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´╗┐Title: Air Service Boys in the Big Battle; Or, Silencing the Big Guns
Author: Beach, Charles Amory
Language: English
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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.

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AIR SERVICE BOYS IN THE BIG BATTLE

Or SILENCING THE BIG GUNS


By Charles Amory Beach



CHAPTER I. BAD NEWS FROM THE AIR


"Well, Tom, how's your head now?"

"How's my head? What do you mean? There's nothing the matter with
my head," and the speaker, who wore the uniform of a French aviator,
glanced up in surprise from the cot on which he was reclining in his
tent near the airdromes that stretched around a great level field, not
far from Paris.

"Oh, isn't there?" questioned Jack Parmly, with a smile. "Then I
beg your pardon for asking, my cabbage! I beg your pardon, Sergeant
Raymond!"

Tom Raymond, whose, chum had addressed him by the military title, looked
curiously at his companion, and smiled at the appellation of the term
cabbage. It was one of the many little tricks picked up by association
with their French flying comrades, of speaking to a friend by some odd,
endearing term. It might be cucumber or rose, cabbage or cart wheel--the
words mattered not, it was the meaning back of them.

"Say, is anything the matter?" went on Tom, as his chum, attired
like himself', but wearing an old blouse covered with oil and grease,
continued to smile. "What gave you the notion that my head hurt?"

"I didn't say it hurt. I only asked how it was. The swelling hasn't
begun to subside in mine yet, and I was wondering if it had in yours."

"Swelling? Subside? What in the world--"

Jack Parmly brought to a sudden termination the rapid torrent of words
from the mouth of his churn by silently pointing to a small medal
fastened to the uniform jacket of his friend. It was the coveted croix
de guerre.

"Oh, that!" exclaimed Tom.

"Nothing else, my pickled beet!" answered Jack. "Doesn't it make your
head swell up as if it would burst every time you look at it? Now don't
say it doesn't, for that's the way it affects me, and I'm sure you're
not very different. And every time I read the citation that goes with
the medal--well, I'm just aching for a chance to show it to the folks
back home, aren't you, Sergeant?"

Tom Raymond started a bit at the second use of the title.

"I see you aren't any more used to it than I am!" exclaimed Jack. "Well,
it'll be a little time before we stop looking around to see if it isn't
some one behind us they're talking to. So I thought I'd practice it
a bit on you. And you can do the same for me. I should think, out of
common politeness, you'd get up, salute and call me the same."

"Oh! Now I see what you're driving at," voiced Tom, as he glanced up
from a momentary look at his medal to the face of his comrade-in-arms,
or perhaps in flying would be more appropriate. "The wind's in that
quarter, is it?"

"No wind at all to speak of," broke in Jack. "If you'd like to go for a
fly, and see if we can bag a Boche or two, I'm with you."

"Against orders, Jack. I'd like to, but we were ordered here for rest
and observation work; and you know, as well as I do, that obeying orders
is just as important as sending a member of the Hun Flying Circus down
where he can't do any more of his grandstand stunts. But I'm hoping the
time will come when we can climb up back of our machine guns again, and
do our bit to show that the little old U. S. A. is still on the map."

"I guess that time'll soon come, Tom, old man. I heard rumors that a
lot of us were to be sent up nearer the front shortly, and if they don't
include you and me, there'll be something doing in this camp!"

"That's what I say. So you thought I'd have a swelled head, did you,
because they gave us the croix de guerre?"

"I confess I had a faint suspicion that way," admitted Jack. "Both of us
being advanced to sergeants was a big step, too."

"It was," agreed Tom. "I almost wish they hadn't done it, for there are
lots of others in the escadrille that deserve it fully as much, and some
more, than we do."

"That's right. But you can't make these delightful Frenchmen see
anything the way you want 'em to. Once they get a notion in their heads
that you've done something for la belle Frame, they're your friends
for life, kissing you on both cheeks and pinning medals on you wherever
they'll stick."

"Well, they mean all right, Jack," said Tom. "And there aren't any
braver or more lovable people on the face of the earth than these same
French. They've done more and suffered more for their country than we
dream of. And it's only natural that they should say 'much obliged,' in
their own particular way, to any one they think is helping to free them
from the Germans."

"I suppose you're right. But advancing us to sergeants would have been
enough, without pinning the decorations on us and mentioning us in the
order of the day, as well as giving us as fine a citation as ever was
signed by a commanding general. However, it's all in the day's work,
though when we flew over the German super cannons, and did our bit in
helping demolish them so they couldn't shell Paris any more, we didn't
think--or, at least, I didn't--that we'd be sitting here talking about
it."

"Me either," agreed Tom. "But, to get down to brass tacks, what have you
been doing to get into such a mess? You look like a chauffeur of the
old days they tell of when they had to climb under the car to see if it
needed oiling--"

"That's just about what I have been doing," admitted Jack. "When I heard
the rumor that our escadrille might get orders to move at any hour, I
decided that it was up to me to look MY machine over. It didn't make
that nose dive just the way I wanted it to the last time I was up, and
I'm not taking any chances. So I've been crawling in and around and
under it--"

"While I've been lying here I taking it easy!" broke in Tom. "I don't
call that fair of you, Jack," and he seemed genuinely hurt.

"Go easy now, my pickled onion!" laughed his chum. "I wasn't going to
leave you out in the cold. I just came to tell you that you'd better
stop looking like a moving picture of an airman, and put on some old
duds to look over your own craft. And here you go and--"

"All right, old ham sandwich!" laughed Tom.

 "I'll forgive you.  I'm going to do the same as you, and tinker
with my machine. If, as you say, we're likely to be on the job again
soon, I don't want too take any chances either. Where's that mechanician
of mine? There was something wrong with my joy stick, he said, the last
time I came down out of the clouds to take an enforced rest, and I might
as well start with that, if there's any repairing to be done--"

Tom flung off his uniform jacket, with the two silver wings, denoting
that he was a full-fledged airman, and sent an orderly to summon his
chief mechanician, for each aviator had several helpers to run messages
for him, as well as to see that his machine is in perfect trim.

Experts are needed to see to it that the machine and the aviator are in
perfect trim, leaving for the airman himself the trying and difficult
task, sometimes, of flying upside down, while he is making observations
of the enemy with one eye, and fighting off a Boche with the
other--ready to kill or be killed.

Sergeants Tom Raymond and Jack Parmly, chums and fellow airmen flying
for France, started toward the aerodromes where their machines were kept
when not in use. They were both attired now for hard and not very clean
work, though the more laborious part would be done by mechanics at their
orders. Still the lads themselves would leave nothing to chance. Indeed
no airman does, for in very, truth his He and the success of an army
may, at times, depend on the strength or weakness of a seemingly
insignificant bit of wire or the continuity of a small gasoline pipe.

"Well, it'll seem good to get up in the air again," remarked Jack. "A
little rest is all right, but too much is more than enough."

"Right O, my sliced liberty bond!" laughed Tom. "And now--"

Their talk was interrupted by a cheer that broke out in front of a
recreation house, in reality a YMCA hut, or le Foyer du Soldat as it
was called. It was where the airmen went when not on duty to read the
papers, write letters and buy chocolate.

"What's up now?" asked Jack, as he and his chum looked toward the
cheering squad of aviators and their assistants.

"Give it up. Let's go over and find out."

They broke into a run as the cheering continued, and then they saw hats
being thrown into the air and men capering about with every evidence of
joy.

"We must have won a big battle!" cried Jack.

"Seems so," agreed Tom. "Hi there! what is it?" he asked in French of a
fellow aviator.

"What is it? You ask me what? Ah, joy of my life! It is you who ought to
know first! It is you who should give thanks! Ah!"

"Yes, that's all right, old man," returned Jack in English. "We'll give
thanks right as soon as we know what it is; but we aren't mind readers,
you know, and there are so many things to guess at that there's no use
in wasting the time. Tell us, like a good chap!" he begged in French,
for he saw the puzzled look on the face of the aviator Tom had
addressed.

"It is the best news ever!" was the answer. "The first of your brave
countrymen have arrived to help us drive the Boche from France! The
first American Expeditionary Force, to serve under your brave General
Pershing, has reached the shores of France safely, in spite of the
U-boats, and are even now marching to show themselves in Paris! Ah, is
it any wonder that we rejoice? How is it you say in your own delightful
country? Two cheers and a lion! Ah!"

"Tiger, my dear boy! Tiger!" laughed Jack. "And, while you're about it,
you might as well make it three cheers and done with it. Not that it
makes any great amount of difference in this case, but it's just the
custom, my stuffed olive!"

And then he and Tom were fairly carried off their feet by the rush of
enthusiastic Frenchmen to congratulate them on the good news, and to
share it with them.

"Is it really true?" asked Tom. "Has any substantial part of Uncle Sam's
boys really got here at last?"

He was told that such was the case. The news had just been received
at the headquarters of the flying squad to which Tom and Jack were
attached. About ten thousand American soldiers were even then on French
soil. Their coming had long been waited for, and the arrangements sailed
in secret, and the news was known in American cities scarcely any sooner
than it was in France, so careful had the military authorities been
not to give the lurking German submarines a chance to torpedo the
transports.

"Is not that glorious news, my friend?" asked the Frenchman who had
given it to Tom and Jack.

"The best ever!" was the enthusiastic reply. And then Jack, turning
to his chum, said in a low voice, as the Frenchman hurried back to the
cheering throng: "You know what this means for us, of course?"

"Rather guess I do!" was the response. "It means we've got to apply for
a transfer and fight under Pershing!"

"Exactly. Now how are we going to do it?"

"Oh, I fancy it will be all right. Merely a question of detail and
procedure. They can't object to our wanting to fight among our own
countrymen, now that enough of them are over here to make a showing. I
suppose this is the first of the big army that's coming."

"I imagine so," agreed Jack. "Hurray! this is something like. There's
going to be hard fighting. I realize that. But this is the beginning of
the end, as I see it."

"That's what! Now, instead of tinkering over our machines, let's see the
commandant and---"

Jack motioned to his chum to cease talking. Then he pointed up to the
sky. There was a little speck against the blue, a speck that became
larger as the two Americans watched.

"One of our fliers coming bark," remarked Tom in a low voice.

"I hope he brings more good news," returned Jack.

The approaching airman came rapidly nearer, and then the throngs that
had gathered about the headquarters building to discuss the news of the
arrival of the first American forces turned to watch the return of the
flier.

"It's Du Boise," remarked Tom, naming an intrepid French fighter. He was
one of the "aces," and had more than a score of Boche machines to
his credit. "He must have been out 'on his own,' looking for a stray
German."

"Yes, he and Leroy went out together," assented Jack. "But I don't see
Harry's machine," and anxiously he scanned the heavens.

Harry Leroy was, like Tom and Jack, an American aviator who had lately
joined the force in which the two friends had rendered such valiant
service. Tom and Jack had known him on the other side--had, in fact,
first met and become friendly with him at a flying school in Virginia.
Leroy had suffered a slight accident which had put him out of the flying
service for a year, but he had persisted, had finally been accepted, and
was welcomed to France by his chums who had preceded him.

"I hope nothing has happened to Harry," murmured Tom; "but I don't see
him, and it's queer Du Boise would come back without him."

"Maybe he had to--for gasoline or something," suggested Jack.

"I hope it isn't any worse than that," went on Tom. But his voice did
not carry conviction.

The French aviator landed, and as he climbed out of his machine, helped
by orderlies and others who rushed up, he was seen to stagger.

"Are you hurt?" asked Tom, hurrying up.

"A mere scratch-nothing, thank you," was the answer.

"Where's Harry Leroy?" Jack asked. "Did you have to leave him?"

"Ah, monsieur, I bring you bad news from the air," was the answer. "We
were attacked by seven Boche machines. We each got one, and then--well,
they got me--but what matters that? It is a mere nothing."

"What of Harry?" persisted Tom.

"Ah, it is of him I would speak. He is--he fell inside the enemy lines;
and I had to come back for help. My petrol gave out, and I--"'

And then, pressing his hands over his breast, the brave airman staggered
and fell, as a stream of blood issued from beneath his jacket.



CHAPTER II. A GIRL'S APPEAL


At once half a score of hands reached out to render aid to the stricken
airman, whose blood was staining the ground where he had fallen.

Tom, seeing that his fellow aviator was more desperately wounded than
the brave man had admitted, at once summoned stretcher-bearers, and he
was carried to the hospital. Then all anxiously awaited the report of
the surgeons, who quickly prepared to render aid to the fighter of the
air.

"How is he?" asked Jack, as he and Tom, lingering near the hospital, saw
one of the doctors emerge.

"He is doing very nicely," was the answer, given in French, for the two
boys of the air spoke this language now with ease, if not always with
absolute correctness.

"Then he isn't badly hurt?" asked Jack.

"No. The wound in his chest was only a flesh one, but it bled
considerably. Two bullets from an aircraft machine gun struck ribs, and
glanced off from them, but tore the flesh badly. The bleeding was held
in check by the pressure DU Boise exerted on the wounds underneath
his jacket, but at last he grew faint from loss of blood, and then the
stream welled out. With rest and care he will be all right in a few
days."

"How soon could we talk with him?" asked Tom.

"Talk with him?" asked the surgeon. "Is that necessary? He is doing very
well, and--"

"Tom means ask him some questions," explained Jack. "You see, he started
to tell us about our chum, Harry Leroy, who was out scouting with him.
Harry was shot down, so Du Boise said, but he didn't get a chance to
give any particulars, and we thought--"

"It will be a day or so before he will be able to talk to you," the
surgeon said. "He is very weak, and must not be disturbed."

"Well, may we talk with him just as soon as possible?" eagerly asked
Jack. "We want to find out where it was that Harry went down in his
machine--out of control very likely--and if we get a chance--"

"We'd like to take it out on those that shot him down!" interrupted
Torn. "Du Boise must have noticed the machines that fought him and
Harry, and if we could get any idea of the Boches who were in them--"

"I see," and the surgeon bowed and smiled approval of their idea. "You
want revenge. I hope you get it. As soon as we think he is able to
talk," and he nodded in the direction of the hospital, "we will let you
see him. Good luck to you, and confusion to the Huns!"

"Gee, but this is tough luck!" murmured Tom, as he and his chum turned
away. "Just as we were getting ready to go back into the game, too! Had
it all fixed up for Harry to fly with us in a sort of a triangle scheme
to down the Boches, and they have to go and plump him off the map. Well,
it is tough!"

"Yes, sort of takes the fun out of the good news we heard a while ago,"
agreed Jack. "I mean about Pershing's boys getting over here to France.
I hope Harry's only wounded, instead of killed. But if the Huns have him
a prisoner--good-night!"

"There's only one consolation," added Tom. "Their airmen are the best of
the lot Of course that isn't saying much, but they behave a little more
like human beings than the rest of the Boche gang; and if Harry has
fallen a prisoner to them he'll get a bit of decent treatment, anyhow."

"That's so. We'll hope for that. And now let's go on with what we
started when we saw Du Boise coming back--let's see what chance we have
of being transferred to an All American escadrille."

The boys started across the field again toward the headquarters, and,
nearing it, they saw, in a small motor car, a girl sitting beside the
military driver. She was a pretty girl, and it needed only one glance to
show that she was an American.

"Hello!" exclaimed Tom, with a low whistle. "Look who's here!"

"Do you know her?" asked Jack.

"No. Wish I did, though."

Jack glanced quickly and curiously at his chum.

"Oh, you needn't think you're the only chap that has a drag with the
girls," went on Tom. "Just because Bessie Gleason--"

"Cut it out!" exclaimed Jack. "Look, she acts as though she wanted to
speak to us."

The military chauffeur had alighted from the machine and was talking
to one of the French aviation officers. Meanwhile the girl, left to
herself, was looking about the big aviation field, with a look of
wonder, mixed with alarm and nervousness. She caught sight of Tom and
Jack, and a smile came to her face, making her, as Tom said afterward,
the prettiest picture he had seen in a long while.

"You're Americans, aren't you?" began the girl, turning frankly to them.
"I know you are! And, oh, I'm in such trouble!"

Tom stepped ahead of Jack, who was taking off his cap and bowing.

"Let me have a show for my white alley," Tom murmured to his chum.
"You've got one girl."

"You win," murmured Jack.

"Yes, we're from the United States," said Tom. "But it's queer to see
a girl here--from America or anywhere else. How'd you get through the
lines, and what can we do for you?"

"I am looking for my brother," was the answer. "I understood he was
stationed here, and I managed to get passes to come to see him, but it
wasn't easy work. I met this officer in his motor car, and he brought
me along the last stage of the journey. Can you tell me where my brother
is? His name is Harry Leroy."

Torn said afterward that he felt as though he had gone into a spinning
nose dive with a Boche aviator on his tail, while Jack admitted that he
felt somewhat as he did the time his gasoline pipe was severed by a Hun
bullet when he was high in the air and several miles behind the enemy's
lines.

"Your--your brother!" Tom managed to mutter.

"Yes, Harry Leroy. He's from the United States, too. Perhaps you know
him, as I notice you are both aviators. He told me if I ever got to
France to come to see him, and he mentioned the names of two young
men--I have them here somewhere--"

She began to search in the depths of a little leather valise she
carried, and, at that moment, the military chauffeur who had brought her
to the aviation field turned to her, and spoke rapidly in French.

She understood the language, as did Tom and Jack, and at the first words
her face went white. For the chauffeur informed her that her brother,
Harry Leroy, whom she had come so far to see, was, even then, lying dead
or wounded within the German lines.

"Oh!" the girl murmured, her fare becoming whiter and more white.
"Oh--Harry!"

Then she would have fallen from the seat, only Tom leaped forward and
caught her in his arms.

And while efforts were being made to restore the girl to consciousness,
may I not take this opportunity of telling my new readers something of
the previous books of this series, so that they may read this one more
intelligently?

Torn Raymond and Jack Parmly, as related in the initial volume, "Air
Service Boys Flying for France; or The Young Heroes of the Lafayette
Escadrille," were Virginians. Soon after the great world conflict
started, they burned with a desire to fight on the side of freedom, and
it was as aviators that they desired to help.

Accordingly they went to an aviation school in Virginia, under the
auspices of the Government, and there learned the rudiments of flying.
Tom's father had invented an aeroplane stabilizer, but, as told in the
story, the plans and other papers had been stolen by a German spy.

Tom and his chum resolved to get possession of the documents, and they
kept up the search after they reached France and were made members
of the Lafayette Escadrille. It was in France that they met Adolph
Tuessing, the German spy.

The second volume, entitled "Air Service Boys Over the Enemy's Lines;
or The German Spy's Secret," takes the two young men through further
adventures. They had become acquainted on the steamer with a girl named
Bessie Gleason and her mother. Carl Potzfeldt, a German sailing under
false colors, claimed to be a friend of Bessie and her mother, but Jack,
who was more than casually interested in the girl, was suspicious of
this man. And his suspicions proved correct, for Potzfeldt had planned a
daring trick.

After some strenuous happenings, in which the Air Service Boys assisted,
Bessie and her mother were rescued from the clutches of Potzfeldt,
and went to Paris, Mrs. Gleason engaging in Red Cross work, and Bessie
helping her as best she could.

 Immediately preceding this present volume is the third, called "Air
Service Boys Over the Rhine; or Fighting Above the Clouds."

By this time the United States had entered the great war on the side of
humanity and democracy.

Then the world was startled by the news that a great German cannon was
firing on Paris seventy miles away, and consternation reigned for a
time. Tom and Jack had a hand in silencing the great gun, for it was
they who discovered where it was hidden. Also in the third volume is
related how Tom's father, who had disappeared, was found again.

The boys passed through many startling experiences with their usual
bravery, so that, when the present story opens, they were taking a
much needed and well-earned rest. Mr. Raymond, having accomplished his
mission, had returned to the United States.

Then, as we have seen, came the news of the arrival of the first of
Pershing's forces, and with it came the sad message that Harry Leroy,
the chum of Torn and Jack, had fallen behind the German lines. And
whether he was alive now, though wounded, or was another victim of the
Hun machine guns, could not be told.

"Harry's sister couldn't have come at a worse time," remarked Tom, as he
rejoined Jack, having carried the unconscious girl to the same hospital
where Du Boise lay wounded.

"I should say not!" agreed Jack. "Do you really suppose she's Harry's
sister?"

"I don't see Any reason to doubt it. She said so, didn't she?"

"Oh, yes, of course. I was just wondering. Say, it's going to be tough
when she wakes up and realizes what's happened."

"You bet it is! This has been a tough day all around, and if it wasn't
for the good news that our boys are in France I'd feel pretty rocky. But
now we've got all the more incentive to get busy!" exclaimed Tom.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean get our machines in fighting trim. I'm going out and get a few
Germans to make up for what they did to Harry."

"You're right! I'm with you! But what about what's her name--I mean
Harry's sister?"

"I didn't hear her name. Some of the Red Cross nurses are looking after
her. They promised to let me know when she came to. We can offer to help
her, I suppose, being, as you might say, neighbors."

"Sure!" agreed Jack. "I'm with you. But let's go and--"

However they did not go at once, wherever it was that Jack was going to
propose, for, at that moment, one of the Red Cross nurses attached to
the aviation hospital came to the door and beckoned to the boys.

"Miss Leroy is conscious now," was the message. "She wants to see you
two," and the nurse smiled at them.

Tom and Jack found Miss Leroy, looking pale, but prettier than ever,
sitting up in a chair. She leaned forward eagerly as they entered, and,
holding out her hands, exclaimed:

"They tell me you are my brother's chums! Oh, can you not get me some
news of him? Can you not let him know that I have come so far to see
him? I am anxious! Oh, where is he?" and she looked from Tom to Jack,
and then to Tom again.



CHAPTER III. ANXIOUS WAITING


Nellie Leroy--for such the boys learned was her name--broke the silence,
that was growing tense, by asking:

"Is there any hope? Tell me, do you think there is a chance that my
brother may be alive?"

"Yes, there is, certainly!" exclaimed Tom quickly, before Jack had an
opportunity to give, possibly, a less hopeful answer.

"And if he is alive, is there a chance that he may be rescued--that I
may go to him?" she went on.

"Hardly that," said Tom, slowly. "It's a wonder you ever got as near to
the front as this. But as for getting past the German lines--"

"Then what can I do?" asked Nellie Leroy, eagerly. "Oh, tell me
something that I can do. I'm used to hard work," she went on. "I've been
a Red Cross nurse for some time, and I helped in one big explosion of a
munitions plant in New Jersey before I came over. That's one reason they
let me come--because I proved that I could do things!" and she did
look very efficient, in spite of her paleness, in spite of her, seeming
frailness. There was an indefinable air about her which showed that
she would carry through whatever she undertook. "I never fainted
before--never."

"It's like this," said Tom, and Jack seemed content, now, to let his
chum play the chief role. "When one of us goes down in his machine back
of the enemy's lines, those left over here never really know what has
happened for a few days."

"And how do they know then?' she asked.

"The German airmen are more decent than some of the other Hun forces
we're fighting," explained Torn. "Generally after they capture one of
our escadrille members, dead or alive, they fly over our lines a few
days later and drop a cap, or a glove, or something that belongs to the
prisoner. Sometimes they attach a note, written by one of their airmen
or from the prisoner, giving news of his condition."

"And you think they may do this in my brother's case?" asked Nellie.

"They are very likely to," assented Tom, and Jack, to whom the girl
looked for confirmation, nodded, his agreement.

"How long shall we have to wait?" Harry's sister asked.

"There is no telling," said Tom "Sometimes it's a week before their
airmen get a chance to fly over our lines. It all depends."

"On what?"

"On how the battle goes," answered Tom. "If there is much fighting, and
many engagements in the air, the Boches don't get a chance to fly over
and drop tokens of our men they may have shot down. We do the same for
them, so it's six of one and a half dozen of the other. Often for a week
we don't get a chance to let them know about prisoners we have, because
the fighting is so severe."

"Will it be that way now?" the girl went on.

"Hard to say--we don't have the ordering of battles," replied Jack. "But
it's been rather quiet for a few days, and it's likely to continue so.
If it does one of their men may fly over to-morrow, or the next day, and
drop something your brother wore--or even a note from him."

"Oh, I hope they do the last!" she murmured. "If I could have a note
from him I'd be the happiest girl alive I I'd know, then, that he was
all right."

"He may be," said Tom, trying to be hopeful. "You see Du Boise, who was
with Harry when the fight took place, is himself wounded, so he can't
tell us much about it."

"Yes, they told me that my brother's companion reached here badly
hurt. He is so brave! I wish they would let me help take care of him. I
understand a great deal about wounds, and I'm not at all afraid of the
sight of blood. It was silly of me to faint just now, but--I--I couldn't
help it. I'd been counting so much on seeing Harry, and when they told
me he was gone--"

She covered her face with her hands, and endeavored to repress her
emotion.

"You're not Harry's little sister, are you?" asked Jack, hoping to
change the current of talk into other and happier channels.

"No; that's Mabel--Mab he calls her. She's younger than I. Did he often
speak of her?"

"Oh, yes; and you too!" exclaimed Tom, so warmly that Nellie blushed,
and the damask tint in her hitherto pale cheeks was most becoming.

"We've seen your picture, and Mab's too," went on Tom. "Harry keeps them
just over his cot in the barracks. But I didn't recognize you when I saw
you a little while ago in the machine. Though I might have, if so many
things hadn't happened all at once, and made me sort of hazy," Tom
explained.

