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 | HTML | 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 Scouts on War Trails in Belgium - Or, Caught Between Hostile Armies
Author: Carter, Herbert
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 Scouts on War Trails in Belgium - Or, Caught Between Hostile Armies" ***

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

BELGIUM***


[Illustration: "Faster! Thad, squeeze a little more speed
out of the poor old thing."
_The Boy Scouts on War Trails in Belgium._    _Page 66_]


THE BOY SCOUTS ON WAR TRAILS IN BELGIUM

Or

Caught Between Hostile Armies

by

HERBERT CARTER

Author of
"The Boy Scouts First Campfire," "The Boy
Scouts in the Blue Ridge," "The Boy Scouts
on the Trail," "The Boy Scouts in the
Maine Woods," "The Boy Scouts
Through the Big Timber,"
"The Boy Scouts in the
Rockies," "The Boy
Scouts Along the
Susquehanna."
Etc.,



Copyright, 1916
By A. L. Burt Company



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER                                                     PAGE
  I. The News That Reached the Rhine.                            3
  II. A Bold Undertaking.                                       12
  III. Giraffe Makes a Bargain.                                 19
  IV. The Blocked Way to the Border.                            28
  V. At the Ferry.                                              37
  VI. Scout Tactics.                                            45
  VII. Dodging Trouble.                                         54
  VIII. The Country of Windmills.                               63
  IX. At a Wayside Belgian Inn.                                 71
  X. The Throb in the Night Breeze.                             80
  XI. Warned Off.                                               89
  XII. The Penalty of Meddling.                                 98
  XIII. Repentant Bumpus.                                      106
  XIV. More Hard Luck.                                         115
  XV. At the End of a Tow Line.                                124
  XVI. The German Raiders.                                     132
  XVII. A Man in the Tree Top.                                 141
  XVIII. Good Samaritans.                                      149
  XIX. The Battle at the Bridge.                               158
  XX. Victory in Defeat.                                       167
  XXI. The Call for Help.                                      176
  XXII. Up from the Depths.                                    184
  XXIII. "A Tempest in a Teapot."                              193
  XXIV. The Ambuscade.                                         202
  XXV. The Scouts' Camp Fire.                                  210
  XXVI. A Tattooed Fugitive.                                   219
  XXVII. The Uhlan Hold-up.                                    228
  XXVIII. Turned Back.                                         236
  XXIX. A Change of Plans--Conclusion.                         245



                THE BOY SCOUTS ON WAR TRAILS IN BELGIUM.



                               CHAPTER I.
                    THE NEWS THAT REACHED THE RHINE.


"It strikes me Allan's a pretty long time coming with those letters,
Thad."

"Oh! perhaps he's struck some exciting news worth picking up; you know
he's a correspondent for a newspaper at home in the good old United
States, and must always be on the lookout for happenings. Have a little
more patience, Bumpus."

"But you see I didn't sleep ten winks last night, Thad. After our lovely
quiet trip down the Rhine by boat from Mainz this place seemed just as
noisy as any boiler factory."

"No wonder, Bumpus, with trains pouring in from the east and north,
every one loaded down with German first-line troops, field artillery,
cavalry horses, aeroplane supplies, and all sorts of war toggery."

"Yes, but, Giraffe, I took notice that _you_ slept like a top through it
all, just as if we were camping again in the Maine woods, or down in
that Louisiana swamp where we had such a roaring good time."

The boy who answered to the peculiar nick-name of "Giraffe" laughed when
the stout, auburn-haired member of the trio, known as Bumpus Hawtree,
made this assertion.

"Oh! I've got it down to a fine point, Bumpus," he remarked with a touch
of boyish pride in his voice; "I've found out how to make mind win over
matter. When I lay me down to sleep I just tell myself to forget all
troubles; and after counting a hundred sheep jumping over a fence I lose
myself the finest way you ever saw. Try it yourself, Bumpus, and see how
it works."

"As a rule I don't have any trouble getting my forty winks, and you know
that, Giraffe," the fat boy continued, sadly; "but just now I'm terribly
worried about my mother back there in Antwerp. Whatever would she do if
this war does break out, so helpless to get away by herself, because of
that paralysis she's trying to have cured by a specialist?"

"We've given you our promise, Bumpus," said the one called Thad, "that
we'd stick by you through thick and thin, and do everything in our power
to get to Antwerp. So cherk up and try to feel that it's all going to
come out right in the end."

"Thad, a scout never had a better chum than you've always been to me,"
Bumpus acknowledged, with a trace of tears in his eyes, as he laid his
hand on the other's khaki sleeve; "and I'm going to do my level best to
see the silver lining of the cloud. But it's tough being hemmed in by a
whole army like we are, and given to understand that it's impossible to
enter Belgium again until the skies clear."

These three boys who wore the well-known uniform of scouts were seated
in a boat that had apparently been used as a means for descending the
historic Rhine.

Thad Brewster was the leader of the patrol to which the others belonged.
It was known as the Silver Fox, and formed a part of Cranford Troop. He
had worked his way up until his field of experience was so broad that it
entitled him to take the place of the regular scout master of the troop
when the latter could not accompany the boys on their outings.

Giraffe was really known to his teachers in school as Conrad Stedman.
His ancestors had come from this same Rhine country long ago, and as the
boy had made a specialty of German in school he was able to jabber
fairly well during their trip down the beautiful river. Giraffe came by
his nick-name honestly. He had been given an abnormally long neck by a
bountiful Nature, and on occasion it seemed as if the boy could even
stretch this out to an astonishing extent, just as the giraffe does. He
never complained because every one of his mates called him by such a
name, for if it hadn't been that he must surely have been dubbed
"Rubber-neck," which would have been infinitely worse.

Bumpus Hawtree also had another more dignified name, that of Cornelius
Jasper, but it was utterly unknown among his comrades. Whether on the
baseball field, in camp, on the trail, in a boat, or any other place
where boys might gather it was always plain Bumpus. No one knew exactly
why that peculiar name had been given to the fat boy, except that being
clumsy he was always stumbling into trouble, and given to bumping
against his chums.

These boys, with some others connected with the Cranford Troop of
scouts, had seen considerable in the way of adventure since the first
day they organized their Silver Fox Patrol. Wonderful opportunities had
come to them whereby they were allowed to visit the Blue Ridge country
down in North Carolina; go to the Maine woods on an outing; cross the
continent to the great Rockies and enjoy a hunt for big game in the
wilderness; and even take a trip down into the Sunny South, where amidst
the swamps of Louisiana they had encountered numerous remarkable
adventures.

No matter what difficulties beset them, Thad Brewster and his chums had
always met emergencies as became true-hearted scouts, and as a rule
managed to emerge from the encounter in triumph. Earlier in the same
summer that we see them so far away from their home town of Cranford
they had been concerned in a wonderful hunt for a valuable missing paper
that took them along the banks of the Susquehanna River, and brought
them in contact with a number of thrilling happenings, all of which have
been fully described in the volume preceding this.

Bumpus Hawtree's father was the president of the bank, and known to be a
wealthy man. The boy's mother had suffered from a paralytic stroke, and
urged to go abroad to be treated by an eminent specialist, this trip had
suddenly been thrust upon the chums.

Circumstances having arisen whereby Mr. Hawtree could not leave his
business, he had entrusted the care of the invalid to Bumpus, and even
agreed to stand for half of the expense of having his three comrades
accompany him.

Thad and Allan Hollister had long hoped to some day take a boat trip
down the Rhine, and when they learned that Bumpus was going this fever
had attacked them more furiously than ever. Then came Giraffe with the
suggestion that he join with them, making a party of four.

It proved to be an irresistible temptation. If Mrs. Hawtree had to
remain for a month or so at the sanitarium of the specialist in Antwerp
what was to hinder the four chums from carrying out their cherished
scheme?

At that time there seemed to be no cloud on the sky of European
politics. Servia had indeed put a match under the magazine when some
scoundrel assassinated the heir to the Austrian throne, and the Dual
Monarchy was demanding redress; but nearly every one supposed it would
end in Servia backing completely down, and doing whatever her big
neighbor insisted upon.

So the trip had been made, the invalid left comfortably in the Belgian
city on the Scheldt, after which the quartette of wide-awake American
boys hurried across to the German city of Mainz, where they managed to
hire a boat that would answer their purposes.

This was fixed up the best way possible for cruising, and they had taken
their own good time drifting down the beautiful Rhine. At night when
away from any city or town the boys would proceed to camp just as though
they were over in America, and navigating the waters of the Mississippi
or the Susquehanna.

It would perhaps take a book to tell of the many interesting things they
saw and experienced while on this voyage along the German waterway. The
task would be a most pleasant one, too; but there are too many more
stirring scenes lying ahead of Thad and his friends and awaiting our
immediate attention to linger here.

Bumpus had been greatly worried of late. The reports had grown more and
more serious the nearer they approached Cologne, and evidences
multiplied that went to tell them the great German nation was taking no
chances of a sudden invasion from the French border.

They had seen trainloads of soldiers all sweeping toward the west and
south. Heavy traction engines had been noticed moving slowly along
country roads, and drawing enormous guns behind them. Thousands of motor
trucks, each also loaded to the limit with men in helmets, had been seen
scurrying along.

All these things pointed to a growing fear that some terrible calamity
was impending over poor Europe, so that possibly the long talked of
World's War might be nearer than most people across the Atlantic dreamed
of.

To comfort Bumpus, Thad had solemnly promised him that no matter what
happened they would do everything in their power to forge ahead and
reach Antwerp. When he made that brotherly promise Thad could not have
foreseen one-tenth of the tremendous difficulties that would have to be
surmounted before it could ever be carried into execution; but once it
was given he had such a tenacious will that the leader of the Silver Fox
Patrol was bound to try and keep his word.

Their other comrade, Allan Hollister, had gone into the city for any
mail that might be awaiting their arrival at Cologne. Sitting there with
the magnificent twin spires of the famous cathedral in plain sight, the
others were impatiently awaiting his return.

It may have been ten minutes after the little talk occurred with which
this chapter opens that a boy was discovered hurrying toward the boat.
From the fact of his wearing a khaki suit like the ones Thad and his
other two chums sported, it could be set down for granted that this must
be Allan Hollister.

As he drew nearer, all of them could see that his face was grave. This
gave Bumpus a new pang, for he feared he would never be able to make the
journey across Belgium, and join his invalid mother, who would be
waiting for him in Antwerp.

Allan silently handed each of them some mail, but after a glance at his
Thad voiced the feelings of his other two allies when he said:

"You're bringing us bad news, Allan; it's written on your face, and
there's no use keeping it back any longer. What's happened?"

Allan was the second in control of the patrol, a good woodsman, and a
stout-hearted scout. He braced himself with an effort, and after drawing
a big breath went on to tell them the thrilling news he had heard when
getting the mail.

"The war is on--German armies have crossed the frontier into
Belgium--King Albert has refused to let them pass through his country,
and there is a terrible battle being fought at Liége, with thousands of
men killed and wounded on both sides. The whole of Germany and Austria
have flamed up, and it's going to be a fight to the death with the
biggest nations of Europe on the battle line!"



                              CHAPTER II.
                          A BOLD UNDERTAKING.


No one said anything immediately. Bumpus had turned very white, and a
pained expression crept across his round face, seldom seen there.

"My poor mother!" they heard him mutter, as he stared over into the
mysterious west, in the direction where Antwerp was supposed to lie,
with part of Germany and the whole of Belgium between.

Under ordinary conditions there would have been only one way out of the
scrape for the four chums. This would have been to make as rapid a
retreat as they could, passing further into Germany, and managing by
some good fortune to get over into Holland where at Amsterdam they might
secure passage to London by steamer.

Thad would have laid out their campaign along those lines only for his
sacred promise to poor Bumpus, who being very set in his way might have
attempted the task of getting to the Belgian city by himself, and of
course making an utter failure of it, because Bumpus never did many
things right.

"So, the worst has come, after all," said Thad, presently; "and the
torch has been put to the powder magazine that will blow up pretty much
all Europe before the end is reached."

"Will Great Britain fight, do you think, Thad?" asked Giraffe, in
somewhat of an awed voice for one so bold as he had usually proved
himself.

"That's to be seen," replied the other, gravely; "but we know that
France and Russia will fly to arms, and I don't see how England can keep
out of it. You know she has sworn to maintain the neutrality of Belgium
even by force of arms if necessary. If the German army is over the
border that settles it, I'm afraid."

"Whew! but there will be a fierce old row!" declared Giraffe; "and just
to think of our being over here at such a wonderful time. Mebbe we won't
have lots to tell Step Hen, Davy Jones, Smithy, Bob White, and the rest
of the fellows when we get back home again."

"Yes, when we do!" echoed Bumpus, dolefully.

"Here, cheer up, Bumpus; don't look like you'd lost your last friend,"
the boy with the long neck told him. "Remember what Thad said about our
hanging to you all the way through, don't you? Well, it still goes. Even
the whole German army can't keep us from getting over into Belgium, and
hiking for old Antwerp. We'll pull up there sooner or later in pretty
fair shape, and smuggle Ma Hawtree across the Channel to England's
shores, mark my words if we don't."

Thad and Allan both said something along the same lines. Perhaps they
may not have felt quite so sanguine as Giraffe, but that did not prevent
them from trying to bolster up the sagging courage of Bumpus.

Of course the latter began to show immediate signs of renewed hope. How
could it be otherwise when he had the backing of such loyal chums?

"But what can we do when the whole country is just swarming with
soldiers, all heading in the direction of the border?" Bumpus wanted to
know. "We've got our passports, I admit, but in time of war they
wouldn't be worth the paper they're written on. And, Thad, no common
person can ride on one of the trains these days, I'm sure."

"Yes, that's right, Bumpus," the other admitted, "and in making up our
plans we must omit travel in the regular way."

"The border is something like forty miles away from here, I should say,"
suggested Allan, who had of course looked the thing up on the map.

"There's the Netherlands a bit closer," Thad explained, "if we chose to
cross over the line; but we might find it hard to get into Belgium that
way. One thing sure, we must be on the move to-day."

"Do you mean we'll hoof it, Thad?" demanded Giraffe, who, being a good
walker, evidently did not see any particular difficulty about managing
twenty to thirty miles a day over good summer roads.

With Bumpus it was quite another matter, and he held his breath while
waiting to hear what the patrol leader had to say.

"If we have to we might make it," Thad presently returned, as though he
had considered the matter himself at some previous time. "Then who knows
but what we might be lucky enough to run across some man owning a car,
who would either rent it to us or give us a lift to the border."

"But, Thad," objected Allan, "you know what we heard about all cars? As
soon as the order for mobilization went out it was flashed from the
Russian border to Alsace and Lorraine, and from that minute every car
worth owning in the entire German country would be the property of the
Government. Why, if we owned even an American-made car right now it
would be taken away from us, to be paid for by the military authorities.
I'm afraid it's going to be a case of shank's mare with us."

"Let it," said Thad; "we've got to make a start inside of an hour or
so!"

That was the prompt way in which most of the matters engineered by Thad
Brewster were put through. Somehow his manner of saying it thrilled the
others, for there could be seen a new grim look come into their faces.
Even the woe-begone countenance of Bumpus took on fresh hope.

"Do you really mean that we're going to start out into the west, Thad?"
he asked, with glistening eyes.

"Just what we'll do, Bumpus!" he was told with a reassuring smile on the
part of the patrol leader such as always carried fresh cheer to anxious
hearts.

"How about getting rid of the boat that's carried us down the Rhine so
splendidly?" questioned Giraffe.

"That's already been arranged for," was what the other told him; "all we
have to do is to hand it over to that boat builder, and get his receipt
for the same. We have paid the last thaler we owe, and there's no reason
why we can't leave our duffle here with the same man, to be sent for
later on when the war is over and railroads are taking on freight again
for America."

"It sounds good to me," said Giraffe. "I'd hate to lose a few things I
brought along to make myself comfortable with--the red blanket, for
instance, that's been with me on so many camping trips. I hope there's a
good chance of seeing our stuff again some fine day."

"Well, talking isn't going to help us any, so what do you say we get
busy?" suggested Thad; and as the others were all agreeable they soon
made quick work with packing up their belongings, so they could be left
in charge of the owner of the boatyard on the outskirts of the city.

All the while they worked the boys could hear a thousand and one sounds
connected with the feverish rush of military trains crossing bridges,
and starting off anew toward the Belgian border at three points beyond
the mobilizing centre of Aachen or, as it was once called, Aix la
Chappelle, almost due west by south from Cologne.

When the hour was up they had accomplished all the preliminaries looking
to the start on foot across German territory. The owner of the boatyard
doubtless wondered what they meant to do, for he asked a number of
curious questions. Still he readily agreed to store their packages until
such time as he received instructions how to ship the same to America,
accompanied by a tidy little sum to pay his charges.

"If you asked my opinion," remarked Giraffe, after they had left the
place and started off, "I'd say that old chap didn't wholly believe the
story we told. Right now he may think we're really a party of British
Boy Scouts, over here in the land of the Kaiser to learn some of the
garrison secrets, so in case of an invasion later on the beefeaters
would know where the weak places in the defences are."

"Do you think he would go to the trouble to inform some of the military
authorities of his suspicions, and get them after us?" asked Bumpus,
looking concerned, as well he might, for every delay promised to make
his task of rejoining his ailing mother more difficult.

"Let's hope not," said Thad; "but these Germans certainly do have the
greatest secret service ever known. They get their news in a thousand
ways, I've heard; and this war is going to give the world the biggest
surprise it ever had."

When Thad made that remark he little knew what wonderful things were
fated to come to light connected with the spy system of Germany, which
would prove to be the most elaborate ever conceived by any nation,
modern or otherwise.

"Next to Americans, they're the most wonderful people under the sun!"
boldly declared Giraffe, whose ancestors had lived along that same Rhine
river, so that he could not help but feel very kindly toward the whole
Teuton race.

There was Bumpus who was on the other side of the fence, for the
Hawtrees came of good old English stock. Hence he and Giraffe often had
friendly little tilts, each standing up for the land from which his
ancestors sprang. That little remark about the "beefeaters" was meant as
a sort of sly slur at Bumpus by the boy with the long neck, though for
once it failed to arouse any comment.

Having been compelled to pass the city in order to find the boatyard to
which they had been directed, the boys were on the northern side of
Cologne at the time they began their long tramp. Little did they dream
what amazing incidents were fated to fall to their portion before that
journey came to an end. It would have thrilled them through and through
could they have guessed even one-half of the hardships and the
adventures that awaited them on their bold undertaking.

With small bundles thrown over their shoulders after the manner of
scouts' knapsacks, they left the river behind them and faced the west.

"We've enjoyed meeting you, Old Father Rhine," said Giraffe, waving his
hand toward the stream as though he looked on it as a very good friend,
"and we'll always keep a little corner of our memory sacred to this
glorious trip; but we've got something to handle now that's a heap more
serious than just loafing in a pleasure boat, and eating three square
meals a day."

"First of all," said Thad, "we might pin the little miniature American
flags we brought with us to our coat lapels. Then folks can see that we
are Yankees, and not Britishers."

"But we haven't run across much bad feeling for the English among the
Germans," Bumpus ventured to say.

"Huh! wait and see what happens if Great Britain dares to take up the
challenge the Kaiser's thrown down when he crossed the Belgian border,"
asserted Giraffe. "The first shot a British man-o'-war takes at a German
vessel and it's going to be unsafe to talk in English over here. You'll
even have to change that snore of yours, Bumpus, and give it a Dutch
twist. Now if your name was only Gottlieb you'd pass for a native easy
enough, with your red face and round figure."

Thus chatting they made their way along the road leading away from the
city to the cathedral. Many persons they chanced to meet gave them a
respectful salute, no doubt at first thinking they might belong to one
of the German troops of Boy Scouts so common all over the empire. When
they glimpsed those tiny flags which the four lads so proudly wore,
their eyebrows went up and they were noticed to say things in an
undertone, one to another.

On several occasions Thad thought it best for them to step off the road
and settle down in some fence corner, or under a shed it might be. Each
of these times there passed a company of soldiers hurrying toward the
city, and evidently making for a mobilization point so that they might
occupy a place previously arranged for in the grand concentration scheme
of the nation's army.

These delays were not numerous, but they served to hold the boys up more
or less, so that by the time noon came they had not covered more than
three miles of territory beyond the suburbs of Cologne.

"There's a ramshackle old car stalled over yonder," Thad announced about
this time, "and I propose that we see if anything can be done to hire or
buy it. All good cars are seized by the military on sight, but they'd
pass such a wreck by. If we find we can repair it, and can get even five
miles an hour out of the machine, it'd be our policy to commandeer it,
if our pocketbook will stand the strain."



                              CHAPTER III.
                        GIRAFFE MAKES A BARGAIN.


"That's the stuff, Thad," declared Bumpus, enthusiastically.

No one considered this an odd remark for the stout boy to make, because
they knew from past experience that he was not an ardent pedestrian.
Bumpus was not built for action along those lines; he "het up" too
easily, as he was fond of explaining, and even now could be seen mopping
his perspiring brow with his bandanna handkerchief.

The man with the disabled car was so busily engaged that he did not
notice the approach of the four chums until they reached the spot.
Apparently he was about ready to give it up as a bad job, for he
scratched his head helplessly, and had a look of utter chagrin on his
face as he turned toward them.

Thad had previously asked Giraffe to conduct the negotiations, using his
best German to produce results.

The man was apparently some small tradesman in one of the towns so
thickly scattered about that region. He stared hard at the boys,
understanding immediately that they had a foreign look. Still the Rhine
country attracted many thousands of pilgrims each year, and myriads of
honest people helped out their living by what the tourists left behind
them; so he must have been used to seeing strangers.

Perhaps the news that had reached his ears concerning the breaking out
of war may have been the cause of his puzzled look.

While Giraffe engaged him in conversation, the others took a look at the
engine of the car. Both Thad and Allan had a fair smattering of
mechanical knowledge, and it did not take them long to size the
situation up, as the latter termed it.

"An old rattlebox, sure enough, Thad," observed Allan, knowing that the
owner could not very well understand what he was saying.

"I've seen a few worse machines, but I believe I could count them on the
fingers of one hand," the patrol leader admitted.

"It's easy to see what the matter is, though the man doesn't seem to
know," was what Allan remarked next.

"Yes, and so far as that goes it can be remedied without a great amount
of time and trouble," continued Thad.

"Would it pay us to make an offer for the discard?" asked Bumpus,
anxious to have a little say in the matter.

The other two exchanged looks.

"Let's take another squint at the thing before we decide," remarked
Thad.

"Agreed," his chum added. "I never did like to buy a pig in a poke, as
they used to say."

Once more they examined the engine, and then took a look at each of the
pretty well-used tires. Meanwhile Giraffe had exhausted his vocabulary,
and both he and the old German owner of the stranded car stood and
watched what the others were doing.

Bumpus bustled around like a busy beaver. From the way he poked his head
under the hood of the machine, touched this part of the machinery and
then that, one would have thought he might be an experienced mechanic;
and yet what Bumpus did not know about such things would fill many
volumes. But then it pleased him to look wise.

"Did you ask him if he cared to sell the old trap, Giraffe?" questioned
Thad.

"Yes," the other scout replied, "I put it up to him, and he told me he
didn't care if he did, providing he could get his price, and that it was
in cash."

"The cash part we could meet easily enough," continued the scout leader,
"but I'd want to know what sort of a price he means to put on the wreck.
It's of little use to him as it stands, for he can't do a thing with
it."

"I told him so," said Giraffe, "and that if we chose to buy the car it
would only be to have a little fun out of it, and then throw the old tub
in the discard."

"It's only fit for the scrap heap," ventured Bumpus, pompously.

"Well, get him to set a price on it, spot cash, and if it's too high
we'll step out with shank's mare again," Thad told the negotiator.

Accordingly Giraffe brushed up his high-school German and set to work.
The man listened to what he was saying, nodding his head meanwhile. His
eyes had a cunning look in them Thad thought, that seemed to tell of
covetousness.

"Whew!" they heard Giraffe say in an explosive way, after the other had
committed himself.

"What is his lowest figure in cash?" asked Thad.

"He nearly took my breath away," declared the other; "actually asks five
hundred marks for an old trap like this!"

"It's highway robbery, that's what!" commented Bumpus, in dismay.

"He says all the decent cars are being taken over by the military
authorities," continued Giraffe; "and that this sort of machine is the
only kind that it's safe to own."

"Well, so far as that goes he's right," admitted Allan.

"Yes, but he couldn't get twenty-five dollars for the tub if he put it
up at auction!" Bumpus asserted, just as though he were an authority on
all such subjects; "and here he asks a plump hundred for the bunch of
scrap iron."

All the same Bumpus kept an eager eye fastened on Thad, as though he
were in hopes the patrol leader might yet find some way to negotiate a
deal; for Bumpus would a thousand times rather travel in the slowest and
most uncertain car ever known than to walk.

"Offer him two hundred marks cash down," said Thad; "and that's a heap
more than it's worth. The balance is for the accommodation. We'll likely
throw it away after we've used it a bit."

"All right, just as you say, Thad," remarked Giraffe, and turning to the
German owner of the car he started in once more to dicker.

He had hardly gotten part-way through his speech before the others saw a
broad smile appear on the red face of the man, who began to nod his head
eagerly. At the same time he thrust out his hand toward Thad.

"What d'ye think of that, boys!" exclaimed Giraffe, apparently both
surprised and disgusted; "he snapped me up like a flash. Two hundred
marks it is, Thad, and the trap is ours for keeps."

"Oh! why didn't we set it at a hundred," groaned Bumpus; "a fine lot of
traders we are, I think. No David Harums in this bunch. We're easy
marks."

"Yes, two hundred of them," chuckled Allan.

Thad meanwhile, fearful lest the man might change his mind, counted out
some bills and handed them over to Giraffe.

"Write out a receipt in German, Giraffe, and have him sign the same
before you give him the money," he told the go-between.

This Giraffe soon did, and the man signed it without hesitation. Then
clutching the money, he said something to Giraffe, nodded his head
several times to the rest of the boys, and hurried away.

Somehow his actions, coupled with the way he glanced back over his
shoulder several times caused the four scouts to look at each other in
surprise.

"What do you think he means to do, now he's got the money?" Bumpus
asked.

"Oh! put for home and hide it away in a stocking, most likely," Allan
laughingly remarked.

"He acted as if he was afraid we'd repent, and want the money back,"
suggested the patrol leader. "That price was about twice as much as the
rattle-trap is worth, you see."

"You don't think he's hurrying off to get into town and report that
there are suspicious characters on the road who talk English, and may be
spies from across the Channel?" ventured Giraffe, uneasily.

"Worse than that, it may be," said Bumpus mysteriously.

"Explain what you mean, then," demanded Giraffe.

"Mebbe he _stole_ the car somewhere," suggested the other, "and before
we know it we'll be hauled up for the job."

The thought was far from pleasant. In the present disturbed state of the
Rhine country any one who did not have the stamp of the Fatherland on
his face and in his tongue was apt to fare harshly if placed under a
cloud by any circumstances.

"Well, the sooner we get busy and fix up our new purchase the better, I
should say, no matter where the man got it," Allan went on to remark.

Thad thought the idea so good that, taking off his coat, he started in
to working at the engine. He had enough experience to know what was
wrong, and how to go about fixing the defect, with Allan at his back to
give occasional bits of advice which helped out considerably.

Bumpus and Giraffe hovered around. They could not be of any material
assistance, and did not want to get in the way so as to delay things. So
they talked matters over, and every now and then would step closer to
see how the workers might be getting along.

"I only hope she holds out till we're safe over the border, don't you,
Giraffe?" remarked the fat boy, fanning himself with his hat, for the
August day was pretty warm, and there did not happen to be a breath of
wind blowing at the time.

"Yes," replied the tall scout, "because once we get beyond where the
fighting is we can move around without being held under suspicion."

"There, Thad seems to be fixing things up, and I do believe he's going
to try the engine to see if it works!" exclaimed Bumpus.

It took several efforts to get the result Thad was after, but all at
once the loud thumping told that he had succeeded.

"Hurrah!" cried Bumpus, showing signs of excitement.

"All aboard!" exclaimed Thad.

Fortunately the car happened to be headed in the direction they wished
to go, so there was no necessity for turning, which might not have been
an easy task. All of them soon stowed themselves away in the body of the
car, though it required some crowding, due principally to the fact that
one of their number took up enough space for two ordinary fellows. Of
course that was not the fault of poor Bumpus, who was willing to squeeze
himself into as small a cavity as he possibly could.

When Thad started the car they actually found themselves moving along at
what seemed to be a fair rate of speed, after their recent slow progress
afoot.

Bumpus almost held his breath for a short time. He acted as though he
feared he must be dreaming, and that he would presently awaken to a
bitter disappointment.

After they had actually covered a full mile, and the machine was still
moving ahead, Bumpus could restrain his exultation no longer.

"Ha! this is the life!" he exclaimed with a broad smile on his happy
face. "A fellow would be a fool to walk when he could sit here in his
own private car and whirl along the highway at this dizzy pace of five
miles an hour. Thad, that was a dandy idea of yours about buying the
wreck; and Giraffe, I want to give you great credit for doing the
bargaining. Here we are headed for Belgium in fine shape, and with our
cares yet to come."

Being boys, and with abounding spirits, they did not believe in crossing
bridges before they came to them. So while unaware of what the uncertain
future might hold for them they did not mean to worry. It was enough, as
Bumpus said, that the present looked sunny, with not a cloud on the
horizon.

In that jolly frame of mind they started to do the next mile with
slightly increased speed, as the engine "got its second wind," as
Giraffe called it.



                              CHAPTER IV.
                     THE BLOCKED WAY TO THE BORDER.


They passed over a second and even a third mile without having any
trouble. Now and then they overtook or met people on the road but
although the natives stared at seeing four boys in khaki riding in that
dilapidated old car they did not offer to molest them.

Thad knew, however, that they had a rocky road to travel, for many times
they must run up against soldiers, who would not be apt to let things
pass so easily.

"We're coming to a bridge ahead there, that spans the river," he told
the other three presently.

"I wonder will it be guarded," remarked Giraffe; "I've heard so much
about the wonderful way every little thing has been mapped out in case
of war being declared by Germany, that I reckon each man, young and old,
knows just what his part is to be, and has rushed off to do it the first
thing when the news came."

"Yes," added Thad, "we were told that the older men of the Landstrum
would stay at home and guard bridges, water plants, Zeppelin sheds, gun
factories and all such places. And unless my eyes deceive me I caught
the glint of the sun on steel at that bridge right now."

"Yes, that's a fact, Thad; I see soldiers, and they're watching us come
on," Allan observed, with a tinge of disappointment in his voice.

It was with more or less anxiety then that the scouts approached the
bridge.

"I don't suppose it would be wise to risk rushing it!" said Bumpus, and
the idea of such a thing was so ridiculous that Giraffe laughed aloud.

"Just imagine us bearing down on the guard in this wheezy old trap!" he
exclaimed; "why, old Don Quixote on Rosenante wouldn't be a circumstance
to us. He fought windmills, and we'd have to tackle German soldiers
armed with guns. Well, our only chance would be to _scare_ them nearly
to death, so they'd be unable to shoot."

"We'll not think of taking any such risk," said Thad, severely, though
of course he knew very well Giraffe was only joking.

With many a groan the car was brought to a stand at the bridge. Three
middle-aged men in uniform stepped up, and one who seemed to be a
non-commissioned officer addressed them in German.

Of course it devolved on Giraffe to do the honors, and so he proceeded
to tell just who they were, how they came to be on the Rhine, and how
necessary it was that they get back to Antwerp so as to take the sick
lady away.

All this had been arranged between Giraffe and Thad beforehand; and
possibly the former had practiced his speech at a previous time, so that
there might be no hitch.

Meanwhile Bumpus was waiting and listening, hoping for the best. The
gruff old German soldier looked at their passports, and then at the
little American flag which each one of them had fastened to the lapel of
his khaki coat.

He shook his head, and it was in the negative, Bumpus noticed, with a
spasm in the region of his heart.

Then followed some more conversation between Giraffe and the soldier;
after which the former turned to his comrades with a look of pain on his
long face.

"He says we've got to turn and go back to Cologne again, boys," Giraffe
informed them. "He has his orders to not let a single person cross the
bridge who doesn't live around here, and is known."

"But we are Americans, and he might have some consideration for us,"
complained Allan, though he knew just as well as anything, from the
severe look of the soldier, that talking would be useless.

"It makes no difference," Giraffe said, "orders are orders with him. I
really believe if the Kaiser himself should come along he'd have to go
back again. He says we might as well give over our foolish scheme of
getting across the border into Belgium, now that war has been declared,
and the fighting is going on."

Poor Bumpus looked heart-broken.

"Then we'll have to give up this beautiful car, and just when we were
getting so used to it, too," he fretted, as though that were the worst
and most cruel blow of all.

Thad knew it was folly to think of trying to swerve that old man, who
had an iron jaw, and may have been with the army many years ago when
Paris was taken and France humbled.

"Well, we must make out we're going to do what he suggests, anyway," he
said, in a low tone to the others.

Then he began to maneuvre so as to make the turn. It required some
dexterity, for the old car did not respond to the wheel very readily. In
the end, however, the turn was negotiated successfully, without any
accident. Bumpus had been clutching the side nearest him as though
fearful lest they might be precipitated down the embankment into the
river.

It was with despondent faces that the boys started back along the road
which they had so recently traveled in such high spirits. Bumpus,
however, believed that things were not utterly hopeless. He had caught
the words spoken by Thad, and to his mind they could have but one
meaning.

"Do we give up the ship at the first storm, Thad?" he asked plaintively.

"We have to make a show of doing what they ordered, you know," explained
the pilot at the wheel; "but I noticed on that little map I bought in
Mainz that there's another good road leading to that Belgian border. We
can try that and see what luck we have."

"Was that it about a mile back, leading off to the right as we came
along?" asked Allan, quickly, showing that he, too, had kept his eyes
about him, as every wide-awake scout should at all times.

"Yes," Thad told him.

"And you mean to take it, do you, Thad?" demanded Bumpus, oh! so
eagerly.

"We can make the try, and see what happens," he was told. "Of course, if
every bridge and culvert on the road has its guard, we'll not be apt to
get very far before we're hauled up again."

"Well, let's all hope that if that happens it'll be a man without that
iron jaw, and one who might listen to reason," Giraffe ventured, for he
was feeling badly over the utter failure of his attempted negotiations
with the guard.

They rode on in silence for a short time, and then Allan cried:

"There's your road ahead, Thad; and we've lost sight of the bridge long
ago, so they couldn't see us dodging into the same. There are some
people coming along, but they'll not notice what we're doing."

"I hope you haven't changed your mind, Thad?" remarked Bumpus,
anxiously.

"Certainly not, Bumpus," he was informed, and that satisfied the stout
chum, for he sank back again into his place with a grunt.

It turned out that the second road was almost as good as the other, a
fact that caused the boys to congratulate themselves more than once.

