The Motor Boys
NED, BOB AND JERRY ON THE FIRING LINE
The Motor Boys Fighting for Uncle Sam
BY CLARENCE YOUNG
AUTHOR OF "THE MOTOR BOAT SERIES" "THE RACER BOYS SERIES," "THE JACK RANGER SERIES," ETC.
NEW YORK CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
BOOKS BY CLARENCE YOUNG
12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Price per volume, 80 cents, postpaid.
THE MOTOR BOYS SERIES
THE MOTOR BOYS THE MOTOR BOYS OVERLAND THE MOTOR BOYS IN MEXICO THE MOTOR BOYS ACROSS THE PLAINS THE MOTOR BOYS AFLOAT THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE ATLANTIC THE MOTOR BOYS IN STRANGE WATERS THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE PACIFIC THE MOTOR BOYS IN THE CLOUDS THE MOTOR BOYS OVER THE ROCKIES THE MOTOR BOYS OVER THE OCEAN THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE WING THE MOTOR BOYS AFTER A FORTUNE THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE BORDER THE MOTOR BOYS UNDER THE SEA THE MOTOR BOYS ON ROAD AND RIVER
THE MOTOR BOYS—SECOND SERIES
NED, BOB AND JERRY AT BOXWOOD HALL NED, BOB AND JERRY ON A RANCH NED, BOB AND JERRY IN THE ARMY NED, BOB AND JERRY ON THE FIRING LINE
THE JACK RANGER SERIES
JACK RANGER'S SCHOOLDAYS JACK RANGER'S WESTERN TRIP JACK RANGER'S SCHOOL VICTORIES JACK RANGER'S OCEAN CRUISE JACK RANGER'S GUN CLUB JACK RANGER'S TREASURE BOX
THE RACER BOYS SERIES
THE RACER BOYS THE RACER BOYS AT BOARDING SCHOOL THE RACER BOYS TO THE RESCUE THE RACER BOYS ON THE PRAIRIES THE RACER BOYS ON GUARD THE RACER BOYS FORGING AHEAD
Copyright, 1919, by
CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
Ned, Bob and Jerry on the Firing Line
I. The Spy Alarm 1
II. A Man and a Snake 11
III. A Puzzled Professor 18
IV. A Two-Girl Problem 29
V. More Girls 35
VI. Noddy Nixon 43
VII. Off for France 53
VIII. The Training Camp 59
IX. On the Firing Line 71
X. In the Trenches 78
XI. A Night Patrol 88
XII. Bob Is Missing 96
XIII. "Just Like Him!" 108
XIV. A Desperate Chance 116
XV. The Sniper 123
XVI. Over the Top 129
XVII. "Fried Holes" 136
XVIII. The School Janitor 145
XIX. News at Last 153
XX. A Queer Question 162
XXI. A Visitor 171
XXII. An Unexpected Capture 177
XXIII. Great Preparations 184
XXIV. "S. I. W." 194
XXV. The Black Box 201
XXVI. A Disappearance 209
XXVII. St. Mihiel 218
XXVIII. In Argonne Forest 226
XXIX. Captured 232
XXX. Recaptured 243
NED, BOB AND JERRY ON THE FIRING LINE
THE SPY ALARM
"There's a German on the ground! Get him!"
The sun glistened on scores of polished bayonets, as sturdy figures, clad in olive drab, which matched in hue the brown of the earth, sprang from their trenches and rushed forward.
"Put some pep into it! Lively now! Get the Germans!"
There were dull thuds, and there was a ripping, tearing sound as the steel slashed its way through the tough cloth. Along the swaying line rushed the young soldiers, stabbing to right and left as they went.
Now their weapons were directed downward with deadly force, and they sank them into the forms on the ground with such energy that the earth beneath was torn and gashed, and the muzzles of the guns, to which the stabbing bayonets were attached, made deep impressions on the yielding forms.
"There's a German on the ground! Get him!"
Again the cry rang out, and again the rushing, charging line surged forward, and then there followed once more the thuds which told of the cold steel going through and through and——
Then from the center of one of the charging lines there came a laugh as a lad, having driven his keen weapon home with too much force, being unable to free it, raised on his gun a large sack stuffed with hay, the fodder bristling out of one of the gashes he had made.
"That's the stuff, Chunky! Go to it!" yelled his laughing comrades. "If you can't get a German any other way, stick him on the end of your bayonet, bring him back to camp, and feed him to death!"
"Silence in the ranks!" cried the sergeant who was drilling the young soldiers of Camp Dixton in bayonet practice. For this is what it was, and not a charge on some Hun position; though from the fervor with which the boys went at it, and the fierce commands of their officers, a person hearing, and not seeing, might be inclined to believe that it was actual warfare.
And it was, as nearly as it could be approximated, for the sacks stuffed with hay or other yielding material, suspended on framework as is a football dummy or scattered over the ground, were called "Germans," by the drilling officers.
And, at the command: "There's a German on the ground! Get him!" it was the part of the prospective soldier to rush at the recumbent sack and stab it through and through with all his might, trying to put into the stroke all the force he would put into a similar one when he should attack the enemy.
"You got your man all right, Chunky!" observed a tall, bronzed lad, standing next to the stout youth who had used his bayonet with such force that he carried off one of the sacks as a trophy. "You must be feeling pretty strong today."
"Oh, let up, can't you, Jerry?" begged the badgered one. "The ground was soft under that sack, and I didn't think the steel would go through so far."
"Well, do that when you get on the firing line in France and it will be all right," commented another lad, on the opposite side of the one addressed as Chunky. "I wonder how much longer we're going to keep this up?"
"As you were!" came the sudden order, fairly barked out from an instructing sergeant, and the boys in the particular squad which included Ned, Bob and Jerry, of whom more later, resumed the positions they had been in before the order to charge bayonets had been given.
Chunky, or Bob Baker, to give his proper name, managed to get rid of the encumbering sack on his weapon, and marched back with the others. They lined up at attention and waited for the usual instruction and correction that followed each charge, or other army practice.
"That was pretty good, boys," said the sergeant, as he glanced down the line, "but I'm sure you can do better. A few of you were a bit slow.
"Now sometimes it's all right to be slow, if you have plenty of time, but in this business of bayoneting Germans you won't have much time to spare, as you'll find when you get on the other side, which I hope will be soon."
There was a murmur to this same effect from all in the line.
"When you're using your bayonet, use it first, or the other chap may get ahead of you and—well, you know what will happen then," went on the sergeant significantly. "And when you pull your weapons out, do it this way," and, taking a gun from the hands of Jerry Hopkins, the sergeant illustrated what he meant, using one of the filled sacks as an enemy.
"There wouldn't be much left of a German to send home after he got through with him," commented Ned Slade, as the sergeant handed Jerry back the gun. "He surely has some poetry of motion—Sergeant Black has."
"That's the way I tried to do it," said Bob, to his chums, Ned and Jerry. "Only——"
"Only you must have been thinking you were going to leave your gun and bayonet sticking in the ground to mark the place, so you could find it the next time," interrupted Jerry with a laugh. For, the command "At Ease," having been given, the prospective soldiers were allowed to rest and indulge in talk. The sergeant was called to one side, while a lieutenant gave him some orders about further practice and instruction.
"Aw, cut it out!" begged Chunky. "Guess you forget the time you slept through first call, and had to do kitchen police for two days."
"Indeed I don't forget it!" laughed Jerry. "It isn't a thing you can forget so easily. But let it go at that. Only it did look funny, Chunky, and you'd have said so yourself if you had seen it—it certainly did look funny to see you rushing along with the sack on the end of your gun."
"Didn't you feel the weight of it?" asked Ned Slade.
"Oh, Chunky's getting so strong, since he has his three square meals a day, regular, that he doesn't mind a little extra weight," commented another lad who stood in line near the three chums.
The drilling sergeant turned to his men again, and once more sent them through the bayonet charge. Then came other drills of various sorts, designed to make the young soldiers sturdy and strong, to fit them for the strenuous times that loomed ahead in France—times to try men's souls and bodies. But to these times the lads looked forward eagerly, anxious for the days to come when they could go "over there."
"Whew!" whispered Bob to Jerry and Ned, between whom he stood as they marched across the parade ground. "If this keeps up much longer I'm going to be a wreck!"
"Oh, some chow will set you up all right," commented Ned.
"Oh, say that again!" sighed the stout lad. "Them words fill me with mad desire!"
"Yes, and you'll fill the guardhouse if you don't stop talking so loud in the ranks," warned a lad behind Bob. "Cut it out. The lieutenant is looking this way," he added, speaking from the corner of his mouth so the motion of his lips would not be observed.
Rapidly the young soldiers marched across the grass-grown parade ground, in orderly array, in the last of the drills that morning. The company to which Ned, Bob and Jerry belonged were drawn up near their barracks, and Captain Theodore Martin, after a glance over the two trim lines, turned the dismissing of the group over to the first lieutenant.
The breechblocks of the guns were opened, clicked shut again, and then came the welcome words:
That is what the lieutenant snapped out. But what he really meant, and what the members of it understood, was:
Ned, Bob and Jerry, with sighs of relief, which were echoed by their comrades, turned to stack their rifles and then prepared for "chow," or, in this case, the dinner mess.