"Then are you and my brother good friends?" asked Nellie.

"The best ever!" exclaimed Tom, and Jack warmly assented. "Not so many
Americans are in this branch of the escadrille as are in others," Torn
went on; "so Harry and Jack and I are a sort of little trio all by
ourselves. He hardly ever goes up without us, but we are on a rest
billet; and to-day he went up with Du Boise."

"If he had only come back!" sighed Nellie. "But there! I mustn't
complain. Harry wouldn't let me if he were here. We both have to do our
duty. Now I'm going to see what I can do to help, and not be silly and
do any more fainting. I hope you'll pardon me," and she smiled at the
two boys.

"Of course!" exclaimed Tom, with great emphasis, and again Miss Leroy
blushed.

"Then, is to wait the only thing we can do?" she asked.

"That's all," assented Tom. "We may get a message from the clouds any
day."

"And, oh! I shall pray that it may be favorable!" murmured the girl.
"Perhaps I may question this Mr. Du Boise, and learn from him just what
happened?" she interrogated.

"Yes, we want to talk to him ourselves, as soon as he's able to sit up,"
said Jack. "We want to get a shot at the Boche who downed Harry."

"So you are as fond of Harry as all that! I am glad!" exclaimed his
sister. "Have you known him long?"

"We knew him slightly before we went to the flying school in
Virginia with him," said Tom. "But down there, when we started in at
'grass-cutting,' and worked our way up, we grew to know him better. Then
Jack and I got our chance to come over. But Harry had a smash, and he
had to wait a year."

"Yes, I know. It almost broke his heart," said Miss Leroy. "I was away
at school at the time, which accounts for my not knowing more of you
boys, since Harry always wrote me, or told me, about his chums. Then,
when I came back after my graduation, I found that he had sailed for
France."

"And maybe we weren't glad to see him!" exclaimed Tom. "It was like
getting letters from home."

"Yes, I recall, now, his mentioning that he had met over here some
students from the Virginia school," said Miss Leroy. "Well, after Harry
sailed I was wild to go, but father and mother would not hear of it at
first. Then, when the war grew worse, and I showed them that I could do
hard work for the Red Cross, they consented. So I sailed, but I never
expected to get like this."

"Oh, well, everything may come out all right," said Tom, as cheerfully
as he could. But, in very truth, he was not very hopeful in his heart.

For once an aviator succumbs to the hail of bullets from the German
machine guns in an aircraft, and his own creature of steel and wings
goes hurtling down, there is only a scant chance that the disabled
airman will land alive.

Of course some have done it, and, even with their machines out of
control and on fire, they have lived through the awful experience. But
the chances were and are against them.

Harry Leroy had been seen to go down, apparently with his machine out of
control, after a fusillade of Boche bullets. This much Du Boise had said
before his collapse. As to what the fallen aviator's real fate was, time
alone could disclose.

"I can only wait!" sighed Nellie, as the boys took their leave. "The
days will be anxious ones--days of waiting. I shall help here all I
can. You'll let me know the moment there is any news--good or bad--won't
you?" she begged; and her eyes filled with tears.

"We'll bring you the news at once--night or day!" exclaimed Tom,
vigorously.

As he and Jack walked out of the hospital, the latter remarked:

"You seem to be a favorite there, all right, Tom, my boy. If we weren't
such good chums I might be a bit jealous."

"If you feel that way I'll drop Bessie Gleason a note!" suggested Tom,
quickly.

"Don't!" begged Jack. "I'll be good!"



CHAPTER IV. TRANSFERRED


One glance at the bulletin board, erected just outside their quarters at
the aerodrome, told Tom and Jack what they were detailed for that day.
It was the day following the arrival of Nellie Leroy at that particular
place in France, only to find that her brother was missing--either dead,
or alive and a prisoner behind the German lines.

"Sergeant Thomas Raymond will report to headquarters at eight o'clock,
to do patrol work."

"Sergeant Jack Parmly will report to headquarters at eight o'clock for
reconnaissance with a photographer, who will be detailed."

Thus read the bulletin board, and Tom and Jack, looking at it, nodded to
one another, while Tom remarked:

"Got our work cut out for us all right."

"Yes," agreed Jack. "Only I wish I could change places with you. I don't
like those big, heavy machines."

But orders are orders, nowhere more so than in the aviation squad, and
soon the two lads, after a hearty if hasty breakfast, were ready for the
day's work. They each realized that when the sun set they might either
be dead, wounded or prisoners. It was a life full of eventualities.

A little later the two young airmen, in common with their comrades, were
ready. Some were to do patrol work, like Tom--that is fly over and
along the German lines in small swift, fighting planes, to attack a Hun
machine, if any showed, and to give notice of any attack, either from
the air or on the ground. The latter attacks the airmen would observe in
progress and report to the commanders of infantry or batteries who could
take steps to meet the attack, or even frustrate it.

Tom was assigned to a speedy Spad machine, one of great power and
lightness into which he climbed. He was to fly alone, and on his
machine was a machine gun of the Vickers type, which had to be aimed by
directing, or pointing, the aeroplane itself at the enemy.

After Tom had given a hasty but careful look at his craft, and had
assured himself of the accuracy of the report of his mechanician that
it had oil and petrol, his starter took his place in front of the
propeller.

"Well, Jack," called Tom to his chum, across the field, where Jack was
making his preparations for taking up a photographer in a big two-seated
machine, "I wish you luck."

"Same to you, old man. If you see anything of Harry, and he's alive,
tell him we'll bring him back home as soon as we get a chance."

"Do you think there is any chance?" asked Tom eagerly. "I wouldn't want
anything better than to get Harry away from those Boches--and make his
sister happy."

"Well, there's a chance, but it's a slim one, I'm afraid," remarked
Jack. "We'll talk about it after we get back. Maybe there'll be a
message from the Huns about him before the day is over."

"I hope so," murmured Tom. "If those Huns only act as decently toward us
as we do toward them, we'll have some news soon."

For it is true, in a number of instances that the German aviators do
drop within the allied lines news of any British, French or American
birdman who is captured or killed inside the German lines.

"All ready?" asked Tom of his helper.

"Switch off, gas on," was the answer.

Tom made sure that the electrical switch was disconnected. If it was
left on, in "contact" as it is called, and the mechanician turned the
propeller blades, there might have been a sudden starting of the engine
that would have instantly kill the man. But with the switch off there
could be no ignition in the cylinders.

Slowly the man turned the big blades until each cylinder was sucked full
of the explosive mixture of gasoline and air.

"Contact!" he cried, and Tom threw over the switch.

Then, stepping once more up to the propeller, the man gave it a pull,
and quickly released it, jumping back out of harm's way.

With a throbbing roar the engine awoke to life and the propeller spun
around, a blur of indistinctness. The motor was working sweetly. Toni
throttled down, assured himself that everything was working well, and
then, with a wave of his hand toward Jack, began to taxi across the
field, to head up into the wind. All aeroplanes are started this
way--directly into the wind, to rise against it and not with it. On and
on he went and then he began to climb into the air. With him climbed
other birdmen who were to do patrol and contact work with him, the
latter being the term used when the airship keeps in contact through
signaling with infantry or artillery forces on the ground, directing
their efforts against the enemy.

Having seen Tom on his way, Jack turned to his own machine. As his chum
had been, Jack was dressed warmly in fur garments, even to his helmet,
which was fur lined. He had on two pairs of gloves and his eyes were
protected with heavy goggles. For it is very cold in the upper regions,
and the swift speed of the machine sends the wind cutting into one's
face so that it is impossible to see from the eyes unless they are
protected.

Jack's machine was a two-seater, of a heavy and comparatively safe
type--that is it was safe as long as it was not shot down by a Hun.
Jack was to occupy the front seat and act as pilot, while Harris, the
photographer he was to take up, sat behind him, with camera, map, pencil
and paper ready at hand for the making of observations.

On either side of the photographer's seat were six loaded drums of
ammunition for the Lewis gun, for use against the ruthless Hun machines.
Jack had a fixed Vicker machine weapon for his use.

"Hope I get a chance to use 'em," said Harris with a grin, as he climbed
into his seat, patted the loaded drums, and nodded to Jack that he was
ready.

The same procedure was gone through as in the case of Tom. The man spun
the propeller, and they were ready to set off. Accompanying them were
two other reconnaissance planes, and four experienced fighting pilots,
two of them "aces," that is men who, alone, had each brought down five
or more Hun planes. The big planes, used for obtaining news, pictures,
and maps of the enemy's territory, are always accompanied by fighting
planes, which look out for the attacking Germans, while the other,
and less speedy, craft carry the men who are to bring back vital
information.

"Let her go!" exclaimed Harris to Jack, and the latter nodded to the
mechanician, who, after the order of "contact," spun the blades again
and they were really off, together with the others.

Up and up went Jack, sending his machine aloft in big circles as the
others were doing. Before him on a support was clamped a map, similar to
the one supported in front of Harris, and by consulting this Jack knew,
from the instructions he had received before going up, just what part of
the enemy's territory he was to cover. He was under the direction of
the photographer and map-maker, for the two duties were combined in this
instance.

Up and up they went. There was no talking, for though this is possible
in an aeroplane when the engine is shut off, such was not now the case.
But Jack knew his business.

His indicator soon showed them to be up about fourteen thousand feet,
and below them an artillery duel was in progress. It was a wonderful,
but terrible sight. Immediately under them, and rather too near
for comfort, shrapnel was bursting all around. The "Archies," or
anti-aircraft guns of the Germans, were trying to reach the French
planes, and, in addition to the bullets, "woolly bears" and "flaming
onions" were sent up toward them. These are two types of bursting
shells, the first so named because when it explodes it does so with a
cloud of black smoke and a flaming center. I have never been able to
learn how the "onions" got their name, unless it is from the stench let
loose by the exploding gases.

Though they were fired at viciously, neither Jack nor his companion was
hit, and they continued on their way, keeping at a good height, as did
their associates, until they were well over the front German lines.

Jack noticed that some of the other planes were dropping lower, to give
their observers a chance to do their work, and, in response to a shove
in his back from the powerful field glasses carried by Harris, Jack sent
his machine down to about the nine-thousand-foot level. By a glance at
the map he could see that they were now over the territory concerning
which a report was wanted.

They were now under a heavy fire from the German anti-aircraft guns, but
Jack was too old a hand to let this needlessly worry him. He sent his
machine slipping from side to side, holding it on a level keel now and
then, to enable Harris to get the photographs he wanted. In addition,
the observer was also making a hasty, rough, but serviceable map of what
he saw.

Jack glanced down, and noted a German supply train puffing its way along
toward some depot, and he headed toward this to give Harris a chance to
note whether there were any supplies of ammunition, or anything else,
that might profitably be bombed later. He also saw several columns of
German infantry on the march, but as they were not out to make an attack
now, they had to watch the Huns moving up to the front line trenches,
there later, doubtless, to give battle.

Back and forth over the German lines flew Jack, Harris meanwhile doing
important observation work. As Jack went lower he came under a fiercer
fire of the batteries, until, it became so hot, from the shrapnel
bursts, that he fain would have turned and made for home. But orders
were orders, and Harris had not yet indicated that he had enough.

Twisting and turning, to make as poor a mark as possible for the enemy
guns, Jack sent his machine here and there. The other pilots were doing
the same. Machine guns were now opening up on them, and once the burst
of fire came so close that Jack began to "zoom." That is he sent his
craft up and down sharply, like the curves and bumps in a roller-coaster
railway track.

By this time the leading plane gave the signal for the return, and,
thankful enough that they had not been hit, Jack swung about. But the
danger was not over. They had yet to pass across the enemy's front line
trenches, and when Harris signaled Jack to go down low in crossing the
lad wondered what the order was for. It was merely that the observer
wanted to see what was going on there so he could report.

They went down to within a mile of the earth, and several times the
plane was struck by pieces of shrapnel or bullets from machine guns.
Twice flying bits of metal came uncomfortably close to Jack, but he was
kept too busy with the management of his machine to more than notice
them. Harris was working hard at the camera and the maps.

Then, suddenly, came the danger signal from the leading plane, and only
just in time. Out from the German hangars came several battle machines.
Harris dropped his pencil and got ready the automatic gun, but it was
not needed, for, after approaching as though about to attack, the Huns
suddenly veered off. Later the reason for this became known. A squadron
of French planes had arisen as swiftly to give battle, and however brave
the Hun may be when he outnumbers the enemy, he had yet to be known to
take on a combat against odds.

So Jack and his observer safely reached the aerodrome again, bringing
back much valuable information.

"Is Tom here yet?" was Jack's first inquiry after he had divested
himself of his togs and men had rushed to the developing room the camera
with its precious plates.

"Not yet," some of his chums told him. "They're having a fight upstairs
I guess."

Jack nodded and looked anxiously in the direction in which Tom was last
seen.

It was an hour before the scouting airplanes came back, and one was so
badly shot up and its pilot so wounded that it only just managed to get
over the French lines before almost crashing to earth.

"Are you all right, Tom?" cried Jack, as he rushed up to his chum, when
he saw the latter getting out of his craft, rather stiff from the cold.

"Yes. They went at me hard--two of 'em but I think I accounted for one,
unless he went into a spinning nose dive just to fool me."

"Oh, they'll do that if they get the chance."

"I know," assented Tom. "Hello!" he exclaimed as he noticed a splintered
strut near his head. "That came rather close."

And indeed it had. For a bullet, or a piece of shrapnel, has plowed a
furrow in the bit of supporting wood, not two inches away from Tom's
head, though in the excitement of the fight he had not noticed it.

There had been a fight in the upper air and one of the French machines
had not come home.

"Another man to await news of," said the flight lieutenant sadly, when
the report reached him. "That's two in two days."

"No news of Leroy yet?" asked Tom and Jack, as they went out of
headquarters after reporting.

"None, I am sorry to say. It is barely possible that he landed in
some lonely spot and is still hiding out--if he is not killed. But I
understand you two young men had something to request of me. I can give
you some attention now," went on the commander of their squadron.

"We want to be transferred!" exclaimed Tom. "Now, that Pershing's men
are here--"

"I understand," was the answer. "You want to fight with your countrymen.
Well, I would do the same. I will see if I can get you transferred,
though I shall much regret losing you."

He was as good as his word, and a week later, following some strenuous
fights in the air, Tom and Jack received notice that they could report
to the first United States air squadron, which was then being formed on
that part of the front where the first of Pershing's men were brigaded
with, the French and British armies.

Du Boise, who had brought word back of the fate that had befallen Harry
Leroy, sent for Tom and Jack when it became known that they were to
leave.

"Shall I ever see you again?" he asked wistfully.

"To be sure," was Tom's hearty answer. "We aren't going far away, and
we'll fly over to see you the first chance we get. Besides, we're going
to depend on you to give us some information regarding Leroy. If the
Huns drop any message at all they'll do it at this aerodrome."

"Yes, I believe you're right," assented Du Boise, trying not to show the
pain that racked him. "But it's so long, now, I begin to believe he
must be dead, and either the Huns don't know it or they aren't going
to bother to send us word. But I'll let you know as soon as I hear
anything."

"Is his sister here yet?" asked Jack, for Tom and he had been too busy
the last two days, getting ready to shift their quarters, to call on
Nellie Leroy.

"She has gone back to Paris," answered Du Boise. "There was no place for
her here. I can give you her address. I promised to let her know in case
I got word about her brother."

"I wish you would give me the address!" exclaimed Tom eagerly, and his
chum smiled at his show of interest.



CHAPTER V. THE RESOLVE


"Well, to-morrow, if all goes well, we'll be with Pershing's boys,"
remarked Jack, as he and Tom were sitting in their quarters after
breakfast, the last day but one they were to spend in the Lafayette
Escadrille with which they had so long been associated.

"That's so. We'll soon be on the firing line with Uncle Sam," agreed
Tom. "Of course we've been with him, in a way, ever since we've been
fighting, for it's all in the same cause. But there'll be a little more
satisfaction in being 'on our own,' as the English say."

"You're right. What's on for to-day?" asked Jack.

"Haven't the least idea. But here comes a messenger now."

As Tom spoke he glanced from a window and saw an orderly coming toward
their quarters. The man seemed in a hurry.

"Something's up!" decided Jack. "Maybe they've got word from poor
Harry."

 "I'm beginning to give him up," said Tom.  "If they were going to
let us have any news of him they'd have done it long ago--the beasts!"
and he fairly snarled out the words.

"Still I'm not giving up," returned Jack. "I can't explain why, but I
have a feeling that, some day, we'll see Harry Leroy again."

Tom shook his head.

"I wish I could be as hopeful as you," he said. "Maybe we'll see him
again--or his grave. But I want to say, right now, that if ever I have
a chance at the Hun who shot him down, that Hun Will get no mercy from
me!"

"Same here!" echoed Jack. "But here comes the orderly."

The man entered and handed Jack a slip of paper. It was from the
commander of their squadron, and said, in effect, that though Tom and
Jack were no longer under his orders, having been duly transferred to
another sector, yet he would be obliged if they would call on him, at
his quarters.

"Maybe he has news!" exclaimed Jack, eagerly.

Again Tom shook his head.

"He'd have said so if that was the case," he remarked as he and his chum
prepared to report at headquarters, telling the messenger they would
soon follow him.

"Ah, young gentlemen, I am glad to see, you!" exclaimed the commander,
and it was as friends that he greeted Tom and Jack and not as military
subordinates. "Do you want to do me one last favor?"

"A thousand if we can!" exclaimed Jack, for he and Tom had caught
something of the French enthusiasm of manner, from having associated
with the brave airmen so long.

"Good! Then I shall feel free to ask. Know then, that I am a little
short-handed in experienced airmen. The Huns have taken heavy toll of
us these last few days," he went on sorrowfully, and Torn and Jack knew
this to be so, for two aces, as well as some pilots of lesser magnitude,
had been shot down. But ample revenge had been taken.

"By all rights you are entitled to a holiday before you join your
new command, under the great Pershing," went on the flight commander.
"However, as I need the services of two brave men to do patrol duty,
I appeal to you. There is a machine gun nest, somewhere in the Boche
lines, that has been doing terrible execution. If you could find
the battery, and signal its location, we might destroy it with our
artillery, and so save many brave lives for France," he went on. "I do
not like to ask you--"

"Tell 'em to get out the machines!" interrupted Jack. "We were just
wishing we could do something to make up for the loss of Harry Leroy,
and this may give it to us. You haven't heard anything of him, have
you?" he asked.

The commander shook his head.

"I fear we shall never hear from him," he said. "Though only yesterday
we received back some of the effects of one of our men who was shot down
behind their lines. I can not understand in Leroy's case."

"Well, we'll make 'em pay a price all right!" declared Tom. "And now
what about this machine gun nest?"

The commander gave them such information as he had. It was not unusual,
such work as Tom and Jack were about to undertake. As the officer
had said, they were practically exempt now that they were about to be
transferred. But they had volunteered, as he probably knew they would.

Two speedy Spad machines were run out for the use of Tom and Jack, each
one to have his own, for the work they were to do was dangerous and they
would have need of speed.

They looked over the machine guns to see that they were in shape for
quick work, and as the one on the machine Tom selected had congealed
oil on the mechanism, having lately returned from a high flight, another
weapon was quickly attached. Nothing receives more care and attention
at an aerodrome than the motor of the plane and the mechanism of the
machine gun. The latter are constructed so as to be easily and quickly
mounted and dismounted, and at the close of each day's flight the guns
are carefully inspected and cleaned ready for the morrow.

"Locate the machine gun battery if you can," was the parting request to
Tom and Jack as they prepared to ascend. "Send back word of the location
as nearly as you can to our batteries, and the men there will see to the
rest."

"We will!" cried the Americans.

Locating a machine gun nest is not as easy as picking out a hostile
battery of heavier guns, for the former, being smaller, are more easily
concealed.

But Tom and Jack would, of course, do their best to help out their
friends, the French. Over toward the German lines they flew, and began
to scan with eager eyes the ground below them. They could not fly at a
very great height, as they needed to be low down in order to see, and in
this position they were a mark for the anti-aircraft guns of the Huns.

They had no sooner got over the enemy trenches, and were peering about
for the possible location of the machine gun emplacement, when they
were greeted with bursts of fire. But by skillfully dodging they escaped
being hit themselves, though their machines were struck. The two chums
were separated by about a mile, for they wanted to cover as much ground
as possible.

At last, to his great delight, Tom saw a burst of smoke from a building
that had been so demolished by shell fire that it seemed nothing could
now inhabit it. But the truth was soon apparent. The machine gun nest
was in the cellar, and from there, well hidden, had been doing terrible
execution on the allied forces. Pausing only to make sure of his
surmise, Tom began to tap out on his wireless key the location of the
hidden machine gun nest.

Most of the aeroplanes carry a wireless outfit. An aerial trails after
them, and the electric impulses, dripping off this, so to speak, reach
the battery headquarters. Owing to the noise caused by the motor of the
airship, no message can be sent to the airman in return, and he has to
depend on signs made on the ground, arrows or circles in white by day
and lighted signals at night, to make sure that his messages are being
received and understood.

The Allies, of course, possess maps of every sector of the enemy's
front, so that by reference to these maps the aircraft observer can send
back word as to almost the precise location of the battery which it is
desired to destroy.

Quickly tapping out word where the battery was located, Tom awaited
developments, circling around the spot in his machine. He was fired at
from guns on the ground below, but, to his delight, no hostile planes
rose to give him combat. A glance across the expanse, however, showed
that Jack was engaging two.

"He's keeping them from me!" thought Tom, and his heart was heavy, for
he realized that Jack might be killed. However, it was the fortune of
war. As long as the Hun planes were fighting Jack they would not molest
him, and he might have time to send word to the French battery that
would result in the destruction of the Hun machine nest.

There came a burst of fire from the Allied lines he had left, and Tom
saw a shell land to the left and far beyond the Hun battery hidden in
the old ruins. He at once sent back a correcting signal.

The more a gun is elevated up to a certain point, the farther it shoots.
Forty-three degrees is about the maximum elevation. Again, if a gun is
elevated too high it shoots over instead of directly at the target aimed
at. It is then necessary to lower the elevation. Tom has seen that the
guns of the French battery, which were seeking to destroy the machine
gun nest were shooting beyond the mark. Accordingly they were told to
depress their muzzles.

This was done, but still the shells fell to the left, and an additional
correction was necessary. It is comparatively easy to make corrections
in elevation or depression that will rectify errors in shooting short
of or beyond a mark. It is not so easy to make the same corrections in
what, for the sake of simplicity, may be called right or left errors,
that is horizontal firing. To make these corrections it becomes needful
to inscribe imaginary circles about the target, in this case the machine
gun nest.

These circles are named from the letters of the alphabet. For instance,
a circle drawn three hundred yards around a Hun battery as a center
might be designated A. The next circle, two hundred yards less in size,
would be B and so on, down to perhaps five yards, and that is getting
very close.

The circles are further divided, as a piece of pie is cut, into twelve
sectors, and numbered from 1 to 12. The last sector is due north, while
6 would be due south, 3 east, and 9 west, with the other figures for
northeast, southwest, and so on.

If a shot falls in the fifty-yard circle, indicated by the letter D,
but to the southwest of the mark, it is necessary to indicate that by
sending the message "D-7," which would mean that, speaking according to
the points of the compass, the missile had fallen within fifty yards of
the mark, but to the south-southwest of it, and correction must be made
accordingly.

Tom watched the falling shells. They came nearer and nearer to the
hidden battery and at last he saw one fall plump where it was needed.
There was a great puff of smoke, and when it had blown away there was
only a hole in the ground where the ruins had been hiding the machine
guns.

Tom's work was done, and he flew off to the aid of Jack, who had
overcome one Hun, sending his plane crashing to earth. But the other,
an expert fighter, was pressing him hard until Ton opened up on him with
his machine gun. Then the German, having no stomach for odds, turned
tail and flew toward his own lines.

"Good for you, Tom!" yelled Jack, though he knew his chum could not hear
him because of the noise of the motor.

Together the two lads, who had engaged in their last battle strictly
with the French, made for their aerodrome, reaching it safely, though,
as it was learned when Jack dismounted, he had received a slight bullet
wound in one side from a missile sent by one of the attacking planes.
But the hurt was only a flesh wound; though, had it gone an inch to one
side, it would have ended Jack's fighting days.

Hearty and enthusiastic were the congratulations that greeted the
exploit of Torn in finding the German machine gun nest that had been
such a menace, nor were the thanks to Jack any less warm, for without
his help Tom could never have maintained his position, and sent back
corrections to the battery which brought about the desired result.

"It is a glorious end to your stay with us," said the commander, with
shining eyes, as he congratulated them.

There was a little impromptu banquet in the quarters that night, and Tom
and Jack were bidden God-speed to their new quarters.

"There's only one thing I want to say!" said Jack quietly, as he rose in
response to a demand that he talk.

"Let us hear it, my slice of bacon!" called a jolly ace.

"It's this," went on Jack. "That I hereby resolve that if we--I mean Tom
and I--can't rescue our comrade, Harry Leroy, from the Huns--provided
he's alive--that we'll take a toll of five Germans for him--or as many,
up to that number, as we can shoot down before they get us. Five German
fliers is the price of Harry Leroy, who was worth a hundred of them!"