"They certain sure do know how to make roads over here in the Rhine
country," Giraffe declared; "fact is, they do about everything in a
thorough way that makes a Yankee sit up and take notice. No slip-shod
business will answer with these Germans."

"Yes, they even turn you back when your passport is O. K., and you've
got rights they ought to respect; they're thorough all right, but it's
too much red tape to suit me," Bumpus complained.

"No kicking yet awhile, Bumpus," Giraffe warned him; "you notice that
we're still on the move, and headed for the upper corner of Belgium's
border. If we've got any decent sort of luck at all we ought to make the
riffle."

"I'm afraid we're coming to some sort of town," Thad told them, "and as
there's no way of turning out here we'll have to take our chances."

"I did see a side road back a piece," remarked Allan.

"Yes, and running to the northwest in the bargain," added Giraffe.

"That would mean if it kept on straight it would finally bring up at the
Holland border, wouldn't it?" Bumpus wanted to know.

"I don't suppose we're twenty miles away from Holland right now," said
Allan.

"If we had to come to it, would you try to get across the line there,
Thad?" asked the stout boy, and when he was told that "half a loaf would
be a lot better than no bread," he seemed to be satisfied that all was
not lost.

As they proceeded the evidences of a town ahead of them became more and
more evident. Neat houses, each with its well kept garden, could be seen
on both sides of the road. Women and children, many of them wearing
wooden shoes, stared at the car as it wheezed past, bearing the four
boys.

Doubtless the sight of their khaki uniforms caused a general belief that
they must in some way be attached to the army, for several boys ventured
to give them a salute, which the pilgrims hastened to return in every
instance.

"Even the kids over here have got the military spirit born in 'em,"
remarked Bumpus, after a very small specimen had waved his hand in real
soldierly fashion.

They were now entering the town, though it could hardly be called by so
pretentious a name, since there was really but the one main street
running through it, with others cutting across.

"Too bad!" they heard Thad say; "but we're going to be held up again."

Several soldiers stepped out in the road. One seemed to be an officer,
from his uniform, though he did not carry a sword. He held up his hand
in the manner of an autocrat who must be obeyed, and of course Thad
stopped the car just before coming to the little squad. The other three
soldiers carried guns, and with such an array of weapons it would
certainly have been the height of folly for the boys to think of running
the gantlet.

To the surprise of Thad, the officer spoke in excellent English. Perhaps
he had at some time been stationed in England, or else in the United
States, though that did not necessarily follow, as undoubtedly many
Germans were proficient in other languages.

"You must turn back!" he said, severely; "I do not know that I would be
exceeding my authority if I ordered your detention under arrest."

"But we are American tourists, as our passports will show you, sir,"
Thad explained; "and all we want to do is to leave the country. One of
my comrades here has an invalid mother in Antwerp and he is wild to get
to her, so he can take her back home to America. Surely you will not
want to keep us here against our will, where we would be a burden on
you, and with four more mouths to fill?"

"It is sad," said the officer, with a shrug of his shoulders, "but now
that war has been declared, and we do not know what will befall the
Fatherland, we must do many things that would never happen in times of
peace. So while I am sorry for the boy with the sick mother, it must not
interfere with my orders, which were that no one should be allowed to
pass on toward the Belgian border unless he showed proof that he was in
the service of the Central Government."

"I am sorry to hear you say that, sir," Thad told him.

"There is still more," continued the other, sternly; "this is the second
warning you have had to turn back. We received word by telephone from
the bridge to look out for four American boys in scout uniforms. Be
careful how you risk a third offence, for I fear it would result in your
being thrown into prison. And remember, it is a long way from the
country of the Rhine to your Washington."

What he said gave the four chums a cold feeling. They knew he meant that
no matter how innocent of any intention to do wrong they might claim to
be, if they persisted in breaking the rules laid down by the German
Government for war times, why they must take the consequences, which
could not be very pleasant.

All of those castles in the air which Bumpus had been conjuring up
during their short ride now came tumbling in ruins to the ground.

"I guess we'll have to give it up, fellows," he groaned, "and take our
medicine the best way we can. We've tried our hardest to get out of this
beastly country; and no one can blame us for not succeeding. But I hate
to think of my poor sick mother over there, waiting and waiting for me
to come to help her, that's what!"



                               CHAPTER V.
                             AT THE FERRY.


"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!"

Giraffe was one of those fellows with a disposition very much like a
rubber ball; when crushed down by some sudden disappointment he would
come up again on the rebound.

"Here's that other road!" remarked Thad; "and do you see any one
following after us, to watch, and find out what we do?"

"Nope, coast clear back here," said Bumpus, nearly bursting a blood
vessel in his endeavor to look.

Thereupon the pilot deliberately disobeyed the orders of the officer
stationed in the town. He turned into the side road, and thus gave
positive evidence of an intention to once more try to run the blockade.
At the same time Thad understood what risks he was taking; only there
may arise situations that demand radical cures, unless one means to lay
down meekly and submit to Fate.

Bumpus began to show signs of renewed interest.

"It may be a case of two strikes, and then a swat over the fence for a
home run, Thad!" he announced, after they had gotten well started along
the new trail, which did not seem to be built along the same order as
those other roads, though not at all bad in that dry season of the year,
early August.

"Let's hope so," replied the pilot. "From the way this road runs we'll
have to give up all notion of getting across the line into Belgium.
We'll be lucky if we can make it Holland."

"Well, along here where a tongue of Holland runs down between Germany
and Belgium," explained Allan, who had looked up these things on the
map, "and which is a part of the Limberg country, it isn't over twelve
or fourteen miles across. There's one place at the Holland town of
Sittard where the gap can't be much more than four miles, so you see how
easy it would be for us to run across that neck, and land in Belgium."

"With this lightning car," observed Giraffe, "we'd hit the border, give
one grand splurge, and then bring up on Belgian soil."

"Limberg, you said, didn't you, Allan?" remarked Bumpus; "I guess I know
now where that strong cheese comes from. I only hope we don't strike any
factories on the way. It always makes me feel faint, you know."

"Huh!" snorted Giraffe, the taint of German blood coming to the surface,
"that's because some people don't know a good thing when they strike
it."

"Well, Giraffe, you ought to be glad then that I don't, because
sometimes you complain of my appetite, as if I could help being always
hungry."

"Thad, of course we're bound to strike that river again, if we keep on
heading into the northwest?" suggested Allan.

"Yes, for it runs into Holland on its way to the sea far above where we
hope to cross," admitted the other.

"This doesn't seem to be a very important road, for we haven't come
across a single soul on it so far," Allan suggested, significantly.

"And from the marks of wheels I'd be inclined to believe few vehicles
ever come this way," continued the patrol leader; "but what makes you
say that, Allan?"

"Oh! I was only wondering if it really kept on to the river, or turned
back after a bit," the other explained.

"That is, you hardly think such a road would deserve a bridge, which
must be a pretty costly proposition, the way they build them over here,
to last for centuries; is that it, Allan?"

"Yes, you've struck it to a fraction, Thad. Now, supposing there should
only be a ford for a crossing, we couldn't take this car over."

"Certainly not," came the ready reply; "but the fact that so many cars
travel the roads of Germany in these modern days makes me feel pretty
sure there will be some kind of way for getting over the river, even
without a bridge."

"Do you mean by a ferry?" asked Giraffe.

"More than likely," he was told, "but we're going to know right away,
for I had a little glimpse of the river through those trees back there.
We ought to be there in a jiffy."

A "jiffy" might mean almost anything, but with that slow car it stood
for more than five minutes. Then Allan heard Giraffe, who had abnormal
vision, give an ejaculation that had a smack of satisfaction about it.

"It's a ferry, I guess, Thad!" said the tall scout, who had that neck of
his stretched to an enormous extent that gave him a great advantage over
his comrades.

"What makes you say so?" asked Bumpus, who could see absolutely nothing
as yet.

"I notice a rope stretched across the river," Giraffe told him, "and
yes, there's some sort of a barge or float up at the landing on this
side."

Allan just then announced that he, too, could see what Giraffe was
trying to describe, and there could be no doubt about its being a ferry.

"Here's luck!" cried Bumpus, puffing out with new expectations.

"Let's hope they haven't gone and stuck a soldier alongside the ferryman
so as to keep him straight!" grunted Giraffe; "and, Thad, I suppose I'll
have to do the interpreter act again, if the chap doesn't talk United
States?"

"We depend on you for that, Giraffe," he was told.

The road led directly down to the edge of the water. There was some sort
of landing there at which the ferryboat put up. It allowed the traveler
who had a vehicle of any sort to pass directly from the shore on to the
deck of the monitor which was used for a ferryboat.

No one was in sight when they first arrived.

"If he doesn't show up couldn't we take charge of the boat and run her
across to the other side?" Bumpus was asking, as though about ready to
try anything once.

"Toot your horn, Thad, and see if it'll wake him up," Allan suggested.
"There's so little to do on his lay that p'raps the ferryman takes a nap
between trips."

"That's a good idea," assented Thad, and accordingly he used the auto
horn to some advantage, making certain doleful sounds that were easily
calculated to awaken any sound sleeper.

Immediately a man appeared in view. He may have been taking a nap for
all they ever knew. He was an old fellow wearing wooden shoes and a knit
cap. As he approached the car he seemed to look them over curiously.
Probably it was seldom indeed that any one outside of the natives came
his way.

"See him take in our little American flags, will you?" remarked Bumpus,
while Giraffe entered into a labored conversation with the ferryman; "he
must know what they stand for, too, because I could see his eyes light
up when he first noticed the same."

Giraffe at that moment turned to them.

"Yes, you're right about that, Bumpus," he said; "this man says he has a
son and his family out in Cincinnati, and wants to know if we've ever
met Hans Kreitzner. I told him I wasn't quite sure, because there were
some people in America I'd never yet run across, though I hoped to round
them all up later on."

"Don't josh the poor old fellow, Giraffe," urged Bumpus; "as for me, I'm
so glad because we haven't run across a pesky military guard here at the
ferry I'd be willing almost to promise to look his son up when I got
back home--by mail, of course, and tell him I'd met his respected paw."

"How about taking us on his ferryboat, Giraffe?" asked Thad.

"I hope he hasn't got his strict orders, like all the rest of the men
we've run across to-day," ventured Allan.

Giraffe nodded his head in a way that stood for hope.

"Seems to be all right, fellows," he assured them. "Old Hans here has
agreed to set us over on the other side. Perhaps when I promised to
double his fee it made him jump after the silver hook more nimbly."

"Yes, there he goes now to get his ropes unfastened," said Bumpus.
"Whew! from the way he's tied the old batteau up I should think he
hadn't had a passenger all this day. He's as slow as molasses in winter,
and that can't be beaten."

Giraffe looked at the speaker and grinned. When Bumpus called anything
"slow" it must move about as tediously as an ice wagon, or one of those
enormous German guns drawn over the hard roads by a powerful traction
engine.

"Let me crawl out first, Thad," the fat boy remarked, "if you're meaning
to move the car aboard the ferryboat."

"Bumpus is afraid of you, Thad!" cried Giraffe; "he thinks you may make
a slip and dump the whole business over the side of the boat; and Bumpus
doesn't care to go in swimming with his suit on. If it should shrink
when he tried to dry it, whatever would he do for another?"

All the same, Giraffe himself was not averse to leaving the little old
car while Thad was taking it carefully aboard the flatboat used as a
ferry, showing that he might be just as guilty as Bumpus.

"Well, now!" exclaimed the fat scout on noticing that even Allan joined
them, "seems like we might all be in the same boat, doesn't it?"

"We expect to be, right away," Giraffe told him, calmly.

Thad did not let the car play any trick. He soon had it aboard the
ferry, and about as well balanced as any one could have accomplished.
The old man had just about finished undoing the last rope, and in
another minute they might expect to find themselves moving out toward
the opposite shore, by means of the pulley fastened to the rope above,
and the long stout pole which was intended for pushing in the shallow
water.

"Thad, there's somebody coming on a gallop up there!" announced Giraffe
just then; "and I do believe it's a mounted soldier in the bargain!"

"Oh! thunder!" gurgled Bumpus, almost collapsing; "that's always the way
things go. We get just so far, and then the string pulls us back again."

"Don't let on that you see him," said Thad, quickly. "The old man is
pretty deaf I should say from the way you shouted at him, Giraffe. He
doesn't hear the man calling. Now, if he is so busy pushing off that he
fails to look up, we ought to be half way out in the stream before that
horse gets down to the bank."

"He's coming with a rush, I tell you!" said Giraffe, who had better
opportunities for seeing than any of the others, so that it did appear
as though at times it paid to have a neck that would stretch.

The ferryman had now thrown off the last rope and was stooping down to
take hold of the setting pole. Another minute or so would decide the
question.

Bumpus was so worked up that he could not keep still. As usual, he
advanced some wild idea, for while not as a rule fertile in expedients
there were times when it seemed as though that slow brain of the stout
boy worked furiously.

"There, hang the luck, fellows, the ferryman has seen him!" burst out
Bumpus, in the deepest disgust; "he's going to wait up for the soldier,
and take him aboard."

"Our cake will be dough," added Giraffe, gloomily, "if it happens that
the man on horseback comes from the town where we got turned back, and
orders us to go back with him, to be shut up in a German dungeon. I've
heard a lot about what terrible nasty places those fortress prisons are,
but I never thought I'd be in danger of finding out for myself."

"Do we have to give in so tamely as all that?" asked Bumpus, with a
spurt of spirit that would have become a warrior; "suppose now he does
try to browbeat us, ought four husky scouts from good old America get
down and kiss the shoes of just one bullying German soldier, because he
wears a helmet on his head. Thad, it's up to you to say the word, and
we'll all jump on him!"

"Don't be so rash, Bumpus!" Giraffe warned him, while Thad said:

"We'll wait and see what happens before we lay plans that must make
every man of the Kaiser's army our enemy. Here he comes now. Every one
keep a still tongue in his head but Giraffe; and while about it let's
hide these little flags. If he asks who we are tell him the truth,
though, remember, Giraffe!"



                              CHAPTER VI.
                             SCOUT TACTICS.


The horseman was now coming down the bank. Already he seemed to eye the
four passengers aboard the ferryboat, as though they interested him more
or less.

"Giraffe," muttered Thad.

"What is it?" asked the other, in a whisper.

"You might take occasion to ask the ferryman while we're crossing,
whether we can strike the road leading north to Grevenbroich, after
getting over. Get that name, do you?"

"Yes, and I'll do it as a sort of blind," continued the other; "he'll
naturally believe we're meaning to put up there instead of heading
across country."

The man was undoubtedly a soldier, but Thad came to the conclusion that
he must now be on some important mission rather than simply riding to a
concentration camp. In fact, he soon decided in his own mind the other
might be a dispatch-bearer, for he noticed what seemed to be a small
leather pouch partly hidden under his long coat.

They were soon moving across the stream. The man had dismounted before
leading his horse aboard the craft, since the animal showed positive
signs of not liking the ill-smelling old car. None of the scouts blamed
the intelligent animal either, for the mingled odor of gasoline and
burnt grease was anything but pleasant; although they believed that
"beggars should never be choosers," and that it was bad luck to "look a
gift horse in the mouth."

Giraffe did not forget his instructions. When they were about half-way
across he spoke to the old ferryman, and apparently asked for directions
about the way to the town mentioned by Thad, for he plainly said
"Grevenbroich."

The man with the setting pole answered him, and even pointed several
times in a northwesterly direction, as though assuring him that the
place mentioned lay in that quarter.

As though regretting one thing he had done, Thad took out the miniature
Stars and Stripes and fastened the little flag to his coat again. He
realized that the man would readily guess they were not Germans, and it
was better that he know their nationality than to suspect them of being
English.

He looked sharply at the emblem, and his heavy eyebrows went up, but he
did not say a single word to indicate what he may have thought.

The boys were only too well satisfied that matters should be as they
were. They had feared something much worse, and that the soldier would
order them to turn back again.

"What did he say about Grevenbroich, Giraffe?" Thad asked, so that the
horseman could plainly hear him mention that name.

"Oh! it lies off there some ways," said the other, also pointing.

"How can it be reached from this road?" further inquired the scout
leader.

Giraffe shrugged his shoulders. It was a new habit he had picked up
since coming abroad, for over there on the Continent nearly every one
depends on contortions of the facial muscles, and movements with the
hands and shoulders to add emphasis to what they say, or else take the
place of words.

"I couldn't understand all he said, you know, Thad," he explained, with
a broad grin, "because he speaks such terrible German, not at all like
our teachers gave us at school. But as near as I could make out, this
road comes to a place inside of a mile or so where it branches in three
different directions."

"Well, now," said Bumpus, "you wouldn't dream it was of so much
importance."

"One road runs southwest to the city of Duren, where the railroad from
Cologne goes, and where all the soldiers are pouring through on the way
to Belgium. Then another runs almost north, and lands you at
Grevenbroich; while the third keeps on until it strikes the border at
the Holland town of Sittard."

"Gravenbroich is the place for us!" said Thad, meaning to ring the
changes on that particular name until it had become impressed on the
mind of the listening soldier who must naturally believe they were
headed thither.

They believed they had deceived him when the landing was made, for after
paying the ferryman he sprang on his horse and galloped away, never once
looking back over his shoulder.

Thad willingly handed the man the sum agreed on, and the old fellow was
very polite, making sure that everything was secure before allowing them
to get the car off the float.

"That was what I call luck," said Giraffe, as they lost sight of the
river and the queer ferry.

"Soon we ought to come to the three forks of the road," announced Allan;
"when we must decide whether we want to go to Duren, Grevenbroich or the
Dutch border."

"As if there could be any doubt which we'd choose," observed Bumpus.

A short time later and they found themselves drawing near the split in
the road. Just why there should be so many feeders for so ordinary a
road none of them could understand; they simply found it so, and acted
accordingly.

"Of course we strike out over the middle one, Thad?" Giraffe remarked;
"but I say, what's going to happen, now that you've pulled up here at
the forks?"

"Wait for me a minute, while I take a look and see which way our friend
with the horse went," the other told him.

"Thad never forgets he's a Boy Scout, and able to find things out in a
way that would never occur to any ordinary fellow," said Allan, not
without a touch of genuine admiration in his tone; for he realized, much
to his regret, that there were times when the same could not be said of
him, skillful tracker that he was, as all Maine boys are supposed to be.

The three of them sat there in the car and watched Thad. Apparently he
had not the slightest trouble in finding what he was looking for, since
the hoofs of the horse had left plain imprints on the dusty road.

"He's turned up the road that leads to Duren, all right, as sure as
anything!" announced Giraffe, after they had seen Thad pass along that
way for a short distance.

"That means a good riddance of bad rubbish," laughingly remarked Allan.

When a minute later Thad returned he looked satisfied.

"He started on that way, and so far as I tracked him he kept right
along, so it looks as if we might be well rid of him," he reported.

"Guess all that talk about Grevenbroich told on him," insinuated Bumpus,
proudly, as though the idea had originated with him, and he felt that
the credit should come his way also.

They had just started off and gone about a hundred yards when Giraffe
was heard to snort in disgust.

"Played a neat game on us after all!" he exclaimed; "we're a fine lot of
babes in the woods to let a German soldier bamboozle us in that way.
Look over yonder and you can just manage to glimpse him through little
openings in the trees."

"Oh! he's galloping off in the direction of Duren!" cried Bumpus; "and I
warrant you after going along that road a piece he came back on the
side, to hide, and was there watching us all the while."

Thad shook his head as though he did not like the situation.

"You see," he explained, "if he had any suspicion before about us, it
must have doubled when he saw me following his tracks, and then watched
us come along this road. He knows now all that talk about Grevenbroich
was hot air, and that we're making for the Dutch border."

"Yes, and going lickety-split at that!" added Giraffe, contemptuously,
as the engine emitted several sounds as closely approaching groans of
protest as any inanimate object could produce.

"Well, what's to be done about it?" asked Bumpus, uneasily, looking
behind him, as though half anticipating seeing a squad of Uhlans with
their bedecked lances chasing headlong after the suspicious car.

"Nothing," replied Thad. "All we can do is to keep pushing on, trusting
both to luck and our sagacity to pull us through."

"There's one comfort about it, boys," Allan told them; "every rod we
cover means we're just that much nearer safety. If we can only get
within a mile or so of the border, and the cranky old motor holds out
we'll give them all the laugh, even if it means a hot chase at the end."

"I wonder if the old tub would be equal to showing a clean pair of heels
if you hit up the pace for all it was worth," questioned Giraffe. "I'd
be afraid we'd all go up in a cloud of smoke and fire. These sort of
machines are always balking or else exploding."

"Oh! now you're just saying that to bother me, Giraffe," complained
Bumpus; "but I've got too much confidence in our pilot to be afraid of
trouble. It may stop on us, that'd be the worst that could happen."

"Now you notice we're coming to a place where it's well settled, for you
can see fields on every side, and gardens, too. Yonder are some women
and boys getting in the harvest; and here comes an old man, his cart
loaded down with some kind of roots or potatoes. I hope there isn't a
town ahead of us, where we'd find that the officer had telephoned about
us."

It was Giraffe who said this. When making out to be tormenting Bumpus he
was evidently only voicing his own fears.

"No, the road chart shows no place worth mentioning along this section,"
Thad assured them; "but you know the soil here is something like that in
Holland, and very rich. Westphalia and Rhenish Prussia are the garden
spots of Germany, so we'll see plenty of farms and grain fields."

Indeed, as they passed along they saw people working in the fields on
every side, but it was always the same, not a single stalwart young man,
only boys, women and very old men. The rest had all obeyed the call to
the colors, and were already either fighting at the front, or else in
concentration camps, preparing for the time when they would be needed to
fill awful gaps in the ranks.

All at once the engine stopped short.

"That's what I call a low-down trick!" said Giraffe, as Thad sprang out
to throw back the hood so as to take a look, and see what was wrong this
time.

"Oh! we must expect something like that to happen every little while,"
he was told by Allan; "it's a poor arrangement at the best, and pretty
well worn out in the bargain. But we agreed to make the best of it, and
so what's the use of knocking?"

The three of them sat there for a little while, as Thad pottered at the
refractory machinery. Then Allan jumped out to assist him, saying that
"two heads might be better than one," as often proved to be the case.

"Wake me up when you've found out the trouble, and rectified the same,"
said Giraffe, pretending to stretch himself out over the seat, and make
ready for a nap.

Just about three minutes later he had reason to change his mind. It was
Bumpus who did it, and if Giraffe suddenly started up it was not because
the other had been malicious enough to thrust a pin into his leg.

"Say, looky here what's bearing down on us, Thad, will you?" the fat
scout had called out, and Giraffe was up on his feet like a flash.

As he turned and looked back he saw something that was not apt to make
him feel happy, to say the least. Along the road came a swarm of women,
boys and old men. They must have been recruited from the fields near by,
for they were carrying all manner of pitchforks and such tools that
looked dangerous when held in the hands of aroused tillers of the soil.

Whether the people of the farming country could have received word
concerning the four boys in the old car, and meant to effect their
arrest; or mistook them for some other parties who may have been
disturbing the peace in that section of the country, Thad and his chums
were fated never to learn.

It was quite enough for them to know just then a threatening cloud had
appeared above the horizon, and that unless they could fortunately get a
quick start out of that particular neighborhood they stood a good chance
of finding themselves warmly beset.



                              CHAPTER VII.
                            DODGING TROUBLE.


"Gee whiz!" burst out Giraffe, of course using his favorite expression
to denote his great astonishment; "why, they must be running to
interview us, fellows! And say, I don't just like the way they're
hollering one single bit. They even act as if they might be real mad!"

"Same old story," mumbled Bumpus, sinking back into his seat with a look
of sudden misery on his round face; "out of the frying pan into the
fire. Hardly off with one trouble before we're taking on a new one!
What's the end going to be, I'd like to know?"

"Thad, how's it coming on?" asked practical Allan, as he once more
leaned over the hard-working mechanic, ready to lend a helping hand if
possible, though only one could properly work at a time.

"I think I'm getting it straight now," came the quick response that gave
Giraffe fresh cheer.

"But it'll be too late in another five minutes," declared Bumpus, trying
to figure just how long it might take that oncoming crowd of German
country people to arrive on the scene.

"Less than that, Bumpus," said Giraffe, better used to judging
distances; "three would be the limit. Are we intending to haul off and
try to defend ourselves, or do we just throw up our hands and tell 'em
we surrender? They're mostly women and old men, which accounts for 'em
not getting over ground faster."

"Yes, but such women!" echoed Bumpus; "every one looks like a regular
Amazon, because they're so used to working in the fields. Besides, I
don't like the way they handle those pitchforks they've been using to
handle the hay with. It makes goose-flesh come up all over just to think
of having the tines of a pitchfork stuck into me. Guess we'd better call
it off, and be good if they surround us."

"It may all be a mistake, after all," said Allan.

"Don't see how that could turn out," grumbled Giraffe.

"These honest people may be taking us for some other boys who have been
pestering the life out of them," Allan hastened to explain.

"Hope they find out the truth then before they start to prodding us with
those old forks!" Bumpus breathed.

Then silence fell upon them. Thad was working furiously, while the other
three held their breath in suspense, mingled faintly with the hope that
died hard.

The oncoming crowd was now quite close. Their appearance became even
more awe-inspiring as they drew nearer the scene; and their loud, angry
cries did not soothe the nerves of the anxious scouts.

Bumpus was even fumbling in one of his pockets with the idea of taking
out a supposed-to-be white handkerchief, and waving it, to indicate that
they did not mean to resist the coming onslaught.

Just then Thad gave a cry.

"Oh! have you got it, Thad?" gasped Bumpus.

For answer the patrol leader slammed down the engine hood, and seizing
hold of the crank gave it a whirl. There was no response! Bumpus groaned
fearfully.

"All is lost!" he exclaimed in abject despair.

Thad made a second try, but with the same disappointing result. This
time Giraffe sank back in his seat, a look of resignation on his angular
face. Two bad turns was apparently his limit.

It proved fortunate that Thad was not constituted that way. He had known
engines to require as many as half a dozen trials before they consented
to be good and turn over. So Thad went at it again, with even more
energy than before.

What a thrill passed over them all when with a roar the engine started
in to make the old car quiver from end to end. Bumpus and Giraffe could
not restrain their pent-up enthusiasm; their recent scare only added to
the vim with which they gave a shout.

Thad made a leap into the front seat of the car. Allan had already
settled down to do the honors temporarily, for every second counted with
that mob not thirty feet away. If the car was stalled five seconds
longer it would be all up with the scouts.

Nothing so bad as that happened, for away they went with a jump, amidst
the angry cries of the disappointed crowd. The country people did not
mean to give up without further effort, for most of them continued to
run. They must have seen that the car was an old and ramshackle one, and
cherished hopes that they might yet overtake it.

Giraffe stood up and waved his campaign hat excitedly as he cheered in
the good old American way.

"Bully for the machine!" was the burden of his cry; "she's actually
doing her little five miles an hour, perhaps even more. Say, this is
getting too reckless for my blood. I forgot to take out any life
insurance, Thad, before starting on this break-neck trip. Be careful,
please, and don't spill us out!"

Soon they saw the last of their pursuers, and the road seemed to be
clear in front. The boys of course began to chatter concerning this
latest happening, trying to figure out what had caused this sudden and
mysterious feeling of enmity on the part of the workers in the harvest
fields. In the end, however, they had to give it up as an unsolved
puzzle; nor did they ever learn the facts, since they came to that part
of the German Fatherland no more.

Allan consulted the little road chart which, before they started down
the Rhine on their wonderful cruise, had been purchased in Mentz,
principally to know the nature of the many sights that were to be met
with along the historic banks of that famous river.

"As near as I can make out, this is where we are right now, Thad," he
mentioned, making a pencil mark on the paper. "I know it from many
reasons, and one of them is that fine old Dutch windmill we just passed
on the knoll. It's marked here, you can see, as if it had some historic
connections."

"You're right about that part of it, Allan," said the scout leader after
taking a quick glance at the chart, for his attention was needed at the
wheel, since the progress of the car was inclined to be erratic; in
fact, as Giraffe had several times declared, "she did not mind her helm
very well, which made their course a zigzag one."

"Well, how much further do we have to go before we get to the Dutch
line?" Bumpus asked, with more or less concern; for every two minutes he
had kept twisting around, almost putting his neck out of joint, with the
idea of making sure that they were not being pursued.

"I'm figuring what course we'll have to take in order to avoid several
German towns that are marked here," returned Allan.

"That's right, we have no use for even the cleanest towns agoing just
now," ventured Giraffe, "though I'm getting pretty hungry, to tell you
the truth."

"That's cruel of you, mentioning it," spluttered Bumpus, "when I've been
fighting all the while to forget that I've got an awful aching void
inside of me that's wanting to be filled the worst kind. But how far do
we have to go, Allan?"

"Not more than five miles more," came the answer.

"That sounds encouraging, I must say," remarked Thad; "if the cranky old
thing holds out another half hour we might be on the border; and once
across, our troubles will be done with for awhile anyhow."

"Then she must be making all of _ten_ miles an hour, Thad!" exclaimed
Giraffe, pretending to be greatly excited; "why, I can feel my hair
beginning to stand up with the nervous strain! It's the nearest approach
to flying I ever expected to meet up with. If we have an accident when
going like the wind they'll have to collect us in baskets. I'm going to
hold on to Bumpus here, let me tell you!"

"What for?" demanded the fat scout, suspiciously.

"Oh! nothing much, only sometimes it's a mighty fine thing to have a
good buffer when you meet up with trouble," said Giraffe, calmly.

"Don't mind him, Bumpus," said Allan; "nothing is going to happen, for
the motor seems to be on its best behavior. Let's hope we'll find only a
Dutch guard on the road when we come to the border line."

"I think that's apt to be the case," ventured Thad.

"So do I," added Allan, "because the Germans as yet couldn't be expected
to care who left their country for Holland; while the Dutch would want
to make sure there was no infringement of neutrality, no using their
territory by one of the belligerents for passing around and taking the
enemy by surprise. If either German, Belgians, French or British
soldiers happen to land on Dutch soil they'll have to be interned there
until the close of the war."

"Well, all I hope is that they won't include Boy Scouts in that class,"
ventured Bumpus, whose sole thought those days was to reach Antwerp and
the suffering mother, who must be very anxious for her boy, knowing he
was at the time in Germany and doubtless caught in the mad whirl
accompanying the mobilization of millions of troops.

"They might if we were German scouts," Thad told them, "but we can
easily prove that we belong on the other side of the Atlantic. I think
they'll be pretty kind to us on that account, and do anything we might
ask."

"Well," remarked Giraffe, with a longing look in his eyes, "if we
happened on a nice clean tavern over there it might pay us to stop and
get a Dutch dinner. I've heard a lot about what appetizing dishes those
housewives can serve, and I'd like to say I'd eaten just _one_ meal in
the Netherlands."

"Count on me to vote with you, Giraffe," observed Bumpus, "though of
course if it was going to delay us any I'd be willing to stand the
famine till we got over in Belgium, and had to put up for the night on
account of darkness."

"For that matter, we will have a moon about nine o'clock to-night," said
Thad, "but I'm afraid you'll have to excuse me from driving this crazy
car over roads I don't know, by moonlight. It's bad enough in broad
day."

They continued to push steadily on. At no time were they out of sight of
farms and gardens, all of them as neat as anything the boys had ever
seen. They often remarked on the great difference between the thrift of
these German market gardens and the ordinary shiftless way of doing
things seen in their own country.

"Of course," Allan said, in trying to excuse this want of neatness, "we
have all sorts of people come over to us, and they bring their habits
along with them. Some are as careful about keeping their places clean as
these Germans, while others never knew a thing about thrift in the
native lands, and have to be taught. But on the whole we seem to get
along pretty well."

"How goes the mad whirl now, Allan?" asked Giraffe.

"Not more than two miles away from the border, my map says," came the
reply.

"That sounds good to me," Bumpus assured them, rubbing his hands
together much as a miser is supposed to do when gloating over his gold;
"huh! two little miles oughtn't to keep us long on the way."

"Not when you're navigating the roads in such a whiz-cart as this,"
chuckled Giraffe, as he started to get partly out of his seat to look
around him, so as to discover anything new worth calling his companions'
attention to.

"Why, hello--we didn't make all that dust back there, did we?" the
others heard him saying, as he shaded his hand to look, and then almost
immediately went on to exclaim: "as sure as you live it's a little squad
of horsemen, and they're coming along at a fast gallop! What's that
they're holding so that the sun glints from the ends like it does when
you use a glass in heliographing a message? Boys, I do believe they must
be lances!"

"Lances!" burst out Bumpus, in sudden alarm; "why, that would mean they
are the German rough riders they call the Uhlans; and Thad, if they're
coming after us they'll overhaul this old pony go-cart as easy as
falling off a log!"



                             CHAPTER VIII.
                       THE COUNTRY OF WINDMILLS.


Of course everybody became tremendously excited; at least everybody but
Thad, who somehow seemed to be able to retain his coolness in the
presence of peril better than any of his comrades.

"There are four of them!" announced Giraffe, immediately, "and they're
digging their spurs into their nags for all that's out. I guess they
know we're meaning to cross over into little old Holland, and they want
to nab us before we can get over the border line!"

"They must have been sent after us by that smart officer we ran up
against at that town; the one who turned us back, and threatened to
arrest us!" Allan remarked, this being the one explanation of the
pursuit that flashed into his mind.

"Either that," added Bumpus, "or else the chap who was on the ferry with
us told of the meeting after he got to Duren, and they sent out that
squad with orders to bring us in, dead or alive!"

Thad was saying not a word. He seemed to be devoting all his attention
to manipulating the old car so as to get every atom of speed out of it
possible. Besides, since its course was so erratic he had to be very
careful how he steered, as even a slight blunder might mean a smash-up.

Thad had not even made the slightest attempt to look back and see their
oncoming pursuers. He was content to take the word of his mates for it
that they were making great headway, and closing in on them at a rapid
rate.

"This is getting mighty interesting, let me tell you!" exclaimed
Giraffe, as he twisted his long neck again and again in order to watch
the rush of the cavalrymen, and then try to judge whether the car could
gain an offing before being overhauled.

"I can see what looks like the border post ahead there another mile!"
Allan now told them.

That was indeed cheery news, and must have revived their drooping
courage. Still naturally Giraffe immediately expressed a desire to know
on what sort of foundation Allan fixed his assertion.

"What makes you think it's the crossing where we strike Holland?" he
demanded.

"Because I can see soldiers in uniforms, and they don't happen to be the
gray kind we've seen most Germans wear, either. Yes, and they've got
what looks like high-peaked caps, which I've read the Dutch troops use."

"Bully!" exclaimed Bumpus, and the others knew he must be greatly worked
up, for as a rule Bumpus never used words like this, leaving that to
Giraffe.

"How are they doing now?" asked Thad.

"Catching up hand over fist," replied Giraffe. "It's going to be an open
question whether they reach us before we cross the line, or not."

"Oh! I think we've got a good chance to slip over, unless something
happens to our cranky old engine," Allan asserted, for it was his nature
to be sanguine, just as the tall scout could not help looking at the
gloomy side of things as a rule.

