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Title: The Boy Volunteers with the British Artillery
Author: Ward, Kenneth
Language: English
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THE BOY VOLUNTEERS SERIES

By KENNETH WARD

  _12mo. Cloth. Fully Illustrated_      _50c per Volume_

    THE NEWEST BOYS' BOOKS ON THE EUROPEAN WAR, RELATING THE ADVENTURES
    OF TWO AMERICAN BOYS AND THEIR EXPERIENCES IN BATTLE AND ON AIR SCOUT
    DUTY. ALL PROFUSELY ILLUSTRATED WITH AUTHENTIC DRAWINGS.


    =The Boy Volunteers on the Belgian Front=

        Describes the adventures of two American boys who were in Europe
        when the great war commenced. Their enlistment with Belgian
        troops and their remarkable experiences are based upon actual
        occurrences and the book is replete with line drawings of
        fighting machines, air planes and maps of places where the most
        important battles took place and of other matters of interest.

    =The Boy Volunteers with the French Airmen=

        This book relates the further adventures of the young Americans
        in France, where they viewed the fighting from above the firing
        lines. From this book the reader gains considerable knowledge of
        the different types of air planes and battle planes used by the
        warring nations, as all descriptions are illustrated with
        unusually clear line drawings.

    =The Boy Volunteers with the British Artillery=

        How many boys today know anything about the great guns now being
        used on so many European battle fronts? Our young friends had the
        rare opportunity of witnessing, at first hand, a number of these
        terrific duels, and the story which is most fascinatingly told
        is illustrated with numerous drawings of the British, French and
        German field pieces.

    =The Boy Volunteers with the Submarine Fleet=

        Our young heroes little expected to be favored with so rare an
        experience as a trip under the sea in one of the great
        submarines. In this book the author accurately describes the
        submarine in action, and the many interesting features of this
        remarkable fighting craft are made clear to the reader by a
        series of splendid line drawings.


  THE NEW YORK BOOK COMPANY
  PUBLISHERS       NEW YORK



[Illustration: _"At them, boys!" shrieked the Corporal._]



                          THE BOY VOLUNTEERS
                               WITH THE
                           BRITISH ARTILLERY

                                  BY
                             KENNETH WARD

                       THE NEW YORK BOOK COMPANY
                               NEW YORK



                          Copyright, 1917, by
                    AMERICAN AUTHORS PUBLISHING CO.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                 PAGE

     I. THE DECISION                                        13

    II. THE FIGHT IN DEVIL'S CUT                            24

   III. THE 75-MILLIMETRE GUNS                              32

    IV. A LESSON IN OBSERVATION                             42

     V. THE CURTAIN OF FIRE                                 50

    VI. A SHELLED BATTLEFIELD                               60

   VII. A LIVELY CAMP BEHIND THE LINES                      70

  VIII. THE SPIES IN THE CAMP                               82

    IX. THE LAWS AGAINST SPIES                              93

     X. A DIFFICULT TRIP TO THE MAIN TRENCHES              104

    XI. DISCOVERING A GERMAN RANGE-FINDER                  116

   XII. FINDING THE ENEMY'S BATTERY                        128

  XIII. THE MYSTERIOUS FIGURES ON THE RANGE-FINDER         140

   XIV. CAUGHT IN A TERRIFIC DRIVE                         152



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  _"At them, boys!" shrieked the Corporal_      _Frontispiece_

                                                          PAGE

  _Method of Signaling from Airplanes_                      53

  _Peculiarities of Trajectories_                           56

  _Peculiarities of Trajectories_                           57

  _The Deadly Shrapnel Shell_                               68

  _The Spy's Account Book_                                  91

  _Pontooning Heavy Guns Across a Stream_                  101

  _A German Range-Finder_                                  118

  _Arrangement of Guns on Hill 203_                        138



THE BOY VOLUNTEERS

WITH THE BRITISH

ARTILLERY



CHAPTER I

THE DECISION


"It seemed to me as though I should never have the courage to go back
to the airplane service since Lieutenant Guyon was killed," remarked
Ralph, as he and Alfred were convalescing in the American Hospital, in
Paris.

"That is the way I feel about it, too," replied Alfred. "To think that
he should have escaped the terrific shower of bullets, while we were
coming down, to be killed by having the machine hit the ground, the
way it did, makes me feel so sad that I sometimes wonder whether it is
really so."

"I suppose the only thing we can do now is to go home; and, still, that
doesn't seem to be the right thing, just now," replied Ralph.

"No; I am not in favor of that; suppose we go to England,—anywhere,
or anything except that which will remind us of poor Guyon," answered
Alfred, as he sat in the huge chair and slowly nodded his head.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the outbreak of the war Alfred and Ralph were on the way from
southern Germany to Antwerp in an auto, accompanied by a Belgian
chauffeur, where they were pursued by the Germans near the frontier.
They escaped for a time, but were afterwards arrested by the Germans
and finally liberated. On their way to Antwerp they took part with the
Belgians in resisting the advances of the foe. Reaching Antwerp, they
escaped with the Belgian army, at the time the city was besieged, and
after some adventures, crossed the northern part of Belgium and reached
Dunkirk on the Channel.

From that point, in the endeavor to reach Paris, they had some stirring
exploits, which tested their metal on many occasions.

From the time they left Belgian territory it had been their wish to
join the aviation corps, and this wish was gratified after they had
left Paris and made their way to the eastern part of France. The corps
to which they belonged was stationed at Verdun, the most vigorous
outpost of the fighting line.

There they were constantly engaged during a full year of most intrepid
warfare. They owed their success in joining the corps as actual
combatants to a peculiar incident. Before reaching the Verdun camp they
had met Lieutenant Guyon, attached to the station at Bar-le-Duc, and
with him they made numerous flights, especially in the work of testing
machines. On one occasion the lieutenant, who was the victim of a weak
heart, was attacked with the disease while aloft, and the boys piloted
the machine to earth in safety, notwithstanding the excitement caused
by the sudden pitching of the machine. It was sufficient to show that
the boys were made of the right stuff, and the officer appreciated
their bravery.

Thereafter, the boys were his constant companions, flying with him on
many occasions and engaging with him in some of the most brilliant
encounters in the air with German aviators. The time came, however,
when, after fighting three of the swiftest and most notable German
aeroplanes, both of the boys were wounded. In the effort of the
lieutenant to bring the badly crippled machine to earth, it was
impossible to prevent the catastrophe which followed. The lieutenant
and one of the boys were thrown from the machine, and the officer died
from the effect of internal injuries within a week.

The wounds of the boys were severe, and they were held at the base
hospital for weeks before their condition was such as to permit
them to be sent to the Paris Hospital. At the time of the foregoing
conversation they had been convalescing for a month. The death of their
friend was a terrible blow to them, so severe that, as indicated by
their conversation, they did not feel like participating in any more
airship work.

"I suppose we shall always have a feeling that there is nothing like
flying," said Ralph, as he mused over their experiences that evening.

"It is all right, and I hope to do a great deal of flying after the war
is over, but I suppose we might as well make up our minds to give it up
for good at this time," replied Alfred.

It was really a relief that the final decision had come, for the
feeling of reverence was so strong for their dead friend that it seemed
as though something would be wrong to go up in an airship without him.

"When shall we start?" said Ralph the next morning.

"As soon as they give us the discharge," replied Alfred. "You know
no one is permitted to leave the hospital until the doctor gives his
certificate."

A week thereafter they were informed by the nurse that the doctor had
prepared a certificate to the effect that both were able to leave.
In one way this was very gratifying, but they could not forget the
tender care which had been bestowed on them from the moment they became
patients there.

The certificates were finally handed to them, and, going to their
rooms, they sadly packed up the few things which had accumulated. As
they passed out and marched down between the rows of cots, with the
packages on their backs, every patient greeted them. The history of
the boys had reached every one long before this time, so they were not
permitted to go without the usual wishes.

"Sorry to see you go, but glad you are good as ever!" "Give them fits
this time;" "Send the Boches my compliments," said another. "Where are
you bound for this time?" cried a voice, from across the room. Every
remark, in fact, indicating that they were expected to return to the
fighting line.

The emotions awakened by the greetings and the good wishes were too
deep to dispel the idea. They could not, in the presence of the
enthusiastic men all about them, say that they had enough of the
_fighting game_, as every one called it. It made them feel as though
something was wrong, and as they neared the door they almost made a
bound for it.

As they walked down the steps, Ralph looked at Alfred with a peculiar
expression on his face. Alfred turned away, but suddenly wheeled around.

"Well, are we going back?" he asked with startling suddenness.

"I felt awfully sheepish; didn't you?" asked Ralph.

"No; I felt like a coward. Now when I think of it I don't remember of
a single fellow who left the hospital since we have been here who ever
suggested that he wasn't going back," replied Alfred.

"That's a fact; well, I'm going back, but not, in the airship service,"
said Ralph. "No; I couldn't do that; anything but flying."

"Hello!" cried a voice behind them. "Out for good, are you? Well,
sorry to lose you; we have a very polite way of bidding our patients
good-bye, and I suppose I shall have to spring it on you."

"What is that?" asked Ralph.

"Hope you won't come back again," replied the doctor, with a laugh.

The boys were really unprepared for mirth just at this time, but they
managed to assure the doctor that his wishes were reciprocated.

"Which way now?" continued the doctor.

"We don't know," replied Alfred. "We are debating what to do."

"You see," interrupted Ralph, "since Lieutenant Guyon's death we are
all broken up, and we have been debating whether or not we can go back
into the service."

"Go back?" queried the doctor. "You don't have to go back; you are
still in the service. Were you discharged by any one?" he asked,
glancing at them keenly.

"Why, no; we never thought of that," said Alfred, looking at Ralph.

"We were just talking about going to England," explained Ralph.

"If you did you would be deserters," replied the doctor with a smile.

"Well, I thought it was singular that when they gave us the
certificates they should give us these slips," said Alfred, pulling out
the document.

"Of course, you are still in the service, and that is merely an order
for the last month's pay."

"I know that, but they didn't say anything about keeping on," said
Ralph.

"They don't have to. You are in and the only way to get out is to be
invalided, or to get a discharge in a regular way, and then you are
free. Of course, we know how you feel about the death of your friend,
and no one blames you for your aversion to re-entering the aviation
service; but if you really want to get out, the matter can be easily
arranged by applying to the American Ambassador, on the ground that you
are Americans, and are minors," said the doctor.

The boys looked at each other in silence, and finally Ralph spoke: "I
think it would be well to do that; would you mind taking the steps for
us?"

"I certainly shall be glad to do so; you have earned an honorable
discharge, if any one has," said the doctor.

It thus turned out that three days after leaving the hospital, they
received a document at their hotel from the American Embassy. On
opening it they found two documents, reciting that Alfred Elton and
Ralph Cottrell, native Americans, in the aviation service, were
entitled to honorable discharges.

Somehow the news was not enthusiastically received. They glanced at
each other for a few moments in silence.

"Does that suit you?" asked Ralph.

"Not in the least," said Alfred with a mournful shake of the head. "I
don't think the doctor had any business to get us out of the service."

"But we told him that is what we wanted."

They walked down the rue Rivoli, passed through the place de la
Concorde, and reached the Champs Elysees in a half daze. Soldiers were
moving hither and thither, vehicles of every description, Red Cross
vans, and even cavalry squads were in the procession, but none of them
seemed to attract their attention, so completely were they absorbed in
the last episode of their lives, and, besides, they had seen so many of
the trappings of war that a few more or less did not seem to cause much
of a ripple.

But as they slowly moved along the street they stopped, as by a
common impulse, to witness a procession of machine guns mounted on
smart little autos, followed by two full batteries of field guns.
The artillery pieces were mounted on specially made auto trucks, and
trailing behind each truck was the caisson.

"Now, that looks like business," said Ralph. "It would have taken from
eight to twelve horses to pull the gun and ammunition around. Gee! how
soon those fellows could get into action and pull out when the command
is given!"

"That would suit me about as well as the flyers, but I suppose we
haven't an earthly chance to get in on that," said Alfred ruefully.

"Why not? We can get there if we try hard enough," responded Ralph.

Alfred, with his eyes intent on the fine display before him, did not
respond. The discharge, honorable though it was, made a sore spot in
the heart of each.

The following morning they awoke earlier than usual. The usual topic
was again taken up and discussed.

"Suppose we take a trip to the Artillerie Ecole?" remarked Alfred.

"Where is it?" asked Ralph.

"I don't know, myself, but it is across the river, somewhere. It was
founded by the first Napoleon; it was always his hobby," said Alfred.

"Yes, I know. It was he who said that God was always on the side that
had the heaviest artillery," responded Ralph.

"I don't think he would say so if he lived in the present time,"
answered Alfred.

"Why not?" asked Ralph.

"Why, he would have said 'With the most airplanes,'" suggested Alfred.

Ralph laughed at the new idea. "Well, you may be right. I think that if
the Allies would put more money and energy into flying machines and less
in big guns, there would be more likelihood of success; but I don't
suppose we ought to know it all," said Ralph with a sarcastic grin.

When they arrived at the artillery school they were still garbed in
the uniforms indicating the service in which they had been engaged.
A kindly professor, in the uniform of a colonel, received them with
smiles, and he questioned them about their work, and to him they
confided their wishes.

"You have been granted honorable discharges, and it would not be prudent
for me to make any recommendations, however meritorious your services
might have been," he remarked. After some reflection he continued:

"If you are really bent on going back and entering the artillery
branch, it would be well to apply to the English officials. They are
preparing a tremendous organization in that direction."

"Thank you," said Ralph. "We shall, probably, act upon your suggestion."

Returning to the hotel the question was again considered, and the
decision formed to depart for the British sector at once. That
afternoon they emerged from the hotel and wended their way to the
Gard du Nord, as the great northwest station of Paris is known. There
two tickets were purchased for Amiens, a town eighty miles north, by
railway, as they considered they would be able, probably, to get into
contact with the British forces at that point.

It was late in the morning when the train rolled into the city, and
seizing their haversacks, the boys were quickly out of the train and
ranged up alongside the military restaurant, awaiting an opportunity to
be served. They were informed that a movement of great importance was
going on in the sector directly east of that point, as was indicated
by the vast number of field pieces, which were constantly being
transported by motor and lorry.

It was, really, the beginning of the combined English and French
drive in the Somme region, as it is now known. A dapper little French
sergeant, who sat between them, volunteered much of the information,
which they were eager to obtain, as to the localities and disposition
of the forces.

"My battery was detrained at Moreil yesterday, and they will come
north and cross the canal about eight kilometers east of the city," he
remarked, in response to their questionings.

"That is the branch of the service we are anxious to join," said Alfred.

"What? after having had a hand with the flyers?" he asked, as he looked
at them quizzically.

"Yes; our best friend was killed, and then the doctor at the hospital
was so much interested in us as to get us discharged," responded Ralph.

"But the artillery is a tough place; you've got to rough it and stand
an awful lot of pounding. Why, in the Champagne region, where we came
from at the time we made the five-mile sweep, we went ahead so fast
that the commissary couldn't keep up with us, and we were in the fight
at one stretch for more than seventy hours, and with little to eat at
that."

That was said not in a boastful way, but merely to impress on them the
hard lot of an artilleryman.

"I suppose that is so," remarked Alfred. "But that's what the infantry
men say; and the air pilots think they have a particularly tough time
of it, and even the Red Cross people are in danger all the time; but
that's to be expected."

"Oh, if you're bound to go, there will be plenty to do, but the chances
of getting in are pretty slim unless by regular enlistment."



CHAPTER II

THE FIGHT IN DEVIL'S CUT


One of the important canals in northern France starts from the English
Channel, near Abbeville, and parallels the Somme river, passing through
Amiens, extending thence to Peronne, within the German lines. It was an
important artery for the transportation of munitions and heavy ordnance
directly to the front.

When, two hours after the conversation related in the last chapter,
the sergeant hunted around for means of conveyance to the section
where his battery was to reach the canal, the boys accompanied him.
Accommodations were finally secured on one of the many vans which lined
the highway, and before noon the sergeant informed them that, as they
were approaching the great highway leading to Corbie, he would have to
bid them good-bye, as that was the point designated for the battery to
ship on the canal.

The boys debated the question, whether to remain or proceed to the
front, and finally decided to continue their journey. But before
proceeding two miles further the procession of loaded trucks halted,
and the work of unloading began. They had reached the last permanent
depot near the fighting line, but what to do now was the question. They
were no nearer the object of their desires than when they left Paris.

"I wonder why they are loading up that truck?" asked Ralph, as they
glanced at several power machines close by. "Those boxes are going to
the front, I am sure."

"Want any help!" asked Alfred.

"That's always welcome," said one of the men.

"All right, then," said Alfred, "here goes. Which boxes do you want
first?"

They had already learned that there is nothing so welcome in the
busy front as willingness to lend a hand. It is the open sesame to
friendship and advancement.

"Where are you bound?" asked Ralph, as they marched to and fro.

"Right up to the front. These things must reach the 14th battery before
night," was the reply.

Each of these trucks carried two tons of provisions, loads greatly
in excess of the weights for which they were built, but that was of
no consequence. The fighters must have something to eat, whatever
happened. When the last boxes were piled up the boys remained on the
truck, and the driver, nodding at them pleasantly, threw in the clutch
and speeded out the road to the east.

"How long have you been at this business?" asked Ralph.

"Three months," was the reply.

"How do you like the job?" asked Alfred.

"I like anything that will help the boys at the front," was the reply.

"Is this your regular business?" asked Ralph.

"Well, no, not exactly," he replied. "I didn't have any regular
business before the war, but when it came along I went back into the
army, and I would be there now if the Boches hadn't permanently lamed
me; you see I can't quite get my right leg to straighten out. But it's
all right; we saved France at the Marne, and I'd give the other leg to
give them another such a licking as they got there."

"Let me relieve you," said Alfred after the second hour.

"Why, yes; an offer like that would be acceptable," he replied, as he
rose from his seat.

In all their conversation the man had the aspect of a true gentleman,
and he was certainly out of his element, in that menial position. Later
the boys learned from the assistant on the truck that Loree was the son
of a nobleman, and after having been invalided he insisted on taking
his place in the capacity where he might be most useful.

"Why, you would be surprised, just as I am and have been ever since
this war began, to find how many of the young men of the noble families
of France are doing this kind of work, after they have been rendered
unfit for duty in the ranks," said their companion to Ralph, as they
were seated on the rear of the van.

"How often do you make these trips?" asked Ralph.

"Twice a day, if we can get across the Devil's Cut without
interruption," was the answer.

"What do you mean by the Devil's Cut?" asked Ralph.

"Well, we have a stretch of about two kilometers that's like going
through hell fire. The Germans have had the range of that road for a
month. When we get through that we are all right, and sometimes they
let us pass without shelling; but not often," was the answer.

An hour thereafter the driver moved along and notified Alfred that it
would be necessary for him to take the wheel. "Now get on the left side
of the truck low down," he said to the boy.

Without asking why, he did so and was surprised to see the assistant
and Ralph hanging to a narrow running board at the side.

"What's up?" shouted Alfred.

"We are near the Devil's Cut," said Ralph.

"Well, we are in it now," said the assistant. "Everything seems fairly
quiet,——"

"Bang." Something exploded. The boys had heard that sound before. It
startled but did not disconcert them.

"What! are we going right into the German lines?" asked Alfred, as he
glanced about.

"No," responded Ralph, "but we have a mile or so of close work, and
this is the way the Germans have of welcoming us, as well,——"

"Crash,——" came the second shell, followed by another, completely
drowning the voice of the assistant.

"They mean to get us this time, sure," said he finally. "Some airship
gave them the tip, as they usually do. We must now make a run for it, I
am sure of that."

The words had hardly left his lips before it seemed as though a dozen
shells had burst simultaneously. One of the missiles had struck the
load, or some of the flying pieces went through. The truck stopped.
The assistant was lying on the ground motionless, and Ralph, although
unhurt, was beneath a heavy box, as Alfred picked himself up and looked
around.