"Bravo! Hurrah! So he was! Death to the Huns!" were the cries.

Torn Raymond sprang to his feet

"What Jack says I say!" he cried. "But I double the toll. If Harry Leroy
is dead he leaves a sister. You all saw her here! Well, I'll get five
Huns for her, and that makes ten between Jack and me!"

"Success to you!" cried several.

With this resolve to spur them on, Tom and Jack bade their bravo
comrades farewell and started for Paris, whence they were to journey to
the headquarters of General Pershing and his men.



CHAPTER VI. IN PARIS


Attired in their natty uniforms of the La Fayette Escadrille, which they
had not discarded, with the double wings showing that they were fully
qualified pilots and aviators, Jack Parmly and Tom Raymond attracted
no little attention as, several hours after leaving their places on the
battle front, they arrived in Paris. They were to have a few days rest
before joining the newly formed American aviation section which, as yet,
was hardly ready for active work.

"Well, they're here!" suddenly cried Tom, as he and Jack made their way
out of the station to seek a modest hotel where they might stay until
time for them to report.

"Who? Where? I don't see 'em!" exclaimed Jack, as he crowded to the side
of his chum, murmurs from a group of French persons testifying to the
esteem in which the American lads were held.

"There!" went on Tom, pointing. "See some of our doughboys! And maybe
the crowds aren't glad to have 'em here! It's great, I tell you, great!"

As he spoke he pointed to several khaki-clad infantrymen, some of the
first of the ten thousand Americans lads that were sent over to "take
the germ out of Germany." The Americans were rather at a loss, but they
seemed masters of themselves, and laughed and talked with glee as they
gazed on the unfamiliar scenes. They, too, were enjoying a holiday
before being sent on to be billeted with the French or British troops.

"Come on, let's talk to 'em!" cried Tom, enthusiastically. "It's as good
as a letter from home to see 'em!"

"I thought you meant you saw--er--Bessie and her mother," returned Jack,
and there was a little disappointment in his voice.

"Oh, we'll see them soon enough, if they're still in Paris," said Tom,
gazing curiously at his chum. "But they don't know we are coming here."

"Yes, they do," said Jack, quietly.

"They do? Then you must have written."

"Of course. Don't you want to see them before we get shipped off to a
new sector?"

"Why, yes. Just now, though, I'm anxious to hear some good, old United
States talk. Come on, let's speak to 'em. There's one bunch that seems
to be in trouble."

But the trouble was only because some of Pershing's boys--as they were
generally called wanted to make some purchases at a candy shop and did
not know enough of the language to make their meaning clear. It was a
good-natured misunderstanding, and both the French shop-keeper and his
helper and the doughboys were laughing over it.

"Hello, boys! Glad to see you! Can we help you out?" asked Tom, as he
and Jack joined the group.

The infantrymen whirled about.

"Well, for the love of the Mason an' Dixon line! is there somebody heah
who can speak our talk?" cried one lad, his accent unmistakably marking
him as Southern.

"Guess we can help you out," said Jack. "We're from God's country, too,"
and in an instant the were surrounded and being shaken hands with on all
sides, while a perfect barrage of questions was fired at them.

Then, when the little misunderstanding at the candy shop had been
straightened out, Tom and Jack told something of who they were,
mentioning the fact that they were soon to fight directly under the
stars and stripes, information which drew whoops of delight from the
enthusiastic infantrymen.

"But say, friend," called out one of the new American soldiers, "can you
sling enough of this lingo to lead us to a place where we can get ham
and eggs? I mean a real eating place, not just a coffee stand. I've
been opening my mouth, champing my jaws and rubbing my stomach all day,
trying to tell these folks that I'm hungry and want a square meal, and
half the time they think I need a doctor. Lead me to a hash foundry."

"All right, come on with us!" laughed Tom. "We're going to eat, too. I
guess we can fix you up."

The two aviators had been in Paris before and they knew their way about,
as well as being able to speak the language fairly well. Soon, with
their new friends from overseas, they were seated in a quiet restaurant,
where substantial food could be had in spite of war prices. And then it
was give and take, question and answer, until a group of Parisians that
had gathered about turned away shaking their heads at their inability to
understand the strange talk. But they were well aware of the spirit of
it all, and more than one silently blessed the Americans as among the
saviors of France.

The wonderful city seemed filled with soldiers of all the Allied
nations, and most conspicuous, because of recent events, were the
khaki-clad boys who were soon to fight under Pershing. Having seen that
the little contingent they had taken under their protection got what
they wanted, Tom and Jack, bidding them farewell, but promising to see
them again soon, went to their hotel.

And, their baggage arriving, Jack proceeded to get ready for a bath and
a general furbishing. He seemed very particular.

"Going out?" asked Tom.

"Why--er--yes. Thought I'd go to call on Bessie Gleason. This is her
night off duty--hers and her mother's."

"How do you know?"

"Well--er--she said so. Want to come?"

"Nixy. Two's company and you know what three is."

"Oh, come on! Mrs. Gleason will be glad to see you."

"Well, I suppose I might," assented Tom, who, truth to tell, did not
relish spending the evening alone.

Bessie and her mother had, of late, been assigned as Red Cross workers
to a hospital in the environs of Paris, and ant times they could come
into the city for a rest. They maintained a modest apartment not far
from the hotel where Tom and Jack had put up, and soon the two lads
found themselves at the place where their friends lived.

"Oh, I'm so glad you both came!" exclaimed Bessie as she greeted them.
"We have company and--"

"Company!" exclaimed Jack, drawing back.

"Yes, the dearest, most delightful girl you ever--"

"Girl!" exclaimed Tom.

"Yes. But come on in and meet her. I'm sure you'll both fall in love
with her."

Jack was on the point of saying something, but thought better of it,
and a moment later, to the great surprise of himself and Torn, they were
facing Nellie Leroy.



CHAPTER VII. THE AMERICAN FRONT


Tom and Jack bowed. In fact, so great was their surprise at first that
this was all they could do. Then they stared first at Bessie and then at
the other girl--the sister of Harry, their chum, who was somewhere, dead
or alive, behind the German lines.

"Well, aren't you glad to see her?" demanded Bessie. "I thought I'd
surprise you."

"You have," said Jack. "Very much!"

"Glad to see her--why--of course. But--but--how--"

Tom found himself stuttering and stammering, so he stopped, and stared
so hard at Nellie Leroy that she smiled, though rather sadly, for it
was plain to be seen her grief over the possible death of her brother
weighed down on her. And then she went on:

"Well, I'm real--I'm not a dream, Mr. Raymond."

"So I see--I mean I'm glad to see it--I mean--oh, I don't know what I do
mean!" he finished desperately. "Did you know she was going to be here?
Was that the reason you asked me to come?" he inquired of Jack.

"Hadn't the least notion in the world," answered Jack. "I'm as much
surprised as you are."

"Well, we'll take pity on you and tell you all about it," said Bessie.
"Mother, here are the boys," she called; and Mrs. Gleason, who had
suffered so much since having been saved from the Lusitania and
afterward rescued by air craft from the lonely castle, came out of her
room to greet the boys.

They were as glad to see her as she was to meet them again, and for a
time there was an interchange of talk. Then Mrs. Gleason withdrew to
leave the young people to themselves.

"Well, go on, tell us all about it!" begged Tom, who could not take his
eyes off Nellie Leroy. "How did she get here?" and he indicated Harry's
sister.

"He talks of me as though I were some specimen!" laughed the girl. "But
go on--tell him, Bessie."

"Well, it isn't much of a story," said Bessie Gleason. "Nellie started
to do Red Cross work, as mother and I are doing, and she was assigned to
the hospital where we were."

"This was after I heard the terrible news about poor Harry at your
escadrille," Nellie broke in, to say to Tom and Jack. "I--I suppose you
haven't had any--word?" she faltered.

"Not yet," Jack answered. "But we may get it any day now--or they may,
back there," and he nodded to indicate the air headquarters he and Tom
had left. "You know we're going to be under Pershing soon," he added.

"So you wrote me," said Bessie. "I'm glad, though it's all in the same
good cause. Well, as I was saying, Nellie came to our hospital-I call it
ours though I have such a small part in it," she interjected. "She was
introduced to us as an American, and of course we made friends at once."

"No one could help making friends with Bessie and her mother!" exclaimed
Nellie.

"Don't flatter us too much," warned Bessie. "Now please don't interrupt
any more. As I say, Nellie came to us to do her share in helping care
for the wounded, and, as mother and I found she had settled on no
regular place in Paris, we asked her to share our rooms. Then we got to
talking, and of course I found she had met you two boys in her search
for her brother. After that we were better friends than ever."

"Glad to know it," said Tom. "There's nothing like having friends.
I hadn't any notion that I'd meet any when I started out with him
tonight," and he motioned to Jack.

"Well, I like that!" cried Bessie in feigned indignation. "I like to
know how you class my mother and me?" and she looked at Tom.

"Oh,--er--well, of course--you and your mother, and Jack. But he and
you--"

"Better swim out before you get into deep water," advised Jack quickly,
and he nudged Tom with his foot.

Then the boys had to tell about their final experiences before leaving
the Lafayette Escadrille with which many trying, as well as many happy,
hours were associated, and the girls told of their adventures, which
were not altogether tame.

Since Mrs. Gleason had been freed from the plotting of the spy,
Potzfeldt, she had lived a happy life--that is as happy as one could
amid the scenes of war and its attendant horrors. She and Bessie were
throwing themselves heart and soul into the immortal work of the Red
Cross, and now Nellie bad joined them.

"It's the only way I can stop thinking about poor Harry," she said with
a sigh. "Oh, if I could only hear some good news about him, that I might
send it to the folks at home. Do you think it will ever come--the good
news, I mean?" she asked wistfully of Tom.

"All we can do is to hope," he said. He knew better than to buoy up
false hopes, for he had seen too much of the terrible side of war. In
his heart he knew that there was but little chance for Harry Leroy,
after the latter's aeroplane had been shot down behind the German lines.
Yet there was that one, slender hope to which all of us cling when it
seems that everything else is lost.

"He may be a prisoner, and, in that case, there is a chance," said Tom,
while Jack and Bessie were conversing on the other side of the room.

"You mean a chance to escape?"

"Hardly that, though it has been done. A few aviators have got away from
German prison camps. But it's only one chance in many thousand. No, what
I meant was that--well, it's too small and slim a chance to talk about,
I'm afraid."

"Oh, no!" she hastened to assure him. "Do tell me! No chance is too
small. What do you mean?"

"Well, sometimes rescues have been made," went on Tom. "They are even
more rare than escapes, but they have been done. I was thinking that
perhaps after Jack and I get in with Pershing's boys we might be in some
big raid on the Hun lines, and then, if we could get any information as
to your brother's whereabouts, we might plan to rescue him."

"Oh, do you think you could?"

"I certainly can and will try!" exclaimed Tom, earnestly.

"Oh, will you? Oh, I can't thank you enough!" and she clasped his hand
in both hers and Tom blushed deeply.

"Please don't count too much on it," Tom warned Nellie. "It's a
desperate chance at best, but it's the only one I can see that we can
take. First of all, though, we've got to get some word as to where Harry
is."

"How can you do that?"

"Some of the Hun airmen are almost human, that is compared to the
other Boche fighters. They may drop a cap of Harry's or a glove, or
something," and Tom told of the practice in such cases.

"Oh, if they only will!" sighed Nellie. "But it is almost too much to
hope."

And so they talked until late in the evening, when the time came for
Nellie, Bessie and her mother to report back for their Red Cross work.
The boys returned to their hotel, promising to write often and to see
their friends at the next opportunity.

"I won't forget!" said Tom, on parting from Nellie.

"Forget what?" asked Jack, as they were going down the street together.

"I'm going to do my best to rescue her brother," said Tom, in a low
voice.

"Good! I'm with you!" declared Jack.

The stay of the two boys in Paris was all too short, but they were
anxious to get back to their work. They wanted to be fighting under
their own flag. Not that they had not been doing all they could for
liberty, but it was different, being with their own countrymen. And so,
when their leaves of absence were up, they took the train that was to
drop them at the place assigned, where the newly arrived Americans were
beginning their training.

"The American front!" cried Tom, as he and Jack reached the headquarters
of General Pershing and his associate officers. "The American front at
last!"

"And it's the happiest day of my life that I can fight on it!" cried
Jack.



CHAPTER VIII. A BATTLE IN THE AIR


Strictly speaking there was at that time no American front. That did
not come until later, for the American soldiers, as was proper, were
brigaded with the French and British, to enable our troops, who were
unused to European war conditions, to become acquainted with the needful
measures to meet and overcome the brutality of the Huns.

But even with this brigading of the United States' troops with the
seasoned veterans, which, in plain language, meant a mingling of the
two forces, there was much that was strictly American among the new
arrivals.

Not only were the khaki-clad soldiers real Americans to the backbone,
but their equipment and the supplies that had come over with them in the
transports were such as might be seen at any army camp in this country,
as distinguished from a French or a British camp.

"Well, the boys are here all right," remarked Jack, as he and Tom made
their way toward the headquarters at which they were to report.

"Yes, and it makes me feel good to see them!" said Tom. "This is the
beginning of the end of Kaiserism, if I'm any judge."

"Oh, it isn't going to be so easy as all that," returned Jack. "We'll
see some hard fighting. Germany isn't licked yet by any means; but
those, are the boys that can bring the thing to a finish," and he
pointed to a company of the lean, stem, brown figures that were swinging
along with characteristic stride.

The place at which Tom and Jack had been ordered to report was an
interior city of France, not far from the port at which the first
transport from America had arrived. A first glance at the scenes on
every hand would have given a person not familiar with war a belief
that hopeless confusion existed. Wagons, carts, mule teams and motor
trucks-"lorries," the English call them--were dashing to and fro. Men
were marching, countermarching, unloading some vehicles, loading others.
Soldiers were being marched into the interior to be billeted, others
were being directed to their respective French or English units.
Officers were shouting commands, and privates were carrying them out to
the best of their ability.

But though it all seemed chaos, out of it order was coming. There was a
system, though a civilian would not have understood it.

"Well, let's find out where we're at," suggested Torn, to his chum.

"Right O, my pickled grapefruit!" agreed Jack with a laugh. "Let's get
into the game."

They were about to ask their direction from a non-commissioned officer
who was directing a squad of men in the unloading of a truck which
seemed filled with canned goods, when some one said:

"There goes Black Jack now!"

The two air service boys looked, and saw, passing along not far away,
a tall man, faultlessly attired, who looked "every inch a soldier," and
whose square jaw was indicative of his fighting qualities, if the rest
of his face had not been.

"Is that General Pershing?" asked Tom, in a low voice of the
non-commissioned officer.

"That's who he is, buddy," was the smiling answer. "The best man in the
world for the job, too. Come on there now, you with the red hair. This
isn't a croquet game. Lay into those cases, and get 'em off some time
before New Year's. We want to have our Christmas dinner in Berlin,
remember!"

"So that's Pershing," commented Jack, as he looked at the American
commander, who, with his staff officers, was on a trip of inspection.
"Well, he suits me all right!"

"The next thing for us to do is to find out if we suit him," remarked
Tom. "Wonder if he knows we're here?"

"I don't even believe he knows we're alive!" exclaimed Jack, for the
moment taking Tom's joke quite seriously.

As General Pershing passed on, receiving and returning many salutes, Tom
and Jack made their inquiries, learned where they were to report, and
went on their way, longing for the time when they could get into action
with the American troops.

"Oh, so you're the two aviators from the Lafayette Escadrille,"
commented the commanding officer, or the C.O., of the newly formed
American squadron, as Tom and Jack, drawing themselves up as straight
as they could, saluted when he looked over their papers and their log
books. These last are the personal records of aviators in which they
note the details of each flight made. They are official documents, but
when a birdman is honorably discharged he may take his log book with
him.

"We were told to report to you, sir," said Tom.

"Yes. And I'm glad to see you. We're going to establish a purely
American air force, but as yet it is in its infancy. I need some
experienced fliers, and I'm glad you're going to be with us. Of course
I have a number who have made good records over there," and he nodded to
indicate the United States, "But they haven't been under fire yet, and I
understand you have."

"Some," admitted Jack, modestly enough.

"Good! Well, I'm to have some more of our own boys, who are to be
transferred from the French forces, and some from the Royal Flying
Corps, so with that as a start I guess we can build up an air service
that will make Fritz step lively. But we've got to go slow. One thing
I'm sorry for is that we haven't, as yet, any American planes. We'll
have to depend on the French and English for them, as we have to, at
first, for our artillery and shells."

"We can fly French or British planes," remarked Tom.

And, as my old readers know, the air service boys had had experience
with a number of different models.

"We can fly a Gotha if we have to," said Jack. "One came down back of
our lines last month, and we patched it up and flew it for practice."

"I hope you can get some more of that practice," said the commanding
officer with a smile.

"But, now that you're here, I'll swear you in and see what the orders
are regarding you. I'm afraid there won't be much fighting for you at
first--that is strictly as Americans. I understand our air front, if
I may use that term, will have to grow out of a nucleus of French and
English fighters."

"That's all right, as long as we get the right start," commented Tom.

It was necessary to swear the boys into the service of the United
States, even though they were natives of it; since, on entering the
Lafayette Escadrille, they had been obliged to swear allegiance
to France. But this was a matter of routine where the Allies were
concerned, and soon Tom and Jack were back again where they longed to
be--enrolled among the distinctive fighters of their own country.

They were assigned to barracks, and found themselves among some other
airmen, many of whom were student fliers from the various aviation camps
of the United States. Few of these youths had had much practice, though
some had been to the Canadian schools. And none of them had, as yet,
fought an enemy in the air.

To aid and instruct them, however, were such fighters as Tom and Jack,
and some even more experienced from the French, Italian and British
camps, who had been detailed to help out the United States in the
emergency.

The next few weeks was an instruction and reconstruction period, with
Tom and Jack often filling the roles of teachers. They found their
pupils apt, eager and willing, however, and among them they discovered
some excellent material. As the commanding officer of the new American
air forces had said, the planes used were all of English or French make.
It was too early in the war for America to have sent any over equipped
with the Liberty motor, though production was under way.

After this period had passed, Tom and Jack, with a squadron of other
birdmen were sent to a certain section of the front held largely by
American troops, supported by veteran French and British regiments.

It was the first wholly American aircraft camp established since the
beginning of the World War, and it was not even yet as wholly American
as it was destined to be later, for the aviators were, as regards
veterans, largely French and English. Torn and Jack were, in point of
service, the ranking American fliers for a time.

There had been several sharp engagements across No Man's Land between
the mingled French, British and French forces and the Huns, and honors
were on the side of the former. There had been one or two combats in the
air, in which Tom and Jack had taken part, when one day word came from
an observation balloon on the American side that a flock of German
aircraft was on the way from a camp located a few miles within the Boche
lines.

There was a harried consultation of the officers, and then orders were
given for a half score of the Allied machines to get ready. Two veteran
French aces were to be in command, with Tom and Jack as helpers, and
some of the American aviators were to go into the battle of the air for
the first time.

"The Huns are evidently going to try to bomb some of our ammunition
dumps behind our lines,"' said one officer, speaking to Tom. "It's up to
you boys to drive 'em back."

"We'll try, sir," was the answer. "We owe the Huns something we haven't
been able to pay off as yet."

Tom referred to the loss of Harry Leroy. So far no word had been
received from him, either directly or through the German aviators, as to
whether he was dead or a prisoner. Letters had passed between Bessie and
Nellie and Jack and Tom, and the sister of the missing youth begged for
news.

But there was none to give her.

"Unless we get some to-day," observed Tom as he and his chum hurried
toward the hangars where their machines were being made ready for them.

"Get news to-day? What makes you think we shall?" asked Jack.

"Well, we might bring down a Fritzie or two who'd know something about
poor Harry," was the answer. "You never can tell."

"No, that's so," agreed Jack. "Well, here's hoping we'll have luck."

By this time there was great excitement in the American aviation
headquarters. Word of the oncoming Hun planes had spread, and not a
flier of Pershing's forces but was eager to get into his plane and go
aloft to give battle. But only the best were selected, and if there were
heart-burnings of disappointment it could not be helped.

Two classes of planes were to be used, the single seaters for the aces,
who fought alone, and the double craft, each one of which carried a
pilot and an observer. In the latter cases the observers were the new
men, who had yet to receive their baptism of fire above the clouds.

Tom and Jack were each detailed to take up one of the new men, and the
air service boys were glad to find that, assigned to each of them,
was the very man he would have picked had he had his choice. They were
eager, intrepid lads, anxious to do their share in the great adventure.

Quickly the machines were made ready, and quickly the fighters climbed
into them. The roar of the motors was heard all over the aerodrome, and
soon the machines began to mount. Up and up they climbed, and none too
soon, for on reaching elevations averaging ten thousand feet, there was
seen, over the German lines, a flock of the Hun planes led by two or
three machines painted a bright red. These were some of the machines
that had belonged to the celebrated "flying circus," organized by a
daring Hun aviator and ace who was killed after he had inflicted great
damage and loss on the Allied service. He and his men had their machines
painted red, perhaps on the theory that they would thus inspire terror.
These were some of the former members of the "circus," it was evident.

"It's going to be a real fight!" cried Tom, as he headed his machine
toward one of the red craft. Whether the green man Tom was taking up
relished this or not, knowing, as he must, the reputation of these red
aviators, Tom did not stop to consider.

Then, as the two hostile air fleets approached, there began a battle
of the clouds--a conflict destined to end fatally for more than one
aviator.



CHAPTER IX. THE FALLING GLOVE


Numerically the Hun planes, were superior to the American fleet of
airships that quickly rose to oppose them. That probably accounted
for fact that the Germans did not turn tail and scurry back beyond the
protection of their own anti-aircraft guns and batteries. For it was
seldom, if ever, they went into a fight when the odds were against them.

On came the Fokkers and Gothas, the black iron crosses painted on the
wings of the machines standing out in bold relief in the clear air. The
sun glinted on the red craft which were in the lead, and besides Tom,
who headed for one of these, a French ace darted down from a height to
engage the red planes.

"See if you can plug him when I put you near enough!" cried Tom to his
observer, who had the reputation of being a good shot with the Lewis
gun. Practice with the machine weapons in aeroplanes had been going
on, for some time among the new American aviators. "Let him have a good
dose!" cried Tom. "If you miss him, then I'll try!"

Of course Tom had to shut off the engine when he said this, as no voice
could have been heard above the roaring of the powerful motor. But when
he had given his companion these instructions and had ascertained, by
a glance over his shoulder, that the lad understood for he nodded his
head, Tom again turned on the gasoline, and the propeller, that had been
revolving by momentum and because of the pressure of air against it,
took up its speed again.

Straight for the red machine rushed Tom, and a quick glance told him
that his companion was ready with the gun. The weapon to be worked by
the latter was mounted so that it could be aimed independently of the
aeroplane. Tom also had a gun in front of him, but it was fixed and
could be aimed only by pointing the whole craft. Once this was done Tom
could operate the weapon with one hand, steering with the other, and, at
times, with his feet and knees.

There came several sharp pops near Tom's head, and he knew these were
machine bullets from the Hun aviator's gun, breaking through the tightly
stretched linen fabric of the wings of his own plane.

"Let him have it before he plugs us!" cried Tom to his companion, though
of course the latter could not hear a word. An instant later Tom heard
the Lewis gun behind him firing, and he saw several tracer bullets
strike the Hun machine. But they were not near the aviator himself, and
did no material damage.

"Guess he's too nervous to shoot straight," reasoned Tom. "I'll have to
try my own gun," he decided.

Tom noticed that the Hun was climbing up, trying to get into a position
above the American plane, which is always an advantage. And the air
service boy knew he must not let this happen. Quickly he shifted the
rudder and began to climb himself. But he was at a disadvantage as his
machine carried double, while the red plane had only one man in it, an
ace beyond a doubt.

"I've got to get him now or never!" thought Tom. Once more he shifted
his direction, and then, as he had his gun aimed just where he wanted
it, he pressed the lever and a burst of bullets shot out and fairly
riddled the red plane. It seemed to stop for an instant in the air, and
then, quivering, turned and went down in a nose dive, spinning around.

"No fake about that!" mused Tom, as he leaned over and looked down from
the height. "He's done for!"

And so, the Hun was, for he crashed to the ground behind the American
lines. The incident did not affect Tom Raymond greatly. It was not his
first killing. But when he, glanced back toward his companion, he saw
that the other was shrinking back as if in horror.

"He'll get over that soon enough. All he has to do is to think of what
the Huns have done--crucifying men and babies--to make his heart hard,"
thought Tom.

Whether his companion did this or not, did not disclose itself, but the
fact remains that when Tom flew off to engage another Hun machine the
lad back of him rose to the occasion and shot so well that Fritz veered
off and flew back over his own lines, wounded and with his craft barely
able to fly.

Not all the American machines fared as well as this, however. Jack was
in poor luck. The first burst of bullets from the German he engaged
punctured his gasoline tank, and he was obliged to coast back to his own
aerodrome to get another machine, if possible. He was also hit once in
the leg, the wound being painful though not dangerous. He received first
aid treatment and wanted to get back into the fight, but this was not
allowed, and he had to watch the battle from the ground.

The fight was fast and stubborn, and in the end the American forces won,
for at a signal from the remaining red plane, which seemed to bear a
charmed existence, as it did not appear to be hit, the others remaining
of the Hun forces, turned tail and scooted back to safety.

