MoboReader> Literature > The Boy Allies in Great Peril; Or, With the Italian Army in the Alps


The Boy Allies in Great Peril; Or, With the Italian Army in the Alps By Clair W. Hayes Characters: 9709

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"Did you ever see such a mob, Hal?"

The speaker was an American lad of some seventeen years of age. He stopped in his walk as he spoke and grasped his companion by the arm. The latter allowed his gaze to rove over the thousands upon thousands of people who thronged the approach to the king's palace at Rome, before he replied:

"Some mob, Chester; some mob."

"Looks like a real army could be recruited from this bunch," continued the first speaker.

"Rather," agreed the other. "And unless I am mightily mistaken that is what will be done. Most of them are soldiers anyhow, you know."

"True. I had forgotten we were in Italy, where military service is compulsory. Then you think that Italy has at last decided to enter the war?"

"I certainly do. The Chamber of Deputies has done its best to keep Italy from becoming involved, but the voice of the people must be heeded sooner or later. I believe the time has come."

"I am sure I hope so," said Chester. "Italy's army, entirely ready for any eventuality, should turn the balance in favor of the Allies."

"And I believe it will," said Hal.

"Do you believe the announcement of a state of war between Italy and

Austria will be formally made to-day?"

"I do-and so, apparently, do the others here," and Hal swept his arm about him in a comprehensive gesture. "Hear them shout!"

For a mighty cheer had suddenly risen upon the air. Wildly excited Italians-men and women from all walks of life-seemed to have gone suddenly mad. A deafening roar filled the air. Caps and hats, canes, and other articles ascended and descended in a dense cloud.

"Can you doubt, after that, that Italy is for war?" asked Hal, when at last he could make himself heard.

"I guess not," replied Chester grimly. "But why should the crowd have gathered in front of the palace rather than before the Chamber of Deputies?"

"You forget that the premier is closeted with the king," returned Hal. "In all probability, the first word of a definite step will emanate from the palace, though unofficially, of course."

"I see," said Chester. "Well-look there, Hal!"

"What's the matter?" demanded the latter, eying his companion in some surprise.

Chester seized his friend's arm with one hand and with the other pointed directly ahead. Hal gazed in the direction indicated. He saw at once what had caused Chester's sudden exclamation.

Not five yards away, right in the center of the dense crowd, but still in view of the two boys, stood an Italian army officer in full uniform. He was gazing straight ahead toward the palace steps, paying no heed to those who pushed and jostled him. He stood erect, with arms folded upon his breast.

Even as the two boys looked, an arm came from behind him, and reaching across his shoulder, a hand crept cautiously into the pocket of the officer's military cloak, which he had thrown open because of its warmth.

Hal uttered a low exclamation and was about to step forward when there came a sudden shout from the crowd, which surged in about him, cutting off his view of the Italian officer. For a single instant Hal turned his eyes toward the palace and there took one look at a second uniformed figure, who stood upon the top step and waved his arms about violently.

"I guess war has come," the boy muttered to himself, as he took a step forward and elbowed his way toward the spot where the other Italian officer stood.

Chester came close behind his friend.

By dint of hard pushing and shoving, which drew ugly remarks from some of the bystanders upon whose feet they trod, the boys at last came to the spot they sought. They had made good time and the invisible owner of the hand that had explored the officer's pocket was just withdrawing it. And in it Hal saw a white paper flutter.

He uttered a cry and dashed forward in spite of the crowd. At almost the same moment the officer came to life. Instinct must have warned him that there was something wrong. He clapped his hand to his pocket, and then uttered a fierce ejaculation in his native tongue.

He wheeled about with a cry, and his arm shot out. There was a struggle, and then the officer fell to the ground. A blow from his adversary's fist had laid him low. Hal, who was a few leaps ahead of Chester, reached out to seize the man, who, he could see, still held the bit of white paper in his hand, but the other was too quick for him.

With a sudden backward leap he was among the crowd, which, apparently, had failed to grasp the significance of the trouble. Hal uttered a quick cry to Chester and also dashed into the crowd. Chester followed him.

