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- Army Boys on German Soil - 3/29 -
arm of the foremost man revealed a group coming toward them. "High time, too! I got drenched to the skin while I was lying on the ground in that alley."
"Of course we'll have to report the whole thing to the corporal, shan't we?" inquired Bart.
"I suppose we shall," Frank acquiesced, though reluctantly. "Personally, I'd like to keep the whole thing up my sleeve until we've solved the mystery. But there's danger abroad to-night, and it wouldn't be fair to the boys who are going to take our places not to put them on their guard."
The corporal of the guard now had come so close that the light of his lantern fell upon the group of Army Boys.
"You fellows are all here, I see," said the corporal, who was the boys' old friend, Wilson. "What was that shooting going on here? None of you hurt, I hope."
"Dripping wet but right as a trivet," Frank replied with a smile, and then went on to make his report of the occurrences of the night while the corporal listened with close attention.
"It's certainly strange," he commented when Frank had finished. "It's one of many queer things that are happening lately. I'll report the facts at headquarters and you may be called upon to tell your story there. But now you are off duty, and you can light out for the barracks."
They were only too glad to avail themselves of the permission, and hurried off.
"I've got an idea!" exclaimed Frank, as they scurried along before the gale.
"Frank's got an idea," chaffed Billy. "Hold on to it, old man, for dear life." Frank made a playful pass at him which Billy ducked.
"I've been figuring the thing out," went on Frank, "and I've come to the conclusion that those fellows wanted us to see them go into that alley."
There was an exclamation of surprise from his comrades.
"Come again," said Billy. "I don't get you."
"Why should they want us to see them?" queried Bart. "They might have known that we'd go in after them."
"Sure they did!" answered Frank. "That's just what they wanted. They figured that they'd get us all in there in a bunch. They guessed too that, not finding them, we'd flash a light. That would make us a good target to their confederates who had come to the mouth of the alley, and they thought they could mow us down with one volley. In other words the alley was a trap."
"By ginger, I believe you're right!" exclaimed Bart "The shots came just after the light was flashed. It was a slick trick. You have to hand it to them."
"But that doesn't explain where the men disappeared to who went into the alley first," remarked Billy.
"No," admitted Frank. "And it doesn't explain either where the men who fired the shots vanished to. But there's an answer to everything, and I'm going to try to find the answer to this. I'm not going to drop it. Of course, I suppose the secret service men will take the thing up, but I'm going to do a little investigating on my own account. I have a hunch that when I take a look at that alley by daylight, I'll tumble to something."
And while the four chums, after their narrow escape, are cudgeling their brains to solve the mystery, it may be well for the sake of those who have not read the preceding volumes of this series to trace briefly their adventures before this story opens.
Frank Sheldon, a vigorous, clean-cut, young fellow, was a resident of Camport, a thriving and prosperous town of about twenty-five thousand people. His father had died a few years before the war broke out, and Frank lived in a little cottage with his mother, of whom for some years he was the sole support. She was of French birth, and by the death of her father had recently come into possession of a considerable estate in France. There had been some legal complications regarding the settlement of the property, and she had intended to go to France to look after her interests when the outbreak of the war made this impossible.
Frank was employed in the wholesale hardware house of Moore and Thomas, and his prospects for the future were very bright when the United States entered the World War. Frank was above everything else a hundred-per-cent American, and if he had consulted only his own wishes would have enlisted at once. But his mother's dependence upon him made him hesitate. An episode occurred, however, that decided him, when he was forced to knock down a burly German who had insulted the American flag. There was no further opposition by his mother, and he joined the Thirty-seventh Regiment, a Camport regiment with a glorious record in the Civil War, and one which had recently seen service on the Mexican border.
Billy Waldon, a close friend of Frank, was already a member, and Bart Raymond, Frank's special chum and a fellow employee, joined also. Another friend, Tom Bradford, tried to join, but was rejected on account of his teeth. He was afterward accepted in the draft, however, so that the four chums, to their great joy, found themselves together in the same regiment.
