain slithered down and the street glistened in the faint glow
of his dimmed light. It looked like so much slippery black ice, and a
hundred times Dave closed his eyes and waited for the sickening crash
that never came. When, he dared open them again they were still hurtling
forward making as much noise as a whole division of tanks.

The two miles to the ancient Channel city of Dunkirk was covered in just
about as many minutes. In the last hundred yards the fog seemed to come
to an end, and the rain to pass on behind them. Dave looked ahead and
caught his breath sharply. Dunkirk looked like one gigantic
horizon-to-horizon wall of licking tongues of flame and billowing smoke
that towered high up into the sky. It was as though he had walked out of
a dark room straight into the open mouth of a blast furnace. He
impulsively cast a quick side glance at the soldier astride the
motorcycle seat expecting to see an expression of alarm and dismay pass
across the lean unshaven face. But no such thing did he see. The
soldier simply lowered his head a bit, and the corners of his eyes
tightened.

"Hang on, lads!" he bellowed without taking his eyes off the road. "Here
comes the first of it, and it ain't no ice box!"

No sooner had the last left his lips than the heat of the flaming
buildings seemed to charge forward right into their faces. Dave and
Freddy ducked their heads as the soldier had done, and in the matter of
split seconds they had the sensation of hurtling straight across the
mouth of a boiling volcano that shot up tongues of flame on all sides.

"Lean to the right, we're turning that way!" came the soldier's yell.

They leaned together and the motorcycle and sidecar went careening
around the corner of a street. It seemed to hesitate halfway around and
start to slide. But the driver skillfully checked the slide with a
vicious motion on the wheel, and they went roaring up a smoke filled
street. A moment or two later the driver yelled for them to lean again.
They did. In fact they did it no less than a dozen times during the next
few minutes. And all the while the heat of the flames beat in at them
from all sides, and the crash of falling walls, or of delayed action
bombs going off, was constant heart freezing thunder in their ears.

Then suddenly they shot right through the middle of one final wall of
fire and burst out onto a stretch of hard packed sand. It was several
seconds before the heat left them and they felt rain soaked salt air
strike against their faces. They gulped it into their lungs, and then
both cried out in alarm as a squad of British soldiers seemed to rise
right out of the sand in front of them. Their driver instantly stood up
on his foot plates and roared above the sound of his engine.

"Out of the way!" he bellowed. "A couple of young heroes to get boat
tickets from his nibs, the Commandant!"

Perhaps the group of soldiers heard him, or perhaps they just naturally
didn't want to run the risk of being bowled over by the on-rushing
motorcycle. Anyway they leaped to the side and the driver and the two
boys went banging on by without a single check in the speed. After
another moment or so the soldier cut his engine, slammed on his brake
and slid around to a full stop as his tires sent a shower of wet sand
into the air.

"There you are, nippers!" he cried and vaulted from the seat. "How was
that for a bit of a joy-ride, eh? She's a good little motor bike, she
is. A bit slow, but she'll do. Now, wait half a minute while I go see if
the Commandant's about. Sit tight. I'll be right back."

He flung the last back over his shoulder as he went racing off to the
left. Neither Dave nor Freddy said anything. They were too busy fighting
to get their breath back, and to unwedge themselves from the sidecar.
Eventually they were out on the sand and feeling themselves all over
just to make sure no arms or legs or anything had been left behind.

"Jeepers, jeepers!" Dave finally broke the silence. "You and that
Belgian sergeant are just beginners compared to that guy. My gosh! I
know darn well he must have gone right through some of those buildings,
instead of around them. Gee, Freddy! Look at those flames! No wonder you
could see them for miles. The whole town's going up in smoke."

"Yes, but look there, Dave!" Freddy cried and grabbed his arm as he
pointed with his other hand. "There on the beach. It's the British army.
Look! They're even wading out in the water to the boats! It must be too
shallow for them to get in any closer. Gee, Dave, _gee!_"

Dave couldn't speak as he stared at the sight. The words were all too
choked up inside of him to come out. The whole beach was practically
covered with row after row of British and French soldiers. They stood in
long columns of ten and twelve men across, and those columns stretched
from high up on the beach far out into the shallow water. In some
places cars, and tanks, and trucks, anything on wheels had been driven
out into the water and parked side by side, parked hub to hub and planks
laid across the tops of them to form a makeshift pier that could reach
out into deeper water. But there were only a few of such piers. Most of
the columns of men were wading out into the water until it came up to
their chests, and even up to their necks.