But they had left a toll of five machines sent crashing to earth, four
of them each containing two men. The leading French ace was killed, a
severe loss to the Allied forces, and three of the American machines
were damaged and their operators severely wounded, though with a chance
of recovery. By American machines is meant those assigned for use to
Pershing's forces, though the craft used up to that time were of French
or English make. The real American machines came into use a little
later.

"Well, I think we can call it one to our credit," said Tom, as he
rejoined Jack after the battle.

"Yes. But you had all the luck!" complained his chum. "It went against
me, and the lad I took up. It--"

"Never mind; it'll be your turn next," replied Tom, consolingly.

And so the new American aviators received their baptism of fire, and, to
their credit, longed for more.

More credit was really due the American forces than would be indicated
by the mere citation of the losses inflicted on the German side in this
first air battle. For many of the American fighters were "green," while
not one of the Huns, as was learned later, but what had several Allied
machines to his score. And so there was rejoicing in General Pershing's
camp, even though it was mingled with sorrow at the losses inflicted.

Busy days followed, Tom and Jack were in the air much of the time. And
when they were not flying they were delivering talks to new students,
who were constantly arriving. They found time once to run into Paris on
their day of leave, to see Bessie and Nellie, and they went on a little
picnic together, which was as jolly as such an affair could be in the
midst of the terrible war. Nellie had received no word of her missing
brother, and Jack and Tom had no encouragement for her.

Then came more hard work at camp, and another battle of the air in
which the American forces more than equaled matters, for they fairly
demolished a German plane squadron, sending ten of the machines crashing
to earth and the others back over the Hun lines, more or less damaged.
That was a great day. And, as a sort of reward for their work, Tom and
Jack were given three days' leave. At first they thought to spend them
in Paris, but, learning that neither Bessie nor her mother nor Nellie
could leave their Red Cross work to join them, the two lads made other
arrangements.

"Let's go back and see the fellows in the Lafayette Escadrille,"
suggested Tom.

"All right," agreed Jack.

And thither they went.

That they were welcomed need not be said. It was comparatively quiet on
this sector just then, though there had, a few days before, been a great
battle with victory perching on the Allied banners. The air conflicts,
too, had been desperate, and many a brave man of the French, English
or American fliers had met his death. But toll had been taken of the
Boches--ample toll, too.

The first inquiry Tom and Jack had made on their arrival at their former
aerodrome had been for news of Harry Leroy, but none had been received.

It was when Tom and Jack were about to conclude their visit to their
former comrades of the air that an incident occurred which made a great
change in their lives. One sunny afternoon there suddenly appeared, a
mere speck in the blue, a single aeroplane.

"Some one of your men must have gone a long way over Heinie's lines,"
remarked Jack to one of the French officers.

"He is not one of our men. Either they were all back long ago or they
will not come back until after the war--if ever. That is a Hun machine."

"What is he doing--challenging to single combat?" asked Tom, as the lone
plane came on steadily.

"No," answered the officer, after a look through his glasses. "I think
he brings some messages. We sent some to the Germans yesterday, and I
think this is a return courtesy. We will wait and see."

Nearer and nearer came the German plane. Soon it was circling around the
French camp. Hundreds came out to watch, for now the object of the lone
aviator was apparent. He contemplated no raid. It was to drop news of
captured, or dead, Allied airmen.

Then, as Tom, and the others watched, a little package was seen to
fall from the hovering aeroplane. It landed on the roof of one of the
hangars, bounced off and was picked up by an orderly, who presented it
to the commanding officer.

Quickly and eagerly it was opened. It contained some personal belongings
of Allied airmen who had been missing for the past week. Some of them,
the message from the German lines said, had been killed by their falls
after being shot down, and it was stated that they had been decently
buried. Others were wounded and in hospitals.

"No word from Harry," said Tom, sadly, as the last of the relics from
the dead and the living were gone over.

"Well, I guess we may as well give him up," added Jack. "But we can
avenge him. That's all we have left, now."

"Yes," agreed Tom. "If we only--?"

A cry from some of those watching the German plane interrupted him. The
two air service boys looked up. Another small object was falling. It
landed with a thud, almost at the feet of Tom and Jack, and the latter
picked it up.

It was an aviator's glove; and as Jack held it up a note dropped
out. Quickly it was read, and the import of it was given to all in a
simultaneous shout of joy from Tom and Jack.

"It's word from Harry Leroy! Word from Harry at last!"



CHAPTER X. STUNTS


Truly enough, word had come from the missing aviator, or, if not
directly from him, at least from his captors. The German airmen, falling
in with the chivalry which had been initiated by the French and English,
and later followed by the Americans, had seen fit to inform the comrades
of the captured man of his whereabouts.

"Where is he? What happened to him?" asked several, as all crowded
around Tom and Jack to hear the news.

Jack, reading the note, told them. The missive was written in very good
English, though in a German hand. It stated that Harry Leroy had been
shot down in his plane while over the German lines, and had fallen in a
lonely spot, wounded.

The wound was not serious, it was stated, and the prisoner was doing
as well as could be expected, but he would remain in the hands of his
captors until the end of the war. The reason his whereabouts was not
mentioned before was that the Germans did not know they had one of the
Allied aviators in their midst.

Leroy had not only fallen in a lonely spot, but he was made unconscious
by his fall and injuries, and when he recovered he was lying near his
almost demolished plane.

He managed to get out his log book and other confidential papers, and
set fire to them and the plane with the gasoline that still remained in
the tank. He destroyed them so they might not fall into the hands of the
Germans, a fate he knew would be his own shortly.

But Harry Leroy was not doomed to instant capture. The blaze caused by
his burning aeroplane attracted the attention of a peasant, who had not
been deported when the enemy overran his country, for the young aviator
had fallen in a spot well back of the front lines. This French peasant
took Harry to his little farm and hid him in the barn. There the man,
his wife, and his granddaughters, looked after the injured aviator,
feeding him and binding up his hurts. It was a great risk they took,
and Harry Leroy knew it as well as they. But for nearly two weeks he
remained hidden, and this probably saved his life, for he got better
treatment at the farmhouse than he would, as an enemy, have received in
a German hospital.

But such good luck could not last. Suspicion that Americans were hidden
in the Frenchman's barn began to spread through the country, and rather
than bring discovery on his friends, Leroy left the barn one night.

He had a desperate hope that he might reach his own lines, as he was now
pretty well recovered from his 'Injuries, but it was not to be. He was
captured by a German patrol. But by his quick action Harry Leroy had
removed suspicion from the farmer, which was exactly what he wished to
do.

The Germans, rejoicing over their capture, took the young aviator to the
nearest prison camp, and there he was put in custody, together with some
unfortunate French and English. The tide of war had turned against Harry
Leroy.

So it came about that, some time after he had been posted as missing and
when it was surely thought that he was dead, Harry Leroy was found to be
among the living, though a prisoner.

"This will be great news for his sister!" exclaimed Jack, as the note
dropped by the German airman was read over and over again.

"Yes, she'll be delighted," agreed Tom. "We must hurry back and tell
her."

"And that isn't all," went on Jack. "We must try to figure out a way to
rescue Harry."

"You can't do that," declared a French ace, one with whom the air
service boys had often flown.

"Why not?" asked Tom.

"It's out of the question," was the answer. "There has never been a
rescue yet from behind the German lines. Or, if there has been, it's
like a blue moon."

"Well, we can try," declared Jack, and Tom nodded his head in agreement.

"Don't count too much on it," added another of their friends. "Harry may
not even be where this note says he is."

"Do you mean that the Germans would say what isn't so?" asked Tom.

"Of course! Naturally!" was the answer. "But even if they did not in
this case, even if they have truly said where Leroy is, he may be moved
at any time--sent to some other prison, or made to work in the mines or
at perhaps something far worse."

Tom and Jack realized that this might be so, and they felt that there
was no easy task ahead of them in trying to rescue their chum from the
hands of the Germans. But they were not youths who gave up easily.

"May we keep this note?" asked Tom, as he and Jack got ready to depart.
Having fallen on the camp of the escadrille with which they were
formerly quartered, it was, strictly speaking, the property of the
airmen there. But having been told how much the sister of the prisoner
would appreciate it, the commanding officer gave permission for Tom and
Jack to take the glove and note with them.

"Let us know if you rescue him, Comrades!" called the Frenchmen to the
two lads, as they started back for their own camp.

"We will," was the answer.

Nellie Leroy's joy in the news that her brother was alive was tempered
by the fact that he was a German prisoner.

"But we're going to get him!" declared Tom even though he realized, as
he said it, that it with almost a forlorn hope.

"You are so good," murmured the girl.

Jack and Tom spent a few happy hours in Paris, with Nellie and
Bessie--the last of their leave--and then, bidding the girls and Mrs.
Gleason farewell, they reported back to the American aerodrome, where
the young airmen were cordially welcomed.

There they found much to do, and events followed one another so rapidly
at this stage of the World War that Tom and Jack, after their return,
had little time for anything but flying and teaching others what they
knew of air work. They had no opportunity to do anything toward the
rescue of Harry Leroy; and, indeed, they were at a loss how to proceed.
They were just hoping that something would transpire to give them a
starting point.

"We'll have to leave it to luck for a while," said Torn.

"Or fate," added Jack.

"Well, fate plays no small part in an airman's life," returned Tom.
"While we are no more superstitions than any other soldiers, yet there
are few airmen who do not carry some sort of mascot or good-luck piece.
You know that, Jack."

And even the casual reader of the exploits of the aviators must have
been impressed with the fact that often the merest incident--or accident
is responsible for life or death.

Death often passes within hair's breadth of the intrepid fliers, and
some of them do not know it until after they have made a landing and
have seen the bullet holes in their machine--holes that indicate how
close the missiles have passed to them.

So, in a way, both Tom and Jack believed in luck, and they both believed
that this same luck might point out to them a way of rescuing Harry
Leroy.

Meanwhile they were kept busy. After the big battle in the air matters
were quiet for a time on their sector of the front. The arrival of new
fliers from America made it necessary to instruct them, and to this Tom,
Jack and other veterans were detailed.

Then began a series of what Jack called "stunts." In order to inspire
the new pupils with confidence, the older flying men--not always older
in years--would go aloft in their single planes and do all sorts of
trick flying. Some of the pupils--the more daring, of course--wished to
imitate these, but of course they were not allowed.

The pupils were first allowed merely to go with an experienced man.
This, of course, they had done at the flying schools in the United
States, and had flown alone. But they had to start all over again when
on French soil, for here they were exposed, any time, to an attack from
a Hun plane.

After they had, it was thought, got sufficient experience to undertake
these trick features by themselves, they were allowed to make trial
flights, but not over the enemy lines.

Tom and Jack gave the best that was in them to these enthusiastic
pupils, and there was much good material.

"What are you going to do to-day, Jack?" asked Tom one morning, as they
went out after breakfast to get into their "busses," as they dubbed
their machines.

"Oh, got orders to do some spiral and somersault stunts for the benefit
of some huns." ("Hun," used in this connection, not referring to the
Germans. "Hun" is the slang term for student aviators, tacked on them by
more experienced fliers.)

"Same here. Good little bunch of huns in camp now."

Tom nodded in agreement, and the two were soon preparing to climb aloft.

With a watching group of eager young men on the ground below, in company
with an instructor who would point out the way certain feats were done,
Torn and Jack began climbing. Presently they were fairly tumbling about
like pigeons, seeming to fall, but quickly straightening out on a level
keel and coming to the ground almost as lightly as feathers.

"A good landing is essential if one would become a good airman," stated
the instructor. "In fact I may say it is the hardest half of the game.
For it is comparatively easy to leave the earth. It is the coming back
that is difficult, like the Irishman who said it wasn't the fall that
hurts, it was the stopping."

"Give 'em a bit of zooming now," the instructor said to Tom and Jack.
"The boys may have to use that any time they're up and a Boche comes at
them."

"Zooming," he went on to the pupils, "is rising and falling in a series
of abrupt curves like those in a roller-coaster railway. It is a very
useful stunt to be master of, for it enables one to rise quickly when
confronting a field barrier, or to get out of range of a Hun machine
gun."

Tom undertook this feature of the instruction, as Jack signaled that his
aeroplane was out of gasoline, and soon the former was rolling across
the aviation field, seemingly straight toward a row of tall trees.

"He'll hit 'em sure!" cried one student.

"Watch him," ordered the instructor.

With a quick pull on the lever that controlled the rudder, Tom sent
himself aloft, but not before a curious thing happened.

On the ground where it had been dropped was a tunic, or airman's
fur-lined jacket. As Tom's machine "zoomed," the tail skid caught this
jacket and took it aloft.

Tom did not seem to be aware of this, though he must have felt that his
machine was a bit sluggish in the climbs. However, he went through with
his performance, doing some beautiful "zooming," and then, as he was
flying high and getting ready to do a spiral nose dive, the tunic
detached itself from his skid and fell.

Just at this moment Jack came out from the hangar and, looking aloft and
noting Tom's machine, saw the falling jacket. His heart turned sick
and faint, for, unaware of what had happened, he thought his chum had
tumbled out while at a great height. For the tunic, turning over and
over as it sailed earthward, did resemble a falling body.

"Oh, Tom! Tom! How did it happen?" murmured Jack.

The others, laughing, told him that it was nothing serious, but Jack
looked a bit worried until the empty jacket fell on the grass and, a
little later, Tom himself came down smiling from aloft, all unaware of
the excitement he had caused.



CHAPTER XI. OVER THE LINES


"Well, I guess we stay downstairs, to-day," remarked Tom to Jack,
the day following their exhibition flights for the benefit of the air
students.

"Yes, it doesn't look very promising," returned his chum.

Jack looked aloft where the sky--or what took its place--was represented
by a gray mist that seemed ready to drip water at any moment. It was
a day of "low visibility," and one when air work was almost totally
suspended. This applied to the enemy as well as to the Yankees. For even
though it is feasible to go up in an aeroplane in fog, or even rain or
snow, it is not always safe to come down again in like conditions.

There is nothing worse than rain, snow or fog for clouding an aviator's
goggles, making it impossible for him to see more than a plane's length
ahead, if, indeed, he can see that far. Then, too, little, if anything,
can be accomplished by going aloft in a storm or fog. No observations
of any account can be made, and the aviator, once he gets aloft, is as
likely to come down behind the German lines as he is to descend safely
within his own.

That being the case, Tom and Jack, in common with their comrades of the
air, had a vacation period. Some of them obtained leave and went to the
nearest town, while some put in their time going over their guns and
glasses and equipment and machines.

Jack and Tom elected to do the latter. There was one very fast and
powerful Spad which they often used together, taking turns at piloting
it and acting as observer. They thought they might have a chance soon to
go over the German lines in this, their favorite craft, so they decided
to put in their spare time seeing that it was in perfect shape, and that
the two machine guns were ready for action when needed.

"'Would you rather do this than fly, Jack?" asked Tom, as they went
over, in detail, each part of the powerful Spad.

"I should say not! But, after all, one is just as important as the
other. I hope we get a good day to-morrow. I'd like to do something
toward seeing if we can't get Harry out of the Boche's clutches," and he
nodded in the direction of the German lines.

"'Tisn't going to be easy doing that," remarked Tom. "I'd ask nothing
better than to have a hand in getting him away, but I haven't yet been
able to figure out a shadow of a plan. Have you?"

"The only thing, I can think of is to organize a big raid on the section
where he's held--I mean somewhere near the German prison--and if we
bombed the place enough, and created enough excitement, some of us might
land and get Harry and any others that might be with him."

Tom shook his head.

"That'd be a pretty risky way of doing it," he said.

"Can you think of a better?" Jack demanded quickly.

"Not off hand," came the reply. "We've got to stew over it a bit. One
thing's sure--we've got to get Harry out, or his sister never will feel
like going back home and facing the folks."

"That's right!" agreed Jack. "We've got a double motive for this. But
I'm afraid it's going to be too hard."

"That's what we thought when we rescued Mrs. Gleason from the old castle
where Potzfeldt had her caged," retorted Tom. "But you made out all
right."

"Yes; thanks to your help."

"Well, we'll both work together again," declared Tom. "And now let's
try this Lewis gun. The last time we were up it jammed on me, and yet it
worked all right on the ground." So they tested the guns, looked to the
motor, and in general made ready for a flight when the weather should
clear.

This happened two days later, when the fog and mist were blown away and
the blue sky could be seen. In the interim the artillery and infantry
on both sides had not been idle, and there had been some desperate
engagements, with the brigaded American troops making a new name for
themselves.

"I guess there'll be something doing to-day," remarked Tom, as he and
Jack tumbled out of bed at the usual early hour. "Clear as a bell," he
announced, after a glance from the window. "Shouldn't wonder but what we
went over their lines to-day."

"And I suppose, by the same token, they'll be coming over ours," and
Jack nodded to indicate the Germans.

"Let 'em come!" exclaimed Tom. "It takes two sides to make a fight, and
that's what we're here for."

Hardly had the two air service boys finished their breakfast, than an
orderly came to tell them the commanding officer wanted them to report
to him. They hurried across the aviation ground, toward the headquarters
building, noting on the way that there were signs of unusual activity
among the newer members of the American air forces, as well as among the
French and British veterans.

"Must be going to make a raid," observed Jack.

"Something like that--yes," assented Tom.

"Hope we're in on it, and the commanding officer doesn't have us take
some huns up to show 'em what makes the wheels go around," went on Jack.
"Of course that's part of the game, but we've done our share."

However, they need have felt no fear, for when they stood before the
commanding officer, saluting, they quickly learned that they were to go
on a special mission that day--in fact as soon as they could get ready.

"I want you two to see if you can discover a battery of small guns that
have been playing havoc with our men," he said, as he looked up from a
table covered with maps. "They're located somewhere along this front,
but they're so well camouflaged that no one has yet been able to
discover them.

"I want you boys to see if you can turn the trick. The guns have killed
a lot of our men, as well as the French and English. We've tried to rush
the emplacement, but we can't get a line on where it is for it's well
hidden. I asked permission of the British commanding general to send up
two American scouts, and he mentioned you boys. Get your orders from the
major, and good luck to you."

"Do you want us to go together or separately?" asked Tom.

"Together--in a double plane. I might say that we are going to try a
raid on a big scale over the enemy's lines, and you two will thus have a
better chance to carry out your observations unmolested. The Hun planes
will have their hands full attending to our fighters, and they may not
attack a single plane off by itself. We'll try to draw them away from
you.

"At the same time I might point out that there is nothing sure in this,
and that you may have to fight also," concluded the commanding officer,
as he waved a dismissal.

"Oh, were ready for anything," announced Tom. And as he and Jack got
outside he clapped his chum on the back, crying: "That's the stuff! Good
old C.O. to send us! That's what we've been looking for! Maybe we'll
have time to drop down and shoot some of the Huns that are guarding
Harry."

"No chance of that--forget it now," urged Jack. "We'll clean up this
location trick first, and then think of a plan to get Harry away. It
sounds hard to say it, but it's all we can do. Orders are orders."

They were glad they had made ready the speedy Spad plane, for it was
in this that they would try to locate the hidden battery, and, having
received detailed instructions from the major in command, the two lads
climbed into their air plane and started off.

The day was clear and bright, just the sort for aeroplane activity; and
it was evident there would be plenty of it, since, even as they began
climbing, Tom and Jack saw planes from their own aerodrome skirting
ahead of and behind them, while, in the distance and over German-held
territory, were Fokkers and Gothas with the iron cross conspicuously
painted on each.

Tom and Jack had been given a map of the front, their own and the German
lines being shown, and the probable location of the hidden Hun battery
marked. This they now studied as they started over the front, Jack being
in front, while Tom sat behind him, to work the swivel Lewis gun.

Their Spad machine was one that could be controlled from either seat, so
that if one rider was disabled the other could take charge. There
were two guns, one fixed and the other movable, and a good supply of
ammunition.

"Well, I guess there'll be some fighting to-day," observed Tom, as Jack
shut off the motor for a moment, to see if it would respond readily when
the throttle was opened again. "They're closing in from both sides."

And indeed the Allied planes were sailing forth to meet a squadron of
the enemy. But none of the Hun craft seemed to pay any attention to Tom
and Jack. Steadily they flew on until an exclamation from Jack caused
Tom to look down. He noted that they were over the German lines, and
headed for the probable location of the battery that had been such a
thorn in the side of the Allies.



CHAPTER XII. A PERFECT SHOT


The plane in which Tom and Jack had gone aloft to make observations
which, it was hoped, would result in the discovery of the hidden
battery, was a special machine. While very powerful and swift and
equipped for air-fighting, it was also one that had been used by one of
the French photographers and his pilot. The photographer, was a daring
man, and had, not long before, gone to his death in fighting three
Hun planes. But he had peculiar ideas regarding his car, and under his
orders it had been fitted with a glass floor in the two cockpits, or
what corresponded to them.

Thus he and his pilot could look down and observe the nature of the
enemy country over which they were traveling without having to lean
over, not always a safe act where anti-aircraft guns below are shooting
up shrapnel.

So as Torn and Jack flew on and on, over the enemy's first and
succeeding line trenches, they looked down through the glass windows in
the plane to make their observations. There was a camera attached to
the plane, and though they could each make use of it, but they were not
skilled in this work.

It was impossible for them to talk to one another now, as Jack had the
motor going almost full speed, and the noise it made was deafening, or
it would have been except for the warm, fur hoods that covered the ears
of the fliers. They were warmly dressed for they did not know how high
they might ascend, and it is always cold up above, no matter how hot it
is on the earth.

Up and up they climbed, and then they flew on and over the enemy lines,
keeping close lookout for anything unusual below that would indicate
the presence of the battery. Behind them, and off to one side, a fierce
aerial battle was going on.

Tom and Jack were eager to get into this and do their share. But they
had orders to make their observations, and they dared not 'refuse. They
could tell by looking back every now and then that the affair was going
well for the Allies, including some of the American airmen, even if the
Huns outnumbered them.

Back and forth over the German lines swept the glass-bottomed Spad, and
at a certain point Tom, who was looking down, uttered an exclamation. Of
course Jack could not hear, but he could feel the punch in the back his
chum administered a moment later.

Jack turned his head, and saw his chum eagerly pointing downward. A
moment later he motioned over his left shoulder, pointing backward, as
though they had just passed over something which would warrant a second
inspection.

Jack swung the machine about in a big circle, banking sharply, and then,
as he passed over the ground covered a little while before, he, too,
looked down, and with sharper glance than he had used at first.

What he saw was the ruins of a small French chateau. It had been under
heavy fire from the Allied guns, for it had sheltered a German machine
gun nest, and some accurate shooting on the part of the American gunners
had demolished it a day or so before.

But what attracted the attention of Tom and Jack was that whereas the
chateau before the bombardment had stood on a little hill without a
tree near it, now there was a miniature forest surrounding it. It was
as though trees and bushes had sprung up in the night. As soon as he
had seen this, Jack turned to Tom, nodded comprehendingly, and at once
started back over the American lines. They had no easy time reaching
them, for by this time the fleet of Hun planes had been defeated by the
Allies, and had turned tail to run for safety--that is what were left of
them, several having been shot down, and at no small cost to the French,
English and American forces.

But the defeat of their airmen seemed to anger the Germans, and they
opened up with their antiaircraft batteries on the machine in which Tom
and Jack were flying homeward. "Woolly bears" and "flaming onions," as
well as shrapnel, was used against them, and they were in considerable
danger. Jack had to "zoom" several times to get out of reach of the
shells.

They finally reached their aerodrome, however, and as soon as they had
landed and their plane was taken in charge by the mechanics the two lads
hurried to the commanding officer.

"Well?" he asked sharply, as they saluted. "Did you discover anything?"

"I think so, sir," returned Tom, for Jack had told his chum to do
the talking, since the discovery was his. "You remember, sir, the old
chateau we put out of business the other day?"

"Yes, I recall it. What about it?"

"This: It seems suddenly to have grown a wooded park around it, and
the trees and bushes don't seem to be as fresh as natural ones ought to
look."

"You mean they camouflaged the ruins, and have put another battery in
the old, chateau?"

"I think so, sir. It wouldn't do any harm to drop a few shells there.
If it's still a ruin the worst will be that we've wasted a little
ammunition and may start the German guns up. And if it is what we think
it is, we may blow up the battery."

The commander thought for a moment.

"I'll try it!" he suddenly said. "It's worth all it will cost."

He called an orderly and issued his instructions. Tom and Jack had not
yet been dismissed, and now the commanding officer turned to them and
said:

"Since you boys were sharp enough to discover this, I'll let you have a
front seat at the show which will start soon. Go up and do contact work.
Let the gunners know when they make a hit."

The air service boys could not have wished for anything better.

"Once more for our bus!" exclaimed Jack delightedly, when they were
outside.

Their Spad had been refilled with gasoline, or "petrol," as it is called
on the other side, and oil had been put in, while the machine guns had
been looked to.

"You seem to have spotted it all right, Tom," went on Jack, just as
they were about to start, for word came that the American batteries were
ready.

"Yes, I was looking down through the glass, and when I saw the old
chateau it struck me that it had suddenly grown a beard. I remembered
it before, as being on a bare hill. I thought it was funny, and that I
might be mistaken. But when you agreed with me I knew I was right."

