Air Service Boys Over The Enemy's Lines
Charles Amory Beach
• Back Of The Trenches
• The Winged Messenger
• A Spy Baffled
• Praise From The General
• The Strange Warning
• Looking Backward
• The Great Day Arrives
• Over The Enemy's Lines
• Winning His Spurs
• After The Battle
• A Show On The Front
• Clowns On The Wing
• More Work In Prospect
• Off On A Daring Mission
• The Moonlight Flight
• Landing Close To Metz
• More Trouble For The Chums
• The Lone House By The Roadside
• A Nest Of Spies
• Jack Climbs A Wall
• In The Old Lorraine Chateau
• Facing More Difficulties
• Left Behind In The Enemy Country
• Troublous Times For Jack
• Back To Safety - Conclusion
Back Of The Trenches
"Tom, what do you suppose that strange man who looked like a French peasant, yet wasn't one, could have been up to late yesterday afternoon?"
"You mean the fellow discovered near the hangars at the aviation camp, Jack?"
"Yes. He seemed to go out of sight like a wreath of smoke does. Why, if the ground had opened and swallowed him up, once the hue and cry was raised, he couldn't have vanished quicker. I wonder if what they say about him can be true?"
"That he was a German spy? Anything is possible in war times."
"I guess you're right there. German secret sympathizers, and spies in the bargain, seemed to bob up all over the United States before we crossed the ocean to do our fighting for France as aviators."
"They certainly were busy bees, Jack, blowing up munition-works, trying to destroy big railroad bridges so as to cripple traffic with the Allies over here; burning grain elevators in which France and Great Britain had big supplies of wheat stored; and even putting bombs aboard ocean liners that were timed to explode days later, when the boat would be a thousand miles from land."
"Over in France here they make short work of spies, I've heard, Tom!"
"Yes, it's a drumhead court martial and trial. Then, if the man or woman is found guilty, the spy goes out with a firing squad to the most convenient stone wall. They never return, Jack."
"Whee! that sounds like war times, doesn't it? And to think the two of us are right on the firing line, in the midst of all the scrapping But, Tom, tell me, why should a tricky German spy want to hang out around the aviation field? He could hardly expect to pick up any news there that would be worth taking across the lines to the headquarters of the Crown Prince before Verdun."
"Don't be too sure of that, Jack. Perhaps he might learn of some contemplated bombing expedition, like that one we went on not so long ago." And Tom Raymond smiled slightly.
"They are a mighty clever bunch, those spies," admitted Jack Parmly.
"Why, Jack, half of the successes of the Kaiser's armies on all fronts, Russia, France and Rumania, can be laid at the door of his secret agents. They seem to be everywhere, trying to foment internal troubles, strikes, and discontent, so that when the Germans strike hard they meet a divided enemy in front."
"Well, I certainly wish we had caught that fellow."
"You were in the crowd, you told me, that scoured the whole neighborhood in search of him."
"That's right, I was. But say, he proved too foxy for us all. Anyway, we failed to find the rascal. Then night came on, when we had to give our man-hunt over. And to think that I even glimpsed the fellow's face in the bargain before the alarm went out!"
"Then you'd know him again perhaps, Jack, if ever you met him?"
"I think so. Though I suppose these spies have ways of changing their looks at times. But, to change the subject, Tom, it strikes me neither of us is groaning under the weight of game so far on our little side hunt." And Jack Parmly grinned.
"Oh, I didn't really expect to run across anything, though that French peasant assured us there were still some rabbits in the burrows over here, three miles back of our sleeping quarters. That's why, with a day off-duty, I took a notion to borrow an old Belgian-made double-barrel shotgun he owned, and walk out here."
"More to stretch our legs and get the kinks out, than anything else, eh, Tom?"
"That's it, Jack. Don't you remember that while we were training at the aviation school at Pau we used often to walk from the town, eight miles distant, until we sighted that famous little old red barn at Pau, where the Wright Brothers conducted some of their experiments in flying heavier- than-air machines. That was some little hike."
"Then too, Tom, I guess we wanted to get together by ourselves for a change, so we could talk about our folks at home in little old Bridgeton, U. S. A.," went on Jack Parmly with a sigh.
"All the fellows of the Lafayette Escadrille are mighty kind and sociable, but there are times when a fellow gets homesick. Just remember that we have been over here many months now. It seems years to me, Tom."
"Say, I hope you are not homesick enough to want to go back, old fellow?"
"Not me, Tom. I made up my mind to stick it out until we whip the Kaiser. But already I can see it'll never be an accomplished fact until Uncle Sam throws his sword into the scales. And any day now something may drop."
