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   Chapter 22 PLAYING GOO-GOO IN A GRIM GAME

Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops / Or, Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 8488

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Down the slope the Army boys walked boldly for a few hundred yards. The night was so dark that there was small possibility of being seen at a distance.

"Now, we'd better go a little more cautiously," whispered Hal, checking his companion by a touch on the arm.

"It's going to rain within a very few minutes," Noll whispered in return, as he looked up at the inky sky overhead.

"The more rain the better. I hope there will be no lightning."

"Where are you going to try to slip through the lines?"

"Do you remember the gully that runs back through the woods below, somewhat to our left as we stand now?" queried Hal.

"Yes; certainly."

"That gully is a trap such as sane soldiers would hardly dare venture into. If they did, and were discovered, the Moros could annihilate them from above."

"Surely," nodded Noll.

"Therefore I have an idea that the Moros haven't attempted to guard that gully in force, though there may be men on either side above it. Noll, if we are careful not to make a sound I think we can steal through that gully without getting caught."

"Or else we'll run into a hundred times as much trouble as we can handle," replied Noll thoughtfully.

"It's worth taking a chance, isn't it?"

"I think it's the best single chance I can see."

"Come along, then," whispered Hal. "You might keep just a little behind me. I think I can find the mouth of the gully, even in this pitchy blackness. If you see me drop to my knees, do the same."

Hal started forward again. The natural-born scout, once he has observed a place in the daylight, has some kind of an instinct that guides him to the same spot in the darkness.

Sergeant Hal had not gone far when the rain began to descend. There were distant rumblings of thunder, but no lightning. For this he was thankful. He hoped to be behind the Moro lines before lightning began to flash.

Two wanderers in front of the enemy's lines would be sure to excite suspicion, while two seeming natives behind the lines would attract little attention.

Presently Sergeant Overton dropped to his knees, peering ahead and listening keenly, as he crept along. Sergeant Terry imitated his chum. Hal crawled within fifty feet of the mouth of the gully, just a little south of it. After a moment's pause he obtained his bearings and extended one arm in silent direction to Noll.

Then they crept noiselessly into the mouth of the gully. So far they had not been hailed, but this was not positive proof that human eyes were not watching their movements.

Once inside the gully they moved, cautiously, still on hands and knees, halting after every advance of two or three feet. They were shivering in their thin raiment, for the rain was heavy and cold. Noll's teeth were all but chattering.

"I don't believe the gully is guarded at all," whispered young Overton in his friend's ear. "This place looks so like a trap that few military commanders would ever think of leading men into it in the dark. I figure that the datto thought this gully not worth guarding by night."

"The slopes above us on either side may be well guarded, however," warned Noll.

"Yes; and you can wager that we'll know all about that before we try to go back to camp," returned Hal. "The place to start such an investigation is from the rear of the enemy's lines."

"All right; lead on."

They had gone another hundred feet into the gully when Hal Overton stopped again. Now he rose to his feet.

"We'll walk through," he whispered. "I don't believe we will run into any of the datto's men hereabouts. If we do, leave it to me to do the first talking."

"Jersey hog-Latin?" queried Noll, with a grin.

"Of course; Spanish or English would be fatal to fellows who look the part that we're rigged up to play."

Hal walked on, steadily, though with caution. Noll kept a few feet behind him until the gully widened, then stepped to his chum's side.

Neither spoke. There was danger in unnecessary conversation. They had covered six hundred feet more when they felt, rather than saw, that they were nearing the further end of the gully.

At last they stepped out into the open-then received a sudden shock. Less than a dozen feet away a Moro sentry, rifle on should

er, halted, regarding them keenly.

"Manu batto dobi kem," murmured Hal to his chum, in a low voice. Noll answered in the same low tone. Both were shaking with more than the chill of the rain, but Hal turned to the sentry, inquiring mildly:

"Hoppo tuti sen antrim mak?"

The Moro sentry shook his head. He did not understand that dialect.

"Basta morti hengo pas tum," murmured Hal regretfully, hesitating before the sentry.

"Manga tim no troka," remarked Noll.

Hal turned slowly, nodding at his chum. Then both strolled along, the sentry merely staring after them.

"That's the advantage of scouting within the lines of an enemy where many tongues are spoken," whispered Noll in his chum's ear.

The Army boys had not gone twenty feet, however, when they ran into another Moro sentry, who stood under a tree evidently trying to keep out of the rain.

This sentry addressed them with two or three words in the Moro tongue.

"Banda nokku him slengo mat," replied Hal.

Again the sentry spoke to them, accompanying his words with a gesture that seemed to order them to pass on. The Army boys were glad enough to obey.

"We're right in the middle of the hornet's nest," whispered Noll.

Fifty feet further on the Army boys came upon a rudely built shack under which a number of brown men were huddled to escape the rain.

"The outpost crowd," whispered Hal. "Noll, I believe we're getting into the heart of the Moros' camp."

Noll was about to answer, but at that moment discerning another sentry, a few yards ahead, checked his reply. This sentinel they managed to pass without words. Being well within the enemy's lines now, and apparently natives themselves, the Army boys were not as likely to attract suspicion to themselves.

A heavier downpour of rain drove the young scouts for a moment under the spreading branches of a large tree.

"This job is almost as easy as stealing the marmalade from mother's preserve closet," chuckled Sergeant Noll, despite his discomfort.

"This place is like a good many traps," replied Hal. "It seems easy enough to get in, but remember, boy, we've got to get out."

As soon as the rain slackened somewhat the two scouts sauntered on again. Here and there they passed rude shacks in which Moros and allied natives were sleeping. Then the young scouts came upon a new scene that made them fairly catch their breath.

They were standing by a mud wall now, a wall of about nine feet in height. There could be no doubt that this was a Moro fort, erected for a particular purpose, and Hal's active mind immediately fathomed that purpose.

"The datto's own headquarters!" he whispered in his chum's ear. "Oh, Noll, I hope that I am right!"

Terry nodded. He was as excited as was his comrade.

The wall, as well as the Army boys could judge, was more than two hundred feet long. About half way down they came to a gate. Here six Moro sentries, armed with rifles and protected from the storm by woven rush raincoats, stood on guard.

Hal boldly stepped nearer, for the sentries were already regarding this straying pair of natives. Noll, with a quick catch in his throat, stepped after his chum. It looked like running into almost certain death, for aside from the six sentries there were hundreds of Moros within call.

"Bola mak no benga?" demanded Sergeant Hal, with an impudence and cool assurance that he was far from feeling.

One of the Moro sentries looked at the Army boys, grinning and shaking his head. Then laying two fingers across his mouth as a sign for silence, he pointed inside the mud-walled enclosure.

"Him hasta putti datto?" asked Hal, in a low voice.

"Datto" was the only word the Moro could make out, but he understood that, and again pointed inside.

"Banga tim no satti du," remarked Hal softly to his chum. Then Sergeant Hal bent low, making an elaborate bow before the gateway. Noll Terry "caught on" and followed suit. The Moro sentries grinned. Nor did they offer any objection when the Army boys strolled off into the tempest-ridden darkness.

"Now, what?" whispered Noll, as the Army boys halted under a tree.

"Noll, the biggest game in the world, now-to get back out of the trap into which we've stepped!"

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