Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Boy Aviators with the Air Raiders - A Story of the Great World War
Author: Goldfrap, John Henry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Boy Aviators with the Air Raiders - A Story of the Great World War" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



courtesy of the Digital Library@Villanova University
(http://digital.library.villanova.edu/))



[Illustration: The plunging monster glided by.--Page 38.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            THE BOY AVIATORS
                                  WITH
                            THE AIR RAIDERS

                     A Story of the Great World War

                                   BY

                         CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON

     AUTHOR OF "THE DREADNOUGHT BOYS' SERIES," "THE BOY AVIATORS IN
         NICARAGUA," "THE BOY AVIATORS ON SECRET SERVICE," "THE
          BOY AVIATORS IN AFRICA," "THE BOY AVIATORS' TREASURE
              QUEST," "THE BOY AVIATORS IN RECORD FLIGHT,"
                "THE BOY AVIATORS' POLAR DASH," "THE BOY
                 AVIATORS' FLIGHT FOR A FORTUNE," ETC.

                         WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
                            CHARLES L. WRENN



                                NEW YORK
                            HURST & COMPANY
                               PUBLISHERS

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            Copyright, 1915,
                                   BY
                            HURST & COMPANY

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                CONTENTS


                       CHAPTER                        PAGE
                    I. Not Far from the Firing Line      5
                   II. The Work of German Spies         18
                  III. Saving the Great Seaplane        29
                   IV. The Escape                       38
                    V. A Night on the Channel           49
                   VI. Under Shrapnel Fire              60
                  VII. The _Sea Eagle_ on Parade        72
                 VIII. A Safe Return                    83
                   IX. Thrilling News                   94
                    X. The Aëroplane Boys in Luck      106
                   XI. The Man in the Locker           117
                  XII. Frank Makes a Bargain           129
                 XIII. Not Caught Napping              142
                  XIV. The Peril in the Sky            151
                   XV. On Guard                        162
                  XVI. The Coming of the Dawn          173
                 XVII. News by Wireless                185
                XVIII. Off with the Air Raiders        196
                  XIX. How Zeebrugge was Bombarded     207
                   XX. Caught in a Snow Squall         218
                  XXI. A Startling Discovery           230
                 XXII. The Narrow Escape               241
                XXIII. The Windmill Fort               252
                 XXIV. Friends in Need                 261
                  XXV. The Desperate Game of Tag       275
                 XXVI. Headed Toward Home              298

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                 The Boy Aviators with the Air Raiders.



                               CHAPTER I.

                     NOT FAR FROM THE FIRING LINE.


"It seems queer not to have Harry along with us on this trip to the war
zone of Europe!"

"Just what Pudge, here, was saying last night, Billy. But you know my
brother Harry has been ordered by Doctor Perkins to keep quiet for two
whole months."

"Frank, he was lucky to break only his arm and collar bone, when it
might have been his neck, in that nasty fall. But why are you rubbing
your eyes like that, I'd like to know, Pudge Perkins?"

"Pirates and parachutes, I'll tell you why, Billy. Every little while I
get to thinking I must be dreaming. So I pinch myself, and dig my
knuckles in my eyes to make sure. But it's the real thing, isn't it,
boys?"

"If you mean that the three of us, here, representing the _Sea Eagle
Company, Limited_, of Brig Island, in Casco Bay, Maine, makers of
up-to-date seaplanes, have come over to look up a sample shipment of our
manufactures, and find ourselves being pestered by the French and
British Governments to take a contract from them, why it certainly is
the real thing."

"It was lucky my father has that arrangement with the French Government
to protect our property through thick and thin," continued the boy
called Pudge, who, as his name would signify, was very rotund in build,
with a rosy face, and a good-natured twinkle in his eyes.

"Yes, only for that they would have commandeered the boxed seaplane long
ago, and by now dozens of fleets made on the same model would be
pouncing on the German bases along the Belgian coast," remarked the boy
whose name was Frank, and to whom the other two evidently looked up as
though he might be their leader in the enterprise requiring skill and
courage.

"But they've been mighty good to us since then," went on Pudge. "They
have allowed us to have a substantial hangar built after our own
peculiar pattern within reach of the water here at Dunkirk, though we
are not so many miles away from where the Allies are fighting the
Kaiser's men who are in Belgian trenches."

"Yes," added Billy Barnes, who had once been a lively reporter, now a
member of the aëroplane manufacturing company engaged in making the
remarkable type of airships invented by Pudge's scientific father,
Doctor Perkins, "and during these weeks we've been able to get our
machine together, so that right now it's in prime condition for making a
flight on the sea or in the air."

"Whisper that next time, Billy," cautioned Frank, casting a quick glance
about him as the three boys continued to walk along the road leading out
of Dunkirk, which in places even skirted the water's edge.

"Why, what's up, Frank?" exclaimed the talkative Billy. "Do you think
these bushes and trees have ears?"

"No, but there might be some sharp German spy hanging around this
place," replied the other earnestly. "You know they do say they're
everywhere. I've heard British soldiers in Calais and Dunkirk tell of
mysterious strangers who disappeared when approached as if they were
made of smoke. This spy system the Kaiser's men have down to a fine
point. It's hard to keep anything from being carried to German
Headquarters these days."

"Still, there are a lot of things they haven't learned before they
happened," declared Billy. "That first British army of some eighty
thousand soldiers came over to France, and nobody knew a thing about it
until they were on the firing line. But, Frank, do you reckon the
Germans have been watching the three of us working here with our hangar
and hydro-aëroplane?"

"I'm as sure of it as I am of my own name," declared the other firmly.
"Why, the very fact that our hangar differed so much from ordinary ones,
being so much larger for one thing, would make them suspect. Then there
has been a heap of talk going on about this wonderful airship of ours,
which was carried, every word of it, to German Headquarters."

"Batter and butterflies!" spluttered Pudge, who seemed addicted to
strange exclamations, especially when excited, "we'll certainly have to
watch out, then, now that our wonderful _Sea Eagle_ is in working
order."

"Yes," said Billy Barnes earnestly, "it would be a tough joke on the
company to have some clever thieves get away with it, just when we are
ready to show the French Government that it is away above ordinary
seaplanes."

"There's the hangar, boys," remarked Frank, with a vein of relief in his
voice, as though grave fears may have been giving him more or less
uneasiness. "Stir your stumps, Pudge, and we'll soon be under our own
roof. I may have a suggestion to make after we've looked around a bit
that I hope both of you will agree with."

While the three chums are advancing on the strangely elevated building
that had been erected to accommodate their seaplane, we may take
advantage of the opportunity to glance backward a bit, in order to see
who and what they were. We do this for the benefit of those readers who
may not have had the good fortune to peruse previous volumes in this
series.

Two bright, inventive brothers, New York boys, who had actually built an
aëroplane which they named the _Golden Eagle_, had shipped it to Central
America when given a chance to save a plantation owned by their father,
and threatened by the revolutionists in Nicaragua. This they had managed
to accomplish, through the assistance of a young reporter friend named
Billy Barnes. In this book, which was called _The Boy Aviators in
Nicaragua_, were also related the thrilling adventures that befell the
young air pilots when their craft was carried out to sea in an
electrical storm; and also how they were rescued by means of a wireless
apparatus through which they communicated with a steamer.

In the second volume, _The Boy Aviators on Secret Service_, the reader
was taken to the mysterious Everglades region of Florida where the young
inventors once more demonstrated their ability to grapple with
emergencies. They proved that they were patriotic sons of Uncle Sam by
discovering and putting out of commission a factory that was making
dangerous explosives without the consent of the Washington Government.

It was a long jump from Florida to the depths of the Dark Continent, but
the occasion arose necessitating their taking this trip to Africa. If
you want to learn how theirs was virtually the first aëroplane to soar
above the trackless heart of Africa, how they found the hidden hoard of
priceless ivory secreted by slavers in the wonderful Moon Mountains,
what strange things came about through their being hunted by the
vindictive Arab slave trader, with many other interesting adventures,
you can do so by procuring _The Boy Aviators in Africa_.

Through the coaxing of their warm chum, Billy Barnes, the boys were next
induced to enter in a competitive race across the continent, and it can
be easily understood that the pages of this book, _The Boy Aviators in
Record Flight_, fairly teem with exciting incidents and thrilling
adventures. Crossing the great Western cow country, they met with many
difficulties from sand storms to treacherous cowboys and renegade
Indians that threatened to end their game voyage. But the same
indomitable spirit that had carried Frank and Harry through so many
trials allowed them to meet with the glorious success they so richly
deserved.

From one series of adventures like this it was easy for the wide-awake
young air pilots to engage in others. A story of an old Spanish galleon
caught in the grip of that mysterious Sargasso Sea, where the circling
tides have held vessels amidst the floating grass for centuries,
fascinated them, and they set out to explore the dismal region that has
been the graveyard for countless ships. Of course, the lure lay in the
fact that a vast treasure was said to be aboard this old galleon; and
the hunt for it, together with the opposition caused by a rival
expedition, makes great reading for boys who have red blood in their
veins. It is all set down in _The Boy Aviators' Treasure Quest_, which
has been voted one of the best of the entire series.

_The Boy Aviators' Polar Dash_ was possibly the most remarkable example
of Young America's nerve ever written. How the brothers came to plan the
trip to the Antarctic region, and what amazing things happened to them
while carrying it out, you will certainly appreciate when you read the
book. The object of the expedition was fairly covered, and they came
back in safety; but only for the aëroplane the result could never have
been attained, which proved how valuable an airship might be amidst the
eternal ice of the frozen zones.

In the volume following this, the boys again found themselves caught in
a swirl of exciting events. They had become engaged to Doctor Perkins,
who was not only a scientific gentleman of note but particularly an
aviator bent on startling the world through the agency of a monster
seaplane which he had invented. He believed that a voyage across the
ocean could easily be made in one of his safe aircraft, which combined
many features not as yet in common use among the most advanced aviators.
On Brig Island in Casco Bay, within sight of the Maine coast, they
erected their factory, and manufactured various types of aëroplanes for
the market. So far this wonderful seaplane had not been given to the
world, for Doctor Perkins was shrewd enough to first get his patents in
all foreign countries in order to protect his interests. In _The Boy
Aviators' Flight for a Fortune_ have been related a series of remarkable
adventures that befell the young air pilots when trying out the first of
these enormous hydro-aëroplanes, that would skim along the water or sail
through the air with equal swiftness and safety.

One of these enormous seaplanes had been boxed in sections and shipped
over to France, with the design of giving the Government officials an
actual exhibition before they would agree to making a large contract
with the firm.

Then the terrible world war had broken out, and for some months it was
not known just what had become of the precious machine.

Finally word was received that it was safe at Havre, under the
protection of the French Government, which would adhere strictly to the
letter of the written agreement which they had entered into with the
American company.

An urgent request was sent across the sea for some competent aviators to
come over and put the several parts together, so that an actual test
could be made. The French Government, if the trial proved convincing,
stood ready to make almost any kind of contract with the company. This
would be either in the way of ordering a large number of seaplanes,
providing they could be delivered without breaking the neutrality laws
binding the United States, or else giving a royalty on each and every
machine manufactured in France under the patents granted to the doctor.

This necessary but brief explanation puts the reader, who may not have
previously known Frank and his chums, in possession of facts concerning
their past. While Pudge Perkins, the doctor's son, was not an
experienced aviator, he had picked up more or less general knowledge in
the factory, and had come abroad with Frank and Billy, as he was
accustomed to say, just to "keep them from dying of the blues, in case
the French Government kept putting them off from week to week, or if
anything else disagreeable happened."

Indeed, Pudge, with his abounding good nature, his love for fun, and
great capacity for eating, might be looked upon as a pretty fine
antidote for the dread disease known as the "blues." No one could long
remain depressed in mind when _he_ was around. Besides, Pudge was really
smarter than he looked; appearances in his case were apt to be
deceptive; for the boy had a fund of native sagacity back of his jolly
ways.

Their hangar had been built in a rather lonely spot close to the water.
This was done for several purposes, chief among which might be mentioned
their desire to avoid publicity.

The obliging French authorities had even placed a guard at the point
where the road passed the open spot now enclosed with a high fence; and
so effectual had this proved that up to now the Americans had really not
been annoyed to any extent.

Frank, however, had known for some time that all their movements were
being watched from different elevated stations in the way of hilltops,
or the roofs of houses, by men who carried field glasses. He had many
times caught the glint of the sun on the lens when a movement was made.

As long as it went no further than that Frank had not cared, because
these suspected spies could see next to nothing. But of late serious
fears had begun to annoy him. The seaplane was ready for its first trip,
and in a condition where it might be stolen, if a band of daring men
took it into their heads to make the attempt.

At one end of the hangar a long track with a gradual slope ran down to
the water, so that the seaplane could be launched in that way if
desired. A narrow stairway on the land side led up to the stout door
which they always kept fastened with an odd padlock capable of resisting
considerable pressure.

Each one of the three boys had a key for this lock, which they were very
careful to keep fastened to a steel pocket chain. Pudge, having mounted
the stair first, puffing from the exertion, was about to insert his key
in the padlock when he was heard to utter an exclamation. The others saw
him look closely, and then turn upon them with an expression of mingled
alarm and consternation on his round face.

"As sure as you live, boys," the stout boy gasped, "that's a bit of wax
sticking to our padlock! Someone's been taking an impression so as to
have a duplicate key made!"



                              CHAPTER II.

                       THE WORK OF GERMAN SPIES.


When that astonishing declaration made by Pudge told the other two boys
the nature of his discovery, they also glanced at the suspicious atom of
wax sticking to the brass padlock.

"Sure enough, Frank; that it is," gurgled Billy Barnes.

"There's no question about it," admitted Frank, as he took the fragment
between his thumb and forefinger, and examined it.

"It wasn't here when we came around this morning, I'd take my affidavy
to that," declared Billy.

"Dories and dingbats, not a bit of it!" exclaimed Pudge. "That padlock
was as clean as a whistle, for I rubbed it with my sleeve to brighten
it. There's been some one snooping around here since then; and I guess
they must mean to come back again to-night to steal the seaplane!"

"Open up, and let's make sure things are all right still," demanded
Frank. "We can settle on some sort of plan to upset their scheme by
putting on a new lock, or something like that."

Pudge, with a trembling hand, managed to insert his key, and upon the
door being opened the three boys hurried inside the curious elevated
hangar. It had been built with a metal roof, though whether this would
really prove bombproof in case of a German air raid, such as had
occurred several times, was a question.

"Thank goodness! everything seems to be O. K., boys!" cried Billy, after
he had taken a swift survey of the interior, including the monster
seaplane built on so advanced a model that there was certainly nothing
like it known to aviators.

Frank, too, breathed more freely, for he had not known what to expect.

"Yes," he went on to say earnestly, "and we ought to be mighty thankful
that we've managed to get along up to now without having our whole
outfit wrecked by a bomb, set on fire by a German spy, or raided some
night by a party of unknown persons who would have an interest in
keeping the French Government from getting this sample seaplane."

"My idea is this," remarked Billy soberly. "They could have done the
mischief at almost any time, but some one in authority thought it would
be a brighter idea for them to wait until we had finished working on the
plane, and then steal it, so that the Germans could copy our model for
their army."

"Gatling guns and grasshoppers, but I think you must be right, Billy,"
exploded Pudge. "Haven't we known that they kept a steady watch on us
while we worked away here, even if they couldn't see much? And many a
time we disputed whether those chaps were German spies, or Frenchmen set
on guard so as to make sure we didn't take a notion to fly away some day
to the enemy."

Frank was looking unusually serious, and it could be plainly seen that
he had a weight on his mind. The afternoon was near its close; and
before long the shadows of a dark February night would be closing in
around them.

"One thing sure, boys," he finally said, "we must not leave our seaplane
unguarded another night."

"Do you think they mean to make away with it tonight, Frank?" demanded
Billy.

"In some way they seem to know we've finished our work," came the reply.
"It puzzles me to guess how they learned it, when we only this noon
notified the French authorities in secret that we were ready for any
sort of long-distance test they might wish to order."

"Must be a leak at Headquarters!" suggested Billy quickly.

"Tamales and terrapins, that would be a nice proposition, I should
think!" ejaculated Pudge.

"Let's step out and look around a little," suggested Frank. "Perhaps we
may find some trace of these unwelcome visitors who have managed to get
up here to our door in spite of the soldier standing guard by the gate
of our stockade."

"They must have come from the water side, Frank," Pudge was heard to say
as he followed the others down the stairway that led to the ground.

"Be careful how you step around," cautioned Frank. "Here, both of you
plant a foot alongside mine, and in that way we'll have a set of prints
to go by. Now notice just what they look like, and see if you can find
any fresh marks that are different in some way from ours."

It was an easy task he had set them, for almost immediately Billy sang
out to the effect that he had made a discovery, and hardly had he ceased
speaking when Pudge announced that he, too, wanted Frank's opinion on a
footprint that was much too large to have been made by any of them.

A further hunt revealed the fact that apparently three parties must have
been at the foot of the steps leading up to their locked hangar. This
important discovery was anything but pleasant to Frank Chester; it told
him that a crisis was undoubtedly approaching their enterprise, which
would seriously affect its success or failure.

What if, after all their earnest work, just when the wonderful seaplane
had been made ready for a flight, those secret emissaries of the Germans
managed to steal it away! Doubtless they had prepared for just such a
stroke, and had an experienced air pilot hovering around so as to take
charge of the hydro-aëroplane after it was successfully launched.

That would be the last the aëroplane boys would ever see of their
valuable property. In time of war all devices are recognized as proper,
and this theft of the American seaplane would be hailed as one of the
most glorious feats of the German arms, as well as a serious blow at the
air power of the Allies.

"There's only one thing to be done," said Frank, turning to the stout
chum, "if you are game to tackle it, Pudge."

The fat boy winced but set his teeth hard together.

"Rifles and rattlesnakes, just try me, Frank, that's all!" he chortled,
squaring his shoulders aggressively in a manner the others both knew
meant that his fighting blood had been aroused.

"While Billy and I stay here to guard the machine, you must go back to
town and get another kind of padlock, Pudge!" exclaimed Frank. "Pick out
one that will hold as securely as this does. If we have to change it
every day, we've got to make a sure thing of it."

"Was it that you said you meant to speak about after we got inside the
hangar, Frank?" inquired Billy as Pudge prepared to start bravely away
through the gathering shadows of evening.

"Well, it was something along the same lines," explained Frank; "in
fact, I meant to suggest that one of us stay here nights until we had
word from Headquarters that the hour had come to make our test, and
prove that the _Sea Eagle_ could stand up against a gale when common
seaplanes would go to smash, or have to stay at their moorings."

"Mumps and mathematics, but I agree with you there, Frank!" cried Pudge.
"And for one I'm in favor of camping out here right along. We could rig
up a little stove, and cook our meals. It would be good fun at that,
because then we'd have the real old-fashioned Yankee grub instead of
this French fool stuff that never satisfies a healthy appetite."

The others looked at Pudge and exchanged nods. They knew his failing,
and could sympathize with the poor fellow. Pudge was patriotic enough to
prefer the American style of cooking, which always spelled abundance
according to his way of thinking.

"I'm off, fellows," he now announced. "Look for me inside of an hour or
so. Of course, it'll be about dark by then, but I know every stone on
the road between here and town, I've traveled along the way so often. So
long!"

With a genial wave of his hand, Pudge left them. The other pair looked
after him with considerable solicitude; there was only one Pudge after
all, according to their opinion, and he had a happy faculty for wrapping
himself in the affections of his mates.

"You don't think anything could happen to him going or coming, do you,
Frank?" asked Billy Barnes, as they saw Pudge vanish through the partly
open gate of the high stockade.

"Why, no; I hardly think so," replied the other slowly. "Perhaps I
should have gone for the padlock myself. If I had thought twice, I would
have done that."

"Too late--Pudge is on the way," remarked Billy. "Let's go up and take a
peep around once more to see that everything is in apple-pie shape--each
wire-stay keyed up to the right tune for efficiency, the motors ready to
do business, the gas pump lubricated, and, in fact, our machine fit to
toe the scratch as if there were a race on."

Once they were inside the hangar, Frank fastened the door with a bar
that had been arranged for just such a purpose. Then, turning on a flood
of light from an acetylene gas battery, they examined every part of the
big seaplane. It had something of the appearance of a gigantic sleeping
bat as it lay there motionless, but with all the attributes of
tremendous power for skimming along on the surface of the water or
soaring among the clouds.

"In perfect condition, as far as I can make out!" remarked Frank, after
they had completed this careful survey.

"Yes," added the other, with a glow of excusable enthusiasm on his face,
"and if there was any necessity for doing it we could be off with a
minute's notice."

"I took pains to make sure that there was a clear and uninterrupted
stretch of water in front of our hangar," said Frank. "No vessels are
allowed to anchor on this side of the harbor, though there are many
transports from Great Britain across the way that have brought men and
war material and stores over."

"Oughtn't Pudge be about due by now, Frank? It's pitch dark outside, and
I should think a full hour must have crept by since he left us?"

"I was thinking of that myself, Billy. Still, we must remember that our
chum is a bit slow on his legs, compared with the way you and I get over
the ground. Besides, he may have been delayed at the store where he
expects to get the new padlock."

"Yes, I hadn't thought of that," admitted Billy. "But we might use the
'phone we have installed, and find out if he's started back. It would
make our minds a little more easy, you know."

"Just as you say, Billy. And suppose you call them up while I do
something I want to alter here--nothing of consequence, of course, but
the change would strike my eye better."

"All right, Frank." With which remark Billy turned to one end of the
hangar close by, where a telephone apparatus could be seen attached to
the wooden wall.

Frank went at his little task with his customary vim. It mattered
nothing to him that the flight of the great seaplane would be neither
hindered nor assisted by its consummation. He simply liked to see things
shipshape at all times.

"What's the matter, Billy?" he called out presently, on hearing the
other ring for the third time, and also muttering to himself as though
annoyed.

"Why, Frank, I don't seem able to get Central," replied Billy, once more
energetically working the handle of the apparatus.

Apparently Frank was enough interested to cross over so as to see for
himself what was wrong. He sat down on the box Billy vacated and tried
to get in touch with the operator at the central switchboard. After
testing it in several ways, Frank replaced the receiver and looked up at
his chum.

"Have they disconnected our wire at Central, do you think, Frank; or is
the hello girl flirting with her beau, and not paying attention to
business?" asked Billy.

"Neither," answered the other soberly; "but I'm afraid somebody has cut
our wire so as to keep us from calling for help if anything happens here
to-night!"



                              CHAPTER III.

                       SAVING THE GREAT SEAPLANE.


"Gee whillikins! that sounds like a serious proposition, Frank!"
exclaimed Billy Barnes, when he heard the opinion of his companion.

"It looks as though we're up against something," admitted the other
grimly. "They've evidently set out to capture this seaplane, and mean to
do it, no matter at what cost."

"A compliment from the Kaiser to the ingenuity of Yankee inventors, I'd
call it," said Billy; "but all the same I don't feel like throwing up my
hands and letting them raid our shop here. It's a good thing we made
that discovery, thanks to Pudge and his sharp eyes."

"Yes, and that you thought to use the wire, which showed us how somebody
had been meddling so as to cut us off from the city," Frank remarked.

"What if they come in force, knowing we're here, Frank?"

"That door would not be able to stand much of an attack if they carried
axes along with them, I'm afraid," Billy was told.

"My stars! do you think they'd be apt to do that sort of thing?"
demanded the astonished assistant, as he looked around for some sort of
weapon with which he might defend the passage of the doorway, should it
come to a question of fighting.

"If they want this plane as badly as we think they do," said Frank,
"there is little that desperate men might attempt that they would not
try."

"And still there's no sign of poor Pudge!" ventured Billy, putting
considerable emphasis on the adjective, as though he could almost
imagine the happy-go-lucky Pudge lying on his back somewhere along the
road, groaning in pain after having been struck down by a cowardly blow.

"I'm sorry to agree with you," Frank admitted slowly, "but at the worst
we'll hope they're only detaining our chum, and that he hasn't been
hurt."

"How about my slipping out and trying to go for help, Frank? If they
only knew at Headquarters about this, they would send a whole regiment
of British Tommies on the run to patrol our works here. Say the word and
I'm off."

Frank, however, shook his head as though the idea did not appeal to him.

"The chances are they would be on the lookout for something like that,
Billy."

"And lay for me, you mean, don't you, Frank? Well, then, if it wasn't so
cold I'd propose slipping down to the water and doing a little swimming
stunt. Too bad we didn't think to have a boat of some kind with us."

"I was just thinking," ventured Frank, "that only on account of our
being rushed for time we would have installed a wireless plant here, as
we've often done before. Then we could send all the messages we wanted,
and these spies wouldn't be able to bother with them."

"Yes, if we had only thought we'd run against a snag like this, Frank,
we could have done that as easy as falling off a log. But it's too late
now to bother. The question is, what can we do about it?"

"There's always one last resort that I know of, Billy."

"Glad to know it, but please inform me as to its nature, won't you,
Frank? I would give half of my year's salary just to be able to snap my
fingers in the faces of these smart secret agents of the envious Germans
who want to steal our thunder."

Frank turned and pointed straight at the big seaplane.

"There's the answer, Billy!" he said shortly.

At first the other simply stared as though unable to grasp the meaning
of Frank's words. Then a sudden gleam of gathering intelligence began to
show itself in his eyes; he emphatically brought down his fist in the
open palm of his other hand.

"Wow! that's sure the ticket, Frank!" he burst out with, his enthusiasm
spreading until his face was one solid grin. "We've got a way of escape
right in our grip, and I was so blind as not to see it. Run off in the
plane, of course, and leave the smarties to bite their fingernails.
Great head, Frank! These German spies may think themselves wide-awake,
but they'll have to get up bright and early in the morning to catch two
Yankee boys napping, believe me!"

"Listen, Billy!"

"Did you think you heard something then, Frank?"

"There's someone at the door yonder; I saw it move, but the bar kept it
from giving way," Frank went on in a low tone. "Don't act as though you
suspected anything out of the way. They may be watching us through some
peep-holes that have been bored in the walls. It would be foolish for us
to give our plan away."

"I understand what you are aiming at, Frank," remarked the other, trying
hard to appear perfectly natural, immediately adding under his breath:
"There, I saw the door quiver again. They must wonder why it refuses to
give way. That bar is our salvation, because like as not there's a
number of them out there who would flock in with all sorts of weapons,
meaning to keep us quiet while their aviators examine the machine and
get ready for a launching. Whee! then good-by to our bully _Sea Eagle_
forever."

"That'll never happen as long as we can lift a hand to prevent it," said
Frank.

"Say, you don't think that could be Pudge trying the door?" suggested
Billy, as though struck by a sudden bright idea.

"Not very likely," came the reply; "but we can easily tell. If he hears
me give our old signal, Pudge will answer on the dot. Listen and see if
anything comes of it."

The whistle Frank emitted was of a peculiar character. It was
immediately imitated from without, and so exactly that one might think
it an echo. Frank shook his head on hearing this.

"Pudge isn't there," he said decisively. "If he was, as you very well
know, Billy, he would have sent back the other call, entirely different
from the one I gave."

"Then some fellow answered for Pudge, thinking we might open up, when
they could rush the place and get possession--is that the way it stands,
Frank?"

"As near as I can make out, it covers the ground," the young air pilot
replied. "Now I'm going to put out this light. We don't really need it
any longer, and if they are watching us through any peep-holes, it would
give our plan away."

"We ought to know every part of this coop, Frank. As for the machine
itself, I warrant you could find any stay or guy while it's pitch dark.
Let it go. There, they are trying the door again. Seems as if they can't
understand why it doesn't give way. If it keeps on shutting them out,
sooner or later they'll try to batter it down. Oh! if I only had a gun
here."

"I intended having one with the seaplane, but thought I wouldn't bother
until we meant to start on a trip," explained Frank, keen regret in his
voice.

"Seems to me it's always the unexpected that keeps cropping up with us,"
complained Billy. "I can look back to lots of times when things happened
just as suddenly and without warning as this has."

"But they didn't down us, you want to remember," advised the other, in
that confident way of his that always made his chums feel so much
better.

"Now they're starting to pry at the doors, Frank, which means business.
Hadn't we better be getting ready to make a start?"

"First of all I want you to stand by, and when I give the word fling
both the large doors wide open," Frank told him. "After that, as I
switch on the searchlight, so as to see what lies ahead, climb aboard to
your regular place. And, Billy, please don't have any hitch in the
program if you can help it!"

"Depend on me, Frank," said the other, slipping away in the darkness
that now filled the interior of the big hangar.

Frank mounted to his seat. As no flight of consequence was intended, he
did not bother donning the head shield he always carried with the
machine, his gloves alone being deemed necessary for the occasion,
though both of them had wisely secured their fleece-lined leather
jackets. Just as Billy had said, Frank was so familiar with every lever
and stay, as well as with the engine, that, with his eyes blindfolded,
he could have manipulated the intricate working parts.

Quickly he adjusted things to his liking with a deftness that left
nothing to be desired. The fact that those unseen parties on the other
side of the door were becoming more insistent with every passing second
did not seem to disturb Frank at all; for he knew very well they could
not stop his departure now.

When, presently, he had finished his simple preparations and everything
was ready for the grand finale, he gave the signal that Billy was
expectantly awaiting.

"Open up, Billy!"

Immediately both wide doors flew back, for the boys had arranged things
so that it required but a simple movement to accomplish this. Then Billy
hustled toward the seaplane, which no longer stood there like a black
shadow; for Frank had, with the pressure of his finger, caused the
powerful searchlight placed in the bow of the remarkable craft to flood
the space in front of the hangar down to and out on the water of the
harbor.

Billy swung himself aboard almost in the twinkling of an eye. Then a
lever was manipulated and with a rush the monster seaplane started. Even
as it left the shelter of the building, Billy, hanging on with nervous
hands, could see several figures in the dazzling flood of white light
spring wildly aside so as to avoid being crushed by the oncoming giant
seaplane as it tore down the inclined track leading to the water.



                              CHAPTER IV.

                              THE ESCAPE.


Ahead of them lay that track of dazzling light. Every fragment of timber
used in the construction of the inclined trestle upon which the seaplane
was expected to reach the water was as plainly visible as at midday,
with the sun shining above.

Billy fairly held his breath in fear lest the swift rush of the
hydro-aëroplane should catch the two men on the slope unprepared, and
hurl them into space. Just in the nick of time they threw themselves to
one side, and the plunging monster glided by, so close that had he so
willed, Billy could have thrust out a hand and touched one of the
shrinking figures.

Then came a tremendous splash as they struck the water. Frank had made
his calculations so carefully that there was not the slightest danger of
a mishap. The boat was descending at such an angle that it instantly
shot off the wheels that were underneath, and skimmed along the surface
of the water like a great duck.

Billy drew his breath again, for it seemed as though they had actually
run the gauntlet in safety. He heard the familiar throb of the reliable
motors beginning to take up their sweet song, which told that Frank had
started the machinery at the proper second, so that they did not lose
any of the impetus gained in that rush down the slope.

From up in the quarter where they knew the hangar must be, came loud
cries of anger. Those who had planned to capture the seaplane when it
was in prime condition for a flight to the German lines had evidently
met with a most aggravating disappointment.

Suddenly the brilliant light vanished, shutting them in a pall of
darkness that was all the more dense because of their having been
staring into that illuminated avenue ahead, along which the seaplane was
rushing at fair speed.

"It's all clear in front, Billy," Frank hastened to say, knowing that
his companion must naturally think of the danger of a collision the
first thing.

"Listen to 'em growl!" chuckled Billy, who had evidently been greatly
amused as well as interested in the remarkable dash of the _Sea Eagle_.
"But, after all, that was what I'd call a close shave, Frank. Didn't you
hear the door being smashed in as we started?"

"I thought I did," replied the other, "but I knew that nothing up there
could give us any trouble. The only chance of our being wrecked was for
those on the inclined plane to place some obstruction on the track that
would throw the wheels of our carriage off, and dump us in a heap
below."

"They didn't want to wreck the seaplane, which was what saved us from
that smashup," ventured Billy, and then quickly adding: "Hello! shut her
off, did you, Frank?"

The musical hum of the twin motors and the whir of the revolving
propellers had suddenly ceased, though the boat still continued to move
along the top of the little waves coming in from the Channel.

"Yes, we have gone far enough for the present," replied the pilot.

They sat there for a little while, listening to the various sounds that
reached their ears from the shore. Not far away the lights of Dunkirk
could be seen, though these were by no means as brilliant as they might
have been before the war broke out. This was on account of the fact that
at any hour a raid from German aëroplanes might be expected in and
around the encampment of the British troops.