"Now they're lashing their mounts like everything," reported Giraffe;
"and seems to me they do get more speed out of the horses."

Bumpus did not attempt to get up any more, so as to look. He had a firm
grip on the side of the quivering car, and was staring ahead. Perhaps he
was trying to figure how happy he would be if only they could rush
across that border line, and secure the protection of those Dutch
soldiers.

They were drawing very close to the haven of refuge, so that it was easy
for all of them to see the little squad of guardians stationed there to
see that the strictest neutrality was maintained. While the Netherlands
might seem to be a small country, still she has an active army of some
five hundred thousand soldiers, and history tells how bravely the Dutch
have always fought when their country was invaded.

Germany would not want to have such a foe on her flank. Besides, many of
those harbors of Holland would be extremely valuable to an Allied navy
seeking to strike at the heart of the gun foundry region of the
Fatherland.

Giraffe was becoming more excited than ever. He fairly quivered as he
reported the lessening of the distance between the fleeing car and the
pursuing horsemen.

"Faster! Thad, give her all the juice you can! Squeeze a little more
speed out of the poor old thing, and we'll do it yet!" was the burden of
his appeal.

Of course Thad was trying everything he could to coax the motor to do
just a little mite better. Small things count at a time like this, and
even the wobbling motion that the car continued to keep up as it ran was
counting against them, more or less.

But the race could not last long now. The Dutch border guard had spread
out, and seemed to be ready to do some threatening with their guns.

"I only hope they don't mean to shoot at us," Giraffe was heard to say
when he noticed this; "if only we had a big enough flag for them to see
they'd know we were Americans, and friends. I wonder how it would do for
me to shout out that word as we come up?"

"It would do no harm, Giraffe!" Allan told him.

Accordingly the tall scout began to make frantic gestures as he stood
there, trying to balance himself in the swaying car. He had an idea that
he was using his arms to denote their peaceful intentions; but possibly
the puzzled Dutch soldiers might imagine him stark crazy.

"Americans! We're American boys!" he kept shouting.

Bumpus tried to pull him down.

"They're shooting at us back there, Giraffe!" he pleaded, "and you might
get hit."

It seemed that the Uhlans were using their weapons, though when going at
that wild pace they could not have had much hope of doing any execution,
unless by some accident.

A dozen seconds more of suspense followed, every one of which must have
seemed an eternity to the fleeing scouts. Then they reached the line of
the Dutch border guard and were thrilled to know they had actually left
German soil behind them.

Thad immediately shut off power, and applied the brake, for he had seen
that one of the guard made a motion easily interpreted. Giraffe was
dancing about in the car, though Bumpus after having his toes trodden on
several times promptly shoved him out.

The Uhlans had given up the pursuit. They evidently felt so chagrined
over having failed to overhaul the fugitives that they would not even
wait to exchange words with the Dutch soldiers, but wheeling their
horses started back along the dusty road.

Of course the Dutch guard at once gathered around. Giraffe wondered
whether his poor command of German would serve him in this case as well
as it had done under other conditions. He was saved from this anxiety,
however, for the one who seemed to be in command of the post immediately
addressed them in fair English. He must have taken his cue from the way
Giraffe shouted that word "American"; and then, now that they had come
up, it was easy to see those miniature flags pinned on the lapels of the
scouts' khaki coats.

He proceeded to ask questions, and Thad was only too well pleased to
answer. The passports were shown, and seemed to satisfy the soldiers.
There would be hundreds, yes thousands of non-combatants presently
seeking an asylum on the neutral soil of Holland; and those
warm-hearted, hospitable people would show the world that they had no
superiors when it came to holding out a helping hand to those in
distress.

"We have Boy Scouts over here in Holland," the non-commissioned officer
proudly told them; "and they have won the respect of the whole Nation.
Only here in Europe, you know, every boy has to look forward to serving
the colors at some time in his life, so they all expect to be soldiers
of the Queen later on."

"I hope you will not think it necessary to detain us, sergeant?" Thad
asked, after he felt sure they had made a good impression on the Dutch.

"Please stretch a point if you can," pleaded Bumpus, "for I am wild to
get over in Belgium where my poor sick mother is waiting for me."

The soldier scratched his head as though a little puzzled.

"We would know what to do if you were enlisted men of any country at
war," he explained; "it would then be our duty to interne you until
peace came. But orders have not been so clear about what to do if
citizens of the United States choose to cross our country. I might hold
you until you could communicate with your Minister, Dr. Van Dyke; or on
the other hand I might just wash my hands of you, and let you go as you
pleased."

"Oh! that's most kind of you, sir!" exclaimed Bumpus, possibly meaning
to help the soldier choose the latter course; "all we want to do is to
cross over this neck of Holland and enter Belgium, so we can go around
the fighting line without getting caught in the mess. Thad, we'll never
forget this kindness, will we?"

It was really clever in Bumpus to exert this species of flattery in
order to gain his end. Perhaps it did influence the Dutch sergeant more
or less, for he smiled amiably and offered his hand to Bumpus.

"Get across as quickly as you can," he told them; "for my superior
officer will be due here presently, and he might look at things in a
different light from what I do. I spent several happy years in your
country once, and then came back home to marry, and serve out my time in
the army. Good luck to you, young mynherr, and to all of you. That is
all; you can go!"

They lost no time in making a fresh start. The superior officer might
happen to come along ahead of time, and spoil all their plans.

It was with considerable satisfaction Bumpus looked around him at the
new sights that met their eyes as they passed across that narrow strip
of territory belonging to Holland, and which stretches down between the
other two countries as if it were used as a convenient buffer, and for
no other purpose.

"There's a real Dutch windmill, yes, and I can see some more of the same
kind!" Bumpus was telling them, pointing excitedly as he spoke.

"Oh! they're as common as dirt, you'll find," Allan told him. "They not
only pump water but are used for a great many other purposes. A Dutchman
would almost as soon think of doing without his vrouw as his windmill."

"Given half an hour, and if this road isn't too wobbly we ought to be at
the Belgian frontier," Thad announced.

"We've carried everything by storm so far," said Giraffe, exultantly;
"and there's some hope we may get to Antwerp. If the Germans over the
line couldn't hold us in check we oughtn't to be much afraid that the
Belgians will try to detain us."

"I wonder now if that can be an inn we see ahead there?" suggested
Bumpus, with a most intense longing look on his face as he shaded his
eyes with one hand the better to see.

"It looks like some sort of a road-house," Thad ventured.

"Yes," added Giraffe, almost as eagerly as the fat scout, "and I can see
what must be a swinging sign hanging there. Thad, hadn't we better take
a chance, and say we've tasted one meal in Holland?"

"What about you, Allan?" asked the patrol leader.

"I think I could tackle any sort of stuff just about now. We had an
early breakfast on the boat, you know, and it's now getting along in the
afternoon. I'm willing to try most anything once."

Thad laughed.

"I guess that settles the question," he told them.

"Then we stop over, do we?" demanded Bumpus.

"Three against one would carry the day, because scouts believe in
majority ruling," said Thad; "and to tell you the truth, I'm pretty
savage myself for something to eat. So we'll pull up, and see what they
can give us at this hour."



                              CHAPTER IX.
                       AT A WAYSIDE BELGIAN INN.


"It looks all right to me, fellows!" remarked Bumpus, as they approached
the inn where a swinging sign announced that travelers and their animals
could be entertained.

"Yes, and if the grub is as attractive as the surroundings," added
Giraffe, "I'd wish it was night time right now, so we could put up here.
I've heard how neat as wax these Dutch vrouws are about their beds and
food, and it'd sure suit me to try the thing out. But of course, since
Bumpus here is in such a hurry to get to Antwerp, we couldn't think of
that."

"You don't blame me, I feel sure, Giraffe?" mentioned Bumpus, with a
vein of mild reproach in his mellow voice.

"Sure not," instantly replied the tall scout, for he felt that those
blue eyes of his chum were filled with surprise; "I'll do everything I
can to help get you there in a rush, even to going hungry if I have to."

"Oh! we haven't come to the starvation point yet, I hope," the
red-haired chum told him, as the car stopped in front of the road-house,
and all of them clambered out.

Giraffe patted the seat as he left it.

"After all, you've turned out to be a heap better than you look, old
stick-in-the-mud car," he said, meaning it as a compliment; "appearances
are often deceptive, and in the pinch you didn't fail us."

"We ought to be thankful for that," said Thad. "I know my heart seemed
to be up in my throat more than a few times when we were making that
last mile of the mad race. I thought sure the engine would give up the
ghost with a groan, and leave us there stranded on the road to be taken
prisoners by those Uhlans."

"Oh! we're the lucky bunch, take it from me," said Giraffe; "but here
comes mine host, smiling all over at the honor we do his house to stop
our elegant car before the door. I'll try him in my best Teutonic first;
but I hope he can understand United States Dutch like our friend back at
the border post."

The landlord joined them. He wore a long white apron, and had a clean
look that impressed all of the boys immensely. His face was as rosy red
as health and good living could make it.

It turned out that, while his English was faulty, he could understand
the language fairly well, and that was the main thing.

When the boys explained to him that they were hungry, and hoped he could
get them up some sort of a dinner, he readily promised to do the best he
could, though of course, he explained, it was long after the usual hour
for dining.

So they found a way to wash up, and then sat on the broad porch resting
while awaiting the call to dinner. Their car attracted more or less
attention; but Giraffe was of the opinion this was because of its
dilapidated appearance more than anything else.

"I'd hate to be seen driving such a wreck over around Cranford," he
remarked, "but here it was a case of take it or leave it, and there you
are."

"Just you go slow about running that machine down," warned Bumpus,
shaking his head threateningly; "it's served us a noble purpose, let me
tell you. Think of all the tiresome tramping we'd have been forced to do
only for our great luck in picking up this vehicle."

"Yes," said Allan, "we'll never know, I suppose, where that man got it,
or whether we bought a stolen car; but it stood the racket splendidly,
and we won the day against the crack horses of the German cavalry."

Just then the urbane landlord came to announce that dinner was served,
and there was a hasty exodus from that porch. The boys had sharp
appetites, and everything tasted just right, for there is no better
sauce to any meal than hunger.

"If this is only a picked-up dinner," said Bumpus, as he sighed and
shook his head when Thad asked him to have a fourth helping, "I'd like
to sit down to one of the regular ones, just to see what it would be
like."

"All through?" asked Thad. "If you are, I'll settle the bill, after
which we'll cut for the western border line. We ought to get over a few
Belgian miles before night comes on."

Even the thought of finding themselves on Belgian soil thrilled the
scouts. It was easy to understand why this should be so. There the two
armies were fast in a death grapple, with the Germans doing the
assaulting, and the heroic forces of King Albert trying to delay the
passage of the invading hosts across their land as much as was possible.
The mere idea of being close to a battlefield was enough to fill their
boyish hearts with eager anticipations, for without experience along
these lines they could not as yet realize the horrors of war.

The settlement proved to be an easy one. This Dutch landlord at least
had not learned the tricks of his trade, so far as overcharging
travelers was concerned, for his prices were exceedingly moderate.

When once more they found themselves on the road, and headed into the
west, the boys began to discount their arrival at the other border line.

"Of course we'll run smack up against more Dutch soldiers on guard
there," said Allan; "because by now they'll be mobilizing all their
forces, so as to be ready if they have to enter the war to preserve
their country. You've often heard of Dutch courage, and they do say
these smiling soldiers don't know what fear is."

"Let's hope that this road across into Belgium isn't guarded as yet,"
ventured Giraffe, "or else that they'll be glad to get rid of us."

It was not a great while later that they discovered a white post
alongside the road. There had been one just like it back where they came
over from the country of the Rhine, and from this they judged they had
arrived at the dividing line.

Several soldiers now appeared, attracted by the noise made by the
exhaust of the car, for the muffler worked poorly even when used.

"They're giving us the high sign to pull up, Thad," announced Giraffe,
as the Dutch guards were seen to make motions.

Some difficulty was experienced on this occasion, for none of the
Dutchmen could speak any English. Giraffe worked hard to explain just
who they were, and how they simply wanted to be allowed to cross over
into Belgium on a peaceful errand.

Bumpus hung on his words, and looked so appealingly at the puzzled
guards that it could be easily seen he hoped there would not be any
miserable delay.

By dint of extravagant gestures, displaying the little flags on their
coats, saying the word "American" lots of times, then "Antwerp," and
finally pointing toward the southwest, in the end Giraffe seemingly
managed to convince them that all the boys in the old car wished was to
be let alone, and continue their journey.

Finally one of the guards nodded his head, shrugged his shoulders, spoke
to his companions, and after about ten minutes' delay they stepped
aside, as if to signify that the way was clear, and they would not
interpose any further objection to the boys going on.

"Hurrah!" cried Giraffe, as he settled back in his seat, "get her
moving, Thad, before they wake up and change their minds! I kind of
think I mesmerized that big chap some. He looks half dazed still."

"I think you must have talked such a mixture of German and American that
he began to think we were all crazy," laughed Allan; "but no matter,
we're thankful for even small favors."

"Why," said Bumpus, who was vastly relieved by this sudden change for
the better in their fortunes, "as for me, I'd be willing to be looked on
as demented if only it carried the day for my plans. We're across the
line, Thad, wouldn't you say?"

"No doubt about that, Bumpus."

"And this is really Belgium we're running over?" continued the delighted
stout scout.

"Yes, really and truly," Giraffe told him; "but it looks as like Holland
as two peas in a pod. If it wasn't for the Dutch guard, and the white
border post, none of us would ever know we'd changed countries."

After that they continued to forge ahead at a fair pace as the balance
of the afternoon slipped away. Once the engine chose to balk, which
necessitated an overhauling on the part of Thad and Allan. Happily the
trouble was again located and rectified, so that they did not lose a
great deal of time.

"There's one thing sure, Thad," said Giraffe, who had been prowling
around while the repair work was going on, looking into a number of
things; "we couldn't think of going much more than another hour."

"Gas tank getting low, is it?" asked the other, who had seen Giraffe
meddling in that quarter, and could make a good guess as to what
discoveries he had run upon.

"Just what it is," replied Giraffe; "about enough juice to do us till we
want to stop for the night. We must manage to buy ten gallons or so in
the morning, no matter what they ask for their old petrol, as they call
it over here."

"There, you see how obliging a car we've happened on," said Bumpus. "It
holds out till we get ready to stop over, and then asks for a fresh
supply. I think this must be a French make of car, it's so very polite."

"Yes, just so," said Giraffe; "do you know, I've been suspecting for
some time it was swearing in French every time it groaned and grunted
when Thad was driving the engine so hard."

The next hour passed and once again fortune seemed to favor the boys,
for just as the sun was about to sink out of sight they came to a
village where they discovered a quaint-looking inn.

When they found that there was plenty of room, and that they could be
supplied with a supper and a breakfast, the boys asked for nothing
better. The car was taken into a sort of barn, where cattle were
munching their feed, and left there.

As before Thad and his chums managed to find the pump, and washed up the
best way possible, after which they sat around in the taproom, waiting
for the welcome call to the table.

There were a number of men over by the bar, where they talked in their
own language, which of course the boys could not understand. But Giraffe
seemed to think one of the natives took an unusual amount of interest in
the new arrivals, since he looked their way again and again, and called
the attention of another fellow to the wearers of the khaki uniforms.

Of course, it might be that the possession of these same garments had
aroused the curiosity of the man; but Giraffe fancied he had a sinister
look on his face, and being possessed of a suspicious nature, the boy
actually got up and sauntered over to the door, after he saw the party
go out.

Looking that way, presently Thad discovered that Giraffe had actually
vanished.

"I hope now he doesn't get himself in any scrape," Thad told the others,
for he knew only too well the impetuous nature of the boy with the long
neck.

Allan and Bumpus did not think there was any reason for fearing such a
thing. According to their way of looking at it, everything seemed
peaceful, and Giraffe was acting foolish in entertaining any suspicions.

About five minutes later, with supper as yet not placed on the table,
Giraffe entered the room about as silently as he had left it a while
before. He hurried over to where his three chums were lounging, and they
began to rouse themselves at noticing an expression of excitement on the
other's face.

"What's wrong now?" asked Thad, just as though Giraffe could always be
looked on as the bearer of bad news.

"I told you so," came the answer; "that fellow with the sneaky eyes is a
bad egg, and he means to do us trick or I miss my guess."

"Are you only saying that in a general way, or do you know something?"
asked the scout leader, in the voice he used when giving orders to the
troop in place of Dr. Philander Hobbs, the real scout master, who was
often absent when the boys were enjoying an outing in camp or on the
trail.

"I followed him outside," continued Giraffe, sinking his voice to a
mysterious whisper, "and saw him talking with some other tough-looking
fellows; and, let me tell you, they acted mighty suspicious."



                               CHAPTER X.
                     THE THROB IN THE NIGHT BREEZE.


Thad may have thought that, up to this point, Giraffe was allowing his
suspicions to overcome his better judgment; but he now saw the other was
unusually serious. So the scout leader considered it wise to ask a few
questions.

"How many others did he talk to, Giraffe?" was what he first wanted to
know.

"There were two, all told," came the answer; "I think one was that
fellow with the coarse laugh, and the other may have been the man almost
as broad as he was long, and who made our Bumpus here look like a baby."

"Huh!" grunted the party referred to, "I always told you I wasn't such
great shakes when it came to topping the scales; but you've got us
interested, Giraffe, so give us the whole story while you're about it,
please."

"Did they only get their heads together and talk?" Thad continued.

"Oh! that was just the beginning," admitted Giraffe; "and if it stopped
there, how would I know that they were bothering themselves about a
party of boys who had dropped in to spend the night? It was what they
did that gave them away."

"Tell us about it, then," said Thad.

"Well, when I saw them making for the barn, I kind of suspected they
meant to look over our car, and I slipped along after 'em. Course my
having been a scout helped me a lot to do that without giving myself
away," and there was a vein of justifiable pride in the way the tall boy
said this.

"Was it our car they looked over?" asked Allan.

"They were nosing all around it," replied Giraffe, "when I glimpsed them
through a knot-hole. Would you believe it, that man with the crooked eye
was lighting matches to let them see better. And they certainly did
overhaul the car from stem to stern."

"Thad, it might be they thought we left something valuable in the car,
such as a pair of expensive field-glasses, you know?" suggested Bumpus,
as though seized with a bright thought for once.

The others waited to hear what the spy thought of that idea. Giraffe,
however, did not seem to consider it an answer to the riddle.

"No," he said decisively; "they acted as if they were more concerned
about the car itself, for they even tested to see whether there was any
amount of petrol in the tank, and looked the engine over in the
bargain."

"Then they want to make us an offer for the car in the morning?" Bumpus
once more advanced; "but I hope none of you'll feel tempted to part with
it, while we're still so far away from Antwerp."

"They don't look as if they had pockets full of money," Giraffe told him
scornfully. "My idea was that they mean to steal the car some time
during the night!"

Thad sat, and seemed to be turning it over in his mind.

"Do you mean for their own use, Giraffe?" he asked finally.

"No, if you ask me plainly, Thad, I don't," the other admitted.

"That's queer," muttered the fat scout, who would not stay squelched;
"why do people go around taking cars if not for themselves, I'd like to
know?"

Giraffe lowered his voice still more, and in consequence Bumpus felt an
additional thrill pass through him, it was all so mysterious.

"For their Government they might," he said. "How do we know but what
these Belgians are so patriotic they think it only right strangers
should be made to contribute to the good of their army? They must have
great need of every kind of motor conveyance just now, to bring up their
troops. The German army has tens of thousands of big motor-trucks, we
heard. Well, they looked over our old car with the idea of running her
off if it seemed worth while."

"Thad, do you take any stock in that idea?" asked Allan, as though
somewhat in doubt himself.

"It might be possible," was the reply of the patrol leader. "But there's
one thing I do know, and that is, no matter what they want our car for,
they mustn't be allowed to take it!"

"Hear! hear!" said Bumpus joyfully.

"While we all feel sorry for poor little Belgium, dragged into this
terrible war when she hadn't done a single thing to bring it on, still
we'll need that car ourselves for some time yet."

"Yes," added Bumpus, "and, Thad, for one I'm willing to turn the machine
over to the Belgians, such as it is, if they can make any sort of use of
it, just as soon as we strike Antwerp."

"Same here," added Giraffe; "but I haven't quite told you all yet."

"What, is there another chapter to the story?" asked Bumpus, getting
ready for a second edition of those thrills.

"I watched them come away from the barn," continued Giraffe; "though of
course they didn't know anybody was around. They walked along the road a
bit, and I saw them stop to speak to another man. And, Thad, he was a
soldier!"

"Is that a fact?" remarked the other, deeply interested of course.

"He wore the uniform of an officer, I want you to understand!" Giraffe
added; "and that's the main reason why I think they mean to steal the
car for the use of the Government. Perhaps they haven't just got to the
point here of taking anything they see in sight, like the Germans are
doing, we were told."

"There's the call to supper," said Bumpus, struggling to his feet with
considerable difficulty. "What's the last word about this business,
Thad?"

"Just this," he was told, "we're going to try and protect that car
to-night, if we have to camp out there in the hay and guard it."

"Second the motion!" said Giraffe, with all the vim he was capable of
showing, for he dearly loved excitement and action.

"Now, don't say another word about it while we're eating," warned Thad.
"There may be people at the table or nearby who could understand
English. We'll talk of other things we've met with in the past. There
are heaps of incidents that might be worth while bringing up again, you
know."

"I should say there were," admitted Giraffe; "fellows who have hit the
trail down in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina; tramped and
camped up in the pine woods of Maine; had a summer cruise through the
Lake Superior region; spent a time down in the swamps of the Sunny
South; and even hunted big game away out among the Rocky Mountains,
shouldn't find it hard to rake up things to talk about, it strikes me."

The meal passed off pleasantly enough. There was plenty to eat, and all
cooked in a way that satisfied their boyish tastes. At the table were
several other people, but as they conversed in Flemish and the boys did
not understand much of what was said, they made no attempt to enter into
the general talk.

After eating all they wanted, they left the table and sought the outside
of the inn. It was quite dark by now. At Giraffe's suggestion they
sauntered over to what he called the "barn" to make sure the car was all
right.

Thad happened to have a small pocket electric flash-light with him,
which he found very valuable at various times when a means for
illuminating was required. Making use of this he detached the
spark-plug, and thus rendered the car useless until another could be
obtained capable of filling the gap.

"That might keep them from stealing the car," he observed, "and again it
wouldn't. Even if I had a chain, and locked the wheels, they could file
it off, given a little time. So on the whole I think we'll have to camp
out here. The night's warm, and it won't be the first time all of us
have hit the hay actually."

"But we'd have to let the landlord know," suggested Allan.

"I'll do my best to tell him privately, if you say so," declared
Giraffe.

"At the same time find out what our bill is and we'll pay in advance,"
said Thad.

"What's the idea in doing that?" Bumpus wanted to know.

"Just to let him understand we haven't any intention of slipping off,
and beating him out of an account," explained the other. "And, Giraffe,
another thing you can do; that is, if you are able to tackle it."

"Tell me," said the other simply, just as a Missourian might say, "Show
me!"

"Give him to understand that we're armed, and would defend our property
to the last gasp," was the astonishing declaration Thad made, though he
could be heard chuckling at the same time, as though himself more or
less amused.

"But we're not, Thad, you know; we haven't got more than pocket knives
along with us this trip. Even those we used aboard the boat we packed up
with the other junk, to be sent across to America when we wrote to that
boatyard man."

It was Bumpus who made this protest; the others understood that Thad
must have some sort of little scheme of his own which he intended to
make use of; so they only waited to hear its nature.

"We'll find some of the tools to handle," he told them, "and in the half
dark even a monkey wrench, if you know how, can be made to look like a
revolver, especially if you click! click! when aiming the same!"

"That's right," was the comment of Giraffe; "for I've seen the game
worked myself, and to tell the truth had my knees knocking together as
if I had the ague till the chap who was giving me the grand scare had to
laugh outright, and broke the game up."

"Well, we might as well go back and sit on that porch till we feel
sleepy. Then Giraffe can tackle the landlord and have it out with him."

Thad's suggestion appeared to strike them all favorably, and it was not
long afterward when they settled down to making themselves as
comfortable as possible. There was more or less conversation, though
gaps came between, for the boys found themselves rather tired. They had
not slept as well during the last night or two as they might, owing to
numerous things, worries of the mind more than of the body.

"I'm wondering what that queer far-off throbbing sound can be?" Giraffe
happened to mention all at once; "I've been hearing it for some time,
and it comes as regular as a clock, once in so many minutes."

"And I've been listening to the same," admitted Thad.

"Then perhaps you can give us an idea what causes it?" asked Bumpus,
after he too had caught the odd sound, the like of which they could not
remember ever having heard before.

"I believe it's the discharge of a monster siege gun!" was Thad's
startling declaration, which of course provoked a series of outcries.

"Do you mean away over at Liége, where we've been told the Germans are
trying to batter down the conical-top steel forts by dropping monster
shells on them from points miles away?" Allan asked in a hushed voice,
as though thrilled by the thought.

Thad went on to say that he could not think of any other reason for the
strange sounds. He also told them to notice that some of the men they
had seen inside the inn had come out, and seemed to be listening to the
sounds as if they had a sinister meaning to them.

It was indeed a strange experience for the scouts. They had been in
contact with a great many remarkable happenings in the past few years,
especially since the troop had been organized at Cranford; but never had
they expected to be sitting and listening to the deep-throated throb of
giant guns engaged in a terrible battle of opposing armies.

Although they tried to picture the stirring scene, of course it was
utterly beyond their capacity; for no one who has not looked on a battle
can imagine what it is like.

Giraffe even had the nerve to express a wish that some time or other he
might be privileged to see what a modern engagement was like; but of
course it was only a thoughtless boyish desire. Before he was through
with this journey over the war trails of Belgium possibly he would
regret having ever made such a remark; for there might be some things
come into his experience that he would be glad to forget.

Long they sat there in the warm night air, listening to the sounds that
came, now faintly, and anon in a louder key, according to the character
of the breeze that wafted them to their ears.

Then Thad, seeing that Bumpus had allowed his head to fall forward on
his chest, told Giraffe he had better seek the landlord and sound him on
the scheme of their sleeping in the hay-mow within the barn.



                              CHAPTER XI.
                              WARNED OFF.


"I've been thinking it all over," said Giraffe, "and I've got it
arranged. You know our landlord isn't much on the American lingo, and I
expect to have some little trouble making him understand; but I'm
getting my hand in at this interpreter business, and I'll make it or
bust the boiler trying."

"Don't forget," cautioned the patrol leader, "to give him to understand
that we love the fresh air, and really prefer to sleep in the open,
being scouts. Yes, and you can hint at the same time that it would be a
serious thing for any rascals if they tried to steal our car."

"Do you suspect the landlord knows anything about the raid, if there is
going to be one?" asked Giraffe.

"Perhaps he doesn't," Thad told him, "but there's no harm giving him
that hint; he may manage to push it along and save us some excitement."

"Huh! that doesn't bother me any," remarked the other disdainfully; "you
know I live on excitement. But I'll try and do all you say, Thad."

He was gone some time, almost twenty minutes, and when he once more
appeared on the porch it was with his arms full of blankets. Bumpus was
sound asleep in his chair and breathing as peacefully as though safe at
home in his own bed.

"Gee! but I'm weak," said Giraffe, sinking down in a seat, the blankets
being dropped to the floor. "Oh! it isn't because of the heft of those
coverings, you know, but the way I had to work to get that old innkeeper
to understand. When he did finally get it through his head he was as
nice as pie about it--insisted on getting four clean blankets for us,
and hoped we'd have a pleasant night."

"Then that part is settled," remarked Hugh. "He took the money, of
course?"

"Sure thing, Thad. Did you ever hear of one of his kind shoving any cold
cash aside when it was offered to him?"

"Did he act as if he felt disappointed at our wanting to stand guard
over our old car?" asked Allan.

"Why, he tried to tell me that people were very honest around this
place, and never even fasten their doors. Fact is, you can't find a lock
in the inn, only a hook to keep the doors from flying open. But I must
say I couldn't see any sign of his being upset by our action."

"Then I reckon he doesn't know the plan of those men, if they do really
intend to try and run the car off," Thad concluded.

Giraffe yawned.

"I tell you, I'm as sleepy as they make 'em," he remarked. "Suppose we
trek over to the barn and get busy. Me for the hay."

"There's Bumpus here to be looked after," suggested Allan.

"He looks so happy it's a pity to wake him up," said Thad; "but of
course we couldn't think of leaving him here on the porch all night."

He shook Bumpus gently as he said this. The fat boy gave a grunt, but
beyond this there was no sign of life about him.

"Wake up, Bumpus!" said Thad, giving him a little rougher treatment.

"Oh! leave me alone, can't you?" grumbled the other; "'tain't mornin'
yet. When the coffee's ready I'll climb out, I tell you. Leave me be!"

Bumpus evidently imagined that he was in camp somewhere, with some of
his chums bent on routing him out at an unearthly early hour. Thad this
time gave him so sturdy a shake that Bumpus began to sit up and rub his
eyes.

"Hey! what's all this, anyway? Where am I at? I was dreaming that----"
he commenced, when the impatient Giraffe interrupted him.

"Never mind what you were dreaming, Bumpus; we're going out to the barn
to sleep, and, unless you want to be left alone here on the inn porch
the rest of the night, hump yourself and trot along with us. I've got a
blanket here for you, see?"

Of course Bumpus stirred himself at that. He quickly realized he was
indeed far away from the dearly beloved camp up on Silver Fox Island in
Omega Lake, near his home town of Cranford.

Once out at the so-called barn they began their simple preparations for
sleeping in the hay. The moon had arisen and flooded the world with
light on that August night. Everything looked so peaceful and lovely
that Thad found it hard to believe tens of thousands of human beings
were engaged in a terrible and sanguinary battle only a comparatively
few miles away from that spot.

Still, whenever he listened carefully, and the night wind happened to be
just right, it was easy for him to hear that uneasy grumbling which he
knew must come from the fighting line, where the Germans were battering
the steel fortresses at Liége day and night.

With the supply of petrol down to the last dregs, and a section of the
necessary working parts of the engine secreted, it would seem as though
thieves might have some trouble in carrying the car off, even if they
came to the barn. But Thad did not mean to take any chances.

When each of them had been apportioned his bed in the hay, within touch
of one another, Thad gave a few last instructions.

It was understood that no one was to do anything to betray their
presence until Thad uttered the signal. Even Bumpus had it sternly
impressed on his mind that if he felt a hand shaking him he was to
simply hold his breath and lie quiet, waiting for the next move.

Thad's little electric torch came in very handy in selecting their
sleeping quarters, though he did not use it more than was necessary.

Finally all settled down to get what sleep they could. Bumpus had been
forced to lie on his side so that he might not make any of those queer
snorting sounds which so often amused his fellow-campers, and frequently
excited their ire in the bargain.

Thad, being a light sleeper, expected to be aroused should any one open
the door. The sudden influx of moonlight was calculated to accomplish
this, but he did not depend on that alone. Having found a small, empty
tin can, he fixed it so there would be something doing in case the door
moved, enough noise made to arouse him, whereupon he could touch each of
the others.

Some time must have passed before Thad was awakened by this same small
clatter. He felt Allan move on one side of him, showing that the second
leader of the Silver Fox Patrol was on the alert.

"Give Giraffe a shake, Allan!" he whispered in the other's ear.

"It's all right, for he kicked me just then!" replied the other, in the
same cautious tone.

It only remained to arouse Bumpus. Thad would have let the fat scout
sleep right along, only he was afraid his heavy breathing might awaken
suspicion, and lead to an investigation before they were ready to spring
their surprise.

For once Bumpus proved to be on his guard when Thad bending over shook
him, and at the same time whispered in his ear:

"Wake up, Bumpus, and keep as still as a mouse!"

They lay there, hardly daring to breathe, for all of them could tell
that some one was opening the wide doors of the barn, since the
moonlight began to flood the interior. It was quite thrilling for the
boys to be lying there straining their eyes so as to see to advantage.

Dark figures flitted in through the opening. They could hear
low-muttered words, and might have understood what the intruders were
saying only that none of the scouts happened to be up in the Flemish
language, which was like so much Greek to them.

But from the fact that the prowlers immediately gathered around the car
and seemed to be once more examining the same, it was easy to understand
their motives at any rate.

Thad waited to make sure that their night visit might not have been
caused by some other motive than a desire to steal the property of
himself and chums. When after considerable fussing around he saw that
the men were actually starting to push the car outside, he knew it was
folly to hold back any longer.

So Thad gave the signal. The other three had doubtless been waiting,
like hounds held in the leash, for the call to arms. Instantly Allan and
Giraffe sprang erect, while poor, clumsy Bumpus, trying to be
exceptionally swift, got his feet entangled and actually rolled out into
full view.

Thad instantly turned his torch upon the astounded schemers. The
intensity of that white glow must have done much to demoralize them. If
anything more were needed, it was supplied when the three figures
extended their right hands and seemed to be covering the intruders with
what looked like dangerous pistols.

"Get out of this, you rascals, or we'll open fire, and shoot you down
like dogs!" Thad shouted, and the whole three of them waved their
weapons in a most suggestive manner that could not well be mistaken.

It is of course doubtful whether those fellows understood a single word
of that dreadful threat. They did know, however, that they were caught
nicely in the act of stealing other people's property, and that safety
could only be secured by a hasty departure.

It was surprising the way in which they vanished through the open doors.
Even the big man mentioned by Giraffe as being equal to three of Bumpus
seemed to slip away as if on wings of fear. So the four scouts were left
to shake hands with each other over their great victory.

"It was almost too easy," said Giraffe, who seemed disappointed because
he had not been able to get in a single blow.

Still Thad said they should be satisfied with having chased the thieves
off, and in this fashion saved their property. He fastened the doors
again, set his tin-can trap, and told the others he was going to finish
his sleep out, as he did not fear any further annoyance.

In fact, the balance of that night passed without anything happening to
arouse the four chums. Morning found them ready for breakfast, and
congratulating each other on the success of their little game.

"We'd be out a car, such as it is, this morning," asserted Allan, "if we
hadn't camped out here."

"Don't suppose we'll ever know just what they meant to do with her,"
suggested Bumpus; "and we don't care much, either. When a fellow's been
robbed it doesn't matter to him what becomes of the stuff. But seems to
me I smell cooking going on."

That was enough to excite Bumpus, and Giraffe as well. They were soon
enjoying a hearty breakfast, and as the landlord asked no questions they
did not think it worth while to tell him about the night alarm.

The next problem was to secure a supply of petrol. While there was no
scarcity of the fluid as yet, still every one who owned any seemed to
suspect that the time was near at hand when it would become very
valuable, especially if German raiders overran this part of Belgium, and
commandeered every gallon they could discover.

Upon asking the landlord he put them on the track, and in the end they
were able to purchase just five gallons, at about three times the usual
price. Still this would enable them to make a start, and there was
always hope that they could pick up a further supply as they went along,
even if it had to be in driblets, a gallon here and another there, to
eke out.