He drew Ralph out and glanced at the assistant. "Too bad!" said the
driver, as he descended from the van, and stooped down to examine his
assistant. "That fragment finished him. But we haven't time to wait
here. They have our range, and we cannot help him now. Get in quickly;
there is another one coming, back there; two more,—oh! but they'll
make mince meat of those fellows."

Looking back the boys saw a half-dozen loaded vans, all speeding up,
and some of the men waving their hats in frenzy of excitement.

"Hiding doesn't do much good, but stay down at the side as long as you
can," he shouted back.

Another explosion, this time most deafening, and so near that it seemed
the truck was thrown to one side,—still on went the machine. Then
something peculiar happened. The van started across the field toward
the German lines.

"Something's wrong!" shouted Ralph. "I wonder what the driver is up to
now? We're off the road."

Alfred drew himself up and Ralph saw him disappear toward the front of
the van. The latter followed, and, as he gained the top of the load, he
noticed Alfred leaning over and grasping the steering wheel. The van
swerved around and reached the road, after two of the loaded vehicles
passed them. No sooner had they regained the road when they met a hail
of shrapnel, this time one of the shells striking full and fair beneath
the machine directly ahead.

Alfred had barely time to turn the machine to avoid the wreckage made
by the shot. It was not such a time as to enable the men on one machine
to aid those who were so unfortunate as to be hit by the missiles. The
last series of explosions, unfortunately, struck the driver of the
first van to pass them, as well as demolished the second. Ralph saw the
driver fall and the machine turn. It described a circle.

Alfred looked back and put on the brake hard. Ralph understood. He
leaped from the truck, and rushed across the intervening space, being
fortunate enough to seize a stanchion at the side of the wild van as it
dashed by. It was but a moment's work to reach the chauffeur's seat. He
waved his cap to Alfred, whose car was now again on the main road. They
had now gone more than half the distance across the Cut, and, looking
back, Ralph saw four machines intact and following them. One was
completely demolished and the load scattered; and another, evidently,
had the motive power out of commission.

But they were not yet out of the danger zone. Alfred was now in the
lead, and he had no idea where to go or what roads to take, as they
approached several divergent roads. With shrapnel flying all about, he
halted and as Ralph came up he drove alongside.

"What is the matter?" asked Ralph.

"Nothing," answered Alfred. "Wait until the other fellows come up. Some
one must take the lead."

The third machine drew alongside.

"Go on," said Ralph. "We don't know the way."

"Nor do I," replied the driver.

"Has your driver recovered?" asked Ralph.

"No, I am afraid he is done for; he has an awful cut across the head,"
answered Alfred. "But come on; we can't wait to get information here."

Another machine appeared as the vans driven by Alfred and Ralph were
getting under way.

"This way! this way!" shouted a voice on the fourth machine. "Down to
the left; and don't waste a minute if you don't want to be blown from
the face of the earth."

A cavalryman sped past, waving his carbine, and rounded up Alfred. "Go
back quickly; turn to the left."

Ralph was caught in time; they rounded the crest of a little hill, and
then, for the first time, the rear batteries came into view, and a
mile beyond, rows of sheds appeared in sight.

"That is your place," shouted the man on horseback. "Follow the row of
trees to the right, but don't cross the bridge."

The throttle was thrown on full speed, and, although the roads were
fearfully cut up, and great holes appeared at every turn, which had to
be avoided, they never stopped the maddening race until the first guard
line was reached.

As they turned into the compound where a division was quartered, a
speedy motor car dashed out, and, halting before Alfred's car, signaled
for him to stop.

"Did you all get through?" shouted an officer.

"We left two behind," said Alfred.

The officer sat down, gave a quick order, and speeded away to go back
into that scorching streak of road called the Devil's Cut, to rescue
those who had fallen. This was a mere incident repeated day by day,
until two batteries of 75-millimeter guns were placed in position, a
week thereafter, when that section of the road was made as safe as any
in France.



CHAPTER III

THE 75-MILLIMETER GUNS


The Director of the Commissary Department, with his staff, was on hand
to inspect the six van loads, which drove into the space between the
store sheds. He stopped in front of the van occupied by Ralph. The
latter stood up and saluted.

"We had a hot time of it," said Ralph.

Without replying for a moment the officer quickly glanced at Alfred in
the following car, in astonishment.

"How does it happen that you are in charge of these vans?" he asked.

"We were aboard on the trip, and when the drivers were hit we took
their places," said Alfred.

"Did you know what chances you were taking?" he asked.

"Well, no," replied Ralph, "but that didn't make any difference. We are
used to taking chances."

"You deserve great credit for the work. Orderly, take the names of
these young men, and assign them quarters. Be at my office in an hour,"
he said.

"Thank you; we will be there," said Alfred. "Where shall we take these
vans?"

"The officer in charge of transportation will direct you," was the
reply.

After the loads had been disposed of and they were walking toward the
commandant's quarters, Ralph said: "We seem to get into the service by
the back-door route right along."

"Why, do you think they will give us a job running those vans?" asked
Alfred.

"Possibly so; but I don't want any of it in mine. I'd like to join the
artillery and smash the life out of those fellows who are shelling
Devil's Cut," replied Ralph.

At the appointed time the boys entered the commandant's office. The
drivers of the different vans were present, and all greeted the two
boys with considerable show of appreciation.

"How did it happen that you were on the goods vans?" asked the officer.

"We were trying to get to the front, so we took the opportunity to help
them load up, and just came along after we got through," said Alfred.

"Where did you get your uniforms?" he asked.

"We wore these while we were in the service," replied Ralph, and, as
the latter said this, he drew out the discharge paper, and Alfred took
pleasure in doing likewise.

The officer glanced at the papers, nodded his head approvingly, and
said: "Those credentials are certainly creditable to you. We admire
Americans, and assure you we have the utmost respect for the American
boy. Do you wish to enter the service? We can use brave fellows like
yourselves."

"We are trying to join the artillery," said Ralph, "but we haven't
succeeded so far in getting a position."

"I am sorry I cannot be of any service to you in that direction,"
responded the officer, "but I can commend you to the commanding
general, in submitting my report."

On leaving the building they passed a group of men, who, evidently,
were discussing the incidents of the afternoon, for, as they
approached, some of the men saluted them, and one of them held up his
hand to stop them.

"I am requested to say that Count Le Clery wishes to see you," he said.

They looked at him in a bewildered way. "Count Le Clery, who is he?"
asked Alfred.

"You will find him in the hospital, ward 8," was the reply.

"Does he want to see us now?" asked Ralph.

"Yes; he is able to see you now," was the answer.

Entering the hospital they were directed to a row of cots, patient C,
28. Before them was a man with a bandaged head, and an arm stretched
across the bed, held straight with a splint.

"I don't suppose you recognize me?" said the man.

Alfred looked closer and slowly shook his head.

"I am told that you and your friend piloted my car and another through
that storm in Devil's Cut," he said.

"Oh, I know you now," said Ralph. "Well, we couldn't do anything else,
could we?"

"Well, I want to thank you, and tell you that you have made a friend
who will never forget you. I remember the conversation with you before
we had our little accident," he continued, addressing Alfred. "We need
young men of your stamp, and I will keep you in mind and act as soon as
I am able to move about."

Incidents of this kind are always the subjects of conversation among
hospital internes. They seem to crave excitement, and like to talk
about exceptional exploits. That the boys were volunteers and Americans
at that, lately in the aviation corps, bearing honorable discharges for
valuable services rendered, was certainly worthy of comment.

It was with some surprise that they were directed by the orderly to
take possession of a tent, and assigned to a mess made up of the clerks
of the warehouse. There they found several other young men, and during
the two weeks they remained, were general favorites with every one in
the government employ.

Late in the evening, hearing an unusual bustle outside, and the tooting
of horns, they peered out, and saw a dozen goods vans coming across
the compound. On investigation they learned that the last supply vans
had not been molested in the least, but the first convoy to reach the
field base the next morning was literally shot to pieces, two of the
chauffeurs having been killed, several of the assistants severely
wounded, and three of the vans completely demolished.

The supply station was less than a mile behind the lines, but it was
well concealed behind a bluff on the western side of the little stream,
and only occasionally would a shell find its way to that section.
The precaution was taken by the commanding officer, to keep a score
of airplanes above and near the camp and thus prevent the enemy from
locating the spot.

During the following day they visited the trenches, not on account of
the novelty, but more a matter of curiosity. On returning they crossed
the stream and ascended an elevation, designated as Hill 207, where
they inspected the battery and conversed with some of the gunners.

"The big Bobs are on the way," said the sergeant, in speaking of the
preparations that were going on for the great drive.

"What do you mean by that?" asked Alfred.

"Oh, that's the term we use for the 75's," he replied.

"They are the fellows we must see," said Ralph, as they walked down the
hill.

"When did that fellow say the 75's would come up?" asked Alfred the
following morning.

"He said they were on the way now," answered Ralph. "Suppose we ask the
boys."

Every one had heard of the famous 14th, which had done such terrible
execution east of Marmelon. It was understood that they were to take
up position along the ridge west of Hill 209.

"Let's go over there at once," said Ralph.

It was a long tramp to the top, made doubly tedious and difficult owing
to the torn-up condition of the earth. This entire section had been
shelled by the French for more than two weeks, and now, in turn, the
Germans were bombarding the same region. It would be impossible to give
an adequate idea of the nature of the fields over which they traveled.
At every convenient spot the light field batteries were stationed, and
after numerous inquiries the place selected for the famous battery was
located.

Before noon the great field pieces were being transported in a long
train through the narrow valley south of the river, while airplanes
were circling around continually, a sure indication that something
unusual was happening in that particular part of the front.

Below the hill to the west, and entirely out of sight of the German
observation posts, was a deep ravine through which an emergency
railroad had been operated, and a great tractor was drawing the guns
headed for the depression.

"That's where they are going to land those guns," said Ralph in
excitement. "Look at the men filing up along the ditch."

"Come on," shouted Alfred.

They rushed down the hill, and impatiently awaited the arrival of the
first section. The great tractor paid no attention to the soft earth
and the shell holes in its path. It rolled along serenely like a thing
of life.

"Just in time, boys!" called out a voice from the ammunition van behind
the gun.

"It's the sergeant," said Alfred.

"So it is," replied Ralph. "Do you want any help!" he asked, as he
rushed over and walked alongside the heavy truck.

"Oh, there'll be plenty to do as soon as we unlimber," replied the
sergeant.

"One, two, three, four, five, six. I suppose they'll put them all along
this hollow'?"

"What are they bringing that brush for?" asked Ralph. "Look at those
trucks filled with trees."

"We're going to plant a grove here," said the sergeant. "That will take
some work."

The boys looked at each other. There would be plenty to do. An
officer, the commander of the battery, rushed up in a motor car, and,
in a business-like manner ordered the spacing of the guns, and the
disposition of the racks which held the ammunition. The racks are
really pigeon holes in a heavily built frame, each frame holding a
hundred of these shells. They are located about ten feet from the gun
so as to be within convenient distance for supplying the ordnance after
each discharge.

The boys admired the wonderful mechanism, and the sergeant was quick to
notice their great interest in the arrangement for rapidly manoeuvering
the piece.

"That is the most remarkable weapon that the war has produced,"
explained the sergeant, as he dismounted. "The Germans have tried to
imitate it, but we are always just a little ahead of them, and can fire
three shots to every two that they will get out of their best. Wait
until tomorrow and you will see some business with the fellows on the
other side."

"Good!" said Alfred. "We owe them a thing or two for what they tried to
do to us yesterday."

"What's that?" he asked.

"They shelled us all the way through Devil's Cut, but we managed to
bring out several of the trucks," said Ralph.

"Why, we heard of that down at the village this morning," said the
sergeant. "And you are really the fellows that helped out our men? That
was fine! I must tell the captain about it."

He beckoned to the boys. They followed.

After the usual salute, the sergeant, addressing an officer, said: "Do
you remember the story we heard at the village this morning about a
couple of young fellows who were brave enough to rescue several vans at
Devil's Cut yesterday? Here are the boys who did the work."

"I am glad to know you. What! in the aviation service?" he remarked,
looking at their uniforms.

"But not now," said Ralph. "We are looking for a chance to help out
with the artillery."

The captain looked pleased at this quick introduction of the subject
on the part of the boys. Then, turning to the sergeant, he said: "The
chapparal, officer; they can help out in that direction." Then, turning
to the boys, he continued: "I am afraid you will not have a very easy
time of it, for those vans will have to be unloaded and the guns
concealed before we commence business."

Then the boys understood. They saluted and accompanied by the sergeant,
mounted the first vehicle, which had stopped in the rear of one of the
guns. Out came the brush and the poles. Meanwhile, the gun in charge of
the sergeant was pushed back, while a squad of men began to level the
ground in the deep depression.

The gun was wheeled into position, and the wheels underpinned with
timbers curiously laid together and tamped, making a solid foundation.
Then began the work of concealment, so that those prized pieces of the
French artillery would be safe from the prying eyes of the German air
fleet.

"Now, boys," said the sergeant, addressing the special squad delegated
for the building of the chapparal, "plant several of the heavy poles
with the brushy tops on each side of the gun; then stretch wires
across and hang the small brush to them. Be sure to distribute them
irregularly, so as to make it as natural as possible."

Shovels and picks were now employed feverishly to dig the holes and
plant the poles. The wires were strung and the decorations added, not
only along and around the location of each gun, but in the spaces
between the pieces. The vans came up continually with new burdens of
boughs, until the boys thought there would be no end to this new
species of arbor culture.

"Ralph, do you think we could spot this place at a distance of five
thousand feet in a swift Morane?" asked Alfred.

"I should say not," replied Ralph, "but there is one thing I should do
if I had anything to say about it."

"And what is that?" asked the captain, who overheard the remark.

"I'd completely cover the breech of the gun and the ammunition case,"
he answered.

"And why?" asked the captain, with a smile.

"Because the merest glimpse of shiny metal is likely to be noticed when
flying. I have seen that many times when flying, and Lieutenant Guyon
always told us to watch for it," replied Ralph.

"You are right," answered the captain. "That will be your work. Here,
men, follow the instruction of these boys as to the placing of the
boughs."

The sergeant showed his pleasure at the order, for he somehow felt
himself to be sponsor for the boys. "You've got the old man going," he
whispered to the boys.

"Shall I go to the next gun?" inquired Alfred, addressing the captain.

"By all means; orderly, instruct the workers to follow the direction of
the young men," said the captain.



CHAPTER IV

A LESSON IN OBSERVATION


The strenuous work was completed before night covered the scene. The
flying machines had acted as a screen, and the guns, now in position,
were effectually covered from the eyes of a prying foe. As they were
about to leave the captain said:

"For the present you may find room in the vans, but tomorrow the
regular quarters will be prepared near the guns."

The steaming hot supper, which was brought up in the kitchen vans, was
relished as never before. After the meal they sat around and talked
over the incidents of the day, and learned each other's histories, for
there is a comradeship in the field that obtains nowhere else in any
other occupation.

"And so you have been flying?" said the sergeant. "That has always had
a fascination for me, but, strange as it may seem, I have never yet
been up in the air, although I have had many opportunities. I have
often wondered how things look from a height of two kilometers."

"Well, the first time I went up I couldn't distinguish a thing," said
Ralph. "I could tell what trees were, and could make out rivers, and
houses, of course, but outside of that everything else looked like a
blurred picture."

"Couldn't you make out people walking, or troops marching, and the
like?" asked one of the men.

"No, indeed," said Alfred. "Why, how big do you suppose a man would
look at a distance of five thousand feet, when you are directly
overhead?"

"I don't know," replied the sergeant, with an inquiring look. "I don't
suppose he could be seen at all, unless he happened to be moving."

"Why, at that distance it would be impossible to see the man, moving
or not, for he would not appear bigger to the eye than the end of the
finest wire," Ralph informed him.

"I remember when we made our first flights at Bar-le-Duc, that the
lieutenant asked us to give him our impression as to the sizes of
objects we saw and to tell him what they were. When a fellow is
flying about the first thing he will notice is a river, if there is
one anywhere in the neighborhood, and, of course, I saw a bridge. I
couldn't wait until we landed before I marked it down on a piece of
paper: 'A bridge; 200 feet long.' I thought I'd get it long enough. We
were then flying about 5,000 feet above the earth. I saw the lieutenant
smile. At that height the bridge looked about like a lead pencil held
ten feet from the eye. Well, when we landed, the lieutenant said: 'It
was a bridge, sure enough, but it happens to be seven hundred feet
long.'"

"That reminds me," observed Alfred, "that we talked about several
other things on that trip, and it will show how poor the judgment
is unless the eye is well trained. Do you remember the drill ground
east of Fleury? Well, we were asked to put down the number of men we
could estimate in each group, and I was particularly anxious to tell
the lieutenant how many men were in each of the squares which were
formed. Each block of men, as they appeared to me, were about the size
of a domino. I felt sure there couldn't be more than 50 men, but the
lieutenant said there were at least two hundred."

"But that isn't the worst of it," rejoined Ralph. "We knew they were
soldiers, because they were on the drill ground, but if that same
number of men had been in the open country, it would have taken an
expert to see them. I was fooled in that way not long after the
experience I was just telling about, and, although the lieutenant
pointed out the marching men, I couldn't spot them until he told me to
watch for the glint of steel that would occasionally flash out. Then I
understood."

"I have heard it said that if every moving object, it mattered not how
big it might be, were painted the same color as the earth and other
surrounding objects, aviators would not be able to discover them; is
that really so?" inquired the sergeant.

"Yes," answered Ralph. "I think it's pretty near the truth. Sometimes
even the upturned face of a man will attract attention, although the
face makes a mighty small speck, but I believe that fellows who think
they can see a man's face at a distance of 5,000 feet, either use a
field glass, or the man below happened to be wearing eye glasses, for
they make fine reflectors for the airmen."

"But those who are flying get birds' eyes, after a time," said Alfred.

"What is that?" asked the captain, who appeared at the door. "Do you
think a man's eyesight grows keener by flying, after he is at it for a
time?"

"It seems so to me," answered Ralph.

The captain shook his head. "I think that is a misapprehension. The
eyesight does not become sharper or more acute."

"Then how is it that I can now see things that I could not notice when
we first began to fly?" asked Alfred.

"Observation! observation, my boy! You can't see one whit better today
than you could the first time you went aloft," said the captain. "The
eye is a very deceptive thing,—you laugh at the statement,—well,
I'm going to prove it. In everything you see the judgment is not
formed by what the eye tells you, but by your knowledge, your habit of
observation and application growing out of previous experiences."

"Pardon me, Captain. Do you mean to say that the eye doesn't correctly
tell you distance or size or what the object really is?" asked Alfred.

"That's exactly what I mean," replied the captain.

"Well, that's a new idea to me," said Ralph.

"Suppose we examine that. I have an article here,—a box, in my hand.
Tell me, Ralph, how large it is, what it is made of, and what it is
used for?" said the captain.

"Quite easy," replied the boy. "It is about two inches long; is made of
metal, of some kind, and is used to hold matches."

"The answer needs examination. Now, tell me, first, how you judged it
to be two inches long," remarked the captain.

"Why, I should easily judge that, because it wasn't as big as your
hand, and not even as long as one of your fingers," said Ralph.

"In other words, you used my hand to measure it by, or, if my hand
hadn't been there you would have guessed its size because you knew,
approximately, the size of match boxes; is that it?" asked the captain.

"Yes," was the answer.

"Very well; how did you know it was of metal?" was the next question.

There was a broad grin on the faces of all; that was too easy; Ralph's
face was all aglow as he answered: "Because I know that all match boxes
are made of metal, and it looked like metal."

"You mean it was your previous knowledge; that is a fair answer,"
replied the captain. "But how did you know its uses?"

Ralph glanced about preparatory to making the answer, and Alfred
replied: "I should say because I know that a box of that kind and
of that size, and I've seen hundreds of them, is used for holding
matches."

"Well answered. Now, let us sum up: the eye told you that the box was
about two inches long. That is fairly accurate. You got the measurement
simply by comparison. If a box had been placed within the range of your
vision, so that there would be absolutely nothing with which to compare
it, you could not have told by a mere observation of the eye whether it
was an inch or three inches long," observed the captain.

