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Title: Under Fire For Servia
Author: Fiske, Colonel James
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 "Under Fire For Servia" ***

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                           Under Fire For Servia

                        World's War Series, Volume 4

                          By Colonel James Fiske


Illustrated by E. A. FURMAN

THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY
CHICAGO    AKRON, OHIO    NEW YORK

Copyright, 1915
By The Saalfield Publishing Co.


[Illustration: In a moment they were alone in the heavens, racing toward
Servia.]



CONTENTS


       I Dick Makes a Friend

      II A Surprising Offer

     III The Police Raid

      IV The Refuge

       V Under Fire

      VI Across the Save

     VII The Wounded Captain

    VIII A New Exploit

      IX Back to Semlin

       X A Daring Decision

      XI Craft against Craft

     XII In the Nick of Time

    XIII Face to Face

     XIV The Explosion

      XV The Tables Turned

     XVI Belgrade

    XVII Between the Lines

   XVIII The Flight

     XIX Hallo's Last Card



Under Fire For Servia



CHAPTER I

DICK MAKES A FRIEND


The American consul in the small but highly important city of Semlin, in
Hungary, was a busy man. He was probably one of the first men in the
world who knew how great was the danger of war between Austria-Hungary
and the little kingdom of Servia after the assassination of the heir to
the Austrian throne in the summer of 1914. Now, since the Austrian
ultimatum to Servia had aroused all Europe to the peril, refugees had
doubled the consul's work. All the Americans in Servia, and there had
been quite a number there that summer, seemed to be pouring through
Semlin. Indeed, all the Americans gathered there from all the Balkan
states, and from Turkey as well, since the great trunk railway, the
famous Orient line, crossed the Save river at Belgrade, and Semlin was
therefore a border town, where in many cases passports had to be
examined.

So it was a hard matter for any stranger to see the consul in person
unless he could prove that his business was of the greatest importance.
His office force did all it could to give him the time he needed to
catch up with his duties, but on a sunny morning late in July there came
a visitor who refused to be put off. The consul heard him as he sat at
his desk, writing frantically.

"I tell you I've got to see him!" That was what the consul heard, in a
voice that caused him to sit straight in his chair in astonishment. For
the voice was that of an American boy. Clear, penetrating, self-reliant,
it rang out like a call from home. The consul smiled and touched a bell
on his desk. And a minute later Dick Warner faced him, bearing out what
his voice had already told about him.

"You want to see me?" said the consul. "Well, sir, what can I do for
you? Lost your folks? Want money to get home? Something like that, eh?"
a note of condescension in his voice.

"No, sir. I just want to get permission to stay here in Semlin. The
police say that I'm English, and that I'll have to go away. But that's
because Mike Hallo has a pull."

"Michael Hallo, the great merchant?" the consul frowned.

"I don't know anything about his being a great merchant, sir, but I know
that he's a great crook! I've chased him here from New York, and now
that I've found him, I'm not going to let him frighten me into going
away before he makes good!"

"Tell me about this, my boy," said the consul. "It sounds as if it
should be interesting."

"That's what I want to do, sir. My name's Dick Warner, and my father's
dead. He and Mike Hallo were partners in New York, and they had a good
business. We always had lots of money until my father died. Then, right
away after that, Mike Hallo said the business began to go wrong and lost
money. And, after a while, it got so bad, he said, that it had to be
closed down, and there wasn't any more money coming in. He sold out, and
gave my mother a little money and said he was going home."

"That might have happened," said the consul.

"Sure--only it didn't, you see! My mother was soft, and she believed
everything Mike Hallo told her. And I wasn't old enough to know anything
about it. So he got away with it all right, and went home. But then we
began to find things out. We found that the business hadn't been losing
money at all, and that he hadn't really sold it. He had another crook
running it, and sending him all the profits, only the law couldn't do
anything about that, because there'd been a sort of fake sale, and they
said this other man had bought it legally. Do you see how that could be,
sir?"

"Yes, very easily. I'd have to know more about the facts to understand
it properly, but I can understand that it's possible."

"I thought you would, sir. Well, that was how it was. We knew he'd
cheated us. A lawyer that was a friend of my dad's said he thought Mike
Hallo would still be away ahead of the game, even if he paid my mother a
hundred thousand dollars, or perhaps a hundred and fifty thousand! And
we--why, my mother's got about five hundred a year left to look after
herself and my little sister, and we used to have ever so much when dad
was alive! So I just came over here to find Mike and try to make him
come through."

"Good for you!" exclaimed the consul, carried away for the moment. But
then he frowned thoughtfully. "Look here, Dick, I believe your story,
right through. You're not the sort of boy that would get things twisted.
But if you couldn't make Hallo disgorge in New York, how can you hope to
do it here, where he has all sorts of influence--pull, as you call it?
And how did you get here, anyway? It costs money to travel from New York
to Semlin."

"I had a good job, and saved up my money, sir. And then I worked my way
across the ocean as a steward. I'd studied languages a good deal, too,
and I got another job then, traveling with a rich family that wanted to
have someone to buy tickets and tell how much things cost in the shops,
so that they wouldn't get cheated. I came as far as Buda-Pesth with
them, and then they paid my way to Belgrade so that I could reserve
rooms for them there. You see, I can talk German and Magyar and Servian
and Russian, as well as French and English and Italian."

"For heaven's sake!" said the consul, in amazement. "My boy, I'm not so
sure that you won't be able to give Hallo a bad time, after all! You
must have a gift of tongues. I don't know half the languages you do, and
I'm supposed to, too, in my work."

"Oh, I've always been pretty good at languages, sir. And if you like to
know how to talk other languages, you can find people that speak them
all in New York. I know a little Turkish, too--not so very much, but
enough to get along. And I forgot about the Greek."

The consul roared with laughter.

"By George!" he said. "I'll back you to make it hot for Hallo!" But then
he grew more serious. "I don't know, though," he went on. "You're in
hard luck, Dick. In ordinary times I think you'd have a good chance. But
these aren't ordinary times. Come here!"

He led the way to the window. From it they could see the broad Danube,
the great, sluggish river that was wending its slow way to the Black
Sea, and the narrower, cleaner Save, directly before them, which flowed
into the bigger stream here and lost its own identity. Across the Save
was a steel bridge, over which a train was now running. And at the other
end of the bridge was a city of white houses, with minarets and spires,
and on top of a high, flat topped hill stood an old, white fortress.

"Look there, above the bridge," he said. "Do you see that monitor?"

"Yes, sir. And there are two more out in the Danube."

"Exactly! Well, at any moment those monitors may begin bombarding
Belgrade, the capital of Servia. I don't know at what moment war will
break out, but I know that it won't be delayed very long."

"It won't be much of a war, will it, sir?" asked Dick. "Servia's too
small to have a chance with Austria-Hungary, I thought."

"Maybe. But you must remember that Servia has just been through two
great wars. She smashed the Turks in her great battles with them, and
then she smashed the Bulgarians, who had beaten the Turks too, and were
supposed to have the most efficient army of its size in all Europe. You
see, the Servian army has been doing a lot of fighting in these last few
years. Every man in it is a veteran, and knows just what war is. A man
like that is worth more than one who has to get used to the idea of a
campaign, and has never been under fire. And--maybe Austria wouldn't
have to fight Servia alone."

Dick stared at him.

"Maybe Russia will help Servia. I think she will. Then all of Europe
will get into the war, sooner or later. If Austria has to fight Russia
on the other side, she won't be able to spare her whole army or anything
like it to fight Servia. And three hundred thousand Servians won't be
beaten by that many Austrians, I can tell you!"

"Well, but I don't see what that's got to do with Hallo, after all, sir.
He's not a soldier, is he?"

"No. He's past the age of military service. But this is what it will
mean, Dick. In time of war ordinary affairs can't be attended to the way
they are in times of peace. Even legal, admitted debts, that a man is
perfectly willing to pay, can't be collected. Special laws and rules are
made, just for war. It would make it much easier for Hallo to dodge you.
And he has a pull, as you say."

"Yes, but so have you, haven't you, sir?"

"I hope so," said the consul, with a smile. "Of a different sort from
his, too. But I'm afraid it isn't the sort that can help you very much
just now, Dick. Still, we'd better do what we can. You want to stay
here. Have you got a passport? It would simplify matters for you."

"No, sir. They told me at home I didn't need it."

"That's what they are always saying," said the consul, looking annoyed.
"They never seem to understand, at home, that Europe isn't just like
America. Here war is likely to break out at any moment, and then a
passport is a necessity. It's been that way for years. Still, I suppose
you've got some sort of proof that you're an American citizen? Your
birth certificate or something of the sort?"

"No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't. I haven't got anything except my Boy
Scout certificate."

"Let me see that."

Dick produced, rather proudly, the pocket card that showed him to be a
first-class scout, a member of a star patrol of a good New York troop,
and recorded his many honor badges.

"This is fine," said the consul, returning it. "But it doesn't prove
that you're an American, my boy."

Dick looked at him in dismay.

"But you believe that I am, don't you, sir?"

"I certainly do! There isn't a boy of any other country in the world
that could have come here as you have done! But what I believe doesn't
count. If Hallo is trying to have you expelled, I'd have to be able to
prove definitely that you were an American, instead of just saying that
I believed it. In ordinary times--but, as I've told you already, these
aren't ordinary times. And I know a little something about this Hallo.
I've had trouble with him myself."

"You have, sir?"

"Yes. He exports things to America, and it's part of my duty to certify
to values and so on, for the customs. I've thought once or twice that he
was trying to cheat. I'm sure of this--that his pull is mighty strong.
But I tell you what I'll do. I'll cable for proofs of your identity.
Your scoutmaster should be able to get them. We'll hope Hallo won't
hurry too much. Now be off, but come back at six, and we'll have dinner
together."



CHAPTER II

A SURPRISING OFFER


Plucky and self-reliant as Dick Warner really was, he felt a good deal
better when he emerged from Consul Denniston's office than when he had
been trying to get by the barrier of clerks fifteen minutes earlier.
Then he had been a good many thousand miles from home, and not only
friendless in a strange and alien country, but possessed of a determined
and unscrupulous enemy as well. He had told only the truth about Hallo,
but he did not know everything, by any means, about the rich Hungarian
who had cheated his widowed mother.

He had not been very long in Semlin, however, without making the
discovery that here, in the old Hungarian town that faced the capital of
Servia across the river Save, Mike Hallo was a far more important person
than he had ever been in New York. The firm of Warner and Hallo had been
a good, sound one in New York, and both partners had been comfortably
well off. But in Semlin means that had not seemed very great in New York
made a man the equivalent of a millionaire in America. Hallo lived in
one of the finest houses of the city, and seemed to be looked up to and
respected.

"Gee!" Dick had said to himself. "They seem to think as much of him here
as people in New York do of J. P. Morgan or Andy Carnegie!"

Dick was boarding in Semlin. The extravagance of a hotel, he felt, was
not for him. He had a considerable sum of money, which he always carried
with him, in gold, wrapped in a belt, which never left him, but he knew
this money might have to last him a long time, and if he could help it
he was certainly not going to have to seek charity to get home. He
wanted to paddle his own canoe; that was his favorite motto.

Dick hadn't seen Mike Hallo, to speak to him, since he had come to
Semlin. He had seen him at a distance when Mike had been driving in an
open carriage, and Mike had seen him, too. Dick had caught the flush on
the sallow cheeks, and the look of hate that had sprung into his
father's partner's narrow, beady eyes. Oh, yes, Mike knew he was in
Semlin! And Dick did not underestimate the man's cleverness. It was just
as sure as it could be that Hallo understood very well why he had come
and what he hoped to do. Dick had tried to follow Mike's thoughts, too.

"He's a crook--he cheated my mother," Dick had said to himself. "And any
man who would do a thing like that has got a yellow streak in him a mile
wide. So it's a cinch he's afraid of me. He may think I can't do
anything to hurt him, and all that, but he won't take any chances if he
can help it, because he's a coward. He'll know he's in the wrong, even
if he thinks he's got the law fixed, so that he couldn't be pinched,
even if he went back to New York. But down at bottom, just because he
himself knows that he's in the wrong, he'll be afraid. And he'll hate
me, too, because he's done me an injury."

As a matter of fact, that was good reasoning, and showed that Dick had
it in him to become a good judge of human nature. A man's worst enemy is
always the one to whom he has done the greatest injury. It is much
easier to forgive someone who has done one an injury than to retain a
liking for the person one has hurt or cheated.

That morning, before he had gone to the consulate, the Semlin police had
visited Dick. First they had asked for his passport and when he couldn't
produce one, had told him that, as an English subject, he must leave the
town within twenty-four hours.

"You go tell Mike Hallo I'm not afraid of him, even if he gets the whole
Hungarian army after me!" Dick had said.

The policemen had only professed utter ignorance concerning Hallo, but
Dick had not been deceived. He had not lived in New York without coming
to the conclusion that a man with a great deal of money can command a
good many things not at the disposal of ordinary people, and he was
perfectly sure that it was Mike Hallo who was behind this sudden
activity of the police in Semlin.

"He's a dirty sneak," he said to himself. "But I've got to get busy and
call on Uncle Sam to help, or I'm apt to be chased out of here before I
get a good crack at Mike. Even if I'm not afraid of him and the whole
Hungarian army, it's a cinch that it wouldn't take more than a couple of
Hungarian cops to put me on a train and see that I stayed there."

So, if he had not been frightened, Dick had been a good deal worried
when he went to the consulate. His travels about Europe had shown him
that over here things were allowed that would have been impossible at
home, and that there is something more than a pretty line or two of
poetry about the verse that sings of the land of the free. There wasn't
much freedom, he had long since decided for himself, in countries like
Austria and Hungary. Those who had influence with officials, like the
police, or with the army, could do very much as they pleased, and those
who didn't had to toe the mark whenever anyone in uniform told them to
do so whether they liked it or no.

That was why he was able to leave the consulate with a light heart and a
song on his lips. He had found a friend, and it seemed to him that a
friend was a pretty good thing to have found here on the banks of the
Danube, four thousand miles and more from the apartment on Washington
Heights where his mother and his little sister, for whose sakes he had
made his adventurous journey, were waiting for him. About Consul
Denniston, busy as he was, and rather stern though his aspect had been
in the beginning, there was something that made Dick feel that he would
go through a good deal for the sake of anyone he had decided to
befriend. So in the street Dick snapped his fingers at Semlin and the
whole Austrian empire.

"That for Mike Hallo!" he said. "Well, I think I'll go and try to see
the old boy! Wonder if he'll see me? They can't hang me for trying!"

He knew where Hallo was to be found. His office was in the warehouse
that he owned. His trade was largely one with Russia and Roumania.
Barges laden with products of all sorts from the interior came consigned
to him, and were transshipped here at Semlin to the river steamers and
other vessels that went down the Danube toward the sea. And so his
warehouse was down by the river, whence an excellent view of the old,
mysterious looking city of Belgrade could be had. Dick knew something of
history, and he remembered that for centuries the high tide of the
Turkish invasion had come as far as this and stopped. Christian and Turk
in turn had held Belgrade and Semlin, and great battles had been fought
many and many a time on the ground that he now trod.

But he forgot about ancient history when finally he stood outside of
Hallo's warehouse. He went in boldly, not asking anyone for directions,
until he came to a boy of about his own age on guard outside his own
door. This boy took one look at him, and then, to his surprise, spoke to
him in English.

"What can I do for you?" he asked, very politely.

"I'd like to see Mr. Hallo," said Dick.

"Right in here," said the other boy. "He's not busy just now."

"He will be, when he sees me," said Dick, and walked in.

Hallo was sitting at a table, looking over some papers. At the sound of
Dick's entrance he looked up, and for just a moment Dick saw the same
look of mingled fear and hatred in his eyes that he had caught when he
had seen him driving. But then that look vanished, and Hallo, with an
obvious effort, greeted Dick with the bluff heartiness that Dick
remembered so well as his customary manner in the days before his
father's death.

"Well, well, Dick Warner! My old friend's son! I am glad to see you,
Dick! What brings you here, so far from New York?"

"Business, Mr. Hallo."

"You are starting young, Dick! May I ask what sort of business? And can
I help you, or is this just a friendly visit to a man who held you on
his knee when you were a baby back in New York?"

"Oh, cut that out, Mr. Hallo!" said Dick, disgusted. "You know mighty
well why I'm here. I want to know what you're going to do about the way
you cheated my mother. You told her the business in New York had failed,
and she believed you. Now are you going to do the right thing?"

"I don't understand, Dick," said Hallo. Plainly he was trying to be very
patient, and his whole manner was that of a kindly, genial man assailed
by a bad little boy, but determined not to lose his temper. "Your
father's estate was settled in the regular way. No one regretted his
death more than I. The way things went afterward proved how important he
was to the business. I lost a great deal of money in the failure, you
know."

"You didn't!" said Dick. "Oh, we've got the goods on you, Mike Hallo!
And I'll tell you something, too. Maybe there's nothing I can do to you
here. I don't know yet--not until I've hired a lawyer who knows all
about the sort of law you have here. But I know this much. You'll be
wanting to come back to America sometime--you'll have to, on account of
your business. And we've found out enough to fix it so that you'll be
arrested the minute you step off the steamer on to American soil!"

This was a pure bluff, but it might be true, at that. What Dick did know
was that Hallo had stolen money, and he was sure that, whether the law
would make it possible to cause his arrest or not, it ought to make that
not only possible, but easy. Beyond question, too, the statement had its
effect. Hallo's small eyes were getting smaller and narrower, and though
the smile was still on his face, he kept it there with an obvious
effort.

"You hurt me, Richard," he said. "I did all I could for your mother. I
tried in every possible way to cover up the mistakes your father made
before he died--"

"You said just now that if he had lived things would have been all
right! You don't want to mix up your stories that way, Mike! It won't
sound well when they get you into court and try you!" retorted Dick,
his temper quickly rising.

"I see that there is no use in talking to you," said Hallo, looking as
if he felt more sorry than angry. "I regret very much that your mother
is not so well off as she was once, but it is not my fault, and I am
afraid that I am too busy to talk any more to you about this matter
until you are in a better frame of mind. How long shall you be in
Semlin?"

"You ought to know," said Dick. "How long can I hold out against your
pull? If that goes back on you, you've still got the answer. Because I'm
going to stay here until you either have me run out of town or come
through with a check for the money you stole--and a check that I can get
certified at the bank, too, before I take the train."

Hallo tried to look bewildered, and as if he did not understand what
Dick meant, but the attempt was a poor one. His anger was rapidly
passing all bounds.

"So long!" said Dick. "I'll see you again, Mike. I'll give you a tip,
too. You'd better not try any monkey business with me, because Uncle
Sam's right on the job. I'm not very important, you know, back in New
York, but I'm an American! And I guess they'd just as soon send a
gun-boat or two up that big river after me if there wasn't any other way
of fixing things."

And on that word Dick turned and left the office. He had accomplished as
much and as little as he had expected. He had forced a show-down, so
that now matters between him and Hallo had come to a crisis. He had
never expected Hallo to yield, of course, until he was forced to do so.
In fact, he had done even better than he had hoped. He had expected to
have some difficulty in getting speech with the man at all.

The boy who had let him into Hallo's office was waiting for him outside.

"Quick!" he whispered. "I am a friend. Tell me where you live. Perhaps I
shall be able to help you--and you will need help!"



CHAPTER III

THE POLICE RAID


The strange boy vanished before Dick could ask him what he meant, and he
went on, wondering. His whole manner had been friendly, but it was also
puzzling in the extreme. Instinctively Dick had told him where he was
staying in Semlin, and then the other had disappeared at once. Dick
could make nothing of it.

"Oh, well, it can't make any difference," he said to himself. "He didn't
want to know for Mike Hallo, because Mike must know all about where I'm
staying, and if he doesn't, he can find out--in a place where the police
get the names of everyone who takes a room for a night."

So Dick resolved not to worry about the future, but to have a look
around the town. He didn't think much of Semlin. It might be old, but it
was not especially interesting. It seemed to him dirty, for one thing,
and he didn't like dirt. Belgrade, across the river Save, however,
fascinated him. There was something romantic about the great citadel. He
knew that it had withstood siege after siege in the olden times, and the
fact that it probably wouldn't be used as a fortress at all if war broke
out that day didn't detract a bit from the interest of its history.

"Some fort, all right!" he said to himself. "I can just see those old
Johnnies trying to rush that hill, in days when men fought hand to hand,
instead of laying off a few miles and pounding away at a place with big
guns. If they're going to have another scrap here, I hope I'm around to
see some of it. I'd like to see a war."

He was to be gratified in that modest wish!

There was one noticeable thing. Semlin was a garrisoned town; a regiment
of the Austrian army was always there. But now a great many extra troops
were always more or less in evidence. Trains would come in, with
soldiers looking out from every window. The men would detrain, march
through the town, and disappear. After leaving Hallo's office, Dick saw
a full regiment arrive like that, march through the streets, and
disappear to the west. Now he stopped and began doing a sum in mental
arithmetic.

"Gee!" he said, to himself. "I bet the consul's right! I bet the
Austrians do mean to start something! That makes about fifteen thousand
men I've seen brought in here just since I've been here. I wonder if the
Servians know about it? I should think it would be a pretty good thing
for them to have a few people here in Semlin just sort of keeping their
eyes open."

Dick did not know to the full how serious the situation was. But then
very few people in Semlin did. Here news was being suppressed. At this
point, where the border brought masses of Servians and Hungarians into
such close contact, it was not considered wise to allow the newspapers
to print all they knew. It was understood that Austria had made certain
demands, but it did not seem to occur to anyone in Semlin that it was
possible for tiny Servia to defy the mighty Austrian empire. But as a
matter of fact, the final steps that led to the great war were being
taken, and war was already regarded as inevitable by those who, like
Consul Denniston, were in a position to know the truth.

The consul had told him to come back for dinner at six o'clock, and so
Dick had a good deal of time to kill. He determined, therefore, to go
across to Belgrade and see if there was a message there yet from the
Abercrombies, the family with which he had traveled as far as
Buda-Pesth. He was to engage rooms for them when they wrote or
telegraphed to him that they were ready for him to do so, and he decided
that he might as well see if the message had come, though he was pretty
sure that there had not been time yet.

To his surprise, he found some difficulty in passing the guards at the
centre of the bridge. Luck favored him, however. One of the soldiers was
a Hungarian who had been a waiter at a famous Hungarian restaurant in
New York, and had returned to serve his term with the army. When he
heard Dick say that he was an American, he offered to question him, and
began to ask Dick about New York.

"He's all right. He knows all the places I know!" said the soldier,
after that.

And so Dick was able to proceed. In Belgrade, inquiring at the bank the
Abercrombies had named, he found a message, but not the sort of message
he had been looking for.

"We are going to London as fast as we can get there," ran the message.
"Should advise you to do the same. Situation looks very serious."

There had been more in the original message, for the blank was plainly
marked "Censored." Dick was indignant at the idea that anyone should
interfere with a telegram sent by as distinguished an American as Judge
Abercrombie, but, after all, he decided there was no one here to blame.
The censoring had been done at Buda-Pesth in all probability. And the
essential fact was there. He was a good deal disappointed, for he had
rather hoped that Judge Abercrombie might be able to help him in his
dealings with Mike Hallo. However, there was no help for it.

So, having nothing else to do now, he spent a part of the afternoon in
wandering about Belgrade, and making himself familiar with the strange
old town. The older part of the city he found to be much more romantic
when viewed from Semlin. At close quarters it was incredibly dirty, and
the houses were rabbit warrens, inhabited by a wretched mixture of Turks
and mixed breeds. He managed to learn there were not so many Servians;
for Servians are not fond of living in towns. They are farmers and
herders, and by choice they live in the open country, which is why they
are a hardy and long-lived race.

