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n a u EDERICK PALMER fci- n---iMri.ni i in ii ii inni.ii.liiiiiiili.MM..-niil.ii...ii.iiiiiiiiiiil mi tiiiiw i il tmm SYNOPSIS CHAPTER I At their home on the frontier between the Browns and Grays Marta Galland and her mother, entertaining Colonel Westerling of the Grays, see Captain Lanstron, staff intelligence officer of the Browns, in jured by a fall in his aeroplane. CHAPTER .11 Ten years later. Westerling, nominal vice but real chief of staff, reinforces South La Tir, meditates on war, and speculates on the comparative ages of himself and Marta, who is visiting in the Gray Capital. CHAPTER III Westerling calls on Marta. She tells him of her teach-, ing children the follies of war and martial patriotism, begs him to pre vent war while he is chief of staff, and predicts that if he makes war against the Browns he will not win. CHAPTER IV On the march with the 53rd of the Browns Private Stransky, anarchist, decries war and played-out patrotism and is placed under arrest Colonel Lanstron over hearng, begs him off saying the an archist will fight well when enraged and is "all man." CHAPTER V Lanstron calls on Marta at her home. He talks with Feller, the gardner. Marta tells Lan strom that she believes Feller to be a spy. Lanstron conffesses it is true, CHAPTER VI Lanstron shows Marta a telephone which Feller has concealed in a secret passage under the tower for use to benefit the Browns in war emergencies, pointing out its value as being in the center of the fighting zone in case -of war. Marta consents for it and Feller to remain for the present. Lanstron de clares his love for Marta. CHAPTER VII Westerling and the Gray premier plan to use a tri vial international affair to forment warlike patrotism in army and pet pie and striking before declaring war. Partow, Brown chief of staff, and Lanstron, made vice, discuss the trouble, and the Brown defenses. Var tow reveals his plans to Lanstron. '.' Marta had a glimpse of him as she turned away. "He is what he is be cause of the army; a victim of a cult, a habit," she was thinking. "Had he been in any other calling his fine qual- j itles might have been of service to the tworld and he would have been happy." . A company of infantry resting among their stacked rifles changed the color of the square in the distance from the gray pavement to the brown of a mass of uniforms. In the middle of the main street a major of the bri gade staff, with a number of Junior officers and orderlies, was evidently waiting on some signal. Sentries were posted at regular intervals along the curb. The people in the houses and shops from time to time stopped pack ing up their effects long enough to go to the doors and look up and down apvrehensively, asking bootless, ner vou4 questions. "Are they coming yet?" "Do you think they will come?" "Are you sure it's going to be war?" "Will they shell the town?" "There'll be time enough for you to get away!" shouted the major. "All we know is what is written in our in structions, and we shall act on them when the thing starts. Then we are in command. Meanwhile, get ready!" I Then the major became aware of a jyoung woman who was going In the wrong direction. Her cheeks were flushed from her rapid walk, her Hps jwere parted, showing firm white jteeth, and her black eyes were re garding him in a blaze of satire or amusement; an emotion, whatever it was, that thoroughly centered his at tention. ' "Mademoiselle, I am very sorry, but unless you live In this direction," he said very politely, "you may not go any farther. Until we have other orders or they attack every one is supposed to remain in his houee or his place of business." "This is my place of business!" Marta answered, for she was already opposite a small, disused chapel which was her schoolroom, where a half dozen of the faithful children were gathered around the masculine Impor tance of Jackr Werther, one of the : older boys. ' , , "Then you are Miss Galland!" said the major, enlightened. His smile had an appreciation of the irony of her oc cupation at that moment. "Your chil dren are very loyal. They would not tell me where they lived, so we had to let thorn stay there." I "Those who have homes." she said Identifying each one of the faithful with a glance, "have so many broth ers and sisters that they will hardly be miBsed from the flock. Others have no homes at least not much of a tone" here her temper rose again "tWift being so high in ordpr thatjroii may