As the three chums were heading in the direction of the mess hall where, every day, two hundred or more hungry lads and men were fed, they saw some members of their company turn and run in a different direction.
"Hello! what's up?" asked Jerry Hopkins, coming to a halt.
"Matter where?" inquired Ned.
"Over that way," and Jerry pointed. "Either somebody is hurt, or there's a riot."
"Let's go!" cried Ned.
"Wait until after grub," advised Bob, with an anxious look toward the mess hall.
"It won't take but a minute," suggested Jerry. "Look, everybody's going. We might as well be in it. If everybody is late to mess there'll be enough left for us to eat. Come on!"
Accepting this argument, that such a general rush toward the scene of excitement would result in a general postponement of the meal, Bob, after a moment of hesitation, joined his two chums. They rushed toward one of the sleeping barracks, and saw that a large crowd was congregating around it.
"What's the matter?"
"Is the place on fire?"
These were some of the questions that flew from one to the other.
"It's a spy!" some one said. "They've caught a German spy in camp, and they're going to lynch him!"
"Oh, boy!" yelled Ned. "We must see this!"
"I don't believe it!" announced Jerry. "There've been too many German spy scares. They all turned out to be fakes. And, anyhow, there won't be any lynching."
"Maybe not," agreed Bob. "But there sure is some excitement."
And there was. Even Jerry had to admit that.
As the three Motor Boys—to give them the name by which they had been known for some time—neared the barracks, the rumors and statements as to the capture of a spy became more frequent and certain. There was an excited, seething crowd about the place.
A lieutenant, whom Ned, Bob and Jerry knew well, as he came from their town of Cresville, passed just then. The three chums saluted, and, when this had been returned, Jerry asked:
"Can you tell us, Sir, what it's all about?"
"Have they really caught a spy?" added Bob eagerly.
"Well, whether he is a spy or not I can't say," was the answer. "But I have been told that a man, who was acting in a suspicious manner about the camp, has been arrested. Some of the officers are investigating now. I hardly think he will prove to be a real spy, though."
"He won't last long, if he is," commented Ned.
"They have him in the barracks there," went on the lieutenant. "They will bring him out soon, I suppose, and put him in the guardhouse. Better go back, boys," he added. "There's too much of a crowd here now. I must help disperse it."
He turned away, but the advice he had given Ned, Bob and Jerry was not very welcome.
"This is our sleeping barracks, anyhow," said Ned. "We have a right to stick around, and go in, too."
"If they let us," added Bob.
"Come on, let's try," suggested Jerry. "Here's a place," and he led the way through a thinning portion of the crowd toward one of the doors of the big wooden shack, in which he and his chums slept while at Camp Dixton.
Suddenly there came a series of excited shouts from within the building. Then several soldiers were seen to rush out as though something had chased them.
"What in the world is up now?" asked Jerry of his chums.
They pressed forward toward the door from which the excited soldiers had emerged, and one of them, seeing that the three chums were about to enter, cried:
"Don't go in there!"
"Why not?" asked Bob.
"Did the spy try to shoot any one?" Ned wanted to know.
"Don't go in!" yelled another lad. "There's a snake in there as big as a barrel, and he's skipping around as lively as a kitten! Keep out if you don't want to meet sudden death. Oh, boy! I saw him open his mouth, and one look was enough. No more for me!"
A MAN AND A SNAKE
Ned, Bob and Jerry paused a moment on the threshold of the barrack building they had been about to enter. From within came a sound of commotion, as if several persons were quickly rushing to and fro, and there were excited shouts.
"Come off, Jack, what are you doing? Trying to string us?" asked Ned of the lad who had spoken of the snake.
"Nothing of the sort!" protested the other. "As true as I'm telling you, there's a snake loose in there as big as a barrel, and as long as a fence rail around one of these cotton plantations!"
"Is he joking, Ted?" asked Jerry of another of the lads who had rushed out in such haste.
"Not a bit of it! I saw the snake myself. It isn't quite as big as a barrel, but it certainly is long."
"Come on, fellows!" called Jerry to his two chums. "We've got to see this!"
"What!" cried Jack Wade, "you aren't going in there, are you?"
"Why not?" asked Jerry. "We've had some experience with snakes. Besides, we want to see the spy. Is there a spy inside here, too?"
"There is!" cried another lad. "They caught the spy dead to rights, planting a bomb under the officers' mess building. Wanted to blow 'em all up when they were eating, I guess. Oh, he's a German spy, all right, and they have him tied up!"
"But what connection has he with the snakes?" Bob questioned.
"Not any that I know of," replied Jack.
"Yes, he has, too!" asserted one of his chums. "The spy had the snake. He was going to let him loose in camp, hoping he'd bite and poison a lot of us, I s'pose, so we can't go to France to fight the Huns."
"Big snakes are seldom poisonous," cried Jerry. "This may be a python or a boa escaped from some circus, though I haven't heard of any animal shows being around here lately."
"Me, either," added Bob. "Say, are you sure you saw a snake?" he asked the lads who had rushed out in such a hurry.
"As sure as we see you now, and you're not much smaller around the waist than this same snake," added Jack with a laugh.
"Cut out the comedy stuff!" murmured Bob.
"Well, if there's a real snake in there I want to see it!" exclaimed Jerry. "Come on!" and he pushed open the door which had swung shut after the exit of the excited lads.
Within the barracks the three Motor Boys saw a scene of excitement. One end of the big building, which was filled with cots and bunks, was comparatively empty, but at the other there was a group of officers and men. Some of them appeared to surround the captive, though the three chums could not just then get a glimpse of him.
"There it is!" suddenly cried Ned, pointing.
"What—the spy?" asked Bob.
"No, the snake! See it?"
He pointed. There was no doubt of it. A long, glistening, brown body was seen to glide under a row of cots.
"It's a snake all right," assented Jerry, "but not half as big as I thought. It's just like one I've seen——"
He was interrupted by a voice which rang out above the murmurs from the group at the other end of the barracks, and the commanding voice of Colonel Shield demanded:
"What is going on here? What is all the excitement about?"
It appeared that he had just entered at the doorway around which were grouped the excited officers and men.
"We have caught a spy," some one said.
"He must have let the big snake loose!" another added.
"Well, why don't some of you shoot the reptile?" asked the colonel. "A fine lot of soldiers you are, I must say! Afraid of a snake! Where will you be when you go up against the Germans? Some one get a rifle and shoot the snake!"
At this command a protesting cry came from the midst of a group of soldiers who were guarding the man arrested as a spy.
"Don't shoot my snake! Don't shoot my pet snake!" came the entreaty. "He is worth a fortune! Don't harm him!"
There was a commotion—a scramble. Several men stumbled and fell, and from their midst a figure dashed—a figure at the sight of which a gasp of astonishment came from the three Motor Boys.
And since Ned, Bob and Jerry have been called Motor Boys several times I will take just a moment here to tell who these lads were and something about them; also why they were at Camp Dixton. Of course, the readers who already know this may skip what immediately follows and proceed with the story.
As related in the initial volume of the first part of this series, a book which is named "The Motor Boys," Ned Slade, Bob Baker and Jerry Hopkins were chums of long standing. They lived in Cresville, not far from Boston, and the three lads were well-to-do. Jerry's mother was a wealthy widow, while Bob's father was a banker, and Ned's a department store owner.
The Motor Boys were so called because they spent so much time in or about vehicles that depended on gasoline motors for their activity. They began with motorcycles and ended with airships—though one should not say ended, for their activities were far from over.
In the books succeeding the initial volume are related the various adventures of the Motor Boys, who journeyed to Mexico, across the plains, and traveled much on the Atlantic and Pacific, both in craft on the surface and in submarines. Their trips above the clouds in aeroplanes and airships were much enjoyed.
"The Motor Boys on Road and River," was the last volume of the first series, the final volume to carry that title.
The second series began with "Ned, Bob and Jerry at Boxwood Hall," and the only change in the stories was in the title, for the main characters were still the "Motor Boys."
The parents of the lads felt that they ought to do some studying, and, accordingly, Ned, Bob and Jerry were sent to Boxwood Hall. What took place there formed not only a well-remembered part in their lives, but furnished some excitement as well. When vacation came they went to a Western ranch and had fun, as well as helped in an important piece of work.
And then came the Great War.
Our heroes could do nothing less than enlist, and in the volume called "Ned, Bob and Jerry in the Army," which immediately precedes this one you are reading, is told something of their life at Camp Dixton, one of the training camps in the South.
There the chums had learned to become soldiers, and, with others of their kind, were eagerly awaiting a chance to go over seas and fight it out with the Huns.
And now we meet them again in the midst of excitement over a spy scare—not the first of the kind to happen in the camp, where, as the readers of the volume before this will doubtless recall, the activities of "Pug" Kennedy and "Crooked Nose," formed the basis for some real danger.
"That snake sure is real!" cried Bob, as he saw the serpent writhing about. "And whoever has him for a pet must be nervy."
