E-text prepared by Al Haines
BOY SCOUTS MYSTERIOUS SIGNAL
Perils of the Black Bear Patrol
G. HARVEY RALPHSON
[Frontispiece: The Forces Finished a Brilliant Attack]
M. A. Donohue & Company Chicago ———— New York
Copyright, 1916 M. A. Donohue & Co. Chicago
I. AN UNWILLING RECRUIT II. A FRIEND APPEARS III. OUT OF THE FLAMES IV. BURIED ALIVE V. A GUARD IN DISGRACE VI. A MYSTERIOUS SIGNAL VII. A SUSPECTED SPY VIII. FRUSTRATED PLANS IX. ABANDONING A REGIMENT X. AN EAGLE'S TALONS XI. THE FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE XII. TEMPTATIONS XIII. A GREAT SURPRISE XIV. BAFFLED PURSUERS XV. A BIT OF SCIENCE XVI. UNDER FALSE COLORS XVII. ACCUSED XVIII. PURSUIT XIX. LESE MAJESTY XX. CAPTURED XXI. ESCAPED PRISONERS XXII. HELD UP! XXIII. TABLES TURNED XXIV. A STERN CHASE XXV. ESCAPE
Boy Scouts Mysterious Signal
Perils of the Black-Bear Patrol
AN UNWILLING RECRUIT
"But I say it's not fair!" cried a red-headed lad, drawing himself up to his full height. "You're not playing fair with us!"
"Ach, it is not so!" protested the one to whom the boy spoke. "We find you an enemy in our city, and you must take the consequences!"
"Just because you wear an officer's uniform," retorted the boy, beginning to lose his temper and gazing fearlessly into the pale blue eyes of the other, "is no sign you know more than we do. You may think that helmet and those stripes on your arm give you more brains than the common run of people, but it isn't so! I say I protest!"
"And much good your protest may do you at this time and place," was the calm answer. Then, drawing his eyebrows down until the blue eyes were scarcely able to peer beneath them, he continued: "I, Heinrich von Liebknecht, Captain in His Imperial Majesty's army in command of a detachment sent forward to capture this city, have decided that it is better that you remain with us. There is nothing more to say."
"But there is a great deal more to say!" stormed the boy.
"Jimmie," cautioned another lad, stepping forward and laying a hand on the arm of the red-headed boy, "perhaps it would be better to say no more just at this time. There must be some way out of this."
"Silence!" commanded the man who had called himself von Liebknecht. "The decision has been made. I leave you now, but will return in a few moments. By that time you will have said farewell to your friends and be ready to accompany me for service under the Kaiser!"
The lad addressed as Jimmie could scarcely restrain a sneer as the other finished speaking. His contempt was unbounded, and he did not seem to be making any great effort to conceal his emotion.
Just as the door was closing behind the departing man Jimmie permitted himself to wrinkle his freckled nose in that direction and accompanied the gesture with a motion indicative of great disgust and contempt well known to many.
The scene was one unusual in the extreme. Four young boys were standing in a room from which the ceiling had been partly removed by an exploding shell from a cannon. They were in one of the houses that had only partly escaped destruction during the bombardment of Peremysl by the Germans on that memorable first day of June, 1915.
Three of the boys were about eighteen years of age and wore the well-known uniforms of the Boy Scouts of America. The eldest, Ned Nestor, was slightly older than the others and wore insignia that denoted his rank as patrol leader of the Wolf Patrol, New York City.
Jack Bosworth and Harry Stevens stood beside Ned, their uniforms slightly the worse for wear, due to the extremely active experiences they had just undergone. These boys were members of the Black Bear Patrol of New York City, and were fast friends of Ned Nestor and his red-headed chum, Jimmie McGraw, the fourth member of the group.
Just now Jimmie was not wearing the Boy Scout uniform. Instead he was dressed in the uniform of a Russian Cossack, and this was the immediate reason for the controversy that had arisen between the boy and the German officer. Those of our readers who have followed the adventures of the boys as related in previous volumes of this series, and particularly that entitled "Boy Scouts with the Cossacks, or Poland Recaptured," will at once recall the exciting circumstances that resulted in Jimmie's donning the Cossack uniform and the reason for the presence of the four boys in Peremysl at this time.
Jimmie seemed to be too much overcome by his emotion at what he considered rank injustice to be able to carry on rational conversation.
"I tell you, Ned," he sputtered, "just because I happen to have on some clothes a little different from others they needn't think I'm any different myself! I'll fix his clock, all right!"
"Don't forget about using slang, Jimmie!" cautioned Ned, half laughing. "But you see the German officer, von Liebknecht, is really more than a little bit right at that."
"How's that?" inquired Jimmie in astonishment.
"They say clothes don't make the man," replied Ned, "but in a great many cases clothes are like one's reputation—they play an important part in other people's estimate of us. In this case, for instance, the Germans have just captured this city from the Russians. You are discovered wearing a Russian Cossack uniform, and they naturally and almost excusably conclude that the wearer of the uniform is a subject of the country it represents."
"Oh, I see," slowly replied the lad, nodding his red head.
"Yes, Jimmie," put in Harry Stevens, "you see it pays to 'Be Prepared,' just as our motto says. We never can tell just when we'll be required to depend upon our reputation or our uniform for a favorable opinion from those who see us or hear of us."
"That's all very well," interrupted Jack Bosworth, "but how are we to get Jimmie out of this predicament? General or Captain von Liebknecht seems to think that he's going to make a German soldier out of Jimmie just to keep him out of harm's way, and I don't like it."
"Perhaps we can find some of the other uniforms or clothes of some sort for Jimmie to change into," suggested Harry eagerly.
Ned shook his head in a despondent manner.
"I'm afraid that wouldn't work, boys," he said presently. "We would only be caught at it and all tried for spies, and maybe find ourselves in a worse predicament than we now are. Perhaps the German officer will listen to reason when he returns."
"Yes," scorned Jimmie. "Perhaps the sun will shine at midnight, or water will start running uphill, or something like that will happen!"
"You don't seem to have much faith in the German ability to change the mind?" inquired Jack. "Maybe this fellow'll be different."
"No, sir!" pursued Jimmie gloomily. "The average German is a pretty decent fellow in a great many ways, but when it comes to changing his mind—why, it 'can't be did,' because it's impossible."
"Hush!" commanded Ned. "Here he comes. I'll talk to him."
But, though Ned endeavored by every art of conversation at his command to influence the German Captain to change his mind, that individual insisted that since Jimmie had been found in the captured city wearing the uniform of a Russian Cossack he must be treated as one. The only alternative he would admit was that Jimmie must give evidence of his claim that he was not a Russian by enlisting in the German army.
"So," decided the German, "you haf been to riding horses accustomed. Goot. You shall now ride a horse for der Kaiser, und," he added meaningly, "you shall do it vell. You may now say goot bye to dese odder poys und come mit me. Der oath ve vill administer."
Several soldiers fully armed, standing about, stepped forward at the Captain's signal. Placing themselves between Jimmie and his chums, they advanced, fairly compelling the lad to accompany them.
Thunderstruck at the proceedings, but unable to render any assistance to their comrade, the three lads watched Jimmie disappear through the doorway. Then, as they were left quite alone, they turned to one another with an air of dejection.
"What shall we do, Ned?" inquired Jack presently.
"Yes, Ned," put in Harry, with something very like a catch in his voice, "let's have your ideas. You are always ready with some suggestion in an emergency. What shall we do?"
"In the first place, boys," answered Ned, "I'm mighty glad to hear you ask questions like that. It shows me that you are ready for action instead of wanting to sit down and give way to despair. I'm ready for action this minute if I could only decide what should be done."
"I move we hunt around and find some guns and go hold that bunch of Germans up and take Jimmie away from them!" said Harry impulsively.
"Do you suppose the Captain will make good on his threat of making Jimmie enlist in their cavalry regiment?" asked Jack, ignoring Harry's suggestion. "If they do, can't he slip away some night?"
"What if he does?" inquired Harry. "Where would he slip to, and where shall we get to help him? It seems to me that every minute counts now. If they get him into a cavalry regiment they'll want to be on the move right away. At times like these, with Germany fighting the whole of Europe, they can't afford to let a regiment remain idle."
"That's very true," nodded Ned thoughtfully. "Germany has won a victory over Russia, and that may relieve some of her forces in the east, at least temporarily, until Russia gathers enough of an army to make another assault. In that case they might send the cavalry regiment toward the western front in Prance or Belgium, where Germany is meeting the French, English and other troops."
"Do you think they will make Jimmie go along and fight the allies?" questioned Jack. "If they do that, he may get killed."