organize murder and the obstruc tion of property." "Now really, Miss Galland," he be gan solicitously, "I have been assigned to move the civil population in case of attack. Your children ought " "After school 1 You have your duty this morning and I have mine!" Marta interrupted pleasantly, and turned toward the chapel. "They are putting sharpshooters in the church tower to get the aero planes, and there are lots of the little guns that fire bullets so fast you can't count 'em ana little spring wagons with dynamite to blow things up end" Jacky Werther ran on in a series of vocal explosions as Marta opened the door to let the children go in. "Yet you camel" said Marta with a hand caressingly on his shoulder. "It looks pretty bad for peace, but we came," answered Jacky, round- eyed, in loyalty. "We'd come right through bullets 'cause we said we would if we wasn't sick, and we wasn't sick." "My seven disciples seven!" ex claimed Marta as she counted them. "And you need not sit on the regular seats, but around me on the platform. It will be more Intimate." "That's grand!" came in chorus. They did not bother about chairs, but Beated themselves on the floor around Marta's skirts. The church clock boomed out Its de liberate strokes through ten, the hour Eet for the lesson, and all counted them one two three. Marta was thinking what a dismal little effort theirs was, and yet she wa3 very hap py, tremblingly happy in her distrac tion and excitement, that they had not waited for her at the door of the chapel In vain. She announced that there would be , no talk this morning; they would only say their oath. Repeating In concert the pledge to the boys and girls of Cther lands, the childish voices pecu liarly sweet and harmonious in con trast to the raucous and uneven sounds of foreboding from the street, they came in due course to the words of the concession. that the oath made to .militancy: "If an enemy tries to take my land" "Children I" Marta interrupted with a sense of wonder and shock. They paused and looked at her ques tlonlngly. "I had almost forgotten that part!" she breathed confusedly. "That's the part that makes all we're doing against the Grays right!" put in Jacky Werther promptly. "As I wrote it for you! 'I shall ap peal to his sense of justice and reason with him'" Jaws dropped and eyes bulged, for above the sounds of the street rose from the distance the unmistakable crackling of rifle fire which, as they listened, spread and increased in vol ume. "Go on on to the end of the oath! It will take only a moment," said Marta resolutely. "It isn't much, but it's the best we can do!" front of Ms heSd. While Ilzer xai Aronson were not thinking, only run ning, Peterkin was thinking with the rapidity of a man falJing from a high building. He was certain only that he was bound to strike ground. "An inch is as good as a mile!" He recollected the captain's teaching. Only one of a thousand bullets fired WoTQ oiTTatlr lomacus. "XaZ no one is to fire until the command comes." Hugging the cover of the ridge of fresh earth which they had thrown up the previous night, they watched the white posts. Stransky, who had been ruminatively silent all the morning, was in his place, but he was not look ing at the enemy. , Cautiously, to avoid a reprimand, he raised his head to en able him to glance along the line. All the faces seemed drawn and claylsh. "They don't want to fight! They're just here because they're ordered here 'and haven't the character to defy au thority," he thought. "The leaven is working! My tlmo is coming!" For Dellarme the minute had come when all his training was to be put to a test The figures on the other side cl the white posts were rising. He wag to prove by the way he directed r. com pany of infantry in action whether or not he was worthy of his captain's rank. He smiled cheerily. In order CHAPTER IX. In war ever kills a man" but he wac certain that he had heard a million already. He looked around to find that he was still keeping up with Eu gene and felt the thrill of the bravery of fellowship at sight of the giant's flushed, confident face reveling in the spirit of a charge. And then, just then, Eugene convulsively threw up his arms, dropped his rifle, and whirled on his heel. As he went down his hand clutched at his left breast and came away red and dripping. After one wild backward glance, Pe terkin plunged ahead. "Eugene!" Hugo Mallln had Btopped and bent over Eugene in the supreme instinct of that terrible second, sup porting