Boy Scout Series Volume 7
The Boy Scout Automobilists
Jack Danby in the Woods
By Major Robert Maitland
THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY CHICAGO, AKRON, OHIO, NEW YORK
Copyright, 1918 By The Saalfield Publishing Co.
CALLED TO ACTIVE SERVICE
"What's this call for a special meeting of the Boy Scouts, Jack?" asked Pete Stubbs, a First Class Boy Scout, of his chum Jack Danby, who had just been appointed Assistant Patrol Leader of the Crow Patrol of the Thirty-ninth Troop.
"Well, I guess it isn't a secret any more," said Jack.
He and Pete Stubbs worked in the same place, and they were great chums, especially since Jack had enlisted his chum in the Boy Scouts.
"The fact is," he continued, "that Scout-Master Durland has been trying for several days to arrange the biggest treat the Troop, or any other Troop, has ever had. You know the State militia begins maneuvers pretty soon, Pete?"
"Say, Jack," cried red-haired Pete, dancing up and down in his excitement, "you don't mean to say that there's a chance that we are to go out with the militia?"
"I think this call means that there's more than a chance, Pete, and that the whole business is settled. You see, some of the fellows work in places where they might find it hard to get off. In the militia it's different. The law makes an employer give a man time off for the militia when it's necessary, but there's no reason why it should be that way for us. But Mr. Durland has been trying to get permission for all of us."
"I'll bet he didn't have any trouble here when he came to see Mr. Simms," said Pete, enthusiastically. "If all the bosses were like him, we'd be all right."
"They're not, Pete, though I guess most of them try to do what's fair, when they understand just how things are. But, anyhow, Mr. Simms thought it was a fine idea, and he went around and helped Mr. Durland with the other people, who weren't so ready to let off the Boy Scouts who happened to be working for them. And I guess that this call means that it's all fixed up, for if it hadn't been nothing would have been said about it."
Pete and Jack, with the other members of the Troop, reported at Scout headquarters that night, and gave Scout-Master Durland a noisy welcome when he rose to address them.
"Now," he said, "I want you to be quiet and listen to me. A great honor has been paid to the Troop. We have been invited to take part, as Scouts, in the coming maneuvers of the National Guard. There is to be a sham war, you know, and the militia of this State and the neighboring State, with some help from the regular army, are to take part in it. A troop of Boy Scouts has been selected from the other State, and after the militia officers had inspected all the Troops in this State they chose the Thirty-ninth."
He had to stop then for a minute to give the great cheer that greeted his announcement time to die away.
"Gee, Jack, I guess we're all right, what?" asked Pete, happily.
"Be still a minute, Pete. Mr. Durland isn't through yet."
"Now, I have gone around and got permission for all of you to go on this trip," the Scout-Master went on. "It's going to be different from anything we've ever done before. It's a great big experiment, and we're going to be watched by Boy Scouts and army and National Guard officers all over the country. It means that the Boy Scouts are going to be recognized, if we make good, as a sort of reserve supply for the militia. But we are going, if we go, without thinking about that at all. Forget the militia, and remember only that you will have a chance to do real scouting, and to make real reports of a real enemy."
"Look here," cried Dick Crawford, the Assistant Scout-Master, suddenly, "I want everyone to join in and give three cheers for Scout-Master Durland. I know how hard he's worked to give every one of us a chance to make this trip and get the experience of real scouting. And it's up to every one of us to see that he doesn't have any reason to feel sorry that he did it. He trusts us to make good, and we've certainly got to see to it that we do. Come now—three times three for the Scout-Master!"
Then came the formal giving of the instructions that were required for preparation for the trip. Each Scout got word of the equipment that he himself must bring.
"And mind, now, no extras," said Durland, warningly. "If the weather is at all hot, it's going to be hard work carrying all we must carry, and we don't want any Scouts to have to drop out on the march because their knapsacks are too heavy. We will camp by ourselves, and we will keep to ourselves, except when we're on duty. Remember that I, as commander of the Troop, take rank only as a National Guard captain, and that I am subject to the orders of every major and other field officer who may be present.
"Some of the militiamen and their officers may be inclined to play tricks, and to tease us, but the best way to stop them is to pay no attention to them at all. Now, I want every boy to go home and spend the time he can spare before the start studying all the Scout rules, and brushing up his memory on scoutcraft and campcraft. Polish up your drill manual, too. That may be useful. We want to present a good appearance when we get out there with the soldiers."
The start for the camp of the State militia, who were to gather under the command of Brigadier-General Harkness at a small village near the State line, called Guernsey, was to be made on Sunday. The Scouts would be in camp Sunday night, ready at the first notes of the general reveille on Monday morning to turn out and do their part in the work of defending their State against the invasion of the Blue Army, under General Bliss, of the rival State.
"You see," said Jack, explaining matters to Pete Stubbs and Tom Binns as they went home together after the meeting, "we are classed as the Red Army, and we are supposed to be on the defensive. The Blue Army will try to capture the State capital, and it is our business to defeat them if possible."
"How can they tell whether we beat them or not, if we don't do any fighting?" asked Tom Binns.
"In this sort of fighting it's all worked out by theory, just as if it were a game of chess, Tom, and there are umpires to decide every point that comes up."
"How do they decide things, Jack?"
"Why, they ride over the whole scene of operations, either on horseback, or, if the field is very extensive, in automobiles. If troops are surrounded, they are supposed to be captured, and they are sent to the rear, and required to keep out of all the operations that follow. Then the umpires, who are high officers in the regular army, decide according to the positions that are taken which side has the best chance of success. That is, if two brigades, of different sides, line up for action, and get into the best tactical positions possible, the umpires decide which of them would win if they were really engaged in a true war, and the side that gets their decision is supposed to win. The other brigade is beaten, or destroyed, as the case may be."
"Then how about the whole affair?"
"Well, each commanding general works out his strategy, and does his best to bring about a winning position, just as they would at chess, as I said. There is a time limit, you see, and when the time is up the umpires get together, inspect the whole theatre of war, and make their decision."
"It's a regular game, isn't it, Jack?"
"Yes. The Germans call it Krug-spiel—which means war-game, and that term has been adopted all over the world. It's played with maps and pins, too, in the war colleges, both for sea and land, and that's how officers get training for war in time of peace. It isn't an easy game to learn, either."
"Where do we come in, Jack? What is it we're supposed to do?"
"Obey orders, in the first place, absolutely. And I don't know what the orders will be, and neither does anyone else, so I can't tell you just what we'll do. But, generally speaking, we'll just have to do regular scout duty. It will be up to us to detect the movements of the enemy, and report, through Scout-Master Durland, who'll be Captain Durland, during the maneuvers, to the staff."
"General Harkness's staff, you mean, Jack? Just what is a staff, anyhow?"
"The headquarters staff during a campaign is a sort of extra supply of arms and legs and eyes for the commanding general. The staff officers carry his orders, and represent him in different parts of the field. They carry orders, and receive reports, and they take just as much routine work as possible off the hands of the general, so that he'll be free to make his plans. You see the general never does any actual fighting. He's too valuable to risk his life that way. He's supposed to stay behind, and be ready to take advantage of any chance he sees."
"Times have changed, haven't they, Jack? In the old histories we used to read about generals who led charges and did all sorts of things like that."
"Well, it would be pretty wasteful to put a general in danger that way now, Pete. He's had plenty of chance to prove his bravery, as a rule, and, when he's a general, and has years of experience behind him, the idea is to use his brain. If he is in the rear, and by his eyes and the reports he gets in all sorts of ways, can get a general view of what is going on, he can tell just what is best to be done. Sometimes the only way to win a battle is to sacrifice a whole brigade or a division—to let it be cut to pieces, without a chance to save itself, in order that the rest of the army may have time to change its position, so that the battle can be won. That's the sort of thing the general has got to decide, and if he's in the thick of the fighting in the old-fashioned way, he can't possibly do that."
"I think it's going to be great sport, don't you, Jack?" asked Tom Binns. "Will there be any real firing?"
"Yes—with smokeless powder, because they want to test some new kinds. But they'll use blank cartridges, of course. There'll be just as much noise as ever, but there won't be any danger, of course."
"I don't like the sound of firing much," said Tom Binns, a little shamefacedly. "Even when I know it's perfectly safe and that there aren't any bullets, it makes me awfully nervous."
"This will be good practice for you, then, Tom, because it will help you to get used to it. I hope we'll never have another war, but we want to be ready if we ever do. 'Be prepared'—that's our Scout motto, you know, and it means for the things that we might have to do in war, as well as the regular peaceful things that come up every day."
"Will there be any aeroplanes?" asked Pete Stubbs. "I'm crazy to see one of those things flying sometime, Jack. I never saw one yet, except that time when the fellow landed here and hurt himself. And I didn't see him in the air, but only after he made his landing. The machine was all busted up then, too."