And out there looking weird and grotesque in the glow of the burning
Channel port were boats of every conceivable description. There were row
boats, and yachts. Fishing smacks and pleasure yawls. Coastal vessels
and ferry boats. Motor boats and canoes. Barges and British destroyers.
Anything and everything that could float had been brought over to help
in the evacuation. No, it wasn't the British Navy taking the British
Army home. It was all England come to rescue her fighting men.

Dave and Freddy stood rooted in their tracks staring wide eyed at the
historic event that will live forever in the minds of men. Their eyes
soaked up the scene, and their ears soaked up the conglomeration of
sound. Oddly enough, practically all of the sounds came from off shore.
The blast of whistles, the blowing of signal horns, the purr and the
roar of engines, and the shouts of the appointed and of the self-made
skippers and crews of the fantastic rescue fleet. The troops hardly made
any sound at all. Perhaps they were too tired. Perhaps the roar of
battle still ringing in their ears momentarily stilled their tongues. Or
perhaps they were content just to follow the next man ahead and pray
silently that they would be taken aboard some kind of a boat and sailed
away before daylight and the Stukas arrived once again. But the real
reason for their strange silence, probably, was because most of them had
been there for days waiting their turn, and dodging Stuka bombs and
bursting shells. And after such an ordeal they were too stunned to know
or even care about talking. Each had a single, all important goal. A
boat of some kind. And they slogged and sloshed toward it, numb to all
that was going on about them.

"It's ... it's almost as though it isn't real!" Dave heard himself
whisper aloud. "It's like being at a movie, and seeing something you
know was just made up. Gosh, there's thousands of them. Thousands! I
wonder how many have got away already? And...."

The last froze on Dave's lips. At that moment above the crackling and
sullen roar of the flames devouring the city there came the dreaded
sound. It was like the drumming moan of night wind in the trees, only
it wasn't. It was a sound that chilled the blood of every man on shore
and off shore. It was Goering's Stukas and Heinkels and Messerschmitts
coming up with the rising dawn. For a long second Dave and Freddy heard
it, and then it was drowned out by the mounting groans and curses that
welled up from the throats of those thousands of soldiers on the beach.
Yet as Dave stared at them, unable to move, he saw that not a man broke
ranks. Everybody stayed in his place, as though they were on a parade
ground instead of on a beach strewn with their own dead. Rifles and
portable machine guns were grabbed up and pointed toward the fast
lightening heavens, but no man gave up his place in line.

And then the winged vultures under Goering's command came howling down
out of the sky. Their noise drowned out all other noises, including the
noise of the guns that greeted them. It was as though some mighty giant
were tearing the roof right off the top of the world. It wasn't a
scream, and it wasn't an earth trembling wail. Nor was it a continual
thunderous roar. It was just a sound that had never been heard before,
and, perhaps, will never be heard again. A mighty collection of all
sounds in the whole world blended into one mighty inferno of noise.

As Dave and Freddy stood transfixed it didn't so much as even occur to
either of them to run for some kind of shelter. Their feet were lumps of
lead and the ground was one great magnet that held them fast. Something
spewed up orange and red flame a couple of hundred yards away from them.
It was a bomb exploding, but they couldn't even hear the sound. Another
fountain of flame, and sand showering down over everything, but no
individual sound of the bomb going off. A part of the sky overhead
turned into a great raging ball of red fire. It tore their eyes upward
in time to see a Heinkel bomber outlined in livid flame. Then it was
engulfed by that flame and came hurtling down to hit the water off-shore
and disappear as though by magic.

It was then, and then only they realized that not all of the planes
overhead were German. It was then they saw British Hurricanes, and
Spitfires, and Defiants slash down out of the dawn sky in groups of
three and pounce upon the German planes in a relentless, furious attack
that set them to shouting wildly at the top of their voices. The Royal
Air Force. The R.A.F., the saviors of Dunkirk! Outnumbered by the German
planes, but so far above them in fighting heart, in spirit, and in real
flying ability that there wasn't even any room left for comparison. A
British plane against five Germans, against ten, or against fifty! What
did it matter? There were gallant troops to be evacuated back home.
There were fleet after fleet of Goering's vultures with orders to shoot
down the British troops like cattle. Never! Never in all God's world as
long as there was an R.A.F. plane left, and an R.A.F. pilot alive to fly
it!

Suddenly Dave became conscious of a great pain in his right arm. He
looked down to see Freddy gripping it tightly with one hand and pounding
it with his other fist. The light of a mad man was in the English
youth's eyes. When he had Dave's attention he stopped pounding and
pointed to the left and beyond a short line of bomb blasted wharves.