"This is about the queerest situation we've ever found ourselves in,
Frank," ventured Billy presently, as he felt the boat moving up and down
gently on the bosom of the sea. "It's an experience we'll never forget.
I'm wondering what the next move on the program is going to be? How can
we get ashore tonight in this terrible darkness?"

"We may make up our minds not to try it," Frank told him quietly, as
though he had some sort of plan in his mind, hatched on the spur of the
moment.

"What's the idea, Frank?" asked Billy eagerly. "No matter how you figure
it I'm game to stand by you."

"I'd never question that, Billy," declared the other warmly. "You've
proved your grit many a time in the past. But here's the way the case
stands. We could make an ascent from the water if we wanted, but on such
a pitch-dark night that would mean trouble about coming down again. So
what's to hinder our staying here until morning--lying on the water like
a duck?"

"If the wind doesn't come up with the change in the tide, we could do it
as easy as anything," assented Billy. "She rides like a duck, and could
stand a lot more rough water than we're getting now. Frank, let's call
it a go."

"We will find it pretty cold, of course, you understand, Billy?"

"Shucks! haven't we got on our leather jackets that are lined with
fleece that have given us solid comfort many a time when we were six
thousand feet and more up in the cold air? Why, Frank, we can strap
ourselves to our seats, you know, and one of us can get a few winks of
sleep while the other watches, ready to switch on the searchlight if
anything threatens."

"It's plain to be seen that you're set on trying a night of it," said
Frank, no doubt well pleased to have it so. "I'm worrying more about
Pudge than of myself. Wish we knew he was all right."

"The same here," said Billy. "Frank, we must keep listening all through
the night to catch his signal, if ever he makes it. You know we've got
that code for communicating by means of fish horns. If Pudge gets to the
hangar and finds that we're not around, the first thing he'll think will
be that the seaplane has been stolen."

"Unless," Frank hastily interrupted, "he happened to be near enough to
hear something of the row, when he ought to be able to guess what really
happened. In that case I expect that later on, when he thinks the coast
may be clear, Pudge will try to communicate with us. As you say, we must
keep on the alert. If you hear a sound that comes stealing from far away
on the shore and resembles the bawl of a bull, answer it. Pudge will be
in a stew about us, of course."

They sat there for some time listening, and exchanging occasional
remarks. Then, at Billy's suggestion, they made use of the stout straps
that were attached to each seat, intended to enable the navigators of
the air to reduce to a minimum the risk of falling from a dizzy height.

"Take your choice, Frank, first watch or second," was the next
proposition advanced by the one-time reporter. "I'm used to be up at all
hours of the night--_that_ was my busy time on the paper. So turn in,
and I'll take charge of the deck."

"It'll only be a cat nap then, Billy," said the other, settling himself
as comfortably as the conditions allowed, which was not saying much.
"See that bright star over there in the west; it will drop behind the
horizon in about an hour or so. Shake me then if I happen to be asleep."

"All right, Frank. And if anything crops up in the meantime that bothers
me, I'm going to disturb you in a hurry."

"I hope you will, Billy; we can't afford to take any chances,
understand, for the sake of a little sleep. Listen for signs of Pudge.
It would relieve me a whole lot if I knew that he was safe."

After that Billy sat there and kept watch. The buoyant craft that had
been so cleverly constructed so as to be equally at home on the water or
in the air, rode the lazy billows that came rolling in from the Channel.
The only sounds Billy could hear close by were the constant lapping of
the waves against the side of the craft; though further off, toward the
city, there was a half subdued murmur, such as might accompany the
gathering of thousands of men in camp.

The lights had almost wholly vanished by this time, showing the strict
discipline that was in vogue in these stirring times. Frequently had
daring German aviators appeared above Dunkirk to drop their bombs in the
endeavor to damage the congested stores of the British troops, or strike
a note of terror among the inhabitants of the Channel city.

Billy every little while twisted his head around and looked in different
directions. But thick darkness lay about the floating seaplane, utterly
concealing the shore as well as all vessels that lay further along in
the harbor.

Possibly half an hour had passed in this way when Billy felt a sudden
thrill. He started up, straining his hearing, as though to catch the
repetition of some sound he believed he had heard.

Then, leaning over, he shook Frank.

"It's Pudge signaling, Frank, or else I'm away off my base. Listen!" was
what he told the other, in excited tones.

A minute later and they both caught the far-away sound of what seemed to
be the winding blast of an Alpine hunter's horn.

"Yes, it's Pudge, all right, and he wants to hear from us if we're
within reach of the sound of his signal. Answer him, Billy!"

Already Billy had taken the horn from its fastenings, and no sooner had
Frank given the order than he applied it to his lips. The sound that
went forth, coming as it did from the blackness of the sea beyond, must
have astonished any sailor on board the various steamers in the harbor.

Once, twice, three times did Billy give the peculiar note that Pudge
knew so well. It must tell the absent chum that they were safe, and in
the language of their secret code ask how things were going with him.

"There, he's given us back the message word for word!" cried Billy, as
they caught the faint but positive reply from the unseen shore, perhaps
at the deserted hangar. "Frank, he's all right! That takes a big load
off our minds."

"Yes, now I can rest easy!" declared the other. "As that star isn't
close to the sea as yet, Billy, if you don't mind, I think I'll try for
a few more winks of sleep. Pudge will go back to town and stay at our
lodgings until we turn up, or send him a message. Everything is working
finely."

"For us," added Billy, chuckling. "But think how mad those spies must be
over losing the prize they thought was sure to fall into their hands.
Why, I wouldn't be surprised if they discounted the capture of our
seaplane, and over in Belgium were ready to start to work making copies
of the same as soon as the sample could be delivered."

Billy appeared to be highly amused, for he chuckled to himself for
several minutes while picturing the disappointment of the baffled
plotters. Then once more he settled down to his task of serving as
"officer of the watch."

As the minutes crept on, Billy began to observe the gradual approach of
the star to the vague region where sea and heavens merged in one. In
fact, Billy was yawning quite frequently now. He found himself fairly
comfortable, thanks to the warmth of that leather fleece-lined jacket,
and the hood which he had drawn partly over his head. Still, it was not
very delightful, sitting there on the water; and perhaps the boy's
thoughts frequently turned toward the bed he was missing.

"I wonder which way we're drifting now?" he suddenly asked himself; he
immediately set to work trying to answer his question by observing the
direction of the tide, as well as by the light current of air.

When next he thought to turn his head so as to glance backward, Billy
received a bit of a shock. A sort of thin haze had settled down on the
water by now, but through this he had discovered two moving lights. They
looked very queer as seen in that foggy atmosphere; but Billy was smart
enough to know what they stood for.

He immediately awoke Frank, whispering the astonishing news in his ear.



                               CHAPTER V.

                        A NIGHT ON THE CHANNEL.


"They're looking for us, and they've got lanterns, Frank!" was what the
one on guard said in a low tone as he pulled his chum's sleeve.

Frank was wide-awake instantly, and one quick glance showed him the
approaching peril.

"Yes, you're right about it, Billy," he observed cautiously, and if
there was a little quiver to his voice that was no more than might be
expected under the exciting conditions by which they were surrounded.

"How queer the lights look swinging along close to the water, and in
that fog, too. They are heading out this way, I'm afraid, Frank."

"It seems so, Billy."

"Hadn't we better get under way, then?" continued the nervous one.

"No hurry," Frank told him. "They may happen to swing around one way or
the other and miss us. We'll wait and find out. You know we can get
moving with a second's warning. Now let's watch and see what happens."

Billy could be heard sighing every now and then. Doubtless, as he sat
there with his head turned halfway around, observing the creeping
movements of those two strange lights through the fog that hugged the
surface of the water, he was thinking it the most exciting moment of his
whole career.

Then a new idea seemed to have lodged in his brain, for again he
whispered to his companion.

"There may be more than those two boats, Frank!"

"Possible but not probable," Frank replied.

"What if, when we started off with a rush, one happened to get in the
way?" pursued Billy.

"I'd be sorry for the men in that boat, that's all, Billy!" was the
laconic reply he received, and apparently it satisfied the other, for he
did not pursue the subject any further.

Meanwhile it became apparent that the searching boats were gradually
drawing nearer the floating seaplane. Unless they changed their course
very soon those in the hostile craft would be likely to make a discovery
that must fill them with delight.

"Are we headed right for a start, Frank?" asked Billy, a minute later.

Frank himself had been considering that very thing. The influence of the
tide seemed to have swung the seaplane around a little more than he
liked; but then this could be easily remedied, for they were prepared
for such a possibility when on the water.

There was a little paddle within reach of Frank's hand; all he had to do
was to pull a couple of cords, and it was in his possession.

Softly he worked it through the water. Frank had spent many happy hours
in a canoe when on his outing trips, and knew how to wield a paddle like
an expert. He had even taken lessons from one of those old-time guides
accustomed, in years gone by, to using a birch bark canoe in stealing up
on deer when jacklight hunting was not banned by the law.

Consequently he now used his paddle without making the slightest noise;
and under its magic influence the clumsy craft gradually veered until he
had its spoon-shaped bow heading just where he wanted it. Then he handed
the paddle to Billy to replace as best he might.

They could by this time vaguely make out the nearer boat, and also the
indistinct figures of two men. One of these was rowing, while the other
held up the lantern.

Of course, there was nothing to tell Frank who they might be. Perhaps,
in these stirring times, the waters of the harbor had to be patrolled by
guards on the watch for submarines or other perils. These protectors of
shipping may have heard or seen enough that was suspicious to warrant a
search of the adjacent waters.

He was more inclined to believe, however, that the German spies,
rendered furious by the escape of the coveted American seaplane had, as
a last resort, started out to scour the water nearby in hopes of
locating it.

"Frank!" whispered Billy again, "I think he glimpses the seaplane
through the fog!"

The actions of the man holding the lantern indicated this, for he was
plainly much excited, turning to his companion at the oars as though
urging him to make more haste.

"Then it's high time we were off!" said Frank.

Again did Billy hold his breath as the possibility of the motors failing
them in this great emergency flashed through his mind. But he need not
have allowed himself this mental anxiety, for no such calamity befell
them.

A shrill whistle was heard, evidently a signal to those in the second
boat to inform them that the object of their search had been discovered.
Then came the cheery whirr of the motors, accompanied by the churn of
the busy propellers, and like a giant, double-winged dragonfly, the
seaplane started along the surface of the water, followed by another
burst of angry shouts.

"Duck! they may be going to shoot!" exclaimed Frank, suiting his actions
to his own words.

That was just what did happen, for a volley of shots sounded, and had
the motors not been making so much noise the boys might have heard the
whistle of the passing leaden messengers.

There was no harm done, for, unable to longer see the speeding seaplane,
those who used their weapons with such reckless abandon had to fire at
random. Skimming the water like an aquatic bird, with a gradual but
rapid increase to their speed, the seaplane soon began to rise.

Billy realized from that that Frank meant to make an ascension, possibly
deeming it wise to get away from such a dangerous neighborhood as
quickly as possible. And, as they anticipated, the reliable _Sea Eagle_
was doing her prettiest when called upon to show her fine points.

Once free from the sea, they rose until Frank felt sure of his position.
He had switched on the electric searchlight, and the storage battery was
of sufficient power to send the ray of white light far ahead. It could
be turned to any quarter of the compass.

"Well, here we are off on our trial trip sooner than we expected," said
Billy, meaning to draw the other out, for he was consumed by curiosity
to know what was coming next.

"Two narrow squeaks on one night ought to be enough, don't you think,
Billy?" asked the pilot, as he started out into that avenue of light,
and then glanced at the handy compass so as to fix their course on his
mind.

"Well, we've been pretty lucky so far," admitted the other. "It wouldn't
pay to keep up that sort of racket. They say, you know, that the pitcher
may go to the well just once too often. It might be three times and out
for us."

"And neither of us feels like accommodating those anxious German secret
agents whose one business in Dunkirk is to steal our thunder, do we,
Billy?"

"Not much," replied the other boy with decided emphasis. "I'd sooner see
the airship smashed to pieces than know it had fallen into the hands of
the Kaiser's men."

"Hold on, Billy! You know we're supposed to be neutral in this fighting
business. We've got some mighty good friends who are of German blood,
and we think a whole lot of them, too."

"Oh! I'm not saying a word against Germans; they're as fine a people as
any in all the world; but, Frank, what we've met with in Northern France
and in the little of Belgium we saw that day Major Nixon took us out in
his motor car, somehow set me against the invaders. Anyway, we've been
treated splendidly by the French here, and our business has been with
them."

"That's understood, Billy, and I agree with you in all you say. But
let's talk now about our chances of dropping down again to the water."

"Oh! then you don't mean to stay up here, Frank? Will it be safe to
descend, do you think?" asked Billy, a new sense of anxiety gripping
him.

"So far as the plane is concerned we can do almost anything with it,"
Frank assured him. "Our light will tell us whether the sea is too rough
for alighting. We're heading downward as it is right now. Steady, Billy,
and keep on the watch."

Having taken his course, Frank knew that they must be out on the channel
some miles from the harbor. On nine nights out of ten he would have
hesitated about attempting such a risky proceeding as he now had in
view; but the calmness that prevailed encouraged him to take the chances
of a descent in the darkness.

"I can see the water all right, Frank!" exclaimed Billy a minute later,
as the wonderful air and water craft continued to head downward, though
with but a gradual descent.

"It looks good to me," ventured the pilot, with confidence in his tone.

Presently they were so close to the surface of the water that both of
the boys could see that it was fairly quiet. The long rollers were
steadily moving toward the southeast, as though the night air influenced
them, but then Frank had before now dropped down on the sea when it was
much more boisterous.

"Here goes!" he remarked, as he deflected the rudder just a trifle more,
and immediately they struck the water.

The _Sea Eagle_, being especially constructed for this sort of work, and
having a spoon bow that would not allow her to dip deeply, started along
on the surface, with the motors working at almost their lightest speed.
Then Frank cut off all power.

"We did it handsomely, Frank!" exulted Billy Barnes, feeling quite
relieved now that the seaplane had proven fit and right for the business
it had been built to demonstrate.

"And here we are floating again," said Frank, "but this time so far away
from the harbor of Dunkirk that there's no longer any danger from spies.
Billy, since that star has dipped behind the horizon, suppose you take
your little twenty winks of sleep."

"You think it's perfectly safe to lie here the rest of the night, do
you, Frank?"

"Why not, when we can get away if the wind should come up, and the sea
prove too rough for us? Make your mind easy on that score, Billy."

"But how about steamers crossing from the other side of the channel?"
asked Billy. "I think I heard that they generally take the night to make
the trip these times, so as to keep the German aviators from learning
how many transports loaded with troops come over. Besides, they avoid
danger from submarines, and bombs dropped from Zeppelins that way."

"Oh! the chances of our being run down are so small that we needn't
bother about them," Frank assured the nervous chum. "I promise you that
if I see a moving light, or hear the propeller of a steamer, I'll wake
you up, and we can stand by, ready to go aloft in case the worst
threatens."

That seemed to appease Billy, for he gave a satisfied grunt and
proceeded to settle himself for a nap.

"This is being 'rocked in the cradle of the deep,' all right," he
remarked, as the floating seaplane rose and fell on the swell. Frank
made no reply, so that presently Billy relapsed into silence, his
regular breathing telling the other he was sound asleep.

So the long night crept on. The boys managed to catch more or less
sleep, for nothing arose to alarm them. Naturally, their position was
far from a comfortable one, and therefore Frank, who happened to be on
duty at the time, felt pleased more than words could tell when he
eventually glimpsed a light in the eastern sky that proclaimed the
coming of dawn.



                              CHAPTER VI.

                          UNDER SHRAPNEL FIRE.


"Have we anything to eat along with us, Frank?"

"Why, hello! are you awake, Billy? I was just thinking of calling you,
or sending a bell hop up to pound on your door. It's morning, you see."

"Yes, I noticed that light over there in the east, and was thinking how
the poor fellows in the trenches must feel when they see it creeping on,
knowing as they do that it means another day of hard work and fighting.
But how about my question, Frank? Did we think to fetch that pouch of
ship-biscuit along with us?"

"Yes, it's tied just back of you," the other informed him with a laugh.
"But I'm surprised to hear you so keen for a bite, Billy. If it had been
Pudge, now, I wouldn't have thought so much about it, because he's
always ready for six meals a day."

"I don't know what ails me," acknowledged the other, as he reached for
the little waterproof bag in which Frank always tried to keep a pound or
so of hardtack, with some cheese as well, to provide for any emergency
like the present, "it may be this sea air, or perhaps it's due to the
excitement we've gone through; but I'm as hungry as a wolf in winter."

"Perhaps I may take your appetite away then," suggested Frank, with a
chuckle.

"In what way?" demanded Billy, with a round ship biscuit halfway to his
mouth.

"Oh! by making a stunning proposition I've been considering while I sat
here, that's all."

"Gee! it takes you to think up things, Frank. Now, as for me, I've been
badgering my poor brains about how we would astonish the people of
Dunkirk when we came sailing into the harbor and made for our hangar.
There'd be as much excitement as if a dozen of those little Taube
aëroplanes of the Germans had hove in sight, just as they did on that
day of the last air raid. Now tell me what the game is, please, Frank."

"Suppose, then, we weren't in such a big hurry to go back to our
moorings?" said the other. "Suppose, that having broken away, we took
that trial spin we've always been promising ourselves when things were
ready!"

Billy became so excited that he actually forgot to eat.

"Wow! that's a brilliant scheme, Frank, let me tell you!" he exclaimed.
"Say, for a wonder, all the conditions favor aëroplane work. The wind
that has kept up during the last three days seems to have blown itself
out, and we're likely to have a quiet spell. They'll be on the watch for
another raid of those Taubes from up Antwerp way on such a calm day as
this. Frank, shall we try it?"

"Wait for another half hour," replied the other. "By then it will be
broad daylight, and we can see what the signs promise. If things look
good we'll start up and take a run to the northeast."

"Over the trenches, do you mean, and perhaps far into Belgium?" cried
Billy, to whom the prospect of seeing something of the terrible fighting
that was daily taking place in the lowlands along the canal appealed
with irresistible force; for the old reporter spirit had never been
killed when he gave up newspaper work for aëroplane building.

"We'll see how the land lies," was all Frank would say. Billy knew very
well the other was bound to be just as keenly interested in the warlike
scenes below them as he could be, hence he was willing to check his
impatience, leaving everything to Frank.

Both of them munched away on the ship-biscuit and cheese. It was pretty
dry fare, but then there was a bottle of water at hand if they felt
choking at any time.

The half hour passed and they could see from the growing light in the
eastern sky that the sun would soon be making its appearance. Around
them there was nothing but an endless succession of rollers, upon which
the buoyant seaplane rose and fell with a continual gurgling sound.

"If this low-hanging fog would only lift," remarked Billy, as he put
away the hardtack bags, "we could tell just where we were. As it is,
there's no such thing as seeing land, which must be over there to the
east."

"The sea fog is rising and will disappear as soon as the breeze comes,"
Frank observed sagaciously. "By then we want to be several thousand feet
up, and taking a look through the glasses at the picture we'll have
spread out below us."

"Let's start now," suggested Billy. "I'm wild to see what the country up
across the border of Belgium looks like. To think of us being able to
glimpse all the German defenses as we go sailing over so smoothly."

Frank laughed.

"You are counting your chickens again before they're hatched, Billy, an
old failing of yours. It may not be the smooth sailing you think.
Remember that the Germans are always ready-primed with their wonderful
anti-aëroplane guns for hostile raiders. We may have a dozen Taubes,
too, buzzing after us, or find ourselves chased into the clouds by a big
Zeppelin."

If Frank thought to alarm Billy by saying this, he immediately saw that
he had failed to shake the other's nerve.

"Gee! that would make it interesting, for a fact!" the other exclaimed,
his face beaming with eagerness. "Frank, you can take my word for it, no
Taube, or Zeppelin either, for that matter, can catch up with our good
old _Sea Eagle_, once you crack on all of her two thousand revolutions a
minute with both motors. They haven't got a thing over on this side of
the big pond that is in the same class with Doctor Perkins's invention."

"I think you're pretty near right there, Billy," said the pilot, as he
proceeded to press the button that would start things humming.

Immediately they were beginning to move along on the surface, the
peculiar spoon-shaped bow preventing the water from coming aboard.
Faster went the huge seaplane as Frank gave increased power, until when
he tilted the ascending rudder they left the water just as a frightened
duck does after attaining sufficient momentum.

"Hurrah!" exclaimed the delighted Billy, as soon as he realized, from
the change in motion, that they no longer rested on the water, but were
cleaving the air.

Mounting in spirals, as usual, the two boys soon began to have a
splendid view, not only of the sea, but of the nearby land as well.

"Oh! look, Frank, over there in the west; those must be the famous white
chalk cliffs of Dover across the channel we see. To think that we are
looking down at France, and even Belgium, and on England at the same
time."

"That's about where the Kaiser is aiming to throw those monster shells
from his big forty-two centimeter guns, after he has captured Calais,
you know," remarked Frank.

"I guess that dream's been smashed by now, and there's nothing in it,"
Billy was saying. "Not that the Germans didn't try mighty hard to get
there, and tens of thousands of their brave fellows gave up their lives
to carry out a whim of the commander, which might not have amounted to
much, after all. Oh! Frank, with the glass here I can see our hangar as
easy as anything."

"That's good, Billy. I was just going to ask you to look and see if
those disappointed spies had done anything to it. I'm glad to hear you
say it's still there in good shape. I expect we'll have more or less
need of that shed from time to time."

"Well, we don't mean to spend many nights paddling around on the sea,"
affirmed Billy, now beginning to turn his glass upon the country they
were approaching, and which lay to the north of Dunkirk.

Frank had changed their course so that they were now over the land. They
could easily see the camps of the British troops, though they were so
far above them that moving companies looked like marching ants. The
tents could not be concealed, and there were besides numerous low sheds,
which doubtless sheltered supplies of every description, needed by the
army fighting in the trenches further north.

As Frank drew more upon the motors that were keeping up a noisy chorus,
the huge seaplane rushed through the air and gave them a change of
landscape every little while.

The sun was in plain sight, although just beginning to touch things
below with golden fingers. Covering land and water, they could see over
a radius that must have been far more than fifty miles.

Billy kept uttering exclamations, intended to express the rapture that
filled his breast. In all his experience he had never gazed upon
anything to compare with what he now saw spread out below him as though
upon a monster checkerboard. African wilds, Western deserts and Polar
regions of eternal ice were all dwarfed in interest by this spectacle.

Again and again did he call the attention of his chum to certain
features of the wonderful picture that especially appealed to him. Now
it was the snakelike movements of what appeared to be a new army heading
toward the front, accompanied by a long line of big guns that were drawn
by traction engines. Then the irregular line of what he made out to be
the opposing trenches riveted his attention. He was thrilled when he
actually saw a rush made by an attacking party of Germans, to be met
with volleys that must have sadly decimated their ranks, for as Billy
gazed with bated breath he saw the remnant of the gallant band reel back
and vanish amidst their own trenches.

"Am I awake, Frank, or asleep and dreaming all this?" Billy exclaimed,
as he handed the glasses to his chum.

This Frank could readily do because they were running along as smoothly
as velvet, and long habit had made him perfectly at home in handling the
working parts of the seaplane.

"I wonder what they think of us?" wondered Billy. "You may be sure that
every field glass and pair of binoculars they own is leveled at us right
now. They must think the French or the British have sprung one on them,
to beat out their old Zeppelins at the raiding business! Oh! wouldn't I
give something to be close enough to the commanding general to see the
look on his face."

Frank was looking for something else just then. Although they were
flying at such a great height, he fancied that the present security
would hardly last. The Germans were only waiting until they had gone on
a certain distance; then probably a dozen of their hustling little Taube
machines would spring upward and chase after the singular stranger like
a swarm of hornets, seeking to cut off escape, and hoping by some lucky
shot to bring it down.

The barograph was in plain sight from where Frank sat, and perhaps the
quick glance he gave at its readings just then had some connection with
this expectation of coming trouble.

Billy interpreted it otherwise. He was afraid Frank, thinking they had
gone far enough, was sweeping around to start back toward the British
trench line.

"Just a little further, Frank," pleaded Billy. "There's a big move on
over yonder, seems like, where that army is coming along; and I'd like
to see enough to interest our good friend Major Nixon when we get back."

"I don't know whether I'll let you say a single word, Billy," the air
pilot told him, as he relinquished the glasses to the eager one. "That
wouldn't be acting neutral, you know. Besides, there are plenty of the
Allies' machines able to fly, and those airmen like Graham-White ought
to be able to pick up news of any big movement."

They could see patches of snow in places, and much water in others where
the low country had been inundated by the Belgians. This was done in
hopes of hastening the retreat of the invaders, who despite all had
stuck to their trenches and the unfinished canal for months, as though
rooted there.

All at once there sounded a loud crash not far below the young air
pilots, and a puff of white smoke told where a shrapnel shell had burst.

"Frank, they're firing at us!" exclaimed Billy, who had made an
involuntary ducking movement with his head as the sharp discharge burst
upon his ears.

Even as he spoke another, and still a third crash told that the Germans
had determined the time was at hand to try their anti-aëroplane guns on
the strange seaplane that was soaring above the camps.



                              CHAPTER VII.

                       THE "SEA EAGLE" ON PARADE.


"That means we'll have to climb higher, so that their guns can't reach!"
Frank immediately decided.

It was indeed getting rather warm around them, Billy thought. The
shrapnel puffs seemed to be above, below, and on every side, and it was
a wonder that neither of them received a wound.

"Only for the speed we're hitting up, the story might be a whole lot
different, according to my notion, Frank. They have a hard job to get
our range, you see."

"Yes, most of it bursts back of us, showing a faulty figuring," the
pilot explained, as he started a corkscrew movement of the seaplane
calculated to cause the aircraft to bore upward in spirals.

The guns, far below, kept up a merry chorus. Billy could hear the faint
noise made by the continuous discharges, and the puffs of smoke that
seemed to rise in a score of places at the same time told him how
eagerly the German gunners were trying to strike that elevated mark.

Now the shrapnel ceased to worry Billy, for he saw that none of it
seemed to be bursting around them as before. The limits or range of the
anti-aircraft guns had apparently been reached.

"We're safe from the iron rain up at this height, Frank. What does the
barometer say?" he asked, with that spirit of curiosity that had made
him a good reporter in the old days.

"That's too bad," replied Frank, as he bent forward to look.

"Don't tell me that the only fragment of a shell that's struck home
ruined our fine barometer!" cried Billy.

"Just what happened," he was told. "At any rate, it's knocked to
flinders; and I think I must have had a pretty close shave. But we can
buy a new one when we get back to Dunkirk. As near as I can give a rough
guess we must be between three and four thousand feet high."

"I should say it was a lot more than that," Billy declared. "But so long
as they can't reach us any longer, why dispute over a few thousand
feet?"

He thereupon once more started to make use of the glasses, and had
hardly settled them to his eyes than he gave a startled cry.

"Frank, they're coming up like a swarm of angry bees!" Billy exclaimed.

"Do you mean Taube aëroplanes, Billy?"

"Yes, I can see as many as six right now in different directions, and
others are going to follow, if looks count for anything. The word must
have been given to attack us."

"I'm not worrying any," Frank told him calmly. "In fact, I don't believe
they'll try to tackle such a strange hybrid aircraft. They can see how
differently constructed the _Sea Eagle_ is from all other
hydro-aëroplanes, and expect that we must mount at least one
quick-firing gun."

"Then what are they climbing for, Frank? I can hear the buzz of their
propellers right now, and let me tell you it sounds like 'strictly
business' to me!"

"They are meaning to get close enough to let the pilots see what kind of
a queer contrivance it is that's hanging over their camps," Frank
continued in a reassuring manner. "When we choose to turn tail and clear
out, there isn't one in the lot that can tag on after us."

"I know that, Frank, thanks to those wonderful motors, and the clever
construction of Dr. Perkins' model. But now here's new trouble looming
up ahead."

"I can see what you mean, Billy. Yes, that is a Zeppelin moving along
down there, one of the older type, I should say, without having used the
glasses."

"But surely it will make for us, Frank. A real Zeppelin wouldn't think
of sheering off from any sort of aëroplane."

"Watch and see what happens," Billy was told, as Frank changed their
course so as to head straight for the great dirigible that was floating
in space halfway between their present altitude and the earth that lay
thousands of feet below.

The firing had stopped. Probably the German gunners, having realized the
utter futility of trying to reach the _Sea Eagle_ while it remained at
such a dizzy height, were now watching to see what was about to take
place. Many of them may have pinned great faith in the ability of their
aircraft to out-maneuver any similar fliers manipulated by the pilots of
the Allies. They may even have expected to see a stern chase, with their
air fleet in hot pursuit of this remarkable stranger.

If this were really the case, those same observers were doomed to meet
with a bitter disappointment.

"Well, what does it look like now?" Frank asked presently, while his
companion continued to keep the glasses glued to his eyes as though
fairly fascinated by all he saw.

"The Zeppelin has put on full steam, I should say, Frank," admitted
Billy.

"Coming to attack us?" chuckled the other, though the motors were
humming at such a lively rate that Billy barely caught the words.

"Gee whillikins, I should say not!" he cried exultantly. "Why, they're
on the run, Frank, and going like hot cakes. I bet you that Zeppelin
never made faster time since the day it was launched. They act as though
they thought we wanted to get above them so as to bombard the big
dirigible with bombs."

"And that's just what they do fear," said Frank positively. "That's the
greatest weakness of those big dirigibles, they offer such a wide
surface for being hit. While an ordinary shell might pass straight
through, and only tear one of the many compartments, let a bomb be
dropped from above, and explode on the gas bag, and the chances are the
Zeppelin would go to the scrap-heap."

"They're dropping down in a hurry!" declared Billy. "There, I can see a
great big shed off yonder, and it must be this that the dirigible is
aiming to reach. We could, however, bombard the shed as easily, and
destroy it together with its contents. Frank, it makes me think of an
ostrich trying to hide its head in a little patch of grass or weeds, and
because it can't see anything, believes itself completely hidden."

"Well, as we haven't even a gun along with us the Zeppelin is pretty
safe from our attack," remarked Frank. "We've proved one thing by coming
out to-day."

"I guess you mean that we've given the Germans something to puzzle their
wits over, eh, Frank? They know now that no matter what big yarns have
been told about the new Yankee seaplane they tried to steal, it's all
true, every single word of it."

Billy seemed to be quite merry over it. The fact that the dangerous
Zeppelin had fled in such wild haste, shunning an encounter, while the
vicious little Taube aëroplanes darted about like angry hornets, yet
always kept a respectable distance away from the majestic soaring _Sea
Eagle_ was enough to make anyone feel satisfied.

"I admit that at first I was kind of shaky about defying the whole lot,
but I've changed my mind some, Frank," he called out a minute later.
"Yes, the shoe is on the other foot now. They're afraid of us! Makes a
fellow puff out with pride. There's only one thing I feel sorry about."

"What might that be?" asked the other.

"If only Harry could have been along to enjoy this wonderful triumph
with us, or Dr. Perkins either. It would have completed our victory. But
from here I can see that army on the move as plain as anything. They're
meaning to make one of their terrible drives somewhere along the Yser
Canal, perhaps when that air raid comes off that we heard so much quiet
talk about."

"Well, that raid may be held up a while," Frank told him. "They must
believe that French or British pilots are aboard the _Sea Eagle_ right
now; and for all they know there are half a dozen just such big aircraft
waiting to engage their fleet if it hove in sight of Dunkirk or Calais."

"Every time we make a sweep around you can see the nearest Taube scuttle
off in a big hurry," ventured Billy. "Why, Frank, some of those machines
are carrying a quick-firer with them, but they've had orders not to take
risks. What would you do if they actually started to close in on us?"

Frank laughed as though that did not worry him very much.

"Why, there are several things we could do, Billy. In the first place we
can go higher with the _Sea Eagle_ than any of those flimsy Taubes would
dare to venture, though I'd hate to risk it in this bitter cold air."

"Yes, that's true, Frank, and like you I hope we will not have to climb
any further. It isn't so bad in the summer, but excuse me from doing it
now. We would need two more coats on top of the ones we've got, and
another hood to keep our ears from being frozen stiff. What's the other
idea?"

"A straight run-away," explained Frank. "If I really saw that any of
them meant business, I could crack on all speed until we were making the
entire two thousand revolutions per minute. That would leave them far
behind."