But the new palace seemed to him a fine building, and he was lucky
enough to see old King Peter, with his white hair and his fine, sturdy
face, drive out of the grounds. A crowd had assembled, knowing that he
was going to drive out, and it cheered the old man to the echo. Dick
remembered how, for many years, King Peter had lived in Paris alone, in
poverty, longing always for the time when he might return to the land
his ancestors had helped to free from Turkish tyranny. And now this old
man was an idolized king, who had led his people in two victorious wars
and to-day was being urged by them to defy a country many times the size
of his own. Dick took off his own hat and cheered with the crowd when
the carriage passed him.

"I'm not a Servian," he said, to himself, "but he's a real man, and it
won't hurt me to take off my hat to him, I guess."

Here in Belgrade there was far more excitement over the prospect of war
than there had been in Semlin. Dick decided that this was because here
much more of the truth was known.

He liked the looks of the newer part of Belgrade, beyond the palace.
Here there were pleasant white houses, in green gardens, and everything
was clean and well kept. The people, too, seemed to him more like real
folks, as he put it. There wasn't a servile respect for a uniform. One
reason for that, had he known it, was that when Servia went to war it
meant that every man, and every boy old enough to carry arms, was
engaged. It was a nation that fought, not just an army.

So it was with a pleasanter impression of the Servian capital than he
had expected to acquire that Dick returned to Semlin. When he got back
the sun was already low over the hills in the west, and he had just
about time to hurry to his lodgings and change his clothes.

There he found something that surprised and angered him. In his absence
someone had been through all his few belongings; few because he had of
necessity traveled with little baggage. He could see that everything had
been ransacked, and he guessed that the police had paid his room another
visit in his absence. It hadn't done them any good, for of course he
carried no papers that would have been of the slightest interest to
anyone else, and his money, the only valuable thing he had, was always
in the belt that he wore next to his skin, under all his clothes.

But he was angry, none the less, and he carried his anger with him to
the consulate, where, arriving promptly, he had to wait a little while
for the consul to finish some business. When he told Mr. Denniston what
had happened the consul frowned.

"I'm not surprised," he said. "I couldn't prove this, Dick, but I've
learned enough to be perfectly certain that Hallo is behind the police
interest in you. I don't believe that anyone really thinks you are
English, or has the slightest idea that you may be a spy."

"A spy! What kind of a spy would I make? Is that their line?"

"In a time like this almost anyone may be accused of being a spy, Dick.
You see, the argument is that it's just the one that's apparently least
likely to be guilty, who can be the most dangerous spy. But, as I say,
in your case it's just an excuse. I have sent a cable message to the
State Department, asking them to satisfy themselves through your
scoutmaster at home that you are an American citizen. When I hear from
that message, you see, you'll have an official standing, and I can do
something. What I am afraid of is that the answer will be delayed. But
come in to dinner. I shall have to leave you right afterward."

At the dinner table Mr. Denniston explained the situation more in detail
to Dick.

"Hallo's powerful enough to have his way. That's the size of it," he
said. "I've decided to have you come here, as my guest. They wouldn't
dare to take you from the consulate for that would mean trouble with the
United States. And if I don't read the whole situation mistakenly, they
are going to have enemies enough before long without embroiling
themselves with us, even for the sake of pleasing Mr. Michael Hallo!"

"I hate to trouble you, sir," said Dick. "But it is most awfully good of
you to invite me, and, of course, I'd be safe here."

"It's no trouble--I'll be glad to have you. As soon as we've finished
dinner, go and get your things, and then come right back here. They gave
you twenty-four hours, you said, didn't you? And that was this
morning?" returned Mr. Denniston.

"Yes, sir."

"Then I think you have time enough. But there is no use in leaving
yourself in their power when the time is up. When they move here, they
move very quickly indeed."

"All right, sir. I'll go along, and get back at once."

Dick hurried through his dinner, and then went back to his lodgings. In
his room he began packing, but he had not finished his task, light as it
was, when he heard a heavy pounding on the street door, which was at the
bottom of the stairs, directly in line with his own, his room being on
the first floor. He was curious enough to open his door to listen, and
he saw the woman of the house open the street door.

"In the name of the law," he heard a heavy voice say. "We have come to
take one Richard Warner, calling himself an American, who is accused of
being a spy, and is to be sent immediately to Buda-Pesth. Stand aside!"

"Yes, sir--yes--right up the stairs, there," stammered the frightened
woman.

Dick was aghast for a moment. Then, by a sheer instinct of
self-preservation, he flung the door shut, locked and bolted it. It was
stout and would hold for a moment. He rushed to the window. It was an
easy drop to the garden below. But of what use to drop? What chance was
there for him to make his way through the streets to the consulate,
where, could he but reach it, he might find asylum? It might be better
to yield. Though he was not a coward, he knew that the police might
shoot him.

And then, just as heavy footsteps came up the stairs, a voice spoke in
his ear.

"Will you trust me?" it said.

He turned with a start, to see the boy of Hallo's office beside him!

"Follow me--through the window. I can save you," said this boy. "It is I
they should seek--I _am_ a spy!"



CHAPTER IV

THE REFUGE


There was no time to debate. Dick heard the policemen at the door and he
knew that it would not delay them for more than a minute, at best. The
mysterious boy was already half way out of the window. Dick rushed over,
and saw him land in a flower bed below. A moment more, and he was beside
him.

"Follow me," said the stranger. "Can you run fast?"

"Yes, I can," said Dick, speaking in Servian. He wanted to surprise this
boy who had surprised him so thoroughly, and he succeeded. But there was
no time for questions. He suited the action to the word now, and they
ran, the stranger in the lead. But even as they ran, Dick's mind was
active. He had answered in Servian because he had suddenly guessed part
of the mystery. The other's cry, "I am a spy!" had given him a clue. He
concluded that this boy must be a Servian.

And his start of surprise when he had heard the words in that language,
which very few foreigners can speak, had convinced Dick that he had made
the right guess. He felt better after that. Somehow hitherto he had not
been able to divest himself of an uncomfortable suspicion that this
strange boy might be in some fashion acting against him and in the
interests of Mike Hallo. Yet his manner contradicted that idea; he was
frank and open in his appearance. And, finally, there was no need for
Dick to feel that he was making any serious mistake in following him
now.

It was certain that the police _were_ working for Hallo, whether they
knew it or not, and it was equally certain that had he not dropped from
the window he would now be in their hands, and perhaps on his way to
Buda-Pesth. As it was, he was free for the moment at least.

Hot as was their pace, Dick's training as a scout enabled him to keep
track of their direction, roughly at least, and he knew that they were
going toward the river. Had he been a boy of the type too often seen
nowadays, born and brought up in a city, he would have been hopelessly
lost within a minute of the start, for his guide twisted and turned in a
bewildering fashion, plainly with the idea of making pursuit more
difficult for the police. At last the pace slackened, and the Servian
turned into a narrow alley. Dick followed, and they dropped into a
cellar. This was a damp, dark, filthy place, but they were not to stay
there. The Servian pressed a certain spot on what seemed to be a
perfectly blank wall, and it gave. Dick saw that there was a secret
panel, which swung around now and gave them entrance to a second cellar
of a very different aspect, as he saw when his companion struck a match.

This room, for a room it really was, was lined with match board, and
there was some sort of ventilation, for the air was fresh and pure, and,
moreover, in constant motion. The Servian lighted a lamp that hung from
a bracket on the wall, and then, as the light spread, Dick could see
what manner of refuge it was that they had reached.

Evidently it was intended for frequent use. There were two or three
chairs, a table, and a big, comfortable looking couch, covered with rugs
and cushions. Books were on the table, and on a shelf that ran around
two sides of the room, and on the table, too, were pens, ink and paper
in abundance.

"Now we are safe!" said the Servian. "This place has been used for two
or three years, and the police seem never to have suspected its
existence. I suppose you are curious?"

"I certainly am!" said Dick. "Who are you? And what are you doing here?
And--but go ahead! You'll tell me what you like, I suppose."

"My name is Stepan Dushan," said the other, with a laugh. "That is a
good Servian name, as I suppose you know. But you must have guessed
before that I am Servian, or you would not have spoken to me in my own
language. How is it that you, an American, over here for the first time,
speak our language so well?"

"How is it that you know so much about me?" countered Dick, really
amazed. "I never saw you until this morning, in Hallo's place."

"Nor I you," said Stepan. "But it was my business to know all about
everything that Hallo was doing. He is a very important man just now,
and especially for us Servians. He has a great deal to do with the
government here. He will supply many of the things the Austrian soldiers
will need in the war, and there was a chance that by working for him I
might be able to gain a great deal of valuable information. There are so
few of us Servians, you see, and especially after the wars, that boys
have to do the work of men."

"I see," said Dick, vaguely, though he was a long way from a clear
understanding yet.

"That was why I listened to what you had to say to Hallo," the Servian
went on. "Anything might be important, you see. But I soon understood
that this was a different matter. And then I remembered things I had
heard, or had just happened to stumble on, since I had been in his
office, and then I knew all about you, and how he had cheated your
family--the scoundrel!"

"You do know a lot!" said Dick. He was beginning to be tremendously
impressed by this Servian lad, no older than himself, who nevertheless
was serving his country in such a dangerous and delicate capacity.

"Oh, I just jumped at the chance of putting a spoke in Hallo's wheel,"
said Dushan. "It hasn't been the easiest thing in the world working for
him, obeying his orders, I can tell you. He treats those who work for
him like a dog. You would think he was a noble, instead of a shrewd
peasant who has made money."

He laughed.

"I ought not to talk like that," he said. "In Servia we are all
democrats, and a peasant is as good as the next man. But still it was
hard with this Magyar swine! My father--you know my father is in our
army, a general of brigade. I shall be in the army, too, when I am old
enough, if there is to be more war after this. And in the meantime I do
what I can. I am a Boy Scout."

"A scout? So am I!" exclaimed Dick.

They had found a common tie when Stepan Dushan said that, and for a
little time they forgot everything in a discussion of scouting and of
the differences between the Servian and American systems. They soon
agreed that, though there had to be many differences, the fundamental
idea was the same, and that the original impulse of the Boy Scout
movement had spread because there must be, after all, a great deal in
common between all boys everywhere.

"There are scouts here in Hungary. In Buda-Pesth there are several
troops, you know," said the Servian.

"I saw them there," Dick nodded. "And in Germany, too, but the German
scouts are rather different. I say, this is splendid, Steve! You don't
mind my making it Steve, do you, instead of Stepan? That sounds so
strange to me."

"I don't mind a bit," said the Servian. "Well, I got you away from the
police, but I'm puzzled as to what to do for you next. We can't stay
here very long, because some of the men who are doing the really
dangerous work may want to use this place any minute, and I don't think
they'd like it if we stayed. I suppose I could manage to get you out of
Semlin, but you'd have to go to Buda-Pesth, and you want to stay within
reach of Hallo, don't you?"

Dick's jaws snapped together.

"I certainly do," he said, doggedly. "I hate to give a thing up when
I've once started to try to do it, don't you?"

"Ye-es. I'm trying to think, Dick. There is a way, of course. I can
smuggle you over to Belgrade when it gets dark. But if you once get into
Servia just now, there's no knowing when you'll get out again. When the
fighting starts--and it's going to start soon, perhaps to-night, perhaps
to-morrow--things are going to move quickly. We haven't wanted war, we
Servians. We've had enough to last us a lifetime since we attacked
Turkey. But we're ready for it."

Dick said nothing. It seemed plain that his new found friend was still
pondering an idea.

"You've no idea how I hate that man Hallo!" he burst out in a minute.
"Sometime, if we are to be together, I'll tell you why. The rest of the
reasons, that is. But I'd give anything to help you beat him, Dick, and
I do think there's a way. Only it will be risky. You'd have to come with
me to Belgrade. And you'd have to stay with me and probably help Servia,
and I don't suppose an American, who's got nothing to do with our
troubles, would want to do that?"

"I'd do pretty nearly anything rather than go home beaten," said Dick,
grimly. "And there's another thing, too, Steve. Do you think there's a
chance that this may mean a European war, with Germany and France and
Russia mixed up in it? That's what Mr. Denniston, the American consul
here, seems to think."

"Yes, I'm afraid it will mean just that," said Dushan, gravely. "Russia
will help us if Austria attacks us. We know that already. Then Germany
must help Austria and France must help Russia, and England must help
them both. And there will be the great war--the war Austria threatened
us with when she took away Albania, that thousands of our Servians had
died to win for the fatherland! We gave way then, just as we gave way
when she enslaved millions of Serbs in Bosnia, so that there might be
peace in Europe. But this time Austria has gone too far, when she tries
to take away the independence our fathers bought from the Turks with
their blood! Servia cannot give way again. And Russia will not let her
be wiped out by Austria."

"Then I'll stay here," said Dick, cheerfully. "Because there isn't a
chance for me to get home. I haven't got money enough. I got here by
working my way, and in time of war there'd be no chance for me to do
that."

"There is something in that," said Stepan. But he seemed doubtful still.
"I don't want you to come in without knowing what there is to be
risked," he went on. "It is going to be dangerous, hard work. But I
really think that at the end there will be a chance for you to get what
you came for. I think that I can show you a way to beat Hallo and force
him to make restitution. Don't ask me why I think so, because I'm not
ready to tell you yet. And it might spoil everything if I told you too
soon."

"You've done so much for me now that there's no reason why you should do
more," said Dick. "And as for helping Servia, why shouldn't I? When my
own country was little and poor, and fighting for its life against
England, we got help from all sorts of people who believed in freedom
and hated tyranny. So I don't see any reason why an American scout
shouldn't do anything that's in his power for Servia."

They struck hands then.

"We must wait until dark," said Stepan. "Until it is really dark, full
night. Then it will be very easy to get over the river, unless things
have changed greatly since last night. I am glad you are going to stay,
Dick. We are in the right, and we are going to win. There's no other
way."

"I think so, too," said Dick. "Steve, there's just one thing. I know
that Austria has treated Servia badly, and that she should not have
annexed lands in which there were so many Serbs. But that murder in
Serajevo was an awful thing--"

"It was frightful!" declared Stepan, passionately. "Every true Servian
will tell you the same thing! But it is a wicked Austrian lie to say
that Servia had anything to do with it! It was Austrian subjects who
were, perhaps, Serbs in blood, who planned it. We Servians did all we
could. Our government learned that trouble was brewing, and our minister
in Vienna begged the Archduke Franz Ferdinand to stay away or at least
to take especial precautions. The Serbs in Bosnia hated him because they
thought he was the man who planned the annexation. But to say that the
Servian government knew what was planned is to say what the Austrian
government knows to be false.

"No, that is only an excuse. Austria is afraid of us, of our patriotism.
She has determined to crush us before we are too strong. She is
trembling because of her memory of how we crushed the Turks."



CHAPTER V

UNDER FIRE


It was after midnight when Steve finally decided that it was safe to
venture from their retreat. And then they did not emerge by the way in
which they had entered it.

"This place has saved the life of many a Servian patriot in these last
few years," said Steve. "I think the Austrians have come near to finding
it once or twice. They have pursued some of our people to the very
entrance. But what has always puzzled them is that we never go out by
the way in which we come in. And one entrance we have never used except
for flight, and then only in a grave emergency. No Austrian pursuer has
ever seen that, or come near it. It is the one by which we shall escape
now. Keep still. That is all that is necessary. Keep still and follow
me."

Dick had guessed already that there were other entrances. He was not
prepared, however, for the elaborate system of rooms and passages that
were revealed as he followed Steve, who had now possessed himself of an
electric flashlight, and had given Dick one also.

"We could almost have stood a siege down here," explained Steve.
"Here--we seem to be in a dead alley, don't we?"

They had passed from the room in which they had waited to another, where
Dick had seen a plentiful supply of provisions and of drinking water in
great bottles. From this they had gone into a narrow passage, dark and
damp. Now Steve flashed his light on a blank wall. But a touch at the
right place brought a handle into view. This, when it was pulled, showed
that there was really a door, cunningly made so that it seemed to be a
part of the wall, with no cracks to betray it. And behind this was
another door of solid steel.

"It would not be easy to get through that door, you see, even if they
penetrated the secret of the first one," said Steve. "That door is made
of armor plate, of tempered steel. It is the same sort of steel that is
used for the protection of a great battleship. Even a shell from a
cannon would not go through it very easily, and bullets would only be
hurled back if they struck it."

He touched a spring and the door revolved on its own axis, staying open
just long enough for them to pass through, and then closing.

"The action is automatic," said Steve. "That would make it safe even if
one were pursued, for the pursuer would be caught as the door closed; he
would not be so close as to be able to get through."

"You people didn't overlook anything, it seems to me," said Dick. "You
must have been getting ready for war for a long time."

"For years," said Steve, quietly. "Ever since King Peter came to the
throne and refused any longer to betray the country to Austria, as his
predecessor did always. We stand in Austria's way. Until we became
powerful by beating Turkey and Bulgaria, which attacked us as the
result of an Austrian trick, it mattered less. But ever since the end
of the second war last year we have known that Austria was only looking
for an excuse to attack us. And so we have tried to be ready. It was our
only chance."

"But you say you won't have to fight Austria alone. The Russians will
come to Servia's aid, won't they?"

"In a way, yes. But they will not be able to send troops to fight with
our armies. They may attack Austria, and so keep some of her soldiers
busy elsewhere. But that is all. We do not touch Austria anywhere. She
might send troops through Roumania, and Roumania, it is true, is
friendly toward us. But that would bring her into the war, and she will
not be ready for that for a time. At least Turkey would bar her from
sending troops by sea to Antivari, for they would have to pass through
the Dardanelles, and that is impossible since Turkey is the friend of
Germany.

"And there is another point. Austria has been making ready. She can
strike quickly. Russia is slow. It will be two months before she makes
herself felt, even if she declares war at once. For two months Austria
can devote herself almost entirely to us. And the odds in her favor are
so great that anything might happen in that time, if we had not prepared
for her. As it is, there is almost nothing of Austria's plans and
preparations that we do not know."

While Steve talked they were walking through what seemed almost like a
tunnel. Now he flashed his light, looked about, and dropped his voice.

"Now we must begin to be careful," he said. "We are getting near the
light. This is like a rabbit's warren, but soon we shall be in the open.
Sure as we are that the Austrians know nothing of this place, we never
take chances."

"We must be a long way from the cellar we first went into," said Dick.
"Even if we've circled around, and here where there are no stars, I
can't tell about that. We've walked a long distance, I should say."

"You're right," said Steve, with a low and discreet chuckle. "Oh, this
is a fine tunnel! Do you know what we did a few minutes ago? We walked
right under a police station!"

The tunnel seemed to dip now, and then to rise again. And in a few
moments cold air was blowing on their faces; cold, that is, by
comparison with the heat of the subterranean workings in which they had
been buried. Then they came out, stooping, and passing through a well
designed covering of shrubs and bushes, on the sandy beach of the river.
Dick gasped a little at that, and at seeing that they had evidently got
out of the town altogether. Before him now lay the lights of Belgrade,
but he noticed one thing at once. The lights had shrunk; there were
fewer than there had been the night before.

Steve had gone ahead now, scouting to see if the coast were clear, but
he returned in a moment, jubilant.

"All safe!" he said. "I knew it would be, of course, but there is no
need to take chances. Now we're all right so far. But we've got quite a
walk before us yet. We'll still be very cautious."

"Which way?" asked Dick.

"West, along the bank of the Save here. Look, do you see that monitor
there? If her searchlight swings this way, drop down. She might not pay
any attention, but we don't want to be noticed at all, and it's better
to be on the safe side."

"Why are there so few lights in Belgrade?" asked Dick. "I know it's
late, but other nights, when I've looked over, it was much brighter."

"I'm not sure," said Steve, looking anxious. "You see, it's hours since
I've had any news. The war may have come already, Dick. I hope not,
because I should feel that we were more sure of getting across before
the declaration. Still we have a good chance, even if it has begun."

Three times, as they walked along the river bank, Steve made a long
detour inland.

"The Austrians have patrols along the river," he said. "But they don't
take that sort of work very seriously. They are trusting the monitors
and their searchlights. You see, their lights are swinging pretty
steadily, and they cover the whole river and the Servian shore."

"And don't they think that there's likely to be danger on this side?"

"They're right, too, of course. Spies, yes. But we couldn't threaten
them very seriously in any way that would make it necessary for them to
be very careful here."

"I wish we knew what was going on, don't you? Doesn't it seem funny to
be right in the middle of something that's going to make history and to
think that people thousands of miles away really know more about it than
we do?"

"Yes. But soon we'll know all there is to be known. When we're once over
the river, then we can ask questions and get true answers, which is more
than people in Semlin have been doing lately. Yes, I'm just as anxious
for some news as you are. I rather wish now that I'd gone out while we
were waiting for it to be late enough to start. But I suppose it was
better that I didn't. You'd have been helpless there if anything had
happened to keep me from coming back," remarked Stepan.

"If you'd been caught, you mean?"

"Ye--es, I suppose that's what I mean. Although really I don't think
there was ever any great danger of that. When I got a job from Hallo, it
was sure that no one suspected me, because he's so busy with government
contracts that he had to be careful. I'm supposed to be a Hungarian,
from Buda-Pesth. And it isn't as if I'd been trying to find out things
in a general way. All I had to do was to pick up the information that it
was so easy to get in Hallo's place. There were all sorts of things to
be learned there, and a lot was made easy for me because Hallo and
others didn't think, I suppose, that I would know what certain papers
and estimates meant."

"How did you know enough to be able to do all that sort of thing,
Steve?"

"Well, there were a lot of things I didn't understand, myself. But I
didn't have to. I just copied down everything I saw that seemed to have
anything to do with military matters in any way, and sent everything I
got to the general staff at home. They knew the meaning of everything,
you see. It wasn't any one thing, perhaps; it was what I and a lot of
others who were at work over here were able to report that counted. They
could put one thing with another, and, altogether, it was worth
something. I don't know how much. But I do know, for instance, that
Hallo has sent supplies of various sorts to particular places. There's a
regular arsenal on the Austrian side, near Schabatz, and there are big
depots of supplies at a lot of places along the Drina."

"Oh, I understand better now. Hallo is supplying food and things that
the soldiers will need?"

"Food, and shoes, mostly. He's the biggest contractor for those, but he
is handling about everything. Medical supplies, uniforms, horseshoes,
saddles, and a tremendous lot of petrol--gasoline. And he's making a big
profit, too. He's one of several big army contractors who have been
eager for this war, and have had a lot to do with bringing it on,
because they hoped to grow richer out of their contracts. War meant big
profits."

"Men like that ought to have to do some of the fighting themselves, I
think! But they never do. They stay behind, and let others do the work.
I've heard about that sort of thing at home in America. And some of them
didn't even behave honestly. They sold bad beef for the soldiers, and
rotten leather, and shoddy cloth for uniforms."

Steve chuckled.

"I'll tell you something about Hallo," he said. "But remember not to
tell anyone else, even if you get a chance, until the time comes. He's
doing something like that, too. He thinks he's been very clever, and
that there's no chance for anyone to find him out. But I've got the
proof, and perhaps there'll be a chance for you to use what I know to
make him do what's right for your mother, Dick. As it is, you see, I
wouldn't give him away, because it's good for us to have the Austrians
badly equipped. Hello, we're getting near our ferry! Do you see that
blasted tree there--the one that was struck by lightning?"

"Yes," said Dick, peering through the darkness.

"Well, just below that there ought to be a boat and a man with it. We'll
soon know if we can row or if we'll have to swim for it. It's a long
swim, and I'm not anxious to go that way."

But the boat was there, and beside it a Servian who greeted Steve
happily, and looked at Dick appraisingly.

"He is with me," said Steve. "Jump in, Dick! Hurry, Mischa!"