"Perhaps that would suit the German Captain as well as anything else," observed Ned. "It would save him the trouble and responsibility of ordering the red-head shot immediately."
"Then in that case," continued Jack, "I second Harry's motion and hope it is carried unanimously. Let's get busy and get the boy."
"I think you are right," agreed Ned. "Now, if we can have some plan of action we'll be able to make more headway than without it."
"Right you are, Scout Master!" cried Jack. "What is your plan?"
"Well," began Ned, glancing at his comrades, "it seems almost too bold a thing to try just at first thought, but I can't think of anything better than to try to get away from this place in the Eagle, and then watch our chance to kidnap Jimmie from those fellows."
"A fine idea!" was Harry's almost cheerful response. "Ned, there's nothing too bold to try once, anyway. Maybe we can get Jimmie out of their hands. If we ever do—"
Harry's clenched first, which he shook at the door out of which the Germans had led Jimmie, spoke more eloquently than his unfinished sentence. Plainly he was ready for action.
"Let's slip out of here while we have a chance," suggested Ned.
"Just the thing!" agreed Jack. "It's the best time we'll ever find. The incoming army is pretty busy just now and won't see us."
With one accord the three lads moved toward the door. Ned glanced around the partially wrecked apartment in the hope of discovering something that would be of use to them in their endeavor to help Jimmie escape. An object in one corner caught his attention.
As Ned stepped forward to examine the object he had seen, he was startled to hear a cry from Jack, who had been looking from a window.
"Look!" cried the boy, pointing toward the street. "They're actually making Jimmie take an oath of enlistment!"
Quickly joining Jack, Ned and Harry saw Jimmie standing in the street, surrounded by German soldiers wearing the uniforms of Uhlans. Directly behind the lad stood one of the soldiers with the muzzle of a gun pressed against Jimmie's back. Before him an officer stood, apparently administering some form of oath. The three boys could see Jimmie's lips move in response to the prompting of the officer.
Directly the ceremony was ended and the soldiers turned as if preparing to mount their horses, standing near.
"There's a bunch coming back to this house!" declared Jack.
"Wonder what they want?" mused Harry in a puzzled manner.
"I think they have decided they want three more recruits!"
"Good night!" was the lad's startled ejaculation. "Let's go!"
"Come over here," directed Ned, springing toward a corner of the room. "I think I've found something that will help us out."
A FRIEND APPEARS
Harry and Jack hastened to cross the room strewn with wreckage left by the exploding shell. Ned was already kneeling in the corner.
"What is it, Ned?" cried Jack excitedly. "Have you got a gun?"
"No, not a gun," replied Ned in suppressed excitement, "but it may prove more useful than a gun at this time."
"Oh, I see what it is!" was Harry's exclamation. "Hurrah! We may be able to beat them out after all. Hurry!"
"Huh!" scornfully put in Jack. "Nothing but a trap door into the cellar! I wouldn't give much for that!"
Ned, without replying to either lad, was busily scraping away the refuse from the corner. Almost concealed by the litter, he had seen a huge ring in the floor and, naturally concluding that it was fitted into a trap door, had begun an investigation for the purpose of discovering if the door led to a passage that might afford a means of escape for the lads. The proximity of the approaching soldiers made their need of some haven of refuge an imperative one.
Presently Ned discovered the outlines of the trap door, which he had correctly surmised to be in that spot. The location of the debris favored the quick plan that had formulated in Ned's fertile brain. He rose to his feet and gave a quick glance about the room.
Without wasting time or effort in conversation, the lad quickly pointed toward a table that lay upturned not far from the trap door. Signalling to his comrades for assistance, he darted toward the object and began dragging it to a position directly over the trap door.
Jack and Harry, divining his intention, hastened to assist Ned. Their united efforts soon placed the table in position. It was the work of but a moment to raise the trap door and prop it up with a short piece of wood from the wreckage strewn about. Making the well-known signal used by railroad men in the United States as a sign for a fireman to shovel more coal into the firebox, Ned urged the others to descend into the darkness that yawned mysteriously at their feet.
Jack was first through the opening. He clung to the rim for a moment with his hands. Then he released his hold and dropped.
Harry and Ned, impatiently waiting for Jack to pass through the door, heard him drop to a floor below and give a startled cry. Then they prepared to follow just as the tramp of many feet resounded through the passage outside the room. Harry slipped into the opening and in turn dropped out of sight. Ned followed feet first and for an instant hung from the sill.
Grasping the stick that had been used as a prop, Ned gave a mighty wrench backward and fell. He said afterward that it seemed as if he had taken a full week to drop from his position to the floor below. In reality the drop was not a great one. The distance was, however, greater than the height of any of the three boys, and explained their inability to gain a foothold before releasing their hold upon the floor above. For a moment Ned was unable to regain his breath.
Presently he sat upright and began to search for his comrades.
"Jack, Harry!" he called softly. "Where are you?"
"Here we are, Ned," came a whisper from the darkness that shut the boys in on every hand. "Can you see us?"
"Can't see a thing!" declared Ned. "Where are you, anyway?"
"Stay right where you are and we'll be there in a moment," was Harry's answer. "This is one horrible place or I'm a Dutchman!"
"Come on, then, and be quick about it," urged Ned. "I wonder if we have dropped out of the frying pan into the fire," he added.
"Impossible," chuckled Jack, in spite of the seriousness of their predicament. "Where there's fire there's light, and I can't see a single ray of light in this miserable place!"
"Hush, Jack!" cautioned Harry. "Not so loud or they'll find us. Can't you hear them tramping about in the room above?"
Harry's question brought Ned and Jack to a realization of the fact that the room they had so recently quitted was occupied by the soldiers from whom they had tried to escape. Footsteps echoed along the stout floor, and the boys could hear sounds indicating that pieces of furniture were being hurriedly overturned.
"Uh!" grunted Jack as he suddenly bumped into Ned. "Wonder you wouldn't blow signals when you're going to cross ahead of a fellow."
"Hush!" whispered Ned. "They may hear us! Let's wait a bit!"
All three boys drew close together. They instinctively clasped hands in the darkness, looking for some degree of comfort in the act.
The noises above them gradually lessened. Presently they ceased altogether, and the boys could hear footsteps clattering along the floor in the direction they assumed the door to be. Directly quiet reigned in the place.
"They've gone, I guess," Ned said after a moment's wait. "Now what shall we do? Shall we climb back into the house?"
"I move that we explore this apartment first," said Jack.
"Oh, no!" urged Harry. "This isn't a nice place to go poking around in. We have troubles enough already without hunting more."
"What's your objection to looking the place over?" asked Ned.
"Rats!" was Harry's brief but expressive explanation.
"Rats?" queried Ned. "What do you mean? Are there rats here?"
"There certainly are, and lots of them," was the positive answer. "When I dropped into this place I think I dropped onto one, and must have crushed him before he had time to squeal. I heard others running."
"We really ought to make a light," returned Ned. "We can't tell what the place is like without some way of seeing it."
"There's a light!" was Jack's sudden exclamation. "See it over there to the right. Why," he added, "there are two lights!"
"And I see others!" cried Harry. "I believe it's the eyes of the rats. Perhaps they were frightened away and are coming back."
"Have you any matches?" asked Ned. "I haven't a one with me. It's careless, I know, but not a match can I find in my pockets."
"Where's your searchlight?" inquired Jack. "Haven't you that?"
"No; the Germans took that away from me when they searched us."
"I have two matches," said Harry, "but I don't want to waste them. Perhaps it will be a long time before we get any more, and I feel that we ought to save them if possible."
"Maybe we can find some stuff here dry enough to make a fire with, and that'll give us light!" suggested Jack.
"Good idea!" responded Ned. "The place feels dry enough."
"Let's keep hold of hands and move slowly about," put in Harry. "In that way we won't be separated and may find just what we want."
Acting on this suggestion, the boys clasped hands and moved slowly about, feeling their way cautiously with their feet. They seemed to be in a cellar with a solid stone floor that had been made quite smooth.
"Here's something!" exclaimed Harry as his foot struck a small object. "This feels like a piece of wood."
"Here's my knife; let's whittle some shavings," offered Jack.
In a short time the boy had succeeded in producing the desired shavings from the board Harry had discovered. Gathering these carefully in his hands, he held them ready to receive the flame from Harry's match. All three lads eagerly gathered closer together as Harry prepared to strike the match that would give them the desired ability to see. Harry's hand trembled a trifle in spite of his effort at self-control. His first effort was unsuccessful.