"I should think so," admitted Billy, who had the greatest possible faith
in the ability of the seaplane, as well as the cleverness of its young
pilot. "Once we got to going our prettiest and they would look as if
they might be standing still. Who's afraid? Set 'em up in the other
alley!"

"I think I'll show them something to start them guessing," Frank was
saying a minute later. "They haven't yet seen what she can do under
forced pressure."

"Let her out to the limit then," pleaded the passenger, who could never
experience too much excitement.

So Frank began to turn on full speed, and the wonderful creation of Dr.
Perkins' inventive brain was soon swooping along in a manner calculated
to make some of those who were staring through glasses far below gasp
with astonishment bordering on awe.

After all, Frank Chester was a boy, and must have felt a natural pride
in being able to thus surprise the whole of the Kaiser's army with his
amazing new aircraft. He knew that tens of thousands of eyes must be
riveted upon them at that particular moment, from the officers at
Headquarters to the mud-spattered and half frozen men concealed in the
irregular trenches.

"See the Taubes giving us all the room they can, Frank!" cried Billy.

"Evidently they're not hankering after an engagement with the _Sea
Eagle_, Billy."

"They make me think of a flock of wild ducks on a lake when an eagle
poises on fluttering wings above them, picking out his dinner," Billy
went on to say. "They scatter and dive and act half crazy; but nearly
every time the eagle gets what he's after.

"Well, all we want is a clear road back over the way we came," the pilot
pursued. "Fact is, we're not near so dangerous as we look. All we could
do just now would be to ram a Zeppelin, and go down with it."

"But they don't know that, Frank, which is lucky for us!" declared his
chum.

No doubt, Billy, in common with most other boys, must have learned at
school the familiar saying that "pride always goes before a fall." He
had just been doing considerable boasting, and his heart was even then
swelling with the conviction that he and his chum were virtually
snapping their fingers at the whole of the Kaiser's scattered army with
every enlisted man craning his neck in wonder.

Then came the sudden shock, all the more terrifying because so utterly
unexpected. It seemed to Billy that his very breath was taken away. The
joyous buzz of the motors that had amounted to almost a shriek ceased as
if by magic; and the _Sea Eagle_, shooting forward a bit under the
impetus of her great speed, quickly began to volplane toward the earth,
thousands of feet below!



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                             A SAFE RETURN.


Who could blame Billy if he turned ashy pale at that critical second. He
could not believe that this was any scheme of Frank's for showing off
what the great seaplane was capable of, though on previous occasions he
had known such a thing to happen.

The one terrible conviction that flashed through his mind was that
something had happened to stop their motors at this great altitude; and
that the _Sea Eagle_ was now, with ever increasing velocity, heading
downward to earth.

If they managed, through any degree of dexterity to escape death, there
must always be more or less chance of the machine being wrecked; and
even though that catastrophe were avoided, it was sure to fall into the
hands of the Germans. Then good-by to their hopes of keeping its
construction a secret.

But Frank had been busy meanwhile. He was not the one to be caught
napping by any sudden happening. Their present predicament had been
accurately discounted by the clever mind that had invented many parts of
the strange seaplane.

No sooner did Frank realize that the motive power had ceased than, with
a quick snap of the hand, he had turned a valve that was within easy
reach.

This allowed pure hydrogen gas from one of the cylinders to rush into
the buoyancy devices, which might be called the crowning triumph along
the line of insurance against accidents connected with Dr. Perkins'
invention.

As if by magic, the upper wings of the aircraft began to swell until
they had all the appearance of puffed-out mattresses. How the eyes of
those who were watching down below must have grown round with wonder as
they realized that here was something altogether new. It was also a
hitherto unheard-of device intended to diminish the terrible risk of a
fall ever present with those who go up in aircraft.

The swift volplaning had immediately begun to grow less pronounced, and
Billy, feeling that after all they were not going to drop to the ground,
drew in his first breath since the accident had come about.

Frank was already busily engaged in examining the stalled motors. So
reliable had the same brand always proven in connection with the _Sea
Eagle_ type of hydro-aëroplane, that Frank could not remember ever
having such an accident occur.

They were now floating aimlessly in space, not having any means of
moving save as the wind might chance to cause the seaplane to drift,
much after the manner of an old-time balloon.

"Can you make the repairs, Frank, or do we have to hang out the white
flag of surrender?" called Billy, in an agony of fear lest their
wonderful tryout cruise be fated to come to such an ignoble finish.

"There's nothing terrible the matter," came the reassuring reply from
the pilot, still working with feverish haste at the motors. "I think I
can get things working again in a hurry."

"Oh! you make me happy by saying that, Frank," Billy told him. "I was
beginning to think I could see the inside of a German dungeon, or a
firing squad standing me up against a blank wall. I hope it doesn't take
long, Frank. There, they start their plagued old anti-aircraft guns
again!"

Indeed, the first heavy crash of breaking shrapnel not far from the
stationary seaplane proved that Billy's remark bore the stamp of truth.
They had rushed down with such impetus that before the buoyancy devices
could accomplish the purposes for which they were intended, the seaplane
had once more dropped within range of the elevated guns below.

Now having a stationary target to aim at instead of one that was making
something like sixty, seventy, or perhaps fully five score miles an
hour, the experienced gunners were very apt to send their shells
dangerously close, so that at any second, fragments from one, as it
burst, might do terrible damage to either the seaplane's motors or her
daring young pilots.

Oh! if Frank could only hurry and repair the motors, Billy was saying
over and over again to himself as he clung there and tried to keep count
of the numerous sudden puffs of gray or white smoke, indicating the
breaking of the shrapnel shells around them.

What if one of them, better aimed than the rest, should shatter those
buoyant wings that were their sole means of remaining afloat in the
upper air! A rush, an agonized sensation of the earth coming up to meet
them, and that would be their last realization of what life meant.

Billy would never forget that frightful agony of that minute as long as
he lived. A minute--why, it seemed to the shivering boy as though he
must have lived almost a whole year while that furious bombardment kept
up; Frank coolly tinkered with the motors.

Then Billy heard his chum calling to him; never had words sounded
one-half so sweet.

"Got it fixed. Be out of this in a jiffy!" the other shouted, for there
was so much racket around them that words spoken in an ordinary tone
could never have been heard.

Then Billy forgot about the crackling shrapnel and the circling Taubes.
He had caught the familiar whir of the propellers as the motors started
once more upon their work. It was a very soothing sound to Billy's
wrought up nerves.

Immediately the _Sea Eagle_ began to speed forward. Frank's first act
was to set the suction pump to work emptying the great wings of gas, and
sending it back to the reservoir intended for storage purposes. This was
done because they could never hope to attain any great amount of speed
otherwise.

When they were falling, the boys had heard what seemed to be a concerted
roar from thousands of lusty throats below. This they knew had indicated
the sudden delight of the watching and deeply interested soldiers in the
aërial mishap that appeared to have overtaken the wonderful Yankee
invention.

These shouts kept up more or less while the anti-aircraft guns were
furiously bombarding the nearly stationary seaplane; but as soon as the
latter started off again, as though in disdain at their futile efforts,
the noise ceased like magic.

Frank first of all mounted higher, until none of the bursting bombs came
anywhere near them. Then, feeling perfectly safe from this danger, he
set his course toward the southwest.

"Heading home, are you, Frank?" asked Billy, not at all disappointed,
for their trial spin certainly had contained enough thrills and dangers
to satisfy even such a greedy lover of adventure as the one-time
reporter.

"Yes, we've done all we set out to attempt, and a good deal more into
the bargain," replied Frank, casting a cautious look to the right and
left, not meaning to be taken off his guard by any venturesome German
pilot aboard a Taube machine, who might risk all in a last attempt to
cripple this amazing seaplane that outclassed anything they possessed.

"You've finished pumping the gas back again into the reservoir, haven't
you, Frank? Do you think there was much loss?"

"Not a bit more than two per cent., for we've tested that before," he
was informed.

"They've given up the pursuit," Billy observed presently, showing that
all this while he had been keeping an eye on those swift flying little
Taube machines that had continued to dart hither and thither, like angry
hornets, yet not daring to make an attack.

Since there was no longer any visible sign of danger, the boys were able
to once more observe the checkerboard picture that lay far below them.
Accustomed to being up among the clouds, they knew just how to gauge
distances, and in this way could get the relative value of things. A
novice would have found his calculations along these lines sadly at
variance with the facts.

"For one," said Billy, his voice showing signs of trembling, "I won't be
sorry to hug up to a stove when we get to our hangar once more. This air
is bitter up here, and seems to go right through you. We're in for a
decent spell of weather, it strikes me, Frank."

"Yes, it ought to last another day or so," the other replied, as though
its condition was of importance.

Indeed, when the wind blew the pilots were kept from making their daily
reconnoissance. During storms and snow, or even rain, it was useless to
take the risks of venturing aloft, because the view would be so limited,
with the earth shrouded in fog or snow squalls, that it would not pay to
ascend.

So it was that hundreds of daring aviators would welcome this spell of
quiet weather as an opportunity that could not be allowed to slip past
without being taken advantage of.

"We've passed over the trenches along the canal," announced Billy, still
handling the glasses, and as usual telling the busy pilot what he saw.
"Now I can hear the British shouting hoarsely and they seem to be waving
all sorts of things up at us. Do you think they know we are supposed to
be trying out this seaplane which was really contracted for by the
French Government before the war broke out?"

"They have guessed that we must be friendly to their cause, because they
saw something of what went on back there when we struck that mine
field," Frank explained without the least hesitation.

He had been dropping lower the while, partly because the air was so keen
and cutting so many thousands of feet up and also on account of the fact
that they had nothing more to fear from hostile demonstrations.

"There's the road to Dunkirk and Calais that the Kaiser said his men
would tramp along in time to be in town at Christmas," laughed Billy,
pointing his gloved hand downward to where could be seen various
detachments of marching troops, with scores of huge motor vans taking
supplies out along the fighting line for the men who held the trenches,
and the bridge-heads across the river.

"The British, with reinforcements coming up every day, seem to be
holding all the ground around here," Frank was saying. "Can you see
Dunkirk yet, Billy?"

"Oh! yes, easily enough. It isn't such a great distance away from where
the fighting is taking place. They've heard the roar of the big
forty-two centimeter German guns at Dunkirk more than once this winter."

Still lower they dropped, until at less than a thousand feet they sailed
along, now over the water, with the Channel on their right, and the
disputed shore of France to the left.

"Will you alight on the water, and then head straight for our hangar,
Frank?"

"That is the easiest way to do it," came the answer, as though Frank had
every detail mapped out in his head.

"I warrant you Pudge is standing somewhere, and watching us come along,
with his heart beating furiously, ready to fairly hug us after we get
ashore."

Billy grinned as he thus pictured the delight of their fat chum on
hearing how magnificently the gallant _Sea Eagle_ had disported in the
air high above the German Headquarters, and what a spasm of alarm their
coming had sent to the hearts of the various air pilots belonging to the
invaders.

With the grace of a monster swan, the seaplane circled around several
times and then alighted on the bosom of the water, as softly as floating
thistle down. Equally at home in the air or on the water, the strange
hybrid craft immediately commenced to move along in the direction of the
wooden inclined plane leading by a gradual rise from the water into the
elevated hangar.

So ended the amazing and satisfactory trial trip of the _Sea Eagle_.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                            THRILLING NEWS.


"Mumps and mathematics, but I'm glad to see you boys get back safe
again!"

Of course that was Pudge, otherwise Ulysses Perkins, expressing his
gratitude at the return of the gallant _Sea Eagle_ and the two bold air
navigators.

Pudge was close by on the shore when the seaplane ran in to the foot of
the wooden trestle, upon which the big seaplane was drawn on the wheeled
carriage, built for that purpose, until it was once more safely housed
in the hangar.

"Don't ask a single question, Pudge!" called Billy, "until we've got her
up the inclined plane, and snugly sheltered from the public view. I
guess there must be a thousand people outside trying to see what the
_Sea Eagle_ looks like. They must have watched us coming on down the
coast, and had a bad case of fright at first, thinking it meant another
spell of bomb dropping."

"Yes, lend us a hand, Pudge," added Frank, "and help get the machine
settled evenly on the little carriage. You know we have it so arranged
that she can be hauled up by means of this cable, and by her own motors.
I'll stay aboard to guide things, and you two follow after we're safely
in the hangar, not before."

Billy knew he meant a rope might possibly break, and it would be
dangerous for anyone to be caught upon the trestle by the descending
seaplane. Indeed, Billy had a pretty vivid recollection of the narrow
escape of the two spies who had barely jumped aside at the time of their
downward rush.

Everything went off without the slightest hitch, and the first act of
Pudge, after climbing the ascent in company with Billy, was to hastily
look over the returned air traveler from the spoon-shaped bow to the
opposite extremity.

"Seems to be without a scratch, Frank!" he exclaimed in undeniable glee.

"Why, did you think we had been in some sort of smash-up?" demanded
Billy.

"Well, no, not quite so bad as that," admitted Pudge; "but I knew some
of those German spies must have tried pretty hard to capture the craft,
and if that failed I reckoned they'd wanted to do something to put her
out of commission. Now, please, sit down here and tell me everything."

"Ours is a long story, Pudge," said Frank, "as you can judge for
yourself when I tell you we've been far up over the fighting lines in
Belgium, found ourselves bombarded by shrapnel, and threatened by half a
dozen Taube flying machines, as well as a Zeppelin!"

"Gosh! all of that?" gasped Pudge.

"Yes," added Billy, shaking his forefinger at the stout chum, "and
before we relate the whole story in detail you've got to tell us what
happened last night that made you fail to come back when we expected
you."

"Oh! I wanted to, all right," spluttered Pudge, as though he felt that
somehow his bravery or his honor might be involved in the explanation
demanded; "but, say, there were three of them, all big husky men, at
that, and they caught me unawares just by that turn of the road. It was
getting kind of dusk, too, and I never dreamed of trouble till one
clapped a hand over my mouth, and the others held me while they tied a
bandage around my face. Whee! I was near smothered at first."

"They were Germans, Pudge?" questioned Billy, interested in the fact
that Pudge had also had his share of adventure.

"I heard them talking in German, which made it look that way," replied
the other soberly.

"They didn't hurt you very much, did they?" asked Billy, looking more
closely at their jolly comrade.

"More my feelings than anything else," replied Pudge, shrugging his fat
shoulders disconsolately. "They just kept me there while they waited to
catch some sort of signal. I listened, too, and heard some shouting, but
that cloth kept me from making out what it meant. Afterward they set me
free, and disappeared. I didn't know what to make of it when I got to
the hangar here and found the _Sea Eagle_ gone."

"You even felt afraid they had grabbed our seaplane, didn't you?" asked
Billy.

"Well, it gave me a bad scare at first," Pudge admitted, with charming
frankness.

"But you got over that later on, eh, Pudge?"

"I did when I heard you calling me from away out somewhere in the dark,"
explained the other. "Were you on the water at that time, Frank, because
I figured you must be, with that old fog horn sound coming stealing in
to me out of that bank of gloom?"

"Yes, that's where we were, Pudge," Frank told him. "Now, since you've
explained all about your own doings, we'll satisfy your curiosity by
telling you the particulars of the trial trip of our sample seaplane.
Billy, you can do the talking, if you feel equal to it, while we start a
fire here, and warm up with some coffee."

A fire was soon sending out a fair amount of heat, and the coffee pot
placed upon the top of the little sheet-iron stove gave promise of good
cheer to come. The aviator boys had enjoyed this social cup many times
while working on the assembling of the various parts of the seaplane, so
that they had all the necessary accompaniments close by to be used after
the coffee had boiled.

Meanwhile Billy had been thrilling Pudge with a recital of all he and
Frank had gone through since the fat chum left on his errand. He
pictured the dash down the trestle when the determined German secret
agents were trying to break in at the doors, so as to seize and run off
with the wonderful machine. From that he went on to the adventure in the
fog and darkness of the night while they lay on the water of the harbor,
and the searching parties came upon them.

Then followed the early morning flight, what amazing things they had
seen when passing over the trenches, the fierce bombardment to which
they were subjected, the maneuvers of the hostile aircraft, the accident
to the motors, and finally their triumphant return to the hangar.

Pudge drew a long breath when the story reached its conclusion.

"And to think that I wasn't along with you when all those things
happened; it's enough to make anyone weep," he said, looking so downcast
that Frank felt it only right he should try and cheer the poor fellow
up.

"Never mind, Pudge," he told him, "you were doing your duty just as much
as any of us. The fact that we made that grand trip over the firing
lines doesn't mean we have any more reason to crow than you do. You can
always say that you once had the great luck to be actually taken
prisoner by the Germans."

"Oh! they treated me all right, only that they kept me a prisoner and
wouldn't parole me on my honor not to betray them. Then, that cloth they
tied around my face must have been something they picked up, for it
seemed like an old rag. But thank goodness it's all over with now."

"Yes," said Billy lightly, "no use ever borrowing trouble about things
that are dead and gone. You know they say the mill will never run again
with the water that is past. But there's someone at the door, Frank."

"I imagine it must be our friend, Major Nixon," said Frank. "He's heard
that we've been away on some sort of trial spin to test things, and has
dropped around to learn how we made out."

"He's going to be surprised a whole lot when he hears all we've got to
tell," said Billy, with a chuckle, as he started over to unfasten the
door, upon the panel of which those knocks had been sounded.

It proved that Frank was a good prophet, for the visitor was the
red-faced British officer connected with the aviation squad at Dunkirk.
His manner betrayed the fact that he had come either to fetch some
important news or else to be told something along those lines.

Once again did Billy have to start in. Fortunately, he was a pretty fair
story-teller, and enthusiasm with his subject did more or less to help
him. The Major was duly thrilled with the graphic account of all the
stirring events that had come to Frank and Billy since the afternoon.

Being a man of considerable experience in aviation, though no longer
allowed to make an ascent, on account of being subject to dizzy spells,
the after effects from a severe accident, Major Nixon at least could
enjoy hearing about the exploits of others.

Billy, too, was blunt, and not at all inclined to make himself and chum
out to be any sort of heroes. He told the story in a most matter-of-fact
way, though reading between the lines the officer was able to picture
things about as they happened.

"I'm pleased to hear your grand account of this great seaplane," he told
them when Billy at last told of their safe return to the waiting hangar.
"My word, if only we British had fifty like it, I believe we would be in
condition to end the war before three months had passed. No Zeppelin
would dare enter into the same class. What magnificent craft they would
be for protecting the home coast from such bombardments as happened not
so very long ago."

"Well," said Frank, thinking to strike while the iron was hot, "we're
going to ask that from now on our hangar be guarded against any sort of
attack. This seaplane, after certain formalities have been complied
with, really will belong to the French Government; so it's surely up to
you to defend the property of your ally from a raid."

"Your point is well taken, Frank," the officer told him. "Every hour of
the day and night I will see to it that a company of armed guards is
stationed around your property, with instructions to defend it against
any force of thieves, desperate spies or any other invaders. They will
rue the hour they attempt to capture or injure your wonderful seaplane."

Major Nixon always made it a point to walk around the big air rover, and
carefully note its various strong points as developed through the
patents of its inventor, Dr. Perkins, U. S. A. He was the only one who
had thus far been given the privilege of seeing the odd machine at close
quarters; because the boys had the utmost confidence in his honor as a
soldier and a gentleman.

It seemed to Billy that the Major spent an unusually long time looking
things over on this occasion. Perhaps he wished to verify the
statements, to which he had just listened, concerning the stability of
the seaplane and its condition for hard service.

When he joined them again, Billy also noticed that there was a most
peculiar expression on the other's red face, of which he could make
nothing at the time, although it all came to him afterward.

"Is the seaplane in condition for another trip that might cover several
times the distance you did in this trial spin?" he asked.

Billy thought this to be merely a casual question, such as anyone might
ask after hearing the story just finished; but Frank, able to see
further, believed there might be a meaning behind it.

"All I would have to do would be to replace the liquid fuel that we have
used, and after oiling the bearings in a few places, I give you my word,
Major Nixon, I would be willing to take the chances of going to Paris
and back in the _Sea Eagle_ with as many as two or more companions on
the journey."

Upon hearing that the other smiled as though the answer pleased him.
There were numerous attributes connected with Frank Chester calculated
to appeal to a man of his observation; and considering the fact that he
was an Englishman, usually cold and reserved toward outsiders, the Major
had become warmly attached to the boy aviators and their fortunes.

"And now, if you'll bend your heads toward me, because sometimes the
very walls have ears, they say," he remarked impressively, "I'll tell
you a great secret."

Realizing that this was no joke, Frank, Billy and even Pudge leaned
forward, after which Major Nixon went on to say in a cautious tone
hardly more than a whisper:

"It was learned that our friends, the enemy, intended sending out
another one of their exasperating raids with half a dozen Taubes. They
would drop a few bombs on Dunkirk and Calais and call that a great feat.
Now more than _thirty seaplanes_, guided by some of the most daring of
British aviators, plan a gigantic raid on the German sea bases in
Belgium to-night, _and you can accompany them if you will_!"



                               CHAPTER X.

                      THE AËROPLANE BOYS IN LUCK.


Thrilled by the nature of the communication made by the British officer,
Frank, Billy and Pudge stood there staring at one another.

Of course it was not so very difficult for Frank to understand just why
this invitation to accompany the raiding party of British aviators had
come to them. Back of it all was the French Government, he felt certain.
Before going into the business of making heavy investments connected
with the new American seaplane patents it was only natural they should
desire to witness an efficient test of the machine's superiority over
any aëroplanes they already possessed.

The contemplated raid would afford such a test. Competent critics, those
other experienced birdmen, would be near to gauge the capacity of the
_Sea Eagle_. In other words, the French Government did not want to "buy
a pig in the poke." Unless the hybrid sea and aircraft could meet the
requirements laid down, they would not dare risk squandering great
amounts of money in those hard times to duplicate her model.

Frank was greatly pleased. It seemed as though he and his chums had
received a magnificent compliment in being honored with such an
invitation.

"Of course, Major Nixon, you have been authorized to see us, and extend
this courtesy?" he asked, as a starter.

"I can show you my credentials in that line, Frank," the genial officer
replied, without the least hesitation or embarrassment, which he
accordingly proceeded to do, thus relieving the other's mind in the
beginning.

"Everything is shipshape, sir," said Frank. "Now let us talk about the
conditions under which we are to be allowed to accompany the expedition"

"Please keep your voice lowered as much as you can while I instruct
you," begged Major Nixon.

"You are thinking of those German spies who are said to be everywhere?"
ventured Frank, who had heard much talk along these lines ever since
arriving at Dunkirk.

Indeed, the stories that passed current concerning spies were
astonishing. Most of them Frank did not believe in at all, for he knew
they were founded on the fears of the people. At the same time the
secret agents of the Kaiser were certainly vigilant as well as bold, and
if one had to err at all it were better to be on the safe side.

"In times past I haven't taken much stock in the wild stories that have
been going around," said the soldier, smiling; "but we certainly know
there are spies in Dunkirk at this very hour. In fact, you boys have had
pretty strong evidence that your operations while here have been watched
day by day."

"Yes," remarked Billy, "and after what happened last night we are ready
to believe almost anything, sir. I remember reading that sometimes the
walls have ears, and I guess it may be so."

"Under such conditions then it is best that we get our heads close
together and talk in very low tones," said the officer. "There are
guards posted all around the stockade now, and yet in spite of that
precaution some of those German spies are smart enough to play the
game."

"Anchors and aëroplanes, but this is exciting enough to please even a
fellow built like you are, Billy!" muttered Pudge, who was mopping his
red forehead with his handkerchief, though the others did not consider
it any too warm there in the hangar of the great seaplane.

"I am unable to tell you at this minute the exact hour when the start
will be made," Major Nixon whispered. "Much depends on the state of the
weather, and the arrival of the fleet of aëroplanes from across the
Channel, for most of them will come from England, you understand."

"Conditions being favorable, then," observed Frank, "you believe that by
another morning the start of the raiding party will take place?"

"Yes, undoubtedly," came the answer. "We wish to take advantage of the
unusually good weather conditions. Then, besides, we have learned
through certain sources of information that the Germans on their own
hook are planning an extensive dash with their aëroplanes and dirigibles
on the coast cities on the Channel. It is in hopes of balking that, as
well as accomplishing other results that more than thirty seaplanes will
make this stupendous raid on their submarine bases at Ostend, Zeebrugge
and Blankenberghe."

"Sandwiches and sauerkraut!" Pudge was heard to gasp, as though his
breath were almost taken away by the magnitude of this assertion; for he
had never as yet seen as many as thirty aëroplanes assembled together,
and certainly not in action.

"Is that the only motive of the raid, Major Nixon?" Frank asked, for he
invariably made it a point to acquire all the information possible.

"Well," continued the soldier, "to be perfectly frank with you, there
are a number of other objects which such a sudden attack is likely to
influence. It is aimed to destroy the railway station at Ostend so as to
greatly hinder the movement of troop trains and those carrying
ammunition and supplies. Then, at Bruges, other damage may be done."

"But isn't there still another big object in it?" insisted Frank.

"I suppose you are referring to the great submarine blockade of the
coasts of Great Britain which Germany proposes to inaugurate next week?"
said Major Nixon. "Yes, although I have not been so informed, I can
guess readily enough that by means of this raid it is hoped to
extensively damage their submarine base at Zeebrugge, and injure the
movement in the beginning."

"In other words," said Frank, "Great Britain means to throw down the
gage of battle, and warn Germany she can make just as dashing raids as
anyone. No one nation is mistress of the air in this world war--as yet."

Major Nixon smiled as he heard those last two words, and saw the quick
look of pride which the young aviator threw toward the monster seaplane
that was housed in that hangar.

"It's plain that you have the utmost confidence in the ability of your
machine to wrest that supremacy from the Germans, if once France secures
the right to manufacture a fleet of _Sea Eagles_," he remarked, as he
laid a hand upon the shoulder of Frank Chester, of whom the bluff
soldier had become quite fond in the short time they had known each
other.

"Then it is understood, Major, that we keep ourselves in readiness to
start out so as to be on the move at dawn, for I don't imagine such a
great fleet of aëroplanes would wish to make a start in the darkness of
night."

"No, there is no necessity of such a thing," came the quick reply. "In
fact, one of the objects of this raid is publicity. We do not aim to
creep up and damage the enemy in the dark. We want him to see the
astonishing sight of such a mass of darting seaplanes descending on his
coast towns like a flock of eagles, and destroying military property,
not citizens' private homes, mind you."

"I think," said Frank, "I can speak for my friends here as well as
myself, Major, when I promise to be ready for the signal. How will we
know when to start out, for we shall all sleep here to-night?"

"There is only one condition which you will be asked to meet," said the
other.

"Then tell us what it is, sir."

"The French Government will expect to have a representative aboard the
_Sea Eagle_ during the flight, not to interfere in the slightest degree
with your mastery of the seaplane, but simply to take notes concerning
her behavior under every sort of condition."

"We certainly agree to that condition, Major Nixon," said Frank
heartily. "In fact, I should have asked that one be sent out with us. It
is a part of our policy to fully satisfy the authorities we've been
dealing with for nearly a year, now, that everything we claim, and much
more, is possible with our advanced model of a hydro-aëroplane."

"Very good, and I am pleased to know it," said the officer. "I shall
have to go back to town, now, but I will advise the local representative
of the Government that you accept the conditions. By early dawn there
will appear here a skillful aviator with written credentials, and I hope
his ultimate report will be all you boys hoped it to be. My word! I only
wish I were going with you, but other duties must claim my attention."

He shook each one of them warmly by the hand.

"The best of luck, Frank," were his last words at parting. "I trust that
you may have an experience calculated to dwarf anything that has ever
come your way."

Frank, as he contemplated what a thrilling adventure lay before them,
fancied that this wish on the part of Major Nixon was in a fair way of
coming true. It certainly would be difficult to imagine a more exciting
experience than taking part in an aërial raid, where more than thirty
seaplanes started out to bombard strongly fortified coast defenses of
the enemy, each raider subjected to a continual fire from every known
species of anti-aircraft gun known to modern warfare.

After the soldier had left them, the three Boy Aviators sat around and
talked in low tones. They had barred the door, and so far as they could
see there was not the slightest chance that any eavesdropper could get
close enough to overhear what they said. Nevertheless, the caution of
Major Nixon had its effect upon them and there was no loud conversation
except when ordinary matters were touched upon.

Frank always liked to "potter" around and give little touches of
improvement to some part of the seaplane in which he had such a deep
interest. No one knew its good and bad qualities as well as Frank; even
its inventor had not studied these points as carefully as the young
aviator.

So it happened that from time to time the boy made numerous little
improvements that he figured would cause the motors to work more
smoothly, or strengthen some part of the framework that showed signs of
weakness.

Half a dozen times Frank left his two chums, sitting there killing time,
to attend to something connected with the plane. He had carefully
examined to find what had caused the accident that gave them such a
thrill when thousands of feet above the earth.

"The same thing will never occur again, that I'm as sure of as I am of
my own name," he told Billy, when the other asked him about it.

Several hours had passed since the soldier had left them. Pudge, having
taken a stroll outside, came back to report that there were at least a
dozen British "Tommies" standing guard around the enclosure in which the
hangar had been erected.

"It's a good thing, too," said Pudge, "because a crowd has come out from
town to hang around here in hopes we'll make a flight to-day. Oilskins
and onions, but I should think there must be a hundred people if there's
one. But those Tommies are ready to use their bayonets on the first
fellow who tried to climb up and peep over the stockade."

"There are two guards, I noticed, down by the end of the trestle, where
it strikes the water," observed Billy, who had been moving around.

Frank was doing some little job under the seaplane, and at this moment
came sauntering toward his two mates. Billy, happening to glance up at
the other's face was surprised to see that Frank looked excited; at
least his eyes sparkled strangely, and there was a grimness in the way
he had set his jaws.

Billy, always inclined to be explosive, might have burst out with a
question only that he received a quick and expressive look from Frank,
accompanied by the placing of a finger on his lips. Then, as Frank
dropped into a chair beside them, Billy leaned over to whisper:

"What's up now, Frank, that you're looking so mysterious?"

"I've just made a discovery, that's all," came the same sort of careful
reply. "Fact is, after all our precautions we've been outwitted, for
there's a spy hidden in the hangar right now!"



                              CHAPTER XI.

                         THE MAN IN THE LOCKER.


"Are you joking, Frank?" asked Billy, though he should have known his
comrade better than to believe Frank would try to play any silly trick
for the sake of giving them a thrill.

Pudge opened his mouth, but for a wonder even one of his queer favorite
expressions failed to drop from his lips. In fact, Pudge was rendered
temporarily speechless by the astounding nature of Frank's
communication.

"Not at all, Billy," said the other, trying to act as though he might be
telling them something of small importance. "I watched while I was
sheltered under the plane, and twice I saw it shake a little as though
some one might be holding the door ajar so as to hear better."

"Door!" echoed Billy helplessly, as though more puzzled than ever.

"The door of the empty locker we thought we might need for storing
things away, but which has never been used," Frank explained.

"Gee whillikins! now I understand what you mean, Frank," said Billy.
"There is plenty of room in that locker to hold a man curled up."

"Popguns and pyramids, but how could he ever get there when we've been
sitting around all morning?" asked Pudge, in a hoarse whisper.

"Only in one way," Frank told him. "Before they left here last night
they must have fixed him there in the locker, believing we'd be back
again sooner or later, when some information of value might be picked
up."

"Oh! my stars, Frank," Billy ejaculated huskily. "What if, after all,
he's heard enough talk here to guess about that big raid?"

Frank looked very serious.

"It's true that we've been pretty careful," he said, "and most of the
time just whispered while we talked about it; but all the same a man
with the ears of a spy might have picked up enough to arouse suspicions,
and once that's done the rest would come easy."

"What can we do about it, Frank?" asked Billy.

"Our good friend, the Major, has extended the invitation to us so that
in a way I feel we're responsible for the secret being kept," Frank went
on to say, as though he might be revolving certain conditions in his
mind before deciding.

On hearing him say that Billy began to work the muscles of his right
arm, at the same time opening and closing his fingers, as though eager
to clutch something.

"I agree with you, Frank," he hastened to say. "The great secret has
been placed in our keeping, and for one I would feel pretty small if it
leaked out through any fault of ours. We've got to cage that spy as sure
as you live."

"Punkins and partridges, that's right!" muttered Pudge, who, while not
as a rule pugnaciously inclined, could nevertheless assume what he was
pleased to call his "fighting face" when occasion arose.