"Look, look, Dave!" came his shrill scream faintly. "Look off that first
wharf. There's a motor boat. It was trying to get in close, but a
Messerschmitt came down and sprayed the chap at the wheel. See! He's
trying to get up. And there's the Messerschmitt again. Dave! The tide
will carry that boat up against those rocks, and smash in its bottom.
Dave! Can you swim? We've got to reach that boat before it hits the
rocks. Look! The Messerschmitt is shooting again. He's got the poor
chap. He's got him this time!"

As Freddy screamed in his ear Dave looked out at the boat. It was a
long slinky looking power boat, but it wasn't even slinking along, now.
The lone figure had fallen across the engine hood, and a diving
Messerschmitt was hammering more bullets into his body. And a running
tide was carrying the craft broadside toward some jagged rocks that
stuck up out of the water not two hundred yards away.

Dave was looking at it. And then suddenly he realized that his feet were
pounding across the beach. That he was racing madly down the beach
toward the water's edge. And that Freddy Farmer was close at his heels.



CHAPTER NINETEEN

_The White Cliffs!_


By the time they reached the water they had stripped off their hospital
jackets, torn free their water canteens, and flung them away. Shoulder
to shoulder they splashed out as far as they could, then dived in. They
broke surface together and struck out for the helpless craft being
carried toward its doom by the tide. Above them raged another mighty
battle of the air. Bombs fell close and when one struck the water and
went off, a thousand fists seemed to hammer against their chests. Behind
them the flames of Dunkirk leaped high, and the glow turned the waters
through which they swam to the color of blood. And there ahead of them
was the sleek-looking motorboat, like a highly polished brown log
drifting on the crest of a shimmering red sea.

A great fire burned in Dave's lungs, and his arms became like bars of
lead that required every remaining ounce of his strength to lift up and
cut down into the water again. But he fought back the aches, and the
pains, and the gnawing fatigue. And so did Freddy Farmer there by his
side. They kept their eyes fixed on that drifting motorboat and they
didn't take them off it until after what seemed like years they were
alongside it and hooking an arm over the gunwale. For a moment they just
hung there panting and gulping for air. Then at an unspoken signal they
each shifted their grip to the small brass rail that ran along each side
from stem to stern, and hauled themselves into the boat.

Not even then did they speak a word, for words were unnecessary, now.
There was a job to do, and a job to be done fast. The rocks weren't more
than sixty yards away. Shaking water from his face, Dave leaped toward
the engine hood, lifted up the motionless bullet riddled body and
lowered it gently to the deck. At the same time Freddy caught up an oar
and rushed toward the bow to fend off the craft should it reach the
rocks.

Lifting the engine hood Dave took one look inside and gulped with
relief. Messerschmitt bullets had not touched the American built engine.
A quick glance down at the priming can in the dead man's stiff hand told
Dave he had been trying to start the engine when the Messerschmitt first
dived. Perhaps he had throttled too much, and stalled the engine. There
was no way of knowing that, and no time to wonder about it. If there was
something else wrong, and the priming can didn't do the trick, then he
and Freddy could at least save the boat from being slammed up against
the rocks.

It was time for Lady Luck to smile again, however. Dave primed the
engine, and stepped on the starter pedal, and the engine roared up
instantly in full throated song. He leaped for the wheel, yanked back
the throttle, and then swung the wheel over hard. The rudder bit into
the water, and the power boat slid by the jagged rocks with but a few
feet to spare and glided out toward deep water.

"Made it!" Dave shouted wildly.

"Right-o!" Freddy yelled back from the bow. "This is one Herr Hitler
doesn't get, by gosh. Not if _I_ can help it! Oh, Dave, let's...."

"Me too!" Dave interrupted him. "I know what you're going to say. Let's
go over and pick up as many of those fellows as we can! You're doggone
right! Here we go!"

At that exact moment, however, the fates of war changed their plans. At
that moment a steel fish made in Nazi land slid past the watchful eyes
of a destroyer and let go a single torpedo straight into the maze of
craft hovering off shore beneath the raging sky battle above. True,
only one torpedo. And even as it streaked out from its tube the eyes
aboard the destroyer saw it, and the destroyer's guns spoke ... and
there was one U-boat less. However, one torpedo was on its way. And it
slammed into the bow of a sturdy coastal vessel plodding out to the
center of the Channel.