"Careful, Harry," admonished Ned. "Better strike it on your shoe sole. That makes a better match scratcher than your trousers."
"Correct!" observed Jack. "And go easy," he added. "We have only two, you know. If anything should happen, you understand—"
"Yes, I know," answered Harry. "That's why I'm trying to be extra careful. I'm just as anxious for a light as you are."
"The rats are coming closer," observed Jack, a slight quaver perceptible in his voice. "I don't want them to start anything."
"All right now, Harry; lean on me a bit to balance yourself," urged Ned. "Make sure this time, and get it in your cupped hands."
"Here goes!" announced Harry, lifting one foot and striking the match upon the sole of his shoe. "Here comes the light!"
But, contrary to expectations, the light did not come, although the lad tried again and again.
"Try the other match, Harry; maybe this one got wet somehow and won't work," suggested Jack, stepping closer.
"I have tried them both," declared Harry in a faint voice.
"What's the matter, then?" demanded Jack excitedly.
"I guess they are those safety matches that will light only on the box," was Harry's explanation. "I haven't the box, either," he added in a voice scarcely above a whisper. "It's no go, boys!"
"Look through all your pockets," directed Ned, "and see if there isn't a scrap of box left by oversight. We must have a light!"
Frantically the three boys searched their pockets, but could discover no shred or vestige of a box on which to strike the impregnated safety matches held by Harry. At length they gave up the effort.
"That's peculiar!" declared Jack with emphasis. "Just think of all the matches used every day in the United States by thousands and thousands of people who never think of saving them. We have used a whole lot of matches ourselves needlessly, and now we want just one as badly as we ever wanted anything. It's fierce!"
"It surely is fierce," agreed Ned, "but we'll have to make the best of it. It seems peculiar, too," he went on, "that the rats haven't begun anything. They seem to be all about us."
"Yes, but they are not moving about very fast," observed Harry. "Maybe they 're afraid of us yet. Let's make a noise and scare them."
"How shall we do it?" asked Jack. "What will you make a noise with if you haven't anything to use? Tell me that!"
"Stamp on the floor good and hard; that'll scare them."
"All right; here goes!" agreed Jack, suiting the action to the word.
All three boys were startled at the result of Jack's stamping. A crackling sound was heard, followed by a tiny spurt of flame from the floor under his foot.
"Easy there, easy!" cried Harry, dropping to his knees. "That's just what we wanted. Don't move now, but give me those shavings!"
With trembling hands the lad took the shavings from Jack's hand. Carefully shielding the tiny flame from possible draughts of air, the boy held the point of one of the thin pieces of wood over the flare. In a moment it had caught fire. Licking up the curl, the flame gradually leaped from one piece of wood to another until the entire handful was ablaze. The dancing light played upon the three faces and sent a glow out into the surrounding blackness. Harry deposited the burning shavings upon the floor, where the fire was soon transmitted to the larger piece of wood Jack had used in whittling.
As the boys saw that the matter of fire was assured, they glanced first at each other, then let their gaze wander about the apartment.
"Goodness, the rats don't seem to be much afraid of fire!" exclaimed Jack, pointing toward a horde of rodents swarming about the place.
"What's that on them?" asked Harry wonderingly.
"I declare it's red!" exclaimed Ned. "It looks like blood!"
"Where'd they get blood from, I'd like to know!" protested Harry.
"There's only one answer to that just now, with all the dead and wounded soldiers about," answered Ned, shaking his head. "It's awful!"
"Let's get out of here as quick as we can," urged Jack. "Come on."
With one accord the lads turned from the swarm of rats.
"Where are you going?" demanded a strange voice from the darkness.
"Who are you?" asked Ned, startled by the sudden question.
"Maybe I'm a friend," was the answer. "Yes, I guess I am."
OUT OF THE FLAMES
When the soldier who had been holding his rifle at Jimmie's back lowered the weapon and the ceremony of administering the oath of allegiance to the Kaiser had been completed, the red-headed Boy Scout who had been masquerading under a Cossack uniform breathed a deep sigh of relief that but faintly expressed his sentiments.
In spite of the seriousness of the situation, Jimmie maintained a mental reservation that little less than contradicted his words so recently spoken. He felt that it would be only policy to obey the orders of those in superior force, since he could see no advantage to be gained by a flat refusal. His thoughts rapidly compassed the situation, and he recognized the fact that the invading horde of Germans were in no mood to consider dispassionately the matter of a boy more or less who was found under the circumstances in which they had discovered Jimmie.
Reluctantly, therefore, but because he thought it by far the better plan, the lad had submitted to the course insisted upon.
During all the time that he had been repeating the words after the officer the boy had been mentally conjecturing a means of escape whereby he might rejoin his chums and be fairly sure of the escape of the entire party from the hands of the army that had so recently captured Peremysl and who were now engaged in bringing order out of the apparent chaos that reigned.
Not until the searching party returned and reported to the Captain their unsuccessful quest after his three comrades did Jimmie realize that an effort was being made to apprehend them.
Then he began to believe that it was not the intention of the German Captain to allow the boys to leave the country. The thought was a very disquieting one. In entertaining it, Jimmie felt himself fully justified in taking any possible course of escape.
"Well, my lad," began the Captain, addressing Jimmie in a not unkindly tone, the while his blue eyes regarded the lad with an amused glance, "now that you are a full-fledged Uhlan and your comrades are on their way home, you will be fitted out with a new uniform by the proper department. See that you select a good strong one, for we have plenty of rough work ahead of us. Yes?"
"Very good, sir!" replied Jimmie with outward politeness, although his heart was filled with rage at the thought of donning the German uniform. "I shall try to do well whatever I undertake."
"Spoken like a man!" declared the officer with a short laugh.
A brief order spoken in the German language to an orderly nearby resulted in that individual signing to Jimmie. Obediently the lad followed his new guide. Past groups of soldiers who were, by their fair hair, round cheeks, blue eyes and general stocky build, members of the German army, the boy and his conductor took their way.
Not far down the street they came upon several wagons in charge of a commissioned officer, before whom the guide stopped with a very formal salute. After receiving a recognition of his salute the guide explained his errand. A laughing response greeted his explanation of circumstances. The officer called one of his aides, and the work of outfitting the erstwhile Cossack began.
Jimmie discovered that the wagons were veritable stores on wheels, and was greatly surprised at the neatness and order with which the large assortment of goods were disposed. No difficulty was experienced in securing clothing of the proper dimensions, and Jimmie soon stood forth to all external appearances as loyal and brave a Uhlan as ever followed the banner of the Emperor or stuck a lance into a dummy at riding exercise. He could not restrain a laugh at the peculiar round cap that was fitted to his head.
"Now I'm hungry!" he declared as he surveyed himself in his new regalia. "Where's the eats?" he asked of the guide.
A stare from a pair of pale blue eyes was the only response.
"I say," began Jimmie in a louder tone, "I haven't had anything to eat for a long time. I'm hungry!" he finished in a shout.
Another stare and a nod of the head greeted this outburst.
"Aw, come off!" was Jimmied disgusted sally. "Where are your ears? Wake up! It's six bells and the cook has struck. Here—"
Seizing the guide by the sleeve, Jimmie shook his finger under the other's nose for attention. Then he repeated his old-time universal sign language denoting hunger.
The guide followed with great interest Jimmie's motion of pointing into his open mouth and gazed delightedly at the patting of the stomach. Apparently, however, he could discover nothing amiss with the belt buckle or any of the accoutrements that adorned the person of the new-found recruit. He shook his head in a negative way.
"Oh, you mutton-head!" scorned Jimmie. Then, recalling the few words of German he had learned in haphazard fashion, he began again, pausing between each word to give emphasis to his request.
"Ach, Ich say, old scout," he stated, "Ich would like some brodt haben, und sauer kraut, und wiener wurst, and kaffee, and pumpernickel, und kaffekuchen, und Kolbfleisch, und—oh, whatever you have handy."
A smile slowly spread over the face of the guide as he began to comprehend Jimmie's meaning. He nodded vigorously.
"And I say, dumbhead, Heute Ganse Braten!" Jimmie added vigorously. "There!" he declared in an undertone, "I know I saw that sign in Dick Stein's restaurant on the north side in Chicago one time when I was there, and I asked the man what it meant. He said it was German for 'We have roast goose to-day,' and I'd like a little of that, too."
"So-o," drawled the guide. "Und you haf been by Stein's restaurant? Yes? Vell, I vas waiter dere for two, tree year. It is a nice blace."
"You rascal!" shouted Jimmie. "You understood me all the time. Why didn't you let me know you understood English at first?"
"Maype I didn't understand," the other stated simply.