"I'm glad to find both of you are of the same mind," Frank said. "The
only question is to decide what our plan of campaign shall be."

"P'r'aps some of those Tommies in khaki would be only too glad of a
chance to step in and collar the spy?" suggested Pudge.

"But there are three of us here," objected Billy, "and I don't see why
we should want to call on the soldiers for such a little thing. After
we've grabbed Mr. Spy and have got him tied up it will be time enough to
figure on handing him over to the authorities."

"That's what's worrying me," admitted Frank.

"About handing him over, do you mean?" Billy demanded.

"Well, you know what the fate of a spy always is," the other said. "We
are supposed to be neutral in this war business. No matter whether our
sympathy lies with Belgium, Germany, or France, we've got to try and
treat them as much alike as we can. Our company has been negotiating
with the French Government for a long time, now, over this contract, and
so, of course, we have to favor them if anybody; but boys, not one of us
would like to feel that we were the cause of a spy being shot or
hanged."

"Oh well, we could kick him off the place after we got him out, Frank,"
suggested Pudge so aggressively that Billy chuckled, and started to
smooth the fat chum down the back, just as one might a pugnacious
rooster who was boiling with a desire to plunge into carnage.

"That sounds all right," Frank told him; "but you forget the one
important thing. He has some knowledge of this raid, and if we let him
go it may mean a great disaster to the fleet of seaplanes taking part in
the dash up the coast."

"Whew! looks like we might be what my father would say was between the
upper and the nether millstones," remarked Billy.

"Gatling guns and grasshoppers," Pudge added, "my father would go
further than that, I guess, and say we were between the devil and the
deep sea. But Frank, you're the one to decide that question. What shall
we do?"

"There is a way," Frank announced, "by which we could settle it so the
man wouldn't fall into the hands of the military authorities, who would
execute him, and at the same time he could be kept from betraying what
he may have learned."

"Glad to hear it," said Pudge; "because I don't want to know I've been
instrumental in standing a poor fellow up before a file, and getting him
filled with cold lead. Tell us about it, please, Frank."

"After we've captured the man we'll get word to the civil authorities,
saying we've caught a thief in our hangar, and asking them to keep him
safe for two or three days. I'll go and see the Major myself, and get
him to promise that the man will be treated only as a thief and not as a
spy."

"You've guessed the answer, Frank," announced Pudge, with the enthusiasm
he always showed when the leader of the aviator boys blazed a trail out
of some wilderness in which they had lost themselves.

"Then the sooner we get busy the better," hinted Billy, again working
that good right arm of his as though it might be rapidly getting beyond
his restraint.

"We have no firearms, though," suggested Pudge.

"There's no need of any," Frank told him. "I'll hold this wrench in a
way that'll make it seem like a six-shooter. The rest of you can help
pile on the man when we drag him out of the locker, either feet or head
first, it doesn't matter which."

"Just give me a chance to sit on him, that's all!" threatened Pudge, at
which Billy could be heard to chuckle, as though he pitied anyone who
went through that far from enviable experience; perhaps Billy knew from
his own associations with Pudge what such an operation meant.

"Now, here's the way we'll fix it," began Frank. "I'll step over again
to the other side of the hangar to work at the motors of the _Sea
Eagle_. Pretty soon you'll hear me calling to you both to come around
and see what a clever little arrangement I've fixed up."

"Which will, in other words, mean the fun is about to begin?" commented
Billy.

"When you join me," continued Frank, "we'll jabber for a minute, during
which I'll say we might as well go to town and get something decent to
eat at noon. That will be apt to put him off his guard. Then we'll all
tiptoe over to the locker, and at a signal throw the door open. As soon
as you glimpse him, take hold, and start to pulling like a house afire.
That will keep him from trying to fight back or use his weapon, for I
guess he'll have a gun of some kind. Understand it all, boys?"

"Go on, Frank. Please don't wait any longer than you have to," pleaded
Billy.

So Frank, a minute or two later, called to them to come and see what a
splendid little change he had made in the gear of the deflecting rudder
of the big seaplane.

It was a thrilling moment for the three boys when they began to move in
the direction of the locker where Frank believed a spy had taken refuge
many hours previously. As he had suggested, they walked on their
tiptoes, each fastening his eager gaze upon the door which they expected
to presently pull suddenly open.

When they had taken up their positions according to Frank's plan, he
gave the expected signal.

"Now, everybody!"

The locker door was dragged open in spite of the fact that something
seemed to be clinging desperately to it from the inside. No sooner had
this been accomplished than the boys, stooping, seized hold of the
doubled-up figure they could see in the cavity under the bench, and
started to drag with might and main.

[Illustration: "Don't try to draw a gun or you are a dead man!"--Page
125.]

Although the man in hiding made a powerful effort to resist the pressure
brought to bear upon him, he was hardly in a position to do much.

They dragged him out, squirming like a rat taken by the tail, and trying
to hold on to every object, however small, as a drowning man will catch
at a straw. No sooner was he in full view than Pudge dropped down on his
back with all his force.

A dismal groan announced that the breath had been pretty well driven
from the spy's lungs; and before he could recover his wits enough to try
and produce any weapon Frank clapped the end of his wrench against his
temple while he called out in very commanding tones:

"Don't try to draw a gun or you are a dead man! I've got you covered,
and will pull the trigger if you so much as move a hand!"

Having in this manner caused the prisoner to behave, Frank hastily
searched his pockets and confiscated a stubby little revolver which he
found there. Then he told Billy to tie the man's wrists together,
placing them behind his back, with a stout piece of tarred rope that lay
within convenient reaching distance.

"Now he's helpless, and we can let him get to his feet if we want," said
Billy; but Frank thought otherwise.

"It's better to be on the safe side," he observed. "So use the balance
of the rope around his ankles, Billy. I want to leave you two here while
I go to town and make arrangements through Major Nixon to have the man
held simply as a thief and not as a spy. I'd like to know he couldn't
get away."

They found that he was rather a small man, with a cunning face. He did
not look very much like a German, and possibly had been picked out for
his hazardous pursuit on that very account.

To their surprise he addressed them in the best of English.

"I am an American citizen, you must know, and I have the papers to prove
it. My name is Hans Larsen and I came from Sweden many years ago."

"Oh! is that so?" remarked Frank, who had lately read that many Germans
across the sea had been able to secure the naturalization papers
belonging to others in order to cross to Sweden or Italy without being
taken prisoner by the English naval men, and Frank rightly guessed the
spy had fortified himself in that way so as to have some means for
escaping death in case of capture.

"Then what were you doing hidden in that locker?" demanded Billy.

"I have no money, and I was hungry," said the man. "I came here to pick
up something I could sell for a few sous, and get some bread. Then I
heard voices and afraid to be seen I crawled under there. Let me go and
I shall never bother you again."

Billy laughed in his face.

"They say a lame excuse is better than none," he remarked, "but when
Frank pulled that fierce-looking gun out of your pocket I saw a bright
coin fall to the floor. Here it is, and a gold coin in the bargain. An
English sovereign at that. I wonder why anyone should go hungry long in
Dunkirk these days with all that money in his pocket? Don't try to trick
us, my man. We know why you were hidden in that locker, and you don't
need to be told what a spy can expect when caught in the act."

The man shut his teeth hard together, and gave a little groan, but said
nothing. He evidently expected that the fate he may have dared so often
had at last found him out.



                              CHAPTER XII.

                         FRANK MAKES A BARGAIN.


"What's the next thing on the program, Frank?" asked Billy.

"I must go to town and see Major Nixon," came the prompt reply.

"You mean so as to hand this prisoner over to his charge, don't you?"

"I want to get in touch with the civil authorities, and make certain
arrangements looking to his detention for several days," explained
Frank.

The spy started and looked eagerly at the speaker. His dry lips moved as
though he were trying to voice the sudden hope that had flashed through
his brain; but no sound followed. Still it could be seen that his
despair was not as complete as before.

"But Frank," interrupted Pudge, "perhaps it won't be necessary for you
to skip out and leave."

"Tell me what you mean, Pudge?" Frank asked him.

"Use the telephone, and talk with the Major. Yes, it was knocked out of
commission by those smarties, but while you were away this morning,
having nothing else to do, I amused myself hunting for the break in the
wire, which I found and easily spliced."

"Does it work all right now, Pudge?" questioned Billy, grinning at the
thought of the other doing all that climbing, because action of this
sort was hardly the forte of their stout chum.

"As good as ever, for I tested it," he was told.

Frank, however, shook his head in the negative.

"I think I had better go personally and see the Major," he told them.

"How's that, Frank?" remarked Billy quickly. "Do you suspect that in
some way those men may have tapped our wire?"

"Well, I wouldn't put it past them," came the reply. "Spies have to be
up to all sorts of clever dodges, and that would be just in line with
their work."

Billy gave a whistle to indicate the state of his mixed feelings.

"Gee whillikins, to think that we haven't whispered a single sentence
along that wire but what some outsider was drinking it in! Frank, I
guess you're right, and that in a particular case like this it's best to
deal at first hand with Major Nixon."

"I'm sure of that, boys," the leader told them in his quiet, convincing
way.

"And I suppose that you want us to stick by the hangar while you're
away; is that the game, Frank?" Pudge wanted to know.

"Yes, and be mighty careful how you take your eyes off the prisoner for
even a minute," Frank directed. "I'm going to look all around the place
before I leave, so as to make sure there isn't another spy hidden away
in some corner. As soon as I step out, fasten the door and keep it so. I
may call you up over the wire, and if I do you'll know my voice.
Besides, to make absolutely sure I'll give you our old signal. That's
about all."

He bustled around for several minutes, and thoroughly explored the whole
interior of the hangar. When Frank had finished his task he was
absolutely sure that no intruder larger than a mouse could have escaped
his search.

Once outside he made for the gate, where he found a couple of
rosy-cheeked British khaki-clad Tommies on guard, with whom he exchanged
pleasant greetings.

"Don't let a single soul get past here until I come back again," he told
them. "I'm going to see Major Nixon, who is a personal friend of mine,
and my business with him is very important. We've caught a--well, a
thief in the hangar, and I want him to take charge of the rascal. If you
hear any row in there while I'm gone have some of your men go up to the
door; but keep the gate guarded meanwhile."

The two soldiers promised that they would attend strictly to business.
They knew something of what these young American boys were doing over in
France, and that their presence had to do with the closing of certain
arrangements with the French Government that had been under way before
the breaking out of the war.

Frank walked off.

He was feeling very well satisfied with the way things were coming out.
It was true there might be some cause for uneasiness in connection with
the determined efforts of the spies to either steal or ruin the machine;
but Frank believed he and his chums, assisted by the Allies, could keep
it from being destroyed through a bomb placed under the hangar by a
secret agent of the Kaiser.

One could not go very far in the neighborhood of Dunkirk in those
stirring days without being visibly reminded that it was a time of war.
Soldiers in detachments were moving this way or that; tents could be
seen in the fields; artillery was passing along the heavy roads bound
for the front, where the British army in the low country along the Yser
Canal must be getting ready for that long-heralded drive that was to
usher in the new policy of aggression in the early Spring.

Everywhere he looked Frank could see signs of this feverish life. How
different things were across the ocean in his own beloved land; and how
thankful he was that peace lay upon the great country of which he was a
son.

He knew where he was likely to find Major Nixon, for he had been to see
him at his quarters before now. As he walked quickly along with a
springy step, Frank was laying out his plan of campaign. It was like him
to prepare for possibilities, because he was determined that, as far as
he could prevent it, he and his chums would not take sides in this
terrible struggle for supremacy, any more than could be prevented.

Coming to the building in which the British had their Headquarters he
was stopped by a sentry who demanded his business.

"I must see Major Nixon on very important business," Frank told him. "I
hope he is in his quarters, for I wish to send my card with a line on it
to him."

Of course all that the sentry could do was to summon a noncommissioned
officer, to whom Frank repeated his request. It happened that the
sergeant had seen Frank walking arm in arm with the Major, and hence
knew that they were friends.

"He is very busy just now, and gave word that he was not to be disturbed
except on most important business," the sergeant informed him.

"This is a matter," the boy told him impressively, "that concerns grave
issues connected with the plans of your leaders, and I hope you will see
that the Major gets my card."

"I will carry it to him myself," announced the sergeant, which he
accordingly did, and soon came back nodding his head.

The few urgent words written on the card had the desired effect, for the
sergeant immediately asked Frank to follow him.

"Major Nixon told me to say that he would see you, sir," was the message
he gave the boy.

Presently Frank entered the soldier's room. He found the Major
impatiently awaiting his coming, and with an extended hand in the
bargain.

"My word! but you've given me a beastly shock by what you write," he was
saying as he shook hands. "'Plans threatened with disaster--must see you
at once!' Now be good enough to tell me what it all means, for I'm
shivering with dread. If anything happened to upset all those splendidly
arranged plans for the raid, we'd be broken-hearted, you know."

"Before I say a single word, Major Nixon, I want you to give me your
promise to agree to a certain stipulation I shall make. It simply
concerns a man's life; and will not interfere the least bit with your
ideas of military rules."

"That's a singular request to make, Frank, but I think I know you well
enough to feel sure you will not bind me to anything that would touch
upon my honor. I promise you then that you shall have your way; for I
imagine you want to have the disposal of this unknown man in your own
hands."

"That is just what I want, Major," returned the other quickly. "And now
listen while I tell you of a remarkable thing that happened after you
left us this morning."

"At your hangar, do you mean?" asked the soldier, looking startled.

"Yes."

"I hope you don't intend to tell me any of our men have proven false to
their trust and betrayed you, Frank; because I happen to know that the
aviator corps expects great things of that invention of Dr. Perkins',
should it eventually become the property of the French Government."

"There has been no traitor in the camp, Major," the other hastened to
assure him. "But nevertheless we have learned that all the while you
were there talking to us, and while we have been discussing the intended
raid in low tones among ourselves, there was a spy concealed in the
hangar who must have heard more or less of what was said, despite our
precautions."

The soldier jumped to his feet. He looked almost frightened as he stared
into the face of Frank Chester.

"You are sure of what you say, are you, Frank?" he asked with an effort.

"Oh! there isn't the slightest doubt about it," came the reply.

Then Major Nixon began to breathe easier. He saw that Frank was smiling,
and his common sense told him the boy would not be likely to show such
freedom from anxiety if things were as bad as he had at first feared.

"Frank, tell me the rest without delay. I know you've got good news back
of this astonishing disclosure. Where is that spy now?"

"In the hangar still," replied Frank.

"Did you take him prisoner?" demanded the Major eagerly.

"Yes, and I'll tell you how it was done, sir. We had quite a little
circus for a short time, believe me."

Major Nixon listened, and as he heard how Pudge sat down upon the
surprised eavesdropper whom they had dragged from the locker, he even
smiled, for that terrible fear had by now left his soul.

"My word! what great luck that you caught him before he could send any
sort of signal to his companions!" he exclaimed. "And we must see to it
that he does not have a chance to even wink an eye toward anyone. It
would have ruined everything if he had slipped away. I am a thousand
times obliged to you, Frank, for being so much on the alert. It would
have ruined my own career if the break had been traced back and placed
on my shoulders. We will see to it that this spy gets all that is coming
to him."

"Oh! but you forget your promise, Major Nixon!" remarked the boy coolly.

The soldier looked at him and frowned.

"But Frank, a spy is a dangerous sort of reptile, no matter on which
side he is working," he objected. "These Germans have the most complete
system of secret espionage ever known. It is hard to keep anything from
their knowledge. This man knew the risk when he hid there in your
hangar. He should pay the penalty of his venture. He can expect nothing
less than death."

"Wait, Major Nixon; please remember that he is _my_ prisoner, not yours.
If I had spoken the word he could have been set free. You gave me your
solemn promise that I should have the say of his fate if I handed him
over to the authorities."

The soldier pondered these words for a minute before continuing.

"Tell me just what you've got in your mind, my boy," he said, "and I
feel certain that I can agree to it, because I know how sensible you
are."

"Then listen, sir," said Frank impressively. "We three are Americans,
and while we may sympathize with the Allies in this struggle at the same
time we do not hate the German people, but feel the warmest friendship
for them. We would not care to remember that we had turned over this spy
to the military authorities to be shot. It would grieve us more than I
can tell you, sir."

"But you have a plan, Frank, of course?" ventured the other.

"Yes."

"Which, it is to be hoped, will protect our great secret?"

"Here is what I want you to agree to, sir," Frank told him. "We will
turn this man over to the civil authorities of Dunkirk to be considered
solely in the light of a sneak thief who meant to steal something from
our hangar and dispose of it so as to buy food. He has papers to show
that he is by birth a Swede, but an American citizen by adoption."

"Ah! yes, but those have undoubtedly been stolen, and are being used for
a purpose anyone can understand," declared the soldier.

"Yes, that is what we believed, sir," said Frank. "At the same time if
he were shot it might raise an unpleasant tension between my Government
and the Allies. As I look at it, the main thing you want to do is to so
arrange it that this spy can in no manner communicate with any of his
fellows. Am I right there, Major?"

"Yes, yes; that is the principal thing we must consider now, Frank."

"All right, that can be done just as well if he is shut up as a thief,
and at the end of three days, after the raid is a thing of the past,
allowed to take his departure from Dunkirk with a warning that if caught
again he will pay the penalty with his life."

Again the soldier pondered. He did not like to let the spy off so
easily, for like most bluff fighting men, Major Nixon felt an aversion
for those clever secret agents who could block the plans of generals
through securing information in advance.

Finally he gave a sigh and smiled at Frank.

"My word! but you know how to handle matters, Frank," he observed. "Of
course I can see just how you and your fine chums must feel about this
thing; and on the whole I do not blame you. Yes, I give you my promise
again that it will be done as you say. We will take the man to a place
of security where he cannot find a chance to communicate with his kind
in any possible way. He will be known simply as a suspected thief on the
records. And after the raid is over with, I myself will see that he is
led to the outskirts of the town, and let go with a warning. Is that
sufficient, Frank?"

"Yes, sir, for I know your word is as good as your bond," Frank told
him. "I feel I have done my duty without being instrumental in
sacrificing a life."



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                          NOT CAUGHT NAPPING.


Frank was perfectly satisfied with the promise given him by Major Nixon.
He knew the bluff British soldier would keep his word to the letter.
While the man who had been caught hiding in the hangar of the young
American aviators would be taken to a place of security and kept
carefully guarded, in order to prevent his knowledge concerning the
contemplated aërial raid from leaking out, at the same time his life
would not pay the penalty of his capture.

After some more conversation covering the matter Frank, knowing the
other to be very busy, took his leave.

"A last word of warning, my boy," said the soldier, after shaking hands.
"Keep on the alert wherever you go in Dunkirk. While the place itself is
loyal, and is thronged now with soldiers of every type, at the same time
we know there are many secret sympathizers with the other side here
trying to learn the plans of our generals, so that they can communicate
them to the Kaiser's leaders."

"But why should I be picked out for trouble?" asked Frank.

"Because they know that you are here to complete a deal entered into
with the French Government in connection with your wonderful seaplane
before this war was dreamed of. They would be willing to do something to
prevent you from standing between their plans and the securing or
destroying of the machine in the hangar."

"I had not thought of it in that light," said Frank, disturbed more or
less.

"Pardon me for saying it," continued the Major, "but they understand
that if you could only be made to disappear your companions would be
much easier to hoodwink, and their plans looking toward destroying the
_Sea Eagle_ would be crowned with success. You will be doubly careful,
Frank, I hope."

The boy promised this. Even though he might not be willing to admit that
these secret agents of the Kaiser would dream of attempting any
violence, at the same time he saw the soldier was really concerned about
him.

So they parted with mutual good wishes.

Frank found himself again on the streets of the French seacoast city.
Dunkirk was a far different place in these strenuous war times from the
other days, when peace lay upon the land, and men went about their
customary vocations of fishing, trading, and disposing of the products
of the rich soil.

Now everywhere he looked Frank could see soldiers, and then more
soldiers. They thronged the principal streets, and passed in and out of
the shops buying things that appealed to their fancy. There were all
manner of strange foreign troops to be met with--Gurkhas from far-away
India; Canadians who resembled the Rough Riders of our own Spanish War
times; Colonials from Australia or New Zealand; and many others who
interested the boy very much.

Then, with the warning of Major Nixon still ringing in his ears, Frank
suddenly became aware of the fact that he himself was an object of
interest, though there was nothing about his make-up calculated to
attract attention in all that strange collection of men from the four
quarters of the globe.

Several times, on glancing hastily about him, he had noticed a certain
man dressed like a citizen apparently staring into the window of a
store. Frank began to believe the man was following him, and so he made
a test to prove it.

"I like that, now," he said to himself, with a chuckle when again he
found that he had not shaken the unknown off his track by slipping into
a certain side street, for the man was standing there on the curb as he
turned, and calmly brushing his sleeve as though utterly unconcerned.

"I wonder if they would dare try to stop me on the way to the hangar,"
Frank was asking himself, though he immediately added: "that's hardly
likely, for there's really no time when I'm out of sight of soldiers on
the road, because they're going and coming constantly. I could even fall
in behind a regiment if I wanted, and have plenty of company all the way
to the gates of our compound."

Just then he found himself attracted by the actions of a couple ahead of
him, a man of middle age and a woman. Apparently she had been seized
with some sort of vertigo, for the man was acting as though dreadfully
alarmed. He had thrown an arm about her, and was looking around in an
appealing way.

It happened that Frank was about the only person nearby, and it was only
natural for him to hasten forward.

"Oh! please help me support my wife, young sir!" exclaimed the citizen
as Frank arrived. "She is fainting, and just when we had reached our
home here. Would you mind supporting her on the other side, and
assisting me to get her to the door?"

An appeal like that could not be easily resisted, especially by one so
ready to help others as Frank Chester had always been in the past.

Somehow it did not appear to strike him as singular that the citizen
should be so fluent in his English when he was supposed to be a
Frenchman. All Frank thought of then was that the man was in
difficulties, and it would be next to nothing for him to lend the other
a helping hand.

So he took hold on the other side of the woman who was acting as though
swooning. Frank could not but notice that she appeared anything but
fragile.

The door of the modest looking house was close by, and between them he
and the distracted husband managed to half lead, half drag, the fainting
woman up to it. The man immediately opened the door with one hand.

"Please assist me a little further, and I will be so thankful!" he
pleaded.

Frank might have actually entered the house, only for a little thing
that he had noticed. As they approached the door he had seen the man
cast a quick glance upward toward the second story. The latticed blinds
were shut, but as Frank used his eyes to advantage he believed he saw
someone's face back of the screen.

Like a flash it struck him that the man must have made some sort of
quick signal to the party who was hidden up there. Frank became cautious
in that second, remembering the warning given him by Major Nixon.

These spies were up to all manner of trickery in order to carry out
their well-laid plans, and might not this pretended swooning of the
woman be only a bait intended to coax him into a trap?

Frank immediately released his hold of the woman, and he noticed that
she did not appear to be in danger of falling after he had withdrawn his
support, which in itself was a suspicious sign.

"Oh! I hope you will help me just a little further!" exclaimed the man.
"Inside is a chair, and if we could place her in that it is all I could
ask of you. Thank you a thousand times for what you have done already;
but do not leave me just yet."

It seemed hard to refuse, but Frank steeled his heart. He was positive
by now he had been made a victim to a deep-laid plot, and if he but
stepped within that open door something unpleasant was sure to happen to
him.

"You will have to excuse me, but I can go no further," he said hastily.

The man said something half under his breath. Frank saw that the woman
was apparently suddenly regaining her senses, for she had thrown out a
hand, and seemed to be trying to clutch hold of his sleeve.

The boy had no difficulty in avoiding the contact, however, thanks to
his suspicions. He dodged back, and then with a smile turned and walked
quickly away. When he glanced over his shoulder a minute later the
couple had vanished, evidently going into the house, which Frank could
imagine must be a nest of spies.

"That was a pretty close call for me," he was saying to himself as he
walked on; "and I can imagine there'll be a hurried exodus from that
building inside of a few minutes if I cared to hang around and watch.
They'll be afraid that I may tell on them, and have the soldiers
surround the place. But it isn't my business as a neutral to have German
spies arrested and shot."

Frank sauntered on. He had a few errands to attend to, some small
supplies to purchase connected with the seaplane, for new wants were
constantly cropping up in that line.

The little adventure caused his blood to warm up, but Frank had been
through so much in his past that he had by this time come to take such
things as a matter of course, and accept them philosophically.

"If that was intended for a stall," he said to himself presently, "it
shows how desperate they're getting about our disposing of the _Sea
Eagle_ to the French Government. Why, you'd think orders had gone out in
Berlin to prevent the transfer by hook or by crook. Certain it is these
people are risking their lives in the effort. But they will have to get
up pretty early in the morning to best us, that's all I can say, even if
it does sound like boasting."

Though remaining watchful, he was soon busy with his errands. No one
brushed elbows with him in the stores but that Frank used his eyes to
take note. Those who could arrange such an ingenious scheme as that
swooning lady and the call upon him for assistance might be equal to
other games of like character.

He managed to accomplish his several duties without any further cause
for alarm, and was once more on the streets observing all that happened.
A constantly increasing push of eager observers toward a certain point
told Frank there must be something of an unusual interest taking place
there, and consumed by the same curiosity he joined the throng, for he
had heard someone say the ambulances with the wounded had just come in
from the front.



                              CHAPTER XIV.

                         THE PERIL IN THE SKY.


Day after day the wounded from the front were being received in Dunkirk,
Calais and other places along the coast. They were usually taken further
on as soon as their immediate wants could be attended to.

In many cases the stricken soldiers would be carried by train to the
large Red Cross hospitals in and around Paris. Then besides this, on
many a night a steamer would start from Dunkirk across the Channel
bearing hundreds of British back to their own shores, where they could
receive the best of care among their people. These voyages were made
when possible in the gloom of night, and at full speed, in order to
avoid the risk of having the vessel torpedoed by lurking German
submarines, ready to deliver crushing blows to her enemy's ships.

Frank stood in the crowd and watched the transfer of the poor fellows to
the temporary hospital. They were mostly British soldiers who had
received their injuries while trying to hold the trenches against some
fierce drive on the part of Bavarians or Prussians.

As he saw one after another swathed figure borne on stretchers from the
ambulance motors into the hospital, Frank felt a sense of pity for all
these who were suffering on account of this terrible war, no matter on
which side they chanced to be.

He finally turned away, not caring to see any more such pitiful sights.
He marveled at the brave front displayed by even the most dreadfully
wounded men, who tried to greet the crowd and smiled through the mud
that plastered their faces.

Remembering what he and Billy had discovered in connection with the
gathering of a new army back of the German trenches, Frank expected that
in a few days there was bound to be a greater stream of wounded pouring
into Dunkirk than ever before, because a desperate attack was doubtless
contemplated.

When he learned from Major Nixon that some of the Allies' aviators had
brought in the news concerning that gathering host of gray-clad
soldiers, Frank realized that he could speak of it without reservation,
since it would not be giving information as to the enemy's contemplated
plans.

Remembering one more errand which needed his attention, Frank, after
leaving the vicinity of the Red Cross hospital, had immediately started
to look after it. He was through with it and actually starting for the
hangar when once again he became aware of the fact that a sudden
confusion had broken out. People were shouting in an excited manner, as
though a mad dog had broken loose and was coming down the main street of
Dunkirk.

There was no difficulty in learning what was the matter. That wild cry
of alarm was becoming very familiar to the ears of the worried citizens
of Dunkirk these stormy days.

"The Germans are coming! The Germans are coming!"

In French and in English this shout was being carried along, constantly
added to by scores of voices. People rushed pell-mell this way and that,
many dodging down into cellars, as though seeking safety from some
terror that was likely to descend on the coast city like a cyclone.

Those who were not yet running had their necks craned, and their eyes
turned upward toward the northeast. Frank stepped over to where he could
see better, and then he also "rubbered," as Billy would have called it.

On numerous occasions the German aviators had conducted an organized
raid on Dunkirk, dropping dozens of terrible bombs in what seemed like
an indiscriminate fashion. Possibly these were in the main intended to
damage the camps or accumulated stores of the British legions; but if so
the aim of the men in the Taubes was singularly bad, for the majority of
the bombs had thus far either exploded in the open streets, or shattered
private houses.

Many innocent persons, including women and children, had suffered from
these explosives, and it was not singular then that whenever the cry was
raised that the "Germans were coming," meaning a raiding flock of
aëroplanes, there would ensue a mad panic in the streets of the French
city.

"There are several moving things over there away up in the heavens,"
Frank told himself as he gazed in more or less excitement. "Even without
a glass I'm almost ready to say they can't be Taubes."

He stood there watching and waiting until the soaring objects drew
closer, when their true identity could be discovered.

Frank, being an aviator himself, quickly detected certain things that
the common observer might never have discovered; and which told him the
half dozen specks in the sky that February morning were birds and not
aëroplanes.

"Some gulls flying high," he murmured as he watched. "Yes, there they
circle around, which aviators bent on bombarding the city and then
running off in a hurry would never think of doing."

He told those near him that there was nothing to fear, as the suspected
Taubes were only harmless birds. The cheering word was passed along from
mouth to mouth, and some of those who only a few minutes before were
looking very peaked and white commenced to laugh, trying to make out
that they knew all along the advancing specks were only birds.

By degrees even the shivering inmates of the cellars learned that it was
a false alarm, and ventured to appear again.

"And I suppose this happens several times every day," Frank mused as he
watched the arteries of traffic once more begin to flow naturally.
"While little damage that amounts to anything has been done by the
bombs, the coming of the Germans is looked forward to with dread. I
suppose if a flier happened to be brought down with a well directed shot
from a gun it would give the people more pleasure than anything they
could wish for."

It struck him that possibly the other boys might have heard something of
all this excitement and would be worried about him. So Frank stepped
into a store he knew of and proceeded to get the hangar on the wire.
There was some little difficulty at first, as though a good many people
were trying to communicate with their homes for some purpose or other.
Finally a voice called in good English:

"Hello! that you, Frank?"

"Yes, that's who it is, Billy. I only called you up thinking you might
have heard all the shouting, and wonder what it was."

"Oh! some of the guards here guessed it, and we've been watching the
gulls through our field glass. But how about the other business, Frank;
is it all fixed?"

"I'm coming back right away," Frank told him. "Soon after I join you,
there will be something doing. I'll tell you the rest when I get there;
but everything is going on O. K. So-long, Billy. Keep watching, for
they're ready to try everything under the sun to gain their end. I've
got a new story for you when I come."

Frank by this action had not only accomplished his purpose of relieving
the minds of his chums, but at the same time he had made sure that
things were unchanged at the hangar.

Determined not to take any risks that could be avoided, Frank waited
until he saw a battery of field-pieces moving along the road that led
close by the gate of the hangar. Perhaps the guns had come over from
England on the previous night, and being badly needed at the front, were
starting forth.

This was the opportunity he wanted. By keeping alongside the guns and
caissons he could defy any hidden danger. If there were spies waiting to
waylay him in some rather lonely spot, just as they had Pudge on the
preceding night, the presence of those young khaki-clad warriors seated
on the gun carriages and ammunition carts would foil them.

There was no trouble. Possibly Frank might not have been held up even
though he chose to take the walk without any protection; but when in
doubt it was always his policy to "play safe."

When he again found himself in the hangar, the others were eager to hear
what he had promised to tell them.

"You've been having another scrape of some sort, like as not," ventured
Billy, pretending to look morose, as though he begrudged his comrade
that privilege while he and Pudge were only sitting there killing time.

Frank thereupon related how he had been drawn into rendering assistance
when the said-to-be wife of an apparent citizen of Dunkirk, who spoke
excellent English without a French accent, appeared to faint close to
the door of her own home.

The other boys were thrilled by what seemed like a narrow escape on the
part of their comrade.

"Ganders and gridirons, Frank!" exploded Pudge after listening with
distended eyes to the account given by the returned chum. "That was a
narrow squeak for you, as sure as anything."

"Yes," added Billy, "they had it all laid out to trap you. If you'd
dared to step inside that open door I reckon you'd have been tapped over
the head, and when you came to again it would be to find yourself in
some old damp and moldy cellar. I give you credit for tumbling to their
smart game, Frank."

"Bayous and bullfrogs, they certainly do want to get hold of this bully
machine of ours the worst kind, and that's a fact!" spluttered Pudge.

"But tell us about the Major, and what he agreed to do?" asked Billy.

"It's all fixed just as we figured it," replied Frank. "I want this man
here to understand what has been done, so come over to where you've got
him."