"Oh, the Huns have brought up trees and bushes to disguise the place all
right," declared, Jack. "The only question is whether or not the battery
is hidden there."

But there was not long a question about that. Their machine was equipped
with wireless to signal back the result of the shots, and Jack and
Tom were soon in position. From the maps used when they had previously
shelled the place to drive out the German gunners, the American
artillery forces knew just about where to plant the shells.

There was a burst of fire from the designated battery. Up aloft Jack and
Tom watched the shell fall. It was a trifle over, and a correction was
signaled back.

A moment later the second shell--a big one sailed over the German first
lines, and fell directly on the chateau partly hidden in the woods.

There was a burst of smoke, and with it mingled clouds of dust and
flying particles. Faintly to Tom and Jack, above the noise of their
motor, came the sound of a terrific explosion.

There had been a direct hit on the old ruins, as was proved by the fact
that not only was the German battery put out of commission, but a great
quantity of ammunition hidden in the trees and bushes was blown up, and
with it a considerable number of Germans.

And that it was a place well garrisoned was evident to the air service
boys as they saw a few Huns, who were not killed by the shell and
resultant explosion of the ammunition dump, running away from the place
of destruction.

"That was it all right," said Jack, as he and Tom landed back of their
own lines.

"Yes, and it couldn't have been hit better. I hope that was the battery
they wanted put out of business."

And it was, for no more shells came from that vicinity of the Hun
positions for a long time. The aeroplane observations had given the very
information needed, and Tom and Jack were congratulated, not only by
their comrades, but by the commanding officer himself, which counted for
a great deal.



CHAPTER XIII. A DARING SCHEME


Tom sat up on his bunk and looked across at Jack, who was just showing
signs of returning consciousness--that is, he was getting awake. It was
the morning after the successful discovery of the hidden German battery,
and since this exploit the two lads had not been required to go on duty.

"What's the matter?" asked Jack, opening his eyes and looking at his
chum. "Has the mail come in? Any letters?"

"No. I was just thinking," remarked Tom, and though his eyes were fixed
on Jack it was clear that his thoughts were somewhere else.

"Thinking, Tom? That's bad business. Have you seen the doctor?"

"Oh, shut off your gas!" ordered Tom. "You're side slipping. First you
know you'll come down in a tail spin and I'll have to be looking for a
new partner."

"It's as serious as all that, is it?" asked Jack, as he began to dress.
"Well, in that case I withdraw my observation. Go ahead. How's the
visibility?"

"Low. We won't have to go up to-day, unless it clears."

"Um. And I was counting on getting a few Huns right after breakfast.
Well, what's your think about, if you really were indulging in that
expensive pastime?"

"I was," said Tom, and he got up and also proceeded to put on his
clothes. "I was thinking about Harry."

"Oh!" and Jack's voice was decidedly different. It had lost all its
flippant tone. "Say, he certainly is in tough luck. I wish we could do
something for him--and his sister. Doubtless you were thinking of her,
too," and a little smile curled his lips.

"Yes, I was thinking of Nellie," conceded Tom, and he was so bold and
frank about it that Jack choked back the joke that he was about to make.
"I was thinking that we haven't done very much to redeem our promise."

"But how can we?" asked Jack. "We haven't had a chance to do anything to
rescue Harry. Of course I want to do that as much as you do, but how is
it to be done? Can you answer me that?"

"We can't do it by just talking," said Tom. "That's what I've been
thinking about. A scheme came to me in the night, and I've been waiting
to tell you about it."

"Shoot then, my pickled blunderbuss," returned Jack. "I'm with you to
the last drop of petrol."

"Well, I don't know that it's so much," said Tom. "It's only that we
ought to get word to Harry, somehow, that we're thinking of him and
trying to plan some way of rescuing him. We ought to tell him his sister
is here, too, and, at the same time we might drop him something to smoke
and a cake or two of chocolate."

Jack looked at his chum in amazement. Then he burst out with:

"Say, while you're at it why don't you send him a piano, and an
automobile, too, so he can ride home when he wants to? What do you
mean--getting word to him? Don't you know that the beastly Huns will
hold up the mail as they please, and anything else we might send. They
don't even let the Red Cross packages go through until they get good and
ready. Talk about your barbarians!"

"Oh, I wasn't thinking of the mail," replied Tom.

"No? What then?"

"Why, we know where he is held a prisoner--at least we have the name of
the prison camp, and he may be there unless he's been transferred. Of
course that's possible, but it's worth taking a chance on."

"A chance on what?" asked Jack, "You haven't explained yet. What do you
plan to do?"

"Fly over the place where Harry is held a prisoner and drop down a
package and some letters to him," said Tom. "Now wait until you hear
it all before you say it can't be done!" he went on quickly, for Jack
seemed about to interrupt.

"If Harry is held where he was first made a prisoner, it's a big place,
and there are thousands of our captives there, as well as French and
British. Well, where there are so many they have to have a big stockade
to pen 'em in, worse luck. And dropping a bomb on a big place is easier
than dropping one on a small object."

"Say! Suffering snuffle-boxes!" cried Jack. "You don't mean to drop a
bomb in Harry's prison, camp, do you? Do you think he might possibly
escape in the confusion?"

"Nothing like that," said Tom. "I mean drop a package containing some
smokes, some chocolate and a letter telling him we haven't forgotten
him and that we're going to try to rescue him, and for him to be on the
lookout. That could be done."

"How?"

"By us flying over the place in our speedy Spad. We needn't make a very
big package, though the more of something to eat we can give him the
better, for those Boches starve our men. Let's get a week off--the
commanding officer will let us go. We can go to our old escadrille and
make arrangements to start from there. The boys will help us all they
can."

"Oh, there's no doubt about that," assented Jack. "They all liked Harry
as much as we did. But I can't see that your scheme will succeed. It's a
risky one."

"All the more reason why it ought to succeed," declared Tom. "It's the
fellows who take chances who get by. Now let's see if we can get a few
hours off to go to Paris."

"Go to Paris? What for?"

"To see Nellie Leroy and have her write her brother a letter. It will be
better to have one come direct from her than for us merely to give him
news of her in one of our notes."

"Yes," agreed Jack, "I guess it would. And I begin to see which way the
wind blows. You wish to see Nellie."

"Oh, you make me tired!" exclaimed Tom. "All you can think of is girls!
I tell you I'm doing this for Harry!"

"And I believe you, old top, and what's more, I'm with you from the word
go. It's a crazy scheme and a desperate one, but for that very reason it
may succeed. The only thing is that we may not get permission to carry
it out."

"Oh, I don't intend that anyone shall know what our game is," returned
Tom. "Of course the authorities would squash it in a minute. No, we'll
have to keep dark about that. All we need is permission to do a little
flying 'on our own,' for a while."

"Suppose they won't let us do that?"

"Oh, I think they will, after what we did yesterday," said Tom. "Come
on, let's get ready to go to Paris."



CHAPTER XIV. WILL THEY SUCCEED?


The scheme evolved, or, perhaps, dreamed of by Tom Raymond in his
anxiety to get some word to the captive Harry Leroy worked well at the
start. When he and Jack asked permission to have half a day off to make
the trip to Paris it was readily granted. Perhaps it was because of
their exploit of the day before, when their sharp eyes had discovered
the camouflaged German battery and brought about its destruction, or
maybe it was because the day was a misty one,+ when no flying could be
done.

At any rate, soon after breakfast saw the two boys on their way to the
wonderful city--wonderful in spite of war and the German "super cannon,"
which had itself been destroyed.

Tom and Jack knew that unless their plans were changed, the two girls
and Mrs. Gleason would be at home in Paris, for they had a holiday once
in every seven, and it was their custom to come to their lodging for
a rest from the merciful, though none the less exceedingly trying, Red
Cross work.

Nor had the boys guessed in vain, for when they presented themselves
at the Gleason lodging, where Nellie Leroy was also staying, they were
greeted with exclamations of delight.

"We were just thinking of you," said Bessie, as she shook hands with
Jack.

"And so we were of you," Jack replied, gallantly.

"I thought of it first," said Tom. "He'll have to give me credit for
that."

"Yes," agreed Jack, "I will. He's got a great scheme," he added, as Mrs.
Gleason came in to greet the boys. "Tell 'em, Tom."

"Is it anything about--oh, have you any news for me about Harry?" asked
Nellie eagerly.

"Not exactly news from him, but we're going to send some news to him!"
exclaimed Tom. "I want you to write him a letter-a real, nice, sisterly
letter."

"What good will that do?" asked Nellie. "I've sent him a lot, but I
can't be sure that he gets them. I don't even know that he is alive."

"Oh, I think he is," said Tom, hopefully. "If the German airmen were
decent enough to let us know he was a prisoner of theirs, they would
tell us if--if--well, if anything had happened to him."

"I think," he went on, "that you, can count on his being alive, though
he isn't having the best time in the world--none of the Hun prisoners
do. That's why I thought it would cheer him up to let him know we
are thinking of him, and if we can send him some smokes, and some
chocolate."

"Oh, he is so fond of chocolate!" exclaimed Nellie. "He used to love the
fudge I made. I wonder if I could send him any of that?"

Tom shook his head.

"It would be better," he said, "to send only hard chocolate--the kind
that can stand hard knocks. Fudge is too soft. It would get all mussed
up with what Jack and I have planned to do to it."

"What is that?" asked Bessie Gleason. "You haven't told us yet. How are
you going to get anything to Harry through those horrid German lines?"

"We're not going through the German lines we're going above 'em; in an
aeroplane. And when we get over the prison camp where Harry is held,
we're going to drop down a package to him, with the letters, the
chocolate and other things inside."

"Oh, that's perfectly wonderful!" exclaimed Bessie. "But will the
Germans let you do it?"

"Well," remarked Jack, "they'll probably try to stop us, but we don't
mind a little thing like that. We're used to it. Of course, as I tell
Torn, it's a long chance, but it's worth taking. Of course it isn't easy
to drop any object from a moving aeroplane and have it land at a certain
spot. We may miss the mark."

"For that reason I'm going to take several packages," put in Tom. "If
one doesn't land another may."

"But if you do succeed in dropping a package for Harry in the midst of
the German stockade, won't the guards see it and confiscate it?"
asked Mrs. Gleason. "You know they'll be as brutal as they dare to the
prisoners--though of course,"' she added quickly, as she saw a look of
pain on Nellie's face, "Harry may be in a half-way decent camp. But,
even then, won't the Germans keep the package themselves?"

"I've thought of that," replied Tom. "We've got to take that chance
also. But I figure that, in the confusion, Harry, or some of his fellow
prisoners, may pick up the package, or packages, unobserved. Of course
there's only a slim chance that Harry himself will pick up the bundle.
But it will be addressed to him, and if any of the French, British, or
American prisoners get it, they'll see that it goes to Harry all right."

"Oh, of course," murmured Mrs. Gleason. "But what was that you said
about the 'confusion?'"

"That's something different," said Tom. "I'm counting on dropping a few
bombs on the German works outside the camp, to--er--well, to sort of
take their attention off the packages we'll try to drop inside the
stockade. Of course while we're doing this we may be and probably shall
be, under fire ourselves. But we've got to take that chance. It's a
mad scheme, Jack says, and I realize that it is. But we've got to do
something."

"Yes," said Nellie in a low voice, "we must do something. This suspense
is terrible. Oh, if I only could get word to Harry!"

"You write the letter and I'll take it!" declared Tom.

"And I'll help!" exclaimed Jack.

And then the letters--several of them, for each one wrote a few lines
and made triplicates of it, since three packages were to be dropped. The
letters, to begin again, were written and the bundles were made up.
They contained cigarettes, cakes of hard chocolate, soap and a few other
little comforts and luxuries that it was certain Harry would be glad to
get.

The rest of the plan would have to be left to Tom and Jack to work out,
and, having talked it over with their friends, they found it was time
for them to start to their station, since their leave was up at eleven
o'clock that night.

Getting permission for a week's absence was not as easy as securing
permission to go to Paris. But Tom and Jack waited until after a sharp
engagement, during which they distinguished themselves by bravery in.
the air, assisting in bringing down some Hun planes, and then their
petition was favorably acted on.

Behold them next, as a Frenchman might say, on their way to their former
squadron, where they were welcomed with open arms. They had to take the
commanding officer into their confidence, but he offered no objection
to their scheme. They must go alone, however, and without his official
knowledge or sanction, since it was not strictly a military matter.

And so Tom and Jack were furnished with the best and speediest machine
in their former camp, and one bright day, following a hard air battle
in which the Huns were worsted, they set out to drop the letters and
packages over the prison camp where Harry Leroy was held.

"Well, how do you feel about it?" asked Jack, as he and his chum stepped
into their trim machine.

"Not at all afraid, if that's what you mean."

"No. And you know I didn't. I mean do you think we'll pull it off?"

"I have a sneaking suspicion that we shall."

"And so have I. It's a desperate chance, but it may succeed. Only if it
does, and we get Harry's hopes raised for a rescue, how are we going to
pull that off?"

"That's another story," remarked Tom. "Another story."

They mounted into the clear, bright air, and proceeded toward the German
lines. Would they reach their objective, or would they be shot down, to
be either killed or made prisoners themselves? Those were questions they
could not answer. But they hoped for the best.



CHAPTER XV. BADLY HIT


Before undertaking their kindly though dangerous mission, Tom and Jack
had carefully studied it from all angles. At first Jack had been frankly
skeptical, and he said as much to his chum.

"You'll never get over the place where Harry is held a prisoner,"
declared Jack. "And, if you do, and start to dropping packages, they'll
never land within a mile of the place you intend, and Harry'll have the
joy of seeing some fat German eat his chocolate cake."

"Well, maybe," Tom had agreed, "But I'm going to try."

To this end they had secured the best map possible of the ground in and
around the prison camp. Its location they knew from the dropped glove of
the aviator, which contained a note telling about Leroy.

It was not uncommon for Germany to disclose to her enemies the names
of prisons where certain of the Allies were confined, and this was also
done by England and France. The prison camps were located far enough
behind the defense lines to make it impossible for them to be reached
in the course of ordinary fighting.

Then, too, the airmen of Germany seemed a step above her other fighters
in that they were more chivalrous. So Tom and Jack felt reasonably
certain as to Leroy's whereabouts. Of course it was possible that he had
been moved since the note was written, but on this point they would have
to take a chance.

To this end they had provided themselves not only with the best maps
obtainable showing the character of the ground and the nature of the
defenses around the prison, where Harry and other Allied men were held,
but inquiries had also been made by those in authority, at the request
of Tom and Jack, of German prisoners, and from them had come information
of value about the place.

Of course the two air service boys had no hope of inflicting much damage
on batteries or works outside the prison. By the dropping of some bombs
they carried they hoped to distract attention from themselves long
enough to drop the packages to Leroy. The bombs were a sort of feint.

And now they were on their way, winging a path over their own lines, and
soon they would be above those of the Hun.

Some of the former comrades of Tom and Jack, having been apprised of
what the lads were to attempt, had, without waiting for official orders,
decided to do what they could to help. This took the form of a daring
challenge to the German airmen to come out and give battle.

After their thorough drubbing of the day before, however, the Boche
aviators did not seem much inclined to venture forth for another cloud
fight. But the French and some English fliers who were acting with them,
laid a sort of trap, which, in a way, aided the two Americans.

A half dozen swift Spads took the air soon after Tom and Jack ascended,
but instead of flying over the German lines they went in the opposite
direction, making their way to the west. They got out of sight, and then
mounted to a great height.

Shortly after this some heavy, double-seated planes set out for the
German territory as though to make observations or take photographs.
It was the belief of the French airmen that the Huns would swarm out to
attack these planes, or else to give battle to the machine in which Tom
and Jack rode. And, in such an event, the swift Spads would swoop down
out of a great height and engage in the conflict.

And that is exactly what occurred. Torn and Jack had flown only a little
way over the trenches of the enemy when they saw some Hun planes coming
up to meet them. It was in the minds of both lads that they were in for
a fight, but before they had a chance to sight their guns, some French
planes of the slow type appeared in their rear.

To these the Huns at once turned their attention, and then the Spads
swooped down, and there was a sharp engagement in the air, which
ultimately resulted in victory for the Allied forces, though two of the
French fliers were wounded.

But the feint had its effect, and attention was drawn away from Tom and
Jack, who flew on toward the prison camp.

Had their mission been solely to carry words of cheer with some material
comforts to Harry Leroy, it is doubtful if Tom and Jack would have
received permission to make the trip. But it was known they were both
daring aviators and good observers, and it was this latter ability on
their part which counted in their favor. For it was thought they might
bring back information concerning matters well back of the German front
lines, information which would be of service to the Allies.

And in furtherance of this scheme Jack and Tom made maps of the country
over which they were flying. They had been provided with materials for
this before leaving.

On and on they flew, changing their height occasionally, and, when they
were fired at, which was the case not infrequently, they "zoomed" to
escape the flying shrapnel.

But on the whole, they fared very well, and in a comparatively short
time they found themselves over the country where, on the maps, was
marked the location of Harry Leroy's prison camp.

"There it is!" suddenly exclaimed Tom, but of course Jack could not hear
him. However, a punch in Jack's back served the same purpose, and he
took his eyes from his instruments long enough to look down. Then a
confirmatory glance at the map made him agree with Tom. The air service
boys were directly over the prison camp.

This, like so many other dreary places set up by the Germans, consisted
of a number of shacks, in barrack fashion, with a central parade, or
exercise ground. About it all was a barbed wire stockade and, though the
character of these wires did not show, there were also some carrying a
deadly electric current.

This was to discourage escapes on the part of prisoners, and it
succeeded only too well.

But the camp was in plain sight, and in the central space could be seen
a number of ant-like figures which the boys knew were prisoners.

Whether one of them was Leroy or not, they were unable to say.

But they had reached their objective, and now it was time to act. High
time, indeed, for below them batteries began sending up shells which
burst uncomfortably close to them. They were of all varieties, from
plain shrapnel to "flaming onions" and "woolly bears," the latter a most
unpleasant object to meet in mid-air.

For the Germans were taking no chances. They knew the vulnerable
points of their prison camp lay above, and they had provided a ring of
anti-aircraft guns to take care of any Allied, machines that might fly
over the place. Whether any such daring scheme had been tried before or
not, Tom and Jack could not say.

Of course it was out of the question that any great damage could be done
in the vicinity of the camp without endangering the inmates, so it was
not thought, in all likelihood, that any very heavy air raids would have
to be repelled. But in any case, the Huns were ready for whatever might
happen.

"Better drop the bombs, hadn't we?" cried Jack to Tom, as he slowed down
the motor a moment to enable his voice to be heard.

"I guess so--yes. Drop 'em and then shoot over the camp again and let
the packages fall. It's getting pretty hot here."

And indeed it was. Guns were shooting at the two daring air service boys
from all sides of the camp.

In the camp itself great excitement prevailed, for the prisoners knew,
now, that it was some of their friends flying above them.

There was another danger, too. Not many miles away from the prison camp
was a German aerodrome, and scenes of activity could now be noticed
there. The Huns were getting ready to send up a machine--perhaps more
than one--to attack Tom and Jack.

It was, then, high time they acted, and as Jack again started the
engine, he guided the machine over a spot where the anti-aircraft guns
were most active.

"There's a battery there I may put out of business," he argued.

Flying fast, Jack was soon over the spot, or, rather, not so much over
it, as in range of it. For when an aeroplane drops a bomb on a given
objective, it does not do so when directly above, but just before it
reaches it. The momentum of the plane, going at great speed, carries
any object dropped from it forward. It is as when a mail pouch is thrown
from a swiftly moving express train or a bundle of newspapers is tossed
off. In both instances the man in the train tosses the pouch or his
bundle before his car gets to the station platform, and the momentum
does the rest.

It was that way with the bomb Jack released by a touch of his foot on
the lever in the cockpit of the machine. Down it darted, and, wheeling
sharply after he had let it go, the lad saw a great puff of smoke
hovering directly over the spot where, but a moment before, Hun gums had
been belching at him.

"Good! A sure hit!" cried Tom, but he alone heard his own words. Jack's
ears were filled with the throb of the motor. He had two more bombs,
and these were quickly dropped at different points on German territory
outside the camp.

At the time, aside from the evidences they saw, Jack and Tom were
not aware of the damage they inflicted, but later they learned it was
considerable and effective. However, they guessed that they had created
enough of a diversion to try now to deliver the packages containing the
letters and other comforts.

Jack swung the machine at a sharp angle over the prison camp, and as
he cleared the barbed wire fence Tom, who had been given charge of the
packets, let one go. It fell just outside the barrier, caused by some
freak of the wind perhaps, and the lad could not keep back a sigh of
dismay. One of the three precious packages had fallen short of the mark,
and would doubtless be picked up by some German guard.

But Tom had the satisfaction of seeing the two other bundles fall
fairly within the prison fence, and there was a rush on the part of the
unfortunate men to pick them up.

"I only hope Harry's there," mused Tom. "That's tough luck to wish a
man, I know," he reflected, "but I mean I hope he gets the letters and
things."

However, he and Jack had done all that lay in their power to make this
possible, and it was now time to get back to their own lines if they
could. The place was getting too dangerous for them.

Swinging about in a big circle, and noting that groups of prisoners were
now gathered about the place where the packets had fallen, Jack sent
the machine toward that part of France where they had spent so many
strenuous days.

"They're going to make it lively for us!" cried Jack, as he noted two
swift German planes mounting into the air. "It's going to be a fight."

But he and Tom were ready for this. Their Lewis and Vickers guns were in
position, and they only awaited the approach of the nearest Hun plane to
unlimber them. They mounted steadily upward to get beyond the range of
the anti-aircraft batteries and were soon in comparative safety, since
the Huns, at this particular sector at least, were notoriously bad
marksmen.

With the German planes, that would be a different story, and Tom and
Jack soon found this out to their cost.

For one of the Boche machines came on speedily, and much more quickly
than the boys had believed possible was within range. The German machine
guns--for it was a double plane--began spitting fire and bullets at
them. They replied, but did not seem to inflict much damage.

Suddenly Tom saw Jack give a jump, as though in an agony of pain, and
then the young pilot crumpled up in his seat.

"Badly hit!" exclaimed Tom with a pang at his own heart. "Poor Jack is
out of it!"

The machine, out of control for a moment, started to go into a nose
dive, but Tom let go the lever of his machine gun, and took charge of
the craft, since it was one capable of dual manipulation. Tom now had
to become the pilot and gunner, too, and he had yet a long way to go to
reach his own lines, while Jack was huddled, before him, either dead or
badly wounded.



CHAPTER XVI. JUST IN TIME


It was with mingled feelings of alarm and sorrow that Tom Raymond sent
the speedy Spad aeroplane on its homeward way toward the French lines.
He was worried, not chiefly about his own safety, but on account of
Jack; and his sorrow was in the thought that perhaps he had taken his
last flight with his beloved chum and comrade in arms. He could not see
where Jack had been hit, but this was because the other lad lay in such
a huddled position in the cockpit. Jack had slumped from his seat, the
safety straps alone holding him in position, though he would not have
fallen out when the machine was upright as it was at present.

"One of those machine gun bullets must have got him," mused Tom, as he
started the craft on an upward climb, for it had darted downward when
Jack's nerveless hands and feet ceased their control. For part of the
steering in an aeroplane is done by the feet of the pilot, leaving his
hands free, at times, to fire the machine gun or draw maps.

Tom had a double object in starting to rise. One was to get into a
better position to make the homeward flight, and another was to have
a better chance not only to ward off the attack of the Hun planes, of
which there were now three in the air, but also to return their fire.
It is the machine that is higher up that stands the best chance in an
aerial duel, for not only can one maneuver to better advantage, but the
machine can be aimed more easily with reference to the fixed gun.

In Tom's case he did not have access to this weapon, which was fixed
on the rim of the cockpit where Jack could, and where he had been
controlling, it. With Jack out of the fight, through one or more German
bullets, it was up to Tom to return the fire of the Huns from his swivel
mounted Lewis gun. He was going to have difficulty in doing this and
also guiding the craft, but he had had harder problems than this to meet
since becoming an aviator in the great war, and now he quickly conquered
his worrying over Jack, and began to look to himself.

He gave one more fleeting glance at the crumpled-up figure of his
chum, seeking for a sign of life, but he saw none. Then he swung about,
turning in toward the nearest Hun airman, and not away from him, and
opened up with the machine gun, using both hands on that for a moment,
while he steered with his knees.

It was not easy work, and Tom hardly expected to make a direct hit,
but he must have come uncomfortably close to the Boche, for the latter
swerved off, and for an instant his plane seemed beyond control. Whether
this was due to a wound received by the aviator, or to a trick on his
part was not disclosed to Tom. But the machine darted downward and
seemed to be content to veer off for a while.

The third plane Tom soon saw was not going to trouble him, as it had not
speed equal to his own, so that he really had left only one antagonist
with whom to deal. And this plane, containing two men, with whom he had
not yet come to close quarters, was racing toward him at great speed.

"I guess there's only one thing to do," mused Tom, "and that's to run
for it. I won't stand any show at all with two of them shooting at me,
while I have to manage the machine and the gun too. If I can beat 'em to
our lines I'd better do it and run the chance of some of our boys coming
out to take care of 'em. I'd better get Jack to a doctor as soon as I
can."

And abandoning the gun to give all his attention to the motor, Tom
opened it full and sped on his way. The other machine's occupants saw
his plan and tried to stop it with a burst of bullets, but the range was
a little too far for effective work.