"Look! Look!" exclaimed Jerry. "The spy is going right for the snake!"
"And look who the spy is!" added Ned.
There were shouts from the officers and men. Several of the latter had gotten their rifles and were edging about, trying to find an opening through which they might fire at the serpent.
The man who had broken away from his captors rushed toward the end of the building where Ned, Bob and Jerry had last seen the reptile, which was now out of sight under some bunks.
"Don't shoot him! Don't shoot my pet! He is worth thousands of dollars!" cried the reputed spy.
And then, to the surprise and fear of all save the Motor Boys, who had an insight into the truth, the man fairly threw himself forward on the serpent, as a football player falls on the ball.
"Ah, I have you! I have you, my beauty!" cried the man. "You shall not get away from me again, and they sha'n't shoot you, either!"
A PUZZLED PROFESSOR
For a moment there was comparative silence in the big barrack building. It lasted while the little man was crossing the room and hurrying toward the big snake where it could be discerned under a line of bunks. The words uttered by the owner of the serpent were heard by the three chums, as well as by every one else in the building.
And then, as the small man continued on his way, and finally launched himself at the snake with outstretched hands and arms, some one uttered a warning yell.
"Look out!" came the cry. "It's only his bluff! He's trying to escape. Catch the spy!"
"That's right!" shouted several, who seemed to agree with what had been said.
But if the little man—the "spy" as he had been called—had it in mind to escape, he was taking a queer way to go about it. For even as a rush toward him on the part of those from whose midst he had escaped began, the little man arose and held clasped in his arms the snake—or as much of it as he could raise from the ground. On his face was a look of anxiety relieved, and he fairly beamed on those who confronted him. His former, and would-be, captors had again come to a halt. Almost any ordinary body of men and boys would have done the same under like circumstances, for there is an inherent fear of snakes in almost every one.
"Get him! Don't let the spy escape!" came the cry.
"Yes! Let's see you get him—with that snake for a protector," murmured one.
"I don't mind getting shot at by a German," said a voice, "but I'll be jiggered if I want to be bitten by a snake."
"Shoot the snake!" came the cry.
"No, please don't, I beg of you!" pleaded the little man in a mild voice that, somehow, carried to the far end of the room. "Please don't shoot the most valuable snake I ever owned. Really she is quite harmless; aren't you, Ticula?" and he looked up at the swaying head of the snake that was weaving above him, as though to ask the serpent to speak.
"Ticula!" burst out Ned. "Is that her name, Professor Snodgrass?"
The little man started, and peered through his glasses in the direction of the voice.
"Ha! It seems there is some one here who knows me," he said. "I cannot see him, but I seem to recognize the voice."
"I should think you would," chuckled Ned. "We've traveled with you often enough, Professor. But this is a new one—a pet snake as long as a lasso."
"And named Ticula!" added Jerry, with a laugh.
"Oh, that is only a name I made up for her out of her own proper, Latin one," explained the professor. "Her real name is Python Reticulatus; but I call her Ticula for short. And, unless I am greatly mistaken, it was Jerry Hopkins who spoke to me that time. Am I right?" and he peered about rather uncertainly, for the corner where the three chums were standing was in deep shadow.
"You are right, Professor," said Jerry. "And we are as much surprised to see you here as to 'meet up' with your snake, as the folks in the South say. What brought you here?"
Before Professor Snodgrass could answer—and it has been, perhaps, guessed before this that he was the "spy" referred to—a sudden movement on the part of the snake made it necessary for him to devote some attention to his "pet" as he called her.
Ticula seemed uneasy at being stared at by so many eyes, and she began to writhe and twist as though anxious to escape. There was a sudden scramble on the part of the soldiers and officers in the barrack building, but the three chums, having faith in their old friend, the little scientist, did not retreat.
"There now, Ticula," murmured Professor Snodgrass, in what he doubtless meant to be soothing terms, "no one shall harm you. You're excited on account of getting out of your box, I suppose. But I'll soon have you back there."
He reached up, and began to stroke the snake back of the weaving head, and gradually the forked tongue, that had been playing in and out with the quickness of lightning, was quieted. Ticula seemed to regain her composure. She settled down, wrapping a fold or two about the little man, who did not seem at all alarmed at the movements of the snake, though one officer murmured:
"Great Scott! he's taking an awful chance. That's a constrictor, and it can crush an ox!"
But Professor Snodgrass gazed mildly through his glasses at those surrounding him and inquired:
"Are you all three there—Ned, Bob and Jerry?"
"All present and accounted for, Professor," answered Jerry, with a laugh. "And now that Ticula seems quiet, perhaps you'll explain what it all means."
"Yes, I think an explanation is very much in order," said the colonel, who had urged some of his men to shoot the snake.
"First let me get my pet back in her sleeping box," said the little scientist. "She will be quieter then. If one of you gentlemen will have the kindness to bring me the box you took away from me, I'll put Ticula to sleep."
"Bring in the box," commanded a lieutenant. "We caught this man, Sir," said the lieutenant, addressing the colonel, "hanging around the officers' mess hall with a box. We thought it contained an infernal machine, and that he might be a German spy. We brought him here to talk to him, and then we discovered the snake crawling around. The box is outside."
"Have it examined and brought in," said the colonel. "It is just possible," he added with a smile, "that the prisoner is what he claims to be—a naturalist. Is there any one here who knows him?" he asked.
"Yes, Sir," answered Ned, Bob and Jerry in a chorus.
"Come forward and explain," ordered the colonel.
The three chums advanced and saluted. Professor Snodgrass seemed to be having a little trouble quieting the snake, which had again raised her head and was hissing at the crowd in front of her. Some explanations were necessary, it would seem, and Ned, Bob and Jerry seemed the best qualified to offer them.
"We know Professor Snodgrass very well, Sir," said Jerry. "He has often traveled with us, and we have helped him in his collection work. He is connected with some of the largest museums, and goes about getting rare specimens for them. He is no more a German spy than we are."
"Glad to know it," commented the colonel. "Do you know anything about this mysterious box he had?"
"No; but it is probably what he says it is—a cage for this snake, Sir," explained Jerry. "He has any number of specimen boxes and cages when he travels."
By this time some of the men had brought in the box in question. It was painted green, and was about three feet long—in itself rather a good load for one man to carry, not so much on account of its weight as because of its shape, but with the big snake inside, one man could not have lifted it.
"That's a snake box," said Jerry, after he had examined it, "but it is a new one—I never saw it before."
"No, I had it made especially for Ticula," explained the professor, who had again succeeded in quieting the serpent. "Now, my little pet," he went on, "I'll put you to bed."
The box was brought forward and set down on the floor in front of the professor. The man who brought it dropped it quickly and made a hasty retreat at the nearer sight of the reptile.
Then the scientist gently lowered the serpent's head toward the box, which was lined with cloth. The snake seemed to recognize her quarters, for, without hesitation, she coiled herself down in the case, the perforated lid of which was then closed.
"There, now she is all right," said the professor. "I shall not let her loose again until to-morrow, and then——"
"What?" yelled a lieutenant. "Are you going to turn her loose around here again?"
"Why not?" asked the professor. "The observations I hoped to make to-day as to her feeding habits in the open have been spoiled because you arrested me as a spy. I could not conclude my experiments, and I must continue them to-morrow. But do not be alarmed. Ticula, though rather large, is perfectly harmless to man. Indeed, she has not yet gotten her full growth. She is only fifteen feet long, and her kind often grows to twenty-six feet and weighs nearly two hundred pounds. Ticula is a mere baby."
"Some baby!" murmured a voice, and even the colonel laughed.
"And now I suppose I am at liberty to go with my property?" asked the professor, looking around inquiringly.
"Well, since it seems that you are not a German spy, I fail to see that we have any reason for holding you," returned the commandant. "As for the snake, I think the men—and I may say myself—would feel obliged if you did not turn it loose again."
"Well, I suppose I can select some other place for my experiments," murmured the professor, in rather disappointed tones. "But this spot was ideal. There are so many rats and mice about a camp of this sort that a snake or two would be very beneficial."
"I have no doubt," said the colonel dryly. "And yet, somehow, I think I prefer the rodents. But I should be glad to have you explain further just what your experiments are in reference to your reptile. I am interested. I shall be pleased to have you lunch with me," he went on, for, now that he had a chance to observe, he saw that Professor Snodgrass was a cultured gentleman, as well as, he presumed, a devoted scientist. The colonel was something of a student himself.
"I should like to lunch with you," said the professor, "but my three friends—Ned, Bob and Jerry—are here and——"
"We'll see you later," whispered Jerry. "We're enlisted men and can't mess in the officers' quarters. You must dine with the colonel and we'll see you later."
"All right," assented the professor, and accepted the colonel's invitation. "Help me carry Ticula out to my auto and I'll see you after dinner," he went on to the boys.
"Have you an auto here?" asked Bob.
"Yes. I left it just beyond the confines of the camp. I have an old friend of yours with me, too," he went on. "He helped me carry my snake here."
"An old friend?" murmured Bob.
"Yes, Pete Bumps who used to be your father's hired man. I've engaged him as a helper since you boys joined the army. He runs my auto for me and helps me catch specimens. He isn't afraid of snakes."
