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- The Boy Allies with Haig in Flanders - 20/33 -


"All right. Take your places. Looks like there is ammunition enough there for a week. Ready?"

"Ready, sir," one of the men answered.

Chester made the door secure, and Hal now moved the tank forward.

Straight over the German trench plunged the car tilting first to the right and then to the left, as one side or the other sunk into a deep hole. But, although it jostled the crew considerably, it did not roll over, as it seemed in imminent danger of doing.

The other tanks had gone forward some time before; so had the mass of the infantry. Hal's tank now lumbered forward in an effort to overtake the others. It moved swiftly enough to push ahead of the soldiers afoot, and gradually it overtook the others, which went more slowly in order that the infantry might keep pace with them. At last the lads found themselves on even terms with the most advanced tank.

Perhaps a dozen of these monsters, pressing close together, now made a concerted attack on the second-line German trenches. Down went barbed-wire entanglements directly in front of the trenches. There was a loud crash as the tanks pushed their noses into the trench itself, and threw out rocks, boards, and earth in shattered fragments. The troops poured into the trenches behind them.

Half an hour's desperate fighting in the trenches and the Germans fled. As the tanks would have pushed along further, a bugle sounded a halt. Instantly the infantry gave up pursuit of the enemy, and all the tanks came to a stop -- all except the one in which Hal was at the throttle.

"Whoa, here, Hal!" shouted Chester. "Time to stop. Can't you see the others have given up the pursuit?"

"I can't stop!" Hal shouted back. "The blamed thing won't work."

Every second they were approaching where the Germans had made a stand.

"Come about in a circle then and head back!" shouted Chester.

Hal swung the head of the tank to the left. It moved perhaps two degrees in that direction, then went forward again.

"Something the matter with the steering apparatus!" Hal shouted. "I can't turn it. I can't stop it. I can't shut off the power, and the brakes won't work."

"Let's jump for it, then!" cried Chester. "We'll be right in the middle of the enemy in a minute."

The tractor was still spitting fire as it advanced. It was plain that the Germans took the advance of the single tank as a ruse of some kind, which they were unable to fathom. They could not know that the occupants of the tank were making desperate effort to stop its advance or bring it about and head back toward the British lines.

From the British troops shouts of warning arose. Crews of other tanks had now dismounted, and these men added their voices to those of the others calling upon the apparently venturesome tank to return. These men could understand the advance of the single tractor no more than could the Germans.

"The fools!" shouted one man. "They'll be killed sure; and what good can they do single-handed against the whole German army?"

But the tank driven by Hal took no cognizance of the remarks hurled after it; nor did it swerve from its purpose of waddling straight up to the foe.

"Let's jump!" called Chester again.

"We'll be killed sure, or captured if we do," said Hal.

"Well, we'll be killed or captured if we don't," declared Chester.

"Exactly. It doesn't make any difference just what we do, so I'm in favor of seeing the thing through."

"By Jove!" said Chester after a moment's hesitation, "I'm with you!"

He explained the situation to the man.

"Let's go right at 'em, sir," said one of the Canadians, grinning. "Maybe they won't hit us with a shell. We'll shoot 'em down as long as we have ammunition - - and it's about gone now."

"Suits me," said Hal quietly.

The other men nodded their agreement.

So the tank still waddled forward. With but one foe now to contend with, the Germans braved the fire of the single gun, advanced and surrounded the tank.

"Surrender!" came a voice in German. "Surrender or we shall blow you to pieces."

Hal smiled to himself.

"Can't be done, Fritz," he said quietly.

At the same moment one of the crew fired the last of the ammunition.

"Well, we've nothing left but our revolvers," said Chester. "Here goes."

He poked his weapon out one of the portholes, and emptied it into the foe.

"Give me yours, Hal," he said.

Hay obeyed, and the contents of this also was poured at the enemy.

"That settles it," said Chester.

One of the Canadians drew out a cigarette and lighted it.

"Might as well be comfortable," he said.

Outside, the Germans danced wildly around the car, shouting demands for surrender, all the while bombarding the tank with rifle and revolver fire.

"No use, Fritz," said Hal. "We just can't, whoa!"

The tank had stopped abruptly.

CHAPTER XIX

PRISONERS

"Now what do you think of that?" Hal muttered to himself. "Must be a German tank, I guess. Seems to know when it gets home. Well, what now, Hal?" asked Chester.

"You know as much about it as I do," said Hal grimly. "See all that merry gang outside dancing around us? Guess we'll have to surrender. We can't fight with nothing to fight with."

"You're right, Sir," said one of the men. "No use staying here and being blown up when we can't fight back."

As the occupants of the tank so far had made no signs of complying with the German demand for surrender, bullets were still being rained upon the tractor. Hal now took a handkerchief from his pocket, put it on the end of his empty revolver, and poked it through the porthole.

A cry of triumph went up from the outside, and the firing ceased.

Chester threw open the door of the armored car, and, with Hal and the four members of the crew, got to the ground. An officer approached them and saluted.

"You are my prisoners, Sir," he said.

"So it seems, captain," said Hal with a smile. "Well, it can't be helped now."

He passed over his empty revolver, the only weapon he possessed. Chester followed suit. The members of the crew had no arms. They had discarded their rifles when they entered the tank.

"I shall conduct you to Colonel Hertlitz," said the German captain. "Come."

The four followed the German officer far back into the German lines, where the officer ushered them into a tent where sat a German officer whose insignia proclaimed him a colonel of infantry.

"These are the men who manned the armored car, sir," said the captain.

"Take the men and lock them up safely," was the reply. "Send my orderly to attend me while I converse with these officers. See, too, that the captured car is made safe."

The captain withdrew and the colonel's orderly entered, and stood at attention. The four Canadian members of the tank's crew were ordered to the rear, but for the night they would be kept in the lines behind the trenches.

"You are brave young men," said the colonel to Hal. "I watched you advance into our army single-handed. At the same time, it was a fool's trick - or a youngster's."

"We're not so brave as you would think, sir," said Hal with a slight smile. "Neither are we such fools. We would gladly have turned about, but the thing wouldn't work; neither could I stop my engine."

"Oh-o! I see," said the colonel. "I took your deed for an act of bravery, and for that reason I had planned to have you particularly cared for, so it was only an accident, eh? Orderly, have these fellows locked up with the others."

"We're officers in the United States Army, sir," Hal protested, "and,


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