his comrade'B head. "The bullet is not made " Eugene whispered, the ruling passion strong to the last A flicker of the eyelids, a gurgle In the throat, and he was dead. "Here, you are not going to get out this way!" Fracasse shouted, in the irritation of haste, slapping Hugo with his sword. "Go on! That's hospital- corps work." Hugo had a glimpse of the captain's rigid features and a last 'one of Eu gene's, white and etill and yet as if he were about to speak his favorite boast; then he hurried on, his side Iglance showing other proserate forms. One form a few yards away half rose to call "Hospital!" and fell back, struck mortally by a second bullet "That's what you get If you forget Instructions," said Fracasee with no sense of brutality, only professional exasperation. Keep down, you wound ed men!" he shouted at the top of his voice. The colonel of the 128th had not looked for Immediate resistance. He had told Fracasse's men to occupy the knoll expeditiously. But by the com mon impulse of military training, no lese than in answer to the whistle's call, in face of the withering fire they dropped to earth at tne base of a knoll, where Hugo threw himself down at full length in his place In line next to Peterkin. "Fire polntblank at the crest in front of you! I saw a couple of men standing up there!" called Fracasse. ' "Fire fast! That's the way to keep down their fire polntblank, I tell you You're firing into the sky! I want to see more dust kicked up. Fire fast! Wo'll have them out of there soon! They're only an outpost" Hugo was firing vaguely, like a man In a dream. Pilzer was shooting to kill. His eye had the steely gleam of his rifle sight and the liver patch on his cheek was a deeper hue as he sought to avenge Eugene's death. Drowned by the racket of their own fire, not even Peterkin was hearing the whish-whlsh of the bullets from Dellarme's company now. He did not know that the blacksmith's son, who "Wall rTgnTall right men!" Del larme called again, assuming Ms cheery smile. "It takes a lot of shrap nel to kill anybody. Our batteries will soon answer!" His voice was unheard, yet its spir it was felt The men knew through their training that there was no use of dodging and that their bei.t protec tion was an accurate fire of their own. Stransky had half risen, a new kind of Bavagery dawning on his features as he regained his wits. With In verted eyes he regarded the red end" of his fingers, held In line with the I bridge of his nose. He felt of the wound again, now that he was less dizzy. It was only a scratch and he had been knocked down like a beef in an abattoir by an unseen enemy, on whom he could not lay hands! Deaf eningly, the shrapnl Jackets con tinued to crack with "ukung-s-sh ukung-s-sh" as the swift breath of the shrapnel missiles spread. The guru The Baptism of Fire. ' All the landscape in front of Fra casse's company seemed to have been deserted; no moving figures were any where In eight; no sign of the enemy's Infantry. Faintly the town clock was heard striking the hour. From eight to nine and nine to ten Fracasse's men wait ed; waited until the machine was ready and Westerling should throw In the clutch; waited until the troops were iu place for the first move before he hurled his battalions forward. They did not know how the captain at their back received his orders; they only heard the note of the whistle, with a command familiar to a trained tctttinct on the edge of anticipation. It released a spring in their nerve-cen ters. They responded as the wheels respond when the throttle is opened. Jumping to their feet they broke into- run, bodies bent, heads down, like the peppered silhouette that faced Westerling's desk. What they had done repeatedly in drills and maneu vers they were now doing in war, me chanically as marionettes. "Come on! The bullet is not made that can get me ! Come on I " cried the giant Eugene Aronson. , Nearly all felt , the exhilaration of movement in company. Then came the sound that generations had drilled tor without hearing; the sound that pummons the imagination of man in the thought 'of how he will feel and act when he hears it; the sound that is everywhere like the song snatches of bees driven whizzing through the air. "That's it! We're under fire! . We're under fire!" flashed a crooked light ning recognition of the sound through every brain. There was no sign of the enemy; no telling where the bullets came from. i '.. Whish-whlsh! Th-ipp-whing! The refrain gripped Peterkln's