The prisoner had been watching them eagerly. He must have guessed that
Frank had been gone to settle about his fate, and, if ever a man looked
nervous, he did, as the three boys advanced toward him.

"Listen to something I want you to hear," said Frank. "We know what you
are, and that if you were given in charge as a spy you'd likely be shot
by to-morrow morning. But we are American boys, and not at all inclined
to have the blood of a German honestly serving his Fatherland on our
hands. Do you understand what I am saying?"

"Yes, go on," muttered the man, brightening up, though still anxious.

"I have arranged it with the authorities that you will only be looked on
as a petty thief. You will be held in close confinement for a few days
until it is certain that any information you may have picked up while
here in this building will be useless. Then they will take you out of
the city and set you free, with a warning never to be seen here again if
you value your life."

Now the man's face lighted up in a smile.

"That is much better," he said, after drawing a long breath of relief.
"We thought you were on the side of the Allies, because you meant to
turn _it_ over to the French Government."

"You must remember," said Frank impressively, "that this machine had
been over here, boxed but not assembled, for months before the war
opened. My company had a contract with the French people, who insisted
on representatives being sent across to demonstrate the new flier;
otherwise they threatened to seize it, and make duplicates without our
receiving any remuneration--the necessities of war. That is why we have
come, and are even now trying to carry out the terms of that agreement.
You can tell your people that only for this our company would not dream
of making aëroplanes for one side or the other. They could not be
shipped out of the United States, anyway."

"I understand your position," said the man; "and while it explains many
things it does not change our design to prevent the enemy from profiting
by your improved type of machine. If by any means it can be stolen or
destroyed we believe we are only doing our duty by the Fatherland in
risking our lives to attempt it."

"Well, here comes the patrol to take you to the city prison; and,
remember, you are to insist that you entered our hangar to steal, not to
spy on us," Frank told him.



                              CHAPTER XV.

                               ON GUARD.


"You will restore to me my papers, I hope?" remarked the man.

"If you mean the naturalization papers that stamp you as one Hans
Larsen, formerly of Sweden," replied Frank, "I am going to put them in
your inside pocket. But they will be taken by the officials, and I doubt
if you ever see them again. They must know they are either stolen,
bought, or forged, and that you only carry them to give trouble in case
you are arrested."

He was as good as his word, for he had taken the papers to show the
Major in case any proof were desired after his story had been told.

Then came the file of British soldiers, direct from Major Nixon. They
brought a note from the officer to Frank and his chums, desiring that
the prisoner be turned over, and also stating that the word he had given
Frank would be religiously kept.

The spy walked away in the midst of his guards, who had orders not to
let him communicate with anyone on the way. In order to make more
positive of this, they had a covered wagon close by, in which he was to
be conveyed to the jail.

"I'm glad we're free from him," said Billy, after they had watched the
party leaving the stockade.

"You don't think there would be any attempt made at trying to rescue him
while they're on the way?"

"Sugar and sandwiches, but I should hope not!" exclaimed Pudge.

Frank did not seem to be worrying about such a remote possibility.

"No, I don't think they're numerous enough to risk an encounter with a
dozen armed Tommies looking for trouble, just as Pudge here would look
for his breakfast," he observed.

"Now we've got the place all to ourselves," said Billy. "There's such a
thing as being overcrowded, as the backwoodsman remarked when he heard
that another family had started a clearing three miles away from his
shack. But I'd like to have been down in Dunkirk when they sighted those
gulls coming sailing along, ever so high up in the air."

"Dories and dingbats, but I warrant you there was some excitement to the
square inch," Pudge insinuated.

Frank laughed as he stretched himself out on a bench to rest.

"You missed a grand sight," he told them.

"Lots of people scared, I take it?"

"Well, they were fairly crazy," he was told. "If a menagerie of wild
animals had broken loose and come to town it could hardly have created
more of a panic than when that cry sounded through the streets: 'The
Germans are coming!' Men, women and children all ran this way and that.
Some dodged down into cellars, while others crawled under front
door-stoops, as though that would save them in case a bomb burst close
by. It was a panic, all right, and I never saw anything like it in all
my experience."

"They must have felt silly after they found out what it really was?"
Billy went on to say.

"Oh, not so very much," he was told by the one who had been on the spot,
and was in a position to relate things at first hand. "You see a good
many started to make out they knew the dots must be birds, and said they
had just been carrying on in that excited way for a lark."

"To be sure," declared Billy, "that's the way lots of people always try
to crawl through a little hole when caught with the goods on. Some of
the others, I reckon, laughed it off, and admitted that they didn't care
to be blown up; that they got plenty of that sort of thing at home, as
it was. But, Frank, how about our own program?"

"You mean about staying here and being ready to start off when we get
the word--is that it, Billy?"

"Yes; shall we stick it out here the rest of the day?"

"I think," said Frank, "none of us have any need to leave the place
again until we start the motors and open up on the second trial spin,
this time with some of the best British aviators along to observe how
the _Sea Eagle_ carries herself."

"Do you think there will be a representative of the French Government
aboard to take notes along the way?" asked Billy.

"That's my understanding of the case," he was told.

"Well, it ought to settle the matter of our business, Frank."

"Just what it must," came the reply. "We'll give an exhibition of all
the _Sea Eagle_ is capable of doing in a way to make those other
seaplanes look sick. Then we'll expect to have the deal closed. That's
my understanding of the bargain."

"But, Frank, whatever are we going to do for eats between now and
to-morrow, when we come back from the raid up the coast?" asked Pudge,
with a despairing expression on his fat face that would make anyone
believe he had lost his last friend; or else just heard the news that he
was to be hanged in three hours.

"I've fixed all that," the other told him, "and right now I think I see
the wagon coming with a lot of good stuff, such as can still be had in
Dunkirk if you've got the francs to buy it with."

Pudge was comforted by hearing such glorious news. He immediately took
up his position outside the door from where he could keep an eye on the
road close to the stockade gates.

"What are you doing out there, Pudge?" called Billy.

"Sandwiches and sauerkraut, but you wouldn't want to run the risk of
having that grocery wagon miss the place and drive past, would you,
Billy?" demanded the sentinel; and the others let him alone, knowing
full well that Pudge would not allow any accident of that sort to come
about as long as his voice held good.

It turned out that Frank had bought a whole assortment of things to eat;
indeed, Billy declared he believed they could stand a siege of a whole
week with that lot of foodstuffs to fall back on.

"Three days, anyhow," assented Pudge, who evidently had a different
viewpoint from Billy when it came to sizing up the lasting qualities of
edibles.

With the aid of the little stove they prepared a lunch, and really
enjoyed it immensely. Pudge seemed to be reminiscent, for he brought up
numerous half forgotten times of the past when in company with Harry
Chester they had enjoyed many a similar repast, cooked under strange
conditions it might be, but never to be wholly forgotten by those who
took part in the feast.

Then the afternoon came and it was a long one to the three chums shut up
for the most part in the hangar. The fire was kept up in the stove,
because there was a tang to the February air so close to the Channel.

Frank went carefully over every part of the seaplane to make certain it
was in the best shape possible for the long journey they had before them
under conditions that no one could possibly foresee. He did not mean to
neglect the slightest thing that could add to their comfort and safety.

Pudge had managed to make himself a pretty cozy nest with a couple of
blankets, and he put in part of the afternoon "making up for lost
sleep," he told them. It was a standard joke with them that the fat chum
was always far behind in his customary allotment of sleep; somehow or
other he never did seem able to fully catch up.

Billy and Frank often stepped outside and took an observation. This not
only included the weather but the conditions existing on the harbor,
where there were boats of various descriptions to be seen, for the most
part unloading war material sent from Great Britain in spite of
Germany's submarine warfare.

"This has been a pretty good day for aërial work, Frank," suggested
Billy. "What about the prospects for to-morrow?"

"I think we can count on it holding about as it is for another
twenty-four hours," came the answer, "and then a change is about due.
It's still cold enough to snow, and I expect we'll meet a lot of snow
squalls when we're making that trip up the Belgian coast."

"Do you really believe there'll be that many seaplanes in the
bunch--thirty or more, the Major told us?"

"They have planned to make this raid a record breaker, it looks like,"
said Frank, "and will try to get out every machine they have a pilot
for. It's going to be a feather in our caps to be able to say we
accompanied them, no matter what amount of damage they manage to inflict
on the submarine bases, or railway stations and gas or oil tanks of the
German army."

"Well, I think we're in great luck to get the chance to go along, Frank;
though, of course, we don't mean to throw a single bomb, or do the least
thing to harm the Kaiser's army. As I look at it the main purpose of our
being allowed to accompany the squad of raiders is to let them see what
cards we're holding in this invention of Dr. Perkins. The French
Government officials want to be shown, just as if they were from
Missouri."

"They'll see a few things calculated to make them open their eyes,
unless I miss my guess," said Frank, with quiet confidence; for he knew
what the _Sea Eagle_ type of hydro-aëroplane was capable of doing when
properly handled, and only longed for the opportunity of showing those
British aviators, some of them well-known air pilots, the crowning
triumph of Yankee ingenuity.

"It's getting on toward evening now, with the sun near setting time,"
remarked Billy, as though he felt that a load was taken from his
shoulders with the passing of that almost interminable day.

"There's a steamship coming in," Frank said. "It's taking all sorts of
chances of being torpedoed, even if the Germans have said they are
holding back until the eighteenth to start the reign of terror."

"Do you really think the submarine blockade is going to work?" asked
Billy.

"Honestly I don't see how it can," Frank replied. "They have only a
certain number of the latest undersea vessels capable of staying away
from a base for a week. These can't be everywhere, and are liable to be
sunk by torpedo boats. I've no doubt the Germans will punch holes in a
good many small steamers; but as a rule the big ones can run away from
them. I guess it's a whole lot of a bluff, between you and me."

"Will Great Britain dare them to do their worst, do you think, Frank?"

"Yes, even knowing that they threaten to sink merchant vessels and their
crews of noncombatants without giving warning. Somehow or other it does
seem to me that Germany is doing everything possible to make outsiders
distrust her. But I suppose we can't look at things the same way they
must from inside, especially since England threatens to _starve_ Germany
into submission."

"There's the sun going to set," remarked Billy.

They stood and watched it go down, and the gray of evening begin to
creep across the cold sea. So that night in February closed in. Like a
grim phantom the steamer came stealing into the harbor, with few lights
showing.

"Let's go in where it's warm and comfortable," said Billy. "Frank, since
we have plenty of stuff along with us why not make an allowance of
coffee for the men who are standing guard over our plant here. A mug of
hot coffee would take the chill out of their bones, I'm thinking."

"A good idea, Billy, and thank you for suggesting it. We'll find what
Pudge says, and carry it out. With the lantern we can make the rounds,
and see that no sentry is omitted."

With such sentiments spurring them on, the boys entered the hangar and
found that Pudge was already deep in the pleasing duty of getting supper
ready. Hardly had they mentioned the subject of treating the guards to a
cup of hot coffee than he announced that he was heartily in accord with
the scheme.



                              CHAPTER XVI.

                        THE COMING OF THE DAWN.


"Just in time to help me out in planning a bill of fare for supper,
too," Pudge told them. "There are some tinned meats here, but I'd prefer
something good and warm."

That difficulty was soon swept aside, for the others nominated several
dishes they chanced to be exceedingly fond of, and Pudge found he was
going to have his hands full preparing them with such limited
accommodations.

However, willing hands make light work, and both Frank and Billy were
ready to give him all the assistance required; so that in the end they
had quite a feast spread upon the little drop-table that took up no
space at all when not required for use.

It was a peculiar supper-setting, with only that one lantern to give
them light. Of course they could have used the acetylene lamps, but
their supply of carbide was rather low, and there could be no certainty
about obtaining a further amount, so Frank thought it best to husband
what they had.

The weird appearance of the big seaplane added more or less to the
strangeness of their surroundings. Still, by this time, all of the boys
had become so accustomed to seeing its bat-like wings, and the boat body
with the spoon-shaped bow that they would have missed it had the hangar
been empty.

Over the meal they chatted in low tones, discussing many things
connected with their mission across the sea. Little was said concerning
the contemplated dash laid out for the following morning, because in the
first place they knew none of the particulars; and then again the raid
was the Allies' secret, not theirs.

The unexpected presence of that concealed spy had given them a rude
jolt. They appeared to be living in an atmosphere of espionage; and
somehow it seemed as though hostile eyes and ears might be close by,
even though unseen.

When finally they were through, it was remembered that they had decided
to give the chilled guards a treat; so Pudge brewed a copious amount of
strong coffee that was of a rich dark color, and had the "odor of
ambrosia," as Billy called it.

"Since you've done so much, Pudge," remarked Frank, "you're going to be
the one to go along with me on the rounds. So get that big tin cup, and
we'll carry the can of condensed Swiss milk with us. We might as well
give them the coffee just as they fancy it, either black or with the
fixings."

Pudge beamed on his chum. Evidently he had not expected to be favored
with an invitation like this; for as a rule he was apt to be left behind
on account of his well-known clumsiness.

Frank, however, was wise enough to carry the steaming pot of coffee
himself, as an insurance against spilling. If Pudge did happen to trip
over some unseen obstruction and measure his length he could hardly do
worse than spill the thick condensed milk, or dent the big tin cup.

So they started forth, and coming to the gate first of all surprised the
two khaki-clad Tommies there. How eagerly they in turn quaffed the
contents of that common tin cup can be imagined, for the night air was
growing cold, and a dismal prospect stared them in the face.

Frank carried the lantern in one hand; it was in the dark of the moon,
and he meant that none of the guards should make a mistake and fire upon
them for unwelcome prowlers.

News of their coming was sent on ahead, each sentinel calling out to the
next one; and in this way the boys made the complete rounds, neglecting
none.

When they finally returned to the building it was with an empty pot, and
the satisfaction of knowing they had done something to cheer up the
brave fellows who were protecting their property.

Frank himself went the rounds of the hangar once more to make sure that
everything was as it should be. There was a sense of responsibility
resting on him that the others did not feel in the same degree, for
Billy was one of those care-free individuals, and as for Pudge, did you
ever know of a fat, good-natured boy worrying?

"I hope we don't have any trouble between now and dawn," Billy was heard
to say as they began to get things ready for sleeping, each having a
blanket, as well as some cushions with which to form a rude bed.

"Yes, because to-morrow ought to be a big day for the _Sea Eagle
Company, Limited_," added Pudge, swelling a little with pride as he
pronounced that name. "In fact, it promises to eclipse anything we've
ever stacked up against before in all our travels."

"It was all very fine," commented Billy, "to knock around the Moon
Mountains in Africa, meeting up with wild beasts and wilder men; it was
thrilling to be away down there in the frozen regions of the Antarctic;
but let me tell you all those happenings rolled into one couldn't equal
a trip over the fighting lines of two great armies in a death grapple
along the trenches."

"I'm not going to get one wink of sleep this whole night, thinking about
it," asserted Pudge, shaking his head in a sad fashion; but somehow his
threat did not seem to give either of his chums the slightest degree of
anxiety, for they knew what an enormous propensity Pudge had for sleep.

It may have been about ten o'clock when they all lay down and tried to
lose themselves in slumber. The lantern had been extinguished, but Frank
had things fixed so that if any sudden necessity arose he could press a
button that was close by his hand and illuminate the interior of the
hangar with the searchlight connected with the seaplane.

Just as they expected, Pudge was breathing stertorously before seven
minutes had crept by, proving his dismal foreboding to have been an
empty threat. Billy was the next one to drop off; and finally Frank,
too, lost track of things after he had tried various expedients in the
hope of forgetting himself.

They were aroused by a sudden loud noise that sounded like an explosion.
All of them sat upright as though brought in contact with a galvanic
battery; but Frank desisted even when his hand was in the act of
reaching for the button connected with the light.

If that had been a bursting bomb dropped by some hovering German Taube,
for him to betray the exact position of the hangar by starting up the
brilliant electric searchlight would be the height of folly.

"What could that have been, Frank?" Pudge was asking in trembling tones;
for as it afterward turned out he had been having a weird dream, and his
first thought on being so rudely aroused was that the top of a volcano
he was exploring had been blown off by an eruption, sending him a mile
high.

"The Germans have made a night raid, and are trying to smash the _Sea
Eagle_, after seeing what she could do to their machines and
dirigibles!" declared Billy, as if his mind had already been made up.

"Do you think so too, Frank; and are we apt to be blown up any second
now by a better aimed bomb than that first one?" Pudge demanded,
evidently trying hard to control himself, and show that he could face
danger with an undaunted front.

Frank had had time to think. He realized that several things conflicted
with such an explanation of the mysterious explosion. Voices, too,
outside could be heard, and it was evident that the guards were calling
to one another.

"On second thought," Frank ventured to say, "I don't believe that could
have been a bomb. It didn't make near enough noise, though perhaps we
thought it pretty loud on being waked up so suddenly."

"Then what could it have been, Frank?" demanded Billy.

"I've got an idea one of the guards may have fired at some prowler,"
replied the other; "in a minute or so I'll take the lantern and go out
to see."

He insisted on going alone, and the other two remained back of the
barred door awaiting his report. Frank was gone about twenty minutes
when his signal was heard on the other side of the door. Upon being
admitted he at once eased their fears.

"After all, it was the discharge of a gun, just as we guessed," he
observed. "One of the guards believed he saw a shadowy figure creeping
along. He challenged, and on hearing the bushes shake as the unknown
started away, the sentry shot."

"Perhaps, after all, it was a false alarm?" suggested Billy.

"No, it was a prowler, all right," said Frank, "for the sergeant and
myself went out to where he told us he had aimed, and we found not only
footprints in the dirt, but specks of blood as well, showing that the
soldier had winged the spy."

"Tamales and terrapins, but that is thrilling news, Frank!" exclaimed
Pudge. "Did you try to follow the trail, and see if the poor fellow was
lying around anywhere?"

"It made for the road, and we lost it there," said Frank. "I reckon it
was not a very severe wound, for while the man evidently limped he did
not lose much blood. Not wanting to be away from the hangar any longer
than we could help, the sergeant and myself came back."

"One good thing," remarked Billy, "those chaps will have learned that we
are on the job, all right. They'll be careful how they come sneaking
around here again, or try to blow up our plant. What time is it now?"

"Just two o'clock," announced Pudge, referring to his nickel watch by
the light of the lantern which had not as yet been extinguished.

"Between four and five hours more to put in before day comes 'a-peeping
over the hills,'" half sang Billy, as he started to arrange his rude bed
again, for in the haste of their turning out, things had been thrown
aside rather recklessly.

There was no further alarm that night. Apparently, those who would have
given much to have wrecked the hangar with its contents, so as to
prevent its being taken over by the French military authorities, feared
to again approach the guarded stockade.

Billy, after all, was the first to discover signs of dawn through the
window which was secured with the heavy wire mesh. He immediately
aroused the others and they proceeded to get the coffee on the stove.

Just when they would receive the signal was uncertain; so that it was
considered the part of wisdom to be prepared in advance.

"I wonder where we'll take the next meal," Pudge remarked, as they sat
there at the table and satisfied their appetites with what had been
prepared.

Billy was about to make some sort of grim joke on the possibility of
their not ever needing another "feed," but on second thought he
desisted. It was not a subject to be made fun of, he concluded, because
the danger of an accident was always in evidence when far up among the
clouds.

"We'll make up a snack to take along with us," said wise Frank. "It may
come in handy, you know."

"Pumpkins and partridges, but it does take you to think up things,
Frank!" cried Pudge, beaming on his comrade, for that proposal was right
in his line of weakness.

"There's someone at the door, Frank!" announced Billy.

The day was coming on, as Frank could see when he partly opened the
door. He discovered a stranger standing there, a swarthy looking,
slender man, who was apparently a Frenchman, if appearances went for
anything.

"Pardon, but have I the pleasure of addressing M'sieu Frank Chester?" he
asked.

"That is my name," replied the boy. "Have you come from Major Nixon?"

"I have a letter here from that gentleman," said the other. "It is to
prove that my identity is correct. For I am to accompany you on this
interesting trip, to discover what strong points your seaplane develops.
My name, young M'sieu, is Armand Le Grande."

Frank was thrilled when he heard the name, for he knew that Major Nixon
had been wise enough to send one of the most famous of all French
aviators to accompany the _Sea Eagle_ on its dangerous mission.



                             CHAPTER XVII.

                           NEWS BY WIRELESS.


Frank immediately opened wide the door and bade the other welcome. He
even held out his hand, and made the French aviator feel that they were
delighted to know he was to be with them.

"First of all be pleased to read what Major Nixon has written here,"
said M. Le Grande, after being introduced to the other boys, who were
surveying him with natural curiosity, because they, too, recognized his
well-known name.

Frank quickly read the contents of the note. It was to the point, for
the British officer was a man of comparatively few words.

    "My Dear Frank:

    With this I introduce my friend Monsieur Armand Le Grande. You
    know what he has done in your line. He will be your passenger on
    the trial trip. Remember, you are the sole commander, as M. Le
    Grande is there simply to take notes, and advise, if you care to
    ask his valued opinion at any time. The best of luck to you all,
    and may this day be one never to be forgotten, both here and in
    the tight little island across the Channel. When we receive word
    by wireless, I shall let you know over the phone.

                                                    Yours sincerely,
                                                 JOHN NIXON, Major."

Since Frank knew the handwriting well he could not have any doubt
concerning the authenticity of the letter. It happened that he had also
seen pictures of the noted French birdman, and they corresponded with
the features of the man who had come to them.

If Frank, therefore, had in the beginning entertained the slightest
suspicion, it was by now wholly allayed. Sitting there while the
newcomer enjoyed a cup of black coffee, they talked in low tones of the
contemplated voyage.

It was wonderful to see how calmly they discussed the tremendous
possibilities of the great raid by aëroplanes on the enemy's works. Ten
years back, had anyone ventured to affirm that in so short a time scouts
would be sailing through the upper currents at the rate of two miles a
minute, and even "looping the loop" in a desire to prove their mastery
over air, he would have been set down as visionary and a dreamer.

Frank went to the double doors opening on the trestle that ran down to
the water and took an observation.

"There is some haze on the sea," he announced, "but it is rising, and I
think we are going to have a fair day for the trip."

They had made all preparations, so that when the summons came there
should be no occasion for unnecessary delay. Knowing that they would
find it bitterly cold far up among the clouds while moving at high
speed, all of them were careful to don the warmest clothing possible. As
they wandered about the interior of the hangar they resembled mummies to
some degree; but appearances count for little with the venturesome men
who risk their lives while emulating the birds.

All at once there was a quick angry buzz.

"The 'phone, Frank!" cried Billy.

Frank darted over and clapped the French receiver to his ear.

"Hello!" he called.

"Who is it?" asked a voice he recognized as belonging to the Major.

"Frank Chester; is that you, Major Nixon?"

"Yes, has he arrived, Frank?"

"If you mean M'sieu Le Grande, yes. He's here with us, waiting for the
time to come when we make the start."

"Well, it is here. I have called you up to tell you, Frank."

"Have you received a message by wireless from across the Channel, sir?"

"We have," replied the Major. "It told us that the fleet had started
from Dover cliffs, and would be across in less than half an hour, if all
went well."

"Good news! You make us happy when you say that. Shall we get out at
once and be ready to join them when they show up?"

"Lose no time, for they may be here sooner than expected; and again the
best of luck go with you, Frank, my boy. May you and your chums return
in safety, and your passenger bring back a glowing report. That's all;
now get busy!"

Frank swung around. His young face fairly glowed with animation and
expectation.

"How about it, Frank?" asked Billy, as nervous as ever.

"They're on the wing and heading this way. Everybody get aboard while I
fling open the doors and fix it to start!"

There was no confusion because they all knew exactly what was expected
of them, and everyone had his place arranged.

Frank swung aboard as the big seaplane began to move. In another second
they had passed beyond the doors and commenced to descend the trestle
leading to the surface of the bay.

The seaplane took the water with the grace of a swan. There was
something of a splash when the connection was made, but that odd bow so
like a spoon had been built especially to spurn the water, and so the
craft skimmed along just as a flat stone hurled by a boy's hand will
skip over the surface until its momentum has been exhausted.

"There's something of a crowd over there watching us, Frank!" announced
Billy, as he pointed to the shore, at some little distance away.

"Could they have known about what we expected to do," remarked Pudge,
"or is it just the idle crowd that was chased away yesterday by the
guard, come to see what's on the program for to-day?"

"The chances are some of those spies are among the lot," Billy said at a
hazard.

"If they are they'll be kicking themselves soon because they can't get
word to their friends up the coast," Pudge continued, looking as though
he considered that he might be going to have the time of his life, as no
doubt he was.

Frank did not start up. There was no necessity for doing it, since he
had no desire to show off before the Dunkirk people, and it was the part
of wisdom to conserve all his resources for the strain that awaited
them.

He had his field glasses in his hand, and with these he now began to
scan the heavens toward the west, veering a little to the northwest. The
others waited anxiously to hear what he might discover.

"Nothing in sight from here," announced Frank; "but then that was to be
expected. We are low down on the water, and there are more or less
streaks of haze in the air to interfere with a good view."

"It's too soon to look for them, anyway," added Pudge.

"How long do they expect to be on the journey across the Channel,
Frank?" Billy inquired.

"From what Major Nixon said, I should guess from twenty minutes to half
an hour," Frank explained. "It all depends on what air currents they
strike, and whether they meet with any accidents on the way."

"There's our friend the sergeant waving to us from the shore," announced
Billy. "He doesn't know what's going on, but he wants you to understand
he wishes you all kinds of good luck."

"Oh!" suddenly cried Pudge, "what's that over there, Frank! Focus your
glass on it and tell me! I hope it isn't one of those sassy little Taube
machines come to bother us just when we want to be let alone."

"No fear," he was told by Frank as soon as he caught the far distant
object that had caused this outbreak on the part of the fat boy. "That's
only a gull circling around in the sunlight."

"Hadn't we better be up so we can join the fleet without wasting any
time?" asked Billy

"No need," Frank assured him. "I understand that they mean to swing in
here, and then make a fresh start straight away up the shore."

"But why should they come in here at all, when they could just as well
have headed straight from Dover to Antwerp and Zeebrugge?" demanded
Billy, who with that reporter instinct of his always wanted to know the
why and wherefore of everything.

"There are several reasons, I believe," Frank went on to say. "For
thirty seaplanes to cross the Channel with its variable winds is a big
feat, and it was to make sure all was well with each member of the fleet
that they laid out to start fresh from here. Then, I fancy, several
other machines are waiting here to join them, so as to make the raid as
big as possible, and strike a note of alarm along the naval bases of the
coast."

"Now I understand better," admitted the other, always willing to listen
to any explanation given by Frank, for whose opinion he entertained
considerable respect.

The minutes dragged. Even Pudge manifested unusual impatience, and kept
craning his fat neck in the endeavor to scan the sky toward the west, as
though in hopes of making a pleasing discovery ahead of Frank with his
glasses.

"There goes one man up in his biplane!" remarked Billy, who had happened
to turn his head and glance back toward the city, attracted possibly by
a distant humming sound that was strangely familiar.

"And a second following him in a monoplane," added Pudge. "I suppose now
those fellows will join the squad that's meaning to do some damage to
interior points like Bruges."

Both the boys looked toward Frank appealingly, as though they hoped he
would think best to follow suit, but he did not make the slightest move.
Instead, he held the field glasses again to his eyes as he swept the
heavens far to the west for signs of the coming squadron of navy
aëroplanes and seaplanes that had left the cliffs of England, sailing
high to avoid the fog that lay upon the Channel there.

"It must surely be twenty minutes from the time they started by now,"
urged Billy presently.

"Just that to a fraction," announced Pudge, looking to see.

"They may have met with contrary winds up there and be delayed," urged
Frank. "Because it seems so quiet down here is no sign that the
conditions are the same a mile high. Be patient! I expect to soon have
some good news for you."

"I surely hope nothing has happened to break up the tea party, once it's
got off on the trip," grumbled Billy.

Pudge said nothing more, but sat there watching Frank. He knew they
would learn of the coming in sight of the fleet first of all from the
one who carried the magnifiers; and hence he kept his eyes on the face
of his chum.

When Frank lowered the glasses Pudge gave a soft wheeze, as though he
had been fairly holding his breath meanwhile; then as soon as the other
started to look again Pudge resumed his former occupation of watching
for signs.

Even the longest night must have its end, and this absorbed vigil on the
part of the fat boy was not without receiving its reward.

When Frank, on the next occasion, not only hastily lowered the glasses
but passed them along to Billy, Pudge knew the crisis had arrived at
last.

"There they come!" cried Billy, as soon as he had clapped the smaller
end of the field glasses to his eyes. "Oh! what a raft of them I can
see! Must be a hundred in that bunch, Frank, anyway, all of fifty if
there's one!"

But Frank knew how Billy was prone to exaggerate, without meaning to
deceive.

"Let M. Le Grande take a look, Billy," he suggested, which aroused the
other to a remembrance of the fact that they had as their guest a most
famous aviator who should be treated with every consideration.

Pudge did not ask to look. He was too busy watching Frank, who had made
as if to turn on the power and start things going. For, after skimming
over the surface of the water, the big seaplane would mount up like a
bird on the wing.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.

                       OFF WITH THE AIR RAIDERS.


"Zip! we're off!" cried Billy, as he heard the familiar whir of the
motors, and felt the forward push of the sea and air craft.

Pudge was not so accustomed to being aboard one of the _Sea Eagles_ when
starting out on a cruise. His father, knowing the customary clumsiness
of Pudge, had preferred as a rule that the fat boy stay upon the solid
ground while his more agile chums attempted the aërial stunts.

But Pudge complained so much that Frank had thought it best to let him
accompany them on this wonderful journey. It was likely to eclipse
anything they had ever experienced before, and must ever remain as a
memory worth while.

The speed increasing, they were soon rushing over the surface of the
harbor at a furious rate. Then, as Frank slanted the ascending rudder,
they left the water to course upward at a low angle, which, however,
could be increased as they circled the harbor.

Loud cheers came to their ears from the shore, where that crowd had been
standing. They were echoed, too, from several other points, showing that
all Dunkirk must be on the alert this morning, as though it might be in
the air that wonderful things were about to transpire.

"Are those cheers for us, do you think, Frank, or because they've
discovered the fleet coming along?" Billy asked, although he had already
waved his hand toward the shore.

"It's hard to tell," Frank replied. "Though they must have glimpsed the
bunch heading this way, and guessed what it all means. I don't see any
person running to hide in a cellar, as they do when the Taubes are
around."

Mounting higher, they waited for the arrival of the fleet. It was a
sight never before witnessed. The air was fairly filled with buzzing
seaplanes of various patterns, jockeying for position much as is seen on
the race course before the signal to start is given by the firing of a
pistol.

"Listen to all the racket, will you?" cried Pudge, and indeed the noise
of so many motors and whirling propellers did sound strangely.

"It's like a young Niagara, that's what I'd call it!" declared Billy.
"Why, sometimes you can't hear yourself think for the Bedlam that's
broken loose. Say, tell me what the Germans up the coast will think has
struck them when this flock descends on Zeebrugge, and batters away at
the docks and the submarine bases."

"They're all under the charge of a central seaplane, too," added Frank.
"For, if you notice, the signals are always sent from that one just
passing us now."

One of the muffled figures in the other aircraft waved a hand at them.
Something was said at the same time, which Frank took for granted must
be a question as to whether they expected to accompany the raiders.

He nodded his head in the affirmative, at the same time displaying a
little red, white and blue flag he carried, and which must have
considerably astonished the pilot of the British seaplane, evidently the
chief controller.

"I did that so he might know we didn't expect to drop any bombs, or have
a part in the raid itself," Frank explained, turning to his companions.

"They're all worked up over seeing such a whopping big seaplane here,"
remarked Pudge, with a touch of the old pride in his voice. "They're
having the surprise of their lives right now, let me tell you. I'm glad
they know that it's a Yankee machine."

"But, Frank, as we understand it, all these bomb-droppers don't intend
to go to one place, do they?" asked Billy, as he watched the whirring
machines flit past like so many big dragon flies.

"No," came the ready answer. "When up the coast a piece, there'll be a
division starting inland to damage the railway station and try to get at
the supplies the Germans have gathered at Bruges, as well as some other
points."

"Well, what about us then?" asked Billy.

"Yes," added Pudge, also deeply interested; "do we go on with the
seaplanes and keep tabs of what they do up around Ostend and Zeebrugge,
or else switch off and go over the land the same as you and Billy did
yesterday?"