"I think there'll be some aeroplane scouting by the signal corps. Several of the men in that are pretty well off, you know, and they have their own flying machines. I guess that's one of the things they'll try to determine in these maneuvers, the actual, practical usefulness of aeroplanes, and whether biplanes or monoplanes are the best."
"Say, Jack, why couldn't we Boy Scouts build an aeroplane sometime? If we learned something about them this next week, I should think we might be able to do something like that. I know a lot of fellows that have made experiments with toy ones, that wind up with a spring that's made out of rubber bands. They see how far they will fly."
"I think that would be great sport, Pete. But we won't have any time for that until after we've been through the maneuvers. But I'll tell you what some of us may get a chance to do next week, though it's a good deal of a secret yet."
"What's that, Jack! We'll promise not to say a word about it, won't we, Tom?"
"You bet we won't, Jack! Tell us—do!" pleaded Tom Binns.
"I guess it's all right for me to tell you if you won't let it go any further. Well, it's just this. They're going to do a lot of experimenting with a new sort of automobile for scout duty, and I think some of us will get a chance with them."
"Gee, I wish I knew how to run a car the way you do, Jack. I'd love that sort of thing."
"I can soon teach you all I know, Pete. It isn't much. Come on down to the factory garage after work to-morrow morning, and I'll explain the engines to you, instead of eating lunch. Are you on?"
"You bet I am! Will they let us?"
"Mr. Simms will, if I ask him, I'm sure."
THE RED ARMY
The Scouts, under Durland and Dick Crawford, went to Guernsey on a special car of a regular train. Durland, in making the arrangements for the trip, had told the adjutant-general of the State militia that he wanted to keep his Troop separate from the regular militiamen, as far as possible.
"I've got an idea, from a few words I've heard dropped," he told that official, "that some of the boys rather resent the idea of the Boy Scouts being included in the maneuvers. So, for the sake of peace, I think perhaps we'd better keep them as far apart as possible. Then, too, I think it will make for better discipline if we stick close together and have our own camp."
"I guess you're right," said the adjutant-general. "I'll give you transportation to Guernsey for your Troop on the noon train on Sunday. There'll be a special car hitched to the train for you. Report to Colonel Henry at Guernsey station, and he'll assign you to camp quarters. You understand—you'll use a military camp, and not your regular Scout camp. The State will provide tents, bedding and utensils, and you will draw rations for your Troop from the commissary department during the maneuvers."
"I understand, Colonel," said Durland. "You know I served in the Spanish war, and I was able to get pretty familiar with conditions."
"I didn't know it, no," said Colonel Roberts, in some surprise. "What command were you with? I didn't get any further than Tampa myself."
"I was on General Shafter's staff in Cuba," said Durland, quietly.
Colonel Roberts looked at the Scout-Master a bit ruefully.
"You're a regular," he said, half-believingly. "Great Scott, you must be a West Pointer!"
"I was," said Durland, with a laugh. "So I guess you'll find that my Troop will understand how to behave itself in camp."
"I surrender!" said the militia colonel, laughing. "If you don't see anything you want, Captain, just ask me for it. You can have anything I've got power to sign orders for. And say—be easy on the boys! They're a bit green, because this active service is something new for most of us. They mean well, but drilling in an armory and actually getting out and getting a taste of field-service conditions are two different things."
"I think it's all splendid training," said Durland, "and if we'd had more of it before the war with Spain there wouldn't have been so many graves filled by the fever. Why, Colonel, it used to make me sick to go around among the volunteer camps about Siboney and see the conditions there, with men who were brave enough to fight the whole Spanish army just inviting fever and all sorts of disease by the rankest sort of carelessness. Their officers were brave gentleman, but, while they might have been good lawyers and doctors and bankers back home, they had never taken the trouble to read the most elementary books on camp life and sanitation. A day's hard reading would have taught them enough to save hundreds of lives. We lost more men by disease than the Spaniards were able to kill at El Caney and San Juan. And it was all needless."
"I'm detached from my regiment for this camp," said Colonel Roberts, earnestly, "but I'm going to get hold of Major Jones as soon as I get to Guernsey, and ask him to have you inspect the Fourteenth and criticize it. Don't hesitate, please, Captain! Just pitch in and tell us what's wrong, and we'll all be eternally grateful to you. And I wish you'd give me a list of those books you were talking about, will you?"
"Gladly," said Durland. "All right, Colonel. I'll have the Troop on hand for that train."
The Scouts enjoyed the trip mightily. Durland took occasion to impress on them some of the differences between a regular Boy Scout encampment and the strict military camp of which, for the next week, they were to form a part.
"Remember to stick close to your own camp," he said. "After taps don't go out of your own company street. There's no need of it, and I don't want any visiting around among the other troops. In a place like this camp, boys and men don't mix very well, and you'd better stick by yourselves. We won't be there very long, anyway, because we'll probably be detached from headquarters Monday. The army will break up, too, because this is really only a concentration camp, where the army will be mobilized."
"When does the war begin?" asked Dick Crawford.
"War is supposed to be declared at noon to-morrow," said Durland. "It is regarded as inevitable already, however, and General Harkness can begin throwing out his troops as soon as he has them ready, though not a shot can be fired before noon. Neither can a single Red or Blue soldier cross the State line before that time. However, I suspect that the line will be pretty well patrolled before the actual declaration, so as to prevent General Bliss from throwing any considerable force across the line before we are ready to meet it. If he could get between Guernsey and the State capital in any force, the chances are that we'd be beaten before we ever began to fight at all."
"That wouldn't do," said Dick Crawford. "Will we have any fortifications to defend at all, sir?"
"Not unless we're driven back pretty well toward the capital. Of course there are no real fortifications there, but imaginary lines have been established there. However, if we were forced to take to those the moral victory would be with the Blues, even though they couldn't actually compel the surrender of the city within the time limit. If I were General Harkness, I think I would try at once to deceive the enemy by presenting a show of strength on his front and carry the war into his own territory by a concealed flanking movement, and if that were properly covered I think we could get between him and his base and cut him off from his supplies."
"You mean you'd really take the offensive as the best means of defense?"
"That's been the principle upon which the best generals always have worked, from Hannibal to Kuroki," said Durland, his eyes lighting up. "Look at the Japanese in their war with Russia. They didn't wait for the Russians to advance through Manchuria. They crossed the border at once, though nine critics out of every ten who had studied the situation expected them to wait for the Russians to cross the Yalu and make Korea the great theater of the war. Instead of that they advanced themselves, beat a small Russian army at the Yalu, and pressed on. They met the Russians, who were pouring into Manchuria over their great Trans-Siberian railway, and drove them back, from Liao Yiang to Mukden. They'd have kept on, too, if they hadn't been stopped by peace."
"Could they have kept on, though? I always had an idea that they needed the peace even more than the Russians did."
"Well, you may be right. That's something that no one can tell. They had the confidence of practically unceasing victory from the very beginning of the war. They were safe from invasion, because their fleet absolutely controlled the Yellow Sea after the battle of Tsushima, and there weren't any more Russian battleships to bother them. They had bottled up the Russian force in Port Arthur, and they were in the position of having everything to gain and very little to lose. Their line of communication was perfectly safe."
"They must have weakened themselves greatly, though, in that series of battles."
"Yes, they did. And, of course, there is the record of Russia to be considered. Russia has always been beaten at the start of a war. It has taken months of defeat to stiffen the Russians to a real fight. Napoleon marched to Moscow fairly easily, though he did have some hard fights, like the one at Borodino, on the way. But he had a dreadful time getting back, and that was what destroyed him. After that Leipzic and Waterloo were inevitable. It was the Russians who really won the fight against Napoleon, though it remained for Blucher and Wellington to strike the death blows."
"Well, after all, what might have happened doesn't count for so much. It's what did really happen that stands in history, and the Japanese won. It was by their daring in taking the offensive and striking quickly that they did that, you think?"
"It certainly seems so to me! And look at the Germans in the war with France. Von Moltke decided that the thing to do was to strike at the very heart and soul of France—Paris. So he swept on, leaving great, uncaptured fortresses like Metz and Sedan behind him, which was against every rule of war as it was understood then. Of course, Metz and Sedan were both captured, but it was daring strategy on the part of Von Moltke. It was supposed then to be suicidal for an army to pass by a strong fortress, even if it were invested."
"That was how the Boers made so much trouble for the English, too, wasn't it?"
"Certainly it was. The English expected the Boers to sit back and wait to be attacked. Instead of that the Boers swept down at once on both sides of the continent, and besieged Kimberly and Ladysmith. That was how they were able to prolong the war. They took the offensive, in spite of being outnumbered, and while they could never have really hoped to win, they put up a wonderful fight."
"Well, I suppose we'll know in a day or so what General Harkness plans to do."