"Maybe you didn't, and again maybe you did," retorted the lad rather tartly. "If you keep on playing your monkey shines on me, you'll get me sore pretty soon, and I'll be tempted to cloud up and rain all over you. And there'll be considerable dunder und blitzen along with the cyclonic disturbance in the atmosphere," he added.
"All right," was the calm response. "You iss hungry. Maybe you vant someding to eat. Yes? Or maybe not?"
"Great frozen hot boxes!" cried Jimmie in a despairing tone. "I don't see how, with all the scarcity of ivory in the market, the billiard ball makers let you roam about at large so long. Why," he added with rising indignation, "you're giving the exact symptoms of a chap who is ossified from the shoulders to the sky! Of course I want to eat, and I'd be de-lighted to perform that simple operation now."
"But to eat before mess, it is verboten," declared the guide.
"Say," retorted Jimmie, "just let me have your name and the address of any relatives you want notified in case of accident. Something is going to blow up pretty soon, and when the explosion is over they'll go around with a sponge to gather up the pieces of the innocent bystanders. Among those present was a former waiter at Dick Stein's."
"Ach, yes," slowly replied the other. "My name iss Otto von Freundlich. In America I am called Friendly Otto. It iss so in der telephone book. Names iss backwards put down."
"Well, if you'll just be good enough to get me one of those nice large German pancakes that we used to get at Stein's, with a couple of cups of coffee and a little 'T' bone steak well done, with some fried potatoes and a side order of cauliflower in cream, some cold slaw, a little lettuce, some lentils, and a small platter of sauer kraut, I'll try to worry along until mess time. Can't we eat at all?"
"No, not all of dot," soberly responded Otto seriously, evidently believing that Jimmie intended to eat everything he had mentioned.
"Then for pity's sake tell me what I can have. I'm getting so hungry I could almost eat the wheels off this wagon."
"Maybe a little soup und some rye bread?" replied Otto inquiringly.
"That listens good to your Uncle Dudley," was Jimmie's response in a somewhat mollified tone. "Lead me to it and I'll do the rest."
"Come," directed Otto, starting away and beckoning the lad to follow. "Come; der cook maybe has something good for hungry soldiers."
Jimmie followed with much interest, taking note of everything as he went along. Here he saw a group of soldiers resting after some evidently heavy work. There another group were arranging their accoutrements and polishing their weapons as they rested in the shade of a broken wall that had withstood the heavy hammering of the immense German guns during the days of bombardment of the city.
Wagons were drawn up along the side of the street, gasoline trucks were darting hither and thither on various errands, while small groups of horsemen were constantly passing to and fro about the town.
Everywhere was activity, indicating to Jimmie that not only were the Germans investing the city and preparing it for their occupation, but that other preparations were under way. This could only mean to the lad that the commander of the invading forces was preparing to press the advantage he had gained by following the Russian army he had driven from Peremysl and attempt to administer a crushing blow.
"What is all this bustle about, Otto?" he asked presently.
"Ach, I know not," was the reply. "Und if I should know, it is verboten that I should say. You will discover in good time."
"That's all right, but I'll bet my last year's hat that you know pretty well what's going on if you'd only talk a bit."
"That is perhaps so and perhaps not so," replied Otto.
"All right; I vote yes on the amendment," persisted Jimmie, feeling that by a little maneuvering he could learn something from his guide. "From what the Captain said while we were in the house and you were on the street, I understand that your regiment will be one of the first to be tolled off to pursue the Russians. Maybe he'll send me with them. I do hope so, for that will give me a chance to get a whack at them in payment for the hard treatment I received."
"Ach, nein!" protested Otto, evidently endeavoring to set Jimmie right. "My regiment is to return. We have done our work here."
"I thought so all the time," muttered Jimmie. "You may have been in America a while, but you haven't got wise to the great game of 'bluff' the Americans pull off once in a while. You're easy."
"What is dot?" inquired Otto. "I did not hear what you say."
"I say," replied Jimmie in a louder tone, "I'm hungry. I want something to eat, and I'm curious to know what is in that bundle you are carrying so carefully. Is it dynamite or something?"
"Nein; it is the Russian Cossack uniform you wore. I shall burn it when we arrive at the kitchen you see ahead of us."
"Oh, so you don't like Cossack uniforms any better than I do."
"It is orders," was the German's simple statement.
"Well, here we are at the cook's place," announced Jimmie as the two drew near a movable kitchen equipment in the street.
A few words addressed to the person in charge of the kitchen brought forth a smiling response. In a moment Jimmie was supplied with a small dish of nourishing stew of cabbages and beans.
He devoured the contents of the dish with an appetite, and gladly accepted the cup of black unsweetened coffee that was tendered.
"Thank you! That was just like mother used to make!" he said as he returned the empty dish and cup. "I'll see you again."
Jimmie stepped back a pace, preparing to follow Otto, presuming that he would lead the way to regimental headquarters.
As he glanced about in search of his guide he discovered the German stuffing the discarded Cossack uniform into the furnace underneath a huge kettle. With a startled cry Jimmie grasped frantically at his breast. Then he darted forward and snatched the clothing from the fire.
"Well, if you're a friend, step forward and let us see what you look like," challenged Ned, turning in the direction from whence the strange voice proceeded. "You needn't be afraid to show your face."
"I'm not the one who is afraid," was the reply.
"We're not afraid, if that's what you mean," retorted the lad.
A chuckle from the newcomer was the only response.
"Are you coming forward?" asked Ned in a rather impatient tone, for his experiences of the last few moments had been enough to cause him to be slightly irritable. "I'd like to see you."
As the lad spoke he peered eagerly toward the blackness surrounding himself and his chums. Owing to the faintness of the flame from their small fire, the darkness lying about them like a dense pall was too great for his eyes to pierce. Try as he might, he could not distinguish even the faintest outline of the stranger.
"If you are afraid of the rats or the Germans you might step over this way and we'll go to a more convenient and pleasant place. This isn't a cheerful spot," was the stranger's suggestion.
This invitation was received in silence by the three boys.
"Of course," the other continued, "if you prefer to remain here and talk it over with the rodents, I have no objections."
"Perhaps we would rather take our own way out of here," Ned stated with little friendliness in his voice.
"Perhaps," was the dry response from the utter darkness. "But," went on the stranger, "you'd have a beautiful time doing it. There's only one way out of this place except by the trap door through which you came. Unless you're regular little derricks you can't move all that rubbish piled on top of the trap door, and you'd not be apt to discover the underground exit if you had the eyes of a hawk and an electric light plant besides. Better come along."
Ned had not relaxed his clasp on the hands of his companions, and now drew them closer to him. In a whisper he asked:
"What do you think, boys? Shall we do as he suggests?"
"Might as well," said Jack. "We can't be in much worse case than we are now, and those rats might get good and ugly when they get wise to our being here. I move we follow him."
"Second the motion, unless you've got a better suggestion," added Harry. "This place is getting on my nerves. Let's go."
"I rather feel as if we ought not to go with this fellow unless he's willing to show himself and let us get an idea who he is," Ned stated in a hesitating way. "Perhaps you boys are right, but I don't feel at all easy about it. Maybe he's trying to get us into a trap."
"That's so," agreed Harry. "At least if we remain where we are we'll be no worse off than we would have been without him."
"You're right there," put in Jack, "but on the other hand we're in a bad fix, and Jimmie's outside and needs us. This fellow's coming may be just the chance for escape that we are wanting. Suppose we follow him as he suggests and all the while remember our motto to 'Be Prepared.' Wouldn't that be the proper course?"
"I guess you're right, Jack," Ned said with a sigh. "Perhaps I'm wrong about it. I don't want to overlook a chance to help Jimmie and get back to America. I'll withdraw my objections."
"All right, then, let's get started. Tell him so."
"Are you there?" Ned called out in a louder tone, addressing himself toward the place from which the stranger's voice had come.
"I am for a minute," answered the other. "But I'm going now. If you care to come with me I'll be glad to take you out of here."
"Where will you take us?" asked Ned, reluctant still to follow.
"That's something I cannot say right now. You'll find out."
"All right," consented the boy, starting forward. "But remember," he cautioned, "we shall not relish anything in the way of tricks."
"Suspicious still, I see," laughed the other. "Well, follow this light, and be careful how you step. There may be irregularities in the floor that you'll have to discover for yourselves. It won't be safe to do any talking for a while. The Germans are watchful."
The three boys were startled to observe a circle of light appear upon the stone floor of the apartment at some little distance from the spot where they were standing. It appeared to emanate from an electric searchlight held in the hands of the stranger.