Leaving the roadside inn, the boys were feeling in fairly high spirits,
especially Giraffe, who declared that with such luck on their side they
were bound to get to Antwerp some way or other, sooner or later.

"I tell you we're just bound to do it," he said, with spirit, as they
moved along the road, "and if all other channels are blocked, what's to
hinder us backing up again and crossing the border into Holland? We
could make our way to Rotterdam, and there take a small boat through the
inside passages to the Schelde River, so as to get to Antwerp all right.
So keep that in your mind, Bumpus--when the Silver Fox boys settle on
doing a thing it has to come, that's all!"



                              CHAPTER XII.
                        THE PENALTY OF MEDDLING.


"The thing that's bothering me," said Bumpus, a little later on, "is
this. If the military in Belgium here are so hard up for cars that
they'd even think to take such a tough-looking machine as this, how are
we ever going to keep hold of the same, somebody tell me?"

"We'll do the best we know how," Thad informed him. "For one thing,
every time we chance to run across any Belgian soldiers I intend to coax
the engine to puff and groan the worst you ever heard. It'll help
discourage envy on their part. We'll act as though it's stalled every
twenty feet, and that we're having a dickens of a time with it."

That idea amused Giraffe, who laughed heartily.

"It certainly does take you to get up some of the smartest games going,
Thad," he ventured; "and I guess now that'd be the best dodge to save
our palatial car from being commandeered by the army. When they see what
a cantankerous mule it is, they'll ask to be excused from trying to
bother with such a kicker."

Perhaps the car understood what they were discussing. At any rate, it
proved to be most accommodating, and tried to give them as good an
excuse for calling it hard names as it could. At the very next rise it
refused to work its passage and only for Thad's expertness in backing
into a gully they might have had a wild return ride down the grade, with
a fair chance for an upset.

"Hey! look at that, will you?" puffed Bumpus, after half tumbling from
the car, when the others jumped nimbly out; "now we _are_ up against it
good and hard. If the poor old tramp refuses to make the climb, however
are we to get over the rise?"

"Take off your coat, Bumpus," Thad told him.

"Oh! do we have to really _push_?" asked the fat scout, looking at the
balance of the hill, and scratching his head in a manner that told how
little he enjoyed the prospect ahead.

"It's the only way," Giraffe explained, "unless we want to leave the car
here, and continue our long journey afoot!"

That caused Bumpus to get out of his coat hastily.

"Anything but that!" he declared. "And when you get me started at a
thing I guess I can do my share, all right."

He proved as good as his word, because Bumpus was strong, even if he
seldom cared to exert himself, on account of indolence. When four husky,
well-grown boys get busy, with their shoulders against a vehicle that
has balked on a rise, they are able to accomplish a good deal.

There were several things in their favor. In the first place, the car
was far from being a very heavy one; then the hill did not have a steep
grade; and they were half way up when the engine refused to do its duty;
besides, they could rest several times by allowing the car to back into
the gully again.

Bumpus did his full share of the work, though with many a grunt. In the
end they reached the top and then got aboard, after Thad had made sure
the engine would do its duty again.

"Now for a good, long coast down-grade," said Bumpus, as though that
pleasure would pay up in part for his recent labor; as he expressed it
himself, "It helped take the bitter taste out of a fellow's mouth,
anyhow."

"What were you limping about the last part of the way, Bumpus?" asked
Allan, as they continued their journey, after reaching level ground
again.

"Guess I must have worked too hard," explained the other, with a grin,
"because it seemed just like I'd strained my muscles some way. Feels
some sore at that, and it's lucky I don't have to do any walking about
now."

"Thad, what would you call that thing away off yonder? Sometimes it
disappears in among the fleecy clouds, and then comes out again. From
here it makes me think of one of those big buzzards we used to watch
soaring ever so high up, while we were down in Louisiana."

Thad gave a steady look.

"It's an aeroplane!" he told them positively.

Allan had apparently come to the same conclusion himself, for he
instantly echoed the assertion of the patrol leader.

"No hawk about that, or buzzard either, if they have such things over
here in Belgium," he said. "See, there's another of the same kind
further on. They must be German Taube machines, and are being used to
spy on the positions of the Belgian forces down below."

All of them looked and wondered, as was quite natural, for although they
had of course seen aeroplanes maneuver many times at county fairs and
other places, this was their first experience at watching the evolutions
of war machines doing scout duty.

"You see how valuable they are going to be in this war," Thad remarked.
"From a safe position thousands of feet above, the aviator can see every
movement of troops, note the coming of reinforcements, take stock of the
position of every battery of big guns, and by a code of signals inform
his side just how to direct their fire in order to do the most
execution."

"Whew! it's wonderful when you come to think of it," Giraffe exclaimed,
with a whistle to indicate the state of his feelings; "and I can see how
an up-to-date war with such a country as Germany is bound to give the
world heaps of surprises and thrills."

"Just stop and consider," said Allan, still gazing at the far-away
soaring objects among the light clouds, "what those chaps are seeing as
they sail around up there. It must be a wonderful spectacle, and I'd
give a lot to be up there half an hour or so."

"But it must be dangerous work at that, I'd think," observed Bumpus.

"All aeroplane work is," admitted Giraffe, "and if you once started to
take a drop it'd be the end. You'd never know what had happened; but,
say, I'd pity the poor fellow underneath when _you_ landed, Bumpus!"

"I didn't mean that, Giraffe," expostulated the other; "don't you
suppose now if those are German airships the Belgians must be cracking
away at them with their guns and trying to bring them down?"

"They'd be silly not to, Bumpus," replied Giraffe, "and if we only had a
glass along the chances are you'd be able to see some of the bombs or
shrapnel exploding up there. But it's hard to hit such a moving target,
and besides I reckon the pilots fly high enough to be well out of
range."

Since leaving the roadside inn they had covered quite a few miles, with
nothing out of the way happening, except that little trouble on the
slope of the hill. Thad had studied the little chart he carried with
him, and tried to lay out a route which he hoped would carry them beyond
the danger line.

He understood that the invaders must be stretching out toward the west
so as to control that section of country. There was a chance that at any
time the boys might meet with a raiding band of rough-riders connected
with the German army; but he hoped this would not happen, for it was
likely to spoil all their plans and set them back.

"Why, this is getting too sleepy for anything," Giraffe was complaining
finally. "We don't even have any housewife rush out and threaten us for
running over her dog, or killing a poor old hen. Why, even the ducks can
waddle out of reach of our slow-poke car. It makes me feel like I'm
going to a funeral."

"You're the same old Giraffe," declared Bumpus, chuckling, "always
finding fault. Now the only thing that makes me sad is because I never
yet had a chance to show what I know about driving a car. I took three
lessons last spring, and later on Thad might let me spell him some."

"I'll get out first, if ever you do!" vowed Giraffe; "I don't care to be
splashed up against a wall, or hoisted twenty feet up in the branches of
a tree, to hang there with my head down. And I don't think Thad's
reckless enough to take chances with such a green driver. Bad enough as
it is, with a wobbly car."

Bumpus did not answer, but there was an aggrieved look on his round
face, which would indicate he did not agree with Giraffe at all, and
still considered that he might be trusted.

The sun, being well up, was beginning to prove pretty warm, so that it
was not surprising to hear Giraffe express a desire for a cool drink.

"Since such things as road-houses seem to be as scarce as hens' teeth
along here, and you can't expect to get any soda or sarsaparilla,
suppose we keep an eye out for a spring, and call a halt to water our
dusty throats?"

Everybody seemed willing, and Bumpus even went to the trouble to produce
an old well-battered tin cup he had picked up somewhere, as he remarked:

"And if you do run across a spring, Giraffe, please fetch me that full
of nice cold water, will you? My leg still pains me, and I'd better not
get out. I hate to give any one trouble, but it's a case of necessity.
Get your fill first, and fetch mine when you come back to the car. You
were always a good friend of mine, Giraffe."

"No trouble at all," the other told him; "but first catch your rabbit
before you start cooking the same. We have yet to find the spring. Here,
stop making such faces, Bumpus; I know your throat is full of dust, but
you can't hurry things that way, for even two swallows don't make a
spring!"

Bumpus pretended to feel faint after hearing that, but recovered almost
magically upon hearing Thad say he believed he saw what they were
looking for up ahead.

"These Belgian country people are always thinking of others," he said,
"and they mark a spring near the road with a white stone so passers-by
can know it."

"Yes," added Allan, "and ten chances to one we'll find it as neat as
wax, with some sort of a clean mug to drink out of."

"I hope this isn't going to turn out a false clue, that's all," remarked
Giraffe, "because I've gone and got my mouth watering for a drink, and
the disappointment might prove fatal to me."

Two minutes afterwards they halted.

"Yes, it is a spring, I do believe!" said Giraffe, making one of his
flying leaps out of the car.

"Here, you're forgetting all about my cup!" screeched Bumpus, and of
course the impatient one had to come back in order to keep his promise.

The spring was at some little distance from the road, it being necessary
to negotiate several fences before reaching the white stone marking the
spot where the ice-cold water gurgled forth.

"You were wise not to try the venture, if your leg pains you, Bumpus!"
Allan called back; and the one left behind in the old car doubtless
agreed with him there.

Giraffe was swallowing his second cup when the others arrived on the
scene. He looked as though he might be enjoying himself hugely.

"I'm on the water-wagon now!" he warbled, making way for them, and
pointing to a stone mug that lay close by for the use of thirsty
travelers.

It was water that could hardly be excelled anywhere, and Allan, filling
the mug, insisted on Thad drinking the contents. After that he dipped in
for himself, while Giraffe came along for his third helping.

"One good turn deserves another!" he chuckled; "and it seems as if I
never could get enough of this splendid stuff. I mustn't forget to fetch
poor old Bumpus his share, and if he wants more I'll have to trot back
here and get---- Hey! what's that mean, Thad? The car's running away
with Bumpus, as sure as you're born!"

The trio by the spring stared for a few seconds as though they thought
they must be dreaming, for it seemed utterly impossible that such a
thing should come to pass. And yet there was the car hurrying along the
road, with the fat scout clutching the steering wheel, and looking half
scared to death as he tried to keep from running into the gullies that
lay to the right and to the left!



                             CHAPTER XIII.
                           REPENTANT BUMPUS.


There was no mystery attached to it all, and Thad understood the whole
occurrence as soon as he saw the car moving down the road with Bumpus in
it. As usually happens, meddling was meeting with its customary reward.

Bumpus, as they very well knew, had long been desirous of learning how
to run a motor car. Of course his father, being at the head of the
Cranford bank, owned a big car, and had a chauffeur to run it; but he
had issued positive orders that under no conditions was the boy to be
allowed to ever handle the steering wheel. He knew Bumpus, and his
capacity for doing the wrong thing, and meant to take no chances of
having a smash-up.

Boys are human. What is denied them they most of all yearn to possess.
Perhaps had Bumpus never been restrained from trying to run a car, his
first little accident would have ended his vaulting ambition. As it was,
this desire fed on the fact that it was a forbidden luxury for him.

When, therefore, Thad and the other two scouts were making their way
toward the spring, with the intention of satisfying their thirst, he
found himself tempted to clamber awkwardly over into the front seat, so
as to sit there, and grasping the steering wheel try to imagine himself
a bold chauffeur.

The engine was throbbing in restraint, and the trembling motion of the
car gave Bumpus an additional opportunity to believe himself IT.

How he ever came to do it no one ever knew. Bumpus himself was so
startled when he felt the car give a sudden leap forward that his wits
almost left him. He always stoutly maintained that, so far as he could
remember, he had done nothing at all to influence the start, but of
course this was a mistake, for cars do not run away without some help.

Bumpus still gripped that wheel in a frenzied clutch. He stared hard at
the road ahead, which to his excited fancy seemed to consist of a zigzag
course as crooked as any wriggling snake he had ever watched.

At one second it seemed as though he were headed for the gully on the
right, and no sooner had he wildly given the wheel a turn than the car,
in sheer ugliness, Bumpus thought, started for the other side of the
road.

The ditch there did not look a bit more tempting to the greenhorn
chauffeur, and so he would strive to avoid being overturned by a
contrary whirl of the wheel.

There he was going along at a rapid pace, with the crazy car making the
most eccentric dives and plunges imaginable.

"After him!" shouted Thad.

He feared for the car, but most of all he felt great concern for Bumpus
himself. With all his faults, the fat boy was a general favorite among
his comrades of the Cranford Troop. In fact, everybody liked him on
account of his sunny nature, his happy-go-lucky disposition, and his
genial, child-like and bland smile.

Hardly had Thad given this shout than all of them were on the go. They
did not attempt to return to the road over the same course taken in
reaching the wayside spring, but started along a diagonal line. This was
to overcome the lead which the runaway car had already obtained.

Thad shouted out directions which if heard and understood by Bumpus
would have allowed him to bring the car to a sudden stop. Perhaps in his
excitement the boy who clutched the steering wheel could not make head
or tail of what Thad was calling. Then again it may have been the rattle
of the cranky old car prevented him from catching the tenor of the
directions.

In fact, as Bumpus afterwards frankly confessed, it would have made
little difference whether he heard and understood the order or not. He
only had two hands, and they were both needed every second of the time
to keep that wheel moving, and thus prevent an accident.

The three scouts found many obstacles in their way from the spring to
the road. They climbed fences with a surprising agility, and mounted a
wall as though they were hounds coursing after a hare.

The long-legged Giraffe proved himself to be a trifle better than either
of the others at this sort of thing, and consequently he came upon the
road first. When Thad and Allan arrived he was some little distance
along, running like a deer, and utterly regardless of the clouds of dust
created by the eccentric motions of the reckless runaway car.

Thad was used to judging distances, and after making a rapid mental
calculation he decided that, barring some accident, Giraffe was sure to
overtake the car before many minutes had passed.

He only hoped they would come to no abrupt bend in the road, where the
inexperienced chauffeur would lose what little command he now possessed
over his refractory vehicle.

Of course, Thad did not attempt to voice his opinion. He needed every
atom of breath he could get in order to keep up that burst of speed;
and, besides, in that choking dust it would have been folly to have
opened his mouth.

The car was doing as well as at any time since it came into their
possession. Perhaps it meant to show them that even a car may have
feelings, and resent constant slurs. Only for that zigzag motion, which
consumed more or less time, Giraffe might have found it a much more
difficult thing to catch up with the runaway.

More than once it seemed to Thad that his heart was trying to crowd up
into his throat and choke him. This came about whenever he saw Bumpus
make a more desperate lunge than usual and come within an ace of landing
in the ditch, the car wrecked, and his own neck placed in extreme peril
of being broken.

As Giraffe afterwards privately said, "There seems to be an especial
little cherub aloft given the task of protecting children and fools";
and, if this were true, the angelic being had Bumpus in charge on that
wild run.

Now Giraffe by dint of a spurt was close behind the car. Thad still
chasing after, with Allan close beside him, waited in suspense to see
how the tall comrade would manage. He knew just how he would act under
similar conditions, and had enough faith in Giraffe to believe he could
do at least as well.

They saw him lay hands on the rear of the car. Then he seemed to make a
mighty effort, and the next thing they knew he was clambering,
scrambling, getting aboard any way at all, so that he accomplished his
aim.

No doubt he was also holding his peace so that poor, clumsy Bumpus might
not be still further "rattled" with the knowledge that help had arrived
in his sore extremity.

Then all at once Giraffe was seen to bend over and clutch the steering
wheel. It was heartening to notice how quickly the car stopped that
erratic wabbling, and settled down to doing a fairly straight run.

No doubt Giraffe was not telling Bumpus just what he must do with his
freed hands, for they saw the fat boy lean over, while the car began to
run slower and slower until it came to a dead stop.

Then for the first time did Thad allow himself to say a word. The relief
from all that suspense was so great that he had to give expression to
his satisfaction, which he did by gasping:

"Thank goodness, he did it--bully for Giraffe!"

"It sometimes pays to have _extra_ long legs!" was the characteristic
remark made by Allan, as they both ran on, though at a reduced pace.

When they arrived at the now motionless car they found an extremely
repentant Bumpus awaiting them.

"Don't ask me how it happened, Thad," he said sadly, "because I don't
know. I was sitting there, turning the wheel this way and that, and
trying to imagine how it felt to be a real chauffeur, when all at once
she gave a snort and a kick, just like an army mule that feels the lash,
and commenced to start whizzing along the road. Oh! look at me, soaking
wet with perspiration. Whew! I've had a lesson I won't forget in a
hurry. You don't catch me fooling with a buzz saw again in a hurry, I
promise you."

With such a contrite culprit owning up to his faults what could Thad
say? To scold Bumpus seemed almost cruel, and besides, Thad was feeling
too well pleased over the successful outcome of the adventure to hurt
the poor fellow's feelings any more than was absolutely necessary.

Giraffe was not quite so tenderhearted, though feeling flushed with
satisfaction over his recent victory.

"Guess you know now why your dad wouldn't let you learn to run your big
touring car at home, don't you, Bumpus?" he jeered.

"I'm beginning to think he knew a heap better than I did about it,"
admitted the humble Bumpus.

"It takes brains to run a car," asserted Giraffe meaningly. "Some people
never should try it, because they get rattled at the least little thing
out of the ordinary, and go all to pieces."

Bumpus heaved a great sigh; then one of his old-time smiles crept over
his face, now white no longer on account of alarm.

"Well, I'm mighty glad I didn't quite do that, Giraffe, by bringing up
in the ditch, you know," he started to say. "Gimme a little credit for
escaping smashing things to splinters. And, Giraffe, I want to say that
I'm ever so much obliged to you for doing what you did. It was a noble
deed, and there are few fellows who could have carried it out half as
well as you."

After that splendid compliment, of course there was no use of Giraffe
feeling hard toward the one who had just given them all such a scare. He
smiled back at Bumpus, and the subject was dropped, so far as finding
fault or laying down the law went.

"What shall we do now, Thad?" asked Allan.

"We might go back again to where we were," suggested the other, with a
curious look toward Bumpus, which the other noticed, and understood.

"What for, Thad?" he demanded. "If you're meaning to let me get a drink,
I refuse to allow it. I'm going dry, to make up in part for what I did.
Serves me right, and I'll get it rubbed in all the time I'm being half
choked by the dust."

Thad saw he meant it, too, and knew that Bumpus could be very stubborn
when he wanted to. Besides, perhaps it would be just as well for him to
punish himself in this way, since the more he suffered the less
likelihood there was of the incident being repeated.

"Just as you say, Bumpus," he remarked, as he climbed into the car
again; "we'll keep our eyes on the watch for a chance to stop at one of
these cottages where they have a well in the yard, and you can get a
drink there."

"Thank you, Thad; it's a lot more than I deserve," said Bumpus; "but I
tell you I had the surprise of my life when she gave that snort, and
started to run away with me. I'm shivering yet with the excitement; just
feel my hand, will you, Giraffe?"

Another start was made, everybody feeling satisfied that there had been
no serious outcome of the adventure. To have had the car put out of the
running would have caused them considerable distress; but they might
have even forgiven that if only their jolly chum came through the
accident unscathed.

It was really Thad himself who discovered a wayside cottage, with a well
in the yard. Possibly Bumpus, bent on severe atonement, would never have
called their attention to the same if he had been the only one to
glimpse it.

He even began to demur when Thad said they would stop and ask for a
drink; but Giraffe told him not to be foolish.

"Think we want you to get choking pretty soon, and scare us half to
death?" he told the fat boy severely; but then Bumpus knew very well
this was all assumed, and that Giraffe really wanted him to assuage his
raging thirst.

So they came to a stop, and when a woman accompanied by several children
came out of the cottage, Thad managed by signs to ask permission to
drink at her well. She quickly understood what he wanted, and nodded an
assent, even starting to draw a fresh bucket of water, though Thad took
the rope from her hands, and completed the job.



                              CHAPTER XIV.
                            MORE HARD LUCK.


During the next few hours they made progress, but the distance covered
did not count for many miles. There were several reasons for this. In
the first place Thad found he had made a mistake in the road, for his
chart was not as accurate as it should have been, and of course to
rectify this they had to go back and try it all over again.

Then Giraffe complained of being hungry, and that necessitated looking
for some place where they might get something to eat. Coming to a
village finally, they saw another tavern, and as money "talks" with
people who keep caravansaries of any sort, arrangements were made
whereby they might be supplied with a meal.

So an hour and more was consumed in waiting for this to be cooked, and
in afterwards eating the same. No one, however, begrudged the time or
the money, for what they had proved to be quite appetizing, with its
flavor of French cookery.

Another cause for delay consisted in the fact that the road they were
following mounted several rises, and as they had already learned, to
their cost, the tricky old car disliked hill climbing above all things.
So they were compelled to display their scout knowledge of "first aid to
the injured" in the way of lending a helping hand.

They came upon many people as they pursued their way. Some were going in
the same direction as the boys, while others came from the opposite
quarter. They could not help noticing that all looked unusually excited;
while some of them seemed to be carrying heavy burdens. These were
doubtless possessed with the idea that the German cavalrymen would be
raiding through that entire section at any time now, and if they hoped
to save their most cherished possessions it was time they took them to
some place of security.

The day was passing, and only another hour remained for them to push on.
Thad was not at all satisfied with the poor progress they had made.

"We'll try and do better to-morrow," he told them as they jogged along,
the engine making more noise than ever, it seemed. "If only we can get
to a point where there's no danger of being stopped by commands of
raiding Uhlans we can figure on reaching our destination--hello! what's
gone wrong now, I wonder?"

The engine had given a last weak throb and refused to carry on the work
any longer. Thad, Allan and Giraffe all jumped out and started to
investigate.

"Oh! ginger! what do you think of that?" the last named was heard to
exclaim, as though he had made a startling and unexpected discovery.

"What is it, Giraffe?" asked Bumpus, who had not descended from the car,
but for all that was deeply interested in everything that went on.

"Tank's clean empty!" burst from Giraffe.

Thad and Allen stared hard at each other.

"You must be mistaken, Giraffe," said the former.

"You certainly have made a bad guess," added Allan, "because we put in
five gallons just an hour ago, and couldn't possibly have used more than
a third of that amount by now. Try again, Giraffe!"

"Look for yourself," said the tall boy, with a shrug of his shoulders
that stood for disgust, and perhaps a little indignation as well, that
his word should be doubted.

An investigation revealed the fact that there was hardly a drop in the
tank.

"Here's the reason," said Thad, pointing with his finger to where plain
signs of a leak could be seen; "the reservoir has gone back on us. It
must have sprung that leak in the last mile or two, and drained the
tank."

"Oh! what tough luck!" exclaimed Bumpus, and then settled back in his
seat in the consciousness that these comrades, so fertile in resources,
would speedily find some solution for the problem.

Thad glanced at Allan, shook his head, and smiled dismally.

"Looks as if we're bound to run the whole gamut of car troubles before
we're done with this machine, doesn't it?" he observed. "Of course there
are several things we might do. One is to pull the car aside so as not
to block the road, and then strike on in hopes of finding a village,
where we can either put up for the night or else get some gas, enough to
bring us on."

"Failing that," said Giraffe, "what's to hinder hiring a farmer and his
horse to pull the machine along to town? It's a common occurrence over
in our country, and these Belgians are ready to do anything like that to
earn a dollar or two. And if you say the word, Thad, I'll be glad to
strike off right now to either get the juice or hire a horse to tow us
out of this."

That was always the way with Giraffe, for there never breathed a more
willing comrade than the tall scout.

"It's nice of you to make that offer, Giraffe," the patrol leader told
him, "and I guess we'll have to take you up on it, since there seems to
be no other way."

"We'd find it pretty tough to try and push the car a long ways,"
ventured Bumpus, always remembering the effort it took to surmount the
low hills they had struck; "and as to camping out here without a bite of
supper, I'd rather be excused from trying it, even if I had to go for
help myself."

Of course no one would dream of allowing such a thing as this last hint
covered; and doubtless Bumpus knew that he was perfectly safe in making
it.

"Then I go, do I, Thad?" asked Giraffe, looking actually pleased at the
chance to make himself "useful as well as ornamental," as he himself
called it.

"Yes, if you will," he was told; "we'll promise to stay here and watch
the car, though it'd be hard for any one to steal it without a bit of
petrol in the tank to run the engine. Take your time, Giraffe; no need
of sprinting. If you can't get the gasoline, bring a horse and a
driver."

"We're not so very proud!" laughed Bumpus.

"It'll only be another experience," ventured Allan; being boys they
could grapple with troubles without being greatly discouraged, for as is
often the case they saw something of a frolic in each successive
adventure, something to be remembered and retold later on with more or
less pride.

"While you're away, Giraffe," continued Thad, "we'll see if we can mend
the hole in the petrol tank. I believe I saw a little soldering outfit
in the kit of tools. Just as like as not this isn't the first rust hole
that's happened in that same old tank. If we can't do it, some plumber
will have to undertake the job, for we can't go ahead otherwise."

So Giraffe walked on, taking great strides with those long legs of his.
Bumpus, who being so stout only made mincing steps, always declared
Giraffe must have inherited the famous Seven League Boots they used to
read about in the fairy story books.

Giraffe waved his hand back to his comrades before turning a bend, and
that was the last they saw of him on his mission for help.

Thad and Allan were soon busily engaged. They made a little fire close
by, where the small soldering iron could be heated. Bumpus having asked
if he could be of any assistance, and being told to the contrary,
solaced himself by sitting there and watching all they did.

"No telling but what I might want to mend a hole in a coffee pot some of
these fine days," he remarked, complacently, "and it's just as well that
I learn how to handle the tools. I believe in a scout's knowing things
every time"; then as though his conscience suddenly smote him he
hurriedly added: "but once in a while you may run up against a snag,
like I did when I fooled with that driving wheel. Think you c'n fix it,
Thad?"

"It begins to look that way, Bumpus," the other told him; "we seem to be
making some progress, anyway."

"Oh! we'll get the hole mended all right," Allan remarked, confidently;
"but it's always going to be a question how soon another will come
along. The tank is worn out, and not worth much."

"We can only hope it serves our purpose, and after that who cares?"
ventured the now philosophical Bumpus.

In the end the leak was repaired, and so far as they could see the tank
would do its duty again as a reservoir, providing any petrol was to be
had.

By this time the boys were thinking they ought to see something of their
messenger. Giraffe would surely have had plenty of time to run across
some wayside cottage where they had a horse that could be hired.

"I expect," Thad explained, to account for the delay, "he's got his mind
set on getting some juice, and so he's gone on to the next town. Well,
if he fetches it with him we'll get along in a hurry all right."

Sitting there in the car, which had been dragged to one side of the
road, they settled down to wait. The day was done, and with the setting
of the sun thoughts of supper naturally came into the mind of Bumpus,
because that fierce appetite of his gave him little peace.

"What if he doesn't show up to-night, Thad?" he remarked, voicing a fear
that had latterly been tugging at his heart.

"I hope it doesn't come to that," replied the other, looking serious.
"We'd be worried about him. Of course we can put up the top of the car.
It's a pretty ragged top at that, but would keep the dew from falling on
us. As scouts we've camped out in a good many queer places, and ought to
stand a little thing like that."

Bumpus did not much relish the prospect, but being a wise fellow he kept
his disappointment to himself. The minutes crept on, and pretty soon
darkness had engulfed the stalled car. Still no Giraffe. It looked very
strange, for they could not imagine what might have happened to their
chum.

Another hour passed.

The moon even peeped into view over in the east, and there was no
welcome hail in the cheery voice of the absent chum. Bumpus gave himself
up to the most agonizing speculations. He possibly saw, in his mind,
poor Giraffe undergoing all manner of tortures, from being shot as a
German spy on account of having tried to converse with some one in the
Teuton language, to being taken prisoner by a band of raiding Uhlans.

And while engaged in thinking of all these things Bumpus actually fell
asleep. He could do that about as easily as any one Thad had ever known.
Hearing his regular breathing, and seeing that Bumpus was lying back in
the corner under the hood which had been raised, Thad gently placed the
one thin cover they possessed over the sleeper; and after that when he
and Allan wanted to converse they lowered their voices so as not to
disturb Bumpus.

"What do you think has gone wrong, Thad?" Allan asked, as though not
fully satisfied with his own conclusions.

"It's hard to say," replied the other; "but let's hope it's only because
Giraffe is dead set on getting the juice, and nothing else will suit
him. We know once he makes up his mind he can be dreadfully stubborn,
almost as bad as Bumpus here, for a fact."

After that they sat there and exchanged sentences only once in a while.
The time was August, but all the same the night air began to feel more
or less cool; and Thad was even wondering whether it would not be a good
idea to resurrect the fire they had used for heating the iron, so as to
ward off this chill, when suddenly he heard sounds along the road that
gave him a thrill.

Instantly his hand sought the arm of his chum. Allan may have been half
dozing, but as he felt that warning touch he was instantly wide awake.

"Listen!" whispered Thad.

More plainly than before came the sounds, and Allan, too, was thrilled
when he made out what seemed to be voices, mingled with a clanking noise
such as would be made by soldiers bearing arms. Yes, and now he plainly
caught the thud of horses' hoofs on the hard road.

"Sit tight!" said Thad; "there's nothing we can do to help ourselves.
Even if it is soldiers they may be Belgians maneuvering to get in the
rear of the Germans. But we'll soon know the worst, for the sounds are
coming closer all the time."

So, sitting there while Bumpus slept peacefully on, the two chums
awaited the explanation of the mystery.



                              CHAPTER XV.
                       AT THE END OF A TOW LINE.


This state of uncertainty was of short duration. Then Thad chuckled
softly.

"I certainly heard Giraffe's laugh then," he told Allan; "and you can
tell now it's only a single horse that's thumping along. After all
Giraffe had to give up on the petrol business, and come down to getting
us towed in."

Soon they could see moving figures on the road, and catch the creak of
heavy wheels much in need of axle grease. It proved to be a cart, and
seated in the same was Giraffe, together with a couple of half-grown
Belgian lads.

"Thought I was never coming, didn't you?" the tall scout remarked, as he
jumped to the road; "well, I kept trying to get some gas all through the
village, but it was no use. When I contracted to buy a supply I must
have bitten off a bigger wad than I could chew. And I had a number of
things happen, too; tell you about the same later on. Now, we'll get
busy hitching our chariot to a star. This was really the best I could
do, Thad."

He was of course assured that no one dreamed of blaming him; and that
they would be very well satisfied to get somewhere or other, no matter
what the means of locomotion turned out to be.

The two stout Belgian boys soon managed with the help of Giraffe to
fasten the stalled car to the rear of their queer-looking cart. Ropes
had been brought along for that very purpose, Giraffe foreseeing the
need of such things.

When the start was made the car gave a jerk. That served to arouse
Bumpus, who had continued to sleep calmly on despite all the talking.

"Oh! so we're going on again, are we? Did Giraffe fetch the stuff,
and--my stars! whatever is that ahead of us; and a towing rope in the
bargain? Oh! I see now; we're being carted into town, for a fact!"

Giraffe was full of his recent hunt for liquid fuel.

"I never saw the beat," he told them, "how everybody wants to hold on to
what little petrol they've got. I offered double price, but they shook
their heads and as near as I could understand tried to tell me they
needed every drop for their own use. Now that the war has broken out
nobody knows what will happen. After chasing around till I was tired
out, I made up my mind it was a case of the tow-line for us, or stay out
here all night. I took the tow, and here we are."

"How far away is the town you mention?" asked Thad.

"All of two miles," he was told; "but it wasn't the distance that kept
me. I had to waste so much time trying to make them understand. Then one
party would direct me to a certain house where I might buy some petrol.
Result, half an hour wasted and not a thing gained."

"Is there an inn in that town, Giraffe?" asked Bumpus, softly.

"Thinking about your grub, ain't you, Bumpus?" chuckled the other; "but
that's all right. There's an inn, and I told the landlord we might show
up later on. He even promised to cook us some supper when we came,
charging extra for the same, you understand, Bumpus. It was in front of
that same inn I saw the soldiers."

"Germans?" asked Allan, quickly.

"No, a Belgian battery of field guns that is heading for the fighting
line," the late messenger explained. "They came in with a whirl while I
was there, and watered the horses dragging the guns at the trough in
front of the inn. It made a pretty sight, let me tell you, for the moon
was just rising. I'll never forget it as long as I live."

"They didn't offer to bother you, did they, Giraffe?" asked Bumpus.

"Sure they didn't," replied the other, scornfully. "Why, I soon found
that one of the gunners could speak pretty good English, and I had quite
a little talk fest with him while the horses were drinking their fill at
that trough."

"Did you pick up any information worth while, Giraffe?" asked Allan.

"What I got only made me feel sour," the other replied.

"Why should it, Giraffe?" Bumpus wanted to know.

"Because I was told the Germans seemed to be sending out thousands of
their hard-riding cavalrymen to scatter through this part of the country
and terrorize the people," explained Giraffe.

"There would be another meaning to such a move, I should think,"
ventured Thad.

"Right you are there, Thad," continued the other. "That gunner let me
understand it was believed the Germans, being held up so fiercely by the
forts at Liége, were trying to make a flank movement so as to threaten
Brussels from this side. And Thad, he said there wasn't more'n one
chance in ten we'd ever be able to get through the lines."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Giraffe," remarked the patrol leader.

"But we don't mean to give up yet, do we?" queried Bumpus, who never
liked to quit; he had plenty of faults, but that of yielding could
hardly be called one of his shortcomings.

"It doesn't look like it," admitted Thad; "for we've got our tank
mended, and if there's any gasoline to be had for love or money we'll
push on to-morrow, taking what comes, and making the best of it."

"And always remembering," said Giraffe, "that in case the worst comes we
can go back to the Dutch border, cross over, and make for Rotterdam.
That's what the Belgian gunner told me. He was a fine young chap, and if
he comes through the fighting all right I expect to hear from him after
I get home again."

As he never did, Giraffe was later on forced to the sad conviction that
his new-found friend must have given up his young life in defence of his
beloved country, as thousands of others did likewise.

They continued to talk as they made slow progress. It was snail-like,
after having become accustomed to the ten-mile-an-hour gait of the car,
when it was doing its best. Still, no one complained, for half a loaf
was a good deal better than no bread.

"I'd a lot sooner be caught in this fix than to stay out there all
night, crammed in the car," remarked Bumpus, and then continuing he
said, with a vein of reproach in his mellow voice: "but, Thad, Allan, it
wasn't just right for you to tuck the only wrap we had along around me,
like I was a big baby. I've got to learn to take my knocks like the rest
of you, and I want you to let me meet my share, or else I'll be
unhappy."

"There, we're getting close to the village now," said Giraffe, pointing
to where houses could be dimly seen in the misty moonlight.

The hour was pretty late when they hauled up in the inn-yard. The
landlord had kept his word, and supper was being cooked even then, a
fact Bumpus discovered as soon as he could scent the odors in the air.

"Oh! mebbe I'm not glad you decided to take a horse when you couldn't
get any gas, Giraffe," he remarked, sniffing vigorously; "now, I wonder
what he's having cooked for us. If it's as good as the stuff we had at
noon I'm going to find out how it's made. Then some time or other when
we're camping out with the rest of the boys I'll spring a big surprise
on you all."