"Hardly! We're not connected with the staff in any way, and he'll discuss his plans only with his own staff officers. He has an excellent reputation. He commanded a brigade in the Porto Rico campaign, you know, and did very well, though that campaign was a good deal of a joke. But one reason that it was a joke was that it was so well planned by General Miles and the others under him that there was no use, at any stage of it, in a real resistance on the part of the Spaniards. They were beaten before a shot was fired, and they had sense enough not to waste lives uselessly."
"Then they weren't cowardly?"
"No, indeed, and don't let anyone tell you they were, either. The Spaniards were a brave and determined enemy, but they were so crippled and hampered by orders from home that they were unable to make much of a showing in the field. We'll learn some time, I'm afraid, that we won that war too easily. Overconfidence is our worst national fault. Just because we never have been beaten, we think we're invincible. I hope the lesson, when it does come, and if it does come, won't be too costly."
The run to Guernsey was not a very long one. The train arrived there at four o'clock in the afternoon, and the Scouts, armed only with their clasp knives, Scout axes and sticks, lined up on the platform in excellent order. Dick Crawford, who ranked as a lieutenant for the encampment, took command, while Durland reported the arrival to Colonel Henry, as he had been ordered to do.
Half a dozen extra sidings had been laid for the occasion by the railroad, and on these long trains, each carrying militia, had been shunted. Clad all in khaki, or, rather, in the substitute adopted by the American army as more serviceable and less easy to distinguish at a distance, a stout cloth of olive drab, thousands of sturdy militiamen were standing at ease, waiting for orders to move. Field guns, too, and horses, for the mounted troops, were being unloaded, and the scene was one of the greatest activity. Hoarse cries filled the air, but there was only the appearance of confusion, since the citizen soldiers understood their work thoroughly, and each man had his part to play in the spectacle.
From one of the trains, too, three great structures with spreading wings had been unloaded, and the eyes of the Boy Scouts turned constantly toward the spot where mechanics were busily engaged in assembling the aeroplanes which were to serve, to some extent, as the eyes of the army.
"Glad to see you, Captain," Colonel Henry said to Durland when the Scout-Master reported the arrival of his Troop. "I'll send an orderly with you to show you the location of your camp. Colonel Roberts directed me to give you an isolated location, and I have done so. It's a little way from drinking water, but I guess you won't mind that."
"Not a bit, sir," said Durland, smilingly.
"Very well, Captain. Report to General Harkness's tent at eight o'clock, sir, for your instructions. I think you will find that the General has enough work planned to keep your Troop pretty busy to-morrow. We shall all watch your work with a great deal of interest. We've been hearing a lot about Durland's Scouts."
Durland saluted then, and turned with the orderly to rejoin his Troop.
In two hours the camp was ready. The neat row of tents, making a short but perfectly planned and arranged company street, were all up, bedding was ready, and supper was being cooked from the rations supplied by the commissary department. Durland, with active recollections of commissary supplies, had been inclined to bring along extra supplies for his Troop, but had decided against doing so, though he knew that many of the militia companies had taken the opposite course to his own, and had brought along enough supplies to set an excellent table.
"I want the boys to get a taste of real service," he told Dick, "and it won't hurt them a bit to rough it for a week. They get enough to eat, even if there isn't much variety, and the quality isn't of the best. The stuff is wholesome, anyhow—that's what counts."
By the time he returned from headquarters, the Troop was sound asleep, save for the sentries, Tom Binns and Harry French, who challenged him briskly.
THE SCOUTING AUTO
Reveille sounded at five o'clock. There was plenty to be done before the war game actually began. There were plans to be laid, codes to be determined, umpires to be consulted as to vague and indefinite rules, and all sorts of little things that in a real war would have adjusted themselves. But the Scouts were well out of the excitement. They struck their tents and handed them over, neatly arranged, with all their bedding, to the men from the commissary department.
"Sleeping bags for us, after to-day," explained Durland. "That is, if we have to sleep in the open. Sometimes we'll get a barn or a hayrick, or even a bed in a farmhouse. We won't worry about all that. But we're not going to sit still, and we can't scout and carry tents and dunnage of that sort along. So I said I'd turn it all in."
Then the Troop waited, quietly, for the orders that seemed so slow in coming. But they came at last. A young officer rode up on a horse that was dripping wet.
"General Harkness's compliments, Captain," he said, saluting Durland, "and you will take your Troop at once to Bremerton, on the State line. You will make your headquarters there, where a field telegraph station has been established. Please hold your Scouts for the stroke of twelve, when they may cross the line. The line for five miles on each side of Bremerton is in your territory."
"My compliments to General Harkness, and we will start at once," replied Durland.
And a moment later they were on the hike. There was plenty of time, since Bremerton was less than three miles away, and it was scarcely seven o'clock, but it was cooler then than it would be later, and Durland was glad to get his Troop away from the bustle and apparent confusion of the camp where the Red army was beginning to move.
"Where are the divisional headquarters to be to-day?" Durland asked a hurrying staff officer who passed just then.
"Hardport—across the line," the staff man replied, as he paused a moment. A wide grin illuminated his features. "That's nerve for you, eh? The old man's pretty foxy. He's going to start us moving so that we'll begin crossing the State line on the stroke of twelve, and he'll fling a brigade into Hardport before two o'clock."
"That's fine, if it works," he remarked to Dick Crawford, later. "But Hardport practically is the key to the railroad situation, and it isn't conceivable that the Blues will leave it unguarded. I'm inclined to be a wee bit dubious about that."
However, as he reflected, it was really none of his business. He was responsible for his own Troop, not for the conduct of the campaign, and that let him out.
It was a hot, hazy day, when the sun was fully up, and the Scouts marched into Bremerton, to find it a sleepy, lazy, old-fashioned little town. Above a building in the center the national flag was floating, and next to it a Red standard. Durland turned the Troop over to Dick Crawford, with instructions to make a bivouac near the centre of the little place, and then walked over to the building where the flag was flying.
As he surmised, it had become unexpectedly brigade headquarters for the fourth brigade of the Red army, which had left Guernsey before the breakfast call had been sounded for most of the army, and had arrived too soon.
"Where is your brigade, Tomlinson?" he asked a young officer, who almost ran into him as he came out.
"Oh, hello, Durland!" said the officer, wheeling briskly to shake hands with the Scout-Master. "Why, we're hidden in the woods. Old Beansy's fuming and fretting because he's here too soon. The men are lying back there, but he's moved up here for brigade headquarters because it's a field telegraph station and he can talk as much as he likes with General Harkness."
"Your brigade commander is Beansy, I take it?" said Durland, with a grin.
"You're right, he is! General Beverly Bean, bless him! He'll want to see you, too, now that you've blundered into his territory. Go on up—third door to the left!"
Durland stopped to report his arrival to division headquarters and then went on, getting into the presence of General Bean after a few minutes' delay.
"Glad to see you sir," said the testy old officer, who was a real soldier. "Suppose you know we're intended to get into Hardport just as soon after this war begins as we can get there."
"How soon will that be?" asked Durland.
"About two hours, if we're not cut to pieces on the way. I want your help here, Captain. Can you send some of your Scouts over there to investigate? I've an idea that getting into Hardport may be easier than getting out again. If Bliss knows his business, he will be regarding that as a pretty important place."
"I've orders to cover five miles each side of Bremerton," said Durland. "I can spare two Scouts for any duty you may wish done, General. Could they have a car?"
"Do they know how to run one?"
The question was asked in evident surprise, but Durland replied confidently.
"Yes, General," said he. "I've got two Scouts, at least, who are perfectly capable of handling an automobile under any conditions. I'd trust myself to them, no matter how hard the road might be."
"I'm glad to hear it," said the general, rather dryly. "I've got two of those new-fangled scout duty cars, with an armored hood and those new non-explosive tires, that can't be stopped by a bullet aimed at the wheels. But they didn't send me anyone to run them. There may be some chauffeurs in my brigade, but I'm not too anxious to take any men from their regiments. Here—I'll give you an order for one of the cars. Let your Scouts make the best use they can of it."
Durland had heard of the new scouting cars, but had never seen one. He went now, since there was plenty of time, to look it over, and found a heavy but high-powered and fast machine of a most unusual type.
The hood was armored, so that no stray bullets could reach the engine, as would be easy enough in the ordinary car. Similar protection was afforded to the big gasoline tank in the rear of the car, and the seats, intended for two men, were covered by a shield, also of bullet-proof armor, that was so pierced with small holes that the road ahead could be seen.
But the most extraordinary feature of the car was the new type of wheel. There were no tires in the ordinary sense at all. Instead, there was a tough, but springy steel substitute, and Durland spent an hour in looking the queer contrivance over, having first satisfied himself that the car was not sufficiently different from the ordinary automobile to make it impossible for Jack Danby to operate it. For it was Jack Danby he had had in mind when he asked for the use of the machine.
His friend Lieutenant Tomlinson came up while he was looking it over.