Ahead, but almost hidden by others of the crowd, which pressed forward the better to see what was going on upon the palace steps, Hal could see his quarry squirming his way through the dense mass of humanity.

"Stop him

!" he cried, raising his voice to a shout.

The crowd paid no heed. The people were too wrapped up in what was going on before the palace to notice the three who were trying to force their way through. Again Hal cried out, but the result was the same.

For a brief instant the fugitive glanced over his shoulder, and he waved a hand at Hal. It was the first time the lad had seen his face, and he knew that he would recognize it again wherever he saw it.

"I'll get you yet," declared Hal to himself between tightly shut lips.

"I'll get you if it takes a year."

He pressed on, with Chester close at his heels.

Turning and squirming and twisting their way, the lads managed to plod on through the dense crowd at a snail's pace. Ahead of them, however, Hal could see that the fugitive was making about the same progress. His hopes rose, and he called over his shoulder to Chester;

"Keep coming; we'll get him!"

Chester made no reply, for he knew none was expected. He kept close behind his friend.

Now, suddenly, the fugitive reached the edge of the crowd. For a single moment he paused, and gazed back at his pursuers. Once more he waved a hand at Hal, and then, turning, started off at a run.

Hal, seeing that his quarry was about to make good his escape, suddenly grew angry. Bringing some tactics learned on the football field into play, he dashed forward, hurling spectators to right and left. In another moment he, too, had reached the edge of the crowd and, with a cry, dashed ahead.

He did not pause to see whether Chester was behind him. All he thought of was to overtake the fugitive.

Chester, in attempting to follow his friend, stumbled over an outstretched foot and fell heavily to the ground. He was not badly hurt, but he had struck on his face and for a moment he was dazed. He dragged himself quickly to his feet and moved forward again. Some distance ahead he saw that Hal was gaining upon the fugitive.

Down the wide street ran the fugitive, with Hal close behind and gaining at every stride. As the sound of pursuing footsteps became plainer, the man looked back over his shoulder. Then he redoubled his efforts; but still Hal gained.

Suddenly the man dashed around a corner. Three seconds later Hal did the same. As he did so he caught sight of a big man before him. Hal tried to check his pace, but it was too late.

Something bright flashed in the sunlight and Hal felt a sickening thud upon his head. In vain he tried to keep his feet. He sank slowly to the ground and then fell forward on his face. And even as he lost consciousness, he thought to himself:

"What a fool I was. I should have suspected a trap. So he hit me with the butt of a revolver. I'll get even yet."

Above the fallen lad the man stood with a grim smile of satisfaction. He stirred the prostrate form with his foot and then put his revolver back in his pocket. He turned to go.

At that moment Chester dashed around the corner. The lad and the fugitive took in the situation at the same moment. Chester pulled himself up short and reached for his revolver, which he always carried in his coat pocket. But the other was too quick for him. He leaped suddenly forward and Chester's arm was seized in a vise-like grip.

In vain the lad struggled to free himself. He could not move the powerful fingers that gripped him. He kicked out with his right foot and this effort was rewarded by a cry of pain from his opponent.

"Kick me on the shins, will you?" cried the latter in German.

His free hand found the revolver in his pocket and it flashed in the sunlight once more. He attempted to reverse the weapon and seize it by the barrel, and as he did so he unconsciously loosened his grip upon Chester's arm.

The latter swung himself about suddenly and with a sweep of his arm sent the man's revolver clattering to the ground. The other uttered an exclamation of rage, and stepped back.

Chester again reached for his own revolver, but once more the other was too quick for him. He came forward with a jump, and his right fist shot out. Chester ducked this blow, but he was unprepared for the left-handed blow that followed.

As he came up after ducking the first blow, the second caught him squarely upon the point of the chin, and he toppled over. It was a clean knockout.

"I guess that will settle you," said the victor, as he surveyed the prostrate forms of his two enemies. "I guess that will teach you not to interfere in other people's business. Hello, one of them is moving."

He gazed curiously at Hal, who at that moment opened his eyes. The man stood undecided a moment. Then he took a step toward the boy, but stopped again.

"No," he muttered. "What's the use? Let him be."

He swung upon his heel and made his way down the street. A moment later he was lost to sight around a corner.

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