Ned took a step toward the light. Jack and Harry did likewise. Their surprise increased as they observed that the light moved along the floor at a pace about equal to their own.
Ned thought that he could faintly discern the feet of the person carrying the light, but was unable to learn anything of the character of the person. He was torn between his desire to escape from the apartment and the wish to learn the identity of the stranger.
Only a few steps had been taken by the stranger before the light was extinguished. Instantly the three boys halted.
"S-s-sh!" came a warning hiss. "Be mighty careful now of your conversation and your footsteps. Keep as quiet as possible and follow me closely. We are all in extreme danger!"
In spite of his efforts at self-control, Ned's muscles trembled and he found it difficult to walk steadily. Assuming that his chums were in like plight, the lad summoned all his courage and reached out a reassuring hand to the others. The contact with his friends seemed to restore the equilibrium that had been Ned's most valuable asset in times of stress and danger in his many adventures.
Long afterwards the boy declared that in all his experiences that compassed many strange and hazardous enterprises in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, China and other countries he had never felt so keenly the need of aid as he did at that moment.
Not for long, however, were the boys permitted to consider the peril of their position. Almost instantly they heard a faint grating sound directly in front of them. A cold draught of damp, musty air struck their faces, and they understood that a door had been opened into some other apartment. The odor of the incoming air told them plainly that the next apartment was also underground, and they surmised that it had not recently been occupied.
"Come!" was the command borne to their ears in the faintest of whispers from the person leading the way.
Unhesitatingly the lads advanced. Jack had taken but a couple of steps before he collided with some solid object. The shock of contact brought forth a grunt of surprise. At the same moment Harry went through a similar experience. Ned met no resistance and nearly lost his hold of the others before he recovered his balance.
"Gee!" Jack whispered, "I've hit a wall!"
"Here, too!" put in Harry, lowering his whisper to a mere breath.
"Single file, lock step," directed Ned.
Jack and Harry fell in behind their Scout Master obediently, and the little party began groping its way along. Ned reached out a hand on either side as he went forward. His hands came in contact with walls that appeared to be made of stone. The dampness had gathered in great drops on the surface. A slime had been deposited that made Ned shudder as he felt it. He knew, however, that this was no time to permit an interruption through squeamishness.
There was now no guiding light in advance, and the boys cautiously picked their way along the stones, with Ned feeling every inch of the way before he set his foot down. Directly the lad heard another warning hiss. This time the sound was closer than formerly.
"Put your hand on my shoulder," came the whispered command.
Ned followed this instruction immediately. He judged by the height to which he raised his hand to rest it upon the other's shoulder that the stranger was a person of about his own build. His sense of touch also told him that the other's clothing was of a material similar to the khaki uniform he himself was wearing. A faint odor of gasoline and grease assailed his nostrils, particularly distinguishable because of the damp air in which the party was traveling.
Suddenly the boys were startled by the sound of an explosion that came faintly to their ears. The earth in their vicinity trembled.
"What's that?" asked Ned in a whisper. "What's going on?"
"Hush!" replied the guide. "The Germans are making some improvements in the town. They are blowing down some dangerous walls. Now keep as quiet as you can and follow me. We'll have to hurry!"
Ned made no further attempt at conversation, but obediently gave his entire attention to following the strange person in advance.
Before the little party had traversed the passage to any considerable distance they heard several other explosions similar to the first. One particularly louder than the others was followed by the sound of small pieces of rock tumbling from the roof and walls of the passage. Ned pressed still closer to his guide, while Jack and Harry needed no urging to make them crowd up to Ned in their impatience.
Not far from the point where the boys had noticed the pieces of rock falling the guide turned a corner abruptly. Ned wondered how he was able in the intense blackness to distinguish so accurately the spot for making the turn, but refrained from making any comment.
As he followed the guide around the corner the lad's foot struck against an object lying on the floor. A metallic ring from the object he had kicked caught the lad's attention. Slipping his hand quickly down the other's back in preparation for a movement to pick up the object, Ned was surprised to come in contact with a belt. He was startled to observe that the belt was filled with cartridges.
Without stopping to comment upon the circumstance, Ned stooped quickly with hand outstretched. His fingers came in contact with the object his foot had struck. He instantly recognized it to be an automatic pistol. Restraining his impulse to cry out, the lad shifted the weapon in his hand to a grip that would permit him to use it in case such a move was necessary. He straightened up at once.
Scarcely had the boys taken another dozen steps before they heard the voices of a number of men, all apparently endeavoring to talk at once and using a language that was unintelligible to the lads.
Greater caution, if possible, was now used by all in their negotiating the dark passage. A few steps farther on carried them past the place where the voices had been heard. Ned breathed a sigh of relief as the voices died away in the distance.
Presently the guide halted. He turned to a position where he could face Ned. Still speaking in a whisper, he said:
"We are not out of danger yet, but I'll thank you to let me have that automatic you picked up back there. It's mine!"
"Come on, now, hand it over," continued the other.
"Where did you get it?" whispered Ned. "Can you prove what you say?"
"Of course I can!" replied the other. "I'm a bird man, and that is part of my equipment. You have no right to it!"
A louder detonation than any they had heard yet drowned Ned's reply. The walls in the passage seemed shaking as if about to fall. From the passage in their rear came shrieks and groans. An odor of sulphur came blowing upon their backs. A crashing and grinding noise filled the air. Jack and Harry closed in upon the others.
"Let's get out of here as quick as we can," urged Ned.
"We're at the end of the passage!" declared the guide. "That blast has probably filled the corridor back of us with rubbish. Unless we can dig a way out of it, we're buried alive!"
A GUARD IN DISGRACE
Jimmie's momentum carried him toward the camp kettle with such violence that he was unable to check his speed. He could only swerve his course enough to avoid actually falling into the open door through which fuel had been fed. Unfortunately, however, the lad lost his footing and, as he fell, thrust a hand against the hot iron.
"Ow, wow!" yelled Jimmie, as he rolled over the ground, dragging with him the already burning Cossack uniform.
"Here, here!" shouted Otto, rousing from his phlegmatic attitude and springing forward in Jimmie's direction. "Leave dot alone!"
Jimmie rose to his feet nursing his burned hand and casting a glance of extreme disgust toward his new-found friend.
"What business have you got burning up my clothes, I'd like to know!" he indignantly began. "You big sauer kraut eater. You don't seem to know that clothes cost money and that these clothes were presented to me by the Imperial Czar of Russia!"
"Dot makes no difference about dot Russian bizness," answered Otto doggedly; "my orders iss to burn dot uniform, und dot's chust vot I'm going to do. Maybe you would like to watch me."
"Yes, I'll watch you," Jimmie stated aggressively, his face flushing until the freckles were scarcely distinguishable. "You can burn the old uniform as fast as you like, but there is something in it that I want before you start the conflagration."
Otto stretched forth a hand in an effort to wrest the already charred and smoldering garments from The Wolf. He evidently intended to take matters strictly into his own hands and obey orders to the letter, regardless of Jimmie's wishes in the matter.
Jimmie just as resolutely intended to have his own way about the matter, although he had no objection to the ultimate burning of the discarded insignia of the gallant troop he had at one time joined.
Although suffering keenly from the hand that had come in contact with the iron and that would be giving him pain for some time, Jimmie directed his attention to a search of the garments. He thrust his uninjured hand into one pocket after another, frantically groping for some object. Directly he gave a glad shout and withdrew his hand, clutching a small packet from which a loop of heavy cord hung.
Otto had lost some of the zest with which he had been imbued when he first raised an objection to Jimmie's action. His sluggish nature had dominated his movements, and now he moved forward with the ponderous motions of the average German agriculturist, although it was plain to the observers standing about that nothing short of a superior force could deter his progress or swerve him from his course.
"I've got it!" shouted Jimmie gleefully as he grasped the packet and attempted to gather up the scattered garments.
"Yes," put in Otto, in a voice which betokened his rage because his beloved orders had not been obeyed, "you haf got it, und now you will get someting else! I have someting for you right here!"
"You're welcome to the uniform now," was Jimmie's response. "I'm through with the uniform, and I hope with the Russian army."
"Maybe so," stated Otto, growling forth the words in a tone resembling the greeting usually given a tramp by a bulldog, "but you ain't through with the German army, by a long shot!"
"Oh, the German army ain't so much," scorned Jimmie. "I've seen lots of armies that could tie you Dutchmen into knots."
"Yes, they could—not!" derisively put in Otto, with an air that he had evidently picked up during his experience on the north side of Chicago. "You wait; I will show you someting!"
