Hal and Chester both smiled.
“And you want to give us the first chance at it, sir?” said Hal.
“Yes; I know that if you accept the mission it is more certain of success than if I entrusted it to other hands.”
“We shall be glad of the chance, sir,” said Chester, quietly.
General Petain clapped his hands in satisfaction.
“I knew it,” he said, “and yet I did not like to order you to perform it. You boys are true blue.”
Both lads flushed with pleasure at this remark, but they made no reply. They stood quietly waiting until the general should tell them what was required.
“Boys,” said the general, “it is absolutely essential to the success of this campaign that I have a more accurate knowledge of the enemy’s lines and strength. My aviators have been sent in search of such information, but they have met with little success. The only man who got close enough to learn what I am after, according to others who followed him, was shot down. He failed to return. What he learned, of course, I do not know. But it is that which I must know. Do you think you can gain this information for me?”
“We can at least have a try at it,” said Chester, with a smile.
“We’ll get it if it is humanly possible,” agreed Hal.
“I am more confident of success than I would be if the mission were in other hands,” said General Petain, quietly.
“And when do you wish us to start, sir?” asked Hal.
“Immediately,” was the reply, “though I believe it would be better to wait until dark.”
“And you would suggest an aeroplane?” asked Hal.
“I leave the means to you,” returned the general. “I’ll give you a written order that will put anything in the French lines at your disposal, aeroplane, automobile or horses. You may take your choice.”
The general turned to his desk and scribbled on a piece of paper. To what he had written he affixed his signature and then passed the paper to Hal.
“I have no further instructions,” he said. “But, be as quick as you can, and be careful.”
He arose and extended a hand to each lad. He had come to be very fond of them, and he patted each on the back affectionately.
“May good fortune attend you,” he said quietly.
The lads drew themselves up, saluted and left the tent. The general stepped to the door and gazed after them.
“Good boys, those,” he said quietly to himself. “May they return safely!”
THE PARTY IS INCREASED
“I guess an aeroplane is the best way after all,” said Hal, when they were back in their own quarters.
“Sure,” Chester agreed. “It’s swifter, and if we have any luck at all, it’s a pretty good contraption to get away in after we have gained our information. Now about clothes. Shall we keep on these uniforms?”