imagination with an unseen hand. He seemed to be suffocating. He wanted to throw hjmeeli, down, anjj hjjkl.hjs, hands .V I . . Plizer Was Shooting to Kill. ' wae the fourth man from him, lay with his chin on his rifle stock and a tiny trickle of blood from a hole in his forehead running down the bridge of his nose. ' Young Dellarme, new to ; ' tain's rank, watching the plaiu through his glasses, saw the move ment of mounted officers to the rear of the 128th as a reason for summon ing his men. . , "Creep up! Don't show yourselves! Creep up carefuUy-carefully!" be kcrt ryqj"' i q ' tfrey grawled jtor- that he might watch how each man used his rifle, he drew back of the line, his slim body erect as he rested on one knee, his bead level with the other heads while he fingered his whistle. The instant that Eugene Aronson sprang over the white post a blast from the whistle began the war. It was a signal, too, for Stransky to play the part he had planned; to make the speech of his life. His six feet of stature shot to Its feet with a Jack-in-the-box abruptness, under the impulse of a mighty and reckless passion. "Men, stop firing!" he howled thun derously. "Stop firing on your broth ers! Like you, they are only the pawns of the ruling class, who keep us all pawns in order that they may have champagne and caviare. Com rades, I'll lead you! Comrades, we'll take a white flag and go down to meet our comrades and we'll find that the; think as we do! I'll lead you!" The appeal was drowned In the cracking of the rifles working as regu larly as punchlng-machines in a fac tory. Every soldier was seeing only his sight and the running figures un der it. Mechanically and automatical ly, training had been projected into action, anticipation into realization. A spectator might as well have called to a man in a hundred-yard dash to stop running, to an oarsman in a race to jump out of his shell. The company sergeant sprang for Stransky with an oath. But Stransky was in no mood to submit. He felled the sergeant with a blow and, reck leBsly defiant, stared at Dellarme. while the men, steadily firing, were still oblivious of the scene. The ser geant, stunned, rose to his knees and reached for his revolver. Dellarme, bent over to keep his head below the crest, had already drawn his as he hastened toward them. "Will you get down? Will you tako your place with your rifle?" demanded Dellarme. Stransky laughed thunderously in scorn! He was handsome, titanic, and barbaric, with his huge shoulders , stretching his blouse, which fell loose ly around his narrow hips, while the fist that had felled the sergeant was still clenched. "No!" said Stransky. "You won't kill much if you kill me and you'd kill less if you shot yourself! God Al : mighty! Do you think I'm afraid? Me 'afraid?" His eyes in a bloodshot glare, as uncompromising as those of a bull in an arena watching the next move of the red cape of the matador, regarded Dellarme, who hesitated in admiration of the picture of human force before him. But the old sergeant, smarting under the insult of the blow, his sand stone features mottled with red patches, had no compunctions of this order. He was ready to act as execu tioner. "If you don't want to shoot, I can! An example the law! There's no other way of dealing with him! Give the word!" he said to Dellarme. Stransky laughed, now in strident cynicism. Dellarme still hesitated, recollecting Lanstron's remark. He pictured Stransky in a last stand in a redoubt, and every soldier was as precious to him as a piece of gold to a miser. "One ought to be enough to kill me if you're going to do It to slow music," said Stransky. "You might as well kill me as the poor fools that your poor fools are trying to" Another breath finished the speech; a breath released from a ball that seemed to have come straight from hell. The fire control officer of a regi ment of Gray artillery on the plain, scanning the landscape for the origin of the rifle-fire which was leaving many fallen in the wake of the charge of the Gray infantry, had seen a figure on the knoll. "How kind! Thank you!" his thought spoke faster than words. No need of range-finding! ;The range to every possible battery or Infantry position around La Tir was already marked on his map. He passed the word to his guns. The burst of their first shrapnel- scene on the crest of the knoll with its ear-splitting crack and the force of its concussion threw Stransky down beside the sergeant, Dellarme, as, his vision cleared, had Just