Jimmie's interest in the packet had absorbed his attention to such an extent that he had not noticed the approach of the German, and it was not until Otto's great arms surrounded his form that the boy realized his danger. He had considered Otto merely as a guide, and had not thought it possible for him to act in any other capacity. Now he understood that the German intended to do him bodily harm, if possible. Quickly as the realization of his danger flashed through the boy's active mind, he began to plan a means of escape. He well understood that, struggle as he might, his strength would be far less than that of his antagonist, and he knew that, in order to escape, he must resort to his knowledge of wrestling and boxing.
Although compelled to think and act quickly in the emergency, a recollection of Ned Nestor's training and the drills to which he had subjected his fellow Boy Scouts flashed across Jimmie's vision.
Otto's arms had encircled Jimmie's form and were slowly tightening in a python-like constriction that forced Jimmie's organs upward into his ribs and shut off his heart action. Again Jimmie recalled vividly his experiences in trying to break a "body scissors" on the mat, This time, however, he cast aside the rules of conduct that forbid fouls and determined to free himself at whatever cost.
Otto's surprise at feeling Jimmie's heels gouging up and down his shin was exceeded only by his astonishment at receiving a blow on the chin from Jimmie's red head. Butting in a fight was a part of "the game" that the former newsboy had picked up in his encounters on the Bowery when protecting his corner from other vendors.
Long since discarded, the accomplishment now served Jimmie well, and he used it effectively, not forgetting to keep one foot in action as he industriously pegged away at the foot upon which his heel had first landed. Jimmie believed thoroughly in the old adage that 'continual dropping will wear away a stone.'
Black specks began to float slowly across Jimmie's vision and his breath seemed to have left his body. In place of lungs the boy felt he had only a great raging furnace. His foot began to be heavier and heavier. He was about to give up in despair.
Without warning, Otto released his grasp to fling Jimmie from him as he stepped backward to escape the onslaught of kicks and blows from Jimmie's active head. As he released the boy he aimed a vicious swing that would have done a great deal of damage had it landed.
Luckily for the red-headed Uhlan, his feet became tangled in the remnants of the discarded and partly burned uniform that had been the innocent cause of the battle. Just as Otto aimed the blow at Jimmie's head the boy stumbled and fell backward.
There flashed to the lad's mind the thought that the Russian uniform had been the means of saving him from a most unwelcome hurt.
Perhaps one of Jimmie's most lovable qualities was the ability to see and appreciate a joke, no matter what the time or circumstances. This quality so dominated the lad that his comrades often declared he would laugh at his own expense even when he was hungry. Just now he was so impressed with the absurdity of the uniform's being the cause of his trouble and the means of his escape that he laughed aloud.
Unnoticed by either of the contestants, a considerable number of the cooks and "kitchen police" had gathered to witness the difficulty between the two. These bystanders now offered words of encouragement in an effort to prolong the battle. It seemed that the dominating spirit of battle had not been satisfied during the several days of awful history-making struggle between the armies around the stricken city. The bloodlust was strong in their souls.
Jimmie heard their cries, although he could not distinguish the words they used, nor could he have understood them had he done so. He realized that Otto would probably hear and understand, and that for very shame, if for no other reason, the other man would return to the conflict. He therefore drew a deep breath and braced himself for the expected advance. Something warm and wet seemed to be trickling down over Jimmie's face. He put up a hand to wipe it away. The hand came away wet and sticky. To Jimmie's astonishment the hand was red.
A roar of rage assailed his ears, and Jimmie turned just in time to duck under a mighty swing. Angered at the persistence displayed, Jimmie let fly a stinging hook that fell short of its intended mark. Instead of landing on Otto's chin, as he had purposed, Jimmie flung his fist full upon the "Adam's apple" of his antagonist, bringing forth a gurgling squawk that afforded merriment to the bystanders.
He lost no time in following up his advantage. Quickly springing forward, he landed a shower of blows, each one in a telling spot about Otto's head. The lad's ire was fully roused, and he entered into the matter of administering punishment with a zest.
Handicapped by his lighter weight, the boy could not hope successfully to cope with the burly German on anything like an equal footing, and consequently determined to press the advantage to the utmost, hence he wasted no blows, but made every one count.
Eager to administer what he considered ample punishment, yet wary and cautious, the lad gave his entire attention to his effort. He was looking for an opening through which he might slip a "knockout," and gave no heed to the events transpiring about him. Hence he did not notice the approach of a small party of officers until he felt a hand laid heavily upon his shoulder and a voice spoke in his ear.
"So, this is the way my soldiers behave when I am not present!" Jimmie heard the man say. He turned to gaze at the newcomer.
"Captain von Liebknecht!" he gasped in utter amazement.
"The same," replied the officer who had first interviewed Jimmie in the partly ruined house. "It seems to me," he went on in a severe tone, his pale blue eyes narrowing to mere points, "that my recruits might be in better business than trying to spoil my veterans!"
For a moment Jimmie forgot to be respectful. The old spirit of Bowery repartee, so long held in leash and thoroughly muzzled by Ned Nestor's training and Jimmie's own self-control, had broken bonds, and now showed itself upon the surface without restraint.
"You can't spoil a bad egg, Captain!" was the impertinent response. "This fool Dutchman got too gay and I just put him into the clear!"
"Silence!" roared von Liebknecht. "No reply is necessary."
"Well, I made one just the same," was Jimmie's undaunted retort.
"So I observe," remarked the officer, "and for that you shall be punished. It shall be my pleasant duty to see that you get your full share of regular work, and in addition I shall assign you to the delightful position of assisting the police detail."
"But I'm not big enough to be a policeman," objected Jimmie.
A smile spread over the face of the officer as he observed:
"That is your misfortune, not mine. If you had been so fortunate as to be a German, you would have been much bigger and perhaps more respectful. You will please remember in future to be at least civil."
Jimmie began to realize that it would not be to his advantage to continue the conversation, especially in the spirit already shown. He therefore drew himself up to his full height and gravely saluted, using the well-known Boy Scout form, with thumb and little finger touching and the other three fingers extended vertically, palm outward.
The action seemed to please von Liebknecht immensely, although he would not alter his decision in the least. A rapidly spoken order to an aide standing near resulted in Jimmie's being hurried away in the direction of the camp where the Uhlans' horses were quartered.
He thought he saw the wings of an aeroplane resting in an open space. Forms were moving about the plane. Jimmie started.
The lad began moving his arms as if stretching himself or going through a sort of setting-up exercise. Again and again he repeated the movements. A smile lighted the freckled face.
A MYSTERIOUS SIGNAL
"Good night!" ejaculated Harry, as the guide finished speaking. "You certainly have got us into a tight box now!"
"That's what I say," put in Jack, "you're a fine one!"
"Let me have your searchlight," commanded Ned, retaining his grasp on the other's cartridge belt, "hand it over quickly."
"I'll run the searchlight myself," declared the unknown in a crisp tone. "You've got my gun and I guess that's enough!"
"Yes, and I know how to use it, too," replied Ned.
"There, there, Ned, this isn't any time to start arguing," urged Jack, pacifically, "let's get out of here first of all."
"Second the amendment," laughed Ned, controlling himself with a slight effort, "I've got this fellow dead to rights, and if he will only help us with his searchlight, we will try to get outside quickly."
"Well, he's going to help us," volunteered Harry. "I'll see to that. Just notice this big rock I am holding."
"Don't get excited, hoys," urged the stranger. "I'm doing everything I can to get all of us out of this mess. Our troubles all came about simply because of the fact that we were not 'Prepared.'"
"Then you believe in being prepared?" asked Jack.
"That's my motto—'Be Prepared'!" answered the stranger.
"That's our motto, also," put in Harry eagerly. "I wonder where you got that motto. You don't talk like the United States."
"Huh! I should say not!" declared the other. "But I came from a place that is every bit as good as the United States," he added.
"There's only one place that I know of," stated Ned emphatically, "that answers that description. What part of Canada are you from?"
"Vancouver," was the ready response. "Do you know the place?"
"Well, we ought to. We put in some time in British Columbia chasing a man who robbed the United States government."
"Good," declared the stranger. "My name is Gilmore—David Gilmore. I belong to the Moose Patrol of Vancouver."
"Dave, for short, I suppose," put in Jack in a more friendly tone.
"To my friends—yes," answered David with a short laugh.
"Now, boys," began Ned, "if it's agreeable, I suggest—"
A shriek of agony cut short the suggestion Ned was about to make. By common consent the boys drew closer together as the awful sound echoed through the narrow confines of the low tunnel in which they were imprisoned. All thoughts of introductions were driven instantly from their minds, to be replaced by their desire to render aid.