In a moment they were out in the stream. And then things began to
happen. There was a sputtering of fire from the bank they had left, and
Mischa, the ferryman, staggered and collapsed. A bullet had reached him!
The oars fell into the water, and they were adrift.



CHAPTER VI

ACROSS THE SAVE


The fact that they lost their oars was what saved them. For now, its
attention evidently attracted by the sudden outburst of firing, the
nearest monitor sent its searchlight flashing down upon them, and the
little boat, with its helpless burden, was plainly visible from the
shore. With a quick and ready wit, the two scouts leaped to their feet,
at the risk of upsetting the boat, and waved their hands, in token of
their helplessness. They were seen at once, and there was a sharp cry
from the shore, and an order to cease firing.

"We're in luck," said Steve, quietly, as he sat down again in the boat.
"That's an Austrian officer. If he had been Hungarian, he wouldn't have
stopped firing just because he saw we were helpless. But he must have
come lately from Vienna. He hasn't had time to get the border hatred of
us into his system yet."

Dick already knew that there was particularly bad and bitter blood
between Servians and Hungarians, but he made no comment. By this time he
was heart and soul with Servia in the war that must have begun, but this
was partly because of his swiftly formed friendship for Steve Dushan,
and partly because Servia seemed to be the under dog. Yet he knew that
there were probably two sides to the question, and even the way Mike
Hallo had behaved had not filled him with a prejudice against the whole
Hungarian nation.

Now that the immediate danger was over, there was time for them to look
to the wounded ferryman. Dick thought he was dead. He had never seen a
man shot before, but when he turned the man's body over, Steve laughed,
not callously, but happily.

"Good for old Mischa!" he said. "I thought a man who fought at Kumanovo
and helped to storm Adrianople after the Bulgarians yelled for help
wouldn't go out so easily! See? It's only a scratch! The bullet grazed
his head. Dip your handkerchief in the water, and we'll have him all
right in no time."

The cold water, as a matter of fact, did revive Mischa almost at once,
and he sat up, rueful at the loss of his oars. When he was told that a
bullet had grazed his scalp and stunned him, he actually grinned.

"So that is what it feels like to be shot!" he said. "Good! Now I shan't
be afraid the next time there is going to be a battle, as I was at
Kumanovo. What next?"

"I think everyone is wondering about that," said Dick, with a grin.
"They don't seem to want to come out after us, and we certainly can't
row ashore without oars, even if we wanted to. And I suppose if she's
cleared for action, that monitor isn't carrying so many boats that
she'll want to send one for us."

"I wish her searchlight would break down!" said Steve, venomously. "Then
our fellows on the other side might help us. Mischa, I've got to get
over if we can do it. It's very important for me to report what I
discovered during the day. Has war been declared yet?"

"It has not been formally declared," said Mischa. "But the King and all
the government have gone all the way back to Nish, and most of the
troops have marched away to the west, toward Schabatz and Losnitza.
There is only a small garrison left in Belgrade."

"To Nish, eh?" said Steve, frowning a little. "That was not the plan of
which I heard. The withdrawal was to be only to Kragujevac. They must
mean to draw the Austrians on. But I am sorry. I hoped for an invasion."

Suddenly to the east there was a dull roar. The three in the boat stared
at one another, and at the same moment there came a wild outburst of
cheering from the soldiers on the Austrian bank of the river.

"What is that?" asked Dick. As he spoke the sound was repeated.

"Cannon," said Mischa.

"Yes, cannon!" repeated Steve, his face lighted up. "The first gun of
the war! Who knows how many echoes that shot will have? They said that
in your country a shot was fired once that was heard around the world. I
believe that this is just such a shot, Dick!"

"Where is the firing?"

"It must be from one of the Austrian batteries near Semlin. They are
bombarding the city of Belgrade, I suppose."

And then there was a deafening roar, a sound far greater than the firing
of even the heaviest guns of modern warfare would make, and to the east,
toward the Danube, there was a great flash of fire. Instantly the
searchlight swung away from them and pointed in the opposite direction,
and as the beams of light were concentrated on the spot where the flash
had been, the three observers in the boat saw a strange and wonderful
sight. The lights played full on the great steel railway bridge across
the Save, and in their white glare they could see the beams collapsing,
the piers melting away, while the whole central span of the bridge
collapsed in utter ruin, leaving a gap where the river now flowed
unbridged.

"Yes, the war has come!" said Steve impressively. "That was to be our
first act--the destruction of the bridge. They will not send their
troops into Servia so easily as that!"

"P--ss--t!"

A sharp hiss came to their ears, seemingly from the water. And not only
seemingly. Looking down, they saw the upturned face of a swimmer. Mischa
hailed him joyfully.

"Peter!" he said.

"Take this rope. We saw what had happened," said the swimmer, "and so I
swam out, and waited until their accursed searchlight was not playing on
you. We will draw you ashore. If they fire, lie low in the boat, and
they will never hit you. But you are safe now unless the searchlight
comes back again. They can never see you in this darkness."

"Good man, Peter!" said Steve, his voice hushed. "Swim back, now. We
have the rope. It is better for you not to come into the boat now."

Peter did not answer, but turned at once and began cutting the water
with long, powerful strokes. Nevertheless, though he made good progress,
he disturbed the water very little, and he had not gone more than a few
yards before it was almost impossible for even those in the boat to see
him. Only a faint rippling of the water behind him marked his trail.

"That was good work," said Dick, admiringly. "We'll get ashore safely
yet, Steve! And a minute ago it certainly didn't seem possible."

There was a tug at the rope a moment later. The searchlights were still
turned downstream, and now there was a brisk cannonading from the Semlin
batteries. There had been no more explosions. It was plain, as, indeed,
they had already been able to see, that the Servian sappers who had
mined the railway bridge had done their work well.

"Down in the boat now!" said Dushan. "They are drawing on the rope, and
they'll begin pulling us along in a moment. I'm going to try to keep
her as she is, but it may be hard if they pull too fast. If they will
keep their searchlight away for just five minutes, we shall be all
right."

"You'd better make that rope fast to something in the boat instead of
just holding on to it," said Dick. "If you don't, you might lose your
hold. Remember how Mischa lost his oars."

"That's a good idea, Dick. I didn't think of it. Here, it's looped
around one of the thwarts now. That ought to hold it all right, if they
do hit me."

Then they all dropped, and in a moment the boat was being drawn along
swiftly through the water. It proved impossible to keep her bow on to
the Servian shore, but there seemed no reason to fear anything from the
Austrians behind them. Yet suddenly a bullet whistled over their heads,
following the crack of a rifle.

"Never mind that!" said Dick. "They just want us to know that they're
still thinking about us, that's all!"

But the shot had another motive, as they soon guessed. It had been fired
in an interval of silence, when there was no firing from the batteries
at Semlin--to which, incidentally, the Servians had as yet made no reply
from Belgrade--and it was soon apparent that it had been fired to
attract the attention of the monitor. In a moment the searchlight came
winking back, and instinctively, as the great beam of light swept over
them, all crouched lower still in the bottom of the boat. There were
quick wits on the Servian side, for the dragging of the rope stopped at
once, and their motion with it.

For a moment nothing happened.

"Perhaps they won't notice that we've moved," said Steve, hopefully.

But that was a vain hope. More faintly now, they could hear shouting
from the Austrian bank, and then Dick understood as a volley rang out
and a hail of bullets swept over them and pattered into the water near
by.

"They saw that we had disappeared. That's enough to make them
suspicious!" he cried. "Shake that rope! Maybe they'll understand that
we want them to pull again."

But that was unnecessary. The pull on the rope had been resumed, and
they were moving fast again.

Once more the Austrian rifles spoke, and this time half a dozen bullets
pattered against the side of the boat. Some came through, but she was
stoutly built, and these had lost most of their force. But the
searchlight followed them, and now there was a loud roar near by. This
was followed in a moment by a dull explosion that seemed to be within a
few feet of them. The boat rocked violently and a shower of spray
descended, wetting them all.

"Stay down!" cried Steve. "That's a shell from the monitor!"

"Gee! They're anxious enough to get us, aren't they?" exclaimed Dick.
"That was a close call, Steve! But I'll bet it was just a lucky shot!
We're too small a target, and we're moving pretty fast! I don't believe
they will really hit us."

"Too close to be comfortable," agreed Steve. "It feels funny, doesn't
it, being under fire? I never was before."

"And I don't care if I never am again," rejoined Dick. "I'm frightened,
and I don't care who knows it!"

"So am I!" admitted Steve, a little tremulously. "And I hoped I wouldn't
be! I wanted to be a soldier, but a coward can't be a soldier."

Before Dick, who didn't think that it was cowardly to be afraid, could
answer, another shell plumped into the water beyond them, and again
showered them with spray, while it set the boat to rocking. But in a way
even this danger was a source of safety, for the upheaval of the water
had spoiled the aim of the rifleman each time, and though they dared not
rise to look, they felt that they must be very near the Servian shore by
this time. And then big Mischa laughed aloud.

"You need not be afraid, Stepan Ivanovitch," he said. "You need not be
afraid that you are a coward, I mean. I am afraid at first every time I
am under fire, and so are most soldiers. Ask your father, now that you
have been under fire yourself. It soon wears off, that fear. But the
bravest men need not be ashamed to admit they are afraid when the first
bullets sing in their ears, or when they hear the shells burst near
them!"

Twice more, in a few moments, shells dropped in the water near them. But
either luck was with them, or the monitor's target practice was poor,
for neither damaged the boat. And now they could hear the encouraging
shouts of the Servians from the shore. Then there came an explosion
louder than any of the rest, and the boat seemed to go to pieces under
them. The water rushed in. Luckily, no one of them was hurt, but all
were thrown into the water. They began to swim lustily, striking out
blindly for the shore, until Mischa raised his voice in a great laugh,
and seized one of them in each arm.

"Here, I'll carry you ashore!" he cried.

They were safe!



CHAPTER VII

THE WOUNDED CAPTAIN


Safe, but only for the moment. The searchlight had been following them,
and now it played on them and the Servians, a little party of five or
six men, who had dragged them thus to safety.

"Look out! Scatter!" cried one of these, the only one who was in
uniform. "They'll try another shell, just to get even, now that you've
got away from them."

They scattered at once, flinging themselves to the ground after running
a few paces. And, sure enough, a shell struck close to the brink of the
water, half burying itself in the sand before it exploded and sent sand
and dirt flying all over them. The fire of the riflemen carried across
the river, too, from the other bank, but the bullets had little force
left after carrying so far.

Dick, lying face down, his back to the river, and within a few paces of
Steve, lifted his head a little, and looked about him. He saw that a
little way back from the water's edge the ground began to rise quite
sharply, culminating in what was almost a bluff, but was still easily to
be climbed. And where the ground began to rise, there was a sturdy
growth of bushes and young trees, too, that would afford good shelter.
If they could only get so far! It was easy to see. The searchlight from
the monitor was playing all over and around them, making the scene weird
in the extreme but serving them, in a way, by making their path as clear
as it would have been in broad daylight.

Then the searchlight winked out and swung away for a moment. In that
instant the man who had given the first order rose and began running
toward the shrubbery.

"Come on!" he cried, turning and stopping, while he waved his hands.
"The light will be back in a moment!"

They obeyed willingly, and swept up the slope in a wild rush. The
searchlight swung back again, and now a shell burst high in the air
above them. In a moment there was a curious tearing sound, and then a
pitapat on the ground about them. Dick guessed it was shrapnel, though
he had, of course, never been under shrapnel fire before. That was not
from the monitor, he knew. It meant that the Austrians on the other side
must have got a light field piece into action after some delay.

But he was not hit, and in a minute he was at the top of the rise,
panting. Steve Dushan came up to him.

"All right, Dick?" he cried. "I didn't have any idea of bringing you
into anything as hot as this. You might better have stayed and taken
your chance in Semlin! Perhaps your consul could have helped you."

"I don't care! We're all right now," said Dick. He laughed nervously.
"I'm not sorry a bit!" he declared. "It's the most exciting thing that
ever happened to me! Now that it's all over I--yes, I believe I have
enjoyed it!"

"So have I! I mean it, too, Dick! I'm not saying that just to make
myself think I'm brave, because I was awfully frightened all the time.
But now that it's over, it's something to look back at, isn't it? It
isn't everyone who's under fire, after all."

Then they heard Mischa calling.

"Captain!" he cried. "Captain Obrenovitch!"

There was no answer. And suddenly Dick knew that there would be none.
His mind recalled something that he had only half grasped as he ran up
the hill, with the patter of the bursting shrapnel, with its load of
slugs and bullets, nails and pieces of iron, all about him. He had seen
a man stumble, the one man in uniform.

"Is Captain Obrenovitch the one who was in uniform?" he asked.

"Yes, Dick. Why? Was he hit? Did you see him go down?"

"I'm afraid so, yes. Here, I'm going to find out!"

Before Steve realized what he was doing, Dick had turned and plunged
back in the direction from which he had just come.

"Dick!" cried Stepan. "Where are you going? What are you doing?"

"I'm going after him!" Dick shouted back.

"Wait! That's madness! Let me go with you!"

But if he heard, Dick made no answer. He did hear, but he paid no
attention, and scarcely understood the words. All that Dick knew was
that he had run away from a man who had been wounded because he had
braved death to save his, Dick's, life. He had seen him fall, as he
understood now, and he had not stopped to see if he could help! Dick
felt a surge of shame. He felt as if he could never respect himself
again unless he tried to make atonement now for having run on! It was
fantastic, quixotic, absurd perhaps, but it was Dick Warner's way, as
anyone who had known him at home in New York would have realized at
once!

"I saw him fall. I know just where he is," Dick told himself again and
again, as he ran on, stumbling over roots, tripping repeatedly in his
hasty descent of the slope that had seemed so hard to climb a few
moments before. "It's up to me to find him and make up to him for
sticking to that rope!"

That was Dick's thought. He owed his life to this man Obrenovitch, whose
very face he would not know if he saw him now. And that life, he felt,
would be of no use to him if he kept it at the expense of leaving his
debt of gratitude to Obrenovitch unpaid.

The Servian captain had fallen out in the open, and Dick came to him at
last. The searchlight was still playing. It lit up the body for a
moment, and then winked away again. But Dick had his own pocket
flashlight out in a second, and in its light he saw that the captain, if
he was not dead, was in a bad way. Like all scouts, Dick knew something
of the first aid, and a very hasty glance showed him just what had
happened. Obrenovitch lay straight out, and the blood was gushing out
from his leg above the knee. One of the great arteries had been cut. In
a few minutes he would bleed to death if help did not come to him.

"Oh, I hope I'm in time!" cried Dick.

And then he wasted no more of the precious seconds. He knew that
Obrenovitch, as an officer, in uniform, and in time of war, would have
somewhere about him a Red Cross packet containing the absolute
essentials of first aid treatment. In a moment he had found this packet
and torn it open. He was close to the river, and in a twinkling he found
two small, flat stones. These he pressed into the open wounds where the
bullet had passed in and out, and then he drew a tight bandage about
them.

All this time, be it remembered, he was under heavy fire. Bullets
pattered about him constantly. Once a stick he was using in an effort to
improvise a still better tourniquet was shot right out of his hand. But
he never faltered. Fortunately the shooting was wild. The searchlight
had not picked him up, and so he was not a real target for the enemy, as
he might have been had they seen him in the glare of the great light.

The blood soon ceased to flow, and then Dick leaned over to listen for
the beating of the captain's heart. He caught it in a moment. It was
faint, but regular enough.

"I think he'll do all right now," said Dick to himself, with intense
satisfaction.

And then he had time to think of himself, and to realize that he was
tired and shaky about the knees. He collapsed for a moment, and lay
beside the wounded and unconscious officer. But he realized something
that was like a tonic; he had not been afraid, not once, while his work
remained unfinished! Perhaps it was just because he had been too busy in
his fight with the death that was reaching out to seize the Servian.
Whatever the reason, it was something to make him proud and happy, and
to fill him with a tingling sensation that was worth a night's sleep,
almost, in making him forget his own exhaustion.

"Now to get him away!" said Dick to himself. "There's no use in staying
here. Something is sure to hit one or both of us if I do."

But Obrenovitch was rather a heavy man. Dick could have dragged him
along, but he was afraid that that would start the bleeding of the wound
afresh, and he knew that if the Servian lost even a little more of the
blood that he had already shed so freely nothing could save him.

For a moment Dick was near to despair. There seemed nothing to do but
stay there and hope that the Austrian fire would slacken. Even so,
however, things were bad enough, for it was highly important, as Dick
understood very well, to get the Servian officer into a doctor's hands
as soon as possible. His improvised bandage and tourniquet would do very
well for an hour or so, but better treatment was necessary, since it was
dangerous to arrest the circulation of the blood, what there was left of
it, too long. And then Dick heard footsteps, the most welcome sound he
had ever heard, he thought--except for the hail that followed a moment
later.

"Dick! Where are you?"

It was Stepan Dushan. He had come after Dick, determined not to let a
stranger outdo him in courage!

"Here!" cried Dick. "I found him! I believe he'll pull through, if we
can get him away. I've been puzzling my brains trying to think how to do
it. But now we can make a stretcher."

"How? We haven't any material, Dick!"

"Haven't they taught you that?" said Dick. "All our scouts know how to
turn that trick! Stay here! I'll be back in a minute."

Dick always carried his big knife, which had been a present from his
scoutmaster as a reward for a particularly good piece of work that Dick
had once done at home. Now, with its biggest blade, he managed to cut
away two stout branches of a tree, and to strip them of leaves and
twigs. Though they were thin, he knew that the live, green wood was
stout, and that while it might bend and give, it would not readily
break. He returned with the two poles, and called to Steve.

"Take off your coat and give it to me, Steve," he directed.

Steve obeyed, and Dick laid the coat, and his own, which he now took
off, on the ground. Then he passed the poles through the sleeves of the
two coats, having laid them end to end, and then he proceeded to button
both coats.

"Now do you see?" he said. "Isn't that a fine stretcher for a home-made
one? Take his feet now, and lift him very carefully. He's too tall, but
if we pass our hands and arms under him, we can support his head and his
feet when we start to carry him. It'll be a hard job, but it's the only
chance. It's better to let him take the risk of being carried that way
than to leave him here. He hasn't any chance at all here, and he will
have some this way. How soon can we get him to a doctor?"

"Very soon, once we're up the hill," said Steve. "The men can help
there. They didn't know I had come back, but they will soon miss us and
come back to see what has happened. Mischa has been my father's servant
for years, and he would go through fire and water for me, I know."

"Good! Steve, have you noticed? They've stopped firing!"

"About time, too! What a lot of ammunition they have wasted! Well, they
have plenty! We haven't, and when we shoot it will be when we're pretty
sure that there are Austrians in the way!"

"Yes. Steady, now--careful! Don't jolt him even a little--it won't take
much to start that bleeding up again."

Tenderly, carefully, they lifted the wounded man and got him on the
stretcher. Then with the utmost care, lest they disturb the rough
bandaging, they raised it. And when they had it up and were about to
start, in broken step, to make the movement smoother, there came a
fearful test of their nerve. A dull roar sounded behind them, and above
their heads a whistling, shrieking sound, that they had learned to know
well that night! It was the hiss of a shell, and in a moment it burst.
But it had overshot the mark, and when it burst, though their hands
shook, they held their firm grip on the stretcher, and that last,
wanton shot had no more effect than its predecessors. It was the last.
They finished the ascent safely. And there they found Mischa and the
rest, who relieved them and carried the stretcher to the road a few
hundred yards beyond, where, by great good luck, they met a marching
regiment, with a real surgeon.

Their work for Obrenovitch was done.



CHAPTER VIII

A NEW EXPLOIT


Dick dropped into the background when they encountered the soldiers, and
let Stepan do the talking. Now that the strain was over, he was feeling
very tired and he wanted only to get to a place where he could sleep.
But Stepan would not allow him to escape so easily. He told everyone
within hearing of Dick's feat in going back to look for the wounded
captain. The surgeon, bending over the bandages and making little
adjustments, looked up quickly.

"Whoever applied this tourniquet saved this man's life," he said,
briskly. "He would have bled to death in a very little time. As it is,
he will do very well, if the wound has not been infected, and there was
so much blood that I doubt if there was any great danger of that."

Then the colonel of the regiment appeared, and drew aside Stepan, whom
he evidently knew. When they returned the colonel spoke to Dick very
quietly.

"This is not the time to try to thank you for what you have done
to-night," he said. "I can only tell you that, if I live long enough, I
shall see that your heroism is properly known and fittingly rewarded.
You have helped to bring Stepan Dushan to this side in safety, too, for
he tells me that your cool behavior in the boat under the Austrian fire
had a good deal to do with getting you all ashore. Now I shall send you
to Belgrade, since Stepan Dushan tells me that you have reasons for
wishing to stay with us for a time. You have earned the right to do as
you please."

Captain Obrenovitch was being sent back to Belgrade, and Steve and Dick
volunteered to care for him on the way, since that would make it
unnecessary to detail a hospital corps man to act as orderly. They had
already proved that they could be trusted in any emergency that might
arise. And so in a few minutes the column began the march again, moving
westward. Dick noticed that no bugles or drums were sounded, and that
the order to march was passed along from company to company, the
officers giving the brief commands in low voices.

"It's a secret troop movement, of course," said Steve, when Dick
commented on this. "I can explain a little. The Austrians think, or we
hope they do, that we will concentrate in defense of our capital. We
would like to, but, after all, Belgrade is not the historic capital of
Servia. Our chief city in the olden times was Uskub, which we regained
from the Turks in the first war. We have made a capital of Belgrade
because it is the most convenient city and because it is the centre of
most of our trade."

"And you're going to let them take it?"

"Oh, I didn't say that!" said Steve, with a grin. "Perhaps they will
take it but they won't hold it very long! No, what I mean is that our
armies will defend Belgrade not by standing a siege, but by attacking
the Austrians in other places. Belgrade will have a small garrison, and
its situation makes it very strong, of course. But if the Austrians
were to enter the city to-morrow it could make no real difference to the
plan of our campaign."

They were not very far from the city, which they entered, of course,
from the land side. They drove to the military hospital first, and there
Captain Obrenovitch was turned over to those who could complete the work
Dick had begun. Then when it was certain that he was in good hands, and
they had had a confirmation of the regimental surgeon's optimistic
verdict, they were ready to rest.

"Haven't you got to make a report?" asked Dick, when Steve announced
that they were going to his home to sleep.

"I've made the important report already," said Steve. "The chief
information I had was military, and Colonel Tchernaieff will give the
facts I had gathered to the staff when he reports at Schabatz. The rest
can wait until morning. I don't know what has happened here yet. I
suppose the information department still has quarters here, but most of
the men will be with the army in the field. I may have to go to Schabatz
in the morning--later in the morning, I mean."

That was a good correction to make, because it was morning now, and
streaks of light were beginning to appear beyond the Danube. And Dick,
who had lived through the fullest day of his life, was eager to get to
bed. The Austrian bombardment, which it seemed had not been very bad,
had stopped altogether, and the strong probability that it would be
resumed when the sun rose didn't deter Dick from his desire to sleep.

"We'll be at my house soon," said Steve, who knew how tired Dick was.
"If old Maritza is still there, she will look after us. I don't believe
anyone else will be in the house. My mother and my two young brothers
have probably gone away. My father said they must when the war began."

Dick found that his friend's house was in that new quarter of Belgrade
that he had admired so much when he had made his trip across from
Semlin. And the inside of the house was as pleasant as its outer
aspect. It was not luxurious. Few houses in Servia are, since Servia is
a country where great wealth is practically unknown. But so, for that
matter, is extreme poverty. Most of the Servian people make enough for a
living, and not a great deal more, and so they have remained a simple
people, and have maintained their ability to rise as a nation in arms.