"Do you mean I wouldn't have been able to tell the size of a match
safe?" asked Alfred.

"No; I didn't say match safe. I said if _a box_ had been exhibited
before you. If I had asked you the size of a match safe it wouldn't
have been necessary for me to exhibit it; your knowledge of the general
sizes of match safes would have enabled you to answer me without even
glancing at it. Isn't that true?" asked the captain.

"I see what you mean now," said Ralph. "It is previous knowledge that
aids the eye."

"That is the idea," said the captain. "Now, proceed with the next
question. Why did you say it was made of metal?"

"Because I never saw a match safe that wasn't made of some kind of
metal," said Ralph.

"Did the eye tell the truth?" said the captain, taking out his knife and
opening it. "You will see it is made of _papier mache_, merely colored
to look like metal. The eye was a gay deceiver; don't you think so?"

This was too much for the men; there was a sally of laughter in which
the boys joined with the greatest glee.

"But we are not through with this investigation. We have been talking
about a match safe. The sergeant here is a very wise person, and has
had a fine education, so I am going to ask him whether it looks like a
match safe," said the captain.

"I should say so; that is about the only thing that occurs to me," he
answered.

"Are you relying on your eyes, or what?" asked the captain.

"Well,—on my eyes and on my previous knowledge," answered the sergeant.

"Then you are doubly wrong," said the captain, as he opened the lid,
and exposed the interior of the case filled with tablets. "It is not
a match safe; was never intended for one, and was never used for that
purpose. Have I proven my case?"

The company applauded the clever manner in which the captain explained
the subject.

"This leads me to say that the eye brings into your range something
which may be familiar, that is, something of which you have seen
before, and you say you have seen thus and so; or, on the other hand,
you see something which is unknown, or strange. It is at this point
where the value of observation is of service. If you cannot compare its
size with something you have knowledge of, or have no gauge by which
you can determine of what it is made, and no means which will enable
you to judge of its use, or its purpose, you must depend on your own
judgment to decide what it can possibly be. In course of time the man
in an airship becomes a thinker and a reasoner, and does not depend so
much on the eye, as upon a judgment aside from that which the eye tells
him. Do you understand now what I mean when I say that the eye does not
grow more acute, but that the mind becomes more active, and, through
observation, enables the aviator to judge more accurately as time goes
on."

The captain's argument was unanswerable. It was a revelation to the
boys, and, as the captain was about to leave, Ralph said: "We thank
you, Captain, for the wonderful lesson you have taught us. I am sure we
shall never forget it, and I know we shall profit by it."



CHAPTER V

THE CURTAIN OF FIRE


Before the morning sun had lighted up the scene, they could hear the
buzzing of airplanes overhead. That was a sound so familiar to them
that they could, at times, distinguish even the motors that were used
on most of them.

"I'll bet that's a Morane," said Ralph, as they rolled around over the
blankets, preparatory to getting up.

"They are out pretty early in the morning," said Alfred.

"Got to be out promptly before any of the Boches are able to come over
and take observations," said the sergeant, in the adjoining van.

"Oh, yes; I had forgotten about that," replied Alfred. "What time will
the fireworks begin?"

"As soon as the observations are completed," replied the sergeant.

"Any particular set of fellows on the other side you are going to wipe
out?" asked Ralph.

"You bet! We're going to make Devil's Cut a promenade for a health
resort," replied the sergeant.

"Then I'm with you," said Alfred, springing out of his bunk.

The ten machines in the air inspired the boys as they glanced aloft.
"I rather have a longing to return to that business," said Alfred,
pointing upwardly.

Ralph walked away without replying.

Shovels and picks were again brought into use. Some of the men made an
observation of the bank alongside of the guns, while others began to
dig into the hills. Others brought up short sections of young trees,
which were planted upright side by side and placed across the top to
form a sort of roof or ceiling. The earth, as it was taken out, was
pitched up on top of the roof thus formed. The holes were dug into the
banks from six to eight feet deep, and usually six feet wide. Each of
the shelters thus made room for four men. Really, each was intended for
eight men, but as half of the men would be on duty, while the other
half would be at rest, it will be seen that much space was economized.

The mess shelters were somewhat larger or rather, longer, but not any
deeper, and heavy posts were set at intervals, to hold the roof and
the earth. As these places were on the rear side of the steep bank
they were protected from shot or shell, however vigorous might be
the bombardment, but, of course, the guns were subject to be hit by
well-aimed shots.

The boys took keen delight in digging their shelter and in carpeting
the floor with the stray leaves, which were found all about the gun
emplacements after the protecting boughs had been put overhead. True,
the easy chairs were not the most comfortable, as they had to improvise
the furniture from the odd sticks and branches which were obtainable.
But this didn't matter. They were going to have a taste of the work
with a 75-millimeter battery.

"That Nieuporte machine is making observations now," said Alfred, "and
the puff indicates that they have located two of the batteries."

"Well done," said the captain. "Glad you can read the signals so well.
Take your station at No. 2; and you, Ralph, go to No. 4. Report to the
lieutenant there, and give him the benefit of your observation."

It was a proud moment for the boys. They saluted and stationed
themselves as ordered.

There had not been one moment of silence during the entire morning. The
guns were constantly booming, and sometimes there would be a rattle, as
though salvos of machine guns were brought into action. Anti-airship
guns were always flashing, and high in the air white and gray puff
balls would announce the explosion of shells, trying to feel out the
positions of the airships.

"That was a German shrapnel," said Ralph, "and the one this side a
French high explosive."

"How do you know?" asked one of the men.

"By the color of the smoke," replied Ralph. "There, did you see the two
that came together, one with very white smoke on the right; the other
with a sort of gray, off to the left? That last one was from a French
gun."

"What's the matter with that Farman machine?" said one of the gunners.
"He acts queerly."

"The wing must be shot off, or he wouldn't spiral in that way," replied
Ralph.

"He's coming down, but he has the machine in control, I think,"
remarked one of the men.

[Illustration: _Method of Signaling from Airplanes_]

"Yes; if he can keep it in that way, but he must straighten out or he
will never reach our lines," said Ralph.

"See if you can make out the trouble," said the lieutenant, as he
handed Ralph the glasses.

"The pilot is dead," said Ralph, after a quick observation.

"Do you think so?" asked the lieutenant.

"Yes; he is lying over the side of the pit; see, he is motionless; take
a look for yourself," said Ralph, as he handed the glasses back to the
lieutenant.

"I am very sorry, as we were dependent on Dupuy for the day's work.
Report to the captain."

Ralph quickly made his way to the station occupied by the captain. "I
am requested to report to you that Dupuy has been injured or killed,
and that is his machine now coming down beyond the lines," said Ralph.

The gun crew glanced in the direction indicated. As the machine neared
the earth two of the French machines more venturesome than the rest
flew low, hoping, no doubt, that the wind would be sufficiently strong
to carry poor Dupuy into friendly territory, but in this they were
disappointed.

Almost immediately another Farman sailed across the battery and
signaled. As it did so the order came from the captain, to the
lieutenant in charge of the three guns on the right. "Line up with
Farman D 63, range 4700 meters."

The men stood at attention, all eyes riveted on the disappearing
machine. Every second a voice would call out: "27, 27 and a half, 28,
28 and a half," and so on, and at each call the gun pointer would turn
a small wheel, and the gun muzzle of the gun would move up a trifle.
Soon a puff was plainly visible below the airplane.

"Tirez!" shouted the officer, and instantly there was a sharp, crashing
roar. The aeroplane had, in the meantime, made a turn, and a puff
appeared above the machine.

"Too high!" shouted the officer. Two more puffs appeared. "Two degrees
lower!" was the next order.

The guns were reloaded before the foregoing orders were completed.
Bang! bang! bang! Again another signal; still too far overhead. Another
adjustment, and another round. The flying machine sent up a succession
of puffs, and the lieutenant's face glowed with pleasurable excitement,
as he shouted: "You have it. Give them forty shots; then depress."

While this was going on the three other guns were just as busy. The
guns were pointed diagonally across the river, where the hills in the
distance seemed to be constantly covered with a smoke.

"I notice that they have lots of smoke over there, so it is hard to
tell where to fire," said Alfred, as he stood alongside the captain.

"That is true," he answered. "Our guns use smokeless powder, and that
will aid us in concealing our position. If we used the same powder they
use in shelling Devil's Cut, we wouldn't last a day."

Alfred understood why so much care had been taken to cover up the guns,
for the Germans had guns which would reach as far as the 75's, but the
question was how to locate the batteries. In this particular the French
were superior, as well as in the ability to handle the guns rapidly and
accurately, for it must be admitted that the French had easily taken
the lead in the use of heavy ordnance.

It did not take long to fire forty shots. There was only a short
cessation after the prescribed number had been let loose. The Farman
machine came up close. It signaled.

"That battery has been put out of commission," said Alfred. The
lieutenant nodded approvingly and with a great show of pleasure.

"Two degrees to the left," shouted the lieutenant.

[Illustration: _Peculiarities of Trajectories_]

Crack! crack! bang! spoke out the pieces as before. And now it seemed
as though the whole hillside shook with the resounding roar. Alfred
and Ralph, as well as the officers, were on a slight elevation, which
enabled them to look across the valleys, but the gunners who were
firing could not see, because they were too far down behind the crest.

The boys had been too busily engaged to notice that all along that low
range, of which they occupied but a small part, the artillery had taken
up positions during the night, and that more than two hundred guns were
now commencing and with frightful execution carrying out that most
terrible of all forms of modern artillery warfare, the barrage fire.

"We heard about that before we left Verdun," said Ralph. "Is that what
is going on now?" he asked.

The captain nodded. "You will notice that the guns are now pointed at
an angle which will carry the shell the farthest," he said.

"Is that the forty-five degree angle?" asked Alfred.

[Illustration: _Peculiarities of Trajectories_]

"Yes; if we elevate the guns the trajectory will be higher, but the
shot will fall short of the maximum; if the gun is depressed the shell
will fall nearer to the gun. After we have demolished everything at
long range, the forward end of the gun is lowered and a certain number
of shots fired, each gun swinging around a little to the right and to
the left, so as to reach all the spaces between the guns. Then the gun
is depressed still more, and at regular intervals this is repeated
until every foot of space from the longest range to the shortest in
front of us is searched out."

"But while the shots are coming closer and closer to our front lines
won't the Germans come up and occupy the spaces, just as before?"
asked Ralph.

"That is just what we want them to do," replied the lieutenant.

"Why so?" asked Alfred.

"Because, at a given signal, the guns are again raised at the highest
angle, and the result is that all who have ventured to come forward,
are trapped, and will be caught by the next sweep of shots as they are
brought forward," answered the lieutenant.

For more than five hours this incessant stream of shells continued
without interruption. The men at the guns were perspiring. The relief
crews were lying on the ground, some of them actually sleeping.
Occasionally the boys would see a squad arise, spring forward and take
their places, while those who had been serving the guns would drop back
exhausted in the shelters.

An orderly rode up and handed the captain a paper. He signaled the
lieutenant. "They are preparing for the charge," he said. "Come, come,
my men!"

They rushed down the hill, and stopped before the telephone booth,
which had been installed while the first assault was being carried out
in the forenoon. The operator was dictating information to an assistant.

"The batteries will commence close action at two o'clock. Commanders
will observe the strictest care as the columns move forward. The
curtain of fire will be in advance of the first line at least two
hundred meters. Scouts report heavy columns of enemy on the road to
Albert. All batteries east of hill 60 must concentrate on the ridge
behind hill 307, until the skirmishers are near."

"Low depression!" ordered the captain, as he glanced at his watch. The
boys noticed that it was now within ten minutes of two.

The excitement was intense. There were no men in the shelters now.
Those not on duty were near the crest of the ridge, shading their
eyes and glancing across the smoking fields. Two minutes passed. The
captain then marched out, followed by the officer and the boys. As they
reached the top of the hill the captain, watch in one hand, raised a
handkerchief with the other.

It did not seem possible that the din could increase, but it now
seemed to be intensified. Every gun was so low that the shells barely
missed the crest of the hill as they passed over. Five minutes,—ten
minutes,—it seemed an age.

"Look at the men along the river," shouted Ralph. "They are going
forward,—they have crossed the narrow field, and are running up the
hill. There is the second column. Why, they act as though they were
only having a practice drill."

No sooner had the first and second lines passed from view, than the
third columns were noticed, and behind them the reserves.

"Where did they all come from?" asked Alfred.



CHAPTER VI

A SHELLED BATTLEFIELD


The one hundred and two guns, which the French had massed in this
sector, covered a line equal to nearly a mile and a half in length, as
they were less than seventy feet apart. As each gun was able to fire
twenty shots a minute, they hurled over one thousand high explosive
shells from all of the guns each minute.

This multiplied by sixty, to represent an hour, and then by five to
get the grand total, in point of time, makes more than three hundred
thousand missiles distributed over an area of less than five square
miles. Imagine, if you can, what it would mean to have ten of those
terrific shrapnel shells explode over every acre in that region. No
wonder that human flesh cannot stand that sort of warfare.

Slowly the muzzles of the guns were raised higher and higher. In the
front, over that broad field, although the sun was shining brightly,
yet there was a thick haze. Absolutely nothing could now be seen but
the densest smoke, and noises were no longer distinguishable.

The boys rushed down to the telephone station. The operator, streaming
with perspiration, and with a voice so hoarse that it was scarcely
above a whisper, was still taking the messages.

"The second line has just been taken. They are rounding up a division
beyond the hill. The traverses beyond are filled with Germans, who have
not offered any resistance. Prisoners are coming in by the thousands.
The railroad has been reached."

"Wonderful! wonderful!" shouted the lieutenant in an ecstasy of joy. "I
didn't expect that. We have cut into them two miles, at least."

The operator held up his hand. "The main defenses on the ridge
have just been taken. The reserves have been ordered up to handle
the prisoners. Four staff officers have been taken from the tunnel
shelters," he said.

Every one was in a delirium. Each felt that he had contributed some
share to the glorious victory. It was a revelation of the power of
the French gunnery, and the wonderful co-operation of the infantry in
moving forward in the shelter of the _curtain_, as it has been so aptly
termed.

Gradually the deafening din ceased and appeared to die away. One
gun from each battery still remained on duty, and fired at regular
intervals. With field glasses many things could now be distinguished,
the important one, and that which most interested the boys, being the
immense number of troops moving to and fro and through the fields so
lately harrassed by their guns.

"Would you like to take a trip across that territory?" asked the
lieutenant, as the boys came up.

"Indeed, we would," replied Ralph.

"It is too late tonight, but we intend to make an inspection tomorrow,"
he replied. "I promise you shall go along."

At supper that night there did not seem to be any extraordinary show of
enthusiasm. Probably every one had been surfeited with excitement.

"Don't you have a queer feeling in your ears?" said Alfred.

"Well, my ears have been humming and buzzing right along. It appears
sometimes as though the guns were still going. It seems unnatural to
have this quiet," remarked Ralph.

"You'll get over that after a few days of this," said a gunner. "It
wasn't an exceptionally noisy day, as we had only about a hundred
guns on tap; but over in the Champagne, when we cut a swath of six
kilometers, fifteen kilometers long, in two days, we had over three
hundred guns. That meant some pounding."

At nine o'clock in the morning the boys were ready for the trip over
Dead Man's land, as the region was termed. Four officers and a half
dozen of the gunners made up the party of observation.

As they marched down the hill the lieutenant said: "This is not a trip
to satisfy mere curiosity, but to give us an idea of the nature and
extent of our work. In order to appreciate it we are compelled to make
an investigation before the traces of our work disappear."

They had little difficulty in crossing the stream, for hundreds of
crafts were all about. The first evidences of the galling fire did
not appear until they had gone a thousand feet from the stream, where
the first line trenches of the Germans zig-zagged around the inclined
surface of the fields.

"This may interest you," said the captain, as he pointed to a section
directly behind the main trench. The scene was an excellent one, as it
gave them a clear view over a field covering about two acres. Before
the onslaught, it had been a field of sod, level as a floor, and part
of the green was in front of a magnificent country home.

The house was a mass of ruins, of course, and two of the outbuildings
had been burned. It would not be a misstatement to say that so close
together were the holes and the upturned pieces of sod that it would
have been possible for one to go over that entire lawn stepping from
hole to hole, without touching the grass.

"That must be a tunnel," said Ralph, as he approached an opening, which
could be observed from the ruins of the house.

Together the party moved over and entered the covered way. His surmise
was correct. It was a timbered channel way, three feet wide, and high
enough to permit a tall man to walk erect in it.

Alfred peered in. As his eyes became accustomed to the darkness,
several objects were noticed in the enlarged space.

"I suppose they have furniture here," remarked Ralph. "Hello! what's
this?"

The captain came forward, and struck a light. Three bodies of Germans
were lying on the floor. That was queer. A closer examination was made.
It was then discovered that in the sound chamber were other bodies,
more than a dozen, and most of them officers, as the insignias on their
uniforms indicated.

"They were, undoubtedly, brought here at the beginning of the fight,"
said the lieutenant. "They had no idea what they had to contend with
when we opened on them."

All hurried away from the place. A plowed field at the rear of the
house was crossed, their steps being directed to the stumps of trees at
the other side of the field. In crossing this short stretch of field
more than fifty dead were found, all in such positions as to indicate
that there must have been a panic in their ranks.

An infantry officer in the party, who had been with the reserve the
previous day, remarked: "More than three hundred prisoners were taken
along the edge of this field where these trees stood. In taking them
back into our lines I had a conversation with one of the officers. He
said:

"'I cannot begin to describe the effect of the fire when your shots
reached the timber. We had our traverses alongside these rows of trees,
and it seemed as though a hurricane was going through and breaking off
the limbs, leaves and branches, and flinging them down on the men. But
that was not the worst of it. As long as we were in the traverses we
could get some shelter from the bursting shells; but it was impossible
to get away from the falling branches. The ditches didn't help us
then, and the men, despite all our efforts, rushed out, preferring the
bursting shells to the new terror.'"

"Did you ever see such kindling wood?" remarked Ralph, as they picked
their way through the debris.

"But did you ever see such a fine collection of metal?" replied Alfred,
as he pointed at the pieces of shells which were scattered on all
sides, and in every conceivable place.

One trench after the other was crossed. Without exception all contained
bodies of men, who were stricken before they could get out, for the
men delegated had not yet been able to give the dead proper burial.
Various parties were at work, performing the last rites to those who
had fallen, and they stopped before one party thus at work.

Several dozen men were engaged in carrying the bodies to the trenches
where they were laid side by side close together. Not all were Germans,
for many Frenchmen lost their lives on that day. When a sufficient
number were gathered the officer in charge of the party directed the
assistant to examine the remains of each.

The first quest was to determine the number tag, usually attached to
each soldier, and after this had been entered in a book, a search was
made to discover letters, photos, money and souvenirs which the pockets
might contain. A note was made of all these things, and, finally, the
exact location of the interment was added to the transcript, thus
giving a reasonable assurance that the friends or relatives might know
with some degree of certainty the burial place and also in time receive
the effects taken from the bodies of the fallen soldiers.

It was, indeed, a gruesome sight, not worse, perhaps, than many others
which belong to the battlefield. In the heat of battle, when everything
is noise and bustle, and when men grit their teeth and rush into every
sort of danger, they become numbed to scenes even worse than this. But
it is different when in the calm of the morning, they see the results
of their work and allow their thoughts to wander.

The party had reached the base of the hill, and was nearing the
formidable fourth line of the German trenches, which were taken at
the last assault. One company after the other of French infantry
was even then marching over the fields to take up positions in the
newly acquired territory. The trenches were turned around facing the
other way, the shelters revised to meet the new conditions, and the
underground retreats properly cleaned out.

"Did you ever see anything so awful as this?" said Alfred with a
shudder, as they gazed on the great corpse-filled trench directly
behind the crest of the ridge.

"There must have been an infantry charge here," said Ralph.

"Quite right," said the infantry officer. "They made the last stand
here. It was really pitiful to see them, as our infantry came up the
hill. The shells were exploding over them, not a hundred meters ahead
of our foremost columns. They tried to fight, it must be said to their
credit, but they were crazed by the terror of that fire."

