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Army Boys in the French Trenches by Homer Randall

In an instant Frank had crept across and grabbed the paper


For

perhaps half an hour the raucous tones above continued. The debate was at times an angry one and was punctuated by the sound of fists brought heavily down on a table. Just after one of these, the stovepipe hole was dimmed by something that shut off the light from the room above. It floated down with a slight rustle and the boys could see that it was a paper of some kind.

In an instant Frank had crept across and grabbed the paper, thrusting it into the bosom of his shirt. Then he moved swiftly back to the shelter of the barricade.

"That was taking a chance, old boy," whispered Bart, as his friend resumed his place among them. "If you'd knocked against anything and the Huns had heard you, they'd have been down here in a jiffy."

"I suppose it was a little risky," returned Frank, "but we've got to take risks sometimes, and it struck me that there might be something in that paper that our officers would like to know."

Just then Billy, in trying to get in a less cramped position, knocked against one of the rifles that had been stood in a corner. It fell against one of the barrels with a clatter that in the confined place and the tense state of the boys' nerves sounded to them like thunder.

Frank grabbed it before it could fall on the cellar floor, but it seemed as though the mischief must have been done, and their

hearts were in their mouths as they listened for anything that might indicate that the sound had been heard on the floor above.

But the debate had reached a lively stage just at that moment, and the incident attracted no attention, so that after two minutes more of strained listening the boys were assured that they had come off scot free from what might have been a disaster.

"This is sure no place for a man with heart disease," murmured Tom, and his comrades unanimously agreed with him.

The conference in the room above had come to an end, as was shown by the shuffling of feet as the men rose from the table. There was a sound as of a sheaf of papers being hastily gathered together. But there was no outcry to indicate that any one of them was missing, and the boys drew a long breath and relaxed their grasp on their rifles. There would be no search, and for the moment they were safe.

The lights above were extinguished and the party went out. The horses clattered away, and once more the house and the town were as still as the grave.

"So near and yet so far," murmured Frank, when he was sure that the last of the unwelcome visitors had departed.

"That was what you might call too close for comfort," grinned Billy.

"They wouldn't have done a thing to us if they had nabbed us," declared Bart. "We wouldn't have had a Chinaman's chance. No prison camp for ours! They'd have shot us down like dogs! They'd have reasoned that we had heard their military plans, and that would have been all the excuse they wanted."

"Not that they would care whether they had the excuse or not," said Billy. "The mere fact that a German wants to do anything makes it all right to do it."

"How they'd froth at the mouth if they knew Frank had that paper," remarked Tom. "I wonder what it is."

"It has a seal on it and it feels as if it were heavy and official," replied Frank. "I don't want to strike a match now, but I'll take a squint at it when daylight comes. Probably it's in German, and if it is I can't read it. But they'll read it at headquarters all right, and it may queer some of Heinie's plans."


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