But Dick wasn't thinking of such things. All he needed to know about
that house or any other was that it contained a bed. Yet first before
they went to bed, both he and Steve took a bath.

"Heaven only knows when we'll get another chance," said Steve,
cheerfully. "There are going to be exciting doings, my friend Dick, for
a time. We may have to leave here in a great hurry. You know, the
Austrians _may_ find out how easy it would be for them to come over into
Belgrade! It would be a great stroke for them to say they had captured
our capital in the first week of the war, even if they couldn't keep
it."

"Well, I hope they don't come until we've had a good sleep," said Dick.
And with that he rolled himself into bed and was snoring as soon as his
head touched the pillow.

When he awoke it was broad daylight. But one thing surprised him. The
window was in the west wall of the room in which he had slept, and yet
the sun was pouring into it! It didn't seem possible, yet it was true.
It was late afternoon, almost evening, and he had slept practically all
day! In his surprise he called out sharply to Steve, who had slept in
the same room, but in a separate bed. But Steve was not there. His bed
was crumpled, but he himself had vanished!

Dick went to the window and looked out. Everything seemed to be
peaceful. There were not many people about, but he knew that in this
part of Belgrade few people were to be seen at this time of day in any
case. At first he scarcely noticed a sound that came to his ears
regularly, almost as regularly and monotonously as the ticking of a
watch. Then he realized what it was; the sound of cannon. The
bombardment, then, was still going on. He wondered about its success.

He looked out toward the business quarter of Belgrade. In a good many
places black smoke was rising, shot through with yellow fumes. There was
no wind, fortunately; he guessed that these pillars of smoke were from
fires started by the Austrian shells. Had there been a gale to fan them
they might have done serious damage. He was still looking out when the
door burst open and Stepan Dushan came in.

"Hello! You're awake at last, are you?" he cried. "Well, you had sleep
enough when you once started! You looked so comfortable that I didn't
have the heart to wake you when the time came for me to get up."

"I'm glad you didn't," said Dick, honestly. "I'm feeling fine now, and
if you'll give me some breakfast I'll tackle my weight in wildcats! But
if I'd had five minutes less sleep it wouldn't have been enough! I don't
believe I was ever tired enough to sleep through a bombardment before."

"This isn't much of a bombardment," said Stepan, contemptuously. "I
don't believe there'll be much damage done. Come on out--though I'll see
that you get some breakfast first. I think I'll have something
interesting to tell you before long."

"All right. But why don't you tell me now?" asked Dick.

"Bad luck to talk about things until they're done," said Steve, with a
grin. "Don't you know that in America?"

"All right," said Dick. "But just when are you going to know?"

"Pretty soon--but that's no sign that you'll know it as soon as I do,
you know. How would you like to go back to Semlin?"

"I'm game, if you'll tell me why."

"That's just what I'm afraid I won't be able to do. That is, it would be
a whole lot better if you didn't know."

"Oh, all right! I don't care, anyhow! I've enlisted for the war. By the
way, what's happened to your scout troop? I thought perhaps there'd be
some good work here in Belgrade for it to do."

"There will be, only there isn't any troop any more. About everyone in
it is with the army, except the very little chaps. I think they'd have
let me fight this time if there wasn't other work for me to do. You see
we lost so many men against Turkey and Bulgaria that we haven't really
enough men to fill the ranks. We have regiments that aren't half
filled--or we did have until this started. By this time, though, I think
there aren't many short battalions left. The old men and the boys will
fight, and they say that some of the country regiments have a lot of
women in them."

"Women? Fighting with the men? That's not allowed, is it?"

"How can you stop it?" asked Steve, with a shrug. "You don't know much
about us yet, Dick, my friend. You don't know what it is to have lived
with the Turks for centuries. I have read about your American women on
the plains, in the times when the Indians went on the war-path. Most of
them could handle a rifle, couldn't they? And they were pretty good
shots, too!"

"Yes, but that's different--"

"Not so very different. I don't believe your Indians were ever worse
than the Bashi-Bazouks. They hated us Servians, you see, because we were
infidels and Christians. And so for hundreds of years they harried us,
burned our homes, carried off our women, killed our men. That sort of
thing gets into the blood after a time. For centuries we Serbs have
stood between all Europe and the Turks. They never wiped us out, though
they beat us by sheer weight of numbers. But here, and in Bosnia, that
the Austrians stole, and in the Black Mountains--Montenegro--a few Serbs
have always held out.

"That's why we aren't so civilized as some of the other countries of
Europe. We haven't had the time to be civilized. We have had to fight
just to keep alive. We have had to fight the Turks for life itself, and
when they did not kill, they burned our fields with the standing grain,
summer after summer, so that the harvest was lost. Yet once there was a
great Serb empire that stretched from the Black Sea to the Aegean--"
Stepan's eyes flashed, and there was a look in them that might have been
worn by his great ancestor and namesake, the last of the great medieval
Servian Tsars.

"There is a day that we still mark every year," he went on. "The day of
the battle of Kossovo, when the Turks annihilated us--though that was
more than five hundred years ago. But in the last war we had our
revenge, on the great day of Kumanovo, when, though the Turks
outnumbered us, we drove them before us and crushed them.

"But I spoke of the women, and I am wandering from the point! We do not
want the women to fight, but they come from the villages, where whole
companies are recruited from relatives, since we still have almost a
patriarchal system. The woman wears men's clothes, and she marches with
her husband or her brothers. The officers do not know, and--they fight
well. They have known what it is, some of those women, to see their
homes burned and their mothers slain by Turks. They know that a free
Servia means more than a name!"

"I hadn't thought about it just that way," said Dick. "But I see that
you are right. It is just the same thing as with our pioneers. The women
of those days did fight the Indians, and for just such reasons. I'm
going to get you to tell me more about Servian history some time. You
know, until the Balkan War Servia and Bulgaria weren't much more than
names to us in America or to most of us. We were surprised and mighty
pleased, of course, when you smashed the Turks the way you did."

"Everyone was surprised," said Stepan. His face grew dark. "And there is
another thing we hold against Austria. We were good friends, we little
states of the Balkans. We had fought a great war, and we would have
continued to be good friends had it not been for Austria. But she
stepped in when peace was to be made, and said what we could have and
what we must not touch. She would not give us the window on the sea that
we had paid for with our blood. And she tricked Bulgaria into attacking
us and so starting the second war."

"How was that?"

"She thought Bulgaria was strong enough to beat us, and she promised to
help if Bulgaria were too weak. Everyone thought, you see, that the
Bulgarian troops were the best in the Balkans. They forgot that we
helped them to win Adrianople, and that we and the Greeks won our great
victories unaided. And then, when we crushed Bulgaria within two weeks,
Austria broke her word, and Bulgaria was left helpless. We acted in self
defence, but we were sorry."

"I supposed that Servia hated Bulgaria now, Steve. And Greece, too."

"As to Greece, I cannot say. Her people are not Slavs. But we and the
Bulgarians are blood brothers. We would not have fought except for
Austrian trickery and Austrian lying--that they call diplomacy."

"Will Bulgaria fight again in this war?"

"I do not know. There is a great effort being made to revive the Balkan
League and add Roumania to it. Roumania is stronger than any of us now,
because, though she helped us at the end of the war with Bulgaria, she
did no real fighting at all, and it did not exhaust her to gain what she
did from the wars. If we can win what Austria denied us before, and
Bosnia and Herzegovina, perhaps, as well, we will not grudge Bulgaria
what we had to keep from her in Macedonia after the war with Turkey, and
we will help her, too, to recover Adrianople. You remember that the
Turks took that back from her when we had beaten her down."

"So Bulgaria may be on your side?"

"Yes. And I think it very likely, because she is near us and far from
Austria, which might offer to help her. If she attacked us, too, Greece
would come to our aid. But that depends on many things. If Russia helps
us, that will make a difference. And it is a question of what Italy will
do, also. But this is not getting us anywhere. You are game to come with
me?"

"Yes."

"Then let us start. We are going to get a motor boat on the Danube--not
on the Save--and try to run the gauntlet of the Austrian monitors. I
think it is safe enough, because they believe that they have the river
entirely under their control. I think it will be easier to get into
Semlin than it was to get out last night."

"Well, I'm ready whenever you give the word."



CHAPTER IX

BACK TO SEMLIN


It was beginning to grow dark when they set out from Steve's house.

Maritza, the old servant who seemed to idolize Steve, had given them a
wonderful meal. Dick liked the old peasant woman. She reminded him of
the stories he had read of old southern mammies. It was plain that she
was wholly devoted to the Dushan family, and that she would do anything
for them. But in spite of that, she ordered Steve around as if he had
been a child of her own, and Steve, who seemed to Dick to possess a
goodly share of independence, accepted her orders with the utmost
meekness.

"She was with the family before I was born," he explained. "I can
remember how she used to order me about when I was a little chap. And
she's pretty nearly as bad with my father, too. I can tell you he does
what he's told. It's a wonder she hasn't insisted on going with him in
the campaign, just to make sure that he changes his shoes when his feet
get wet and wears heavy clothes when it's cold!"

Dick laughed, but he could understand Maritza's attitude well enough.
She had mothered him, too, and, despite his excitement, which made him
inclined to slight his meal, had insisted on his eating generously.

"I don't know what mischief you two boys will be up to to-night," she
had said, "but if you've got a good hot meal in your stomachs you'll be
in a better condition for it, whatever it is."

As they left the house, Steve explained that they had a long walk before
them.

"Horses are at a premium," he said. "Otherwise we might have ridden,
because I could have got them. But they are so badly needed in the field
that everyone has given up all the animals that are at all fit for
service."

"You don't use cavalry very much, though, do you?"

"No, not as a rule. Our men fight better on foot, and a great deal of
our fighting is done in mountainous country that is all split up with
ravines and clumps of woods. It was so, at least, against the Turks and
the Bulgarians. But in this war there will be some chance for cavalry,
at first, anyhow. And, besides, the horses are needed for the guns."

"Oh, yes! I didn't think of that. You don't use motor cars much, I
suppose?"

"We can't. We haven't the roads. If the French get in, they and the
Germans will use cars a great deal, I suppose, for all sorts of things.
But our roads are too bad for that. It's just as well, because the
Austrians have had so much more money to spend than we that they are far
ahead of us. They've got better heavy guns than we, too, but I don't
think they'll get much more chance to use them. We are not going to shut
ourselves up in fortresses. And when it comes to field pieces we can
hold our own with them a good deal better."

"Field guns will be the ones most used, won't they?"

"We think so. We've got light guns that are easy to move about, and
we've got the men who know how to handle them, too. Our men are all
veterans, and that is going to make a lot of difference. They know what
it is to have hard fighting, and if things go against them at first it
won't bother them. My father says that the experience we have had in
actual war will be worth five army corps."

"Who is the commander-in-chief?"

"General Pushkin. Everyone agrees that he was the one great soldier that
the Balkan wars produced. He won his battles against the Turks easily,
and without the loss of great numbers of men, and when the Bulgarians
attacked, we and the Greeks fought the campaign according to his
strategy. The German military attaché said that General Pushkin was fit
to command the greatest army in the world. He said he was a military
genius of the first rank, and one of the greatest soldiers developed in
Europe since the time of von Moltke."

"Then he must be good, because the Germans know a good soldier when they
see him."

"He has done everything that has been required of him so far. This war
with Austria will be his great test--only he doesn't regard it as a
test, but as an opportunity. My father says that that is the true mark
of a man's character. He says the weak man, who hasn't got it in him to
succeed, thinks of a difficult thing he has to do, or to try to do, as a
trial, a test, and that the big man, who is sure to amount to something,
simply looks at it as a chance to show what he has in him."

"I know what you mean." Dick nodded. "My own father used to say that,
too. That was the trouble with Mike Hallo, I guess. If things looked
hard he was always complaining, and my father used to get pretty sore at
him sometimes. My father just gritted his teeth and went to work. I
remember hearing them talk about the panic a few years ago. An awful lot
of business houses were smashed then, but my father pulled through,
though Hallo wanted to quit. He said they would only be throwing good
money after bad if they kept on."

They had been walking briskly while they talked, and it was not long
before they came to the flat, marshy ground near the banks of the
Danube. Here it was a sluggish, thick, yellow stream, flowing along
impressively because of its bulk, but lacking every element of beauty
and romance.

"This doesn't look much like the beautiful blue Danube, does it, Steve?"
Dick suggested.

"No," said Steve, with a laugh. "It's not pretty--not here. There is
some fine scenery between here and the coast, though, where it marks the
boundary between Roumania and Bulgaria. And it's all historic. On the
Bulgarian side further down, the ground is high, with a sharp ascent
from the river. There was some fierce fighting in the Russo-Turkish
war--the war that freed Bulgaria, you know, and really helped a lot to
make Servia free, too. At one place the Russians crossed in boats and
stormed the heights, with the Turks above, firing down on them."

"They must have been brave in those days!"

"The Russians? There are no braver troops in Europe--there never have
been!"

"They didn't do very well against the Japanese."

"It wasn't the fault of the soldiers. Their generals were poor, and
everything was badly managed. I think that if the Germans despise the
Russian army they are making a great mistake. Russia learned many
lessons in the war with Japan, and when she fights again, soldiers will
be in command, not politicians. Here we are; this is the boat."

Dick looked curiously at the little craft. She was painted a dull,
leaden grey, and he could guess that at a very short distance it would
be almost impossible to detect her. In other ways, too, she was
especially designed for the business she was intended for.

"Isn't she a little beauty?" said Steve, enthusiastically. "See--that's
armor plate, very thin, of course, but tough and strong, that covers her
entirely on the outside. Then she's decked over with armor plate, too,
so that one can be inside and expose practically nothing. The engine is
sheathed the same way, and all the essential working parts. She can pass
through a rain of bullets without being hurt; it would take a shell to
make any real impression on her, and she's so fast that it would be a
hard job for a man to get her with one."

"I never saw anything like her," said Dick. "You say she's fast, too?"

"Twenty-five miles an hour easily, Dick! That's fast enough for anything
she's ever likely to have to do. The Austrians have launches, armed and
armored ones, but nothing that's in a class with this boat for speed and
power."

"She doesn't carry any guns, though?"

"No. She's meant to run away, not to fight. There are a couple of rifles
and automatic pistols and ammunition aboard, but really she is a scout,
pure and simple, and she would only fight to escape. You see, with such
a lot of armor plate and defensive equipment generally, they had to
figure pretty carefully on weight, or they'd have lost speed. And
speed's the most important thing with a boat like this. All aboard, now!
We'll be off in a minute!"

Dick took his place aboard, and found that there was plenty of room
under the plate of steel that covered almost the whole length of the
little boat. Then Steve followed him, and in a moment the engine was
purring and they were moving away.

"That's the quietest motor I ever heard in a power boat," said Dick.

"Exhaust under water and a special muffler as well," said Steve. "She'd
be useless if she gave herself away when she was a mile from anyone,
wouldn't she?"

"It means less speed, though."

"Yes, that's so. But it doesn't make difference enough to make up for
the safety it gives. You see, we could pass within a cable length of one
of those Austrian monitors now and they'd never know it. We'll have to
do just about that, too, before the night's over, I'm afraid."

"Where are you going to land, Steve? In Semlin itself?"

"No. That would be too risky and there's no need for it. I'm going to
keep right on up the Danube, past the mouth of the Save, and we'll land
above the town and circle back. They'll keep a very sharp lookout now
along the river bank in Semlin, but I don't think they'll be so careful
on this side. They'll trust to their river patrol and the mines."

"You think the river will be mined?"

"Oh, surely!"

"Wouldn't it be a good thing for your side to do some mining, too?"

"It's probably been done already, especially in the Save. We have only
one or two small gun-boats, which wouldn't have a chance in a fight with
the Austrians on water. But I think we'll be able to make them see that
it isn't any too safe for their monitors. We can't beat the Austrians
by main strength, so we'll have to use all the tricks we can. I think
they'll find out before very long that there are more ways of killing a
dog than by shooting him."

Now they were out in midstream. Perhaps a mile above them, as they swung
diagonally across the river, an Austrian monitor, painted a dun color so
that she was almost the hue of the river, was swinging at anchor, squat
and ugly, but menacing and business-like in her appearance, too. Steve
did not lay his course up the middle of the broad stream, however.
Instead, he slipped well over to the east bank, and began moving swiftly
upstream when he was under the shadow of the eastern bank, here rising
fairly well.

If anyone on the monitor observed them there was no sign of it. They
passed her, and another of the same type. On the Hungarian shore, above
them, occasionally they could hear the calling of sentries. The
Austrians were guarding the river carefully, and Steve chuckled a little
as he heard these evidences of careful watching. Then they passed the
mouth of the Save, and were wholly in Austrian or, rather, Hungarian
territory. For now the bank on both sides was part of the Dual Monarchy.

At the confluence of the two rivers a blaze of light swept the water
constantly, but there was still dense shadow under the eastern bank of
the Danube, for the chief concern of the Austrians seemed to be for a
dash of some sort down the Save. Danger from the other direction seemed
not to be thought of at all.

Once past that pool of light, it was a matter of ten minutes of fast
running. Then Steve swerved sharply and cut across the river, to run
into a little, sheltered inlet, and under a door that was raised at a
blast from a peculiar compressed air whistle. They were in a small
boathouse--a perfect concealment for the little motor boat. The house
was built right over the water, and there was no danger now that
prowlers would find her.

Inside, as the boat glided under the door, which slipped down into
place beside her, was a man in Austrian uniform, a fact that startled
Dick tremendously at first. Steve noticed this, and grinned.

"Don't be afraid," he said. "This man is a good Serb, though he is not a
Servian. He is one of us, but he is an Austrian subject, and forced to
serve in their army--which he does willingly enough, since he can help
us greatly by doing so. There are many such Serbs in Austrian uniform
to-day, but most of them will be sent to other parts of the theatre of
war, if Austria has brought on a general war."

The soldier had a boat hook out, and now he drew them to a landing stage
and made the boat fast as they leaped out.

Steve indulged in a low-toned conversation with the Austrian, and
frowned. Then he turned to Dick.

"Dick, I don't like to ask you to do this," he said, "but will you stay
here alone for a few minutes? I find I have to join a secret meeting.
They don't know about you yet, and it is absolutely forbidden to
introduce a stranger at such a meeting without notice. You understand?
I'll be back soon."

"Go ahead!" said Dick. "I don't mind staying here a bit, Steve, and I
see how it is, of course. You can't help it."

"I thought you'd say that," said Steve, greatly relieved. "All right!
I'll be back just as soon as I can, and it certainly won't be long."

Then Steve and the soldier went out. For a few moments there was
silence. And then a closet door opened, and Dick, paralyzed with fear
and dismay, saw a face emerge--the face of Mike Hallo!



CHAPTER X

A DARING DECISION


"Where is Milikoff?" Steve Dushan asked the soldier, as soon as they
were outside. They had left the boathouse, of course, by the land side,
and moved swiftly away from the water side.

"He is at the house by the pond," answered the soldier. "The others were
there too, ten minutes ago. But since then anything may have happened!"

"Yes," said Stepan, grimly. "It was stupid work--letting Hallo get away,
when once they had him in their grip! Still, there is no use in crying
over spilt milk. We must get him back, that is all. He knows the thing
that we have got to learn, and I think we shall be able to persuade him
to share his knowledge with us!"

"No doubt," said the soldier, shrugging his shoulders. "The man who
plays with both sides is always weak. It is always a dangerous thing to
run with the hare and ride with the hounds!"

The country hereabout was flat and waste, low-lying marsh lands, with
here and there a pond coming close to the road. Beside one of these
ponds, which, at a guess, might be useful in winter for the ice it would
carry, stood a small house, from one window of which a light showed.

"Wait for me here," said Steve to the soldier, and went inside. He
gained admittance by a peculiar knock, and the door was opened for him
at once by a man in the garb of a priest. Stepan laughed at himself for
starting back.

"Aha, you didn't know me!" said the priest, with a merry laugh. "Now I
know that this is a good disguise!"

"Yes, it's a good one, Milikoff," said Stepan. "But what is this about
Hallo? Did you actually let him escape after holding him here?"

"Yes," growled Milikoff, all his pleasure in the excellence of his
disguise vanishing. "He has been here fifty times before; that was the
chance we took, since we had to meet him somewhere. He came alone
to-night, and we were able to seize him very easily. And then, just as I
saw that it was nearly time for you to come, he had gone!"

"How did he get away?"

"He fooled us all by showing something none of us thought he had--a
little courage! He dropped from the window above. That was how we knew
he was gone, for he broke a pane of glass in one of the greenhouse beds
as he dropped. We rushed out--"

"You were so near as that, and still he got away?" said Stepan, with a
groan.

"Oh, we were out after him at once!" said Milikoff. "He ran toward the
river, and we were after him. We drove him in. We have that much
consolation, Stepan--we drove him into the water, and though we watched
a long time for him to come up, there was no sign of him. I think he
drowned like the rat he was!"

"You think so, and it does seem probable. But we can't be sure! And,
even so, he is worth more to us alive than dead. For the time, at least.
He is a wretched traitor--treacherous to both sides. I wouldn't mind
his death, because he has sent hundreds of men better than himself to
death of late. But I wish we had been able to hold him and use him. He
would have been afraid of us, I think, when he discovered how much we
knew!"

"It would have been enough for him to see you, Stepan, and know that you
were one of us, I think. He would have guessed very quickly what you
were doing during all those weeks when you were so close to him. That is
what has saved us. If it had not been for you we would have trusted him,
I think, with his tale of how the Austrian government had wronged him,
and his pretence that he was one of a group that wanted a free and
independent Hungary!"

Stepan was thinking hard.

"Where are the others?" he asked.

"They are busy in the town. We are almost ready to blow up the arsenal,
and perhaps we shall be able to finish the tunnel and plant the mine
to-night."

"That will be good," Stepan nodded, "unless Hallo has warned them. It
was he who gave us the information as to just where we should have to
place the mine, and he must have guessed what use we would make of it."

"Perhaps so. But they have not moved any of the stores. If we can
explode our mine, we shall strike a good blow for Servia."

"We may say that without boasting, Milikoff. The reserve ammunition for
two corps is here. They have been careless because they did not expect
anything like a general engagement for some time, especially when the
government moved to Nish. But I am uneasy still about Hallo."

"I think you need not be, Stepan. I tell you we were right on his heels,
and there was no way for him to escape. He went into the water beyond a
doubt, and I do not believe that he was strong enough to swim the
Danube. Besides, we would have seen him had he done that, and shot him."

"I don't think he swam the Danube, I'm quite sure he could not have
managed that. What I am afraid of is that he doubled on his tracks in
some fashion and got ashore."

"But that was even more impossible, I tell you! We expected him to try
to do that, and we watched out especially to make it too hard for him to
do it, even though he is as slippery as an eel."

"And still I should like to make sure, I think. I shall have to go into
Semlin."

"To look for him? It will be risky."

"Perhaps, but it can't be helped. I doubt if it will be so risky,
though. I'm not sure that even Hallo suspects yet that I was more than I
seemed."

"Wouldn't your sudden disappearance just at this critical time give it
away to him?"

"I don't think so, because I was very careful to arrange a good excuse.
I have talked for two or three weeks of the illness of my uncle in
Buda-Pesth, and have said that if he became worse perhaps I might have
to go home very suddenly. And I left a note in the office when I came
out yesterday, because I was sure I would not be back, saying I had been
called away. I didn't say I was going to Buda-Pesth--just that I was
called away."

"Well, if no one else had any reason to suspect you, you will be safe
enough, for you won't see Hallo."

"I am going, anyhow. But first, Milikoff--you are to stay here, I
suppose?"

"Yes, until daybreak, at least."