"The searchlight, Dave," said Ned quickly, falling naturally into the use of the shortened appellation. "Let's make haste."
A circle of flame from the searchlight in David's hand was his reply to this request. It fell upon the damp, slimy walls of the tunnel, illuminating a small space in their immediate neighborhood. The boy swung the searchlight to a position where it would give them a view of the area through which they had just come.
An appalling sight met their eyes. The explosion had wrecked the roof and sides of the narrow space. Heaps of broken rock and other debris choked the passage. Beneath one of the lumps projected the feet of a man. Beyond that the boys could dimly see the forms of one or two others. It seemed that several men had been unfortunately caught.
"Where did that fellow come from?" queried Ned anxiously, pointing toward the feet of the luckless individual who was screaming in agony.
"I don't know," Jack stated briefly, "but we'll help him out."
"All right, boys; let's get busy," urged Harry.
No further suggestions were needed to enlist the aid of all four boys. As they moved forward, their progress somewhat hindered by fallen rocks, the cries grew fainter and presently ceased.
As they reached the spot where the man lay imprisoned, David thrust the searchlight to a favorable position, where it would show them the face of the stranger. He knelt but a moment. Rising again to his feet, the lad turned to his new-found companions.
"I guess we're too late, boys," he said in a hushed voice.
"That's too bad," said Ned sympathetically. "I'm sorry."
"What shall we do?" questioned Jack. "Can't we help him at all?"
David shook his head sadly. He again swung the searchlight around the place, examining the walls carefully as he did so.
"I'm sure that it's no use, boys," he said. "If the fellow had not been beyond help he would not have stopped crying out. In such a time as this, heartless though it may seem, we'll have to look out for ourselves without spending energy on those beyond help."
"You're right, I guess," agreed Ned sadly. "I heartily wish that we were all back in America again, beyond the influence of this awful war. I sincerely hope that it will be confined to Europe."
"I echo your sentiment," said David. "And now," he added briskly, "let us give our attention to getting out of this place. I wonder if we can move some of these looser stones and get through into the room beyond. We may be able to get out to the street that way."
"What do you know about the layout of this place?" asked Jack.
"We are now under one of the big buildings—I should say under the ruins of one of the big buildings of Peremysl. It got struck by shells during the early part of the engagement and was neglected after that. The men we heard were refugees from the Russian army who thought they would be able to appear after the German occupation and do some damage to the invaders. They were well equipped with supplies of various sorts, including ammunition, and intended to get out to-night."
"I wonder if they have all gone?" asked Jack.
"I suppose the most of them are dead," answered David. "And we may join them unless we get out. Our chances look slim."
"I don't know about that," objected Ned. "I notice that the smell of powder is not so pronounced as it was a while ago. The air in here seems much better than it did before the explosion, and I believe that somewhere a passage has been opened which permits the air to flow in. It seems to me I can smell sweet air."
"I believe you're right, Ned," declared Harry sniffing.
"Let's get at these stones, then," suggested Jack, suiting the action to the word, and beginning to lift away lighter pieces of rock from the heap that confronted the lads.
All the boys took hold eagerly and began the task of removing the barrier that prevented their exit. They took turns holding the searchlight upon the work. Presently Jack announced that he could see light through the crevices between the stones. This announcement was hailed joyfully by the others.
"Hurrah!" announced Harry gleefully, as he pushed a piece of rock forward, opening a space wide enough to penult him to thrust an arm through. "One more chunk out of here and we can get through."
In another moment the four boys stood erect in a space that had formerly been a cellar. They drew deep draughts of air into their lungs and looked up beyond ruined walls to see the sky overhead.
"That looks good to me," stated Ned, pointing upward.
"Here too!" put in David. "Now I can get a good look at you fellows and will be able to recognize you readily the next time I see you. My," he added, "you are Boy Scouts, too."
"Why, of course," said Ned in astonishment. "What did you think we were? I hope you didn't take us for soldiers."
"Well, not exactly," said David, smiling, "but I really didn't have time to form a definite opinion before I heard that you were captured. Would you like to get back to your plane?" he asked.
"Would we?" asked Jack in a tone expressive of his intense longing for the Eagle. "You are just right, we would!"
"Perhaps we can manage to make it if the Germans have not taken it away," suggested David. "I can't say for sure, but we can try."
"Let's be on our way, then," urged Harry, eager to start.
"Suppose we look about and look for something to eat," suggested Ned. "I'm beginning to appreciate Jimmie's feelings."
"I hope you're not hungry already?" laughed Jack, "Why," he added, "you had something to eat no longer ago than—"
"Yes, no longer ago than the last time we ate," interrupted Harry. "You may not believe it, but I'm getting so hungry I could eat anything."
"All right; call the waiter, then, and we'll all eat."
"Perhaps I can find something," volunteered David. "I know where the Russians kept most of their stores. They had a place over here at one side of this big space filled with things to eat and shoot and so on. They had a lot of stuff in there."
"Where do you suppose they have all gone?" asked Ned, glancing about.
"I rather imagine they have gotten away as fast as they could after the Germans began blowing down the tottering walls. Those fellows we saw back there in the tunnel were possibly trying to get away by that route," replied David. "I intended bringing you here when we left the cellar where the rats were. I thought the way was clear."
"How did you happen to be there?" asked Ned.
"I got tired of being a prisoner," answered David. "Naturally, when the chance offered, I just slipped into the passage and started. I counted my steps to the end and found I must go the other way. When I had reached the cellar where you were I was exploring it when I heard the noise overhead. I just stayed in the dark until you made a light."
"Then you thought you'd help us out?" asked Harry.
"Yes," was the reply. "I felt that you needed a guide, and I had to do one good turn a day, you know. I thought that would be one."
"Sure, we know," Harry stated in a low voice. "I guess that was pretty nearly three good turns, wasn't it, Ned?"
"We'll count it as three, anyhow," responded Ned heartily.
"Now, you're hungry," interrupted David, rather loath to hear his own praises. "Come over this way and we'll see what we can find."
As David had predicted, the boys found a smaller room opening off the large one in which they were gathered. There was a miscellaneous collection of articles comprising food, ammunition, arms and many other things. They at once attacked the food supply.
Harry gleefully announced the discovery of a can of beef from Chicago, while Jack went into ecstacies over a can of beans.
Without the loss of a moment the boys fell to and soon satisfied their hunger. Directly Jack began searching amongst the goods.
"Where did they store their water?" he asked David.
"I don't know that," replied the boy. "What is in that barrel?"
"Nothing but gasoline, judging by the smell," replied Jack.
"Hurrah!" shouted Ned, springing to his feet. "Just the thing!"
"Not to drink!" objected Jack scornfully. "Not for me, anyway!"
"No, but fine for the Eagle if we can get it there and find the plane still in working order. Let's hope they haven't taken it away."
"Let's go see," suggested David. "We can take along some of this gasoline in some of these empty tins and cans."
"You're a brick!" announced Jack. "I'm beginning to like you!"
Scrambling over the wreckage and ruins of the building, the four boys, each bearing a vessel with gasoline, gained the street. They turned a corner and passed along apparently unnoticed. In a short time they stood in the vacant space where the Eagle had landed.
Before them the planes loomed large. Ned almost shouted for joy.
"There are soldiers on that hill over there!" announced Jack.
"One of them has gone crazy or something," said Harry, pointing.
"That's Boy Scout semaphore signals!" declared David.
"Answer him, Ned," suggested Jack. "Maybe he means us."
"He's spelling 'Wolf' in American," stated Ned. "Here comes more."
"Right arm above head, left horizontal—that's 'J,'" said David. "Right diagonally down, left across chest—that's 'I;' right diagonally down, left horizontal—that's 'M;' he repeats it; he repeats 'I;' right down in front, left up diagonally—that's 'E.'"
"That spells 'Jimmie!'" cried Harry in excitement.
A SUSPECTED SPY
For a time Jimmie forgot the drudgery to which he had been sentenced as a result of his fight with Otto for possession of the tiny packet concealed in the Cossack uniform. Forgotten were the multiplicity of duties incident to his service as a member of the "kitchen police"—the work to which all offenders in the army were subjected, and which corresponded to the tasks of a garbage collector.
Apparently the lad was devoting himself wholly to the strenuous labor of calisthenics. There seemed to be no idea in his mind of making any certain motion a given number of times for the purpose of developing different muscles. Instead he merely placed his arms in various positions and held them there a moment before assuming a different attitude. Seldom did he repeat any motion.