And old Pete Bumps it was who greeted Ned, Bob and Jerry as they accompanied the professor to his car.
Pete had left the Baker service some time ago, and had secured a place as janitor of a college in which the professor taught, he briefly explained to the boys. There the professor had engaged him just prior to starting out on his present expedition.
"Come on. We've got to hurry back to mess," said Jerry to his chums. "But we want to have a talk with you, Professor, after you finish dining with the colonel. We want to hear what you are doing here again. I should think once being taken for a German spy was enough," and he laughed at the recollection of a former occasion, when the professor, coming to visit his friends at Camp Dixton, had been halted on his way through the lines after some insects.
"I never thought of that," admitted the scientist. "I certainly remember coming down here in the spring, but I forgot about the spy business."
This was not surprising, since the professor seldom remembered for very long anything not directly connected with his favorite study.
And so, with the snake in the box safely confined to the care of Pete Bumps in the automobile, Professor Snodgrass went back to dine with the colonel, while the three chums hastened to their delayed mess.
"You never know when he is going to turn up," remarked Ned.
"That's right," agreed Jerry. "I wonder what he's after now?"
They did not have long to wait before learning. Soon after mess they saw the professor coming down their company street and, as they had a brief respite from drills on account of the strenuous work of the morning, the boys took him to a quiet spot and began to ask him questions.
"But first of all, tell us if there is anything the matter?" begged Jerry. "You look worried. Are you?"
"Yes," admitted the little scientist, "I don't mind admitting that I am worried—and puzzled, too."
"What about?" asked Bob. "Ticula hasn't got loose, has she?"
"No, I went over to see, after dining with your colonel, whom I found to be a most delightful man, though his ignorance of reptiles and insects is painful. But, as I say, I assured myself of the safety of Ticula. Pete has her in the auto."
"Then what's worrying you?" demanded Ned.
"Well, I have a problem to solve and I don't know how to do it," was the answer.
"Has it anything to do with the war?" Jerry queried.
"Yes, it has," was the unexpected answer. "And now that you boys are in the army and expect to go across to France soon, perhaps you can help me. I'll tell you the puzzle I am trying to solve."
A TWO-GIRL PROBLEM
Jerry Hopkins stretched himself lazily and comfortably out on the grass under the shade tree where he and Bob and Ned had taken Professor Snodgrass for a little talk. They were far removed from the center of the camp, so the noise of the men drilling or at their various occupations came but faintly.
"Do you mean that your problem has to be solved on the other side of the water, Professor?" asked Jerry.
"Part of it has. And I am anxious to get across as soon as possible to begin."
"What?" cried Ned. "You don't mean to say you, too, are going to France, Professor?"
"I hope to," was the answer. "I have arranged to go, and I have my passport and some letters of introduction."
"But what are you going for?" asked Bob. "Don't you know you will be in the midst of terrible fighting? You can't solve any problems there. It will be a bedlam of noise."
"And the noise is just what I want," said Mr. Snodgrass. "That is one of my problems—to find out the effect of noise on the organisms of certain insects and reptiles. Men suffer from shell shock, and why should not insects suffer from the terrific noise of bursting guns? Most insects are noise-producers themselves," he went on, in something of his class-room manner, which the boys so well remembered at Boxwood Hall. "The grasshopper, the katydid and the cricket, to give them their common names, each have a song of their own. These insects are found in France, as well as here, though in somewhat different form.
"Now I have a theory that a long-continued series of terrific noises may produce structural changes in insects, so as to change the character of their 'songs' as I prefer to call their sounds. This can best be studied on the battlefields of France, though I suppose I could get the same effect here, if there was a continuous thunderstorm with vivid lightning.
"But, as that condition is impossible to bring about, I shall best find it in France, and thither I am going, soon I hope. This snake experiment is only a brief one, undertaken at the behest of a friend of mine who is writing a book on the feeding habits of pythons."
"Is that what brought you back to our camp?" asked Jerry.
"Yes. This particular part of the South at this season of the year has the very climate suited to pythons and other large snakes of the tropics."
"I'm sure it's hot enough," murmured Bob, mopping his perspiring face. "I'm glad we got out of drill this afternoon. But go on, Professor. I didn't mean to interrupt you."
"Well, there isn't much to tell about the snake," said the scientist. "I purchased Ticula, as I call her, some time ago from a museum. She is a fine specimen of the regal python. Originally she came from Borneo, where she was captured when very young. As I stated, she has not yet attained her growth, and I have succeeded in making quite a pet of her."
"Deliver me from such pets!" murmured Ned.
"Ticula is not a venomous snake," went on the professor. "None of the constrictor type of serpents is, though their power to crush their prey in their folds is enormous. They depend on that power, while the poisonous snakes kill their prey by the use of their venom. But Ticula and I are quite friendly.
"My friend, who is writing a book on snakes, asked me to find out something of how pythons capture their food, and, knowing there would be plenty of large rats in the vicinity of a camp, on account of the great food supply there, I came here with my pet snake.
"I suppose I should have secured permission from some officer to let loose the serpent near one of the buildings, but I forgot all about it, thinking of the problem I have to puzzle over. I also forgot for the time being, that you boys were here at Camp Dixton, or I should certainly have communicated with you and got you to help me.
"But I went at it alone. Pete and I carried the box, with the snake in it, of course, close to one of the buildings. I did not know until later that it was the officers' mess hall. Then Pete left me alone."
"How did you manage to get through the sentry lines unchallenged?" asked Jerry.
"I don't know," frankly answered the professor. "I suppose it was because no one saw us; or they may have supposed we were bringing some supplies to one of the officers. Then, there was a sham battle going on not far away at the time, and that may have taken the attention of the sentries. Anyhow, I got through the lines, and, opening the box, let Ticula out to roam about and catch a rat if she could.
"I was crawling around after her, watching her as she went under the building when suddenly a soldier pounced on me and yelled that I was a German spy. I was never more surprised in all my life."
Jerry and Bob chuckled.
"I should think you might be!" laughed Ned. "Then what happened?"
"Well, they handled me rather roughly, and took me into custody, as I suppose it is called. They seemed to think Ticula's box was an infernal machine. They were very much excited, and I was trying to explain to them who I was, when Ticula suddenly crawled up through a hole in the floor in the building where I was being questioned."
"And then there was more excitement, I suppose," said Jerry.
"There was—considerable," admitted the professor. "Then you boys came in, and—well, it's all over now. But I surely feared for a moment they might shoot my snake."
"Yes, it was rather a close call," observed Bob. "But did you have a good dinner with the colonel?"
"Listen to him, would you!" protested Ned. "All he can think of is eating!"
"Cut it out!" growled Bob, as Ned poked him in the ribs. "I just wanted to know what sort of feed they give the officers."
"Oh," said Jerry significantly. "Merely an academic interest, I suppose."
"Sure!" assented Bob. "That's all."
"Well, the dinner was very good, though I cannot say that I remember what I ate," confessed the professor. "I was thinking too much of something else."
"Do you mean you were puzzled as to how to study the effect of the noises of the French battlefields on grasshoppers and crickets?" asked Jerry.
"No," and the professor shook his head. "This is an altogether different problem. It is, as I might call it, the problem of two girls."
"Two girls!" cried the three Motor Boys in a chorus. "Two girls?"
They looked at the little professor, whose eyes, mildly blinking behind his strong glasses, regarded the lads curiously.
"Two girls," repeated the little scientist. "The problem I have to solve concerns two girls."
Ned, Bob and Jerry looked at one another. Then they turned their glances on the professor.
"Whew!" softly whistled Jerry. "Can it be possible that our dear friend is in love—and with two girls at once? This is getting serious!"
It would have been had Jerry's diagnosis been correct. But it was wrong, as was proved a moment later, when the professor, with a sigh, resumed his narrative.
"Yes," he said, "I am much concerned over two girls—young ladies I suppose would be the more proper designation. I have never seen either of them."
Jerry breathed more freely, and so did his chums. Clearly if the professor had not seen the two girls he could not be in love with them. And the professor in love was something unthinkable. He never would have remembered, from one day to the next, the name of the favored lady.
"And, boys," went on Professor Snodgrass, "I think you will agree with me that it is quite a problem to try to find in Europe, at this particular time, two girls I have never seen, that I may deliver to them a small fortune, and claim one myself."
"Say, this is getting worse and more of it!" cried Ned. "What does it all mean, Professor? Are you in earnest about these girls and the effect of war noises on insects?"
"I am in earnest about both problems—never more so," was the answer, and it needed but a glance at the face of the scientist to disclose this fact. "But perhaps I had better explain."
"Perhaps you had," said Jerry with a smile.
"And never mind about the insects—tell us about the girls," urged Bob.
"Yes, relieve his mind," agreed Ned. "He hasn't heard from his dear Helena in some hours, I guess."
"Oh, cut it out!" protested the stout lad.
"The two girls to whom I refer," went on Professor Snodgrass, "are the nieces of my late friend, Professor Emil Petersen."
"The man who wrote the book on trigonometry that we used to study at Boxwood Hall?" asked Ned.