"Queer lookin' critter, isn't it?" said Tomlinson. He seemed quite enthusiastic. "I tell you what," he went on, "if that thing works out all right, it's going to revolutionize certain things in warfare. And it's perfect, theoretically. Tires are the things that have barred automobiles from use in warfare so far. Ping!—a bullet hits a tire, and the car is stalled. Or suppose the chauffeur wants to leave the road and go 'cross country? His tires again. He's afraid to."
"And this has tires that won't be afraid of bullets or rocks, either, eh?"
"I should say they wouldn't! Bullets wouldn't have a chance against that stuff. And the man who drives it is protected, too. That bullet-proof shield makes him as safe as if he were at home. And the blooming thing is good for sixty miles an hour over a half-way decent road—though it can be slowed down to just about two miles an hour, and still be ready for a quick jump."
"They're being used in both armies, aren't they?"
"Yes. There are about a dozen of them altogether. They're evenly divided, and both armies are under orders to try them out pretty thoroughly. If they make good, there will be a lot of them put in use by the regular army. They're making their own tests, but tests under actual service conditions count for more than any number of trials when all the conditions are made to order for the people who are trying to put the cars over."
It was Tomlinson's busy day, and he didn't have time to dally long in talk. So he went off, and Durland sent Tom Binns, who was acting as his orderly for the day, to bring Jack Danby to him.
Durland carried in his pockets a number of large scale maps of the sections all around the State line, in both of the States. The scale was two inches to the mile, so it took a considerable number of the maps to show at all adequately the theatre of the imaginary war. But so full of detail, thanks to the large scale, were the maps, that they showed every house in the territory they covered, and every grade. He spread three of these maps out, side by side, as he waited for Jack, and traced a course over them with a pencil.
Jack appeared in due time, and saluted—not with the Scout salute of thumb and little finger bent, with the three other fingers held straight up, but with the military salute.
"Danby," said Durland, "I'm going to entrust you with a piece of work that is so important that the whole result of the maneuvers may depend upon it. Do you think you can run that car?"
Jack, who had a positive genius for mechanical matters of all sorts, looked the strange looking car over carefully before he answered.
"It looks straight enough, sir," he said. "Self starter, I guess. And you ought to be able to go anywhere you like with those wheels. What is it that I am to do, sir?"
"I can explain better with these maps," said Durland. "Come close here, and I will show you what I mean."
Jack bent over the maps with the Scout-Master, and Durland began tracing a line with a sharp pencil.
"Here we are, in Bremerton," he said. "Now, about four miles across the State line is Hardport. You can see the smoke from its factories, and the railroad yards there, because it's quite an important little city. Now, there is a straight road from here that leads there—the continuation of this very road we are on now. What I want you to do is to circle around"—he pointed on the map—"and strike into Hardport from the other side. Find out, if possible, what troops of the Blue army are in the neighborhood, and particularly along this main road. If they occupy it in force, report as quickly as possible. If they advance immediately after war is declared, return, but try to see if there is not some way in which our own troops can get behind them."
"Am I to go into Hardport itself, sir?"
"Yes. And you need not stop, if challenged. Your car is regarded as bullet proof, and the only way in which they can legitimately capture you is by stretching a rope or providing some sort of an obstruction that enables two of them to get a foot on your running board. Remember your rights, and don't surrender to a mere challenge from a sentry. And keep your hood well down, so that they won't recognize you."
"I understand, sir. What time am I to start from here?"
"Start as soon as you like. You'd better get off and circle pretty widely, so as to get used to the car. But don't cross the State line, whatever you do, before twelve o'clock. That is strictly against orders."
There was a lot of good-natured talk among the Scouts when they heard of the great chance to distinguish himself that had come to the Assistant Patrol Leader of the Crows.
"Gee, Jack's lucky!" said one member of the Whip-poor-will Patrol.
"He is not!" defended Pete Stubbs, loyally. "He's a hard worker. He's spent a lot of his own time in the last year learnin' all about an automobile. He knows how to run one, and he knows how to fix it, too, if it goes wrong on a trip. That isn't luck, and don't you call it luck!"
"I didn't mean anything against Jack when I said he was lucky, Pete. No call to get so mad about it!"
"I'm not so mad, but it does get my goat to hear people say that everything that happens to Jack Danby that's good comes because he's lucky. I guess he isn't any luckier than any of the rest of us, but he sticks to the job harder."
No amount of coaxing, of course, would have induced Jack to tell what his orders were; and as a matter of fact, only one or two of the Scouts tried to find out. Durland had not even thought it necessary to warn Jack to be quiet, for he knew that Jack was on his honor as a Scout, and that nothing more was necessary to lead him to maintain a resolute silence on the subject of the strange scouting trip into the enemy's country which he was soon to begin.
"Good luck," cried the Scout-Master, finally, as Jack started off. "You know your orders—now make good!"
IN THE ENEMY'S COUNTRY
Almost at the last moment Scout-Master Durland, or Captain Durland, as he was again for this week, had decided not to send Jack Danby on his trip into the enemy's country alone. Seated beside Jack, therefore, under the protective hood of the scout car, was little Tom Binns.
"Keep your eye on your watch, Tom," said Jack. "We don't want to make any mistake and cross the line too soon—but we don't want to be late, either. This job is too important to run any risks of bungling it. I'd hate to think that I'd been trusted with something really big for the first time and then fallen down on it."
"Where will you cross the line, Jack?" asked Tom. "I should think it would be pretty hard to tell just where the boundary was."
Jack pointed to a road map, on a slightly smaller scale than the one from which Captain Durland had given him his course, which was pasted right before his eyes on the metal dashboard of the car.
"I can't lose my way with that, Tom," he said. "See, there's a road that we're getting pretty near to now. It crosses the State line about six miles east of Bremerton, if you'll notice the map, at a little village called Mardean. That's all on this side of the line. They may be watching the road there, so what we want to do is to get where we can't be seen, and then, about a minute before noon, go ahead as fast as the car will carry us. That ought to take us through all right, even if they've got a guard on duty. Then we can circle around in a big sweep and come down to Hardport from behind. The country people ought to be able to tell us part of what we want to know, and we can confirm what they tell us by what we can see ourselves."
"They wouldn't lie to us, would they, Jack?"
"You couldn't call it regular lying if they gave us false information about their own army, Tom. Remember that this is supposed to be like a real war, and in a war the invading army wouldn't expect to get correct information from the people along the roads. On the contrary, they'd do their best to delay the enemy, and make all the trouble they could, and they'd be patriotic. So we've got to be mighty careful this next week about how we take any information we pick up in that fashion. If the people on the farms take the game seriously, and enter into the spirit of it, they'll do all they can to harass us and bother us."
Jack drove his car well and carefully, but made no great attempt to get high speed out of it, though it was, as he knew, capable of going three or four times as fast as he was driving it. But there is always a certain danger in driving an automobile at high speed, and Jack saw no use in taking any risk that was not necessary.
"You can go a lot faster than this, can't you, Jack?" asked Tom, as they bowled along easily, at little more than fifteen miles an hour.
"What's the use, Tom? We'll get to Mardean before we can cross the line, anyhow. I'll go fast enough then for a spell, if you're anxious for speed. Don't be impatient! We'll get all the speed you want before very long."
Jack was a true prophet, as one ought to be when he has the means of fulfilling the prophecy in his own hands. At Mardean, just out of sight of the line, they waited while the minutes dragged slowly by.
"One minute more!" cried Tom Binns, breathless with excitement and suspense.
"All right," said Jack, quietly. "Hold tight now, Tom! I'm going to let her out a bit."
Swiftly the grey car gathered speed. In a rush of dust, with horn blowing and exhaust sputtering behind them, the car shot over the line, and, just as a whistle boomed out the twelve o'clock dinner signal, Jack was in hostile territory. The war was on!
Behind them there was a confused shouting. The car was built so that it was easy to look behind.
"There was an outpost there," said Tom, as he looked back. "They're kicking up a tremendous fuss, Jack. I guess we rather put one over on them that time."
"We've got to put another one over on them in a hurry, then," said Jack, "or they'll put one over on us. Let me know as soon as that outpost is well out of sight, Tom. And keep your eyes skinned for any sign that they're after us with a motorcycle or anything like that, will you?"
"They're out of sight now—and there's nothing on the road. Hey, Jack, where are you going?"
For Jack, after a swift glance at his map, had run deliberately off the road, reducing speed considerably as he did so, but not so much that the car did not rattle around considerably as it left the smooth roadbed and plunged into a field that had not long since been ploughed.
"They'll telephone ahead of us, and they'll be waiting," Jack explained. "I've got to cut through the fields here, so that we can get on another road where they won't be looking for us. Otherwise I'm afraid we wouldn't get very far before we ran into a trap that all our armor and all our speed wouldn't get us out of without capture. You don't want to lose this car on its first trip, do you, Tom?"
"Not by a good deal!" yelled Tom, who was beginning to feel the exhilaration of the wild, bumping ride over the furrows of the field. "It was sort of sudden, that's all, Jack; I wasn't expecting it, you see."