time to see Stransky jerk his hand up to his tem ple, where there was a red spot be fore another shell burst, a little to the rear. This was harmless, as a shrapnel's 'shower of fragments and bullets carry forward from the point of explosion. But the next burst in front of the line. The doctor's period of idleness was over. One man's rifle shot up as his spine was broken by a jagged piece of shrapnel jacket Now there were too many shells to watch them, individually. pt one battery of that Gray regiment jof artillery, each firing six 14-pound iBhells a minute methodically, every! ehell loaded with nearly two hundred F , .. . .a ! J projectiles, were giving weir unamu d attention to the knoll. : How long could his company endure this? Dellarme might well ask. He knew that he would not be expected ;to withdraw yet With a sense of re lief he saw Fracasse's men drop for cover at the base of the knoll and then, expectation fulfilled, he realized that rifle-fire now reinforced the ene my's shell fire. His duty was to re main while he could hold his men. and a feeling toward them such as he had never felt before, which was love, sprang full-fledged into his heart as he !saw how steadily they kept up their fusillade. Stransky, eager in response to a new passion. , sprang forward into place and picked up his rifle. ' "If you will not have it my way take it yours!" said the best shot in the company, as he began firing with resolute coolness 1 "They have a lot of men down," said Dellarme, his glasses showing the 'many prostrate figures on the wheat stubble. "Steady! feteady! We have plenty of batteries back In the hills. One will be In action soon." i But would one? He understood that with their smokeless powder the ;Gray guns could be located only by Ithelr flashes, which would not be vis Hole unless the refraction of light were (favorable. Then "thur-eesh thur- eesh" above every other sound in a lone wail! No man ever forgets the first crack of a shrapnel at close quar ters, the first bullet breath on his cheek, or the first supporting shell I from his side in flight that passes 'above him. ' "That is ours!" called Dellarme "Ours!" shouted the sergeant. "Ours!" sang the thought of every one of them. Over the Gray batteries on the plain an explosive ball of smoke hung in the Etill air; then another beside it "Thur-eesh thur-eesh thur-eesh," the screaming overhead became a gale that built a cloud of blue smoke over ;the offending Gray batteries beauti ful, scft blue smoke from which a spray of steel descended. There was no spotting the flashes of the Browns' guns in order to reply to them, for they were under the cover of a hill using Indirect aim as nicely and ac curatcly as If firing polntblank. The gunners of the Gray batteries could ;not go on with their work under such a hail-storm; they were checkmated, They stopped firing and began moving to a new position, where their com' mander hoped to remain undiscovered long enough to support the 128th by loosing his lightnings against the ae fenders at the critical moment of the next charge, which would be made a3 soon as Fracasse'B men had been rein forced. There was an end to the concus sions and the thrashing of the air around Dellarme's men, and they had the relief of a breaking abscess In the ear. But they became more conscious of the spits of dust in front of their faces and the passing whistles of bul lets. In return, they made the sec tions of Gray infantry in reserve rush ing across the levels, leave many gray lumps behind. But Fracasse's men at the foot of the elope poured in a heav ier and still heavier fire "Down there's where we need the shells now!" spoke the thought of Del larme's men, which he had anticipated by a word to the signal corporal, who waved his flag one two three four five times. Come on, now, with more of your special brand of death, fire-control officer! Your own head is above the sky-line, though your guns are hidden. Five hundred yards be yond the knoll is the range! Como .on! , : He came with a burst of screams so 'low In flight that they seemed to brush the back of the men's necks with a hair broom at the rate of a thousand feet a second. Having i watched the result, Dellarme turned with a confirmatory gesture, which the corporal translated into the wigwag !of "Correct!" The shrapnel smoke : hanging over Fracasse's men appeared a heavenly blue to Dellarme s men. . "They are going to start for us isoon! Oh, but we'll get a lot of them!" whispered Stransky gleefully