“We’re trapped! Trapped! And the fire coming nearer!” half sobbed Bob.
And then he saw through the crisscross of beams, coming toward the burning mill, a man who seemed to be an American officer. And yet he wore no such uniform as Bob had ever seen before.
“Steady, boys!” cried this strange rescuer, as he glimpsed them. “I’ll soon have you out! Wait! Don’t bring the ruins down on top of you!”
Through the splintered and tangled crisscross of beams, planks and boards which barred their way to freedom, as some iron grill or lattice work might have kept in some ancient prisoner, the Khaki Boys looked at the man who had shouted to them; the man who had said he would rescue them. And he spoke with a calmness and confidence that was in strange contrast to the scene of terror, noise and confusion which was behind the boys—a danger that was ever coming nearer as the fire, started by the exploding shell, ate its way into the dry timber of the old mill, and menaced the five imprisoned Brothers.
“Who is he?” murmured Bob.
“And where did he come from!” inquired Roger.
“Is he an American or German?” was the question Jimmy asked, and he peered out through a space between two big beams that had fallen and crossed when the mill collapsed.
“He isn’t a German—that’s sure,” declared Franz. “No German would be so decent as to rescue five imprisoned Americans. He’d let us roast to death first.”
“Maybe he knows not dat we American be,” suggested the Polish lad.
“Well, he wouldn’t have to be much of a guesser to tell that we weren’t Germans, after he heard us talk,” said Jimmy. “We might be of either nationality, as far as our being here is concerned. But no matter what he thinks we are, he seems to be willing to help. What’s he looking for, I wonder?”
The strange rescuer appeared to be looking about in front of the mill for some object. His eyes eagerly sought the ground, and he hurried to and fro, seeming to realize the need of haste.
“I’ll be there in just a moment, boys!” he called. “I’m looking for something to use in prying apart those beams. They’re pretty heavy, and I’ve got to work all alone. I’ll get you out in time!”
“Wonder how he knows we’re boys!” asked Bob.
“Oh, that’s a general term—he’d call us that if we were forty years old,” declared Jimmy. “And no matter how old a man is, if he’s in the army, he’s a boy. But I wish he’d hurry. It’s getting hot here!”
It certainly was! The fire was gaining rapidly, and, every now and then, with a shift in the wind, the hot, choking gases from the flames, together with rolling clouds of smoke, would be blown into the rude chamber where the boys were imprisoned.
When the smoke-clouds blew away the Khaki Boys could look out and see their rescuer, still hunting frantically about for some object to use as a lever. In spite of the danger of their situation they could not help observing the man. He was tall, and well formed, and unmistakably a military character. He appeared to be above the general type of captain or lieutenant.