"I've fixed all that with M. Le Grande here," Frank told them. "He
expressed the wish that we might see fit to keep with the main body
along the shore, because it is expected the most spectacular feats will
be attempted there."

"Gee! I was hoping you'd say that, Frank!" Billy exploded.

"Suits me to a dot, too!" Pudge followed by saying.

"I hope they are going to start right away," added Billy.

"There's a message being sent up by heliograph," explained Frank. "Of
course, we can't read the flashes, but it's meant for the man in the
leading plane. I expect it will tell him everything is all right for the
start."

He proved a true prophet, for immediately afterward some signal was
given that caused the entire assemblage of aëroplanes to cease their
evolutions and head in a long double string up the coast.

The boys, despite the clattering of propellers and the humming of many
striving motors, could catch the distant wild cheers that the assembled
people of Dunkirk sent after them. It was a benison of good wishes, and
a hope that the object of the great raid might be fully accomplished.

Frank kept somewhat above most of the aircraft. He had several objects
in doing this, chief of which was the design to show that he was in a
class by himself, and not to be included in those who had come forth to
fight. Besides, it allowed them to observe all that was going on below;
as well as being in a position to show the pilots of the fleet a few
little things connected with the strange looking _Sea Eagle_ that would
cause them to feel more or less astonishment, and envy as well.

"Will you show them something, Frank, now that we have the chance?"
asked Pudge.

"It will have to be before we get to the first place they expect to
bombard, then," Frank replied, meaning, of course, that once the work of
the fleet began there would be no time for any of them to manifest any
interest in the evolutions of the American built aircraft.

When Frank had moved a lever that called for all speed, and the motors
were working at the astonishing rate of almost two thousand revolutions
a minute, it seemed as though they had left the rest of the fleet far in
the lurch. Green flames spouted from the exhausts, for Frank had opened
the muffler in order to get every ounce of speed out of the motors.

They could see the pilots of the other seaplanes looking up at them in
mingled wonder and admiration, for, like the jockeys of race horses, it
is the ambition of every aviator to possess the fastest going machine on
the market.

Having secured a free section of space to himself, Frank proceeded to
put the wonderful _Sea Eagle_ through her paces. He showed what could be
done in various ways, and while possibly most of those other craft were
capable of accomplishing similar tricks, the fact was made patent that
the superior size of the American made hydro-aëroplane did not act as a
bar to the ability of the _Sea Eagle_ to maneuver in a dexterous fashion
while going at that tremendous rate of speed.

"Now we'll have to stop, and mount a little higher," Frank remarked,
having circled around and found himself once more back of the leaders in
the procession.

"There go several aëroplanes off to the right!" announced Billy. "I
reckon that's the detachment told off to tackle Bruges and other
interior places."

"We're coming to Ostend!" Frank told them, pointing down to where the
city of the celebrated bathing beach could be seen, with the houses and
hotels close to the famous sandy stretch of shore.

There were boats in the harbor, and they must be German owned or they
could not have come there. Billy, using the glasses, could see that the
most tremendous excitement had seized upon every one in sight. People
were rushing in every direction, soldiers as well as civilians; the rays
of the sun glinted on cannon that were being hastily changed, so as to
point upward.

"There goes the first anti-aircraft gun!" called Billy, as a faint boom
reached their ears from far below.

"Watch what the fleet pilots do!" Frank told them.

Apparently the plan had been well worked out, and every pilot knew
exactly what was expected of him. Maps of the region had been carefully
studied in order that the position of each vulnerable point of attack
might be known.

If there was a railway depot which the Germans used every hour of the
day, and the loss of which would cripple their transportation
facilities, that was picked out to be an object of attack. Here was a
mole alongside of which possibly submarines tied up, and its destruction
would deprive the enemy of a valuable station. Further on a large shed
marked the spot where great stores had been gathered, and if a bomb
could only be exploded in the midst, it was going to mean that there
would later be a shortage of provisions. An oil tank, an ammunition
magazine, a forty-two centimeter gun, such as battered the forts at
Liège to pieces, all such were fair objects of attack wherever they
could be found. The one order that had been given to every pilot was to
avoid destroying the property of civilians as far as possible.

As Frank and his chums looked down from their higher level they saw a
sight such as had never before been witnessed by human eyes. The air was
filled with a flock of circling, dodging aëroplanes, with puffs of white
smoke breaking above, below, and in some cases amidst them, as the guns
on the ground were fired again and again in hopes of bringing one or
more of the venturesome craft down.

Various explosions far beneath proclaimed that the bombardment from the
sky was in full blast. Most of their ammunition, however, would
doubtless be kept for the more important base at Zeebrugge, where
raiding submarines were wont to start forth on their daring excursions
through the waters of the Channel, seeking to destroy British and French
merchant vessels or ships of war.

Already the leading seaplanes had passed over the watering place known
as Ostend and which before the war had been a famous summer resort.
Doubtless their departure would be watched with mingled feelings by the
thousands of German soldiers who had been interested observers of this
wonderful sight in the heavens. They would also doubtless wonder what
was going to happen when the aërial fleet returned, as it surely must,
to its base at Dunkirk.

"How about Antwerp?" asked Billy. "Think they'll take a turn up there,
and drop a few reminders on the railway station, or some of the forts
they say the Germans have been building up again?"

"I hardly think so," Frank replied. "This is a raid on sea coast places,
as I understand it. They want to strike at the submarine bases so as to
upset the plans of the Germans for next week, when the blockade of the
coasts of Great Britain and Northern France goes into effect. They'll do
some damage at Bruges and Blankenberghe I expect, just as we shied a few
at Ostend; but the main thing will happen when we get to Zeebrugge."

"I think that must be the place just ahead of us right now, Frank!"
called out Billy, who was again using the glasses, bent on seeing
everything that occurred; for he realized that they were highly favored
by fortune in being given a chance to witness such strange sights.

"Yes, that is Zeebrugge," Frank admitted. "Now we'll see something worth
while, if no snow squall comes along to shut out our view!"

"Pirates and parachutes," cried Pudge, "but I hope that doesn't happen
to us."



                              CHAPTER XIX.

                      HOW ZEEBRUGGE WAS BOMBARDED.


On their way up the coast there had been several occasions when, for a
brief space of time, as a cloud was encountered, the onrushing fleet of
seaplanes was swathed in a flurry of blinding snow. That was why Frank
expressed the wish nothing of the kind might occur while the bombardment
of the Belgian town on the edge of the Channel was in progress.

Zeebrugge is at the terminus of a canal, and had no sooner fallen into
the hands of the Kaiser's forces than they realized it would make an
admirable place from which to start their submarine vessels against the
shipping accustomed to using the English Channel.

The submarines were sent there in sections and assembled in shipyards
arranged for that purpose. In fact, as the war progressed, Zeebrugge was
rapidly becoming a very important center of military and naval industry.

As Frank well knew, Antwerp might have served the purposes of the
Germans much better, but to reach the sea, vessels would have to cross a
section of Holland, and the pugnacious little Dutch country had declared
she would resist such invasion of her rights to the last man and vessel.
As the Hollanders have always been good fighters, with an army of half a
million men to back them, Germany had wisely chosen to make use of
Zeebrugge.

Billy reported that the same excitement existed as at Ostend. Everywhere
there were men seen running, and pointing upward toward the flock of
aërial war craft.

"And I don't blame them a bit for being scared," he went on to say. "Two
or three aëroplanes at a time are bad enough, but thirty in a
bunch--holy smoke! it would frighten any American community half out of
their wits, I'm thinking."

"There goes the first shot at us!" announced Pudge, and it was strange
how he, unconsciously perhaps, seemed to include the _Sea Eagle_ in the
list of invading aircraft, though they did not mean to lift a hand
against the defenders of Zeebrugge.

"It fell far short," observed Billy. "They're so worked up they hardly
know what they are doing. This time I reckon the seaplanes mean to keep
above the reach of the shrapnel."

"In which they show their good sense," Pudge replied. "It only takes a
little hit to bring an aëroplane down to the ground; and if a pilot and
his helper ever dropped from this distance it means good-by."

Except when one of the shrapnel shells broke below them, the air was
clear enough for the boys to see everything that went on. Billy soon
began to complain, as usual.

"Say, it's ten times worse than a three-ringed circus," he declared.
"You can't, with so many pilots dropping bombs while they circle around,
possibly watch more than a small part of what's happening down there."

"Keep an eye on that mole along the edge of the water," advised Frank.
"That is where the submarines stay when they're in port, and it's being
pounded pretty lively, you notice."

"But why waste so much ammunition on an empty dock?" asked Billy.

"It's of importance that they destroy it," Frank explained. "I've got an
idea they expect there may be several submerged boats alongside the
mole. Perhaps, when the Germans had word from Ostend that the terrible
air fleet was headed this way they guessed that the main object of the
raid was to destroy their undersea boats; so they would be apt to sink
them of their own accord, and in the natural way."

They hovered over the spot, making short circles so they could witness
all that occurred. M. Le Grande had produced binoculars from some part
of his person, and was keeping them glued to his eyes constantly.

No doubt, in time to come, the boy aviators would often picture that
wonderful scene in their minds when lying in their peaceful beds at
home. With the buzzing of the flying seaplanes that darted to and fro,
the sharp bursting of the shrapnel in furious volleys, and the heavier
sound of the guns themselves far beneath, it certainly was an event
never to be forgotten by those fortunate enough to be able to experience
it at first hand.

Now one of them would call the attention of his comrades to some special
feature of the battle scene that had caught his eye; and hardly would
they rivet their gaze upon this before something else quite as thrilling
called for notice.

They could even tell when the bombs, which the aviators were dropping,
burst or failed in their intended mission. Long practice had made the
airmen fairly accurate, though many of their missiles would be wasted,
of course, and others go wide of the mark.

The sea wall was battered out of shape under the hurricane of bombs sent
at it. Further on cars and motors were smashed when another well
directed shot burst in their midst, causing a wild stampede on the part
of a company of gray-coated Bavarians. These men had been firing several
of the guns that could be elevated at an angle of almost fifty degrees,
and were made especially with the idea of bringing down aircraft.

Several of the hostile airmen seemed to have marked out an oil tank as
the target of their aim. It was a small thing to strike at such a
distance, and a number of shots had gone wild. As though provoked at
such a waste of precious ammunition, one of the most venturesome of the
pilots suddenly swooped downward.

"Oh! watch him!" cried Pudge. "Now there's going to be something doing
worth seeing. I take off my hat to that chap for daring!"

He stopped talking then, for he had to actually hold his breath with
admiration and fear while watching the evolutions of the bold voyager of
the air.

The birdman swung this way and that with an eccentric movement that
effectually balked the designs of the gunners to burst a shrapnel shell
close to him. His altitude changed constantly, so they were unable to
regulate the fuses of their shells to meet the conditions.

It looked as though he were simply defying them to do their worst, or
begging a Taube of the enemy to risk rising to engage in a duel with
him.

"Why, he's right over their heads now, for you can hear all sorts of
rifles going off in volleys," said Billy. "Let's hope he keeps out of
their range."

"Dories and dingbats, but doesn't it beat anything you ever heard tell
of?" Pudge was heard to say as he leaned over and watched the exciting
picture; though he afterward declared it made him dizzy to see so many
seaplanes speeding this way and that like angry bees when the hive is
being robbed.

"Watch!" called Frank, who guessed from the signs that the bold pilot
must by this time have reached a point where he was ready to have his
assistant make the next cast.

Yes, they could see that he was leaning over now and apparently
balancing some object in his hand. The seaplane grew somewhat steadier
in its motion, as though they were willing to take additional chances in
order to obtain stability.

"There it goes!" shouted Billy, after which they all stared, and
listened to ascertain what the result of the cast would be.

There came an upheaval, accompanied by a billow of flame and dense black
smoke that rose in a cloud. The aviator had succeeded at great peril to
himself in dropping his bomb directly on the tank, with the result that
a large quantity of precious gasoline or oil was lost to the enemy.

Even as high up as the _Sea Eagle_ chanced to be at the time, those who
were seated in the car could feel the wave of air concussion. The
seaplane from which the fatal bomb had been dropped was seen to rock and
plunge very much as a ship would in a gale at sea; but the navigator who
controlled the levers knew his business, and managed to keep from
turning turtle, a fate that all aviators view with unpleasant
sensations.

Having accomplished his part of the raid, and earned the commendation of
his superiors, the gallant airman began to climb the spiral staircase
again, seeking a safer altitude. If all the others could do one-half as
well as he had this raid would not soon be forgotten by the defenders of
Zeebrugge.

"Not a single Taube have we seen since starting out!" said Pudge.

"Well, can you blame them for keeping under cover?" demanded Billy.
"What could they do against thirty big seaplanes such as we've got with
us? A rain of bombs would be the portion of any German pilot rash enough
to put up a fight. He'd be courting sure death if he as much as showed
his head."

In the beginning of the war the Germans were far superior to either the
British or the French with their aircraft. Their Taubes and Zeppelins
caused much alarm in many a French and Belgian city as they flew over
and dropped destructive bombs in the endeavor to terrorize the enemy.

That time, however, had gone by, and the assembling of this fleet of big
British seaplanes was a plain notice to the Kaiser that the day of his
supremacy of the air had passed into other hands, and that henceforth
his aviators were to find themselves outclassed for daring and skill.

Around and around the hostile planes circled, each spitting out from
time to time a fresh supply of deadly missiles that rained destruction
on the military works below. Of course, it would presently come to an
end. Then the wonderful fleet, having exhausted their supply of
ammunition, would take up the return journey, leaving to the defenders
of Zeebrugge the unpleasant task of counting up their great losses, and
trying to conceal much of the truth, as all sides invariably do under
similar conditions.

Frank was anticipating seeing some signal flying from the chief
seaplane, a sort of "cease firing" order. It was just at this time that
Billy discovered another exciting event being enacted, and called the
attention of his companions to the fact.

"I've been watching that chap trying to hit that magazine for some
time," he called out. "He seems to be in hard luck, and now he's going
down like the other one did to tackle the thing at closer quarters. I
only hope he gets through as well as the first one did."

"Yes, there hasn't been a single accident worth mentioning so far,"
declared Pudge. "I'd hate to see him dropped like a stone. Rafts and
rattlesnakes, but listen to the row they're keeping up. They just seem
to know what he's trying to do. Look at them running away from that
magazine like rats deserting a sinking ship."

Swooping down, the Allies' aviator was seen to head almost directly over
the object of his particular attention. Calmly he measured the distance
with his practiced eye, while the pilot slowed the seaplane down to a
moderate speed.

[Illustration: The magazine was seen to fly to a million pieces, while
up rose a vast cloud of smoke.--Page 217.]

They were in a perfect storm of bursting shrapnel, and at times the
smoke fairly concealed the moving machine. Once Pudge gave a low cry of
dismay, for he thought he had seen the seaplane plunging earthward a
wreck, when there would be no question about the fate of its venturesome
occupants.

Then he took fresh heart as a puff of air blew the white and gray smoke
aside, and it was discovered that the aëroplane was still afloat.

"Oh! why doesn't he do it?" cried Pudge. "It seems as if my heart would
climb up in my throat, I'm that worried. Throw now! There, he's going to
do it, boys, don't you see? I wonder if that shot will be any
better----"

Pudge did not finish his sentence, for just then there was a frightful
roaring sound. The magazine was seen to fly to a million pieces, while
up rose a vast cloud of smoke. The atmosphere was made to fairly quake
under the tremendous concussion, so that Pudge clutched hold of Billy,
who was alongside, as though he actually feared they would be overturned
and hurled into space.

Frank's heart also seemed to stand still, but it was not on account of
any fear for himself. When through the rising billow of black smoke he
saw that the daring author of this last blow at the invader's army was
apparently uninjured, Frank breathed freely again.



                              CHAPTER XX.

                        CAUGHT IN A SNOW SQUALL.


"Oh! they did it after all!" Pudge cried out as they saw the reckless
British birdmen in the seaplane start to run the gantlet of gunfire
preparatory to rising once more to a safe height.

That was about the feeling of relief that seized upon them all. The deed
had been so wonderfully daring that Frank and his two chums would have
cheered its successful culmination no matter whether a Frenchman, a
Britisher or a German had piloted the aircraft that carried it out--it
was the _men_ they applauded, not their nationality.

"How long is this terrible bombardment going to keep up, do you think,
Frank?" asked Billy, for it seemed to him he had been gazing on the
astounding picture for an hour, so many things had followed fast on each
other's heels.

"I expect that was the crowning stroke," replied Frank, making himself
heard only with some difficulty, owing to the clamor all around them
from bursting shrapnel, accompanied by the duller sounds coming up from
the distant earth.

"Then the aviators are getting low in their stock of ammunition,"
affirmed the observant Billy, "because I can see lots of things they'd
still like to smash."

"Most of them have already stopped throwing bombs," Pudge declared.
"That looks as if they'd reached the end of their resources."

"Yes," added Frank, "there goes a signal from the chief, and it must
mean the time has come to start on the return journey."

Even the seaplane that had undertaken the perilous task of dropping down
so as to make a sure job of blowing up the magazine had by now managed
to climb to the level of the other fliers. A general movement was
noticed, heading toward the south, and which must have been observed
with great satisfaction by the sadly harassed defenders of Zeebrugge,
who could now proceed to count up damages.

"It's been a wonderful trip for us," remarked Billy, as they again
soared above the fleet, and kept up "without half trying," as he himself
would have said.

"The greatest thing about it, according to my mind!" Pudge declared, "is
that not a single plane was brought down with all that firing. Why, even
up where we were I heard a queer singing noise several times, that must
have been made by parts of the bursting shrapnel shells. They're filled
chock full of bullets and all that sort of thing, I understand. How
about that, Frank?"

"Yes," the pilot told him, "as far as I know what is called shrapnel
to-day is pretty much the same as grape and canister used to be in the
time of our Civil War. It scatters in every direction, but is driven now
by a much more powerful explosive than in the old days when gunpowder
alone was used."

"Now that you mention it, Pudge," said Billy, "I heard some of those
whining noises myself. It must have been our swift movements that kept
us from being struck; and that's what makes it so hard for ground guns
to fetch an aëroplane down."

"Yes," Frank continued, "anyone who has tried to stop a duck speeding
past at the rate of seventy miles an hour knows what small chances he
has to wing the quacker. It takes nice judgment and a quick eye to do
it."

"So our excursion with the air raiders is all over, is it?" Billy asked,
with a tinge of regret in his tone; for being engaged in the building of
aëroplanes he naturally took the keenest interest in seeing such a fleet
of the aircraft in action.

"I was thinking of making a proposition to M. Le Grande here," ventured
Frank, without, however, taking his attention from his levers.

The experienced French aviator had been observing everything that
occurred with almost breathless interest. He had clapped his hands
enthusiastically and cried "bravo! bravo!" when the bold British birdmen
made that death dip, and succeeded in blowing up the magazine, taking
terrible risks of perishing themselves when the air waves caused their
machine to dance madly.

At hearing Frank say this he showed a keen interest in the possibility
of something new developing that had not been on the program.

"I should be pleased to hear what it is, young m'sieu," he now hastened
to say.

"Since the raid is over with," Frank commenced, "and the fleet bound for
Dunkirk and Calais, where we understand the tired pilots will rest a few
days before returning across the Channel, how would you like to have me
take you out over the battle lines as we saw them yesterday?"

Pudge showed uncommon interest immediately. He had heard so much about
the astonishing sights witnessed on that occasion by his two chums that
it would always be a source of bitter regret to him should he have no
opportunity to see the war picture for himself.

The Frenchman did not let a second go by, such was his eagerness to
accept the proposition advanced by Frank.

"That is charming of you, I must say, young m'sieu," he declared
enthusiastically. "If you would be so kind it would place me under heavy
obligations. To see how your wonderful _Sea Eagle_ can act under new and
novel conditions would complete my day, the most memorable of all my
experiences, and they have been many, I assure you, messieurs."

"Then there is really no need of our going down the coast any further,"
Frank explained. "We might as well make a sharp turn to the east here,
and say good-by to our gallant companions."

As they did this, the action was noted by many of the speeding airmen;
and while they could only guess at the object of the change, this did
not interfere with their calling out and waving to the boys.

Looking back, Billy and Pudge could see the flock growing smaller in the
distance as they scurried along like a covey of partridges. Well had
they done their duty for the homeland on that day, and their hearts were
beating proudly as they could see, in imagination, their names on the
Roll of Honor for Britain's sons.

Then Billy and Pudge tried to forget all about the late raid, for they
knew they would have plenty of excitement to the square inch with what
lay before them.

Just below where they broke away from the fleet of birdmen lay Ostend,
basking in the February sunshine. It may have been fairly comfortable
down there, but it was pretty cold half a mile up in the air, and the
boys had reason to be thankful for their warm clothing and head hoods.

Attention was now called to the land over which they had commenced to
fly, leaving the coast line behind. The Frenchman and Pudge in
particular were observing everything with undisguised eagerness. While
the experienced aviator had doubtless taken many a trip himself over
just such a landscape, the conditions had never been just the same as
they were now. As for Pudge, this was his baptism of fire in a seaplane,
and as far as he had gone he rather liked it.

The great checkerboard lay below them. A hundred different phases of the
landscape engaged their attention. They could see villages, towns,
railway lines, and even fortifications that may have been erected by the
German invaders in order to defend some monster gun that was aimed
seaward, so as to give trouble to men-o'-war passing along the Belgian
coast.

Billy and Pudge kept up a running fire of comment. Dozens of things were
constantly attracting attention which had to be pointed out. Frank was
not trying to make any great speed since there was no need of haste.

When they felt that they had gone far enough, and the spirit moved them,
he changed the course, and they once more struck for Dunkirk on the
French coast.

"No Taubes in sight yet, I notice?" Billy cried out gleefully; for he
remembered how those German aëroplanes had risen like a swarm of angry
hornets on the occasion of their previous visit.

"The news of the great raid must have been wired all over the country
before now," Frank explained. "Orders may have been given to keep all
their Zeppelins and other aircraft housed until the danger is over."

"Can you blame them?" laughed Billy. "They heard that as many as fifty
seaplanes--for things are always stretched, you know, in the
telling--were chasing up and down their coast, smashing everything to
pieces. They therefore would wait and then raid the Allies' quarters
with a vengeance."

"Yes," added Pudge, "and right now I warrant you many a pair of field
glasses is turned up this way, and all sorts of guesses are made about
what sort of queer craft is whizzing over them. If your Government gets
this seaplane, Mister Le Grande, and makes a bunch of them from the
sample, you'll give the enemy cold feet right away."

"It is a wonderful machine, I am ready to declare; superb, beyond
anything that I had ever dreamed could be made. I have only praise, I
assure you," was what the Frenchman told them in his explosive way.

"I guess that settles the business then," remarked Pudge to Billy,
meaning that the report made by the aviator must convince the French
Government it was greatly to their interest to conclude the bargain with
the _Sea Eagle Company, Ltd._, as originally entered into, for the
delivery of this sample seaplane, and the privilege of making as many
others, on royalty, as they chose within a given time.

This would be the only way of settling the matter, since no machines
could be shipped from America without a breach of neutrality, as the
Government at Washington had recently declared.

The sea had now been left far behind, and Frank was veering their course
somewhat toward the southeast, as though he meant to cover a different
field from the first land journey.

Billy noticed this, and asked questions in order to settle matters in
his own mind.

"I reckon now, Frank," he began, "you've got some plan up your sleeve to
make a wide circuit and see something of what's going on down along the
border of France? How about it?"

"We're covering a strip of Belgium right now," said the pilot, "and you
can see the unfinished canal used by the Kaiser's troops as trenches,
besides all sorts of other sights where the water has flooded the
lowlands when the dikes were cut in the fall by the Belgians. Now we
might like to take a peep at Lille, and see what is going on in a
different kind of country--where there are hills and valleys."

"That would be fine!" exclaimed Pudge, thinking only of the wonderful
pictures that would be spread out beneath them as they sailed over just
below the occasional fleecy clouds.

"Of course it would be more dangerous work," Frank hastened to tell
them.

"You mean we would be shot at by batteries on the hilltops, don't you,
Frank?" Billy questioned.

"Partly that," he was told, "and also from the treacherous
cross-currents of air we would be apt to strike in such a hilly country.
You never know when you may hit an air pocket, a vacuum in which danger
lies for the aëroplane that is loafing, since it is apt to drop like a
plummet. But we'll have to risk all those things. If we come through all
right, we'll consider that we were well rewarded."

"Here's another of those nasty snow squalls heading this way, Frank!"
burst out Pudge. "That makes the sixth we've struck. Say, let me tell
you this one looks like business, too, it spreads out so wide."

"Isn't there any way to avoid it, Frank--by climbing up higher, for
instance?" demanded Billy, as he drew his hood closer around his cheeks,
and made ready to "take his medicine," as he called it.

"Too late to try that now," Frank told him. "All we can do is to hold
tight, and keep pressing straight along. We'll hope it isn't so very big
a cloud. Steady now, everybody!"

"Do your prettiest, old _Sea Eagle_," Pudge was heard to call out as the
beginning of the snow squall struck them. Ten seconds later they were
shrouded as in a white pall by the scurrying flakes, urged on by a wind
that made the seaplane rock and dance in alarming manner.



                              CHAPTER XXI.

                         A STARTLING DISCOVERY.


It quickly became apparent that the squalls they had previously met were
playful little things compared with this one. It buffeted the big
seaplane about as though determined to wind up its successful career
then and there; and only for the complete mastery which Frank showed
over the flier, some terrible accident must surely have ensued.

M. Le Grande was plainly nervous. He realized that in this sort of a
wild storm an ordinary aëroplane would not have a ghost of a show. He
was also at first inclined to doubt the capacity of the American boy
aviator for meeting the strain of the situation.

As he watched Frank manage, however, this doubt took wings. He even
began to take note of the astonishing stability of the _Sea Eagle_, and
decide in his own mind that its like had never before been constructed.

Meanwhile Billy and Pudge were virtually "on needles and pins." They had
all kinds of confidence in Frank, and faith in the big plane as well;
but that wind did shake things up terribly, and there could be no
telling how much worse the conditions ahead of them might prove to be.

None of them could see three feet in any direction. Blinded by the
swiftly driven snow pellets, that stung as they came in contact with
their faces, they were compelled to bow their heads to the blast, and
pity Frank who was forced to stand it without flinching.

Fortunately it did not last very long. Human endurance would have been
exhausted had it continued indefinitely, for Frank was becoming more or
less weak under the strain, when he heard the experienced French aviator
shout in his ear:

"Courage, it is passing by! I can see the sunlight beyond. Courage, my
brave boy! You have done magnificently, superbly! I take off my hat to
you!"

Yes, they could all see now that the snow was growing lighter, showing
the border of the cloud must have been reached. Frank had urged the
seaplane on in a headlong rush with the idea of ending the agony sooner,
and it was well he had shown such sagacity.

They emerged from the cloud which was soon left far astern. Frank cut
down the speed to one-half, for the air was fearfully cold, and all of
them seemed to be very nearly frozen.

Once in the bright sunshine again, though there was very little of
warmth to it, those who could do so began to slap their arms violently
to and fro in the effort to induce circulation. The French air voyager
even relieved Frank from his arduous duties as well as possible, so that
he could get some life in his stiffened fingers.

M. Le Grande was fairly bubbling over with praise, not only for the
splendid way in which Frank had managed his craft, but in regard to the
seaplane itself. Never, he told them, had he seen such a supremely
satisfactory test made to prove the stability of a flier; and in every
particular had the _Sea Eagle_ proven itself worthy of the highest
praise.

"Ah! M'sieu!" he went on to say warmly, "with a fleet of such wonderful
craft, patterned after this type, we French could soon end the war alone
and unaided, by striking terror to the heart of Berlin. I am pleased
beyond measure with all I have experienced. The man whose mind conceived
this wonder of the air is indeed a wizard."

"Good for you!" cried Pudge, who naturally was delighted to hear his
father spoken of so highly.

Once again they began to take an interest in what they could see far
below them. New and varied sights were constantly cropping up as they
journeyed on. The character of the country was gradually changing, too,
for the dreary stretches of water that marked the inundated lowlands of
Belgium near the coast began to merge into dry land. This was high
enough to have shed the rains that had been falling during the better
part of the winter now drawing to a close.

As before, Pudge and Billy commenced calling each other's attention to
different things that caught their eyes. These were all of an intensely
interesting nature and extremely varied.

In numerous instances they were fired at. The faint report of volleys
came to their ears as soldiers, in the hope of doing some damage,
started shooting, though it must be an extraordinary rifle that could
push a leaden missile that far up into the air.

Now and then some anti-aircraft gun perched on an elevation would take a
shot at them, but the white puff of shrapnel smoke invariably appeared
far below, and told that there was no danger from this source at
present.

"It may be a different thing," said Frank, when they started discussing
this failure of the shots to reach their altitude, "when we strike a
rough country, for from the summit of a high hill one of those guns
could give us trouble."

"Well, we must climb out of the danger zone then, that's all," concluded
Billy, as though not worrying himself in the least about such a
possibility.

They were now approaching the fighting line that stretched across the
country in a zigzag fashion. Everywhere the Germans had dug themselves
in as though it was their full intention to grimly hold on to what they
had seized, and only allow the Allies to take it after the most
desperate resistance.

Eagerly the French aviator was using his binoculars. No doubt he was
making a mental map of many things they saw, and would not hesitate to
use his knowledge afterward, if he thought it might benefit his side.

Frank winced a little as he thought of that, for he did not wish to be
unfair any more than conditions imposed on him. He salved his conscience
by telling himself that there was nothing they were observing but what
any daring aviator of the Allies might not ascertain for himself by a
flight across that section of the disputed territory of France.

"If I saw a German Taube man in trouble right now," Frank was saying to
himself, "I'd be just as quick to go to his rescue as though it were a
Frenchman or a British pilot; and that's what we mean by calling
ourselves neutral. I warrant you that ninety-nine out of every hundred
adults in the United States, who know about this war, have a leaning
toward one side or the other, according from where their ancestors came.
But we all wish it was over, and Peace had come again to these countries
of Europe."

There had really been little to proclaim the fact from radical changes
in the villages below them, but Frank believed they must have left the
Belgian border behind, and were now sailing over Northern France.

On mentioning this to M. Le Grande, he was immediately assured by the
French aviator that such was indeed the case, and that though German
fortifications still dotted the landscape below, it was the sacred soil
of La Belle France.

"Soon will they have to pack up their baggage and set out for the Rhine
country, when, in the Spring, the great offensive begins," the patriotic
Frenchman declared, as though the sight of those enemies encamped on the
soil of his beloved land filled his heart with anguish.

It seemed as though there was more or less action going on all along the
lines of trenches. As those who sped along high above the earth watched,
they saw bodies of men shoot forward, to meet with a deadly fire from
all manner of concealed guns. Perhaps they would be thrust back whence
they sprang; or if the impetus of their advance were sufficient to carry
them to the trenches of the enemy, there would ensue a hand-to-hand
grapple that was terribly fascinating.

Pudge had to actually pinch himself several times in order to make sure
he was awake, and not dreaming.

"To think that I'd ever have this wonderful chance to see what modern
warfare is like!" he exclaimed in an awe-struck tone. "There's the whole
picture spread out below as if it might be painted especially for our
benefit. Oh! what was that?"

A terrible explosion had apparently taken place. A section of the German
trenches must have been blown up with a mine, for in the midst of the
smoke they could see the khaki-clad British soldiers rushing pell-mell
to occupy the breach before the Kaiser's forces could recover from the
shock, and hurry additional forces up to hold the particular spot.

Such things as that were happening here and there along a line hundreds
of miles in extent. It was appalling to the boys to think of such a
thing, having so recently come from across the sea, where their native
land was basking under the sun of peace, with not an enemy to fear.

The country became more rugged as they pushed on. Still there was no
sign of any hostile aëroplane rising to engage or trouble them. In fact,
all that day up to now they could not remember having once set eyes on a
Taube or a Zeppelin in the air. It certainly looked as though for once
they must have had strict orders to keep in hiding until the storm had
blown itself out.

"I can see what looks like a city away off yonder," announced Billy, who
was handling the glasses again.

"It is poor Lille, so long held possession of by the barbarians," said
the native aviator, with sadness in his tones; and the boys did not
wonder at it when later on they learned to their surprise that M. Le
Grande himself had been born and passed most of his life in that city of
Northern France.

No doubt, if he could have had his way, he would have enjoyed nothing
better than the chance to hurl down such a rain of bombs upon the
invaders as must have hastened them back to their own country.

"Will you pass over Lille, Frank?" asked Billy, and there was that in
his voice to tell how pleased he would be should his chum give a
favorable answer.