"The same," murmured Professor Snodgrass. "Professor Petersen was an eminent mathematician, and the world did not fully estimate his worth. His mathematical work was only a branch of his many-sided activities. Professor Petersen died about three months ago, and he left me a most peculiar legacy."
"Peculiar in what way?" asked Ned.
"It is like this," said the little scientist, as he pulled up a blade of grass, and examined it under a powerful hand glass to see if any strange insects might be crawling on it. "Professor Petersen, unlike most of us professional men, was very wealthy. He was a Swede, and his wealth came to him from his father. He never used much of it, and the money accumulated.
"After his death I was surprised to learn that he had made me one of his heirs, but under certain conditions. It appears that in his younger days Professor Petersen was estranged from his brother and sister, on account of some family matters. They received an equal share with him from their father's estate, but they made unwise investments, and soon lost the major portion of their inheritances. The professor kept his. Perhaps that was one reason for the estrangement.
"At any rate, some coldness existed, and it was not until just before his death that the professor wished to be reconciled. Then it was too late, as his brother and sister were both dead. But each had left a daughter, and the young ladies were studying abroad—somewhere in France or Germany, I believe, when the war broke out.
"I was greatly surprised, when the will was made public, to learn that I was to have half the professor's not inconsiderable wealth, on a certain condition."
"And what condition?" remarked Jerry, as the professor hesitated.
"That condition is as follows. I am to seek out these two nieces of my dead friend and give them each a fourth of his estate. The other half I am to have for myself if I fulfill the trust. That is, I get it if I can succeed in finding the two girls, and I need not tell you that I shall be very glad of the large sum of money—not for myself, oh, no!" said Professor Snodgrass quickly, "but that I may devote it to the furtherance of the interests of science. If I can solve the problem, and find the two girls, I shall have a large sum at my disposal, and I can then fulfill a life-long desire to undertake the study of the insects of the Amazon River. That is what I have always desired to do since I took up my studies, but I always lacked the means. Now, if I succeed in finding these two girls, I shall have wealth enough to travel in South America."
"And where are the girls?" asked Jerry.
"Somewhere in Germany or France," was the answer. "The latter country, I think. I have, among my papers, their last address. But since the war there is no telling where I may find them. I have written a number of letters, but have had no answers. Now I must go to seek them, and, at the same time, make a study of the effect of battle noises on crickets and grasshoppers. Is it any wonder that I seem puzzled? Was there ever such a hard problem for a peace-loving scientist to solve?"
"It isn't going to be easy," admitted Ned. "Then you really expect to go across?"
"Yes. And since I understand you are going, we may go together; or at least meet there, for I suppose I shall not be allowed on a transport, being a civilian."
"Hardly," assented Jerry. "But if, as you say, you have passports and credentials and letters of introduction, it may be arranged. You had better see our colonel. He seems to have taken quite a notion to you."
"Thank you; I will," promised the scientist. "And now I think I had better go back and see about Ticula and Pete Bumps. Pete may be worried about me."
"Just a moment," suggested Ned. "If we are to help you in the search for these two girls, we ought to know something more about them."
"That is right," assented the professor; "and I hope you will help me. The problem of finding the two young ladies would be easy were it not for the war. But they have been missing since the conflict started, and I can get no trace of them. I hope they are still living, for, if they are dead, all the wealth Professor Petersen left goes to a humane society for the care of distressed cats and dogs and to provide a shelter for them. Not that I object to cats and dogs," he hastily added, "but I think some other form of scientific activity might be chosen. However, Professor Petersen was very peculiar, and, after all, it was his money. Will you boys help me?"
"Indeed we will!" cried Jerry. "But how are we to go about it? What part of France were the girls last in?"
"And what are their names?" Bob demanded.
"And what do they look like?" asked Ned.
"That last question I can answer first," said the professor. "I happen to have recent pictures of them. They sent them to their uncle following the deaths of their parents, and after the reconciliation, and Professor Petersen left them to me, with certain other material, documents and such, to aid me in the search. Here are the girls—their names are Gladys Petersen and Dorothy Gibbs."
He reached in his pocket and took out a folded paper. As he opened it he gave a start and hastily closed it again.
"That isn't it," he murmured. "Those are some dried specimens of ameba that I wish to study under a microscope."
"What are ameba?" asked Jerry. "Fish?"
"Not exactly," answered the professor with a smile, "though I secured these from a little pond on the other side of the camp. Ameba are microorganisms of the simplest structure—a protoplasm which is constantly changing in shape. Very interesting—very interesting indeed, but not the pictures of the girls. Ah, here they are," he added, as he replaced the first paper and took out a second. From the folds of that he produced two unmounted photographs at which the boys gazed with interest.
They saw the likenesses of two pretty girls in traveling costume, and the pictures had, obviously, been snapped by an amateur at some country place, for there was a barn and fields in the background.
"The girls took these pictures themselves, I understand," explained the professor. "They sent them to their uncle."
"Which is which?" asked Jerry. "I mean which is Gladys and which is Dorothy?"
"The names are on the reverse side of the photographs, I believe," said the professor, and so it proved.
"They are both pretty," observed Jerry.
"I rather fancy Gladys," murmured Ned.
"Dorothy seems real jolly," stated Bob.
"Here! None of that, young man, or I'll write to Helena Schaeffer, and tell her how you're carrying on!" warned Jerry, shaking a finger at his stout chum.
"Aw, you——" began Bob.
But at that moment there came an interruption. A small, very much excited lad came fairly bounding over the grass toward the figures of the three chums and Professor Snodgrass.
"Oh, here you are!" cried the newcomer. "Found you at last—thought I never would—asked everybody—nearly got stabbed by a sentry—had to jump out of the way of a bullet—whoop—but here I am—Gosh! Say, it's good to see you again—I told 'em I could find you—awful hot, ain't it? Lots of things going on—never saw so many soldiers in all my life—here they are, girls! I found 'em!"
Ned, Bob and Jerry gazed in amazement at the small lad. Ned murmured his name—Andy Rush—and then Jerry, looking over the head of the excited little chap, descried three girls approaching.
"Girls! Girls!" murmured the tall lad. "More girls! What does it mean?"
Events were transpiring so rapidly for Ned, Bob and Jerry in the last few hours, that it was no wonder they were somewhat startled. Coming from strenuous bayonet practice to hear of a spy alarm, to have that augmented by excitement over the big snake, to learn that the "spy" was none other than Professor Snodgrass, and then to hear of his strange mission, would have been almost too much for any group of lads less sophisticated than this trio.
And hardly had they digested the news about the two missing girls, in a search for whom they mentally agreed they would join, than along came excitable Andy Rush and—more girls.
"There's Mollie Horton!" cried Ned, recognizing a girl who lived near him in Cresville, and with whom he was very friendly.
"Yes, and I see Alice Vines," added Jerry.
"And Helen Gale is with her," commented Bob. "I'm glad she came! Helen's a great girl for sport and——"
"You'd better be careful how you talk," warned Jerry, as the girls continued to approach. "Helen and Helena are names very much alike, but if you get them mixed up—well, Helen isn't one to stand any nonsense."
"Aw, say——" began Bob, and then the nearer approach of the three girls, to whom Andy Rush was beckoning, put a stop to any further talk concerning them.
It might be added, to explain Jerry's reference, that Helena Schaeffer was a girl in whom Bob Baker felt more than ordinary interest. At first, because of the pro-German leanings of her father, she had been a bit cold toward Bob when he joined the army with his chums, to fight the Kaiser. But, as readers of the volume preceding this know, Helena changed her attitude, much to Bob's relief.
"Well, of all the sights that are good for sore eyes!" cried Ned, as he hurried forward to greet the girls, an example followed by his chums. "What fine wind blew you here?"
"We didn't come in an airship!" burst out Andy Rush. "I wanted to, but they wouldn't—'fraid they'd fall—swoop up—swoop down—get here quicker—fall maybe—maybe not—lots of fun, anyhow. Gosh, it's great—I say, fellows, are you going——"
Jerry gently but firmly took hold of Andy by the ear, and, pointing to Professor Snodgrass, who was wandering about a distant field in search of possible insects, said:
"Andy, you go and aid in the interests of science, and, incidentally, cool off. We'll see you later."
And Andy, whose rapid flow of words had been suddenly stopped, looked once at the tall, bronzed lad, and then followed the instructions to the letter. So, whether he wanted it or not, Professor Snodgrass had the assistance of the small youth.
"Well! Well!" exclaimed Jerry, as he shook hands lingeringly with Alice. "How did you get here?"
"Going to enlist?" asked Ned.
"Maybe they're going to join the girls' motor corps," suggested Bob, who had attached himself to Helen.
"No, we just came on a visit," explained Mollie.
"To see us?" asked Ned.
"Of course!" was the mischievous answer. "We got lonesome back in Cresville, with all the nice boys gone, and so we got Andy to bring us down here."
"And if we believe that, I suppose you'll tell us another," laughed Jerry. "Seriously now, how did you happen to come, and how long are you going to stay? Fellows, we'll have to get furloughs and take the girls around. Not that there's much to see down here, but we'll do our best," he added.