"Good! I left a friend at the boathouse--an American, but one who is
with us, heart and soul, and has proved it at the risk of his life
already. I want him to come here and wait for me."

"You are sure he is all right? We have to be careful, Stepan."

"If you can trust me, you can trust Dick Warner," said Stepan.

"That is enough. Let him come!"

"Right! I will send Vanya."

He stepped to the door and called to the Serb in the Austrian uniform,
who was waiting outside.

"Vanya," he said, "will you go back to the boathouse and return with
the friend I left there? Tell him that I want him to come, and show him
the way."

"At once," said the soldier, and was off.

Stepan returned and found Milikoff studying some papers.

"You had better keep a guard at the boathouse when you have a man to
send there," suggested Stepan. "Vanya will be on duty before long, I
suppose?"

"Yes. We shall not be able to use him again. Not at once, at least. I am
surprised that we have had the chance to use him at all. But, as a
matter of fact, two Serbo-Croatian regiments are here, or near here."

"The Austrians are in a tight place," said Stepan, with a laugh. "They
know that they may have to fight Italy, and so they are sending the
Italian troops from the Trentino and Trieste to the Galician frontier,
to fight the Russians. And they have to use every regiment. They might
as well keep their Serbs and Croats here--they will fight as readily
against Servia as against Russia. If they could spare first line troops
for garrison work and for watching the Italian border, they might
manage. But they cannot. That duty they must leave to the reserves and
the old men. I believe their plan is to surround the troops that may be
disaffected with Hungarians and true Austrians who can be depended upon
absolutely."

"They can depend upon their Hungarian levies now," said Milikoff. "But
for how long will that be true? If a few battles are lost, if Russian
troops pour through the passes of the Carpathians and the Cossacks come
within sight of Buda-Pesth? After all, Hungary is an independent
kingdom, and a part of the Austrian empire only of her own free will.
Her army is her own, and she has her own parliament and her own
ministers. There is no reason why she should not have a king of her own
again when she chooses. We may see the rise of another Kossuth, who
would force Hungary to make peace with Russia and with Servia. At least
you may live to see it."

"Do you really think so?" asked Stepan, eagerly. "That would be
glorious! Oh, we are lucky, after all, Milikoff, we Servians! Our
country may be small, but it is our own. We do not have to rule a score
of different subject races. All those who live under our flag do so
willingly. We do not have to drive our soldiers into the ranks with
whips and threats of shooting."

"No! And after this war, if God is still with us, as he has been, our
brothers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Albania, too, will come under our
flag. The old Serb kingdom will be fully restored. Montenegro will join
us, and we shall have borders that are made by the limits of the Serb
race."

"There has been talk of annexing part of Hungary when we win," said
Stepan.

"Slavonia we can take, because it is peopled by our kin, Stepan. But we
want no Magyars under our rule. Let them keep their country. Or else we
should face the troubles we have brought upon them."

Stepan looked at his watch and tossed his head impatiently.

"Time for me to be off," he said. "Why are they so long? I want to see
Dick before I go, but I can't wait much longer--"

He was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Vanya, the soldier who
had gone to fetch Dick.

"He is not there!" he cried. "The boathouse is empty--except for the
boat in which you came!"

Stepan and Milikoff stared at one another, aghast.

"This is Hallo's work!" said Stepan, furiously. "He has a grudge against
this friend of mine! Ah, I see it all now, Milikoff--how he escaped! He
went into the water--you are right! But tell me, now--was it near the
boathouse?"

"Yes, now that I remember, it was."

"Then can't you see what happened? He dived and swam under the door. It
would be easy enough for anyone who could swim at all well and knew the
ground. Heavens, he must have been in there when we first came in with
the boat!"

And now their dismay knew no bounds. Milikoff saw that Stepan was right;
it was exactly what must have happened.

"I'm a dolt--a fool!" he cried, bitterly. "That I never thought to
search the boathouse!"

"Who would have thought?" said Stepan. "But it is no time to think of
what is done and can't be undone. Now, more than ever, I must go after
him. I have to try to save my friend, and it is doubly imperative now
that we should catch Hallo."

"Let me come with you!"

"No. Your work is too important for you to take risks. I will go
alone."



CHAPTER XI

CRAFT AGAINST CRAFT


In the boathouse where Stepan had left him, Dick knew almost as soon as
he saw Mike Hallo's narrow eyes appear around the closet door, that Mike
had not seen him as yet. But he was too frightened to take any advantage
of that consciously. Dick had proved that he was not a coward, and yet
he was afraid of Hallo. He knew that the man hated him, and, for some
reason, feared him. And here, where he would be so completely in his
power, there would be nothing to restrain Hallo. He would not even have
to call in the police to help him; he could get rid of a boy who
threatened him without a witness. And Dick knew enough of Mike Hallo to
feel that he would not be deterred by any scruples.

In another moment Mike's little eyes, peering around the dimly lighted
room, but not yet well enough accustomed to even that much light after
the utter darkness of the closet, would have fallen on Dick. But fear
loosened Dick's hold on the electric flashlight that, by pure chance,
happened to be in his hand. He started with dismay and tried to catch
it, succeeding partly, so that it made only the faintest of noises as it
struck a button of his coat. But that was enough. Hallo heard it, and
started.

Yet it was that trifling accident that saved Dick. For Hallo, startled,
and nervous himself, as of course he had good cause to be, better cause
than Dick could guess, darted back into his closet at once. For a moment
as Dick stared at it with fixed eyes, the closet door remained ajar.
Then very slowly, very quietly, it was drawn to, until it clicked, and
was firmly closed. On the instant, then, Dick moved.

He took the chance of being heard, and made a swift dash for the boat.
His reason was a twofold one. For one thing, it offered the only
possible place of concealment, aside from the closet that Mike Hallo had
already preëmpted for himself, and it contained the weapons of which
Steve had told him. Dick knew how to use a pistol, and he felt that with
a gun of some sort in his possession he would have a chance at least
with Hallo, even if he were armed. He would not hesitate to shoot, he
told himself, if he had to. He had reason enough to believe that Hallo
would not spare him, and in self-defence he would be justified in taking
any means to save himself.

But he did not think it was particularly likely that it would come to
anything so desperate now as a hand-to-hand struggle. He was recovering
his nerve, and the panic that had possessed him when he had first seen
Hallo's face had passed. Once he was in the boat, well concealed by the
steel hood, he felt that the odds were in his favor, rather than against
him, and he could stop to think and reason, which he had certainly not
been able to do in the first moment of shocked surprise.

He felt the main thing that favored him was that Hallo was at least as
badly frightened as he was himself. And that, after all, stood to
reason. The very fact that the man was here at all seemed to Dick proof
that he knew the character of this place, and that he was here as a spy.
Then he would naturally be startled by a sudden sound, for he would
think that it betokened the return of one of the Servian spies who used
this as a hiding place and refuge.

"He would know, of course," Dick thought, "that they wouldn't hesitate
any more over shooting him than if he were a mad dog. They couldn't,
because he isn't threatening only their safety by being here, but their
whole plan. And men who are brave enough to be spies in time of war
aren't thinking of themselves at all, but of their country."

This was comforting reasoning for Dick, because it made it vastly
improbable that Hallo would come out to look for him. He would be
concerned with the problem of escaping himself; he would not think of
looking for anyone else, but of preventing someone who was looking for
him from finding him. So it seemed likely to Dick that he would escape
any sort of personal encounter with Hallo, and he was glad of that. He
had the same feeling that Stepan had expressed to Milikoff, although, of
course, he knew nothing of that talk, nor of how Hallo had happened to
come to this place. It seemed to him that Hallo would be worth more to
the Servians alive than dead, and it was certain that the only chance
for the success of the mission that had brought him from New York to
Semlin would be gone if anything happened to Hallo.

From his position, crouched down in the bottom of the boat, Dick could
see the closet door. And, as it began to move again, after five nerve
racking minutes, Dick clutched his revolver, feeling that it was a
pretty good thing to have as an ally, even if it was so unlikely that he
would have occasion to use it. His fear had passed away altogether by
this time, and a bold plan was beginning to come into his mind. But its
execution depended upon Hallo and what that swindler might do next.

For just a second, as Hallo came out into the boathouse, Dick thought of
starting up suddenly, covering him with a revolver, and forcing him to
surrender. But he decided against that. Mike Hallo, as he knew, was not
without a certain crude sort of physical courage. If he was armed--as it
was practically certain that he was--he might be able to put up a good
struggle. And, though Dick was no longer afraid for himself, he felt
that it would involve too great a risk of letting the man get clear away
if he followed his impulse.

So he kept perfectly still, instead, while Hallo came out and finally
stood in the middle of the part of the boathouse that had a floor. He
leaned forward, like a bird dog when it is in doubt, and seemed to be
sniffing the air, though Dick knew that he was really only listening
with concentrated attention. He was listening, not for a real noise, but
for those almost inevitable sounds that the quietest person must make.
It seemed extraordinary to Dick that Mike could not hear his breathing,
or the beating of his heart, which sounded so abnormally loud to him.
But hear them Mike did not, evidently, for after a moment he relaxed and
heaved a sigh of relief.

"I'm getting jumpy," he said to himself, aloud, in English. "I guess
that wasn't anything I heard before. Just a board creaking, maybe!"

Dick grinned and maintained his silence. And then Hallo, after walking
about for half a minute, looked toward the boat.

"If only I knew how to run that!" he said, still aloud.

But, fortunately for Dick, and for Servia, as it was to turn out, he
knew nothing of the intricate mechanism of the boat, and so he did not
even come over to the water's edge for a closer inspection. Instead, he
made for the door, flung it open, and strode out as it banged to behind
him.

Dick was after him like a flash, but with his hand on the knob some
instinct made him let go and shrink back against the wall. His instinct
served him well indeed, for as he did so the door was flung open
violently, and Hallo stood in it, looking all about the boathouse a
second time.

"Not a soul!" he said aloud. "I must have been dreaming when I heard
that noise!"

And all the time Dick was within a foot of him, his pistol gripped
tight, ready for anything that might happen!

This time he did not close the door, but turned and walked away. That
very action proved that he was no longer afraid that anyone was behind
him, for he would not have turned his back had there been any lingering
doubt.

And now Dick, giving him a good start, stole after him. He had hesitated
as to whether or not he should do so. He had promised to wait for
Stepan's return, and he did not like to go without some explanation. But
it seemed to him that it was of the utmost importance for him to follow
Hallo.

"He's not supposed to be here or to know anything about this place," he
said to himself. "And now he may do anything, or go anywhere. He may
betray all sorts of secrets. I don't know how long he was in that
closet before we came, nor how much he heard--nor what the things he
heard meant to him. I didn't understand, but that's no reason for
thinking that he didn't. Yes, I'll have to take the chance of worrying
Steve and upsetting his plans. I'm going after Mike Hallo. He's my
quarry to-night!"

Dick knew that he was taking chances, and perhaps big chances, when he
set out to follow Hallo. But he did not stop to think very much about
them. He did not have time to think of anything but the work in hand,
for Hallo, not content with walking fast, had broken into a run.

Dick understood the reason for that when, in his turn, he heard
footsteps; that was what had frightened his man into beginning to run.
And Dick ran too, not knowing that the steps were those of Vanya, the
soldier, who was on his way to the boathouse with the message from
Stepan.

Hallo had all the advantage. He knew the country and Dick did not.
Moreover, he could set the pace, and Dick had to follow. To lose sight
of Hallo even for a moment meant to risk losing him altogether. And
Dick, moreover, dared not follow too closely. He had to be far enough
behind to make it impossible for Hallo to learn of his pursuit by
stopping suddenly, or making a quick turn.

It was a wild chase that Dick had. Hallo, for a man of his size and
years--he was well over forty--made surprisingly good time, and gave
Dick, as a matter of fact, all he could do to keep him in sight. And the
way was long. Dick was greatly relieved when they came at last from open
country into a section where houses were closer together and streets
began to take form. In a measure his own risk was greater as they
approached the town, but it was also possible for him to get much closer
to the man he was trailing, since shelter was so much more frequent. The
danger here was of running into the police, but Dick did not greatly
fear that.

"I needn't worry about the ordinary policemen," he told himself. "I
don't believe they know me at all. I could probably go up to any of
them and ask the time, or the way to the railway station, and get away
with it all right. It's only the ones who were on my track after I'd
been to Hallo's office that I've got to look out for, and I'm not sure
that even they would know me."

And now Hallo himself unwittingly made it safer and easier for his
dogged pursuer, for instead of going toward the central part of Semlin,
where policemen would be more numerous, and where the men who had gone
to make the arrest at Dick's lodgings were almost sure to be posted, he
circled through the poorer quarter toward the commercial district by the
river.

"Oh, this is fine!" thought Dick. "I'll bet he's going to his office
before he makes any report. I wonder if Stepan will think of him when
I'm missing?"

Dick had to move up very close here, for the streets were crowded with
people, and it would have been easy for him to lose his man in the
jumble of figures. Several times now Hallo, as he neared his office,
was stopped by passersby. He shook them off impatiently when they tried
to detain him, however, and once Dick was near enough to hear him say,
in an impatient tone: "Let me go! I have an appointment to keep at my
warehouse."

And now Dick had a new inspiration. He determined to take a chance. And
instead of following Hallo, he seized the opportunity when someone had
stopped the Hungarian for a moment, and darted well ahead. He got a good
start, and turned the corner of the block leading to the warehouse well
ahead of Hallo. In a moment he was inside. Luck was with him, and he hid
himself behind a big packing case in Hallo's room.



CHAPTER XII

IN THE NICK OF TIME


Crouched behind the packing case, Dick waited, wondering what was to
come next. Now that he was here, he felt that he had done a foolish
thing, and one only likely to lead to more trouble. There was so little
chance for him to accomplish anything of value, and he was not even sure
that Hallo would come here at all. Perhaps he was going somewhere else,
and he had simply walked into a trap without even a chance of getting
any results.

Yet luck had been with him so far in good measure. He had been almost
marvelously lucky in the boathouse. That Hallo had not seen him there
had been due only to fortune, and scarcely at all, in the first perilous
moment, to any action of his own. And he had been lucky again in his
trip into the city with Hallo ahead of him. In war time, as he knew,
people were likely to be suspicious of any stranger, even of one acting
in the most ordinary fashion. And his behavior, as he dodged and trailed
after Hallo, had been more than suspicious.

And finally, too, his getting into Hallo's office and finding a place to
conceal himself so well had been luck of the greatest sort. He had taken
a wild chance when he darted ahead of his man, for he might well have
found the door closed and locked, and have been caught by Hallo before
he could have got away. But he had staked everything on the hazard that
there ought to be a night watchman, as there would be, he knew, in any
American warehouse. And a night watchman there was. He had seen the
light of a man's lantern, as he came up to the door, from a second floor
window. The door had been open, and so he had slipped in.

The very fact that the door was open, too, encouraged him. It seemed to
him to make it certain that Hallo was expected some time that night. And
then a sound of brisk footsteps on the uncarpeted floor just outside the
office set his pulses leaping. Was it Hallo?

He could not tell, and he dared not emerge from his shelter enough to
see. In a moment the room was light, but Dick was still hidden, and the
movements of whoever had come in were hidden from him, too. But he was
sure of one thing after a very few moments. It was not Hallo with whom
he now shared the room. The newcomer's movements were too brisk, too
quick, for Hallo, who was slow moving, rather heavy footed, though agile
enough when it was necessary. Consumed by curiosity, Dick gradually
edged over so that he might have a chance to steal a look around the
edge of the big packing case without being seen himself.

He succeeded at last, and just as he looked around, the door was opened.
Hallo came in, and Dick darted back--but not until he had seen that the
other occupant of the room was Stepan Dushan! Now he felt that he was
amply justified for what he had done. Steve was here, and between them
there should be a chance to do something, he thought!

"What are you doing here?" growled Hallo, as he saw Stepan.

"I came to try to catch up with my work, sir," said Stepan, meekly.
"Since I could not be here to-day during the day, I thought it would be
better if I got ready for to-morrow, so that in the morning no time
would be lost."

"H'mph!" growled Hallo. He hesitated for a moment; then, half satisfied,
sat down at his desk.

"Did you have a fall, sir?" asked Stepan, and Dick almost choked with
laughter at his tone. "You're all covered with mud. Shall I get a brush
and try to take some of it off?"

"No! Attend to your work!" roared Hallo. "Or here--clear out of here!
I'm going to be busy, and I want to be alone."

It seemed to Dick that Stepan was hesitating, that he was on the verge
of refusing to obey, and so of giving everything away. But he yielded,
after just a moment's pause.

"Very well, sir," he said. "I'll go down to the stock-room and make the
tally from last night's sheets."

"All right. Be off!" said Hallo, ungraciously.

And now one thing filled Dick's mind. How much had Hallo seen or heard
while he was hidden in the closet of the boathouse? Did he know Stepan's
real work, and the part he was playing in these stirring times? If he
did, and had concealed his knowledge, it meant that he was laying a trap
for Stepan, and it meant, too, that he was a good actor, for he had
managed to conceal his knowledge admirably if he really possessed it.

Nothing that Dick knew of Hallo made it seem at all likely that he could
dissemble well enough to keep from betraying his knowledge, if he had
it. But Dick felt that it would not be safe to assume that, because his
father had trusted Hallo to a great extent, and had supposed him to be
an honorable business man, and there had certainly never been anything
in his conduct to suggest that he would behave as he had done. And,
moreover in New York he had seemed a plodding, stolid business man, and
had never seemed to have it in him to play a part in the sort of
intrigue that so evidently occupied much of his time in Semlin.

For a time the room was absolutely quiet. Dick wondered where Steve had
gone. He was sure, somehow, that his chum was within reach, probably
within hearing, waiting like himself for Hallo to do something. And Dick
guessed, too, that Steve must have discovered by this time that the
boathouse was empty, and thought that perhaps it was in search of him
that Steve was here. That worried him, but for the time there was
nothing to be done; he could only wait. The one preparation he could
make for whatever might be coming was to get very close to the edge of
his shelter, so that he could with little risk peep out from time to
time. Each time that he looked out he saw Hallo, head bent low over the
table, writing furiously.

Then came the break in the tension. Outside, echoing on the flags, came
hurried footsteps. Dick listened eagerly. They turned in and came
clattering up the steps. He dared not risk a peep just then to see who
was coming. For the time, he decided, his ears must do the work of his
eyes as well as their own share. He heard Hallo spring up, overturning
his chair.

"You! Here?" cried Hallo, in a low voice. "Are you mad, man?"

"No. I had to come," said the newcomer. "It was impossible to send word,
and you had to know--someone had to know! I suppose it was risky for me
to come here, but they are all at work. All except Milikoff, and I don't
know where he is."

"He led a band of assassins who tried to kill me earlier in the
evening," growled Hallo. "But there are others, at least two others,
here somewhere. They came in this evening, from the other side."

"From the other side?" said the stranger, in amazement. "But how could
that be? The river front is guarded so that a strange fly could hardly
cross from Belgrade to Semlin!"

"Don't you know of the boathouse near Milikoff's place?"

Hallo's tone was suddenly menacing. Dick could imagine that he was
leaning forward, pushing his heavy jaw into the face of the other man.
He remembered that trick of the Hungarian's.

"Boathouse--near Milikoff's? No!" stammered the other. "I never heard of
it before!"

"H'mph!" Hallo's voice expressed doubt, distrust. "Perhaps not! Well, I
came upon it by chance to-night, and it saved my life. They seized me
to-night when I was in conference with them--the treacherous hounds! But
they are Servians! I might have expected it! I escaped, and they chased
me! They chased me right into the Danube! I swam, while they peppered
the water. They had those new silencers, so that it was safe to shoot.
And by the merest chance, when I was nearly exhausted, I suddenly saw a
door in front of me, as I was trying to swim ashore in an inlet, in the
hope of escaping after I had landed. I dived, and came up in a
boathouse. The door could be raised, you see, to admit a boat. There
was a closet, and I hid."

"That is news to me! I never heard that there was such a place!"

"I drew the closet door to when I heard a man come in. Soon afterward a
motor boat entered, and two men landed from her. I could hear their
voices dully--that closet door was thick, and it was so hot and close
inside that I was almost suffocated. I do not know who they were except
that I think Vanya, the soldier, was the man who opened for them. Later,
when they had gone, I got out and came here."

"It is good that you came. Master, it is to-night that they plan to
strike a great blow. They have dug a tunnel beneath the arsenal. I am
almost sure that it is to-night they have chosen to explode a great mine
that will destroy the arsenal completely, with all the stores and guns
it contains!"

Hallo swore savagely.

"You have done well!" he said. "Eh, there is time yet, you think, to
stop them? How is it that you do not know more concerning their plans?"

"They do not trust me wholly. I know only what I can learn by spying and
ferreting about. They tell me almost nothing. But I am sure that I am
right. Look--I will draw you a plan that will show you where the tunnel
is. I think that if you hasten you can catch most of them like rats in a
trap. Milikoff is not there. He is the most dangerous of all, save one."

"Who is more dangerous than Milikoff?"

"The boy Stepan Dushan!"

"Stepan Dushan! I do not believe there is such a boy! You tell me of
him, but you can never show him to me!"

For a moment Dick could not understand. But then he smiled at his own
stupidity. Of course Steve was known to Mike Hallo under an assumed
name; he would never have used his own, so obviously that of a Servian.

"It makes no difference whether you believe me or not, I am telling you
the truth," said the newcomer with a show of spirit. "He is young, but
he has done more to discover the truth than any of them. He has brought
information of the concentration of the Austrian troops along the Drina.
It is through him that they learned where the stores and supplies were
being massed in the mountains there. I told you yesterday of the plans
that were made for a Servian raid, but it was too late. A raiding column
crossed the Drina last night and destroyed most of the stores you had
collected."

"There has been a leak somewhere in my own place!" said Hallo, savagely.
"Even the men who executed the orders did not know where those supplies
were going! I trusted no one!"

"That is just the bad part of it, master," said the spy. "They will be
saying next that you yourself gave away the truth to the Servians."

"Who will believe them?"

"If it is known that you have been in touch with Milikoff?"

"It is known, fool! It is known that I am treating with them simply to
gain information of their plans. But now--it is no time for talk. We
must move quickly, or they will explode their mine."

He lifted his voice in a sudden shout.

"Jan!" he cried. "Jan!"

And then Dick's heart sank. That must be meant for Steve--and to answer
meant deadly peril for Stepan Dushan, since the spy, who had so plainly
been betraying Servian secrets to Hallo, knew Stepan. Dick edged
forward, waiting, wondering. Now he caught a glimpse of the spy, and
then he drew back, as he saw that both Hallo and the other man had come
very close to him. They stood just by the box that sheltered him.

"Jan!" cried Hallo again.

"Here I am!" said Stepan's voice. And then, "Serge!"

"Stepan Dushan! That is Stepan Dushan!" shrieked the spy.

Then, before anything more could happen, Dick had an inspiration. He
threw his whole weight against the heavy packing case, straining,
pushing. It trembled, gave, and then crashed down, bearing Hallo and the
spy down beneath its crushing weight, sending them down, stunned and
helpless.



CHAPTER XIII

FACE TO FACE


"You, Dick? Thank God!" cried Stepan. Then his face flushed, and he came
forward, furiously. He dragged the spy out, looked at his face, and then
spurned him with his foot.

"You saved my life, I think, Dick," he said, simply. "I never suspected
this! Treachery in our ranks. I had not supposed that any Servian would
sell his country. Mike Hallo, of course, we never trusted--but this man!
Well, he will pay in one way or another."

"I knew what was going to happen. I was here and heard them talking."

"I didn't even know he had come. I had made some discoveries below, and
was hard at work. I knew that Hallo would not leave without my
knowledge. He would not have wanted to leave me here alone in the
warehouse. But, Dick, how did you get here? How did you come to leave
the boathouse? I asked you to wait there, you know."