"I think that everything considered," said Thad, "we have reason to be
thankful things are no worse. So far as I can see there's been no damage
done; and here's the landlord coming to tell us supper is ready."

"Hold on, Bumpus, you forget that you've got a game leg, don't you?"
called out Giraffe, as the fat boy jumped to his feet in readiness for a
rush.

"Oh! that's got well again," Bumpus assured him blandly. "Fact is, the
scare I had when I was run away with by that car did the business for
that lame leg. But if both of them happened to be crippled that wouldn't
keep me from feeling hungry, would it?"

Since no one had ever known anything to do this of course there was no
chance for Giraffe to make any response. The supper turned out to have
the same appetizing flavor which Bumpus had so much admired at noon, and
after a great deal of effort Giraffe managed to extract the information
from the landlord that it was all a little French trick of rubbing a bit
of garlic on the pan in which the food was being cooked, and which gave
it that flavor.

"I see all sorts of trouble ahead for us scouts," ventured Giraffe,
after he had imparted this information to Bumpus, "if ever he takes to
carrying a string of garlic along with him on our hikes."

They really enjoyed that supper immensely. Possibly it was because they
had such keen appetites after waiting so long in the cool night air; but
no matter what the cause they left the table satisfied.

"Next thing is to get some sleep," remarked Bumpus.

"We're going to step out a bit first, Bumpus, and push the car under a
shed, so it will be hidden," Allan told him.

"Oh! we don't have to lie around again to guard the same, I hope,"
suggested the fat scout, who was hoping to have clean sheets and a
mattress for a change, instead of just ordinary hay.

"No, we've decided to cut that out this time," Thad explained, "because
we don't believe there's going to be any stealing done. I'll cripple the
machine again by taking away some part; and with no petrol aboard it
ought to be safe."

They were given a couple of large rooms that overlooked the front of the
house. When Thad thrust his head out of a window he could see the road,
and the watering trough where as Giraffe had told them the horses of the
Belgian field battery rushing to the front had stopped to drink.

All seemed peaceful and quiet. If a dog barked occasionally, or a nearby
rooster gave vent to a few crows, as was his habit at certain hours of
the night, none of the tired lads were likely to pay any attention to
such common sounds. They figured that given two more days, with as much
progress accomplished as had marked the one just passed, and they should
be beyond the danger line, with what could be called a clear field ahead
of them.

So doubtless as they settled themselves to sleep, two in each room, and
with good clean and comfortable beds under them, their last thoughts
must have been of hopes for the morrow, and wishes for as few
interruptions as possible.

Allan was Thad's bed-fellow, which of course left Bumpus and Giraffe to
pair off--"the fat and the lean," as the tall boy remarked when
proceeding to get most of his clothes off and try that "dandy-looking
bed."

Thad could not go to sleep very easily, for a wonder. It was not that he
had any reason to anticipate coming trouble, for as far as he could see
there was nothing of the sort in sight. So many things persisted in
crowding into his mind that for once his plan of settling down did not
seem to work very well.

It must have been fully eleven o'clock before he dropped off; and the
last thing he remembered hearing was a series of odd little snorts
coming from the adjoining room, which he knew must be caused by Bumpus
lying on his back. Giraffe on his part was certainly sound asleep, or he
would never have stood for such noises.

Then Thad awoke.

He heard the clatter of many horses' hoofs outside, together with the
jangling of accoutrements. It gave him a shock and he immediately sat
upright in bed. This awoke Allan, and he copied Thad's example as soon
as he caught the strange and significant noises coming in through the
open windows.

As the two boys sat there listening, hardly knowing what all this rattle
of iron-shod hoofs might signify, they heard a loud voice give a
command, which was evidently intended as "halt!"

What thrilled Thad and his chum, however, was that the order was not
given in English, French or Flemish but in plain, unmistakable German.

"The Kaiser's men have struck this place, Allan!" said Thad, as with
quivering hands he threw back the bed clothes, and jumping out started
toward the window, bent upon seeing what it meant.

Allan was at his heels, and upon reaching the open window they looked
out, to discover a sight that was calculated to impress them so strongly
that it could never be forgotten.



                              CHAPTER XVI.
                          THE GERMAN RAIDERS.


The moon was well up in the heavens and this made it almost as light as
day out there in the open. Both the scouts could see that scores and
scores of men mounted on fine horses had halted for a breathing spell.
Down by the pump as many horses as could gather around were drinking
their fill at the very trough where only a few hours before the animals
drawing the guns of the Belgians had stood, according to what Giraffe
had told them.

Crouching there in the window the boys stared and listened and took it
all in. It happened that the moon was on the other side of the inn so
that the wall here was well in shadow. This prevented Thad and Allan
from being noticed, and they had the good sense to remain perfectly
still so as not to attract undue attention.

There could be no telling what these hard-riding Uhlans might do.
Doubtless nine-tenths of all the terrible stories told about their cruel
work could be set down as pure fiction; but even then some among them
might be reckless enough to fire a shot at a shrinking figure, half seen
in a window, under the impression that it might turn out to be a
"sniper" getting ready to shoot into their ranks.

The landlord had come out, and was now talking with one of those who
seemed to be in charge of the band. None of the boys had known up to
this time he could speak German; and Giraffe in particular would be
surprised to know it, for had he only been aware of the fact on his
previous visit it would have saved him much time and effort.

When Thad remembered about the Belgian battery having been on the
identical spot such a short time before he was strongly impressed with
the strange vicissitudes and contrasts of war. And had that same battery
but lingered in hiding it would have been in a position to strike a blow
at the invaders not often encountered.

Remembering that they had companions in the other room Thad started to
creep through the connecting door, with the intention of waking them.
Then they too could afterwards boast of having looked upon a band of
those dashing hard riders known as Uhlans, and who with the Russian
Cossacks have had the reputation of being the most terrible fighters of
all Europe.

He had his trouble for his pains, for he found the bed in the other room
empty, with Giraffe and Bumpus over at the window watching all that was
going on below.

"Keep quiet, and don't draw any attention if you can help it," Thad
whispered to the others as he reached the spot where they crouched.

"Some of the officers are coming inside," said Giraffe; "I reckon
they've ordered the landlord to fetch up his best wines. It would be
just like them to make him clean up his wine cellar for the benefit of
the troop. And just our luck not to have paid our bill yet; for he's
bound to make good his losses on his guests."

"Oh! let us hope they won't think to set fire to the inn, because his
stock of drinks gives out," whimpered Bumpus, doubtless already
picturing in his mind what sort of work he could make of climbing out of
the window and down the water pipe, in case such a dreadful catastrophe
did come about.

"Here, you're shivering at the window, fellows," whispered Thad; "and
I'd advise you to go and get a blanket over your shoulders, if you want
to stay and see all that happens."

"You don't think they'll burn the house, do you, Thad?" asked Bumpus; "I
want to know, because it'd take me some little time making a rope ladder
out of the sheets. That's the best way to get down from here, because
it'd be too big a drop for a fellow like me."

"Oh! don't worry about that," Giraffe told him; "there won't be any
burning done. You stand more chance of freezing to death right now; so
get that blanket, Bumpus. Hold on, stay where you are, and I'll fetch
one for you; it isn't safe to have you moving around so much."

Thad soon went back to his own room and provided himself with the bed
covers which he divided with Allan. There was really nothing new to
report. More men and horses kept pushing up to the pump and the water
trough. The handle of the former kept up a continual groaning as strong
arms worked it constantly, to keep the trough from running dry.

"Here the officers come out again," remarked Allan; "they've had their
wine, and mean to let the landlord off easy this time. Perhaps they're
in too big a hurry to stay long in one place. That was the call to mount
we just heard. And, Thad, this is about as thrilling a scene as we've
ever looked at."

"Yes," added the other, "and inside of a week half of those fine
strapping big fellows may be dead, for all we know. They take their
lives in their hands when they go galloping across an enemy's country
this way. Any hour they are likely to find themselves in a trap, with
deadly rapid-fire guns pouring a hail of bullets into the troop, cutting
down horses and men. It's terrible just to think of it."

They saw the Uhlans begin to gallop away, with a sense of great relief.
The little pennons at the ends of their long lances fluttered in the
night air. Seen in the mellow moonlight it was an inspiring picture that
made the hearts of the onlookers beat faster than usual.

"I don't like that, though," Thad was muttering as he watched, with the
last of the troop leaving the watering trough.

"What is it, Thad," demanded Allan, who had just barely caught the low
words.

"Don't you see which way they're going?" asked the patrol leader.

"Why, they seem to have come into town from the left-hand road, and are
leaving by the one that runs toward the southwest," replied Allan.

"Well, that's our course to-morrow, you know," Thad continued, with a
meaning in his voice that could not well be mistaken.

Allan gave a low whistle.

"I see now what you mean, Thad," he remarked. "It begins to look as if
that Belgian gunner Giraffe talked with knew what he was saying when he
said we didn't have more than one chance in ten to slip through. If
there are many more detachments of Uhlans like this floating around, so
as to fairly cover the country, we'll be hauled up as sure as anything,
and chased back."

"Yes, because they'd be afraid we might carry important news to the
enemy, and set the Belgians on their trail," Thad went on to say.

They had no further reason for staying up in the chilly night air, with
a comfortable bed so close at hand, and a few minutes later the two
chums were tucked under the covers once more.

"You don't think they bothered our car, do you, Thad?" asked Allan, as
he prepared to coax further sleep to visit his eyes.

"I hope not," he was told. "I did see several of the men go into the
shed and move around the stables, but they must have been looking for
sound horses, and not broken-down wrecks of cars. As they didn't carry
off any horses that I could see I reckon all the good ones have already
been taken for the Belgian cavalry and field batteries."

When eventually morning came it found all the scouts up bright and
early. Even Bumpus astonished his mates by showing no desire to remain
in bed after being aroused.

"Course we're going on, boys," he decided, as they were dressing; "just
because there's a bunch of German rough-riders cruising around these
parts isn't enough to make us back down and show the white feather, I
hope."

They all assured him that so far no one thought of doing such a thing,
which information doubtless gave Bumpus more or less satisfaction.

"I wouldn't like to promise that we'll be able to break through, though,
Bumpus," Thad warned him. "It's all going to depend on how the Germans
have scattered over the country down in that direction. If we have a lot
of luck we'll escape them; but don't forget that we've still another
scheme up our sleeve in case this one fails."

This fleeting visit by a troop of the enemy had aroused the Belgian
village as nothing that had ever before occurred could have done. The
women were out gossiping over the low fences, or else gabbling in groups
in front of the houses. Boys, old men, and those who from some physical
defect were debarred from participating in the active service of the
army could be seen talking in knots.

Although as yet they had not heard the crash of gun, and seen men
falling in scores before the modern rapid-fire guns, or those using
shrapnel, it was getting pretty close to the border line with them. To
have two rival forces visit the quaint and peaceful place only a few
hours apart brought the war home to those who dwelt in the little
Belgian town.

Giraffe had been greatly impressed. He was by nature a pugnacious sort
of a boy, and it had always been a hard thing for him to subdue his
passion when he first subscribed to the twelve cardinal rules that
govern the life of a scout. Now and then that old spirit would persist
in cropping out again, in defiance to the law of the scouts.

"Tell you what," he was saying this morning, when, after eating
breakfast at the inn, the boys started out in a bunch with an empty
five-gallon can, determined to pick up enough petrol in small lots to
serve to carry them over a good many miles of Belgian territory; "tell
you what, fellows, I'll be pretty much disappointed and broken-hearted
if after being so near the firing line I don't get a chance to glimpse
just one solitary battle between these Belgians end the Germans. Somehow
I've got a hunch that King Albert and his boys can put up a good article
of scrap; and from what we've heard they're giving the Kaiser the
surprise of his life over at Liége right now."

Thad told him he was foolish to wish that, because a battle was a
terrible thing, and apt to give him a fit of the horrors every time he
remembered what he saw.

"General Sherman knew what war was when he called it a pretty hard
name," the scout master continued, "and it's silly for a boy to want to
see men shot down as if they were ripe grain. A scout should know better
than that, Giraffe, you want to remember."

Giraffe did not make any reply, but from his manner it was plain to be
seen that he was far from being convinced by Thad's logic. What was bred
in the bone it was very hard to beat out of the flesh; and in other days
Giraffe had even owned a game rooster which he had proudly boasted could
whip any barnyard fowl in and around Cranford.

They first got a few hints from the landlord, and then started out to
try and get enough petrol to give them a fair start. Sometimes they met
with luck, and then again their mission proved just as fruitless as had
Giraffe's on the preceding evening when on the way to this same town.

Still, when half an hour passed and they had managed to buy four gallons
they considered that they were doing very well indeed.

"If we can double that in the same length of time we'll consider
ourselves pretty lucky," said Thad; "but no matter how we come out we're
going to start about that time. Every chance we get on the road we can
stop and hold up the little sign our friend the landlord has made for
us, and which reads: 'We want to buy a gallon or more of petrol, and
will pay twice the regular price for it. We are American Boy Scouts
trying to reach Antwerp. Help us out.'"

They took turns in carrying the can which was by this time beginning to
feel rather weighty. Even Bumpus insisted on taking his regular spell,
for when they tried to spare him from doing his share of things he
always grew indignant, and wanted to know why they tried to make him out
to be a baby. Bumpus was getting to be exceedingly touchy on such
matters, it seemed, for his pride received a severe jolt every time it
happened.

When the next half hour had expired and Thad told them they must go back
to the inn so as to make a start they had close on seven gallons of
petrol. Apparently the fluid famine had already started in that part of
little Belgium, and it was certain to get worse continually as the
bitter war went on.

The scouts quitted their refuge of the night, feeling that they had
passed through another novel experience in watching the coming and going
of the raiding Uhlan troop.



                             CHAPTER XVII.
                         A MAN IN THE TREE TOP.


"To-day ought to tell the story whether we're going to get through or
not," Giraffe was saying, after they had been making more or less
progress.

"Put it a little stronger, Giraffe," ventured Thad. "Say to-day and
to-morrow will go pretty far toward settling it; because with such a
knock-down machine we're apt to meet up with all sorts of delays."

Bumpus shook his head and sighed.

"I know I'll be glad when the agony is over," he remarked pensively; and
there was not one of his companions but who felt he was thinking of his
waiting mother rather than himself.

For a little while their progress was indeed very fair, and as Giraffe
counted the number of miles they were putting behind him he kept smiling
more broadly than ever.

"Bully for the busy little worker!" he exclaimed finally. "I sure
believe it's taken on new life, and is renewing its youth. And yet they
say they can't come back."

Hardly had he spoken the last word when the engine gave a loud groan
that sounded almost human, and quit working.

"There, that's what you get for shouting before you're out of the
woods!" said Bumpus, in sheer disgust.

Giraffe looked blank.

"Say, do you really believe motors can understand the English language?"
he demanded of the fat scout. "This one has been brought up on either
German or French, and how would it know I was boasting? Anyway next time
I say a thing like that you'll see me knocking on wood right away."

Thad was already out and had the hood lifted so that he could look the
disheartened engine over, and find just what the trouble might be.

"Mebbe it's that silly old gas tank again?" suggested Bumpus.

Allan made a hurried examination.

"Nothing wrong here," he announced; "no drip, and plenty of stuff
inside. Looks as if the engine could only stand just so much, and then
had a fainting fit. And no matter where we bring up in the end, mark my
words, fellows, we've got to work our passage."

"Find out what bust, Thad?" asked Giraffe, as he jumped from the car.

"I don't seem to get it yet, and as there's no telling what may come
along the road while we're loafing here, suppose we all get busy and
push the car to one side, where it isn't apt to block the passage."

Thad's advice was immediately carried out, and when this had been done
he applied himself industriously to the task of first ascertaining what
had happened to the wretched engine, and then to repair the defect, if
it were possible.

Giraffe, always nervous and hard to keep quiet, meanwhile walked over
toward a mound that lay close by.

"Just to take a little observation, and see if there's any sign of those
airmen we saw yesterday," he told the others.

"I heard something that sounded like firing early this morning," said
Thad, "and it may be there has been more warm work going on. The breeze
came from the wrong quarter to help me out, and so I couldn't be sure."

They saw Giraffe make his way up the little rise and reach the top,
where he began to cup his hands about his eyes so as to see the better.
Possibly three minutes passed when those at the car heard sharp barking
as of a fox, and which of course was the call of the Silver Fox Patrol.

"He's waving to us to come up there!" exclaimed Bumpus, scrambling out
of the car, for he had felt so very comfortable that so far he had not
thought fit to make any change.

"Yes, and he means the whole bunch of us in the bargain, if signals
stand for anything, Thad," added Allan.

"All right, let's go," the patrol leader replied, as he started toward
the knoll, still gripping the monkey-wrench with which he had been
working at the time.

With Bumpus puffing at their heels the two boys soon arrived at the base
of the mound, and started up. It was a severe task for the fat scout,
but Bumpus could do considerable, once he made up his mind, and he was
with them when they reached the spot where the excited Giraffe stood.

"What ails you, Giraffe?" asked Allan.

For answer the elongated scout leveled his arm, and pointed in a certain
direction.

"See that tall, bushy tree, Thad?" he exclaimed; "well, turn your eyes
up toward the top of the same and you'll see what gave me a body blow."

"I see it!" called out Bumpus, "and say, it looks like a man fastened up
there! Oh! as sure as anything it moved then! It must be alive,
fellows!"

"It is a man," said Thad, decisively.

"But what on earth could he be doing away up there?" asked Allan, still
straining his eyes to look.

Giraffe had a remarkable vision. He could often discern things that were
next to invisible to his chums.

"He's caught fast there, I tell you," he remarked, eagerly, "and it's a
good thing for him he is, because if he fell to the ground he'd be
killed."

"How queer!" cried Bumpus, his eyes almost starting out of their sockets
with the intensity of the interest he took in the affair; "whoever could
have hung the poor fellow away up there in that tree top?"

Giraffe snorted in disdain.

"Nobody hung him there, silly!" he exclaimed. "He fell there, that's
all!"

"Fell there!" repeated Bumpus, incredulously. "Oh! now you're trying to
kid me, Giraffe. I don't take any stock in those big yarns about Mars
being inhabited, and all that stuff. Speak plainer, can't you?"

"If you look close, Thad," Giraffe said, ignoring Bumpus completely now,
"you'll see something lying on the ground near the tree."

"Yes, you're right, Giraffe, I see it," replied the other; "and it looks
as if it might be some sort of wreck, too."

"Just what she is!" cried Giraffe exultantly; "the wreck of an
aeroplane. That man in the tree must have been one of the flying squad,
German or Belgian, we don't know which yet. He met with an accident
while up aloft. Mebbe some of that shrapnel injured his machine, and he
was making for the earth to land far away from the battle field when he
struck that tree, and there he's stuck ever since."

"Oh! how hard it must have been for him, hanging up there all night, and
p'raps badly hurt at that!" cried the tender-hearted Bumpus. "Thad, you
wouldn't think of going on and leaving him there, I hope?"

"Well, I should say not, Bumpus," Giraffe told him. "We'd deserve to be
kicked out of the organization if ever we did that. How could we look
back without turning fiery red every time we remembered such a cowardly
act? Leave it to us, and we'll get him down out of that, eh, Thad?"

"Our duty compels us to do everything we can to alleviate distress," the
patrol leader said, soberly. "And it doesn't matter the least bit to us
whether that poor chap is a German, Belgian or Frenchman. He's in a
terrible position, and may lose his life unless we do something for him.
So let's head that way on the run!"

"What about the car, Thad?" asked Allan.

"Hang the car," replied the other, impulsively. "It's stalled right now,
and the engine partly dismantled, so there's no danger of its running
away."

"I hope not," Bumpus was heard to mutter, dubiously, "but cars are
mighty funny contraptions any way you put it, and nobody ever knows what
they're meaning to do. When you think they're sleeping as sweet as
anything they may kick you all of a sudden just like a mule."

Bumpus did not say anything more. He needed all the breath he could
gather in so as to keep within reasonable distance of his three chums,
who were making pretty fast time toward the tall tree.

As they drew closer to the spot all doubt concerning the nature of the
heap on the ground was dissipated. It was undoubtedly a wrecked
aeroplane, and Thad, who had taken pains to look these things up, told
the others it was without question a Taube model, small but swift.

"That means the man up yonder will turn out to be a German aviator,
doesn't it, Thad?" asked Allan, who was at his side, with Giraffe
leading.

"No question about that," was the reply, "because the Germans are the
only ones who are using the Taube model exclusively. They seem to think
it about fills the bill for safety and speed."

They had seen the man who was held fast among the branches of the tree
almost at the apex, in fact, wave his hand to them several times. This
told the boys he was still alive, even though possibly suffering
tortures. It also informed them that he had been watching their coming,
and while restraining from shouting out, meant to implore their
assistance.

"How are we going to get him down?" asked Giraffe, as they reached the
foot of the tree, which looked as though it could be easily scaled,
since the lower limbs came close to the ground.

"Three of us must climb up," said Thad. "We can help each other, and it
strikes me we ought to be able to make it."

"One thing in our favor," remarked Allan, who was famous for seeing
things, "the aviator is a rather small man. That's going to be lots of
help."

"What can I do, Thad?" asked Bumpus, willing to attempt anything going,
though his bulk would hardly allow him to be useful up aloft; in fact he
was apt to bother the others rather than prove of assistance.

"Stay down here, and take the man when we lower him from the limbs,"
Thad told him.

It was not much, Bumpus thought, but then he could at least say that he
had had a hand in the rescue of the unfortunate aeroplane pilot.

Giraffe climbed quickly, and reached the vicinity of the stranded
aviator first. He was even talking in German with him when the other two
arrived. They could see just how the garments of the man had become
caught in the branches, so that he was held there as in a vise, utterly
unable to help himself.

"He says he's been here all night," said Giraffe, eagerly, his face
aglow with pride over the fact that once more his high school German was
proving valuable. "He was swinging up pretty high, taking notes of the
disposition of the Belgian forces, when he found himself a target for
heavy firing. He thinks his machine must have been hit as well as
himself, for it started to act queer. So he made off like the wind to
get as far away from the firing line as he could, always falling, and in
the end he struck this tree just before dark."

"He's been wounded in the left arm," said Thad, "for you can see how it
hangs helpless, and there's dried blood on his sleeve too, caking it
hard. He might have bled to death here if that arm didn't happen to be
above him, which has helped to stop the flow. I'm afraid it'll start in
again while we're getting him down, but that can't be helped."

"We'll fix that soon enough, Thad," said Giraffe, eagerly, "once we get
him on the ground. Scouts ought to know their business enough to fix up
any ordinary hurt like that. But have you arranged your plan, Thad? Tell
us what to do, and you'll see us get busy."

The patrol leader had taken a hasty survey of the situation. He saw
there was only one way in which they could get the aviator free from the
clinging branches, and swing him in to the body of the tree.

Accordingly he began to give his orders clearly.

"You reach him on that side, Giraffe, and I'll take hold here. When we
swing him in, Allan, you catch hold, and keep him steady. Then we'll cut
these twigs, and free his leather coat. But be careful, both of you, for
a slip would mean broken bones, if not something worse. Now, ready,
Giraffe? Then when I say three, start swinging!"



                             CHAPTER XVIII.
                            GOOD SAMARITANS.


"Well done, Allan!" exclaimed Giraffe as the third boy successfully
clutched the aviator, after they had managed between them to swing him
in.

Thad now gave instructions just how to work the branches free, one by
one.

"Keep a good hold on him everybody," he said, and was also pleased to
note that the aeroplane pilot had himself taken a desperate clutch upon
a small limb, as though meaning to be of what little assistance he
could.

Step by step they accomplished it, and before long were commencing to
descend the tree. The man proved to be full of grit, as was to be
expected of one who continually took his life in his hands in making
those daring aerial flights, thousands of feet above the earth, and over
hostile lines at that, where he would be a target for dozens of
exploding shrapnel bombs.

Bumpus down below grew more and more excited the closer they came. He
had braced himself like a gladiator, as though he meant to try and catch
the man if by any mischance he slipped from their grasp and fell, and
Bumpus would have been foolish enough to offer himself as a buffer, had
any such accident happened.

But there was, fortunately, no slip, and presently they lowered the man
into his waiting arms, so that after all Bumpus was able to do a small
share in the rescue.

Apparently the poor fellow was greatly weakened by his recent terrible
experience. To hang there the livelong night, swaying with the branches,
and in constant danger of dropping to his death, must have been a severe
shock to his nervous system. And then besides he had lost much blood,
and that would weaken him in itself, even without the lingering peril.

He sank to the ground, but at the same time looked inquiringly at them,
as though to question whether they were capable of helping him further.

"Tell him, Giraffe, if you can," said Thad, "that as Boy Scouts, over in
America, we have learned how to care for all ordinary wounds, and that
we mean to do what is possible for his arm."

"It's lucky, Thad," said Bumpus, "that you always insisted on carrying
that little roll of linen along with you, and some healing salve. I own
up there have been times when I thought you were foolish to load
yourself down that way, but I see how valuable it can come in."

"Some people think it folly to insure their houses," said Thad, "but
when the fire comes along they understand what a comfort it is to those
who get the cash to rebuild. I carry this stuff because one of us might
get hurt when away from a doctor or surgeon. And I'm willing to use it
on the first fellow we've run across who needs it."

Meanwhile Giraffe was again talking with the pilot. The man nodded his
head eagerly when he heard what the tall boy said. Perhaps he knew what
German Boy Scouts were always taught to do in emergencies, but was in
doubt with regard to their American cousins, for Giraffe had of course
informed him before then how they came from over the sea, and were only
pilgrims in Belgium at the time.

It was deemed advisable to help the man down to the little stream that
Thad had noticed close by. Here they commenced to get his leather coat
off. It was no easy task, and Bumpus turned pale when he saw what a mess
his arm was in, through lack of attention for so many hours.

Giraffe had been dispatched over to the car and returned with a little
tin bucket they happened to possess. Allan meanwhile had started a small
fire, and over this the tin utensil, after being filled with water, was
placed.

When the liquid was heated enough Thad started to wash the man's arm.
Gradually the nature of the wound was disclosed. After all it was not so
very serious, when that dried blood had been cleansed from his arm. Some
missile from the bursting shrapnel bomb had cut through the muscles, but
it would soon heal, if no serious consequences followed his long
exposure.

Thad used his liniment and bound the arm up as carefully as any
experienced Red Cross surgeon could have done under similar conditions.
The man looked very grateful. That could be seen in his manner, and the
pleased way in which he followed all of Thad's operations with his eyes.

Still, there was an expression of doubt on his face now and then, and
Thad could give a pretty good guess what it meant. Undoubtedly the
German air pilot had begun to wonder just what his status was going to
be, now that he had been rescued from his perilous position in that high
treetop, and his wound so splendidly dressed. Would he have to consider
himself a prisoner of war? These boys in khaki who said they came from
America,--were they so much in sympathy with the Allies that they would
consider it their duty to hand him over to the Belgians?

He must have put the question to Giraffe when he talked so fast, for
that worthy after having him repeat it more slowly shook his head, and
turning to Thad remarked:

"What d'ye think, Thad, the poor chap is wondering whether he's a
prisoner of war or not?"

"Do you mean he thinks we want to consider him our prisoner?" asked the
other. "Just let him know that we're as neutral as we can be, Giraffe.
While we don't like this thing of the big German army invading the
country of the poor Belgians, and think it all wrong, still we're not
taking any side. So far as we're concerned he is as free as the air."

When Giraffe told this to the eagerly listening air pilot he seemed to
be very much gratified.

"He says he has good friends not a great ways off," reported Giraffe,
after some more talk with the wounded aviator, "and thinks he could
manage to reach them, if only he can hide somewhere till dark settles
down."

"That's all right!" Thad declared, "and so far as we're concerned we
hope he may sooner or later manage to get back inside the German lines.
He's a brave man, and we're only too glad to have been of service to
him."

"Thad," continues Giraffe, "he says he wants to write something down if
you've got a pencil and paper handy. I think he means to fix it so that
in case we run across some of his people they'll be good to us. It's the
only way he knows to show how grateful he feels."

"I don't know but what it might be a good idea, although we hope we
won't come across any of those German raiders," Thad remarked, as he
searched his pockets, and found the needed articles.

The man wrote with some difficulty, for his hand was stiff, but after he
had completed his task Giraffe said he could read it all right.

"He's gone and told how he happened to land in a tree top, and would
have died there only for us getting him down," explained Giraffe; "and
then he goes on to tell how we bound up his wounds, and did everything
for him we could; so that he asks any German officer who reads this to
be kind to us for his sake. I reckon now that the name he's signed is
well known among German airmen; seems to me I've heard it, or seen it in
print."

The air pilot had gotten out his pipe, and was actually enjoying a
smoke. Doubtless, being addicted to the weed he would have suffered less
during the long night could he have had the satisfaction of an
occasional puff.

Allan looked at him curiously, while Giraffe was filled with admiration.

"These air pilots have to be pretty cool customers, it strikes me," he
remarked, as they prepared to say good-bye to the man, who evidently did
not think it wise on his part to go near the road, lest he be seen and
taken prisoner.

"They certainly do," said Thad, "because there isn't a second when
they're up in the air that they're not in deadly danger. A man may
stumble on land; he may have an accident when on the water, but he's got
a fair chance to save himself. With them a collapse means being snuffed
out of existence."

"Whew! excuse me from being an aviator!" declared Bumpus, so fervently
that Giraffe turned and looked him over from head to foot, to remark
caustically:

"No danger of that happening, Bumpus. They'd have to build a Zeppelin to
accommodate you."

"Oh! I'm not thinking seriously of trying it, Giraffe," said the other,
sweetly. "I guess I know my shortcomings as well as any one could. I
don't expect to fly as long as I stay in this world. There may be a
time--but never mind about that. Our friend wants to shake hands with
you, Thad. He knows what a heap you've done for him, and I guess he'll
have a right good opinion of American Boy Scouts after this."

The rescued German aviator shook hands not only with Thad but each one
of them in turn, and he said something in his own language which Giraffe
later on told them was a warm expression of his heartfelt gratitude.

As the four lads started toward the road where they had left the
stranded car he was standing there and waving his uninjured hand after
them. When, however, they arrived at the mound and looked back once more
he had disappeared.

Some people were coming along the road, and possibly the man may have
discovered them before the boys did, seeking a place of refuge in order
that they might not make out that he was a German, and so carry the news
to some Belgian regiment quartered nearby.

Thad started in to work at the engine as though this thing of being
called off to save the life of a birdman was a mere nothing at all, just
coming along in the course of his ordinary business.

Bumpus installed himself in his seat and watched him work. That was a
favorite occupation with Bumpus, for he did enjoy seeing some one else
do things about as well as any boy that ever lived.

"Think he'll get clear of his enemies, Thad?" he remarked, showing that
all the while his thoughts were connected with the air pilot whom they
had just rescued.

"He seemed to feel pretty sure of it," the other replied, "though of
course he'd have to avoid all the people living around this section, for
they'd turn on him if they guessed he was a German. The Belgians are
pretty furious over their country being overrun with the Kaiser's
troops. I've even seen old peasants handling guns as if they meant to
fight for their homes, a very foolish thing for them to do, because it
would only enrage the invaders, and end with a massacre."

"You act as if you'd remedied the break in the engine, Thad, seeing that
you're putting up your tools, and wiping your hands off," remarked
Giraffe.

"I've got it fixed," Thad informed him, without any great show of
enthusiasm; "but remember I'm not promising how long it's going to
stand. There's always a toss-up with a machine of this kind as to what
part will break down next."

"Tell me about that, will you?" growled Giraffe, in disgust. "I'd like
to kick the old box into the river only that it does save us some
walking. It's a lottery any way you can fix it."

"Get aboard everybody, and let's see how she cranks," suggested Thad.

As usual it took several urgent efforts before the engine decided to
heed the call to duty.

"There, she sings like a bird!" cried Bumpus as the loud whirr announced
that once again their motor was in working order.

So they started off.

"One thing sure," remarked Giraffe, looking back toward the place where
presently they could just glimpse the top of the tall tree where they
had found such queer fruit growing, "that was a remarkable little
adventure, and none of us are likely to forget it in a hurry either."

"I know for one I won't!" declared Bumpus; "and every time I look at
this bolt that I took from the broken Taube aeroplane I'll think of how
you fellows climbed right up to the top of that tree and brought the
birdman down safe to the ground, and how I stood there to receive him.
Yes, it's marked with a white stone in my memory, and I can just imagine
how Smithy, Step Hen, Davy Jones and Bob White'll stare when they hear
the story of the wrecked aeroplane man!"



                              CHAPTER XIX.
                       THE BATTLE AT THE BRIDGE.


Once more the fugitives managed to go on for some little distance, with
nothing out of the common run happening. Bumpus was thinking that the
engine had commenced to act quite decently, but of course he did not
dare mention this fact aloud. The recollection of what had followed when
Giraffe boasted was still fresh in his memory.

"There's a fork in the road ahead of us, Thad," announced the keen-eyed
Giraffe. "Do we take the right or the left branch?"

"I'm a little dubious about that," said the pilot at the wheel.

"Why, what does your chart say?" asked Giraffe.

"As near as I can make out," he was told, "the roads come together again
some ways further on, perhaps as much as seven miles or so. The one that
leads toward the left seems to be shorter than the other by
considerable."

"Then why should you hesitate about starting along that one?" asked
Allan.

"Only because it heads so far toward the southwest, you see," explained
Thad.

"Oh! I'm on now," exclaimed the tall scout. "You're a bit worried for
fear we'll run smack into some of the fighting that seems to have been
going on over that way--is that it, Thad?"

"Well, yes, Giraffe, but on the whole I think I'll make the try. If we
see things getting thick ahead of us we can turn around and come back
again at the worst. And if we do manage to get along without being held
up we'll save quite some time."

That was how they came to be moving along that road, and heading in a
direction that opened up new hazards.

"We want to keep a good lookout whenever we strike a rise," the pilot
warned them. "Tell me if you happen to see anything that looks
suspicious, for it may be a hard job to get turned around, you know."

Each one of the others readily promised, though very likely the task
would fall principally to Giraffe, as he had the best eyes for this
purpose.

They may have covered as much as three miles after passing the fork when
they saw a hill ahead of them. Bumpus looked and groaned. He knew what
that meant.

"More push coming, fellows!" commented Giraffe. "As for me, I won't be
sorry to get out and stretch my legs a bit, because they're feeling
cramped."

"Hit it up for all the old tub can carry, Thad," begged Bumpus. "The
further she carries us before giving up the ghost the less hard work
we'll have to do. Go it, you shirker, do your level best! If you could
only drag us all the way up I'd beg your pardon for ever having even
thought evil of you. Here we go!"

They started up the rise bravely enough, but speedily the engine began
to make signs as of distress.

"Get ready to jump, everybody!" called out Giraffe.

"Yes, that's easy for you to say," complained poor Bumpus, "but think of
me, won't you? How can I spring like a frog when she starts to go
backward down the hill again? I'll do my best to roll out; only somebody
grab hold, and don't let me get started rolling like a barrel after the
car!"