"Now for a race!" thought Tom, and that is what it turned out to be.
Seeing that he was going to try to get away, the Hun plane, which was
almost as speedy as the one Tom and Jack had started out in, took after
them. The other German craft was left far in the rear, and the one Tom
had shot at appeared to be in such difficulties that it was practically
out of the fight.

Thus the odds, once so greatly against our heroes, were now greatly
reduced, though not yet equal, since Jack was completely out of the
game--for how long Tom could only guess, and he seemed to feel cold
fingers clutching at his heart when he thought of this.

But Tom soon discovered, by a backward glance over his shoulder now and
then, that his machine, barring accidents, would distance the other, and
this was what his aim now was. So on and on he sped, watching the German
occupied French territory unrolling itself below him, coming nearer and
nearer each minute to his own lines and safety.

Behind them, he and Jack--for the latter had done his share before being
wounded--had left consternation in the German ranks. The bombs had done
considerable damage--as was learned later--and the dropping of packages
within the prison camp was fraught with potential danger to an extent at
which the Boches could only guess.

On and on sped Tom, sparing time, now and then, to look back at his
pursuers, who were, it could not be doubted, doing their best to get
within effective range. And, every now and again, Tom would glance at
the motionless form of his churn.

But poor Jack never stirred, and Tom was fearing more and more that his
chum had made his last flight. As for the Hun aviators, after using up
a drum or so of bullets uselessly, they ceased firing and urged their
machine on to the uttermost.

But Tom had the start of them, and he was also on a higher level, so
that the Germans must climb at an oblique angle to reach him.

And, thanks to this, Tom saw that, if nothing else happened, he would
soon be in comparative safety with the unconscious form of Jack. The
anti-aircraft batteries were firing in vain, as he was beyond their
range, and, far away, he could see the lines of the French armies,
behind which he soon hoped to be.

And then the unexpected happened, or, rather, it had taken place some
time since, but it was only then brought to Tom's attention. His engine
began missing, and when he sought for a cause he speedily found it.
Nearly all the gasoline had leaked out of the main tank. As he knew
that there had been plenty for the return flight, there was but one
explanation of this. A Hun bullet had pierced the petrol reservoir,
letting the precious fluid leak away.

"Now if the auxiliary tank has any in it, I'm fairly all right," thought
Tom. "If it hasn't, I'm all in."

His worst fears were confirmed, for the auxiliary tank had suffered a
like fate with the main one. Both were pierced. There were only a few
drops left, besides those even then being vaporized in the carburetor.

With despair in his heart, Tom looked back. If the Hun plane chose to
rush him now all would be over with him and Jack. He had only enough
fuel for another thousand meters or so, and then he must volplane.

He saw a burst of flame and smoke from the enemy plane, and realized
that he was being shot at again. But the distance was still too far for
effective aim.

And then, to his joy, Tom saw the pursuer turn and start back toward the
German territory. The firing had been a last, desperate attempt to end
his career, and it had failed. Either the Huns were almost out of petrol
themselves, or they did not relish getting too close to the French
lines.

"And now, if I can volplane down the rest of the way, I'll be in a fair
position to save myself," mused Tom, as he made a calculation of the
distance he had yet to go. It was far, but he was at a good height and
believed he could do it.

Suddenly his engine stopped, as though with a sigh of regret that it
could no longer serve him, and Tom knew that volplaning alone would save
him now. He was still over the enemy country, and had his plight been
guessed at by the Germans, undoubtedly they would have sent a machine up
to attack him. But they were in ignorance.

There was nothing to do but drift along. Gravity alone urged the craft
on. As he swept over the German trenches Tom was greeted with a burst of
shrapnel, and he was now low enough to be vulnerable to this. But luck
was with him, and though the plane was hit several times he thought he
was unharmed. But in this he was wrong. He received a glancing wound
in one leg, but in the excitement he did not notice it, and it was not
until he had landed that he saw the blood, and knew what had happened.

On and on, and down and down he volplaned until he was so near his own
lines, and so low down, that he could hear the burst of cheers from his
former comrades.

Then he aimed his craft for a level, grassy place to make a landing,
and as he came to a gradual stop, and was surrounded by a score of eager
aviators, he cried out, as soon as he could speak, "I'm all right! But
look after Jack! He's hurt!"

A surgeon bent hastily over the huddled form, and with the aid of some
men lifted it from the cockpit. Jack's legs were covered with blood, and
when the medical man saw whence it came, then and there he set hastily
to work to stop the bleeding from a large artery.

"You got back only just in time, my friend," he said to Tom, as Jack was
carried to a hospital. "Two minutes more and he would have been bled to
death."


CHAPTER XVII. A CRASH


Not until a day or so later, when Jack was able to sit up in bed and
greet Tom with rather a pale face, did the latter learn all that had
happened. And it was a very close call that Jack had had.

As Tom had guessed, it was some of the bullets from the Hun machine gun
that had stricken down his chum. One had struck him a glancing blow on
the head, rendering Jack unconscious and sending him down, a crumpled-up
heap in the cockpit of his machine. Another bullet, coming through
the machine later, had found lodgment in Jack's leg, cutting part way
through the wall of one of the larger arteries.

It was certain that this bullet, the one in the leg, came after Jack
was hit on the head, for that first wound was the only one he remembered
receiving.

"It was just as though I saw not only stars' but moons, suns, comets,
rainbows and northern lights all at once," he explained to his chum.

The bullet in the leg had cut only part way through the wall of an
artery. At first the tissues held the blood back from spurting out in
a stream that would soon have carried life with it. But either some
unconscious motion on Jack's part, or a jarring of the plane, broke the
half-severed wall, and, just before Tom landed, his chum began to bleed
dangerously. Then it was the surgeon had made his remark, and acted in
time to save Jack's life.

"Well, I guess we made good all right," remarked Jack, as his chum
visited him in the hospital.

"I reckon so," was the answer, "though the Huns haven't sent us any love
letters to say so. But we surely did drop the packages in the prison
camp, though whether Harry got them or not is another story. But we did
our part."

"That's right," agreed Jack. "Now the next thing is to get busy and
bring Harry out of there if we can."

"The next thing for you to do is to keep quiet until that wound in your
leg heals," said the doctor, with a smile. "If you don't, you won't do
any more flying, to say nothing of making any rescues. Be content with
what you did. The whole camp is talking of your exploit. It was noble!"

"Shucks!" exclaimed Tom, in English, for they had been speaking French
for the benefit of the surgeon, who was of that nationality.

"Ah, and what may that mean?" he asked.

"I mean it wasn't anything," translated Tom. "Anybody could have done
what we did."

But of this the surgeon had his doubts.

In spite of the dangerous character of his wound, Jack made a quick
recovery. He was in excellent condition, and the wound was a clean one,
so, as soon as the walls of the artery had healed, he was able to be
about, though he was weak from loss of blood. However, that was soon
made good, and he and Tom, bidding farewell to their late comrades,
returned to the American lines. They had been obliged to get an
extension of leave--at least Jack had--though Tom could report back on
time, and he spent the interim between that and Jack's return to duty,
serving as instructor to the "huns" of his own camp. They were eager to
learn, and anxious to do things for themselves.

Before long Jack returned, though he was not assigned to duty, and
he and Tom visited Paris and told Nellie, Bessie and Mrs. Gleason the
result of their mission.

"You didn't see Harry, of course?" asked Nellie, negatively, though
really hoping that the answer would be in the affirmative.

"Oh, no, we couldn't make out any individual prisoner," said Tom. "There
was a bunch of 'em--I mean a whole lot--there."

"Poor fellows!" said Mrs. Gleason kindly, "Let us hope that they will
soon be released."

"Tom and I have been trying to hit on some plan to rescue Harry," put in
Jack. "And we'd help any others to get away that we could. But is isn't
going to be easy."

"Oh, I don't see how you can do it!" exclaimed Nellie. "Of course I
would give anything in the world to have Harry back with me, but I must
not ask you to run into needless danger on his account. That would be
too much. Your lives are needed here to beat back the Huns. Harry may
live to see the day of victory, and then all will be well."

"I don't believe in waiting, if anything can be done before that." Tom
spoke grimly. "But, as Jack says, it isn't going to be easy," he went
on. "However, we haven't given up. The only thing is to hit on some plan
that's feasible."

They talked of this, but could arrive at nothing. They were not even
sure--which made it all the harder to bear--that Harry had received the
packages dropped in the prison camp at such risk. The only thing that
could be done was to wait and see if he wrote to his sister or his
former chums. Letters occasionally did come from German prisoners, but
they were rare, and could be depended on neither as to time of delivery
nor as to authenticity of contents.

So it was a case of waiting and hoping.

Jack was not yet permitted to fly, so Tom had to go alone. But he served
as an instructor, leaving the more dangerous work of patrol, fighting,
and reconnaissance to others until he was fit to stand the strain of
flying and of fighting once more.

"Sergeant Raymond, you will take up Martin to-day," said the flight
lieutenant to Tom one morning. "Let him manage the plane himself unless
you see that he is going to get into trouble. And give him a good
flight."

"Yes, sir," answered Tom, as he turned away, after saluting.

He found his pupil, a young American from the Middle West, who was not
as old as he and Jack, awaiting him impatiently.

"I'm to get my second wing soon, and I want to show that I can manage a
plane all by myself, even if you're in it," said the lad, whose name was
Dick Martin. "They say I can make a solo flight to-morrow if I do well
to-day."

"Well, go to it!" exclaimed Tom with a laugh. "I'm willing."

Soon they were in a double-seater of fairly safe construction--that is,
it was not freakish nor speedy, and was what was usually used in this
instructive work.

"I'm going to fly over the town," declared Martin, naming the French
city nearest the camp. "Well, mind you keep the required distance up,"
cautioned Tom, for there was, a regulation making it necessary for
the aviators to fly at a certain minimum height above a town in flying
across it, so that if they developed engine trouble, they could coast
safely down and land outside the town itself.

"I'll do that," promised Martin.

But either he forgot this, or he was unable to keep at the required
height, for he began scaling down when about over the center of
the place. Tom saw what was happening, and reached over to take the
controls. But something happened. There was a jam of one of the levers,
and to his consternation Tom saw the machine going down and heading
straight for a large greenhouse on the outskirts of the town.

"There's going to be one beautiful crash!" Tom thought, as he worked in
vain to send the craft up. But it was beyond control.



CHAPTER XVIII. GETTING A ZEPPELIN


Dick Martin became frantic when he saw what was about to happen. He
fairly tore at the various levers and controls, and even increased the
speed of the motor, but this last only had the effect of sending the
machine at a faster rate toward the big expanse of glass, which was the
greenhouse roof.

"Shut it off! Shut off the motor!" cried Tom, but his words could not
be heard, so he punched Martin in the back, and when that frightened lad
looked around his teacher made him understand by signs, what was wanted.

With the motor off there was a chance to speak, and Torn cried:

"Head her up! Try to make her rise and we may clear. I can't do a thing
with the levers back here!"

Martin tried, but his efforts had little effect. For one instant the
machine rose as though to clear the fragile glass. Then it dived down
again, straight for the greenhouse roof.

"Guess it's all up with this machine!" thought Tom quickly. He was not
afraid of being killed. The distance to fall was not enough for that,
and though he and his fellow aviator might be cut by broken glass, still
the body of the aeroplane would protect them pretty well from even
this contingency. But there was sure to be considerable damage to the
property of a French civilian, and the machine, which was one of the
best, was pretty certain to be badly broken.

And then there came a terrific crash. The aeroplane settled down by the
stern, and rose by the bow, so to speak. Then the process was reversed,
and Tom felt himself being catapulted out of his seat. Only his safety
strap held him in place. The same thing happened to Dick Martin.

Then there was an ominous calm, and the aeroplane slowly settled down
to an even keel, held up on the glass-stripped frames of the greenhouse,
one of the very few in that vicinity, which was considerably in the rear
of the battle line.

Slowly Tom unbuckled his safety strap and climbed out, making his way to
the ground by means of stepping on an elevated bed of flowers inside the
now almost roofless house.

Martin followed him, and as they stood looking at the wreckage they had
made, or, rather, that had been made through no direct fault of their
own, the proprietor of the place came out, wearing a long dirt-smudged
apron.

He raised his hands in horror at the sight that met his gaze, and then
broke into such a torrent of French that Tom, with all the experience he
had had of excitable Frenchmen, was unable to comprehend half of it.

The gist was, however, to the effect that a most monstrous and
unlooked-for calamity had befallen, and the inhabitants of all the
earth, outside of Germany and her allies, were called on to witness
that never hid there been such a smash of good glass. In which Torn was
rather inclined to agree.

"Well, you did something this time all right, Buddie," Tom remarked to
Dick Martin.

"Did I--did I do that?" he asked, as though he had been walking in his
sleep, and was just now awake.

"Well, you and the old bus together," said Tom. "And we got off lucky at
that. Didn't I tell you to keep high, if you were going to fly over one
of the towns?"

"Yes, you did, but I forgot. Anyhow I'd have cleared the place if the
controls hadn't gone back on us."

 "I suppose so, but that excuse won't go with the C.O.  It's a bad
smash."

By this time quite a crowd had gathered, and Tom was trying to pacify
the excitable greenhouse owner by promising full reparation in the shape
of money damages.

How to get the machine down off the roof, where it rested in a mass of
broken glass and frames, was a problem. Tom tried to organize a wrecking
party, but the French populace which gathered, much as it admired the
Americans, was afraid of being cut with the broken glass, or else they
imagined that the machine might suddenly soar aloft, taking some of them
with it.

In the end Tom had to leave the plane where it was and hire a motor to
take him and Martin back to the aerodrome. They were only slightly cut
by flying glass, nothing to speak of considering the danger in which
they had been.

The result of the disobedience of orders was that the army officials
had rather a large bill for damages to settle with the French greenhouse
proprietor, and Tom and Dick Martin were deprived of their leave
privileges for a week for disobeying the order to keep at a certain
height in flying over a town or city.

Had they done that, when the controls jammed, they would have been able
to glide down into a vacant field, it was demonstrated. The machine was
badly damaged, though it was not beyond repair.

"And that's the last time I'm ever going to be soft with a Hun, you can
make up your mind to that," declared Tom to Jack. "If I'd sat on him
hard when I saw he was getting too low over the village, it wouldn't
have happened. But I didn't want him to think I knew it all, and I
thought I'd take a chance and let him pull his own chestnuts out of the
fire. But never again!"

"'Tisn't safe," agreed Jack. He was rapidly improving, so much so that
he was able to fly the next week, and he and Tom went up together, and
did some valuable scouting work for the American army.

At times they found opportunity to take short trips to Paris, where they
saw Nellie and Bessie, and were entertained by Mrs. Gleason. Nellie
was eager for some word from her brother, but none came. Whether the
packages dropped by Tom and Jack reached the prisoner was known only to
the Germans, and they did not tell.

But the daring plan undertaken by the two air service boys was soon
known a long way up and down the Allied battle line, and more than one
aviator tried to duplicate it, so that friends or comrades who were
held by the Huns might receive some comforts, and know they were not
forgotten. Some of the Allied birdmen paid the penalty of death for
their daring, but others reported that they had dropped packages within
the prison camps, though whether those for whom they were intended
received them or not, was not certain.

"But we aren't going to let it stop there, are we?" asked Tom of
Jack one day, when they were discussing the feat which had been so
successful.

"Let it stop where? What do you mean?"

"I mean are we going to do something to get Harry away from the Boche
nest?"

"I'm with you in anything like that!" exclaimed Jack. "But what can we
do? How are we going to rescue him?"

"That's what we've got to think out," declared Tom. "Something has to be
done."

But there was no immediate chance to proceed to that desired end because
of something vital that happened just about then. This was nothing more
nor less than secret news that filtered into the Allied lines, to the
effect that a big Zeppelin raid over Paris was planned.

It was not the first of these raids, nor, in all likelihood, would it
be the last. But this one was novel in that it was said the great German
airships would sail toward the capital over the American lines, or,
rather, the lines where the Americans were brigaded with the French
and English. Doubtless it was to "teach the Americans a lesson," as the
German High Command might have put it.

At any rate all leaves of absence for the airmen were canceled, and they
were ordered to hold themselves in readiness to repel the "Zeps," as
they were called, preventing them from getting across the lines to
Paris.

"And we'll bring down one or two for samples, if we can!" boasted Jack.

"What makes it so sure that they are coming?" asked Tom.

It developed there was nothing sure about it. But the information had
come from the Allied air secret service, and doubtless had its inception
when some French or British airman saw scenes of activity near one of
the Zeppelin headquarters in the German-occupied territory. There were
certain fairly positive signs.

And, surely enough, a few nights later, the agreed-upon alarm was
sounded.

"The Zeps are coming!"

Tom and Jack, with others who were detailed to repel the raid, rushed
from their cats, hastily donned their fur garments, and ran to their
aeroplanes, which were a "tuned up" and waiting.

"There they are!" cried Torn, as he got into his single-seated plane, an
example followed on his part by Jack. "Look!"

Jack gazed aloft. There was a riot of fire from the anti-aircraft
guns of the French and British, but they were firing in vain, for the
Zeppelins flew high, knowing the danger from the ground batteries.

Sharp, stabbing shafts of light from the powerful electric lanterns shot
aloft, and now and then one of them would rest for an instant on a great
silvery cigar-shape--the gas bag of the big German airships that were
beating their way toward Paris, there to deal death and destruction.

"Come on!" cried Tom, as his mechanician started the motor. "I'm going
to get a Zep!"

"I'm with you!" yelled Jack, and they soared aloft side by side.



CHAPTER XIX. ON PATROL


Aloft with Tom and Jack were several other fighters, for it was not only
considered a great honor to bring down a Zeppelin, but it would save
many lives if one or more of the big gas machines could be prevented
from dropping bombs on Paris or its environs.

The machines which were used were all of the single type, though
of different makes and speeds. Each one was equipped with electric
launching tubes. These were a somewhat new device for use against
captive Hun balloons and Zeppelins and were installed in many of the
fighting scout craft of the Americans and Allies.

Between the knees of Toni and Jack, as well as each of the other pilots,
was a small metal tube. This went completely through the floor of the
cockpit, so that, had it been large enough to give good vision, one
could view through it the ground beneath.

In a little rack at the right of each scout were several small bombs of
various kinds. Some were intended to set on fire whatever they came in
contact with, being of phosphorus. Others were explosive bombs, pure and
simple, while some were flares, intended to light up the scene at night
and make getting a target easier.

Included in the rack of death and destruction was a simple stick; not
unlike a walking cane, and this seemed so comparatively harmless that an
uninitiated observer would almost invariably ask its use.

At the lower end of the launching tube, through which the bombs were
dropped, was a "trip," or sort of catch, that caught on a trigger
fastened to each bomb. The trip pulled the trigger, so to speak, and set
in operation the firing device.

In the early days, though doubtless the defect was afterwards corrected,
the bombs sometimes stuck in the launching tube, and as they were likely
to go off in this position at any moment, it was the custom of the
pilots to push them on their way with the cane if the missiles jammed.
Hence it was an essential part of each flying machine's armament.

Higher and higher mounted the fighting scouts, with Tom and Jack among
their number. It was necessary to mount very high in order to get
above the Zeppelins, as in this position alone was it possible for the
aeroplanes to fight them to any advantage. The Zeppelins carried many
machine guns of long range, and for the pigmy planes to attack them on
the same level, meant destruction to the smaller craft.

There were several German machines in the raid toward Paris, but Tom
and Jack caught sight of only two. The others were either at too great a
height to be observed, or else were farther off, lost in the haze.

But the two silver shapes, resembling nothing so much as huge, expensive
cigars, wrapped in tinfoil, were flying on their way, now and then
dropping bombs, which exploded with dull, muffled reports--an earnest of
what they would do when they got over Paris. They were traveling fast,
under the impulse of their own powerful motors and propellers, and also
aided by a stiff breeze.

Of course conversation was out of the question among Tom, Jack and the
other aviators, but they knew the general plan of the fight. They were
to get above the Zeppelins--as many of them as could--and drop bombs
on the gas envelope. They were also to attack with machine guns if
possible, aiming at the rudder controls and machinery. It was the great
desire of the Allied commanders to have a Zeppelin brought down as
nearly intact as possible.

Up and up climbed the speedy scout machines, and it was seen that some
of them would never get in a position to do any damage. The German craft
were traveling too speedily. But Tom and Jack managed to get to a height
of about twenty thousand feet, which was above the Zeppelins, though by
this time the Germans were in advance of them, for they had climbed at
rather a steep angle. However, they knew their speed was many times that
of the German machine on a straight course.

On and on they went. Then came a mist which hid the enemy from sight.
The aviators railed at their luck, and Tom and Jack dropped down a bit,
hoping to get through the mist. It lay below them like a great, gray
blanket.

Suddenly they fairly plumped through it, and saw, not far away, the two
big silver shapes, shining in the searchlights which were now giving
good illumination. It was a moonlight night, which seemed a favorite for
a German bombing expedition.

Far below them, and beneath the Zepplins, Tom and Jack could see the
lights of other aeroplanes, which were flying low to observe lanterns on
the ground, set in the shape of arrows, to indicate in which direction
the German craft were traveling. Later, if necessary, these observing
machines could climb aloft and signal to those higher up.

Nearer and nearer Jack and Tom came to one of the Zeppelins. And now, in
the semi-darkness, they became aware that they were being fired at by
a long-range gun on the German craft. The bullets sung about them, but
though their machines were hit several times, as they learned later,
they escaped injury.

Now the battle of the air was on in grim and deadly earnest. Several
scout planes flew at the big Zeppelin like hornets attacking a bear.
They fired their machine guns, and the Germans replied in kind, but with
more terrible effect, for two of the Allied planes were shot down. It
was a sad loss, but it was the fortune of war, or, rather, misfortune,
for the Zeppelin was not engaged in a fair fight, but seeking to bomb an
unfortified city.

Now Tom and Jack, though somewhat separated, were close above the
Zeppelin, and in a position where they could not be fired at. They began
to drop incendiary bombs through the tubes between their knees.

These bombs were fitted with sharp hooks, so that if they touched
the gas bag they would cling fast, and burn until they had ignited the
envelope and the vapor inside. And as they circled about, dropping bomb
after bomb, the two air service boys saw this happen. Some at least of
their bombs reached their target.

The great craft, now on fire in several places, was twisting and turning
like some wounded snake, endeavoring to escape. Tom glanced toward
the other Zeppelin and saw that this was fairly well surrounded by
aeroplanes, but was not, as yet, on fire.

The bees had fatally stung one great German bear, and, a little later,
it crashed to the ground where it was nearly all consumed, and of its
crew of thirty men, not one was left alive.

The other plane, though greatly damaged by machine gun fire, was not set
ablaze, but was forced to turn and sail for the German lines again. So
that two were prevented from bombing Paris.

Well satisfied with what they had accomplished, Torn, Jack and the
others who had set the Zeppelin on fire, descended. Later they learned,
by word from Paris, that on of the German machines was shot down over
that city and some of its crew captured. So that though the Huns did
considerable damage with their bombs, they paid dearly for that unlawful
expedition.

This was the beginning of a series of fierce aerial battles between
the German forces and the Allied airmen, though for a long dine no more
Zeppelins were seen. Sometimes fortune favored the side on which Tom and
Jack fought, and again they were forced to retire, leaving some of their
friends in the hands of the enemy.

Once Tom and Tack, keeping close together doing scout work, were cut off
from their companions. They had ventured too far over the Hun lines,
and were in danger of being shot down. But a squadron of airmen from
Pershing's forces made a sortie and drove the Germans to cover, rescuing
the two air service boys from an evil fate.

Then followed some weeks of rainy and misty weather, during which there
was very little air work on either side. But the fight on land went on,
with attacks and repulses, the Allies continually advancing their lines,
though ever so little. Slowly but surely they were forcing the Germans
back.

Now and then there were night raids, and once Tom and Jack, who had not
flown for a week because of rain, were just back of the lines when a
captured German patrol was brought in, covered with mud and blood. There
had been lively fighting.

"I wish we were in on that!" exclaimed Tom. "I'm getting tired of
sitting around."'

"So am I!" agreed Jack. "Let's ask if we can't go out on patrol some
night. It will be better than waiting for it to stop raining."

To their delight their request was granted, as it had been in a number
of other cases of airmen. Temporarily they were allowed to go with the
infantry until the weather cleared.

The two air service boys were in the dugout one night, having served
their turns at listening post work and general scouting, when an officer
came in with a slip of paper. He began reading off some names, and when
he had finished, having mentioned Tom and Jack, he said:

"Prepare for patrol duty at once."

"Good!" whispered Tom to his chum: "Now there'll be something doing."

He little guessed what it was to be.



CHAPTER XX. CAPTURED


Silently, in the darkness of their trenches, the party of which Tom and
Jack were to be members, prepared to go over the top and penetrate
the German front line of defense, in the hope of taking prisoners that
information might be had of them. It was a risky undertaking, but one
frequently accomplished by the Allies, and it often led to big results.

There were about a score in the patrol, and, to their delight, though
they rather regretted it later, Tom and Jack were given positions well
in front, two files removed, in fact, from the lieutenant commanding.