"Yes, matters are at an acute stage in Washington, that's sure. All France, bled nearly white in two-and-a-half years of war, is praying that the day may come soon."
After that the two athletic looking young Americans, dressed in the uniform of the French aviation corps, fell silent for a brief time. They, however, continued to trudge over the devastated fields, looking this way and that for any sign of a stray rabbit that had escaped the general slaughter.
It was just previous to the world-stirring session of Congress, when the President made his thrilling speech that sounded almost from end to end of the world, and put America in line for the cause of democracy. Anxious days those were across the ocean, anxious not only in France, Italy and Great Britain, in Serbia, Rumania, Greece and Russia, but in the Central Empires, also.
For well did those in Teutonic authority know, in spite of their vain boasting, that once great America decided, the thing was bound to be done, sooner or later. Never in the course of her history has our republic been on a losing side. Her wars have invariably brought eventual victory to her arms, because she has never once fought for an unjust cause,
These two vigorous young fellows were fair samples of those enterprising Americans who found it impossible to sit idly by. They could not await the slow course of events that was bound to carry our country into the world war on the side of the Allies, in spite of all the powerful counter currents among the pro-German citizens at home.
Dozens of the brightest of flying men from the States had gone over and offered their services to France, the country they loved. In time there came to be so many, that from the ordinary French Flying Corps there was formed a unit entirely made up of Americans.
This, in honor of the one great Frenchman whom Americans most honor at home, was called the Lafayette Escadrille. Some of its members had become famous at their profession. Names like those of Lufbery, Thaw, McConnell, Chapman, Prince, Rockwell, Hill, Rumsey, Johnson, Balsley and others became household words among readers of the great dailies in the States.
Tom Raymond was the son of a man who had gained fame as an inventor. When the war broke out he started work on numerous inventions, some of which were calculated to become terrible agents for the destruction of human life. Then Mr. Raymond's mood changed, and he set to work to conceive a wonderful stabilizer for airplane use that would save myriads of lives, and if adopted by Uncle Sam was likely to help win the war for the Allies.
Just when this invention was finished a drawing of one of the parts was stolen by a German spy. Later on, after Tom and his chum, Jack Parmly, had decided to become war aviators, having already had considerable aviation experience, they went to the flying school conducted by the Government in Virginia.
From there in course of time they crossed the Atlantic and entered the famous French school at Pau. Then, having mastered the science of flying sufficiently to be sent to the front, they had joined the Lafayette Escadrille, as related in a previous volume entitled "Air Service Boys Flying for France; or The Young Heroes of the Lafayette Escadrille."
Tom in particular seemed to have a great career ahead of him, unless some unfortunate accident, or possibly a Teuton pilot, cut it short, as had happened in the cases of Rockwell, Prince, McConnell and Chapman. Every one knew he possessed genius of a high order, and that it would not be long before Tom Raymond might anticipate gaining the proud title of "ace," which would indicate that he had defeated five enemies at different times, and put them entirely out of the running.
Tom was already a corporal in the French service, and expected before a great while to be given the privilege of wearing the chevrons of a sergeant. Jack had not progressed so rapidly but was doing well.
And now to return to the young aviators during their walk.
"I reckon we've gone far enough, Jack," Tom remarked presently. "Our friend Jean may have been telling the truth when he said there were still a few bunnies left alive in this war-racked section of country, but I can see they've got the good sense to stick to their burrows during the daytime. We won't be burdened with our bag of game on the return trip."
"Yes, that's always the trouble, when you go out after rabbits and haven't any hound along to get them up and bring them within gunshot," grumbled Jack.
"But we've had a good walk," returned his companion; "and for a time we managed to get away from that terrible explosion of shells, and big-gun firing. We ought to be thankful for our little time off, Jack."
"Oh! I'm not really complaining," remarked the other young aviator, with a whimsical expression on his good-natured face. "But don't you know I hate to go back without having fired even one shot." He stopped short and pointed upward. "Hold on, Tom; there's some kind of bird going to pass over right now! Crow or anything, please bring it down! I'll promise to eat it, no matter what it is."
Laughingly Tom threw the gun up to his shoulder, and the next instant the report sounded. It seemed almost contemptible, after listening to the roar of those monster shells exploding for so long.
The bird fell fluttering in a heap. Tom evidently was a fair marksman, for it had been moving swiftly over their heads at the time he fired. Jack ran forward and picked the game up. As he did so he gave utterance to exclamations that naturally excited the curiosity of his chum. So Tom, after reloading his gun with a fresh shell, waited for Jack to rejoin him, which the other did, his face full of mystery.