"Oh! no danger," Thad told them. "Just as soon as she stops I'll jam on
the brake and let her back off the road."

"We're two-thirds of the way to the top anyhow!" cried Giraffe,
triumphantly.

He had hardly spoken when the engine gave a last expiring puff, and Thad
immediately turned the car into the little ditch alongside the road.

They had done this grand pushing act so often by this time that they had
it all reduced to a system. Two took hold on either side, and in this
way the car was urged up the balance of the rise. With but a couple of
stops, so as to catch their breath, the boys managed to reach the crown
of the low hill.

"Worth all it took to get here, just to enjoy that grand view!" gasped
Allan.

Giraffe uttered a cry.

"Look down there to where the road crosses a river by a bridge!" he
exclaimed.

"Why, there are lots of men in uniforms on the other side of the bridge,
Belgian soldiers as sure as anything!" cried Allan.

"They've got cannon, too," added Bumpus, staring with distended eyes,
"because you c'n see the glint in the sunlight. What d'ye suppose it all
means, Thad?"

As usual he had to appeal to the patrol leader for an opinion. Bumpus
had never fully learned that a scout should try to figure out things for
himself, and not be forever asking some one else for an explanation. But
then it was so much easier doing things by proxy, and Bumpus, as every
one knew, hated to exert himself more than was absolutely necessary.

"That bridge must be an important one, I should say," Thad explained,
"and the battery has had orders to guard it so that no German cavalrymen
can cross."

"And perhaps sooner or later there will be a fierce old fight take place
right down there!" Giraffe was saying, half to himself, and with a touch
of envy in his voice, as though he felt sorry that he could not be upon
that same hill so as to watch the battle below.

"Ought we to keep on and try to get across that bridge, Thad?" asked
Allan.

"It's a question whether the Belgians would let us get close enough to
tell who we are. They might open on us as soon as we came in sight,"
Bumpus remarked, from which it might easily be seen what he hoped Thad
would do.

"We're not going to have the chance to try and cross the bridge,"
remarked Giraffe, "and if you want to know the reason why just look
along the river road that joins this one down near the bridge."

No sooner had the others done this than loud and excited exclamations
told what a shock they had received.

"That's what all the dust meant I noticed rising over those trees," said
Bumpus. "Why, there comes a whole army of soldiers, and say, they've got
field guns along with them, too, because you can see the horses dragging
the same."

"And do you notice the gray uniforms they are wearing?" Giraffe
demanded. "That shows who they are--the Kaiser's men, as sure as
anything. Now there's going to be the dickens to pay. The river must be
deep, and I reckon that same bridge is the only one around this section.
The Germans are bent on crossing over, and the Belgians just as set that
they shan't do the same. Thad, you won't think of quitting this splendid
view-place and losing the one chance we may ever have to see a real
up-to-date battle?"

Thad did not answer immediately. He had a boy's curiosity as well as
Giraffe, and felt that it would be something to say they had actually
witnessed a fierce fight between the rivals for Belgian soil, the
defenders and the invaders.

"Yes, we will stay a while," he finally said; "but first let's get the
car turned around, and make sure it will work when called on. We may
have to leave here in a big hurry, you understand."

These little matters having been duly attended to they were in a
position to observe all that was transpiring below. It was just like a
grand panorama, or something that had been staged for a moving picture
show.

The German battery was advancing on a gallop now, as though the fact had
been discovered that the bridge was guarded by the Belgians. Men could
be seen using the whip on the steaming horses, already galloping wildly.
The rumble of the wheels on the road came distinctly to the ears of the
interested boys standing on the rise, and really not more than a mile or
so from the scene.

"There, the troops are coming on the double-quick, too!" announced
Giraffe. "You can't see the end of them yet, and I should think there
must be thousands of soldiers in that bunch. It's going to be a hot old
affair, believe me. Mebbe the Germans may carry the bridge, and again
they might get more than they bargained for right there."

Evidences of considerable excitement could be seen among the defenders
of the river bridge. Men ran this way and that; perhaps ammunition was
being placed handy, so that the guns could be quickly served, because
time was a factor that would undoubtedly enter into the result. A delay
of a few seconds was apt to count heavily for either side when fighting
it out at such close quarters.

Of course all of the scouts were keenly interested. While neither Thad
nor Allan felt just the same eagerness that Giraffe displayed, at the
same time they knew such an opportunity to see a wonderful and terrible
spectacle would not be apt to come their way again in a hurry, and so
they were satisfied to stay.

As for Bumpus, he was shivering, not with eagerness, but in anticipation
of awful sights he expected to witness, once those guns started
business. The florid look had left his round face, and it was now almost
pallid, with his blue eyes round and expectant.

Amidst clouds of dust and more or less racket the German battery came
dashing along. It broke through into a field as though all this had been
figured out beforehand in the wonderful systematic way these Teuton
fighters did nearly everything they undertook.

There the horses were detached from the guns and caissons and hurried
away to a place of security. Already a loud crash announced that the
Belgians were beginning hostilities, not meaning to wait until that host
of grim gray-clad infantry reached the abutment of the bridge.

The four boys watched and saw a shell burst close to one of the German
batteries. It did not seem to do any damage, nor did the gunners show
the least sign of any flinching, but went steadily about their work of
loading.

Other shots began to roar out until there was a constant crash in the
air almost deafening, and white powder smoke rose in billows, through
which the watchers on the hilltop could actually discover flashes of
flame when another gun was discharged.

The battle for the bridge was now on in earnest. Hurrying figures could
be seen in every direction. The Germans were evidently not fully
satisfied with their first position for down came the horses again, and
being attached to the guns the latter were whisked further up the rise
where they could get a better chance to shell the chosen position of the
Belgian battery.

It seemed to get more and more exciting every second. None of the boys
said a single word; they were too intensely interested in looking; and
besides, the riot of noise was now at its height, so that they would
have had to shout in order to have made themselves heard, even close at
hand.

Doubtless there had already been many casualties on both sides, with all
that furious bombardment at close range; but the smoke hid much of this
from the eyes of the spectators. Thad was of the opinion the Germans
could not have known of the Belgian battery at the bridge; he believed
that had they been aware of it in all probability their battery would
have taken up its stand on the crown of the hill where the four scouts
stood, from which point they could have made it too warm for the
Belgians to remain there below.

All at once Thad realized that the infantry columns had been hurrying
along the road and scattering through the fields near by. He caught
glimpses of their number and was amazed when he saw they must be in the
thousands. Other batteries also began to show up back along the road.
This was not a sporadic dash on the part of a mere detachment of the
German force, but an advance of the main army, bent on getting around
the stumbling block at Liége.

And to himself Thad was saying:

"They mean to take that bridge, no matter how many lives it costs them,
for it is an important link in their general plans."

Giraffe was calling out something. It chanced that there was a little
lull in the roar of guns, and they could hear what he was saying.

It seemed to give the finishing thrill to the situation, as though the
grand climax had been reached.

"Look! Oh, see what they're meaning to do, fellows!" was what Giraffe
cried at the top of his shrill voice. "The order's been given to charge
the bridge, and as sure as you live there they go with a rush!"

And Bumpus hurriedly put his hands before his eyes, though possibly
peeping through between his fingers, impelled by some dreadful
fascination.



                              CHAPTER XX.
                           VICTORY IN DEFEAT.


Through the clouds of powder smoke they could see that the Germans were
moving toward the bridge in solid ranks, shoulder to shoulder, in the
favorite formation of the Kaiser's troops, and one which gives them
confidence to march straight into the jaws of certain death.

Other detached groups were hastening down to the bank of the river,
apparently with the idea of swimming across in some fashion, so as to
gather on the opposite shore, and take the hostile battery in the rear.

It was all wonderfully exciting, and no boy could stand there gazing at
such a stirring spectacle himself unmoved. So many things were happening
all the time that as Giraffe afterwards said, it was like "trying to see
a three-ringed circus, where amazing feats were being enacted in all
three rings at the same time." A fellow would have need of several pairs
of eyes if he expected to lose nothing of all that went on.

As the head of the attacking column drew nearer the bridge the Belgian
gunners stopped firing at the battery above. They turned their guns
directly at the close ranks of the oncoming host.

When Thad actually saw a shell explode in the midst of that pack of
gray-garbed men, and noted the terrible gap that followed he felt sick
for the moment. He was, however, unable to tear his eyes away from the
sight; it was so novel, so fascinating, and so dreadful that it held his
gaze as the pole does the needle of a compass.

There was not the slightest sign of a stop, even though other shells
tore ugly gaps through the lines. To Thad it almost seemed as though
those men were parts of a vast machine which, having been set in motion,
could not be stayed.

One thing he noticed, and this was that the Belgian battery was entirely
unsupported. If ever the Germans managed to push across the bridge they
would easily smother the few gallant defenders of the highway to
Brussels.

From this Thad judged that the few Belgians at the bridge must have
their plans all arranged, and that when they found their cause hopeless
there would be a sudden change of front. Perhaps they would bring the
horses forward, and try to save their field-pieces from capture.

Now some of those who had hurried to the edge of the water were wading
in, holding their guns high above their heads. Others ran up and down
the bank looking for any kind of old boat that could be utilized in
order to transport a few at a time across to the other side.

There were still a considerable number who hastened along the bank
toward the abutment of the bridge. The intention of these latter could
not well be mistaken, for they meant to gain access to the structure,
regardless of the success or failure of the general assault.

Suddenly in the midst of all this clamor a shadow fell athwart the four
scouts standing on that rise, and staring downward. Looking up they
discovered an aeroplane, low down, and speeding swiftly toward the spot
where that desperate fight for the possession of the bridge was taking
place.

Thad instantly recognized another of those Taube machines, so different
in construction from all others that, once noticed, they could never
again be mistaken. Then it was a German aviator who served as pilot
aboard that little buzzing craft. He should have covered the field
before the soldiers came, and his report might have made a difference in
the attack.

As it was now he headed straight for the half-concealed Belgian battery,
as though it might be the intention of the man aloft to drop bombs on
the gunners, and help to create a panic among them.

Somehow the boys found themselves compelled to follow the flight of the
birdman as he swooped down and crossed the river. Whether there was a
bridge or not made no difference to him. He was as free to come and go
as the swallow that on swift wing flashes past the house chimney of a
summer evening.

Looking intently Thad could even see when he raised his arm, and he knew
the precise instant the bomb had been thrown. Allowing his eyes to drop
to the ground he saw a sudden burst of smoke and realized that that was
where the deadly little missile had burst.

Still swinging around in a circle the birdman commenced hurling other
menacing missiles. Each time the result could be seen in the puff of
smoke close to the Belgian battery; but at that distance it was
impossible for Thad to make sure that any casualty followed those
repeated thrusts.

But now the head of the attacking German force had reached the bridge.
Fearful had been the price they paid for this advantage; but fresh men
had closed up the gaps, so that they were just as densely packed as ever
when they came to the end of the structure.

A gun had been so placed that it commanded the length of the bridge.
When it was fired there followed a shrinking of the whole front of the
attacking force, as if it had been terribly smitten. That was just for a
second, and then the red lane was closed by the gray flood, and the
first hostile feet were set upon the bridge.

Undoubtedly the crisis was now at hand. Thad fairly held his breath with
anticipation with what was to come though he could not even give so much
as a guess as to its nature.

Surely those valiant Belgians must have prepared against such an
eventuality as this, and would not be caught napping. There was no force
in hiding that Thad was able to discover, ready to burst into view, and
grapple with the oncoming Germans after they had gotten fully upon the
bridge.

Ah! from above he saw the horses dashing madly to the spot! Then the
Belgians meant to withdraw while there was still time. But it seemed
incredible to Thad that they should leave the bridge intact in the hands
of the invaders.

He quickly understood when, without the slightest warning, there came a
mighty shock that made the very earth quiver, and the further end of the
bridge was seen to vanish into space, accompanied with a rising cloud of
smoke.

They had blown up the bridge when realizing the futility of further
resistance against the superior numbers of the Germans.

When the great cloud of smoke had cleared away sufficiently for the
scouts to again see what was going on they found that the horses had
been attached to such of the Belgian guns as were in condition, and
already the foremost was moving along the road leading directly away
from the ruined bridge.

A few of the soldiers who had crossed the river tried to take pot shots
at the gunners who lay as flat as they possibly could while riding the
horses, or holding on to the caissons.

The battle was over, and, looking down at the ruins of the bridge, Thad
was of the opinion that it had ended in favor of the defenders. True
they had been obliged to sacrifice the bridge in the end, but that
mattered little since they had balked the design of the invaders to
seize and use the crossing of the river. Now much time must be wasted in
building another bridge, or else in seeking a new way for crossing the
river with their guns.

As the smoke lifted further the boys could see what was going on. Many
must have been injured when the bridge was blown up, for there was great
scurrying to and fro, with men bearing stretchers in evidence.

Bumpus had allowed his hands to fall from his eyes now, though he could
be seen shaking his head after a sad fashion. Plainly Bumpus was stirred
to the depths of his heart by the conviction that there must be scores
of those who were terribly wounded down there, and who needed attention
the worst kind.

Had Thad only given the word that would have taken them to the aid of
the suffering Germans Bumpus would have gladly responded, even though
his knowledge of surgery was confined to the first elements of binding
up a wound.

But Thad did not mean to attempt such a thing. He knew that soldiers
would never permit inexperienced boys like they were to play the part of
army hospital attendants. They were amply supplied with all the
necessary means for saving life; and besides, soldiers are taught never
to grumble no matter how long they have to wait after being shot down on
the battlefield, before their chance comes for attention.

Those who had actually stemmed the current of the river only to find
that their intended prey had escaped them were seen rushing about on the
other bank. They may have been looking for wounded Belgians to make
prisoners; Thad hoped it was not any desire to kill that animated them
in the bitter hour of defeat.

"Gee! is there no end to the procession?" exclaimed Giraffe, as he could
still see countless numbers of the same gray-coated soldiers swarming
out of the woods to the west, and coming on in serried ranks.

"Just to think of the nerve of that one little battery trying to hold a
whole army corps in check!" declared Allen. "It strikes me these
Belgians are the bravest of the brave, and mean to fight for their
country to the last gasp."

"Do you know what I believe?" demanded Giraffe, as though a sudden
thought had come into his head.

"Tell us, please, Giraffe," asked Bumpus.

"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that battery we watched do all this
fighting was the identical one I saw come into that town. You remember I
told you about the chat I had with a young gunner who could talk United
States? I hope now he isn't one of those who are lying across the river,
where the German shells and bullets caught them."

He glanced almost pityingly toward the place where the battery had been
stationed, as though he had a personal interest in the gallant Belgian
gunner. Thad was meanwhile watching the movements of those on the near
side of the river. He could see how machine-like everything was carried
on, the men with the stretchers coming to get their burdens, and then
carrying them to the rear, where a temporary field hospital would
undoubtedly be started.

Already a corps of engineers had come up, and men were seen out on the
broken bridge, measuring the gap as though figuring on what would be
required to mend the causeway so that the heavy artillery could move
across, converging toward Brussels.

"They'll get across, all right, you can see," asserted Allan, drawing a
long breath, as though up to then he had been too fascinated to do more
than gasp.

"Yes, but the Belgians detained them," urged Giraffe, "and that's their
game, we understand. Every hour that the Kaiser can be held in Belgium
is life for France, because it gives time to get her men together.
Germany is the only country that has always been ready for such a thing
as this. They expected to be in Paris before the French woke up, and
only for this delay nothing could have prevented them."

"Well, you wait till the Britishers get over, and going good," said
Bumpus, with a wise nod of his head, "then you'll hear something drop."

"Yes," jeered Giraffe, who was anti-British when he chose, and this was
whenever he thought he could get up an argument with Bumpus, "John Bull
will make a pretty loud crack when he falls, I should imagine. He'll
find that these Germans are a whole lot different from the Boers or the
Kaffirs, or the Arab slavers of Africa."

"Oh, well!" said Bumpus, "I'm coming to the conclusion that bravery
isn't monopolized by any one nation on earth. Look at the Belgians for
instance; could you beat the way they held that bridge till the last
gasp and then blew the whole business sky-high with dynamite, and some
Germans with it?"

Thad had listened to what they were saying. He knew that it was no time
for argument, for how could they tell but what some of those Germans
might come up the hill to see what sort of road it was, or else get a
good view for miles around, and they would not want to be caught there.
Explanations might prove awkward, if the invaders chose to believe they
had been giving the range by signal to the defenders of the bridge.

"Come, let's be getting away from here, boys," said Thad.

There was not a single objection, and rather white of face, as well as
awed, the four scouts moved over to where the car stood awaiting them.

A short time afterward they commenced to coast down the hill which only
a little while back had been climbed with such painful penalties. And
now that it was all over not one of them was sorry because of what he
had witnessed that August morning.



                              CHAPTER XXI.
                           THE CALL FOR HELP.


"Giraffe, would you mind bending over and pinching me?" asked Bumpus,
sweetly, after they had been going on for a short time, leaving the
watch-hill behind them, with all its dreadful memories.

"Sure I will, Bumpus, as many times as you want me to. I'm the most
accommodating fellow you ever knew, and I can give a nip equal to one of
those dobsons we use for catching black bass in the good old summer
time."

Giraffe evidently was as good as his word, for there was an immediate
low screech from the fat chum.

"Hold on, Giraffe, that's enough!" he hastened to exclaim. "You'll have
me all black and blue if you keep that going. I'm sure of it now."

"Sure of what?" asked Allan, chuckling, for this was not the first time
he had seen this interesting little circus play come off between the two
chums.

"That I'm awake, and didn't just dream about that awful battle!"

Bumpus shuddered as though he had suddenly been taken with a chill that
foretold a visitation of the ague or malaria. They knew from this that
the sights he had recently witnessed must have made a tremendous
impression on his mind, and would probably haunt him for many a long
day.

"I guess all of us feel pretty much the same way you do, Bumpus," Thad
informed him. "We're sorry to have seen such sights, and yet glad at the
same time. It was an opportunity that few American scouts could ever
expect to have come their way. And if we could have done any good we'd
have been only too glad of a chance to offer our services."

"They'd have laughed at us if we'd risked it," asserted Allan.

"And like as not bundled us all into a dungeon for suspects," added
Giraffe, although he immediately added, "but say, did you ever see such
dauntless bravery as those same Germans showed when they marched
straight up to that bridge, and every time a hole was torn in their
ranks closed in as if on dress parade."

"Oh! I don't know," spoke up Bumpus, "it struck me that handful of
Belgians showed the real stuff in the way of bravery, holding out with
ten or twenty times their number against them. The German brand of
courage seems to be different from some others I know of. They are parts
of a big machine, and have to touch elbows when they fight."

Giraffe was up in arms at once, but Thad poured oil on the troubled
waters.

"Listen, Giraffe," he said, "this is what Bumpus means, and I've read
the same thing more than once; even high German generals have admitted
it. Germans soldiers are not trained to take the initiative like our men
and the French are. They are educated to obey orders as a unit, and a
company of them will walk directly into the jaws of death with a courage
that couldn't be beaten. But there's little of that hurrah and dash and
single-handed work we're accustomed to associating with heroic actions."

Perhaps there was food for thought in what the scout leader said.
Giraffe may not have looked at matters in this light before. He became
pensive as though revolving the theory over in his mind. Then he broke
the short silence by saying:

"Here's the fork of the road, Thad, and we can make a start in the other
direction. After all the longest way around is sometimes the quickest
way to the fire. But for one I'm glad we took the other. I've seen a
real battle, and that's talking some."

There was good reason for Thad to be thoughtful. Troubles seemed to be
multiplying as they proceeded. He was beginning to believe that young
Belgian gunner with whom Giraffe had talked must have known what he was
saying when he declared they had but one chance in three to get through
the country that seemed to be a network of war trails, with hostile
forces moving in every direction.

Secretly Thad was rapidly coming to the conclusion that they would show
their wisdom by turning back and making for the Dutch border again. Once
in Holland they could take a train for Rotterdam, and in some way secure
a passage to Antwerp.

The more he considered this the better it looked to him. He was even
sorry now he had not insisted on such a course at the time they were
across the border. In fact he had given up mostly on account of the plea
advanced by Bumpus, who after all was a poor one to make suggestions.

So Thad determined that should they meet with another backset, he was
bound to put the matter before his chums in its true light. He knew he
could count on the support of Allan, and also that Giraffe was open to
conviction, even if a little set in his way.

For a few miles the car moved along the second road fairly well, though
Thad was chagrined to find that he could not speed it up at all.

"What ails the old shebang, Thad?" demanded Giraffe, impatiently, when
it crawled along with sundry groanings and complainings.

"It's tired out, and creaks in the joints, don't you know," said Bumpus,
with one of his old-time grins.

"But shucks! we're on level ground right now, and she ought to spin
along like fun!" mentioned Giraffe, with a snort of disgust. "Why,
honest, I could keep out of your way walking, and never feel it. Talk to
me about an ice-wagon, this goes it one better. It's like those
harvester engines we see creeping along the country roads up our way,
slow but sure."

"What do you figure can be the matter, Thad?" asked Allan.

"I'm in a fog," came the reply. "The only thing I can think of is that
some of that petrol we bought at double price is mighty poor stuff."

"You mean it's been weakened to make it seem more," said Giraffe. "I
didn't know oil and water could be mixed, but mebbe these smart Belgians
have found a way to do it. And Thad, now that you mention it I reckon
you've about hit the right nail on the head."

"Well, there's nothing to be done," ventured Allan; "so we'll have to
grin and bear it. But let's hope we'll strike a chance before long to
buy a new lot of gas, and this time get a decent quality with push in
it."

"Yes," added Giraffe, "just now it looks as if we had need of all the
push going; in fact I was going to offer to step out and put my shoulder
against the car to help along."

"Oh, you'll get all that pleasure right away," Bumpus told him, "because
I can glimpse another of those rises ahead there, and we'll never make a
third of it under this low pressure, worse luck."

Just as he had prophesied they were compelled to work their passage to
the top of the rise, though coasting down the other side with a fine
burst of speed. About a mile beyond this point Thad was noticed to
listen attentively, and immediately work the car over to one side of the
road.

"Something coming!" announced Giraffe, "and listen to the row, will you?
Makes me think of a fire engine going on the run. But it's an automobile
at that, believe me. Give 'em all the room you can, Thad, because, my
word! they're coming to beat the band."

Already they could see the dust rising above the trees, and all sorts of
vague speculations took form in the minds of the boys. Then suddenly
there burst into view a strange contraption, the like of which none of
them had ever seen before.

In one way it was a large car, but it had been boxed in with some sort
of metal, so that it looked like a "battering ram," as Giraffe declared
afterwards.

Rushing at a rapid pace along the road it quickly reached the car and
sped past. The staring scouts heard loud voices, and even saw waving
hands over the top of the barricade. Then it was lost to view in the
cloud of dust.

"Whew! That's going some!" gasped Giraffe.

Bumpus was coughing from the dust he had inhaled, but he managed to give
expression to his astonishment in a few jerky sentences:

"Oh! whatever was that! I thought a goods van had skipped off the
railroad track and was raging along the road. Thad, can you guess it?
Please enlighten me. Schew!" and he ended up in a tremendous sneeze.

"Yes, I think I know, though I never saw anything like it before," Thad
obligingly told him. "I remember reading that some Belgian had been
experimenting with what he called an armored motor-car, and which it was
claimed would be a terror in war times. I think that must have been it."

"Well," admitted Giraffe, scratching his head, "it was all of that, let
me tell you. And Thad, there was a hole in the armor plating on our
side. That must be where they use the quick-firing gun that mows things
down, just as the farmer cuts the wheat with his machine."

"If that war engine struck a regiment of the enemy it would make holes
in their ranks, all right," Allan remarked, with a shake of his head.

"I'm glad I saw it," ventured Bumpus, "but they're sure a reckless lot
aboard, from the way they rushed along this road."

"It takes that sort of men to use an armored car, I should think," said
Thad. "They expect to drop down on the enemy wherever they can find him,
and never stop to count heads, but just run the gantlet, firing as they
go. If they're lucky, and get through without an accident, they go back
home laughing over a good day's hunt."

"This war is bound to show up some queer freaks," remarked Allan. "Now,
d'ye know that armored car makes me think of the war chariots the
ancient Romans used, with sharp knives fastened to the wheels, and as
they dashed through the crowded ranks of the Goths and Vandals these
mowed them down. This scheme is only a little more up to date, that's
all."

"Nothing new under the sun, when you come to look into things," declared
Bumpus.

"This mad pace gives me a shiver," said Giraffe. "As I didn't sleep good
last night I think I'll cuddle down right here, and take a few winks. If
anything exciting comes along just give me a jolt, will you, Bumpus?"

"It's more than likely to be a hill," was the reassuring answer returned
by the stout chum. "All I'm hoping for now is that we strike a village
pretty soon, where we can find some decent petrol for sale, and load
up."

"Huh! one word for the petrol and two for your dinner," chuckled
Giraffe. "Now, don't say anything more to me, Bumpus, because I'm booked
for a nap. The warm sunshine, the drone of the bees, the grunting of our
elegant car, and a lot of other things combined make me feel _aw_-fully
drowsy."

He was really meaning it, too, for he had closed his eyes, and seemed
about ready to let his senses slip away. Bumpus looked down at him as
though he might not object to a little of the same sweet slumber
himself. With Thad and Allan on guard there could be no harm in giving
way to this feeling. And should they come to one of those nuisances in
the way of rises, which would stall the engine, of course all of them
stood ready to drop out and do their duty.

But it was not to be.

They happened to be passing a small cottage just then. It sat back from
the road, and there were flowers in the front yard, yes, and a well
also. Thad was almost tempted to stop and ask for a drink, but he
thought better of it. Further on, when they came to a town, and made an
effort to secure a supply of petrol it would be time enough to think of
quenching their thirst, aggravated by the dust they were forced to
breathe most of the time.

And it was at that instant they heard wild shrieks ring out, in a
woman's voice. Looking toward the cottage and half expecting to see it
in flames they discovered a woman at the well. She was wringing her
hands frantically, now leaning over to peer into the depths, and then
rocking to and fro as if in the very abandon of grief over something.

Thad stopped the car instantly. Both Giraffe and Bumpus were on their
feet, and staring with might and main at the spot.

"Oh! whatever has happened?" the latter was exclaiming in horrified
tones. "She acts like a child had fallen down the well!"



                             CHAPTER XXII.
                          UP FROM THE DEPTHS.


That must have been the thought flashing through the mind of each of the
other three scouts. Indeed, what else could they believe, after seeing
the woman carrying on in such a wild way?

Giraffe made a flying leap out of the car, nor were the others far
behind him. They all ran toward the cottage, and the kneeling woman,
deeply impressed with the seriousness of the incident. Their duty as
scouts loomed up before them. Unless it was already too late they must
find some way to save the poor woman's child from a watery grave.

Giraffe was trying to understand what she was crying as the others came
up, although from the frown on his face it was evident that he could not
be meeting with any great success.

"His name is Benjy, boys," the tall scout exclaimed, "and he's down
there in the well!"

"Oh! the poor little chap!" whimpered Bumpus, as he watched the others
throw themselves flat on their stomachs, and try to peer into the dark
recesses of the gaping stone-bordered hole in the ground.

"Listen!" said Thad, in a thrilling voice. "I can hear splashing down
there!"

"Sure thing!" added Giraffe, "which shows the child is alive still. That
settles it with me. I'm the one to go down!"

Thad had already discovered that there was a windlass above the well. A
stout rope was wound around the barrel of this, and the bucket could be
seen standing on the other side on a stone shelf intended for the
purpose.

He knew that whatever was done there should be no more delay than was
absolutely necessary. His first act therefore was to step around and
release the bucket, at the same time grasping hold of the handle of the
windlass.

"Put your feet on the bucket and hold on, Giraffe," he told the
adventurous one. "When you get down close to the water give one call. To
lower a little more give two; and when you're ready to come up make it
three. Understand that?"

"All right, Thad; lower away!"

Bumpus was also peering over the edge into those mysterious depths. The
woman was beside him, still wringing her hands in nervous anguish, and
repeating that word "Benjy" until it was so impressed on the memory of
Bumpus that he could never forget it.

Immediately Giraffe disappeared from view, and all they could hear
consisted of the creaking of the windlass, as Thad lowered away, and the
hysterical wailing of the woman belonging at the cottage.

A dozen and more times had the handle gone around and Thad began to
wonder how deep that well could be. Then suddenly he heard a cry. It
welled up from the depths and sounded very weird, but Thad knew this
must be the signal he had arranged with Giraffe, to indicate that the
latter was close to the water.

Immediately there came two more calls, which meant that Giraffe wished
to be lowered a little further; Thad accordingly allowed another turn of
the handle, so as to release several more feet of the rope. A single cry
announced that this was enough; and then a brief period of great
suspense followed.

They heard the dripping of water, accompanied by more or less splashing.

"Oh! I hope he hasn't fallen in himself!" Bumpus was heard to say, with
a long breath, as his overwrought feelings almost overpowered him.

Then came three calls. That was the signal for those above to draw up.
Allan was already at Thad's side, and ready to bend the power of his
young muscles to assist in the task, and together they made that
windlass creak at a lively rate as they worked.

Bumpus was on his knees now. He acted as though a new fear oppressed his
heart. What if the strain proved too great, and the rope parted--Giraffe
must be hurled back into the depths, and a tragedy would be presented to
them.

It was with the liveliest possible feeling of gratitude that Bumpus
finally saw the beloved face of his chum appear in view above the stone
coping of the well. He was also struck with the fact that Giraffe seemed
to be grinning instead of having a serious expression on his thin
countenance.

Allan put out a hand and assisted him to effect a landing on solid
ground. Meanwhile the woman had set up a renewal of her half shrieks
Bumpus could easily guess why this should be, for look as he might he
could see no sign of a child!

"Where's poor little Benjy, Giraffe?" the fat scout demanded, half
indignantly, for he could not understand what it all meant.

Then what did Giraffe do but thrust a hand into the bosom of his
splashed khaki coat and draw out the queerest _puppy_ Bumpus had ever
seen. He stared at the water-soaked little beast as though he thought he
might be looking at something unreal.

Allan burst out into a shout, while the woman with a shriek of delight
snatched little Benjy from the hands of the one who had saved him, and
kissed his doggy mouth again and again.

Giraffe stood there with that grin spreading across his face. He looked
down at his wet feet and leggings.

"Think of me taking all that trouble for a fike not much bigger'n a
postage stamp?" he presently exclaimed. "I guess the joke's on me this
time, boys, so laugh all you're a mind to. I'm wet up to my knees, all
right; but I got dear little Benjy, didn't I?"

Thad clapped him on the shoulder.

"After all there's not so much to laugh about, Giraffe," he said,
soberly. "We all thought Benjy was a child, and you risked your life to
save him. The motive is what counts every time; and I'm sure you did
what any scout would be proud to own to; but we're glad it wasn't a
child after all, for it would have been drowned."

"I guess you're about right there, Thad," the other admitted, "for you
see the puppy could swim, which is what a child couldn't do. Let's be
going on again, fellows."

"I thought I was thirsty," said Bumpus, "but I guess I can wait till we
come to a well that isn't used for a swimming tank by dogs."

The woman seeing them moving off tried to thank them for having saved
her little pet. Of course not being able to talk French the boys could
not understand just what she said, though they caught the meaning, and
nodded their heads accordingly.

Once they were going they found occasion to laugh again and again as
different remarks were made concerning features connected with the
adventure. Giraffe laughed louder than any one else. He said he no
longer felt sleepy, and that he believed it would be better for him to
sit with his feet in the sun so as to dry off.

Half an hour afterwards it was found that they were once more
approaching what seemed to be a bridge. Remembering the tragic
occurrences that had taken place at that other crossing of the river the
boys naturally felt more or less anxiety as to what they might run
across here.

"It's guarded, as sure as anything," said Giraffe, who had stretched his
long neck in order to give those keen eyes of his a better chance to
see. "Yes, and by Belgian soldiers in the bargain, sure pop. I can tell
by their uniforms."

"I hope they won't think of stopping us from crossing," said Bumpus.

As they drew nearer to the bridge they saw several men in blue uniforms,
and wearing high-peaked hats, holding their guns in a significant manner
as though giving plain warning that access to the bridge was forbidden.
Thad felt from this that they were doomed to meet with a disappointment.

He stopped the car close to the guard. To the surprise of the boys one
of the soldiers, evidently guessing their nationality from the little
flags which they still wore fastened to their coats, addressed them in
very good English.

"It is not possible for you to cross the bridge!" was what he said.

"We are hoping to reach Antwerp, where this boy has a sick mother who
needs him," Thad explained, laying a hand on Bumpus's shoulder as he
spoke.

The soldier shook his head in the negative.

"No car can cross the bridge after this; it would not be safe, and would
spoil all our plans for a trap," he went on to say.

"But couldn't you make an exception in our case?" asked Bumpus, trying
to throw all the pathos possible into his voice.

Again the soldier shook his head.

"It is impossible," he said, in a manner that would admit of no further
argument. "You must turn and follow the river road to the west. There is
another small bridge six miles that way, not strong enough for guns to
be moved over, but you might get across. I hope you reach Antwerp
safely."

"We happened to see the fight at the other bridge, and watched when it
was in the end blown up," Giraffe ventured to say, at which the other's
face lighted up and just as Giraffe knew would be the case he cried out:

"Tell us what happened there, for we have been wondering what all the
sounds of fighting in that direction meant. But we have had no word up
to now."

Accordingly Thad, assisted by the others at intervals, related some of
the stirring sights they had seen while on the watch-hill a mile or more
distant from the battlefield at the bridge. The three Belgians listened
eagerly, and while two of the guard might not fully understand what was
said, they caught enough to feel that their comrades had won new honor
by their gallant defense of the bridge, and its ultimate destruction
when defense was no longer possible.

"Thank you very much for giving us such splendid news," said the soldier
who spoke English, as he thrust out a hand to Thad; "and in return I may
let you into a secret that will explain why you cannot cross here. This
bridge had been weakened so that it is apt to fall when any weight is
put on it. Even your car might be sufficient to bring about the
catastrophe. We are hoping it will go down with the first detachment of
raiding Uhlans that comes this way. Our duty is to fire on them and get
them to charge. If twenty go down with the bridge so much the better."

Of course Thad realized that all thought of crossing there must be
abandoned. He saw that a road ran along the river, and by taking this
they would after a bit come to the small bridge which was recommended
for their notice.

So the boys started, making up their minds that, as Giraffe said, "You
never know what's best for you; and after all our going this way may
turn out to be just splendid."

"If it'd only throw us in the way of getting a new supply of petrol I'd
ask nothing better," remarked Allan.

"It's getting pretty near high noon too, don't forget," said Bumpus,
significantly; "and human beings have to be fed as well as cranky old
engines. I ought to have asked that accommodating fellow whether there
was any village on the bank of the river down this way. Seems to me
there must be. Anyhow we could try every house we struck, and see if
some lady wouldn't get us up a dinner for ready cash."