"I meant to tell you we'd do that, but I forgot. I had it all doped out. See, we're coming to another road, now. This is a pretty big field, and it was marked accurately on that map. This whole section was surveyed and mapped especially for this war game."
"Say, if they do many things like that, it must cost something," said Tom.
"War's the most expensive thing in the world, Tom, and the next most expensive, I guess, is getting ready for it, and having such a strong army and navy that no one will want to fight you. But it pays to be ready for war, no matter how much it costs, for the country that isn't ready is always the one that has to fight when it least expects it. And fighting when you're not ready is the most expensive of all. It costs money and lives."
Then, with a sickening bump, the car took the road again, and Jack was heading straight for Hardport.
"Those wheels worked splendidly," he said. "And the car, too. An ordinary car would have bumped itself to pieces a mile or so back, and this one is running just as easily as when we started. I suppose it cost a lot, but it was certainly worth it."
"Every time we hit a new furrow I thought we were going to break down," confessed Tom. "I was scared at first. But I soon decided that we were all right. But I don't believe, even if I knew how to drive a car, that I'd have the nerve to take it through a ploughed field that way."
"Yes, you would, Tom, if you knew it was the only thing you could do. You couldn't be any worse scared than I was when we left the road—but I knew, you see, that there simply wasn't any other way out of it. When you have to do a thing, you can usually manage it. I've found that out."
"The outskirts of Hardport. I want to skirt the railroad track. Their mobilization was at Smithville, back along the railroad about twenty miles, and if they've sent any force to Hardport, the railroad will show it. If they haven't, I'm going to mark the railroad cut."
"What do you mean, Jack?"
"In a real war, if people got a chance, this railroad would be cut. A lot of rails would be torn up and burnt. We don't want to interfere with regular traffic, so in this game we build a fire with spare ties, and mark as much rail as we'd have time to tear up, allowing ten minutes for each length of rail. Then if a troop train comes along and sees that signal, it is held to be delayed an hour for each torn up rail, as that is the time it would take the sappers to repair the damage."
They paused for thirty minutes, therefore, when they reached a spot about three miles and a half from the city line of Hardport.
"There," said Jack, when he had set his marks, "that will hold them up for three hours, and give General Bean a chance to occupy Hardport and destroy the railroad bridge. That will take a day to rebuild, without interference, and I guess it makes it pretty safe for us. Now we'll go on into town."
But they didn't go into the town. They did not have to, to discover that Hardport was occupied by a Blue regiment, which had outposts well scattered around the place, anticipating an attack, just as Captain Durland had said he thought would be the case.
"We'll do some more circling, now," said Jack, "and get around their outposts. I know a way we can do that. What they're planning is to let General Bean advance and walk into a trap. They've got enough men waiting for him along here to smash him on a frontal attack. What we've got to do is to get word to him in time to prevent him from doing that."
Twice, as the grey car sped along, now on the road, now in the fields, they saw parties of the enemy, but never were they near enough seriously to threaten the Boy Scouts with capture. And at last, striking into the main road for Bremerton, they saw a cloud of dust approaching, which they recognized as the signal of the coming of General Bean's brigade.
The soldiers cheered them as they recognized the scout car, and opened up a way for the big car to pass through them to the brigade commander himself.
"What's your name, eh?" asked the General, sharply. "Danby, eh? Excellent work, Scout Danby! I shall make it a point to report my appreciation to your Troop commander. You'd better come along in the rear now, and watch the rest of the operations. Thanks to you, I rather think they'll be worth watching."
And, touching the spurs to his speedy black horse, he cantered up to the front of the column, chuckling and laughing as he thought of how the enemy had been outwitted by his youthful Scout.
The direct forward march of the brigade was interrupted immediately. One regiment, indeed, continued along the straight road to Hardport, but the rest of the brigade was deployed at once.
"What will they do now, Jack?" asked Tom Binns.
"Well, I wouldn't be able to say for certain," replied Jack, with a smile, "but I rather think they'll manage to get behind the town in some fashion, and close in on the Blue troops in the garrison while the regiment in front here keeps them busy with a strong feint of an attack."
A colonel of regular cavalry, with a white badge on his arm to show he was serving as an umpire, drove past just then in a big white automobile.
"See, there's one of the umpires," said Jack. "He goes all about, and determines the result. I'm glad he's here—that means there can't be any dispute this time. General Bean has probably told him what he plans to do, and he will see how it comes out. Of course, he doesn't communicate in any way with the enemy, or tell them what we're planning to do."
"Of course not! That wouldn't be fair, Jack. I'm glad he's here, too. Do you suppose he's heard about the way we blocked the railroad?"
"I think he may have seen our signs and come this way just to find out what was doing."
"Listen!" cried Jack, suddenly. "There's firing ahead! Let's get on and find out what's going on."
There was heavy firing ahead of them for a few minutes, and then it became intermittent.
"Our attack is being repelled, I guess," said Jack. "That's the first engagement of the war, too. Well, we may seem to be beaten in that, but I guess we can afford to lose a skirmish, if we can capture Hardport and a whole Blue regiment."
Again, after the firing had almost ceased, a rattle of shots burst on the quiet air. Then, too, came the screaming of a shell, as it burst harmlessly above the city.
"Hooray!" cried Jack. "We've surrounded them! Come on!"
And this time there was no opposing the entry of the grey car into Hardport. The city had been surrounded and captured, just as Jack had predicted, and the Blue regiment that had been so completely outwitted, thanks to the cleverness of Jack Danby, was out of the war entirely. It was an important victory, in more ways than one. General Bliss could ill afford to lose so many men, and the capture of Hardport, moreover, was a crippling blow, since it interfered with the operation of the railroad which he had relied upon for bringing his troops across the State line in large numbers.
The umpires lost no time in telling General Bean of their decision, and in congratulating him on the strategy he had displayed.
"Cutting the railroad was a masterly stroke," said one of the umpires.
"That's what I say!" said the General, with enthusiasm. "And it was a little tike of a Boy Scout, in my grey scout car, who did it—and that without orders!"
OFF TO CRIPPLE CREEK
Jack and Tom Binns waited only to see the surrender of Hardport before Jack turned the car about and made for Bremerton, taking the direct road this time, since the advance of General Bean and his division of the Red army had swept aside all danger from the invading Blue forces. The outposts, of course, which Jack had had to dodge as he scouted in advance of the Red advance guard, had all been driven back upon Hardport, and they were prisoners of war now, and the way was clear for the day, at least.
Captain Durland listened with scarcely concealed enthusiasm to Jack's clear and concise account of what had been accomplished.
"You two saved the day," he said, finally. "We would have been in a very tight hole indeed if you hadn't cut the railroad, which was the only thing that made it possible for General Bean to effect the capture of Hardport as he did."
"How is that, sir?" asked Jack. "I thought we gave him useful information, and I cut the railroad because there seemed to be a good chance to do it, without thinking very much of the consequences of doing so."
"Why, if you hadn't cut the railroad," said Durland, "General Bliss would have thrown a division into Hardport as soon as he heard at his headquarters, by telegraph, that the place was threatened. Then he could have moved troops over from Mardean, where I imagine he had at least a couple of regiments, and General Bean's brigade would have been in a trap that would have been absolutely impossible to escape from. Now it's all different. We've got Hardport. By this time General Bean has unquestionably theoretically destroyed the railroad bridge and has artillery mounted so that the guns will have to be captured before General Bliss can make an attempt to rebuild it."
"I see! If the bridge is covered with guns, the theory is that the enemy couldn't do any work, eh?"
"Exactly! They've got to work in a narrow place, and they'd be blown to pieces, a squad at a time, while they were trying to work. That was the decisive move of the whole action. What did General Bean say to you?"
"He said it was good work, sir, and that he was going to speak to you of it."
"Excellent, Jack! I am very pleased that one of my Scouts should have played so important a part in the first decisive engagement of the campaign. And General Bean is the sort of a man who is sure to see that you get the credit for what you've done."
"What shall we do next, sir?"
"I'll hold you in reserve until I get further orders from headquarters, I think. General Harkness evidently plans an aggressive fight from the very outset. I have heard nothing from his headquarters direct as yet, but I probably shall pretty soon. I shall send in a report of General Bean's success at Hardport at once, though he has probably done that already."
The Scouts were working well all along the line. The enemy, as Pete Stubbs had reported, had crossed the State line in some small force at Mardean. Two regiments had occupied that village, which was on the Red side of the line, and had thrown out skirmishers for a couple of miles in both directions. Warner, one of the Raccoon Patrol, had been captured, but he was the only one of the Troop who had not made good his escape in the face of the enemy's advance, and even he had accomplished the purpose for which he had been sent out, since he had managed to wig-wag the news of the advance of a troop of cavalry before they had run him down, and the news had been flashed all along the line, from Scout to Scout, until it had reached Durland.
