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- Army Boys on German Soil - 4/29 -
volume of the series, entitled: "Army Boys Marching Into Germany; Or, Over the Rhine With the Stars and Stripes".
Since the Army Boys had served as night patrol, they were exempt from getting up when reveille sounded the next morning, and the sun was some hours high when they found themselves together again in their favorite spot in front of the great fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, which formed the principal barracks for the American troops in the occupied zone.
"Well, Mister Detective," said Billy, with a grin, as he slapped Frank on the back, "have you figured out any dope about the fellows who came so near to bumping us off last night?"
"Can't say that I have yet," laughed Frank. "Fact is, I was so dog-tired when I hit the hay last night that I went to sleep the minute my head touched the pillow. And so far this morning I've been so busy packing away grub that I haven't had time to think of anything else. But if I can get leave I'm going over to Coblenz today and take a look at that alley."
"Here comes the corp," remarked Bart, as he saw Wilson approaching. "I wonder whether he found out anything further about last night's rumpus."
"Nothing at all," answered the corporal, who heard the last words. "Everything was quiet for the rest of the night. I stationed two of the men close to the alley with special directions to watch it, but nothing at all happened that was out of the ordinary."
"It's hardly likely that there would," answered Frank. "They wouldn't be likely to try the same game twice in the same night."
"Perhaps they had some special grudge against one or all of you fellows," suggested the corporal. "Have any of you made any special enemies in the town that you know of?"
"I don't think so," replied Frank. "How about it, boys?"
"Not guilty," laughed Billy.
"We've yanked in a few trouble makers from time to time," said Tom thoughtfully, "but we weren't any rougher with them than we had to be."
"I'll tell you!" broke in Bart, as a thought struck him. "It was our bunch that discovered the plot to blow up Ehrenbreitstein and got the tip to our people just in time. Perhaps that's made some of these crazy Huns wild to throw the hooks into us."
"By Jove!" exclaimed Frank, "I never thought of that. I shouldn't wonder if you were more than half right, Bart."
"It may be so," agreed Wilson meditatively. "They certainly were sore when that plot was knocked on the head. They had sworn that no foreign flag should ever float over the greatest fortress in all Germany."
"They swore falsely then," cried Billy jubilantly, as he pointed to the Stars and Stripes floating in the breeze.
Instinctively they took off their caps, as they gazed lovingly upon Old Glory.
CAUGHT IN A STORM
"Take a good look at that flag, boys," said the corporal, with a smile, "for it may be some time before you see it again."
"What do you mean?" asked Frank in surprise.
Corporal Wilson smiled at the perplexed and somewhat rueful faces of the four Army Boys.
"Just what I said," he replied to Frank's query. "You fellows are slated to go over the mountain with a bunch of others to round up some of the guns and supplies that the Heinies have promised to surrender. They're slow about it, and have been making all kinds of excuses to keep from bringing them in. The general's patience is just about exhausted, and he's going to get those guns or know the reason why."
"Where is the place?" asked Frank.
"I don't know exactly," answered Wilson. "From the lieutenant who told me to get the boys together for the job I only gathered that it's a good way off. He told me to pick out men that I could rely on, and I thought of you at once. There'll be about fifty of you altogether. You want to get ready to start in about two hours."
He passed on to recruit the rest of the detachment, and the boys looked at each other. Frank was thoughtful, Bart indifferent, but Tom and Billy glum.
"Hard luck," growled Tom.
"You said a mouthful!" snorted Billy.
"Look at those boobs," mocked Bart. "I'll bet a dollar to a doughnut that they were planning to go over to see Alice and Helen this afternoon."
"'Gee whiz, I'm glad I'm free, No wedding bells for me."
"Oh, come off!" retorted Tom. "You're simply jealous."
"A perfectly good day gone to waste," grumbled the usually cheerful Billy.
"Cheer up, you hunks of misery," gibed Bart. "The worst is yet to come."
"I'm not specially keen for the trip myself," said Frank. "I'd thought to go over to Coblenz this afternoon and have another look at that place where they so nearly bumped us off last night. But I suppose now that will have to wait."
"The alley will be there when we come back unless there's an earthquake in the meantime," remarked Bart.
"I wish there would be," declared Tom wrathfully. "I'd like to see the whole place wiped off the map. That is," he corrected himself, "if I could get one person out of there before the blow up came."
"Make it two," grinned Billy. "But there's no use grizzling about it. We'll have time anyway to write a letter to the girls telling them all about it. Then, ho! for the mountains and the tricky Huns! I'll be just in the humor to make it hot for them if they don't toe the scratch."
"We'd better get a move on," counseled Frank. "The corp is a hustler, and he'll have that squad together before we know it."
"Hello, what's this?" exclaimed Bart, as they came to a part of the barrack grounds where they caught a glimpse of the road beyond.
Two men were engaged in a heated conversation. One was poorly dressed and had a decided limp, as he tried to keep up with the other, who looked like a professional man of some kind. The former was evidently pleading with the latter, who shook off impatiently the hand that had been placed on his arm.
"Scrapping about something," remarked Tom carelessly.
The lame man still persisted, and suddenly his companion swung around and aimed a blow at him with his cane. The other dodged and the cane was lifted again, but before it could fall, Frank had reached the man's side and wrenched the cane from his hand.
The owner turned with a glare of fury, which changed however to a look of apprehension as his eyes fell on the American uniform.
He mumbled something that might have been an apology or an explanation, but Frank cut him short.
"Hitting a lame man doesn't go around here," said Frank curtly. "If you had actually hit him, I'd have done the same thing to you."
The man was cowed and made no reply. The lame man meanwhile had hobbled away. Frank handed back the cane, turned his back upon the owner and rejoined his companions.
"True Prussian brutality," commented Bart. "Good work, old boy. But now let's hurry or we'll be late."
They scattered to their quarters, and in a short time were fully equipped for the coming journey.
When a little later they had assembled at the place the corporal had appointed, they found there a group of their comrades selected from the old Thirty-seventh bent on the same errand as themselves. Lieutenant Winter was in command of the detachment, which numbered about half a hundred.
"Mighty good name for the leader of this trip," Bart whispered jokingly to Frank, as they stood drawn up in line awaiting the command to start.
"It certainly is," agreed Frank, drawing his coat a little closer. "This is about as bitter weather as I've ever stacked up against."
"Looks to me as if a snow storm were coming," murmured Billy.
"Attention!" came the sharp command. "Forward, march!"
The lines moved forward as one man, the lieutenant riding ahead on horseback and two motor trucks loaded with supplies bringing up the rear.
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