We know, of course, that he had seen the boys as they emerged from the underground cavern that nearly proved their tomb. He had taken a chance on their being his comrades and had made signals to attract their attention. When he received an answering wave of the arm from Ned he delightedly began sending a message by means of the well-known semaphore code. Although the lad possessed no flags or other means of carrying out fully the code as prescribed, he did the best he could with only his arms for signals. We know that Ned and his chums were able correctly to interpret the message Jimmie was sending.
"Great frozen hot boxes!" mused the boy half aloud. "They are down there among the ruins. I wonder how they got free of the searching party. Things have been coming pretty fast for me lately, and I declare I clean forgot the others. Wonder what they'll do."
He had not long to wait. Directly he saw Ned and the others consulting beside the aeroplane. The next moment Ned had stepped clear of the machine and began waving his arms after the same fashion adopted by Jimmie when he spelled out his own name.
"There he goes!" declared Jimmie to himself. "There he is making the letter 'C.' There comes 'A,' and next is 'N.' That is 'Can.' Now here comes 'U;' 'Can You.' Here is 'G,' 'E,' 'T.' 'Can You Get—.' Now he says 'A,' 'W,' 'A,' 'Y.' That's 'Away.' Can I get away? Not very handy with all these Germans about. Guess I'll have to tell him something myself. Here goes."
Accordingly Jimmie began a reply in the same code. He briefly informed Ned that he understood the regiment was to go west, probably to Verdun, where Jimmie had heard that heavy fighting was taking place. He also stated that he was unable to escape in daylight, but that he would try to do so after nightfall.
In response to this wig-wagging Ned began to give directions for their co-operation in an attempt at escape by Jimmie, when suddenly he discerned a soldier creeping up behind his red-headed friend.
Instantly he gave the well-known danger signal and tried to tell Jimmie that someone was near. For some strange reason the lad failed to comprehend the information given, and not until it was too late did he realize that it was himself who was in danger.
Intently watching Ned and trying to interpret the signals being made by the older boy, Jimmie did not observe the footsteps of the approaching soldier. Suddenly he felt an arm thrown about his neck. He was drawn irresistably backward by the strong arm that shut off his wind nearly to the choking point.
With all the energy in his lithe young body the lad tried to kick and strike at his unseen antagonist, but his efforts were unavailing.
For what seemed to the lad countless years the vise-like grasp was maintained upon his windpipe. He began to understand that his struggles were useless, and spent his entire energy in an effort to stiffen the cords of his neck, hoping to assist his breathing by so doing. Presently, as he ceased his struggles, the soldier who had so skillfully captured him set the lad upon his feet.
"So," began the soldier, "think you that we understand not the fact that you are but a spy and that information you are giving to your friends in the city? Yes. It is indeed so."
Jimmie's only reply was a wrinkling of his freckled nose in a grimace of extreme disgust and contempt. Even had he been so minded, the condition of his wrenched neck and strained muscles prevented sprightly conversation. He winked rapidly to clear his tear-filled eyes, and indulged in another wrinkling of the nose.
"So," continued the other, paying no heed to Jimmie's motions of contempt. "And this is why we have not had better success in our campaign. We must fight not only the enemy in their trenches, but we must also contend with traitors in our own camps!"
"Who's a traitor?" demanded Jimmie in a belligerent tone.
"Your name I know not," answered the soldier, "but the red hair and the active nose, with its habit of turning up toward the sky, would be identification enough without a name. I need no name."
"Well, you haven't any name so far as I know," was the lad's impertinent response. "And I don't want to get acquainted with you."
"The subject we will not change," was the cool rejoinder of the German. "We just now are discussing your giving information to the other Russian spies down there in the city. You will not need a name after to-morrow, or possibly after this evening, if Herr Captain von Liebknecht is as zealous in the service of the Kaiser as he has been. If I were giving orders, you would be shot now."
"Well," began Jimmie, pursuing the subject, "I'm not shot yet and you're not shot, but in the language of the little old United States you certainly act like a fellow just about half-shot."
"Half-shot?" inquired the German in a puzzled manner. "How can a man be half-shot? He would then be only kerwundete."
"You and I are getting on famously, Old Man," Jimmie observed, half laughing. "From all appearances you'd like to stand me up against a wall at sunrise and I'd like to see you in Halifax."
"Halifax?" queried the soldier. "You speak of strange places."
"Well, all right," Jimmie replied. "I guess we'd better be going now, so I'll get my bucket from the place where I dumped its contents into the ditch and we will go back to camp. I hold no resentment against you for your harsh treatment of me, especially since you weigh just about three times as much as I do."
"The bucket will do well enough where it is," came the answer in a low tone, cold as ice. "Just now you will appear before the Captain. Do you not know you are under arrest?"
"Under arrest?" puzzled Jimmie. "Who's pinching me?"
"Ach! Ach!" protested the soldier, raising his hands in a gesture of despair. "What a strange person! What a strange language!"
"You're quite right there," Jimmie said, "and if I had my way we'd be stranger still. Yes," he added, "I think we'd be still strangers. That would just about suit me to perfection."
"Come on, now," the German ordered, with a trace of impatience tinging his phlegmatic manner. "Long enough we have waited."
"I'm willing," said Jimmie, turning upon his heel. "We might as well get the trouble off our minds. If I'm to be shot for keeps I hope they'll do it soon and do a good job while they're at it."
Although the boy's manner was light and buoyant enough to deceive even the experienced and hardened Uhlan who had constituted himself captor, his heart was heavy, for he well understood the danger of his position. He could hope for little nursing from the peculiar German minds with which he had to cope. Appearances certainly were against him, and he knew that the evidence would be taken only at face value.
Resolved, however, to make the most of a bad bargain, the boy resolutely forced a smile to his freckled face and bore himself erect and with apparent fearlessness as the two neared camp.
No time was lost by the soldier who had Jimmie in charge. He went directly to the spot where Captain von Liebknecht's tent was pitched. A sentry paced up and down the narrow limits of his beat, carrying his rifle in the prescribed position. In accordance with regulations, he was equipped with his full outfit, including a vicious looking sword bayonet and bandoliers of cartridges that gave forth a silent message which to Jimmie's troubled mind spelled a most gloomy and forbidding prospect for the immediate future.
A challenge from the sentry halted the pair until the necessary questions and answers could be exchanged. Upon being convinced that Jimmie's conductor had an urgent message for the Captain, the sentry ordered them to remain where they were while he hailed the guard stationed inside the tent. To this individual the sentry explained the reason for the visit and the request for an interview.
Jimmie was not left long in doubt. Almost instantly, it seemed, the guard returned and, after exchanging a few words in a low tone with the sentry, beckoned for the soldier and the lad to follow.
He led the way into the tent, raising the flap for Jimmie and his captor to pass. More than ever the lad felt his appellation of The Wolf was well deserved. It seemed to him that circumstances were conspiring to make him seem to the Germans a predatory animal, and while he would have been willing and was even anxious to dispel this notion from their minds, he well understood that nothing he could do or say would be of effect in this direction. Feeling keenly the need of most careful handling of the situation, Jimmie glanced quickly and furtively about the tent. He was somewhat surprised to observe there a number of officers of the regiment apparently in conference.
A number of papers, amongst them maps, was spread upon the little table in the center of the tent. Captain von Liebknecht had patently been directing certain movements of troops, using the maps to further explain his instructions. Jimmie's entrance had interrupted the Captain's action of tracing with his finger the line of railroad leading from Peremysl, or Przemysl, as it must henceforth be known.
As the Captain raised his eyes to observe who his visitors might be, Jimmie let his glance fall to the map, where he saw the finger pointing at the town designated as Cracow.
In a flash the boy realized that von Liebknecht had been giving instructions for the transportation of troops by rail, and that Cracow would be the next stopping point, where he guessed that the horses would be detrained for water and rest if possible.
Mentally making a note of this fact, Jimmie raised his glance fearlessly to meet the cold blue eyes of the German officer. In that glance Jimmie comprehended the fact that he could expect little mercy from a man whose whole ambition in life seemed to be unquestioning and unwavering devotion to his Emperor. He read also in the blue eyes craft and skill in diplomacy and a keen intelligence withal.
"Captain," began the soldier who had brought Jimmie to the tent, "this Cossack has been giving information to his Russian friends."
Jimmie detected without any difficulty the implied sneer in the term "Cossack," but forebore making any reply on the instant.
"So?" observed von Liebknecht. "Again? Must we always be troubled at critical times with this wonderful recruit?"
As none of the group seemed able to reply, silence was the only response. The Captain let his glance wander about from one to another of his aides. His eyes rested for a moment upon the countenance of a member of the group apparently older than the others.