The wireless was not in use here, though experiments were being made with a field wireless installation some miles away, but the Scouts did not need it. They were spread out within plain sight of one another, and with their little red and white flags they sent messages by the Morse alphabet, and in a special code, as fast as wireless could have done. They also were prepared to use, when there was a bright sun, which was not the case that day, the heliograph system, which sends messages for great distances.
In that system of field signalling, extensively employed by the British during the Boer war, since wireless had not at that time been at all perfected, a man stands on a slight elevation, and catches the rays of the sun on a great reflector. Those flashes are visible for many miles in a clear atmosphere, in a flat country, and the flashes, of course, are practically instantaneous.
"We don't need to worry about wireless for communications of a few miles," said Durland. "The system of signalling that depends on seeing flashes, smokes, flags and other signals, is as old as warfare, really. The Indians, in this country, used to send news an astonishing distance in an amazingly short time. They used smokes, as we know, since we have all worked out those signals ourselves from time to time. And all nations in time of war have employed relays of men with flags, stationed at fixed intervals for scores of miles, for the sending of despatches and important news. Napoleon used the system on a great scale, and, until the telegraph was invented and made practicable for field work, that was the only way it could be done."
"The telegraph was first used in our Civil War, wasn't it, sir?" asked Tom Binns.
"Yes. But even then it was done in a very crude way. There was none of the modern elaborate work of field telegraph systems. Nowadays, you see, an army builds its telegraph lines as it goes along. Then they were dependent upon the lines already built, mostly along the railroad tracks. The first really great war in which such systems were in use was the struggle between Russia and Japan. The French and the Germans didn't have them in their war."
A few minutes later an orderly from the building in which the field telegraph station had been established came running up to Durland.
"Despatch from General Harkness, Captain," he said, saluting, and Durland took the slip of paper. He flushed with pleasure as he read it.
"Concentrate your troop at Hardport," he read. "Send Danby and companion in scout car ahead, to report to me for special duty. Congratulations on his splendid work, reported to me fully by General Bean."
"That is the sort of thing that makes it worth while to do good work," he said. "I think we saved General Harkness from an embarrassing position this morning, and it is good to think that he appreciates what we were able to do. Get along, now, Jack, and report to headquarters just as soon as you can."
There was now no need to take the grey car through the fields as Jack retraced their course over the straight road from Bremerton. They met pickets, but those they met, who had heard something of the deeds Jack had already accomplished, cheered his progress now, since this was no longer the enemy's country but a part of Red territory, by virtue of Bean's swift and successful attack of the morning. The soldiers they saw were a part of their own army, and Jack waved his hand in grateful acknowledgment of the cheers that pursued them as they sped by.
"Those fellows are regulars," he told Tom, as they passed one small detachment. "It makes you feel good to think that they regard us as comrades in arms, doesn't it, Tom? Those fellows know what they're about, and they must regard some of our militia as a good deal of a joke."
"I don't think that's a bit fair, Jack," said Tom. "The militia have their own work to do most of the time, and they do the best they can when they turn soldiers. And if we had a war, the regulars wouldn't be able to go very far without help—they must know that!"
"They're not mean about it, Tom. They help the militia as much as they can when they're in camp together, and teach them the tricks of the trade. But they're trained men who don't do anything but work at their soldiering, and the trained men always feel a bit superior to the volunteers."
"Some countries have a much bigger army than we do, don't they, Jack?"
"Indeed they do! Why, in Europe, in every country except England, every man has to serve in the army, unless he's too weak to do it. You see, they have possible enemies on all sides of them. Over here we don't realize how lucky we are to have the sea guarding us from the most dangerous enemies we might have. We haven't any reason to fear trouble with England, and Canada, of course, isn't any better off than we when it comes to an army. We could take care of them easily enough with the trained troops we have. And Mexico, while they might fight us, couldn't put up any sort of a real fight. The Mexicans couldn't invade this country, and if we ever had to invade Mexico, we'd have all the time we needed to train an army to go across and fight them, the way we did before. We may have to do that some time, but I hope not, because fighting in the sort of country there is down there would mean an awful loss of life."
"You mean that they know the country so well that a small force of them could worry us and make a lot of trouble, even if we won all the big battles?"
"Yes. The Boers couldn't stand up to the British very long in their fight, but they kept under arms and made the English armies work mighty hard to bring about peace."
"Well, I hope we never do have a war, Jack. This is only a game, of course, but it gives you an idea of what the real thing would be like, and it must be dreadful. It makes me realize, somehow, what it might have been like in the Civil War, when we were killing one another. Somehow reading about those battles doesn't give you as much of an idea of how it must have been as even a single morning of this sham war."
They were moving along fast as they talked, and they were in the outskirts of Hardport now. The town was full of soldiers. General Bean's brigade had been reinforced by the arrival of nearly ten thousand more men, and there were, altogether, about sixteen thousand troops there. General Harkness, thanks to Jack Danby and the quick wit of General Bean, who had understood the necessity of altering his plans for the capture of the place when he got Jack's report, had made good his boast that he would make the place his divisional headquarters for the night.
The place was all astir. Small automobiles, painted red, carried bustling officers from place to place, delivering orders, preparing for the next step in the defense of the State capital. General Harkness, Jack found, after making several fruitless inquiries of officers who seemed to be too busy to bother with a small boy, who, had they known it, was a far more important factor in the campaign than they were at all likely to be, had established his headquarters at the Hardport House, the leading hotel of the town, and there Jack went.
He was kept waiting for some time, after he had stated his name, and that he was under orders to report to the commanding general, but when he reached General Harkness he found him a pleasant, courteous man, and very much pleased with the work that he and Tom Binns had done.
"Now," said the General, "I've got some more and very important work for you to do. I've got to find out as soon as I can what the enemy's plans are. I don't expect you to do all of that, but you can play a part."
He walked over to a great wall map of the whole field of the operations, and pointed out a road on it.
"That road is the key to the situation this afternoon," he said. "General Bean is pressing forward to reach it as soon as possible, and occupy this bridge here in force. If he can get there in time, the enemy's advance will be checked. It is likely, in fact, that we may be able to force a decisive engagement there before the enemy is at all ready for it. Our capture of Hardport to-day, you see, has given us a great advantage. Before that, the enemy was in a position to choose his fighting ground. He could make us meet him where he liked, and with all the advantage of position in his favor. Now that will be no longer possible for him. The ground at Cripple Creek Bridge here is the best we could have, since, if General Bean can occupy the position there, General Bliss will have no choice but to give battle there, and I think we can turn him back on his own mobilization point."
"I am to report on the number and disposition of the enemy's forces about Cripple Creek, then, sir?" he said.
"Those are your orders. I shall expect a report within two hours."
"Yes, General. I will do my best to have one within that time."
Off in the distance, as Jack whirled out of Hardport, and beyond the last pickets of the Red army, he saw a cloud of dust spreading across the country.
"There's General Bean," he said to Tom. "Gee, his fellows must be pretty tired! They've fought a battle and captured a town already, and now they're off on a fifteen-mile march. Going some, I think!"
Cripple Creek was fifteen miles by the straight route the troops were forced to take, but by short cuts and taking bad roads, Jack could reach it by less than nine miles of traveling.
"Keep your eyes skinned, Tom!" said Jack, as he drove along. "I've got to watch the road, and we're in the enemy's country again with a vengeance."
AT THE COVERED BRIDGE
There was not a sign of the enemy as they neared the bridge, one of those covered affairs so common a few years ago in country districts. The countryside was serene and undisturbed.
"This doesn't look much like war," said Jack. "But I guess Gettysburg itself looked just as peaceful a few days before the big battle in 1863. You can't always tell by appearances. We'll go pretty easy here, anyhow, until we're certain that it's all right."
But the most careful investigation failed to reveal a trace of hostile occupation or passage. At the end of the bridge Jack got out of the car, leaving Tom Binns at the wheel, and ready to start at an instant's notice should there be a sudden attack.
"The tracks here don't show anything much," he said, looking up to Tom with a puzzled face. "I don't believe anything but a couple of farm wagons have passed this way to-day. If General Bliss thought this was his only line of advance, he'd have been certain to have had a few pickets here—or at least one of his scout cars. And I'll swear that nothing of that sort has happened here to-day. They'd have been bound to leave all sorts of traces, that's certain!"
"What do you think it means, Jack?"
"That there's something cooking and on the stove that we don't know about or suspect, even," said Jack. "I guess that General Bliss gets as good information as we do, and he must have figured out that he wouldn't be able to get here in time. If he went this way, anyhow, he'd have to leave Hardport in our possession behind him. And somehow I don't believe he'd do that."
"Say, Jack," called Tom Binns, suddenly, "I just saw a flash over there behind you—upon that hillock."
Jack began whistling indifferently. He strolled around, as if he were interested only in the view. Gradually he worked over closer to Tom and the big car, and then, and only then, he turned so that he could follow Tom's eyes with his own.