"How far are we from our battery?" asked Ralph.

"I should say about three kilometers," said the lieutenant.

"Just to think of it," responded Alfred, "about two and a half miles
distant, and see what happened here."

It would be merely a repetition of the same sights over and over
to describe the scenes. Every sort of accoutrement, guns, swords,
knapsacks, articles of food, clothing of every description, kitchen
utensils, and at one place a poor dog, horribly mutilated, made up the
scene and afforded a gruesome picture.

"What is this?" said Alfred, as he stopped and picked up an envelope.
It was sealed, and had not, evidently, reached the one for whom it was
intended.

"What shall I do with it?" asked Alfred.

"Turn it over to the searchers,—the ones who are now burying the
dead," replied the lieutenant.

Alfred marched across the open and handed it to the officer. "I found
this at the corner of the field," he explained.

The officer acknowledged the receipt with a bow, and held it up.
"Lieutenant Johann Schroeder, 10th Infantry," the inscription read.
"Have you the name there?" he asked, looking at the clerk.

The latter examined the index. "Yes; here it is; body in the tenth
lateral, over to the left," so the letter was deposited in a huge sack
carried by two assistants.

[Illustration: _The Deadly Shrapnel Shell_]

But there were other objects which had to be taken care of besides the
bodies, as everything on the battlefield that has a value is gathered
up. Metals are of great utility, leather can be used over again, and so
on through the whole list. Repairs to roads were necessary and parties
for this purpose were also in evidence, as it was their business to
make this region habitable again for the army which must occupy it.

Several large vans were now seen coming up over what was once a
roadway. It stopped at intervals while the men carried the various
articles to them and others put them in place inside the vehicles. The
boys with their party were passing a group of men thus engaged when a
terrific explosion took place.

The noise created by the unexpected calamity attracted the attention
of hundreds of soldiers and officers, who rushed to the scene. The
captain was killed, and the lieutenant wounded. When Ralph regained
consciousness, he saw a half dozen men lying on the ground, and
finally recognized Alfred among the number lying still.

An officer rushed up and shouted: "That makes the second accident with
unexploded shells. Where is your commanding officer?" he inquired of
one of the workers.

"There!" said the man, as he pointed to the figure of an officer who
was lying in the unfortunate group.



CHAPTER VII

A LIVELY CAMP BEHIND THE LINES


Such accidents are of common occurrence on the battlefields. However
carefully the shells may be made to insure their explosion at the
instant for which they are timed, something often happens with many of
them that prevents it.

Ralph was too dazed to have any feelings about the matter, except
the faintest idea that he ought to do something to help his chum. It
did not at that time, nor for hours thereafter, seem to be anything
dreadful, nor did it occur to him that Alfred might be dead.

After all he had seen during the day, this was a mere matter-of-fact
occurrence, something that might happen to any one, particularly on a
battlefield.

When he again recovered consciousness, he saw a dim light close by his
bedside, and noticed some moving figures. Then he looked about and
glanced upward. The ceiling was white and clean, and a woman with a
neat white cap and gown stood beside his bed, and smiled at him. This
was, indeed, strange. He couldn't have been hurt, for he felt no pain.

"Do you feel better now?" said a sweet voice.

That seemed to break the charm. "Why,—yes; I am feeling well; but what
has happened? Where am I? and,—and—where's Alfred? Oh, yes; I know
now; something happened a little while ago. Where is he?" said Ralph,
as he tried to move.

"Alfred is across there; he is sleeping now. He will be all right in a
few weeks," said the nurse.

Ralph looked at her for a time without replying. He seemed to be
gathering his thoughts. He raised up his arm, and noticed that it
was bandaged. He dropped it and glanced up at the nurse. "We had an
accident a few minutes ago, didn't we?" he asked.

"That was two days ago," replied the nurse. "But you are all right now.
We were a little worried at first, because it was impossible to tell just
where or how you were hurt; but now you'll get well, so don't worry."

"Will Alfred, too?" he asked eagerly.

"He is mending rapidly, but his injuries are more severe than yours.
Every one here is so anxious and inquires about you," remarked the
nurse.

"Why, who are looking out for us? Where are we? What place is this?" he
asked wonderingly.

"This is the town of Corbie, north of Amiens. The lieutenant of your
battery was badly shaken up, but he is all right now and left this
afternoon. But you must be quiet; a hospital is a bad place to be
excited in," said the nurse.

"Yes, I know that. We have been in the hospital before. This isn't the
first time," said Ralph.

"Is that you, Ralph?" said a weak voice.

"That's Alfred, I know. And how are you?" asked Ralph.

"All right. I thought you'd never wake up. I'm all right now," said
Alfred.

"Now be quiet," said the nurse soothingly. "The doctor says you must
not do anything to excite yourselves."

The night passed without incident. In the morning Alfred's cot was
moved over adjoining the one on which Ralph lay.

"Now you can talk all you want to, but sleep whenever you can,"
remarked the nurse, as they were comfortably fixed.

"Say, Alfred, did you have any pain at all after the thing went off?"
asked Ralph.

"Not the slightest bit; the first thing I knew I found myself here all
fixed up, and heard a band playing outside," said Alfred.

"So they have a band here?" inquired Ralph.

"Yes, indeed; and a dandy one, too; say, did you have anything to eat
yesterday?" asked Alfred.

"I don't know; and there's another thing I know; I'm mighty hungry now.
When did that thing happen?" asked Ralph.

"Day before yesterday; no, the day before that," replied Alfred.

"Well, then, I don't think I've had anything to eat since then. My, but
I'm hungry," said Ralph.

"There she is; she's coming; look at that big tray," said Alfred with
glistening eyes.

"I thought you'd relish something about this time," said the nurse as
she deposited the tray on the folding table and wheeled it near their
cots.

"Well, I should guess so, after not having had anything to eat for
three days," said Ralph.

"Why, you ate a fairly good meal yesterday noon," replied the nurse.

"What? _I_ did?" said Ralph, looking at Alfred in an amused manner, and
then at the nurse. He shook his head, and continued: "Well, if you say
so it must be so; but I never knew it."

"No; of course, you didn't remember; well, we see so many instances of
this kind. It is really strange," continued the nurse, "how men will
forget everything, not even know their names, and still will not forget
to eat. That seems to be a law of nature,—the first law,—the one of
self-preservation."

"Well, even if I did eat right along this tastes as though I hadn't
taken a meal for a month," said Ralph.

There were many curious cases in the hospital,—forms of disease
developed by the war that were novel even to the doctors.

Two weeks thereafter, when Ralph had entirely recovered, and Alfred was
able to go out for short walks, they had many conversations with the
doctor.

One day while returning from a jaunt they encountered him, just as
a patient was brought into the hospital, who was staring about and
screaming wildly.

"Is that a crazy man?" asked Alfred.

"Not exactly," replied the doctor. "It is a peculiar mania, however. We
had several dozens of cases the day after the great drive,—in fact, at
the very time you were brought here,—of Germans who were brought in
suffering from that ailment."

"What is it?" asked Ralph.

"It has been called 'War Psychosis,'" answered the doctor.

"What is the cause of it?" asked Ralph.

"I suppose it is brought about by the patient being compelled to
witness the most terrible sights," answered the doctor. "It occurs
where the man has a peculiarly sensitive or nervous organization."

"A man like that cannot be very brave, I suppose," said Alfred.

"It is not that at all. Lack of bravery, or fear has nothing to do with
it. I have seen the strongest men break down under it," said the doctor.

"Is it a fatal disease?" asked Alfred.

"No, it seems to leave them almost as suddenly as they are affected by
it. Do you see that tall man over to the left—the one who is swinging
his head to and fro, and staring at those about him?"

"Yes, I have frequently watched him during the week," said Ralph.

"He is a typical case," said the doctor. "He is an Alsatian, and
belonged to the first reserves. He was a first-class shot, as well as a
member of the battery when in the service. At the breaking out of the
war he joined the colors at once. His battery was in the thickest of
the fighting from and after the Marne. He saw all the slaughter about
him, and at first became moody. His boon companion was a neighbor's
boy, Tony, who carried the ammunition.

"One day a shell exploded near the battery and poor Tony was killed.
This did not seem to affect him much, and he looked around listlessly
when they buried the boy. The next day another shell exploded near him,
tearing the captain to pieces, and wounding three of his companions.
Instantly he leaped forward toward the enemy, and had to be restrained
and forcibly carried back of the line, where he was taken charge of by
the hospital attendants. That happened less than a week ago. We had to
bind him hand and foot, but he is better now, and will be all right
again in another week. There are thousands of such cases."

Some days hundreds of patients would be sent away,—taken to Paris,
or to some of the great hospitals, where the best of care could be
bestowed. In fact, all cases which were expected to require weeks to
effect a cure, had to be sent to the base hospitals, or the field
hospitals would be overcrowded.

The boys were only too glad now to relinquish their cots in the general
ward and take a room in the convalescent ward. From that place they
would wander out and watch the great processions of soldiers as they
passed on to the front.

"I wonder why it is that we don't see any French soldiers around here
lately?" remarked Alfred.

"I was thinking about that very thing," said Ralph. "We must inquire
about that."

Inquiry developed the fact that the English had been extending their
lines, and now occupied the front in that section down to the area over
which the French had made their last successful drive.

"Do you know where the 14th French battery has gone?" asked Ralph of an
attendant, when they returned to the hospital.

"I really do not know, but I understand that they are now near Noyen,
or in that region," was the reply.

A week thereafter the boys, now fully satisfied, left the hospital, and,
as the doctor handed them their certificates of discharge, he remarked:

"The lieutenant sent your things to us the day they left the ridge. The
attendant will get them for you."

They had entirely forgotten that they owned anything. The two packages
were found intact, together with a note of regret from the lieutenant,
and from the men of the 14th battery. It was a gratifying thing to
receive, and greatly appreciated by the boys.

On the road they walked along toward the reserve camp two miles to the
north, during which they met numerous fellow pedestrians, of all sorts,
conditions and characteristics. Peddlers, hucksters, dealers in all
sorts of wares, tradesmen, a few carpenters with their tools, going
and coming, and this over a road which in normal times would not have a
dozen visitors during the day. The vast army to the east brought trade
to many inhabitants.

They were particularly interested in a peddler, who plied his trade
with considerable energy. He would push to the front whenever a troop
of soldiers appeared, offering his wares, and, after each sale, or when
he had completed his canvass of a troop, would swing off his pack, take
out the money, and count it. Then, invariably, he would draw out a
pencil, note down something on the wrapper in which the money was kept,
shoulder his pack, and march on.

"That fellow is the most particular man I ever met," remarked Ralph. "I
suppose he puts down every sou he receives. He is what I would call a
tightwad."

"Perhaps not that, but just a trifle careful," responded Alfred.

It was an amusing experience to the boys, as they watched his
procedure. It was always the same and never varied. The camp was in
sight, and they left the road to visit it, but before entering the
grounds they sat down to rest, and while there the peddler passed them.

The boys waited until a regiment of newly arrived English entered
the gateway, before they rose and followed. The peddler was on hand
the moment the regiment halted, and obsequiously passed down the
line offering his wares. They noticed that although there were no
purchasers, nevertheless the peddler went through the same formula of
making a notation on the paper, which was used as a wrapper for the
money.

Parked at one side was an immense train of the well-known English
three-inch guns, the counterpart of the French 75's which did such
terrific execution several weeks previous to this time, as heretofore
related.

"There are the flyers," said Ralph, as he pointed to an open field to
the east.

"Let's have a look at them," responded Alfred.

As they were crossing the ground, Alfred stopped. "There is the old
peddler again. He is a diligent fellow, sure enough," he said.

Although there were only twenty machines on the ground, they could see
from the vans within view that many more were awaiting the unpacking
process. Here, as elsewhere, the peddler appeared.

Ralph stopped and gazed at the man for a few moments. "Alfred," he
said, "somehow I don't like that fellow's actions. What business has he
here if he is really a peddler?"

"That fellow's a spy, or there is something the matter with him,"
replied Alfred. "Do you know I have had my suspicions ever since the
regiment came in."

"Why?" asked Ralph.

"For this simple reason: did you observe that he went through the
entire regiment without making a single sale?" asked Alfred.

"Yes, I saw that," answered Ralph.

"Well, after he got through with them, he took out his money just the
same and made a note on the paper," answered Alfred.

"That does look very strange," replied Ralph. "He will bear watching."

"Suppose we follow him and see what he has to sell?" suggested Alfred.

As they neared him the peddler had reached a group of assistants and
threw off the pack, displaying a collection of wares, such as needles,
pins, handkerchiefs, and like articles of utility likely to be used by
soldiers and officers.

"That looks innocent enough," observed Ralph.

A sale was made, the change passed over, and the inevitable paper
package drawn out, followed by a pencil, which was used, apparently, to
note the amount of the sale.

He was followed to the space where the artillery was parked.

"That fellow may be all right, but he looks queer to me," said Ralph.
"Suppose we count the number of guns here and their calibre."

Alfred paused, and looked at Ralph with a cynical grin. "What for? Do
you think he will carry any of them away?" he asked.

"Never mind; let's count them," answered Ralph.

"Then, why not count the airships, those in the vans as well,"
returned Alfred, now smiling and catching the meaning of this proposed
investigation.

"Yes; go over at once; I will attend to the guns. Meet me at the stand.
I see he is going over in that quarter," replied Ralph.

The latter took particular note of the Long 3's, as they were known
technically. There were forty-two. Eight howitzers were under cover
at one end of the line, as well as three mounted, heavy-calibre guns,
which Ralph judged might be at least eight-inch bore. He entered the
sheet-iron warehouse at the end of the field, as the peddler emerged
from it at a side door.

Within was stored an immense quantity of trench equipments, a row of
newly devised bomb-throwers being conspicuously displayed at one end
of the warehouse. Ralph counted them. "There are certainly more than a
hundred; I may have missed some of them," he remarked to himself.

As he marched across the open space to the stand which had been selected
as the meeting place, he saw Alfred awaiting him. The latter seemed to
be greatly excited, and the moment Ralph was sighted he ran over.

"Do you know who is at the hangar?" he said.

"No; I can't guess," answered Ralph.

"Joe; don't you remember Joe; the American that we made our first
flight with up at Dunkirk? He is over at the hangar and wants to see
you," said Alfred.

"All right; let's go over," replied Ralph. "But did you count them?"

"No; but Joe gave me the information; eight Sopwith tractors, ten
Bristols, and six B. E.'s, all set up. Tomorrow they will unpack eight
more Sopwiths and six Bristols. That makes a total of thirty-nine," was
Alfred's answer.

"What do you think? That fellow was coming out of the warehouse the
minute I got there. Do you suppose he thought there was any peddling
business over there?" said Ralph with some determination in his voice.



CHAPTER VIII

THE SPIES IN THE CAMP


"By jing! I'm awfully glad to see you," said Joe, as the boys appeared.
"Excuse me for not shaking with the right hand, but that is out of
commission, and the left is not much better. And how have you been? Oh,
I heard all about you. Lieutenant Guyon! poor fellow! he was a brick;
sure enough. Too bad he had such a weak heart! That's what did him up.
Say, do you know when we got the first reports we understood that both
of you went under; and say; did you ever get hold of any of the New
York papers that wrote you up? Fine obituaries! Makes a fellow feel
good to read about yourself after you're dead. I have some notices of
the same kind about myself."

Ralph and Alfred laughed, as Joe rattled on.

"But tell me," he continued, "what have you been doing the past six
months?"

"Why, we've been in the artillery service," said Ralph.

Joe arose and looked at them straight and hard, as he replied:

"Artillery service? You don't mean it? And where?" he asked.

"Directly east of Amiens. We just came out of the hospital," said
Alfred.

"Out of the hospital? Were you in the big drive? Wasn't that a dandy?
So you got peppered up there, eh?" he asked.

"Well, yes; we were in that from the first; but they never touched us;
we got hurt after the battle was over; accidental bomb explosion on the
battlefield," replied Ralph.

"Tell us about yourself," said Alfred. "How did you happen to lose your
right arm?"

"Tried to bring down too many of them in one day, I suppose. Oh, they
gave me a tough fight; but they came down when I did."

"So you are not flying now?" remarked Alfred with a rueful voice.

"No," said Joe, looking down and slowly shaking his head. "I can do it
as well as ever, but they won't let me."

"See here, Joe; we've got something that's bothering us; we believe we
are on the trail of a spy. He acts like it. It's a peddler. I followed
him around, and both of us noticed some suspicious-looking things on
his part," said Ralph.

"A peddler!" remarked Joe. "Why, I saw a peddler around here a half hour
ago. Fellows of that kind need watching. Go on investigating. I am
awfully sorry I can't move around as I used to, or I would help you out."

"What is the matter with your foot?" asked Alfred, as he now saw a
bandage above the ankle.

"Oh, that was only a part of the damage. Go on, boys; see the
commandant; here, let me give you a note; now, take it over to that low
building in front of the brown warehouse," said Joe.

"Thank you for the hint," said Alfred.

"Don't forget to come back; I want to talk with you," remarked Joe, as
he waved his hand in the parting salute.

The peddler was nowhere to be seen as they hurried across the field.
The boys were too much excited to open and read the note which Joe had
given them.

"Is the commandant in?" asked Alfred, as they approached the guard.

An orderly appeared, and to him Ralph handed the note. It was at once
taken into the officer's room. The orderly came out smiling, bowed and
said:

"Col. Winston wishes you to step in."

They were met at the door by the officer, who grasped their hands
warmly as he said:

"You don't know how happy I am to meet you. My brother always speaks so
affectionately of you, and my sister is really much hurt because you
left Dunkirk without seeing her."

The boys were astonished. Ralph was the first to speak:

"Are you Lieutenant Winston's brother?"

"Did he recover from the fall in the airship?" asked Alfred.

"Yes, and he says that without you he would have been crushed to death;
we are certainly thankful to you. And now, what can I do for you? Joe
says you have something important to communicate to me without delay,"
said the colonel, glancing at the note.

"We may be mistaken," said Ralph, "but we think we have spotted a spy."

"Where?" asked the colonel, as he arose from the chair. "Here in the
camp?"

"Yes, right here; over in the warehouse and at the hangars, and he
acted so suspiciously before he reached the camp that we've been
trailing him," said Alfred.

The colonel tapped a bell. The orderly appeared. "Send for Captain
Rose. Tell him it is urgent," said the colonel.

"We ought to be out looking for the fellow, for we missed him as we
came across the grounds. He's a peddler," said Ralph.

"The captain is out on duty and cannot be here for a half hour, so he
informs me over the wire," said the orderly.

"Then suppose I go out and tell Joe to watch that end of the field, and
from there I will go to the entrance. Probably they,——"

"Wait one moment," said the colonel, interrupting, as he turned to the
orderly. "'Phone to the corporal of the gate squad and ask whether a
peddler has passed out within the past half hour; if not, tell him to
arrest a peddler if he attempts to go out."

"I will go over to the warehouse," said Alfred. "I have an idea he is
sneaking around in that part of the grounds."

"Good idea," said the colonel. "Hand this to the officer in charge," he
said, as he sat down and wrote a few lines on a pad, and handed it to
Alfred.

The latter lost no time in presenting himself to the officer in charge.

"Is this Lieutenant Brand?" asked Alfred, as he addressed a
trim-looking officer.

"Yes; at your service," was the reply. He looked at the note.

"What is this?" he continued.

"A spy, we think," said Alfred.

"Do you mean he has been here?" said the officer in an incredulous tone.

"Yes; not more than a half hour ago," answered Alfred, "and he is here
somewhere on the grounds; we are trying to find him."

"One moment; there is a call on the 'phone; excuse me," said the
lieutenant, as he disappeared into the next room.

"Yes, he is here!" Alfred heard the lieutenant say. "Do you want him?"

Alfred was moving toward the door when the lieutenant appeared and
announced: "They have arrested a peddler at the gate. The colonel
wishes to speak to you."

Alfred took the receiver. "They have the peddler at the gate. They are
bringing him over now, so be kind enough to get here at once," was the
message.