"It would be something to say we had done it," Pudge hastened to remark,
showing the trend of his thoughts.

"Yes, we might as well take a look in, and see what the Germans are
doing there," Frank announced. "After which, with a swing around, we can
set sail for the fighting line, pass over to ground which the British
are holding, and then start for the coast at Dunkirk, and so complete
the roundabout cruise."

The seaplane passenger was staring at his native city through his
glasses, muttering to himself in French. They could easily give a guess
that these were far from blessings he was calling down on the heads of
the Germans, who held on to everything they ran across so obstinately.

They were again made a target for numerous guns, but as Frank had risen
to a somewhat higher level, they did not believe there was any chance of
a stray missile doing any damage.

So they passed over Lille, and left the sorely stricken city behind
them. M. Le Grande twisted himself halfway around, the better to see the
last of the place where his heart lay.

It was just at this minute that Frank was heard to utter a cry, and
manifest considerable consternation.

"What's happened?" cried Billy, as quick as a flash; Pudge turned pale
and glued his eyes on Frank's face, which was to him a barometer.

"There's a slackening up in the feed as though the pipe might be
clogged!" exclaimed Frank, in considerable apprehension. "Billy, take a
look and see about the amount of petrol we've got in the tank!"

Billy knew how to go about this; indeed, it was a part of his regular
business.

He had hardly started to carry out Frank's instructions before he
shouted:

"Gee whiz! Frank, it's just about plumb empty! We must have been hit,
and the tank's sprung a leak!"

"Ganders and gridirons!" cried Pudge in sheer dismay. "Whatever will
happen to us now, if we're forced to land in the midst of the whole
German army! Whee! I see our finish!"



                             CHAPTER XXII.

                           THE NARROW ESCAPE.


"It has been a leak, for even now it is dripping down!" exclaimed the
French aviator, pointing his finger at the bottom of the petrol tank.

Pudge and Billy held their breath. Everything would depend on Frank, who
must know what was best to do. They might plane downward, and manage to
make some sort of a landing, but that would mean capture by the enemy.
The presence of the French aviator would bring the wrath of the Germans
down on the heads of the boys, and as a result they would be made
prisoners of war.

Not only that must follow, but the precious seaplane would fall into the
hands of the Kaiser's men. Such a possibility could never be endured. M.
Le Grande would be ready to try something desperate before such a
catastrophe could be countenanced.

Frank had to do some pretty swift thinking. Fortunately he was not the
one to lose his head in the presence of unexpected danger.

"We must make a furious attempt to get across the fighting line, which
is some miles away from here at La Basse!" he exclaimed. "When we
descend, it will be in the rear of the British forces, where we can be
safe!"

"Let her go, Frank!" said Billy excitedly.

"Yes, for all she's worth!" added poor Pudge, as well as he could, for
his trembling lips made any sort of utterance difficult.

Frank had not waited for this to turn on all power. At the time of the
discovery, with regard to the loss of their precious liquid fuel, the
seaplane had been headed just right, so all that appeared necessary was
increased motion.

The motors responded to the call upon their reserve powers. Again, with
muffler cut-out wide open, and the green fire issuing from the exhausts
amidst a roaring sound, they rushed through space.

What speed they were making none of them thought to notice by glancing
at the aërial speed meter, but it must have been something like ninety
miles an hour at the very least, possibly much more.

Here was another supreme test which the French aviator must be sure and
take note of. He did not show any particular signs of alarm, though he
was plainly excited.

Everyone was gazing ahead, their only aim being that they speedily
arrive at the line where the gray-clad Germans were standing off the
khaki-clothed soldiers of King George.

Such was the state of their nerves, that seconds seemed to drag like
minutes. Billy was trying the best he could to focus his glasses so as
to announce the glad tidings that they were rapidly nearing their goal;
but he found it hard work because of the shaking of the seaplane under
the forced pressure.

"It's there just ahead of us, Frank!" he finally shouted. "Keep her
going only a little while longer, and we'll be all right!"

"Hurrah!" cried Pudge, rather feebly it must be confessed, for the wind
fairly took his breath away.

Frank had not only kept straight on but at the same time he was
commencing to head downward. There was a strong possibility that at any
second the motors might refuse to work, being deprived of their feed,
and in consequence the big seaplane would have to start earthward by the
method popularly known as volplaning.

When reduced to that method of landing, Frank wanted to be as well down
as he could with safety allow the seaplane to drop. What little danger
they risked of being struck by some shot sent by the astonished Germans
was not worth while considering. The great speed they were making would
in itself serve to protect them from this threatening evil.

It was a critical moment for the aëroplane boys, and one that none of
them would be likely to forget soon. They could notice that the rattle
of the exhaust was growing more and more deadened. That told them the
end was very near and then the last feeble effort of the motors would
end in a total collapse.

"A pint of gasoline would see us through with flying colors!" exclaimed
Billy.

"Just to think of it," cried Pudge dismally, as though the thought of
falling into the hands of the Germans and being treated as a prisoner of
war filled his heart with dismay.

"On! on! keep her going, young m'sieu!" almost shrieked the Frenchman,
as he half stood up in his great excitement, and turned his gaze from
Frank to the prospect before them.

Frank had changed his plan of action. He no longer pushed the motors to
their utmost. The muffler, too, now shut off those spiteful looking
greenish flames, and the rattle was silenced.

In truth, Frank, in the belief that if they could only keep afloat,
their momentum would be sufficient to carry the seaplane across the line
of trenches, was trying to conserve every atom of power. He asked
nothing more than this, and would be willing to take his chances of
making a fairly successful landing, though a craft of that description
was never intended to start or finish a voyage save on the water.

Pudge became more alarmed, now that the shrill clatter of the exhaust
had been silenced, for unlike Billy he had not grasped just why this had
come about.

"Oh! will we make it, Frank?" he cried in an agony of fear.

"I think so," the pilot told him steadily.

"But she's swaying right now as if ready to give up the ghost and drop!"
Pudge complained in a strained voice. "That rattle has stopped. Why is
that, Frank?"

"I did it so as to keep what energy we've got as long as we can," he was
told.

"We're doing nobly, young m'sieu!" called out M. Le Grande.

"Yes, there are the trenches just ahead of us!" added Billy. "Listen to
the rattle of rifles, will you? And I can hear cheers too, hearty
English cheers. See them jumping up in plain sight and waving to us,
boys! A little further, Frank, and you can volplane if it's necessary,
because we'll have crossed the line and be in safety."

But the puttering of the motors told that they had arrived at the last
stage of labor. A gas engine cannot run without fuel of some sort, and
the vapor now being fed was of an inferior quality, so that the energy
became less and less.

They were at this critical time almost directly over the German
trenches, and so close that they could see the soldiers pointing up at
them, even without the use of field glasses or binoculars.

"Oh! did you hear that bullet hum past then?" ejaculated Pudge, who had
ducked his head in an involuntary way as though he would avoid contact
with the random lead, just as some nervous people start with each flash
of lightning.

Other missiles were also winging along through space, showing that the
seaplane, in its mad race for a safe landing, must have already
descended a considerable distance under Frank's manipulation.

Strange what queer thoughts will flash into the mind when under such a
stress as this. Frank afterward laughed to remember how he was
determining then and there, that if ever he had occasion to make another
aërial voyage above hostile armies, where he might be subject to a
bombardment, one of the things he meant to see about before starting was
that he carried a bullet-proof petrol reservoir along with him.

Suddenly the motors ceased working, as the supply of gas came to an
abrupt end. They were by now over the British trenches, where the men
were shouting all kinds of hoarse salutes, though compelled to again
hastily seek shelter in their pits, as the Germans had opened fire on
them.

Frank had but one way open to him in order to reach the ground. This was
to volplane swiftly, as he had many a time done after shutting off all
power, and when a certain distance from the earth, by suddenly working
his planes, cause the aircraft to assume a horizontal position instead
of a vertical one, after which would come the straight drop.

Just what sort of a jar must accompany the landing would depend, in a
great measure, on the distance they were up at the time, and the skill
shown by the pilot in managing these things.

It is always deemed a spectacular method of descending from an upper
level, and not as dangerous as it may appear to those who are unfamiliar
with the working of aircraft. Frank had practiced it many a time, and in
an ordinary aëroplane, with its rubber-tired wheels to run along the
ground, would have thought nothing of it. When he had to land with a
seaplane, never meant for such a purpose, it was a "horse of another
color," and might be considered a very ticklish job.

The ground seemed to be rushing up to meet them as they fell. Pudge
shrank back as though he could already feel the terrible shock of the
contact, should they continue to make that swift downward progress.

But Frank was ready to change the planes, and in this manner alter the
conditions. They would act as a stay, and bring their headlong rush
earthward to an end. After that it would simply be a dead weight drop,
and perhaps not so hard as to smash anything about the seaplane beyond
repairing.

Before Pudge had time to take another full breath it was all over. They
had swept down beyond a low hill, on top of which stood one of the
windmills so often seen in Holland, Belgium and Northern France, with
its broad arms standing motionless, and the tower showing signs of
having been struck by more than one solid shot during some tempestuous
battle for the rise.

With slackening speed, the seaplane followed the descent, and then came
to almost a full stop at its base. After that it dropped straight to the
ground.

The shock proved to be rather severe, and Pudge was even jolted from his
seat, falling in a heap close by. Frank jumped out and was immediately
followed by Billy and the French air pilot, all of them perhaps
considerably shaken, but apparently none the worse for the rough
experience.

Frank first of all sprang over to where Pudge was wallowing. The fat boy
sat up just as Frank reached his side.

"I hope you're not hurt much, Pudge?" cried the pilot of the _Sea
Eagle_, as he hurriedly bent over to assist his chum to gain his feet.

Pudge started to feel himself all over. He ran his hands along his fat
sides, and then down each leg; after which he proceeded to announce the
result.

"Nope, don't seem to have any serious contusions or broken bones that
I've been able to find. Guess I'm all whole, Frank, as I hope the rest
of you are. But how about the poor old _Sea Eagle_; is she smashed
beyond repair, do you think, Frank?"

"I haven't taken a look at her so far," the other told him. "What little
damage may have been done can be easily repaired, once we get her taken
by wagon to our hangar at Dunkirk."

[Illustration: "We're being fired on.... Try and find shelter if you
can, Billy!"--Page 251.]

"Good enough!" cried Pudge. "I was worrying more over the seaplane than
about myself, I do declare. When we can get in touch with the commander
at this section of the British forces, we might be able to commandeer
some sort of wagon on which the machine can be packed, after we've taken
it to pieces, and transported it to town. Our good friend, M'sieu Le
Grande can tell them the plane now belongs to the French Government, and
that a heap depends on its being taken to Dunkirk."

As they reached the spot where the big seaplane lay like a wounded bird,
it was to see the Frenchman and Billy come crawling out from under the
wings.

"What's the extent of the damage?" asked Frank immediately.

Before Billy could start explaining, there was a sharp sound heard, and
Frank actually felt the wind of a bullet whizzing past his cheek.

"Duck down everybody!" he exclaimed, suiting his actions to the words,
and pulling Pudge after him. "We're being fired on by somebody concealed
in that old windmill base over there. Try and find shelter if you can,
Billy!"



                             CHAPTER XXIII.

                           THE WINDMILL FORT.


While Frank was calling out after this manner everybody was making haste
to show as little of their person as possible. As there was not much
shelter of any kind available, the only way this could be accomplished
was to flatten out on the ground.

By some species of good luck it happened that there was a dip to the
earth at the base of the low elevation on which the windmill had been
built. Frank afterward called it a "swale." It ran away from the spot in
a zigzag fashion, and perhaps if one were agile and clever, he might
even manage to wriggle along this dip without exposing much of his
person to those in the tower.

The four of them thus wallowed, and tried to exchange remarks.

"There goes another shot," said Billy, as a report came to their ears.
"I hope nobody's been hit so far. How about that?"

"No damage here," replied Frank immediately.

"I am pleased to say the same, young m'sieu," added the Frenchman.

"Well, so far I haven't felt a wound, but I'm expecting something
dreadful to happen any minute now," Pudge called out ruefully.

"Why, what's the matter with you, Pudge?" demanded Billy.

"Only this, that I loom up so much more than anybody else, and there's
lots of chances of them seeing me, that's all. But then a fellow can
only die once, and perhaps I won't know what hits me, which is some
comfort."

"Hug the ground for all you're worth then," the other told him.

"I am, till I can hardly breathe," replied Pudge. "How long are we going
to stay here do you think, Frank?"

"Not a great while, if we know it," came the answer, which proved that
Frank, as usual, was already figuring on some masterly move.

"But think of the nerve of the Germans occupying that windmill right
back of the British lines, would you?" exclaimed Billy, as though that
fact interested him more than anything else.

"Well, you can expect nearly anything in this desperate fighting," Frank
told him. "Only the other day I was reading about a case where they had
made a fort out of an old windmill that had a concrete foundation and
walls. The Allies tried ever so many times to dislodge the German
sharpshooters, but couldn't. Then the airmen took a hand, but failed to
drop a bomb where it would do the business."

"How did they manage it in the end, Frank?" asked Billy, always eager to
hear the explanation of any puzzle.

"After they had lost a lot of men in direct assaults, the Allies dug a
tunnel up under the windmill, laid a mine, and exploded it," Frank
continued.

"And that did the business, did it?" questioned Pudge, also deeply
interested for personal reasons.

"It shattered things, and killed every German in the place," said Frank.
"Do you know they found more than a dozen quick-firing guns there? They
had made it a regular fort, even though they knew not a single man of
them could ever escape in the end."

"But how can we dig a tunnel without the tools?" demanded Pudge, almost
pathetically, "and what have we got to blow them up with, I want to
know?"

Billy laughed derisively.

"We couldn't if we would, Pudge," he remarked, "and we wouldn't if we
could. We came over here on business for the _Sea Eagle Company,
Limited_, and not to take a hand in shortening the supply of the
Kaiser's brave soldiers."

"Then what are we meaning to do about it?" the fat boy kept on asking.
"I want to know, because to tell you the truth, I'm not feeling very
comfortable right now."

"Frank, have you thought up that scheme yet?" asked Billy, just as
indifferently as though it might be the regular program for Frank to
figure out a method of escaping from each and every ill that beset them.

"I think there's a way to do it," Frank responded. "This swale we're
lying in, as near as I can tell, keeps right along in a crooked fashion,
but always bearing in a direction that will take us away from the
windmill."

"Oh! that's the game, then, is it?" cried Billy. "You lead off, and we
follow after you like a trailing snake? Well, I'm pretty good on the
crawl, and when it's necessary I can wriggle to beat the band."

"Yes," sang out Pudge with a groan, "but how about me? I'm not built to
make a good wriggler, and you know it, fellows. It's going to be awful
tough on a fellow whose body is so thick that it looms up above the
sheltering bank some of the time. I'll be fairly riddled with shot,
sooner or later. Please tell me how I'm going to manage it, won't you?"

"There's only one thing for you to do, Pudge," Billy jeered.

"What's that?" asked the unhappy Pudge.

"Hug tight where you are, and we'll promise to come back sooner or later
and rescue you, after we've got a bunch of those Tommies to help us
out."

Apparently the "last resort" idea did not wholly appeal to Pudge, for he
quickly went on to say:

"Guess I'll do the best I can at hunching along after you. Some places I
might manage to roll, you see. But I certainly do hope they won't open
fire on me with one of those machine guns that run off a dozen shots a
second."

Frank was already on the move. He may have been sorely puzzled to
account for this strange and unprovoked attack on them by the unknown
party or parties concealed inside the base of the old windmill; but he
also knew that the only thing for them to do was to get away from the
danger zone.

A third shot was heard just about that time, and Pudge gave a groan,
which naturally alarmed the other boys.

"Don't tell me you've been hit, Pudge?" called Billy, whose heart was in
the right place, even if he did occasionally joke his stout chum when a
rollicking humor seized him.

"No, not that I'm aware of," came the answer, "but every time I hear
that gun go off it gives me a fierce start. This thing is even worse
than falling in an aëroplane, and expecting to get smashed when you
strike the ground."

"But we're getting along, remember," said Frank, meaning to encourage
the other.

"And these bends on the dip help to hide us from those Germans back
there in the bargain," added Billy, wishing to contribute his mite of
consolation.

The French aviator said nothing, though he too must have realized that
they were all in more or less danger should they expose themselves too
rashly. No doubt, those enemies concealed back of the walls of the
windmill base were watching eagerly to catch signs of their presence,
and ready to send a storm of deadly missiles that way at the least
invitation.

Despite his size, Pudge was really making a good job out of it. He could
do things when he made up his mind to try hard.

They could hear him puffing dreadfully, and making a noise that Billy
likened to the blowing of a porpoise as it wallowed in the billows.

"Every foot counts with us, remember, Pudge," said Billy, who was just
ahead of the fat boy, turning his head to speak, for it was hardly wise
to call out any longer and thus tell the enemy where to fire.

"Mine feel like they were made of lead and I can hardly drag 'em along
after me," the other replied, mistaking the meaning of Billy's words.

"There goes still another shot; I wonder what they can be shooting at?"

Hearing Billy make this remark, Frank saw fit to answer him.

"I think they must believe we're still hiding somewhere about the
seaplane, which is partly visible from the rise; and every now and then
they take a snap shot to let us know they're on the job."

At hearing that Pudge seemed to feel much easier in his mind, for there
was a joyful strain to his voice when he next spoke in a husky whisper
to Billy.

"That lets me out, Billy, and I'll be able to hunch along better after
this. But let me tell you I'll be mighty glad when it's all over with.
I'm scraping my knees something awful, and I'll be lame for days after
this."

"Well, why complain when you know there are some things a whole lot
worse than having scraped knees?" he was told. Apparently this caused
Pudge to look at things in a different light, for he closed up.

It continued in this fashion for quite some time, until Frank began to
believe they had gone well beyond the danger zone. When he raised his
head he could not discover the windmill at all, which was ample proof
that there was no longer anything to fear from that quarter.

He was just about to say something along those lines to the others, when
he made an unpleasant discovery.

"What are you stopping here for, Frank?" asked Billy, as he and the
French aviator came crawling up alongside the leader, and he chanced to
observe that Frank was acting rather strangely.

"Because it seems that our further progress is going to be blocked,"
replied Frank.

"You're staring hard at that bunch of trees ahead where we were hoping
to get on our feet again. What's wrong over yonder?" demanded Billy.

"Only that I've seen signs to tell me there are men hiding in among
those trees, who have seen us coming, and are waiting to trap us," Frank
told him.



                             CHAPTER XXIV.

                            FRIENDS IN NEED.


"Oh! something is always cropping up to nip our plans in the bud, it
seems like," Pudge groaned, on hearing Frank make that unpleasant
statement.

"Are you sure they're Germans, Frank?" demanded Billy.

"I couldn't tell from the glimpses I had of them," answered the other;
"only they have guns, and are in uniform."

"Of course, I had to go and leave the field glasses hanging in the case
with the seaplane," Billy declared. "M'sieu, would you mind letting me
look through those binoculars you have along with you?"

Of course, the obliging Frenchman immediately complied with this
request, and as Billy focused the glasses on the trees ahead the others
held their breath while waiting to hear the verdict.

"There, I can see figures, all right," said the observer, "and they're
watching this way in the bargain. Frank, it's all right, I tell you!"

"Then they're British soldiers?" asked the other, with a note of relief
in his voice.

"Just what they are," replied Billy. "They must have seen the plane
falling back here, and have come to find out whether anyone was hurt.
Then those shots over at the old windmill made them hold up, and right
now they don't know what to think. Hadn't you better signal them,
Frank?"

"Right away, Billy."

Accordingly Frank elevated his handkerchief, and waved it until he
received a reassuring signal from someone amidst the trees. After that
the little party rose and advanced, Frank advising them to hold up their
hands so as to convince the soldiers they had no possible hostile
intent.

It was with a feeling of great relief that they found themselves face to
face with a British captain, who surveyed them curiously.

"You came down in that big aëroplane with the boat underneath it?" was
the first thing he asked.

"Yes, and we count ourselves pretty lucky not to have dropped inside the
German lines in the bargain," Frank told him. "You see, sir, we are
three American boys. My name is Frank Chester, this is Billy Barnes, a
newspaper reporter, and Pudge Perkins is the third member of our party.
As for this gentleman, you must surely have heard of the well-known
French aviator, M. Armand Le Grande."

"And I am Captain Charles Marsden, of the Sussex Regiment," replied the
officer, cordially shaking hands. "Most assuredly, I have often heard of
M. Le Grande, and once saw him play a daring trick on three German Taube
pilots. But what manner of strange craft was it passed over our lines,
and where have you come from?"

"First of all," said Frank, "I had better explain what brought the three
of us over here in France when we had better be safe at home in America.
The father of Pudge here is an aviator and an inventor. He has
constructed a wonderful seaplane designed to save human life in case of
accidents at sea. A sample was sent over to the French Government at
their request before the war broke out, but had never been taken from
the cases. So, on their invitation, we came across to assemble the
parts, and prove the great value of the new type of machine."

"All this is very interesting to me, my young friend," ventured the
officer; "so please go on with your explanations."

"We have a contract whereby the French Government can acquire this great
seaplane for cash, and pay a royalty for every one up to fifty that they
construct themselves from the sample. That is as far as our neutrality
will allow us to go. And M. Le Grande was selected to accompany us on a
trial flight to learn in what way our _Sea Eagle_ was superior to the
ordinary planes in common use."

"Oh! then you have just been making that flight," remarked the officer,
"and by mistake managed to cross the lines, so that you came near
falling into the hands of the enemy?"

Frank smiled, and even Pudge gave a disdainful snort.

"Well, although you have not heard the news yet, Captain Marsden, this
has been a glorious day for your countrymen," Frank told him. "This
morning some thirty-four seaplanes started up the coast, nearly every
one of them manned by British aviators, and made a most desperate raid
on the submarine bases around Zeebrugge, as well as bombarded railway
stations, destroyed oil tanks, and even exploded a magazine, giving the
enemy a grand scare, and doing much damage."

How the officer's rosy face broadened in a smile when he heard that! The
way in which the Kaiser had spoken of them in the beginning of the war
as "that contemptible little British army," would never be forgotten or
forgiven; and everyone who wore the king's khaki was resolved in his
mind to do all in his power to make the Emperor change his opinion
before quitting time.

"But how do you know about this grand event?" he demanded.

"We accompanied the raiders, and witnessed pretty much all that was
done," Frank told him. "After the fleet of aircraft had turned homeward
again we started across country to take a look at Lille, and see what
you people were up to over in this region. We also meant that M'sieu
should have the worth of his money and learn all the big airship could
do."

"Wonderful, and you so young at that!" exclaimed the soldier; "but then
I understand American boys are equal to such things. But what happened
to send you down as though you were a bird with a crippled wing?"

"A stray shot must have punctured our petrol tank and allowed the fuel
to drain out, for we suddenly discovered we had none. Only through great
luck were we able to push ahead, and escape falling back of the German
lines."

"That would have been a misfortune in several ways, I take it," said the
officer.

"Just after we fell, and were trying to see if any of us had been hurt,
we were fired on from the old windmill base, and it was only by crawling
along a depression that we finally managed to escape."

"So that was where those shots came from?" cried Captain Marsden. "We
wondered if they had any connection with the dropping of the aëroplane.
What do you wish us to do for you, boys?"

"Excuse me," Frank remarked, "but hearing you say you belonged to a
Sussex regiment made me remember that a very good friend of ours, in
Dunkirk just at present, Major Nixon, also came from that part of
England."

"What, Tom Nixon!" exclaimed the soldier, his face lighting up again;
"one of my best friends, and with whom I've followed the hounds dozens
of times after the fox. If you are comrades of his, I would esteem it a
privilege to help you out in any way possible."

"The chief concern we have," Frank told him, "is that we must manage in
some way to get our machine, after we've taken it to pieces, transported
back to the hangar at Dunkirk."

"But suppose we could supply you with sufficient petrol to take you
there; would that help you out, or is the machine wrecked too badly?"

"It is injured somewhat," Frank continued, "though we might manage to
repair that part of it; but unfortunately it is next to impossible for a
seaplane to rise anywhere but from the water. That is on account of the
boat part of the structure, you understand, sir. Could you manage to
secure us a motor truck to transport ourselves and the machine across
country by road? It would be doing the French Government one of the
greatest favors possible; ask M'sieu here if that is not so."

"Indeed, there could not be a greater favor," the Frenchman declared
warmly. "I have seen to-day that which may help to bring this terrible
war to a much speedier close if only we can put fifty of those wonderful
American machines in the field."

"Say no more, for I shall see to it that the motor truck is placed at
your service," said the captain heartily.

"But how about the windmill, Captain?" asked Frank, "and the Germans who
occupy it as a fort; will you attack them and capture the place? It
commands the spot where the stranded seaplane lies, and I'm afraid we
can do but little unless the danger is laid."

"We will go back the way you came," decided the soldier. "I will have my
men accompany us, and when we reach a convenient place a rush should
take the mill."

"I'll go along with you then, Captain," assented Frank.

"Same here," added Billy; but Pudge shook his head sadly, and reaching
down felt tenderly of his knees, as he remarked:

"You'll have to excuse me this time, fellows; I must beg off. After it's
all over give me a whoop, and I'll _walk_ to where you are. Crawling
doesn't seem to be my special forte, I'm sorry to say."

"That's all right, Pudge, stay here until we give you the signal that
the coast is clear," Billy told him.

Orders being given to the soldiers, the entire lot started toward where
the dip began. A few minutes later they were making their way along on
hands and knees, and appearing to the observant Pudge very much like a
trailing snake.

There was not a single shot fired at them as they crept on, and in the
end they found themselves at the spot where the big seaplane lay.

As they could go forward no further in that way, orders were given for a
charge, and the two boys, still crouching there, were thrilled to see
the dozen men in khaki start across the open ground on the run, each one
dodging as he saw best in order to take as little chances of being hit
as possible.

"Why, look at that, Frank!" cried Billy. "Not a single shot has been
fired at them! What do you think the Germans are up to? Are they waiting
to mow them down in a heap? Hey, isn't that a white flag waving from the
old mill? Why, honest, now, I do believe they mean to throw up the
sponge, and surrender. Let's start forward ourselves, Frank."

"Wait and see," cautioned the other. "After the soldiers have gone
inside will be time enough for us to hurry up."

"Well, there they go right now, Frank!" cried the other. "Please come
on, for I'm dying to know what it all means. It isn't like Germans to
give up that way without a hard fight."

When they arrived at the windmill the mystery was soon explained. The
terrible garrison consisted of just a single old man, and he was not a
German at all, but a French peasant who had lost all he possessed when
the Kaiser's army went through this part of France earlier in the war.
His mind had given way under the strain, and filled with the idea that
his old mill was a fort he had stationed himself in it with his gun,
ready to repel the invaders of the sacred French soil.

When the strange seaplane fell he had conceived the idea that it was
some sort of monster which he ought to slay, and so he had taken several
pot-shots at the great drab wings which he could just see from his
lookout.

Luckily, however, the old peasant, crazy though he might be, knew
British soldiers' uniforms, for the Tommies had been very good to him
during the month they were in the neighborhood pushing the enemy back.
So he had put up that white flag as soon as he recognized the khaki
uniforms of those who were advancing on the run.

"Shucks!" Billy was heard to say. "That's the way things sometimes drop
from the sublime to the ridiculous. Here we were picturing a squad of
desperate Prussians cooped up in this windmill base ready to sell their
lives dearly, and it proves to be a silly old peasant who is out of his
mind."

"Well, it's a tragedy, just the same," Frank told him. "Think of what
this Jean Bart has suffered, seeing all his possessions destroyed, and
perhaps his entire family wiped out. The Captain tells me there was some
trouble with the natives here when the German army went through, and
some reckless shooting. But now we can get busy on the seaplane. Call
our chum Pudge, will you, Billy?"

The work of taking the seaplane to pieces was going to take them some
little time. Meanwhile Captain Marsden, who left several of his men at
the spot with orders to assist where it was possible, went back to
headquarters to state the case and see what could be done toward getting
them a motor truck.

As these vehicles were carrying loads to the front, and usually went
back empty, save when they took some of the wounded to the hospitals, it
did not prove a very difficult thing to commandeer such a van, once
permission had been obtained from the general.

Along about three in the afternoon of that February day, they saw a big
motor truck coming. It seemed capable of passing over the fields as well
as the road, for at the time the ground was pretty well frozen.

Everything seemed favorable, and the work of loading the seaplane was
commenced with a vim. Before they got off, Captain Marsden again made
his appearance, accompanied by a higher officer, who turned out to be
the general in charge of that part of the British line, though the boys
were not told his name.

He had been so deeply impressed with the remarkable story told by the
captain that he had taken the trouble to come out there himself to meet
the bold American boys who had that day witnessed the aërial bombardment
of the German naval bases along the Belgian coast.

While the loading was being finished, at his urgent request, Frank
entered into a brief description of what they had seen the fleet of
seaplanes accomplish. His stirring account must have greatly pleased and
heartened the general, for he insisted on shaking hands with Frank on
leaving, an honor few dignified British officers would be likely to
bestow upon boys from another land.

"I hope we're going to ride along with the machine, Frank?" remarked
Pudge, when the last knot had been tied in the ropes that held the
packed seaplane on the van.

"I don't know what you're meaning to do, Pudge," Billy told him. "I've
got my seat all picked out."

"Better get up, for we're going to start," warned Frank; and so Pudge
found a place where he would not be in danger of rolling off. Frank
followed suit, Le Grande also got aboard, and then the big motor truck
started for the nearest road.

Captain Marsden, having waved them a farewell, was heard shouting after
them:

"Give my best regards to Tom Nixon, and tell him we'll follow the hounds
again after this little unpleasantness is over. Good-by, and good luck
to you!"



                              CHAPTER XXV.

                       THE DESPERATE GAME OF TAG.


Riding on that motor truck over some of the very roads in that section
of France where hot battles had only recently been fought, that was
another new experience for the Boy Aviators. In many places the driver
of the van pointed out to them interesting features of the landscape,
relating to M. Le Grande the fierce struggle that had perhaps taken
place where that barbed wire entanglement was seen, and then showing
where innumerable little mounds of earth marked the last resting place
of those brave men who had laid down their lives for their country.

They overtook several vans containing wounded soldiers, who seemed very
cheerful, and were actually singing in chorus, as British Tommies have a
habit of doing. An ambulance squad was also encountered going to the
front for a fresh load, taking nurses and doctors wearing the Red Cross
on their sleeves to where they would find plenty of work.

Pudge took a great interest in the hospital corps.

"They're the real heroes and heroines of this war, as sure as anything,"
he remarked, sagely, as he waved his hand toward the party, and received
an answering signal from one of the buxom looking English lassies.

There were times when for a short distance they had the road apparently
to themselves. Then again it would be crowded with all manner of
vehicles, and marching troops heading toward the front, returning
wounded, and artillery being dragged laboriously along, either with
sturdy horses or powerful traction engines.

The boys were feeling fairly decent, for the sun had a little warmth in
it, and there was even a hint of coming Spring in the breath of the
lowlands.

Without the slightest warning there came a terrible crash that seemed to
make the earth tremble. Pudge came within an ace of tumbling off the
crowded van, and was only saved by Billy clutching hold of him.

"Oh! a German shell must have burst!" shrilled the excited Billy.

"But we are too far away from the fighting line for that," said Frank.

A passing shadow made him look hastily upward. As he did so a cry of
wonder and dismay burst from his lips, which of course caused everyone
to follow his example, even to the chauffeur of the war van.

"An aëroplane!" shouted Pudge.

"Yes, and a German Taube at that, don't you see?" cried Billy.

"That must have been a bomb thrown at us, and there over on the right is
where it made a gap in the field," said Frank.

The chauffeur looked somewhat alarmed. He even increased the speed of
the big van, though it was too cumbersome a vehicle to move at all
swiftly, its main hold being vast power and carrying ability.

The aëroplane was at some distance above them, and moving in a circle
like a great hawk which it so much resembled.

"Frank, he's turning to come up behind us again, don't you see?"
exclaimed Pudge, gripping the arm of the one to whom this remark was
addressed.

"Sure thing," added Billy, trying to look calm, though he was trembling
all over with the nervous strain and the excitement of the thing; "he's
meaning to try again and see if this time he can't make a better crack
at us, I suspect."

"But why pick out this van when there are lots of the same type moving
along the road, going and coming, that's what I'd like to know?" begged
the bewildered Pudge.