"How did you know I had gone?"

"Vanya, the soldier, told us. I sent him to fetch you. And when we
learned that you had gone, we suspected that Hallo had had some part in
it, for by then I had been told that he had escaped after they had
caught him. But you don't know about that--"

"Don't I though? I was there listening, while he told this other fellow
all about it. He was in the boathouse when we landed, Steve!"

"Ah! I knew it! I told Milikoff so! That was how he escaped! But how did
you come here--free?"

Dick told his story as quickly as he could; told of how he had escaped
from detection in the boathouse because Hallo had been even more
frightened than he himself, if anything, and of his wild chase after the
Hungarian.

"I was afraid I had done wrong in going--afraid that I should have
stayed in the boathouse and waited for you to come. Did you come here
after me, Steve? Wasn't that your purpose?"

"Yes, in a way. I thought that Hallo had something to do with your
disappearance, and I never dreamed of your being able to fool him as you
did! But I should have come in any case. Milikoff and I had decided that
before we knew that you had vanished. And if you hadn't been here, Dick,
they would have killed me, I think, when this wretched traitor told
Hallo that I had been deceiving him."

"He told him more than that, though Hallo did not know it was you of
whom they talked, Steve. This spy told him that you were the most
dangerous of all--and Hallo said he didn't believe there was any such
person as Stepan Dushan!"

They both laughed, and Steve laughed still more when he heard of Hallo's
mystification and fury about the revelation of the hiding places of the
stores on the Drina.

"That was what made us sure that Austria had decided for war," he said.
"We knew that she would not prepare for an invasion there so secretly
otherwise. That was why we knew that it would be useless to agree to her
terms, even if that had been possible."

"Hallo said no one but himself knew about those stores."

"He was nearly right--but a miss is as good as a mile," said Stepan,
with a laugh. "He knew--and the staff knew--and I knew! I found out all
about those things by reading his private letters, Dick. That was the
part I hated most about the work. I had to read all his letters after we
became sure of what he was doing. It made me feel wretched at first, as
if I were doing something very dishonorable."

"But you weren't doing it for a dishonorable reason, Steve. Still I can
see how you felt."

"But I didn't feel that way very long, Dick, because I soon found out
what a miserable cheat and swindler he was! You were surprised, you
know, when you found out that I knew all about you."

"I certainly was! I never was so much surprised in all my life!" said
Dick very quickly.

"Well, I may have some more surprises for you still, Dick. I'm not sure,
but I do know some things I haven't told you yet."

"You do, Steve? Why can't you tell me now?"

"I can, but I want to make sure that they will be of some use to you
before I do. If I told you some things I know, they might make you
change your plans, and then they might not be of any value, after all.
They might only put you off. You see, when I first found out these
things about the way he had treated you, I didn't know you and didn't
have any reason at all to suppose that I ever would, or that I'd ever
even see you. New York's a long way off--and, of course, I was more
interested in what was going on here, because I knew that this war might
come along at any moment, and I was here just to see what I could do for
Servia and to interfere with the things we had reason to suppose Mike
Hallo was doing for the Austrians."

"Of course. I can understand that, Steve. There wasn't any reason for
you to do as much as you did, and to take all the interest you did in
me, when you didn't know anything about me."

"Well, at first I just wanted to help you because I hated him so. I
thought there was a chance to spoil the trick he was trying to play on
you. When I found that he was planning to get rid of you by having you
arrested before you could get back to the American consulate I wanted to
trip him up."

"You certainly did a lot for me, Steve. I don't know whether I'll ever
be able to get anything out of him, but if I do it will be due to you.
If they had ever got me out of here and away to Buda-Pesth, I'd never
have been able to come back, even if they had not managed to trump up
some charge against me and kept me in prison for a long time."

"Oh, they would have done that, Dick, of course. That was the idea. And
it's very easy for them to manage such things here. As easy as it used
to be in France before the revolution there."

"What are we going to do now, Steve?"

Dick looked down at the helpless figures of the two men on the floor.
Neither of the scouts had paid much attention to them as yet, but now
they leaned down and examined them.

"They're not badly hurt," said Steve, contemptuously. "They saw the
crate falling and so did I. And they tried to jump. So it didn't fall
full on top of them, but struck glancing blows on their heads and almost
pushed them out of the way. I don't see how you ever got it going at
all, all by yourself! It looks terribly heavy."

"I think it was because it wasn't very well balanced, Steve. If it had
been turned the other way probably I couldn't have budged it. But the
heavy end was on top, which made it go over. I sort of jumped at it, and
that gave it the start."

"I'm afraid we'll have to leave them here," said Steve. "I wish there
was some way for us to take them along, but I don't see how we can. We
might be able to drag Hallo with us, but we wouldn't get very far."

"I suppose not. He has lots of friends, hasn't he? I saw ever so many
people stop and speak to him when I was following him on the way here."

"I don't think he's got many friends, but there are a lot of people who
know him, all right. Still, it isn't that--it would be making ourselves
conspicuous by having him with us at all."

"It would be a good thing to take him, though, if we could, wouldn't
it?"

"Oh, yes. The best thing in the world! If we could only get him to our
boat and carry him back to Belgrade!"

"Steve, how about the men who are working in the tunnel under the
arsenal?"

"What do you mean? What do you know about the tunnel under the arsenal?"

Steve was startled and dismayed, but Dick laughed at him.

"That's all I know," he said. "Just that there is such a thing, Steve.
You needn't be frightened--I haven't been spying around. But this man
that came here to see Mike Hallo knew all about it. He told him the mine
was going to be sprung to-night, and that they must hasten to stop it."

"That ends the last doubt! He is a traitor!" said Steve. "He surely will
have to pay the price of treachery, too, when there is an opportunity."

"Do you mean that they will kill him?"

"What else can be done? It is his life against a nation, Dick. A man
like that may cause a thousand deaths by betraying a single secret.
But--about the men in the tunnel. I might have known that there was some
good reason for your knowing. Yes, it is true. There are men working
there, and they will try to explode their mine and blow up the arsenal
to-night."

"Can't you reach them? I think that two or three men might get Hallo
through the town and to the boathouse. They could pretend that he was
drunk, and that they were helping him along, if he was still
unconscious."

"Dick, I think you've hit on the right idea again! I'll try to get them.
But suppose they come to first?"

"If we tied them up?" was Dick's suggestion.

"It would be risky. The watchman may come here at any moment after he
hears no more voices."

"Yes, that's so. How long would it take you to go?"

"To go and come back? Twenty minutes, perhaps."

"Then go! Don't delay any longer, and I will stay here and keep watch."

"In here? No, it is too dangerous. I am afraid now, if they learn what
you have done for us, they will be able to make a real charge against
you, and that even your consul could not help you to escape severe
punishment."

"I would not wait here--not in here, Steve. I would watch outside. Look!
Do you see these grains of corn?"

He picked up a handful of the kernels from a sample basket on the table.

"Yes. What about them, Dick?"

"I will keep watch. If he comes out, I will follow him and every three
or four feet I will let a little of this corn drop, so that it will mark
a trail for you to follow. Do you see the idea?"

"Yes, and that is magnificent, Dick! That is the best chance we shall
ever have of catching him. It will be better for him to come out, for he
will lead you away from the busier part of the city, perhaps, so that it
will be easier for us to take him! I'm off! I think we have a chance to
get the scoundrel this time, thanks to you!"

They slipped out together, leaving the two unconscious men.

"I think Hallo will come to before long," said Dick. "The other will
take longer for he seemed to be more badly stunned, or else he's not as
strong as Hallo. Will Mike leave him there, do you think?"

"Yes. Why not? He will be thinking of his own precious skin, you may be
sure. Good luck, Dick! I'll be back just as soon as I can!"

"Yes--hurry! But I think we'll be all right."

Dick took his place in a dark doorway on the opposite side of the
street and began his vigil. The seconds seemed to drag by endlessly, but
Dick never took his eyes from the entrance of the warehouse. And at
last--he had really been waiting less than ten minutes!--he was
rewarded. Hallo came out holding his hand to his head, staggering a
little as he walked. Dick gave him a start, and then crossed and
followed. He dropped his corn as he went, and his hand was on the
automatic pistol in his pocket, which somehow gave him a sense of
security.

Hallo turned a corner; Dick hurried a little. And, as he rounded the
corner in his turn, there was Hallo--waiting! At the sight of Dick he
almost screamed, but choked the cry.

"So it's you, is it?" he cried. He made a savage rush, his arms
outstretched like those of a gorilla.



CHAPTER XIV

THE EXPLOSION


But the sight of the wicked looking little gun in Dick's hand stopped
his rush. Mouthing his words, venomous hate in his eyes, he checked
himself.

"What do you want, you little devil?" he said, grittingly.

"Turn around!" said Dick, savagely. Somehow that wild rush that had
stopped just as the man's cruel arms were about to close about him had
aroused something in Dick that he had never felt before. For the first
time he knew what it meant to see red. He felt that he would like to
have Hallo down and beat him with his fists, with the butt of his
pistol--with anything, if it would only hurt his enemy enough!

Hallo tried to meet his eyes for a moment. Then he turned round, so that
his back was to Dick. The scout pressed the muzzle of the little
automatic, that, despite its tiny proportions, was still such a deadly
weapon, into the small of Hallo's back.

"Do you feel that?" he said. "And do you know that I can't miss when
you're so close to me? Don't think I am afraid to shoot because I tell
you right now, Mike Hallo, that I'll fire the first time you don't do
exactly as I say."

"You'll pay for this!" said Hallo, furiously. "This isn't America, with
its lynchings, where people can take the law into their own hands."

"You needn't sneer at America!" said Dick, with cold anger in his voice.
"You earned a good living there, and made a small fortune--and you stole
another! Now, then, step forward! Slowly--and go straight ahead until I
tell you to turn."

With a snarl Hallo obeyed. And Dick, as he went along behind him,
keeping the pistol in such a position that he could use it on the
instant, began to talk to him.

"You're a joke, Mike Hallo," he said, contemptuously. "The next time you
try to swindle someone, don't pick an American family. You thought you
were safe here, because we didn't have the money to hire big lawyers to
go after you, didn't you? You never expected to see me here in Semlin.
And when you did, you thought you'd fixed me by getting them to arrest
me!"

"I had nothing to do with that," protested Hallo. His blustering, savage
mood seemed to be passing, and he was disposed to cringe.

"Oh, no!" said Dick. "Of course not! You didn't want me to be driven out
of Semlin! You wanted me to stay here and get back the money you stole
from my father. You don't care anything about money, either, I suppose?
Oh, no! You don't care any more about money than you do about your right
hand! You wouldn't do anything to turn a dishonest penny except murder
and treason and robbery, would you?"

"Dick, I've always been friendly to you and your family," said Hallo,
tremulously. "I'm half an American. I tell you what I'll do. We'll let
bygones be bygones. I lost more than your family did in the failure,
back there in New York, of course. But I've done pretty well since I
came home here to Hungary."

"I should think so!" said Dick. "How much has the Austrian government
paid you for the spy's work you have done? Why, you even cheated your
government! You're not even a patriot!"

For the first time, seemingly, Hallo guessed that Dick might have
something to do with the enemies he really feared--the Servians with
whom he had been playing fast and loose for weeks.

"What do you mean by that?" he cried, turning half around in his
eagerness.

Dick jammed the pistol into his ribs to remind him of it.

"Go on! Keep your face turned away from me! I don't like the looks of
it!" he said, viciously.

"Do you know Stepan Dushan?" asked Hallo.

"You'd like to know, wouldn't you?" said Dick.

"See here, Dick, there's no use in your being angry at me any more.
Perhaps I was mistaken. I will tell you, in any case, what I will do. I
will overlook everything that you have done here in Semlin, and I will
arrange to have the police charge against you withdrawn. That is a very
serious matter, let me tell you. If I did not have a great deal of
influence with the big people here it would be quite impossible to
arrange it. And I will give you, besides, twenty-five thousand dollars!"

Dick laughed.

"Go on," he said. "Walk faster!"

"Thirty-five thousand--"

"If you offered a million, I would believe you just as easily," said
Dick. "I know you for just what you are, Mike Hallo! You're a low down
liar and cheat and swindler, and I wouldn't believe you under oath. If I
accepted your proposition, you'd never pay me a cent, and you'd do your
best to get me into prison here besides."

"No--no--I'm telling you the truth, Dick! I will do it, I swear it! Do
you think I have no gratitude? It is of the greatest possible importance
that I should be free at once to attend to some pressing business!"

"It isn't half so important as you think, Mike," said Dick, with a
laugh. "And you're attending to some very pressing business right now,
too. The most pressing business you ever had in your life is to keep
right on walking the way I tell you to and moving as fast as you can,
too."

"But, Dick, I tell you I shall be ruined if you make me go on! How can I
pay back the money you came for if I am ruined?"

"I don't know--and I'm not trying to guess riddles to-night. It seems to
agree with you pretty well to be ruined, though. You made a lot of money
out of being ruined in New York, didn't you?"

"Dick, I have known you since you were a baby! Your father was my best
friend--"

"Don't remind me of that!" said Dick, angrily. He had been a little
amused by Hallo's desperate pleading, but this reference to his father,
whom the man before him had treated so outrageously, revived his anger.
"The best chance you've got to get through right now is for me to forget
about how friendly you were with my father and how you began to cheat
him as soon as he was dead and couldn't watch you any longer!"

"Dick, I will make a last appeal! In the safe in my office there is
money--a great sum of money! You can have all of it--every florin! There
is much more there than you ever said I owed your mother! The
combination of the safe is written in the pocket book in my right hand
pocket. Take it out--go back and get the money. I will write out an
order for you to take it--I will write out an admission that I cheated
your family! Only, let me go before it is too late!"

"No--nothing doing! Straight ahead!"

Perhaps there was a certain note of finality in Dick's voice; perhaps
Hallo was just trying to think of some new temptation to put before him.
He was silent, at any rate and so, for a minute, was Dick. Dick was
really greatly amused by Hallo's pleadings. And now he could not resist
a dig. It was revenge, and he took it without delay.

"This ought to be a lesson to you, Mr. Hallo," he said. "I remember that
when I was a little bit of a chap you were always telling me
that--saying that this thing or that ought to be a lesson to me. Do you
remember?"

Hallo did not answer.

"You did, anyhow. Well, this ought to teach you that a business man
ought always to act so that people trust him. You haven't, you see.
People know you're a liar and a cheat, and so they don't believe you
even when you are telling the truth. You may have meant to do all the
things you've promised me to-night, but how could I take a chance on you
when I knew the truth about the way you've acted before? A reputation's
a good thing--I've always heard that, and now I know it."

Dick chuckled, but Hallo made no sound of any sort. Dick could imagine,
however, the workings of his mind, and he did not envy the helpless man
in front of him. Neither was he sorry for him. If Hallo was in a bad
way, he had himself to thank for it. Dick could respect him, in a way,
for his dealings with the Servians and the whole conduct of the man in
his relations with the Austrian authorities and the enemy. He might be a
good patriot. All the things he had done in connection with the sale of
supplies to the army and the attempts he had made to break up the
Servian system of espionage might be perfectly legitimate.

Even though Dick was heart and soul on the Servian side, he could
respect any sincerely patriotic Austrian or Hungarian. But he doubted
whether Hallo was capable of being either sincere or patriotic; he had
an idea that the man was a patriot simply because he saw a chance to
make money out of his patriotism.

"He is in a bad way, though," Dick thought. "They'll blame him for all
the things that have gone wrong, and if he has acted here the way he did
in New York, they'll believe that he did it deliberately too. They won't
give him the benefit of the doubt; they'll be sure he was a traitor,
instead of just a fool, and he will suffer for it too."

Dick was keeping his pistol carefully concealed. Whenever anyone came in
sight, to whom Hallo might have appealed for aid, he reminded him of the
existence of the pistol by tickling his ribs with it. But very few
people were abroad. It was late, and Dick was purposely choosing
unfrequented streets.

For more than the first time Dick was deeply grateful for his excellent
bump of locality, which his service with the Boy Scouts had done so much
to develop. It was comparatively easy for him to follow the course he
had planned, and he knew that with every step they were getting further
from the heart of Semlin and nearer the boathouse which was his
destination. There was every reason to suppose, too, that he would not
have to handle Hallo single-handed much longer. Behind him, when he
glanced back from time to time, the trail was plainly marked by the
little scatterings of corn.

"I'm glad it's night time," he reflected, with a grin. "In daylight
there would be birds after that corn, and it wouldn't serve as a trail
for very long. But it's good fun; it's like a paper chase, or hare and
hounds. Only this time the hare wants to be caught!"

Then he thought of Hallo, and decided that at least one of the hares
wasn't anxious to be caught at all.

"Still he doesn't know what I'm doing, I guess," thought Dick, "There's
no use in spoiling the pleasure of this little walk for him by telling
him, either. He'll know soon enough, if I have any luck."

They were in open country by this time, with very few houses in sight.
Suddenly Hallo broke out.

"Where are you taking me?" he cried, fearfully.

"Oh, you're beginning to recognize the route now, are you? Yes, we're
going back to the place you came away from in such a hurry not so very
long ago!"

"You were there!" said Hallo; suddenly, "I thought I knew your voice--in
the boathouse! That was you who came in the launch?"

"I don't have to answer," said Dick. "Hurry along! You slow up when you
talk. And your talk isn't interesting enough to make it worth while to
delay."

"I--"

Whatever Hallo meant to say was never finished. For suddenly the ground
shook, and there was a dreadful roar. A huge flash lit up the sky, and
behind them bedlam seemed to break loose. There was a succession of
reports, like repeated volleys of rifle fire, and sometimes a louder
roar.

"There goes the arsenal, so you can quit worrying," said Dick. "Even if
I let you go now, you couldn't prevent that, could you? Oh, I knew what
you were driving at, all the time!"



CHAPTER XV

THE TABLES TURNED


But even Dick, for all the wild mood of anger that had held him since he
had had Hallo in his power, had to consent to a halt now. If the
Servians planned not only to inflict a severe blow on the Austrians by
the destruction of war material, but to spread terror as well, they
succeeded admirably. For there was not one explosion alone; there was a
series of explosions. And fire spread from the arsenal, too.

"The shells are going off, you see," said Dick, a little awed. "They're
exploding in all directions. I suppose there will be a good deal of
damage. And those cartridges must be sending an awful lot of bullets
around promiscuously."

"I don't think many people will be hurt," said Hallo. Like Dick, he was
awed by the spectacle, and the terrible magnificence of it for the
moment seemed to have driven from his mind all thought of anything but
the explosion itself. "There are very few houses about the arsenal; they
are mostly public buildings of one sort and another. It's not the sort
of neighborhood people choose to live in. Even in time of peace there
may be an accident in an arsenal at any moment--and just as bad an
explosion as this one."

But then, suddenly, Hallo seemed to remember his position.

"You will pay for this!" he cried. "It is your doing, because if you had
let me go I should have stopped that! You are in league with the Servian
spies who have been working here for months, who planned the murder of
the Archduke in Serajevo--"

"Why don't you say I killed him?" suggested Dick. "Forward march, again!
The show is over!"

"Oh, your time will come--and you will cry to me for help then! The
police only had suspicions before, but now they will have facts, and all
the consuls and ambassadors in the world won't be able to help you! It
won't be a matter for the police at all, my lad! It will be a
court-martial that will try you."

"Perhaps. We shall see. Hello, what's this?"

Dick had just been thinking to himself that it was highly fortunate that
they had passed the settled district to the northeast of Semlin before
the explosion, since he could easily imagine the outpouring there must
have been into the streets at that terrific sound. But now there was a
sound of rushing feet, and around a corner, perhaps a quarter of a mile
in front of them, a body of men appeared--troops, coming at the double
quick.

"Here, this way!" said Dick, sharply.

He pointed to a clump of trees beside the road, and forced the reluctant
Hallo to go in before him. The pistol was giving him fine support for it
was very evident that Hallo did not mean to take chances. Dick did not
know, as a matter of fact, whether he would be able to fire if the
necessity arose. To shoot even Mike Hallo in cold blood, and when the
man was helpless to all intents, was something he could not contemplate
without a shudder.

In fact it was partly because Hallo was his enemy that he felt that he
was likely to hesitate, and at a moment when hesitation was likely to be
dangerous, if not fatal.

"I'd feel differently if I didn't have anything against him,
personally," said Dick to himself. "As it is, I'd never be sure, if I
shot him, whether I was doing it in self-defence or because it was a
good chance to get even with him for the things he's done to me and to
my family."

Fortunately, however, Hallo did not put him to the test. Dick realized
that it was a dangerous minute. The seconds that elapsed while the
soldiers were passing in the road were the longest he had ever spent. A
single shout from Hallo would have settled matters. In such times, and
with a reminder of the dangers of the situation such as the destruction
of the arsenal, there would have been an immediate investigation, and,
whatever happened to Hallo himself, Dick would be in a bad case, and he
fully realized his situation.

Dick allowed plenty of time for the soldiers to pass. It did not take
long, as a matter of fact, and he decided that there could have been
only a small detachment, not more than a company of infantry probably.
Hallo might have told him that there were comparatively few troops in
Semlin, and that the greater part of the Austrian forces along the
border were placed at two points, Schabatz, on the Save, and Losnitza,
on the Drina, since it was at those two points that the invasion of
Servia was to be begun, according to the plan of the Austrian General
Staff.

The bombardment of Belgrade was not intended to cover a subsequent
attack, but to serve as a feint, in the hope that a large number of
Servian troops would be retained for the defense of the capital.
Belgrade was of no use to the Austrians. By holding Semlin they could
cut the railway and had every advantage that the occupation of Belgrade
could have given them, except the sentimental value of having
possession of the enemy's capital. Later in the war the Austrians were
to make the grave mistake of occupying Belgrade for just such
sentimental reasons, and the mistake was to be proved by the sacrifice
of an army.

"All right, we can go back to the road again," said Dick, when he had
allowed more than enough time for a rear guard to pass. "Your friends
have held us up. See if you can't move a little faster to make up for
the delay!" and he prodded him with his revolver for emphasis.

Dick had scattered his corn steadily and now, as they went back to the
road, he kicked the kernels that marked their digression aside, since he
knew that Stepan and the others, if they were following, would only
waste time by following the detour into the woods. He had brought a
plentiful supply, and he was glad of it, since he was traveling further
with Hallo than he had thought it at all likely that he could. For some
time he had been listening eagerly for some indication that Stepan and
his friends were approaching, but there had been none. He was not ready
to be worried about them yet, however dangerous as he knew their work
had been, since it was easy to imagine a dozen trifling things that
might have delayed them.

And yet he could think of more serious things, too. There might have
been a premature explosion of the mine, and he shuddered at the thought
of what the fate of the Servians must have been if that was what had
happened. Or they might have been caught as they emerged from the
tunnel. Or--but he shook off such ideas. There was no reason yet to
suppose that everything was not all right. And the important thing was
to get Hallo to the boathouse. It was absolutely vital, now that Hallo
knew about that refuge, and also the identity of his former office boy,
that Hallo should not escape to use his knowledge, since he could do
incalculable mischief to the cause that Dick had now made his own.

Hallo went along stumbling, groaning, growling. Finally Dick did begin
to feel sorry for him. After all, the man was in bad condition. He had
been painfully hurt by the crashing down of the big packing case, and
his fright and escape through the water had weakened and tired him, even
before that. Now he seemed to be in the last stages of exhaustion, and
when he began to plead with Dick on account of his weariness, rather
than with promises or threats, he was on the right track. Perhaps that
feeling threw Dick off his guard for a moment. At any rate, when Hallo
finally made his bid for freedom he chose the most, perhaps the only,
opportune moment.