Alfred hurried to the commandant's office, and met Ralph at the door.

"Too bad; they have gotten the wrong peddler. He is in that room. Look
in through the door and see what you think," said Ralph.

Alfred waited and finally obtained a glimpse. "No, it doesn't look like
the man we spotted. What was this fellow selling?" asked Alfred.

"There's his pack," said the orderly.

"That looks just like the pack that our peddler had. Same kind of
things, too; same strap,—and that flap; well,—I'll bet he belongs to
the other fellow, or knows something about him," said Alfred.

"What is that?" said the colonel, as he entered and heard the last
remark.

"I just said that this pack is just the same, the flap and the belt are
exactly like the one the peddler had that we are after, and although
that doesn't look like the man, I wouldn't be surprised if he belonged
to the same gang," answered Alfred.

"I have a way that will tell the story," said Ralph. "Where are the
things that were taken from him?" he asked.

"In my office," said the colonel; "come in and look them over."

They made a careful examination of the peddler's pockets, and Ralph
shook his head doubtfully.

"Where is his money?" said Alfred.

"That's it!" almost shouted Ralph.

The arresting officer was directed to bring in the money, and the
moment it was deposited on the table both boys stared at the paper
wrapped around it.

"I think we know some of the figures on that paper," said Ralph.

The colonel looked at the boys incredulously. "If you do," he said, "I
should call it some pretty fine detective work."

"There are figures here," said the officer, unwrapping the paper.

"Do you see 42 there?" asked Ralph.

"Yes," replied the officer.

"Now, right next to it or very near, is there a figure 8, and then 3?"

The officer looked at Ralph in amazement. "That is just what I note
here, and in the order you have given," he said.

"Now look for the following numbers, which ought to be up somewhere
above those you have just mentioned: 10, 8 and 6. Do you find them
there?" asked Alfred.

"Yes," replied the officer. "But there is another amount here, 14."

"That represents the fourteen unpacked aeroplanes," said Alfred.

"What do you know about them?" asked the colonel.

"Joe told me there were that many in the cases," answered Alfred.

"Well, I wonder where that fellow has hidden himself?" said Ralph.

"How did you know about the numbers on that paper?" asked the colonel.

"We saw him put them down; and that is what created the suspicion in
our minds," said Alfred.

"One thing more," said Ralph. "May I examine the paper?"

He scanned it from top to bottom, then turned to the colonel. "How many
men," he asked, "were in the regiment that came in about an hour ago?"

The colonel turned to the orderly. The latter replied: "890, according
to the rolls, if you mean the 23d Essex."

"There it is," said Ralph, pointing to the figures.

The colonel stooped over. "Where is 890? What you are pointing to is
8.90, and it may have reference to the sales he made to the members of
the regiment," he observed.

"But he didn't make any sales to any of the fellows there," said Alfred.

"Are you sure of that?" asked the colonel.

"We are both sure of that," replied Ralph, "and what is still more,
here is 23 right above it with an X following. Doesn't that mean the
23d Essex regiment?"

"Well, I consider that a pretty piece of reasoning from observation,"
said the colonel.

The boys turned to the colonel and fairly stared at him.

"I hope I have not offended you."

"No; we didn't feel that way about your remark, but it reminded me of
the lesson that the captain of the artillery company gave us one night
on the value of observation," said Alfred.

"Bring in the man; I think we have a clear case," ordered the colonel.

He was ushered in and the colonel addressed him. "When did you come
into the grounds?"

"About an hour ago," was the reply.

"Were you on the grounds when the Essex regiment arrived?"

"Yes."

"This paper which was wrapped around your money contains an account of
the sales you made at various times; is that so?"

"Yes."

"What was the sum total of the sales you made to the regiment?"

He leaned forward and glanced over the paper, as he responded:

"Eight francs and nine centimes."

"What did you sell that brought 23 centimes?" asked the colonel with a
scrutinizing gaze.

"Are you sure that 23 meant centimes?"

The man's face paled, and for the first time he hesitated to reply
promptly. The colonel gave him no time to collect his thoughts.

"What does the X stand for following 23?"

"Ten."

"Ten what?"

"The profit I made."

"On what? On the 8.90?"

"Yes," was the relieved reply.

"Put him under guard," ordered the colonel.

As the man was led away, Ralph said: "While he is dressed differently,
and appears to look somewhat unlike the peddler we spotted, I think it
is the same man," said Ralph.

"That pack might show something. Do you object if we take out all the
things?" asked Alfred.

"Of course not; that fellow is guilty; I am sure of that," said the
colonel.

[Illustration: _The Spy's Account Book_]

The goods were unpacked. In the bottom, neatly folded, was the
identical suit that the peddler wore when the boys first noticed him.

"He simply shifted suits somewhere in the grounds, and altered his
personal appearance. I regard that as very clever, on your part, boys,
and the service shall be rewarded," said the colonel. "Now, tell me
about your adventures since you left Dunkirk."

For an hour the boys were busy telling the colonel about their
experiences, their work in the aerial corps, and in the artillery, to
all of which he listened with the most intense interest. At the close
of the interview the colonel said:

"Where are you now staying?"

"Anywhere, and nowhere," said Ralph, with a laugh.

"Well, you are entitled to a comfortable place, and you shall have it
right here. The orderly will see that you are well taken care of; here,
Cameron, put up the boys and see that they get anything they want."

"Thank you," replied both. As they were passing out the door, an
officer was about to enter.

"One moment, boys; this is Captain Rose, in charge of the Secret
Service. We have had an interesting experience since you left this
morning, Captain. Go over to the quarter with the boys and they will
tell you about it, for I shall depend on your co-operation to convict
the fellow."



CHAPTER IX

THE LAWS AGAINST SPIES


"Did you notice the colonel said that we could have anything we
wanted?" said Ralph, after they were once installed in their room in a
wing of the building where the officers were sheltered.

"I hope he won't forget it," said Alfred. "Tell him we want to be
assigned to the artillery branch."

"Perhaps we ought to wait until we get through with the peddler, as
Captain Rose said the case would come up in the morning," replied Ralph.

"Too bad we haven't told Joe. I wonder where he puts up? Maybe the
captain knows," said Alfred.

"We might look him up," replied Ralph, and they were quickly out of
the room and prancing across the parade ground toward the commandant's
quarters, where the main offices were located. As it was past nine at
night they had some difficulty in locating Joe, but he was eventually
found, and at eleven o'clock they left the quarters in the rear of
the hangars, and marched across the ground in the direction of their
building.

Turning the corner they were confronted by an individual who caused
the boys to gasp. It was the peddler,—the identical individual they
had followed during the day. He glanced at the boys, then turned and
hurried away.

"We mustn't let him get away this time," said Ralph.

The man evidently heard Ralph's voice, for he hurried his steps.

"Halt!" cried Alfred.

The man paid no attention to the command.

"Halt or we'll shoot!" shouted Ralph.

The man hesitated, then stopped and turned around.

"Face the other way," shouted Ralph.

The man obeyed. Neither of the boys were armed. It was an awkward
position.

"Run for the captain," said Ralph in a whisper.

Alfred quietly walked around the corner and fairly flew across the
ground.

"We've got him; come on quickly," said Alfred in excitement, as he
burst into the captain's room without waiting for an invitation. The
captain was about to retire, and jumped up with a roar of laughter as
he recognized Alfred.

"Who is it? What is up?" asked the captain.

"The peddler!" replied Alfred.

"I'll be there as soon as I can get something on," said the captain.

"Then I'll borrow this," said Alfred, seizing the heavy army revolver,
"if I may."

He rushed out of the door without waiting to get the desired
permission, and reached the corner of the building just as Ralph was
shouting: "Halt, I say!"

Evidently the man began to doubt the authority or the sincerity of his
would-be captor, for he turned just as Alfred emerged from the corner.
One look was sufficient. The peddler bolted for the shelter of the
buildings to the left.

Alfred raised the revolver and fired. The man stopped.

"Come this way!" ordered Ralph.

The shot at such a time was sufficient warning for the guards and the
officers. They swarmed from all sides, as the boys advanced toward the
peddler.

One of the first to arrive was the captain, half-dressed. He was the
only one who understood the meaning of the shot. Alfred handed him
the weapon, and in another moment the peddler was in the hands of the
captain and on the way to the lock-up.

As they marched across the ground the colonel ran up.

"What's this!" he asked the boys, as they were following the captain
and the prisoner.

"We have him this time," said Ralph.

"Who?" asked the colonel.

"The real peddler," said Alfred.

The aroused camp soon learned of the work of the boys. It is marvelous
how soon things of this character drift from mouth to mouth. Earlier
in the day the camp knew of the capture of a spy; that seemed to be
common knowledge. The incident which had just taken place seemed to be
a fitting complement to the happening of the day, and in both instances
the boys had a prominent part.

Naturally, the boys had to go to headquarters and relate the
circumstances surrounding their latest exploit, so that it was late in
the morning before they were able to get to their room and retire.

"I feel a sort of sympathy for those fellows," said Alfred, while
dressing the next morning.

"Well, I don't," replied Ralph. "They are mean sneakers; they daren't
do anything openly. They ought to be shot if they are really spies."

"There's one thing about this business I can't understand," said
Alfred. "I don't think spying is any worse than other things that are
done in war. It isn't worse than killing, is it?"

"No; but don't you remember Lieutenant Guyon saying that it was not the
doing of a thing, but the _way_ it was done that was wrong," said Ralph.

"Well, I can't see how that helps things in the least. Here comes the
captain; he just passed the window. Come in!" said Alfred. "We've been
discussing what is right and what is wrong in war. I said that it
didn't seem to me to be any worse to spy than to do anything else."

"There is nothing wrong in spying,—that is, trying to find out what
your enemy is doing; that isn't it. If a man does it openly, and not
in disguise, he is protected. It is only when fellows take the guise of
a peddler, we will say, that the rules of war decide he is entitled to
no consideration and cannot be protected," answered the captain.

"I must say, now that I think of it, that there must be something
wrong about the laws that are made to use such an excuse to execute a
man. I read in the papers a few weeks ago that one of the war vessels
exhibited a neutral flag until the unsuspecting ship got near enough so
it could attack. Now, if it was wrong for an individual to deceive, or
sail under false colors, why wasn't it wrong for a ship to do that very
thing?" remarked Ralph.

"You are right about that, undoubtedly," said the captain, "but, of
course, we must be guided by what law is, and not by what we think or
know it ought to be. If the peddlers are guilty they must suffer,"
answered the captain.

"I agree with you," said Alfred. "Of course, those men knew the risks
they were taking, and they did it with their eyes open. That reconciles
me."

"Yes; and the very thing those fellows tried to do would mean, if they
succeeded, death to many of our soldiers, and it is better for two to
die than to have hundreds suffer," remarked Ralph.

The evidence brought forth at the trial that day was conclusive. The
men refused to make any statements concerning their co-operation
in the work of espionage, but when the second peddler's pack was
eventually discovered, it was learned that each carried a suit, the
counterpart of the other.

It was obvious that the arrest of one would enable him to prove an
alibi, just as he was prepared to do when the first one was apprehended
by the boys, and he would have been successful, too, were it not for
the fact that the boys observed the man in the act of taking notes, or
jotting down items so systematically, and on several occasions items
were put down where no sales were effected.

No time was lost in carrying out the orders of the court and the spies
were executed without delay.

The boys remained in the camp for two weeks, and it was getting to
be irksome. There seemed to be no occasion for hurry. Soldiers were
arriving from England in every branch of the service, and the camp was
enlarged by taking in a vast plain directly to the west and adjoining
the main camp.

"I wonder if the colonel will forget what he said about giving us
whatever we want," said Ralph, one morning.

"We might as well find out," replied Alfred.

Once in the colonel's presence they were quick to bring up the subject.

"You may remember," said Ralph, "that you once told us that we could
have anything we wanted."

"I remember it well," he said. "Now, what is it?" he asked.

"Why, we want to join an artillery company," said Alfred.

"And is that all?" he inquired with an amused air.

"Yes; we thought you might help us out; of course, we know we are
minors, and Americans, and all that, but we can help out, just the
same," said Ralph.

"Yes; that is, indeed, commendable. Your cases are so different from
the ordinary ones that it may make the job of getting you in much
easier; at any rate, I hope so," he remarked.

"Thank you," said Alfred.

"Now, mind you, I may not be able to succeed, for the War Department is
very particular, and we are working under a pretty rigid set of rules,
but you have been in the service and are entitled to consideration;
and, by the way, won't you tell me how you succeeded in getting in
heretofore. Did you have any influence to push you along?" asked the
colonel.

"Oh, yes; we had considerable influence," said Alfred with a smile.

"Yes, that's what I wanted to find out," replied the colonel. "How did
you work it?"

"Well," replied Ralph, "we simply walked in and went to work; that's
the influence we had; they couldn't help but take us."

The colonel leaned back in his chair and roared with laughter, in which
the boys joined.

"Maybe it wasn't just as bad as that," rejoined Alfred, after the
laughter subsided, "but down at Bar-le-Duc the chances of getting in
with the flyers were pretty slim, so we just went into the hangars and
asked them what there was to do, and we didn't wait for them to tell
us, we simply went to work."

"That's a sample of the way we worked also to get into the
transportation service,——"

"So you've been in that, too? Tell me about it," said the colonel.

"Down at Amiens we saw them loading up a military truck, and they
looked as though they were rather short of help, so we pitched in and
helped fill up the van. It happened we were on the van when it started
for the front, and that's where we had a lively experience in taking
the vans through Devil's Cut," said Ralph.

"Devil's Cut! I've heard about that! But I imagine there isn't any more
trouble in that place now," observed the colonel.

"No, indeed! The big drive spoiled Devil's Cut," said Alfred, "and we
helped the artillery to do it, and that's why we want another chance in
the same direction."

If there is anything more disagreeable than another, it is waiting.
Waiting for something, good or bad, is equally discouraging. In their
wanderings they had become acquainted with a quaint corporal, formerly
of the British navy, and at that time a trainer for the various gun
squads at the camp. Daily guns were prepared and hurried to the front,
and Walker, the corporal, was always on hand and frequently accompanied
the guns as they were sent forward.

"Would you like to have a little outing?" he remarked one morning, as
the boys appeared at his tent.

"Yes; anything, to get a change, this is too trying," said Ralph.

[Illustration: _Pontooning Heavy Guns Across a Stream_]

"Well, we are going to send half a dozen heavy guns out the Bapaume
road this morning, so along," he remarked.

Six horses were hitched to each piece, and were pulling out, as Walker
spoke.

"Jump on this ammunition van," shouted Walker, as he ran forward and
seized the stanchions at the side.

The boys needed no second invitation, for they would, at least, have an
opportunity to go over a great deal of the ground formerly occupied by
the Germans, before the British commenced the Somme drive.

"Why don't you use lorries for these guns?" asked Alfred.

"There is one very good reason," replied Walker. "The bridges are
down, and we haven't had time to repair them, and the pontoons are too
light for the heavy pieces we are taking across, so we have to adopt
an entirely new method," he said, shrugging his shoulders and making a
grimace, which, at first, seemed very comical to the boys.

"Then how do you get them across? Is the river very deep?" asked Ralph.

"About ten feet deep, I should say; of course, we can't run them across
on their own wheels, but we pontoon them over," he said.

The subject was dropped for the moment, as one of the officers came in
at that moment to consult with Walker. The boys seemed to be puzzled at
his remarks, and when he returned he said:

"When we reach the end of this road, beyond, we turn to the right, at
a point only a few hundred feet from the river. Well, just notice the
heavy barrels at the landing."

As the corner was turned they quickly observed the barrels, and men
busily engaged with ropes and heavy poles. A gun was run on its wheels
close to the river's edge, and five of the barrels were secured
to two poles, and lashed forward of the wheels, the poles running
transversely. A like number of guns were then secured behind the
wheels, also held by cross poles.

All of the barrels were hung higher than the tread of the wheels, so
that after the equipment, as thus explained, was fully attached, the
horses were driven into the river and hitched to the floating gun,
while others mounted the float thus constructed, and, with poles,
assisted in floating the piece across.

There was not a single mishap, and the six guns were taken over in a
brief space of time. The ammunition wagons were taken across by way of
the pontoon bridge, crowded as it was, and the entire outfit assembled
on the other side within an hour of the time the stream was reached.



CHAPTER X

A DIFFICULT TRIP TO THE MAIN TRENCHES


The great camp at which the boys were located was south of Albert, a
town of about 7,000 inhabitants, at the opening of the war. It was less
than ten miles west of the first line trenches at that time. About
fifteen miles northeast was Bapaume, and southeast of Albert, the same
direction, was Peronne, towns of 3,000 and 5,000 respectively, both
within the German lines, and important distributing centers for the
armies in that region.

"I do not know how true it is, but the information I have is that the
immense preparation going on here, and farther to the north, means a
drive on Bapaume and Peronne. If such is the case we may expect lively
times during the next three months," said the lieutenant, as they were
conversing about the probabilities of taking part.

"What branch of the service were you in?" asked Ralph.

"The artillery; that is the most important by all means, especially in
this war," was the answer.

"How is it that you are not attached?" asked Alfred.

"Immediately after the Boer war I resigned, went to America, and
engaged in business there. As soon as I could do so I disposed of my
interests and came back two months ago. I was sent to this point two
weeks ago, where, undoubtedly, I will be called upon to take a part,"
was the lieutenant's reply.

That evening in their rooms, Ralph remarked: "I think we ought to stick
pretty close to the lieutenant; there might be a chance for us there."

"But suppose the colonel fixes it for us?" said Alfred.

"Then we'll go," answered Ralph.

"While we are waiting, suppose we make a trip to the trenches,"
suggested Ralph.

"When? Tomorrow?" asked Alfred.

"Why not?" replied Ralph.

"Suppose we start early in the morning, as soon as we have breakfast,"
suggested Alfred.

As they walked across the ground, preparatory to the start, in the
morning they were accosted by the captain. "Which way?" he asked.

"Going to take a look at the boys in the trenches," said Alfred.

"I can give you a lift," replied the captain. "Go over to the station
and ask for Lieutenant Moore; tell him who you are and that I requested
him to give you a place on the goods train.

"That was a happy thought," said Alfred, after they had thanked the
captain. "It's good to have friends," he added.

At the station they were disappointed to learn that the lieutenant was
at the other end of the line. "Where is his assistant?" asked Alfred.

"That's the man over there," said their informant, pointing to a
nervous officer on the platform.

"Sorry I can't accommodate you in the absence of the lieutenant," was
his discouraging reply to their inquiries.

"Well, shall we walk it?" said Ralph.

"Not as long as the railroad is here; I have gotten out of the idea
of walking since the captain made the suggestion," said Alfred, as he
looked about.

"That looks as though it might go the right way," said Ralph, as he
pointed to a long train and noticed a squad of men closing the doors.
While walking across they saw an engine backed up and coupled on the
coaches.

"This is our chance," said Ralph.

The conductor gave the signal and slowly the train began to move. Ralph
sprang up on the running board, and, calling to Alfred, said: "Just in
time!"

"Ay, there! where's your permit?" shouted a voice.

"Permit?" said Ralph. "Permit to get to the front? Well, that's news to
me. Did you ever hear anything like that?" he continued.

The latter laughed at the audacity of the remark, but the conductor
assumed that it was a species of assurance on the part of the boys, and
it caused him to hesitate.

The boys, meanwhile, boldly crept up the ladder and landed on top,
where they quietly sat down, with their legs dangling over the side.
After the train had gone a mile or so the conductor mounted the last
coach and walked forward.

"Hi 'ave me orders to allow no one without a permit," he said.

"Well, you ask Lieutenant Moore whether we can ride or not," said
Alfred.

"Hey, but it must be in writing," he answered.

"Yes; we know that; we will get the written permit as soon as we get to
the other end of the line where the lieutenant is," said Ralph, with an
assuring nod.

"Blime me if this isn't irregular," he said.

"Yes, it may be," answered Alfred. "It isn't exactly regular to ride on
top, but we haven't been invited to have a seat in the caboose," said
Ralph.

"Caboose! caboose! did you say? Hi never heard of it," replied the
conductor.