"I don't want anyone that's around here to think I'm looking at them," he said in a low tone to Tom. "What does it seem like to you, Tom? Scouts?"
"I think so, Jack. I caught just a glimpse, after I called to you, of something that looked like a Scout uniform. I think that they're watching us."
"That's much better," said Jack, greatly relieved. "It didn't seem natural, somehow, to find this place so deserted. Say, Tom, you can run the car, can't you?"
"Yes, if I don't have to go too fast."
"All right. I'm going to climb in. Then pull the hood pretty well over and run her slowly through the bridge. It's covered, you see, and they can't see us after we're on it. Then, as soon as we're under cover, I'm going to drop out. They can't see how many of us there are in the car. I'll stay behind, and you run on around the bend, drop out of the car, quietly, and leave it at the side of the road."
"Will that be safe, Jack? Couldn't anyone who came along run off with it?"
"Not if you take the spark plug out and put it in your pocket. That cripples the car absolutely, and you ought always to do that, even if you just leave a car outside a store for a couple of minutes when you go in to buy something. This car is great, too, because you don't have to crank it. It has a self-starting device, so that you can start the motor automatically without leaving your seat."
"All right, Jack. What am I to do after I leave the car?"
"Work up quietly into the woods there. When you get up a way, scout down easily, and try to trail them. You'll find traces of them up there on the ridge, I'm sure, if they're really up there. I'll do the same thing from the other side here. I think we've got a good chance to break one of their signalling relays, don't you see?"
"I'll take my flags along, shall I, Jack?"
"Good idea! No telling what we'll be able to find out and do here. All right—I'm going to drop out now!"
The car slowed down and he dropped off silently, and laughed as he saw Tom Binns guide the big machine off into the light beyond the covered bridge again. Then, the laughter gone from his face, he slipped cautiously back in the opposite direction, and at the entrance to the bridge dropped down to the bed of the creek. The season had been dry, and the water in the creek was very shallow. His plan was definite in his own mind, and he had had enough experience in scouting to know that there was at least a good chance of success in his enterprise, although a difficult one.
His destination was the ridge where Tom Binns had seen the flashing of red and white signal flags. Step by step now, climbing slowly and carefully, he made his way up the bank, sure that even if whoever was on the ridge had guessed the ruse of the way in which he had left the automobile, they would not be looking for an attack from the direction in which he was making his stealthy, Indian-like advance. Another reason for slow and deliberate progress was to give Tom Binns time to reach the ridge, and take up a position favorable for the playing of his part in the scheme.
Before him now, as he moved on, he could hear sounds of quiet and stealthy movement, and at last, standing before him, as he peeped through a small opening in the thick undergrowth, he could see a Boy Scout, standing stiff and straight, and working his signal flags. He had to stand on a high spot and in a clearing to do this, as otherwise, of course, his flags could not have been seen at any distance. Jack measured the place with his eyes. His whole plan would collapse if the body of the signalling Scout were visible from the next relay stations, but he quickly decided that only the flags would show.
From behind the Scout with the flags now came the call of a crow—caw, caw, caw!
Jack grinned as he answered it. For a moment a look of suspicious alertness showed on the face of the Blue Scout. He whirled around to face the sound behind him, and in the moment that his back was turned Jack sprang on him.
The Blue Scout put up a fine struggle, but he was helpless against the combined attack of Jack Danby and Tom Binns, who sprang to his comrade's aid as soon as he saw what Jack had done.
"Two to one isn't fair," gasped Jack as he sat on his prisoner's chest, "but we had to do it. This is war, you see, and they say all's fair in love and war. Who are you?"
"Canfield, Tiger Patrol, Twenty-first Troop, Hampton's Scouts," said the prisoner. "Detailed for Scout service with the Blue army. You got me fair and square. We caught one of your fellows near Mardean, we heard, soon after the war began. Sorry—but it's all in the game.
"How on earth did you get to me so quietly? I was watching you in the road by the bridge, and I thought you'd gone off in your car. You certainly fooled me to the queen's taste."
"Fortune of war," said Jack. "The car gave us a big advantage. You're not to blame a bit. I guess you'll be exchanged pretty soon, too. We'll give you for Warner, you see. He's the one of our Troop who was caught. And a fair exchange isn't any robbery."
"Have we got to tie him up?" asked Tom Binns.
"Not if he'll give his parole not to escape or accept a rescue," said Jack. "How about that, Canfield? Will you give me your word of honor? I'm Jack Danby, Assistant Patrol Leader of the Crow Patrol of Durland's Troop, and ranking as a corporal for the maneuvers in the Red army."
"I'll give you my parole all right," said Canfield. He saluted stiffly. "Glad to meet you, Corporal Danby. Sorry the tables aren't turned, though. We've got a special dinner for our prisoners to-night—but we haven't caught many prisoners yet, worse luck!"
"All right! See if the flags are just the same, Tom."
Tom Binns compared the flags captured from Canfield with those he himself carried.
"They're exactly the same," he said. "We can use either his or ours. It doesn't make any difference."
"That's good. Stand up there now, Tom, and see what's coming. Can you see the next stations on both sides?"
"Sure I can, Jack. They're wig-wagging like the very dickens now, asking Canfield here why he doesn't answer."
"Signal that he was watching a grey scout car of the Red army, going north," said Jack, with a laugh.
Canfield heard the laugh with a rueful smile.
"You're certainly going to mess things up!" he said. "I ought to be court-martialled for letting you break up our signal chain this way."
Meanwhile Tom Binns was working his flags frantically.
"O. K.," he reported to Jack. "Message coming!"
Jack sprang to his side, and together the two Red Scouts watched the flags flashing in the distance. Jack showed a good deal of excitement.
"Gee," he said, "this is all to the good! That's a message from General Bliss himself, I'll bet! See, Tom? He's sending orders to General Brown, who commands his right wing. They're going to swing around back toward Hardport in a big half-circle, of which this place where we are now is pretty nearly the centre. And it's the Newville road that's the line of their march, and not this road over the creek at all. That's nerve for you, if you like, because the Newville pike is right in our lines, and if we move fast we can turn that right wing right in on their center."
For half an hour they stayed there, realizing more and more with every passing minute that the whole Blue army was developing a great and sweeping attack on Hardport, and in a direction entirely different from that being taken by General Bean. The information so far obtained by General Harkness obviously was entirely misleading, and in sending General Bean to Cripple Creek, as he had, he had simply deprived himself of a brigade, and, as he would learn in the morning, when the attack would most certainly begin, weakened a vital part of his lines. Bean was moving directly away from the spot where the attack would be concentrated, and the enemy would be able, unless something were quickly done, to strike at the unprotected center of the Red line, drive right through it, and throw the main portion of his army, like a great wedge, between the two sections of the Red forces.
Jack's face grew grave as message after message confirmed his fears. He looked at his watch.
"We've got to get word of this to General Harkness," he said. "Tom, I'm afraid you'll have to stay here and take chances on being caught. I've got to get back to headquarters and tell General Harkness what we've learned here. And if we both go, and leave the relay broken here, they'll smell a rat at once, and investigate. There's enough of a trail here to show a blind man, much less a bunch of Scouts who are just as good in their State as we're supposed to be in our own, just what's happened. So you stay here, and I'll take Canfield along with me in the car and make my way back to headquarters. You'll be able to leave pretty soon, anyhow, because it will be too dark for effective long-range signalling less than an hour from now. You can do it all right, can't you?"
"Yes," said Tom Binns, pluckily. It was plain that he didn't like the prospect of staying there alone, but he could see the necessity as easily as Jack himself, and that there was no other way of meeting the circumstance that had arisen.
"Do your best, of course, to avoid being captured," said Jack, as he turned to go, with Canfield at his side. "But it will be no reflection on you if you are made a prisoner, and we won't need to feel that they've put one over on us if they catch you. We've got more than a fair return for the loss of even a First Class Scout in the information that they've unknowingly given us. It may mean the difference between the success and failure of the whole campaign."
"You're a wonder, Danby," said Canfield, as they made their way down to the car. Being on parole, of course, and, as a Boy Scout should always be, honorable and incapable of breaking his given word, Canfield made no attempt to escape or hamper Jack in any way. "I've heard a lot about you, and I'm glad to see you at work, even if it does make it bad for me. You seem to be able to tell just about what's going on around here. I couldn't do that. I didn't think about the larger meaning of the orders I was passing on."
"I may be wrong, you know," said Jack, as he waited for Canfield to step into the car before climbing into the driver's seat. "I'm really only making a guess, but I think it's a pretty good one. And, anyhow, with the notes I've got for him, General Harkness ought to be able to get a pretty good line on what's doing."
"He ought to be," admitted Canfield, regretfully, but smiling at the same time. "You're certainly one jim-dandy as a Scout! I'd hate to be against you in a real war. If you can handle things always the way you've done this time, you'd be a pretty hard proposition in a real honest-to-goodness fight."