"Huh! guess you forget what we're carrying with us, don't you, Pudge?"
demanded Billy, with a sense of importance in his voice and manner.

"The _Sea Eagle_ plane!" burst out the fat chum.

"Haven't the Germans been trying right along to either get possession of
our sample machine, or failing that smash it into splinters, so the
Allies can't profit by the same?" asked Billy.

"Yes, yes, it must be as you say, Billy," admitted Pudge; "but see
there, he's swept around now, and seems to be lowering with that big
circle. Frank, will he get us yet, do you think?"

"Not if we are smarter than he is," replied the other, as with wrinkled
brow he watched the evolutions of the daring flier.

"They learned that we'd met with that accident," Billy went on to say
hurriedly, "and as soon as they could get one of their fliers busy it
was started out to look for the van carrying our seaplane. That chap up
there alongside the pilot has glasses, and spied us out easy enough."

"There, he's heading after us again, Frank!" shrilled Pudge, shivering
as he stared, although it must have been only with a great effort that
the fat boy was able to twist around as he did; "what can we do to upset
his calculations?"

"If one of those terrible bombs ever hits us, good-night!" muttered
Billy, as he too kept tabs of the now approaching Taube.

Frank was saying something to the chauffeur, evidently making certain
arrangements with him so that when he touched the man's arm he would
suddenly shut off power, and bring the van to a full stop.

They could easily see the two who were in the Taube, the pilot paying
attention to his part of the business, while his companion leaned
eagerly forward, intently watching so as to hurl the bomb at the right
second.

Frank judged rightly that the man would make allowances for the speed of
the motor van along the road, when he sent the explosive. That was where
their real chance to outwit the enemy lay.

Keenly he watched this second man, forgetting about the pilot, who
really had little to do with the hurling of the bomb.

"There, he's raising his hand, Frank!" cried Pudge.

"And I can see what he's gripping, too!" added Billy vociferously.

"Keep still!" ordered Frank, who did not wish them to be making any sort
of racket while the crisis was so close at hand, since it might
interfere with what he meant to do, and that was of vital importance to
them all.

Frank could judge for himself about when the man was apt to throw his
deadly missile. Their own speed was only a certain per cent slower than
that of the hostile aëroplane above.

Just when he discerned a movement of the man's whole body and knew he
was in the act of speeding the explosive, Frank gripped the arm of the
waiting chauffeur.

Instantly the expectant driver shut off all power and applied the brake.
It was just as though he had suddenly found himself about to plunge
through the open draw of a bridge into a deep river.

Even as the big clumsy van came to a halt in the road there was a
fearful crash not thirty feet ahead of them, accompanied by a puff of
smoke.

The boys had dropped back as flat as they could at Frank's suggestion,
and fortunately no one seemed to have been injured by the flying
missiles and stones.

Immediately the chauffeur once more started forward, though of course he
had to drive carefully.

"Oh! see the fierce hole it dug in the road-bed!" burst forth Billy, and
they all stared hard at this positive evidence of the dreadful result of
the explosion.

By judicious care the chauffeur managed to get around the obstruction
without having one of his wheels sink into the gap. Of course the first
squad of men passing along that way would fill in the hole; but the boys
were certainly not bothering their heads over that at present.

They could see that the two daring aviators who seemed so bent on
accomplishing the utter annihilation of the wonderful American
invention, were not disheartened so far by their several failures.

"They don't mean to give it up at that, Frank, believe me!" said Billy.

"Oh! they're a stubborn lot, those Germans," admitted Pudge, "and never
know when to stop, once they've set their minds on a thing."

"Third time may be the charm, you know," croaked Billy, hoarse from the
excitement under which he was undoubtedly laboring for all he appeared
so cool. "Don't I wish I had my trusty gun along right now. Mebbe I
wouldn't make those chaps sit up and take notice, and quit their
fooling."

"They're dropping still lower, Frank!" said Pudge.

"I see they are," answered the other, soberly.

"Here's a stick that might look like a gun from up above," said the
artful Billy; "I'm going to lie down and keep waving it like I was
taking aim. It can't do any harm that I see, and may make them keep off
some, hey, Frank?"

"Do as you please, Billy," he was told.

Truth to tell Frank was hard put to it just then to know what their plan
of campaign ought to be. The next time the Germans hurled one of their
bombs the man in the speeding Taube would be apt to discount that sudden
stoppage of the van, and try to drop his explosive so that it might
strike them as their momentum ceased.

"Slow up somewhat," he told the chauffeur. "And this time when I grip
your arm put on every ounce of speed you can give. We'll change our
tactics."

"Bully for you, Frank; a change of base is always a good thing!" said
Billy, already lying down and starting to move his pretended gun around.

Once again the aëroplane was directly behind them. It was evidently a
part of the scheme of their foes to follow after them, trying to keep in
the same general course, so that the man who hurled the bomb would only
have to consider the proper second to let it go.

They had also come down still lower, so that every movement could be
seen distinctly.

Undoubtedly none of those boys would ever forget the grim appearance of
those airmen bending forward to peer down at the fleeting motor truck on
that road in Northern France. There was a peculiar grimness connected
with their looks, togged out as they were in their customary air
cruising clothes, and with goggles shielding their eyes that gave them a
strange look.

Once again did Frank decide properly when the man was in the act of
hurling the bomb. His fingers closed upon the arm of the van driver, who
immediately started the cumbersome vehicle to moving forward as fast as
the engine was capable of sending it.

A third crash made the air quiver, and brought out a shout from the
irrepressible Billy.

"Too slow that time, Hans!" he whooped, as he continued to wave his
make-believe gun; "knocked another hole in the poor old road, that's
what. At that rate they'll have it all torn up between here and
Dunkirk."

"Will they give it up now, do you think, Frank?" wheezed Pudge, who had
made it a point to actually hold his breath on each occasion just as
though that was going to be of any benefit to him.

"Don't flatter yourself that way, Pudge," Billy hastened to say, taking
it upon himself to answer; "they'll never quit as long as there's a
single shot in the locker, believe me. We've just got to keep on dodging
the same the best we know how."

"Next time they may come so low down that they just can't miss,"
complained the fat chum, disconsolately.

"Huh! don't you believe that, because they might have seen me taking aim
with my gun here, and airmen don't like to be peppered at close range.
Chances are they'll swoop down and let fly, but no hovering over us for
them."

Frank was busy trying to figure out what would be the next move on the
part of those grim pursuers, who seemed so determined to accomplish the
utter destruction of the wonderful seaplane that placed in the hands of
the French was bound to be of material advantage to the cause they had
at heart.

In doing this Frank tried to put himself in the place of the other. He
figured out just what sort of a feint he would make in order to draw the
fire of the van driver. Whether the vehicle stopped, or shot forward, he
could then change his pace, and hurl the bomb.

So Frank again gave his instructions to the chauffeur.

"This time I think he'll just pretend to throw, so as to make us show
our hand," was what he said. "Then when he believes he sees our
intentions he'll let it go. So first make out to stop; but when you feel
me grip your arm a _second_ time, speed up for all you're worth.
Understand all that, do you?"

The man said he did. Monsieur Le Grande too, openly declared he believed
Frank had solved the intentions of the man above, basing his opinion on
what he himself would have done under similar conditions.

"There they come!" announced the watchful Billy.

Pudge grunted, and tried to squeeze himself into as small a compass as
possible. He evidently feared that he filled entirely too much space
when deadly missiles were flying around in every direction, and that if
anyone were injured it was bound to fall to him.

Billy and M'sieu watched the approach of the hostile aëroplane. It
chased steadily after them keeping along the road which unfortunately at
this point happened to be very straight, whereas more curves and bends
would have been to the advantage of those who were being bombarded from
the skies.

All this was very thrilling, but none of the three Aëroplane Boys
fancied the strange experience. They realized that should they care to
abandon the van they would not receive any injury; for the Germans were
undoubtedly only trying to destroy the seaplane.

Nevertheless even Pudge would hardly have voted to forsake the _Sea
Eagle_ at this stage of the game. They had a certain affection for the
big air traveler; and besides, their duty to the Company demanded that
they stick to their task, which was to get the plane back into its
hangar safe and sound, if such a thing were at all possible.

As the Taube came rapidly upon them they watched eagerly to see what
would happen. Again the man who did the throwing of the bombs was seen
to partly raise his arm, showing that he had another of those explosives
ready for hurling.

Just at the critical second, as it seemed, Frank gave the chauffeur the
signal to stop short. He already saw that the man above had made a swift
motion with his upraised arm. It was very familiar as a trick to the
American boys; how often had they seen the first baseman of the opposing
team make the same feint when all the while he was holding the ball
concealed, hoping to catch the runner off his base.

When however he saw the bomb-thrower make a duplicate movement he knew
that this time it was coming.

So the second grip on the chauffeur's arm told him to instantly start
forward again at full speed. So sudden was the change made that the van
gave a furious spurt such as would have possibly thrown the boys out
only that they had prepared themselves against it.

For the third time Frank had hoodwinked the Germans in the Taube. This
bomb also fell back of them quite as much as fifty feet. It struck on
one side of the roadbed, but might have done more or less injury to the
machinery of the big van, and compelled a stop that must have spelled
new trouble for the boys, caused to abandon their charge because of the
recklessness of staying further.

"Oh! I hope that exhausts all their ammunition," was the prayer poor
Pudge was heard to utter, when this last stunning report announced that
once more they had escaped by a close shave from a terrible fate.

"Don't hug that fond delusion to your heart, Pudge," Billy told him,
jeeringly; "they'd be more apt to start out with fifty such bombs along
than just three or four. I'm hoping we'll come up on some marching
regiment of British going to the front, or even a field battery that
could make the old Taube climb up half a mile or so in the air. We
wouldn't need to worry then, because they never could hit such a tiny
mark away down here."

Frank was thinking somewhat on similar lines. So long as there was
nothing to prevent the Germans from making those swift swoops down
toward them the peril must continue to hang heavy over their devoted
heads.

He realized that it was always possible for the aviators to come so
close to them that there would not be one chance in ten of a miss being
made. Perhaps after all it might be fear of the gun which Billy was
making out to wave that would save them in the end. Frank had on more
than one occasion in the past known even smaller things than that to
accomplish important feats.

If the danger continued he was inclined to exercise his authority and
compel his chums to dismount so as to fall behind. In that way they
would be out of the danger zone, while he stayed aboard with the
chauffeur to try and baffle the plans of the enemy above.

And now once more the peril hovered over them. How Billy yearned to have
a gun in his hands, and with what joy would he have started using it, in
the hope of at least causing the Germans to climb to safer heights?

Frank had altered his plan of campaign again. He intended to keep them
guessing as long as possible. This time he arranged with the chauffeur
to start the car speeding, and then at the second signal to suddenly
apply the brake and bring it to a standstill.

When the man above saw them starting off wildly he evidently judged that
was meant to be their game, and so he sent the small but terrible bomb
through space.

Frank knew when it left his hand, and at that same second he gripped the
chauffeur, so that the car was instantly brought under control. The bomb
struck ahead of them, alongside the road, and tore another hole in the
ground.

Billy gave a shout as though in that way he might get rid of some of the
pent-up emotion that was well nigh choking him.

"Never touched us!" he called out exultantly. "Better go back home and
take a few more lessons. American boys are too swift for you fellows!"

"Don't crow too soon, Billy," advised Frank, who although naturally
relieved for the moment, knew only too well that this new check would be
apt to urge the determined Taube men to further exertions.

He himself was casting an anxious look along the road ahead, for Frank
knew full well that their best chance for escaping the net that was
being laid for their feet lay in the coming of friends who carried arms
that must make the aviators give the hunt over as wasted time.

As before the birdmen made a circuit. They undoubtedly intended coming
back again to try once more to drop a missile on the elusive van, and
accomplish the mission on which they had been sent out.

Frank hardly knew what system of tactics to employ this time. He had
tried them all, and would have to repeat. The best part of it was that
the man above could not read his mind, and therefore would not be able
to gauge his scheme in time to reap any benefit from it.

Then again it was likely that occasionally one of the bombs might be
badly aimed, and fall over in the adjoining field. Frank was far from
ready to give up. He would keep everlastingly at it, as long as the van
driver could get his machine to obey his will, and there was a solitary
chance for them to escape the destructive effects of those numerous
explosions.

"This time I'll call in your ear what I want you to do," was what Frank
told the pilot at the wheel. "But no matter whether it's stop short, or
rush ahead, do it as quick as a flash. Be ready now, for they're almost
up to the throwing point."

As the birdmen were going the same way as the van it was necessary that
they get almost overhead before undertaking to make a throw. The missile
would then be given a forward movement calculated to cause it to reach a
certain point aimed at.

Frank had practiced this same thing himself many a time, first from a
moving railway train, and latterly from a swiftly driven aëroplane. Thus
he was in a position to know something about it.

Billy continued to make the best use he could of his mock gun. He
labored under the fond delusion that he was thus doing his part in
keeping the fliers at a respectable distance, which amounted to
something after all.

As for Pudge, he could only lie there on his face unable to look up--it
was so terrible to see that man-made bird in the air above them, just
for all the world like a hawk he had watched hovering over the water ere
making a swift descent and plucking a fish out of the lake with its
talons.

While he lay there on his stomach waiting in dread Pudge felt the car
give several erratic movements. He could not at first decide whether it
was stopping or making a sudden dash, but he did hear the crash
announcing the next explosion.

Realizing that he was still in the land of the living, and as far as he
could tell unharmed, Pudge raised his head and twisted his fat neck
around.

He saw the Taube machine speeding on ahead; the van was apparently
unharmed by the last shot, for it too continued along its way with a
merry chug-chug-chug that sounded as sweet as any music he had ever
heard in the ear of Pudge Perkins.

"What happened, Frank?" he asked eagerly.

"A number of things," he was told; "first we dodged him, and coaxed a
throw. Then in his haste he made a bad shot and wasted another of his
precious bombs, for it only tore a wound in the pasture land back there
a bit."

"That makes four times he's whacked away at us, don't you know, Frank!"
exclaimed Pudge, as though he considered each separate escape little
short of a miracle.

"It's the last time in the bargain," announced Billy, "because there
comes a troop of mounted soldiers around the bend over yonder, and
you'll hear the crack of guns if you listen a bit. There! what did I
tell you? See how they start right away to try and get the Germans in
the Taube. The Britishers know that make of aëroplane as far as they can
see it. A Taube and a German are one and the same thing with them."

"Whee! I warrant you the lead is singing around their ears like a swarm
of angry wasps right now," ventured Pudge, now condescending to actually
sit up again, for it began to appear that their peril was a thing of the
past.

"Well, I don't really know that I want to see those daring fellows come
down in a rush," admitted Frank, whose sportsmanlike spirit could find
much to admire in a foeman, as well as in a friend.

"They're ascending in spirals now," remarked Billy, "and edging away at
the same time. Guess they've had all they wanted of the game, and for
the time we're safe from interference. Go it you terriers, or English
bulldogs, rather; keep them up so high that they'll see the folly of
trying to hit so small an object as our van here."

Acting on Frank's suggestion the chauffeur had come to a dead halt with
his machine. If they kept on and lost the support of the soldiers on the
road the crafty birdmen might again chase after them, to renew the
unequal contest by hovering above and bombarding them with those
dangerous missiles until one finally struck.

Presently, having mounted to a height where they need not fear the
bullets from the guns of the British soldiers the airmen once more
circled around and a bomb was dropped.

It exploded not fifty feet away from where the loaded van stood. There
was somewhat of a scattering on the part of the soldiers. No one looked
anything but annoyed because of this happening; but this sprang wholly
from the fact that they could do so little against the aërial enemy.

Just then, however, Billy cried out that "as sure as two and two make
four" he had discovered help in the offing. Some floating objects in the
air increased rapidly in size, and quickly took on the attributes of
other aëroplanes.

"Oh! more Taubes coming!" shrieked Pudge as he glimpsed the several dots
that were heading their way.

M'sieu therefore proceeded to enlighten them as to the last difference
between the machines used almost universally by the Allies and those
which the Germans believed answered their demands best of all.

"They are the Allies!" he told Frank, with ill concealed satisfaction;
and after that even Pudge could sit contentedly and watch how quickly
the Germans started full tilt toward their own lines.

The two fresh arrivals pursued the other craft in hot haste, and there
could be heard faint reports from up aloft as though they were trying to
wing the fugitive Taube. When last seen pursuers and pursued were still
making fast time toward the north.

Of course Frank begged the chauffeur to put on all possible speed so as
to get as near Dunkirk as he could before any further trouble might
arise to endanger the safety of the precious seaplane.

Whether the audacious air-pilots in the Taube really escaped or were
brought down by their swift pursuers the aëroplane boys never knew. They
felt it quite satisfactory to know that apparently their route to the
French town on the water was again free from waylaying trouble. Besides,
Frank was of the opinion that they had left the bad part of their
journey behind them. He was assured of this fact by M'sieu, the French
pilot who had been in their company through the whole of this
adventurous day.



                             CHAPTER XXVI.

                          HEADED TOWARD HOME.


Once they struck better roads their progress was much faster. Indeed, it
was not long after the close of that short February day when they
managed to arrive at Dunkirk. The boys did not rest until every part of
the seaplane had once more been stored in the hangar, which they found
just as they had left it, a cordon of soldiers still guarding it.

Tired after that most exciting day, the boys prepared supper. Frank
asked M'sieu to join them, but the French aviator explained that he had
his report to make out, so that the Government might complete the
bargain on the next day.

"I shall never forget you, my brave boys," he assured them in parting.
"I have seen many experienced pilots handle their craft, but on my honor
I assure you never before have I found one so young display such rare
ability. After once seeing that you were the master of your airship
never once did I fear for my life, or feel that it would better things
if I took the wheel. I wish you every luck in the world; and it is with
deep regret that I say _au revoir_."

"Just to think," remarked Pudge, as later on they sat around and partook
of the supper that had been prepared, "all that's happened since we left
here this A. M."

"It's been a red-letter day in our experience, for a fact," admitted
Frank.

"A glorious try-out," said Billy, "and the _Sea Eagle_ sure behaved
herself in a way to make us proud of our Company. Only for that
unfortunate puncture in the gas tank, we'd have come through without a
single hitch."

"And even that turned out to be not so serious a thing, after all," said
Frank, "though I admit it gave us a little concern at the time. But it
had its compensations, after all, one of which was our meeting with that
fine chap, Captain Marsden."

"Yes," said Pudge proudly, "and I'm glad to announce that my knees are
not so badly scraped as I thought they were. I think I deserve a whole
lot of praise for making that long creep so well. It wasn't much to you
fellows, but a different proposition to one of my shape."

"We'll give you all the credit going, Pudge," said Billy magnanimously.
"But, Frank, we ought to get the plane rigged up again the first thing
in the morning, oughtn't we?"

"Not thinking of another flight over the battlefields, are you?" asked
the fat chum, looking concerned again.

"No, we're through taking all those risks," Frank told him. "But you're
right about that, Billy. They may want us to deliver the plane over to
them tomorrow, and it ought to be in apple-pie condition. I hope to
close the contract, and then we can go back home."

"Leaving the one sample machine," demanded Billy, "and allowing the
French Government to manufacture a certain number of others, paying our
company a royalty on every seaplane built along the lines of our
patents?"

"That about covers the case," Frank agreed. "Of course, once we receive
our pay, and hand the seaplane over, we have no further interest in what
happens to it, although I'd hate to learn it had met with an accident."

"You think, then, do you, Frank, that the German spies will keep on
trying to steal or destroy the _Sea Eagle_?" asked Billy.

"If they get the chance they certainly will," the other replied. "They
know now that all the wonderful things they heard about it are true, and
that a fleet of aircraft built on those same lines would make
back-numbers of their Zeppelins and Taubes. But, as I said before, let
the French Government do the worrying after the deal is closed."

"But if this machine were blown to smithereens, Frank, our Company would
stand to lose those royalties?" Pudge suggested.

"All of which is true enough, Pudge," Frank told him, "but that's
something we can't remedy, so we'll have to trust to sheer luck."

They passed a quiet night, and morning found them busily engaged in
getting the dismantled seaplane together again. The injuries which it
had suffered in making that descent, thanks to Frank's skillful
piloting, had not proven serious, and so by the time noon came they were
ready to have it looked over by the aviators who might be sent to the
hangar by the officials of the Government.

The glowing report handed in by M. Le Grande must have hurried matters
up considerably, for a little later on several gentlemen made their
appearance. They looked over the big seaplane carefully, and then had
Frank and his chums sign several papers, one of which was a contract on
royalty covering fifty machines which the Government might wish to
construct within a year's time.

Then Frank was given a certified check from the Government, and the
transaction was considered closed.

The boys took away the small bundles they had already packed, and both
hangar and seaplane became from that hour the property of the French
Government.

Going to a hotel, Frank and his chums made all arrangements looking to
crossing over to London on the next day. From there they expected to go
to Liverpool, and take passage on the first steamer sailing for New
York, regardless of the danger from German submarines lurking in the
Irish Sea.

At the time they left the hangar the British soldiers were marching
away, their place being taken by French officers, who were perhaps
secret service men, or detectives. It looked as though every possible
precaution were being taken to safeguard the wonderful seaplane of which
so much was expected.

As they had planned, the three boys got away on the following day, and
reached London in safety. No sign was seen of any hostile undersea
vessel during the short trip across to English shores.

In London they found that they would have several days on their hands
before they could sail from Liverpool, so they concluded to spend the
interval watching the sights in the great British metropolis in war
times, so different from the old life known to all travelers.

It was on the second morning after arriving there that Billy, who had
gone down to get a paper, while his chums were finishing dressing, came
bursting into their room again with his face white, and a printed sheet
held in his trembling hand.

"What ails you?" demanded Pudge, in a shivery way. "I hope now Germany
hasn't declared war on the poor old United States over night?"

"Frank, they got her after all!" gasped Billy.

"Do you mean the _Sea Eagle_?" cried the other in dismay.

"Yes," continued the excited Billy, "here's an account of how in the
middle of the night a sudden shock was felt in Dunkirk. People thought
it must be those Taubes back again bombarding the town, and lots of them
hurried down into their cyclone cellars. But it was found that an
aëroplane hangar just outside the place had been blown to pieces with a
bomb that had either been placed underneath or dropped from some
airship."

"All gone?" asked Frank.

"Blown to pieces, and they tell that it is feared several French guards
lost their lives in the bargain. They don't say much about it, except
that the hangar contained a new seaplane the Government had just
purchased from an American firm owning the patents, and that as it was
utterly destroyed, the loss would be complete."

"Whew!" cried Pudge. "Say, I'm glad it was out of our hands when this
happened."

"For a good many reasons, too," added Frank. "We might have gone up with
the hangar and the _Sea Eagle_ if we'd been there."

"No, sir, I don't believe it would have happened as long as Frank
Chester was on deck," said Billy stoutly. "But, Frank, they'll have to
fight this war through now without the help of fifty _Sea Eagles_, won't
they?"

"Just what must happen," replied Frank, "because Dr. Perkins will never
consent to pursuing the matter any further. He would not dream of
supplying patterns to the Allies after this. I'm sorry, and yet at the
same time I must say I feel a bit glad."

"Well, let me tell you," said Pudge, "it's a good thing for the
Germans."

"Yes," Frank went on to say reflectively, "and it will make us feel that
after all we hadn't any business to help one side more than the other.
But it would have been mighty interesting reading for us later on to
learn what great stunts M'sieu Le Grande and forty-nine of his valiant
French comrades were accomplishing with the wonderful seaplanes that
out-classed anything the Germans could match against them."

"Well, anyhow," said Pudge, "after this war is over I can see a rushing
business for the _Sea Eagle Company, Limited_, in France, Germany and
the United Kingdom."

"Unless before that happens we've disposed of our patents to the United
States Government," remarked Frank. "This would be the most patriotic
thing to do. But even if some of our plans failed to come to a fruitful
end, we've certainly had the time of our lives over on this side of the
sea, and the sights we've seen will never be forgotten."

While Frank and his two chums linger in London, waiting for the
announcement of the sailing day of the steamer that is to take them
home, we will have to say good-by, and leave them there. Such
venturesome lads are certain to undertake still further enterprises as
time passes, and we can only hope that it may be our pleasant duty to
chronicle these happenings for the benefit of the boy readers who have
faithfully followed them through scenes of danger and stress in the
past, as recorded in previous volumes in this Series.

                                THE END.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          BOY AVIATORS' SERIES
                        BY CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON

                   Absolutely Modern Stories for Boys
                  Cloth Bound    Price 50¢, per volume

                     The Boy Aviators in Nicaragua
                      Or, Leagued With Insurgents

The launching of this Twentieth Century series marks the inauguration of
a new era in boys' books--the "wonders of modern science" epoch. Frank
and Harry Chester, the BOY AVIATORS, are the heroes of this exciting,
red-blooded tale of adventure by air and land in the turbulent Central
American republic. The two brothers with their $10,000 prize aeroplane,
the GOLDEN EAGLE, rescue a chum from death in the clutches of the
Nicaraguans, discover a lost treasure valley of the ancient Toltec race,
and in so doing almost lose their own lives in the Abyss of the White
Serpents, and have many other exciting experiences, including being
blown far out to sea in their air-skimmer in a tropical storm. It would
be unfair to divulge the part that wireless plays in rescuing them from
their predicament. In a brand new field of fiction for boys the Chester
brothers and their aeroplane seem destined to fill a top-notch place.
These books are technically correct, wholesomely thrilling and geared up
to third speed.

                     Sold by Booksellers Everywhere
                 HURST & CO.    Publishers    NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          BOY AVIATORS' SERIES
                        BY CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON

                   Absolutely Modern Stories for Boys
                  Cloth Bound    Price 50¢, per volume

                   The Boy Aviators on Secret Service
                       Or, Working With Wireless

In this live-wire narrative of peril and adventure, laid in the
Everglades of Florida, the spunky Chester Boys and their interesting
chums, including Ben Stubbs, the maroon, encounter exciting experiences
on Uncle Sam's service in a novel field. One must read this vivid,
enthralling story of incident, hardship and pluck to get an idea of the
almost limitless possibilities of the two greatest inventions of modern
times--the aeroplane and wireless telegraphy. While gripping and holding
the reader's breathless attention from the opening words to the finish,
this swift-moving story is at the same time instructive and uplifting.
As those readers who have already made friends with Frank and Harry
Chester and their "bunch" know, there are few difficulties, no matter
how insurmountable they may seem at first blush, that these up-to-date
gritty youths cannot overcome with flying colors. A clean-cut, real
boys' book of high voltage.

                     Sold by Booksellers Everywhere
                 HURST & CO.    Publishers    NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          BOY AVIATORS' SERIES
                        BY CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON

                   Absolutely Modern Stories for Boys
                  Cloth Bound    Price 50¢, per volume

                       The Boy Aviators in Africa
                       Or, An Aerial Ivory Trail

In this absorbing book we meet, on a Continent made famous by the
American explorer Stanley, and ex-President Roosevelt, our old friends,
the Chester Boys and their stalwart chums. In Africa--the Dark
Continent--the author follows in exciting detail his young heroes, their
voyage in the first aeroplane to fly above the mysterious forests and
unexplored ranges of the mystic land. In this book, too, for the first
time, we entertain Luther Barr, the old New York millionaire, who proved
later such an implacable enemy of the boys. The story of his defeated
schemes, of the astonishing things the boys discovered in the Mountains
of the Moon, of the pathetic fate of George Desmond, the emulator of
Stanley, the adventure of the Flying Men and the discovery of the
Arabian Ivory cache,--this is not the place to speak. It would be
spoiling the zest of an exciting tale to reveal the outcome of all these
episodes here. It may be said, however, without "giving away" any of the
thrilling chapters of this narrative, that Captain Wilbur Lawton, the
author, is in it in his best vein, and from his personal experiences in
Africa has been able to supply a striking background for the adventures
of his young heroes. As one newspaper says of this book: "Here is
adventure in good measure, pressed down and running over."

                     Sold by Booksellers Everywhere
                 HURST & CO.    Publishers    NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          BOY AVIATORS' SERIES
                        BY CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON

                   Absolutely Modern Stories for Boys
                  Cloth Bound    Price 50¢, per volume

                    The Boy Aviators' Treasure Quest
                         Or, The Golden Galleon

Everybody is a boy once more when it comes to the question of hidden
treasure. In this book, Captain Lawton has set forth a hunt for gold
that is concealed neither under the sea nor beneath the earth, but is
well hidden for all that. A garrulous old sailor, who holds the key to
the mystery of the Golden Galleon, plays a large part in the development
of the plot of this fascinating narrative of treasure hunting in the
region of the Gulf Stream and the Sagasso Sea. An aeroplane fitted with
efficient pontoons--enabling her to skim the water successfully--has
long been a dream of aviators. The Chester Boys seem to have solved the
problem. The Sagasso, that strange drifting ocean within an ocean,
holding ships of a dozen nations and a score of ages, in its relentless
grip, has been the subject of many books of adventure and mystery, but
in none has the secret of the ever shifting mass of treacherous currents
been penetrated as it has in the BOY AVIATORS' TREASURE QUEST. Luther
Barr, whom it seemed the boys had shaken off, is still on their trail,
in this absorbing book and with a dirigible balloon, essays to beat them
out in their search for the Golden Galleon. Every boy, every man--and
woman and girl--who has ever felt the stirring summons of adventure in
their souls, had better get hold of this book. Once obtained, it will be
read and re-read till it falls to rags.

                     Sold by Booksellers Everywhere
                 HURST & CO.    Publishers    NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          BOY AVIATORS' SERIES
                        BY CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON

                   Absolutely Modern Stories for Boys
                  Cloth Bound    Price 50¢, per volume

                   The Boy Aviators in Record Flight
                        Or, The Rival Aeroplane

The Chester Boys in new field of endeavor--an attempt to capture a
newspaper prize for a trans-continental flight. By the time these lines
are read, exactly such an offer will have been spread broadcast by one
of the foremost newspapers of the country. In the Golden Eagle, the
boys, accompanied by a trail-blazing party in an automobile, make the
dash. But they are not alone in their aspirations. Their rivals for the
rich prize at stake try in every way that they can to circumvent the
lads and gain the valuable trophy and monetary award. In this they stop
short at nothing, and it takes all the wits and resources of the Boy
Aviators to defeat their devices. Among the adventures encountered in
their cross-country flight, the boys fall in with a band of rollicking
cow-boys--who momentarily threaten serious trouble--are attacked by
Indians, strike the most remarkable town of the desert--the "dry" town
of "Gow Wells," encounter a sandstorm which blows them into strange
lands far to the south of their course, and meet with several amusing
mishaps beside. A thoroughly readable book. The sort to take out behind
the barn on the sunny side of the haystack, and, with a pocketful of
juicy apples and your heels kicking the air, pass happy hours with
Captain Lawton's young heroes.

                     Sold by Booksellers Everywhere
                 HURST & CO.    Publishers    NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          BOY AVIATORS' SERIES
                        BY CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON

                   Absolutely Modern Stories for Boys
                  Cloth Bound    Price 50¢, per volume

                      The Boy Aviators Polar Dash
                   Or, Facing Death in the Antarctic

If you were to hear that two boys, accompanying a South Polar expedition
in charge of the aeronautic department, were to penetrate the Antarctic
regions--hitherto only attained by a few daring explorers--you would
feel interested, wouldn't you? Well, in Captain Lawton's latest book,
concerning his Boy Aviators, you can not only read absorbing adventure
in the regions south of the eightieth parallel, but absorb much useful
information as well. Captain Lawton introduces--besides the original
characters of the heroes--a new creation in the person of Professor
Simeon Sandburr, a patient seeker for polar insects. The professor's
adventures in his quest are the cause of much merriment, and lead once
or twice to serious predicaments. In a volume so packed with incident
and peril from cover to cover--relieved with laughable mishaps to the
professor--it is difficult to single out any one feature; still, a
recent reader of it wrote the publishers an enthusiastic letter the
other day, saying: "The episodes above the Great Barrier are thrilling,
the attack of the condors in Patagonia made me hold my breath, the--but
what's the use? The Polar Dash, to my mind, is an even more entrancing
book than Captain Lawton's previous efforts, and that's saying a good
deal. The aviation features and their technical correctness are by no
means the least attractive features of this up-to-date creditable
volume."

                     Sold by Booksellers Everywhere
                 HURST & CO.    Publishers    NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Transcriber's Notes:

  1. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.
  2. Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation in the original document
     have been preserved.
  3. Underscores indicate text originally in printed in italics.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Boy Aviators with the Air Raiders - A Story of the Great World War" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home