"Never heard of a caboose?" said Alfred. "That's queer; I thought all
railroad men knew what that meant."

"Why, he's never been in America. They don't have cabooses in England.
You ought to know that," said Ralph.

"Oh, yes, Mr. Conductor, over in the United States all our freight
trains have cabooses on the rear end for the use of the train hands,"
said Alfred.

"Freight trains! My word, you confuse me. And what do you mean by train
hands?" he asked.

"Well, this is a freight train, and your men are train hands," said
Ralph.

"Ah! you mean _goods_ train and train _crews_," said the man.

The boys laughed heartily, as this was really the first opportunity
they had for a lark since they reached France.

The laughter seemed to infect the conductor. Two of the train crew came
forward, and finally joined in the conversation, and the matter of the
permit was entirely forgotten. The conductor turned out to be really
human after all. What interested him was the information that the boys
were Americans, and when Ralph told them that they were aviators and
had been in a fight above the clouds, they fairly owned the train, and
everybody in it.

In due time they reached what is known as Siding 8, one of the regular
stations on the way. It was a military road, passage on the trains
being permitted only by means of written orders. The boys knew this,
of course, but they had had months of experience in traveling over
roads of this character, and knew the value of bluff and of assuming
situations which would be hard to controvert. At any rate they were now
sure of reaching the end of the journey without molestation.

They felt sure of this until the train stopped at Siding 8. A pompous
individual approached the group.

"That is the inspector," said one of the men in an aside to Ralph.

"I am afraid it's all up with us," said Alfred.

As he neared the group the boys both gave the regulation salute, which
was recognized by the officer.

"Where are you bound for?" he asked.

"To the front," said Alfred.

"What front? Where?" he persisted.

"Anywhere; so we get there," said Ralph.

"Where are your permits?" he asked.

"We haven't any," said Alfred.

"Then how did you get here on this train?" he asked sternly, glancing
at the conductor, who was now squirming.

"We rode on top most of the way," said Ralph.

"Who gave you permission to do so?" he fired at them.

"No one; we didn't need any permission; we simply got on and here we
are," said Alfred.

There was a faint snicker in their rear. The officer colored up.
"I will make a report of this," said the officer, glancing at the
conductor, and drawing out a book he proceeded to write down the name
of the conductor and the number of the train.

"What are your names?" he asked, turning to the boys.

"Now, see here, Lieutenant, you are doing your duty; we know that,"
said Ralph. "We're just plain American boys with a little deviltry in
us sometimes, and the conductor isn't to blame. We have just come out
of the hospital after a pretty hot time in the artillery service, and
Captain Rose at the camp told us to tell Lieutenant Moore that we
wanted transportation. At the station we found he was at this end of
the line, so we took this means to get the permit from him."

"In the service, eh? Where?" he snapped.

"At Verdun and at St. Quentin," answered Alfred.

The answer seemed to soften him. "I am sorry," he continued in a
different tone, "but I cannot allow you to go on without a permit." The
boys stepped off the car.

"I would suggest a good way out of the trouble," said Ralph.

"Very well!" he answered.

"Suppose you issue us a permit; that will get us there without further
trouble," said Ralph.

"I have no authority to issue permits," he replied.

"Well, then," said Alfred, "suppose you did have the authority to issue
them would you give us permission to go on in that case?"

"Most assuredly," was the reply.

The second section of the train was approaching and the Inspector
hurried back. The signal was given and the train commenced to move.

"Jump in!" said Ralph.

"Just what I was going to do," replied Alfred. "He didn't fill up
his blank to make the report. You are all right," continued Alfred,
addressing the conductor.

The latter smiled at the neat manner in which the boys had handled the
situation, and the train crew had a good laugh at the expense of the
inspector.

Siding 8 was just two miles from the trenches,—that is, from the
active zone. All along this section were ditches, like vast drains,
which were once occupied by the Germans. Cannon were constantly
booming, but so common had such noises become that they ceased to
attract the notice of the boys. Soon the great lines of tents and
temporary barracks were visible. The most intense activity prevailed in
every quarter.

The boys left the train as soon as it reached its destination, having
in their minds one thing only and that was to get to the front
trenches, and, if possible, get in touch with the batteries. They were
aware that it was a difficult matter to obtain permission for either of
those purposes, but they relied more on the conditions under which they
might find themselves, to obtain their ends.

Leading from the station was a road which entered a village. One of the
trenches not then occupied, but which had been made by the Germans,
extended alongside this road directly through the little hamlet.
Several stores were in operation, and at one of them were noticed a
half dozen civilians, all discussing means to get a glimpse of the
operations near the front.

"It is no use," said one of them. "They will not grant any permits to
go nearer, and I understand that the reason is they are preparing to
cut their way through to Bapaume."

"That fellow's an American, I'll bet on that."

"Talks like it, anyway," responded Alfred.

"We may have a chance to help in another artillery battle, if what he
says is so," observed Ralph. "Hello! what's this?" continued Ralph, as
a black and white terrier approached, wagging its tail. Ralph patted it
and looked around expecting to find its owner.

"Come on," said Alfred. "We aren't getting anywhere at this rate. We
might go through the village and inquire."

The terrier followed, every moment or two friskily coming up close
and looking up at them wistfully. They discouraged him by paying no
attention to his show of friendliness.

"It looks as though he had adopted us," said Alfred. "Come here,
Frisky; do we suit you?"

"I feel mighty hungry; there's a stall. We might get a bite, and we'll
get some information at the same time," said Ralph.

They entered the apology called a restaurant, and ordered coffee with
rolls and butter. Cold meat was the only other thing available.

"Let's have some of that," said Alfred.

"Where are the nearest front line trenches?" asked Ralph.

"About a mile to the east," said the waiter. "You'll have trouble
getting there, since the new orders went into effect."

"What new orders?" asked Alfred.

"To permit no passes," he replied.

"I don't think we need any passes," said Ralph in an undertone.

"Do you belong to the army?" asked the waiter.

"No; but we expect to," answered Ralph.

The meal finished they were about to go, but Frisky danced about them.

"Poor fellow! we forgot him," said Alfred, giving the dog some scraps,
which he speedily devoured. That meal sealed a bond of friendship, on
the part of the dog, at least, and as they marched out the road to the
east Frisky followed, dancing about them continually, and exhibiting
his pleasure, dog-fashion, in his newly found friends.

"Is that a guard line ahead?" observed Ralph, as they approached a
shed-like structure, and saw a group of soldiers with guns standing
near.

"I suppose it is," replied Alfred. "Here is where we make a halt, I
suppose."

Alfred was right. No one dared cross the line which extended north
and south of the structure. It was the dead line, and there was no
hope for them, so as there was no use to argue the matter they sadly
turned back, retraced their steps through the village and without any
prearrangement turned to the right.

"We might see something from that hill," said Ralph.

"That is just what was in my mind," remarked Alfred.

The narrow road was observed winding around the hill and going up
diagonally. Half way to the hill, and at a point where there was a
perceptible ascent, Frisky ran forward, barking furiously. He stopped
at the remains of a ragged fence, beyond which was soon observed the
ruins of a low building.

"I suppose that is one of the cottages destroyed by the fighting," said
Ralph.

"Frisky is acting queerly," remarked Alfred. "Let us go over." The
animal would run around the ruin, then come back, look up at them, and
actually seem to want to talk.

"I suppose that is an invitation to follow him," said Ralph.

As the boys passed over the fence Frisky showed his pleasure by
emitting a series of short, sharp barks, which he kept up continually,
running around as though in the greatest excitement.

"I wonder what he does that for?" said Alfred. "Come here, Frisky,
poor fellow!" said Ralph, as he stooped and fondled the little fellow.
Frisky nestled up close and gave a peculiar whine.

"I believe that was his home," said Alfred, "and this is his way of
telling it. I would like to know what became of the people who lived
here."

"Come on, Frisky; we'll take care of you," said Ralph, with a hug.

As they passed out of the enclosure Frisky followed, apparently cured
of his singular actions. Half way up the hill they met a tottering old
man, carrying a bundle of faggots.

"Do you know anything about the people who lived in that ruined
cottage?" said Ralph.

The old man shook his head.

"He doesn't understand English," said Alfred, who put the question in
French.

He looked at the dog and replied: "The cottage was struck by the first
shell that the Germans fired from yonder hill when they came through
here on their way to Paris. The house was torn to pieces and all were
killed."

Ralph pointed to the dog. The old man nodded. "He goes up there every
day; they can't keep him away. The soldiers have stolen him many times,
but he always comes back."

The boys looked at each other in silence. "Come here, Frisky!" finally
said Alfred, as he held out his hand. He leaped toward the boys, and
put up his paws on each of them in turn, while the old man turned sadly
away and shambled down the hill.



CHAPTER XI

DISCOVERING A GERMAN RANGE FINDER


It seemed as though every one they met knew Frisky, for some of them
whistled to him, and a few tried to entice him to follow, but on the
journey to the west of the hill he followed the boys' footsteps, and
seemed to recognize no one but them.

"That must be a battery up there," almost shouted Ralph, as he gazed
ahead, and pointed to a ridge newly made, apparently, of fresh earth.

"It certainly looks like it," answered Alfred, with enthusiasm, as he
bounded forward eagerly to reach the top.

Evidences of the effect of shells now became more pronounced, although
holes in the earth and the fallen debris had been noticed everywhere,
even before they had reached the hillside.

"It must be a battery of big guns up there," remarked Ralph, as they
sat down for a few moments of rest.

"Yes, that last shot sounded bigger than a 75," answered Alfred.

"I wonder what Frisky is doing over there?" said Ralph, glancing across
a small ravine to the left, where the animal was engaged in briskly
pawing the earth.

"I suppose he has treed something; suppose we investigate," replied
Alfred.

They quickly found their way through the tangled brush and broken stone
down the little hollow and up again to the mound-like structure where
Frisky was engaged.

"What have you found?" asked Ralph, as they neared the scene.

Frisky answered with a quick yelp, and kept on digging. Evidently there
was something in the burrow before him.

"What kind of animals do they have here in France?" said Ralph. "I
don't think I ever saw even a field mouse since we came here."

"No wonder; we've never been anywhere except in spots like this, and it
is certain animals wouldn't last long in such places," replied Alfred.

"We might help Frisky out a little," said Ralph, as he grasped a stick,
and began to rake out the earth.

While they were at work Alfred was lying with his back against a low
mound. He happened to turn around and noticed that the upper part of
the elevation was smooth, and contained certain marks and inscriptions.

"What's this?" shouted Alfred, as he arose and gazed down on it.

Ralph, somewhat startled, sprang out of the hollow and drew himself up.

"What have you got?" he asked.

"Here is a mark of some kind; now what can it be?" said Alfred,
pointing down to the stone.

"That is singular," remarked Ralph. "A cross, a circle, two arrows, and
a set of figures. I suppose it means something, and is there for some
purpose."

[Illustration: _A German Range-finder_]

"It may be a surveyor's post; no, that's not the name of it either.
What was it the professor called the marking place where they measure
from?" asked Alfred.

"I don't know what you mean," said Ralph.

"Why, when they locate a station, or a particular spot and then sight
from that place to the next;—what is it called?—oh, I know; it's a
_bench_," said Alfred.

"So it is; I had forgotten the name," answered Ralph.

Frisky kept on digging, and had worked his way in until he was almost
hidden.

"I am afraid you will have to stop," said Alfred, but Frisky didn't
cease his efforts. "Come on, we might as well reach the top," continued
Alfred, walking away.

Ralph gave another glance at the inscription, and turned to follow. As
he gazed across the brow of the hill he stopped.

"Alfred," he said, "this arrow points straight to that hill in the
southwest; do you see that figure there? I wonder if there is anything
in that?" said Ralph.

"I wish I had a straight stick, and then we could tell exactly,"
remarked Alfred, as he looked around for something to verify the
assertion.

"Use a string," said Ralph. "Here is one; wait, and let me stand right
over the stone. Now, I'm going to stretch it and hold it parallel with
the arrow below. When I give the word sight along the string and see
whether or not it crosses the hill in the distance."

"All right," answered Alfred. "Lower the right hand a little; it
over-shoots the hill too much; are you ready?"

"Yes; how is it?" asked Ralph.

"Oh, it points down to the hollow left of the hill," said Alfred, "so I
suppose the mark must be intended for something else."

"Come on, Frisky; enough of that," shouted Alfred. "Up the hill," and
he marched off whistling.

After Ralph started Frisky jumped out of the hole, gave a few
discouraging barks, and leaped after the boys.

Within fifteen minutes the motor camp was reached; then great cave-like
holes were noticed, stored with huge shells, and numerous smaller
caves, in which were men lying about.

"There the guns are," said Alfred. "Well, they have them nicely hidden,
and I don't see how the flyers would ever pick them out the way they
are arranged."

A guard blocked the way, and a corporal approached. "Your business," he
said.

"We are from the 14th French Artillery; just came out of the hospital a
few weeks ago," said Ralph.

"Have you authority to pass the lines?" asked the corporal.

"No; we just came over from the field base today; didn't think it was
necessary," said Alfred.

"I will report," said the orderly, as he turned on his heels and
marched alongside the hill to one of the dug-outs.

An officer approached; the boys saluted.

"From the 14th, I understand," he said. "Any credentials?" he quickly
remarked.

The boys looked at each other, for they were now conscious of the fact
that they did not have the first evidence to sustain the contention
that they were members of the 14th.

Ralph shook his head. Alfred reached into his pocket and drew out
the certificate of the physician, which detailed the wounding, the
detention at the hospital, and the discharge.

The officer examined the paper with some interest.

"We were never regularly enlisted in the artillery, but we helped them
out when they had the big drive there a month ago," said Ralph. "It was
there we were wounded."

"Here is something that may be just as good," said Alfred. "We did
belong to the Aviation corps, and got wounded while serving there, too,
and here is our discharge, and the other certificate from the hospital."

"That looks pretty straight," said the officer. "Come in and you may
look around for a half hour. At that time the firing will proceed, and
no one is permitted closer than the motor house."

"Those guns are the same size as the ones mounted on the dunes at
Dunkirk," said Ralph, after a silence, as he glanced under the cover of
the first one.

"What do you know about the Dunkirk guns?"

"We were there nearly a week before we went to Paris," said Alfred. "We
had an opportunity to examine them while they were hauling them out of
the boats and setting them up," replied Alfred.

"Why, that was at the beginning of the war," remarked the officer.

"Yes; it was just after they drove us across northern Belgium," said
Ralph.

"Where were you driven from?" asked the officer, in a surprised voice.

"From Antwerp," said Alfred.

"So you boys took a hand from the first?" he asked.

"Yes, from the very first day, and, I guess, from the first hour," said
Ralph, with a smile.

"When was that?" asked another officer, who had overheard the remark.

"At five o 'clock, on the 3d day of August, 1914," said Alfred in
measured tones.

"Right you are," responded the officer.

As they passed the third giant field piece, the gunners were at setting
up exercise,—that is, going through their paces initiating a green
squad of recruits in the manoeuvers necessary to load, aim and fire.

"That looks natural," said Ralph, "and they do it well, too; but we
never had any exercises except with the 75's."

"Look at that hill over there; they are pointing straight at it; so it
seems to me. Isn't that the hill we saw from the bench marks below?"
asked Alfred.

"So it is," answered Ralph. Then, turning to the officer, he continued:
"Are you bombarding that hill?"

"We are not sure where they are located, but they have a powerful
battery somewhere there, and we have tried for two weeks to find it.
You see we are three and a half miles from that hill," said the officer.

"You should aim for that hollow directly north of the hill," said
Alfred.

Both officers looked at Alfred, who nodded his head and kept a sober
face. Both men began to laugh. "What makes you think they have their
big battery there?" asked one of them.

"Because we have just been examining the bench mark which the Germans
left on the side of the hill," replied Ralph.

"What do you mean? Where?" asked the officers in a breath.

The questions were almost shouted. The excitement attracted others near
by.

"That can't be possible," said one of the officers.

"Do you mean," said another, "that the fellows over there left a range
mark?"

"Well, we don't know about that, exactly, but in coming up,—here
Frisky,—our dog treed something in a hole,——"

"Treed in a hole,—ha, ha,—that's clever!" interrupted one of the
officers. The others laughed in unison, and the boys joined.

"Well, that's what we call it, at any rate," continued Alfred. "So we
went over to help him out. Right near the hole was a big flat stone on
top of a mound, and it had the cross marks on it, some circles, and
arrows, and also some marks."

"Where is that?" asked an officer, now thoroughly sobered.

"But what made you think it had anything to do with that hill over
there?" interrupted another.

"Because the arrow pointed that way, but when we made a test we were
disappointed, as the arrow went straight to that hollow place that I
referred to, north of the hill. Now, there may be something in that; I
don't know," said Alfred.

"That is something worth looking into; accompany us," said the officer.

On the way to the narrow cut which led to the roadway, the commanding
officer of the battery appeared.

"What is this I hear about finding a range mark left by the Germans?"
he asked.

The matter was explained to him.

"It looks to me like a bench mark," said Alfred, as they walked down
the hill.

"So you have been a surveyor?" said the commander.

"No, sir; never did anything in that line, but take lessons; what made
you think so?" asked Alfred.

"That happens to be my line, and the term is one rarely, if ever, used
outside of the profession," he remarked. "And, by the way, Lieutenant,
did you order the theodolite brought down?"

"I did, sir!" was the response.

The party picked their way along the brush, Ralph and Alfred in
the lead. Back and forth they stumbled over the hillside, but the
longed-for spot seemed to elude them.

"Now, isn't that singular?" said Ralph. "It seemed to be on a rather
level spot, and there was a ravine, not a deep one, which we had to
cross to get there. It may be further around the hill, for we could
see across the country to the east from the bench."

Back and forth, up and down, and still it could not be located.

"You are sure it is not far from the road?" asked one of the officers.

"Why, we were so near we could hear Frisky pawing and barking,—where
is he now? Hello, Frisky!" cried out Alfred. "Come, Frisky."

There was a short, quick bark to the right, and Ralph waved his
cap. "He's over there; he's at the hole now," shouted Ralph, as he
disappeared in a gully.

Ralph was observed climbing the steep incline at the other side and the
party followed.

"Good boy, Frisky!" said Alfred, as he came up and stooped down to pat
the dog.

"That's a remarkable animal; and where did you get him?" asked the
commander.

"He adopted us down in the village this afternoon," said Ralph with a
chuckle.

The commander threw his head back and fairly shook with merriment at
the remark.

"Ah! that's the devoted dog that used to live at the stone cottage,"
said one of the officers. "I know him now."

"Here's the bench," said Ralph, "and it's through Frisky we found it."

The officers gathered around the stone and examined it with intense
curiosity. The sketch of it, which is here appended, shows the marks
and the figures. The face of the stone was about fourteen inches
across and perfectly flat. On this was a cross, the limbs of which were
a foot long.

The crosses indicated the cardinal points of the compass; that was
evident, as one of them had, at its extremity, the letter N. Two
circles were scribed, the center being at the crossing point of the two
limbs. One arrow pointed northeast, the other southeast, one having the
figure 7 at the point, and 47 across the middle of the body, while the
other had 5 at the apex and 52 across the body.

The commander examined the stone intently for several minutes,
occasionally shaking his head. Evidently something puzzled him.

"I cannot understand the meaning of the circles, and of the numbers
which appear attached to them, namely, 300, 60 and 200. It is possible
they may be there as a mere blind," he said.

"Captain, isn't it possible that it may be a bench erected by the
French surveyors previous to the war?" asked an officer.

"It is not at all likely," replied the captain. "In the first place,
the marking is not such as the French surveyors use; and, in the second
place, the arrows are meant to show a point which would be of no value
to a topographical survey except for finding certain distant objects."

"Then what do the figures attached to the arrows mean?" asked an
officer.

"The apex figures are kilometers, and those on the bodies of the arrows
represent meters," answered the captain.

"Well, the one with the 5 at the end does seem to point to the hill we
have been shelling for the past week," said an officer.

"Put up the instrument and get the exact angle," said the captain.

This was done. The boys' experiments were confirmed.