"Cease! Cease!" commanded Ned, holding up his hand like a traffic officer in front of Jerry. "Let's hear how they happened to come."
"Oh, that is soon told," remarked Alice. "Mollie's aunt lives not far from here."
"And she invited Mollie down on a visit," added Helen. "And Mollie was good enough to ask us, so we all came together. We reached there yesterday, and, knowing you boys were at camp here, we decided to come out to see you, which we have done."
"And for which we are duly grateful," added Jerry. "But what about Andy Rush? I never was more surprised in my life when I heard his usual flow of language. How did he happen to be with you?"
"That was just an accident, a coincidence, or whatever you want to call it," said Mollie, with a laugh. "When Andy heard we were coming down this way he asked if he couldn't come with us. He says he is going to enlist. He isn't going to wait to be drafted. He said he'd sort of look after us on our way down."
"But it's been the other way about!" laughed Alice. "We've had to watch him all the while. He was always hopping about, talking to strangers, and every time the train stopped at a station longer than a minute he'd get off, and we'd be in a fix for fear he'd be left. But he's here, thank goodness!"
"Going to enlist!" cried Ned. "Why, he's too small."
"That's what they told him back in Cresville when he tried it," remarked Alice. "But we must give Andy credit for being a determined little chap. He's sixteen, and he says lots of boys of sixteen have gone in, and he's going. He said if the recruiting officer at home wouldn't take him one here at camp might. So he came with us, and I believe he's going to ask you boys to use your influence to get him into the army."
"A heap of influence we have!" laughed Ned. "Privates—with Jerry just made corporal."
"Well, Andy was very nice to us on the way down," said Helen, "so please do all you can for him."
"We will!" promised Jerry. "And now tell us about yourselves, and how all the folks are at home. Oh, but it's great to see you again!"
Then followed a talk until it was time for the three chums to report for drill duty.
"What are you girls going to do this evening?" asked Bob.
The girls looked at one another.
"Oh, just sit around, I suppose," remarked Mollie.
"No, you're not!" cried Jerry. "There's a dance in town—a really nice place—and we've been wishing for some girls to come along to help us out. It's under the auspices of the local Y. W. C. A. And if we can get off——"
"Oh, we'll get off all right!" broke in Ned eagerly.
"If worst comes to worst, we'll have the professor ask the colonel on our behalf. The prof seems to pull a pretty good stroke with the C. O. So a dance it is to be!" declared Bob.
And a dance it was. The boys received permission to remain away from camp until midnight, passes being issued to them, and they at once proceeded to "doll up," as Bob expressed it.
A joyous week followed, for the girls were to remain in the vicinity of Camp Dixton, at Mollie's aunt's house for some time, and they asked nothing better than to have the company of the three chums as often as it might be possible.
Of course, Ned, Bob and Jerry did not have very much time to themselves during the day, and some of their nights were occupied. But fate was kind to them, and they had several dances with the girls, and also went to "shows" at the local Y. M. C. A., as well as entertaining the girls by escorting them about the cantonment.
Meanwhile, Professor Snodgrass received permission to loose his pet snake, Ticula, in certain restricted areas, so that he might observe her feeding habits in the open.
"But I cannot stay here very long," he told the boys. "I must soon begin to prepare for my trip to Europe. I simply must make an attempt to find those two girls."
"And we'll help you!" declared Jerry. "Just wait a few days more. I think our orders to go across are coming."
And come the orders did. The day before the three home-town girls were to return to Cresville orders came for the larger part of the soldiers at Camp Dixton to leave for France.
"Hurray!" cried Ned, Bob and Jerry, as they saw the orders posted. "Now we'll get a whack at the Germans!"
"And I'm going, too!" declared Andy Rush. "I'll go if I have to leave as a stowaway! I've simply got to fight—get me a gun—let me go in an aeroplane—I want action—got to do something—can't keep still—Hurray for Uncle Sam!"
"Say, you'll burst a blood vessel if you aren't careful!" cautioned Ned. "Better go slow, Andy."
But Andy Rush was not the lad for that, and he hurried about the camp, more excited than ever, seeking for a chance to go abroad.
Ned, Bob and Jerry, with thousands of their chums, were to go to Hoboken, New Jersey, there to go aboard a transport and be escorted to France. By a stroke of good luck, and by pulling some official, or scientific wires, Professor Snodgrass received permission to go on the same vessel. He hurriedly sent his pet snake to a museum to be cared for until his return, mailed his specimens of ameba to a scientific friend to be made into microscopical slides, and then, having fitted himself out with as many specimen boxes and other paraphernalia as he was permitted to take, announced that he was ready for his dual mission—the seeking out of the two girls that he might apprise them of their good fortune and to undertake the study of the effect of war noises on crickets and katydids.
The final drills, bayonet practices, hikes and other camp activities were held, and then the order came to break camp. Professor Snodgrass went on ahead, promising to meet the three chums in Hoboken, and Mollie, Alice and Helen departed for Cresville, their good-byes to the boys being rather tearful, it must be admitted.
As for Andy Rush, he disappeared on the day when the young soldiers were to take the train for the North, and no one seemed to know what had become of him.
"Guess he found he couldn't get in the army, and he went back home," remarked Ned.
Finally the three chums were on their way for the fighting front with thousands of fellow soldiers, some being volunteers and others of the selective service.
Many and varied were the thoughts of our heroes as the train bore them northward. What would be their fate in France? Would they ever see home again, or would they be left across the water with the others who died that civilization might live? And mingled with these thoughts were others as to the mission of Professor Snodgrass.
"It surely is some commission—trying to find two girls with just their photographs and nothing much else to go by," commented Ned.
"But we have done harder things," added Jerry.
The journey North was rather tiresome, but the boys and their companions enlivened it as much as possible by singing, telling stories, and general activities.
Once, when the train was delayed at a junction the three Cresville friends got out, as did hundreds of others, to "stretch their legs." There was another train-load of young soldiers on a siding, having come from another camp, and lads from this were also walking up and down.
As Ned, Bob and Jerry stood together, looking at a group of recruits who had been trained in Texas, they heard a voice saying:
"This drafting business makes me sick! I don't like it at all!"
"Maybe you'd rather have been passed over," suggested some one.
"Naw, you get me wrong!" was the answer. "I want to fight all right, but I want to do it my own way. I'd have enlisted in the air service if they'd given me time enough. I was thinking of it when the draft law went into effect, and then I couldn't. I know a lot about airships. I used to run one, and I invented one, too."
"Did it fly?" some one wanted to know.
"It would have if it hadn't been for some mean fellows in my town who didn't want me to beat them," was the announcement. "You wait until I get on the other side! I'll show 'em what flying is, if they give me the chance, and Jerry Hopkins and his pals sha'n't stop me, either!"
"Did you hear that?" asked Ned in a low voice.
"I should say so!" exclaimed Bob. "We ought to know who that is."
"Noddy Nixon, without a doubt!" remarked Jerry. "And up to his old tricks! I hope he isn't going on the same transport with us!"
OFF FOR FRANCE
Noddy Nixon needs no introduction to my old readers. This rich and impudent lad had, more than once, done his best to injure the Motor Boys, and, with the plotting of Jack Pender and Bill Berry, a Cresville n'er-do-well, had too often succeeded.
"Well, I don't see anything of Bill or Jack," observed Jerry, as he looked toward Noddy Nixon, and noted, that the bully was surrounded by a group of strange recruits.
"Yes, if he's by himself he won't be so hard to handle," agreed Ned. "But I wonder where he came from? He ought to be in jail!"
"I suppose he came from some training camp—same as we did," observed Bob. "And he looks as though he had been well fed, too. He's as fat as butter."
"That's Chunky all over—thinking of the eating end," laughed Ned.
"Yes, Noddy is fat all right—too fat!" declared Jerry. "He hasn't been drilled as hard as we have, or else he got a desk position somewhere and held on to it."
"Did you hear the bluff he was throwing about trying to enlist in the air service?" asked Ned.
"Yes," agreed his tall chum. "Talk about his being an expert flier! Say, do you remember his Tin Fly?"
"I should say so!" laughed Bob. "The flying machine that wouldn't go up. That was a hot one! But keep quiet—he's looking over this way."
Noddy, indeed, seemed to have his attention attracted to the three friends. At first he looked uncomprehendingly, and then, as the features of the lads toward whom he had acted so meanly became plainer, he stared and finally exclaimed:
"What are you fellows doing here?"
"The same as you, I imagine," was Jerry's cool answer. "We are going to fight in France."
Jerry said afterward he wanted to add that he and his chums had "volunteered" to do this fighting, but he did not think it would be quite fair to the drafted men with Noddy who, to do them justice, were in the same class as the best of patriots. The selective service law solved many problems, but Noddy's was not among them. As the boys learned later, the town bully had done his best to evade the draft, and had only registered when threatened with military action.
Then he made a virtue of necessity and talked big about having tried to volunteer in the air service, only to be refused. But most of those who heard Noddy Nixon talk understood him, and were not at all taken in.