Dick had taken his eyes off him for a moment, and had loosened his hold
on the butt of his automatic. And just then Hallo stopped suddenly,
whipped back his foot, and tripped Dick neatly and successfully. Dick
went down; before he could reach for the pistol, Hallo was on top of
him. Exhausted though he was, Hallo outweighed Dick still as much as
ever, and he was strong as well. Dick fought well, but the surprise had
been complete. As he reached for the pistol, Hallo seized his arm and
in a moment was twisting it around behind his back in a cruel hammer
lock hold--that deadliest of wrestling grips, that means a broken arm
for the victim unless he yields. The struggle was over in a moment, and
the positions were now completely reversed.

Hallo had the pistol, and he was in as absolute command as Dick had been
while he still held it.

"Ah!" said Hallo. "I said your time would come, Dick, my lad! And it
has! You're in my power now! I could kill you, do you know that?"

Dick did not answer; he was thinking too hard. And there was nothing for
him to say, anyhow. He had been neatly tricked, and, though he was badly
frightened and ready to admit it to himself, it was impossible not to
admire Hallo, so adroit had he been in seizing his one chance of escape.

"Yes, I could kill you easily enough," Hallo repeated. "And no one would
blame me. I have proof that you are a spy, and it is a praiseworthy
thing to kill a spy. But I shall not. I shall be generous to you, Dick,
even if you did not remember our old friendship. I shall take you back
with me, and turn you over to the soldiers, and they will try you
fairly, and let the American consul defend you, and then they will shoot
you."

A perfect frenzy of revenge seemed to seize the Hungarian as Dick
maintained his silence.

"Oh, they will know how to make you talk!" he cried. "Keep still, then,
if you like! I don't care! You would come here after me? You would try
to make me pay back the money you say I took? Well, then, I did take it!
And why not? I could use it better than your foolish family! Ah, Dick,
it does not pay to monkey with the buzz-saw, as your father used to say!
Does it? I am a buzz-saw--yes, that is what I am! Now, then, march! But
turn the other way!"

"I'm not afraid of you," said Dick, breaking his silence at last and
speaking in a contemptuous voice. "I think you're pretty brave, though,
Mike. I didn't think so a little while ago. I thought you were a great
coward. But if you have the courage to go to the army authorities after
the destruction of the arsenal, you are a brave man, and I respect you
for that, even if you are a thief!"

Hallo stared at him stupidly for a moment.

"Eh? What is that?" he said. "No matter! March! You are trying to bluff
me, as you Americans say, and you cannot do it! They will know the truth
when I tell them. They will believe me. They will not think that I had
anything to do with that."

"You say so--but you don't believe what you're saying yourself," said
Dick. "When they hear about how you have been going on, they will think
it funny that you did not know about this plot in time to warn them. Do
you think they will try us at the same time?"

But he stepped out, just the same, for Hallo was beginning to look
dangerous. He looked frightened, too, and Dick felt that it was not at
all certain that Hallo would force him to go all the way. When he had
had time to think for a little of what the attitude of the Austrian
commander was likely to be, Dick thought military headquarters in Semlin
would be about the last place that he would seek!

Even so, however, there did not seem to be much to make Dick hopeful.
For it was just as likely that Hallo would shoot him if he decided to
stay away from Semlin as that he would let him go.

But then there came just the interruption for which Dick had prayed.
Ahead of them appeared half a dozen figures walking swiftly, at their
head a smaller man or boy, his eyes on the ground. Dick's heart gave a
leap.

"Into the field there!" said Hallo, with a growl.

Dick obeyed, scattering the last kernels of corn. And five minutes later
a wild rush, led by Stepan Dushan, caught them. Once more the tables
were turned, and Hallo was a prisoner for the third time that night!



CHAPTER XVI

BELGRADE


Now there was plain sailing before them. The Servians were all armed,
and they had proved that night, if it needed proof, that they had the
sort of courage that enables a man to take the one chance of escape in a
hundred when a desperate thing is to be done. No ordinary obstacle could
possibly keep them from the boathouse now.

Relieved of his care of Hallo, Dick fell into step beside Stepan.

"You saved the day for us," said Stepan. "If you had not been there, he
would have caught me--and he would have been in time to save the arsenal
from destruction. That is going to prove the most important feat of the
war, I do believe. There will be great news soon unless I am greatly
mistaken. Now tell me of what happened after I left you."

"There isn't much to tell," said Dick. "He was clever enough to think
that he might be followed and trapped me--but, after all, it was better
so. I should have had to try to stop him if he had gone into a house,
and the place might not have been so quiet and deserted as the one he
chose."

Dick went on to tell of the strange walk that he and Hallo had taken,
and Steve laughed heartily. But his face was grave when Dick had
finished.

"It seems trifling enough now," he said, "but it was no laughing matter,
Dick. You were in terrible danger all the time, of course, and anyone
less cool and clear headed would never have come through so well. Having
Hallo gives us a breathing spell. We may be able to use the boathouse
still. If he had got away, even after the arsenal was blown up, we could
never have used it. We may not have to. I think most of our work here in
Semlin was finished to-night. Soon the armies in the field will be doing
the work, and the time for the spies will have passed."

At the boathouse Milikoff joined them, his face glowing.

"All here? Not a man lost? That makes it so much the better!" he
exclaimed, happily. "And--what? You have Hallo again? Welcome back,
Hallo! This is splendid!"

"I think we had better get away," said Stepan. "After this business
to-night, there will be a most searching examination, and it would be
dangerous for any of us to stay here. We cannot carry many in the motor
boat, but there will be time for her to make three trips, and that will
be enough. I shall run her back first, and take my friend Dick Warner
and Hallo. One other can come. You, Milikoff?"

"No. I shall go on the last trip," said Milikoff. "Let one of the men
bring her back. It will be your part to see that Hallo is looked after
in Belgrade."

So they ventured out into the yellow Danube again. This time the voyage
promised to be more dangerous. The destruction of the arsenal had
aroused all the forces defending Semlin to a high pitch, and
searchlights danced incessantly about, winking first one way, then
another. There was still a blaze of light at the confluence of the Save
and the Danube, but more searchlights seemed to be in use, and the
Austrians were not as perfunctory as they had been, but flashed them
here, there, and anywhere.

However, Steve was a skillful handler of the swift little craft. Darting
forward when the flashing of a light left a space dark, turning this way
and that, coming almost to a full stop when the river ahead was suddenly
lighted, he played hide and seek amid the great, flashing beams of
light. And at last they were well beyond them, and could sweep across
the river and come to the safe haven of the little wharf on the Servian
shore.

A few explanations then, and Steve reluctantly turned over the boat he
had guided so well to another, while he and Dick, with Hallo and one of
the other men who had come with them, tumbled into a military automobile
that was waiting. There was a swift rush to the citadel, where Steve
turned over his prisoner.

"He's a slippery customer," Dick said, in warning.

"He won't get away from us," the officer promised.

And then--sleep! Sleep that was almost as welcome as it had been the
night before or, rather, the morning before. For again they had been
busy through all the hours of darkness, and it was daylight before they
got to bed.

This time, when Dick awoke at last, Steve was still there, and he yawned
luxuriously when Dick woke him up.

"Nothing to do to-day!" he said. "At least, nothing that I know of now!
It's a real holiday, Dick. I can tell you it feels good, too. I wouldn't
have missed the chance to do what I've been able to do for Servia, but
I'm tired now."

"I should think you would be," said Dick. "You haven't only had to work
hard, but there's been the chance always that you would be caught."

"I know. But I didn't think much about it, Dick. I was too busy. The
chief danger was that Hallo would find me looking through his papers
some time. He might not have suspected that I was a spy, but that would
certainly have ended any chance there was for me to get more news."

They got up then, and enjoyed a great meal at their leisure, while old
Maritza looked on and kept their plates full, and scolded Stepan for
having caught cold the night before. She said he must have caught cold,
because he was hoarse, and laughed at him when he said it was only
because he had been so tired.

"You say there's nothing for us to do?" asked Dick.

"Yes, but I didn't mean it. There's plenty to do, only it's stupid
compared to the sort of thing we have done. There are errands of all
sorts to be run, and I believe that there is a good deal of help to be
given to the poor people. It's mostly their houses that have been
knocked about in the bombardment, you see. We don't have to do it, of
course. The rest of the scouts here have been busy that way, and I'm
excused from that sort of work because I was detailed to this special
service. Still I think I'll lend a hand until there is more work for me
from the Intelligence Department."

"When will that be, do you suppose?"

"Oh, there's no telling. It depends on the way the campaign runs. Now,
for a time, it's all a question of how General Pushkin's plans work out.
And he has two plans. Russia has declared war, and that means that
Austria can't concentrate a great force against us. But the question is
whether she will try to crush us before she turns against Russia, or
whether she will just hold both Russia and Servia safe. If she throws a
great army against us, General Pushkin won't risk a decisive battle.
He'll go back into the hills and worry them until they have to detach
troops for the other front. If the Russians begin coming down through
the passes of the Carpathians into Hungary, you'll see the Austrians
sending troops back to meet them in a hurry. It wouldn't make so much
difference, from a military point of view, even if the Russians got to
Buda-Pesth. But it would pretty nearly cause a revolution in Hungary,
and a separate peace."

So when they had finished their meal, they went down toward the river.
The desultory, useless bombardment was still going on, but it was not
doing great damage, though it seemed to Dick that it was. A great many
important buildings had been struck, and were in ruins, and in the lower
quarters of the city there were plenty of evidences of war. But Steve
pointed out that none of this could have any effect upon Servia's
ability to hold out.

"It is all provided for in the plans of the general staff," he said. "As
long as our field army is in good shape, they can hammer away at
Belgrade as much as they like."

Some important work was still being done. Money and papers of value were
being removed from the quarters where there was danger from the Austrian
cannon, and scouts, who seemed to be numerous, were guarding the
transfers. Others, whom Dick and Steve joined, were going through the
unaffected parts of the city to find houses that had room for the poor
people who had been driven from their homes by the enemy's fire. One
spirit seemed to move all classes; there was a universal readiness to
make sacrifices of any sort for the common good.

"We have room for one family of five," would be the greeting, as they
knocked at a door, as soon as the inmates of the house saw Stepan's
uniform, which Dick saw him wear for the first time that day.

So it went everywhere. Dick went to see the American consul, and told
his story, and the official assured him that he would find a means of
sending word of his safety to Consul Denniston in Semlin.

"I've got ways of sending such messages, of course," the consul
explained. "They can't interfere with the messages of an American
consul. I saw Mr. Denniston a little while before the bridge was
destroyed, and he was quite worried about you. He'll be glad to know
that you are safe so far. I suppose, by the way, that you are strictly
neutral, as an American should be?"

Dick hesitated, and the consul roared with laughter.

"You don't have to answer that question!" he said. "I've got to be
neutral, worse luck! But, even so, sometimes I think I'll resign, just
so that I can take a chance with the side I'm on."

"Which side is that, sir?" asked Dick, innocently.

Once more the consul laughed.

"I refuse to answer!" he said. "You might send a report back to
Washington and get me into trouble. But perhaps you can guess."

The times that followed were uneventful enough in Belgrade, though
beyond the limits of the belabored Servian capital great things were
happening. There were scenes of wonderful rejoicing when it became known
that Russia had thrown herself to the aid of the little Slav state, and
still more wonderful scenes when the Servians learned that England and
France, as well, had been enlisted in their quarrel. They knew now that
they would not be made again a sacrifice to the peace of Europe, and
that Austria's attempt to bully them had precipitated the great war.

Closer at hand, however, was the actual fighting between the Servians
and Austrians. On the Danube and the Save there were minor skirmishes.
Servian forts fired on Austrian vessels. In the Save, near the wrecked
bridge, a Servian mine destroyed an Austrian monitor. And along the line
of the border there was constant skirmishing. Red Cross flags began to
fly from many houses in Belgrade, and there was a constant stream of
wounded men. Not many came at once, or in any one day, but every day saw
some additions to the wounded who were being cared for.

"But this doesn't look like a real battle yet, Steve," said Dick. "These
men have been wounded in outpost affairs, when at the most only a few
hundred men were engaged on either side."

"Wait," said Stepan. "The great battles will come."

And come they did. The news came first from Schabatz, as a wild rumor.
Belgrade was incredulous. The first reports were of a complete Servian
victory, of Austrian troops in panic-stricken flight. It seemed too good
to be true. But every hour not only confirmed these first reports, but
added to them. The Austrians had not alone been beaten; they had been
utterly routed, and were in full retreat in their own territory.

Then Servian victories came thick and fast. Even while batches of
Austrian prisoners were being brought in, Servian troops in great
strength followed, and there was a daring, magnificent raid across the
Save, in which the Austrian monitors were driven out into the Danube and
away by the terrific fire of the splendidly handled big guns of the
Servians. For two or three splendid days Servian troops held Semlin,
before the exigencies of the strategy of the campaign forced them to
give up their prize and let the Austrians, now heavily reënforced,
reënter their capital city.

"We couldn't stay, but we showed them what we could do, didn't we?" said
Stepan, exultingly.

"Yes. But isn't there danger that they may come on now in great force?"

"They are sure to do that," said Stepan, his eyes burning brightly. "It
is what we hope. Now the second stage of the campaign will begin. They
have already sent great reënforcements into Bosnia, and the army that we
and Montenegro sent against Serajevo has had to retire. Remember, Dick,
we are not fighting this war alone. Russia is at war, too. It was our
aim to compel the Austrians to withdraw many troops from Galicia and
Bukowina and the passes of the Carpathians. Now they have done that, and
we shall see. They are beginning to advance across the Drina toward
Valjevo. We shall see soon what the result is to be."

That prophecy was soon made good. For now the Austrians poured across
the northern and western borders of little Servia in overwhelming
force, and the Servian armies, muttering, fighting as they went, fell
back before them. Behind Belgrade, to the south of the city, the Servian
army that had won the great victory of Schabatz gave ground, lest it be
taken in the rear by the Austrian advance from Valjevo, and that
movement changed the whole aspect of affairs. That army had been the
real protection of Belgrade. As soon as it retreated the Austrians
marched into the city. But it had taken them five months, instead of as
many days, to accomplish their end.

"We are to stay," Stepan had said, when it was certain that Belgrade
must fall. And they had stayed, unmolested by the small Austrian force
of occupation.



CHAPTER XVII

BETWEEN THE LINES


The Austrian occupation made surprisingly little difference in the outer
aspect of Belgrade. The bombardment, which had been maintained
spasmodically and at intervals ever since the outbreak of war, ceased,
of course. There were a good many Austrian soldiers about, but these
were not the trim, soldierly looking men one might have expected to see.
Dick commented on this.

"They're reservists, and last line men, at that," said Stepan. "A lot of
them wear spectacles, you'll notice, and they're the older men, who
aren't fit to work in the field. A lot of those chaps would keel over if
they had to spend a night in a trench half full of water, or to march
twenty miles without a halt. But they are all right for this sort of
work. You can't count on them for fighting, but they do the work that
would otherwise take up a lot of fighting men."

"Will there be anything for us to do, Stepan?"

"I think a great deal. I haven't heard anything yet, except that we are
to stay."

"Do you think it's safe for me? I don't think I care much, but I mean if
they were looking for me in Semlin, isn't there a chance that I'll be
picked up now?"

"I don't think so. That was Hallo's doing, you see. He's disappeared,
and so there's nothing to urge them to go after you."

"Where is Hallo? I was afraid that perhaps he would have been found and
set free when the Austrians came."

"Not a bit of it! He's too valuable to be allowed to get off so
easily--or to be shot either," answered Steve.

"Then he was taken away?"

"Yes. He's being very carefully looked after in the interior now--in
Nissa or Nish, probably. Dick, suppose you go and see your consul here
again--Mr. Hampton. I'd like to know what he thinks about things. And
you can consult him, too, about your own position," Steve replied.

"So you're still here, are you?" said Mr. Hampton. "I thought you might
have run away with the Servians. But you did well to stay. I'm afraid
the Austrians are going right through this country now, the way a circus
acrobat goes through a paper hoop. It's the old story--the little
country is left to perish, like Belgium and Servia, while the big
fellows attend to their own knitting."

"You think the Servian retreat is serious, then, sir?"

"I think it's the beginning of the end, my boy--and if I wasn't afraid
that it wouldn't sound neutral, I'd say I was sorry for it, too! They've
made a game fight, and they deserved better luck. But look at the map
for yourself! The Austrians have the whole grain growing section. The
Servian army will starve to death if the Austrians don't force it to
fight and wipe it out."

"I see. It does look bad when you look at it that way, sir," said Dick
rather slowly.

"And there's no other way of looking at it. Pushkin has shot his bolt.
He won a fine victory at Schabatz, but he's up against the Austrians in
overwhelming numbers now. He's been running away mighty well, too, but
he can't keep that up forever. He'll have to fight when they get him
cornered, just as the French did in 1870 at Sedan. And that will be the
end of organized Servian resistance."

"I hope not, but it does look like it, sir. I'd like to see him turn the
tables, though."

Stepan listened with a good deal of interest to Dick's report of his
conversation with the consul.

"That's the outside view--yes," said Stepan. "It's the Austrian view,
too! What did he say about you, Dick?"

"Oh, he said I'd better stay here for a time. Mr. Denniston had spoken
to him about me, he said, and they agreed that I had better wait here in
Belgrade until things were more settled. Mr. Denniston told him that
there was still a formal charge against me in Semlin, but that he was
trying to get it withdrawn. After that he will arrange for me to get
home, he says. He is very kind."

"Yes. But you don't want to go home until you have settled matters with
Hallo, do you?"

"No, I don't. But I suppose there's very little chance of my being able
to do that now. And I guess I ought to get back and start in doing
whatever I can, instead of spending any more time trying to run after a
will-o'-the-wisp like the money Hallo stole from us."

"We shall see," said Stepan, with a twinkle in his eye. "But in the
meantime you are still ready to stand by us if there is anything to be
done, aren't you, Dick?"

"You bet I am! As long as I can't get home, I want to be doing something
if I can."

"Well, I think there'll be something to do, all right, before very long.
And here's something you want to remember. There are other ways of
getting back to America from here than through Buda-Pesth and Vienna.
The railway from Nish to Salonica is open, and there are steamers from
Salonica to Athens, and from Athens to New York."

"Yes, but the railway from here to Nish isn't open, Steve. And I haven't
the money to go that way, anyhow."

"Perhaps that will be arranged. Wait and see," said Stepan,
mysteriously.

"You've got something up your sleeve," said Dick, indignantly. But he
could not remain angry long with Stepan. "Oh, I'm not going to plague
you with questions, Steve! I know you--and you'll tell me what's in the
air as soon as you get ready. I suppose it's got something to do with
those mysterious absences of yours in the last two weeks before the
Austrians came?"

"Perhaps you're right, Dick. You'll know soon, never fear!"

Two more days dragged by without news from the interior, save for the
Austrian bulletins announcing the continued progress of their army that
was operating from Losnitza as a base, and driving toward the centre of
Servia and the ultimate fortress of Nish.

But on the evening of the second day when Dick had finally taken his
place at the table, upon old Maritza's insistence, without waiting any
longer for Stepan, Steve arrived, with an air of great secrecy and
importance.

"Hurry, Maritza, and give me a good dinner!" he said. "I don't know when
you will see us again!"

"What new madness is this?" asked Maritza, crossly. But, like Dick, she
knew well enough that she would learn nothing from Stepan until he was
ready to tell her. So she obeyed, grumbling.

"Ready? Go and put on your warmest clothes, then!" said Stepan.
"Better--I will lend you some of mine. You have none that are warm
enough!"

"None that are warm enough? What nonsense! It isn't very cold--and I
have a thick overcoat!"

"But you can't wear that! Come, I will show you."

Dick roared with laughter when he and Steve were finally arrayed to
Stepan's satisfaction. First each had put on two suits of thick woolen
underwear, and two pairs of thick woolen socks apiece. The socks were so
thick that they had to have resort to shoes that belonged to Stepan's
father, since they could not get on their own. Then heavy winter suits
of Steve's, with a sweater apiece under the coats, and on their heads
fur caps, with ear muffs.

"Are we going to the North Pole?" asked Dick.

"Never mind! I'll promise you that before long you will wish that you
had warmer clothes still!"

"I don't believe it, Steve! I don't see how it's possible! I'm
suffocating now--and I've been out, and know how cold it is."

Stepan did not answer. Instead, he led the way downstairs, and going
into the garden, peered out until a cart came up, driven by a peasant.
This cart apparently contained potatoes--and in reality, too, although
in a few moments the two scouts were hidden under the load.

"This is a loyal peasant--and one of our best spies!" said Stepan. "The
Austrians trust him because he seems to be so stupid, and so we can pass
through the line of sentries to the south. If we tried to walk we would
be turned back. He is taking these potatoes to the advanced positions of
the Austrians."

"That's fine, only I'd like to know what we are going to do after we
have passed the sentries! We shall be within two Austrian lines even
then, shan't we?"

"We certainly shall--but we shan't stay there!"

"Oh, I give it up! I never was good at guessing riddles, anyhow!"

"Sh-h! We can't tell when we're near the sentries, and we'd better keep
quiet now."

After a little time the cart stopped with a jolt, and they heard the
peasant driver, as he seemed to be, exchanging rough jests with the
sentries. Then there was a grounding of arms, and they passed on. For
perhaps fifteen minutes they continued to jolt along, and for the first
time Dick was glad, despite the heat, that he was wearing such thick
garments, since they saved him, he was convinced, a good many bruises.
He decided that that must be the reason they had worn them. Then the
cart stopped and the driver began to make a way for them to get out,
which they were glad to do.

"All right--good luck and good-night, Ivan!" said Stepan.

"And to you, good luck and the grace of God, Stepan Ivanovitch!" said
the driver. "There is nothing more that I can do?"

"No. Good-bye!"

The cart rumbled off, and Stepan turned off to the right. Dick asked no
questions, but went along, satisfied that the mystery must soon be
solved. And indeed it was. They were on level ground now, but soon they
began to descend, and found themselves in a rather wide ravine. There
was a sudden challenge: "Who goes there?" delivered in Servian!

"Kossovo!" answered Stepan.

"Pass," said the sentry, who was not in uniform, and carried a revolver
instead of a rifle.

And then, a few paces further on, they came to a strange mass covered
with canvas. A man stepped out of the shadow, flashing an electric torch
in their faces.

"Stepan? That is good!" he said.

Stepan went forward and drew off the canvas cover, and Dick saw what was
underneath--a monoplane, as he had guessed!

"That is a captured Austrian 'plane," said Stepan. "Now do you
understand? Are you willing to take the risk of flying in it with me?"

"I wouldn't miss it!" said Dick. "But I didn't know you knew how to run
one!"

"He is one of our very few qualified aviators," said the man who had
been on guard. "And every day now for weeks he has been coming here to
study the controls and all the details of this machine. It is in
perfect order, ready to take the air."

"And an Austrian monoplane! Why, we can fly over their lines!" exclaimed
Dick. "How splendid! But what are you to do, Steve?"

"You will soon know. Get aboard! Your seat is there. Strap him in,
Dmitri, while I see to the tank."

"Everything is right," said Dmitri. "But make sure for yourself--that is
a good rule."

In a minute Stepan was satisfied and had taken his place beside Dick.
Then the motor was started, the propeller began to turn, and in a few
moments they rose from the ground, soared above the trees, and were in
full flight.

"Now you see why we had to be warm!" said Stepan. "We are in for a long
flight. But up first! We must fly high!"