"It is just two and a half degrees north of the peak of the hill," said
the officer, looking through the instrument.

"And it is 5 kilometers, 52 centimeters distant, and a little over, as
the plus mark indicates," said the captain.

"Now, if that is the distance to the place over there, we have the
exact range also for the other point, 7 kilometers and 47 centimeters
beyond. The question in my mind is," said the officer, "has it
reference to a battery location?"

"Have you figured out the distance of 5.52 kilometers in miles?" asked
the captain.

"Yes; it is a trifle over three and a half miles, or to be exact,
18,488 feet," said the officer.

"You see that corresponds within a hundred feet or so of the
triangulated measurement we made of the hill," said the captain.

"One thing is sure, however, that if their big battery is on that hill,
or near it, they have some way of protecting it, for they are doing as
much damage with it as the first day we started in," said the officer
addressed.



CHAPTER XII

FINDING THE ENEMY'S BATTERY


"I think it is a very fortunate circumstance that we have found this
range mark," said the captain, turning to the boys. "It is a remarkable
evidence that your training has been in the right direction. This
discovery entitles you to special mention in my report. Take the names
of these young men," he said, addressing an officer, "and also the
address, so that due credit may be given them."

"Where are you staying?" asked the officer.

"At the main camp north of Corbie," answered Ralph. "Colonel Winston
knows us, and he has promised to get us in the artillery."

"Then you really want to be put to work!" asked the commandant.

"Yes; that is why we left the aviation service, after our friend was
killed," said Alfred.

"How would our battery suit you?" asked the commandant with a smile.

"Oh, it would be just what we want," answered Ralph quickly. "We can do
anything; if you'll only try us."

"Then come along and help us tomorrow when we alter our range," said
the commandant.

"Here, Frisky! come on!" said Alfred, as the animal was still pawing
and sniffing around. "I suppose he can go along, too, may he?"

The group was immensely amused at the request. "We might make him the
mascot of the battery," said one of them.

As they were walking up the hill, one of the great guns resounded, soon
followed by another crash.

"How long do you keep it up at a time?" asked Alfred.

"Usually an hour; but I presume there will be no more firing after we
reach the battery. The revelations of that stone will necessitate some
revision and calculation," was the answer.

Arriving at the dug-outs, the first care of the commandant was to give
orders for the housing of the boys, and Frisky was provided with a cozy
place.

"I suppose he'll go back to the cottage this evening or tomorrow. The
old man said that he returned to the house every day," said Ralph.

There was no thought now of going back to the camp. Their belongings,
what few they had, were still there, and the thing uppermost in their
minds, after they were comfortably settled, was to devise a way to have
them sent over.

"Why not write a letter to Capt. Rose, and ask him to see that they are
packed up and sent to us?" proposed Alfred.

A letter was, therefore, prepared, setting forth their adventures
briefly, in which their compliments were sent to Col. Winston, with the
request that their things should be forwarded.

"How are we to have the things directed?" queried Ralph.

"I will ask one of the men," said Alfred.

"Going to have your things sent here, eh?" replied the man. "Just
address Royal Artillery, Hill 406; it will come all right."

"When will this go out?" asked Ralph.

"Tomorrow forenoon," was the reply.

The evening meal was hugely enjoyed by the boys, for they had had a
strenuous day. It was the first time in months that they were served
roast beef,—the Britisher's dish, and while the hospitals are always
provided with the best-cooked food, and many dainties, such as invalids
relish, the artillery branch of the service is usually served with the
most substantial and regular meals. The infantry always has plenty, but
the difficulty is that the poor fellows in the front line can get their
food, while a battle is in progress, only at irregular intervals.

Located, as they were, near the top of a hill, far from the enemy,
having no fear of unexpected assaults, and only occasionally disturbed
by the great shells which sometimes search them out, the artilleryman
can dine in comfort on food well cooked in a finely arranged kitchen,
usually presided over by a competent chef.

That was why the boys enjoyed the meal, or one of the reasons; the
other being, undoubtedly, the normal hunger which seems to come to all
boys who are in an active and growing stage.

They had potatoes, turnips and salad, and even fruit, as well as tea,
although coffee was also served to those who called for it.

"Well! if they don't have real apple pie!" said Alfred, as the dishes
were removed for the final course.

"Tarts! my boy! Tarts!" interjected Alfred's neighbor.

"Well, we call them pies," explained Ralph. "When they have a crust on
top they are pies, and the little things without any tops are tarts."

This started a laugh, followed by the usual discussion on the different
terms used by various people.

"You may be the right one after all," said Alfred. "We lived in England
for a time, and I remember once going into a grocery with father who
wanted to get some fruit. He asked for a can of peaches, and the clerk
replied: 'Ah! you mean tinned peaches!'

"Yes; that was correct," said the man.

"The clerk handed down the article, and the label on the outside said:
'American Canning Co.' I always supposed the goods were canned, not
tinned," replied Ralph, laughing.

"My word! I never thought of that before! I dare say you may be right,"
was the reply.

It was evident from the activity in the camp the next morning that
something unusual was at hand. At eight o 'clock Ralph burst into
the lean-to, which extended out from the hole-in-the-ground shelter,
which they called the boudoir, with the startling information that two
aeroplanes were hovering about.

"What! are they Germans?" asked Alfred, as he leaped up.

"No, indeed; one is a Farman, and the other is a Bruegot: I imagine
from that there will be some special observation work on hand,"
answered Ralph, as they moved out of the shadow of the trees, so as to
get a good view of them.

"Why are they settling down on that side of the hill?" asked Alfred, as
an officer appeared.

"That is the only available landing place near by," was the answer.

"Do they come over frequently?" It was Ralph who spoke.

"This is the first time since I have been here," replied the officer.
"But we are going to change the range today," he continued, "and we
need the flyers to report results."

"I am glad of that," replied Alfred.

"The commandant is very agreeably surprised at your discovery, and is
hoping for good results," he said, as he moved away.

"Let's go over to headquarters," said Ralph.

"Why not go down and take a look at the machines?" suggested Alfred.

"That would be a good idea," responded Ralph, as he led the way.

Just then an officer hurriedly marched across the open space behind
the guns, and, passing the guard line, moved down the hill to the left.
The boys followed.

"I suppose that's where he is going," remarked Alfred.

The road made a slight turn at a point below the guard line, and one
of the machines was just sighted as it passed the brow of the hill and
descended the valley.

"Hurry up! there it is!" remarked Ralph.

"There is the other machine," said Alfred, as he stopped to gaze to the
east.

A ten minutes' walk brought them close to the plateau, on which the
machines had landed. They followed the officer and were soon alongside
the Farman.

One of the men arose from his seat in the machine, held out his hand
toward the boys, and shouted: "What are you doing here?"

The boys sprang forward, jumped on the fuselage and extended their
hands.

"Lieutenant Winston! sure enough!" said Ralph.

"No! Captain!" corrected Alfred.

"How do you do, Captain?" said Ralph. "I am so glad to see you. You
came at the right time."

"Well, it seems you always come at the right time, too," replied the
captain, as he reached forward with both hands to welcome them.

The officer now approached and saluted.

"We got our orders this morning to report here for special duty," said
the captain. "What is up now? Have the Germans been doing you up?"

"Oh, no! Just getting ready to perform that service on them, thanks to
the boys," replied the officer, laughing and pointing to them.

"Well, that is interesting; if it hadn't been for these boys I would
not have had the pleasure of reporting to you this morning," answered
the captain.

"That is certainly surprising news, and the telling of it will please
the colonel," said the officer.

The boys were now introduced to Lieutenant Martin, who occupied the
seat of observer in the other machine. Together the five ascended the
hill and reported to the colonel commanding the batteries on the crest.

The captain and lieutenant entered the commandant's office, while the
boys remained outside with the officers.

In a few moments an orderly appeared and notified the boys that the
commandant required their presence. As they entered the door the
commandant met them with a pleasant smile.

"I am glad to hear about you from the captain. Why didn't you tell me
you were friends of the captain here and of Colonel Winston at the
camp?" asked the commandant.

"Well, I suppose we had too much else to think about, sir," replied
Alfred.

"It is very interesting," continued the commandant. "But we must
proceed to business. These boys made a remarkable discovery yesterday;
I am about to make a test of the information we gained through them,
and we need your eyes to help us out."

"No wonder the boys were entitled to decorations!" said the captain,
looking at the boys with ill-concealed admiration.

"Decorations?" almost shouted the commander. "Where are they?" he asked
the boys.

"Why, we have them in our pockets," said Ralph, amused at the allusion
to them.

Alfred drew out his and dangled it. The officers laughed heartily, as
the commandant said: "Well, most men would have had them on show all
the time."

"Our engineers have made these charts for your guidance," continued the
commandant. "We have peppered that section, marked 29, for the past
week, but the big guns they have somewhere in that section are just
as lively as ever. This sketch shows the bench marks that the boys
discovered yesterday on the side of the hill. Our observation of it
seemed to confirm the theory of the boys that these arrows pointed to
the hidden batteries. We want your aid to ascertain whether or not they
are really there, and if you will commence your observation over that
section, the guns will begin as soon as we receive your signals."

The preliminaries having been all arranged, and the signals understood
so that there would be no errors, the captain and lieutenant at once
proceeded down the hill. Fifteen minutes thereafter the two machines
began to circle overhead, and, having reached the predetermined
height, began the flight southeast to reach the depression to the left
of the hill behind the German lines.

The two machines soon found themselves antagonized by several enemy
ships, but still the flights were made back and forth. With field
glasses it could plainly be seen that there was a fight on hand, which
increased their anxiety more and more as two more German machines came
up from the north.

"That begins to look a little serious for our boys," said Ralph,
walking back and forth nervously.

"That makes six machines after them," said Alfred. "But what is that
over there?" continued Alfred, as he pointed to the south. "Look at
them, Ralph! Are they our machines?"

"Yes! yes! four, five, six, eight; some of them Sopwiths; now there'll
be some fun," cried Ralph enthusiastically.

"They'll be there in ten minutes," said Alfred. "They are going up, up;
that was Lieutenant's favorite trick; they are doing that to frighten
the German aeroplanes away from Captain Winston."

"And it's succeeding, too," replied Ralph. "One of the machines is
coming this way; no, it's not the lieutenant, so it must be Captain
Winston."

"Order the men to stand at attention," shouted the commandant. "Are
they all ready?" he asked after a moment.

"They are ready for the order."

"The captain has just signaled with two puffs."

"Trial range!" ordered the commandant. "Boom! boom!" replied two of the
monsters in reply.

The machine turned, and speeded away toward the hill beyond.

"Where are the German ships now?" asked the commandant.

"Nowhere in sight," replied Ralph.

"The other machine must be coming this way," sang out Alfred. "Three
puffs to the right, followed by another one."

"One degree to the right!" observed the chief gunner. This order was
imparted to the gun crews.

Thus the battle continued for two hours, while the great guns on
the hill searched every nook and corner, if there was one, in the
depression toward which the arrow on the bench mark pointed.

The machines were returning. It would be impossible for the aviators
and observers to continue the arduous duty for a much greater length
of time, and as the guns were landing the great shells within the area
which it was intended to search out, the new duty would call them the
next day.

The guns didn't cease to roar until late that evening. Three great
motor vans were constantly moving up and down the hill, bringing the
immense shells, and it was a fascinating game to see the manner in
which they were handled after they left the vans.

Directly behind the row of guns was a narrow-gauge railway, with a
return switch, or siding. Two metal trucks were employed, each truck
having a rack which carried six shells which were loaded crosswise.
Below the rack was a sort of box, also of metal. Behind each gun was a
track, which led to the main railway, and on this short branch was a
truck adapted to hold a single shell.

[Illustration: _Arrangement of Guns on Hill 203_]

A stationary rack was alongside of the track adjacent the branch track,
capable of holding three shells, so that this rack would temporarily
hold the shells as they were unloaded from the carrying truck. As the
truck on the main line unloaded its freight, the assistants would throw
the cartridge, or the rear part of a fired shell, into the box beneath
the racks, and it was thus conveyed back to the vans. The latter would
be loaded and conveyed down the hill to be transported back to the
munition factories.

The loading operation of the huge shells was also interesting, for it
must be remembered that some of the missiles weigh nearly a ton. After
the tremendous rebound of the gun, the breech block was opened, the
opening mechanism being so arranged that the cartridge shell would be
extracted automatically, thus preparing the gun for the next shell.



CHAPTER XIII

THE MYSTERIOUS FIGURES ON THE RANGE FINDER


All in the battery arose the next morning with an air of expectancy on
their countenances, and this was particularly marked in the demeanor of
the boys. Captain Winston was at the camp all night, and the probable
result of the cannonading was the all-important topic.

"Do you think, Captain, that we wiped out the big battery over there
yesterday?" asked Ralph.

"That is the problem uppermost in my mind," replied the captain. "It
was impossible for me to spot any location in that depression, which
could conceal the guns, although, of course, as my observations were
not less than a mile from the earth, it is rather indefinite."

"Do you think they will have another try at it today?" asked Alfred.

"I understand not," was his reply.

"Then what will be done really to find out?" asked Ralph.

"That is what we are now considering," said the lieutenant. "I do not
know what suggestion to make. We have gone over the bench mark and are
sure that it portends something, but what it is impossible to figure
out."

During all this conversation it must not be understood that the guns
were silent. It was the custom to change the angle and sweep of the
guns continually during these desultory rounds, the annoying thing
being that there was no positive way of determining the effect of shots
which landed three and four miles away.

"The commandant wishes to see you," said an orderly, addressing the
captain.

Directly west of the hill, within the German lines just referred to,
and, probably, three miles distant, was a spur of the railroad which
led from the main camp ten miles in the rear. For more than two weeks
it had been impossible for the British forces to use that road as some
hidden battery of Germans, having the exact range, could rake it with
heavy shells, and it was, consequently, torn up after each repair trip.

It was generally used in the night to transport troops and provisions,
but even that was too unsafe. All the supplies, therefore, for a mile
of trenches, had to be conveyed through a section over which there
were no roads, by vans, and the entire road was literally lined with
machines which were mired. To wipe out the battery or batteries which
were doing such execution, was the problem before our battery on the
hill.

Furthermore, it must be understood that before an advance could be
made, with any degree of success, the location of that battery must
be found. Once discovered, the English knew that it would be only a
matter of hours before it would be wiped off the face of the earth. The
great eight-inch guns were there for that purpose.

"I have some interesting news for you," said the captain, as he
appeared at the door.

"What is it?" asked the lieutenant.

"The branch railroad was actually pulverized last night," he replied.

Ralph dropped back and slowly shook his head. "I guess," he said, "the
arrow means something else."

It was a great blow to all of them.

"Have you the sketch of the chart with you?"

The captain took it out of his pocket with a listless air.

"I am very much disappointed," he said. "If it is in that hollow I do
not see how they could possibly be in condition to use the guns during
the night. We could not see a trace of tracks to convey the ammunition
to the guns at that place if any were there, and our shots fell all over
the hollow back for a mile beyond the range indicated on the stone."

Alfred was intently examining the chart. "The commandant was puzzled at
the figures 300, 200 and 60, which are in the circles below the arrows.
Isn't it likely that they are there for some purpose?" asked Alfred.

"Unquestionably," replied the lieutenant. "Those figures may be the key
to the whole reading."

"I'll tell you what I think," said Ralph, rising and walking about
excitedly. "I have an idea about that 300. Do you know, Captain, how
far it is from the depression where the arrow points to, to the top of
the hill?"

"Not definitely; it might be about 450 or 500 feet; possibly more. But
why do you ask?" remarked the captain.

"Well, here is the arrow, with the 5 at the head of it, on the right
side of the line that runs east and west; and below the cross line and
also on the right side is the number 300. Now, my idea is, that if
the battery is not found at the place where the arrow points, it must
be 300 meters to the right side of the direction given by the arrow,"
answered Ralph.

The captain arose with just as much enthusiasm in his action. "I
believe you have struck it, we must consult the commandant; come on,"
and he led the way with quickened steps.

"Reading the chart?" said the commandant, with a twinkle in his eye,
as the company entered, and the captain pointed to the chart, while
the amused smile on the faces of the others plainly indicated that
something unusual had taken place.

"It seems to me Ralph has struck it," said the captain.

The commandant reached for the chart. "Do you mean the strange figures
in the circle?" he asked.

"Yes; I felt sure those figures were the keys; Ralph seems to have
given a turn to a key that has possibilities in it; we all know the
battery is not in that depression. Might it not be 300 meters to the
right of the direction which the arrow indicates?" asked the captain.

The commandant gazed at the chart, and with it in his hand paced the
floor, stopping occasionally to fix some feature in his mind.

"If you will pardon me," said Ralph, "it does not seem to me that the
300 has anything to do with the circle, but that its position on the
right of the east and west line means something."

"That is the very thing I had in my mind this moment," responded the
commandant. "It is most probable that such is the case. But stop; might
that not be feet, eh, Captain?"

"Not at all likely, for that would land us somewhere near the top
of the hill, and I think you have plowed up that region pretty
thoroughly," answered the captain.

"Enough; if that battery isn't 300 meters to the right then we must
make another guess. Get your ranges for 300 meters, and we'll pepper
them tomorrow," said the captain in a decisive tone. "Before you go,
boys, I want to say that you are certainly deserving of praise for your
methods of observation; it is exercised in a direction that might be
observed with profit by many others."

The boys accompanied the captain and lieutenant to the temporary shed
on the plateau next morning, after the final interview had taken place
with the commandant.

"The sight of the machines here almost makes me feel as though I ought
to get back in the aviation service," said Alfred, as he walked around
the machine and examined the new improvements that had been added since
they were in that branch of the army.

Promptly at eight o'clock the engines started and the machines began
their flight. It was a beautiful sight to see them sail across the
sunlit fields of France, for it was a lovely morning.

"Ah! this will be a fine day to make observations," said the
commandant, as the boys reached headquarters. "I should like to have
you here to note the movement of the machines during their manoeuvers,"
he said, addressing the boys.

Both Ralph and Alfred were accordingly supplied with strong field
glasses to aid them in noting the events which would take place. The
guns were silent as no orders had been issued for the resumption of the
bombardment.

Meanwhile, the airplanes had reached the zone directly above the
questionable ground. They could be seen plainly by the boys, circling
to and fro over the hill and to the south. In a half hour one of the
machines rapidly ascended and started for the English lines.

"Here she comes," said Ralph. "One of them is on the way."

"But where is the other one? I haven't noticed it since they
disappeared beyond the clouds," remarked Alfred.

The airplane grew larger, and a single puff appeared. The order was
given for the first round, and the hill shook with the reverberations.
The airplane now circled around, while the guns kept booming, and
after the first circle it flew back above the suspected area. Then it
disappeared.

The faintest trace of smoke appeared on top of the hill. The commandant
saw it. "I suspect," he said, "that they have located some anti-airship
guns on that point."

"Yes, we noticed that yesterday," said Ralph.

Suddenly, one of the airplanes came out of the gray cloud and Alfred
was quick to announce the fact.

"But why do we not get any signals from them?" asked the commandant.

"The one coming this way is signaling," said Ralph. "Two puffs, so far,
but it is very misty; yes, two puffs, and two more, one above the ship
follows it. Why, we must be firing beyond the mark."

The gunners were directed to alter the range.

After a half dozen rounds the commandant asked: "Do the signals confirm
the range?"

"Not yet,—wait a moment,—I can see a single puff only; it is above
the machine; the gunners are all right; there, another puff to the
left; if the gunners will aim a little more to the left they will be
all right," said Alfred, as rapidly as he could utter the words.

"That machine acts queerly," said Ralph. "What do you make out? Is it
the Farman machine?"

"It looks like it," said Alfred. After a few moments' observation he
added: "Yes, that is Captain Winston's machine. It seems as though he
were making a dive. I can't understand it."

"He seems to be coming this way," said Ralph.

"Yes; but he is going down for all he is worth," said Alfred.

It was now evident that the Farman had been hit. It moved through the
air like a drunken man, and several times it dove down headlong, only
to catch itself and momentarily sail upward again.