"Now I suppose you all understand what you're to do," said the
lieutenant as he gathered his little party about him in one of the
larger dugouts, where a flickering candle gave light. "You'll all
provide yourselves with wire cutters, hand grenades and pistols. Rifles
will be in the way. Take your gas masks, of course. No telling when
Fritz may send over some of those shells. Blacken your faces, as usual.
A star shell makes a beautiful light on a white countenance, so don't be
afraid of smudging yourselves. And when we start just try to imagine you
are Indians, and make no noise. One object is to come in contact with
some German post, try to hear what's going on from their talk, and make
some captures if we can. Do you all understand German?"

It developed that they did--at least no one would confess he did not for
fear of being turned back. But, as it developed, they all had some, if
slight, acquaintance with the language.

A little period of anxious waiting followed--a sort of zero hour
effect--until finally the word was received from some source, unknown to
Tom and Jack, to proceed. The night was black, and there was a mist over
everything which did not augur for clear weather on the morrow.

"Forward!" whispered the lieutenant, for they were so near the German
lines that incautious talking was prohibited. Out of their trenches they
went, Tom and Jack well in front, and close to the leader.

As carefully as might be, though, at that, making noise which the
members of the patrol thought surely must be heard clear to Berlin, they
made their way over the shell-torn and uncertain ground in the darkness.
They went down between their own lines of barbed wire to where an
opening had been made opposite what was considered a quiet spot in the
Hun defenses, and then they started across "No Man's Land."

It was not without mingled feelings that Tom and Jack advanced,
and, doubtless, their feelings were common to all. There was great
uncertainty as to the outcome. Death or glory might await them. They
might all be killed by a single German shell, or they might run into
a German working party, out to repair the wire cut during the day's
firing. In the latter case there would be a fight--an even chance,
perhaps. They might capture or be captured.

On and on they went, treading close together and in single file, making
little noise. Straight across the desolate stretch of land that lay
between the two lines of trenches they went, and, when half way, there
came from the German side a sudden burst of star shells. These are a
sort of war fireworks that make a brilliant illumination, and the enemy
was in the habit of sending them up every night at intervals, to reveal
to his gunners any party of the enemy approaching.

"Down! Down!" hissed the lieutenant. But he need not have uttered
the command. All had been told what to do, and fell on their faces
literally--their smoke-blackened faces. In this position they resembled,
as nearly as might be, some of the dead bodies scattered about, and that
was their intention.

 Still each one had a nervous fear.  The star shells were very
brilliant and made No Man's Land almost as bright as when bathed in
sunshine, a condition that had not prevailed of late. There was no
guarantee that the Germans would not, in their suspicious hate, turn
their rifles or machine guns on what they supposed were dead bodies. In
that case-well, Tom, Jack and the others did not like to think about it.

But the brilliance of the star shells died away, and once more there
was darkness. The lieutenant cautiously raised his head and in a whisper
commanded:

"Forward! Is every one all right?"

"My mouth's full of mud and water--otherwise I'm all right," said some
one.

"Silence!" commanded the officer.

Once more he led them forward. They reached the first German wire, and
instantly the cutters were at work. Though the men tried to make no
noise, it was an impossibility. The wire would send forth metallic
janglings and tangs as it was cut. But an opening was made, and the
patrol party filed through. And then, almost immediately, something
happened.

There was another burst of star shells, but before the Americans had an
opportunity to throw themselves on their faces, they saw that they were
confronted by a large body of Germans who had come forward as silently
as themselves, and, doubtless, on the same sort of errand.

"At 'em, boys! At 'em!" cried the lieutenant. "The Stars and Stripes! At
'em!"

Instantly pandemonium broke loose. In the glaring light of the star
shells the two forces rushed forward. There was a burst of pistol fire,
and then the fight went on in the darkness.

"Where are you, Tom?"' yelled Jack, as he flung a grenade full at a big,
burly German who was rushing at him with uplifted gun.

"Here!" was the answer, and in the darkness Jack felt his chum collide
with him so forcefully that both almost went down in a heap. "I jumped
to get away from a Hun bayonet," pantingly explained Tom.

Jack's grenade exploded, blowing dirt and small stones in the faces of
the chums. There were shouts and cries, in English, French and German.
The American lieutenant tried to rally his men around him, but, as was
afterward learned, they were attacked by a much larger party of Huns
than their patrol.

"We must stick together!" cried Jack to Tom. "If we separate we're lost!
Where are the others?"

"Sam Zalbert was with me a second ago," answered Tom, naming a lad with
whom he and Jack had become quite friendly. "But I saw him fall. I don't
know whether he slipped or was hurt. Look out!" he suddenly shouted.

He saw two Germans rushing at him and Jack, with leveled revolvers.
There was no time to get another grenade from their pockets, and Tom did
the next best thing. He made a tackle, football fashion, at the legs of
the Germans, which he could see very plainly in the light of many star
shells that were now being sent up.

Almost at the same instant Jack, seeing his chum's intention, followed
his example, and the two Huns went down in a heap, falling over the
heads of their antagonists with many a German imprecation. Their weapons
flew from their hands.

"Come on! This is getting too hot for us!" cried Jack, as he scrambled
to his feet, followed by Tom. "There'll be a barrage here in a minute."

This seemed about to happen, for machine guns were spitting fire and
death all along that section of the German front, and the American and
French forces were replying. A general engagement might be precipitated
at any moment.

The American lieutenant tried to rally his men, but it was a hopeless
task. The Germans had overpowered them. Tom and Jack started to run back
toward their own lines, having made sure, however, of putting beyond the
power to fight any more the two Germans who had attacked them.

"Come on!" cried Tom. "We've got to have reinforcements to tackle this
bunch!"

"I guess so!" agreed Jack.

They turned, not to retreat, but to better their positions, when they
both ran full into a body of men that seemed to spring up from the very
ground in the sudden darkness that followed an unusually bright burst of
star shells.

"What is it? Who are they? What's the matter?" cried Tom.

"Give it up!" answered Jack. "Who are you?" he asked.

Instantly a guttural German voice cried:

"Ah! The American swine! We have them!"

In another moment Tom and Jack felt themselves surrounded by an
overpowering number.

Hands plucked at them toughly from all sides, and their pistols and few
remaining grenades were taken from them.

"Turn back with the prisoners!" cried a voice in German.

The two air service boys found themselves being fairly-lifted from their
feet by the rush of their captors. Where they were going they could not
see, but they knew what had happened.

They had been captured by the Germans!



CHAPTER XXI. THE CLEW


For one wild instant Tom and Jack, as they admitted to one another
afterward, felt an insane desire to attempt to break away from their
captors, to rush at them, to attack if need be with their bare hands,
and so invite death in its quickest form. They even hoped that they
might escape this way rather than live to be taken behind the German
lines.

It was not only the disgrace of being captured--which really was no
disgrace considering the overwhelming numbers that attacked them--t it
was the fear of what they might have to suffer as prisoners.

Tom and Jack, as well as the others, might well regard with horror the
fate that lay before them. But to escape by even a desperate struggle
was out of the question. They were surrounded by a ring of Germans,
several files deep, and each was heavily armed. Then, too, their captors
were fairly rushing them along over the uneven ground as though fearful
of pursuit. The air service boys had no chance, nor did any of their
comrades of the patrol who might be left alive. How many these were, Tom
and Jack had no means of knowing. They did not see any of their comrades
near them. There were only the Huns who were bubbling over with coarse
joy in the delight of having captured two "American pigs," as they
brutally boasted.

Stumbling and half falling, Tom and Jack were dragged along. Now and
then they could see, by means of the star shells, groups of men, some
near and some farther off. There was firing all along the Hun and Allied
lines, and as the boys were dragged along the big guns began to thunder.
What had started as an ordinary night raid might end in a general
engagement before it was finished.

There seemed to be fierce lighting going on between the several detached
groups, and the air service boys did not doubt that some word of the
dispersing and virtual defeat of the party they were with had reached
their lines, resulting in the sending out of relief parties.

"This sure is tough luck!" murmured Jack to Tom, as they stumbled along
in the midst of their captors.

"You said it! If our boys would only rush this bunch and get us away."

"Silence, pigs!" cried a German officer, and with his sword he struck
at Tom, slightly injuring the lad and causing a hot wave of fierce
resentment.

"You wouldn't dare do that if I had my hands free, you dirty dog!"
rasped out Tom in fairly good German, and he tugged to free his arms
from the hold of a Hun soldier on either side.

The officer who had struck Tom seemed about to reply, for he surged
through the ranks of his men over toward the captive, but a command from
some one, evidently higher in authority halted him, and he marched on,
muttering.

There was sharp fighting between the Hun sentries and small parties,
and similar bodies from the American and Allied sides going on along
the lines now, and both armies were sending up rockets and other
illuminating devices.

The two Virginia lads felt themselves being hurried forward--or back,
whichever way you choose to look at it--and whither they were being
taken they did not know. The taunts of their captors had ceased, though
the men were talking together in low voices, and suddenly, at something
one of them said, Tom nudged Jack, beside whom he was walking.

"Did you hear that?" he asked in so low a voice that it was not heard by
the Hun next him. Or if it was heard, no attention was paid to it, for
Torn spoke in English. The tramp of the heavy boots of the Huns and the
rattle of their arms and accoutrements made noise enough, perhaps, to
cover the sound of his voice.

"Did I hear what?" asked Jack.

"What that chap said. It was something about one of the German prison
camps having been burned by the prisoners, a lot of whom got away. The
rest were transferred to a place not far from here. Listen!"

And the Americans listened to the extent of their ability.

Then it was they blessed their lucky stars that they understood enough
of German to know what was being said, for it was then and there that
they got a clew to the whereabouts of Harry Leroy, from whom they had
heard not a word since the dropping of his glove by the German aviator.
They did not even know whether or not their packages had reached their
chum.

The talk of the Germans who had captured Tom and Jack was, indeed,
concerning the burning of one of the prison camps. As the boys learned
later, the prisoners, unable to stand the terrible treatment, had risen
and set fire to the place. Many of them perished in the blaze and by the
fire of German rifles. The others were transferred to a camp nearer the
battle line as a punishment, it being argued, perhaps, that they might
be killed by the fire of the guns of their own side.

"And there are some airmen, too, in the new prison camp," said one of
the Germans. "Our infantrymen claimed them as their meat, though our
airmen brought them down. But there was no room for them in the prison
camp with the other captured aviators, so The Butcher has them in his
charge."

Tom and Jack learned later that "The Butcher" was the title bestowed,
even by his own men, on a certain brutal German colonel who had charge
of this prison camp.

Then there came to Tom and Jack in the darkness a curious piece of
information, dropped by casual talk of the Huns. One of them said to
another:

"One of the transferred airmen tried to bribe me to-day."

"To bribe you? How and for what?"

"He is an accursed American pig, and when he heard we were opposite some
of them, he wanted me to throw a note from him over into the American
lines. He said I would be well paid, and he offered me a piece of gold
he had hidden in the sole of his shoe."

"Did you take it?"

"The gold? Of course I did! But I tore up the note he gave me to toss
into the American lines. First I looked at it, though. It was signed
with a French name, though the prisoner claimed to be from the United
States. It was the name Leroy which means, I have been told, the king.
Ha! I have his gold, and the note is scattered over No Man's Land! But
I will tell him I sent it into the trenches of his friends. He may have
more notes and gold!" and the brute chuckled.

Tom and Jack, looked at one another in the darkness. Could it be
possible that it was their friend Harry Leroy who was so near to them,
since he had been transferred from a camp far behind the lines?

It seemed so. There were not many American airmen captured, and there
could hardly be two of this same rather odd name.

"It must be Harry," murmured Tom.

"I think so," agreed Jack.

"Silence, American pigs!" commanded man officer.

He raised his sword to strike the lad. But just then occurred an
interruption so tremendous that all thought of punishing prisoners who
dared to speak was forgotten.

A big shell rose screaming and moaning from the Allied lines and landed
not far from the party of Germans which was leading along Tom and Jack.
It burst with a tremendous noise well inside the Hug defenses, and this
was followed by a terrific explosion. As the boys learned later the
shell had landed in the midst of a concealed battery--a stroke of luck,
and not due to any good aiming on the part of the American gunner--and
the supply of ammunition had gone up.

There was great commotion behind the German lines, and two or three of
Tom's and Jack's captors were thrown down by the concussion. The air
service boys themselves were stunned.

And then there suddenly sounded a ringing American cheer, while a voice,
coming from a group of soldiers that confronted the German patrol,
cried:

"Halt! Who's there? Are there any of Uncle Sam's boys?"

"Yes! Yes!" eagerly cried Tom and Jack. "Come on! We're captured by the
Germans!"

There was another cheer, followed by a roar of rage, and then came a
rush of feet. Gleaming bayonets glistened in the light of star shells
and many guns, and the members of the German patrol, finding themselves
surrounded, threw down their arms and cried:

"Kamerad!"

The fortunes of war had unexpectedly turned, and Tom and Jack had been
rescued and saved by a party of Pershing's gallant boys.



CHAPTER XXII. NELLIE'S RESOLVE


"What happened?"

"How'd they get you?"

"Are you hurt?"

These were a few of the questions put to Tom and Jack as they were
surrounded by the rescuing party of their friends, led, it afterward
developed, by the very lieutenant with whom the two air service boys had
started in the patrol across No Man's Land.

The German captors had either all surrendered or been killed, and the
tables were most effectively switched around. At first Tom and Jack were
too surprised and overwhelmingly grateful to answer.

But they soon understood what had happened. And then they told the story
of their fight against odds until captured. They said nothing just then
of the unexpected information that had come to them about Harry Leroy's
presence in a German camp so comparatively near their own lines. But
they resolved, at the first opportunity, to make use of the information.

The shooting of the big guns gradually ceased when it was made manifest
that neither side was ready for a general engagement. The pop-pop of the
machine weapons, too, died away and the star shells ceased rising.

"Come on you Fritzies--what's left of you," cried the lieutenant, when
he had made sure that there were no others of his party whom he could
rescue.

Then with Tom and Jack the center of a happy, tumultuous throng of their
own comrades, the trip back to the American lines was begun. It was
without incident save that on the way a wounded British soldier was
found lying in a shell hole and carried in, ultimately to recover.

Tom and Jack told what had happened to them, how they had been
surrounded and led away; and then, came the story of the lieutenant who
had led the patrol party which had turned defeat into victory with the
aid of reinforcements which were sent to him.

He had seen his hopes blasted when rushed by the big crowd of the Hun
patrol, and, though slightly wounded, he realized that absolute defeat
would come to him and his men unless he could get help. He sent a runner
back with word to send relief, and then, surrounding himself with what
few men remained alive and uncaptured, the fight went on.

It was bitter and sanguinary, and at last, with only two men left beside
him, the lieutenant heard the rush of the relief guard. He was placed
in charge, as he knew the lay of the land, and the party hurried to and
fro, wiping up little knots of Germans here and there, until the main
body encountered the squad having in charge the two air service boys.

"You began to think it was all up with you, didn't you?" asked the
lieutenant, when they were all once more safely in the dugout.

"We certainly did!" admitted Tom.

"We had visions of watery soup and wheatless bread for the rest of the
war," observed Jack.

He and Tom were slightly wounded--mere scratches they dubbed the
hurts--but they were sent to the rear to be looked over and bandaged, as
were some of the others who were more severely hurt. There were some who
could not be sent back--who were left in No Man's Land silent figures
who would never take part in a battle again. They had paid their price
toward making the world a better place to live in, and their names were
on the Honor Roll.

"Well, what do you think about it?" asked Tom of Jack.

"I don't know what to think. It seems hardly possible that Harry can be
so near to us, and yet we can't do a thing to help him."

"I'm not so sure about that," returned Tom. "That's what I want to talk
about."

It was a week after the patrol raid, and clear weather had succeeded the
rain and mist, so that it was possible for the aeroplanes to operate.
And their services were much needed.

There were preparations going on back of the German lines of which
General Pershing and the Allied commanders needed to be informed. And
only the "eyes" of the armies could see them and report--the eyes being
the aeroplanes.

So it came about that, having been relieved of their temporary transfer
to the infantry, Tom and Jack were once more with their comrades of the
air.

"Well, let's think it over, and talk about it when we come down,"
suggested Jack. "We've got to go upstairs for our usual tour of duty
now."

This would last three hours. They were to do scout work--report any
unusual activity back of the German lines, or give warning of the
approach of any hostile aeroplanes. After their tour of duty was ended
they would have the rest of the day to themselves, provided there was
no general attack. Of course if, while they were up, they were attacked,
they must fight.

Each lad had a plane to himself, since the young "huns" had all pretty
well passed their novitiate, and were now in the regular flying squad.
Later some other new aviators would report for instruction on the battle
front.

Up and up climbed Tom and Jack, and eagerly they scanned the German
lines for any signs of activity. But though there were some Hun planes
in the air, they did not approach to give battle. Possibly some other
plans were afoot. Afterward Tom and Jack admitted to one another that
there was a great temptation to fly over the German trenches to try to
get a sight of the prison that had been spoken of--the camp where Harry
Leroy might be held.

But to do this would be in direct violation of their orders, and they
dared not take any risks. For to do so might involve not only themselves
in danger, but others as well. And that view of the matter determined
them. They would have to await their opportunity for rescuing their
chum--if it could be accomplished.

Their tour of duty aloft that day was without incident. This is not an
usual condition at times along the long battle front. Men can not go on
fighting without stop, and there come lulls in even the fiercest battle.
Flesh and blood can stand only a certain amount of torture, and then
even the soul rebels.

So Tom and Jack drifted peacefully down to their aerodrome, noting that
it was being newly camouflaged, for the recent rain had played havoc
with some of the concealments.

As far as possible both the Germans and the Allies tried to conceal the
location of their flying camps. The aeroplanes and balloons needed large
buildings to house them, and such structures made excellent and, of
course, fair war-marks for bombing parties in aeroplanes hovering aloft.
So it was the custom to put up trees and bushes or to stretch canvas
over the aerodromes and paint it to resemble woods and fields in an
effort to conceal, or camouflage, the depots where the airships were
stationed. But this work was done by a special detail of men, and with
it Tom and Jack had nothing to do.

They turned their machines over to the mechanics, who would go carefully
over them and have the craft in readiness for the next flight. Then,
being free for several hours, the two young airmen could do as they
pleased, within certain limits.

"Well, did anything occur to you?" asked Jack, as he and Tom, having
divested themselves of their heavy fur-lined garments, went to the mess
hall, which was in an old stable, from which the horses had long since
been removed.

"You mean a plan to rescue Harry?"

"That's it."

"No, I'm sorry to say I can't think of a thing," Tom answered. "I
thought I would, but I didn't. Have you anything to say?"

"Yes. Let's go to Paris."

"You mean to see--er--?"

"Yes!" interrupted Jack with a smile. "This is their day off, and we
might as well have a little enjoyment when we can. From the easy time we
had to-day we'll have some hard fighting to-morrow. This was too good to
last. Heinie is up to some mischief, I think."

"Same here."

So, having received permission, they went to Paris, and soon found their
way to the lodgings of Mrs. Gleason, where the air service boys were
welcomed by Bessie and Nellie.

Of course the first question had to do with the captive Harry, and to
the delight of Nellie Tom was able to say:

"We have news of him, anyhow."

"News? You mean he is all right?"

"Well, as all right as he ever can be while the Boches have him, I
suppose," was the answer.

"But the news didn't come direct from him. He's in another camp. I'll
tell you about it."

Tom and Jack, by turns, related what had happened on the night patrol,
and explained how they had overheard talk of Harry.

"Then he is nearer than he has been?" asked Nellie.

"Yes," admitted Tom.

"Won't it be easier to rescue him then?" Bessie queried.

"Well, that doesn't follow," said Jack. "Of course if we could rescue
him, we'd have a shorter distance to bring him, to get him inside our
lines. But it's just as difficult getting beyond the German lines now as
it was before. Tom and I thought we'd come and talk it over, and see if
you girls have anything to suggest. We'll do the rescue work if we only
get a chance, and can find some plan. Have you any?"

He asked that question, though he hardly expected an answer. And both he
and Tom, as well as Bessie and her mother, were greatly surprised when
Nellie exclaimed:

"Yes, I have!"

"You have?" cried Tom. "What is it? Tell us, quick!"

"I am going to save my brother by offering myself as a prisoner in his
place," said Nellie with quiet resolve. "That's how I'll save him! I'll
exchange myself for him!"



CHAPTER XXIII. THE BIG BATTLE


Nellie Leroy rose from, the chair where she had been sitting, and stood
before the little party of her friends, gathered in the little Paris
apartment where Bessie Gleason and her mother made their home when they
were not actively engaged in Red Cross work. The sister of the captive
airman had a quiet but very determined air about her.

"That is what I am going to do," she said, as no one at first answered
what had been a dramatic outbreak. "Perhaps you will tell me best how to
go about it," and she turned to Tom and Jack. "You know something of the
German lines, and where I can best go to give myself up."

"Why--why, you can't go at all!" burst out Tom.

"I can't go?"

"No, of course not. You mean all right, Nellie," went on the young man,
"but it simply can't be done. To give yourself up to the Germans would
mean for yourself not only--Oh, it couldn't be done!" as he thought of
the cruelty of the Huns, not only to the soldiers of the Allied armies
but to helpless women and children. "You couldn't give yourself up to
those brutes!' he cried.

"To save my brother I could," said Nellie simply. "I would do anything
for him!"

"I know you would," murmured Bessie.

"But it would just be throwing yourself away!" exclaimed Jack, coming
to the help of his chum, who was gazing helplessly at him in this
new crisis. "Tell her, Mrs. Gleason," he went on, "that it is utterly
impossible, even if the army authorities would let her. Even if she
should give herself up to the Germans, they wouldn't keep any agreement
they made to exchange her brother. They'd simply keep both of them."

"Yes, I think they would," said Mrs. Gleason. "It is out of the
question, my dear," and gently she laid her hand on the girl's shoulder.
"That is very fine and noble of you, but it would be wrong, for it
would not save your brother, and you would certainly be made a prisoner
yourself. And of the horrors of the German prison--at least some where
the infantrymen have been kept, I dare not tell you. I imagine it must
be better where the airmen are captured," she went on, for she feared
that if she painted too black a picture of what Harry might suffer his
sister would not be held back by anything, and might sacrifice herself
uselessly.

"But what am I do?" asked Nellie, helplessly. "I want Harry so much! We
all want him! Oh, isn't there something? Can't you save him?" and she
held out her hands appealingly to Torn and Jack.

There was a moment of silence, and then Tom burst out with:

"Well, I may as well speak now as later, and I'll tell you what I've
made up my mind to do. Yes, it's a new plan I've worked out," he went
on, as Jack looked at him curiously. "I haven't told even you, old man,
as it wasn't quite ready yet. But it's a scheme that may succeed, now
that we know definitely where Harry is, from what the German patrol
said. He isn't so far away as when we dropped the packages in the prison
camp, though we don't yet know that he was there at the time we did our
stunt. However, if this new plan succeeds we may have a chance to find
out."

"How?" asked Nellie, eagerly.

"By talking to Harry himself."

"How are you going to do that?" demanded Bessie.

"What kind of game have you been cooking up behind my back?" asked Jack.

"As desperate as the other, I guess you'll call it," answered Tom. "But
something has to be done."

"Yes, something has to be done," agreed Jack. "Now what is it?"

Tom arose and went to the door. He opened it, looked carefully up and
down the hall, evidently to make sure no one was listening, and then
came back to join the circle of his friends.

"I'm going to speak of something that very few know, as yet," he said,
"and I don't want to take any chances of its getting out. There may
be German spies in Paris, though I guess by this time they're few and
scattering.

"I'm not going to tell you how I know," he said, "but I do know that
soon there is to take place a big battle--that is, it will be big
for the American forces that are to have part in it. There has been a
conference among the Allied commanders, and it has been decided that
it's time to teach the Germans a lesson. They've been despising the
American troops, as they despised General French's 'contemptible little
army,' and General Pershing is going to show Fritz that we have a
soldier or two that can fight."

"You mean there's to be a big offensive?" asked Jack.

"No, I wouldn't go so far as to call it a general engagement like that.
It's to be kept within the limits, of the sector where the United States
troops are at present," said Tom. "That is where you and I are located,
Jack, and that, as you know, is almost opposite the prison where Harry
and the others are confined."

"I begin to see what you are driving at!" cried Nellie, her eyes
shining. "But are you sure of this?"

"Yes," went on Jack, "how did you bear of this when it's supposed to be
such a secret?"

"It came to me by accident," said Torn, "and I wouldn't speak of it to
any one but you. Soon, however, it will be more or less public on our
side, as it will have to be when we start to get ready. But it's to
be kept a secret from Fritz as long as possible. It's to be a surprise
attack, and if it doesn't develop into a big battle it won't be the
fault of Uncle Sam's boys."

"Will the air service have any part in it?" asked Jack eagerly, as if
fearing he might be left out.

"I don't see how they can get along without us," said Tom. "Not that
we're the whole works, but it is well established now that an army can't
fight without the use of aeroplanes, to tell not only what the other
side is doing, but also how our own guns are shooting. Oh, we'll be in
it all right!"

"When?" asked Jack.