A TIMELY WARNING
Jack debated the advisability of meeting General Bean and telling him what he had learned, but he decided that since that detour would take up nearly half an hour of time that was now most valuable, he had better hurry right through to headquarters, and carry his news direct to the commander-in-chief. He cared little now for the danger of meeting stray detachments of the enemy. He was not afraid of them, since he knew that they would not, in all probability, be keeping a particularly careful watch for him, and he was confident of the ability of his car to outdistance any pursuit that might be attempted.
Twice, indeed, as he raced for Hardport, he met patrols of the enemy's cavalry, but he was burning up the ground at such a rate that they probably were not able to distinguish the nature of his car, especially as it was nearly dark.
"Gee, Danby, you certainly make this old car go!" said Canfield, admiringly. "She's a daisy, too. I never was in a car before that rode as easily as this, and I think you're going twice as fast as I've ever ridden in my life before."
Going at such speed, it did not take long for Jack to reach headquarters. He rushed at once into the hotel, and his earnest, dust-streaked face so impressed the officer on duty outside the General's door that he took Jack in at once.
"I have the honor to report that I have carried out your instructions, General," said Jack. "I have used more than the two hours you allowed me, but I felt that that was necessary."
Then he explained the capture he and Tom Binns had effected, and how, by taking the place of their prisoner with the flags, they had been able to discover the enemy's real plans.
General Harkness wasted no words then for a few minutes. He pressed two or three buttons, and, as staff officers answered, his orders flew like hail.
"Telegraph General Bean to change his route at once," he ordered, "and make Newville his objective point, throwing out heavy skirmish lines and advance pickets to prevent a surprise. He will march all night, if necessary—but he must be at Newville before five o'clock."
The officer who took the order saluted, turned on his heel, and left the room.
"Direct Colonel Abbey to bring up his cavalry regiment at once from Bremerton," was the next order. "He will march across the line, and then follow it until he reaches the Newville pike. Thence he will turn to support any movement General Bean may find it necessary to make there. Colonel Abbey will not engage the enemy, however, even to the extent of feeling him out, without direct orders from either General Bean or myself. Repeat a copy of Colonel Abbey's orders to General Bean."
"That's good work, Danby, once more," he said, then, turning to Jack. "We'd have been in a nice mess if you hadn't discovered that. They masked their turning movement beautifully. If they had got hold of Newville and cut General Bean off from the main body of this army we would have had to abandon Hardport at once. General Bean would certainly have been captured, and we would have had to fall back on the capital, with an excellent prospect of being attacked and forced to fight at a great disadvantage on our retreat. As it is, even if General Bean is forced to circle around Newville, we can concentrate at Bremerton and fight on ground of our own choosing, though that would make this place untenable."
Receiving no further orders, Jack remained to listen. He stood at attention, and he enjoyed the experience of being in the room of a general on active service, for the constant stream of orders General Harkness was giving was hardly checked at all by his pause to speak to Jack and thank him for the good work he had done.
"Instruct Colonel Henry to complete preparations for the theoretical destruction of the railroad station, the sidings, and all passenger and freight cars now here," he directed next. "If we are forced to abandon the place, we will leave plenty of evidence behind us that it is no longer of any use to the enemy. Rather a dog-in-the-manger policy, I suppose—" this to Jack, since the officer had gone to obey the order—"but that's war. If you can't make any use of a town or a lot of supplies yourself, remember always that that is no reason why the enemy should not find them of the utmost service, and see to it that he can get no benefit from them. That was General Sherman's way. He left a trail of desolation fifty miles wide wherever he marched with his army, and he was always sure that the enemy, even if he came along after him, would find no chance to live in that country."
Jack offered no comment at all. He knew his place, as a Boy Scout, and, while he realized that it was a great compliment for the General to talk to him in that fashion, he had no intention of presuming on the fact.
Just then an orderly entered.
"Scout Thomas Binns, of Durland's Troop, General," he said, saluting. "He says he has important information."
"Another of you?" asked the General, smiling as he faced Jack. "Send him in!"
"He was with me in the car, sir," said Jack. "I left him behind when I came to make my report."
"I have the honor to report, General," said little Tom Binns, standing at the salute when he appeared, "that the enemy now has reason to believe that General Bean is advancing for Cripple Creek and will camp there to-night."
"How do you know that, my boy?" said the General.
"The signal station next to me on the side nearest Hardport flashed the news that General Bean had changed his course, sir," replied Tom. "I didn't think they ought to hear that at General Bliss's headquarters, so I changed the message in relaying it, and said that it was now positively determined that General Bean was heading for Cripple Creek, and would proceed to occupy the bridge. In fact, I added that his pickets were already in sight."
"Excellent!" laughed the General. "But how did you get here, my boy? I don't see how you escaped falling into their hands."
"That was the last message we got before dark, sir," said Tom. "After that we all got orders to report at their Scout headquarters, and I decided to try to make my way back here. On the way I ran into one of their outposts, and a man with a motorcycle chased me. But he had a puncture—I think that was because I dropped my knife in the road—and he had to stop to repair that. While he was doing it, I worked up behind him, and I managed to get the motorcycle and came on. I knew he'd have a good chance to catch me, because I didn't know the roads very well."
"Ha, ha!" laughed General Harkness. The incident seemed to amuse him immensely, for he laughed till the tears rolled down his cheeks. "I wish I had a whole army of you, my boy. We'd have little trouble with the enemy, then. Now you two can go back to Bremerton. That is likely to be nearer the scene of battle in the morning than this town, and you have both done a good day's work in any case. I am highly pleased with you. Carry my compliments to Captain Durland, and say to him that I shall be glad to see him in my headquarters in the morning. He will have to find out where they are, for I don't know myself at this moment. I shall probably be up most of the night myself, but do you be off now, and get a good night's rest. You have earned it."
So once more Jack drove the grey car to Bremerton. He was almost reeling with fatigue by this time, for it was nearly nine o'clock, and he had done enough since noon to tire out a full-grown man.
"That was mighty clever work of yours with the motorcycle," he said to Tom. "How did you ever think of it?"
"I didn't want to be caught, Jack, that's all. I guess you were right the other day when you said we never knew what we could do until we had to do it. It's certainly true with me, because if anyone had ever told me that I would do a thing like that, I'd have told them they were crazy."
"Well, whatever the reason was, it was good work. If they'd caught you with your signal flags, they might have smelled a rat, and the best part of our catching Canfield was that they didn't know anything about it. That's what made him such a very valuable prisoner for us to have."
THE ENEMY'S TRICK
Jack Danby was pretty tired after his exertions. Captain Durland, glad that his Troop, except for the one prisoner, poor Harry Warner, of the Raccoons, was still all together under his command in Bremerton, found quarters for them in the little village hotel.
"We'll turn in early," he said, "and get all the sleep we can. I think there'll be some hard fighting to-morrow, and we can't tell yet what part we'll be called on to play in it when it comes. So we'll get all the sleep we can. I shouldn't wonder if the battle to-morrow began long before dawn. If we can turn the right wing of the Blue army, which doesn't seem very likely now, we will want to start the action as soon as possible, because, when you have the enemy trapped, the thing to do is to strike at him just as quickly as you can. Every minute of delay you give him gives him just that much more of a chance to get out of the trap."
"That means if General Bean gets to Newville in time, doesn't it, sir?" asked Dick Crawford.
All the Scouts had listened with the greatest interest to what Jack had told them of his day's adventures. He had been at the very heart of things, and he was able, from the information that he and Tom Binns had intercepted, to get a complete view of the whole scene of the operations, far superior to that of any of the others, who knew, of course, only what was going on in their own immediate neighborhood.
"Yes—that's what I mean, of course," said Durland. "But it's a forlorn hope. There's a limit to human endurance. Even regular troops would call what Bean's brigade did before sunset a hard day's work. Just think of it—they were in motion before daybreak this morning, ready for their dash across the line. Then they marched several miles toward Hardport, turned aside for a big flanking movement, and had hardly occupied the city when they were started off for the Cripple Creek Bridge. Then they were turned off again from that, and sent to march another twenty miles to Newville. That was necessary, of course—they'd have been cut off and captured, to a man, if they'd kept on for the bridge, without even the fun of putting up a fight for their colors. But that doesn't make it any easier work. I know Bean—he won't ask his men to do the impossible. And that means that he'll be five miles from Newville when morning comes."
"Then nothing is likely to be decided to-morrow?" said Bob Hart.
"I don't see how it can be. The two armies are playing at cross purposes to-night, you see. Unless the Blues have corrected their mistake, they will be working on the assumption that Bean's brigade is out of it entirely, and that they can eat up the main body of our army, and then turn around and capture Bean when they like. While they're working on that idea, General Harkness is making a desperate effort to turn the tables on them, and lead them into just the same sort of a trap that Jack Danby has enabled him to escape. His strategy is perfectly sound, and he can't lose seriously, even if his plan fails. But I think the umpires will call the fight to-morrow a drawn battle."