In the blaze of light that spewed up from the side of the vessel Dave
saw the decks crowded with khaki clad soldiers. Then they were lost to
view as the vessel heeled way over and was engulfed in a mighty cloud of
smoke. No sooner had what his eyes seen registered oh his brain than he
hauled down hard on the wheel and pulled the motor boat's bow away from
the shore and out toward that floating cloud of smoke and dull red
flame.

Other boats did the same thing, but Dave and Freddy were closer than any
of the others, and they reached there first. Killing his speed as much
as possible Dave worked the craft inch by inch toward the cluster of
heads that were now bobbing out from under the edge of the cloud of
smoke. Then when he was real close he throttled all the way back and let
go of the wheel and raced with Freddy to the stern of the boat. They
grabbed the first hand stretched up toward them and pulled the dripping
figure into the boat. No sooner was he in than they let him shift for
himself and grabbed for the next outstretched hand. Then another, and
another, and another, until there were no more bobbing heads close to
them.

By then other craft had arrived and were picking up survivors from that
doomed vessel. As Dave straightened up he stared out across the water
just in time to see the last bit of the vessel's bow slide down below
the waves and disappear. One look and then he was pushing through the
soldiers he and Freddy had rescued, to the wheel at the bow bulkhead.
Cheers and praise filled his ears but he was too all in to even so much
as grin. And, also, memory of that U-boat was still fresh in his mind.
If one slipped past, why not two, or even three? Dunkirk was behind him,
and a sky battle was raging high above him, but he did not know what
might be lurking in the waters under him. The sooner he got the boat
away, the better it would be for all concerned.

He reached the wheel at the same time Freddy did. And hardly realizing
it, both grabbed hold. Dave shot out his other hand and opened up the
throttle. Together, as one man, they guided the power boat in and around
the other rescue craft until they were clear and heading straight out
into the Channel. Once there was nothing but open water ahead of them
they both relaxed, looked into each other's eyes and grinned.

"Well, that _must_ be the last surprise, Freddy," Dave said. "There just
isn't anything else that could happen that would startle me."

"Nor me, either!" Freddy breathed. "The excitement's all over for us,
now. In another hour we'll be in England."

And then suddenly a hand was clapped down on each of them, and a hoarse
voice boomed,

"Well, of all things! You two!"

They both spun around, then stopped dead and gasped in bewildered
amazement. There standing in his water-soaked uniform was General
Caldwell, Chief of British Staff. His piercing black eyes bored into
theirs, and his teeth showed white in a broad smile.

"Good heavens, you, General!" Dave finally managed to gulp out. "Why, I
didn't even know we'd hauled you aboard!"

"But you did, and thank God for that!" the General said fervently. "And
do you know, it's the strangest thing ever! I was telling the captain of
that boat about how you stole that plane, when the blasted torpedo
struck. By gad, it's incredible. But how in the world did you get here?
and in this boat, too!"

"Later, sir, if you don't mind," Freddy spoke up and put a hand on the
General's sleeve. "Please tell us the truth. We've got to know. The
information we gave you wasn't any help? You got it too late?"

General Caldwell stared at him hard, and then shook his head.

"You're dead wrong, Freddy, if you think that," he said in his oddly
soft voice. "I spoke the truth to you in the Lille hospital. Look back
there, both of you."

They turned and with their eyes followed the General's finger pointing
at the beach at Dunkirk.

"That's the last of the British Army to leave France," he spoke again.
"We've been getting them out for days, and against terrific odds. The
only reason I was on that boat that was torpedoed, instead of being back
there to be the last man to leave, was because I had my orders to return
at once and start getting things reorganized. But they will all be in
England before this fog gives the Stukas the chance they want. And
praise to dear God for the fog and the rain he has sent us in these days
of heroic effort. But, what I am trying to say to you, is this. Had I
not received your information in time, thousands upon thousands of those
brave chaps would never have been able to reach Dunkirk in time to be
taken off. They would now be trapped in France and in Belgium. No, boys,
it was not too late. And to you two England owes a debt she will never
be able to repay."

"I'm glad," Freddy whispered softly. "I'm glad it was not too late."

"Gosh, me too," Dave mumbled, and tried to say more but the words
wouldn't come.

And so the three of them: two boys and the General stood there with
their faces turned toward England while the boat cut through the
dawn-greyed swells and the light fog. And then after a long time the fog
lifted and they saw it there ahead.

"Dover!" Freddy said in a choked voice, and tears trickled down his
cheeks. "The chalk cliffs of Dover. England!"