There was one man in the Moore and Thomas firm who was a bitter and malignant anti-American from the start. His name was Nick Rabig, and he was foreman of one of the departments. He was born in America, but his parents were German. Rabig and Frank Sheldon were at sword's points most of the time because of the former's bullying disposition, and after Rabig had been caught in the draft and forced into the ranks of the old Thirty-seventh he got from Frank the thorough thrashing which had been for a long time coming to him.
What experiences the Army Boys went through in the training camps, how narrowly they escaped a submarine attack on the way to Europe, what exciting adventures they met with on their first contact with the enemy, are described in the first volume of the series entitled: "Army Boys in France; Or, From Training Camp to Trenches."
After they had once reached the scene of action the adventures of the Army Boys multiplied rapidly. Trench warfare was soon outgrown, and open fighting in the field became the order of the day. At one time when the American troops were advancing, the boys became separated from their comrades and were compelled to leap from a broken bridge into a stream, and when they attempted to swim to the other side found themselves in the enemy's hands. For a time a German prison camp with all its horrors loomed up before them, but from this they were saved by a friend of theirs, Dick Lever, who swooped down in his airplane, scattered the enemy guards, and carried his friends back in safety to their own lines.
Frank had the good luck to hear encouraging news about his mother's property from a French colonel whose life he had saved under a rain of fire when the officer, Colonel Pavet, was lying wounded on the battlefield.
Soon, from raw recruits the boys had been developed into skillful soldiers, as is shown in the second volume of the series, entitled: "Army Boys in the French Trenches; Or, Hand to Hand Fights with the Enemy."
The Spring of 1918 had now arrived, and the Germans were preparing for the last desperate drive, on the success of which their fortunes depended. If they could once break through the Allied lines and seize Paris or the Channel ports they would have come near to winning the war, or at any rate, would have greatly delayed the Allies' final victory. The Americans were brought to the front to check the thrust of the Crown Prince's army toward Paris, and the old Thirty-seventh found itself in the very van of the fighting. Tom was captured, and had a series of thrilling experiences before he was able to escape and rejoin his comrades. Nick Rabig came out in his true colors, and his guilt as a traitor was discovered by Tom, while hiding in the woods. How the boys were brought again and again within arm's length of death in the terrific fighting is told in the third volume of the series, entitled: "Army Boys On the Firing Line; Or, Holding Back the German Drive."
On July eighteenth, Marshal Foch struck like a thunderbolt and hurled the foe back in a headlong retreat. Again and again the Germans tried to rally, but the Allies were fired with the certainty of victory and would not be denied.
Frank and his comrades were wherever the fighting was thickest, and did their full share in driving the Germans back to the Rhine. An event which for a time put Frank under a cloud, because it looked as though he were involved in the robbery of a paymaster's clerk, ended in showing that Nick Rabig was the real culprit. This completely vindicated Frank, as will be seen in the fourth volume of the series entitled: "Army Boys In the Big Drive; Or, Smashing Forward to Victory."
That victory was now in sight. The German cause was doomed. One great victory remained to be gained, the clearing of the Argonne forest, wild, tangled, meshed with thousands of miles of barbed wire, crowded with machine gun nests and swept with a hurricane of shot and shell. But nothing could stop America's boys now that their blood was up, and they did much in helping to win here the final and greatest battle of the war. All the Army Boys, fighting like tigers, came through unharmed, except Bart, who was wounded and afterward wandered away from the hospital while temporarily insane.
The armistice was signed and the Army Boys assigned to the Army of Occupation with headquarters at Coblenz. At Luxemburg while on the march they came across an American family who for business reasons had lived for a time in Coblenz. How they took the head of the family for a German spy, how they marched as conquerors into Germany, how Frank was cheered by learning that his mother's property was sure to come to her, how Bart was found and restored to his right mind, how by the aid of the suspected spy who turned out to be a patriotic American they thwarted a desperate German plot to blow up the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein on the Rhine--all these and other thrilling adventures are described in the fifth
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