"Where'd you fellows train?" asked Noddy, moving over toward his Cresville acquaintances.
"Camp Dixton," answered Ned. Then he added to Bob and Jerry: "Come on, fellows, I think our train's about to pull out."
None of the Motor Boys had any relish for talk with their former enemy. As for Noddy, he seemed to think he was doing them a favor by noticing them, and as they turned away he said:
"Camp Dixton isn't in it with Upyank, where our bunch was trained! We'll show you when we get to France!"
"I hope we don't run across him," murmured Jerry, as they got back to their seats, for Ned's alarm had proved true, and their train soon did pull out. Noddy and his crowd were a little later in starting from the junction, and then, as the Motor Boys were hauled on to their destination to embark for France, they discussed the past doings of the bully, and wondered how he would conduct himself in war.
From that they switched to the more pleasant topic of the recent visit of the girls, and speculated on what had become of Andy Rush.
"They might enlist him and let him talk some of the Huns to death," suggested Ned. "He could do that to perfection. But I'm afraid he's too small to get in the army."
"I wonder if we'll ever find the professor's two girls?" ventured Bob, meaning thereby Gladys Petersen and Dorothy Gibbs.
"I don't believe we'll have much time to look for them, if the fighting keeps up as fiercely as it has," and Jerry handed his chums a paper he had purchased, which gave a detailed account of some of the first fighting of the American Expeditionary Force, in the Toul sector, at Seicheprey. This fighting had taken place in April, and it was late in June when Ned, Bob and Jerry, with others from their camp, were on their way to France in that great movement of troops which was to prove the turning, and winning, point of the war. The account in the paper of the fighting at Seicheprey was a delayed one sent through the mail by a correspondent.
"Yes, it is getting hot," observed Ned. "But still we promised the professor we'd help him look for the girls."
"And so we shall, if we get the chance," declared Jerry. "I know what it would mean to the professor if he lost his half of the fortune and had to give up his work on the insects of the Amazon. Oh, we'll help him all right!"
The journey of the boys to the "Atlantic Seaport," as Hoboken and New York, as well as other well-known cities, were called in the newspapers during the war, was not eventful. Their train was one of many hundreds rushing troops to the transports, and in due time Ned, Bob and Jerry found themselves getting off at a big dock in Hoboken and going aboard a transport—a former German liner, her machinery rebuilt after the ship's German crew had done their best to disable it.
"Well, we're here!" announced Jerry, as he eased his pack from his shoulders to the deck, an example followed by Ned and Bob.
"Yes, we're here, and we'll soon be—there!" and Ned nodded in the direction of France—or where he thought it was.
Somewhere a band was playing. Thousands of soldiers were crowding on board, and there would be more thousands after them—a stream that would not end until Prussianism had been dealt its death-blow.
There was a period of seeming chaos while the troops were getting settled and disposing of their baggage. Then the three chums had a chance to look about them, and proceeding to the stern of the vessel they glanced across the Hudson to New York, where the towering buildings showed dimly through a harbor haze.
"Wonder when we'll see them again," remarked Jerry, in a low voice.
Neither of his chums answered. They were thinking, though.
Late that afternoon the preparation and bustle seemed redoubled. More soldiers and a number of officers came aboard, and then, suddenly, after bugles had blared and bells had clanged, there was a tremor through the big transport.
"We're off!" cried Bob.
"For France!" added Ned.
"And I'm glad to be with you!" said a voice behind Jerry, who, turning, beheld Professor Snodgrass.
THE TRAINING CAMP
My readers may well guess that Ned, Bob and Jerry were glad to see the scientist. He was like part of their "own folks," and though they had many friends among their army chums, and though they liked, and were liked, by their officers, our three heroes felt that with Professor Snodgrass along it was like taking part of Cresville aboard with them.
"So you got here all right, did you?" asked Ned with a smile, as he and the others shook hands with the scientist.
"Yes, I'm here; and I wish we were across. I dread the voyage."
"Submarines?" asked Jerry.
"Oh, no, I wasn't thinking of them," answered the professor. "But I am anxious to get across, not only to begin my study of the effect of war noises on European insects, but to search for those two young ladies. I have been reading considerable about war conditions in France and Germany since Professor Petersen made me his part heir, and I fear the young ladies may have a hard time."
"Yes, they are very likely to," assented Ned. "But until we get there we can't do anything to help them. However, we'll do our best for you and them when we do get there—if we have a chance—after getting a Hun or two," he added.
"That's right," said Mr. Snodgrass. "The winning of the war is the first consideration. I wish I were young enough to fight. But I have contributed to the Red Cross, to the Salvation Army, the Knights of Columbus and the Y. M. C. A. and the Y. W. C. A.; and I've mailed every magazine I finished reading and sent over all the books I could spare."
The boys winked at one another. They gave full credit to Professor Snodgrass for his contributions to the five organizations, which, with the Jewish Welfare League, did so much to help win the war.
"But if the boys in camp over there had to depend for reading on the dry, scientific magazines and books the professor sent them they'd be hard put," commented Jerry to his chums, afterward.
"Well, we're moving, anyhow," observed Bob, as he and the others noticed that tugs were backing the transport out into the river. "Now that we're under way, don't you think we'd better go and see about——"
"Grub!" finished Jerry, fairly taking the word out of Chunky's mouth.
The stout lad glared a moment, and then said:
"Well, yes, grub! Why not? We have to eat, don't we?"
"You said it, Bob!" exclaimed Ned. "Go to it!"
But the boys found they need not have worried about the matter of eating or sleeping. Competent hands had the comfort of the soldiers in charge and there was nothing lacking that could be obtained. They were taken in charge by officers, divided into squads, assigned to certain lifeboats, and told where to report when an alarm for a submarine attack, real or simulated, was sounded.
Professor Snodgrass told how he had secured permission to come aboard the transport with his friends, the young soldiers—no easy matter—and how he had been designated as a "correspondent," though Jerry Hopkins, on hearing this, remarked:
"I suppose if he did send any news it would be to the Bug Hunter's Review, describing the life of an insect on an army transport."
"Very likely," agreed Ned.
And so, amid the blaring whistle salutes of river craft, the former German liner dropped down the bay and started for France with the young soldiers who were to do their part in ending barbarous militarism forever.
It was not exactly a gay trip. There were many who were seasick in spite of the calm weather, and there was little to do on board. Only a few books were available to read, and these were in constant use. Aside from lifeboat drill there was little to occupy the boys.
But there was always the fear of a submarine attack when they should reach the infested zone, and the boys looked forward to this as something that would relieve the monotony.
There was a gun crew on the transport—several of them, in fact—and the troop ships were escorted by war vessels and the swift, snake-like destroyers, which moved with such remarkable speed.
One day, after the usual lifeboat drill, which was held at different hours each day so that none would suspect when it was coming, the three chums were standing near the forward gun, rather idly scanning the water. The night had been a dreary one, cooped up as they were in the darkness, for now that they were approaching the danger zone, all but the most necessary lights were dimmed.
Up above, and on various parts of the deck, were the lookouts, scanning with strained and eager eyes the expanse of water ahead of them for a sight of the white wake that would indicate a periscope, or, perchance, hoping to see the wet, glistening sides of a "steel fish" itself, as it broke water before sending the deadly torpedo.
"Well, boys, how goes it?" asked a voice behind the three chums, and they recognized Professor Snodgrass.
As Jerry turned to speak to him, having finished a remark in which he had speculated as to what had become of Noddy Nixon, who was not on board, one of the men cried:
He pointed to a spot about two points off the port bow, and Ned, Bob and Jerry, as well as several others, distinctly saw a little commotion in the water.
"A sub, as sure as you're a foot high!" cried a marine, just as a bugle call to quarters was blown, for a lookout, too, had observed the disturbance in the water.
Instantly the gun crew was in action, and several shots were fired from the bow gun. The reports had hardly ceased echoing when some remarkable activity was displayed, not only aboard the transport, but on the part of the convoying squadron.
As the shells splashed into the sea near the spot where the commotion had been observed, there were smudges of black smoke at several points on either side of the troopship. These were the funnels of the destroyers belching out clouds of vapor that told of their approach under forced draught. And as the other guns on the transport awoke and began firing on the suspected submarine, up came racing the swift craft, the men on board eagerly looking for a target.
Then their big guns got into action, and for a time the sea in the vicinity of the suspected place was churned by exploding shells, while one destroyer, the fastest of the flotilla, shot right over the place where the lookout thought he had seen a periscope, and dropped two depth bombs that added further to the churning of Neptune's element.
Meanwhile, for the second occasion in a short time, lifeboat stations were sounded, and the soldiers, donning their life preservers, took their places to await what might follow—possibly, an order to abandon ship after she had been struck by a torpedo.
But this contingency did not arise. The destroyers swarmed around the transport, seeking in vain for something substantial on which to expend their ammunition, and then the scare was over.
And whether it was only a scare, or whether a real submarine had shown her periscope and then dived before sending a torpedo, could, of course, only be surmised. But no chances were being taken, and the transport on which the Cresville boys traveled was not the only one of the American Expeditionary Forces that believed itself the object of a frustrated attack.