to his rifle. ; Dellarme glanced again toward the colonel's station. No sign of the re 'tiring flag. He was glad of that. He did not want to fall back in face of a charge; to have his men silhouetted !ln the valley as they retreated. And the Grays would not endure this show er-bath long without going one way or (the other. He gave the order to fix bayonets, and hardly was It obeyed when, he saw flashes of steel, through theirs. The Grays had 600 yards to to; tne browns A&a tne time mat k takes running men to cover the dis tance in which to stop the Grays. "We'll spear any of them who has . the luck to get this far!" whispered Stransky to his rifle. The sentence was spoken In the midst of a salvo of shrapnel cracks, which he did not hear. He heard nothing, thought noth ing, except to kill. The Gray batteries on the plain, having taken up a new position ana being reinforced, played on the crest at top speed instantly the Gray line rose and started up the slope at the run. With the purpose of confusing no less than killing, they used percus sion, which burst on striking the ground, as well as shrapnel, which burst by a time-fuse in the air. Foun tain of sod and dirt shot upward to meet descending sprays of bullets. The concussions of the earth shook the aim of Dellarme's man, blinded bv smoke and dust, as they fired through a tog at bent figures whose legs were pumping fast in dim pantomime. But the guns of the Browns, also. have word that the charge has begun. The signal corporal is waiting for the gesture from Dellarme agreed upon as an announcement The Brown artil lery commander cuts his fuses two hundred and fifty yards' shorter. He. too, uses percussion for moral effect Half of the distance from the foot to the crest of the knoll Fracasse a men have gone in face of the hot siz zling tornado of bullets, when there is a blast of explosions in their faces with all the chaotic and irresistible force of a volcanic eruption. Not only are they in the midst of the first lot f the Browns' shells at the shorter range, but one Gray battery has either made a mistake in cutting its fuses or struck a streak of powder below stand ard, and its shells burst among those whom it is aiming to assist. The ground seems rlBing under the feet of Fracasse's company; the air fa split and racked and wrenched and torn with hideous screams of invisible demons. The men stop; they act on itbe uncontrollable instinct of self-pres ervation against an overwhelming force of nature. A few without the power of locomotion drop, faces Blood-Curdling Burst Passed Over His of Whistles Head. pressed to the ground. The rest flee toward a shoulder of the slope through the instinct that leads a hunted man In a street into an alley. In a confusion of arms and legs, press ing one cn the other, no longer sol diers, only a mob, they throw them selves behind the first protection that offers itself. Fracasse also runs. He runs from the flame of a furnace door suddenly thrown open. The Gray batteries have ceased fir ing; certain gunners' ears burn under the words of inquiry as to the cause of the mistake from an artillery com. mander. Dellarme's men are hugging the earth too close to cheer. A deBire .to spring up and yell may be in their hearts, but they know the danger of showing a single unnecessary inch of their craniums above the sky-line. The sounds that escape their throats are those of a winning team at a tug of war as diaphragms relax. With the smoke clearing, they see 20 or 30 GrayB plastered on the slope at the point where the charge was checked. Every one of those prostrate forms is within fatal range. Not one moves a finger; even the living are feigning death in the hope of surviv ing. Among them is little Peterkin, so faithful in forcing his refractory legs to keep pace with his comrades. If he Is always up with them they will never know what is in his heart and call him a coward. As he has been .knocked unconscious, he has not been In the pell-mell retreat. His first stabbing thought on coming to was that he must be dead; but no; he was opening his eyes sticky with dust At least, he must be wounded! He had not power yet to move his hands in order to feel where, and when they grew alive enough to move, what he saw In front of him held them frigidly still. His nerves went search ing from his head to his feet and miracle of heaven! found no point of pain or spot soppy with blood. If he were really hit there was bound to be one or the other, he knew from read (Ing. '