CHAPTER XVIII

THE FLIGHT


They rose higher and higher, climbing in spirals, until Dick had
completely lost his bearings. The night was cloudy, and there were no
stars to help him, and before long they had passed through the first
layer of low hanging clouds, so that he was denied the aid of lights and
towns below. Then when they had thus made it impossible for anyone below
to detect them, Stepan gave his motor full play and the real flight
began. Dick thought he had never in his life known a sensation so
glorious as this swift gliding along through the air. But he soon
appreciated the comfort that came from the thick clothes upon which his
chum had insisted. Despite the weight of the things, he was far from
being hot in that long night flight.

Sometimes he slept. He was aroused once when they descended, but the
country was wholly unfamiliar to him, and they were soon off again. But
with morning came a stunning surprise. The sun was visible now, and Dick
saw that they had been flying northeast! He had supposed that they would
head for the Servian army, but he guessed now, as he saw snow capped
mountains before them, that they had taken an entirely different course.
And his surprise was vastly increased when a strange sound assailed his
ears.

"Ah!" cried Stepan, exulting. "It is all right!"

Dick followed Stepan's pointing finger with his eyes, and now he saw the
source of the firing that had so astonished him. It was in front of him,
on the plain between them and the mountains, which were far away still,
though they seemed so near.

"What troops are those? And where are we?" he cried.

"We have flown across Hungary in the night, and those are Hungarian
regiments, giving way before the advance of Russian troops who have come
through the passes from Galicia!" cried Stepan. "But that is not what
counts! Look down there--to the right!"

Dick looked. What he saw was a small village that had suddenly become a
city. Trains were drawing in, and a dozen or more sidings contained
strings of cars that had evidently arrived during the night. As they
looked a train stopped and soldiers poured from it.

"Do you understand? Can you realize what that means, Dick?" cried
Stepan. "They are sending reënforcements from Servia! Those troops were
among those who were attacking us. The Russian invasion through the
passes has brought them back! That is what we came for--to learn if that
were so!"

"Oh, I do understand now!" cried Dick, as a great light burst on his
mind. He saw it all. This was what Servia had been hoping for; a
weakening of the forces massed against her. No wonder it had been
all-important to know if the reënforcement had really been sent! Then
his eye wandered, and he saw something coming through the air--another
aeroplane was approaching them.

"Look out, Stepan! Here comes one of their machines!" he cried.

Stepan seized his glass on the instant.

"Yes!" he said. "That is bad luck for it is one of their newer, faster
machines! We must try to get away! Here, take this rifle. If she comes
so near that she discovers who we really are, we must fight. Aim for the
tank. A bullet through that will send them down quickly! But don't fire
until I give the word. It is better to run than to fight, if we can."

And now, as if he had not seen the hostile aeroplane, Stepan turned and
began to race south, in the direction whence they had come. There
followed the most exciting of possible contests--a real race between
aeroplanes, not for a prize or a trophy, but with life itself, or
liberty at least, as the price of victory or the penalty of defeat.

With the slower, clumsier machine, Stepan still made a wonderful
showing. He went up, then down, twisting this way and that,
manoeuvering with brilliant skill. The other machine followed,
however, and it was gaining constantly, thanks to its better motor.
Still it did not fire a shot, for it must have been difficult for the
pilot to know what possessed the machine that he chased. It was so
obviously an Austrian monoplane, yet its actions were suspicious.

At last Stepan reduced his speed. At the moment they were above the
rival birdman, who was climbing to get on a level.

"Now--and aim for the tank!" cried Stepan.

Dick fired. His first bullet went wide, and cut through the wing. But
the next one found its mark. They could hear the sharp ping as it struck
the metal tank, even above the roar of the two racing engines. And then
another--and all three before the enemy could reply.

"Good! We are saved!" cried Stepan.

For the Austrian machine staggered like a bird hit on the wing, reeled,
and then plunged downward. One bullet sang past them, dangerously close,
but that was all. In a moment they were alone in the heavens, racing
toward Servia, while behind them the roar of battle continued.

On and on they flew. They passed over Belgrade and Semlin late in the
afternoon, when the sun was sinking. It was dark when they crossed a
plain from which great numbers of troops stared up at them. But they
were flying very high and very fast, and though two more Austrian
aeroplanes began to pursue, there was no danger that they would be
caught. And at last, weary, exhausted, they came to earth in the Servian
camp.

"Come with me," said Stepan. Willing hands were caring for the
aeroplane, and now a staff officer came up.

"You are Stepan Dushan?" he asked. "I am to take you to the general!"

"My companion, too," insisted Stepan.

And so Dick was present when Stepan made his report to the veteran
general who commanded the Servian army. He saw the light that came into
the leader's eyes when he heard of the arrival of the Austrian troops in
Hungary and listened, with admiration, to the sharp fusillade of orders
which interrupted Stepan's narrative.

"Now we know what to do!" said the general. "Now we shall fall upon
them. The battle will begin to-night! They have been trying to force a
battle. Well, they shall have it! Go, now, sleep. In the morning there
will be great sights for your eyes!"

And in the morning, indeed, Dick and Stepan were present when King
Peter, his snowy hair bared to the wind, rode before his troops.

"The time has come, my children!" said the old king. "The time has come
for us to drive the invader from Servian soil! We have had to retreat,
and it has been hard! But now--now we can strike! This is the dawn of
Servia's greatest day, in victory or defeat! Your old king has come now
to see you conquer--or to die among you!"

What a cheer there was as the king spoke! What a roar greeted him! With
what eagerness did the troops hail the order to advance!

Already the cannon were thundering. Soon now rifle fire in sullen,
crackling volleys broke upon the air. And that day the Austrians learned
that they had walked into a trap; that Servia's army had retreated, not
because it was beaten, not because it was afraid, but that it might
fight, when the time for battle came, on its own chosen ground. From the
east came the army that had guarded Belgrade for so long, striking at
the Austrian flank. And once more an Austrian defeat became a rout. Once
more the Servians pursued.

Dick and Stepan could see only a little of the great struggle. But that
little was enough to teach them that they were looking upon history in
the making. The battle was one of those crushing, decisive struggles
that seldom occur. With defeat the last hope of a successful Austrian
invasion of little Servia seemed to be shattered and when the sun went
down there was no longer any doubt of the issue.

The Austrians had fought well and bravely, but the Servians had fought
with the courage of despair and the cool precision of trained soldiers
used to victory, as well. The stars that night looked down upon the
abject flight of the Austrian army, split in two parts, scattering its
arms, its equipment, everything that would retard the search for safety
from the furious pursuit of the Servians.

"We let them have Belgrade--for a few days!" said Stepan, drunk with
happiness. "But now we want it for ourselves--our capital is the place
to celebrate a victory!"

And so it proved. Two divisions of the beaten Austrians were caught at
the Danube, where Servian guns had smashed to pieces a bridge of boats
cunningly contrived for retreat. And while they were making their last
feeble resistance, a brigade of Servians marched into Belgrade. Flags
flew everywhere and the people hailed the return of their own troops
deliriously. When the king himself rode in, disdaining the carriage that
had been provided for his use on account of his age, the city seemed to
go mad. The thunder of the guns to the east died away; the Austrians who
had been cut off had had enough of fighting and had surrendered. The
Servians were the victors.

"It is wonderful! It will surprise the world!" said Dick. "Why, Mr.
Hampton said that everyone believed Servia had lost her last chance, and
that the country was about to be overrun, like Belgium!"

Dick met General Dushan, Steve's father. And it was the general, his
eyes filled with tears of pride over the exploits of his son, who told
them of a great honor that awaited them.

"The king has ordered me to bring you both before him," he said. "He has
heard of the part you played in the destruction of the Semlin arsenal
and he has learned that it was that feat that made the great victory of
Schabatz possible. If the Austrians had had ammunition enough to serve
their guns, they would have beaten us there."

Dick was embarrassed and timid when he was called upon to stand forth
and meet King Peter. But the old man, simple and, democratic, soon put
him at his ease. He held out his hand and gripped Dick's, and then he
spoke to him in English.

"Servia thanks you, through me, her king," he said. "I wish you to wear
this decoration with our gratitude! And I have heard of the mission that
brought you to Semlin--so fortunately for us. General Dushan knows my
pleasure in that matter."

"Come with me, both of you," said General Dushan. He took them to the
citadel, and there, in a little while, Hallo was brought before the
general, his hands linked with steel handcuffs.

"Michael Hallo," said General Dushan, sternly, "you have been tried and
found guilty, and sentenced to death as a spy and a traitor. But His
Majesty has been pleased to grant you a reprieve--on a certain
condition. If you will sign an order to Richard Warner upon the State
Bank here for the payment of a sum equivalent to two hundred thousand
dollars, you will be confined as a political prisoner until the end of
the war, and then released. Do you agree?"

There was hate in Hallo's eyes, but he was helpless--and he agreed, to
save his life.

"I told you it would be arranged," said Stepan, three days later, when
Mr. Denniston, the consul in Semlin, had arranged for the transfer of
Dick's money to New York. "And now you are going to Salonica, with an
escort to the border--and I am going all the way to Athens to see you
off! Think of us sometimes--and when the war is over, I will visit you
in New York!"



CHAPTER XIX

HALLO'S LAST CARD


"I'm going to give you drafts on New York, Dick," Mr. Denniston had
said. "In ordinary times, that wouldn't be the best way--I'd simply
arrange for transfer of your money by mail or cable. But now, in war
times, with the mails badly held up and most of the cables cut, that is
more difficult. There might be months of delay in getting the money if
we trusted to ordinary arrangements."

"I see, sir," said Dick, though he did not understand the details of
international banking any too well.

"You've had such a hard time getting this, and you've done so splendidly
that I'd hate to think there was any chance of some slip making trouble
for you now," the consul went on. "But with these drafts you'll be all
right. Take good care of them--but I needn't tell you that, I suppose."

"Hardly!" said Dick, with a laugh. "But no one else could cash them,
even if I lost them, I suppose?"

"Not if payment were stopped. The only danger would be if you lost them
in such a way that whoever got them forged your signature and then kept
you from being able to warn the people in New York not to pay them. But
of course there'd be a long delay and it's just possible that you might
lose heavily. So guard them carefully--just as if they were actual
money. I'll give you a money belt to put them in--"

"I have one myself, thanks," said Dick.

"General Dushan has arranged for your trip, I understand," said the
consul. "How do you go?"

"Through Nisha to the Greek border--no, to the Bulgarian line, I
believe," said Dick. "They decided that that was safer than the direct
route to Athens. I sail from Salonica. Stepan Dushan says there are
raiding bands of Albanians south of Uskub and getting near to Monastir,
and that that section isn't safe, anyhow--that it hasn't settled down
properly since the last wars."

"It's true enough," said Mr. Denniston, with a faint frown. "That whole
region is unsettled. You see, Servia took a good deal of territory
Bulgaria claimed and there are a good many Bulgarians living in it. I
hope that Servia will see its way, if it gets what it wants from Bosnia
and Herzegovina, to give that section back to Bulgaria. That's the only
way we can have a real and lasting peace here in the Balkans--and Heaven
knows we need it, after three great wars in as many years!"

All arrangements were made finally. After the great victory that had
driven the Austrians from her soil, Servia was like a man panting for
breath. The whole country was resting, gathering its strength after that
tremendous effort. But there was a good deal of activity, nevertheless.
The ruin the invaders had wrought was being repaired. Railroads had to
be rebuilt; ammunition and stores brought up. For the Austrians, badly
beaten though they had been, were likely to come again.

So it had seemed best for Dick and his chum, with the escort of hardy
Servian cavalrymen General Dushan provided, to ride to the border.

"It'll take us longer, of course," said Stepan, "but not so much. The
railroad is torn to pieces, and even where trains are running, the
military service has the right of way."

"I'd just as soon ride, anyhow," said Dick. "It gives one a much better
chance to see the country."

So it was arranged, and they started from Belgrade before the sun was up
on a morning of mist and heavy clouds. Later the sun swept the mist and
clouds away, and they rode through a devastated, horrible country. The
ravages of war were visible on all sides.

"Ah, well!" said Stepan, with a sigh, as he looked out at the ruin of
what had been a smiling, happy land, "the ones who are coming after us
will live in peace! Those who have been driven from their homes and
have died have suffered for them. Servia will be able to live after this
war without feeling that Austria may move at any minute to crush her.
And that is worth some suffering!"

"Everything's so quiet here I don't see why we need an escort at all,
Stepan," said Dick. "We haven't seen anyone who'd harm a fly--if it was
a Servian fly."

"That's true so far," said Stepan, but a grim look came into his eyes.
"We shall come, though, to a country where we may meet more trouble. I
hope we shall not need the escort--but one can never tell. And I haven't
wanted to alarm you, Dick, but this Hallo has a reputation for not
giving things up easily. You have a great sum of what he may think is
his money, though he stole it from your family. He will not let you get
home with that if he finds a way to stop you."

"But how can he do that while he is a prisoner in Belgrade?" laughed
Dick.

"He is a prisoner--yes," said Stepan, somberly. "But there are many who
have worked for him who are not prisoners. Oh, I may be wrong, and I
shouldn't worry you without reason, Dick! But I don't want you to feel
too secure; I don't want you to think that all the danger is over. It
won't be until we are safely in Salonica."

They had to bid farewell to their escort at last. The troopers went with
them to a lonely spot, marked only by a border monument and two small
houses--quarters of the Servian and Bulgarian frontier guards. Here
there was peace but not friendship. The memories of the bitter summer of
1913, when the allies who had been fighting the Turks, side by side,
turned against one another in one of the bloodiest and sharpest wars in
history, were all too fresh. The Bulgarians scowled at the sight of the
Servian uniforms; they subjected the two scouts to a close scrutiny when
they crossed the line, but their papers were in order and they were
allowed to proceed.

Now, however, there seemed to be something sinister in the very air.
Scowling faces met them wherever they came upon peasants or soldiers,
and soldiers seemed almost unduly numerous. Then after a few hours of
riding, they saw no more soldiers. In their places, however, they
encountered bands of men in the national Bulgarian costume, rough,
hard-faced men with modern rifles, who seemed to be riding aimlessly.
Stepan ground his teeth at the sight of them.

"They're not soldiers, oh, no!" he said. "You see they're not in
uniform. But do you notice how they sit their horses, and how they ride
in files? Undisciplined men never did that! Those bands are the ones
that cross over, raiding our borderlands. But what can we do? We have
enough without fighting Bulgaria, too, so we have to accept apologies
the Sofia government makes. If possible we want Bulgaria on our side.
But--! The treacherous dogs!"

"Don't get so excited, Stepan," advised Dick. "I believe you hate them
more than you do the Austrians!"

"I'll be glad when we cross over into Greece," grumbled Stephan. "The
Greeks are our allies and our friends. The only reason they have not
come to our aid is that they must watch Bulgaria. That helps us, of
course--Bulgaria dares not move while Greece is ready."

It was late in the afternoon when they first noticed that they were no
longer traveling alone. Two Bulgarian merchants--so Stepan said, judging
from their appearance--passed them, riding wiry little horses; a little
later they overtook them, and after that the two Bulgarians stayed about
a hundred yards behind them, no matter how often they altered their
pace.

"I don't like their looks," said Stepan. "I wish we didn't have to sleep
to-night on Bulgarian soil. Their inns--Dick, why should we sleep in an
inn? Let us buy provisions and spend the night out of doors! It will be
cold, but we have faced worse hardships than that together!"

"I'm game!" laughed Dick. "Any inn we find on this road is sure to be
dirty, anyhow. It'll be a last adventure to think of, after all the
rest!"

So it was agreed. In the first village they reached they stopped and
bought provisions. After dark they hobbled their horses and built a
lean-to shelter and a big camp-fire. The two Bulgarians passed them as
they began; soon one rode back.

"I thought so!" said Stepan. "They're watching us, Dick."

Dick looked at him curiously. There was a strange light in Stepan's
eyes. It was as if he could see things that are hidden from ordinary
sight. And before he could answer Stepan sprang to his feet.

"Come!" he said. "Tear your shirt up into strips--I'm going to muffle
the feet of the horses."

He went to work with a will, and Dick followed his example, smiling to
himself. He knew Stepan too well to argue with him in such a mood. But
that there was serious danger he could not believe for a moment.

"Come!" said Stepan again, when they had finished. He took his horse and
led it into the field. They were in wooded country but the trees were
not thick, and they could pick a way through them.

Dick looked back at the blazing fire regretfully.

"Are you going on--now?" he asked.

"For your sake," said Stepan, curtly. And Dick said no more.

"A mile away there is another road. We have maps of all this region, of
course, and I studied them," said Stepan. "If we can reach a place I
have just thought of we may be safe."

They came undisturbed to the parallel road. Then they mounted.

"The horses are pretty tired," suggested Dick.

"I'm sorry for them, but I can't help that," said Stepan. "Come
on--ride!"

From the start he set a hot pace. Before long Dick felt his horse was
growing more and more tired and finally he protested.

"Slow up, then, if you like!" said Stepan, fiercely. "Don't you know by
this time that I don't speak of danger unless it is real? Perhaps you
want to be caught by these people! But they know me--and I know what
they would do to me! I don't intend to have them catch me, I can tell
you!"

"Then why did you come with me?" asked Dick, angrily. He had never seen
his friend in such a mood before. Stepan's tone made him so angry that
he was almost able to forget how much he owed him.

Stepan didn't answer. But just then, as they still rode on, forcing
their pace, they came to a turn in the road. A lone figure, mounted on a
big horse, was standing guard. At sight of them he leaned forward, then
cried out sharply, "Halt!"

For answer Stepan spurred his horse on; Dick's followed. A shot rang
out; then another, and another, but no bullets came near them.

"He's signalling. Now will you believe I was right?" asked Stepan
bitterly.

The thunder of hoofs sounded on the road behind them. They sped on, but
suddenly Dick's horse lurched and almost threw him over its head, Dick
pulled him up; the poor brute was limping.

"He can't go on!" said Dick. "Stepan--"

"Then you'll have to shift for yourself!" shouted Stepan, brutally.
"I've done all I can for you!"

And, leaving Dick dumbfounded, he spurred on and was soon visible only
as a cloud of dust! Dick could scarcely believe his eyes and ears. That
Stepan, his trusted friend, who had shared every imaginable peril with
him, could desert him so now! But he had not long to think. The pursuers
whose horses they had heard were on him in a minute more. Without a
struggle, since the odds were overwhelming--ten or twelve men assailed
him--he let himself be dragged from his horse and bound.

One man came to him and searched him. When he found the belt he gave a
cry of triumph. The next moment he was examining the drafts.

"Another one was with you?" he said, in excellent English and with a
marked American accent. Dick started. This looked like Hallo's work,
certainly. "Where is he?"

"He's gone--to save himself," said Dick, bitterly.

"Ah, well--you are the one we want," said his captor, who was plainly
the leader of the band. "Now, my young friend, endorse these drafts, in
blank, at once!"

"I will not!" said Dick, hotly. "And you can tell Hallo so, too!"

"You will not?" said the other, smoothly. "Then I will tell you what
will happen. I give you an hour--because I have lived in New York, and
done well there. I like you Americans. If you have not signed then, I
shall sign for you."

"That will be forgery--and I shall stop payment!"

"So? Suppose, when I leave you here, I leave you under the earth? There
are many graves in the Balkans in these days--new graves! One more or
less will matter little. Do you think it will ever give up its
secret--the one that shall hold you?"

Something in the man's cool tone made Dick shiver. It carried
conviction--it made him believe that this was no idle threat. And yet he
felt that he could not yield. Oh, if only Stepan had not left him! He
was glad, now that his anger had cooled, that his chum was not involved
in this new trouble. And yet--he would have felt better had Stepan been
beside him, to share this peril, as he had shared so many others.

"It is eleven o'clock now," said the brigand. "If at midnight you have
not signed--!"

"That's enough," said Dick. "I'll think it over."

"Light a fire--it is chilly," directed the chief of Dick's captors. "I
am a kindly man. I would not want this hour to prove a chilly one for
you."

Strange and weird indeed Dick found the scene. There were eleven men, he
found, when he could count them. All wore the Bulgarian national
costume; all looked like soldiers, but he thought all were not
Bulgarians. There were Turks and Albanians among them. And then,
suddenly, one man pitched forward, very quietly, and lay still. The
others started toward him; two or three of them fell. They fell as Dick
had seen men fall when they were struck by bullets, though he had heard
no sound of a shot, but only a faint noise, like the cough of an animal.

Then wild panic spread among his captors. They blazed away in all
directions with their guns; for the moment they forgot him. And then
silent, fierce figures were suddenly among them, cutting, stabbing--and
Stepan's cry rang out.

"Dick! Dick! Are you safe?" he shouted.

It was all over in a moment. Stepan, the tears streaming down his
cheeks, released Dick.

"I lamed your horse--I had to pretend to desert you so that they would
believe you and let me go!" he cried. "I knew our horses were too tired
for us to escape unless we could delay them. A few miles from here is a
little colony of Serbs. We, you see, have to do something to get
warning of the border raids. They have guns with silencers--I knew I
could get help. Now we must ride for the Greek line, but we can make it
now!"

On through the night they rode, leaving the dead and wounded behind,
while those who had been captured unhurt were tied and gagged. And
before daylight they came to a Greek frontier post. Greek soldiers
greeted them; there was a captain who had served with Stepan's father
against Bulgaria.

"The road to Salonica is safe and open now!" he told them.

And so it proved. Dick had recovered his papers and a week later, his
adventures over, he sailed from Athens, and waved to Stepan, standing on
the deck, until he could no longer see him. He was homeward bound.

Hallo had played his last card--and lost.


The End.



MARY A. BYRNE'S BOOKS


THE FAIRY CHASER

     "Telling of two boys who go into the vegetable and
     flower-raising business instead of humdrum commercial pursuits.
     The characters and situations are realistic."--_PHILADELPHIA
     TELEGRAPH_


LITTLE DAME TROT

     One of the most pleasing of juveniles, made pathetic by the
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THE LITTLE WOMAN IN THE SPOUT

     "This pleasing story may have been developed from real life,
     from real children, so true a picture does it portray of
     girlish life and sports."--_GRAND RAPIDS HERALD_


ROY AND ROSYROCKS

     A glowing Christmas tale, fresh and natural in situations, that
     will interest both boys and girls.

     It tells how two poor children anticipate the joys of the
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PEGGY-ALONE

     The chronicles of the Happy-Go-Luckys, a crowd of girls who did
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THE BRADEN BOOKS


FAR PAST THE FRONTIER

_By_ JAMES A. BRADEN

     The sub-title "Two Boy Pioneers" indicates the nature of this
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THE TRAIL of THE SENECA

_By_ JAMES A. BRADEN

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CAPTIVES THREE

_By_ JAMES A. BRADEN

     A tale of frontier life, and how three children--two boys and a
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FICTION FOR GIRLS


BETTY, The SCRIBE

_By_ LILIAN TURNER

_Drawings by_ KATHARINE HAYWARD GREENLAND

     Betty is a brilliant, talented, impulsive seventeen-year-old
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Elizabeth Hobart at Exeter Hall

_By_ JEAN K. BAIRD

_Illustrated by_ R. G. VOSBURGH

     A spirited Story of every-day boarding-school life that girls
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BOOKS FOR BOYS


WINFIELD SERIES:

    LARRY BARLOW'S AMBITION
    A YOUNG INVENTOR'S PLUCK

     These two books of adventure for boys, by the popular author of
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    A STRUGGLE FOR A FORTUNE
    WINGED ARROW'S MEDICINE
    THE FIRST CAPTURE

     HARRY CASTLEMON ranks among the best of the writers of juvenile
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    THREE YOUNG RANCHMEN

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    ADRIFT ON A JUNK
    YOUNG VOYAGERS OF THE NILE
    YOUNG CASTAWAYS

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OTIS SERIES:

    TEDDY
    TELEGRAPH TOM
    MESSENGER No. 48
    DOWN THE SLOPE

     JAMES OTIS writes for wide-awake American boys, and his
     audience read his tales with keen appreciation.





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