"That I can't say," replied his chum. "But now to get down to the thing
that concerns us, or rather, Harry. I have a scheme--and you can call it
wild if you like--that when the battle is going on, you and I, Jack, and
some other airmen if we can induce them to do it, and I think we can,
may be able to drop bombs near the prison camp. We'll have to judge our
distances pretty carefully, or we'll do more harm than good. Then, if
all goes well, and we can blow down some of the camp walls or fences,
and if the battle favors our side, we can make a descent on enemy
territory and rescue Harry and any others that are with him. What do you
think of that plan?"

"It's wonderful!" exclaimed Nellie, glaring at Tom with a strange, new
light in her eyes.

"It's very daring," said Bessie, more calmly.

"It's crazy!" burst out Jack

"I thought you'd say that," commented Tom calmly, "and I'd have been
disappointed if you hadn't. And just because it is crazy it may succeed.
But it's the only thing I can think of. Daring will get you further in
this war then anything else. You've got to take big chances anyhow, and
the bigger the better, I say."

"I'm with you there all right," agreed Jack. "But to land in hostile
territory--it hasn't been done ten times since the war began, and have
the aviator live to get away with it!"

"I know it," said Tom, quietly. "But this may be the eleventh successful
time. Now that's my plan for rescuing Harry Leroy. If any of you have a
better one let's hear it."

No one answered, and finally Nellie spoke.

"No," she said, with a shake of her head, "it's very fine and noble
of you boys, but I can't allow it. If you wouldn't let me give myself
up--exchange myself for Harry, I can't let you give your lives for him
this way. It wouldn't be fair. It would be depriving the Allies of two
valuable fighters, to possibly get back one, and the possibility is so
slim that--well, it's suicidal!" she exclaimed.

"Not so much so as you think," said Tom. "I've got it all figured out
as far as possible. And as for landing in hostile territory, if all goes
well, and the big battle progresses as Pershing and his aides think it
will, maybe we won't have to land in hostile territory at all. We may
drive the Germans back, and then the prison will be within our lines."

"That's so!" cried Jack. "I didn't think of feat. Tom, old man, maybe
your scheme isn't as crazy as I thought! Anyhow, I'm in it with you. The
only thing is--will this big battle take place?"

"'It will unless the Germans decide to surrender between now and the day
set," Tom answered grimly, "and I hardly believe they'll do that. It's a
going to be some fight!"

"Glad of it!" cried Jack. "Now we've got something to live for!" As
if he and Tom did not risk their lives every day to make life in the
civilized world something worth living for.

"Well, we must be getting back!" exclaimed Tom, as he looked at his
watch. "All leaves will be stopped in a few days--just before we start
preparations for the big battle. If we can we'll see you once more
before then."

"And afterward?" inquired Nellie, softly and pleadingly.

"Yes, and afterward, too!" exclaimed Tom. "And we'll bring Harry back
with us. Now good-bye!"

It was a more solemn farewell than the friends had taken in some time,
for all felt the impending events, and Tom and Jack talked but little
during the return trip from Paris to their headquarters.

What Tom had said about the big battle was strictly true. It had been
decided in high quarters that it was time the newly arrived American
soldiers showed what they could do. That they could fight fiercely and
well was not a question, it was only a matter of getting them
familiar with the different conditions to be met with on the European
battlefields, against a ruthless foe.

Tom and Jack had a chance for one more hasty, flying visit to Paris, and
then all leave was withdrawn, and there began in and about the American
camp such a period of tense and intensive work as bore out what Tom had
said. The big battle was impending.

Great stores were accumulated of rations and munitions. Great guns were
brought up into position and skillfully camouflaged. Machine guns in
great numbers were prepared and a number of aeroplanes were brought from
other sectors and made ready for the flying fight.

"How are your plans coming on?" asked Jack of Tom, at the close of a day
when it seemed that every one's nerves were on edge from the strain of
preparing.

"All right," was the answer. "I've spoken to a number of the boys, and
they're with me. You know we're pretty much 'on our own,' when we're
flying, and I think that we can drop the bombs and make a descent long
enough to pick up Harry and other refugees if we break open the prison."

"But suppose we land, stall the engines and the Germans surround us?"

"That mustn't happen," said Tom. "We won't stall the engines for one
thing. We'll just have to drop down, and taxi around as well as we can
until we pick up Harry, or until he sees us. The machines will carry
three as well as two, and even if we have, by some mischance to go up
in singles, they'll carry double. But I figured on your being with me.
Harry knows enough of the game to be on the lookout when he hears the
bombs drop and sees the planes hovering over him, and he'll tip off the
others to be ready for a rescue.

"Of course I don't say we can get 'em all, and maybe something will
happen that we can't get Harry away. But I think we'll teach Fritz a
lesson, and I think we can break up the prison camp so some of the poor
fellows can get away. As I said, it's a desperate chance, but one we've
got to take."

"And I'm with you!" exclaimed Jack. "And now when does the big battle
take place?"

He was answered a moment later, for an orderly arrived with instructions
to the air service boys to report at their hangars at once.

There they were told something of the impending attack--the first public
mention of it, though more than one had guessed something unusual was in
the air from the tenseness of the last few days.

The attack was to start at dawn the next morning, preceded by an intense
artillery fire. It was to be the fiercest rain of shells since the
Americans had come to the front lines. Then the infantry, supported by
tanks and aeroplanes, would follow, going over in waves which it was
hoped would overwhelm the Germans.

That night was a tense one. Suppose the enemy had guessed, or a spy had
given word of the impending battle? Then success would be jeopardized.
But the night passed with only the usual exchange of shots and the
sending up of star shells over No Man's Land.

And so, as the hour of dawn approached, the tense and nervous feeling
grew. Tom and Jack, with their comrades in their hangars, were dressed
in their fur garments and ready. Their machines had received the last
touches from the hands of the mechanics, and each one was well equipped
with bombs and machine gun ammunition. Tom and Jack were to be allowed
to go up together in a big double bombing plane.

The night passed. The hour approached. Anxious eyes watched the hands of
watches slowly revolve.

Then suddenly, as if the very earth had been blasted away from beneath
them, the batteries of big guns belched forth fire, smoke and shell.

The great battle was on!



CHAPTER XXIV. SILENCING THE GERMAN GUNS


Engagements in the World War were on such a vast scale that it was
difficult for a single observer to give a word picture of them. All he
could see, stationed behind the lines, was a vast cataclysm of smoke
and fire, and his ears were deafened by so vast a sound that it was
comparable to nothing on this earth ever heard before.

An observer in the air was little better off, save for that portion
directly beneath him, and even that he could not see very much of, on
account of the smoke and dust. If he looked to the left or the right, or
backward or forward, he was at the disadvantage of distance.

To him, then, great columns of infantry appeared only as crawling worms,
and batteries of artillery merely patches of woods whence belched fire
and smoke. That he must keep high in the air when over the enemy's lines
went without saying, for he would be fired at if he came too low. So
then, even an airman's vision was limited when it came to describing a
great battle.

Of course he always did what he was assigned to do. He kept in contact,
or in communication, with his own certain batteries, or his infantry
division, directing the shots of the former and the advance of the
latter. So, really, he had little time to observe anything save the
effect of the firing of his own side on a certain limited objective.

As for the soldiers in battle, they are, of course, unable to observe
anything except that which goes on immediately in their neighborhood.
The artilleryman fires his gun under the direction of some observer,
often far away, who telephones to him to lower or elevate his piece, or
deflect it to the tight or left. The infantryman advances as the barrage
lifts, and rushes forward according to orders, firing or using his
bayonet as the case may be, digging in when halted, and waiting for
another rush forward. The machine gunner and his squad aim to put as
many of the advancing, retreating, or standing enemy out of the fighting
as possible, and to save themselves.

The truck men hasten up with loads of ammunition, fortunate if they are
not sent to their death in the drive. The stretcher bearers look for the
wounded and hasten back with them.

So, all in all, no single person can observe more than a very small part
of the great battle. It is really like looking through a microscope
at some organism, while the whole great body lies beyond the field of
vision.

Only the general staff-the officers in their headquarters far behind
the lines, who receive reports as to how this division or corps is
retreating or advancing--can have any real conception of the big battle,
and these persons may see it only at a distance.

So the usual process of things in general is reversed, and the person
farthest removed from the fighting may really see, or rather know, most
about it.

And so with a storm of shot and shell, manmade thunders and lightnings,
and bolts of death from the earth below and the air above, the great
battle opened and advanced.

It progressed just as other battles had progressed. There was a terrific
artillery preparation, which took the Germans evidently by surprise,
for the response was long in coming, and then it was not in proportion.
After the great cannon had done their best to level the big guns on the
German side, a barrage, or curtain of fire was started, and behind this,
which was in reality a falling hail of bullets, the Americans and their
supporting French and British comrades advanced. The curtain of steel
was to kill or push back the Germans, and to make it safe for the
Americans to go forward. By elevating the small guns the curtain fell
farther and farther into the enemy's territory, thus making it possible
for the Allies to go on farther and farther across No Man's Land.

The infantry rushed forward, fighting and dying nobly in a noble cause.
Position after position was consolidated as the Germans fell back before
the rain of shot and shell. It is always this way in an offensive, small
or large. The first rush of the attacking side, be it German, French,
British, or American, carries everything before it. It is the counter
attack that tells. If the attackers are strong enough to hold what they
gain, well and good. If not--the attack is a failure.

But this one--the first great attack of the Americans--was not destined
to fail, though once it trembled in the balance.

Tom and Jack, with their companions, had flown aloft, and, taking the
stations assigned to them, did their part in the battle. As the light
grew with the break of day, they could see the effect of the American
big guns. It was devastating. And yet some German batteries lived
through it. Several times Tom and Jack, by means of their wireless,
sent back corrections so that the American pieces might be aimed more
effectively. Below them was a maelstrom--an indescribable chaos of death
and destruction. They only had glimpses of it--glimpses of a seemingly
inextricable mixture of men and guns.

And through it all, though they did not for a moment neglect their duty,
bearing in mind their instructions to keep in contact with the batteries
they served, Tom Raymond and Jack Parmly were eagerly seeking for a
sight of the prison where Harry Leroy might be held. At one time after
they had dropped bombs on some German positions, thereby demolishing
them, Tom, who was acting as pilot, signaled to his chum that he was
going far over the enemy's lines to try to locate the prison.

Jack nodded an acquiescence. It was not entirely against orders what
they were about to do. They might obtain valuable information, and it
would take only a short time, so speedy was their machine. Then too,
they had used up all their bombs, and must return for more. Before doing
this they wished to make an observation.

Luck was with them. They managed to pass over a comparatively quiet
sector of the lines where the German resistance had been wiped out, and
where, even as they looked down, Americans were digging in and guns were
being brought up to support them.

And not many kilometers inside the German positions from this point,
they sailed over a prison camp. They, knew it in an instant, and felt
sure it must be the one spoken of by the German who had taken Leroy's
gold and then betrayed him.

"That's the place!" cried Tom, though of course Jack could not hear him.
"Now to bomb it and set Harry free!"

But they must return for more ammunition, and this they set about doing.
They wished they might drop some word to the prisoners confined there,
stating that help might soon be on its way to them, but they had no
chance to send this cheering word.

Back they rushed to their own lines, and no sooner had they landed than
an orderly rushed up to them and instructed them to report immediately
to their commanding officer.

"Boys, you're just in time!" he cried, all dignity or formality having
been set aside in the excitement of the great battle.

"What is it?" asked Tom.

"We want you to silence some big German guns--a nasty battery of them
that's playing havoc with our boys. The artillery hasn't been able to
locate 'em--probably they're too well camouflaged. And we can't advance
against 'em. Will you go up and try to put them out of business?"

Of course there could be but one answer to this. Tom and Jack hurried
off to see to the loading of their machine with bombs--an extra large
number of very powerful ones being taken.

Once more they were off on their dangerous mission, for it was
dangerous, since many American planes were brought down by German fire
that day, and by attacks from other Hun machines.

But Tom and Jack never faltered. Up and up they went, the probable
location of the guns having been made known to them on the map they
carried. Up and onward they went. For a time they must forego the chance
of rescuing their friend.

Straight for the indicated place they went, and just as they reached
it there came a burst of fire and smoke. It appeared to roll out from
a little ravine well wooded on both sides, and that accounted for the
failure of the Americans to locate it. Chance had played into the hands
of the air service boys.

There was no need of word between Tom and Jack. The former headed the
plane for the place whence the German guns had fired upon the Americans,
killing and wounding many.

Over it, for an instant, hovered the aeroplane. Then Jack touched the
bomb releasing device. Down dropped the powerful explosive.

There was a great upward blast of air which rocked the machine in which
sat the two aviators. There was a burst of smoke and flame beneath them,
tongues of fire seeming to reach up as though to pull them down.

Then came a terrific explosion which almost deafened the boys, even
though their ears were covered with the fur caps, and though their own
engine made a pandemonium of sound.

The air was filled with flying debris--debris of the German guns and
men. The bombs dropped by Tom and Jack had accomplished their mission.
The harassing battery was destroyed. The German guns were silenced.



CHAPTER XXV. THE RESCUE


Tom and Jack circled around slowly over the place where the German
battery had been. It was now no more--it could work no more havoc to the
American ranks. It did not need the wireless news to this effect, which
the aviators sent back, to apprise the Allies of what had happened. They
had seen the harassing guns blown up.

Now out swarmed the Americans, charging with savage yells over the place
that had been such a hindrance to their advance. Tom and Jack had done
their work well.

There was no need for the one to tell the other what was in his mind.
There were still two of the powerful bombs left, and there was but one
thought on this matter. They must be used to blow up, if possible,
the camp near the German prison. Doing that would create havoc and
consternation enough, the air service boys thought, to drive the captors
away, and enable Leroy and his fellow prisoners to be saved.

Jack punched Tom in the back and motioned for him to shut off the motor
a moment so that talking would be possible. Tom did this, and Jack
cried:

"Shall we take a chance?"

"Yes!" Tom answered in return.

Strictly speaking, having accomplished the mission they were sent out
on, they should have returned to their base for orders. But the airmen
were given more liberty of action and decision than any other branch of
the Allied service.

"Go to it!" cried Jack, and once more Tom started the motor and headed
the craft for the Hun prison.

Again the air service boys were hovering over the prison camp. They
could now see that there was much more activity around it than there had
been before the big battery was destroyed. The fight was coming closer,
and the Germans evidently knew it. Whether they were trying to arrange
to take their captives farther back, or merely seeking to escape
themselves from a trap, was not then evident.

And, having reached a position where they could see below them what
looked to be a concentration of German guns, perhaps to fire on any
force that might advance against the prison. Jack let fall one of his
two remaining bombs.

It swerved to one side, and though it exploded with great force, and
created havoc and consternation among the Huns, it did not fall where it
was intended. The second battery was still intact.

"My last shot!" grimly mused Jack, as he looked at the other bomb.

Tom maneuvered the aeroplane until he had it about where he thought
Jack would want it. The latter pressed the releasing lever and the bomb
descended. It was the most powerful of the lot, and when it struck and
exploded it not only demolished the defensive battery, making a hole in
the place where it had stood, but it tore down part of the prison fence,
and made such destruction generally that the Germans were stunned.

Instantly, seeing that all had been accomplished that was possible, and
noting that hovering around him were other Allied airmen who had agreed
to help in the rescue, Tom sent his craft down. There was a burst of
shrapnel around him and Jack, but though the latter was grazed by a
bullet, neither was seriously hurt. A Hun plane darted down out of
the sky to attack the bold Americans, but quickly it was engaged by a
supporting Allied craft. However, the Hun was a good fighter, and won
the battle against this antagonist. But when two other Allied planes
closed in, that was the last of the enemy. He was sent crashing down to
satisfy the vengeance in toll for the life of the birdman he had taken.

Now Tom and Jack could see that their plan had worked better than they
had dared to hope. The boldness of the attack from the air, coupled with
the advance of the American army, started a panic in the German ranks.
They began a retreat and the regiments near the prison camp were
included in the rout.

By this time either some of the prisoners saw that there was a break in
the cordon around them, or they realized that a great battle was putting
their guards to flight, for some of them made a rush toward a side where
there were no Germans, and succeeded in breaking out--no hard task since
part of the fence was shattered by the explosion.

"Now's our chance," cried Tom, though of course Jack could not hear
this. "Harry may be among that bunch, and we want to get him and any
others we can save."

He started the aeroplane on its downward path, while Jack, guessing the
object, got the machine gun ready for action, since there might be a
squad of Germans ready to give battle on the ground.

Several other planes of the Allies, seeing what was going on, swooped to
the aid of the two Americans, for there were no other of the Hun craft
within sight now. All had been sent crashing down, or had drawn off.

On either side of the immediate sector which included the prison camp,
the battle was still raging fiercely, mostly with success on the side of
the Americans, though in places they suffered a temporary setback.

In the vicinity of the prison itself wild scenes were now being enacted.
The prisoners were beginning to rise in force, for they saw freedom
looming before them. There were fights between them and the guards,
and terrible happenings took place, for the guards were armed and the
prisoners were not. But as fast as some of the Germans fell they were
stripped of their guns and ammunition, and the weapons turned by the
prisoners against their former captors.

All this while Tom and Jack were descending in their plane. As yet they
were uncertain whether they were to be able to rescue Leroy or not. They
could not distinguish him at that height, though from the enthusiastic
manner in which several of the newly liberated ones waved at the
on-coming aeroplanes, it would seem that they were of that arm of the
service, and appreciated what was about to happen.

Nearer and nearer to the ground flew Tom and Jack. And then, to their
horror, they saw that several Germans had set up two machine guns to
rake the prison yard, which was still filled with excited captives. The
Germans were determined that as few as possible of their late captives
should find freedom.

Tom acted on the instant, by sending the plane in a different direction,
to enable Jack to use his machine gun. And Jack understood this, for,
with a shout of defiance, he turned his weapon on the closely packed
Germans around their machine guns.

For a moment they stood and some even tried to swerve the guns about to
shatter the dropping aeroplane. But Jack's fire was too fierce. He wiped
out the nest, and this danger was averted.

A moment later Tom had the machine to earth, and it ran along the uneven
and shell-torn ground, coming to a rest not far from what had been the
outer fence of the prison camp. A group of Allied captives, newly freed,
rushed forward. Tom and Jack, removing their goggles, looked eagerly for
a sight of Harry Leroy. They did not see him, but they saw that which
rejoiced them, and this was more aeroplanes coming to their aid, and
also a column of infantry on the march across a distant valley. The
stars and stripes were in the van, and at this the rescuers and the
prisoners set up a cheer. It meant that the Germans were beaten at that
point.

"Where's Harry Leroy? Is he among the prisoners?" cried Jack to several
of the liberated ones who crowded around the machine. There would be no
question now of trying to save some one, a rush by mounting to the air
with him. The advance of the Americans and the Allies was sufficiently
strong to hold the prison position wrested from the Germans.

"Was Harry Leroy among you?" asked Tom, of the joy-crazed prisoners.
Many were Americans, but there were French, Italian, Russian, Belgian
and British among the motley throng.

Before any one could answer him there was a hoarse shout, and from some
place where they had been hiding a squad of German soldiers rushed
at the group of recent prisoners about Tom and Jack. Their guns had
bayonets fixed, and it was the evident purpose of the Huns to make
one last rush on the prisoners near the aeroplane to kill as many as
possible.

The Germans were a sufficiently strong force, and none of these
prisoners was armed. They began to scatter and run for shelter, and Torn
and Jack became aware that matters were not to be as easy as they had
expected.

But fortunately the fixed machine gun on the aeroplane, which was near
the pilot's seat, pointed straight at the oncoming Huns. With a cry Tom
sprang to the cockpit and quickly had the weapon spitting bullets at the
foe. Then Jack saw his chance, and, climbing up to his seat, he swung
his gun about so that it, too, raked the Germans.

They came on with the desperation and courage of despair, but the steady
firing was at last too much for them. They broke and ran--what were left
of them alive--in what was a veritable rout, and this ended the last
danger for that immediate time and place.

Other aeroplanes dropped down to help consolidate the victory, and the
explosion of some American shells at a point beyond the prison camp
told its own story. The artillery had moved up to keep pace with the
advancing infantry. The big battle had been won by Pershing's men, and
the air service boys had not only done their share, but they had been
instrumental in delivering a number of prisoners.

As the last of the Germans fled and Tom and Jack leaned back, well nigh
exhausted by the strain of the fighting, a voice cried:

"Good work, old scouts! I knew you'd come for me sooner or later. At
least I hoped you would!"

They turned to see Harry Leroy walking slowly toward them.

Harry Leroy it was, but wounds, illness, and imprisonment had worked a
terrible change in him. He was but the ghost of his former sturdy self.
Still it was their chum and the brother of Nellie Leroy, and Tom
and Jack knew they had kept the promise made to the sister. They had
effected the rescue which the offensive made possible.

"Hurray!" cried Tom. "It's really you then, old scout!"

"What's left of me--yes. Oh, but it's good to see the flag again!" and
he pointed to the colors on the aeroplane and on the advancing banners
of the infantry. "And it's good to see you again! I'd about given up,
and so had most of us, when we heard the shooting and knew something was
going on. But how did it happen? How did you get here, and how did you
know I was here?"

"Go easy!" advised Tom with a grin. "One question at a time. Can you
ride in our bus? If you can we'll take you back with us. The others will
be taken care of soon, I fancy, for our boys will soon be in permanent
occupation here. Will you come back with us?"

"Will I? Say, I'll come if I have to hitch on behind, like a can to a
dog's tail!" cried Leroy, and, weak and ill-nourished as he was, it was
evident that the sight of his former comrades had already done him much
good.

So now that the position was well won by the Americans and the Allies,
Tom and Jack turned their machine about, wheeled it to a good taking
off place, and with Harry Leroy as a passenger, though it made the place
rather crowded, they flew back over the recent battleground, and to
their own aerodrome, where Harry and some other prisoners, brought
through the air by other birdmen, were well taken care of.

The great battle was not yet over, for there was fighting up and down
the line, and in distant sectors. But it was going well for Pershing's
forces.

"And now," remarked Harry, when he had had food and had washed and had
begun to smoke, "tell me all about it." He was in the quarters assigned
to Tom Raymond and Jack Parmly, being their guest.

"Well, there isn't an awful lot to tell," Tom said, modestly enough. "We
heard you were in trouble, and came after you; that's all. How did you
like your German boarding house?"

"It was fierce! Terrible! I can't tell you what it means to be free.
But I'd like to send word to my folks that I'm all right. I suppose they
have heard I was a prisoner."

"Yes," answered Tom. "In fact, you can talk to one of the family soon.
That is, as soon as you can go to Paris."

"Talk to a member of the family? Go to Paris? What do you mean?" Harry
fairly shouted the words.

"Your sister Nellie is staying with friends of ours," said Tom. "We'll
take you to her."

"Nellie here? Great Scott! She said she was coming to the front, but I
didn't believe her! Say, she is some sister!"

"You said it!" exclaimed Tom, with as great fervor as Harry used.

"Didn't you get the bundles we dropped?" asked Jack. "The notes and the
packages of chocolate?"

"Not a one," 'replied Harry. "I was looking for some word, but none
came, after one of the airmen told me he had dropped my glove. But I
knew how it was--you didn't get a chance to send any word."

"Oh, but we did!" cried Tom, and then he told of the dropping of the
packages.

But, as Leroy related, he had been transferred from that camp a few days
before.

Two of the packets fell among the prisoners, who, after trying in vain
to send them to Harry, partook of the good things to eat, which they
much needed themselves. They were given to the ill prisoners, and the
notes were carefully hidden away. Some time after the war Harry received
them, and treasured them greatly as souvenirs.

"But we didn't make any mistake this time," said Tom. "We have you now."

"Yes," agreed Harry with a smile, "you have me now, and mighty glad I am
of it."

A few days later, when Harry was better able to travel, he went to see
Nellie in Paris, a message having been sent soon after the big battle,
to tell her that he was rescued and as well as could be expected.

"But if it hadn't been for Tom and Jack I don't believe I'd be there
now," said Harry to his sister, as he sat in the homelike apartment of
the Gleasons.

"I know you wouldn't," said Nellie. "They said they'd rescue you and
they did. We shall never be able to thank them enough--but we can try!"

She looked at Tom, and he--well, I shall firmly but kindly have to
insist that what followed is neither your affair nor mine.

And now, though you know it as well as I do, my story has come to an
end. At least the present chronicle of the doings of the air service
boys has nothing further to offer. Their further adventures will be
related in another volume to be entitled: "Air Service Boys Flying for
Victory."

But it was not the end of the fighting, and Tom and Jack did not cease
their efforts. Harry Leroy, too, was eager to get back into the contest
again, and he did, as soon as he had sufficiently recovered.

He told some of his experiences while a prisoner among the Germans, and
some things he did not tell. They were better left untold.

However, I should like to close my story with a more pleasant scene than
that, and so I invite your attention, one beautiful Sunday morning to
Paris, when the sun was shining and war seemed very far away, though it
was not. Two couples are going down a street which is gay with flower
stands. There are two young men and two girls, the young men wear
the aviation uniforms of the Americans. They walk along, chatting and
laughing, and, as an aeroplane passes high overhead, its motors droning
out a song of progress, they all look up.

"That's what we'll be doing to-morrow," observed Tom Raymond.

"Yes," agreed Jack Parmly.

"Oh, hush!" laughed one of the girls. "Can't you stay on earth one day?"

And there on earth, in such pleasant company, we will leave the Air
Service Boys.

THE END





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