He nodded to the others in signal that it was time to toss; but before he could move, Hal had seized him by the wrist and whirled him around.
“You heard me,” the lad said quietly. “I meant what I said.”
He gave the Frenchman’s arm a quick twist and the man dropped his hold on the blanket. The Frenchman’s hold on the blanket released, the lad upon it tumbled to the ground, where he lay still. Instantly several others bent over and gave their attention to bringing him to. The man whom Hal had confronted turned on him angrily.
“What do you mean by that?” he demanded.
“I told you to let the boy alone and I meant it,” said Hal quietly.
For answer the Frenchman struck at him. Hal dodged the blow and stepped back. He would have avoided a fight if possible. But the Frenchman stepped after him and struck again. Again Hal dodged and the blow passed harmlessly over his head. The lad struck out quickly with his right and caught the Frenchman a hard blow upon the side of the neck. Big man though he was, the Frenchman toppled over. Hal walked back to where he had left Chester, donned his coat and the two moved away.
Behind them, as the big Frenchman staggered to his feet there was a howl of merriment. The Frenchman shook a fist angrily at Hal’s back.
THE BLACK PEAS
The howling without continued when Hal and Chester reached their own quarters.
“Well, you’ve made another enemy, Hal,” said Chester.
“Can’t help that,” was his chum’s reply. “It had to be done. By the way, I wonder what’s happened to Stubbs?”
“Oh, I guess he is spooking around some place. He’ll turn up before long.”
The lad was right. Hal and Chester had hardly composed themselves to sleep when the flap to the tent was lifted and Stubbs’ head appeared. He struck a match and looked at the two lads.
“Asleep?” he asked.
Neither lad was, but neither replied. They were both too sleepy to care to enter into a conversation with Stubbs, so they maintained a discreet silence.
“All right, then,” said Stubbs, “if you’re asleep I’ll soon be with you.”
He removed his clothing and went to bed.
Stubbs was up early the following morning and when the lads arose entertained them with an account of his wanderings.
“And,” he concluded, “I’ve stumbled across a story that’s a wonder.”
“A story?” repeated Chester.
“Yes. A ‘story’ is a newspaper man’s way of expressing something big.”
“Something to do with the battle?” asked Hal.
“It may have and it may not,” declared Stubbs. “It may have something to do with the whole war—and it may not. I don’t know.”
“What is it, Stubbs?” asked Chester.
Stubbs winked one eye at him.
“As I happened to stumble across this while I was snooping,” he said, “and as you don’t think much of snooping, I am going to keep this to myself.”