"One thing I think we might do," suggested Thad; "that's lay in
something at the very next chance. I mean food to cook, together with
several pans, and a pot to boil coffee in. Then we'd feel independent of
any inn; and if overtaken by night could get on fairly well."

Bumpus expressed delight at the idea.

"I think it's a great scheme, Thad!" he declared, with beaming face;
"and really I'm surprised that none of us have thought of that dodge
before. We've got plenty of room aboard the old machine to stow things;
and for my part it's going to bring up heaps of happy memories of
by-gone days and nights, when we've sat around a jolly camp fire with
our mates."

"Then that settles it," decided the scout leader.

"And, Thad," called out Giraffe, after one of his observations, "unless
all signs are wrong we're going to have a chance to get some dinner, and
p'r'aps lay in all those stores, because there's a village ahead of us."

"That eagle eye of yours is correct as usual, Giraffe," said Allan,
after taking a look for himself.



                             CHAPTER XXIII.
                        "A TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT."


Bumpus seemed to scent more trouble ahead.

"Now I certainly do hope we'll be able to get what we want here at this
place," he went on to remark, dubiously. "So few of these Belgians in
this section of the country understand plain United States as she is
spoken. We'll have to make use of signs to bargain with them for our
grub."

Thereupon Bumpus began to practice what he imagined was a good idea for
showing he was hungry, and wanted to buy food. He rubbed his stomach,
sighed heavily, then pointed to his open mouth and champed his jaws
vigorously, after which he smiled sweetly, and, with a nod of his head,
held up a franc.

"Oh! you'll be able to satisfy anybody going that your proper place is
in an asylum, Bumpus, if you carry on that way," jeered Giraffe; "you
leave it all to Thad and Allan and me. We have the goods, and can
deliver them. They're all wool and a yard wide, let me tell you, too."

So the car entered the village, and pulled up in the most likely place
the pilot could see. This was where there seemed to be some sort of
open-air market, with all manner of things good to eat exposed for sale.

Their coming of course excited considerable interest. People began to
cluster around the car as soon as it stopped. Curious eyes observed the
inmates, with their natty khaki uniforms. Of course there were few among
them but who realized that these lads must be Boy Scouts, but they
seemed to understand immediately that they were not of the Belgian type.

The boys jumped out and started to try and find some one who could
understand what they desired to do. Bumpus alone was left sitting there
in the car, and he amused himself looking around. When he thought his
chums were well out of sight he concluded to try his little scheme; so
taking a coin from his pocket he held it up and began his grotesque
motions.

At first the crowd seemed to watch him in wonder. Then they began to say
things among themselves, and smile. After that some of the half-grown
boys laughed rudely, and began to mimic poor Bumpus.

This humiliated him so that he stopped his show, realizing that they
were beginning to look on him as some sort of circus performer, perhaps
a hokus-pokus medicine fakir on his travels, and trying to gather a
crowd around before opening his box of goods for sale.

Meanwhile the other boys were trying to find some one who could talk
English, in order to engage a midday meal, and later on purchase what
supplies they needed.

Thad noticed almost immediately that there was a scarcity of able-bodied
men in the river village. He knew the reason, because every one capable
of bearing arms had been hurried to the front to try and resist the
invaders.

Women, old men, cripples, and children of all sizes made up the
population of the place, and Thad really believed the entire village
must have come out of doors to size up the strangers within their gates.

Although at the time he did not imagine any harm could come of their
separating, Thad afterwards wished he had insisted on the other two
keeping with him. If that had been done possibly they would have been
saved from more or less inconvenience, not to use a harsher term.

The patrol leader had just managed to locate what looked like a sort of
tavern where possibly they could make arrangements for a dinner, if they
waited until it could be prepared, when he saw part of the crowd heaving
in a strange way. At the same time loud angry voices began to reach his
ears.

Allan was hurrying towards him from another direction, as though he too
had noticed the upheaval and considered it best that they consolidate
their forces.

"It must be Giraffe who's gone and gotten himself into trouble some way
or other," Allan was saying hurriedly as he joined Thad.

"We'll soon know," added the other, "because they're pushing this way
now. Yes, and there's Giraffe in the lead too. See him brush off the
hands of those women and boys. They look excited enough to tear him to
pieces! This is a bad job, I'm afraid."

"What can have happened to cause it?" said Allan, glancing back uneasily
toward the car, and finding that it was near at hand, with the alarmed
Bumpus already standing up to observe what was going on.

"I'm afraid," said Thad, hurriedly, "Giraffe has been unwise enough in
trying to make himself understood to air his German, and that's made
these people suspect we may be spies sent on ahead of the army to get
the lay of the land, and learn where they're hiding all their valuables
and wine."

In another minute Giraffe came hurrying up. He was looking disturbed,
and a little white of face, though his teeth were clenched, and there
was an ominous glitter in his eyes.

"What's all the row about, Giraffe?" asked Thad, though he had to speak
much louder than ordinary on account of the noise made by the increasing
mob.

Boys were whooping, women shrieking and chattering as they shook their
fists toward the four strangers, and taken in all the prospect was
decidedly stormy. No wonder Bumpus was rubbing his chubby hands
together, and staring with open mouth at the "tempest in a teapot."

"I don't know what ails the sillies!" cried Giraffe, indignantly. "I was
trying my best to make them understand that we wanted a dinner and to
buy some food. One fellow turned around and shouted something to the
others. Then they began to flock about me like people at a county fair
do when the snake-charmer comes out of the side-show to give an
exhibition with her scaly pets. Say, they even tried to lay hands on me
but I shook 'em off!"

"Look here," said Thad, sternly, "did you try any of your German on
them?" demanded Thad.

Giraffe wilted at once.

"Why, yes, I own up I did, Thad!" he confessed. "You see I thought some
of them might be able to understand the language, and I bet you they do
too; but whee! they acted mad at me. I never thought my German was as
rank as that."

"Don't you understand that German is in bad favor through Belgium just
now? Those who do speak it are trying to forget all they know. When
strangers drop into a Belgian village and talk it, with the Kaiser's
army only a few miles away, it's only natural they suspect us. Now I've
got to try like everything to set things right."

So saying Thad turned to the shouting crowd, and held up his hand.
Somehow there was something about the boy to inspire confidence. The
yelling and jeering gradually died down. Several old men cowed the boys
and the women. Possibly they told them to give the stranger a chance to
explain.

"Is there any one here who talks English?" called out Thad.

At that an old man pushed his way forward through the crowd. Judging
from the deference shown him by the others he must be a person of
considerable importance in this humble little village on the river.

"I do, young m'sieu," he said. "I lived in London some years, and
learned the language. What is it you desire to say?"

Thad smiled. He knew now he would be able to convince these good people
that far from being German spies or even sympathizers, he and his chums
were deeply concerned over the threatened fate of poor little Belgium,
in danger of being made the battleground for warring neighbors.

"We are American Boy Scouts," he started to say. "We have been traveling
through the country, and had just made a trip down the Rhine when we
heard that war had broken out. One of my friends has a sick mother in
Antwerp. We are trying our best to make our way to her. We bought this
old car to help us along. When we get to our journey's end we expect to
turn it over to the authorities, if they can make any use of it."

"But why does this young m'sieu speak the hated language?" asked the old
man, looking straight at Giraffe.

"He learned it in school, and thought some one might be able to
understand him," continued the scout leader. "He was asking where we
could buy some dinner, and then a few supplies afterwards. That is all.
It was not wise for him to expose his knowledge of German, but the very
fact that he did so proves he meant no wrong. See, we have our passports
to prove who we are."

The old man came closer, to look the documents over. Thad just then felt
glad to remember that he had concealed in the lining of his hat the
paper given him by the German aviator whose life they had saved. It
might have been very unpleasant for the boys had this been found on his
person.

Besides the passports Thad exhibited several letters he had received
from across the water since coming abroad. Allan and Giraffe also
contributed their quota to this display. It really had more influence on
the old villager than the official documents, which might be false after
all, but he knew those stamps and post-marks must be the genuine thing.

The old man turned and talked to the crowd. Evidently what he said
impressed the assemblage, for their angry looks gave way to others of a
more genial nature, though some of the half-grown boys continued to get
their heads together, and confer mysteriously, as they looked at the car
with Bumpus in it.

"Here is the proprietor of the inn," said their friend, the old
villager, who had once worked at his trade in the great city across the
Channel. "He has promised to supply you with dinner in half an hour. If
you wish to buy anything you are at liberty to do so. But I would not
leave the car alone, for something might happen to it."

Thad told Giraffe to get in along with Bumpus while he and Allan made
what purchases they had in mind. As fast as these were secured, which
was only after more or less argument in the deaf and dumb alphabet, the
boys carried the things to the car and stowed them away.

Bumpus saw that in the end they were well supplied with enough food to
last several meals, as well as a tin pail in which they could boil
coffee.

As the half hour was now about up they took the car into the inn-yard,
and Thad meant to keep an eye on it if possible while they ate their
dinner. This was rendered possible because he sat where he could look
out of an open window; but after all nothing out of the way happened.

The boys noticed that there had been a bridge at this place, but it
seemed to have been destroyed by some flood, for a new one was under
construction, though only partly built, and of no use at that time.

This of course necessitated their going further along the river road
until they arrived at the small bridge of which they had been told by
the Belgian soldiers some time before.

There was no fault to be found with their meal. Even Bumpus admitted
that it tasted good, and was in abundance. So the four scouts arose with
a feeling of satisfaction, and Thad settled the account. It is not a
very hard matter to pay bills, even when two parties are unable to speak
each other's language, for signs and the sight of money go a long way
toward settlement.

As they passed out Thad saw their old friend beckoning to him.

"Get in the car, fellows, and I'll join you as soon as I've had a few
words with the old chap, and thanked him heartily for his friendly act,"
said the leader.

A few minutes afterwards he came hurrying toward them, and when Giraffe
saw the way Thad's brows were knitted he knew some new trouble was in
store for them.

"What's coming next, Thad?" he asked, and if any one had taken the pains
to look beneath the surface they might have found an undercurrent of
satisfaction in the tones of the tall scout.

"Our good old friend has warned me that a parcel of the rougher boys of
the village have started out, meaning to waylay us, and take our car
away. He says they've got an idea we've no business riding around when
their military authorities need every sort of motor car they can get.
And that's how the land lies, boys!"



                             CHAPTER XXIV.
                             THE AMBUSCADE.


"Well, here's a nice kettle of fish!" burst out Bumpus, fixing his eyes
on the scout leader, as though mentally asking what Thad meant to do.

The actions of Giraffe spoke louder than words could have done. With a
really wicked grin he reached down and took something in his hand which
it seemed he had stowed away in the body of the car. It was a club
almost the size of a baseball bat, one of those home-run kind boys talk
about, and call "the old wagon-tongue."

"Say, I had a sort of hunch this would come in handy sooner or later,
and now I know it!" Giraffe muttered, with a shake of his head.

"But what do you suppose this means, Thad?" asked Allan, with a puzzled
look on his face. "I always understood these Belgian boys were
well-behaved chaps, and the last ones in the world to do a thing like
this. If we were in some town across in our own country it wouldn't seem
so strange."

"Stop and think for a minute what's happening here in Belgium this very
day," said Thad. "A million Germans have overrun the country, and every
Belgian capable of bearing arms is hurrying to the battle line. Of
course the boys are worked up to fever heat. You all saw how they acted
when that mob surrounded us. They're not the same well-behaved boys they
were two weeks ago. The excitement has settled in their brains."

"But, Thad, that doesn't mean we've got to hand them over the old car,
does it?" asked Bumpus.

"Certainly not," he was assured.

"Will we have to turn back again so as to keep from having a row?"
continued the fat scout, anxiously.

"Well, I should hope not," burst out Giraffe, angrily. "I'd be willing
to turn back before the majesty of the whole German army, but I'll be
hanged if I want to knuckle down to a pack of kids. If you ask my
opinion there it is, straight goods!"

"There's another thing," said Thad, "that I think has had some influence
on these boys, or given them the idea of holding us up."

He pointed to a fence across from the inn-yard. It had some gaudy bills
pasted on it, which apparently none of the others had noticed before,
though taught to use their eyes as scouts on every occasion.

"Why, those look mighty familiar!" said Bumpus.

"What's this?" cried Giraffe. "A regular American Wild West show over
here in Belgium, raking in the coin this last summer? Thad, if that gave
an exhibition here, or anywhere close by, I can understand what you
mean. The kids must have been practicing throwing the rope, and holding
up stages ever since. Yes, by George! that's where they get this idea
from, as sure as anything."

"After all, the world is getting smaller all the time," remarked Allan,
"when you can find such pictures as those thousands of miles away from
home. Before long it may be all Japan, China and India will be looking
at our cowboys perform, and the Indians hold up stage coaches."

"Oh! they do that already," Thad told him; "for the moving pictures are
being shown all around the world. But I've got an idea. Wait here for
me, fellows."

With that the scout leader hurried away, leaving the trio to talk
matters over, and trying to guess what he had in view. A short time
later Thad reappeared, with a little package in his hand.

"I just happened to notice some whips for sale at a store in the place,"
he explained, "and I've bought several. If we're forced to we'll use
them on those boys the best we know how. The old man told me they were
the bad lot of the village, so you see they do have them even over in
Belgium."

"How that takes me back to dear old Cranford," sighed Bumpus, "where we
used to have all manner of times with Brose Griffin and his cronies, Eli
Bangs and Walt Hopkins. So they have a rowdy element here too, do they?
Thad, I hope you didn't forget me when laying in that stock of
cowhides?"

"Three covered the entire stock they had," the other told him; "and so
Giraffe will have to depend on that club of his; only I hope he uses it
carefully. It's big and heavy enough to floor anybody."

Giraffe nodded, and smiled.

"Oh! I'll be on the watch not to knock the poor chaps silly, if they
take warning, and clear out," he remarked, as he hid the article in
question away, but in a place where it could be quickly seized.

It was in anything but a pleasant humor that Thad prepared to leave the
village where they had been hospitably entertained, after that first
little misunderstanding. He did not like this idea of meeting the attack
of the Belgian boys with violence, but there seemed to be no other way,
for the old man had declined to ride out with them, saying that he did
not wish to be connected at all with the matter, and considered his duty
done in giving them due warning.

Thad was really under the impression that he would not be sorry if the
boys received some sort of drubbing to pay them for their audacity in
treating strangers in the way they intended.

There was no choice about the route; it was necessary that they go up or
down the river, since no other road led away from the place. Of course
across the river there was one they would have been glad to have taken,
only with the bridge gone it was not possible to get the car over.

"Somebody waving his hand to us, Thad, over there at that cottage
window," observed the watchful Giraffe.

"I think it must be our old friend," said Thad, as he made haste to
answer the signal. "Yes, I can see his face now, and his gray beard."

They passed out of the village, with the people simply looking after
them, for all signs of resentment had apparently died out. These good
folks had too many serious troubles of their own to think of hunting up
new ones.

"I wonder how far we'll get before they jump out at us?"

That was Bumpus trying to secure an opinion. It was one of his ways of
fishing for what he called "a rise." And as usual Giraffe hastened to
accommodate him.

"Oh! not far, you can depend on it, Bumpus," he said, "because they
haven't been gone long, and would have to tramp it. I reckon now they'd
just want to get say half a mile or so outside the place, so the racket
they kick up won't reach the ears of their folks here."

"Undo the package, Allan," said Thad, with a business-like air.

This being done disclosed three stout whips of the type often spoken of
as "cowhides." Bumpus immediately took possession of one, and seemed to
be as tickled as a child with a new toy.

"They're just prime stuff, Thad," he asserted. "Course I've never dusted
any fellow's jacket with such a thing, and I don't hanker after the job
now; but what has to be can't be helped. I'll promise you to do my level
best to sting their legs, for that's the best way, I take it."

Giraffe looked at the whips rather enviously. Possibly he almost felt
sorry he had displayed that ferocious club so hastily; only for that he
might have been given one of the cowhides to manipulate, instead of
Bumpus.

They had by this time left the village behind them. The river lay on
their left, and the further bank was not very far away. Thad was
watching the road in advance, as though mentally figuring on where they
would run across the ambuscade planned by these bellicose Belgian boys.

"There's some sort of a turn I can see up yonder, Thad," ventured
Giraffe, with his neck stretched in his favorite manner when sighting
things, and which peculiarity had given him his queer nick-name.

"Yes, it's a bend, all right," added Allan.

"Just around a place like that would offer a fine chance to jump out on
us, I'd think," suggested Giraffe.

He was bending down while speaking, and taking hold of his cudgel as
though intending to be ready when the call to duty came.

"Listen," said Thad, impressively. "I'll stop the car the very second
they come in sight. The chances are they'll have the road blocked in
some way, so as to prevent our getting past. Then when I give the word
everybody get out in a hurry, and meet their rush with the liveliest
business you know how."

"He didn't say how many there were in this bunch, did he, Thad?" asked
Bumpus.

"No, and I forgot to ask him," came the reply.

"That's the way with scouts always," said Giraffe, pompously. "When
danger comes along a scout shouldn't say, 'How many are there of the
enemy,' but just shout out, 'Where are they, so I can get busy?'"

"Half a dozen or ten, it doesn't matter," said Allan, "we're primed to
scatter them like chaff before the wind. Remember they are bringing all
this trouble down on their own silly heads. It isn't any of our
choosing."

It was in this resolute spirit then that they approached the bend in the
river road, around which they fully expected to find trouble lurking.
Bumpus was so tremendously excited that he actually seemed to be holding
his breath. His blue eyes were round, and staring at that curve in the
road now dreadfully near; and if the hand that gripped that tough
cowhide trembled it was from nervous tension, not fear.

Apparently all was calm and peaceful about that spot. Not a single sign
of anything unusual could the four scouts detect as they came close to
the bend. Doubtless watchful eyes had noted their coming, and the news
had been duly conveyed to those who were in hiding, so that they would
know when to commence operations.

Now the car had reached the turn and was commencing to negotiate it.
Whatever was in store for the chums it could not be longer delayed.
Still, so far as they could see after swinging around the curve, the
road was perfectly clear of all manner of obstacles, which fact rather
surprised Giraffe, who had evidently anticipated discovering a log
thrown in such a way as to completely barricade the thoroughfare.

"Why, they don't seem to be here after all, Thad!" he exclaimed.

Giraffe spoke just a second too soon. In fact hardly had the last word
left his lips when there was something doing just ahead of them.

A shrill whistle sounded, and at that the bushes on both sides of the
road seemed to be alive with leaping figures. Some seven or eight boys
had been concealed there, and now hurried out on the road. Some of them
carried branches, others stones, and still more hastened to throw a
half-rotten log across the road, effectually blocking it for the passage
of a vehicle, especially a car.

Thad was ready for just this sort of thing. He instantly shut off the
power and there was no trouble whatever in coaxing the car to come to a
complete standstill--there never was any complaint along this score, all
the anxiety being in the other direction.

Immediately the Belgian boys rushed to surround the car. Their actions
were very threatening, for they shouted, and waved their arms, and
several even had sticks with which they cut the air venomously. Perhaps
they expected that the four boys in khaki would just naturally throw up
their hands in the same way the actors in the American show had done
when the road-agents were robbing the stage coach.

It was a mistake, and those Belgian lads discovered this for themselves
before five more seconds had passed. Instead of displaying a willingness
to yield without any struggle the strangers immediately started in to
"rough house" it in the most approved fashion.

"Go for 'em!" shouted Giraffe, as he made a leap over the side of the
car, just as furiously as he had many a time in the past accomplished a
"flying tackle" in battling for his school colors on the gridiron.

The others were not far behind him, even clumsy Bumpus displaying
unwonted agility in bouncing out of the car, rawhide in hand.



                              CHAPTER XXV.
                         THE SCOUTS' CAMP FIRE.


It was certainly pretty lively while it lasted. Giraffe, who liked
excitement must have felt quite in his element when turning the tables
on those plotting Belgian boys who had figured in taking their car away
from them, so as to offer it to the Government, just then so sadly in
need of transportation facilities.

However laudable their ambition may have been Thad and his three friends
were determined that they would block the game. With this purpose in
view they commenced to spring a pretty surprise on their assailants.

The three who wielded the whips started to flay the legs of the
ambushing force, and immediately the shouts that had been intended to
intimidate the scouts began to change their tune and become yells.

Giraffe, too, was swinging that club with his old-time vigor. True, he
had no particular animosity against these native boys who thought they
were only doing a patriotic duty; but Giraffe believed he had a right to
fight for his property, and he claimed a quarter interest in that car,
miserable affair though it was.

Had the Belgian boys been equipped with the same type of weapons as Thad
and his chums it might have been a longer battle, for they would
probably given as good as they took. Since the advantage was all on one
side, save in numbers, the end was a foregone conclusion.

Some of the astonished boys started to run, then came back and took a
second generous dose, before concluding that the game was up.

A signal was finally given which must have been the recall, for
immediately the wielders of the whips and the club found their
occupation gone, since their adversaries had retreated in hot haste.

Thad saw that they darted into the brush, and suspected their main
object was to secure some sort of fighting material for themselves,
after which they would likely return to the attack.

He did not want any more of that rough and tumble sort of scramble if it
could be avoided; and a quick "getaway" was the one thing needful in
such a case.

"Clear the road!" he called out, suiting his actions to his words by
jumping forward to seize hold of the log, which with a few adroit turns
he sent spinning into the ditch.

The others hastened to do their share, and in less time than it takes to
tell it a passage had been made through the barricade.

"That's enough!" called Thad, giving his orders with the precision of a
military commander; "now get aboard, for we're going to start off!"

Bumpus had been expecting something like this. Knowing his faculty for
lagging he was already "legging" it for the car when Thad spoke. Thus he
managed to clamber aboard in good time, and fall on his knees inside the
tonneau of the car.

Giraffe came flying after him, landing almost on his back; but a little
thing like that was not to be noticed when the main object had been
accomplished. They had managed to get rid of their tormentors for the
time being, and this gave Thad a chance to start the engine.

There was fortunately no need of cranking, and hardly had Allan clutched
hold of the car to swing himself aboard when it was moving off.

"Duck your heads, everybody; they're going to bombard us with stones!"
shouted Giraffe, as a missile struck the back of the car with a bang.

Several came aboard, and one by some freak of fortune took Bumpus square
in the back, causing him to give a loud grunt, though he declared it was
nothing to bother about.

The fusillade continued until the car, increasing its momentum, managed
to draw so far away that the stones fell short. When this became a
certainty Giraffe, looking back, told them the Belgian boys had given up
the pursuit.

"Ha! guess that was a case of the biter bitten!" said Giraffe, assuming
all the airs of a victor expecting to be crowned with the laurel wreath;
although if the question had been actually put to him he must have
admitted that three other fellows had also had a "finger in the pie."

"We got out of the scrape better than I thought we would," said Bumpus,
"when I saw how many of them there were. Giraffe, you're a good friend
of mine, ain't you? Would you mind rubbing me in the middle of the back?
Please not _quite_ so hard, for you see that rock gave me a bit of a
clump there, and raised a knob, I guess."

"I'm wondering what's going to strike us next," ventured Allan; "for
when you come to look at it we've been having some of the queerest
adventures on this trip that ever could have happened."

Bumpus shook his head as though he might be ready to pass the puzzle
along.

"It's too deep for me, Allan," he said. "I'd think we'd pretty nearly
exhausted the whole list by now, but still there may be more coming.
It's making me believe we're fated not to get through with this car,
after all, and that we'll soon run up against a snag so big that it'll
sink our craft."

"So long as we don't go down with it I won't kick," asserted Giraffe,
who seemed to be feeling much more cheery since that last little
exciting affair. "And Bumpus, after all what does it matter how you get
to Antwerp so long as you pull up there sooner or later?"

"Oh! I'm getting reconciled to almost anything," admitted Bumpus,
showing that this constant series of happenings was beginning to have an
effect on even his stubborn nature, just as water dripping constantly
will wear away a stone in the course of time.

Thus talking they moved speedily along the river road until finally
Giraffe announced he had sighted the bridge over which they hoped to be
able to cross the stream, and head once more for the big city on the
Schelde.

There were some Belgian soldiers on guard here also, possibly older men
who had not expected to go to the front, yet had a certain line of duty
to perform in this the latest crisis of their beloved country's history.

Just as Thad expected they had to stop and give an account of
themselves, as well as show their passports, and the letters with the
American stamps. They were again lucky in having one of the Belgians
able to talk with them, for it turned out that he had been in America,
and even asked them how Hoboken was getting along.

Satisfied with being permitted to cross the bridge and pursue their
journey the four scouts waved good-bye to the guards and started on.

"Well, that was a hard river to cross let me tell you," said Giraffe
after they reached the other side. "Just stop and think how many times
we've been knocked out of our calculations. There was the battle we saw
that blocked us; then the bridge that had been fixed to trap some of the
raiding Uhlans when they came galloping along, and tried to rush things;
after that there was the one that was being built in the village, and
which of course we couldn't use; and at last we struck oil up here, many
miles out of our way."

"Seems to me we've been pushing backwards part of the time, Thad,
instead of advancing," ventured Bumpus. "Makes me think of the boy who
was late to school and told the teacher that every time he took a step
forward he slipped back two; and when the teacher asked him how he ever
managed to get there he said he just turned around and headed the other
way; so mebbe that's what we're doing. Where do you figure we are now,
Thad?"

"As near as I can find out," replied the scout leader, "we're not far
from the town called Moll, which is on the railroad. There's a canal
somewhere nearby, that swings around to the city of Turnhout, and then
still on to Antwerp. I should say that we're not more than seven miles
or so from the Dutch border."

"And how far from Antwerp?" asked Bumpus, anxiously.

"As the crow flies not more than thirty miles, perhaps," Thad explained;
"but the way things are upset here in Belgium, that stands for hard
sledding."

"Here's the canal right now, after we cross the railroad," ventured
Giraffe, to whom it was all getting very interesting.

"But the sun is going down before a great while, you notice," said
Bumpus, because they had been held up for nearly two hours while Thad
tinkered with that horrible engine again, and deemed himself lucky to
get it started even then.

"Yes, and as we've settled on staying outdoors to-night," said Allan,
"let's be on the watch for a decent place to make camp."

"Just think of our having a chance to do that over here in Belgium, with
battles going on all around us," Giraffe remarked. "We'll make those
other scouts turn green with envy when we relate all our adventures on
this trip. It was fine enough coming down the Rhine, but then nothing
queer happened to us like we've been up against the last few days."

A short time later they struck what looked like an ideal place for
stopping overnight. Just here there were no houses in sight, though of
course the boys did not know what lay beyond, perhaps a village or a
town. Belgium is so thickly populated that very little ground is allowed
to remain idle, or be planted in trees, but just here there was a strip
of woods that had a most inviting look.

So the car was run in and they started to make themselves comfortable,
as scouts of long experience might be expected to do when surrounded by
similar conditions.

"I hope that when we're just sitting down to supper, after cooking the
same," Bumpus remarked, pensively, "some old gruff Belgian farmer
doesn't come hurrying up, complaining because we've trespassed on his
property, and making us clear out bag and baggage."

To Bumpus that represented the sum total of depravity; it meant a
catastrophe without limit, and something to cause a shudder, even in the
bare contemplation; for it meant hunger, and that was always a calamity
in his eyes.

"Not much danger," Allan told him, "because you may have noticed I'm
making this fire small, and out of extra-dry stuff. Scouts know that if
you take green wood you'll always get a smoke that can be seen far off.
That's what we use it for when we want to communicate by smoke signals.
But Bumpus, if you were fifty feet away I don't think you could notice
smoke from this wood."

"But I warrant you he could sense cooking going on, all right," Giraffe
laughingly observed. "You never can fool Bumpus on that. He can scent an
onion frying half a mile away, can't you, Bumpus?"

"I couldn't deny the soft impeachment, for I know I've got a splendid
nose for grub," admitted the good-natured scout.

Although the means for cooking supper were somewhat primitive because
these boys had always been accustomed to having a full kit along with
them, still they knew how to manage. Consequently in good time, just as
it was getting dusk, the meal was pronounced ready, and all of them
gathered around to share in its disposal, a duty that no one ever
complained of.

They were hungry, and somehow the familiar odors seemed to give an edge
to their appetites that nothing else had done.

For a little while talking ceased, because every one was too busily
engaged to bother making any remark. Then as the edge was taken off
their appetites they commenced to exchange comments on the doings of
that particular day, which could always be marked with a white stone in
their memories.

Suddenly and without the slightest warning there came a terrific sneeze
that startled them all. It came from the bushes close at hand, that much
even Bumpus knew. Of course every eye was turned in that direction,
being focussed on a certain spot where the bushes seemed to be moving.

As they stared, hardly knowing what to expect, there arose the lanky
form of a man. He made no hostile move, but stood there looking at them;
and Bumpus even fancied he was sniffing the air, just as a half-starved
dog might, when approaching the spot where a feast was being devoured.

"Don't shoot, gents!" this singular being called out. "I'm not dangerous
at all, only as hungry as a wolf. From what I've heard you saying I
opine that you're American the same as myself; and I'm sure hoping
you'll invite me up to join you in a snack."



                             CHAPTER XXVI.
                          A TATTOOED FUGITIVE.


Thad did not wait to consult his chums on hearing what the forlorn
figure standing amidst the bushes said; he knew they would back him up
in his generous impulse.

"If you are an American you'll be doubly welcome here," he called out;
"but no matter where you came from, if you're hungry we've got plenty
and to spare. Step this way and join us!"

The man did not hesitate after that warm invitation, but hustled
forward. They looked curiously at him, and no wonder, for he was
apparently no ordinary individual. His sleeves were rolled up to the
elbow and it could be seen that his arms were fairly covered with the
most wonderful colored tattoo marks imaginable. Really it looked like
the work of an artist in this line; and Bumpus, who had never gazed upon
such a sight stared as though the other were a curiosity.

It turned out that this was just what he was, and Thad suspected it the
first thing he discovered those tell-tale marks.

"You see," said the stranger, as he joined the scouts, "I'm the
wonderful tattooed man of the great circus and Wild West Show that has
been exhibiting in Belgium this summer. We got caught when the war broke
out so suddenly. Our boss told every one to look out for himself or
herself, and with that the whole show went to smash. The last I saw of
our Injuns they were being herded up by the authorities of the town
where we separated. They were afraid they'd start on the warpath, and
scalp everybody, I guess."

"Sit down here on this log," said Allan, "and we'll help you to some
coffee and whatever we've got. It's lucky we cooked much more than we
needed. I think Bumpus and Giraffe must have expected company, or else
overrated their own appetites."

"Bumpus and Giraffe sound good to me!" declared the tall stranger, as he
looked with a smile at the two boys designated; "somehow hearing those
names gives me a feeling that I'm still with the Big Show. But I want to
tell you it's a piece of great luck for me to meet up with you boys. To
look for Americans over here is as bad as hunting a needle in a
haystack."

"Then you've been having a hard time, I take it?" remarked Thad, as he
heaped a pan with food and turned it over to their unexpected guest.

"Hard!" echoed the other. "I'm thankful to be alive, and outside of a
dungeon to-night. And what d'ye think it all comes from but my name."

"What might that be?" asked Giraffe.

"The worst any poor man marooned in Belgium or France could own up to
right now," replied the other; "it's Kaiser!"

"Oh! my stars!" ejaculated Bumpus. "I should say so; and you couldn't
change it, I suppose?"

"I'd been billed under my own name as the greatest freak alive, the man
whose body was decorated with more dragons and flags and pretty girls
than anything ever seen before. Yes, and until a week ago I was proud of
that name of Kaiser. Now it threatens to be the death of me."

He groaned a little, and then started to eating voraciously. After a
while, when he had seemingly taken the sharp edge off his appetite, he
condescended to explain further, knowing of course that his kind
entertainers must be curious to hear his story.

"You see, they know me all over Belgium by now. Crowds would stand and
stare at me, and try to ask questions. The boss had to keep an
interpreter nearby to answer these. Some of them were terribly foolish.
It even seemed to many of these simple people that I was in some way
connected by blood with Kaiser Wilhelm; and fool that I was, I never
bothered correcting that silly idea. Bitterly have I repented that
mistake. It has cost me dearly."

"After the circus disbanded and you had to shift for yourself," remarked
Thad, "I suppose you thought to get out of the country before the
fighting began?"

"Well, at first I wasn't in any hurry," came the reply, with a shrug of
the bony shoulders of the side-show freak. "When I did wake up and get
busy it was just too late. You see the people remembered that I was a
Kaiser, and they had it in for me. Oh! what I have suffered. Turned back
one day, kicked out of a town the next, threatened with prison, and
doors shut in my face when I tried to beg or buy something to eat, I've
lived the life of a dog for days."

"Well, that was too bad," said the kind-hearted Bumpus; "here, let me
fill your tin cup again with coffee, Mr. Kaiser."

"Please don't mention that name again above a whisper, while we're in
Belgium," pleaded the other. "It's just like showing a red flag to a mad
bull. Call me Bob, if you feel like it, boys. I'll come to any name
these days, especially if there's a feed like this goes with it."

"What are you aiming to do next?" asked Thad.

"I'm heading north the best I can," he explained. "When after being
kicked and cuffed around I found that it was useless to hope to get to
Antwerp where I might steam over to England, I knew that the next best
thing for me to do was to cross into the Netherlands, where they
wouldn't abuse me on account of my name."

"But are you a German?" asked Giraffe.

"I was born in the good old United States," replied the freak. "I
believe my ancestors did come from the Fatherland, but to tell you the
truth I haven't a bit of German feeling in me. I'm Yankee to the
backbone. I ran away as a boy, and have knocked about the four corners
of the world, principally in the Far East, where all this wonderful
tattoo work was done for me, a little at a time. When I'm done eating
I'll let you see what my body looks like. I'm told that there's nothing
like it known."

"Do you like being a freak?" asked Bumpus, innocently.

The man looked at him and smiled. Every one liked Bumpus from the first,
because there was something so candid and sincere about him. You could
look straight into those blue eyes of his and believe that there was no
hypocrisy or deceit lurking back of their depths.

"Well, son, I do and I don't," the other finally replied. "I know now I
was a fool to get this done, but once it was started, there could be no
rubbing it out, you understand, because it's picked in with indelible
colors. It gets me a living by exhibiting myself, and people do lots of
mighty queer things for that, in their journey through this old world."

"But if you had the chance again would you allow it to be done?" asked
Giraffe, who himself had an anchor in blue upon his arm, of which he had
been rather proud in the past.

"Not if I was in my right senses," came the prompt reply. "To tell you
the truth the first tattooing I had was given to me against my will when
I was held a prisoner among some wild men in Borneo. They thought my
white skin was a good background to display the art of their boss
tattooer. Later on the crazy idea came to me to have it continued, and
then join some show. I think with what little money I've got saved over
in Philadelphia I'll buy a farm and settle down, if only I'm lucky
enough to get out of this war-cursed country alive."

Later on the fugitive circus freak did let the boys look him over, and
all of them united in declaring that he certainly was a wonderful
exhibition of the art of tattooing in bright colors. Giraffe mentally
decided, however, that he would never allow another anchor, or any other
design for that matter, to be placed upon his arms. This awful example
had effectually cured his leaning in that direction.