"If he can only keep that up for another mile he will be all right,"
said Ralph, as his gaze was fixed intently on the moving object. The
suspense was intense for a few minutes.

"Isn't that too bad!" said Alfred, as he removed the glasses from his
eyes. "He's gone! he's gone!" he added in great excitement.

"The machine is now going at a terrific rate of speed. I know what that
means," sadly remarked Ralph.

"I believe the captain's all right, after all," shouted Alfred,
somewhat cheered up, after he again had focused the glasses.

"Why do you think so?" queried Ralph.

"Because he has again righted the machine; that shows he's all right,"
responded Alfred.

The machine was now less than a thousand feet from the earth, and was
safe within the English lines. Down, down it went, sometimes plunging
almost vertically, then again staggering from side to side.

"He's almost down now," said Ralph. "Poor fellow; I wish we could go
over and see him."

"Take one of the vans, and present the order at the village," said
the commandant. "This will give you permission to requisition any
conveyance."

The boys fairly flew out of the commandant's office. They sprang into
the first motor van which was rounding the corner, Ralph holding up the
slip with the red gun on the corner. The man in charge nodded his head
in reply.

"Hot work," he remarked. "Any news up there?" he asked.

"Nothing in particular," said Alfred. "We saw one of our machines go
down, and are going over to see if he is all right."

"Good luck to you. Hope he is all right."

"Well, that beats me," shouted one of the helpers, seated on the rear
end of the van.

"What's that?" questioned Ralph.

"Look at the pup!" replied the man.

"Say, Mister, hold up until I get the dog," cried Alfred.

Frisky had seen the attempt of the boys to steal away. He was following
the van at top speed.

"Come on Frisky! Forgot all about you! Here, take hold of him,"
directed Alfred, as he handed up the animal.

"Where did you get him?" asked the chauffeur.

"He's our war relic. Used to live at the wrecked cottage at the turn of
the road; you know, the place down below," said Ralph.

The chauffeur rushed the van down and out along the road leading to the
village.

"Which way are you going?" he asked.

"Toward the big hill across the river. He came down in that direction,"
said Alfred.

"But you're not going to walk there, are you?" he queried.

"Not if we can find any other way," said Alfred.

"Then let me advise you; there's a fellow on the side street that leads
past the old hotel, who has some bicycles. You might borrow a couple,"
responded the chauffeur.

"The suggestion is a good one; thank you," replied Alfred.

They were fortunate in finding the very articles needed. "How much for
these two machines for two hours?" asked Ralph.

"Six francs; but you must deposit the value of the machines," replied
the man.

"Then we'll requisition them," said Alfred, drawing the slip out of his
pocket and presenting it to the astonished man.

He quickly handed back the slip, as he remarked: "You may take the
machines."

Alfred then handed him the six francs, and the boys, mounting the
wheels, were soon rapidly speeding out the same avenue on which they
were halted so unceremoniously two days before. Frisky was at their
heels, delighted, no doubt, at the outing. The guard line being
reached, Alfred drew out the slip, as he remarked:

"I suppose we can get through this time?"

"Certainly," replied the guard, and then noticing the uniforms they
wore, he added: "Who was it that came down a half hour ago?"

"Captain Winston," replied Ralph. "We are anxious to know whether he is
all right."

"I hear he is pretty badly mashed up," remarked the guard as the boys
again mounted their wheels. "Take the first road to the right after
passing the white cottage," he shouted.

The road led down an incline, and they could see the flat country
beyond. As they proceeded the road grew worse and worse. The tall trees
on both sides of the road had prevented the sun from drying up the way
properly, but, probably, that didn't matter much, as it was evident
that the horses and few vehicles which passed over it would have kept
it in a bad condition at the best.

This road, which was between the first and fifth line trenches, had
not been repaired since that section was taken from the Germans. They
were at this time less than a mile from the first trenches, and, after
passing the white house, they turned to the right.

"Look at the fellows running across the second field," shouted Ralph.
"I suppose there is where he landed."

At the eastern side of the meadow adjoining the one on which they
noticed the soldiers running, was a fringe of tall trees. Near by,
groups of men were visible, and as they neared the place they saw an
object high in the trees.

"Is that the machine hung up between the two trees?" asked Alfred.

"It looks very much like it," responded Ralph. "Yes; that is the tail
and one of the wings, sure."

It was a struggle to get across the miry field, but they finally
arrived. The Red Cross people, who were already there, were rendering
first aid to the captain, who was lying on his side, his face pale, and
one of his bared arms covered with blood.

"How is he, Doctor?" asked Ralph, as he sprang from his wheel and
leaned over.

The doctor, without looking up, answered: "A very bad fall; internal
injuries; we may know more in a few minutes."

"Why, that's Doctor Walker," said Alfred.

The physician quickly looked up at the mention of his name.

"This is a strange place to find you boys," he remarked with a
welcoming smile.



CHAPTER XIV

CAUGHT IN A TERRIFIC DRIVE


"Did he land in that tree?" asked Ralph, addressing a bystander.

"Yes, the machine seemed to be pretty badly riddled, and became
unmanageable long before he reached the tree; but he went into it at
a smashing speed. The officer was thrown out and shot down into that
small tree, which broke the fall. If it hadn't been for that he would
have been mashed to flinders," was the response.

Shortly thereafter the captain showed signs of recovering
consciousness. He raised the uninjured arm, and soon opened his eyes.
He glanced at the boys, but did not seem to recognize them.

"He seems to be very much better," said the doctor. "He is bruised up
about the same as you were when you were brought to the hospital at
Cortier," he said, addressing Ralph.

After a wait of half an hour more, the doctor announced that the
patient could be moved, and he was accordingly carried to the van and
comfortably fixed on the hammock within.

"So you knew the captain?" inquired the doctor.

"Yes; we happened to be crossing the aviation grounds at Dunkirk, at a
time when the captain was aloft, and some part of the machine broke. He
had a bad fall, and we were, fortunately, close at hand and helped to
rescue him from under the machine," said Alfred.

The captain opened his eyes; he tried to smile, but the attempt died
away. Then he seemed to make another effort, and this time succeeded.

"You were right," said the captain in a weak voice. "We found it;
report to the colonel. The battery must have wiped them out by this
time."

He closed his eyes and was silent for a time. It seemed as though he
actually dropped off into a sound sleep.

"What does he mean? Do you know what he is talking about?" asked the
doctor, turning to the boys.

The patient's eyelids began to quiver, and the boys quietly nodded
their heads. "That was a corker!" continued the captain. "Tell the
colonel, by all means."

"What colonel does he mean?" asked Alfred. "The colonel commanding the
battery, or his brother?"

"Both, of course," suggested Ralph.

The van started, the boys mounting their wheels and following.

"We are going back to the base camp, and put him in the hospital
there," said the doctor.

"That is where his brother, the colonel, is in command," remarked Ralph.

"Yes," answered the doctor.

During the foregoing period of time there was not a moment when the
firing on both sides of the lines had ceased. As the boys turned to the
right to reach the road, they saw hundreds of soldiers rushing across
to reach the third line, and it seemed as though the firing had grown
heavier than when they had come out the road an hour before.

"Something unusual is going on," remarked Ralph. "Why are they gathering
the machine guns behind those trenches? That is the third line; the
second line cannot be more than three hundred yards behind us."

They were about to turn to the east and west road, when the most
intense shell fire was opened up on their right.

"Get under cover quickly!" shouted a voice.

The boys turned, but were unable to detect the speaker. "I suppose we
must obey," said Ralph.

"Hide? But where?" asked Alfred.

"Wheel down to the hollow," cried Ralph.

The hollow was reached, and in their eagerness they almost fell into
the ditch. It was the third line, filled with men ready to do their
duty. Frisky tumbled in with a yelp and a growl.

"What's the matter?" asked Ralph, as he picked himself up from the
bottom of the trench.

"The Germans are making a counter attack over a front of a mile," was
the reply of the corporal.

"Then we are just in time," said Alfred. "Any guns handy?"

The men looked amused at the request. "Well, that's no laughing
matter," said Ralph. "We're not here for the fun of the thing."

This prompt answer was an additional cause for merriment, in which both
boys joined.

Crack! crack! crack! R-r-r-r-r-r. The machine guns began to speak.
The men on each side became subdued, and their faces exhibited set
expressions, for they knew that the voices of the machine gun meant an
enemy near at hand.

At a little alcove, cut in the side of the trench, was an orderly with
a telephone transmitter in his hand. The corporal leaned over to catch
his words, for the din was now intense.

"The Germans have taken the first line and are moving the 22d back on
the Corbeville road. The third line must hold them until the additional
guns are brought up. We shall counter attack in the next section to
the south." Such were, in part, the orders and instructions which the
operator imparted to the corporal.

"Why, this is the Corbeville road," said Ralph in a tremor of
excitement.

"Then we are in for it this time," said Alfred.

"You may have the guns," said the orderly, as the boys stood before him
and repeated the request.

There was no time to give orders as to the positions they were to take.
Almost instantly there arose a column of troops three hundred feet
ahead and every man, without an order, leveled his gun across the
parapet above the trench and fired as fast as the levers of the guns
could be manipulated.

"Fire deliberately!" said the corporal, as he walked along the short
stretch of the ditch directly under his command.

The moment the boys began to fire they seemed to be animated with an
entirely different feeling. The tremor and excitement had gone, and
they were keyed up to the most extreme earnestness. The dark, greyish
line on the other side of the field kept moving toward them, but gaps
in the ranks were plainly seen. Would they dare charge all the way up
to the trench?

They fired and fired and fired, until their shoulders began to ache;
then something happened. No more Germans were in sight. What had become
of them?

"They are digging in," said the corporal. "Get ready, boys."

"I wonder what that means?" asked Ralph.

"Why, don't you see the Germans have stopped and are digging trenches,
and the corporal is going to order a charge to drive them out?"
answered Alfred.

The order came sooner than expected. "Ready! Forward! Open order!"
shouted the corporal, and he was the first to scramble out of the ditch.

There was no firing now on the part of the British, for they were too
busily engaged in springing forward and avoiding the obstructions
which beset them every foot of the way. If the hidden Germans were
firing at them they were not aware of it, for the din was too great to
distinguish anything. The singular thing, to the boys, however, was the
fact that at almost every step, some one would halt and drop down.

"Halt! Down!" cried a voice. Suddenly the line was prone on the ground.
The man between the boys thrust his bayonet into the sod and loosened
it, and with his hands quickly built a small parapet in front of him.
Looking about they saw others do the same.

"Is that called digging in?" asked Ralph.

"That's one way," replied the soldier. The sod was rolled up and pushed
from him, and he dragged himself forward until his body rested in the
shallow trench thus made, while the roll of sod in front became, in
reality, a protection.

"Ready to repel!" shouted the corporal.

They now understood; for no sooner had the words left the corporal's
lips than the Germans sprang forward. Every gun must have cracked at
the same time, and the aim was evidently careful, for their first
volley caused the line to halt and waver.

"At them, boys! Forward on the run!" fairly shrieked the corporal.
Frisky was the first one out of the trench.

Every man was on his feet. As the boys rose to follow they happened
to glance back for the first time. The sight that met them created
the greatest enthusiasm and confidence, for, climbing out of the
very trenches they had occupied twenty minutes before, were hundreds
of khaki-clad veterans,—the reserves, who had come up to support the
counter attack. That banished every fear, if such a thing was lurking
within them. At every step, and whenever a favorable object came into
view, the gun would be raised and a shot or two given by each soldier,
which only slightly impeded their forward movement.

Suddenly there was a tremendous cheer to the right; the boys could
see hundreds of men leaping over the brush, and stumbling across the
remains of a stone fence. The Germans were giving way, and when the
line on their right had passed the ridge and began to rush down the
little incline, the corporal cried, "Halt!"

The movement of the troop cut off the only line of retreat of the enemy
in front of the position occupied by the company the boys had engaged.
They stopped but for a moment only, when the second order came.
"Forward march!"

"Kamarad!" shouted several voices, as the forms appeared through the
smoke.

"Come forward!" came the order.

Instantly there rose from the ground, as if by magic, dozens of men.
They stood up with hands upstretched, and formed themselves together
in columns. The lieutenant in charge of the British advance stepped
forward, gave a quick command, and the men, now prisoners of war,
marched forward and were ordered to halt long enough to permit the
officer in charge to point out the detail which was selected to take
the prisoners to the rear.

The corporal looked at the boys, and they knew that it meant their
detail as well. The orderly marched ahead, and the prisoners with the
guard began the march to the village two miles in the rear.

As they were about to enter the village, Ralph shouted to Alfred, who
happened to be on the other side of the row of prisoners: "Say, we
forgot to bring our wheels back!"

The remark brought forth the first ripple of laughter in that party.
It was such an unexpected thing. Who cared about a couple of wheels?
Escorting prisoners of war to the detention camp was certainly of more
importance than recovering a pair of bicycles.

"Never mind the wheels," replied Alfred. "We have better business to
attend to just now."

The German lieutenant, who understood the language, enjoyed the remarks
quite as much as the guards, for he laughed in spite of the disaster to
his troops. Thereupon he and Alfred had quite a conversation on the way.

The village was entered and passed. Frisky now darted from one side of
the column to the other and yelped his approval.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Frisky, making fun of these poor
fellows," said Alfred.

"No, he oughtn't to!" shouted Ralph, in reply, and the smile faded from
the face of the German lieutenant.

The names of the soldiers and officers were taken down, their clothing
searched, and one by one they passed into the enclosure to remain until
the end of the war, unless exchanged.

"I suppose we are out of a job now," said Ralph to the corporal. "To
whom shall we turn over the guns?"

The corporal designated two soldiers to take the guns and cartridge
belts. "Before you go, just give me your name and the detachment to
which you belong," he said.

"Never mind about that," said Alfred. "It isn't necessary," he added.

"Yes, it is part of my duty; I must include it in my report."

While speaking, Alfred noticed the orderly belonging to the battery
approaching. He advanced and handed an envelope to him. Alfred
hurriedly opened it.

"The commandant on the hill desires your presence at the battery
without delay," said the communication.

"All right! We are ready! Come on, Frisky," said Ralph.

"The colonel's machine is outside waiting for you," said the orderly.

"Well, how did you know we were here?" asked Alfred.

"Colonel Winston, whose machine will take us up the hill, arrived a
quarter of an hour ago, with some friends of yours, and when he learned
you were not here, sent me down with orders to hunt you up. I had
no idea you came in with the prisoners, and just stepped over out of
curiosity to have a look at them, and thus, fortunately, found you,"
said the orderly.

"Well, who can our friends be that called with Colonel Winston?" asked
Ralph.

"I really don't know," replied the orderly.

"And, by the way, where is Captain Winston? Does Colonel Winston know
about the accident to his brother?" asked Alfred.

"I presume that is what brought him over so quickly, for the accident,
as you know, happened less than three hours ago," replied the orderly.

The motor car was not long in making the trip to the top of the hill.
When they passed the ruins of the cottage, Frisky jumped up onto the
seat, gave a few distinct yelps, and then settled back into the seat
beside Alfred. It is singular that from the time he attached himself to
the boys, there seemed to be no desire in his mind to return to his old
home.

"Go direct to the commandant's quarters," said the orderly to the
chauffeur.

The commandant and Colonel Winston were at the door as the machine
drove up. The boys were out and sprang toward them.

"Is the captain all right, sir?" asked Alfred hurriedly.

"Yes; I left him a half hour ago, very comfortable, indeed," replied
the colonel.

"We received the note, ordering us to come here at once," said Ralph.

"Yes; we want to inform you that we have every reason to believe that
300 meters to the right hit the spot," said the commandant.

"Well, we _know_ it was the right spot," replied Alfred. "The German
battery there was literally wiped out."

"How did you learn that?" asked the commandant with the greatest
eagerness.

"We learned it from Captain Winston; he told us about it since the
accident," said Ralph.

"I know it from another source," replied Alfred.

"Where? What?" asked the colonel, in astonishment.

"The German lieutenant whom we captured this morning told me on the
way over, that of the six guns they had south of the hill there wasn't
enough left to gather up, and that was the main reason why they started
the drive that failed so miserably," said Alfred.

"But the orderly said some friends were up here to see us," said Ralph.

"Yes; I brought them over with me; they were afraid you'd get into
more trouble," said the colonel, as he opened a door leading into an
adjoining room.

Ralph stepped forward with some curiosity on his countenance. He could
not speak as his mother appeared and rushed toward him.

"Oh, you're not my boy any more," she sobbed, as she embraced him and
held him at arm's length for a moment.

Alfred was no less astounded as his mother first took him in her arms,
and his father also put his arms around him.

"What naughty boys you've been," said Alfred's mother. "We didn't hear
from you for four months, and once we were notified that you were dead;
what a joy it is to see you again!"

"But how they have grown," said Ralph's mother.

"But you must remember, Mother, that they are men now," said the
colonel, with a smile.


THE END



THE MOTION PICTURE COMRADES

SERIES

By ELMER TRACEY BARNES


The object of these books is to place before the reader the unusual
experiences of a party of boys who succeed in filming a number of
interesting scenes.

The stories are replete with striking incidents on land and sea, and
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    Treasure Under the Sea=


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THE HILLTOP BOYS SERIES

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    =The Hilltop Boys on Lost Island; or, An Unusual Adventure=

        The scene now shifts to the West Indies and Jack figures as the
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        The Doctor takes a number of the boys on a cruise up the Hudson.
        An unlooked for incident finds Jack Sheldon equal to the
        occasion, and what at one time promised to be a disastrous trip
        for all concerned was turned into a complete victory for our
        young friends.

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THE HICKORY RIDGE BOY SCOUTS

A SERIES OF BOOKS FOR BOYS

By Capt. ALAN DOUGLAS, Scout-master


These stories are from the pen of a writer who not only possesses a
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  Series, all Illustrated:=

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appealing to their love of the open.

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  By SILAS K. BOONE

These books describe, with interesting detail, the experiences of a
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By ALICE HALE BURNETT

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        Dad's story is followed by an unexpected visitor who at first
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        the fireside.

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        Did you ever go to a picnic in a large farm wagon, filled with
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    CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS IN MERRYVALE

        Daddy Williams' Toy Shop is the center of interest to "Toad" and
        his friends long before Christmas arrives. They plan a surprise
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        the two sides have a battle royal.

    MERRYVALE BOYS ON THE FARM

        "Toad's" grandmother invites him and "Reddy" to spend a month in
        the country. Their experiences at Sunnyside farm, with its
        horses, cows, pigs and chickens, are most entertainingly told,
        and they have the time of their lives boating, swimming and
        fishing in the creek.

    HALLOWE'EN AT MERRYVALE

        For many days the boys had been looking forward to the party to
        be held at Toad Brown's house, but the evening finally arrived
        and a number of new games were played, although a few things
        happened which were not on the program.


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By ALICE HALE BURNETT

Six delightful books for the smaller girls, each a complete story in
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        The girls are taken to the fair in a motor, but a slight delay
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        Geraldine, whom we know better as Jerry, plays hostess to her
        many friends, although it must be admitted that her guests knew
        of the affair before she did. A jolly evening is spent by the
        girls which is shared in by our young Merryvale boy friends.

    Mary Entertains the Sewing Club

        Mary has the club at her home, and the efforts of the members
        cause many outbursts of merriment. The girls hold a "fair of all
        nations" for the benefit of the Merryvale Day Nursery, and their
        plans succeed beyond their expectations.

    Merryvale Girls at the Seaside

        The three girls are invited to the light-house where they see
        many wonderful things. A luncheon on the shore and days spent in
        sailing with the captain make their visit a round of pleasure.

    Merryvale Girls in the Country

        A real old-fashioned farm affords the girls a most enjoyable
        time and every hour is filled with delightful experiences.

  _12mo. Cloth._   _Illustrations in Color._   _40c per Volume, Postpaid_

  THE NEW YORK BOOK CO., 201 E. 12th St., New York



Transcriber's Note


  Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Variations
  in hyphenation have been standardized but all other spelling and
  punctuation remains unchanged.

  "List of Illustrations" made complete.

  Pg. 53, 56, 57: Added captions to the illustrations.





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