"Yes, the chalk cliffs of Dover, and England," General Caldwell murmured
huskily. "We've taken a pretty bad beating, but it's far from being all
over. We may even take some more beatings. Perhaps several of them. But
in the end we will win. We must win, for there will always be an
England. Always!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Three days after the world-thrilling evacuation of Dunkirk, Dave Dawson
sat in the living-room of Freddy Farmer's house in Baker Street in
London. Freddy was there, of course, and so was his dad. And so was
Dave's father. Within an hour after touching English soil the British
War Office had contacted Dave's dad in Paris where he had gone hoping to
pick up the trail of his missing son. And, now, the four of them were
waiting because of a phone call from General Caldwell. A phone call
stating that the Chief of Staff was on his way there, and for them all
please to wait.

"Boy, I wish he'd get here!" Dave exclaimed for the umpteenth time.

"He didn't say why he wanted to see us?" Freddy asked his father for the
umpteenth time, too.

"No, Freddy," the senior Farmer replied patiently. "He didn't say a word
about it."

"Gee, do I hope, do I hope, _do I hope!_" Dave breathed and pressed his
two clenched fists together. "Do I hope he has fixed it for us to get
into the R.A.F., even though we are a bit under age. He said he'd do
everything he could. And, Dad?"

Dave turned and looked into his father's face.

"Yes, Dave?"

"I sure hope it really _is_ okay with you," Dave said. "I mean getting
into the R.A.F., if I possibly can. It's.... Well, it's just that
nothing else seems important now, except trimming the pants off the
Nazis. And I want to help, no matter _what_ kind of help it is."

"I understand, perfectly, Dave," his father said with a smile. "I know
exactly how you feel, because I feel the same way. I'm staying over here
to help, too. In the government end of things."

Dave's exclamation of surprise was cut short by the ringing of the door
bell. Freddy's father answered it and came back into the room with
General Caldwell. The Chief of Staff greeted them all and then handed
Dave and Freddy each a small package.

"And with life-long gratitude from the bottom of my heart," he said
gravely.

They opened the packages to find an expensive wrist watch in each. And
on the back of each watch was the inscription:

  To One Of The Two Finest And Bravest
            Boys I Ever Met
       General H. V. K. Caldwell

"And, now, the real reason I came here," the General said before they
could even begin to blurt out their thanks and appreciation. "Their
Majesties, King George and Queen Elizabeth, are waiting to receive you
at Buckingham Palace. And your fathers, of course."

"The King ... and the Queen?" Freddy said in a hushed voice.

"Oh boy, meeting the King and Queen in Buckingham Palace!" Dave
breathed. And then he couldn't hold it any longer. "General Caldwell!"
the words rushed off his lips. "What Freddy and I asked you about? I
mean ... the R.A.F. Is there any chance?"

The General tried to look stern, but he just couldn't keep the grin from
breaking through.

"Among other things," he said in his soft voice, "Their Majesties wish
to be the first to congratulate their two new members of the Royal Air
Force. So, I suggest we do not keep them waiting, eh?"

Dave and Freddy looked at each other without speaking, but their eyes
spoke volumes. The dream had come true. Or perhaps it was only
beginning. Either way, though, one thing was certain. Beginning with
this moment they would have the chance to do their share as pilots of
the Royal Air Force in the battle for Britain. And that chance was all
they asked. Nothing more.


                        ----THE END----

                        See next page.



_A Page from_

DAVE DAWSON WITH THE R.A.F.

At that moment a short, savage burst from Flight Lieutenant
Barton-Woods' guns snapped Dave's eyes back to the Junkers. They were
still quite a ways off but the Green Flight leader had let go with a
challenging burst hoping that the Germans would give up thoughts of
escape and turn back to give battle. However, it was instantly obvious
that the Junkers pilots and their crews didn't want any truck with three
Spitfire pilots. The nose of each ship was pushed down a bit to add
speed to the get away attempt. And a moment later Dave saw the flash of
sunlight on bombs dropping harmlessly down into the rolling grey-green
swells where the Channel blends in with the North Sea.

"Not this day, my little Jerries!" Flight Lieutenant Barton-Woods' voice
boomed over the radio. "Let's make the beggars pay for dropping bombs in
our Channel, Green Flight! Give it to them!"

The last was more or less the signal that each pilot was on his own.
Dave waited until he saw his flight leader swerve off to slam in at the
Junkers to the right. Then he touched rudder, and with Freddy sticking
right with him, swerved off after the other German raider.



  Transcriber's Notes:
  Page 73: Changed probaby to probably
  Page 184: Changed fairly to fairy
  Page 216: Changed aways to always





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