The man sat there for fully two hours and entertained his young hosts
with amazing stories connected with his adventurous past. Whether they
were all true or not might always be open to suspicion, but then none of
the scouts doubted that he had been through a maze of exploits, equal to
anything they had ever read in those books so dear to the heart of
youth, "Robinson Crusoe," "Swiss Family Robinson," "Gulliver's Travels,"
"Sindbad the Sailor" and "The Arabian Nights' Entertainment."

Later on they disposed of themselves the best way they could, and
managed to secure more or less sleep while the night lasted.

Nothing occurred to disturb them. If there were various sounds heard
during the time that the moon rode high in the heavens they were not of
a character to cause any alarm.

So morning found them, and breakfast was prepared in much the same
fashion as supper had been on the preceding evening. Bob Kaiser was loud
in his protestations of gratitude as he shook the hand of each scout at
parting. He told them he would never forget what they had done for him;
and from that time forth he meant to say a good word for scouts wherever
he went.

When the four lads saw him last, as they moved off along the road, he
was waving farewell in answer to their salute, before turning his face
toward the north.

Upon the whole they were very glad such an opportunity to extend a
helping hand had come to them. It must always please a genuine scout to
be of assistance to any one in distress; and the fact that the party had
been a fellow American added to the satisfaction they felt.

The man had told them he had friends at Amsterdam who would look out for
him if only he could get there; and with a reasonable amount of good
luck he surely ought to be able to cover the seven miles, more or less,
between their camping place and the border, during the day ahead of him.

In fact, Thad almost envied him his resolution to head that way. It
seemed the shortest route to safety in those strenuous days when the
whole of Belgium was ablaze with excitement, hostile armies battling for
supremacy, and every one suspicious of all strangers.

"To-day will decide the question for us," Allan was saying, an hour or
so after they had started that morning; "if we manage to pull through up
to night time without any more backsets, we can consider it settled that
we're going to make Antwerp by this route."

No one disagreed with him. Even Bumpus was figuring what thirty miles
"as the crow flies" might mean, when they had to follow varying trails
and roads, subject to the whims of any military commands they chanced to
meet.

"Something coming ahead there!" announced the ever-watchful Giraffe.

On looking the others could see that a cloud of dust was rising in the
direction they were heading. This of course indicated the passage of
some considerable number of men or horses along the road.

"Another battery coming from Antwerp and hurrying to the front by this
route," speculated Allan, and indeed that seemed the most probable
explanation of the disturbance.

"There, I heard what sounded like the clatter of horses' hoofs then,"
announced Giraffe, with his hand cupped at his ear to imitate the
rabbit, which a kindly Nature has so constructed as to be able to throw
its ears forward and catch the slightest sound that otherwise would be
inaudible.

Thad listened, and as he did so his eyebrows went up as though a
suspicion might be passing through his mind that Allan's speculation was
altogether wrong.

He too heard the clatter of hoofs now, for they were coming more
heavily. To him it seemed as though there were many hundreds of them,
and that they pounded the road more like a squadron of cavalry on the
gallop.

Thad drew the car to one side of the road, and then stopped his engine.
Until the mystery had been solved there was no use trying to proceed
further. Perhaps this spot was to mark the high-water line of their
advance on Antwerp.

"There, I can see them beginning to show up now!" cried Giraffe.

Moving figures came into view, constantly augmented until there must
have been scores amidst the rising dust. No sooner had Thad noticed the
fact that they were gray-coated, and that they carried what seemed to be
lances, with small pennons fluttering at the ends, than he knew what it
meant.

Giraffe voiced what all of them understood by that time when he
ejaculated:

"Why, they're German lancers, don't you see, boys; the Uhlans we've
heard so much about, the Rough Riders of the Kaiser, and raiding the
country to cut off communications between the Belgian army and Brussels.
Whew! now we're in the soup!"



                             CHAPTER XXVII.
                           THE UHLAN HOLD-UP.


Bumpus was heard to give a big sigh.

"I can see our finish, boys," he remarked, calmly, as though he had
resigned himself to the inevitable. "I'm ready to cry quits, and hold up
my hands. Holland looks pretty good to me just now."

"Let's wait and see what happens," said Thad, though he secretly
rejoiced to hear Bumpus admit this, for the fat scout had more at stake
than the rest of them, in that his sick mother was waiting and watching
in the city of the Schelde.

The Uhlans came swiftly along. If they noticed the old car drawn to one
side of the road, out of the way, they gave no evidence of the fact
until the leaders had arrived almost abreast of the spot.

Then a bugle sounded, and the whole squadron halted, causing the dust to
mount up more furiously than ever.

A score of troopers gathered around the car, most of them officers, Thad
could see, although the dust covered them so completely that it
concealed the insignia of their rank to some extent.

"Giraffe, it's your turn," said Thad to the lanky scout; "air what
German you know, and tell them we're American Boy Scouts; also ask if
one of them can converse with me in English."

"There is no need to ask that, because most of us are familiar with your
tongue," said the stout officer who seemed to be in chief command, much
to the satisfaction of the scouts. "But we must take that assertion of
yours with a grain of allowance. We even suspect that you are English
boys, bent on getting through our lines with valuable information for
the enemy, which we cannot allow, you understand."

Thad was not surprised. He realized that at such a time every one who
spoke the English language must come under the ban with the Teuton race.
Already he had discovered that this stout man was inclined to be a
martinet, and possibly ruthless in dealing with those whom he had reason
to suspect.

"I assure you, sir," he hastened to say, respectfully but firmly, "that
we are every one of us native-born Americans. We were making a cruise
down the Rhine and when we arrived at Cologne news that war had broken
out gave us a shock. One of my comrades here has a sick mother in
Antwerp, under the care of a specialist. That is why we are trying to
make our way there."

"Where did you get this car?" asked the officer, sternly.

"In Cologne, or rather near there, buying it from a man we met. I have
the bill of sale here. It is a terrible car, and has broken down with us
many times. That is why we were allowed to keep it."

"But if, as you say, you were in Germany when the Kaiser's troops
crossed over into Belgium, how happens it you are here? They would not
let you come by way of Aachen, where the glorious army crossed the
border?"

Thad, of course, did not mean to tell how they had been hotly chased by
German troopers, and just managed to elude them by reaching the Dutch
guards in time. He fancied that such an account would hardly be likely
to influence this stern looking Uhlan leader in their favor.

"We figured that there would be all sorts of difficulties in trying to
cross at that point, sir," the boy explained, simply; "and so we
arranged to pass over into Holland where it is very narrow, and from
there reach Belgium. That is what we have done."

"Yet you have been allowed to proceed this far in peace, it seems?"
observed the Prussian, as though he considered this a very significant
fact.

"Oh! we have had all sorts of troubles besides our poor car breaking
down," Thad continued. "Yesterday from a hilltop we witnessed the fight
for a bridge that was defended by a Belgian battery. The Germans charged
bravely, and would have carried the bridge, but it had been mined, and
was blown up just as they reached it."

The Uhlan officers exchanged glances. Thad was of the impression that
possibly they may have been having a tragic little experience themselves
in connection with the ingenuity shown by the Belgians in setting traps
at bridge-heads. He remembered how he and his chums had been told by
those Belgian soldiers that they had fixed it so the bridge they guarded
would fall as soon as troopers started to swing across it, carrying some
of them down in the ruins.

He heard them talking among themselves in German. Giraffe was listening
eagerly to what he could catch, and when he found a chance he whispered
to Thad what he was able to make of it.

"They say a breathing spell for the men will do no harm, and you can see
their horses are sweating something fierce, Thad. But somehow all you've
said doesn't seem to have convinced that head officer. He must hate
everything English like the mischief, for some reason or other. He's
telling them that perhaps we're cunning spies after all, smart
Britishers playing a game, and pretending to be neutral Americans. I'll
keep on listening and see what they mean to do, Thad."

Meanwhile, now that most of the dust had settled, Thad found a chance to
glance along the line, and notice what a sturdy, well-set lot those
Uhlan raiders were. As a rule they seemed to be fair-haired young chaps,
with clear eyes and ruddy cheeks. Thad was more than a little surprised.
Like many others, he had imagined that all Uhlans, having such a
reputation for daring and recklessness, must be grim-looking men, after
the type of the Russian Cossacks. These fellows were not at all what he
had pictured them.

They sat their saddles like men who were born to ride hard. And the
horses were a picked lot, capable of standing great fatigue, Thad also
noticed. After all he believed he would always be glad he had come in
contact with these Uhlans; for he had wanted to see them at close
quarters; and on that other occasion the moonlight did not allow of much
scrutiny.

Presently the chief officer turned again to the boy in the car.

"Show me your passports!" he commanded, and if anything his voice and
manner were sterner than before.

Thad was only too glad of the opportunity to do so. He also gave up the
several letters so that the other could glance them over, which he
proceeded to do. All that time the look of suspicion did not leave his
set face. Every now and then he would eye the boys keenly.

"He just keeps on thinking we're sailing under false colors, Thad,"
muttered Giraffe, who had also observed the actions of the Uhlan
commander.

"Take out what letters the rest of you have had from home since coming
over," said Thad, hoping that this would convince the other, and bring
about their release; for should they be arrested as spies, and treated
harshly, he considered that would be the hardest blow of all.

Even when he had carelessly glanced at these the face of the officer
still wore that same frown, as though he could not get rid of his
suspicion that they were really English boys, and all this might only be
a cleverly arranged scheme to hide their identity.

Thad was almost ready to give up in despair. He felt that he had about
reached the end of his rope, and could do nothing more. Just how these
hard riders could hold them prisoners, and make them accompany them he
could not guess, unless they happened to have four empty saddles among
them. And it would be difficult to imagine Bumpus going at headlong
speed across country, keeping pace with such mad riders as these Uhlans.

Then all at once Thad remembered something. It was not that a verbal
plea would do any good, for he suspected the more he talked the stronger
would this martinet be inclined to hold them under the ban of his
displeasure.

The brief note written by the aviator whom they had aided--might not
that be of benefit to their cause?

It will be remembered that Thad had taken pains to conceal this under
the lining of his campaign hat, lest some Belgian eye read what the
Taube birdman had written over his signature, and charge them with being
German spies.

Taking off his hat he fumbled under the lining, and quickly produced the
paper, a bit crumpled, and lacking freshness, but with the penciled
writing plainly legible, which was all Thad cared about.

When he looked up he saw that many eyes had been following his motions,
as if the Uhlans had had their curiosity aroused.

"There is one incident connected with our trip through this part of
Belgium, sir, that I would like to speak of, hoping it will convince you
we are what we claim to be, only that and nothing more. Have I your
permission to tell you about this adventure, sir?"

"Proceed," the officer told him; "we are giving the horses a little
rest, which they sorely need, so a short delay will do no harm."

"We were coming along when we had an accident to the engine. While I was
making the necessary repairs one of my friends made an astonishing
discovery. We saw the figure of a man caught in the top of a tall tree.
He was moving his arm to us as if he hoped to attract our attention in
that way. When we hurried up to the tree we found, just as we expected,
the wreck of an aeroplane there!"

Thad purposely paused at that thrilling point so as to let them grasp
the full force of his assertion. He was not much surprised when the
officer demanded:

"Could you tell from the build of the aeroplane what sort of a machine
it may have been, boy?"

"Yes, for I had noticed them while over in Germany, sir," replied Thad.
"It was a Taube model. We climbed the tree at once, three of us, and
after some hard work managed to get the aviator safely down. He told us
how he had been scouting over the Belgian lines when both his machine
and himself were struck by shots. He tried to sail slowly to the ground
miles away from the fighting line, but by hard luck struck that tree,
and became caught there, his machine falling to the earth."

Again Thad stopped as though to get his breath, but it was really done
for effect and to give the officer a chance to ask a question, which he
immediately did.

"Then you claim that this man whom you aided was a German aviator, do
you?"

"He had a bad wound in his arm," proceeded the boy, promptly, "which we
had no trouble in binding up, because you may know, sir, that scouts are
taught how to treat all manner of wounds. I am sure he felt very
grateful on account of what little we were able to do for him. We were
only carrying out the principles of our scout organization. It did not
matter to us whether he was German, Belgian or French, he was in need of
assistance, and we gave it."

The officer in command swept a look around at his comrades, and Thad saw
that several of them nodded their heads as though they rather liked the
way the boy in khaki had put forward his ideas concerning strict
neutrality.

"Would you know the name of this German Taube operator if you heard it
again, boy?" asked the commander.

"Oh! he left a note with us, which he signed with his name," said Thad,
smilingly; "you see he said it might be of assistance to us in case we
came across any party of Uhlans on our travels. I supposed from that he
must be pretty well known, although of course none of us had ever heard
his name."

"Was it that note you just took from under the lining of your hat?"
asked the officer.

"Yes, sir, and here it is. You see, I felt that it might get us into
trouble if Belgian eyes saw it, for they would not like to know we had
saved the life of a German aviator who would have died in that tree,
perhaps."

The officer hastily took the piece of paper and read the few lines
written thereon by the man of the wrecked Taube. Thad saw that it seemed
to create something of a sensation among the Uhlans as it was passed
from hand to hand, and from this he felt satisfied that the aviator must
have been one of the leading airmen in the German flying corps.

Now the grim face of the Uhlan commander had relaxed. He even smiled on
the Scouts.

"I am convinced that you are what you claim, my brave boys; so shake
hands with me, one and all of you," he said.



                            CHAPTER XXVIII.
                              TURNED BACK.


"Bully," Giraffe was heard to mutter half under his breath, at this
sudden change in front on the part of the stern Uhlan officer, evidently
a soldier of more or less reputation.

Even Bumpus wanted to be able to say he had grasped the fist of a German
cavalry officer raiding through Belgium, for he crowded forward, and was
the last to be greeted in that friendly way.

"Let me give you back this slip of paper, boy," said the commander to
Thad. "You should be very proud of having saved the life of that brave
man, for he is called the foremost aviator in our entire corps. If our
commander, the Kaiser, ever learns of what you have done be assured that
he will send you a personal letter of thanks."

All this was very pleasant for the boys to hear. Bumpus was evidently
still hugging a faint hope to his faithful heart that they might be
allowed to pass on. He even managed to find his voice, and put his
anticipation into words.

"And could we be allowed to keep on to Antwerp, sir?" he asked.

At that the officer frowned again. He seemed to consider for a moment,
then shook his head slowly in the negative.

"You must turn back, and proceed to the Dutch border," he told them. "It
would be much better for you to try and reach Antwerp by way of
Rotterdam and the sea. There nothing will delay you, while on land a
thousand obstacles may arise to prevent the accomplishment of your
plans. Besides, you must give us your word of honor as scouts that you
will not come back this way again."

Thad felt as though a great load had been taken from his chest. Now that
they were to be forced to promise Bumpus could not complain; and they
would be able to try the other plan. He was sorry now he had not
insisted on doing that at the time they trod Dutch soil; before now they
would have reached Rotterdam, and might even be sailing for the Schelde.

"We are ready to make you that promise, sir," he told the commander of
the Uhlans, "in fact, we should have decided on that course long ago. It
would have saved us a heap of trouble. Once across the border and on
Dutch soil we should not have crossed back again."

"I differ with you there, boy," said the other, smiling again; "for had
you done so the German flying corps would perhaps have lost its most
brilliant and daring exponent. Turn your car, therefore, and you can
proceed ahead of us. First of all let me mark out the course I wish you
to take."

With that he drew out a map of Belgium and Holland. Thad was interested
when he saw what a marvel of ingenuity that map was. It had evidently
been carefully prepared for the army to be used in case of just such an
invasion. Possibly there were other charts covering Great Britain,
France, Russia, Italy, Switzerland and Denmark.

Thad saw that it was very minute. Not a railroad, station, crossing,
canal, road, town, village, bridge, ford, fort or anything else of
consequence but that it was plainly marked there. And the officer had
other maps too, for Thad glimpsed them when he was selecting this one.

He traced the route back to the Dutch border, and Thad, taking out his
own apology for a chart, made marks to indicate the course he was to
take. Then after considerable work he managed to get the car turned,
some of the troopers being ordered to dismount and lend a helping hand.
After that they started, and before they had gone far the clatter of
horses' hoofs from the rear announced that the entire squadron of
troopers must be coming after them.

"Gee! but I'm glad they're not meaning us any harm," remarked Giraffe,
as he took one of his usual backward peeps by simply twisting that long
neck of his around; "because they'd be able to overtake us in a jiffy,
even if their nags are tired. It's a heap nicer to have these
hard-riding Uhlans for friends than enemies. And I also hope we don't
run afoul of that armored motor-car we saw, with those reckless Belgians
in the same. I do believe they'd charge the whole Uhlan squadron."

Thad himself echoed that wish. He had seen sights during that terrible
battle for the possession of the disputed bridge that would never fade
from his memory; and he did not want to look on anything further that
had to do with bloodshed and misery, under the thin veneering of glory.

"We're coming to the side road he wants us to take, and which will lead
to the Dutch border," Thad announced after a time.

A few minutes later and the car turned to the left, after which Thad
shut down. Standing up they watched the troop gallop past, and
fortunately the dust was blowing toward the opposite quarter so their
view was not hindered. The scouts had taken off their hats, and every
time they saw any one in that long column give them a salute they
answered in kind as they had been taught by the rules of the
organization to which they belonged.

Finally the last Uhlan had ridden past, and only a slowly settling cloud
of dust told where they had gone.

"We'll always remember this last incident as one of the pleasant
episodes of our dash through Belgium," remarked Thad, as they settled
down again in their places for another start.

"One thing sure, Thad," observed Giraffe, "that commander must have
placed a lot of confidence in your simple word, because he wouldn't know
now whether we meant to keep on into Holland, or try again to push on
after he'd forbidden it."

"I guess he knows whatever a scout says he'll do he tries to perform,"
ventured Bumpus, proudly.

"Seven miles isn't far, and with any sort of luck we ought to be over
the line by noon," remarked Allan.

"What's the plan of campaign, then, Thad?" inquired Bumpus.

"We'll try for a station on a railway," he was told. "Over in Holland
they're not so apt to be given over wholly to the military forces, so we
stand a chance to get passage to Rotterdam. The very first time our car
goes back on us with the railroad close by it's good-bye to this
machine."

"I really don't think any of us will mourn much for the dinky trap,"
Giraffe argued; "but then I suppose after a time when things get mellow
in our minds well all take a lot of satisfaction in talking about this
trip, and the old car will come in for its share of attention. Time
heals many faults, you know."

Now that the change in plans had really come about, they could feel a
sort of satisfaction in reflecting that they had kept on to the very
last. In fact, they had refused to give up until actually in the hands
of the Uhlans, and compelled to promise on their honor as scouts that
they would do as ordered.

"Oh! did you see that?" exclaimed Bumpus, starting them all to staring
around in various directions; and then he condescended to go on, thus
centering their attention to the one point--"it was ahead of us I saw
it, boys."

"Saw what, a boa constrictor from the menagerie?" demanded Giraffe, with
the suspicion of a sneer in his voice.

"It was a _man_," said Bumpus, severely, "if you want to know, and he
dodged into the bushes there as quick as a flash when we came around the
bend."

"Oh! he did, eh?" continued Giraffe; "and now mebbe you could tell us
what sort of a man it was, Bumpus, white or black, tall or short,
soldier or just a plain ordinary citizen. Speak up, Bumpus, we're
waiting."

"He looked to me about like our friend the Kaiser!" said the fat scout,
with a trace of a smile on his rosy face; "and there's where he dodged
into the brush, too!"

Thad stopped the car.

"Nothing more likely than that it was the very man," he remarked. "I
should think he might have gotten this far along the way to the Dutch
border by now," and then raising his voice the patrol leader called:
"Hello! Kaiser, don't you want to buy a dog? Show yourself, Bob; you
ought to know your friends!"

At that a lanky figure bobbed up and there was an inarticulate cry,
after which the circus fugitive hurried to join them.

"Why, this _is_ a surprise, I must say, and a pleasant one in the
bargain," he declared, fairly bubbling over with delight as he shook
first Thad's hand and then that of each scout in rotation; "I never
dreamed I'd see you boys again on this side of the water. What made you
change your minds?"

"A stout officer in the uniform of a Uhlan colonel," laughed Thad. "The
fact is we ran smack into a squadron of Uhlans, and they made us promise
to cross over to Holland; so, as scouts always keep their solemn word
we're bound that way right now. And there's room enough for you to crowd
in, if you think we can make faster time than afoot."

The tattooed man did not wait for a second invitation, and easily
squeezed in with the two boys in the rear. There was not much room to
spare, owing to the fact of Bumpus being so very corpulent; but then
Kaiser was as thin as he was long, so that he occupied very little
space. Giraffe said he "wedged" himself in, which was about the truth.

He was greatly interested in hearing of the adventure that had befallen
Thad and his three chums since they separated from him that morning. For
the first time he learned how they had saved that German Taube man from
the treetop, afterwards binding up his wound.

"It does beat all creation," declared the circus fugitive, "how you boys
manage to go around doing good to others. I owe you a big debt just as
that aviator does, and I warrant you there are many others, only you're
too modest to mention the fact."

"Oh! that's all in the game!" said Giraffe, making out to look upon such
things with a feeling bordering on contempt, although being human he
must have liked to hear his praises sung.

"To tell the truth," ventured Thad, "we are the ones who feel under
obligations, because we get much more benefit out of these happenings
than the other fellow. Everybody does who believes in the old saying
that it's more blessed to give than to receive. Besides, we are only
obeying the rules of the organization that we're proud to say we belong
to."

As they went on their way the man who had traveled to the uttermost
corners of the world entertained them with still further stories
connected with his strange experiences. Thus they hardly noticed the
lapse of time, and when Thad told them they had passed the seventh mile
the eagle eye of Giraffe began to get busy with the task of locating the
guard station that would mark the border line.

A short time afterwards he pointed it out to them, and they discovered
one of the same white posts that had marked the division of territory at
the time they were chased by the German cavalrymen, and found refuge
over the line with the soldiers of Queen Wilhelmina.

Of course they were stopped, but at this early stage in the war the
Dutch guard along the border had no orders to keep any one out of
Holland. Questions were put to them by an officer who was summoned by
the privates. These of course Thad could answer truthfully, and besides,
the manly bearing of the lads must have had an influence in determining
the officer to admit the party.

He did look rather doubtfully at the circus freak, but having been told
just who Kaiser was, and seen something of his wonderful adornment, he
did not think himself justified in turning him back.

So it came the four scouts left Belgium territory again. They had been
through some pretty warm experiences since first striking the soil of
the buffer state, many of which would never be forgotten.

Somehow all of them seemed to breathe easily after they had started
along the road that would take them to the nearest railroad town. Thad
knew it had all been a mistake, their trying to break past the
struggling armed hosts, and that they would have shown wisdom had they
come this way in the beginning.

At the same time he did not feel very sorry. They had been given a
wonderful experience, and would certainly never forget some of the
things that had happened to them. Particularly would they have reason to
remember that terrible battle for the bridge head, when the German hosts
fought their way through a storm of shot, only to see the bridge blown
up with dynamite before they could secure it.



                             CHAPTER XXIX.
                     A CHANGE OF PLANS--CONCLUSION.


"That finishes it with me," remarked Thad, when the car came to a sudden
stop, on account of the treacherous motor breaking down again. "Get
ready to leave the old trap in the ditch, boys. We'll give some other
simpletons a chance to tinker with the machine. I'm done with it, once
and for all."

"Well, you gave us all plain warning in good time, Thad," spoke up
Giraffe, not in the least depressed with this change of plans, because
his impatient spirit could not brook these irritating delays.

Even Bumpus did not show any considerable amount of chagrin, and the
reason was quickly made manifest when he broke out with:

"I really believe we must be close on to that railroad town they called
Valkenswaard; because as sure as anything I heard the sound of a train
moving along just then. Yes, there it goes again, with the motor puffing
like hot cakes. Thad, tell me if I'm right about that."

"Just what you are, Bumpus," replied the patrol leader. "I heard it
myself, which was one reason I said what I did. We've been heading
nearly due east for some little time now, and were due to strike the
line of steel before long."

"The plan then is to step out lively, and get to this Dutch town,"
suggested Allan. "I suppose then we'll take the very first chance we can
strike to start for Rotterdam by way of--for goodness' sake, let me see
that chart of yours again, Thad; because these terrible Dutch names
twist my tongue so--here it is, Hertogenbosch, which seems to be about
the biggest railway center in all Holland."

"How far away is Rotterdam, Thad?" asked Bumpus.

"I couldn't tell you exactly, Bumpus," answered the scout leader; "but
on a guess I'd say not more than a hundred miles. The Netherlands isn't
a very big country, you remember, and yet one of the most wonderful
places in the world. We'll see some strange sights as we go along."

"I hope we make the trip by daylight, then," said Giraffe, who was more
or less fond of seeing new scenes.

They made sure to leave nothing behind that they cared to keep.

"Good-bye, little old trap," said Giraffe, making a mock bow toward the
abandoned car; "you played your part all right in the circus, and we'll
often think of you, with tears in our eyes. All the same we're glad to
be able to say our necks haven't been broken while we navigated the
roads of Germany, Belgium and Holland in your care."

Inside of half an hour they actually arrived at the town on the railway.
Here they managed to get something to eat while waiting for a train to
come along. It was by the greatest luck in the world that they found
themselves on the road shortly after noon, because the service between
Belgium and Holland was already sadly disorganized on account of what
was going on across the border.

When they arrived at the town of Hertogenbosch they found that they
would have to wait an hour before they could make a fresh start for
Rotterdam. Here Kaiser the tattooed man said good-bye to his young
friends, since he was headed for Amsterdam, and their routes ran in
different directions.

"I've got your home address, boys," he said after squeezing their hands
for the third and last time, "and I'm going to drop in and see you some
time or other, if I get out of this country alive. You've been good
friends to me, and I'll never forget it. I'm a firm admirer of Boy
Scouts from this time on, and will preach the gospel of humanity
wherever I go, just as you've paid it out to me. Good-bye, all!"

They were really sorry to part with Bob Kaiser, for if ever there lived
an entertaining and good-hearted eccentric fellow he "filled the bill,"
as Giraffe said.

During that long afternoon they continued to pass through a most
interesting country, with many glimpses of watery sections, where the
dikes kept the sea from flooding the rich land which the industrious
Dutch had wrested from the grip of Mother Ocean.

It seemed as though every rod of it must be under cultivation, and the
boys understood after that journey what was really meant by "intensive
farming." Flowers without number were included in the various crops, for
Holland is the home of the greatest nursery of bulbs in the whole world,
her rich soil being just suited to their growth.

Evening was drawing on apace when they neared the great city of
Rotterdam and sniffed the salty scent of the sea that lay beyond. It
acted like a tonic upon the four lads. Even Bumpus was noticed to take
numerous whiffs of the invigorating atmosphere, although he had been
very seasick on the voyage across the Atlantic.

They managed to get located at a small but neatly kept hotel, where they
could stay while looking about, and making inquiries concerning the
possibilities of getting to Antwerp by water.

Never in all their lives had they seen such wonderful cleanliness. The
women and children with their queer head-dresses, and snow-white
garments were a never ceasing source of wonder to the boys, especially
Bumpus, who often chuckled when he pointed out roly-poly boys who put
even his own generous proportions into the shade, so to speak.

"This is the land where you really belong, Bumpus," Giraffe told him;
"here you could pass unnoticed, if only you dressed like these other
boys do. Just imagine our Bumpus with a pair of those wide trousers on,
and wooden shoes to finish him off, would you? I've got half a mind to
buy an outfit for you, Bumpus, while we have the chance. You'd make a
great hit with the pretty girls of Cranford when you came out and set
the style for the rest of the fellows."

"Squander your money if you feel like it, Giraffe," Bumpus
good-naturedly told him; "but getting me to wear such a clown outfit
will be another thing. One boy c'n lead a horse to water, but the whole
Cranford Troop can't make him drink against his will, remember."

They had a peaceful night of it, although at first they feared the many
noises welling up from the water front where the shipping was so dense
would annoy them. It must have been they were all pretty tired, and that
of late they had failed to enjoy their customary sound sleep, for to
tell the truth none of them seemed to know a thing from the time they
retired until Thad, arousing, found it was already broad daylight.

Immediately after breakfast they started out. Bumpus was becoming
distressed once more on account of his not having heard from his mother
for such a long time. He was exceedingly fond of her, and felt sure she
must be enduring great mental agony on account of the uncertainty
concerning her boy, marooned up in the Rhine country by this sudden
breaking out of the great war.

At first they did not meet with any luck. Vessels were starting out that
day, a number of them, but for America and England. Those destined to
cross the Atlantic had every stateroom engaged, for thousands of
sight-seers had already taken the alarm, and were flocking to the Dutch
ports to get passage home.

It was about the middle of the morning when Thad struck a clue which
seemed to give more or less hope. Eagerly following the trail they
finally learned that a small steamer expected to leave Rotterdam for
Antwerp an hour after noon that same day. There might not be another for
forty-eight hours, and so it became necessary for the scouts to
immediately engage passage, and then hurry back to settle their score at
the hotel, as well as carry their personal belongings aboard.

Being something of hustlers they managed to accomplish all this in
record time, having learned that they could get dinner on board the
boat.

And once comfortably settled they could await the sailing of the boat
with a conviction that their troubles were in all probability over.

"Just to think," said Giraffe, after they had started down the river to
the sea, lying some twenty miles or so away, "if we could have continued
our voyage in that little boat of ours through the rest of Germany and
then into Holland we'd have brought up here, sooner or later."

"Why, is this really the mouth of the Rhine?" asked Bumpus, wonderingly;
"I had an idea Rotterdam was situated on the Meuse River."

"It's all a regular mix-up, however you try to see it," responded
Giraffe, who had been studying the chart, and wished to exploit his
knowledge; "there seem to be no end to the outlets of those two rivers
when they get to the delta region of the Netherlands, and you can call
them either the Rhine or the Meuse as you please. It's all salt water
down here, anyhow, and these are really arms of the North Sea reaching
far up into the Low Countries."

It was a very interesting trip down the river, at any rate. They had
glimpses of forts which Holland had erected in order to defend her
cities against any foreign foe; though the boys considered that her
greatest possible danger lay in the west, where Germany had an envious
eye on this valuable territory that seemed to properly be a part of her
expanding empire.

Finally about the middle of the afternoon they came in sight of the sea,
though its heaving had been manifest for some time previously. All of
the scouts viewed the apparently boundless expanse of salt water with
delight; Bumpus however was heard to express a fervent hope that he
would not have to pass through another attack of sea sickness. When
about an hour before the setting of the sun they saw heavy smoke along
the horizon, and presently could make out a long line of what appeared
to be misty-colored battleships headed _north_, it gave them a decided
thrill.

"They must be a part of the great British fleet, on the way to seek
battle with the Kaiser's warships!" was the consensus of opinion; and
having lately witnessed the ferocity that marks a battle the boys could
easily picture the stirring scene if ever a decisive conflict did take
place between the rival fleets of the North Sea.

With the good boat forging on toward the mouth of the Schelde River, up
which it would pass to the docks at Antwerp, it seemed as though the
troubles of Thad Brewster and his three fellow scouts might be over for
the present. They fully anticipated being in the Belgian city by
morning, and possibly taking passage for London before another night,
with Mrs. Hawtree in their care.

Here we may well leave them, confident that no matter what may arise to
throw obstacles in their way, these energetic and resourceful lads can
be depended on to overcome all trials, and reach the haven for which
they are heading. At some no far distant day we can hope to once more
follow their fortunes in new fields of scout endeavor; but until that
time comes we must ring down the curtain and say good-bye.


                                THE END


                         The Boy Scouts Series

                           BY HERBERT CARTER

                        For Boys 12 to 16 Years
                  All Cloth Bound    Copyright Titles
                          PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH
                        New Stories of Camp Life

  THE BOY SCOUTS' FIRST CAMPFIRE; or, Scouting with the Silver Fox
          Patrol.
  THE BOY SCOUTS IN THE BLUE RIDGE; or, Marooned Among the Moonshiners.
  THE BOY SCOUTS ON THE TRAIL; or, Scouting through the Big Game
          Country.
  THE BOY SCOUTS IN THE MAINE WOODS; or, The New Test for the Silver Fox
          Patrol.
  THE BOY SCOUTS THROUGH THE BIG TIMBER; or, The Search for the Lost
          Tenderfoot.
  THE BOY SCOUTS IN THE ROCKIES; or, The Secret of the Hidden Silver
          Mine.
  THE BOY SCOUTS ON STURGEON ISLAND; or, Marooned Among the Game-Fish
          Poachers.
  THE BOY SCOUTS DOWN IN DIXIE; or, The Strange Secret of Alligator
          Swamp.
  THE BOY SCOUTS AT THE BATTLE OF SARATOGA; A story of Burgoyne's Defeat
          in 1777.
  THE BOY SCOUTS ALONG THE SUSQUEHANNA; or, The Silver Fox Patrol Caught
          in a Flood.
  THE BOY SCOUTS ON WAR TRAILS IN BELGIUM; or, Caught Between Hostile
          Armies.
  THE BOY SCOUTS AFOOT IN FRANCE; or, With The Red Cross Corps at the
          Marne.


                        The Boy Troopers Series

                           BY CLAIR W. HAYES
               Author of the Famous "Boy Allies" Series.

The adventures of two boys with the Pennsylvania State Police.

                        All Copyrighted Titles.
              Cloth Bound, with Attractive Cover Designs.
                         PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH.

  THE BOY TROOPERS ON THE TRAIL
  THE BOY TROOPERS IN THE NORTHWEST
  THE BOY TROOPERS ON STRIKE DUTY
  THE BOY TROOPERS AMONG THE WILD MOUNTAINEERS


                         The Golden Boys Series

                         BY L. P. WYMAN, PH.D.
                 Dean of Pennsylvania Military College.

A new series of instructive copyright stories for boys of High School
Age.

                        Handsome Cloth Binding.
                         PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH.

  THE GOLDEN BOYS AND THEIR NEW ELECTRIC CELL
  THE GOLDEN BOYS AT THE FORTRESS
  THE GOLDEN BOYS IN THE MAINE WOODS
  THE GOLDEN BOYS WITH THE LUMBER JACKS
  THE GOLDEN BOYS ON THE RIVER DRIVE


                         The Radio Boys Series

                         BY GERALD BRECKENRIDGE

A new series of copyright titles for boys of all ages.

              _Cloth Bound, with Attractive Cover Designs_
                          PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

  THE RADIO BOYS ON THE MEXICAN BORDER
  THE RADIO BOYS ON SECRET SERVICE DUTY
  THE RADIO BOYS WITH THE REVENUE GUARDS
  THE RADIO BOYS' SEARCH FOR THE INCA'S TREASURE
  THE RADIO BOYS RESCUE THE LOST ALASKA EXPEDITION

For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
Publishers

                           A. L. BURT COMPANY
                  114-120 EAST 23rd STREET    NEW YORK





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Boy Scouts on War Trails in Belgium - Or, Caught Between Hostile Armies" ***

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