"If that was a sub, it came out pretty far to meet us," observed Jerry, when the excitement had died away and they were at ease once more.
"No telling where they'll be found," said a noncommissioned officer. "If that had been one I believe we'd have got her, though."
"Surest thing you know!" declared Ned Slade emphatically.
This was the only incident that marked the passage. Of course, at various times, especially during the nights, the lookouts may have imagined they saw the wake of a periscope or a torpedo, but there was no general alarm.
And finally, after what really was a tiresome voyage, and one the end of which was welcomed by all, the transport docked at a certain port in France, and Ned, Bob and Jerry were able, with their water-weary comrades, to go ashore.
"Here at last!" murmured Jerry, as he and his chums sought their own company.
"And where are the Huns we're going to fight?" asked Bob, looking around at the strange scenes.
"Oh, we won't see them right away," returned Ned. "It'll be more training camp for ours for a while. But we'll see real fighting soon enough. Don't worry."
"It can't come any too soon for me, Buddy!" exclaimed a tall, Southern lad, with whom the Motor Boys had become chummy at Camp Dixton. "Lead me to it!"
But there was much to be done before this would occur. After the boys had disembarked they were inspected, roll was called, and then they were told to march to a designated depot, there to eat and be fitted out for a march to the French village where they were to be billeted until sent to a training camp.
Professor Snodgrass could not, of course, stay with the army boys, but he announced that he would follow them as closely as possible, and keep in communication with them. As soon as might be he would arrange to begin the search for the two missing girls.
Not all that Ned, Bob and Jerry had read of the gigantic work undertaken to fit out and maintain the American armies in France prepared them for what they saw. The port where the transport docked had been transformed. Great storehouses and warehouses were erected. Whole railway systems had been built, with the American locomotives replacing the diminutive French ones. And the French population and army representatives were as much surprised at the initiative and wonderful progress of the American forces as were the new recruits themselves.
"Say, we're going into this war with both feet!" exclaimed Jerry admiringly.
"That's the only way to do it," said Ned. "The harder we go at it the sooner it will be over."
They had their "chow," and even Bob admitted that it was "mighty good," and, as you know, he was a connoisseur.
Then, with their comrades, the three Motor Boys marched to the place where they were to spend the night before going to the training camp. This was a small French village, and its quaint beauty, unspoiled by the Germans, was very attractive to the sea-weary soldiers.
Ned, Bob and Jerry were billeted with five others at a French farmhouse, where they were given beds in the attic. The "beds" were only piles of clean straw, but the lads were delighted with them after their close bunks on the ship.
"I can roll over now without falling out," said Ned, with a sigh of comfort as he stretched out.
They drew their rations the following morning, and breakfasted most heartily, if not luxuriously, and were ready for what the day held for them. This was nothing else than a journey to their training camp, which, they learned, was some miles behind the front lines where the fighting was going on.
"But you'll be moved up as fast as it's possible to do so," said the officer who directed them. "The fighting's getting heavier and heavier."
And this was true, for about this time the 42d American Division was in position east of Rheims where, a little later, a great German attack was launched, and, as all the world now knows, was flung back with disaster to the Hun forces.
The railroad journey, from a point near their disembarkation port to their training camp, was not a very comfortable one, as the troops had to travel in cars that were used at times for horses. But every one was in good spirits, and little inconveniences were laughed at.
And finally, after three days, the welcome word was given to leave the trains and march to the camp. This was situated in a beautiful part of France—that is, it had been beautiful before the spoliation by the Huns, and there Ned, Bob and Jerry, with thousands of their comrades, prepared for the last phase of their training. Before them was the enemy.
"Well, here at last!" remarked Jerry, as he eased himself from his pack, and, with his two chums, stacked the guns together. "I wonder what happens first?"
"Suppose you come over and have some chocolate?" suggested a voice behind the boys, and, turning, they saw a pleasant-faced young man, whose hair, however, was gray. He wore a semi-military uniform, but a glance at his sleeve showed the red triangle, and the letters "Y. M. C. A." were not needed to tell his character.
"Come over and make yourselves at home," he went on. "You'll have time before you'll be called on to report."
"Thank you, we will," said Jerry. "Some chocolate would touch the spot."
"I've got two spots that need touching," laughed Bob.
"Won't you boys come, too?" invited the Y. M. C. A. worker, as he turned to some others who had marched up as Ned, Bob and Jerry were moving away.
"What? Trail in with a lot of psalm-singing goody-goodies?" was the sneering retort of one, and it needed only a glance to show that the speaker was Noddy Nixon.
"He's here—worse luck!" murmured Ned.
"No Y. M. C. A. for mine!" sneered Noddy.
"Boor!" muttered Bob, in protest.
"There is a Knights of Columbus station next to ours, and a Salvation Army hut, as well as a Jewish Community station, here in camp," was the gentle answer of the secretary. "If you prefer one of those you will be very welcome, I know. We are all working together for you boys."
"None for mine!" sneered Noddy. "I want some cigarettes!"
"I can let you have some at my foyer," said the secretary, with a smile. "I don't smoke myself, but I like the smell of it mighty well. Come along."
But Noddy laughed sneeringly, and would not go. However, Ned, Bob and Jerry accompanied the Y. M. C. A. man, and very glad they were to buy, at a modest price, some cups of chocolate, and also some cakes of it to put in their pockets.
"These Y. M. C. A. and K. C. places are all to the merry!" voted Ned. "They were great back at Camp Dixton, but they're twice as good here!"
"And we'll look after you, as well as we can, when you get on the firing line," said their new friend. "You'll have to depend on the Salvation Army lassies for doughnuts, but we can give you smokes and chocolate almost any time. Have some more!"
He made the boys and their comrades so welcome that they hated to leave to go to roll call. But this must be done, and soon they were assigned to barracks, much the same as in Camp Dixton.
ON THE FIRING LINE
The training Ned, Bob and Jerry went through in the French camp, though on a more intense scale and with greater attention to detail, was much like that which they had obtained at Camp Dixton, and that has been related at length in the volume preceding this.
There were the same drills to go through, only they were harder, and in charge were men who had seen terrible fighting. Some of them were American army officers, sent back from the front to instruct the new recruits, and others were French and British officers, detailed to teach the raw troops who, at first, were brigaded with the veterans.
It was rise early in the morning, drill hard all day, attend some school of instruction in the evening, and then, after a brief visit perhaps to the Y. M. C. A. hut or one of the other rest tents, go to bed, to get up and do it all over again the next day.
But the boys never felt it monotonous, nor did they complain of the hard work. They knew it was necessary, and here on the very fighting ground itself—in wonderful France—there was a greater incentive to apply oneself to the mastering of the lessons of the war.
Then, too, they saw or heard at first hand of the indescribable cruelties and atrocities of the Huns. Ned, Bob, Jerry, and their comrades saw with what fervor the French and British were proceeding with the war, and their own spirits were inflamed.
No work was too hard for them, from learning to throw hand grenades, taught by men who had had them thrown at them, to digging trenches laid out after the fashion of those on either side of No Man's Land. Then came small sham engagements, when, imagining the sample trenches to be held by Germans, a company would storm them to drive out the "enemy."
In fair and rainy weather this work went on, and it rained more often than not, as Jerry wrote home to his mother. The chums could write, but there was no telling when the missives would be delivered, nor when they would get any in return, for there was such congestion that the mail service broke down at times, and no wonder. So, though eventually the home folks—and in them is included "the girls"—got all the mail intended for them, there were days of anxious waiting.
Meanwhile the Motor Boys were perfecting themselves as soldiers, and were winning the commendation of their officers. Jerry was promoted to be first corporal, and in his squad of seven were Ned and Bob, much to their delight.
"It's a pleasure to take orders from you, old man," said Ned.
"Well, I won't give any more than I have to," remarked the tall lad, now taller and more bronzed than ever.
Professor Snodgrass had managed to find quarters in a village not far from camp, and from there he came to see the boys occasionally. He was getting his affairs in shape to proceed with the study of the matter at present under his attention.
"Have you heard anything from Miss Petersen or Miss Gibbs?" asked Jerry.
"No, not a word," was the answer. "I have sent several letters, and made inquiries of the authorities here, but the latter give me very little encouragement. That's bad, too; for I've just had word from home that makes my share in that inheritance seem of more importance than ever," and the professor gave a little sigh.
"Why, what's happened, Professor?" questioned Jerry, with quick sympathy.
"I lent some money," explained Professor Snodgrass, "to one of my friends—an old friend with whom I went through college—to help him over a hard place. But he has not got over his troubles; in fact, his affairs are growing worse, and it looks as if I would never get my money back. And that will cripple me, cripple me badly, boys. Yes, I need the money that Professor Petersen was good enough to leave me."
"Well, let's hope that you find those girls quickly, Professor, and get that inheritance very soon," said Ned.
"But I am afraid I shall have to wait until you boys capture Germany, and then I can go in and search."
"Us boys—with help," chuckled Jerry.
"Well, if it keeps up the way we've started we'll soon have the Hun on the run!" declared Ned, and he spoke with some truth, for soon was to be the beginning of the successful American advance.